Too Much Change

So much has happened…

– sold house (add to this: renovated house)

– bought condo (add to this: mourning house, moving)

– moved psychotherapy practice to newly-leased office (add to this: find office space, renovate, move)

– had my application to the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario accepted

– began intense revision process on novel (coming out in September)

So there you have it. I also hope to have a new short story published around the time my novel comes out, so yeah. All hands on deck at the moment.

I leave you with the cover for my novel, The Society of Experience:

 

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The Importance of Self Care

I was reading this article in the National Post, about a psychiatrist whose trained specialty is analyzing and working with violent sexual predators, who recently experienced a breakdown as a result of what is believed to be symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). He has worked on cases involving Paul Bernardo, Robert Pickton, and most recently Russell Williams: all of them so-called sexual sadists, all of them convicted murderers.

To put this into context for those reading from outside Canada, each of these convicted – by virtue of the severity and depravity of their crimes – is a poster boy for reinstating capital punishment (which, for the record, I do not support). They have individually terrorized regions of the country when they were active. It’s important to understand all of this due to the nature of being a mental health professional – someone trained to see people as people no matter who they might be or what they might have done – working with people of this description.

The article describes how Dr. John Bradford simply lost his ability to keep the burden of content (and ostensibly the affect of said content) from seeping into his consciousness, whereas before he was able to separate the explicitly graphic information he worked with from getting to him. What stood out in the article for me was the following:

What he wouldn’t realize until he went into therapy was that the videos from his many cases had been gradually taking their toll and they rushed back to haunt him on that long drive home.”

 

In particular, the phrase “until he went into therapy”, which implies that he wasn’t seeing a therapist until this point. Assuming this conjunction isn’t sloppiness on behalf of the writer, I find it appalling that Dr. Bradford could have such a role and somehow not be mandated by his employer (or his governing professional society) to be in some form of regular personal therapy. It boggles my mind, actually.

We live in an odd time when the general public are being told (rightfully) the importance of mental health and not allowing toxic environments to fester within them and yet someone tasked with watching videos of killers’ victims doesn’t walk into a therapist’s office until he is exhibiting signs of PTSD and is forced to take a month off work?

Let me be clear: to my knowledge there is no explicit mandate for said procedure. I am not implying that Dr. Bradford was in any way professionally negligent. I am however suggesting that the past and current culture of psychiatry, with its “detached” experts, should reconsider its standards for those tasked with a specialty like Dr. Bradford. Self care goes both ways: it allows patients/clients/non-professionals to seek help and understanding for their issues; it also allows professionals an opportunity to explore how their work impacts their lives.

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Ask The Zombies in July, or, How Are The Dutch Going To Do at Euro 2012?

In less than two weeks, various qualifying teams from throughout Europe are going to get together in Poland and Ukraine for Euro 2012. It’s like the World Cup, but without most of the World. Still, some of soccer’s (which I will call football going forward) greatest stars will be competing for glory.

Now, about the Dutch. Yes, the country is called (provoking visions of clouds and grey veils) the Netherlands or, more quaintly (insert visions of tulips and blonde farm wives in wooden shoes), Holland. But, whether you are a fan or an opponent, they are often referred to as “the Dutch”.

 

 

 

 

 

The Dutch met Spain in the World Cup finals in 2010. It should have been the seminal moment of my football-loving/Dutch-cheering life, but (see here for more) I was turned-off by their strategy, which – with the exception of some honest-to-God deserved victories against mortal foes such as Brazil – seemed kind of cynical.

There’s winning and then there’s winning. The Dutch, since the early 70s, have always emphasized beautiful football: flowing, sexy, unpredictable, and effective. Unfortunately, since World Cup 98, that effectiveness came into question as a combination of generational talent turnover (Ruud van Nistelrooy was not exactly Dennis Bergkamp) and some daft coaching decisions (chief in my mind, Louis van Gaal’s decision to squander a two-goal lead against Portugal in the WC 2002 qualifiers) created an existential crisis. Beautiful football wasn’t getting results.

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The Ides of March

Basement: mostly done.

We pushed ourselves hard to get everything (doors, baseboards, furniture) cut/fitted/assembled. The result is beautiful. The space is marvellous. I could not have asked for a more comfortable working environment.

Novel: revised, but sifting through new notes.

