Changes

Dear readers,

Did you notice my layout for this blog has changed a little? What do you think of it?

I’ve also started writing on medium as well if you want to follow me there. There’s a link in this post and at the top of my profile now, as you may see. I am a Medium partner but not a WordPress partner yet. I want to get the hang of the basic features WordPress allows before buying a plan and in turn, making money off the plan.

Anyway, I’ll have to stay in touch here more, lovelies. I need to reexamine what people want to see on WP as well as what I’ve already been doing that currently works well for me.

Clouded perspectives

Prompt 106 of the Isolation Journals.

This analogy of a cloud that surrounds you during a volatile time reminds me of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. The semi-autobiographical novel recounts Plath’s time being treated for a psychiatric mental collapse after an attempted overdose. Towards the end of the novel, the protagonist Esther is released from the hospital after a consultation with her psychiatrist. She likens her negative emotions to a bell jar trapped around her, a decorative accent for a mantle clock or other centerpieces. The jar traps her anxiety and depression, swirling it around her enclosure. Without the assistance of treatment and support of family and friends, she would remain imprisoned in the bell jar and lose her luster and function. The same can be said for the metaphorical clouds that prohibit us. Plath’s novel remains true today and is still insightful despite Plath’s own mental shortcomings at the end of her life.

But lord, the clouds have shifted since then. At the start of The Bell Jar, Esther is participating in a summer program in New York City as part of a fellowship for a young women’s magazine, where her poem was accepted. Esther is from Massachusetts, stays in Northampton at school and Winthrop with family, then admitted to Belmont during her hospital stay (note that some of these details are not given in the novel but inferred based on details and parallels to Plath’s own life). While much of the book is during the summer, and a typical summer would involve a lot of travel like this, this lifestyle is unachievable now. So many artist and writer residencies in elite locations like Manhattan have been cancelled, delayed, or attempted to be held remotely.

Unfortunately, the literary magazine where Plath interned, Mademoiselle, became defunct in 2001, so it’s impossible to know how they would have continued this fellowship program had they lived to see the peak of the novel coronavirus. Many Mademoiselle staff transferred to another Conde Nast imprint, Glamour, after the shutdown, but it is not as focused in literary arts like Mademoiselle was. Conde Nast hosts a few college programs, but none quite the same as Esther’s. I imagine some of their internships and fellowships are being done remotely, and it’s a good thing that a pandemic has happened at a time when remote work is more achievable. The Bell Jar is set in the 1950s, when computers, if they existed, were massive, unaffordable, and had to be shared between several business or intelligence agencies. What would the world have been like if a pandemic hit in the 1950s? I guess we could have conducted work through television, radio, newspapers, letters, phone conference calls, or fax messages (if they were around at the time). Today we have much more options.

Then there’s a buffet. Esther relishes these crabmeat stuffed avocado halves. Buffets are a great way to spread coronavirus, but I do miss them so. On vacation my family and I would eat at a few, often breakfast buffets but sometimes dinner. I can’t wait until we can attend a buffet again.

Then there is the romance. Esther goes to a bar and drinks vodka in New York, and assumes an alias of Betty Higginbotham from Chicago to annoying boys. The bars can’t operate the same way, nor can attempted flirtation.

Finally, maybe the most important aspect of the book, is the hospital stay. Plath stayed at McLean Hospital after her suicide attempt at twenty years old, but yet again, residential opportunities outside of the permanent house is risky for disease. The hospital however, does have several remote programs and research studies, but the question remains… Would they be suitable for patients in a severe collapse such as Esther’s? I guess provided clinicians check in frequently, but how would they monitor patients who may attempt to harm themselves? Esther watches an acquaintance relapse into poor psyche, and I worry for someone like that. I guess they could operate at reduced capacity since we are in Phase 3 in Massachusetts, but how can we be certain patients of the highest need are staying? Mental illness fluctuates intensely.

Evidently, the Covid-19 pandemic and the recession that has preceded it is the cloud that shrouds not just me, but the world. I pray and wish that we can have some sort of semblance of coming-of-age and reconciliation that happens in The Bell Jar. Lately, even the most mundane of vignettes in the book and others in the theme and genre of it seem like fantasies. It is very concerning that we are uncertain when they can become attainable again. How will we ever love romantically again? How will we ever progress our professional accomplishments again, and how will we celebrate them? How will we protect ourselves from our id? We can’t answer these right away. We must wait, and this is agonizing, or at least can be. We are fatigued, but we still must protect ourselves.

We must keep our minds busy and seek to find opportunities wherever and however they may appear. We must use whatever resources possible to stay connected. We must keep the faith.

With perseverance, we can fight and overcome. We will not stay clouded and jarred.

