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Talk this way [Aug. 24th, 2016|02:26 am]

Originally published at The Homepage of Michael John Bertrand. You can comment here or there.

Why do I talk like I do?

What is it in me that drives it?

Why can’t I talk like a normal person?

These are the questions that are on my mind today. I have finally reached the point of maturity and/or recovery where I can really ask myself what the deal is with all of that. Before now, I think I lacked the necessary distance from my self and questions of ego and identity and such to do it.

But now, I think it is time.

Why do I talk like I do, and how much does that contribute to my inability to connect with people?

Let’s tackle the first question. The obvious answer to the question of why I talk like I do is that I am constantly trying to show how smart I am. And I am sure there’s some of that in there. Certainly, I have been accused of that many times in my life. And I can see why someone would think that. It’s an explanation that makes sense to regular folks. After all, that’s what it would mean if they are doing it.

And I cannot deny that I want people to think I am brilliant.

But I think that’s only a small part of it. I think mostly it has to do with my desperate desire to express myself through words.

Looking back over my life, I can see that I have been trying to express my unique thoughts and unusual emotions through words since I was very young. I was verbally focused from a very early age. And so I have been trying to figure out how to explain myself to people for as long as I can remember. And I think that, on a deep subconscious level, I have blamed myself for some of the bad things that have happened in my life for not being able to articulate it properly to the people I wanted to tell.

I can see how that happened. If the problem was my not being able to spit it out properly, that means that I can fix it if I become sufficiently articulate. It remains within my power to solve the problem. All I have to do is get better at words.

This is typical of the sort of setup one gets when one experiences trauma at an early age. The younger the person, the less sophisticated (and forgiving) their coping mechanisms will be. And it’s when we are young that our most important programming, the really deep stuff, is created.

And that’s honestly the kind of job that shouldn’t be left to children.

As a result of this, I think I have been trying to put as much as I could of myself into words – my thoughts, emotions, ideas, everything – for my whole life. It’s like I am trying to escape my own inner prison through a door made of words. And every advance in my articulacy brings me a little closer to being able to do it.

And you have to admit, that setup does sound like it would lead someone to be a heck of a writer.

And I am!

So maybe the problem is that I am asking too much of my words when I talk. This burning desire to express myself makes me want to impart as much meaning as I can into every word, and that leads to me talking like a man from space from the point of view of the average person on the street. It’s not that I am inarticulate, obviously. It’s that I am trying too hard and I don’t know how to talk in a relaxed and relatable way. A way that does not necessarily express that much or use all my mental and verbal strength… but that DOES make sense to other people.

I suppose I passively blamed others for this until now. There was nothing wrong with how I talked, it was their fault for not being able to understand me. That’s clearly ridiculous, of course. They are the normal ones, inasmuch as that word means anything. I am the nonstandard model.

Ergo, I am the one with the problem. A blind man doesn’t blame the world for being based on vision. Not if he is wise.

Besides, blame or no blame, I can’t change the world and so it is I who must adjust. I will never stop trying to articulate myself and make myself understood. But if I want to connect with the real world and all its peoples, I will have to learn to talk like they do.

Learn the local lingo, so to speak.

And being stubborn about it does no good. Refusing to adapt to the circumstances because it would be a violation of my precious self would be childish. As would retreating into the usual isolation and self-satisfied misanthropy of the intellectual class.

That might work for others but it could never work for me. I want to connect with people. I want to be part of the bright and warm world outside my mind. I can’t wall myself off from humanity like that. If I did, I would go completely insane.

It’s my desire to communicate with others and really connect that keeps me in the real world in the first place.

Plus, on a practical level, I want to go out there and get work and get things done, so…. that’s kind of going to involve getting along with people. Besides, I hate the idea of being an Internet hermit. I had twenty years of that bullshit. I am done.

The question is, then : can I learn to talk like a normal person? I have the verbal skills, naturally, but do I have the social inputs? Will I be able to square it with that inner child voice that refuses to meet people halfway? Can I, in this sense, get the fuck over myself?

Only time will tell, but I am sure of one thing :

I am going to try.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

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How to be on vacation [Aug. 23rd, 2016|03:18 am]

Originally published at The Homepage of Michael John Bertrand. You can comment here or there.

It’s surprisingly tricky.

This is mostly due to my own particular hedge maze of psychological issues. On the one hand, I know that the most important thing for me to do right now, as well as the only thing I am “supposed” to be doing, is resting, relaxing, and recharging my batteries in anticipation of next term, when shit gets serious.

And I am doing that, more or less. I am trying to keep all thoughts about the future and what I am “supposed” to be doing right now out of my mind. I know that this is necessary because if I let a lot of pressure attach to things like getting a head start on writing my movie and my TV spec script and such, it will not lead to results.

It will, in face, lead to becoming avoidant about the whole thing, and that is definitely deeply counterproductive. I am, obviously, going to have to write the damn things sooner or later, and if I put too much pressure on myself about it and become avoidant, I will have a big bad psychological barrier to overcome just to get done what I need to get done.

And I don’t need THAT.

On the other hand, we have the problem of my coping with the idleness. I found myself slipping into depression this afternoon. My motivation was gone, I didn’t even want to get out of bed, I just wanted to escape into sleep for as long as I possibly could so that I wouldn’t have to deal with life and all those empty, meaningless hours of futility.

It was bad enough that I had to basically force myself to get up and play video games for a while. Think about that. I had to force myself to do a leisure activity I normally enjoy. But no, I approached it like it was painful physical therapy.