I spent two months grinding through a very large, complex recommendation on my novel – that it be written in 1st-person rather than 3rd-person. A tall order. And yet, I went through with it because it made perfect sense. The narrative style I was using was such an intimate sounding 3rd-person that switching to 1st-person felt more natural – the fact that I was using 1st-person for the follow-up novel I was already working on also helped.

The new notes only regard the first part of the book – not a huge deal, and yet I will admit that I’m tired of going back to this beast. I tell myself: if it makes it better, if it improves my understanding of storytelling, if it’s still my book in the end – then it is worth it.

Film job: crazy.

Dealing with battlefields in Los Angeles, Toronto, and Seoul, it’s not hard to imagine that I’m getting emails 24-hours a day. Most of the people I’m working with are professionals who are dedicated to making this project a success. Some of the people are, for various reasons, driving me crazy. That’s pretty much par for the course.

Psychotherapy practice: saw first client.

Therapist-client confidentiality notwithstanding, I am happy to finally be getting my practice off the ground. It is a new beginning and it feels great in all the right places.

 

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Why Psychotherapist (pt. 2 – tangent)

In the course of moving towards a practice (which has begun, if gradually), my wife and I have been renovating our basement for nearly the past year. Yes, one of those reno’s. The purpose of which was so that I could work out of the house as opposed to rent office space (which is not cheap in downtown Toronto).

It’s been a learning experience: learning about renovations, learning about doing long bouts of manual labour beside a loved one, learning about the ways in which two people can live together, be married and all that, yet have different approaches toward planning and executing large-scale operations. On this note, it’s also been about communicating, dealing with stress, and knowing when to take a break (from the basement).

Most recently, my wife – who is an amazing designer – designed a compact website for my practice: please visit. With the basement almost done, and a website online (heck, I also have business cards), it seems all of the hallmarks (and clichés) of “change” are ringing true.

Of course, the practice is in its infancy. I am still working hard on a Hollywood 3D dance film, and waiting to hear back from my agent (can’t get used to typing those two words) about the most recent revision to my novel that I submitted.

I will let you know how it proceeds.

Here’s an interesting question someone asked me, when they heard I was studying to practice as a psychotherapist. I will discuss this in an upcoming blog post:

“Do you feel pressure to be a better person?”

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Swirl

I am trying (desperately) to avoid a “boy, it’s been a wacky ride these last few months!” post. It certainly isn’t for lack of things to talk about, news to update you with, opinions to confess/shout.

Thing is, I don’t know who you are. Sure, I know there are some of you who are semi-regular visitors. There are others who happen upon this place by accident (via Blogger or StumbleUpon). There are also those who come here via Google searches, either via my name or – most likely – a book review (which admittedly I haven’t done in, oh, a year or so *). And no, this isn’t going to be a “Matt wittily evading accusations of being a lazy bastard by turning the camera on the reader” post.

I’ve been posting artsy stuff, writerly stuff, industry opinion stuff. I don’t mind the randomness, so long as there’s no fluff. I do mind the lack of output. I wish, for one, that I could post more photographs (which is to say, I wish I had a better selection of photos to post **).

It comes down to the fact that I’ve been working like a dog since May (note: this happens every year that I’m working on a SAW film). When I come out of these periods, I feel like Rip van Winkle: a little dazed, slow on the up-take. Whereas last year this time I started teaching, this time this year I am a student (part-time) †. I have a small (but good) feature and a small (but good and potentially controversial) TV show on my plate from now till February. If funds allow, I also hope to have an editor working with me on my novel, with an eye to approaching a publisher or self-publishing if that doesn’t seem feasible ††. I’m collaborating on a musical.

My plate is full.

– – – 

* which isn’t to say that I’m not reading or that I don’t want to do any more book reviews. I’m reading a lot of non-fiction, thank you. Much of it either out of professional or academic interest. However, if only to improve my Google ranking, here’s a quick book review of Antwerp by Roberto Bolaño: What the fuck was that? (ISBN-13: 978-0811217170)

** another casualty of working so much is my photography. I still have the same roll of film in my camera that I’d loaded in June. I think I’ve only taken 4 exposures since then. Of course, my cellphone camera gets all the fun these days, unfortunately.

† I will be continuing teaching, but for only two terms this year as opposed to three (which was exhausting and… exhausting)

†† It needs a new name, for one thing. And I know this is going to drive me up the wall more than any changes to the actual content of the book.

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All That Glitters Isn’t Oranje

It should come as no surprise that my postings have been less frequent, in proportion to the success or lack thereof of the Dutch at the World Cup, which has just (mercifully) ended.

