Sunday, February 20, 2011

meditations on a sleepless morn, part V

continued from part I, wherein andrew compares not sleeping to digestion, part II, wherein andrew recites shampoo instructions and says strange things about death scenes, part III, wherein andrew reviews the film phoebe's wonderland, and part IV, wherein andrew confesses to nudity and happiness

if at this moment you burst through my bedroom door, took four steps, and sat yourself down on the foot of my bed--sorry, there's no chair in my room--and attempted to have a normal conversation with me, things would start off a little strange. i'd be shocked at your incorrigibility, barging in unannounced like that, and curious about how you managed to break through our locked front door so quietly. i might jump up in protest or surprise, which would be awkward for both of us and disastrous for my laptop. after settling back down under my covers, i might be happy for the company on this godforsaken, sleepless morning but nervous about the odd relational dynamic, given the presumable difference in our state of dress. 

however, if we somehow managed to bypass these rational responses of incredulity, if, perhaps, i were accustomed to you crashing through my bedroom door on random mornings at six o'clock, i think you would come away from our normal conversation with a sense that i revealed a normal amount of information about myself. even if our conversation meandered into more personal matters, it's unlikely you would later think, "wow, i can't believe he told me that." 

in fact, given my proclivity for question asking or my general sense that other people prefer talking about themselves to hearing me talk about myself (and the fact that i'm often perfectly happy with this arrangement), you might later think, "gee, i told andrew all about my personal life, and he hardly said a thing about himself--what a private fellow."

then you might absentmindedly pull out your iphone and open the facebook app to my online profile--you know you're always doing that. you'd scroll down through some literary links and funny youtube clips, past some obscure status updates that you couldn't decipher, and then arrive at a note from this blog series or a status update that seemed particularly revelatory.  

and then what? would you think the material andrew was too closed off? would you think the virtual andrew was too open? would you think these two shades of my self were inconsistent? 

i think i'm going to leave it there, in this hypothetical, questiony space. i'm not going to attempt an amazing last-minute web of connections between the various posts in this series. i had trouble sleeping and thought some thoughts--that's the plot.

and the conclusion? there isn't much of one. i know there's a lot i don't know--how to sleep, what it's like to have tourette's, or how to balance intimacy, art, and revelation. and more particularly to the theme of this post, should i value and enact openness or privacy? or should i see the two characteristics riding a seesaw of context that sometimes tips one way and then the other?

i do not know.


PS incidentally, i'm only speaking of openness or revelation in the context of my life and my issues. i feel very strongly that the lives and issues of my friends and family are their business, and i actually think i'm pretty adept at not sharing about their lives or issues. just ask my roommate.

Friday, February 18, 2011

meditations on a sleepless morn, part IV

continued from part I, wherein andrew compares not sleeping to digestion, part II, wherein andrew recites shampoo instructions and says strange things about death scenes, and part III, wherein andrew reviews the film phoebe's wonderland

i fish for my alarm clock. it's wedged between the bed and the wall, and i have to be careful not to pull too hard or the finicky plug will fall from the socket and i will lose the time. 

the red digits read five fifty-seven. 

if i fall asleep now, i'll have nearly three hours before i have to wake up for church, three hours before brendan arrives, knocking mercilessly at my door. i set the clock on my bed and listen to the wind on my windows. i try to tease out the sounds, to match them with their visual counterparts. 

the sounds get the best of me and i abandon the pursuit of sleep and all its nonsensical histrionics. i roll my naked body out of the warm bed and scamper quietly to the living room where i fetch my laptop. i start composing this post in my brain even as i pad back to my room. i wonder whether i'll mention queequeg's teeth or the ridiculous image of me creeping past my roommate's door, a covert mission made absurd by my lack of appropriate creeping attire. 

i wonder, now typing, whether that's too much, whether i should say that. i wonder who will read it and what they will think. i wonder where one draws the line between propriety and personal revelation, between art and confession. i think of anne sexton and robert lowell and the confessional poets, even john donne, the pastor-poet, all saying things straight, not shying from talk of the body or the everyday.

i think of my friend who, as an adult, pooped her pants and then, with a smile and an uncontrollable laugh, proceeded to tell all the world. i think of my ex-girlfriend who penned a brilliant, socially conscious personal essay on race that she never published because it was tangentially about her cousin.

i stop writing, my finger poised over the delete key. will it somehow hurt my reputation or disgust my friends to say that i am naked now, to construct no barrier between the truth and the page? will it reveal too much to nakedly confess that in september of 2010 my every thought spiraled back in a cloud of longing and sadness to my ex-girlfriend but that now, more than a year after we began a slow descent into separation, i am finally happy and content in my single skin?

to be continued one last time . . .