After playing video games for an hours or so, I gave into the temptation to go back to bed. But before I drifted back into my usual “zeroing out” near-sleep, I finally remembered what it I could do to get myself out of this situation : get dressed! I’d been hanging around naked up until that point, and that’s a big no-no for my mental health. When I do it, I end up in this twilight zone between waking and sleeping where I can’t really function because I’m not truly awake, and that is highly deleterious to my mood.

Maintaining a positive mood requires a certain amount of cognitive power, at least for me, at least for now. There are a lot of real-time corrections to negative thinking that needs to be done, and I can’t do that if I am not running on all cylinders.

So I promised myself I would get dressed when I got up again, and I did. And I feel way better now.

I’m still feeling restless though. Video games and the Internet can only keep me occupied for so long. Masturbation helps a little, but not much. I need more things to do. Humanity is not meant to be idle. We need purposeful action in order to be whole.

That means that I don’t have a choice as to whether I crawl through the minefield of anxiety, aversion, and depression in order to find something purposeful to do. Unless I want to be miserable for the next week, I will need want to find some kind of productive activity.

Right now, starting in on writing my movie seems very intimidating. I am intimidated by the challenge of writing an entire movie period. It just seems like so much substance to have to conjure. I am the sort of artist who puts a lot of themselves into their work, and that’s a heck of a lot of myself to invest in one thing.

So I think I will approach it like I did my novels. X amount a day, every day, and that’s it. Luckily, I won’t have to enter it with the idea that “I only have to know what happens next”, because I have all the major beats worked out, thanks to school.

Mostly, it will be writing the in-between stuff that happens between beats. And the jokes, of course. I have gone back and forth on whether my movie will be a comedy or not, but honestly, at this point, I can’t imagine writing anything else. I have proved to myself that one thing I can definitely do is write funny and charming dialogue, so it would be silly not to use that in my movie. My plan is to make my protagonist very likable. I want people to love Babs as much as I do. And of course, I love making people laugh.

So a comedy it shall be!

But it’s me, so it will be a comedy with pathos as well. Seeing as this is more or less just meant to show potential employers what I can do, I should try to display all my talents, and one thing I am good at is evoking emotion. So, expect a bit of a roller coaster ride.

My Bob’s Burgers episode won’t be nearly as strenuous. After all, I only have 22 minutes of time to fill, which should work out to something like thirty pages. I am looking forward to that. It’s a length I am way more comfortable with, and because all the characters and most of the locations are already established, I won’t have to do a huge amount of physical description.

I just have to do what I do best : comedy and emotion!

The most important thing, I think, is to keep things light and fun. That way I can approach the whole thing as a fun and exciting thing to do, instead of looking at it as this intimidating burden hanging over my head like the Sword of Democles.

So who knows. Maybe I will start one or the other soon. Maybe I won’t.

But one thing is for sure :

I ain’t gonna spend the whole time playing fucking video games.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

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Things I learned the hard way, part 2 [Aug. 21st, 2016|08:58 pm]

Originally published at The Homepage of Michael John Bertrand. You can comment here or there.

Last time, I talked about hard lessons in taking responsibility for my unique gifts in verbal intelligence.

Today, we talk about my ability to read minds.

Not via telepathy, of course. I don’t knows exactly what it call it, but it’s not like I heard people’s thoughts. Thank goodness. But I seem to have a very strong ability to figure out what makes people tick. It’s a combination of empathy, observations, insights, understanding, sympathy, and a certain fluidity of identity that makes it easy to put myself in other people’s shoes.

I am not sure when it began. Some time in elementary school, certainly. I remember hiding from my bullies and deciding that I wanted to figure out why they treated me like they did. It was, shall we say, a highly pertinent mystery.

And I remember that the seed around which the whole thing crystallized : the idea that everything everybody does makes sense to them.

And so I had to learn a few things about the world and how I relate to it, starting with the most important lesson :

1. Not everyone sees things like I do.

This was the hardest one because by understanding of others operates on a perceptual level so it is, metaphorically speaking, like I see into their minds. Things that are obvious to me are not necessarily obvious to others. I still have problems with this sometimes because it’s hard for me to figure out what other people see when they think of others. In that limited capacity, it really is like a sixth sense. Like being the one eyed man in the land of the blind.

Ironic given how weak my actual sight is.

But it’s very, very important that I try to figure out how others see things, because…

2. People really, really, really don’t like people who see right through them

When I was younger, I would talk about what I saw in other people’s heads to them as if what was obvious to me must be even more obvious to them. After all, they were seeing it from the inside. But that’s not at all the case. I had to face the fact that I often knew people better than they knew themselves. This would have made me a boffo therapist, but as a person, it’s creepy as hell and people quite rightfully will get mad at you for poking around in their head like that.

And I get that. I understand it even though I don’t share it myself. Honestly, if people took the time to figure me out like that, I’d be delighted. I have never been a secretive person. Partially that is because of my basic temperament. I like things to be honest, direct, and free of unnecessary complications. Secrets and lies are the opposite of that. I am heavily biased towards the truth.

But it’s also because I have never had to be secretive. When nobody is paying any attention to you, secrets become laughably redundant. Some people are born secretive, but a lot of other people became that way because they grew up in an environment where information control was a survival skill.

People need their secrets and illusions. They need them in order avoid feeling exposed to the world. Because….

3. When you see through people, you strip them naked socially

Again, this is hard for me to empathize with because I am not that way. I am, more or less, an open book. Perhaps that’s why people describe me as genuine, I dunno. But most people have a cultivated public persona through which they conceal their flaws and by which they control how they are perceived.

So when I blithely and bluntly talk about their deepest darkest secrets like it’s no big thang, it’s as if I had literal X-ray vision and casually say “By the way, that’s a very skillful circumcision.”

