Wednesday, March 31, 2010

On Finishing Things

Last week a very close friend of mine moved away from me forever.

I've dealt with separation anxiety in some way shape or form for most of my life. I like people (as previous posts have mentioned) and I get awfully attached to them, to the point where I just can't let go, most often to my own detriment. Once a man started talking to me at a subway station on 176th street, and I rode all the way down to 14th Street with him as he went on about his life. He left and I never saw him again. Then I turned and rode back up to 120th where I was living at the time, but on the way I met up with a woman who started talking to me about her life story, and I rode all the way to 146th Street with her until I finally took the downtown train back to my apartment.

That said, it takes a while for me to make friends. Like, real friends. And more often than not, my "real" friends disappoint me and perhaps even participate in activities which inevitably lead to heartbreak. (Aren't I just a China doll...) In the past, when I am the one leaving, or when I know friend or family is about to leave I resort to desperate tactics, of which my favorite tendency has been fight-picking ('cause when you're fighting, it's always easier to be apart, and there are so many fights to pick!). Oh I've put a lot of relationships through fight-picking hell because I can't stand saying goodbye.

I've had the pleasure of being Real Friends with this particular individual for only about three months, truth be told. It was very nice, easy. He reminded me that there were relationships to be had outside of boyfriends, girlfriends. That even in a town where you grew up, where you thought you knew everyone and everything, there was still more to learn and know and meet and see. And there was a nice sense of humor about it and there was a genuine mutual interest in each others problems, however serious or absurd. Nice, right? And then he left because he had to, and I was pretty shook up about it. I saw it coming though, even as it began. For a long time I was disinterested in friendship with him because I knew this was coming. What was the point? But then, one way or another, the ease took over and tumbled into an inevitability which I tried on, at first with some eye-rolling, later with some reticence. And then, before I could convince myself otherwise It became comfortable and stretched out into a favorite shirt.

A favorite shirt that moved out of the country to find a clarity and a purpose that he couldn't do here. I knew, know it was necessary, blah blah. But, hey! I wasn't READY to say goodbye yet! Couldn't he've waited until, like, I dunno, I was ready, found new, other friends to ease the transition!? Or, like, I dunno, got my life completely in order?!!? Apparently not.

I did have some warning, which I'm grateful for, I guess. Indeed, with a month or two to go before the execution date I thought, well this time I can see this problem coming from a mile away. So I'll try to be a grown-up about it and I'm not going to pick a fight, I'll be good about it. Supportive.

Ok, folks. I don't try to repress things, I SUBLIMATE. I try to work through them or redirect them but then I fail at that and just end up repressing them, and then it all blows up in my face in some radical, messy explosion. So, well. Two days before we had to say goodbye, I dreamt we had a horrible fight and I woke up in a vile mood, still angry over the subconscious dispute over what I can't possibly remember (no matter!), and utterly sick to my stomach (and to boot I was feeling pretty out of it because I was under the weather as it was). And then the cat sneezed and it sounded a lot like, "REPRESSION, YOU FOOL!"

The next couple days I lazed around piteously, cried indulgently, declared that I was in a state of crisis, opted to move away forever and sell all my worldly possessions, and forged through with the defeatist resolve to eat wine and cake in the middle of the day.

Way to go, Liz.

With that, as usual, I plunged into the infinite caverns of self-reflection, whose intricate depths are occasionally illuminated by this measly rummage pile of diary-like blah-blah blog entries. Long story short, I thought about why the hell I do this to myself.

Turns out (after some thought), this clingyness extends waaay beyond my personal relationships with people, friends, Real Friends. It happens with things, projects, imaginary people. For instance, I realized I hadn't finished a book in two years (with one or two small exceptions), not because I couldn't find a book that I liked. Precisely the opposite: when I started really liking a book (and I've at this point compiled a list of all the books I've started and not finished), I compulsively put it down because some part of me is unable to deal with the fact that it will all come to an end--sometimes in a mere one to two hundred pages. I've been reading A Little Princess since 1993, Jane Eyre since god knows when. As a kid, I'd pick up the biggest books I could find. Starting in fourth grade, for a solid year and a half to two years I read all of Les Miserables, not because I was so invested in Hugo's writing style, but because I could sit and watch little Cosette's entire life happen, it wouldn't just, you know, cut off. What's more, the level of diffuculty was such that I knew it would be a long time before it all had to come to an end. I was riding off my inability to understand certain vocabulary, not as a gesture towards self-betterment, but as a protective mechanism.

