Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Rub(ble)

In the office, editing a spreadsheet, I'm listening to a podcast to make the days tolerable, as I have most days since my favorite coworker left. It's an old This American Life, as I've listened to all the recent ones: this one, from 1996. An episode called "Get Over it." It's about people getting over things, break-ups and deaths so far in the episode. Ira said something in the beginning about how you can't will it to happen, you can't know when it's going to happen. He related it to a passage in the bible about how the date of Jesus' return will not be known until it happens.

Then, there's this really sad story by George Saunders, about a man trying to get over his wife's death, doing so by throwing himself into the caretaking of an old widow. I won't get too much into it-- you should listen to it if you find yourself with the time-- but it's a somewhat sci-fi/futuristic story (except evidently written in and set in 1992, so think "alternative reality" futuristic rather than actual futuristic), so the method that he eventually uses to get over his wife's death and help provide for the old woman is a little...Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind.

There's so many directions I want to go in reaction to this piece, all interelated, all could be part of the same "This American Life" episode: they all have the same theme. But, like in "This American Life", they are all different stories.

My first reaction, the one that inspiried me to write this, was to the little clip of song they played after the story. My ears perked as I realized I knew the song, but not well: something I'd heard many times, but in a relatively short period of my life. As I tried to place it, the irony dawned on me: the song was from a mix tape given to me by someone that I cared very much for at the time, who I forced myself to get over by not letting myself think of him or what we had.

The idea of forcing myself to get over someone-- of not just openly and vulnerably letting myself feel whatever I feel-- is generally so foreign to me that the whole process of doing it was not entirely unlike a real-life version of this story: I had a life to save, or a way of life: not just mine, not just mine and Zack's, but his, and his family's. I had the greater good to consider. So I, in the only time in my life I ever mustered the will to do this, forced myself just to not think about him or acknowledge any lingering feelings.

It worked to the extent that I don't even know how accurate what I'm typing is. I know that I was much more strict about the process than I'd ever been before or since, but I don't know if that's truly what I can attribute the success to. I look back now, and, I know full well that I had deep feelings for him, but it's not clear to me the exacts of how or why. It seems to foreign to me now. Would I have been able to shut him out had I not already been fairly far into the process of getting over him? Or was it the process of shutting him out that makes me feel like I was over him, I must have been, I don't even know how strong my feelings were in the first place?

The reality of this, like the memories of the man in the story, is now lost to the ether.

There was a point I wanted to make about how Dan and I used to argue over how good a movie "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" was. I think, in the end, I made the point that there were far too many parallels to mine and Zack's relationship for me to find the movie anything but disturbing and sad. I forget my exact points...maybe I'll find and post the piece of conversation, sometime. I think it was mostly online.

I tried to write a post last night that somewhat related to all of this, but then, Dan came into the room. He was making a good-faith effort to check in with me before bed time, something I've asked him to do in order to help me to feel like we're really a couple, and not just a pair of co-parents who live together. I wasn't really in a good place to appreciate his effort though-- I'd been in a bad mood all day, and it felt, often, like he was oblivious to that.

The conversation we had, as is so often the pattern, started out benign, but quickly became a tour of all the different ways we fail each other as a couple: he often feels unappreciated, which is hard to combat, because, I often don't appreciate him. I often feel like he's disappointed in me, which is hard for him to combat because, in his words, "I think you try, I think you do the best you can. But I don't think that'll ever be enough to meet my standards."

So, there's the rub: I don't appreciate him, he's disappointed in me.

At least, it's part of the rub. I don't know how much of the rub it is. I don't even know if it's most of the rub, or the biggest piece of the rub. And I've said "rub" one too many times.

I'll end with what I managed to write last night before he came in and interrupted:

"I find neuroscience fascinating, and it's a fascinating time for it. They're doing all these image studies now-- using an FMRI to track the way a brain will actually physically change in response to events in a person's life. Actual, scientific evidence of the way a traumatized person's brain will respond to therapy, showing how parts that are overactive gradually become calmed overtime. Visual evidence to show that meditation strengthens pathways that allow one to access serenity. And whatever the third thing in my list would be if I were more well-versed on the topic. (I tried to look something up figuring, hey, a rhetorically satisfying list should have three examples. But then I got really bored, really fast. Evidently, I don't actually find neuroscience THAT fascinating.)

So, any neuroscientists out there, here's my suggestion for an experiment. Prove or disprove the following hypothesis: the brain changes after great heartbreak, making it actually, physically impossible to love the next person as much as you loved the first. Prove or disprove the idea that you'll never again feel anything like your first love."

So. A whole different piece of the rub. On with it.