Uh no. That is Bad.

So in a sense, I have had to try to deduce the truth about things which are invisible to me. Luckily, once my siblings corrected me on the issue enough times for it to sink in, I at least learned to get the basics down. I knew I could not help seeing what I do. It’s how I perceive the world.

But I sure as hell could stop talking about it.

That left me with another problem, though….

4. The temptation to use what I see for my own personal gain is constant

I have enormous respect for people’s autonomy and the right to be alone in their own heads, if you see what I mean. It would be morally offensive to me in the extreme if I was take advantage of the unique access I have to people’s hearts minds and souls to twist or manipulate them into going against their own self-interest to the benefit of mine.

But the temptation is always there. Push someone’s button here, trigger a neuroses there… it would be so easy.

So I tend to obsess about the difference between manipulation and influence. We all try to influence one another and we all consider that fairly legit. But manipulation is bad. It’s not the sort of thing nice people do. It is considered underhanded and unfair and preys upon people’s weaknesses and flaws for personal gain.

But to someone like be, they can seem like practically the same thing.

So I could never define the difference. I know I can’t play by the same rules as everyone else. That would make me a colossal prick. Not for me the “I’m just doing what everyone else is doing, I’m just better at it than they are” dodge. I have never been able to stomach that kind of self-serving bullshit. If you don’t want someone using their natural advantages over you, don’t use yours on them.

It’s as simple as that.

Except that it’s not simple at all. I am going to enter the world of entertainment, where a case can be made that everyone really is out for themselves and using whatever advantages they have to get ahead.

So the rules, I think, are going to change. I will have to expand my definitions of acceptable use of mental force. I will still be able to hold to a strict sense of what is right and wrong, but it will have to become a tad more compact and well defined.

I’m not selling out, I’m buying in!

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

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Some like it hot [Aug. 20th, 2016|10:37 pm]

Originally published at The Homepage of Michael John Bertrand. You can comment here or there.

It has occurred to me that I might not be as cool-headed and restrained as I have always thought myself to me.

In fact, I might be kind of a hothead.

I hope not, I really do. But in light of my recent incidents with arguing with teachers and getting into it with that asshole on the Skytrain, I have to at least consider the possibility that I have a quick temper given certain stimuli, and I will have to try to watch out for that in the future if I don’t want to end up shooting myself in the foot on a regular basis.

I’ve always known I have a quick mouth. Trying to restrain that is probably part of what made me start overthinking what I say in the first place. I learned at a fairly early age that I could not just say whatever popped into my head and I certainly could not let my thoughts flow out of my mouth like some people seem to do. If I had done that, I would not have survived long enough to attend school. I have always felt the need to carefully choose which of the many possible words that could be coming out of my mouth I would actually go with.

So a quick temper makes sense from that point of view. After all, a quick mind powers that quick mouth and emotions start in the mind.

Plus I know that I have enough suppressed anger that it fill the Grand Canyon up to the brim. A lot of bad shit has happened to me in my life, and I was too scared, timid, or weak to deal with it even by getting angry, plus there is the anger generated by all that latent pain. And like I have said many times before in this space, I have trouble expressing anger because of my Dad and his out of control temper. Because of him, I vowed that I would never take my bad mood out on others.

But I went too far in the other direction.

So yeah. Lots of pent up rage that has been brewing inside me for ages. It could be that my recent outbreaks of temper have been symptoms of my finally having progressed far enough through the recovery process to release some of that impotent rage. It’s something that I know has to happen before I can be healthy, but I have been reluctant to do it. Perhaps, in the name of recovery, that choice is being taken away from me for my own good.

That’s all well and good – but in the meantime, I have a life to lead and people I really don’t want to hurt or piss off, for reasons both ethical and professional.

If that’s the case, then at least there will be an end to the process. My suppressed rage might seem infinite sometimes, but it ain’t. Eventually, I would run out, and probably be a heck of a lot happier as a result. Makes me wish I could press a button and release it all at once. Spend a few months as a raging psycho in a mental ward.

That could actually be a funny scene. A big scary looking dude like me in the max security wing of a psychiatric facility screaming in a rubber room somewhere, spewing incoherent profanities, threatening everyone around me at the top of my voice… then suddenly stopping. Brief pause, then a polite knocking on my cell door.

“Um, excuse me? I’m done now, and I’d like to get out. ”

Anyhow, the other main possibility is that I have had this quick temper all my life, but I never knew it because it was buried under fear, depression, and eagerness to please. That would mean it’s the sort of thing I am just plain going to have to learn to live with, which seems like a huge amount of work and hassle.

But hey, the potential reward is sanity, so it’s all worth it. I guess.

Part of my recovery is to remind myself that life with real emotions, as opposed to the artificial calm of depression, is going to be a lot more messy and complicated. As a Taurus, I instinctively eschew complications, chaos, and confounding variables, and on that level, I find the inner regime of enforced tranquility soothing.

There’s a reason why a lot of the most destructive and horrible fascist leaders have been Tauruses. We’re prime candidates for favoring order above all else.

But that’s not real life. Real life is organic, complex, and interconnected. Even the most austere of regimes is nothing but a playground for cranky children who are so determined to hang on to their childhood innocence that they will destroy everything in the world that is too complicated for them to deal with.

And i want to live, dammit. Depression turned me into one of the undead, numb and cold, locked away in my ice palace and freezing to death. So emotionally suppressed that I could not even express my deep inner pain to the world in any form. Instead, I acted like nothing was wrong. And the sad part was, I even believed it.

And all that time, I was rotting away inside.

