analysis

23 03 2009

my students have been struggling to write analyses—in their cases, of particular cultural practices that people like them perform (because these are research-free topics, and so they could only choose practices about which they already have some expertise), like the still-pervasive echoes of the valley-girl “like” in teen girls’ speech, how humiliating other gamers at key points is an important point of how to play a particular interactive video game, and gambling as a form of income for folks living near a local casino. the first definitional rule of analysis is that to understand something, you have to take it apart so that you can see how each part contributes to the whole. i’ve been thinking that it’s time for a little taking apart and seeing how parts contribute to my whole lately—i’ve been sleeping a lot more than i need to so that i can hope the random dreamscapes will have more to offer than my daytime life, and that’s creative and artistic for a week or two, and then it starts looking like justifying the behaviors of depression (for which i don’t feel all that guilty anyway—it’s been february—but it’s not anymore, and that’s no way to live for long enough to call it a way of living). so the following is my analysis of my life, right now, big picture taken apart to see how things look when they’re all spread out like a tarot-reading. take a peek (if you can find the time). comment or question if you want to. call it a meme and copy me if you think you might learn something from your own answers.

the parts:

what i like about where i live: my apartment is awesome–it’s old, which means correctly-proportioned windows, built-in shelving, and a freestanding bathtub, it’s full of light in the afternoons & a nice place to watch the cold from on the grey ones, it has storage, laundry, a screened-in porch for hanging out with the cat in the summer, & parking—pretty much a perfect ad for irreplaceable, and my landlord pays for water, so the cat’s weirdness isn’t a financial burden. my roommates are also awesome—fun, easy to live with, good to talk to about serious stuff or completely not serious stuff, musical, friendly, responsible, & pretty darn clean to boot. my neighborhood is awesome—it has restaurants of different ethnic flavors, a public library, newsstands to buy cream when i’m out, trees, cats that come out and visit, endless sidewalks for walking that lead to parks in two different directions, gorgeous houses to gaze at, and an awful lot of really nice people, both the ones i know already and the ones i don’t but who say hi anyway when i walk by. i can walk to where i babysit, to friends’ houses, to the university if i have to, to bars and restaurants and stores, to parks, to the grocery store & the bank if it’s nice out—most weeks, and some months, work is the only place i actually have to drive. and outside the city, central new york is gorgeous—green hills like ireland gorgeous, fields of sunflowers and red barns gorgeous, lake-and-wine-country gorgeous, but also snowy-pastel-landscape gorgeous. i’ve surprised myself by coming to really appreciate the latter, from an aesthetic perspective if not from a physical & logistical one!
what i don’t like about where i live: it’s winter more than it’s anything else, and even growing fonder of winter doesn’t mean i’m happy about how much i feel like i have to sacrifice of other seasons; i hate being cold all the time, i hate fearing for my life when i drive to work and the store, & i hate not being able to go out and take a walk for half the year. other things about this place might keep becoming more and more likable, but i can’t see ever reconciling to that. syracuse as a city is: mostly empty, dingy, dangerous, & features as stuff-to-do mostly skanky college bars, mediocre restaurants, and expensive parking. i’m willing to be downtown if other people are driving, but i hate driving down there myself, and i don’t like being the person who won’t drive to such-and-such a place. since i’m also not fond of the neighborhood bars, this means mostly i drink at home, which is more antisocial than i want to be. most importantly, what i don’t like about syracuse is that it isn’t blacksburg. everything i like about “college town” in blacksburg feels twisted by the student culture and the academic climate here, the hippies at the coop all seem to be trying too hard instead of coming to it naturally, and (yes, i’ll admit it) it doesn’t feel like blacksburg. there’s something in the air and the trees and the sky in southern virginia that isn’t here, even in the most beautiful places around, even the ones that would hands-down win a beauty contest. it’s just not home. and it’s very, very far away from some of the people who mean the most to me, far enough that travel has to mean flight, and flight is expensive and inflexible and can be really hard to coordinate, so “here” always has a sense of “far away.”

