Monday, November 9, 2009

long long way to the end of the universe

I taught junior & senior high school in Chattanooga when I was 23-28. Two schools, both college prep, former military schools, evangelical Presbyterian day/boarding places. Insanity.

One of the most stridently reactionary, bullying, racist/homophobic/sexist administrators had a rare moment of clarity/wisdom while we were discussing a messed-up kid: 'If you want to get all tattooed up, or follow the Grateful Dead, of whatever old thing, at least wait until you get your high school degree. It's not much, but at least you've got something when the partying stops.'

Kids have no sense of time, of the future. That's genetic, biological development. Just like their lack of compassion or understanding of consequences. Thus the teenage drama. The hysterical excess about...prom, homework, making the cheerleading team or winning j.v. baseball. And thus: teen suicide, homicide, pregnancy, bad early tattoos, dropping out, etc. If we can make it through those years, much of the sturm/drang retreat in rearview. And we go on to the rest of what life holds.

A good friend was trying to counsel me about relationship stuff once, and said not to worry, 'things would get better.' The issue was something significant. I told my friend that I couldn't just hope, or expect, the thing would go away over time: if I did, and things didn't resolve, I was fucked. Or I unfairly would blame the other person for my disappointment/'betrayal.' I had to decide to stick it out, and work on things, and be clear that it was a conscious choice. Or end it.

That's cool, and noble, and all. Yet we don't--we cannot--know what that will mean over time. Five years of hard relations, ten years, fifteen: if one partners with someone with a disease, say, and commits earnestly to the cause early in, s/he has no way of knowing what it will be like over time.
It's a reminder that each day we have the opportunity, the chance, to make changes in ourselves and/or our dynamics (relationships). Doesn't happen much. Too much happens, the weight of the quotidian sandbags us, but that option remains available to us.
Because there's no way of knowing what twenty years of broken will do to us. It doesn't have to be that way. Bigger things happen along the way: sickness, children, life. There's seldom a convenient time to re-assemble the inner workings of your life, or heart, or mind, but that's your job.

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