Yes, I'm convinced of this. I developed a fervent, successive line of crushes on all four brothers Karamazov one summer, and had my heart broken four times over in the final pages of that wretched translation. Likewise, I simultaneously rejoiced and lamented on the day when Elizabeth finally got to go off with just got to be too much when I got to the Secret Garden, Mrs. Dalloway, etc, etc...I just started shutting them before the first pangs of heartbreak would sink in. PSYCHOSIS ANYONE?!?! I mean, these are like fake people!

So, yeah. Projects, the same. So many projects, papers started, in stages, drafts, nothing final. I'm working on this, this I'm at this stage, but I want to do eight more things. Once in college I took an A+ paper to my professor to ask how best to start editing it. She was utterly flabberghasted. Frankly, who the hell did I think I was. I mean--honestly!?

And this blog (while I seem to be on a role of pathologizing every element of my life). It's always going, completely un-finish-able. Even if I abandon it for months on end, it will still be here. Unfinished. Just a pile of thoughts that I can excuse away as personal or informal.

Ultimately it's not about saying good-bye, separation. It's about a problem with the notion of finality.

You know what Mr. Real Friend said to me before he left? Essentially: Do some work. Finish it. Send it to some publishers, outside of Pittsburgh. Your stuff is good and more people need to see it.

The simplicity of this statement blew me away, and I realized why I was glad that we had what we did, even though we were saying goodbye. And I think I'm ready to believe this.

The proof? I said good-bye to him on Monday. By Thursday I'd finished reading one book (Coehlo's The Alchemist, a fable). By the following Monday I'd finished another (Robinson's Home, a novel--Robinson is my favorite author, very, very hard to finish when each sentence is just that good.). It's ok. I lived. They'll be there when I need them again, if I need them again. I'm sure I will. And you never know--who wouldn't want to know how Jane Eyre ends up? She's safe where she is, but she's better off getting to know me, and me her. And there's so much, so much out there--why let a little thing like an all-consuming lifelong psychological affliction get in my way?

In many ways books are like friendships. They never really end, because your relationship still evolves, even after one chapter, or one volume is finished. They change because you change; you see them differently as time passes, and you need them for different reasons at different times. As a wise friend said, they're still there. They stay with you forever--even if you can't see them.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Word to the wise...

Yesterday and the day before I felt like total crap, was sleeping a lot, couldn't accomplish anything. Finally yesterday I broke down while I was laying on the couch in my living room, arms and body heavy, 4:00 pm and still in my pyjamas.

My roommate J was the only one at home. I crawled upstairs in tears, (aren't I utterly pitiful) and started railing on the one thing that I could conclude was absolutely wrong--"I need to get out of this city! I don't know where to go! I have no reason to BE here."

At this point he was already half way up the stairs to his room on the third floor. He slowly backed down, probably wondering why he agreed to live with two basket-case women, wondering also what was for lunch. He goes, "You know what I learned? Don't make important life decisions when you feel like shit."

He took me on a walk and then I got some wine and cake which seemed appealing after a day of non-eating and non-being. It didn't help my grim perspective on anything. I couldn't imagine not feeling exhausted and useless ever again, and this lack of potential energy had seeped its way into my perspective on life, friends, love, existence in general. My life, everything I did, everyone I knew, seemed as flimsy and impotent as I felt.

Well, today I feel better (virus?). I had a hearty breakfast of pasta and chocolate chips and coffee, and I listened to a radio show about the comics festival in Angouleme, which really made me feel better. (The guys put MY interview before Crumb's interview, so it's almost like we're sitting next to each other in some kind of audio-cyberspace, for ALWAYS!!!!!!!!.....siiiigh...I love my little English friends). And I don't think such bleak thoughts anymore. And I don't feel like crawling around weeping anymore that matter. But I'm going to remember J's advice, because everything really is different today and it ain't that bad.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Muscle Memory

Last week, my yoga teacher quit unexpectedly. She was less than six months pregnant, but in less than two weeks she'd ballooned out and she was physically unable to do most of the poses for basic yoga. She informed us after the class that she'd expected to make it to eight months, as she'd done with her first child, but this one was a different story.