what i like about how i live: i make enough money to pay the rent & the car payment & buy sensible groceries, & very little more than that, which seems spiritually and community-consciously responsible to me—i don’t need to stockpile or buy expensive things, so having much more money would seen excessive anyway. i have what i need, and having to watch what i spend makes me a more responsible, sensible shopper & consumer—i think about what i buy, what i eat, what i drink, when and how far i decide to drive… and i like being the person that kind of mindfulness makes me.
what i don’t like about how i live: very little, really. it would be nice to have a little more of a buffer to do things like pay my grandmother back the money i owe her, visit my parents & friends more often without having to depend on their cash most of the time to do it, & spend more of my food-dollars at the coop on organically-grown and more earth-responsible food & other products, but nice is a luxury; i don’t need nice. i’m taking care of what i need just fine (except for the money-owing bits). of course, i’m not putting away a cent to live off when i’m old, & if i had kids i’d feel guilty about how that was going to end up costing them money, but i don’t have kids, so it’s only my future self i’m short-changing by being poor in the here-and-now.

what i like about what/how i eat: i have a great roommate i can share food and cooking duties and left-overs and ingredients with, so i don’t have to always think about shopping and cooking for one and accounting for every potential left-over (which is hard to do). i like sharing; sharing food feels right, both the giving and the taking parts. it feels like how we ought to eat. my friend shawn makes dinner for/with me a lot too, and i get opportunities not infrequently for potlucks and meals with friends, so there’s a lot of that in my life. my roommate and i eat mostly vegetables and grains and dairy—he’s willing to eat more meat than i am, but neither of us has any interest in buying or preparing it, so we just don’t. we steam veggies and make bean burritos and homemade pizza and eat whole-grain breads and yogurts and cereal and occasional eggs and lots and lots of fruit, and it feels pretty healthy and makes us pretty happy. shawn’s more of a carnivore, but i’ve been leaning on him to organize more meals around putting meats and veggies in lettuce wraps and invoke the deep fryer less often, and it seems to be working.
what i don’t like about what/how i eat: a remaining higher frequency of deep fryer (and white bread when i’m babysitting, because that’s what’s there) snacks than i’d like to maintain, and (as noted above) not as many tasty organic treats and veggies from the coop as would be dreamy, but again that’s idealism rather than an actual displeasure in the moment. also i don’t like canned soup.

what i like about where/how i work: i love my students (they’re different, i swear. it’s not just that i’m giddy b/c i’d missed it so much—they’re really different. wherever i go next, i’ll be sad to have to adjust to other kinds again), i love that this semester i have enough time to actually read their papers without hating them (but last semester part of me loved the complete insanity of how overwhelming having that many classes was), i love interacting with them in class, i love that they IM me to ask me questions about their projects, i enjoy working with other people’s students in the tutoring center, i really like the people i work with as people, and i am so damn grateful for the chance to have conversations about pedagogy and teaching strategies and writing and what worked and what didn’t and what to change and what not to and what we imagine ideal curricula looking like like i haven’t really gotten to do since those late nights in the halls of shanks. i love that when i have a question or a problem, whoever i ask either has an idea about an answer or an idea who might have an answer, and i’ve been there since august without one single person getting mad at me for wanting to know something. i laugh every day at “the office,” and every day i feel like i’m doing something important that will make a real difference for real people.
what i don’t like about how/where i work: the drive is still stupid, in a logistical, saving the planet and using my remaining hours wisely sort of way, and i’m not as involved with the department and the school as i would ideally be with a department and a school because i’m not willing to make the stupid drive more stupid by doing it more often. the school itself has some organization problems and a lot of reigning confusion—very often nobody knows what’s going on, but at least they’re all really friendly and cheerful about it, and willing to take guesses and try to help. biggest problem: i’m not free and clear. i’m working part-time-while-i-finish-my-dissertation, even when i’m caught up and/or ahead on chapter drafts relative to my readers and thus am doing all i can and then some. but even when i have nothing dissertation-related to do it’s still hanging there, keeping me from devoting myself fully to the work that actually matters.

