Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Running down the memories, wrapped up in desire

I spent this morning listening to Secrecy and playing Solitare Mahjong. I don't know if the reader has spent time with any variation of this computer gaming staple, if they have they might agree it's pretty conductive as a backdrop for active thinking because it engages on a very shallow level, requires calculation of a couple moves ahead at best. It's no Go game, but it's not mind-numbing either like Peggle or whatever. Secrecy were a pretty emotional band (really worth a blog post in themselves) and although I'm familiar with the lyrics to both Raging Romance and Art In Motion, they're often vague enough that subconsciously my own emotional experience fills in the ambiguous space. Their singer in particular, does this half-step note ascending plead with his voice a lot that holds some teenage angst connotation for me.

So here I was in relative solitude, brain and heart activated, what could ever come bubbling in the conscious surface than my own woeful adolescence? Perhaps another factor that contributed was that I awoke this morning from the common recurring semi-nightmare of being back in high-school, going through finals (badly). Come to think of it that's probably the catalyst for what I came to think about and not the music+game combo. I probably put on Secrecy exactly because of the dream. Trying to sort out subconscious-to-conscious causal paths is complicated. Anyway, this is a post about a girl. Due warning that I'm going to be pretty honest below and if you have a heart it probably is going to remind you of your own teenage heartbreaks and do you really want to have a melancholy morning?

Fair enough.

I think I was fourteen or so, I was taking English after school. I was a bad student in school but very good in English due to an early fascination with heavy metal and adventure games. English held my interest long enough to learn, unlike most other subjects, basically. So in the English classroom was my only chance to academically gloat. I now realize most of my classmates disliked me for it though they were quiet about it. I can now see why, it's pretty embarrassing to see an awkward teenage introvert desperately grab his chance to show off, must have been pretty overbearing. A common post-facto realization I have about myself is that I'm overbearing.

So I was the classroom know-it-all for once in my life and this - I theorize in retrospect - had the uncommon side-effect of getting this girl to be interested in me.

We talked a lot before and after class, she was very enthusiastic about getting to know me to which I adapted surprisingly quickly (introvert kids do not necessarily lack a big ego). I wrote her *a lot* of heavy metal mixtapes because though CD burners existed back in ancient 1998 I didn't have one. She showed enough enthusiasm for me to keep on doing it. She was trying, I realize, to cut out a small space in her reality for me by adopting some of my music taste which should have tipped me off that she was interested in me for reasons other than my record collection. Were I more experienced in these matters I'd have caught up but hey give me a break, I was fourteen.

This went on for close to a year I think, perhaps more. In any case it was thereabout that a mutual acquaintance told me that she knew for a fact that our mutual friend wanted to be more than a friend to me. It rocked my world. Up to that point it hadn't entered my young mind that such a very attractive girl would be into me. The reader might remember how at an innocent age when they looked at beautiful people they didn't connect that with their nascent lust, that's how it was for me, I realized just how beautiful she was and how I'd like to get together with her in the space of the few seconds after being informed that she was interested in me.

The rest of this story demonstrates how whatever Gods that may be are cruel masters.

As it was explained to me much later the common friend that had informed me about her interest had also told her about it and she freaked out because she was into - or in a semi-relationship with - this other guy about whom all I remember was that he had a small motorbike and was a 'bad boy' so he had me at a startling disadvantage. She didn't want to risk ruining our friendship or whatever, I don't think I'll ever understand this rationale, I've had sex with all my close friends and it's always worked out great! Anyway, what happened was that as I was trying to make my gentle (some would say weak-ass) advances she shut me down in the severest way, which, dear readers and humans, is not found in the finality of a confrontation (wish I were so lucky) but instead in constant evasion. She left just enough room for us to keep on being friends but not enough for me to ask her out, it was a pretty confusing guessing game for young Helm and what was most confusing of all was this feeling of mounting anger inside me. I can since summon this feeling at any time I think about that situation and it's a hollow orb in my chest that pulls inwardly my sanguine humour leaving me exhausted but manic. Manic to DESTROY.

What I felt before that when considering my interpersonal prospects was a sort of resignation. I felt like an ugly child and even uglier teenager (thin, hairy, pretty awful acne too, and earlier than most of my friends!) so I had devised fortifications to shield me from disappointment: I didn't even try to get anywhere with girls. The anger was new and it had to do with how - I realize now - my emotions had been toyed with, being constantly offered something and then once I reached for it, pulling it away mockingly. At the time I couldn't internalize this anger, I got pretty passive-aggressive with her, to the point where I straight out stopped talking to her/avoided her. There were some lapses where we'd start talking again and I'd get passive-aggressive again, and the more psycho I got the more she became cold, though never decisively frostbitten, like the Sphinx she offered riddles and I always had to torment myself for the answers. It took me a long time to understand the mechanics of mutual attraction and the memories are pretty embarrassing, but what it comes down to is she - like most women I've discussed their relationships with - had mistaken emotional fortifications against the chance of a relationship as self-assuredness, and she was attracted to this guy that had his own world-view, his own tastes, his own desires and dreams and wasn't afraid of anything. This guy wasn't me, though. As my weaknesses unfolded in front of her she was gradually appalled. There was a quiet violence, a horrible manipulation to get what I wanted and for her to get what she wanted instead, whose truth crystallized in me only through masochistic later-life repetitions of this same situation. Hopefully I think I've broken out of that loop for the last few years.

