Friday, March 03, 2006
The Lifetime of Magical Thinking
"I realized that my impression of myself had been of someone who could look for, and find, the upside in any situation. I had believed in the logic of popular songs. I had looked for the silver lining. I had walked on through the storm. It occurs to me now that these were not even the songs of my generation."
—Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking
—Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking
Apologies to Joan Didion for stealing part of her wonderful book title. Though indeed, it fits.
Working on template changes, how interesting to see this blog was once tagged as 'humorous.' Talk about your false advertisements.
Although perhaps one could find something funny in anything if the desire is strong enough. Today, for instance, I find humans' false sense of security in life downright hilarious. Made all the more side-splittingly funny by the discovery that I had some even while eschewing the practice of building facades. Hee, hee, hee. Look out Jon Stewart.
Everything is an illusion, one that can be ripped from us whenever fate wishes. Must be why Harold's Maude advised caution in getting attached to things. A caution I've always found sensible and embraced. But she forgot to add "Don't get attached to people."
Either that, or I forgot to listen.
Change. I've always loved and welcomed it...new jobs, cars, friends. Actually, ridiculously so, to the point where someone once said, "I should've seen the red flag the minute you said you actually liked first dates! Who likes first dates?!? Only people who can't commit."
Well, maybe so.
But I think that person, despite knowing me better and longer than nearly everyone else, missed the one thing that made embracing change possible: a strong, solid unchanging foundation always at the ready to provide comfort and familiarity, to pick me up if I fell on a date, or a job, or down some steps.
Perhaps I'd missed it, also. Certainly took it for granted, if nothing else. Too busy backslapping myself for being able to roll with anything, to move, switch jobs, lovers, friends, clothes, outlook, I'd overlooked how necessary those core relationships are in making it possible to walk out into the world without fear.
Ironically enough, as the only two people who I've loved all my life continue making their way somewhere I cannot follow, the other two pieces of my central sphere are radically changing at the exact same time; at the opposite end of the race, they're beginning their lives, moving onward as I once did, hopefully also secure in their foundation.
Though wonderous and joyful to watch, it's equally frightening and threatening in some ways: a revolving door with a stuck entrance but an overflowing exit. I never understood really how much of ourselves are defined through the existence of others. Or how losing those definitions changes our relationship to everything.
Not anymore. I see it now, all too clearly: the fissures and faultlines signaling change, now widening and reshaping everything. I'm mourning not only all that is hastening and inevitable, but all signposts missed along the way. And maybe this too is a hedge, a trial cheat -- spreading out grief so as not to be completely decimated later.
But how can you not be, really?
I sense the impact of these changes even while pondering the definition of existence in new terms. Forced completely outside the framework of everyone you'd ever existed for, when they're no longer available to help define you - who and what do you become?
I already feel the moorings dropping out while an uneasy void begins to set in, just thinking about what's around the corner. Like being a pencil sketching suddenly doused with water, sharp edges blurring and fading into some ill-defined, unrecognizeable blob. An artful mess or an artless rendering, the form and function of which is only slightly remembered.
On NPR, ex–poet laureate Billy Collins once said, half-joking, half-serious, that a college English major is really a course in death. At heart, all great literature is about death, he said. That's what it's leading to: the meaning of life is found in its ending and in how we assign meaning to that.
Which adequately serves to explain everything: my chosen education, love of first dates, jobs and surroundings as well as inherent frustration with writing.
I've been studying for the days now before me as long as I can remember. In five days I'll be 39, my whole life distilling down to these moments, these feelings, these realities. And for the first time ever, I'm failing to define the path ahead, let alone find the words.