what i like about my local friends: there are lots of them. they come in both the pretty-darn-close, see them all the time, have cried on them and/or could cry on them if i wanted to variety and the vague-circle-of-cool-folks-i-see-sometimes for parties and gatherings variety, and i appreciate the mix (as well as the mix of characters and characteristics). they’re smart, usually without being head-up-their-asses academics about it, and they like to talk smartly about things whether those things are related to their areas of expertise or not; they also appreciate the value of spending time together working so as to encourage each other in the traditionally lonely pursuits of scholarship. a lot of them are musical—they sing, they play guitars and drums and fiddles and pianos, they karaoke without hurting the audience, and they perform for their friends for fun. they feed me and let me play with their children. they invite me over even after i duck out of accepting invitations for several lame excuses in a row. some of them like each other. most of them like my baking. i can trust them for rides to airports or to look after my cat if i go away. i know they would let me lean on them a lot more than i’ll ever do, and that’s nice to know.
what i don’t like about my local friends: some of them don’t like each other, and so there are gulfs and weird silences—which is probably true about everybody’s friends everywhere, but that doesn’t mean i have to like it. newness will always be a handicap; when they tell me they care about me and know i’m a good person, i think about how much they don’t know, and doubt they’d feel the same way if they had enough history. at the same time, i know i don’t trust them enough or share as much with them as i would like to feel able to because they don’t have the history, and i can’t go back in time and bring them with me. i don’t know how well, if at all, they’d like my other friends (and vice versa); sometimes i think it would probably be “not at all,” and that makes me sad.

what i like about my distant/virtual friends: this is a tough category right now, because seismic realignments have been in effect the past few years, and i don’t think all the settling is done, so i’m not sure that i trust the things i like (or if i might be being too harsh in my displeasure towards the things i don’t), but i like, about old friends and in some ways new ones too, having a circle, even if the weave is loose and things fall through the gaps—i like having people who know people who know people, so that people, pieces of information, geographical expertise, and memory-back-ups can be found for almost anything if i ask the right questions in the right directions. i like shared, remembered, evolving, new-and-ancient histories; i like folding new people into the stories and bouncing new ideas off of old people and knowing that if someone i care about says something that bothers me, and i can’t work it out in conversation there, chances are i can shift one to the left and ask someone who knows him well what his/her informed take is on what’s discrepant. i like having a support network that is really, fundamentally both of those things—it is a network, and it helps me stand and balance every day. i love that people by all rights i should have lost contact with 20 years ago are still there, accessible through one or more threads of the weave, every day.
what i don’t like about my distant/virtual friends: not trusting the circle to stay there, now that so many of its arcs have been kicked (kicked themselves?) out into sub-circles and/or other rings. drama. people not being willing to tell me the whats and whys of changing their interest in being connected, which in an environment of textual record-keeping is really noticeable. not having a shared sense of the similarities and differences between “real” and “virtual,” which exaggerates the already always hefty variations in perception between any two people to whom an interaction—or a thread of them, or several years’ worth of textual soul-baring–meant something but never the same thing. how text isn’t as just-as-real-as-voices to some of them as it is to me, so we don’t know to treat the things the other has “said” with equal seriousness. that some of them don’t like each other, which makes me sad. that some of them don’t like me and aren’t willing to tell me so, so i believe they’re strong points in my web until i put a hand down wrong in empty air.

