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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I'm not Myself Today... Or Ever

This post originated as a discussion between me and Aubrey about being married and single, and how married people often forget what it was like to be single. It also originated in December. I started writing it, saved the draft, then got caught up in other things.

I know that I have a tendency to become separated from my past. I often feel that I have always been with Horyon, and the time before her was something else; perhaps a dream, maybe a book I read. The same with Maxine. We were married for four and a half years before she was born, but now it's kind of hard for me to remember what it was like, being married and without children.

I think everyone tends to live in the present like this to some extent. Another example: when I was living in Nepal, it took no time at all for my American life to seem more like a story I had read than an actual experience. Vice versa when I left Nepal. I went back to visit Nepal five years after leaving, and found that I couldn't just go back to what I was before. Partly because I could no longer speak the language as well. Partly because I no longer had my "Nepal Reflexes". And mostly (if not entirely) because I was no longer the person I had been.

Getting married is similar to moving to another country, even in the language department. One adds new phrases, like "my wife" and "since I got married". The first few times you say them, they feel almost like a foreign language in your mouth. (How embarrassing is it to say, "I met my girlfriend yesterday," when everyone knows that you're married?) And like learning a foreign language, the next bits you learn seem easier, like "my daughter" and "our family".

Some of the other transitions were also difficult to adjust to: I had always jealously guarded my privacy, and being married means not being alone as much. That is mostly a good thing, but sometimes difficult. I still love to have time alone, I just don't get nearly as much of it. The first time I walked into the bathroom and almost fell on my butt because the floor was wet, even though I had not taken a shower since the previous day, it hit home for me: "I" am now "we".

Sharing stuff wasn't such a big deal for me. Once Horyon realized that putting a CD in the wrong jewel box was an executable offense, things went pretty smoothly. But I know that for some people merging stuff is a big transition, along with merging finances. Neither has caused us any problems, but it's still an adjustment: it was "my stuff", now it's "our stuff".

The changes, big and small, are along the same scale as moving to a foreign country. And the memory of the time before those changes can also be slippery to hold on to. We lose details over time, making our mental picture somewhat blurry. In addition to being blurry, the picture may be inaccurate for other reasons: it's easy to romanticize your single days, glossing over the loneliness and pain, remembering only the good bits. And it's just as easy to focus on the bad days, forgetting that there were some damn good times back then.

It can all be quite confusing, and sometimes leads to not trusting one's own gray matter. When I met Horyon, I quickly became aware of the void in my life that she filled so perfectly. I told her many times, without exaggeration, that she made my whole life better. My best times before meeting her seemed, in retrospect, kind of pitiful. But now I can remember that there were times when I really was happy, even with a steady undercurrent of loneliness. Being with friends chased the loneliness back into a dark corner for the evening, and I wasn't like one of those stupid pictures of a crying clown. I was actually happy! Or was I? The memories of happy times now seem somewhat suspect. I was so sure that those good old days weren't really that good; why do they appear so attractive when I think about them after weeks of insufficient sleep?

It suggests that the only feelings you can be really (if not absolutely) sure of are the ones you are experiencing right now.

In one of the Harry Potter books, Dumbledore says to Harry, "Harry, I owe you an explanation. An explanation of an old man's mistakes. For I see now that what I have done, and not done, with regard to you, bears all the hallmarks of the failings of age. Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young...and I seem to have forgotten lately."

I had to go look that up. Found it at MuggleNet. I didn't remember the exact words, but the idea rang clear and true to me when I read the book, and came back to mind as I was writing this. I would like to think that I can still be sympathetic with people who are going through what I have long ago finished, or never even started. But I know that I have that universal tendency to superimpose myself on everyone around me.

And for the record, one thing I love about the Harry Potter books is that the central, larger-than-life, super hero/role model character of Dumbledore, with all of his fans and wisdom, still has his failings. He is very human.

And if that is not enough wandering for you in one post, you will just have to read more than one post and pretend it was just one.


Shalea said...

Do you find that blogging (or, I guess, journal-keeping in the general sense) makes it easier to remember who you were in the past, or does it make the sense of separation more pronounced?

Rob Sack said...

I don't think it's an "or" proposition. A clearer memory of who you used to be just naturally makes the separation more pronounced.

On the other hand, it does emphasize the similarities at times. I often read about something that I've forgotten, and find that my current reaction is very much the same as my reaction back when it happened.

A Brief Introduction

Roblog is my writing lab. It is my goal to not let seven days pass without a new post. I welcome your criticism, as I cannot improve on my own.

Here is a link to my cung post, which remains the only word which I have ever invented, and which has not, as far as I know, caught on. Yet.