complicated sharing

Vulnerability and sharing are tricky things with social media.

It’s been oft-observed that most people choose to share the positive, exciting parts of their lives here. Vacations, weddings, births, and all the various accomplishments we encounter in life are the meat and potatoes of what people reveal online. They’re safe, they make us look good, they give off the impression that we’re living happy and fulfilled lives.

Certainly, not all negative things get hidden. I see a lot of people sharing their grief over death, especially over time. I remember it being less common in the past, but perhaps we’re getting comfortable as facebook becomes more of a fact of life, in combination with its slow support for varied reactions (until recently, I never felt comfortable liking an announcement of a death).

But there’s so many things that never show up here. It’s not very often you’ll see someone announce that they’re suffering from crippling depression. People generally don’t feel comfortable saying they lost their job, dropped out of school, or failed to achieve one of their dreams. But if you pay attention, you can often tell when something’s up.

We’ve probably all had those moments where you stumble across someone you haven’t kept up with for a while, and the tone of everything they share has changed. They moved. They’re alone in all their pictures. Wait, weren’t they married — oh my god they got a divorce. It’s these moments that remind us how much of our lives remain obscured from most of the world.

Of all the aspects of life that are shared asymmetrically on social media, relationships are probably at the top of that list. It’s universally cool to express your love and affection here. No birthday, anniversary, or wedding dare go unannounced. Even the saltiest cynics will gleefully post every picture with their loved one. But you never see the other side.

It often seems that no one wants to hear about how painful it is to go through a break-up. You won’t find nearly as much support if you want to talk about how much it sucks to be single, how lonely the world can feel without a companion, the emptiness that comes with parting from someone who fundamentally understood you, or the way that memories of past relationships can haunt you at random moments throughout your day.

Admittedly, it’s tricky stuff. Assuming you care about the people in your life – past and present – you have to take so much caution with what you let slip out. Oversharing can damage more lives than just your own. The safest option is often to say nothing at all, to grit your teeth and bear it.

But for myself – and I have to assume for many others – so much of my life experience is wrapped up in my past relationships. I learned so much. There are beautiful memories. intense pain, embarrassment, frustration, lessons learned, time lost, and wisdom gained.

It feels like such a dishonesty to say nothing about these things, but I lack any notion of a healthy way to broach these topics through this medium. I don’t know what the solution is, or if one exists at all. Perhaps facebook will never be a place where that kind of honesty is truly safe.

It seems a grave tragedy that the parts of our lives that would benefit the most from community support, open communication, and honest discussion, are ostensibly the most taboo. How many marriages would benefit if we were more willing to discuss the thorny, complicated realities of long-term relationships? Could we not all learn from each other’s mistakes? Don’t we all have lessons that we wish someone had shared with us earlier in our lives, that might have made us better partners, better human beings?

eulogy

I delivered a eulogy today. This is what I said.

I’ve never done this before, so I apologize ahead of time if I’m young and stray too eagerly into the unorthodox or worse, the cliché. Death is still mostly foreign to me.

I only experienced a short window in Nana’s time with us. Seventy-two years of her story do not include me, and a lifetime of practice, mistakes, and learning preceded my interactions with her. Whatever her challenges were, I was not privy to them. As such, Nana will exist eternally in my mind as the pristine vessel of the best kind of grandmotherly love. On any given day, she would fulfill with gusto the roles of guardian, tutor, correctional officer, and friend. She made possible a wealth of excellent childhood memories which I look forward to reminiscing on for the rest of my life; the ride home from school in her glorified go-kart of a car, the bacon sandwich she’d make every day while I sat down to watch afternoon cartoons (starting with Thundercats), the countless hours spent doing puzzles and playing word games. All of that was beautiful and lovely, but I think it would fail the depth of her character to limit my eulogy to youthful nostalgia.

Which presents a problem for me.