what i like about my (and my relationships with my) parents and grandparents: both of my parents and my two remaining grandparents—my mom’s dad and my dad’s mom—are really cool people. they’re interesting. they have real conversations with me. they’re still learning, and interested in the world and in other people’s take on it. they all have ways in which they’re stuck in ways of being that they’ve come to like, but all of them are also willing to listen, and interested in the way my brother and i are different from them, in the way we’ve learned to see the world we grew up in, which is both like and unlike theirs. they like when i call, and sometimes they call me just to talk or to check in and see how i’m doing. my grandparents and my dad like when i visit and they don’t try to guilt me when i don’t. my mom does guilt me when i don’t visit, but she also calls me for dating advice and technological help and to gossip and whine about bad days like we’re friends, and that’s cool. they taught me all kinds of the usual things when i was small, and lots of extra-special lessons that i don’t think a lot of other people got, and now they’re teaching me how to be adults and parents and grandparents and friends.
what i don’t like about my (and my relationships with my) parents and grandparents: i don’t call any of them often enough except maybe my mother, and the guilt-ing is a major part of why i call her—and the fact that the others don’t guilt me, even though i appreciate that, contributes to why i find myself not calling them. i am not proud of this behavior. i also know that they’re all very likely to die before i do, and i’m frequently aware of how i’m wasting opportunities. i also don’t like the automatic, born-there, girls-relating-to-each-other drama of being friends with my mother, who is deeply, unalterably convinced that i don’t really like her, no matter how much i love her, so there’s always an undercurrent of jealousy or competition or compensation or something in everything we do and say to one another. it makes me feel old, and tired. we don’t have time; none of us have time to waste on angst like that.

what i like about my only brother and my relationship with him: he’s a really cool person, talented, brilliant, internally intellectual, caring, sensitive, resourceful, brave; the list could go on and on. we outgrew having nothing to say to one another as children, which i didn’t think would ever happen; now we can talk about serious things or about silly ones, frequently or infrequently, and laugh about shared memories and commiserate about getting along with other family members, being poor and smart in today’s America, and why work sucks more than art, usually in that order. also, he has a very cool girlfriend whom i actually like, which is another miracle i feared i’d never see come true.
what i don’t like about my only brother and my relationship with him: california, which is where he lives. it’s very far away, it’s very expensive to get to and/or to get him back from, it’s very expensive to live in, so it’s hard for him to offer crash space to visitors so being able to afford to get there means being able to afford planes and hotel rooms, and it’s in a crappy time-zone, when one of you keeps rock-star hours and the other one school-teacher hours, because he’s still at work when i get home and i’m asleep by the time he’s not, so “infrequently” is mostly how we get to communicate. also i worry that too much of the world burdens him and makes him unhappy, although he’s seemed to get happier in the last few years, and it might be that my mother worries more than is necessary and i pick it up from her rather than that he’s actually all that unhappy. what i don’t like about sibling-hood in general: i used to use that word to refer to friends who were closer-than, close enough that the regular terms didn’t seem to apply and something stronger and more permanent seemed to be in play. i don’t do that anymore.

what i like about the role children play in my life: between old friends and new ones, neighbors and friends-of-friends, colleagues and everybody else i know, i’ve come to know a lot of children, not just as occasional conversation participants at parties, but in common occurrences of breakfast table chats with 4-year-olds and baby diaper-changes with toys and songs and making a 1 ½ year old giggle hard enough to fall down like a drunk—there are a lot of great kids in my life, more than a few of whom share the world with me in positions of putting-bites-of-food-into-my-mouth, falling-asleep-in-my-arms intimacy, and i love this, i love every moment of it, i treasure each of these interactions and feel constantly grateful for and enriched by the opportunities and what they’ve taught me about the wonderful variations on “mine” that can fill a heart and a life’s many moments.
what i don’t like about the role children play in my life: the window’s closing on the chance that any will ever be, by birth and not just love, my own. and while “by love” is awesome and amazing and plenty to fulfill and sustain me, still, that’s a lot of dreaming there that i’m reluctant to let go of. part of me still hopes that i won’t have to, but most of me can read the clocks and calendars.

