Posts Tagged With: time

Time has us by the Strings


Just now, while searching through my old files, I found a letter I wrote to my ex just over 10 months ago. Since I haven’t had time between co-authoring a chapter, working on a farm, and dealing with yet ever more exciting “ex-relationship” drama, I thought I’d post it here. <But then I changed my mind at the last minute>

 

I. An Untimely Self

This letter was my final attempt to move my ex through logos, and it’s failure to do so–the failure to rebuild trust and intimacy with meaning–left me disillusioned more than ever with reason. At the end, I resorted to ethos, to find a common meeting ground, a simple, common, everyday activity to bond over, but every invitation was blocked. Logos and ethos could not have access to pathos so long as I had become the abject of my ex’s subjectivity. My attempts at logos and ethos were in fact a symptom of the larger problem. Both tactics pressured her to live by my time, rather than letting her be as she had become in her own time. The tactic I should have followed was kairos, an attentive, self-restrained patience.

Although what she said most often was that she needed space, what I think she really meant was time. Within the tradition of liberal humanist discourse, personhood has been defined territorially, not temporally. To say one needs to be oneself is interpreted as one needing distance from being touched, from being affected  by something outside. The subject, to have integrity, needs to be autonomous–not dependent on others–to properly perfect oneself according to one’s own image. Yet such existential independence is rarely achieved, especially when space must be shared. To let one be is not so much leaving space as it is respecting time. For who we are changes, and although change can be very painful, it must be affirmed if we are not to act violently to ourselves and others, to manifest suffering.

 

II. A Puppet of the Past

I cringed when I acknowledged that this letter retains relevancy in the present. Reading the letter encouraged me to reflect on my recent behaviors over the past couple months to make amends with someone I became very intimate with and likewise had to live and work with in the aftermath of intimacy. I find myself making the same mistakes,  attaching myself to the value of “I” and the possessiveness of “me.” Each time a powerful “relationship” comes to an end, I feel simultaneously devastated and empowered, for I have learned through my faults. But history teaches me that it is so easy to let faults slip through our consciousness back into the body of habits. I discover myself repeating these uncanny words.

Without losing myself, I will not become someone else. Yet, after months on the road relatively cut from my former roots in Texas and Illinois, I cling fast to my bumper during each intentional swerving maneuver to release me. Consciousness and swerving has helped clean up some “noise,” but has not established a new paradigm for my being. I sit on the side of the road lost in thought, but not of the past. My familial, fraternal,  and romantic relationships are knotted around my ego, suffocating it of creativity. The knots tie me down to people and land I am thousands of miles and hundreds of days apart from, playing me like a marionette. I’m a puppet of the past. The more force I apply to these strings, the more tangled I become; the more I act like a Man, the more of a mockery I prove myself to be.

 

III. Concrete Reality: Time has got us by the Strings

Must one accept our string, our knotty personas, to move beyond it? To master oneself, one must not attempt to master others, but to master kairos, to master a situation by allowing it to be and be undone. For years I have attempted to  master time, to conform the present to the fantastic future and the future to my representation of it in the present. But to live in fantastic expectation, to force things from out of the present,  only works so long as the fantasy is not traversed.

The difficulty of reality is our exposure in time, our ineffable exposure to ghosts from the past and omens of the future. Reality is that time has us, not us it. Karma is the catching-up of time when we believe we have moved beyond it. Suffering is the manifestation of reality’s disillusionment of our ideals once time has tagged us. Once tagged, we are not I, but is. And is is all there is. If we cannot accept that, we cannot accept ourselves, and so we suffer even as time has passed us by. We continue to dragged ourselves behind or run ahead of cars, and so eventually feel the friction of reality against our flesh, tearing us apart without pulling us together.

In writing this, I feel as though I’m resigning myself to fate, writing against resistance. Do I prefer life as a puppet over life as a person or has my thinking finally become just as tangled up in knots as my identity?

Categories: Essay, Original Writing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sewing Oneself Into Suffering


I. The Sound of Suffering: While writing the last poem, “Solar Eclipse,” I recalled the powerful song “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” In the summer of 2009, I broke down during my drive to work when the song came on the radio. Something about its lyrics instantly captured my attention. The song, like “Somebody I Used to Know,” spoke to something truthful in my lived experience. It articulated sentiments I felt but could not sublimate quite so craftily and beautifully. My heart sank deeper from the enhanced awareness of my affections and suffering but it was not accompanied by the weight of emotional oppression. Instead, I felt elated. Liberated.

