rules

Standard

Turn yourself off before you are mangled irretrievably by the inevitable forces of the grinding, gnashing machinery of life.

Marvel at all the things you said you’d never do, all the things you laughed at, that you have now done more times than you can count and no longer find funny.

Step up and march forward even after stating your position unequivocally, mistake or not. The only true mistake is not continuing to act.

Acknowledge that convention is sometimes beautiful; you can suddenly see it when the scenery takes shape around it and the figure of the stalwart body imbues it with meaning.

Talk about the disaster(s) big and small and let go of their hold on you.

Create.

Dream.

thought bubbles

Standard

No, because I do not scream my inner feelings from the rooftops and throughout the valleys of my countryside, it does not mean that my feelings are non-existent, weak, lukewarm or tepid.

Through all my actions, through all my willingness, in every spontaneous action and every fixed fiber, I feel. But it is only for us to share. Others may observe and see the evidence, but I don’t need to create evidence and images for the world to see – or for curious onlookers and interlopers to latch onto.

It is not up for discussion.

blinking through middle age

Standard

“Maybe marriages are best in middle age. When all the nonsense falls away and you realize you have to love one another because you’re going to die anyway.” -from Fear of Flying, Erica Jong

Erica Jong’s heroine asks in Fear of Flying: “Would most women get married if they knew what it meant?” She follows up by stating that perhaps in middle age, marriages would work better. It’s hard to say, of course, but seems reasonable enough to presume. But then maybe it’s more likely that a second or third marriage would work best, regardless of how old the participants are. The book’s protagonist is already stymied in her second marriage and seeking comfort elsewhere. Much ado has been made about “starter marriages” and the likelihood of future marriages working because you learn from the mistakes of the first. I don’t know what to make of this. It too seems plausible – but not applicable to me.

If this is true, what of middle-aged people who never married and got no “practice” other than in a collection of short or long-term, ultimately dead-end relationships? I cannot say because I am in this demographic: middle-aged and never married. I have had a couple of long relationships that never held any future promise and a lifetime, otherwise, of flings and experiments to which I would scarcely be able to apply a name or formal distinction. In between there have been shorter and longer periods of just being on my own, which have always been the happiest and most content times of all.

Confronting the ‘more’

While it’s true that being alone and – by extension – independent has given me a lot of joy, there are moments, often more frequent than in the past, that I imagine my calm life could be enhanced by the presence of someone else. I’ve already written before about not wanting to invite in ‘the wrong element’. After all, as Doris Lessing wrote in The Golden Notebook: “What’s terrible is to pretend that the second-rate is first-rate. To pretend that you don’t need love when you do”. It’s a delicate balance: you may finally confront the fact that you want and need to love and be loved, but to do so, is second-rate enough? Do you fool yourself into thinking that second-rate will do it for you? Can your view become so blurred that you think the ‘wrong element’ could be right? I’ve concluded that it’s most important to recognize the need for love – and go from there.

The ark of the ache of it

Many times I have cited Denise Levertov’s “Ache of Marriage” – and given a lot of thought to the ache one must feel within a marriage – but what about the ache you have without it? It’s something you feel without ever having had the missing part in the first place. It’s not constant but comes in waves. It can look so miserable when you look at it from the outside. Mundane, like a constant sacrifice of one’s own identity and preferences. What is it that softens us … age? The right element? The sunset? The need for warmth? Previous experience (which can also harden us)? The desire for daily soup? (Soup would really do it for me.)

Past sheds light

Blink. Blink.

A recent experience, brief enough to be like the blink of an eye, has contributed one significant thing to my life. It opened a long-closed part of me and made me realize it made no sense to close it again. I had so many times before let previous experience influence me, to close me off, to shut emotional responses down. And now… maybe it was this recent experience, maybe my age, maybe all the previous “practice”, maybe the starker-than-ever realization that there are only so many sunrises and sunsets ahead, maybe a combination of everything that convinced me to stay calm, and stay open?

in the absence

Standard

In the absence of time to write something, I instead quote. Pessoa, of course:

“Metaphysical theories that can give us the momentary illusion that we’ve explained the unexplainable; moral theories that can fool us for an hour into thinking we finally know which of all the closed doors leads to virtue; political theories that convince us for a day that we’ve solved some problem, when there are no solvable problems except in mathematics … May our attitude towards life be summed up in this consciously futile activity, in this preoccupation that gives no pleasure but at least keeps us from feeling the presence of pain. There’s no better sign that a civilization has reached its height than the awareness, in its members, of the futility of all effort, given that we’re ruled by implacable laws, which nothing can repeal or obstruct. We may be slaves shackled to the whim of gods who are stronger than us, but they’re not any better, being subject – like us – to the iron hand of an abstract Fate, which is superior to justice and kindness, indifferent to good and evil.”

