"stranger in a f'ed up land" | monday | october 6, 2008 | 3:11 pm
It's begun. And it's been quite chilly in the evenings. Besides my general dislike of being damp, I
actually like fall in Seattle. Autumn in general has been my favorite time of year (probably because in
Maryland the summers are so exhuastingly hot and muggy that fall is a real relief). I like that the
leaves change color, the air gets a good scrubbing by the rain, and it's the start of the new school year.
And there's something really nice about snuggling and reading in bed in the fall. I really like opening my
windows and listening to it rain, listening to the cars on the wet pavement.
I really hope that the change of seasons will bring a change of energy, a change of perspective that will
get me out of the major funk that I am in these days. Even though the days are starting to be more gray
than bright, more wet than dry, I think leaving the summer will be a good thing. I'm trying to be positive.
Things have been weird. Things have been okay. Things have been unsettled. My best description of
where I am at mentally, emotionally, spiritually is that my flight response is turned on and turned up.
Instead of fighting, I want to flee, to run away, to start over. It's these periods that I tend to
really tighten up my world so the only things that matter are the things that are close and immediate.
I tend to push everything else away, put them on the back, back burners, and just keep to myself.
I feel like I'm licking my wounds.
I feel very thwarted right now. I feel very disconnected. I feel very alone. The last few weeks have
been serious blows to my ego, to my confidence, and to my faith that it's no wonder I can barely see past
my own skin.
I am disgruntled with school. A part of it is most certainly normal grad student insecurity, stress, and
the usual mindfuck. But every time I sit down to try to think through my dissertation project, to try to
revise my prospectus, to explain it to someone else, I just feel dumb. It's maddening and frustrating.
I don't even think I can articulate what it is I want to write about, what it is that I'm trying to
theorize about. I said a long time ago that I think I have a really interesting project and want to
think ambitiously about things like queer theory and technology. But I just don't think I'm smart enough
to pull off the project at hand. My theoretical eyes are bigger than my scholarly stomach.
What makes is worse that I have pretty much taken a huge step backward from most of my school friends.
(Though I must say that I feel kind of alienated from most of the people I know, here and elsewhere.)
Right before the quarter started, I tried to address some of the strangeness, bad blood, drama between
me and others. What was supposed to make me feel better and clear the air has backfired. Mainly, I
just feel misunderstood and made to feel that I am at fault for being misunderstood. Of course, one
of the critiques about me says that I'm too intense, too demanding as a friend, and too self-absorbed.
Of course, I only find out about this months and months later, long after anything being done about it
at the time. I don't know. I guess I should focus on the friendships where this kind of feeling
doesn't happen. Take me as I am, right? I have been told that I tend to take things very personally
and that I make people feel bad when I am feeling bad -- first, if someone's done something to hurt
me or piss me off, I think I have a right to take it personally, and second, perhaps they should feel
bad. I have been told that I make everything about me, that I hijack situations or circumstances so
they're about me -- I don't think I talk about myself any less than anyone else, I think I do
share my own experiences only because I cannot speak for someone else, and I don't see other
people getting called out for their self-centeredness. One person's perception is another person's
misperception, right? So, I'm just going to lay low. And I'm glad that's fucking selfish and about
me. Clearly, if my presence is already a burden or a bother, then not having me there should be
welcome relief. I will cultivate the relationships that honor me -- both my strengths and my
failings -- and that try to communicate with me rather than judge and jettison me.
I have started therapy. I had my first session last week. I like my therapist. She asks me
good questions, and I feel comfortable talking with her. She asks me things that make me uncomfortable
in a good way. They are things that I want to dodge or minimize when I should be focusing on them,
attending to them -- like Greg, for example.
Greg and I are good, for the most part. Since our break up, we have started spending time with each
other. I think most people would probably find that a problematic thing to do. But I think most
people like to burn bridges when it comes to exes. I might be naive, I might be too romantic, I might
be deluding myself, but I am going where my feelings take me and where my instincts direct me.
And they tell me that I should fight for my relationship with Greg. And I think the last few weeks
have been good in that we've been getting to know each other in a different way than when we first
started dating. We are so good when we're together and when there's no pressure (imagined or real)
of a "relationship" over us. But I know that this is more Greg's issue than mine. He's admitted
that he really likes me, likes us, but he's scared to commit. I think it's fine that we're
just "dating" for now -- it's open, it's not exclusive. But I have talked to him about needing
at some point to start resolving these issues. I don't know what will come of it all. I hope
something great. But I do know that I will make sure that I communicate my feelings, hopes, and
fears to him. That's all I can really do.
Here's to good things on the horizon. Here's to change and hope and transformation. And here's to
getting out of this slump.
read footnotes |
• • •
"ugly eddie" | saturday | october 11, 2008 | 11:11 pm
LEVEN O'CLOCK AND I HAVE BEEN UP FOR ABOUT THREE HOURS.
It's sad when I want to sleep in, to catch up on some rest, and I can't. My internal clock is too
well trained. The crow that likes to sit right outside my window and caw-caw-caw for ten minutes
at about 7 in the morning doesn't help. And having a roommate and her boyfriend opening and shutting
doors at the same time is also no bueno. Suffice it to say, I woke up and laid in bed for a while.
