Wednesday, April 20, 2016

To Toe the Line (but not really)

As part of one of my modernist theory courses in undergrad, my professor asked us to spell out the phrase "to toe the line."  Half of the class spelled it as "tow" and the other half spelled it correctly.  I would say that we were having fun with homophones except that I seem to recall Fanon somehow being involved, so it probably wasn't fun so much as horrifyingly depressing.

I know, I know. Great story.  You laughed, you cried; it was Homeward Bound: the Emotional Journey.  What does this have to do with anything?  Nothing really, except that I thought about opening this post by ruminating on how I tend to toe the line on this blog between candor and reticence and I had to remind myself to spell it "toe" NOT "tow" (thus the recollected lesson) but then I thought I should probably look up the phrase to determine if I was using it correctly and...I sure was not.


My sincerest apologies to all those I have deeply offended over these past nine years by using the phrase "to toe the line" to mean to straddle/to test the boundaries of/to draw the line.

Shan't happen again.

Elaborately incorrect definitions aside, I think what I was trying to say is that I often struggle with my own boundaries with this blog.

Sure, no one really reads it, but some people do and if they don't, when I click publish and this disperses into the nebula of the internet, there is always a possibility that someone could read it.  And as someone who regularly plays my hands close to my vest (and apparently uses idioms with reckless abandon), I am always slightly uncomfortable with that fact.

I suppose I could get a journal and blog privately as they say, although "they" probably wouldn't actually say that, but there's a part of me that wants to use this to connect with others; to share these sparse and fleeting glimpses of my life with family and friends whom I don't get to see very often.

I am not a terribly social creature by nature but I do cherish the friendships I have deeply.  It is because of how deeply I cherish them that I only have volume enough in my heart for so many.  Before I was even familiar with her work, I had always seemingly subscribed to the Emily Dickinson philosophy on relationships: "the Soul selects her own Society--and then shuts the Door."  She really had a fascination with doorways.  And windows.  I could write an entire blog post about it but #priorities!

Anyways, I had even once told a good friend of mine, who wanted to introduce me to a good friend of hers that I simply was not in the market for any more friends at the moment.  Of course she introduced me anyways and I totally fell for her and had no choice but to rearrange the parlor in my left ventricle to make room for one more.  And I did so with gusto.

One of the more unexpected aspects of grief is how it has impacted my ability to be social.  Initially, it had extinguished the desire entirely. In the first six months or so, the thought of casually hanging out or, worse yet, having to make small talk with a new acquaintance was insufferable to me.  I would turn down invitations, saying that I wasn't feeling well and it was totally true.  I literally couldn't stomach the idea of sustaining polite chit-chat with a virtual stranger; it made my physically disgusted.

As time has progressed, it's gotten a little better but I still find it challenging to build new friendships and to maintain the friendships I have already built, which, of course, is frustrating, because I love my friends.  I want to be present in my relationships, but when so much of your emotional energy is devoted to the levies that keep grief at bay enough to be productive, there is just not much left over at the end of the day.

Time is the balm in all of this.  Even when I thought it initially impossible, it has been proven to me over and over again this past year and a half.

So what else is there to do really but to abide and to try in small increments--whenever and however I can manage it--slowly nudging myself back into my society.

I feel like I have a tendency to end posts like this somewhat defensively because I assume that you are judging me and I will be damned if you think I am writing this to engender sympathy or pity.  But I've decided that I am generally too defensive and ultimately, it doesn't matter if this gets misconstrued.  I always find it so refreshing and comforting when people speak frankly about their experiences with grief, so that's precisely what I am going to do.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

On Deleting my Facebook App, Crying, and Spring Snow Storms

A title that rivals the wispy brilliance of Joyce Carol Oates, to be sure.

I often wonder about truly prolific writers.  Because, the older I've gotten, the more I feel perpetually stumped for material.  I used to be able to coax moderately charming narratives from the mundane but, these days, my calls to the gap customer service line to fight my noble crusade of getting them to honor my expired coupon codes just seems downright prosaic.