“The feelings that hurt most, the emotions that sting most, are those that are absurd: the longing for impossible things, precisely because they are impossible; nostalgia for what never was; the desire for what could have been; regret over not being someone else; dissatisfaction with the world’s existence. All these half-tones of the soul’s consciousness create in us a painful landscape, an eternal sunset of what we are.”

“This is my morality, or metaphysics, or me. Passer-by of everything, even of my own soul, I belong to nothing, I desire nothing, I am nothing – just an abstract centre of impersonal sensations, a fallen sentient mirror reflecting the world’s diversity. I don’t know if I’m happy this way. Nor do I care.”

january doubts and considerations

Standard

-15 ? January 2017

Talked Down

I talked myself out (of you)
No more nuzzled into the illusion of
Warm cortázar freedom we, or I, thought we invented together,
A sanctuary knitted from imagined closeness,
cushioning a prison of expectation.
After all – everything is temporary, and
you cannot live and keep free of briars”.

You talked down (to me)
How could I possibly understand the cessation –
the pressures, stagnation and pains of decoupling,
so ungrounding, so confusing –
How could a wandering wallflower know a thing about this?

Requiring a bump-in-road respite,
hitting hard the (un)reality of running hot and cold,
extolling the grandeur and extraterrestrial brand one moment
following with an all-told, lump-sum tabulation of
your earth(l)y needs and concerns the next.

My “law brain”,
plastic in its adherence to how things should go,
melting when they don’t.
My heart bought a subscription that
my brain cancelled abruptly, without consultation.
Fallen as hard out as I had in,
toasting this familiar indifference.
I intend to do as ever: live.

Image is of an amazing cushion made by my dear friend Lóa.

Different vibes

Standard

She told me that my latest letter gave off ‘different vibes’:

“You couldn’t quite decide whether to be slightly annoyed or to embrace this emotional whirlwind. So not like you! Or at least not like the side of you you let us see. I’ve always seen you as extremely cool and composed in all situations, even somehow untouchable. Men came into your life and then left with more or less drama. But you remained self-sufficient and content to continue living your life.”

Very rarely, maybe only once or twice in a person’s life, someone will appear like a tornado – or maybe a hail of tomatoes – at least briefly throwing everything you know into disarray and drenching everything with a passata-like goo. I suppose this upending of my sense of order explains the different vibes.

Mental sorbet: Live out, outlive, feel, unfeel

Standard

A short exchange on how strange Danes can be – or at least their language – and I recall a Danish man who thought that to “to live out” and “to outlive” meant the same thing.

And yet, I live out my life in outmoded ways – or with outmoded views – that have outlived their time. If they ever had a time.

My life has made me be the person who favors the scrappy stray mother cat scrounging through garbage in order to feed herself and her kittens rather than be the person who fawns over her adorable little litter. Always the one who looks past the surface, I value her experience and tenacity over the fleeting cuteness of her kittens.

My life has also made me be the person who sees someone who is lonely, something of a misfit, hurting, ostracized, struggling or troubled, and I feel a need to reach out to them, help them – sometimes in misguided ways (particularly when I was young and very shy myself – hard to step outside of my own confines to intervene in someone else’s being). This never necessarily works out well, but I always thought my heart was in the right place. I somehow imagine(d) that what you put into the world is what you get back from it. But this is naive: even if you put out compassion, you are likely to be met with disappointment. You have to learn either to dismiss the urge toward compassion or dismiss the disappointment that often follows.

I see and feel the rarity of my way. I am not a surface-level person (other than the initial cold read people may get from me). The surface always has the power to sway and seduce. Most people don’t look beyond it.