A Better Planet

Prompt 105, Part of the Isolation Journals.

Dystopias are certainly everywhere in the fictitious sphere, but I find utopias to be so bland, and almost more desolate. There’s got to be something to give us drive and ambition in the world. There’s got to be a catch to living in pure harmony.

Eden, Shangri-La, Arcadia…we can’t mimic any of their perfections. Still, it’s true that once our society returns to normal after this wave of disease wanes, it will morph.

I imagine this society will be less focused on everyone making their own individual travel arrangements. We may warm up to carpooling, wish to add more frequent routes to our bus and train cars, because when everyone is squashed in uncomfortably to the highest capacity possible, more germs can spread. If we allow passengers more personal space, they will be happier and healthier. People can’t always afford to get raw red fingers from gripping onto a floppy rubber handle one or two feet above them. They extend their wingspan at points they must relax in order to motivate themselves for their next work day. Because they have to grip so hard to stay balanced on the cart, they cannot do anything else. They could try using their unoccupied hand, but sometimes two are better than one. Just when you think you are at a safe spot in the route where the vehicle will be stopped for enough time to drink coffee, check your wristwatch,  get something out of your bag, apply balm —whoosh— the cart zooms forward.

People will know that things make noise. Life happens and disturbances are inevitable. We’ll still control our surroundings, but not give as much grief to others if things go awry.

Further, our future can establish egalitarian privileges. I’ve mentioned before that my mother and her father both worked in telecom for many decades. For the majority of my grandfather’s tenure, there was only one telecom company: Bell System, founded by telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell. My mother was in the peak of her career in 1982 when Bell broke into “baby Bells,” hyper-regionalized independent companies. There was the New England Telephone Company here, then New England merged with New York’s company to form Nynex, then Nynex merged with the mid-Atlantic company and took on their name, Bell Atlantic, then Bell Atlantic merged with GTE Corporation to form Verizon. At that point, it was a giant even in its infancy as it was no longer regional, but covered a multitude of areas across the US. But because it had a hand almost everywhere, all metropolitans were prioritized. Rural and desolate areas still existed, but because the phone companies had a lot more area to play with, they neglected them.

There have been efforts to address the connectivity gap through grants sponsored by the USDA and other services, and a professor at my university worked on one of these initiatives.  But still, they are sparse. Now that we’ve entered a time when digital readiness is essential to keep the world functioning, I will hope rural areas, ghettos, and projects will be afforded more attention towards accessing landlines, good mobile reception, DSL, and high-speed internet (maybe even fiber optics, though that’s not really likely so soon since even privileged cities such as mine cannot afford the costs of routing such cable systems. It has an entire different wiring than most telecom chords and contains delicate glass shards that conduct solar pulses to transmit signals). Before, Ford, Toyota, and Chrysler groomed rural folks to purchase heavy-duty pickup trucks to travel miles upon miles to and from work. The pickup portion to work the land and move things across distances. With social distancing still around, even in country life driving has lessened. Thus, there will be more demand for these dwellers to have better connections.

Sometimes I wonder why you rebuke me.

Maybe it is truly because I am a terrible shrew who whines and curses too much and does not acknowledge boundaries.

Other times I think you try your best to be horrible to me to prove a point. You want me to cry and try to write/speak in rapid succession to you, apologizing again and explaining myself again, just to confirm to yourself that you are not worthy of love.

Confirming that you know how to undermine people and question their friendship and loyalty does not confirm that you are unworthy of love.

You’ve hurt me a lot, but I’m not ready to give up. You’ve tried to get me to give up time and time again. You may think you have finally succeeded during my current bout of direct non- communication, but you haven’t. I am just recouping and trying to find my bravery again. I have the stamina.

I don’t think you truly want to cut me off. You just don’t know how to react to my episodes sometimes, but I’ve been working on limiting them, and you’ve been working on telling me when they bother you (directly). We also have different ideas of problem-solving, and I think we are both a little too stuck in our ways in that respect. We could learn something from each other.

I’d love to get back in touch. I don’t know who will initiate it. I am the wordsmith, but you are methodical and much braver than I. I’ve thought about it, but my energy just isn’t there yet. If yours is, great. I will listen as long as you speak gently.

I love you and I miss you.

I just started a virtual retreat

It’s run through the Office of Ignation Spirituality, a Jesuit group.

The focus is to pray the examen wherever you are. Try to find moments in the day where you can reflect. It’s more of a meditation than a prayer. There are several different versions depending on your interests and concerns. Even though it’s a Jesuit practice, I think it could fit into any other order of Catholicism (Franciscan, Notre Dame, Dominican, etc) but not only any Catholic, any faith. It reminds me a lot of the meditation and reflection a psychologist, counselor, or social worker would teach you, with questions like “What were you grateful for today? How do you want to improve yourself?” I feel like it could be adapted to a general monotheistic faith, or even a polytheistic one too with a few edits.

