I don’t know

The dog slips under the fence.

The fence falls all over itself.

I peg it with an entity of teeth.

My teeth fall all over.

Fall out of.

My head is out of step with.

Its elastic rhythm.

It won’t snap back.

It is a long way down.

The dog scrapes his back trying to get under.

It is the color of coffee that burns your tongue.

It squeezes itself out of sight.

It is nine o’clock at night.

Someone is howling and wolfish.

He’s got a grin like pitch black.

Lips pulled back and voice rumbling coal.

I have nothing to say to it.

It has no reason to be.

It calcifies anyway as broken bone.

Or broken spine.

The dog is slippery and hides.

Out of sight, I see him loud.

As if through sharp and flat grass.

I’m not ready to dive.

I’m not equipped indeed.

I tell you what you already know.

No weapon formed against me.

Me shall prosper.

Me shall scrape and stretch my neck.

Me shall break my back underneath.

Me.

Might us flit into night sky?

Might us wanderlust?

Wonder: what lust we might lust.

What see we see, might come after or before we?

What scale we scale?

What life we life?

We.

To crack.

The bowl like an egg.

Exoskeletal.

Admirably vulnerable.

I can’t turn my back.

I can’t turn back.

I won’t.

I want.

I water my needs.

I wear down.

It’s a long way.

If you can get up.

A tall order.

Remember it only takes a posthaste.

To fence you in.

Membrane by membrane.

Post by post.

Hate to haste.

But time.

What time?

Does comb.

What comes?

My hair.

Out.

My doorstep is littered with blades of grass.

But you already know.

How much I need.

To bear witness.

Left to right.

Length by width by candlelight.

If there is valley, I’m there.

If there is death, I’m there.

If there is shadow, I’m there.

Or elsewhere.

Or everywhere.

Or.

Or.

Keeping my eyes peeled.

For further developments.

For sly dogs slithering.

For children weeping like wolves.

For.

For.

How forward of me.

To assume my everywhere eyes.

I see only what I understand.

To exist.

Sí, sí, sí.

Claro pero si.

Si…quand…je n’existe plus.

Je ne devrais pas être surprise.

Que la vie continue.

Sans moi.

Sans mes yeux.

Sans mon cou.

Sans ma voix.

Qui chante.

Dans la nuit.

Sur les nuageux.

I am afraid.

Of cloud cover.

Those hands.

That hide me.

& retreat.

 

Loss: “a vague knot-of-air kind of thing”

Each time [the memory] appears, it delivers a kick to some part of my mind. ‘Wake up,’ it says. ‘I’m still here. Wake up and think about it. Think about why I’m still here.’

from Norwegian Wood

When you wake up, have you ever looked around the room, seen that everything was in its place–nothing had been disturbed as you slept, nothing had been stolen or had gone missing–but you still felt that you had lost something over the course of the night?

I slept for eleven hours. There were times in one of my many dreams that I felt “This is a good stopping point. I could wake up. It might be time to get up.” But I kept the illusion of the dream going. If you can manage to keep your eyes closed, time will fly by. Maybe this is what I wanted, on some level.

A gang of friends and I moved from dream to dream, alternating between wheelchairs and gas-efficient cars. I expected us to arrive at my house eventually, where I would see my family. In what must have been the last dream, we visited my high school. I waved to and talked with people I knew. Everybody was there, even those I remembered from kindergarten, even those I didn’t know. Faces whose names I had forgotten popped continually into view as we rolled through the campus. There was a line of cars on our way out, so we had to wait. The dream splintered and instead of sitting in the car, waiting for those in front to move along, we found ourselves inside the school building, confronted by a steep flight of stairs. We took turns rising from our wheelchairs, walking carefully down, holding our chairs aloft. Then we rolled/ran like mad to the car outside. As I reached the door handle, I realized that I had reached the car door many times before and that wherever we drove next would get me no closer to my house. Then and there, the scene faded to black, in the way that it does when I have slept for a long time and the dream has not resolved (or will not resolve) itself. Instead of lying patiently in the dark, extending my sleep despite the expired dream, I opened my eyes.

I didn’t get to see my family but, for several sleep cycles, I was never alone. I don’t just mean that I was always in a group. I mean that I was among friends, people who wanted what I wanted and went along with me to try and get it. So, when the dream dissolved and I opened my eyes to an empty room with all of my things resting right where I left them, I took it as a sign of absence.

