Monday, August 24, 2009

"Your Love's Got me Tumbling Upside Down"


I'd like to spend a few moments, if I may, reflecting on change. Not Obama-brand "Hope and..." nor that change we so sanctimoniously drop into the cup of the homeless man who asks, "Can you spare some...". I mean, instead, the crisis of paradigm shifts. It is that time of year when people start school, when the freedom of summer begins to approach an end. All of my friends are experiencing some sort of change, whether minor or almost total. The same goes for me.

In the next month I will be up to my eyeballs in school work, all the while working three jobs and committing to a relationship. I've started making small steps towards ameliorating myself to this radical shift in my life. For instance, I bought a watch battery so I can wear my watch again. It's hard to think that I've gone all summer without a watch, relying either on J. or my cellphone to tell me the time. My watch, however, is one of my necessary pieces of armament (for, let's face it, sometimes going to class can being like stepping onto the field of battle) and it is crazy to realize that my wrist has been naked for so long. Now, however, I am wearing it again. A small step, but one which brings me that much closer to preparing myself for school.

Another small change I've made was to clean my apartment. It was time. Equipped with a broom, mop, and Windex I literally swept the dust away. This cleaning spree also entailed clearing off my desk, making space for the books I will be reading into the dark hours of the morning. No more junk mail, Chinese food menus (these were filed in the nearby drawer), or random scraps of paper. Just books. Also organized was my closet, with clothes folded and arranged by color. It's the first time in a long time I can actually see the floor of that room, which is funny to think about.

Again, a small step, but an important one. Cleaning, like exercise or reading a short-story or essay, gives one the feeling of accomplishment, visible, tangible, sweet completion. When I am feeling overwhelmed by things I can't do a thing about I often find myself on the lake bike path just to move myself, of my own power, from one place to another and then back again. It's also brilliant exercise.

J. starts school before I do--the difference between the semester and quarter cycle, I suppose. I actually think this will be a good thing. I am absolutely terrible at saying no to the requests made of me by my lovers. This is a bit of a problem, or at least it was the last time I was in a relationship--it meant passing on studying abroad in Germany among other sacrifices which, in hindsight, I was a fool to have made. I made a promise to myself after the catastrophic conclusion of that relationship: I would never put my ambitions on hold for anyone else. Thus far, at least, it has been easy to say "of course!" to J. because there was nothing in the way. I hope, however, that just as we accept the necessity of meeting our obligations to our jobs, he will see my school work as, itself, an inviolable commitment, an obligation very similar to work.

I am optimistic, actually. He will be the first one in this dyad to have to insist on time to himself for the purposes of doing school work. That is, if he says, "No I can't, I have work to do for class" first, then I will have no problem following suit. The guilt that I would otherwise feel for selfishly putting my desire to be a hot-shot intellectual one day evaporates when I can reply in a way that he has already replied: we agree on this, I can say, we both have to do our work, that comes first.

It will be interesting, though, to see how the dynamics of our time together shift once we are both in school, and, perhaps most importantly, once the weather gets cold. Seeing one another will no longer mean the ease of hopping on a bicycle, but instead will entail braving cold waits for the bus or train. In speaking to The Spy about this she reminded me that her ex-boyfriend would spend a lot of time at her apartment (which was right next to mine) reading. Yes, this is true. The Greek would be sprawled over the arms of her comfy chair with some dense book on international relations theory or the like. But I don't read like that: I must be bent over the desk in a certain way, with an ashtray and a hot cup of tea (2 tea-bags, honey, and soy milk) nearby, and classical music playing. Plus, I'm closer to the Red Line and closer to his college anyway. Which is to say: he should spend the nights with me. (Just sayin'...)

The German and I were talking about how vile identity politics are and, of course, we are of the same mind about this, but we couldn't agree on how identity comes to be entrenched, how it comes to be reified, essentialized, and thus ideological. My assertion, which I think the German half-agreed with, was that in the face of change we retreat to what is comfortable, known, safe and stable. Change, by definition, is un-settling, and this up-set sends people running. As an analyst, my Old Man sees this phenomenon all the time: a nerve is struck in one session and they don't show to the next one on some lame pretext.

Probably more than I should be, I am concerned that I lack the capacity to keep multiple dimensions of myself in play. Like a typical obsessional neurotic right out of one of Freud's or Ferenczi's case studies I have the tendancy to operate with a one-track mind. Still, I was able to, while getting my MA, write letters and emails, play guitar, go out with the German and the Spy, work a job, travel home, visit friends up north, and have almost daily phone conversations with my Old Man that could last, and often did last, for hours. Instead of writing 10 page letters to my ex or compulsively calling my Old Man I'll be spending that time with J. This is an improvement of the highest order.

Freud once wrote, in a letter to his wife while he was away, I want both work and love, as if he were wishing for a coincidence of the two. I'm lucky insofar as I love my work--my school work and my job--and I'm lucky that I have a lover with whom the "work" of cultivating a life we can share is more like play than "work".

The take away point, kids, is this, I think: change isn't bad, no more than it is good. It is a matter of the dance: tempos slide around, and the best dance songs are so heavily layered you can choose your own rhythm. Getting into a groove is always nice, but being able to keep the dance alive, that's always the best.

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