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

if i were to review this film: phoebe's wonderland; or meditations on a sleepless morn, part III

continued from part I, wherein andrew compares not sleeping to digestion, and part II, wherein andrew recites shampoo instructions and says strange things about death scenes

for most of us, sleeping is a daily ritual that we don't bother thinking much about. we only give it attention when we're having difficulty doing what should come naturally, and then we go to absurd lengths to hasten its onset. for example, i sometimes lie in bed obsessing over the repetition of bizarre behaviors or imposing strange rules upon myself, all in a self-consciously irrational attempt to jump-start the REM sleep cycle.

but what about those people for whom such absurdities are an everyday reality? what about people for whom my dreaded hours on the border of that illusive sleep continent are a never-ending part of life, even in the daylight? 

i've had friends with mildish cases of obsessive compulsive disorder, and though i've tried to be sympathetic, it's hard to understand their inability to distance themselves from certain repetitive behaviors, and harder still to imagine how troubling those inabilities might feel to the people with the disorder. it's much easier to laugh. and so in a twisted way, i'm thankful for not sleeping, for getting a glimpse at how it might feel to contend with the arbitrary force of repetition. 

and i'm thankful for the film phoebe's wonderland, which takes a young girl with tourette's syndrome (a condition that's related to OCD but seems rather more serious) as its protagonist. the film has its issues--some of the non-tourette's characters seem over the top and the film gets off to a slowish start--but the actress's portrayal of a girl with tourette's and the family's complicated response to her condition are affecting and real.

to be continued . . .


rating: 11/17

Monday, February 14, 2011

meditations on a sleepless morn, part II

continued from part I, wherein andrew compares not sleeping to digestion 

rinse lather repeat.

this is the magic formula i find myself chanting at daybreak. i'm saying the words earnestly, as if they mean something, as if there is a power to their rhythm. i speak them into my pillow, mouthing the words with silent urgency, believing hopelessly that when said in succession, they possess certain hitherto unknown sleep-inducing properties.

rinse lather repeat, i say, rinse lather repeat.

these words are my deathbed confession. no, they are my whispered communique in that first scene where friends and family cup their hands to my mouth and lean in to drink the honeycomb words of a dying old man, but from our sticky seats in the cineplex, we can see that there is more to those empty puffs than epilogue and benediction. we can see the beads of sweat on the old man's brow, the sudden dilation of the eye. and we know that a clue has been lost, that the dying man intends to convey some truth to break the spell of a tragedy that is now sure to continue. we know that people may die and that the protagonist will require at least an hour to sort things out and save the world. 

don't you think one of us should have pity and tell the protagonist? we could slip into that secret room with the film canisters and projectors and spare him the agony of lost love ones, lost time, and lost sleep. the old man says, rinse lather repeat, we'd tell him, rinse lather repeat.

but god is in the theater. perhaps he wrote the script. and so i'm praying that he knows the words, that he can take my cosmetic cosmology, my nonsense phraseology, and spin the story just right. he can transform my desperate compunction to say these words into a sort of worship. and then, in his great mercy, he can bring down the curtain and i can get some sleep.

rinse lather repeat, and make it soon, lord jesus.

to be continued . . .

Saturday, February 12, 2011

meditations on a sleepless morn, part I

it's four fifty in the morning and i'm thinking about what television show episodes might work well to read through in a group of friends and amateur thespians--deadwood, full house, the a-team, seinfeld, the care bears, south park? i'm thinking about life's riddle of boy-meeting-girl and the whirligig revolving doors of relationships that i see around me. i'm thinking about queequeg and the curious act of filing one's teeth to sharp, needle-like points.*

it's five o'clock and i'm wishing i were asleep, trying to sleep, desperately attempting to convince my brain to turn off the lights and shut-in for the night. it's five past five, and my mind seizes on some strange dream-logic for finding sleep: if i breathe slower, sleep will come. if i breathe slower but move this hand from my thigh to beneath my head, where it's not so hot, not so buried in covers, sleep will come. but only if i roll over first. if i imagine myself gently patting the head of a duck seven times, sighing peaceably, and then repeat the scene in my head ad infinitum, sleep will come.

