10 July 2008

Thursday Night; Hey, You!

What is it about Thursdays?

It seems that every Thursday night, like this one, I am tired. Sometimes it satisfying: Thursdays always seem to be the longest and busiest day of the week; the good side of that is that I can accomplish something or other. And even if it doesn't rank that high on the scheme of things, accomplishing something, whatever it is, feels good.

But sometimes I feel pure and simple exhaustion: You know, when you know the next day is Friday but you don't know how you're going to get through it. The funny thing is, when I feel this way, it's when--because--I haven't accomplished much of anything, even if I did a lot.

Today tended toward the first kind of Thursday I described. I can't say what in particular I accomplished, if anything. I didn't work particularly hard, even though I had my class to teach after my day job. I'm not even sure that I taught my students anything in particular, even though I'd planned to do so.

So, why do I feel rather satisfied? Hmm...Maybe I'm not so tired after all. I feel as if I shouldn't be: I'm taking hormones, but I can't honestly say I'm doing women's work. Sometimes I feel a little bit guilty about that. I can cry the way we're supposed and allowed to, but I don't have to, and can't, bleed in the same way.

Could it be that simply being what you're meant to be, or who you wanted to be (depending on whether you believe in destiny or choice), is something of an accomplishment? Even if you get to do it just for one day?

Without any prompting from me, that's pretty much what two different people told me today. One, a student in the class, said "You're completely who you are. That takes courage. That's something. Be proud of that!" Hmm...Well, I guess he knows something about courage: He came to this country, this city, by himself when he was fifteen years old. And he lived on the streets. Now, at age 27, he's a rep for a surgical-supply company and is in college. Not bad, I'd say.

A fellow faculty member echoed my student's comments. We were talking about relationships, affairs, marriages (He's been in three.) and such. He brought up the old subject of beautiful vs. sexy. "Well, I'm not such a pretty woman, am I?"

"But you know, more people than you realize find you very attractive, even sexy."


"Sure. You're so completely, unabashedly yourself. Believe it or not, integrity is sexy--at least I think so. And you look like you're really enjoying being who you are. You're not like the person in your old photos."

Integration is catnip. Have I stumbled over another of life's big secrets? Ha!

But, well, if people like me because I like me, I guess that's a pretty fair deal. Simple, too--or, at least, it sounds simple.

I think of all this as I'm listening to Pink Floyd's The Wall. To me, it's the last great rock 'n'roll--and, certainly, progressive rock-- album. Of course I love "Comfortably Numb," but the song I'm thinking of now is "Hey You." On one hand, I have felt the alienation the song's narrator/persona must have felt; on the other, I completely understand the longing for--and fear of--human interaction the song depicts:

Hey you, out there on your own
Sitting naked by the phone
Would you touch me?
Hey you, with you ear against the wall
Waiting for someone to call out
Would you touch me?
Hey you, would you help me to carry the stone?
Open your heart, I'm coming home.

This song has always reminded me, in some way, of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," which is probably the one poem by T.S. Eliot I can stand these days. Not just stand it--I still feel it; I still love it, even as much of his other work leaves me cold these days. I mean, do you want to know how many times I asked myself Do I dare and Do I dare? You don't? That's probably a good thing: I can't count that high. After all, I was an English major and teacher. I don't do math, as they say.

The first time I heard the song and the album--shortly after it came out--I was, coincidentally, re-reading "Prufrock" for a paper I was writing. And shortly thereafter, I discovered another wonderful poem about a person's alienation from/relationship to him/her self: Juan Ramon Jimenez's "Yo no soy yo":

Yo no soy yo.
Soy este que va a mi lado sin yo verlo,
que, a veces, voy a ver,
y que, a veces olvido.
El que calla, sereno, cuando hablo,
el que perdona, dulce, cuando odio,
el que pasea por donde no estoy,
el que quedará en pie cuando yo muera.

I'll make an attempt to translate it here:

I am not I
I am he who walks by my side without my seeing him
Who, sometimes, I go to see
And who, sometimes, I forget.
He who follows, silently, when I talk,
he who forgives, sweetly, when I hate,
he who walks where I'm not,
he who's left standing when I die.

The one whom Jiminez describes is something like the one whom the narrator of "Hey You" calls.

I didn't have the courage to make that call for a very long time. And when I finally had no choice, I was scared. But that person I called is here, is me: She demands a lot sometimes, but she will not leave me any more than I would leave her. Or any more than she left me through all those years I was pretending not to want her, to want me.

I've climbed mountains, on bicycle and on foot, and have had conquests of one kind and another. But conquests aren't always accomplishments, much less victories, because you can never be at peace, much less in harmony, with whatever you've conquered.

So, before this becomes even more of a literary wankfest (Will I have one after the operation?) than it probably already is, I'll ask: So what did I accomplish today? Another day of being who I am, completely. It's all I can do and want.

Hey you, it's Thursday night.