Most of those people exist in real life. I could contact them through Facebook or text them right now, if I wanted. But that’s not the point. They, in real life, could never be with me in the way that they were in my dream. They have their own lives and minds to inhabit and could never truly accompany me in my own.

As I’m writing this, I notice that the reverse is equally true: That I have my own life and mind to inhabit and I can accompany myself. The people appearing in my dreams are versions of me because they were fashioned from my unconscious. The gaggle of friends that never left my side for eleven hours seems to be a metaphor for my own mind. I can never be closer to someone that I am…to myself.

I watched a TEDx video the other day called “The person you really need to marry.” The presenter finished with this: “The way I see it, it’s like I took myself to the top of a mountain or maybe to the bottom of the ocean, and I got down on one knee and I said, ‘I’ll never leave you.'”

When you don’t particularly like yourself, this can be a maddening acknowledgment. But I know the one thing I can admire about my mind, is that it is there when I need […]

 

 

Morrison wrote, History is over, you all, and everything’s ahead at last

The middle child of middle-aged parents, I find myself in a unique position. I can see history as it happened and as it is happening. I’m old enough that my parents and big sister feel comfortable explaining how the pieces of their past and present fit together in (what I call internally) their life-story.

I think, years ago, I asked my mother whether she considered me a friend and her answer was No, that I’m her daughter, not her friend. Just this December, as I watched my mother bake her annual Christmas rum cakes, I asked again, only because I wasn’t sure whether I had imagined it the first time. She considered the question for a few seconds and said Yes.

It has occurred to me recently that, despite what I would like to believe, my parents are mortal beings. There is much I don’t know about them and, if my parents do not share these things with me, their vital and not-so-vital memories will die with them. So, I’ve come to a more patient place when I talk with them, believing myself to be (perhaps narcissistically) The Receiver. I try to hold on to every detail.

My mom tells me about the mistakes she’s made, the errors that she is afraid cannot be corrected: My brother misbehaving in school heedless of her disciplinary threats and pleading, she once asked me whether she had failed as a mother. It was a cartoon looking for answershumbling moment for us both. I replied as honestly and soberly as I could.

Oftentimes I forget that my mother–such a resilient, hardworking woman with endless reserves of savoir faire–is made of flesh and bone and not stainless steel. Though she offers me tales of her younger years, it still baffles me that she had not come into this life as whole-in-herself and world-wise as she has always appeared to be. Even a woman who knows her mind can make a mistake? What a novel concept. And what a vantage point I have, to see the well-meaning but ultimately misguided actions of my parents as the consequences ripple back in time.

My big sister struggles to forgive my parents for their unintentional emotional neglect. Full grown, she feeds into patterns of one-sided affection and blames everyone and everything for the disagreeable moment in which she continually finds herself. As she explains these things to me, I can’t help but worry about her. She lives so much In The Now that she doesn’t seem cognizant of how much time is passing her by, how necessarily we end up speaking of Now in the Past Tense.

Still, still…

All these road maps for the beginning of things, I hold somewhere inside of me for when my life-story decides to rev the engine.

 

 

lhkhrwae

Hmm…

It hasn’t been as long an absence as I thought. WordPress has changed in six months’ time. I don’t know where to click to see if I have any followers left.

In the time I’ve been away, I have finished my first semester of college with straight A’s.

Since August, I have been fighting my usual funk, the spirit of taciturnity and depression that seems to follow me around wherever I go. I saw a counselor at school for about two months, then stopped going because I revealed something very painful that I thought integral to my counselor’s understanding my low self-esteem. Hearing it out loud (something I have never told a living soul) was not freeing. The counselor asked, “How does [revealing this about yourself] make you feel?”

I said, “Embarrassed. I know your opinion of me changes with every word I say.”

He said, “Well, that’s true. So, if you know that, why would you tell me this?”

I said, “You said to be honest.” I was crying. “I am honestly considering not coming back here.”

And then I didn’t come back.

I realize, now, that there are some things you just can’t tell people, even if those people are counselors, even if they need that information in order to fix you. People want to believe that eiwojfsdlkxnc mhufdcjk ufdhjc ksfdvxc fdxc

You see what I did there? I got frustrated and swallowed whatever bitter, hyperbolic thing I was going to say. This is why I don’t do this diary anymore. Sometimes, it feels good to get things off of your chest. Other times, it takes too much energy to explain yourself in a coherent way.

