Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Competing Memories, Persistent Memories

I went to the ballet last Friday and saw a production of "Nijinsky," John Neumeier's take on what went through Vaslav Nijinsky's head during his last performance in 1919. It touched on the highlights of his dance career, his loves, war. There were moments in which persistent memories abutted competing memories; Nijinsky would be torn away from one lover by remembering another, for example. Or he would remember dancing Le Sacre du Printemps while a passage from La Sylphide would glide through.

It resonated with me. As well as Nijinsky's madness, of course. Always the madness. But is it madness, or is it simply trying to make sense of things that don't made sense, that cannot make sense? When does reverie bleed into trauma, pleasure turn into self-hatred and doubt?

I have been thinking quite a bit about the past, and mourning, and remembering, and revisionism, especially in trying to make sense of a relationship of mine that failed sixteen plus years ago now. I am finally seeing that I was rather doctrinaire, and different things are coming into focus that are helpful.

What does it mean to put someone first, to love them? Does it mean that they have to be with you all the time? That others cannot love and appreciate them, too? I was so very young and scared. I remember, in particular, when I was planning to walk to receive my master's degree. My then-boyfriend was going to be the best man in a college friend's wedding, in Idaho. My graduation weekend conflicted with the wedding, which meant I could not attend the wedding: all my family would be in Berkeley and had to be entertained. My guy really wanted to be in the wedding. I felt horribly betrayed by this preference, although he made it back in time for my actual graduation ceremony. In retrospect, his choice seems like such a petty thing to worry about, but at the time, it felt HUGE, absolutely as though he didn't love me at all. (I was 25 at the time, with not that much else to worry about.) Shouldn't I come *first*? Looking back, I see that I spent so much energy in that relationship being highly anxious about whether he loved me, when now, being secure in who I am, I can see that he really did love me all the time--just perhaps not in the all consuming way I wanted then. It's very sad. I might have been a very annoying girlfriend, I realize. I am sorry now that I was so insecure and lost that I spent New Year's Eve in Provence crying; that I moped in Scotland; that I didn't have it in me to be, to enjoy the moment. Especially because we were so alike in very many ways. But somehow I think that learning to live in the moment is something that had to come with age, at least for me.

I cannot say that our relationship would have survived had I been more secure in myself back then (I was the one who ended it, eventually), but it would have probably made for many fewer nights spent crying and singing to Gloria Gaynor.

The strange thing is that I always think that when I exit someone's life, I am erased. I remember them, but they don't remember me. I am like a ghost. Or they hate me, or some other such extreme thing. Especially because I have been in relationships with people who resolutely cut off contact without a word, and when I try to approach them even decades later--some of the ones I have truly cared about--they are still and silent as a tomb. I figure that either they continue to see me as the crazy fool I once was, or, as a wise friend recently suggested, they are unwilling to go bumping around in the basement of their feelings. Blinders and complacency do have much to say for themselves in terms of self-preservation.

I am therefore pleasantly surprised when people who clearly, truly did once love me are receptive and warm and kind. They are validating me outside my own mind; I mattered to them, as well. That is an amazing feeling.

My recent excursions into the past have thus been fruitful in that I have discovered some compassion for myself. I was so lost, so blind, so insecure. I created disasters in my head that weren't real and then possibly made myself live them, over and over. People do love me, even if it isn't exactly the way I might have imagined or hoped that they would.

That's what I've been missing: faith in myself and in others. Not faith in everyone, but faith in the right people, without willfully misreading the signs. I welcome those memories, competing and persistent, as they help me to learn new things about myself.

1 comment:

LauraD said...

I love this -- "But is it madness, or is it simply trying to make sense of things that don't made sense, that cannot make sense? When does reverie bleed into trauma, pleasure turn into self-hatred and doubt?"

Yes, yes and yes! Is it madness, or simply a creative response to overwhelming life circumstances? I think a lot, too, about my bipolar breakdown in these terms. Am I crazy, or was I just processing -- in an extreme way?

Also, this quote sooo resonated with me as an adoptee:
"The strange thing is that I always think that when I exit someone's life, I am erased." ... Isn't this what we thought our birth mothers did? Moved on with their lives? Forgot about us. Of course that wasn't true, but how else could we process that they left us?

Thanks for this post ...