I realize, as I trawl through the annals of my biography, that my memory is not good. I have this collection of scenes from my childhood, but the details are so blurred. In these memories, her mannerisms and demeanor are perhaps the clearest of what remains; I can recall the lilting style of her voice when she would admonish me, or how her lips would purse woodenly while she read a story, or the way it seemed like every wrinkle on her face would contribute to her smiles. But ultimately, I can’t remember a lot of what she actually said to me. I forgot, kind of like loose change through a hole in your pocket. I was too young, incapable of understanding the myriad subtleties that no doubt accompanied her old-fashioned sensibilities and warm companionship. I want to say I know who she really was, but by the time I was beginning to develop an identity, she was losing hers to Alzheimer’s. I am stuck knowing her only through the murky lens of early grade school.

Continue reading eulogy

oasis

A while back, I came across a rather simple ytmnd that was just a clip from an old cartoon I was rather fond of.

Listen kid, love is the only chance for happiness you’ll ever get in this life, and if you’re gonna let a little thing like rejection stand in your way, maybe you just might as well stay right there on the ground ’cause people are gonna be walking all over you for the rest of your life.

Whenever I am faced with a conundrum for which I do not possess the wisdom to solve, I seek the insight of pretty much anyone that will listen. It’s been a while since this I’ve felt the need to do this, but the diversity of perspectives that I encountered offered a significant amount of clarity into this issue.

!: “hit it and quit it”

I am young and possess every quality necessary to gratify all of my carnal desires. This will not be the case forever, and it is likely that I will regret it if I do not capitalize on this soon. I am at the stage in my life where experimentation and exploration is easy and approved of. Manipulation is to be expected, and should be embraced if I wish to avoid unnecessary attachment while maximizing my enjoyment. Love begins with the mutual abandonment of said manipulation, and is maintained with much sweat and tears. Outside of this, romance is at heart a cold-blooded affair, in which every word and action can be broken down into simplistic motives, none of which are noble or laudable in any way.

@: “don’t be a manwhore”

Relationships are an enjoyable convenience that, when one is fortunate, might blossom into something worth keeping. Most of the time this will not happen, which is to be expected, and not to be mourned. With the appropriate mindset, attachment to casual partners may be avoided, but this is not an approach to be overused, lest I find myself incapable of escaping it, thus spoiling the opportunity for something more meaningful and long-lasting. True love is a fairy-tale. The simple reality is that my chances of being with one woman for my whole life are rather slim, and it is naivety to believe I am the exception. There is no magical match, only better relationships and worse relationships.

#: “expect nothing”

Searching for love is futile – it will come, or it will not. Love is rather like quantum physics – attempting to observe it will simply change the result, making it wholly worthless to try and predict or control. I should conduct my life in such a way as to survive as if love is not a possibility or does not exist.

$: “know thyself”

Happiness is primarily a matter of learning what is best for me. Each person is different, and thriving is a matter of finding deep connections. These connections can only occur if I know what it is I do and do not want, which requires a playing of the field, as it were. The better I know myself, the better the love (and the sex) I will eventually experience is going to be. Part of maturity is in figuring out the relationships that are worthwhile. Losses will be experienced, but I will be richer for them, and they will make future relationships better as a result.

%: “good things come to those who wait”

“The one” exists, somewhere, and every effort should be exerted to ensure that when I find her, it is as glorious and incredible as possible. Every possible form of attachment and commitment should be saved for the moment when this love is realized. Sex is an expression to be shared only with “the one”, and to dilute it is to disrespect “the one” and dilute the relationship I will eventually experience. This love expects to be waited for, however long it might take – but it is a love that will reward back in spades for the effort.

It is unfortunate that all of these seem to contain elements of truth.

decay

I have, for twenty and a half years, maintained that sex contains some metaphysical quality that made it special and unique among the many acts that comprise the human lifestyle. I have long felt that innocence was key to ensuring that sex remains what it should be; a holy and separate act that should be shielded from corruption and embraced solely as an act of true love. As time marches on, these feelings seem naive, more than aught else.

My doubts do not stem from lust, but from a re-examination of the nature of love. My hope has forever been that love is akin to a treasure that one stumbles upon unexpectedly, and that every effort should be exercised to ensure the glory of that discovery. As such, preserving sex for that moment would be tantamount. To dilute that experience with conflicting memories would serve to ruin its beauty.