I am learning that actions can tell as much as words can, but more cogently. So let’s put it this way:

It is hard to go to sleep at night.

It is hard to get out of bed in the morning.

It is hard to get in the shower, then it is hard to get out of the shower.

All I want to do is watch the heroes of my favorite shows save the world again and again, fall in love again and again. All I want is to be my heroes, to be someone I can admire, to be someone who doesn’t need WordPress therapy.

I may or may not return to this site. If I do return, I cannot promise that the page will not be complete gibberish.

 

 

We Are Poor Passing Facts: Dave Eggers’s The Circle

Eggers’s novel The Circle gave me much to think about. It is about a company that, over time, monopolized internet usage. The founders of the Circle believed that people have a right to have access to everything, to know everything. For that reason, internet privacy and eventually privacy in general was seen as a hindrance to intellectual progress and to realization of an individual’s potential. Privacy in democratic government seemed like hypocrisy. Why don’t you want the people to know what you are up to? What do you have to hide? The book explores the line between public and private, and whether there should be a line. It shows what can go wrong with a “greater good” mentality and suggests that social media is so important to some people because they fear the unknown, forgetting, and being forgotten.

I underlined phrases that described the theme of the book, and I wrote my thoughts in the margins. Here is a compilation of them:

“Overnight, all comment boards became civil, all posters held accountable [when they were forced to use their real names online].” What is being said about the effect of anonymity on behavior?

“There needs to be, and will be, documentation and accountability, and we need to bear witness…all that happens must be known…we’re losing the vast majority of what we do and see and learn.” They hoard memories -> anxiety about insignificance of life. They want to say I was here. Reminds me of favorite quote: We are poor passing facts, warned by that to give each figure in the photograph his living name.

“Transparency leads to peace of mind.”

“We will become all-seeing, all-knowing.” They were talking about positioning live-streaming cameras all over the world. The limitations of being human.

An app sifts through information the protagonist posted online and compiles a list of characteristics– her allergies, favorite foods, etc. “Having a matrix of preferences presented as your essence, as the whole you? Maybe that was [the problem]. It was some kind of mirror, but it was incomplete, distorted.” Disconcerted by the reality of how public her info is, or by the simple itemization of what she assumed to be her complex being.

“Your tools have elevated gossip, hearsay and conjecture to the level of valid, mainstream communication.”

“There’s this new neediness– it pervades everything…you’re not hungry, you don’t need the food, it does nothing for you, but you keep eating these empty calories. This is what you’re pushing. Same thing. Endless empty calories, but the digital-social equivalent. And you calibrate it so it’s equally addictive.”

The Circle requires the protagonist to wear a bracelet that measures and records all of her health information (heart rate, temperature, BMI, caloric intake, etc.). “If we can track all you newbies, and eventually all 10,000-plus Circlers, we can both see problems far before they become serious, and we can collect data about the population as a whole.” Lured by the idea of progress, give up individuality for sense of community.

Remember how, in the beginning of the book, she hated the idea of a 9-5 workday? The company is so demanding, so needy that they need her after the workday is over. Social neediness comes from the fear of being some cog in a machine. The company represents the modern-day social environment, how it is a full-time job to keep up an appearance online.

“And it was great to see you there. But we have no record of you being there. No photos, no zings, no reviews, notices, bumps. Why not?” “Are you reluctant to express yourself because you fear your opinions aren’t valid?” If there is no record of your opinions, they don’t exist and therefore cannot be valued. If you aren’t socially aware, you are absent. You have no presence.

She had been agreeing to everything since the book began. A culture of yes, a culture of accepting established realities.

The Circle measures social presence with something called PartiRank (participation/population rank). Job prospects were tied to her social popularity. Every zing, comment, smile, post in a discussion group adds to the ranking. Quantity not quality. Number-centric culture is a reaction to technological advances that are valued quantitatively. When the profound sense of accomplishment of this quantitative era dies away, and the exhaustion hits, there will be an era of quality. Every other era in history was reactionary. And that’s nature. Everything that requires that life be given to it rises and falls, waxes and wanes, crescendos and decrescendos. Even digital batteries do this.

“…my problem with paper is that all communication dies with it. It holds no possibility of continuity…it ends with you. Like you’re the only one who matters.”

