18 September 2012

Speaker's Block

There are things that are close to me, very close to me, like, blood-related, and that I still know virtually nothing about. When I say nothing, I mean very little besides the narrative threads my brain has spun between the scattered bits of information I managed to extract from fellow family members by tricking them into reminiscence. One of those things, the one I'm referring to here, in my usual non-pushy way, is my grand-mother; she died long before I was born and I have therefore never been able to meet her in person, which resulted in her creating, on my impressionable mind, an imprint that slowly degenerated into the kind of obsession elusive dead people can sometimes engender in the living. Anyway, because I've been good lately and haven't pestered my parents with questions about her as much as I used to, they probably figured I was finally mature (yah...) enough to handle a more up-close-and-personal encounter with my deceased ancestry, and gifted me with two documents that are witness to her sojourn on Earth: a correspondence article she wrote for a magazine in the sixties, and a graphological study of her temperament and emotional composition, a service she probably called upon in a hope not at all foreign to me, namely that of having someone else determine what kind of person she was – it seems easier, doesn't it, to have someone else, someone with a kind of authority in that field, look upon you and read the signs that compose you so as to tell you who you are and what you need, someone who will have a view less cluttered by the emotions and constantly melting and recomposing masks you have donned over the years of your life, less hung up on all of the different definitions you thought applied to you now and forever. There is no "me" that lasts forever. But still, we expect to always be able to read ourselves clearly, to understand what we need, and for those that are close to us to do so too. In fact, there is one social situation where we expect this kind of non-verbal understanding more than anywhere else: romantic relationships.

There is one thing, however, that relationships, the good ones as much as the bad, have all, up until this point, served to collectively teach me: instinctive trust, a kind of 'clicking' in respect to personal preferences and outlooks, is not that common, nor even necessarily required. Sure, in a good relationship there will be the occasional instinctive epiphany about the other person, but why should it be necessary for our partner to function the same way we do, or with nothing but us in mind? In fact, I've had relationships where such a close similarity of internal operation proved to be a bad thing, simply because not all of my actions and quirks make sense, even to me, and finding them mirrored in the other's behaviour made them all the more irritating. Also, after a while, the feeling settles in that there is very little about the other's independent being that has the capacity to genuinely surprise you. Where movies tell us a "boyfriend" is supposed to know, instantly and instinctively, from the gut (rippling with abs, of course), what is wrong when our smile turns to sad, or what to do when we're upset, in real life, we have to get over that ideal of someone who can, without fail, decipher our reasons for acting and feeling a certain way, often even better than we can.
We have to allow the other to be as clueless and scared as we are, though hopefully a bit less scared because one of us has to keep a clear head and a less than psychotic grasp on things once in a while. And where we feel that certain intuitions about our innermost mysteries are missing, they can always be taught, explained to each other with great care. They might not always be understood perfectly, we are different people after all, and they might not be applied as solutions every time, but it's a start.

How did I deduce all this from a graphological analysis made 50 years ago, and about someone else? It might be that the whole idea of roots as an indicator of who you are in the social, temporal, and spatial net you were born into is still sticking to me like it has for the past few months. The weird thing is, when I read the analysis, the descriptions the graphologist (for some reason I feel like it was a woman, but what do I know) gives of my grandmother's personality struck me as very similar to my own, but expressed without so many of the negative connotations and undertones I so often weave into my own evaluations of myself, and for once this didn't send me off on a tangent about how weirdly hereditary some personality traits can be. Nor did it particularly baffle me how similar I apparently am to my paternal grandmother – if graphological analyses are to be trusted; a doubt I choose to suspend for now. What it did, rather, was pierce my bubble of stubborn egocentrism and social autism for a while, so as to make me realise that perhaps the view others have on us is less cruel and less intolerant than we assume, and – this goes for some of us – maybe even less so than the judgment we make about ourselves. Of course, I won't know how accurate this reading felt to the person it set out to define – my grandmother; all I know is that the charming part of this particular way of being analysed seemed to happen without requiring an actual attempt on the part of the subject to describe herself, or her own image of who she was. When asked "What kind of person are you?", some people reply with confidence, they deliver set little verbal vignettes of "the kind of person" they are, and they don't find the question of what they want or need at a particular time particularly tormenting. Others will not know what to reply to such an enquiry and wish they could just be figured out through osmosis or something. The idea that someone could read your handwriting and understand, not just make unfair or cliché-ridden assumptions, but really understand what you are about at this moment in time, seems like such a load off one's back. Not having to constantly brief one's social relations as to the status of the perpetual investigation into what it means to be "me" that, for some of us, constitutes our life – yeah, it would be a relief. Especially as it would mean only having to "communicate" oneself when one truly feels ready. But, as not everybody is a certified graphologist or clairvoyant, or other paranormal semiotician, I suppose there are only occasional bursts of intuition we can depend on with our peers, and we can find relief in the fact that some feelings are more easily conveyed than others. And, perhaps, that some things just don't need to be expressed so as to conjure up a 1:1 scale replica of the original feeling within the other person; those things are ours to deal with and to figure out for ourselves.


I have speaker's block like one has writer's block.


When you ask me what is wrong and what I feel, you are asking me to poke around in the dark; it is as dark to me as it is to you. How should I know how I feel, when I feel so many different things at once, some good, some neutral, some upsetting, all chattering away at once inside me, how am I to know which one speaks the loudest at this particular moment in time, which one is bobbing at the surface when what it's swimming in is a loud pool of thoughts and needs? I feel as though too much is within me, too many things undealt with, unclassified impressions and moods, like I am a hoarder of sensations and none of them have their proper place, resulting in a right mess; I have accumulated them without scrutiny or afterthought for too long, much as I do with more tangible things, but unlike tactile collections they cannot be categorized later on, because I can no longer tell them apart, they are all just caught in an internal whirlpool that is heterogeneous only as far as I can deduce from the mood swings I suffer, but otherwise homogeneous because there is no way for me to discriminate between what exactly it is that grips me at any given moment, as though I was experiencing all of my moods at once.
All there is to do in terms of cleanup is to hope that, at the right moment, when they are ready to be dealt with, the thoughts will pop up and make themselves known, or just fade away with time.
That is why, when you ask me what I feel, what I need, I listen to this constant buzzing inside of me, inspect the murmurs for something that stands out, and wait for a feeling or need to make itself known, so I can at least pretend that I know myself just a little bit. At best, what I end up telling you will be a guess, at worst a lie. How should I expect you to know what I need and what worries me exactly, why should I hold you to the standards of stereotypically elementary movie romance when even I don't really see through myself all that well? What I cherish, however, is that most of the time you try. 

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