Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Did you...

Did you...

* ...ever experience someone's creative work the way you experience a swim in the ocean? For me, low tide would be a metaphorical distancing, pleasant enough to be able to immerse myself in the work without too much disturbance. It is more of an enjoyment than a challenge. But works that feel attached to for whatever reason--this includes writing, art, and music, and any attachment to the creators of those works--are more like a choppy high tide. I find myself cautious about entering the water, or only enter it for short periods of time before I need to recover. The emotional experience invoked by a story, a work of art, a song, or a film can pull me "off course" for days. This is not a bad thing--such work should challenge you, should shift your perceptions, keep you from getting too comfortable in one place. But if your day to day life is already stressful and you want a break, such excursions might only create more stress. Sometimes you're ready for the challenge of swimming at high tide, sometimes you're not. Some of my friends are incredulous that I can really like a particular artist or musician, and not be totally familiar with their work after an extended period of time. This is why. I don't know if this is my own peculiarity or if others experience this as well.

* ...ever notice that getting involved with a man (or perhaps with a woman, I don't know about that) is a bit like trying to adopt a feral cat? The cat develops an interest in you--or, more likely in something you have (probably food), may sit on your porch and hang around your property--but if you get too close to it, it runs away. It basically wants you to leave the food, not make eye contact, and leave it alone. Eventually, with time, it will allow you to get closer and closer, maybe pet it a little, and at some point it might become part of your household. But it's a long, arduous process.

Recently I was out with some friends and we were discussing self-help books for relationships. Some women find these helpful, but honestly, I think they're irrelevant in context. Women think more about things like whether or not the man is insecure, whether he's commitment-phobic, whether he's had a bad childhood, whatever. I suspect that men as a rule don't care about these things, and get annoyed and/or uncomfortable when women bring these things up. Maybe it's cultural, maybe it's biological--either way, they just don't look at things the same way, and it's a bit of a waste of time trying to figure it out. I always think of humor columnist Dave Barry's book, "Dave Barry's Guide to Guys". He has the chapter on men and women and communication, and gives the "Roger and Elaine" example, one of the funniest things I've ever read. It's worth reading for yourself, but the basic summary is this: Roger and Elaine are a couple who have been dating for six months. When one evening, driving home from a date, Elaine suddenly says, "Do you realize we've been going out for six months?" This is followed by silence. Dave then proceeds to show you what he is thinking during the silence, and what she's thinking. Basically--she thinks she's perhaps being too forward, frightening him, trying to corner him into a relationship, make him her white knight on a horse, etc., and imagines the pain he must be feeling. He is looking at the odometer and realizing he hasn't changed the oil in 6 months, and then angrily remembers the last idiot mechanic who screwed him over. When she suddenly blurts out, "I'm sorry Roger--there is no horse!" he is bewildered, confused, and tries to say anything that he thinks might be the right thing. Afterwards, she goes home weeping and calls her friends to analyze every nuance of their conversation for the next thirty days. He goes home, opens a bag of chips, and watches a tennis match.

In my days of cataloging for a book vendor, a book came across my desk one day called "The Art of War for Lovers". I didn't read the whole book, but it did have one paragraph that I thought was interesting as I flipped through it. It gave the example of a man and woman in a relationship, and while things are going great, the man just suddenly decides not to call, decides he needs his "space", starts laying out boundaries with regard to involvement/commitment (usually, "I'm not really ready for a commitment."). Contrary to most other self-help books, this one told the woman to say, "Okay, fine", and walk away without giving it a second thought. This is hard if you've started to develop an emotional attachment to a person, but this is also why you can't rely on others for your happiness--it will make you functionally manic-depressive. Like the feral cat, if you reach out and they run away, the best thing to do is just walk away and don't get angry or become unfriendly, just focus on something else, leaving the door open if you're still interested. If they're really interested, they'll eventually come around. If they're not, then you're probably better off.

*...ever notice that the more you plan for something, the more likely it is to get totally screwed up? This seems to be proportional to time--the longer-term the plans, the more likely they're going to get screwed up. Let's say you've spent a lot of money, have a lot of bills, and make a plan to pay things off. You look at your income, and you see how you're going to take any extra money left over each month to start paying down a debt. You may even take on a second job or extra work. Inevitably, something major will happen--if you own a house, some major thing will happen (like the furnace dying or the roof leaking), and suddenly all that extra money is swallowed up in dealing with the catastrophe. You may even end up in more debt than when you started. This is not limited to the world of finances--it can happen with anything, at any time. I've gotten in the habit of making all long term plans tentative, if I make any at all. You never know what will happen tomorrow. And there's no sense in worrying about it.

You might remember that when you come up with your New Year's resolutions.

1 comment:

MaryJo said...

I enjoyed reading your blog, Brigid. Very interesting thoughts. Byron Katie's "The Work" would agree with you on that last point regarding the feral cat (related to people, of course). Thanks for sharing your musings.