Posts Tagged ‘let’s not kid ourselves’

david brooks wrote a cursory, pop-psychological/sociological assessment of the mel gibson crazypants spousal abuse clusterfuck in today’s new york times.  one reader comments:

“I would question whether a career ender should be based on a private telephone conversation involving a romantic break-up. Wouldn’t all such conversations be shockers to outsiders? The speakers always sounding like monsters? Can we really judge people by their lowest private moments, when extreme emotional shock drives people to the brink of insanity and irrationality?”

i don’t know.  but i do know i never threatened my exes with murder or assault; never alluded to punching them in the mouth and knocking their teeth out; never, in fact, punched them in the mouth or knocked their teeth out; never threatened arson because i didn’t get my libidinous way.  and none of my exes have ever said these kinds of violent, abusive things to me, either.

based on what i could gather from gibson’s panting, ranting craziness, he was pissed off because his girlfriend had fallen asleep waiting up for him, and consequently he didn’t get the blow job he was expecting.  does missing out on a single instance of oral sex (or any other kind) seriously represent “extreme emotional shock”?  i’m sorry, but this verges WAY too close to the kind of boys-will-be-boys catch-22 that dictates that women are entirely responsible for restricting the out-of-control libidos of men, but damned if you do, honey, because that will just make them threaten to burn your house down.  put on your big boy panties and deal with it, mel.

now, i’m all for privacy, and i think grigorieva’s first move should have been to turn the tapes over to the police instead of to radaronline (i don’t know enough about the situation to know whether she did or didn’t, or in what order).  i can say this: i would be embarrassed if my boss somehow got a hold of any of my private conversations that occurred in the context of a breakup.  but would i fear for my job?  HELL NO.  i think people should own their actions, and i don’t think you should treat anyone in a way you’re not proud of, a way that any reasonable person wouldn’t be able to empathize with.  under difficult circumstances, can you make a defensible case for expressing impatience, frustration, even anger?  sure.  can you make a case for abuse?  no.  never.



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i’d like to document that right now i’m extremely happy.  this was a weekend rivaling any i’ve had in a while.  not because it was fourth of july — although the extra day off certainly helped — but because i got to spend a lot of time with someone i love, and it was a lot of fun.

i say this because i think i have, i think everyone has, a distorted reflective sense of happiness most of the time, and i want to try to get better about that.

there’s a salient example on my mind.  i generally think of my final year of college and the summer after it as having been pretty happy, on the whole, with some notable exceptions.  but those exceptions may have been closer to the rule themselves.

i’ve painted those things over with the merry veneer of weekly trips to packard’s, food porn appreciation, copious amounts of west wing, and the fact that i went to the frickin’ inauguration.  all pretty cool.  but i’ve spent a few minutes looking back over old communications, and have realized — remembered — that i was miserable most of the time last year.

this is a peculiar defense mechanism that humans have worked out.  we have a remarkable ability to whitewash our histories.  it’s the appalling reason infant boys aren’t anesthetised for circumcision — because they’re too young to have a vocabulary for pain, so they’ll never remember it.  we enter the world in what must be a terrifying trip down a tight, dark canal — thank god we forget that.  but even as adults, there are chasms between experienced and perceived and remembered happiness.

i described myself as “partly cloudy with a chance of showers” one day, which was a fair description.  all my problems were — are — first-world problems.  in the grand scheme of things, they were — are — just not terribly impressive.  but from my limited perspective, it is fair to say that that year was not my best.  the dizzyingly awful (at the time) career prospects, the grueling academic schedule, the heart-rending, multi-layered breakup.  it was, for lack of a better word, rough.

there were, of course, all manner of sensations manic and delightful.  plenty of triumphs.  but to think that in my memory, i succeeded in relegating everything that went badly in a relatively difficult year to a mere footnote.  i think i even relegated it to a footnote at the time.

i don’t want to footnote things.  i don’t want to be ungrateful for any good fortune or pollyannaish about any bad fortune.  i just want to learn how to be a little more honest with myself.

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someone i care very much about told me something that surprised me the other day.  she said she was impressed by my independence, my resilience.  she admired it.

i wasn’t sure how to feel, because as flattered as i was, and as much as i think those things tend to be true, and are certainly more true than they once were — i am frustrated by myself when i find that they are less true than i think.

sometimes i am still so angry i can’t breathe.  sometimes i’m still sad.

as it turns out, i am better than i thought at putting up a good front.

i like to tell myself how much better i am now and how much i’ve grown and all that bullshit, but i wonder if it’s all circumstantial.  have i really changed, or am i just taking a break?  am i just reaping the temporary benefits of fortunate circumstances?