“…what had always caused her anxiety, or stress, or worry, was not any one force, nothing independent and external…It was internal: it was subjective: it was not knowing.” “It was not knowing that was the seed to madness, loneliness, suspicion, fear.”

“And if even a hundred more people wanted to store their every minute– and surely millions would opt to go transparent, would beg to– how could we do this when each life took up so much space?”

Coercion through mere exposure effect. “It had taken a few weeks to get used to sleeping with her wrist monitors…but now she felt incomplete without them.” Adjusting to more technologically-infused lives to achieve a new level of normalcy, as with updates and upgrades (foot in the door phenomenon).

“We all have a right to know everything we can. We all collectively own the accumulated knowledge of the world.”

Data is a one-way conversation and is objective. Though, no matter how objective the info, it will always be absorbed and interpreted subjectively.

“If we can know the will of the people at any time, without filter, without misinterpretation or bastardization, wouldn’t it eliminate much of Washington?”

The protagonist has begun broadcasting every minute of her day with a camera she wears as a necklace. Knowing that people are watching makes her subtly change her behavior. She is portraying a false version of herself which she thinks is the best version, the purest and most noble. Ironically, she meant to be transparent.

Social media is possibly a tool that ensures behavioral norms.

“I think everything and everyone should be seen. And to be seen, we need to be watched.” Faulty logic.

But who wants to be watched all the time?

I do. I want to be seen. I want proof I existed.

Frankenstein: You Get So Alone at Times That It Just Makes Sense

The English department of my university sent a suggested summer reading list. I’m going to write my thoughts about each one so I don’t forget them. First up is Frankenstein. What is this book about? Here’s what I think:

When Frankenstein was a child, he threw himself into the study of chemistry, which was pretty much alchemy in his time. You may remember that alchemists were those medieval scientists who tried to turn common metals into gold, claimed they could raise the dead, and/or searched for the philosopher’s stone. These early scientists were hungry for notoriety, riches, God-like power, and they expected that these would naturally come as reward for their toils in the alchemy arts.

One man’s life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge which I sought, for the dominion I should acquire and transmit over the elemental foes of our race.

You can imagine it was a passionate business. The philosophies of alchemy were grand and unbound by the limitations of nature. Frankenstein was wrapped up in and enchanted by the study of this as a youth. It did not help that Frankenstein was a little conceited. “So much has been done…more, far more will I achieve…I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation.” “A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me.” Events ensued that made Frankenstein’s tale a cautionary one. If he had not attempted to give life to a human unnaturally, his little brother, house servant, best friend, wife, and father would still be alive, and Frankenstein would not have been as emotionally and physically anguished as he was for much of his life. Maybe this book is about the perils of misguided ambition.

Seek happiness in tranquility and avoid ambition, even if it be only the apparently innocent one of distinguishing yourself in science and discoveries.

Or maybe it is a story about how having knowledge makes an individual feel responsible for making use of it, and how that can be dangerous.

…how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.

In Frankenstein’s case, he used his knowledge to play God. We know how that turned out. In the case of the monster, he was happier and more benevolent when all he knew of the world was himself and the cottagers who lived near him. But when he learned of the world focused on class differences and wealth and connections, he began to question his place in it. He asked himself, “Who am I? What am I?” This self-awareness proved dangerous.

The monster had learned how to make a fire by accident, but even this accidentally acquired knowledge was so destructive that it later engulfed what was the monster’s home and school for more than a year. Knowledge disillusioned him and made him miserable. His misery made him murderous; the monster said so himself.

Frankenstein could be about companionship; more specifically, without equal companionship, one is predisposed to be miserable. Walton, in the beginning of the book, is in great need of a friend who would appreciate his ambitions but will temper them. He found this friend in Frankenstein. The monster was miserable because he was alone. He observed the cottagers for over a year. He loved them like family, and he has hoped that when he revealed himself to them, they would treat him as such after, of course, getting over the shock of his appearance. The very opposite happened, and this was the incident that preceded the first murder in the book. The monster eventually begged Frankenstein to make him an equal.

If I have no ties and no affections, hatred and vice must be my portion; the love of another will destroy the cause of my crimes.

Companionship equals emotional well-being is a major theme.