First: I’m happy we made it to the Final.

Second: I’m happy we lost (even though I wanted us to win at the time).

Allow me to explain: I will always support Oranje, but that doesn’t mean I have to suspend my critical faculties while doing so. It also doesn’t mean I am living in a nostalgic cloudbank in which Holland must either play soccer like the Kirov ballerinas dance or else they are “cynical” – a word bandied about by once-every-four-years-I-pay-attention-to-soccer pundits.

In case I haven’t beaten this point enough, my Oranje is the team of 1998. It always will be. They were beautiful to watch (take a look at my Ryeberg essay if you haven’t already) and most aficionados consider that squad the greatest team of the competition, regardless that they lost to Brazil in the semi-finals. The thing is, if you accept that, then you must also accept they were the very same team who flamed-out against Italy in Euro 2000 in the quarters, in perhaps one of the most humiliating games I’ve seen us play: same squad, folks. How’s that for beauty?

The toughest question in the world if you are a Dutch international soccer player: What can you do when the public, the pundits, the former stars from the Golden Age all want to see you play ballet if playing ballet doesn’t win anything? Don’t get me wrong: I like the Oranje ballet – I am one of those people who can walk away from a loss, still chuffed that we played “as we should”. I do side with author David Winner’s thoughts about Dutch soccer philosophy, as laid out in his (brilliant) book, Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Soccer. But inevitably you want to win something, and the only silverware the Dutch have is the Euro title in 1988.

This brings us to the present. Sadly. Sadly, because for the most part Oranje did not live up to the philosophy we had come to World Cup 2010 expecting. Under the direction of Bert van Marwijk, they took a detour: individual beauty, sure, when necessary, but collectively less a ballet than an assembly line with a very narrow directive: win, above all else. And they did. They were rusty at first and their games, outside of pockets of that ol’ Clockwork Oranje we hoped to see, were not pretty, but they won, and continued to win. Lord, I wanted them to win, too – I was a willing enabler.

When the final against Spain came, I was a nervous wreck. I can only imagine how it must have been in Holland, for those making their way to the Museum Square in Amsterdam where the games were shown for the public. They had come so far, had been through so much, for so many years: 1974, 1978, the glimmer of 1998, the disappointment of missing 2002. So much baggage that you wanted them to win just to shake off the voodoo of the past.

But as I got prepared that morning I visualized what it would be like if we won, if for the first time ever we won the Cup. Instead of tears of joy, I have to tell you, I saw that it would have felt as if we had cheated. As if in winning, we had not done so as ourselves but as a cunning machine, as if someone had invented a “Dutch Soccer Team” to take our place. I cannot describe how difficult it was to deal with that: to stare at a historic vindication within reach of your fingertips, knowing simultaneously there was something inherently inauthentic about it. In fact, had we won, I fear the “victory” would have irrevocably punctured the heart of Dutch soccer, as opposed to the bittersweet reality I live with now: we lost, Dutch soccer is merely dented. Coach van Marwijk’s corporatist approach has been repudiated, that is for sure. What I don’t know is who or what, philosophically speaking, has been vindicated, since we are bridesmaids once again.

Perhaps it is our souls? I can’t speak for yours, but mine is in a better if not exactly comfortable place right now.

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Honesty, After Dark

A continuous problem I have throughout the social media spectrum, the main culprits being Facebook and Twitter, is that – once you get to the point where you have your sister’s husband as your “friend”, once the guy you barely talked to in high-school is “following” you – you are no longer able to be, well, honest anymore. You cannot post as a status update “Gary is an asshole” without, ultimately, answering to Gary (or his pot-smoking live-in partner, or your co-workers who are largely idiots). You can’t even be vague: “Some guy I know is being an asshole.”. People will know who you’re talking about – context leaves clues people can find. Gary will get mad and want answers.

Oh, you can be honest, alright. You can lay it on the table all you want, but with the inevitable consequence of offending people and getting in trouble for it. In other words, there’s nowhere to hide online. This is why I wish there were Bizarro social media sites like, say, Facebook After Dark and Undercover Twitter. Places where you can say the things you really want to say about the people you’re “friends” with, the people you “follow”, without fear of recrimination. I think we would all be happier as a result.

You reading this, Gary?

(P.S. There is no “Gary”, in case anyone is wondering. I don’t really have co-workers either) – ed

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2009: This is Naught a Love Song

It wasn’t even close to New Year’s Eve before Ingrid and I were swearing that 2009 could not end fast enough, like a vampire-queen freshly staked that we wished would stop spitting blood and just fucking die already.