So now I want to live. To be part of the great big chaotic scary wonderful world, and partake of its warmth, that I might blossom at last.

That means learning to adapt to adapt to a life where the variables slowly increase in number and complexity, and I will have to, again and again, face the cold black wall of my absence of faith as I exceed the number of variables that can be known, calculated, controlled, predicted, and “handled”.

Once that happens, faith is the only thing that can save you. Faith, and trust. Faith that things will be okay even if you don’t know they will. Trust that the world is more than a cold and hostile hellscape. It’s also whatever else you want to make it into. But first you have to invest.

And that means risking loss.

And I know that’s not easy.

Of course, the REAL real answer might be that the summer heat is making me cranky.

But where’s the fun in that?

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

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Things I learned the hard way [Aug. 20th, 2016|03:24 am]

Originally published at The Homepage of Michael John Bertrand. You can comment here or there.

I could probably write a hundred of these, but today I will concentrate on items related to intelligence and verbal skills.

I had to learn to use my gifts responsibly when I was a younger man. I had the same kind of arrogant prejudices about what I should be allowed to do as any modern neckbeard because I had not yet learned that I had great power and with it came great responsibility.

I owe a lot to the exasperated people who had the patience to hang in there and force some wisdom into my brain. Without them, I would have gone down a very unpleasant path of intellectual elitism and misanthropy and ended up on some libertarian message forum yakking about I am the only one who really gets Ayn Rand.

here’s a few of the things I had to learn :

1. Winning an argument is nowhere near important enough to be worth losing a friend or hurting a loved one

Once someone said that to me (or words to that effect), I was instantly chastened. I realized how ridiculous it was to go to the mat with someone over some argument that didn’t amount to a hill of cut rate beans in the grand scheme of things. Nothing is being decided, nothing is at stake, and no matter who comes out on top, absolutely nothing will change. That’s because…

2. Nobody has ever won an argument, ever

Not in the sense of changing the other person’s mind or proving who is right and who is wrong. All “winning” an argument proves is that you are better at arguing than the other person. And that’s equally true no matter what side of the issue at hand you take. And you certainly haven’t changed their minds because human beings just plain don’t work that way. When someone’s belief in something is attacked, they dig in to defend it and that goes exponential for when they lose the argument. People’s beliefs are the foundations of their world-views and hence their lives, and so if you attack their beliefs, they have to hold on to those beliefs all the harder just to maintain equilibrium.

It’s like they are standing on a branch of a tree, and you’re sawing at that branch and making it shake. Maybe the smart thing to do would be to hop to another branch. But the real thing – the human thing – is to hold on tight.

The idea that an argument can have a “winner” is an illusion created by the primitive parts of our brain, the deep reptile part, that thinks that you can always dominate your opponent and declare victory and that means you are better than them. But that doesn’t work when it comes to conversation, which is all that any argument is. “Winning” means absolutely nothing. All it proves is who is stronger, which brings me to my next point…

3. Intellectual/verbal bullying is still bullying

There is no difference between pushing someone around because you’re stronger than them and pushing someone around because you’re smarter than them. It’s still the strong attacking the weak for their own amusement, and that is the very definition of bullying. Intelligence and verbal skill grant no special immunity to this fact, nor does being a victim of bullying yourself. The strong should protect the weak, not prey on them. One of the worst cognitive crimes is to see another person as not human, and there can be no more pungent an example of this in hunters like us than to see your fellow human as prey.

4. Bullying is not necessarily obvious… or conscious

I learned this from some profs I had at UPEI. Verbal/intellectual bullying does not have to be something as obvious as dominating someone in an argument or mocking them until they cry. It can be something as simple as dominating a discussion by thinking faster than other people. Or taking joy in proving someone wrong. It could even be as subtle as asking questions that seem mild to you but to others are poisoned daggers throw straight at their hearts.

So it’s about more than simply not doing evil things. You are an elephant amongst mice. It’s not enough for the elephant to refrain from doing overtly evil things. It also must be very careful that it does not hurt anyone accidentally with its great size and strength.

I know that can seem like an unfair burden sometimes. After all, others don’t need to be so cautious. Why should you?

The answer is that you are more capable of hurting others than others, and that calls for superior restraint.

You should always remember that…

5. Not everyone is as strong as you

So what to you might seem like a light, playful verbal jam could be a deathblow to the solar plexus to someone else. And just like with the more physical form of bullying, it’s up to you to know how intellectual strong someone is before you engage in argument. It’s the only way to be sure that you’re not the asshole in the situation.

Think of a muscle bound jock coming up to a nerdy intellectual type and socking him hard on the shoulder. In his group of friends, that’s a friendly greeting. But to the nerd, it’s a random assault.

The exact same thing can happen on the field of argument. And because you’re the one with the superior strength, it’s your responsibility to understand that not everyone is like that. Which brings me to my final point of the evening :

6. It’s only a game if everyone knows they are playing and is having fun

This was a big one for me. I love to argue. For me it’s great fun and a marvelous form of mental exercise. And when I was young, I took whatever opportunity I could to play what amounted to my favorite game.

But the other people didn’t know they were playing, and had never consented to being my intellectual sparring partner, and odds are they are not having fun at all. There I was, obliviously pummeling people senseless, only caring about how much I was enjoying it.

Well that’s not argument. It’s abuse. It’s abuse as surely as a jock pushing around a nerd is abuse. Conversation is not consent. Even airing an opinion publicly is not consent if it’s in private, face to face conversation. No matter how inane you think someone’s stated opinion is, that does not give you license to go savage on them with all your might.

No matter how tempting that might be.

