Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Dissociative Order

So the first half of my grant certificate went pretty well, though it was exhausting. Whereas my excitement for school had burned like the sun at the outset, it slowly faded to a mere glimmer before the 'break' between semesters, and it's only growing dimmer as we've stumbled out of the first month of the year.
And honestly, it's more like we escaped the beginning of this year, much as though it were the seediest, grimiest, most disgusting club in a bad neighborhood. You know the kind; you wander in for a quick drink and it's so dark that you can't see the filth & menace around you until you're at the bar and question if the bartender is the same species. Then, you try and fail to escape its gravitational pull of despair, so in desperation you hurl yourself toward the door and pray that the detritus strewn about the floor doesn't wrap up your ankle and do a Hotel California on your ass.
2011 has not been fun so far. Keefe had the pneumonia at the end of December during the break between semesters (Merry Christmas!) and we've lost a friend, Zach, at the beginning of January. And it is a loss; there's so many things that we had planned: Gally, Doctor Who viewing parties, Keefe's shows, and to try and set up another Doctor Who event here in Seattle. But mainly it's the fact that he was such a sweet guy who had so many interests and took so much interest in others that it is a loss keenly felt.
Every year that passes tallies another person that moves on. As we grow older, how each of us deals with death is impacted by the circumstances of these losses and the circuitous paths that we travel in grief. I've heard from a few people who knew Zach purely from online interactions as well as those who partied with him at Gally and were friends on Facebook. Some seem to think that they don't have as much right as others who interacted with him face-to-face to mourn his passing. But that's ridiculous.
Does this mean that coworkers have no right to mourn the passing of a fellow employee? Working in the same building and interacting for an hour or so per day or week means that you get to know someone - and if it's someone like Zach, you'll be touched by them. Kids, Facebook and online forums are like that - you are interacting once a day or week, hearing about plans, dreams, or even just shooting the breeze. Add the fact that you see that person once a year (or even a couple of times) at an intense event like Gally and you're more than a face in the crowd.
Our world is changing, but it has also changed already. Most of us interact online and spend a percentage of time interacting with other human beings in that forum. It's legitimate to make connections with people you don't even see but with whom you have continuous contact and to feel something for them. It's if you don't that should raise some eyebrows.
Wow, guess I had something to say about that. I've actually deleted quite a bit as I went all ranty. Not only about the validation of emotion in online interactions, but the fact that grief is not linear - the biggest disservice is the popularization of the perception that there are stages to grief. It makes it feel like a process that, once you've touched upon each stage like a stone in a pond, you shouldn't have to worry about falling in again. But it's not so easy; you can skip all the way across the pond and then see someone's photo and fall right back into it. You can jump from denial to anger and make it all the way to acceptance until you talk with a mutual friend and then you're jumping on the anger stone again.
But we seem to need a way to distance ourselves from these emotional rides, so we identify, categorize, and attempt to make sense of things that are inherently non-sensical intellectually and can only be sensed, experienced. It's like we want a membership card for the Dissociative Order so we can operate in spite of our frailties. This past month, I nearly applied to join.
There are no trumpets when we close out our life that signal success. Time marches on. People move on. Zach's memorial was beautiful and let us know how active he was at work, at church, in Doctor Who, with soccer & the Sounders, in his community, with Transformers - but he never let anyone feel as though he didn't have time for them. He came to Keefe's shows as though he had nothing else to do on a Friday or Saturday night. He chatted on the phone when I called, never seeming as though it wasn't a good time for babble. When the time came at the memorial for people to say something about him, the shyness was overtaken with anecdotes of things he had done and people he had influenced for the better. And I realized that I could do better. Not only with people but with my perception of what I want my life to be. I've been processing this for a couple of weeks. Chewing on it in my subconscious.
And while I have, apathy has made a strong case to me - it's amazing how insidious it can be. Procrastinating homework, ignoring the paperwork at the office, and throwing all of my toys into the craft room again and closing the door without a twinge. All I can think of is getting done with school and not doing more for a while, getting done with projects that have loomed over my head as I put everything on hold for school, and not having to DO anything for a bit.
It would be great if this was the product of a revelation, but it is the symptom of processing. Not too many times in my life have I succumbed to this, and thankfully there was a sunny day today showing all the promise of Spring to shake me awake. What the hell did I almost do?! There is a sweet feeling to melancholy and a lethargy that lulls you when you're in the throes of apathy. It feels as goodbad as having cake and ice cream at midnight, alone except for The Return of the King and the far off mutterings of one's conscience.
So I lean in a bit and hear it calling. Focus. Stay on target. But my target changed. It's like the Death Star went into hyperspace and my third eye knew exactly where it had gone, but the X-Wing couldn't follow. My S-coils are still locked and ready to fire - so I pause. I regroup.
There is no ribbon at the end ~ hell, there's no finish line because death is not a conscious state. What I do or what I don't do is answerable only to me as long as I draw breath. I've come to a partial realization of this once or twice before, acknowledging that I should enjoy the path or it is not worth traveling, and that experiences are more important than accomplishments. I don't have a C.V. that I need to hand to anyone, a summary of my life's successes to justify admittance or even my existence. What I have, is a responsibility to myself to be happy.
So once again, I'll turn my eyes to the joy to be found in life, in others, and experience everything I can while I can do so. This means I can have my cake [and ice cream] and eat it, too.