Then just got up to start my day. I've been writing emails, following-up on my class'
and playing games. I kind of want to crawl back into bed with a fun book.
I am enjoying my alone time a lot these days. It's a mixed bag of emotions, but I'm finding that I am
happier, evener, calmer when I keep to myself. My inner introvert is large and in charge these days.
My inner extrovert is hurt and resting. I am just generally annoyed, frustrated, tired of, exasperated,
angry at, or indifferent to most of my social world. I like teaching. I like hanging out with just a
select few. I like exploring social circles outside of my usual ken. And I like being by myself.
I've been taking every opportunity I can to walk to school these past few weeks. It's about a forty-five
minute trek, mostly downhill, through the bourgie part of Capitol Hill. It gives me time to think.
It gives me time to analyze my inner monologue. And it's good exercise. (Though I kind of miss my
morning run-walks through Volunteer Park.)
I'm fine. These moments of "What's Eating Gilbert Ed" are par for the course with me. The ups go
with the downs and vice versa. It's all about putting things into perspective. It's all about
not taking things personally. It's all about following my own gut. And it's all about simplifying.
I am a big ball of insecurity, anxiety, and frustration these days. Spikey. Melancholic. Stubborn.
Where did this all come from? I mean I guess this is part of my personality, my personal make-up.
I guess I am still reeling from the stress and punishment of my exams. I've been told that people
have taken up to a year before they felt "normal" again. I sense echoes of when I was working on my
Master's the first time around at the University of Maryland. That period of time seems oddly
reminiscent of now: lots of stressors, lots of change, lots of internal struggle, and lots of
insecurity. I had sectors of my life that were all in tumult, and I just couldn't find any footing.
What resulted from that period? I quit grad school and moved across the country to San Francisco.
As said in my
last post, my flight instinct is really high right now. I feel like I just
want to uproot, change scenes, find new possibilities, be proud of myself for a different challenge.
I need to learn to stop claiming a space of injury, a position of victimisation. And I don't think
that I'm wholly doing this -- I do feel like I have been hurt and I have been taken for granted and
that life is stressful and demanding and challenging (it is graduate school after all, it is life
as a gay man in a world set against queers of every description, it is a life as an Asian man
in a world as racist as it is homophobic) -- but I have let things become toxic, become ingrown,
become self-perpetuating. Granted, a single blog post isn't going to solve everything. And I
have come to this realisation before. But, as I explained to my therapist, I need to refresh
the coping skills, the realistic expectations, the support structures, and the positive lenses
that are worn down, forgotten, or obsolete.
I do have brightness in my life. I do have love in my world. And I do have power in my self.
It's definitely easier and swifter to focus on the bad. I am just trying to gravitate toward the
things that heal and help. Hence Ed-on-the-down-low, Ed-of-the-high-road, Ed-on-the-hero's-journey.
I have overextended myself emotionally, intellectually, and physically. I have invested in things,
in people, and in expectations that clearly are not reciprocal nor earning equity or paying back
dividends. (Yes, I am aware of the financial metaphor, but it seems apt given the
current state of capitalism.)
And this realization doesn't target any particular thing or person -- at least not on paper --
my actions over the past couple of weeks should reveal what I feel is worth my time and energy.
I think the key here are my expectations. Damn being a perfectionist. Damn being a codependent
personality. Damn being an underdog. But I can find ways, find people, find connections that
are fulfilling, supportive, enhancing, communicative, collaborative, and transforming.
I realize that I miss things. And that these things I miss are indicators of where my life is
unbalanced, undernourished, and need husbanding. I miss my family. So much. And this includes
my mother. It is incredibly hard to be separated by time and distance from the few sure things
I have in my life -- my father and my sister. I miss gaming. I miss playing
Tellings. I miss interacting with a
gaming group, a group of tight-knit friends, a group of like minds and avocations. I miss
writing adventures and telling stories and sharing stories. I miss an activity, a hobby, an art
that I have done for so many years and which has utterly vanished since I moved to Seattle.
I miss going out with friends. I miss going out with people who are as invested in being right
there, right then, with me as I am invested in them. I miss going out and having no
expectations other than just having fun and sharing company. I miss having a place to go
where everybody knows my name, where it is an escape from the everyday, where the problems are
of a different stripe and sort (and can be left at the bar or on the dancefloor). I miss having
a pet. A kitty. Or a fish tank. A best friend. I miss living by myself. I miss having my own
space, my own place. I miss being able to shape, change, fix the space to my design. I miss
the kind of safety and security and silence that living alone allows.