That’s all I can think of at this moment. I get the feeling the world would be a better place if that list was posted to every message board in the world.

Strength is not license. It justifies nothing.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

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Here I am again [Aug. 18th, 2016|10:32 pm]

Originally published at The Homepage of Michael John Bertrand. You can comment here or there.

After all this time and all this progress, here I am again, back where I started.

With hours and hours to fill. Days stretching before me all the way to horizon, daring me to find a way to fill them. All that purposeless unstructured time and nobody to tell me what to do but me.

It’s a nightmare, really.

Moreso because of its deadly familiarity. It seems incomprehensible now, but this is how I wasted spent most of my adult life – and I am 43. And for 15 of those twenty or so years, I wasn’t even blogging. All I ever did was play video games and hang out online. For years.

From the point of view of the person I am now, this seems incomprehensible. I don’t know how I did it.

I guess I just didn’t know any better. It’s like when I founded the local furry community and we had that night out at the movies, and I felt this enormous relief because suddenly I knew what it was like to not be lonely any more. The relief was so profound I almost cried from the enormity of it. And with it, came the knowledge of just how lonely I had been, and that was almost as staggering.

Now I know just how unhappy I had been in my sluglike passive childish existence of video games and other time wasting bullshit. I have connected with the world via purpose and it has changed me for the better so profoundly that facing my previous “normal” existence now seems like a goddamned fucking nightmare.

A lot of that is because of the memories being trigger, though. A feeling of being back in the cage it took you so long to escape. Of course, that’s not true – I will escape again on the 29th. Guaranteed. But try telling that to the scared little animal deep inside my soul.

So here I sit, full of that nameless dread that has no source and no destination. I know I can find my way out of this morass.

But right now, I can’t feel it. So for the moment, it’s more of an article of faith than anything else.

And I have never been very good at faith.

I feel cold inside. Dead. That’s the depression, of course. Depression, at least to me, is more about the deadly chill inside that numbs as it destroys than it is about any kind of sadness or anxiety. Don’t get me wrong, social anxiety sucks and has caused me untold damage over the years as it diverts all my social inputs into its own stultifyingly confined yet maddeningly complex maze full of nothing but dead ends and negative conclusions.

But that’s anxiety. When I think depression, I think of paralytic numbness. Like I have said before, recovery for me is like waking up a foot that’s fallen asleep. Sure, it hurts – it hurts pretty bad. But that beats the hell out of the dead numb cold feeling it is replacing, and it feels so good to have life returning to the effected area that the pain is entirely justified.

Because deep down, you know that the numbness is wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong. And the only way to cure the wrongness is to wake things up again, and work through the pain.

Sadly, a lot of people end up in the same position as I was in, too full of suppressed emotion to begin the thawing process. It takes therapy to cut down on the frozen emotions chilling your soul and let you start to come to life again. And there will be times you want to stop because it hurts so much.

But once you get a real taste for the results, namely feeling more alive and aware and healthy and whole, you know that no matter how often you stop, you will start again once you are ready.

It’s remarkably like taking a long and difficult shit, really.

I know I will make it to the other side of it. In fact, the fact that I am experiencing the depression of it right away is actually a really good sign. It means that I am ready to work through it right away instead of going into “dizzy and dim denial” mode, where I pretend everything is going to be just fine and don’t deal with the problem at all until I just can’t stand it any more.

I would rather burn through the garbage that’s in my way right away, and hopefully be able to enjoy my vacation, or at least, not resent it so much.

I am going to start writing my movie soon. That’s one way out. I am going to write three things in total, in reverse order of preference, which is how I always do things. So the movie first, then my Bob’s Burger episode, then the full package for my animated series Sam.

That means polishing up the script for the pilot, coming up with a season’s worth of plotlines, and various length of pitches. Then I will follow the method Victor taught us for getting our idea out there – it involves thoroughly abusing the free two week trial they offer for imbd Pro – and trying to get it made.

I truly believe that it could be a really great show. And very successful as well. It’s the sort of show that, by coming at familiar issues from an unusual – but still relatable – perspective can really touch people, as well as reach out to kids like Sam (and my inner child, of course) and make them maybe feel a little less alone in the world, as well as show the world that these kids exist and that they have their own set of problems too.

My odds, of course, are very low. But I am not exactly betting the farm on it either. It’s something to do over the break, and who knows, maybe it will be my ticket into show biz.

And if not, at least I had fun!

There, I got through my darkness and ended on a positive!

Yay for me!

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

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An altercation on the Skytrain [Aug. 17th, 2016|09:48 pm]

Originally published at The Homepage of Michael John Bertrand. You can comment here or there.

Don’t worry, it was purely verbal.

I was on the Skytrain home from my little one-on-one with my Sketch prof[1] when a loud argument erupted near me. Some young blonde dude was trying to panhandle on the Skytrain, and that’s totally against the rules. People want to be able to commute in peace. Panhandling on the street is find because you are not getting in people’s faces about it. But when you panhandle on mass transit, you are inherently getting in their face and invading their personal space at a time when they would rather not be pressured to do things.

So this older guy, lets call him Mallcop because he had a very “rent a cop” vibe to him was telling the younger guy, whom we will call Blondie, that panhandling was not allowed on the Skytrain, and Blondie was doing that super irritating thing where he would agree with the guy, but then argue that he should be allowed to do it, then agree again that he will stop doing it, then move off looking exactly like he was going to start doing it again, and Mallcop was not having it. And I am trying to ignore it but Blondie is really starting to piss me off and I know something is coming.

