Various Ways in Which Life Is, In Fact, A River

I am a wreck.

Yesterday I spent the day floating the river for Tanner’s birthday. The good part of this is that I like Tanner and I also enjoy the company of most of his friends, and that anything involving water is a ton of fun, and that despite myriad bumps, bruises and cuts under my toenail (intense shudder), we had a grand time. The bad part of this is that Matt is one of Tanner’s friends and we spent the whole day in proximity.

Reminder: I don’t actively hate Matt anymore, or at least I try very hard not to. I don’t want to drown his fish, as I might say to him, but I still enjoy insulting him when the right moment comes up. But, as it has always always always done, his presence makes me nervous and inadequate. I maintain that one of the worst things you can do to a person is make them feel like what they do know is irrelevant, or that what they don’t know makes them irrelevant, and he, whether knowingly or not, does both to me whenever I’m around him.

Of course, Eleanor Roosevelt did say that no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. Which – urgh. So I’ve been consenting this whole time, and that does not make me feel any god damn better.

This is an extraordinary exercise in being me because I am me, and being confident that I am a relevant person because I am me, and not simply because I know something he doesn’t know. I do that a lot, I think: validate myself by what I know that other people don’t. I suppose it makes sense, having spent a lot of my earlier years impressing people with some of the things I knew which they didn’t. 

Anyway, continuing, after staying up till midnight (with the added stress of the fact that I ruined my phone yesterday and now am responsible for buying a replacement – growing up sucks, and the added unpleasantness of having split my toe and not being able to sleep or walk comfortably) I woke up this morning out of a dream about Matt. 

yes.

And of course it was one where we were back together and he was impossibly beautiful. I could also fly in this dream (that was pretty cool) simply by hugging a pillow and saying, “Continue,” and then I’d rise up into the air and be off. I think I steered with my feet. And there was one moment where I flew over his head and peeked out over the edge of the pillow, and he was looking up at me with his arms out as though to catch me, and I was like, “Hahahaha nope!” and flew away, and then came right back and he caught me. 

I’d put the picture in again but memory capacity. WHY AM I HAVING THESE DREAMS? 

So of course that’s been bugging me all day. I tried to go to the end-of-season party for swim team, but ended up breaking down in tears after twenty minutes of doing nothing but being there. 

THIS IS UNDER MY SKIN AND I HATE IT. 

The worst part is that he’s throwing that ridiculous freaking party today that I did say I’d go to and I JUST DON’T FUCKING WANT TO ANYMORE but I DO but I DON’T BUT WHY THE HELL DO I WANT TO GO TO THIS THING I THOUGHT I WAS SUPPOSED TO HATE THIS GUY WELL THEN WHAT AM I DOING HAVING CHEESY ADORABLE DREAMS ABOUT HIM GODDAMNIT I MISS HIM HOLY SHIT I DID NOT JUST SAY THAT. 

FUCK ME, RIGHT? 

I remember saying I wanted someone to erase Doug’s memory for everyone else – Matt took care of that. What I want now is someone to erase Matt’s memory for me

And yet I don’t want to let go. As much as he bothers me and as small and irrelevant as he has always made me feel and as frightened as I am of him and his opinion (just like everyone else), I still find myself awed by him, by his childlike glee over simple things, by the impression he gives of knowing exactly what he’s talking about all the time – now wait a minute. 

Impression. Aha. So there it is. Aside from the aforementioned childlike glee, I am awed by an impression. By an image. Smoke and mirrors. He is full of bullshit and always has been. I’m just stuck on the idea that I can maybe bring out the non-bullshit. 

And in the end I’m a cliche after all – the girl who thought she could change the guy. 

In junior English I did a presentation on a poem I really liked, and Devo gave me another one which mine reminded him of. It was a John Keats sonnet (at least I think it was a sonnet). I found it a few days ago and thought I might want it to hang in the dorm room so I kept it. And today I found it again. The name is “When I Have Fears.” 

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,
Before high-piled books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripen’d grain;
When I behold, upon the night’s starr’d face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love; — then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.

Nothing is permanent. And while I don’t quite agree that ALL LOVE EVER will all sink away to nothingness, I think it is worthwhile to admit that most things are very very temporary. Everything is constantly changing, I think.

And that reminds me of something I read in the Reader’s Digest long ago, in which their advice columnist Jeanne Marie Laskas shared some of the best advice she ever got. (Clever feature.) And she wrote this. 

From an algebra teacher: “Life is a river,” part one. 

I was terrible at math. I had just flunked a test, right on the heels of getting dumped by my supercute eight-grade boyfriend. I had a pimple. My beloved cat Jinx had just died. I was in a rut of despair, and the F was the last straw. My algebra teacher saw this and pulled me aside. He told me about a time in his life when everything was going wrong. He thought, That’s it! It’s over! I’m a loser! And what he discovered was, No. Because life is a river, always moving. Just because you have a lot of bad stuff happening doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a life of bad stuff. The current keeps flowing. Life is not a stagnant pond. Fresh water is just upstream, on its way. 

From an English teacher: “Life is a river,” part two. (She was in the room next door.) 

I was a whiz at English. I had just aced another test. I was named captain of the basketball team. I turned down cheerleading because I was too busy starring in the school play. I was named “Wittiest, Peppiest in the Eighth Grade!” and had my picture in the school paper. I didn’t need anybody. My English teacher saw this and pulled me aside. She told me about a time in her life when everything was going right. She thought, That’s it! I’m a winner! I am more special than any person who has ever walked the earth! And what she discovered was, No. Because life is a river, always moving. Good stuff is good. Enjoy it. Drink it. “But keep your head on your shoulders, sweetie,” my English teacher told me. Don’t become obnoxious. You share the same river as everyone else, and you will likely one day need the strength of those who know more than you do about surviving the mud. 

I love this. 

Just as I typed this I remembered reading it. The issue was released right before I began high school. I wish I’d remembered that throughout my high school years, although I’m sure I did think about it on occasion. The point being, I have nothing to worry about. I never have. I never will. The river keeps flowing. God is always there. My parents and my sisters and Hannah and Derek love me, and plenty more people are fond enough to keep me around. (Even Matt is not so disparaging that he doesn’t want me at his farewell-Mountain-Home party.) It does not matter what comes at you, because it will always change. The key, of course, is to find the success in whatever it is you do, mud or not. But it does not matter. Life is a river, always moving, and new and different and exciting are always upstream, on their way. 

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