Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Snowman

I'm really tired. It's hard for me to write when I'm really tired, but I'm trying this writing every day thing, and if Franklin Cline can do it, so can I. I'm also feeling a little discouraged about some things, but I have noticed that discouragement often accompanies the tired for me, so I'm trying not to let the discouragement dominate this evening. I have been waking in the night for about an hour or so with this chest cold, the past three nights. It's taking a toll.

The kids are back in the house, and the space has so much more energy when they are here. Not to mention hugs. We are a huggy bunch, and I have missed the touch. When they are babies, you hold them so much that sometimes it feels like you have never done anything in the world except hold a baby. Now, I look at them and think, "My God, I know they came out of my body, but HOW?"

We went down to Columbia today for Christian's quarterly diabetes visit. Mark took the boys down, then we transferred kids + kid stuff, went to lunch, and took Sam to the orthodontist. I was late for the diabetes visit because I couldn't find my glasses this morning. I still have no idea where they are. Sam asked me at one point, when I was driving, "Can you see?" And I laughed and told him that I was wearing contacts. I should have gotten my eyes checked over a year ago after The Grant was finished. I think it just ruined my vision. But of course I haven't done it yet. So, then I decided that I'd do it this month. Sometimes I think the universe gives me little shoves, and hiding my freaking glasses will certainly get me to the eye doc. I don't mind contact lenses, but I don't see as well with them as I do with my glasses. And I'm lazy. And there is a lot of animal hair in this house. Nothing hurts quite as much as animal hair on a contact lens in your eye.

There are, naturally, parenting differences in our two family households. There has been disagreement about whether or not we can let Christian sleep in during our winter breaks. So, I got to the doctor just in time to be scolded for having let Christian sleep in. I said, "But we adjusted all of his snacks and meals accordingly."

The doctor turned to Christian and said, "Oh, you didn't tell me that!"

I didn't turn and look at anyone else in the room, but I felt smug.

Tommy asked me this evening what the worst thing someone could say to me is. Basically, if you tell me that I am a bad mother, you are dead to me. From that moment forward. I may smile at you and be pleasant, but you are DEAD. TO. ME. Fortunately, just as with the Mormons and outer darkness, there are only two people on this earth and in this town that fall under that distinction. I say hello to one, almost as an insult. I simply ignore the other. But I kind of like the Jewish perspective on forgiveness, which is sort of like this: Turn the other cheek, my ass. They don't have to forgive Hitler and the Bad Germans for the holocaust, and I don't have to forgive people who testified against me during my custody battle. Simple.

Okay, to be fair: Finally, Judaism does not recognize reconciliation (the whole-hearted yielding of all inner negative feeling) as a necessary part of the process of sin and repentance. Although reconciliation is known and even desirable, rabbinic Judaism realizes that there are other modes of rapprochement that are fully adequate and, perhaps, more realistic.

I know, I know. Now we are karmically linked in the next life: (Did you like how I did that just now? linked the word linked? No?...)

Paying off your karma, or karmic debt, may result in this life for you to incur specific difficulties accomplishing your goals, or being stuck with a relationship from a past life, or being unable to move on, or let go.

Whatever. It was the next sentence that scared the living shit out of me: 
E. g. a recent client experienced a connection with her husband briefly in this life and then they parted, now staying friends, both knowing that it is impossible for both of them to continue the husband/wife relationship in this life, but that they may continue in the next life. 
Uh, no. I'll do what I have to do to keep that from happening.  (I presume we all know which husband I am talking about, yes?)

Yeah, so... what were we talking about? See how cranky this whole damn tired thing makes me? Bah. And I haven't run since Friday.

I hadn't meant to talk about religion at all, but check out this story: Do you think God has a place being discussed in a newspaper? In a column on a regular basis?

It's hard to discuss, in the brevity of a comment, the amount of privilege that accompanies the author's idea that she has a right to talk about God as if God is real. In the newspaper. No offense intended. But I have become, over the years, comfortable with my own lack of religious belief.

When I was in graduate school, I took the most important, most powerful course I'd ever taken. The Joyce course. We not only read Joyce, but the modernists and Schopenhauer, whom I believe to be one of the most terrible philosophers (he is not a bad philosopher, he is just A TERRIBLE PERSON) in all history because that class made me want to slit my wrists with hopelessness by the end of it. I loved reading Wallace Stevens and Borges, (oh God do I love Stevens and Borges) but Djuna Barnes and Malcolm Lowry nearly did me in.

