Archive for April, 2014

Morning Snapshot

Posted: April 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

Black coffee. Oatmeal. Ibuprofen. Exhaustion. Paper-writing.

Almost there. Just a little further yet.

 

It would be easier to count the spaces when I stop thinking of you than the inverse.

Advertisements

I finally took my first bike ride of the year. I headed south on the familiar trail, not sure how far I planned to follow it. Somewhere between home and the park full of memories from the near-decade I’ve spent in this city, I decided I wanted to go visit the old campus.

A year and a half after my college graduation ceremony, the university announced it intended to close that campus at the end of the school year. The transition left a bitter taste in many people’s mouths, and for several reasons the school’s attempts to create some kind of home base for alumni never could really make me feel all right about it all.

I worked security for a couple years there after the campus’s closure, and whether because of this or in spite of it, I haven’t really looked at the place in the same way — not since the first couple of shifts when I walked through the dorms and apartments where I had once lived. The mixed feelings gave way to a sort of numbness as I dissociated what I saw from the memories I had made there. The campus stood empty, then became a sort of mixture of office buildings and private park open to the community. On a Sunday evening like this, and perhaps especially on Easter, I ran little risk of running into anyone I knew; on such a beautiful day there might be people from the neighborhood playing baseball or hanging out on the soccer field, or the campus might be deserted altogether.

There were only a couple kids cycling in the parking lot when I arrived; the soccer field was empty. I dismounted and walked my bike down to the bleachers, where I sat for a little while. Aside from the trees cut down because of the emerald ash borer, it almost looked the same. I’ve seen the campus many times since it changed, of course, but I hadn’t really looked at it, not to see it for itself, in some time. It’s been many things to me over the years, I suppose. It’s what brought me to this town in the first place — the college. There in the sunlight, I remembered it for that semi-forgotten facet of what it is: another vacant “home” I once had in this city that is no longer there for me. It’s become something else now.

It’s a very dynamic thing, the way the place has changed, and I can appreciate that. Yet, I do also envy a little the people who haven’t been so disabused of their ideas about the permanence and stability of such human institutions. Sometimes, when something we want to remain the same just doesn’t, we view that dizzying tilt away from the static and toward the dynamic as a failure. I understand that; at times I see it that way in my own life. It’s a natural reaction to the vertigo, perhaps. Still, the balance between stable/static and dynamic forces is always in the process of being struck, and that can mean some fluctuation and resultant messiness along the way. It doesn’t always fit into the neat dichotomy of “success vs. failure.”

Analogies have great power; there are certain experiences and ideas we only seem to be able to get at through them. Analogy helps us make sense of things we can’t understand when we deal with them in their own vocabulary, making analogies particularly appealing as we approach personal and spiritual matters (this post will deal with the former). Yet, sometimes we can forget that the analogy is just that — a metaphorical understanding rather than a literal one, one that can reflect our feelings and perceptions about the situation more than it reflects the situation itself.

The analogy I use can enhance or obscure my understanding of a given situation. I’ve been listening to The Basics’ album Ingredients, and the song “With This Ship” has had some particular relevance to this line of thought, because the idea of going down with the ship is just the kind of imperfect analogy for the end of my relationship that I’m getting at. The image is appealing because it contains the feelings of dire loss and risk and abandonment. But, if I take this analogy to heart, even then it makes a difference whether I characterize the relationship as a sinking ship as recently as a couple weeks ago or one that had already sunk many months ago, for instance, or whether I say he abandoned me on it or that I was determined to go down with the ship — all those kinds of things can change how well or poorly I make sense of my own experiences, especially if I let the wave of analogy carry me away from the reality.

In this case, I’ve resigned myself to admitting that I just don’t understand it; the analogies my mind picks up, like smooth pebbles on the beach, just don’t fit the jagged experiences I am trying to comprehend.

Often when people draw those parallels, we pick that foundational symbol at the heart of an analogy without being fully conscious of the choice we make when we do so. It’s tempting, too, in the desire to make sense of things, to “twist facts to suit theories,” as Sherlock Holmes would have put it. In the face of this, accepting the lack of understanding is, I think, a more moral choice than subjugating intellectual honesty to the need for that comfort of a neat little idea tied up in an inaccurate analogy.

Pain and Courage

Posted: April 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

Lately, I’ve been relating a lot to Max Payne in a particular way — we are both so resilient that it seems even when we get knocked down and want to stay down, we can’t. Something makes our muscles fire so that we stand; it pulls one foot in front of the other so that we stumble and stagger forward. Recently, I have realized I can find courage in this. Knowing that I will get back up and keep going, even despite myself, helps me push aside the fear that might otherwise paralyze me, as it has done in the past. And in a way, the key to this kind of bravery — the hinge that opens it — is the pain.

I’ve been thinking lately about how Max’s pain — as, of course, his name hints — is the source of his superpower. Sure, he’s very skilled, and that certainly has a whole lot to do with it, but it’s the abandon that elevates him to what he is: someone who is impossible to bring down completely. (Heh, you can see how this might be relatable and encouraging to someone going through something painful, no?)

Tonight, I finally told my parents about doubts I have — that was difficult, as I really hate to worry them about anything, let alone the state of my soul. But there’s relief in the honesty, and the pain of the past few days made my anxieties about having the conversation seem small. They took it as well as I think they possibly could have. It’s still not easy, but when it comes to the things I’ve been struggling with, I know the only way out is through. I’ve spent enough time looking for a way to go around. It’s time to plunge in — like Max, with abandon — and hope. I do have hope, that all this is for the best. That it will all work out. In the meantime, I’m dealing with my pain the best way I know how… I’m letting it push me to grow.