On pushing and being pulled

Tolerance for ambiguity is one of the most desirable qualities for an anthropologist — because it is an unavoidable part of cross-cultural living. But I don't have much of it. Almost none, at least of the interpersonal variety.

It's a legacy of my tenure as a therapeutic subject that I don't even try to tolerate uncertainty.

I used to say, "I did _____ and then she did/didn't do _____ and it feels like she really hates me now," and Dear Therapist would say, "How do you know? What would you think of just asking her, 'Are you angry at me?'"

So I got into the habit of asking people very direct questions when it's necessary to banish the discomfort of uncertainty. Are you interested in me? Do you think I'm a bad person? Did you really let me go because an old employee asked for her position back, or was I just a sucky barista and you didn't want to hurt my feelings? (Actually, that last one I still need to ask...)

It's pretty freeing. For the person doing the asking, anyway.

Direct questions assert some kind of force. But I don't take issue with that type of power play. It is mostly just play. I've always thought that giving up truths and secrets, whether in answer to questions or not, equaled the surrender of some measure of power. (Dear Therapist and I spent so much time talking about voice. [If you knock on my bones, you will hear a positively postmodern preoccupation with the theoretics of power.])

***

On April 18th, it snowed. The rain I had been walking into and out of of all night long to stay awake turned to snow; I watched it falling at 5:30 in the morning, and I knew I couldn't be the only one but I felt like it. I texted my friends asleep in the next rooms that there is snow because I did not want to be (the only witness). Later I told my professor that I couldn't come to class because I would get frostbite with only sandals in which to make the return trip out to the suburbs.

***

I have some beliefs about controlled substances, but I think my emotional response to drunk etc. people is mostly separate from that.

Sometimes I hate them passionately: I hate the ones who are better people when drunk, because that's sad, and I hate the ones who are worse people when drunk, because that's selfish of them. I hate them for demanding that they be allowed to say and do thoughtless things.

Mostly when I hate them like Violette Leduc hated her sleepers. ("Je me penche sur eux avec mes mauvaise intentions...Je hais mon dormeur qui peut se créer, avec de l’inconscience, une paix qui m’est étrangère.") It feels like they have defected from life and I hate them for that, for leaving me and leaving me standing there. I never forgive being the one remaining. I want always to be the one who flies away. I suppose most people do.

***

I woke up from a dream that I had set part of my leg on fire. First thought: Did I really? No? Too bad. I woke up from a dream that I had woken up and was lying in bed feeling out the frame of my hipbones with my hands. Languages linger, even the poor ones.

7 comments:

Q 5/18/2011 4:36 PM  

Last week in choir a real German woman taught us how to pronounce the Wagner we're singing right now, and I thought of how delighted you'd be to listen to hear her.

Holly 5/18/2011 5:14 PM  

Q - Indeed I would have been. Native accents are the best.

The Snarky Narwhal 5/19/2011 8:05 AM  

I have a nasty cold right now, and this morning is the first time i've started sneezing. As you know its a huge relief to me. Every time i sneeze a congratulate myself, hoping I will sneeze it all out.

Shelley 5/19/2011 12:10 PM  

Yes. It's one of the top desirable qualities for a writer, too.

Holly 5/20/2011 1:09 PM  

Narwhal - I hope you have sneezed most of the illness out of you by now.

Shelley - Why?

Jenica 5/21/2011 10:04 AM  

I love what you say about direct questions. Subtlety has its uses, but it can also cause confusion and misunderstandings.

Holly 5/21/2011 1:24 PM  

Jenica - Yup, quite true. It is a rare treat when you know someone well enough that you can communicate with subtlety and there is no loss of clarity.

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