So of course, I butted in. I could see that Mallcop lacked the mental maneuverability to handle Blondie once Blondie started in with the sob story about mental illness and panhandling for 22 hours and selling his body to an old man and so forth and so on. So I had to take over.

And he, of course, tried the same bullshit with me, but I see through that kind of thing. Highlights include :

Blondie : I was starving on the street!
Me : So you’re not on social assistance?
Blondie : Well… yeah, I am, but they only give me a few hundred dollars….
Me : It’s $550 and I know you can live on that because I have.
Blondie : But…. you had a place to live!
Me : And you don’t have a place to live?
Blondie : Well not yet… I’m on a waiting list for an SRO and I am crashing on a friend’s-
Me : Sounds to me like you are right on track, then.

I wish I had said “You have $550 and no rent to pay and you STILL think the rules don’t apply to you? Check your privilege, bro. ”

Blondie : And people are so hostile to me just because I’m poor-
Me : No, it’s because you are breaking the rules.
Blondie : Yeah, but I need money…
Me : So you think most panhandlers don’t need the money?
Blondie : Well, no….

And then there’s this gem :

Blondie : Well yeah, panhandling is against the rules, but you know what’s worse? Stealing, or murdering, and I’m not doing any of those-
Me : You don’t get credit just for not breaking the law!

I mean, talk about aggressive panhandling. “Give me money or I am going to steal and murder!”.

One more snippet :

Blondie : I have so much mental illness, I feel like killing myself all the time…
Me : Me too. For the last 20 years.
Blondie : Well I don’t attack you for that and tell you you’re a piece of shit because of it…
Me : I never said that.
Blondie : Well, no, but…

Basically, he was a clearly overprivileged spoiled immature asshole who wanted to take people hostage by talking about killing himself and thought the rules didn’t apply to him because they were not convenient for him and could not imagine that anyone ever had the right to be mad at him or object to what he is doing and so they can only be doing it because they are heartless and mean.

I don’t put up with that bullshit no matter who is doing it, whether it’s some young dude on the Skytrain or some old conservative whining about taxes. I can’t stand it when people think the rules don’t apply to them. Like they have such a profound sense of their own personal preciousness that they can’t even connect the rules everyone else follows with their own behaviour.

Rules are for other people, not me!

And there was something really galling about how pouty and whiny and childish he was acting.

The only part of it that I regret is that, after he had moved away to the other end of the Skytrain car I was in, I overheard him whining to some of the people there about how heartless I was, and I snapped and yelled “Get the fuck over yourself!”

That was wrong. It was wrong because I yelled and I can be very loud, it was wrong because I swore and to some people that’s a big deal (I could hear people gasp and I could tell I had lost what public sympathy I had left) and it was wrong because I lashed out in anger while making it personal.

And while I don’t think I said anything wrong, I do wish I could talk to him again now that I am somewhat calmed down.

Here’s the advice I would like to give him :

Get over yourself. No seriously…. get over yourself. I’m not saying this to be mean or to hurt you. I am saying it because getting over yourself is the best damned thing you can ever do for yourself. You need to accept the fact that you are an adult now and that means you are in charge. Only your mother owes you unconditional love. And in case you haven’t noticed, your momma ain’t here. Going around whining and wheedling with your lower limp sticking out will get you nowhere. You need to do whatever it takes to get yourself well then get on with your life. There is nothing you can get from another that is more valuable than learning to rely on yourself. So it’s up to you…. you can go on blaming everyone else for everything and acting like a child…. or you can man up, take responsibility for yourself, and become a happy grownup. It is all up to you.

The worst part about the whole thing was that it didn’t upset me at all. In fact, I enjoyed it, and after it was over I felt a great relief.

So clearly I have some stuff to work through and I need to find a healthy and harmless way to do it.

Anyone know of a good right wing forum for me to lay waste to?

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Turns out I was wrong about the producer being there
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99 percent invincible [Aug. 17th, 2016|02:46 am]

Originally published at The Homepage of Michael John Bertrand. You can comment here or there.

I am incredibly close to completing my second term at VFS. In fact, I’m only fifteen minutes away!

I shall explain.

All I have left is my one-on-two with my Sketch prof and the nice lady who is going to produce the skit show next term in which actors will actually act out one of my skits. The idea is that they will tell me which of the two they chose and why, and hash out any last minute concerns with me.

I am not looking forward to it.

Why? Because I feel acutely embarrassed by the skits I submitted. They are not my best work. Most of the skits of my classmates are better. And both my skits are super short. One is one page and the other is two. So whichever one they choose, my bit will be real real short.

I feel like I fucked up big time.

My skits aren’t terrible or anything, but I can do so much better. I didn’t spend much time at all writing them, and it shows. So while they do contain my characteristic wit, I feel like they are sloppy, hurried work, and there was no excuse for that.

Besides wanting to get back to my fucking video game. Which is no excuse at all.

Heck, even some of my old skits from Way Back When would have made a better choice than the two POS I submitted. Sure, those skits seem hopelessly amateurish to me now, but at least they were more than two pages long and were made with much precision and care.

Instead, I submitted an updated version of my Hillary skit and a quickie about an athlete who thanks Satan for his success.

The immediate issue is that I care too damned much. This is Sketch, something I love, and something wherein I am extremely eager to make a good impression. But I am too neurotic for that level of enthusiasm, and so instead of healthy zeal, it turns the whole thing into crushing anxiety, self-doubt, and second guessing.

And then, in what I am beginning to think might be the basic pattern of my mental malfunction, the maelstrom of emotions leaves me paralyzed, unable to act. Just brood, and hate myself. And when I finally overcome that, I have built the writing up as such a huge thing in my mind that it terrifies me and I (drumroll please) just want to get it over with as quickly as possible!