At that point in time, I could not fathom, could not comprehend that the awfulness of this life would not result in something better, somewhere better, somehow better. I have recently surprised myself to learn that I am not invested in the idea that I am eternal or that I have an eternal soul or essence that will continue after this body is dead.

Borges wrote a great short fiction about these immortals who hate their immortality because they are so bored. Sam and I talk about that a lot, about the curse of immortality. Time and life lose their value when you flood the market with them.

However, that is not the only reason I LOVE Borges. Borges was one of the first writers to start writing reviews of books that did not exist. Today, I noticed that Sam was carrying around a book about how to survive an alien invasion. We have tons of these books: Want to know what our Zombie emergency plan is? Because we've got one (Greenwood School is OURS, bitches!). Want to know who in our friend pool is a werewolf? Jamie D'Agostino, of course. Want to know why Mormons have a year's supply of food? For the zombie invasion. Seriously. Fortunately, there are nine Mormons living across the street, and we plan to steal theirs.

But it suddenly hit me today, with the alien book, that these books are all Borgesian, because they are long treatises about how to survive something that is NOT possible.

I would like you to take a moment to fully understand that I did not get this until it was a book about aliens. It did not occur to me with the other books because I actually believe in zombies, vampires, and werewolves. And in the great debate in our household about whether it is better to be a vampire or a werewolf (nobody wants to be a zombie, Robin! They eat brains! j/k lolz!), clearly it is better to be a vampire.

Back to Borges. The kids, for about a year now, will suddenly start a conversation at the dinner table that is pure Borges (and no, they have not read him yet, but soon, Young Skywalker):

"Hey, Mom, remember last year when we saw that movie with the guy? And that thing happened?"

"Was that the movie with that one guy or the other guy?"

"The other guy was in the sequel. That's what you're thinking of."

"Oh, when that other thing happened..."

and so it goes.

Imagination, folks.

That's where it's at. I will leave you with a poem about the imaginings of a snowman, who is the product of... imagination. The imagining of the imagined. Beautiful stuff that.

Good night.

The Snowman

--Wallace Stevens

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.


  1. Ah, the Joyce class. You know though Jen, I kinda like the melancholy of those writers. There's a tension inherent in quiet gloom; it seems to give each occurance more significance.

  2. You know, that was when I was in the middle of the darkest period of my marriage, too. I know that had a big impact. I was looking for some kind of escape, and there was just NONE.

    I think I would read them differently now. And I agree with you-- very lovely writing, Yumi.

    Is it just me, or did Malcolm Lowry sometimes make you think of Karl, too?

  3. You reminded me of this story that I ran into last week and meant to forward to you. I'm not sure about the real causal relationship they state. Maybe the people who are more prone to depression and suicide (and not just kids either) have serotonin imbalances (to pick an obvious one) and going to bed earlier won't do a thing to change that.

    Also, that Denver Post story sat open in a tab for a long time yesterday. I struggled with what to post and finally just closed it without commenting. I'm still torn. I think it's fine to have a religion beat and to cover it in the paper as long as it winds up in the lifestyle section (or op-ed as you note).

  4. I love your writing everyday. It's nice to hear your voice, even if it is written.

    I couldn't stop laughing my arse off when I read about the nine families across the street! HA!

  5. This will sound more harsh than I mean it to - but, I think newspapers should write about anything that interests their readers, and if a reader doesn't like the content - they shouldn't buy the newspaper.

    And if a person likes the content, but thinks it should be in another part of the newspaper - they should tell the editor. And if he or she doesn't listen - then they shouldn't buy the newspaper.

    But I'm not for censoring content, or relegating any topic to the corner of shame, because it irritates me - and much of what gets written on the topic of God irritates me.

    I feel pretty strongly that democracy is built on a myriad of irritations endured.

  6. One more thing, get new glasses! Take care of yourself!!!

  7. @Missy: Thank you!

    @Liza: It doesn't sound harsh. And I think you've hit the nail on the head. I came across a link this morning that summarizes the irritation I have with the woman's attitude in the Denver Post. Smacks of The Divine American Religion. She doesn't exhibit much self-awareness. And I think there is a difference between censorship (I agree 100% with you) and the notion that God somehow _belongs_ in a newspaper, any more than any other topic. I think it was that attitude that I was objecting to.

  8. yay! I got linked in yr blog. Brains for all my friends!