Friday, October 06, 2006

Learning from the boob tube

Watching good television (namely, the last season of “Six Feet Under” episodes) is like dreaming. It feels as if it’s coming from your own mind. You know those people; you are with them in their kitchen, mourning a death or eating yogurt or chasing a bird out the window, and it’s all so deliciously angst-filled, like a tragic pastry. The few minutes after watching an episode are necessarily a streaming of that dream into your life. You haven’t woken up quite yet, and the phone call from your girlfriend who’s having an emergency appendectomy seems like a continuation of the show. Fortunately, you’ve just learned how to behave like a well-written amiga or family member should; you’ve seen many interesting examples in the last hour or two. These examples, combined with short-term memories of emphatic things your girlfriend has said to you when you’ve momentarily let her down in the past, guide you in your speech and behavior, and you want to serve. There would be exhilaration in venturing out into the night on an errand of mercy, whether it would be to feed her dog or to park yourself in a hospital corridor to tenderly greet her when she’s wheeled out, groggy and grateful. As it turns out, you get to do none of these things. Still, you were willing, and you think maybe she knows that, though others have taken the available positions. You go to sleep wondering, for the fourth or fifth time in about twenty years, what exactly the appendix is for.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Complacency, procrastination, identity

I am way too comfortable at my desk at work. It leads to a false view of the world for hours at a time. The situation is extraordinarily forgiving. When I think of jobs I've had in the past, I'm amazed I have landed here. Students and callers-in seem to think I actually have power to help them. My boss is two hallways away and rarely bothers me with requests. People stop by to chat. My tasks are relatively easy (if sometimes tedious). I don't have to think about "teamwork" or group projects. I can indulge in personal e-mail and postings like this. I am respected and get regular raises. Something's terribly WRONG here! I don't deserve this! That's why it's convenient to have a failure-in-the-offing, such as my un-done thesis. THAT's what I've done with the old Marylyn; I've wrapped her up in the guilt and worry of a nearly-complete master's degree, and I can take her with me wherever I go. If I'm feeling uncomfortably satisfied, I just unwrap the psychic bundle of un-done thesis, and there she is, babbling incoherently from the middle of a pile of books about Calamity Jane and the Western novel.