Friday, September 29, 2006


My relationships with religion have always been very marginal, but I admit to being intrigued by the history of Catholicism, and I have cycled half of the pilgrimage trail to Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain. I also took quite a few courses in South and Southeast Asian art, and have learned a cursory amount of information about Buddhism. My dear friend Thomenon likes to say that the Jesuits and Buddhists have much in common in terms of being hair-splitting in their approaches to life. Both also stress compassion as one of the most important human virtues.

I would like to think I'm compassionate, but the truth is that I am pretty much only compassionate with people who don't piss me off. That isn't really what compassion is about, I know. And in my current sleep-deprived and constantly simmering state, it's really easy to make me mad. I get mad about all sorts of things, my personal favorite being the shortfalls of others where it comes to politeness. (I know all about glass houses, thank you.) I suppose that I like to think of myself as near perfect or at least ashamed of my imperfections in this realm, so I hate it when others are knowingly and unabashedly rude. I must learn to watch myself because I am starting to yell obscenities in the car in response to others' rudeness, and while my son is apraxic, it won't be long before he is able to emulate me, none the less.

So this morning I had a terrible time with the two kids in their Music Together class. It's normally fun, and of course the mix of children can be wild, not to mention that my son's best friend is in the class and that they are frequently exuberantly wild. Most of the mothers in there are understanding of my being stretched in making sure my two don't end up killing each other or themselves or anyone else. But some of the moms look at me and my elder son as if we are subhuman. These Stepford moms must have a lot of childcare at home or be extraterrestrial themselves, because I have no idea how they and their kids can be dirtless, spotless, and snotless at all times. And some of the moms are perfectly made up with shining hair. Maybe they come out of pods in the morning. Who knows? Anyway, one mom with an 18-month-old son gave me some nasty looks when my elder son knocked hers over in a game of wild chase. Yes, Callum pushed him. It may or may not have been intentional. I gave Callum a time out and severe warning. I apologized to the mom. No spoken reply to me or acknowledgment. Then her 18-month-old took drum sticks and beat my one-year-old over the head repeatedly and severely. Did she apologize to me? No. She removed her kid, but hey, perhaps she could have acknowledged that her kid isn't perfect, either. After one more push by Callum we left class because I was 1. too tired to keep dealing with the situation 2. living on fumes 3. worried that I couldn't bite my tongue if her son beat my one-year-old any more, while she gave me icy looks.

My goal today: be compassionate for those who lack compassion.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


A dear friend sent me e-mail the other day, noting my long hiatus from posting and suggesting that my blog was an abandoned project. I by no means see it as a finished project, so my chastened self is back on track.

By way of excuse, I submit that I have been terrifyingly busy with all number of academic and volunteer projects. I took the GRE almost two weeks ago, and all my preparation seems to have helped me mentally and in terms of my scores. Disappointingly, I got the same on the Verbal as I did sixteen years ago (not that it was a bad score at all, but I had hoped to raise it a least a smidge), but my Quantitative score went up a brawny 60 points from last time. I am still waiting to hear about my essay scores, but I feel relatively confident that they will be fine. I also had to work hard to finish my application to the Masters Entry Program in Nursing at UCSF. In typical fashion, the more prestigious the university, the shorter the application and the fewer the requirements. I am about three-quarters done with USF's, and hope to get that on its way Saturday or Monday. That will give me a good three months to make sure my application to Samuel Merritt gleams. On top of that, I am in Microbiology (not easy at all) and Interpersonal Communication (lots of busy work). I do have to say that I took last night and the night before off to watch "Ladies in Lavender" and "A Room with a View." Hugely refreshing for my intense Anglophilia.

Before I get to my epiphanies, I want to relate a humorous anecdote relating to my beloved German husband. He knows that I am an Anglophile and that I spent years trying to find Mr. English Right. He occasionally asks me (particularly when I am embroiled in an obsession with an English actor--at present, Toby Stephens) if I regret marrying a German and not an Englishman. Last night, prompted by my mooning over "A Room with a View," he asked me this, and I answered, "I love you so much, darling." He replied, "You didn't answer my question." I responded, "No, I didn't." We then smiled and laughed. My mother, when I told her about our exchange, opined that Mark is a German-English hybrid: not English, but not rude and presumptuous, like many of his countrymen. I think she made an excellent point. I love that he is German, and that he recognizes and is horrified by the downward spiral of manners, as an Englishman might. But I am in no way giving up my English obsessions, especially when reading interviews with Toby Stephens teaches me new words, such as "rictus."