If love, however, is not so much about a magical bonding, but about hard work and commitment, then what does that say about sex? If sex is not the penultimate expression of love, but time, devotion, and compromise are what matter most, where does sex then fall in the spectrum of expression? I had assumed that abstaining was a part of that devotion – an effort that was a demonstration of foresight and anticipation. This assumption seems increasingly faulty when I consider the reality that the connection between sex and love is not so necessary, and that it means little whether one comes before the other.

In an ideal world, they come simultaneously. It seems, however, that I do not live in the ideal world, and that true love (as I imagine it) may, in fact, be one of many works of fiction that exists only in the world of elves and phoenixes.

escapism

I’ve spent the last three weeks holed up in my room, for no particular reason. After oversleeping for a test in my logic class, I suddenly lost all desire to keep going, and here I am, accomplishing quite little. It’s relatively the same circumstance I found myself in a year and a half ago.

I’ve been consumed with the concept of purpose. The popular mindset is such that purpose is equivalent with desire. We do not have a distinct purpose outside of what we want; we seek something, and we do what is necessary to acquire it. It is unsurprising, then, that the nature of depression lies in apathy. If our purpose is derived from the basic notion that we have something we care enough to pursue, we lose purpose when either we lose that which we used to care for, or we cease to care. Statistically, suicide is most common among individuals that have recently experienced significant loss – a job, family, etc, or have very weak ties to those entities in the first place.

The pervasiveness of simplistic evolutionary theory in my psychology classes has thus far been rather depressing. I don’t buy that most of our facilities can be reduced to functions of mate selection and special superiority. That just isn’t how I live my life on a day-to-day basis, nor anyone that I know. I recognize the importance and necessity of evolutionary theory in, say, biology, but I’ve come to think of the matter in this way: if we have evolved such that matters of morality, of love, of art and music, of poetry and film, are merely abstractions of survival mechanisms, then perhaps it is best to treat them at their abstracted level, rather than attempting to simplify them into more quantifiable terms. The process strips all that we gain in that abstraction, leaving us with very little that, to be rather blunt, makes us happy.

Perhaps what is so attractive to me about love is that it is both a desire and a purpose.

fury and terror

It’s been a long time since I’ve dwelt on my loneliness.

Of all the fears I have in this mortal world, to be alone is the most fierce of them all. It’s a feeling that’s been present for as long as I’ve known time, stretching back into my earliest of days. I never got on the bandwagon of cooties as a child; girls never intimidated me like they did my friends, and as I grew older it was a feature I prided myself on for no particular reason. Of course, I found myself out of my element as soon as puberty hit, and I realized that I lacked every possible quality I might need to fulfill my heart’s desire of romantic companionship. I can’t exaggerate how intensely I felt that desire, even in middle school – I cried out to God on more than a few nights asking for one, and one thing only: a true love, a woman that I could love, and that would love me. It was a longing I oft confessed to my mentors, and I wonder how they managed to take a preteen so seriously on the issue, but I’m grateful that they did. My Christian companions tended to lob the canned answer that I should want what God wants – and that may or may not include a lover. I certainly attempted to do just that, but part of my slow distrust of God’s ability to hear or answer grew straight from the fact that no answer came, and year after year, I found myself alone.

As time marched on, I eventually realized what many self-proclaimed “nice guys” tend to ignore: that there are basic rules of the game that must be played, and that being virtuous doesn’t enable one to abandon the subtleties of romance and attraction. My first and most important conclusion was that before I could share my life with another person, I must have a life I feel is worth sharing. How can you love another if you do not even love yourself? How can you honestly believe that another loves you, when you cannot do so yourself? So I went about the business of learning to love myself, as well as making myself into the person I wanted to be, a self that I could love. It’s where my writing started, my running, my tattoo, my clothes. Much of that came simply with maturity and time, but I believe strongly that who I am is quite purposeful. Perhaps that’s just arrogance – and I would certainly be a fool to claim I am anywhere near self-made – but I do know that I set out to better myself, that I had a desire, and that desire was met.