what i like about the pets and plants in my life: my cat is my favorite person in the entire world. he has stood by me longest and most consistently of everyone i’m not related to and shared more actual time with me than anyone i am. he is always happy to see me (also moreso than anybody else i know, or than i have ever known). he snuggles up to me and puts his feet on my face and my heart almost explodes with the cute and the lovingness every time he does it. my prior cats have contributed fireworks of personality and sweetness to my story that i’m glad of every day, even when i’m sad for missing them. and i love my few, straggly, sad little plants, because growing green-ness is high among the most beautiful things there are.
what i don’t like about the pets and plants in my life: knowing the cat is, eventually, going to die haunts me constantly. and i don’t have nearly enough plants—i love plants, i want plants, i love other people’s houses that are full of, dripping with, overrun with plants, and i’m afraid to collect them because i’m sure i’ll kill them, that they’ll all be sad and straggly. i don’t like that i let that fear keep me from having something around me that would make my days more joyful.

what i like about technology and its role in my life: it allows miracles of communication and connection, and those amaze and uplift me every single day. i like that i know enough about my computer and its programs to play with it, make it do things i want it to, explore options, bend it to my will sometimes, even just for childish little applications, and follow a lot of my more technologically savvy friends’ conversations about the things i don’t understand. i like that i have friends who know how to do most of the things i don’t know how to do. i like that some of my geek friends follow my lead when it comes to web-toys. i like that i can talk to people far, far, far away every day for free. i like that digital imaging means i can see the tiny elements of beauty in how their lives unfold even when it all goes on without me. i like that filesharing brings things i want to experience to my fingertips even though i’m money-poor, so i can share in the media-culture of my place and time. i love how quickly things become a meme, and that we can all share pointless badger-badgers and really important (whether personally, globally, or anywhere between) information instantaneously. but most of all i love how IM & text-messaging have allowed the best parts of middle/high school note-passing and frequent between-class nattering to perpetuate throughout my adult life.
what i don’t like about technology and its role in my life: what all the hippies say: dependence. i don’t like knowing how many things i don’t know how to do (or know how to do without) because i’ve never had to learn (or been around people who knew to teach me), because i’m a member of a technologically dependent society, and my amount of savvy, while it far exceeds that of plenty of people (like my mother) is nowhere near enough for me to know how to rebuild or recreate any of the technologies i depend on—i can neither create, fuel, and repair a torch or create, fuel, and repair a florescent-bulb lamp, any more than i can either reinvent the internet or maintain my social and professional lives without it, so i always feel to some degree inadequate to the task-requirements of my own life-maintenance.

what i like about the role of spirituality in my life: i feel, most of the time, like god and i are all right. i can (and sometimes do) say “god or whatever you call it,” because i’m not particular about the name, but that’s what i tend to call it for myself, probably for ease of translation more than anything else. i have an understanding that works for me. i’m not afraid to talk about this understanding with people who are actually interested; in fact, i enjoy the opportunity. i’m not afraid of disagreeing in these conversations. i’m also not afraid of or threatened by versions of spirituality that aren’t like my own. in as much as i have a bottom line of what i think people “should” believe, i think people should find or build a bridge between themselves and whatever they want to call the light that they can touch, because having it there to touch is calming and assuring and strengthening, and i want people i care about to be able to feel that, because it’s a nice way to feel. i can walk into churches and be comfortable (at least when they’re empty, or when i’m with people i trust), but i’m most spiritually at home out doors, and that feels right to me.
what i don’t like about the role of spirituality in my life: i’m not all that comfortable around a lot of church people, unless they’re folks i know well and feel safe around, because i’m afraid that they will judge me negatively and i’m sensitive about how other people see me; i think that my beliefs have validity, and if others judge me negatively for those beliefs, i take that as an indication of failure on my part to communicate effectively, to tell them what i really mean, which i want everyone to be okay with. which means, really, i’m still too human about it: i make it too much about me being accepted and not enough about me as an extension of god doing the accepting. so there’s work to do. also, i idealize but doubt i’ll ever find a group of people with whom i could share a way of talking about belief enough to pray—or do what could be called prayer—together without self-consciousness, and i am saddened by both my perception of the smallness of the likelihood of that occasion and by the fact of my doubt, which i’m sure helps create that smallness.

