A day that had one-thing-after-another in it: some are familiar, even long-repeated actions, some are new; there are pleasures, there are boring bits: and that quailty that has appeared in several (no: in a number) of my posts lately, of being transitional, of being sort of in-between.
With students, cheerful or as though awakening from long and confusing slumbers – talking about their lives, dropping by, doing good work: flashes of pride and movement and change, amplified by the spring weather. Today they all seem like friends of one type or another, I can almost feel them leaning against me as though I am some kind of support: students who are just getting used to me, and students who will graduate this year, figuring out what to do next – an unavoidably big step – and one of the last of them reflects back, asking about my studies at the Jung-Institute; and my explanation of how that is going begins to outline an exactly similar movement and change....
I give a preparatory lecture on the changes of 1968, political and perceptual and cultural and (thus, eventually) musical: not quite the energetic circus ride I will show them on Wednesday, but a warmup that leads to it, ending with Jefferson Airplane at their most flamboyantly bizarre. As I have students read paragraphs aloud, statements about change and the excitement of that time dotted around the room like a 60s performance piece, I feel their awareness of being-in-time becoming sharper, fuller – perhaps if they really wake up, they can live differently....
I have a brief meeting with David, looking over paperwork documenting the past ten years of my activities with the HIV patient group, which I'm putting forward as a Research-Linked Community activity of some kind. Redoing this stuff is tedious, but the project does mean a lot to me, so... and that is both reflective and (sort of?) productive. Paperwork, yes, but about a reality, and one that also recalls many emotions and real changes, and real losses.
And in the evening I go back to Barbara's Italian lessons at my favorite Sardinian restaurant: afterwards there is of course the handsome waiter, a good and surprising pasta, a welcome glass of wine: the waiter wants to read what I'm reading, and it is Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveler – I tell him I have the Italian at home (it's too difficult for me, of course) and I will loan it to him. On the condition, naturally, that he treats it with care... and so this sweet, charming man will owe me...
All of these things and words and papers and events piled in, like too many people in a Volkswagen Beetle, along with brief explosions of writing over the past few days, writing that is only part of what must get done in the next few months: graphic scores, string quartets, Meredith Monk, Gerhard Stäbler. And studying for four more exams in Zürich in June, can I get ready in time? It's a shame I'm not an efficient and forthright worker, but that is hardly news: and if I'm at least dealing with my procrastination by launching into topics that I know well, so much the better. Skype sessions with Mitchell and Nomi, rearticulating these projects, and memory and change, and discussion, spinning it out further and further....
What is remarkable, what brings a sense of complex time and possibility to this messy pile of activities and papers, is the eerie quality of remembering or envisioning that appears whenever I close my eyes a bit: for I am falling asleep after that glass of wine, almost, no not quite, yes, no, I'm still awake, or not completely.
Memory tangled with vision tangled with awareness: dark city streets in Parma and Basel, some flashes that seem to belong to Berlin or perhaps San Francisco, Adelaide, Hong Kong, Los Angeles; dreams that might have arisen in Zürich, while walking around in a group late at night. A quality of watching, of getting that deep sense that people live in all of these places, and that I want to live there too: and yes perhaps if I lived in those places I would still have the same kinds of work to do, anxieties generated out of bits of paper; but I would be part of this tangle of people, of energies; and, maybe, perhaps, some one might be wondering when I was going to come home.
And through all this strange time awareness is shot the changing realization that, as I grow older, the possibility of being part of such a temporal/personal network does, admittedly, decrease. That may be what will happen, too – perhaps any hopes and wishes that I am on my way to yet another life, another career, another city, other sets of people, perhaps even living with someone who cares whether I come home to them, are not going to be fulfilled – perhaps the truth is that one of these present realities are actually the last stages of my life, and my life is not in transition to anything.
But that must be the proper definition of this feeling of transition: that it may be imagined, but not invalidated; that expectation does indeed spring eternal....
I get up and, while am trying to figure out how this all this ties together, or doesn't – and not incidentally how to end this blog entry – I realize that I should pack my case to go to Leeds tomorrow for my last analysis session with John. Because I am changing analysts, I am going to meet with Sybil in York next week, and that is also a change, and another potential set of conversations that rattle through my head –
and I notice that, unusually, the plastic bag of fruit and nuts which I usually toss into my case isn't there – because the last bag tore, and I threw it out; and while trying to recreate this simple transitional object I suddenly stall in the middle of a step:
and the pause itself causes me to hold the sink for some moments, to breathe in and out and be aware of it, even to panic a bit, to begin weeping, in a passing stretch of disconnected sorrow: the same way that coming down a set of familiar stairs, but missing the last step in the dark, suddenly makes everything everywhere seem unpredictable – new but also unknown, and unknowable.
And all the casual joys and anxieties of a crowded day are turned inside out for a moment: because these transitions and changes suggest, in their oblique but merciless ways, that the entire set of processes, the various machines-for-living, can suddenly stop at any time
So, perhaps that is where all of this gels – the young people starting in on their lives, my looking back on ten years of activities with people several of whom are now dead, my endless anxiety over finishing things: that reminder that transitions do not necessarily reach out to a solid point. That so much of life must be prepared to stop being life, often without much warning.
No, it's not news. But sometimes we just see it, whole.