i think then about the word repeat, an inelegant slamming of syllables that seems to carry the weight of its meaning in the prefix. there's no poetry to the word, no reason to fashion an ode after the movement from re to peat. my attention to this word is as meaningless and arbitrary and useless as the ritual of the duck. 

but the word gets caught in my craw, which i imagine as my mouth, as a great gaping space of teeth and tongue and red tissue where ideas bang about, where the trick is to bite down hard at just the right moment and to stop the idea, to sever its head from its body and to snap its larynx so that it can't persist in its cruel quacking hum. the trick is to kill it dead. but the word is caught in my craw, not my mouth, and i remember that one's craw is one's stomach and that the stomach is a squirrelly nest of intestines, which, if you unravel and lay out upon the carpet and linoleum of your home, may stretch from your bed to the refrigerator and back again, just enough distance to snag a late-night snack, a pre-dawn beer, but in the body that distance is all snug up on itself, all bunched together so that what takes a moment to walk can take a lifetime to digest--a lifetime of strange body chemicals and duodenal juice, a lifetime of night.

the word, the idea behind the word, is caught there, and i can't get it out. i need an antacid or a surgeon. i need an exorcist. 

i try to think of a bible verse with the word repeat, a holy phrase that i could say as a sort of bedtime mass, a way to force god's merciful hand through the steady repetition of repetition itself. if i say the right words at the right time, i think, i will receive grace. i cannot believe otherwise. sleep has become for me a works-based faith.

to be continued...


*queequeg is the harpooner who ishmael sleeps with in the opening chapters of herman melville's moby-dick

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

on getting naked and turning thirty-one

excerpted in full from the invite to my thirty-first birthday party:

Hey, friends!

So as you may know, last year I turned thirty. I wasn't very excited about the event because, well, I'm generally not someone who likes to make a big deal about myself, even for the big birthday milestones that commemorate the passing of decades. And this propensity to avoid the limelight was compounded by an unsettled sense of worry, frustration, and sadness over the state of my relationship with my then-girlfriend. Also, my knees were randomly starting to act up. In short, I wasn't looking forward to the way my thirtieth year seemed to be shaping up, and so I skimped wherever I could on the birthday celebrations.

Perhaps I was prescient, because I'm still not a fan of my thirtieth year--things got worse with the now-ex-girlfriend, my teeth started falling apart (coincidentally, perhaps, on a trip to see her), and I spent my spring existence as an editing robot, not a human being. 

But that year is nearly over, and I'm excited now to put it all behind me. I've started 2011 trying to make something of a fresh start by trying all kinds of new things--contra dancing, running regularly with friends, participating in community meals four times a week, reading via audio book during my commute (first up, moby dick!), returning to the blogosphere, folk jamming, pondering big thoughts in a philosophy colloquium, just to name a few. 

And I'd  like my birthday to be a continuation of that process. And so, for my thirty-first birthday, I'm planning something that's sure to be new, fun, and exciting: a naked party! I'm not sure where yet--my roommate won't let me hold the party at our house--but save the date for the evening of Saturday, February 5, and get ready to have the second-most fun you've ever had with no clothes on!


PS Let me know if you have any ideas for naked games...

ok, so i'm not really having a naked party, and if someone were having a naked party, i'd probably stay far, far away. the naked-party motif is something of an inside joke crossed with an andrewesque sociological thought experiment--you know important hypothetical questions like which of my friends would and would not come to a naked party and under what scenarios would they come or not come? how would their behavior change compared to at a non-naked party? how would their behavior change over the course of the party? would a naked party have lasting effects on people's relationships? would it challenge people's views concerning their bodies and sexualities and the shape of the world? 

but i really am glad to be turning thirty-one, to be exploring all kinds fun, new things, and to have you, my clothed friends and family, around me in this new year of new things. and so, for this year at least, i'm happy for arbitrary days on the calendar when we can note the passage of time, heed the weather forecasts of groundhogs, and celebrate the blessings God has granted us, both for our pasts and our futures. 

happy birthday me!