Some of these things I'm working on. Some of these things will have to sort out in time. But it does
give me a list to attend to. They aren't solutions as much as symptoms. I can see that I have
let some things fall by the wayside that I need to pick back up. And I can see how utterly
engrossed and overwhelmed I have been with school, with graduate life, with only one part of
my existence to the point of sacrificing others. It's amazing how something as simple as stopping
gaming has created a vacuum in my world -- an emptiness that got quickly filled by grad school
and related dramas -- and it hasn't been a good thing. It's amazing how much grad school has
become the sole arbiter of my world, the sole source of my interpersonal relationships, and the
sole source of productivity and self-worth and self-esteem. That's definitely bitten me
on the ass and has poisoned me. It's amazing how many excuses or deferrals or rationalizations
I have made: it's not the right time, I don't have enough time, I don't know how to work on it,
I can't afford it, I'm too tired, I'm too lazy, people aren't interested, it's not pratical,
maybe next week or next month or next year, I'll do it when I'm done with school or when I'm
settled. Hogwash, I say, hogwash.
I'm not the only grad student with these problems. It's pretty darn common. And you'd think
that after my first bout with grad school and previous meltdowns, I would have learned something
or figured it out or remembered to take care of myself better. I have, indeed, but I think
that something like graduate school has a way of manipulating and reversing and negating and
transmuting things so they become all about school, all about intellectual or academic or
scholarly value, all about a narrow and often perplexing understanding of "life's work." This
rationalizing (more like irrationalizing) and myopic logic produces competitiveness,
worth based solely on work and the anticipation that your work is not "the work" or good enough or
smart enough or edgy enough, guilt, intellectual and academic assassination, ivory towers (both
building of and jumping out of), self-induced isolation, petty resentments that produce behaviors
like recalling books out of spite and throwing people under the funding bus, backstabbing, backbiting,
and backhandedness disguised as rigor, closets of all sorts, straightjackets of all styles, aches,
ticks, twitches, and pains, addiction, conservatism, and a profound lack of sex.
Why am I doing this to myself? Where is the love? Where is the joy? Where is Ed?
The exciting thing is, thankfully, I am looking for the answers and willing to find out. Today.
Tomorrow. The next day. And hopefully I can learn something (for the umpteenth time) about
myself, my world, and carry it into the next time the universe decides to "test" me.
More to come.
read footnotes |
• • •
"fire" | thursday | october 30, 2008 | 11:01 pm
T'S BEEN A LONG DAY. I got up early, did a run, got ready for
school, went to campus, had office hours, taught class, had additional office hours, ate a late lunch,
and then had collegial hours. But it ended up being a very strange day.
I watched someone die today. And I have no idea what to think, do, feel, figure out about it. I have a
very practical, pragmatic, down-to-earth personality, which generally keeps me pretty level, calm, and
at times too logical. So, I think that's what I'm feeling right now. I couldn't do anything about it
except to be in shock. I don't really feel sad or upset or crazy or afraid. Just kind of weird on
I was coming out of Suzzallo Library on to Red Square, a big open public space on campus where there are often
people espousing this, that, and the other thing, and basically stepped into chaos. There weren't very many
people out. It was during classes. The weather was cold and gray. But I heard cries of "No!" and dismay.
And basically watched a figure completely engulfed by fire stagger from right to left in the center of Red Square,
where there are big concrete platforms arranged around a square (you can see it in the center of the photos
I took on my phone). The immolated man walked about fifteen feet leaving behind burning footprints and then collapsed.
(You can see a little bit of fire in the picture above.)
What was sheerly amazing were the twenty or so men and women, mostly students, who had their jackets or shirts
off and were around the burning figure trying desperately to tamp out the flames. It kind of looked like a
game, an intricately choreographed dance. There was a lot of motion, arms and jackets flying in wide arcs,
in and out, over and around, as they moved with the man. I saw one person back off as their arm caught on
fire, but it was quickly put out. There wasn't a lot of noise, though. It was eerily quiet. People were
calling for help, but their voices seemed so thin and distant in such a vast open space. I did run back into
the library to see if there was a fire extinguisher handy in the front foyer. Alas, there was not one
visible. By the time I returned outside, the man had fallen to the ground and the fire was out.
It was a few short minutes before the police, fire department, and ambulance showed up. The figure on the
ground was barely moving, I could tell. I wanted to move in closer, but really felt like I should just keep
my distance. The crowd, of course, had grown much larger by this time. People who had not witnessed
the event were asking questions. People who had seen it all or in part were trying to collect details,
information, clues. Everyone, though, was asking, "Why?" A protest? A stunt? A suicide?
I still really don't know what to think or make of it all. Stunned with tinges of sadness and disappointment
and confusion. The news eventually got wind of the story. The university issued bland statements. And
as information came to light, I worried that the "why" would get explained away, ignored, or worse yet,
forgotten. That would be tragic, indeed. Clearly this 61-year old, former UW employee had something
desperate to express, so desperate that only dousing himself in gasoline and lighting himself on fire
could convey it.
Like I said, I feel weird. I suppose I am a little desensitized. After all, I have seen a lot of life,
and I have seen death as well. I want to think about it more. I want to write about it more. I want to
talk about it, too, with friends and students and strangers. I recall a line from a poem I wrote many moons
ago, "Matthew," about the death of Matthew Shepard, which reads: "You teach me, give me words /
to talk about death / publicly, openly, without fear. / It is another of our secrets, / a second kind of closet."
I guess that's where I am at right now. Amazed. Awed. Stunned. Quiet. I feel incredibly small
in the face of it.
read footnotes |
• • •
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