But then, it depends on what they’re looking for. Mismatched intentions can be crushing. Initially of course I think of my own crushed feelings throughout life’s less triumphant moments, but I recognize that it can work both ways. In my supposed compassion, I might, as I did as an adolescent, reach out to someone who had no friends, spent his time hanging out with the school’s science teacher, and try to be friendly, boost his confidence – and in doing so, give him completely the wrong idea. My actual intentions were entirely different from how he received my intentions, and the situation did not end well.

Even when your intentions match up with someone else’s – those intentions can shift, creating unstable ground. It could be that I, like most, hope to be blindsided in amazement at the unconditional and expansive love and understanding that another person can give/show. Because that is how I am (or strive to be). (But this never happens – it is not part of the surface world we live in and, in all honesty, opens up the person who shows this kind of expansive love and/or understanding to some vulnerability.)

But it could just as well be that I, in my insensitive, less than impeccable or admirable moments, wonder if a person is, disposably, just a sorbet, a palate cleanser, making way for some other main course – or perhaps that person is the main course, and I pass on it, claiming not to be hungry?

…I know what is good, and conversely, not good for me, and I know what I need to do. Live out my days and outlive my usefulness. But do I act accordingly?

What form of akrasia is this?

It is only partly true that I act against (or for) my own best interests. I often compare the ‘doing versus thinking’ concept because I am both a thinker and a doer. And most other people seem to be much better, more active thinkers but not great doers. One day, I said to someone who insisted he would take action but frustrated me for years with his all-talk, no-action behavior: “You will have many hurdles to jump to become a doer like me, and I am not even half-motivated. But for you, it’s probably a priorities issue. Some things, some people, are important, and some are not. If you really wanted something, or someone, or wanted to do something, you would do it. The end. Someday maybe you will be a doer, and that will change my mind about you. But today, and for as long as I have known you, you have not been a doer unless it required absolutely zero effort or thought on your part.” In truth, as I could see plainly in that moment: if there is no feeling behind the doing, why should it ever go beyond thinking?

I rarely add ‘feeling’ to the equation. ‘Doing-thinking-feeling’. But would most people feel motivated to think and then do without that spark of feeling to push them to take action? I take plenty of risks and live freely in the thinking and doing realms. Ultimately, I may not make the riskiest choices from the heart’s standpoint. It makes me think a bit about school days, when teachers would tell certain kids that they really have a lot of potential but no follow-through. I was always the thinking-doing overachiever but had “a lot of potential but no follow-through” when it came to feeling, which is not to say I did not feel: Only that feeling did not, and could not, come first, lest it crush me. Perhaps I have always felt much too deeply.

Even this, I sometimes think, is not entirely true. My life has made me a person who prefers to be alone, who is mostly not interested in personal intimacy while at the same time being overly curious about other people’s personal intimacy. That is, I am less a partner or lover and more a would-be, unqualified, armchair therapist, wanting to know people deeply and intimately, but only from an observant and almost clinical distance (but not entirely dispassionately).

I am still trying to figure out whether – or how – feelings just leave, like a flock of birds migrating away for winter, or whether feelings morph into this “observant-supportive-caretaker” mold that I seem to adopt. I am not afraid of feeling now; I do not suppress it now. But no longer trying to control feeling, I find that feeling is much more unpredictable than I would have imagined. Yes, I knew feelings like love, as an example, were uncontrollable, messy, sticky, and up, down and all over the place, but I did not fully appreciate that they could be as fickle as they are. That, for example, one could be completely in it one day and wake up the next morning feeling absolutely nothing. Is it some unseen barrier that the inner, protective self builds? And if so, how can the lack of all feeling – this indifference – feel as real and as deep as the love once was? Did feelings, however briefly they lived, outlive their expiration?

Photo (c) 2008 Angela Schmeidel Randall

“You my whole life’s digression”

Standard

“You could have your arm on fire and say you’re fine”

A music-filled, middle-of-night drive to Oslo and a quiet few hours alone before the day begins, listening to Obama’s final speech. He was not perfect, but comparing him to what is coming is just… well, it blows me away. How on earth do we go from someone thoughtful, eloquent and educated (and scandal-free) to … the indescribable and constant shit show we have been witnessing and are about to witness for the next four years?

