Now, obviously, I AM a bit of a spaz. I am also diffident and self deprecating by nature (to a fault, apparently). These things balance out, in my opinion, and the true truth is that I ultimately think of myself as pretty capable. I do tend to get wrapped up in things. I can be a bit obsessive, and if I care about something, I care a lot. Faith No More stylez, yo.
So I’m not sure about all this advice I’ve been getting. Last week, for example, my friend N said numerous advisory things to me, including, for example, “Go with the flow - worry about making you happy - and no obsessing!”. He also said, “Stop caring so much.”
Now, I love my friends. I love this friend in particular. And I like when they give me advice, because it is in these conversations that I feel most tangibly how much they care about me, and that makes me happy. At the same time, this sort of advice doesn’t really have a lot of practical appeal, does it? I mean, HOW? How am I supposed to do these things? Obviously, if I could stop obsessing about things, I would, right? Wouldn’t you? Isn’t that the problem with obsession? That you CAN’T (physically, emotionally, mentally) take it down a notch? And stop caring so much? I say again: HOW? How, exactly? Is there a Dummies book about this? Will someone buy it for me?
Maybe the problem is that I don’t really want to stop caring about things. I personally don’t believe that I should care less about anything, so much as I believe that the wider public should probably care more.
Another guy has been giving me a lot of advice lately too. (The men are quicker to advise, I notice. They’re less concerned with overstepping, and always more convinced that their opinions are sound. That’s men for you.) This other guy keeps telling me, in essence, to be more selfish. He tells me I’m being too nice. Or too forgiving. Or too altruistic.
This is a bad thing??? Really?
I’m just trying to understand the world. And because I’m pathetically pop-culture obsessed, all I keep thinking about is that movie You’ve Got Mail. The one with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, you know? It’s not particularly good, but there’s something sweet and old fashioned about it. It’s got that patently Norah Ephron appeal. But anyway, in the movie, when someone says something to the Meg Ryan character like, “It’s not personal, it’s business”, she says she hates that phrase. I think she says, “Whatever else anything is, it ought to start by being personal.”
Maybe I’m just a silly little girl, but I bought that, man. That’s exactly how I feel.
I’m taking this very interesting class about biography right now, and in the last seminar, we embarked on a long conversation about archetypal myths and their role in constructing the life as narrative, which it isn’t. (Does that make sense? Probably not. Doesn’t matter, anyway.) One of the things we talked about was how in relationships, women build up and are very much attached to the myth of fidelity, while men are more attached to the myth of heroism. I wish I could rearticulate this idea with more grace, but I can’t. This is just a stupid blog anyway. Regardless, I’ve been thinking about the idea for days, and about how true it is. Fidelity is obscenely important to women. And I don’t mean romantic fidelity, or at least, I don’t mean it exclusively. I feel that myth defining me every single day. And I don’t know why. Why am I the sort of person who thinks it’s important to have something unique and special and (most importantly) faithful and loyal with every single person I know? How did this happen? Is this biologically impossible to escape? And isn’t it a bad thing to hope for, since, if my male friends are to be believed, most people aren’t very nice?
I am a team player. I believe wholeheartedly in the team. And that isn’t to say that I don’t want my team mates to play with anyone else. My friends all have other friends, of course. But from the people I’m closest with, I do expect some sort of loyalty – to the level of our friendship, and our particular connection, at least. I’ve been told I expect too much, but that seems a useless judgement. Expecting a lot is good, isn’t it? Striving for goodness and asking everyone else to strive too? It means, in theory, that you won’t put up with less. And that should, in theory, result in you being surrounded by the best sort of people. (It doesn’t, unfortunately.) What’s funny is that I don’t actually do that at all. I wish for it. I do ask for and expect a lot. A lot of the time I don’t get it, and instead of cutting people loose, I mostly just put up with it. I give everyone multiple chances. And I get mad and sad about every let down, but I stick around. That’s me. I obsess. I wait. I hope for a different result next time. Eventually, sure, depending on how disappointing someone is, I might get around to cutting them off, but it’s rare. It takes a lot. And I’m always on the verge of giving someone who doesn't deserve it a second (or fortieth) chance. I have to force my (better) friends to remind me not to, because without them, I’m likely to forget. Thank goodness for the logical few. Without them reminding me again and again that some people just have to go, I’d be entirely surrounded by assholes.
I wish I could explain this better.
I’m blogging now for one reason: I feel like I should. You guys are coming back, day after day, month after month, waiting for something new, and I feel like I owe you something. Other people might not. If my advisory friends are to believed, most other people don’t give a shit. That’s not me.
One more thing about my friend N, lest you think badly of him. When I told him that I WISHED I could care less about things, he said something very sweet to me. He said, “ Oh I don't know. It is part of what makes you special Jen, but just remember other people don't matter that much.”
Do you matter? I don’t know. I’d like to think you do. And that I do too.
Fact is, I’m reading too much. That’s what grad school does too you. It makes you overly cerebral and crazy(ier). It’s like pop music after a break up. Everything starts to feel meaningful. Every quote seems to be speaking right too you. There’s this:
The world is too small. I get tired of playing the guitar, of knitting, of walking, and bearing children. Men are small, and passions are short-lived. I get furious at stairways, furious at doors, at walls, furious at everyday life which interferes with the continuity of ecstasy. - Anaïs Nin’s House of Incest.
Estrangement shows itself precisely in the elimination of distance between people. - Adorno
And most appropriately, this:
Sometimes you’re the windshield; sometimes you’re the bug. – Mark Knopfler
I’m doing all kinds of wonderful things, really. My social calendar is ridiculously packed because I’m on a campaign to be more open, to say yes to everything. Tonight, for example, I am playing volleyball (and potentially singing karaoke). This afternoon, I am having coffee with a newish guy friend and evening pizza with a less newish girl friend. This week, I’m seeing a yet-to-be-decided-on girly movie with Patty and on Thursday, I’m Not Here (the Bob Dylan movie) with a Tara, in preparation for class next week. Last night, I watched Gone With The Wind on television, and now all I want to do is cry “fiddle de-dee!” (It seems a hilarious and underrated expression of frustration. Why did it fall out of fashion?) In my head, I’m composing a random blog about my relationship with Nathan Phillipsquare (my beta fish) and painting a new picture for my living room. I’m rereading Sylvia Plath’s Ariel and all kinds of Elizabeth Bishop, and novels that made me cry when I was a little girl (all of which I should probably not be doing, considering how many books I’m supposed to be reading for school, but whatevs). I am overusing italics and think think thinking all the time.
All sorts of things are happening. I’m going to try to cobble them into more narrative posts in future. Posts with scope and substance and direction. That’s what I’m aspiring to.
But I've gone on enough for one day, I think.
Be good. Be happy. Use both hands. That’s my advice.