It’s not that it was such a *bad* year, so much as it was filled with such a dense and dramatic amount of events that by early December I simply had no room left in my head; my brain’s capacity was supersaturated with fragments of information without the ability to reflect anymore (reflection, I feel, being the way we digest information, the same way our stomach digests food in order to allow more food to come later). I tell you: such a state of mind is not healthy.

Among the highlights of 2009, this last year of the naughts: I completed work on two feature films, one MoW (movie-of-the-week), bought a house (without Ingrid being in the same country at the time!), moved into said house, started teaching post-graduate studies in film post production, and completed a major revision on my novel (which I’m becoming very happy with). Lastly, we managed to insert a three-country whirlwind vacation after Christmas. I must say, there was some cruel justice in having abandoned the country while the decade died. And what a decade it was…

Our friend, Shannon, who we met in London, upon hearing how things had gone for us in 2009, showed no surprise. “It’s the Year of the Ox.” she said “I can’t wait for it to end!”. According to Shannon, Years of the Ox are denoted by their eschewing of joy and relaxation for the throes of head-down labour and development. I’m not exactly sure how accurate this is – was it this bad twelve years ago, the last time there was an Oxen year? I ask myself – but one thing I do know: I certainly don’t want to go through another Year of the Ox for another twelve years.

And so, to my readers, and to those just visiting, when I say “Happy 2010” I really mean it. The Oxen year is not quite over yet – the Chinese New Year is not until February 14th (at which point, 2010 will be the Year of the Tiger). I wish you all the best for the coming year, and offer the following synopsis, taken from a website who took it from a website, who took it from another website (so it must be true):

Drama, intensity, change and travel will be the keywords for 2010. Unfortunately, world conflicts and disasters tend to feature during Tiger years also, so it won’t be a dull 12 months for anyone. The Year of the Tiger will bring far reaching changes for everyone. New inventions and incredible technological advances have a good chance of occurring. For all of the Chinese horoscope signs, this year is one to be active – seizing opportunities and making the most of our personal and very individual talents. Everything happens quickly and dramatically in a Tiger year – blink and you could miss an important chance of a lifetime!

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It Doesn’t Need To Be This Way

I was having brunch in the Market with my friend, Lady B, whom I’ve known for over 10 years. We were talking about “life changes” (we both being close to 40). We got onto the topic of how her and I sometimes are conditioned to expect the worst.

“With the house, didn’t you feel that, somehow, everything would inevitably go wrong and you wouldn’t get it after all?” she asked.

“Yes!”

It was as if she had read my mind. We were eating palacsinta at a small Hungarian bistro.

We talked about this, because she’d felt the exact same way when she and her partner bought their house. She speculated, correctly in my estimation, that this mode of thinking – let’s call it auto-tragic thinking – was the result of her and I coming from divorced families (the divorces or circumstances surrounding them being particularly destructive). The end-result, if not in all cases then certainly in ours, was that we were conditioned to expect gift horses to have mouth cancer and every silver lining to have a cloud moving in its way. Happiness was a pulled rug away from tragedy.

I thought about moments in my life – moments that everyone experiences – like applying for a job, asking someone out for a date. Moments where, realistically, we hope/aim for the best. The difference between the average person and people like myself and Lady B is that, in the event we don’t get the job we hope for, in the event that special someone isn’t interested in us, we tend to see it as a fateful inevitability; a symptom of a curse. Of course, we say to ourselves. Why should this be any different than any other time?

The subject clearly struck a chord for both of us.

“You expect it to be like in Carrie.” she said in a follow-up email, discussing how we became conditioned to expect the worst. “You’re at the prom, thinking that everything’s turning around in your life and then suddenly you’re covered in pig blood.”

The best male equivalent I could think of was Laurence Harvey’s character in (the original) The Manchurian Candidate; a tragic puppet whose fleeting tastes of freedom coincide with horrific end results.

So, no, neither Lady B nor I are cursed. Our houses have not fallen down or been taken away from us by a nightmarish bureaucracy. If anything we are only beginning to sense just how much re-wiring is necessary for us to see things clearly, without the faulty psychological infrastructure that led to us to believe that, indeed, the odds were stacked against us.

The mind is a frightening thing. This is why I read books and watch films which challenge my preconceptions. This is why I am lucky to have friends such as Lady B.

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