dreams

I waking up feeling disquieted. Another night spent in perpetual dreaming. The past couple of weeks of sleep have left me exhausted. Normally, I am an infrequent and forgetful dreamer. I wake up wondering where the time went. I hardly ever remember whether I dreamed at all. The last couple of weeks have thrown me off kilter. When I fall asleep…I fall into dreamland al la Alice in Wonderland. Everything is confusing and exhausting. I encounter people who I hardly remember in waking life. I get into nonsensical situation after nonsensical situation. I dream about school…always a sign of stress. I wake up feeling tired every morning, as if I had just had a long adventure filled with trials and tribulations.

I can guess at the source of all of this. After almost two years in a catatonic state, my brain is beginning to rev up. I’m putting more and more tasks before it and it’s not used to such a flurry of activity after the hibernation. My brain is taking my sleep time to put together all the pieces—to connect the dots of my waking life.

I’ve always been someone of many desires…all vying for space, time, and attention. One of the upsides of my emotional struggle in the past two years is that, my desires were honed into a very single and focused idea. How to pull through and move forward. Everything I did, ultimately, led me down this path. And now that I think I’m at the end of the tunnel, I’m terrified to step back into the light, where all my desires, like nebulous ghosts, wait impatiently to swoop in and take claim of me.

Sleep is the canary in the mine. My brain is a great source of distress for my emotional life. I am reminded, going forward, that I will need to bridle my desires so they do not to disturb the inner peace that I’ve scrapped together in the past two years.

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The End

You can never quite be sure of how a book will hit you, but it’s been a while since I’ve felt so disconnected to a novel as The Echo Maker.  Emotional distance is a good way to put it. I never quite feel involved with the story or the characters. I feel like a scientist peering into a diorama where these characters glide around each other— moving eerily on different tracts—as disconnected with each other as I am with them.

While the ruminations of the novel are interesting, there is an inauthenticity to how the characters connect to each other. There’s something very anti-septic about it all. For a book about connections, about our relationship with ourselves, nature, and our loved ones…I felt very little connection to any of it.

But I finished the novel. After two years of trying to read the damn book, I finally finished. I bought the book a couple of weeks after I moved to California. And now on the cusp of me finding myself again, I’ve finished it.

This book will always have a symbolic meaning for me. I have not taken away that much from it’s pages….not because it didn’t have much to say, but because it wasn’t the sort of book that ever made me feel receptive to the messages within. However, the act of finishing the book is for me an end of a chapter. It’s strangely appropriate. The characters find some sort of rendemption in the end…it’s not at all what they expect, but find it they do.

The message is that no matter what happens, no matter how much our life distentegrates or loses the precious meaning that we cling onto day in and day out, there is always redemption. The only thing that is asked, is that we survive and endure.  If we are capable of that, no great tragedy can knock us down. Tragedy passes, life will always tend towards normalcy if we let ourselves accept it.

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Getting Older

An older woman that I admired once said this to me, “I do not miss my 20’s. My 20’s was a terrifying time. I didn’t know myself. I didn’t know the world. It wasn’t until my 30’s that everything started to fall into place. My 30’s has been good to me. I’m happy. Life is good. Given all the money in the world, I still wouldn’t go back to my 20’s.

This made an indelible impression on me. At the time I was struggling to keep boredom at bay working my “dream job”. I was in a city that drove me to distraction. I was stressed about life, stressed about my relationship, stressed by myself. I was smack-dab in the middle of my 20’s.

I had no idea that I hadn’t found myself yet. At the time I thought finding myself meant “succeeding” in life—which meant finding a career, sticking to it, and ultimately making a lot of money.

I did not understand what she meant. I wasn’t even aware of that there was a difference between 20’s and 30’s. I thought I had done all the growing that I was going to do. It wasn’t until these past 2 years, after I’ve fought and gotten to know some of my own inner demons, that I have begun to understand what she meant.

20’s is an harrowing and transient time. You are trying to find yourself; find a career; find financial stability; find friends after college; and find a partner to share this with. If you are adventurous or just really unsure of what you want out of life, this time can be all that more difficult.

So many of my peers have confessed their fear of entering their 30’s. So much of our culture tells us—espescially as women—that time is running out and that we are passing our prime. I’ve been programmed to think that leaving my 20’s and entering my 30’s is a bad thing. I had never thought it as she did—this powerful, successful older woman who seemed so comfortable in her own skin—that it was something to be celebrated.

But, on my 28th birthday, I sit here and contemplate  exactly what she told me, and I realize how true it is. I’ve survived some very personal trials this last year. And I’m grateful for everything that those trials has taught me about myself.

I am HAPPY. Happier than I’ve ever been. And I’m proud of myself for reaching this point. For the first time in my life, I feel great about myself and my accomplishments in life. And I’m so excited about life, what the future holds, all the new experiences I will have.

So as I get closer to my 30’s, I do so with anticipation and not dread. I embrace what is to come, because I am finally beginning to be comfortable with myself, my choices, my life.

Happy Birthday to me!

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Memory

“Cranes keep landing as night falls.”

So begins The Echo Maker, Richard Power’s book about Capgras Syndrome. And so marks the end of my attempt to read Galatea 2.2.

Maybe it’s telling that I have been unable to finish both of the novel-length books I’ve started this year. Perhaps it’s implicates that I no longer have the patience for reading material that I don’t enjoy.  But I fear that my tastes and tolerance have narrowed as I’ve gotten older. I’ve stop dabbling and started honing in my preferences becoming less maleable and more certain of what I do and do not like.