Yet here I sit, sipping my Tempranillo out of a white wine glass because #yassqueen (also #the red wine glasses are all dirty and I am currently playing chicken with my sink #we're both winning), doing my best to conjure some content from the pallid humdrumness of the everyday.

Last week, I was sifting through my blog archive, which I almost never do on Friday nights when I am bored and all my favorite bloggers have already "taken the weekend off", and I came across a draft I had written a couple of months ago.  It was a fine draft.  A good beginning.  They always are.  But like so many of my drafts that mirror the lifespan of a Trader Joe's daffodil bouquet: it bloomed brightly and briefly, then shriveled and I was like "whatever, it wasn't that much anyways" and threw it into the waste basket.

I had written this particular entry during one of the few bouts of bad weather that we experienced in this milder than mild winter.  I had made some remark about having thus far suffered under the delusion that we would be able to glide into the spring with ease. I read this as the sun shined and the magnolia trees blossomed outside my window and thought I doubt I will be able to use this, blithely clicked delete and it snowed the very next day.  And the day after.

So let that be a lesson to all you writers out there: hoard your material.  You never know what you might be able to use.  Even if it seems like the writing equivalent to an empty chobani container, it might actually be something of value--it might actually contain the exact, dazzling turn of phrase you want to use in a situation you couldn't foresee.

But onto the more pressing matters of the day: why did I delete my Facebook app from iPhone?

A question for the ages.

And the answer is as delightfully nuanced as a Tamara de Lempicka painting.

See, you take one Women's Art History course in college and it gifts you with a catalog of pretentious references for the rest of the your life. But I do love her.  Only partially because she's Polish.

Anyways, the deletion of my Facebook app isn't nearly as dramatic as it seems because I still have a Facebook account.  It's not as if I've entirely liberated myself from the clutch of the claws of the social media beast.

Nope. I needed some room on my iPhone because I never delete pictures and I don't know how to use iCloud.

Well that AND I was starting to feel daunted by the immediacy of my access to it.  It's so millennial of me to see it as such a gross expenditure of excess energy to open my laptop and click the Facebook icon than to literally do the same thing on my phone.

But I assure you,  it is.

When I was teaching, in an effort to protect my sanity, I created a number of relatively arbitrary boundaries for myself:  I couldn't check my email after 8PM.  Why 8PM?  No reason.  But the important thing was that a line was drawn and I adhered to it.

Facebook is such a wondrous and terrible thing.  It brings out some truly lovely parts of my personality and some really, really hideous parts as well.  I don't act upon the grotesque because I am not entirely devoid of impulse control. Well, when I am sober at least.  But the fact that it can engender such insidious thoughts as: why did so and so's picture of their breakfast burrito get more likes than mine? I thought my breakfast burrito looked 100x more delicious.  Ugh, I HATE everyone.

Um, I am sorry but no.  Just no.  I'm thirty-one years old, I barely get ID'd anymore.  To say I am too old for this shit, would be an insult to the rest of the shit that I am generally too old for.

These days, it's hard enough for me to feel connected to others, the last thing I need is the virulent  strain of Facebook competitiveness to further the chasmic divide.

This brings me (sort of, but maybe not really) to the last prong of my trisected title: crying.  My relationship to crying has entirely changed over the last few years.  I went from crying whenever I remembered that swan's could be gay to only ever crying about my brother.

I had no more tears left for Tilikum or Jess in google chrome commercial.  (Both of which were guaranteed weeping fodder in my younger songs of innocence days.)  I couldn't even manage a good cry about work-related stresses like I used to.  Every day.  In the Otis and/or LMU bathroom stalls.  And it may seem strange to miss something like that but I saw it as so intertwined with the admirable parts of my personality--compassion, a desire to do well and help others--that to lose it so abruptly made me feel like a sociopath.

But, I am happy to report, that two weeks ago, I almost cried out of frustration after having spoken to my student loan providers.  And that, dear readers, feels like progress.