OK, back to my epiphanies. First, my pillar of support in life and academia has asked me to apply for the Nineteenth-Century Art job at his university. This means a number of things. First, that I have to find a new recommender because there is no way in hell that I will ever ask my evil advisor to do ANYTHING for me EVER again. (Tangentially, I saw the witch the other day when on campus to meet with a more worthy and wonderful faculty member, and she refused to acknowledge me; I ignored her, too. What an odd, infantilizing situation the whole adviser-student relationship can be.) Second, I would have to go back to teaching thankless, rude, presumptuous undergraduates, most of whom I loathe on principle. Third, I would have to figure out what I really want to work on that I could finish in time to get tenure and that would be of interest to others. I have realized, especially after publishing my article, that I really do think about marginal topics that aren't of great interest to many people. It doesn't make these topics any less interesting to me, but it makes my position within the field rather more tenuous. I know in my heart of hearts that I'm finished being an art historian--there, I've said it--but it feels horribly wrenching to take action and admit it widely to colleagues because it will burn bridges and truly be THE END. More than anything, I think I fear admitting to myself that my academic life is over (at least as an art historian) before I am accepted to nursing school.

My second epiphany is more self-relexive and inextricably tied to my emotions. Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows that I (used to, anyway) love sex and that I have been haunted for three decades now by one particular boy/man. As a girl, my (unhealthy) obsession with this boy was all consuming, and I felt tied to him in truly transcendent ways. We had been best friends in first grade, and he had asked me to marry him (he rued that day, I'll tell you, later on) when we were six. For some crazy reason, even back then, I "knew" we were soul mates. Time passed, things changed, I moved to England and back (where I was obsessed with his near doppelganger in school), and we were teen-agers. I felt that we were meant to be, I pursued him, he rebuffed me, and I never felt an undoing of my resolve to be with him. Not even the worst dumping or heartbreak finished what I felt for him. We were together and apart more times that I can count (no, really I can count them all, but won't bore you). I last saw almost 18 years ago, when he came to visit me at college. We had tried at numerous points to be friends, but it never worked.

In the ensuing years, I have made peace with him in my head, and I have lovely dreams in which we're friends. One relatively recent dream had us meet each other's spouses, and it seemed like I had finally come to terms with how things had ended. All the psychology classes I've taken recently have helped me see that my feelings don't diminish because they're tied to adolescence and childhood, and were part of making me who I am. I've journaled about this, talked to therapists about this, still cyber-stalk this person. I can't erase the intensity of my feeling, and I couldn't figure out why.

The first part of my epiphany happened about two years ago, when I was driving at midnight to pick up Thomenon at the airport. I was of course going over the scenario yet again, as it can be a fun activity inside my head. I realized at this point that I really didn't know anything substntial about this man, except a few facts that stuck in my head. I do know that he listened more than he spoke, and didn't really open up to me (perhaps I didn't let him, preferring my fantasy boy/man). I think to all of my healthy relationships and know so, so much more about each of them.

The second part happened in the past few weeks, as a corollary to my Toby Stephens obsession. Toby Stephens is HOT. I like to watch him and Ralph Fiennes because they are HOT (as well as English and beautifully cultured and well spoken). I realized with a jolt that the reason I've always been obsessed with this Irish-American boy/man is that he exactly fits (or perhaps he helped to create) my ideal physical type: 6'4", black hair, green eyes. In any case, one reason I still feel viscerally connected to Shamrock (one of his nicknames: a fact I do remember) is that I think he is HOT.

The other night on the phone, my erudite and perceptive friend Thomenon summed it up: "You are a woman raised in a culture that disavows female sexuality, and also sexuality in children. You sublimated your sexual desire in favor of a romantic fantasy that he was your 'perfect' man. Now that you're 37 and the mother of two, you know that you just always wanted to f*** him." How true. Shamrock wasn't particularly bright and came from a conservative family. He might have been marginally (that word again) awed by my brains. I sure was in awe of his athletic bod. His good-boy Catholicism was also a remarkably appealing challenge to a sex-crazy man-hunter like me. He never gave in. So Shamrock, if you're out there, sorry about all the stalking and harassment. If we'd ever had sex, I'm sure I would have left you alone much sooner.