March is proving to be quite a fretful month, as its circumstances push me to confront personality issues I would otherwise ignore. For instance, a tendency for petulance and snark when pressured, hangry, or bored, a sense of arrogance conveyed by every tweet complaining about other people’s messy citations or bad writing—which is rich, considering that I haven’t been writing much myself (I always complain as a reader).
I know it’s expedient for signposting purposes, but mein Gott I cannot bear any more sentences that begin w/ “I argue that…”
When did it become mandatory to begin thesis statements in this way?
(A: W/ the pressure to read A TON of papers in the age of scholarly overproduction)
— K (@metamnemosyne) February 24, 2019
So much writing (in the arts and social sciences) becomes meaningless because it’s constituted by one sophisticated theoretical point sitting atop another theoretical point that’s hovering at least five meters above the concrete floor of perceptible, embodied reality.
— K (@metamnemosyne) February 25, 2019
When I think about the whys and wherefores of my unbridled testiness, I conclude with my own frustrations about research and writing, which boil down to: I never feel like I am doing enough, even if I fill my days and nights with work. When I received the acceptance letters for a research fellowship and three conferences I’d applied for (one at the end of this month, and the rest in the summer), my first feeling, before relief or gladness, was worry that I’d prove my insufficiency.
A week ago, I got dumped again, it’s the same story every year. I cried that night for four hours from 1 to 5 a.m., fell asleep, and headed to work upon waking with a migraine that I nursed for two days, until I thought to take painkillers for my head and for my heart. The consuelo de bobo of dealing with rejection so routinely is that at some point one stops romanticizing it. One remembers that this, like all things, will pass, and we’ll all die soon enough. In the meantime, one could have coffee and Panadol to hand.
I’ve also realized that I have a penchant for bribing myself out of sadness. If you don’t cry over lunch, I will buy you ice-cream. If you can stop thinking about him for a month I will buy you a gold necklace.
It doesn’t work that way, Tine.
Nevertheless, I buy for myself, in the space of a week, with the speed with which impulses are actualized by the digital: three beaded bracelets made of garnet, chrysocolla, dumortierite, and lapis; two silver rings, one with an onyx cabochon and the other with a labradorite teardrop; a thin gold-plated band with an enamel heart; a pair of cloisonne earrings in the image of gilded blue peacocks; and a helluva lot of guilt over throwing money on what are but metals and stones that can’t love me back.
In a WhatsApp reading group, somebody mentions Judith Butler’s “Doubting Love.” I scan and send the copy of “Response: Performative Reflections on Love and Commitment” that I keep in my journal.
What I like about this essay: it gives not a definitional notion of love, but discusses its performance, embodiedness, and temporality as a speech act that carries the possibility of changing the circumstances into which it is introduced at the moment of utterance. Focusing on the performative nature of love, in a way, makes the question “What is love?” irrelevant, because love as an experience becomes ineffable and incomplete, only known and felt in and through the body of one who acts in love. With time and repetition, with every act of loving-kindness, love as affect through duration becomes sedimented in the body. I could try to bring this experience into words, but words would always fail me—thus I “submit to a cliché” (Butler 236). Such embodied performativity is also why “moving on” is difficult, for in love I have oriented myself in certain ways. I may say, Now I will walk away; I may cover a distance, separate “I” and “he,” and yet—still—unconsciously—gravitate toward the sounds and tastes and colors that pleased him.
I lay myself down in bed, pull the covers over my head. I turn to the side facing the wall, hold my right hand with my left, and ask, What’s wrong, Tine? Why are you so sad and mad with me and everyone else these days? I listen patiently to a litany of her grievances: We haven’t been sleeping before 4 a.m. since February 25. We haven’t been studying Spanish for two weeks. We haven’t gone to the gym since last Saturday, you’ve just been feeding me kimchi and eggs and Weet-bix in almond milk, and my body aches in so many places. You say you love me, but I don’t feel it—you treat other people with more kindness and respect and justice than you do me.
I squeeze her hand and say that I’m sorry. I’ve been acting like a total asshole! I’ve been ignoring your needs and shushing your complaints and not taking your side when I should be the first to take your side. Listen, I promise, I’ll stop treating you so badly. We will sleep enough, eat something tasty and nutritious, make time for activities we enjoy. I’ll learn to draw, articulate, and protect your boundaries, and take better care of you. So please don’t cry anymore.
When I feel too many feelings, I like to take my copy of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations and flip it open to a random page. These are from Books Eight and Eleven.