So now as I look upon the death of my first, true relationship, I find myself asking myriad questions, while the chilling tendrils of that old loneliness takes its grip upon me once more. I’ve thought back to my childhood, and I wonder if God gave me what I asked for, and simply took it away, or if this were his way of reigning me in, as if to tell me “You can have a taste of what you seek, but you won’t have it until you kneel!”, or as a third possibility, “I will not grant you what you seek and you will live your life unfulfilled, but for your impatience your punishment will be to know how unfulfilled you truly are”.

It is ironic, to me, that I would consider God in any part of this equation, after I claim such control of myself. But the end of all this has brought me to the simple realization that I truly have no control over anything. I could try to claim that I brought her into my life, that it was my confidence and strength that brought it all to pass – and I think, for a time, I believed that – but correlation is not causation. When all is said and done, I did not decide her choices. I can only be grateful for what came to pass, and do my best to be deserving of what I receive. I celebrate the fact that I am not haunted by regret and that I can walk away with a handful of wisdom – but I find the path before me to be more daunting than I’d ever imagined. My fortune feels very far removed from my control, and waiting to see what these next months will hold for me is not an exciting prospect. I’m in a lonely place, with little to do but work and study, and not enough money to pursue the many hobbies I once had.

God continues to shower me in silence despite my simultaneous fury and terror, but as hard as I try, I cannot evict my pondering over his intentions and desires. Though I no longer believe Yahweh is this same as this silent God that seems to taunt me, my desire to do his will truly has not lessened, and I’m curious to see what opportunities he presents to me in the dull days ahead.

Pro Suus, a Regina

We got her approximately a year after Calvin, the unstoppable beast felled by heartworms. She was 2, her birthday some time in October, and I was 4 or 5. Friends of ours, the Hogans, had gotten her expecting that she would be a good hunter, but when the husband released her and she ran off following the trail of anything and everything, and when the wife was unable to teach her the latest tricks beyond “sit” and “off the furniture”, we offered to take her off their hands. For a Basset, she was well trained. She knew how to stay off the carpet (not that we cared about that, to stay off furniture (again), not to drink from the toilet (hmmm), and yet despite this, did not understand the concept of a leash. This was Daisy.

Here she is at the Hogan’s, when we were picking her up. (~1994)

Daisy was so-named for the typical habits of Basset puppies. Bassets’ ears don’t grow much in their lifetime – they start out absolutely gigantic. Puppies are prone to trip on such large things quite often, prompting a saying such as “Oopsie-Daisy!”. Such was the origin of Daisy’s name. Daisy is also the name of a flower which I’ve particularly grown to like, not for its stunning beauty, but of the simplicity of the flower overall, combined with the variety of colors it comes in. That is the beauty of a Basset.

Example:

I don’t remember much about Daisy from when I lived in Mississippi. I do remember her getting out the door and chasing her all over the neighborhood, but not much more than that. I also remember her howling. We used to be able to get her to howl with us sometimes. She’d howl when we were gone. She’d howl when she thought we were gone. Her howl, to me, was not annoying. It had emotion. It had a message. She was saying “I am lonely.”. That is worth dealing with.

(~1996)

We tried breeding her several times, because Basset puppies can go for $500 dollars, and because Basset puppies are the cutest things alive. She, unfortunately, did not understand the concept of mating, and neither did any of her potential mates. There was no second generation.

(~1996)

Daisy’s personality was one of those that kind of…oozed onto your feet. In the form of drool. She was very normal. She was perfect with kids and other dogs and whatnot, and would kindly inform you with a growl and a glare of teeth if you’d gone too far. Which usually only involved yanking her tail. Indeed, she was a patient dog.

(~1997)

The move to New York generally did not affect her. She was not a fan of the snow, but was not opposed to the occasional romp.

(~2002)

The only scary incident we ever had with her was one summer morning. Outside on her leash, she lay sunbathing in the driveway. Oblivious to the car backing out of the garage, she lay in quiet until my dad heard her unmistakable yelp. Thanks to her being so fat, the car crushed the skin on the ground, and only suffered minor bleeding.