You might think how a girl not having a relationship with me isn't such a big deal and how your own memories of actual relationships that failed must be way harsher. It's not that simple, it wasn't that we didn't have a relationship, we did. We just skipped from friendship and then courtship, straight to the painful breakup without the good stuff in between. No acceptance, no safety, no stability, just alternating scalding hot showers of promises and freezing dips into the pools of denial. Afterwards I learned that her best friend had, when she deferred to her on what to do about the choice between myself and 'bad boy', told her to adopt the avoidance routine so she could have both; Thanks a lot for a hellish summer, her friend.

Well at some point English class ended, I got my couple of Proficiencies and she didn't and had to stay on, hah! take that! . . . We lost touch and I went on to have my heart ruined by a string of other women, but the first one will always be special.

I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had segued from pre-teenage innocence straight to the emotional stability found in being accepted and loved during these years and although the anger was internalized (and used for good!) until it wasn't needed anymore, I don't think the deeper wound will ever go away. I'm still paranoid in any relationship (sexual or otherwise) that I've outstayed my welcome, that I'm being a burden. I do not trace all of it back to that situation when I was 14-15, but it certainly didn't help. And it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy also because when you think that way, you extrude doubt and fear when you should be all about self-assuredness and capacity. I ran into a pretty bad combo after this and it culminated with me giving up on sexuality and emotionality (or as Robot-Helm would have said *hrrhk* IN-STICT *kkrk*) on the whole for 3 years, but that's a completely different story.

Adversity shapes the psyche in positive ways also. I try to be sympathetic for anyone who is being deprived of what they'd like to have and especially of the bitterness and anger that prolonged denial creates. The only way for such a selfish animal like the human to allow other people's heartache to touch them is if their own heart is spacious. The world is cutting and carving little pieces out of it, the sooner one comes to terms with what they're left to work with, the better.


Anonymous said...

frightening, the fact that the sum of all our experiences (never properly diluted or analyzed) forms an ever-growing burden which we carry for the rest of our lives, and which not only makes us sweat, but forces its way into every new experience, every relationship, tries to link itself with every new sensory influx (the movies, the music, the art), our mind tries to connect with everything we receive, to try to make the burden more bearable, to make it make more sense - but the burden is also viral, it can poison everything new we just plunge into, it can produce paranoia and a sense of directionlessness (?!) - of course, along with the 'wisdom', the fact that, yes I've been there, yes I know how this works, yes, this time I'll face it with all the extra knowledge I've accumulated - you can't go into everything new like it was the first time, surely? naked and without your 'weapons', the experience, the armor? because then it's a new burden altogether, with the senselessness and the confusion and the anger.

I wonder if there's a way to work out a golden rule between the predisposed, a priori confrontation and the I-live-only-in-the-present improvisation. Because memory doesn't consists only of abstract knowledge, it consists of deep emotions stored in your cells, the anger, the love, the desire, the physical and emotional pain you've taken, and I wonder how you can turn this into a tool instead of a peripheral ever-present torture chamber. Or if things aren't supposed to just work out in some way, and improvisation on what we know, and forgetting were we must is a solution.

Great post, it put me in a strange train of thought, and I'm somewhat sorry I just stream-of-consciousness'd on you instead of presenting a more structured argument.

Helm said...

I don't think those people that say "I live in the now, dude" are actually doing anything different from the rest of the humans with their variably wrecked emotions. You can't switch off your guard because it's there to keep you alive, your nature won't let you kill yourself. At least not that easily.

People drop their guard when they feel safe, it takes a long time for some of them. If they get positive returns while their guard is down, they blossom into more self-assured types, that's what's happened to me. I didn't set it in motion, it was pure luck to come across the right people and the right situations. Just like it was pure luck I ran into that case I described in the post above when I was fourteen.

This is the recurring thing in my mind, constantly, you can see it in everything I say or create: things will happen, nobody understands why, how will we survive and how will we reconcile with what we've done to survive?

What I get from the statement "living in the present" is really "I'm going to try to be brave". Well, good for you, whoever you are that says such things. And what you end up doing is what you'd have done anyways and we will write the story to make it make sense after.