Voila, the formula for sloppy crappy work.

So clearly, I need to learn to corral my neuroses. Honestly, I am starting to think that cocky self-assurance might actually work better for me as long as it comes with a work ethic attached. After all, a cocky attitude got me through school and college. Didn’t study or take school seriously at all, waltzed in, aced the test, walked out. That might seem like a terrible way to do business and it certainly doesn’t pass the common sense test, but for someone like me, it has hidden benefits.

Namely that the cockiness counters the screaming neurosis and allows me to function so I can actually do a good job.

As I have mentioned many, many, many times in this space before, I never had to study at school. What I don’t think I have mentioned is what happened when I tried. I tried to learn to study many times, but it always resulted in exactly what I am talking about : I became a nervous wreck, what had been easy for me now seemed impossible, and I was far worse off than before.

Turns out, cockiness really works for me.

So perhaps I will attempt to stay cocky and egotistical in the future – the kind of egotistical that would not dare to let anything go until it was good enough to be released under my name.

In other words, I need to stop being so goddamned lazy/fearful and buckle down and work really hard on this shit. That means not considering it done the second I finish the first draft. That is going to require a significant amount of psychological growth, because when I go back to improve said first draft, all that neurotic bullshit starts happening. I suppose it’s because when I stop writing about it, I have to either shove it out the door so I can forget about it, or stay with it and start really thinking about it, and unleash a tidal wave of self-doubt and neurosis which destroys my confidence in the work entirely and leaves me broken and fearful.

Clearly, I need a third option.

Because I will not always have a forgiving editor or other person to act as the other half of the equation and make the corrections, which I then implement. There will be times that I have to do the whole thing by myself, from beginning to end, and if it’s not good enough, I just plain won’t get the job (or whatever).

What’s more, I need to be able to keep the whole thing in my mind even after the first draft is done, because I need to be able to improve it. So it can’t always be a “fire and forget” thing. I need to somehow get to the place where I can do all the perfecting and polishing myself.

Oh well. At least my skits (remember those?) are funny-ish and the organizers said they wanted some short stuff to use to vary the pace of the show to keep it interesting. So my stuff might be good for that. I am probably being far too hard on myself out of rampaging insanity. I am a good writer, and a very funny guy, and I should remember that when times get tough.

So I fuck up sometimes. Who doesn’t? I will catch up and everything will be cool.

I just have to cut down on the time I spend in the “safety” of video games and the Internet so that I get used to going without it and get my fucking priorities straight.

And now, I will go play a game I downloaded from the Internet.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

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I did it again [Aug. 16th, 2016|03:30 am]

Originally published at The Homepage of Michael John Bertrand. You can comment here or there.

I got into an argument with one of my profs. And that’s got to stop.

I still think I was right, of course. I was being criticized both for putting too much dialogue in my TV episode outline and not putting in enough description. Description? This is a plot summary, not freaking storyboarding. I will add relevant details when I write the damned thing, but the outline is suppose to be plot only.

And none of the other students were held to the same standards. I mean, I was being told that I was supposed to write in every hand gesture and bit of incidental action, like what characters are doing when they say their lines. Again, nobody else did that.

Plus they said my outline was all dialogue and no action, which is patently untrue. Granted, I don’t have any car chases or rocket explosions, but every scene has people doing lots of things, as well as saying things. So what the fuck?

And yeah, I said “they”, because of course the rest of the class backed up the prof. So there I was, in the position of arguing with a whole room full of people, again.

But whether I am right or wrong or something in between, it doesn’t matter, because I should not be pissing off the professors that I am counting on to use their connections to get me work when I graduate. Especially not her… she knows everyone in TV and has tons of friends on tons of shows.

So it is in my own best interest to try to keep my temper in check. Even if I am certain I am being wronged. The best thing I can do is just to smile and ignore the bad advice.

But it’s going to be a long old road to get to where I can do that. I am the sort of person who has a temper that can flare up very rapidly, but people who know me well can go years without ever seeing it. That’s because my friends are very reasonable people and rarely engage in wholesale departures from reason and accountability.

Now I definitely have some problems when it comes to my schooling. I went through a bad phase a couple of weeks ago when I was not keeping up all my work and worse, I was not holding up my end of the bargain when it came to the TV and move script classes. The deal is that the people presenting their work on a given class would post it two days before the class, and those who were not presenting would then read it and type up some comments and suggestions about it, and print said notes out and hand them in to both the teacher and the student.

Well I fucked that up, like, a LOT.

And that might well cost me a lot of marks. Hopefully not enough to cause me to drop below a 65 percent average, and hence flunk out. But it’s a possibility.

So I have done things to make my profs genuinely upset with me. And maybe they are taking it out on me, without realizing it, via criticism. Well if they are, they need much better arguments. I am quite happy to take constructive criticism, and up until recently I have taken in all suggestions and implemented most of them, with nary a complaint.

I’ve been a lamb about the whole thing, to be honest.

So it’s not like I can’t take criticism. I totally can. In fact, to be honest, I revel in it, because to me, it sounds like excellence. Getting good, well thought out criticism let me make my thing better, and that’s a wonderful thing. Like I have said before, it means I am not limited to only my broad-but-still-finite perspective, and that goes a long way towards easing my usual paranoia.

But it has to be well grounded criticism. If you come at me with criticisms that don’t make sense, aren’t valid, or are just plain crazy, I am going to argue my case, and for better or for worse, I am extremely good at that.

And as my sister Anne can attest, I don’t ever back down when I think I am right, and I have a LOT of stamina.