what i like about the role of writing and art in my life: it’s still there, in there, somewhere. the me who used to draw and write constantly, tripping both media over one another (my sketchbooks are full of words, my journals with doodles and sketches). i like the presence of opportunity, although it’s often pale. i like bringing home paints and once, so far just once, but maybe again sometime later, opening them to play with colors and brushes. i like to grab paper and a pencil or open a blank screen or pick up a pen and a bar napkin to play with words, and sometimes i do. and sometimes when i do i share, and sometimes when i share, people like or are moved by what they read. i like that my job involves creating text and interacting with others about text they create, because writing as communicative art is important to me, teaching is a calling, and getting to do both together miraculous—and that juxtaposition makes work art for me some days, many days, and that makes me so much more than lucky.
what i don’t like about the role of writing and art in my life: there’s not enough of either, 10% because i don’t “have” time, and 90% because i don’t make time; i don’t like that disillusionment about what i used to think was talent, disinterest on the part of people i used to share with, fear of cultivating relationships with new people to share with, and a strong, well-trained inner dialogue about prioritizing and what counts as work-of-virtue feed that 90%. i don’t like that i worry about time and money too much to “waste” art supplies and/or hours at the keyboard on the experimentation with half-formed ideas that is required for any art to grow. i don’t like that i’m cowed by others’ talent and expertise to the point where i’m more likely to be intimidated than appreciative of others’ art, and between that and, again, concerns about the relative value of time and money, i rarely, if ever, go to where art is to see it, or buy and read poetry and novels.

what i like about this list: it says a lot. it’s making baby steps toward learning how to speak and write and openly share, and leaving tracks. it’s mostly positive, of which i’m proud. its negatives are mostly work-on-able, of which i’m also proud, and which i appreciate because we’re all better people when we have goals than when we think we’ve met them all.
what i don’t like about this list: too many negatives, and too many caveats in the positives that make them seem to bend towards the dark side (for all that there’s something to be said for holding the universe together). too many pivotal elements of what’s okay so obviously planted in others’ hands rather than god’s or my own. & the fact that i wimped out and deleted the “love” category without even getting a sentence written, because i don’t know how to say or think about any of the things that might need saying underneath that heading, even though those things are probably what honestly prompted the list in the first place. see above re: goals, i suppose.

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10 responses

24 03 2009
metalmonkey

A fascinating read, as always.

24 03 2009
tyra

you are a very patient journeyman. 😉

24 03 2009
tyra

you are a very patient journeyman. 😉

24 03 2009
metalmonkey

A fascinating read, as always.

24 03 2009
donnickcottage

Interesting stuff. I’m surprised at a few things, but then we don’t really know each other at all through years of text doodling as we’ve never asked nor answered serious questions about who what where and when, so it’s expected.

24 03 2009
tyra

i’m trying to get better at serious. not instead of fun, but instead of, i don’t know, schizophrenic bravado and wild age and persona-shifting. i’ve been carrying this skin around for a good long time now; it’s about time i moved in and made something of the place.

24 03 2009
tyra

i’m trying to get better at serious. not instead of fun, but instead of, i don’t know, schizophrenic bravado and wild age and persona-shifting. i’ve been carrying this skin around for a good long time now; it’s about time i moved in and made something of the place.

24 03 2009
donnickcottage

Interesting stuff. I’m surprised at a few things, but then we don’t really know each other at all through years of text doodling as we’ve never asked nor answered serious questions about who what where and when, so it’s expected.

24 03 2009
rumhann

sending email – because that’s what I started before coming to read
blessings
SM

24 03 2009
rumhann

sending email – because that’s what I started before coming to read
blessings
SM

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