to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate—but there is no competition—
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.
T.S. Eliot, East Coker (Four Quartets)
So, you may or may not have noticed that I haven't been around much in the last... well, in a while. I've kind of curled up and withdrawn into my own head, and I'm back to tell you, that's a pretty scary place to be. I don't recommend it, especially not for extended periods. I've just had lots of things I've needed to sort through, and doing it publicly felt too much like whining (and would, I'm sure, have entailed quite a lot of whining), so I just politely backed away and sat in my corner for a bit. I tend to do that, or at least now it seems I do.
I'm pretty sure I haven't always been this way, though. I doubt I could have
earned my (well-deserved) reputation as a Drama Queen emeritus if my normal
M.O. were always to pull away and lick my wounds in isolation. (Although I
suppose histrionic sighing can be used to some effect even from a distance.
Not so much online, unfortunately--I mean fortunately.)
Still, I'm certain I remember starring in at least a few scenes of high drama, tragic or otherwise, in my past lives. In some instances I may, it's true, have chosen to withdraw from the scenario at hand, but I always made quite sure that my departure was well noted, preferably with flattering lighting and a few carefully crafted exit lines. This whole "suffering heroically in silence" gig certainly wasn't part of my repertoire.
If I look back, though, I can see the seeds of it. I think it's learned behavior, and although I can be a slow learner when it comes to life skills sometimes I do pick them up in the end.
When I left for my year in Australia as an exchange student, we had two orientation periods, one in LA and one in Sydney. I've forgotten almost everything we did in that week or so of meetings and exercises and group therapy sessions, but I do clearly remember one message that was drummed into us repeatedly: if you're upset or unhappy, don't call home or write a tearful letter, whatever you do. It'll eventually blow over for you, they told us, but the effects on those on the other side of the world will linger on. I dutifully wrote in my AFS notebook, "Don't complain!". There may have been underlining and multiple exclamation points involved, I'm not sure.
Happily for me, I had a terrific host family and my problems were mostly just those of the basic teen variety. Unfortunately for me, I didn't have any close friends around with whom to vent over the basic teen variety of problems, which of course seemed monumental at the time. I took the warnings not to call or write very seriously, so I'm pretty sure that's where I first started to learn the art of Sucking It Up (which is a useful skill in life, don't get me wrong).
Through absolutely no merit of my own, I ended up with a fabulous group of friends in college, which had the unfortunate side effect of allowing me to regress into my Drama Queen role. I took full advantage of that opportunity, believe me. A professor of mine even wrote, in a recommendation for something or other (one I wasn't supposed to read, but who could possibly resist?) that I had "an uncanny ability to turn every minor occurrence into a dramatic event," which is hardly what I'd call a flattering description, despite the overall positive tone of his recommendation. (Hmm, perhaps he knew I'd end up reading it myself?)
Once I embarked on so-called adulthood, however, I basically found myself in a situation--or series of situations--not unlike the Australian one: far away from friends and family, not wanting to worry them about trivial problems that would almost certainly reveal themselves as fleeting. And with the life I led, weren't all of my problems trivial? I mean, I was hardly starving in Africa or suffering a life-threatening disease. Any burden that felt, well, burdensome was probably just my own misperception, because I'm a spoiled lazy brat and, you know, Drama Queen, someone whose primal urge is to take the tiniest detail and inflate it into something enormous and glittering and generally attention-getting.
I guess what it boils down to is that I seem to only have two modes; as usual, I'm a mix of conflicting extremes. Either I say nothing, or I demand a spotlight and, where possible, an elaborate backdrop. When I first started this journal (and really, what says "Drama Queen" more clearly than posting the minutiae of one's own life online?) it seemed I had finally found a way to balance it all out. Put yourself on display, sure, but mostly avoid any especially weighty topics.
It worked, too, largely because there weren't any especially weighty topics to avoid. I could explore my contorted psyche, recount my adventures (such as they were), experiment with style and tone and structure if I felt so inclined. It was fun, and I liked having a record of events as well as the occasional bit of self-analysis, which doesn't necessarily need to be accurate to have historical significance in one's lifescape.
Then, though, things turned tricky. I was unhappy, for no apparent reason. The best way for me to try to figure out my thoughts and feelings is to write them down, and isn't that (at least part of) what a journal is for? Doing so in a public journal, though, is a lot like making one of those upset phone calls from Australia. Best to avoid it altogether, and Suck It Up.
That's what I tried to do, for a while. My entries became more sparse, because it was harder for me to write around my general dissatisfaction and depression, and maybe a little more introspective. Then there was The Thesis, which put everything else on hold entirely. I was looking forward to picking up again once that was behind me, journal included, going back to recounting lighthearted interactions and career ups and downs, with the occasional Very Special Episode for (you guessed it) dramatic effect. Getting back to business as usual, essentially.
Er, I guess I don't have to tell you that things didn't quite happen that way. There was just so much short-circuiting of synapses that I didn't even know where to start writing about my thoughts, and I was afraid it would just be more whinging about inconsequential matters and/or me regressing to full-blown Drama Queen status. Then there was the fact that the economy was awful, and there was no business of any sort to be had, and Dario ended up going back to his old job (part time, still), and really, who could possibly want to read my griping about that? Being broke meant we didn't get out much and do stuff, so I didn't even have any fun adventures to describe.
So, I didn't write at all.
But now I'm writing again, as you can plainly see, so what does that mean? I think (although I'm not sure, I'm not sure of much at the moment) that it means I'm ready to do a reset. Try to explore new ways of using this journal, maybe even risk subjecting you to some whining and overwrought dramatics. (Yes, I realize there was some of that even before. I'm talking about a much grander scale.) Try to get past the notion of "suffering in silence," which doesn't seem to do anyone much good. Push my own envelope a bit, test out the boundaries. Bounce on the mattress, raid the cupboards, misbehave. Try not to worry so much about how people will react to what I write, or the person behind the words.
Basically, I've decided that balance is way overrated. (And I'm a Libra.) I'm ready to deliberately aim for unbalanced. Pretty sure I'm already there, really, I just need to write it down.