I plan to record some of the responses to these meditations in my notebooks and maybe make a longer post either here or Medium once I’ve gotten the hang of it.

Please see me.

I want someone to reach out and stop this hiatus. I’ve been too emotional to do anything about it. I’ve really wanted to stay in touch, across multiple media, even the postal service. I bought three beautiful books of international forever stamps. I gave you some of my address stickers. I’m never awake at the right time to apologize in real time, for I know that’s the best way to reconcile. And not just in real time, but in real time at normal, daytime hours. I think part of the reason we argued last time is because it was an odd hour, maybe 3 or 4am where you were, and I just kept chatting idly.

I recently got back in touch with someone. Someone who I cared about more than I should have, and someone whose actions made me very emotional, confused, and upset. But that’s subsided now, and I think we are back to the better chemistry we used to have. But this happened after two and half long years without talking. While when we’ve written one another, it doesn’t seem like time passed much, and in the grand scheme of things, I guess it hasn’t, I still want us to patch up things much sooner than that connection. While this connection is a mentor/older sibling relationship, I feel our relationship is even more important.

We are supportive. We help one another professionally, academically, and emotionally. You make me laugh, and you know to treat servicers with respect and acknowledge the talents that go into even the most menial labor. I regret treating you as less than a friend. I regret cussing and yelling at you about my problems and stress. I regret always trying to speak and be as verbose as possible to get myself out of trouble.

I hope one day we can pick up where we left off. I think of you often, and despite your pleas and my own curiosity, I haven’t found any replacement. Truth be told, befriending, networking and dating are exhausting. I’m often unfriendly and give off the wrong impression. Sometimes though, I am friendly or honest, and this is met with disrespect. You are one of the few who hadn’t shifted into wantonness at the expense of my niceties, and that’s something I love about you. That’s something that I know will take a long time to replicate in anyone else I meet.

Please see me, and please forgive me.

Talking in circles

Part of the Isolation Journals, Day 91.

Around and around. I think we’re in good graces again. I explain my rationale, you accept it and realize that we reason differently. Neither of us meant harm. We apologize to one another. We go on again as normal for a while, then it creeps up again. My mistake enters your conscience once more and you lash at me for it. I say sorry again, but I’m unsure if you’ve absorbed it. You still scold me. I explain again why I sinned, but you can’t grasp it. You give up, or you press me to forget you. I don’t want to. I didn’t think you did either. But this time, you blocked me.

Is this on two different social media? You viewed one profile recently, but I’m unsure if I would even know you did if I were blocked. I am too nervous to make amends. I’m too nervous to visit any of your profiles. Why would you do this when we are so far apart? You told me we would stay in touch while you moved away, but for the past month, we haven’t. You told me we’d still be in frequent contact. You told me you weren’t done with me and never would be. Why does that always change? Why do you give up so easily? Friendships are about growing, arguing and changing. But you are scared every time that happens. Debate and strife is bound to happen. Stop disowning everyone at any small vignette. Take it in stride.

I was supportive, attentive, charming, thoughtful, funny…a superstar. Now I’m terrible. I’m rude, selfish, and I let you down. I’m so tired of being one or the other and your attitude being so hot-and-cold. It’s so polar and there are too many extremes and too many mood swings. I was so relieved when I heard this criticism from a mutual friend, but really…should I have been? If you were married, you’d just get divorced. If you were an identity thief, you’d become an informant. If you were in a cult, you could quit. In so many of my other fantastical anxieties I have of new people, there was a simpler path to improvement. But your actual dark side fluctuates, and isn’t as simple as being divorced, testified, or shunned.

But I empathize. I’m no emotional extremist, but I am depressed and anxious, clinically, but not all-encompassingly so. My dark side fluctuates as well. Marilyn Monroe supposedly philosophized “If you can’t handle me at my worst, you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.” I don’t believe you’ve seen my worst, and maybe that’s because I’m such a centrist, unlike the bipolar Marilyn. My nuanced take is, “If you can’t handle me at my worse times, you don’t deserve me at my better times.” And it’s fine if you want to retreat away from me after my worse times until you can regain the energy to see my better times. I’d love to see you again, and I know I can get even better, and you can, too. We can’t completely rid our worse selves, but we can work to weaken them. “For better or worse” is not applied to marriage vows because it’s an exclusive concept towards matrimony, but because this is often a new chapter of life for people and it must be reiterated in all we do. Please don’t give up. I dearly hope you see this.