So I can be my own worst enemy. I am going to have to learn (slowly and painfully) that any worshopping type class I go to has the potential to set me off, and I will have to be ready for it. I am sure that if I had simply kept my cool today, the situation would not have escalated at all. I could have just said “uh huh, interesting”, written down this bullshit about detail levels, and then ignored it for the rest of my life.

But because I was not ready, I flew off the handle, and maybe alienated a lot of people.

I will have to be on my best behaviour next term. I need these people to like me, maybe even love me. That’s how I will get jobs in the future. Someone I know from my VFS class will be looking for someone to write with or to hire, and I want them to think “I know! That Michael guy from school seems pretty smart! I’ll call him!”

Not “Whatever we do, we can’t hire that hotheaded asshole Michael. He’s too ‘difficult'”.

I may not be able to do a lot about my lack of social integration right now. There’s still too much wrong with me for me to learn to make friends and hang with the kids and all. That social damage is a bitch and I am not going to fix it overnight. It’s better if I am realistic about that.

But I can at least control how I act in class. I can do my best to seem like exactly the sort of guy you want around when you need help.

And I can be that guy.

I just need to learn to not get so combative when I am defending my territory.

Oh well, I am sure I am not the first moody prick to go to VFS!

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

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My actual life [Aug. 14th, 2016|10:02 pm]

Originally published at The Homepage of Michael John Bertrand. You can comment here or there.

I had some sort of soul-searching self-therapy topic for today, but I have forgotten. So let’s go biographical.

The main thing going on in my life right now is that my second term at VFS is ending. I have four classes left : two on Monday, one on Tuesday, and one on Wednesday. After that, I will have twelve days off before starting Term 3 on Monday, August 27. This suits me fine.

Intriguingly, according to the current schedule, it seems like I am only going to be taking five classes period next term. That makes sense because next term is when shit gets real. All the preliminary work is done and we are ready to seriously start writing. Term 3 is when we will be writing our TV spec scripts and our (eek) feature films.

Suits me fine. Like I have said before, I would rather be writing than sitting in class. And by that, I mean really writing, not this preliminary bullshit. I am sure treatments, outlines, and beat sheets are very useful to some, and I certainly would never claim that they won’t be a lot of help when it comes times to write.

But I am chomping at the bit to get to the actual writing part of this whole thing. What can I say, I’m a writer, I want to write. I am hoping that, once I have something substantial to sink my teeth into, I will be able to restrain myself enough to approach things with the proper amount of forethought and care.

Or at least, to edit that way.

As I have said, mine is an impatient kind of creativity that balks at being slowed down or constrained. It wants to streak across the sky like a runaway comet, not carefully tend a tiny word garden. And so patience is a lesson I will need to learn in this writing thing.

I was a little bit worried about this expanse of free time in front of me, but I am not worried any more because I realized that there’s nothing stopping me from writing my movie or my TV spec script over the break. It’s not expected of us, but there’s no rule forbidding it either. So I will attack those tasks and that can keep me occupied. Especially the feature film script. That strikes me as being a lot like writing a novel, and my novel writing days were quite happy because I had something that drained away all my excess mental energy and left me practically normal.

And for a hyper-cerebral person like myself, that’s a welcome relief.

I wonder how much of my mental distress has excess mental energy as its root cause. Maybe if I could find my way to draining that shit off on a regular basis, the intense pressure in my mind would relent and I would actually be a much calmer and happier person, with oodles more patience and forbearing than now. Maybe my inner demons would starve without all that spare mental energy to feed upon. Maybe without my mind vibrating like an unbalanced dryer all the time, my mind would actually have the peace and quiet it needs to really heal itself.

Instead, all it can do is slowly and painfully dig the shrapnel from my flesh piece by piece. So slowly it’s as if it was being pulled out by a magnet, or that it is rejecting the shrapnel like a tree can reject a nail by simply continuing to grow behind it until it is pushed out by it.

Man, do I dig metaphors.

But where does this cerebral surplus come from? I get the feeling there’s no single simple answer for that. One part of it must be my intense mental exercise regimen. In many way I am an athlete of the mind, and I need to constant exercise my mighty mental muscles just to retain my tiny supply of sanity. As a result, though, I build up strength and conditioning and that makes for a very rapid mental metabolism, and a great deal of energy generated for which I have no use.

So it ends up going into things like neurosis, anxiety, self-doubt, depression, and all the other mental maladies to which I currently play host.

Maybe that’s why depression skews towards intelligence. It’s us “smart” people who generate this excess mentation. Normal people don’t have to worry about that shit. And it’s so hard to explain to people what you mean when you say your thoughts are so intense they keep you awake at night because your mind, like a frisky toddler, will not settle down and rest.

The Ben Folds Five know what I am talking about.

It’s so intense because your whole brain is a juiced up amplifier, Ben. And because you have trouble expressing emotion.

The thing is, I don’t know what the solution is to this problem. It’s not like you can get a USB jack embedded in your ear and use your excess mental energy to recharge your phone. Writing works for me because, unlike video games, writing provides mental exercise and an outlet for those energies without stimulating my mind at the same time.

And I am trying – I really am – to get to a place where my favorite leisure activity – the one I go to be default when I am bored – is writing. And I have never been closer. I know that I enjoy writing and that, despite the stress and the strain, it almost always makes me a happier fellow.

Video games should be for when I am taking a break from writing, not the other way around. And I swear, I will get there. I will be the dude who writes. Who knows, if I can go far enough down that particular road, maybe I will become super prolific like Isaac Asimov was.

There are advantages to not having a life, and I tend to exploit the fuck out of them.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

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