And I need you now tonight
And I need you more than ever

. . . . .

Once upon a time I was falling in love
But now I’m only falling apart
There’s nothing I can do
A total eclipse of the heart
Once upon a time there was light in my life
But now there’s only love in the dark
Nothing I can say
A total eclipse of the hear

So three and a half years later, as I chose the relationship between sun, earth, and moon as the theme for a “love poem,” I came to wonder if “Total Eclipse of the Heart” had a similar message, whether I was picking up on something I heard before or a transcendent image. In the former experience, I was deeply hurt by my lover not returning my calls and emails, avoiding coming to an agree on an apartment and that my companion animal, Duke, was possibly on the verge of death, and I needed emotional support. I really loved her, but was truly “falling apart” and I “needed her more than ever.” There was no one I had ever felt more intimacy and connection with than her.

In my present situation, however, I had been deeply hurt by an ex-lover, -partner, and best friend. I no longer loved her. There were times I verged on hating her. Her cowardliness and unfairness disgusted me. I never felt so much rage and dislike directed at any one person before. So I asked myself:

II. Why am I still mourning? Why does she still occasionally haunt me five months after I was pressured into officially ending the relationship, (seven months after I had done the same to her) and two months after removing myself from the risk of encountering her at a community event, on the streets, or in a bar? Do I still love her, despite my bold assertions otherwise?

So here I catch myself romanticizing over a lost friend, a “dead” friend, for this person no longer exists in the world and never will. The person who fell in love with me and who I had fallen in love a year ago would never have been so callous and displayed such contempt for me. Or perhaps she would have. Perhaps I never really knew her. Or perhaps I did, and allowed myself to remain ignorant.

During the trauma, after the breakup leeched into my community of friends, corroding my final security, the last emotional support beams I had left, I begrudgingly relived a short but intense disagreement between us. She had said something out of desperate anger that I could never forgive, but had brushed under the rug because I loved her so much and could feel her pain. Essentially, she wished that one of my friends be date raped because she had cyber-bullied her one day on Facebook. Over the next two months, I started noticing and confronting her on racist things she would say. Each of these comments tempted me to end things, but I was afraid. It was difficult to reconcile my love for someone with the terrible, hateful things out of her inability to healthfully cope with psychological and emotional trauma. Eventually, I became the target of her venom, from her inability to healthfully cope with her indecisiveness about continuing the relationship. I can speculate as to why, but what I’ve realized during the whole process is that understanding another (and even oneself) is severely limited, if not entirely impossible. Eventually, I gave up appealing to reason, to talking things through in order to reach mutual understanding and respect. All I wanted was to rebuild trust and decent feelings between us, but she would have no such thing. All I know is that I had ignored the warning signs. The beautiful duck was now a rabid rabbit. The duck and the rabbit were there the entire time, but I cared only to see it one way.

III. The simulacrum of a specter. The person I grieve over now is not the actual subject of my historical love, but a projection refracted through selective memories. I grieve over an imaginary past. Why cry over a person who I never loved, who never existed outside my imagination? To make my suffering more concrete, to crystallize it into an external love object.

We like to hold on, to believe that there is something holding us together into a coherent whole, to tell ourselves lies–not in order to avoid suffering since we suffer all the more for believing them–, but to flee from the torment of despair and anxiety. For at least there is security in suffering.

The body of my existence was unraveling before my eyes into an incoherent pile of string, so I narrated a story to stitch my fragments back together. The more I repeated the story, the thicker and more secure the stitches became, reinforcing the story to hold together: this is who I am, this is who she is, this is how I feel, this is how she feels, this is why we act the way we do. Returning to memories, imagining alternative actions I could have taken and words I could have said… I was playing with dolls.

But could I do much else? Is it not necessary for one to make sense out of string? Can one exist as an incoherent pile? No. So we sew ourselves into a story, a narrative self. Playing with dolls was all I had left to make sense of the explosive trauma that had torn me to pieces. It was a painful process of healing. Each reinforced stitch, another non-anesthetized puncture, another pull, another tear. But I was naively sewing myself more securely into the trauma. I was reinforcing a self who could not escape. So dreadful was the annihilating unravelment, I kept stitching old patterns forgetting that annihilation opens oneself to a new form and future.

Categories: Essay, Original Writing, Social Conciousness | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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