Saturday, July 30, 2011

Hold the world but as the world, Gratiano

In particularly difficult personal times, I've always turned to this poem by Robert Frost.

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain --and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

I think it appeals to me because of the emphasis on binaries (in/out, wrong/right, stay/go, dark/light, up/down) as well as reflective pauses (the silence of footsteps, the glance at the clock). It reminds me that shifting borders can be home, that existence and presence can slip between discrete concretes.

Living with both anxiety and depression has been similarly fluid. One comes, the other goes, and vice versa. Having grown up with several bipolar and anxiety-ridden family members, "manic" is my default standard for acceptable human interaction... so it took me years to recognize that emotional ping-pong tournaments are not the norm for everyone. Though they're inherently a part of me, what has proven incredibly difficult is the process of un-learning it.

At one point in my life, being biracial defined my worldview - explaining identity in terms of (but inherently against) a constructed binary, and rejecting everything that demanded a monochromatic tone. I've moved past that introspective period of my life to a firmer, confident identity - but the underlying acceptance of fluidity and shifting states of being doesn't seem to go away.

Both the anxiety and depression are manageable, even when triggered unexpectedly. For starters, medication helps alleviate some of the agonizing and destructive mood spikes.
Coping with just thoughts and emotions but not the chemical, tangible feelings and visceral reactions is rather bizarre, though, after living with mental chaos. I described it to someone I once counted as a friend as feeling like Super Mario: running along on a level path, jumping up slightly, but unable to skyrocket, fly, or plummet erratically. (It wasn't a perfect analogy, given that I don't play video games, but it's what my brain gave me in order to explain itself and its chemical changes.)

I love my family. I love my friends. I have many close friendships, and every day I am stunned by how many amazing people I am privileged to include in my life. I enjoy writing and singing and dancing, and am told I do all three incredibly well. I prefer to have philosophical conversions with a few people over wine, beer, or good food rather than loud times at popular, crowded places. These are the moments and pieces of beauty that make me happy and give me strength.

But still, there's that little stone room, that damned laird's lug, that sees and hears and senses and feels that very full life from a distance. Voices echo in it. Sometimes it's a struggle to breathe inside, and sometimes it's a struggle to realize that the walls themselves are a mere hologram.

In one of my favorite movies, one protagonist says to the other,
"I believe if there's any kind of God it wouldn't be in any of us, not you or me but just this little space in between. If there's any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone sharing something. I know, it's almost impossible to succeed but who cares, really? The answer must be in the attempt."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Brown heath and shaggy wood

Between toddlers visiting, weddings, baby showers, bridal showers, and accidentally hiking steeper trails, July has been a fun whirlwind. I haven't had much time for reading until recently.

It took me a while to get into Rhys Bowen's Lady Georgie mysteries (see below). But the third book is easily my favorite: for starters, the heroine's "spy" activities are no longer reporting the Prince of Wales' activities with Wallis Simpson (silly) - this time, she's sent by the Home Office to figure out why members of the royal family are prone to life-threatening "accidents" near Balmoral (definitely more spy-like). Plus, the Loch Ness Monster is part of the plot, as are conspiracies involving Queen Victoria's son the Duke of Clarence, a record-breaking aviatrix, haggis-eating, caber-tossing gaffes, and hiking in the Highlands. What's not to love? Lastly, Georgie's debonair-and-possibly-secret-agent romantic interest is finally resolved, after two books of the "Will They or Won't They?" game. (One doesn't like to be led on.)

Totally worth both the overdue fines at the library and staying up until 3am to finish.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Once I built a tower up to the sun

On to the next historical mystery series, of course! This one took a while for me to get into, but now I'm kind of charmed by it.

It's the early days of the 1930s; Rhys Bowen's erstwhile sleuth, Lady Georgianna, is 34th in line to the British throne. The Queen asks her to spy on Wallis Warfield Simpson and the future Edward VIII, and in the process of doing so she solves several murders.

The reason it took me so long to get into the series was that it's a bit like reading Georgette Heyer - complete with a dashing and mysterious Peer. The plot is high society party after high society party with a few nods thrown in to the working poor. Though living in genteel poverty, Lady G cannot be seen working, so she sneaks around London as a cleaning service to members of her own social class. Though her father is cousin to royalty, her mother is a social-climbing actress and her grandfather is a Cockney former copper. Though she visits Buckingham Palace to have tea with the Queen regularly, she also slips around the South End solving murders.

At first I thought the series tried too hard to be too inclusive of every possible class of Briton during the Depression. But after a while, it grew on me. They really are very good murder mysteries - all the gallivanting from Palace to poorhouse made for some good twists that kept me on my toes.

Naturally, the books are currently overdue at the library. And the next two in the series are in my queue!