Additional thoughts

1. In psychology, we learn that behaviors inform our attitudes. There is a good example of this in the book. The monster had been fighting against what seemed to be an evil nature with human remorse and human despair, but when he kept committing monstrous acts, the monster gave himself up to what seemed to be his nature. He reconciled his evil urges with his appearance.

I had cast off all feeling, subdued all anguish, to riot in the excess of my despair. Evil thenceforth became my good. Urged thus far, I had no choice but to adapt my nature to an element which I had willingly chosen.

This is the moment he really became a monster.

2. After Frankenstein’s closest family and friends are dead, he swears revenge on the monster. The monster lets Frankenstein chase him. The monster says that being forced to live in his present state of woe would be greater revenge than being killed. Maybe, by initiating the chase, the monster was helping Frankenstein carry out his vengeance.

3. In the end of the book, the chase takes its toll on Frankenstein and he asks Walton to kill the monster for him. Frankenstein dies, the monster appears at his side, remorseful. That remorse is confusing to me. He had spent the better part of the book making the man miserable, cursing him, but now he seems upset over his death. He suddenly has no passion for being evil, only a desire to end his own suffering.

When the monster framed the girl for his first murder, he thought “the murder I have committed because I am forever robbed of all that she could give me, she shall atone.” I think this logic has something to do with his change of heart after Frankenstein’s death. The monster was angry with humankind for treating him with contempt, for being afraid, for hating him. His victims had to suffer for causing his suffering; the murders were the victims’ own faults. Now Frankenstein, his last victim, is dead. He has no one left to blame for his deeds, so he feels the full force of his wretchedness. Maybe the monster had not been sad over the death of Frankenstein, per se, but what the death meant for the monster. It means an emotional and philosophical transition. He’s no longer fueled by hatred, only remorse for his evil. He resolves to kill himself.

4. You Get So Alone at Times That It Just Makes Sense is a book of poetry by Charles Bukowski.

Various Simultaneous Personal Crises

My parents are loving people. They provide for you. They will do anything for you. They will give you anything you want. That last one is the problem, though. I often have to ask them to set boundaries for me, give me some rules, because I feel so free and parent-less. My mom works and my dad has Parkinson’s, so he sits in front of the television all day because he can’t do anything else with his shaking hands. Their parenting style is lax, detrimentally so.

In a phone call I had this morning, my sister called me The Good One. She says she doesn’t know how I turned out so well. (She is 30 years old.) I’m the modest one. I’m the good one. I feel guilty at 17 years old watching rated R movies, watching Mad Men.

I asked my dad the other day what age he thinks is appropriate for watching rated R movies. He said 14.

So I kind of wished he told me that before. Before all the guilt.

I found out my brother is watching Orange Is the New Black. I knew it was about women in prison, but not much else. I looked up reviews about why it was rated TV-MA. Nudity and lots and lots of graphic sex. So what am I supposed to do with that? Knowing my 13 year old brother is watching this stuff? I tried to talk to him last night about how our parent’s parenting is very lax and that there’s no one to tell him right from wrong, really, and that I don’t think he should be watching that show and that that show is so inappropriate for someone his age. He was muttering No the whole time, was annoyed, didn’t look at me except to ask Why Are You Doing This Now? to which I replied Because No One Else Will Do It. I said I’ll ask mom and dad to take away Netflix. He got really mad. Why Are You Doing This Now? He started throwing things at me. I said Go ahead. Pick up the next thing. Practice your aim. which he did a few more times. My dad stumbled literally onto the scene as I was walking away from Target Practice, asking What is going on. I charged past him and into my room. He knocked on the door. What Is Going On? I said Go Away, which he did, and I cried for like 30 minutes.

This morning, on the phone with my sister, I asked her to put restrictions (no TV-MA) on my brother’s Netflix account. I said she can put that on my account, too. She said she’s not going to do that because I’m two months away from being an adult.


My sister says I’m the good one. I guess that’s true, if she’s speaking about my guilt about doing things. My guilt is what makes me good. It’s what makes me Christian. My guilt tells me not to watch rated R and not watch TV-MA and not to curse and not to do drugs and not to take Dad’s anti-anxiety medication because of the label on the side saying that only the person with their name on the bottle can take this. My morality is centered on my guilt. But suddenly I am an adult. Adult means you can do whatever the hell you want (I just cursed), so don’t feel guilty about such childish stuff as rated R and anti-anxiety meds and drugs. What am I supposed to do in college? The world is completely open. It had been open all this time.