Surveillance and Self-Documentation

It’s so obvious, the solution. Document yourself.

I used to do that some, hence the particularly bulky portions of this blog.

Such things take time. I guess I could use one of those little life-documenting devices, that take a thousand pictures of the most dull morning ever.

(There is no such thing as dull, but how much can a picture really say about the experience? A fair amount, I guess…but, it’s still a fairly limited appraisal, image. I will never get enough done.)

Someone I respect recently told me, “The only time a person feels like they aren’t doing enough or aren’t doing something ‘right’ is when they are viewing themselves and their work from an external perspective, that operates on a different set of values – oriented around quantification, commodity.

I should consider myself lucky to be so busy.


I don’t know if I actually want my life to documented.

Funny, I just remembered that the person I was talking with the other day, three weeks ago, said, “what, are you used to being filmed?”

“Well, not really…maybe, I mean it’s no big deal…”

(I think I’m in 3 mental health related films this year, as a cis-gendered white woman talking about human rights or sputtering about something very important. I haven’t seen them. I am probably outraged-indignant. I was like that for a year and half or so.)

The conversation shifted and what I didn’t say was, “Duh. We’re being filmed right now, because we’re near a parking garage, the police department, and City Hall.”

Later, when we were walking across a parking lot, we were being filmed. I wonder how much digital data is generated in the routine surveillance of the public.

Is it any wonder that people become paranoid about being watched?
I gave up fear of being watched in my days as a for-real pretend spy, who was not ever up to anything, just leaving messages, receiving information, cracking code left and right – in every single headlight, every song that tipped me off to what was happening in the metastory of my heart and mind.

I accepted that I was being watched. Grinned at it, even – poked fun and spoke earnestly with imagined people at imagined desks, reading these imagined words.

Hey, fellas, madame…

The period of time that preceded that distinct belief that – yeah, some consortium is definitely paying attention to one’s name and intent – was characterized by profound actual surveillance of one’s activities and communication.

One, here, being me.

In addition to the usual surveillance involved with going to grocery stores, I was receiving phone calls from acquaintances informing me that they were asked by people involved with my family, family members, to “keep an eye on me” and that they thought I should know.

I knew that people were reading what I was writing, saying nothing, but taking notes, which I understood to be part of a mental health surveillance strategy of monitoring me for anything that might seem erratic, under duress, or otherwise crazy.

I think my being actively surveilled by people who had well-established patronizing and disparaging intent toward me might have contributed mightily to my sense of being watched, my impression that there was some sort of operation happening.
I found the new mythos to be a preferable alternative to the overarching structures of my “real” life.


I made myself some unlikely allies, ghosts, people who play music, strangers who believed in me. That sort of thing can happen when a person is up against a wall, edged to a cliff…an escape route is created, an alternate story can be conjured, to make the story that one is living make some dignified sense or be more bearable.

It wasn’t just something I made up in isolation. There is an awful lot that can’t be explained by reason or logic based in any concrete or objective sense of “real.” 

I know I wasn’t alone.
Maybe I did join some society when that kid from Serbia and I exchanged emails for a couple of months in the winter? I wanted to know what would happen if I sent an email to an address. It all began as an experiment, a prop-up scheme, but we were real people – talking about children, snow, and generally encouraging one another.

We were friends.

He told me, “You are getting there. Get on horse.”