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i’d like to concede first everything i wrote last time.  cherries, friends.  a big bowl.  stems and seeds, periodically, but a big bowl of sweet, delicious cherries.  that’s how i am.


sometimes i become paralyzed by whatever’s in front of me.  that is where things are right now.  it is awfully foolish.

i was thinking today about a chapter of my life i’m not especially proud of, wherein i gave a lot of myself up, and changed a bit, and learned next to nothing — at least, not until after it had passed.  one of the great loves of my life and i had written a list of rules on a napkin at a diner.  i thought i was being good, but i was breaking them methodically and systematically, and i had no idea.

i’ve learned how to stop breaking those rules, but i never quite learned the lessons.

i feel a little emotionally stunted, by the way.  as if there are things i just never got around to understanding.  i’m starting to learn them, but heavens to betsy, it is a trying process.  it seems things are not quite as straightforward as i might have hoped, or expected.  or wanted.  so this remains the ongoing tale of my adjustment to some new truths.

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a dear friend of mine was stranded at the airport yesterday and is crashing on my couch until she can resolve her travel dilemmas.  yesterday was the first time she had ever been to my house. she had never seen my beautiful sunshiny kitchen, my spare but homey living room, my warm, sand-colored walls.

my roommates had made lemon sangria blanco (a friend informs me that clarico is the argentinian term for sangria made with white wine, which i think is lovely: clarico de limón).  we feasted on cheese and crackers and kettle chips and annie’s bunny grahams (which i insist on calling “honey bunnies”), and drank ourselves silly.

my guest was overjoyed.  “your life is amazing,” she told me.  “this is paradise.”

she caught us at a particularly good time; we don’t make fancy drinks with limoncello every night.  but i am completely, breathtakingly humbled by how fortunate my life is.

my heart races when i think about how pretty my home is, how challenging and rewarding my job is, how filled with love my life is.  my family and friends are healthy and happy and extraordinarily supportive.  i have enough money.  i have my health.

really.  what else do i need?

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things have been catching me off guard lately.  it’s not that i go about mindlessly, heedlessly, waiting to be surprised by the next everyday thing.  it’s just that some things are unexpected, and for some reason i am really not prepared for that at the moment.

last night, with a belly full of pasta and ice cream, i walked into dan’s living room prepared to settle into a corner of the couch with a fleece blanket and a food baby.  ‘gangs of new york’ was on the television, and i happened to enter just at the moment when daniel-day lewis dispatches a political foe with a meat cleaver.  now, leaving aside for a moment the fact that the last role i saw daniel day-lewis occupy was tortured, noble john proctor: a meat cleaver.  the next forty minutes were filled with shrapnel injuries and lynchings and the new york draft riots in all their bloody horror, and i was so horrified and fascinated and so close to tears that i nearly left the room.

my sensibilities were softened, i suppose, by dinner.

on the other hand…

i had a nightmare last week that woke me from my sleep, the sort where you can’t breathe right away and you certainly can’t close your eyes right away.  i think it was about snowboarding on wet snow.  there had to have been more than that.  i have had vivid, wake-up-gasping nightmares before, but generally they’re about being chased or raped or some other real horror.  not about snow that’s too damp for winter sports.  i wasn’t attuned to the emotional import of the dream.  the dream, as far as i can recollect, had no emotional import.

and there have been other similar instances lately: things that should not have made me laugh, things that should not have made me cry.  i’m out of tune entirely at the moment — not like a piano or a guitar, predictably flat and quickly remedied.  i just feel emotionally tone-deaf.

i’d like to hear the pitch again, please.

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i have had two conversations in the last few days that have made me a better thinker, a better citizen, and i hope a better person.

things i have brought away from them:

  1. we form a lot of ill-considered opinions, and even if we are still convinced that we are right, it doesn’t mean there is nothing left to learn.  i had decided i was pro-choice before i knew what it meant.  learning doesn’t always change our opinions, but some, much of it should precede forming opinions.
  2. not only are we eager to form ill-considered opinions, but the people who educate and raise us stand to benefit from never challenging us to reconsider our beliefs.
  3. background matters maybe more than anything else.
  4. something i already knew: people enter into conversations and disputes much of the time to teach themselves how to defend what they already believe.  it makes better debaters of us all.
  5. humility is, in addition to being an admirable virtue, a crucial component in persuasion, even when all you can persuade a person to do is listen.
  6. people argue for things they don’t really believe all the time.  consider yourself fortunate if you are lucky enough to disagree with someone who is sincere.

there’s bound to be more, but this was what seemed most urgent.

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