08 September, 2019

You read a book recently and found it disorienting at first. You enjoyed it and put it away. Then, in the middle of the night, many days later, you found your thoughts forming in a similar cadence. You considered recording them but the circumstances of the moment—a shared hotel room and early wake-up time—kept you from doing so. You did this even though whenever you let the thoughts drift away the same as they came you think of the Faulkner quote about how a writer will stay up and evade sleep, if a sentence comes to them at night, until they record it. You have only on a couple occasions abided by it, owing to your dedication to getting ample sleep. This recollection makes you wonder if you have always been wrong to yield to their passage, so you try and recapture the thoughts:

You have given lots of thought to retracing over the last six months, wondering what it means to return to former places and habits and preferences. It has been useful for self-reflection, a reminder of the intensity of old feeling, sometimes even surprising you with how much of that old feeling is not even old, but still there, dormant, until you unearth it anew. However, you’ve also wondered if new feelings do not themselves necessarily trace over old ones. It is only partially true that you cannot step into the same river twice. It is practically the same river unless you’re being pedantic. After all, the river is your life.

You wonder if most pleasures are generic but grief is specific. On a hike your friends joke that it’s time for you to return to the person who once wanted to be a geology major in college. You think: a lake is a lake, a mountain is a mountain, a view is a view. If it is nice and lovely, what difference do the differences make? They all sound quite fine to enjoy. (It is probably worth noting that you did not last long as a prospective geology major.)

You start thinking about comfort, and why you’re drawn to strong feeling. The strong feeling itself isn’t comforting but embracing it—or being embraced by it—makes you feel more at ease. You wonder if this isn’t just an unfettered capacity for indulgence on your part, indulgences that are habit-forming. But perhaps it is also that it adds specificity to the pleasures in your life, providing mooring for the person you are, allowing you to give an account of yourself and your time. You feel that you would be fine without it, but others would not know what to make of you (or themselves) otherwise, and it is probably the same that you might not know what to make of others without it. But you often find yourselves not knowing what to make of others even when you are in possession of such specificity, so you are unsure of it’s usefulness.

You have been trying to become more comfortable with laxity of rules and expectations. Especially expectations: you have jettisoned all lists for yourself. You do not want to account for your time anymore. You enjoy ambling and meandering. You have no checklists for things you want to do, and especially no bucket list. You are just enjoying life. You believe that if you were more stringent, you might return to anxious ways, and you wonder if you only now feel this way because you’ve reached a degree of comfort and security in your adult life that you could never conceptualize until you possessed it.

You have seen things fall apart. From some time ago, your own, and recently, another’s, and even more recently, your own again, and yet even more recently, a different other’s. Bearing witness to it you wonder if you were in fact wrong about the specificity of grief. Maybe it only feels that way in the moment, until it is overcome. Take love: people love again in similar forms but with new figures. “This too shall pass” said over and over again. “This too shall pass” when your heart breaks. “This too shall pass” still lurking when you restore it, too.

What makes you think about all this? Perhaps it was sitting in the backseat of a rental car on a weekend evening, the radio playing one of your favorite songs, looking out the window at the Wyoming sky replete with stars. You think about the last time you were looking at this sky, in nearly the same place, just six years ago, and how you cannot recall exact details about the person you were then. But you do remember the road trip you were on pulling off on the side of the road to look at those stars, and that you were anxious and uncomfortable. You can’t recall about what, nor what that felt like anymore. You think about how you are still a part of one companion’s life, but that the other is living their life without you in it.

You still think the point about not being able to step in the same river twice is pedantic.

You identify as an urbanite but do not enjoy the anonymity of the city. It reduces and sorts you, while the landscape humbles. You book airplane window seats and still look out at the world with curiosity, feeling minute. You recently threw away a number of old science textbooks, but decided to save an Introduction to Astronomy. To inspire wonder? Or maybe you’re just a hoarder, afraid to let go. After all, earlier this year you fantasized about adding a new section to your website, labeled “Timeline,” noting concerts attended, books read, and movies watched, among others things. For whom? And to what end? You’re not sure anymore. It seemed nice when you initially thought about it. Better now to not share those things. It came and went.