Cautiously groping my way forward to the next stage. I had to pause and absorb the fact that nobody is going to help me in this: I am quite alone, and I will have to be very deliberate, focused, and at times rude. Or at least abrupt.
"Don't waste time," has become my mantra. It's a little surprising, even now, to discover just how often, in various obscure ways, I mark time, rather than using it: I put my productive life on hold because I am not, in my mind's eye, my own master: I am at work, or home, and therefore under authority -- on call -- not at my own disposal. So I just -- fidget. Hang about on Facebook, or read up on the Franco-Prussian War and the Commune and the Belle Epoque, check the current political and financial news. It's sheer nonsense, of course. I am as much my own master at those times as at any other. (How much that may be, well! I don't know. I take a Tostoyan view of the Imperial Self: whatever little bit of consciousness happens to have floated to the top at the moment takes itself for the grand Lord of Dalish Destiny, master of all it surveys, until another wave comes along and -- farewell king! But I digress.) I am, I repeat, as much my own master at those times as any other, and my extravagant passivity is a habit, not something imposed from without. I can do otherwise. Whoever I may be, I can do otherwise.
Listen: don't waste time.
I know. My self-image as an obsequious yes-man does not square with the impression other people have of me, as a willful, stubborn cuss who says exactly what he likes and does exactly as he pleases. I could be radically mistaken. We all know people who are horribly mistaken about themselves and what would improve their characters: cruel people who think they're too soft, and pushovers who think they're too selfish. It's possible to be very wrong. But still, I don't see what I can do but find the best lights I can and steer by them.
The truth is, I have far less influence over other people's emotional states than I imagine, and in fact nobody really gives a damn. If I don't do as they want or expect, they'll experience -- perhaps a brief annoyance -- perhaps nothing at all -- and they'll go on their way, pursuing their own agendas as before. It's time to free myself of the debilitating idea that I matter. I do not. I am, from every point of view, disposable, dispensable. Which, rightly viewed, is a radical blessing.