Every day the news throws some new crisis/scandal/revelation into the mix about Trump, his dealings, his proclivities – all alongside his monumental pettiness, wasting time Tweeting about Saturday Night Live and Meryl Streep, for god’s sake – somehow imagining that any of it will make a difference now. He’s been elected already – he’s heading into office in only days. And if none of the revelations before the election derailed this orange lunatic, why on earth would a person or the media expect that any of them will make a difference now? The Russians having dirt on him, him being in collusion with Russians, and any number of other uncountable other piles of shit – none of these things are going to make a difference if they haven’t already. People talk of conflicts of interest and illegalities, potential grounds for impeachment, but no, dudes only get impeached for lying about blow jobs. Trump just lies about and conceals everything else and nothing happens.

I am, as I wrote the other day, generally feeling quite happy despite the state of things in the world (Trump, Brexit, Syria, etc.) but at the same time am submerged in a place where all I do is feel. It’s not that I am an unfeeling person; it’s that I have over many years trained myself to tune out or turn off feelings when they become too much. And right now, everything feels like something. Everything takes on more meaning and depth. And part of me hates this. It is as though a flip was switched, and I can’t get it to turn off. It’s painful and distracting at the same time as exhilarating and almost intoxicating. Another part of me enjoys this entirely new experience, feeling the ‘training’ and discipline of ignoring feelings unravel and let feeling take its natural course, wherever it leads.

Part of this requires acknowledging all feelings – and I am used to silently stuffing them down, down and down to the point that I don’t even know I am doing it. As one dear soul said, in asking me how I was doing, “You could have your arm on fire and say you’re fine”.

The other part requires acknowledging the validity and value of the feelings – it’s one thing to say, “Yes, I feel this way” (whatever way it is). It’s entirely another to admit that it is important or not just some ridiculous digression with which you shouldn’t bother anyone else.

All of life is a Supremes song: Don’t let this feeling end

Standard

Continuing in my bid for daily blog entries, I am getting a head start on tomorrow’s although anyone reading this won’t know that because it will be published tomorrow (which, upon publication – right now – is today). I made a semi-unscheduled trip to Oslo after work (it’s a three-hour, straight shot up the E6 motorway between Gothenburg and Oslo). I needed to come to Oslo anyway on Thursday, but in a wee twist of fate, my best friend in Oslo contacted me and invited me to come over tonight. So here I am writing from the guest room before falling asleep, enjoying the cold draft that creeps in. This friend and I had not seen each other in what felt like an eternity and so many things had happened between the last time and now. We started reminiscing about all the things that have happened in our lives since we first met, and we might as well be talking about other people.

Most evenings at home alone I spend time listening to music, sometimes getting into a Buddy Holly and The Supremes groove. And I play with a hula hoop, setting it to this soundtrack. Listening to the Supremes in particular, I think all of life can be a Supremes song. Years ago, when the aforementioned dear friend in Oslo met her now-husband, I assigned The Supremes’ “I Hear a Symphony” to their budding relationship. “I’m lost in a world, made for you and me” (and not your kids from a previous relationship).

Nothing but heartaches” “The more my love has grown/the less love he has shown…”

The same old story – resisting, maybe even feeling nothing – resistance or no – but then suddenly relenting, only to have the feeling unreciprocated suddenly, retreating.

Love is Here and Now You’re Gone” “You persuaded me to love you, and I did, but instead of tenderness I found heartache instead. Into your arms I fell so unaware of the loneliness that was waiting there”

Same story – it is so much easier to be alone and content with oneself than to be persuaded to let down one’s guard, finally, only be to lonelier than ever in the confines of heartache.

In and Out of Love” “I keep reaching out for tenderness, touching the hand that holds emptiness. Well I’m looking for a love that lingers on, long after that first kiss is gone; that kind of love that keeps burning bright, long after we’ve said goodnight”

We keep searching – but it never really comes.

Remove This Doubt” “Each time we meet, you make me feel so incomplete, there’s no joy in the air, I just don’t think you care…”

I first connected with this song one autumn after spending a summer with someone whose sole purpose seemed to be finding new ways to criticize and undermine me.

And then of course the songs that remind me of TV shows – “Reflections” (theme song of China Beach)

Someday We’ll Be Together”, which figured prominently in an episode of Quantum Leap.

_______________________________

Much later – almost let this whole day pass without posting. I had a strange day and made something of a personal mistake – or misjudgment. It led to an openness I have not felt before (had not felt comfortable with before). I have rather inexplicably been feeling things I have not felt in this unfiltered way since I was about 13 years old. I could say or write a lot of words about it but none make any sense. I can only feel.