Monday, January 27, 2014

Tests and messes

I saw Mikhail Baryshnikov in an stage adaptation of two Chekhov short stories, "Man in a Case" and "About Love" last night. It was a seamless weaving of two tales of frustrated love: the first recounting a man caught in a straitjacket of rules, unable to open his heart and affecting everyone around him; the second being a story of love untold, parallel lives afraid to meet for fear of mess or worse. Love imagined, love unspoken and then realized too late, on a train.

I saw Baryshnikov with C almost two years ago (on my fucking birthday) when he was previously at Berkeley Rep, performing in Bunin's "In Paris." Baryshnikov's timing is exquisite. He uses his voice and body to show torture and sadness, then, as now. The Russians know their pain, they do; for that, I adore them.

The voices, the misunderstandings. The videos reinforcing being lost in a crowd. The hands that never touch. The inability to open a heart, and what's lost in fear as a result. I need to reread the Chekhov short stories, but sometimes I fear losing myself in the muddied currents of unrequited love, the resignation, the pain. I last read Chekov four or five years ago, thinking especially of "The Lady with the Little Dog," wishing that someone would take a chance on me. Of course, I am never that unfortunate, but the knowledge that Chekhov has thought these same things about humanity, and put the heart's conundrums into words, is comforting.

Life is messy, always messy. As I said to my psychiatrist recently, repeatedly: "No one gets everything. It's a matter of figuring out how to make one's peace with what one does have, or does want, and making decisions from there."

I was thinking of how frustrating, utterly irritating and annoying and horrific I have found Tim Clark to be. And yet I admire him. I can entertain that cognitive dissonance, and know that he is an art historical genius when he wants to be; that he can show me things I would never see on my own; that his insights are powerful. I can also be fantastically angry when he's lazy and drags out his "never has a cat looked more cat-like" garbage because I know it's shorthand. On the other hand, we cannot all be brilliant *all* the time.

I bring Tim up because I bought his newly published tome on Picasso, Picasso and Truth: From Cubism to Guernica, a book he began to research back when I was in graduate school and he taught seminars on Picasso work of the 20's. These were the same seminars that drove me into conversations with his modernist students who were irritated to think that their Picasso actually gave a flying fuck about antiquity. But consider those paintings carefully: Picasso was looking over and over and over at ancient art. Those are not Cubist forms; they're informed by Greek and Roman sculpture. See "The Pipes of Pan," from 1923, and argue that it's not classical.

I do honestly take great pleasure in reading the best of Tim Clark's writing, especially when he's not on his Marxist soapbox. I read his introduction, and I am ready: "What makes Picasso truly the artist of the century, in other words, is his absolute faith in the here and now of pleasure and sex and the painter's craft, and his absolute lucidity about the circumstance in which these things were now on offer. The room remained, but it was more and more populated by monsters. These lectures will try to show why."

Okay, Tim. Bring it.

Which brings me to tests.

In one session with Dr. Yalom, he pushed me and pushed me and pushed me about my name change. He seemed truly baffled by it in a way that surprised me. I told him how I had fired Dr. Brodzinsky after he repeatedly called me "Care-ah," and how I feel like "Care-ah" is a term of abuse. It has been used as such, on many occasions in my life. He questioned me, and I told him how it hurts me when I tell people specifically not to call me that, but they persist. It's cruel and careless. Perhaps careless then cruel, if it persists. Then, to add fuel to the fire, after all that, HE FUCKING CALLED ME CARE-AH. I flipped out. It is too much. He said that my reaction seemed out of proportion; I disagreed, saying that I had just told him how much it meant to me. And how much, in his books, he has described hating getting bad reviews. I said "Care-ah" for me is like getting bad reviews for him. Strikes you right to your core. Knocks you down. Takes your breath away. He then tried to tell me that he wasn't abandoning me by saying it wrong. I said, "No, of course not. It's not about abandonment. It's about respect/disrespect. You are showing me that you don't respect me, or what I am saying, when you do the exact opposite of what I am asking, without offering a decent reason why. BECAUSE THERE IS NO GOOD REASON." He then told me that he felt "Mirren" was a poor choice, that "Judy" or a common name would be better. I said, "No, it wouldn't. I chose it, and I don't care as much." He called my bluff, and yes, I suppose I do care if people say "Mirren" incorrectly. But it isn't charged by the same abuse, and *I* chose it. He pushed me farther, and I said, "IT'S A TEST!!!" Of course it's a test. But Mirren is my test. Mirren is who I am, who I feel like inside. "Kara/Care-ah" is my father's choice, not who I am, and it's freighted by horrible memories. I don't want that name on me, in me, as part of me.

We all have certain things that are extremely important to us and our identities. My name is mine.
Names and identities go together. I don't want to play a role anymore; I want to be myself. Finding out exactly who that is, and how to be that person authentically, is not easy work.

So I walk on, having decided that the world is a very odd place: not that I didn't know that before.

Maybe some of my tests can be a little strict. Maybe I am a little bit harsh. Maybe. I can work on that, as well. But at the same time, real relationships do take reciprocal effort. We. Shall. See.