Presence of Mind

I never realised how literal that phrase could be.  To have “presence of mind.” Another one is “self possession” – to be, somehow, in possession of yourself. For the first time, over the last 6 weeks, I can say that I have a reliable stream of presence of mind.  Not that I have never been present before, but it was erratic to say the least.  i came across an old research diary written in Australia last year.  In it, I say despairingly “my thoughts are flying around like bats i can’t control.” Once again, I was at sea, in the library.  It made me so sad to see that because it reminded me how long this struggle has been, and from where I am now, I can see how futile it has been to fight for so long alone.  seeing that now makes me think that that person who wrote that needs help.

i have been taking Concerta for the last six weeks.  This was my “last resort”, borne of desperation when yet another draft came out muddled beyond recognition and was returned scratched all over with “track changes” comments that showed the entire thing would need to be rewritten. the despair was deep.  Imagine, knowing that you are bright as plum pudding, and knowing that you have a lot to say, and then it comes out as muddled mulch, or mulch with a few brilliant flashes.

So I thought I would take this lifeline that is a health system where i can afford to see a psychiatrist and psychologist and try medication in a way that I’ll be carefully monitored. So I have been taking Concerta for 6 weeks now, and the effects feel nothing short of miraculous. After a few days, i realised i could concentrate like never before. And think clearly. And structure information. I could “hear myself think” – maybe for the first time. It has meant that i am not scared to work anymore. And now I can hear myself think I remember how much I have done already. I realise that I love writing and I always have. And I love reading what other people have to say. And I love thinking about that, and then putting a spin on it in my own way. And that is all, but I mean all, that academic work is. So the next few months will be spent doing just that. Hungrily, intensively. Reading and writing and reading and at the end I’ll have something they call a thesis. My life has changed, and the fight is over. I have presence of mind.

With this new presence, I feel like my shape can get clearer to other people as well. At least to people in my work. This is who I am. This is what I am arguing for. This is where I stand. That presence can be threatening, maybe. I am not anymore vague and amenable. I have thoughts and arguments and I am Up to Something with an ambition I could never before admit.

I dunno what this ambition is exactly. It certainly is not becoming a professor or High Up for the sake of prestige or some such rot (I know many who do that for other reasons, don’t get me wrong). My ambition is to write, to share my ideas with people. My ambition is to make art (in a very wide sense of that term) and my ambition is to be the kind of teacher who gives you a whiff that the way you think is beautiful and you are too and that you are Up to Something in your own way.

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