(~1999)

Time went on. She grew older. (~2003)

And older. (April 2004)

It was probably about this point she began to lose the spring in her step. It was no surprise, really. She was 13 years old. According to the generic conversion, she was 91 years old comparitively. We vaguely tried to limit her going up and down the stairs, fearing her joints would become too worn out. Her visits down to my room became a memory, and I grew very accustomed to clickity-clack of her sturdy nails on the floor above. I really enjoyed hearing that at night, the pattern of the click and the clack was soothing.

As time went on, she began to lose her desire to explore and wander. She began to lose her agility. I had taught her how to stand on her hind legs and catch the treats I threw her, but it was now more impressive for her just to catch the treats. She spent most of her time laying about the house, which was still a very soothing thing. Watching her lay there and wag her tail as you walked up was not much worse than her running around the house at full sprint. She got thinner.

When our family went our seperate ways this June, we left Daisy at home in the care of Sarah Barnard and the Johnson girls up the street. She was being cared for two or three times a day, we figured she would be okay. I was mildly worried about her when we left, fearing that she would not be okay. I came back after about a week of being gone to mow lawns and checked in on her, climbing through a window since I had no key. I was greeted by a dog wracked with loneliness. She had only eaten twice that week. She wagged her tail and barked and gave up as much emotion as she could. I took her for a walk (which she had just enough energy to do) letting her sniff wherever she wanted. This would be the last walk she would take.

I left back for the Carcich’s, and we all returned home a few days later. Daisy was worse still. Dad attributed it to loneliness, which was not entirely unfounded, as she does not eat or obey well while we are gone. It was something more. When we went on the family reunion, we took her with us. We could not do that to her once more.

She had to be lifted in and out of the car, a strenuous job. She coughed a lot and was not breathing well. Because pets were not allowed at the condo, we had to take her to a local kennel. When we picked her up, she was worse still.

On arriving home, we took her to the vet. Daisy had respiratory cancer, which had been developing for many months now. Her lungs were bleeding. She would suffocate to death. An infection in her throat was causing pain in breathing and eating. If this was not enough, she had several tumors applying pressure to her lungs and inhibiting movement. Even still, she had fleas from Madeline’s apartment. They gave us some antibiotics for the infection and flea medication, which would not save her. The goal was to make her as comfortable as possible. In the interests of her comfort, we would have her put down before she succombed to the disease. We were supposed to do that once we saw that she could no longer lay down to breathe. We brought her home expecting a few more weeks with her.

It was not to be. Mom and I spent 2 or 3 hours in the den with her, while watching the Tour de France. Mom and I cried for 2 or 3 hours. This was Saturday night.

We all agreed she would not last the week. It was to be done today. I wanted to be with her when she died, so I left work 30 minutes early. Once we got home, we got her in the car, I grabbed a box of tissues, and a blanket. I cried the whole way there, along with the periodic rain. As we helped her with the walk from the car to the building (we parked in front of the vet’s office), she made no noise. I think she knew what was happening. We got inside, and put her on the scale. She weighed 38.8 pounds. That’s about 10 pounds lower than what she was in January. Keeping in mind that all Bassets are big boned and heavy, she was highly underweight. She should have been about 43 pounds.

She moped towards the room we were to see her to. This is the same room we’ve always treated her in. From the time we’ve moved to Ithaca, she’s always been treated in this room. Maybe there are no other rooms for her to be in. But the fact remains. We signed the forms allowing her to be put to sleep, rejecting the ashes from her cremation. They took her in the back room to shave her legs. The last bark I heard from her was there. She could barely bark at all. It was unholy.

They brought her back in, and we stayed by her, petting her as they struggled to get the needle in. Meanwhile, she struggled harder and harder to keep herself propped up to breathe. She barely had the strength to do this, and continually slipped and slid back and forth, each effort weaker than the last. We pressed her head to the ground so the doctors could better inject her. She struggled, but slowly, began to slow down, her breathing slowed, her eyes stopped moving, her tongue stopped skipping in and out, and she lay still. The vet announced that she had passed, and my dad and I cried there, petting our goodbye to Daisy.

We walked out, and my Dad called two friends to say he couldn’t watch the movie with them tonight. He wanted to spend time at home. We all sat down and watched Gattaca together, ignoring the empty space on the floor that Daisy used to occupy.

For Her, a Queen.