I overheard her speaking to one of my fellow yoga-goers after class, and she was saying that she'd asked her doctor why she'd swollen so much during the second pregnancy, how she got just so big so fast. The explanation? "Muscle memory." Her body remembered what it was like to be pregnant, so it just went to that place where it had remembered being, before her mind could adjust.

Really, it was her mind, having trained her muscles to stretch and accommodate, to move and react in a certain way that was calling physical manifestations into actuality--but her conscious mind was still telling her that she'd be able to do yoga, just as before. All this stuff was happening in her head and body, and she wasn't ready to admit it until it all was just like, "Oh no you don't do those twists no more! You're having a BABY, remember NOW?!"

Muscles and subconscious jumped the gun, and now I'm out a yoga teacher.

I was thinking about this idea. About how our bodies can remember things, and can force us to action long before our conscious selves catch up.

Something triggered a reaction in me, so that the last six months, I've gotten by on about two to four hours of sleep per night, waking up each day, hardly groggy, full of energy, will power to clean, dance, do, watch, etc, etc, etc. I think my body was automatically over-compensating based on what my past mind had experienced. It was powering me through some kind of secondary experience of trauma, but it totally jumped the gun. Too much. I think that time is over now. My mind has quieted, I am finding more clarity, and with it, unexplainable, uninterrupted sleep.

Last weekend I met up with my ex-boyfriend. He'd moved back to the city, and seeing as it is a very small city, there was no point practicing some wholly contrived avoidance (avoid-dance). I had a picture of us rotating around each other for months like one of those science project solar systems. There's a whole universe around us, and our orbits are totally dinky, spit out with some help the night before. Why not have coffee or something? The worst is over.

Except then, muscle memory. Open door, put water on, pour tea, drink, laugh. We were sitting and talking and it all felt so normal, until my mind caught up (this time way faster than before) and said--hey, this isn't normal, you don't know what to feel about this! But it was ok. I wasn't sure what to feel about it, and I was ok with that. I knew I didn't need closure, need to see him, need to "get something off my chest." It was just, like, ok, I'm going with this. You hurt me, we know that, there's no point in avoiding it or dwelling on it for that matter. I'm not bitter, and I don't think you're a bad person. This is just a Saturday in my living room, talking to you, whomever you are now.

Hug, hug again. Door open, door shut, door lock. Rinse out some mugs, answer the phone. Talk. Lay.

My mind will catch up eventually, or maybe it's already there.

Screen Door

This is an image I took with *gasp* real film several years ago. This is my Aunt behind her screen door. The image was taken only months after she divorced her husband of 20 years. I found it in a box in my studio.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Le Franche Leep (Panel 1)

This is the first of two panels of the French Lip comic I made FIVE YEARS AGO (yikes!). I just resurrected it from an old sketchbook and colored it in for your enjoyment!

Le Franche Leep (Panel 2)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

I am slowly coming to understand that my life will essentially be a long line of mortifying scenarios, which I will probably endure with horror

That is, until I accept that I have no control over anything anyway, and that people will think what they will and so screw it! Yeah, I DID just pick a wedgie, Mr. Dalai Lama, sir! Don't YOU ever do that?! Fuck off!

Well, last night, a real hang-banger. Totally tried to make out with my gay friend when we were dancing. I was having fun, but I pity the poor soul, and frankly thank god that he's the sweet, understanding, gentlemanly guy he is. In gayspeak, I am just an uncontrollable breeder, and I have shamed post-high-school-aged fruit flies like myself. I'm sorry if I am an under-evolved sex-crazed drunken maniac...I can't help it! Maybe?

I am, needless to say, deeply embarrassed by the whole affair.

Really, it's not so much this event which disturbs me, but rather the bigger issue: I just wish I would stop finding new and creative ways to make a total fool of myself in public.

Stop stealing sherry from fancy people's parties! Stop trying to make out with your male homosexual friends! Stop eating oreos before the school picture!* And for godssake, CHECK before you leave the bathroom to make sure you don't have toilet paper sticking out of your pants!

What'll it be next week? Hmmmmm.....I'll leave it up to--myself.

*That one actually didn't happen, but it would, wouldn't it??!