I’ve always been proud of my electic and unconventional taste in reading material. But now I wonder if I give up on books because I’ve lost the broad-minded, willing-to-explore attitude of my youth. In my defense, I found  Galatea 2.2 clinical and lacking in emotional impact.  It is not Power’s best work (whatever best work may mean). And it’s time to read something that I am motivated to pick up and finish.

The Echo Maker, another Richard Power novel, is about a man who has a near fatal accident on a lonely stretch of road deep in the heartland of Nebraska. While he survives, he is no longer able to recognize the closest person in his life believing her to be an imposter. Capgras syndrome as Wikipedia defines it, “is a disorder in which a person holds a delusion that a friend, spouse, parent, or other close family member has been replaced by an identical-looking impostor.”

The Echo Maker gives a better explanation.  The brain recognizes the loved one but can no longer emotionally connect to them. Because of recognition but lack of connection, the brain convinces itself  that the loved one is an impostor.

I’ve always been fascinated by disorders of the brain, especially those dealing with disorders of memory. Memory has been the obsession of my adulthood. It’s the reason I’m snap-happy with the camera.  Why any book about memory or forgetting has an immediate hold over me.

When and how did it start? Ever since watching Memento, I’ve developed a low-level curiosity for memory disorders. The Radio Lab program on Memory and Forgetting made me realize just exactly how shaky a structure our memory is. My brief encounters with Philosophy over the years has taught me about the subjective nature of perception and memory. My own personal beliefs about life, reality, and the ability for one’s perceptions to shape one’s life has solidified the importance and inaccuracies of memory in my life.

In the case of Capgras Syndrome, the memory is still there, but the emotions behind those memories are removed. This is so disturbing to the patient that his brain conjures and accepts the explanation of an imposter. He sacrifices logic when the connection of his memories to his emotions are in question. It pinpoints to the importance of memory to human beings.

Memory serves as the vehicle for our emotional connection to places, things, people. Without memory, we lose our connection to the world.

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Updates on life

A while back, I was a writer and book reviewer for Blogcritics.org. But when I got busy with life and work, I took a hiatus. Now with the start of a new blog and a new resolution to write and read more, I’ve decided to start writing with them again.

I’ll be reviewing a couple of books for them every month or so. Hopefully having reading and writing assignments as well as a new book club will keep me inspired to write and post.

I’ll be cross-posting my reviews here.

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Reader Block

I find it’s difficult sometimes to keep a writing schedule, especially on a busy week with lot of things going on. I realize that people who are able to keep a lot of balls in the air are the ones who are routined and keep a tight schedule. But writing is not one of those things that can be regimented. At least not for me, a dabbler in the art. I find times that I am inspired to write, the writing comes easier as opposed to times when I force myself.

One of the problems with writing for this blog is that I’m not doing the reading that I’d need to do to write here on a daily basis. Apparently I’m not alone. I happened upon this essay by Geoff Dyer: “Reader Block” which summarizes the problem. It even directed me to the proper term for the affliction: “the near-dyslexia of current reading habits” coined by George Steiner in The Uncommon Reader.

Dyer is inclined to think that the affliction is permanent. I have always believed otherwise, hoping that the right book will make me fall in love with reading all over again. It’s funny how all avid reader suffers from the same problems. The accquisition of too many books. The feeling of having nothing to read, even though your shelves are filled with unread books. It speaks of the era we live in. We have too much going on. Too many streams of information vying for our interests, too many options, too many paths to chose from. The trick is finding the ability to narrow in our focus and ignore competing streams of information. One has to have a system, I hope to develop a system that works for me this year.

The other thing I have to remember is the ability to set aside time for myself. I spend a vast majority of my free time doing things that I “should” be doing. I train for an half-marathon, I work out, I clean, cook, and procrastinate on doing laundry. I read books that I think I “should” finish because I’ve already start them. I worry about other things I should be doing. I spend very little time centered on myself and what I want to do at the moment. I took a yoga class, ran and spent time relaxing this weekend, and while half the time I worried about how much time I had left (I had somewhere to be directly afterwards) I enjoyed how me-centric those activities were. I wondered why I didn’t do this sort of thing more often, and wished that I had more time and less places to be. The key I think for me is to remember to wake up early on the weekends and spend that time focused on myself.

 

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Your best work

I always wonder if it’s a good idea to research the author of the book I’m reading.

When the author names his protagonist after himself…the question is even more relevant. Many authors write fragments of themselves into characters in their books. Good fiction observes some kernel of truth.  You have to write what you know for there to be truth.

Galatea 2.2’s fictional Richard Powers is in many ways similar to the author Richard Powers. The real Powers like his fictional counterpart gave up a career in science to pursue the arts. He moved to the Netherlands to avoid the attention and maybe the pressure of the success of his first novel. Galatea seems like a deeply personal rumination on the fear of failing and the fear that your best, most brilliant work is behind you. Many authors must live in terror of this. Writing like most art is a constantly changing process. If you challenge yourself as all great authors must, your art changes from book to book.  But what happens after you’ve written what may be your best work? What happens when everything you produce afterwards is just a shadow in compairson?

I’m struggling through Galatea 2.2.  Even though the writing can be beautiful…most of it strains my patience. The writing is erudite, sometimes overly technical…I worry that by the time I finish the book, I will no longer want to read The Echo Maker.

But I trudge on. While it isn’t especially pleasurable, I find that the book sparks of new ideas and thought paths. I also have to go slow, because it’s so challenging to read. The slowness of the reading allows me to get more out of the reading material. It is a new way of reading, one that tests my fleeting patience but will ultimately make me a better reader.

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