Sunday, March 26, 2006


I'm in super obsessive overdrive mode. I just wish I could flip a switch and shut my brain off so I could get some sleep. For the most part the thoughts are, productive...but I still can't sleep. I started trying relatively early tonight just to get the hassle of tossing and turning out of the way. I got up after a while and downloaded "Cab," by Train. I watched Proof earlier. I've been trying to wind down. Not working.

In past relationships, and in my family relationships as well, it's been really tough on the people around me to understand what is going on with me when I'm like this. Someone will ask, "What's on your mind? What are you thinking?" and honestly there's no way to explain it. Where would I even start? And would they really care once I got going? Their eyes would glaze over and they'd pass out from boredom. It wouldn't be pretty. And sometimes it would hurt them.

Elise and I had this conversation during our cultural day. We're very similar in the way our minds work and the things we think/obsess about, I think. For me, it's work. Work work work. And emotional things, questions, ponderings, musings...pointless to others, poignant to me.

Right now for instance, I'm obsessing about a variety of things:

  • The short story cycle and how it applies to Zora Neale Hurston's book, Mules and Men. I mean, I know it's a cycle narrative, and I think I have something mildly original to say about it and the use of authorial voice and its ties to the oral tradition, but I haven't ironed it out yet. The proposal is due Thursday and I want it to be good. Really good. And it may not be good by then in all honesty.
  • Willa Cather's book The Professor's House. I'm thinking about symbolism and trying to guess where it's going to go. And I love it. I absolutely love it so far. And I'm excited about Cather and I think I may fall in love with her work. I'm thinking I want to be that good at SOMETHING someday.
  • And I'm thinking about how much work I still have to do tomorrow and how much time it's going to take away from spending time with my mother and the dogs and possibly with the rest of my family at a birthday lunch. I need to work, but I need to NOT be a hermit. I feel guilty that I like my hermitude 98% of the time. If I died today I'd be happy with the way I lived, but if someone else died, I might feel guilty because I've had blinders on for the last seven months.
  • I'm thinking about the sacrifices. I've sacrificed some things in the name of work and dedication to my education. I'm happy with it now, but I wonder if I'll be happy about it five years down the road.
  • I worry now about how my mom will feel if I up and move to Illinois when it comes Ph.D. time. Even if it's not Illinois...even if it's Michigan or Florida...I'm still gonna feel guilty.
  • I'm thinking of how much I love that movie, Proof. I love it because it cuts to the heart of all this bullshit that I'm blabbing about right now. The obsession, the compulsion. The love of STUDYING. Of writing and being creative. It sounds so fucking stupid, but I look for Truth in words. Some people look for it in math, some people look for it in art, some people look for it in literature. Truth. With a capital T. Something eternal and human that gets caught on a page and trapped there. Something to study, and dig around for, and analyze, and poke until it reveals all it has to reveal. It sounds maudlin, but I don't fucking care. It's what keeps me up at night. It's like being in love.


  1. I don't think anyone can ever truly know what someone else thinking. There is inherently, that inexplicable aspect of how the mind works--that no matter how other people try to understand or even if they are able to empathize--there remains those veiled things that just cannot be articulated and must be sorted through alone.

    However, coming from someone who is ALWAYS thinking and attempting to conjecture how certain things will be received if articulated, I know how you feel because these things are kind of like a rash with no clearing--it's that consuming. So of course, I empathize.

    -Talk to me about your idea for the Zora Neale Hurston book this week. Maybe we can work out some of the stuff, like we did with The Watertower. Or if nothing else, I'm willing to listen.

    -We all want to be that good, or at least be convinced that we ARE that good, mainly because this is what we love and are afraid of doing it injustice. Remember, it's all about the all too familiar, and overwhelming fear of complete and utter inadequacy.

    -Under the immense burden of expectations and obligations, sometimes you kind of just want to shrug your shoulders and watch the construct of our own individual worlds implode on itself. But we don't. Again, it's due to the fear of inadequacy...of never being enough.

    -Maybe I'm just a pessimist (though I'd like to think that I'm more of a realist), but I think certain things occur at the expense of others. Always. But seeing as how life is mainly random and unpredictable, all you can do is make those decisions based on what makes you happy at the moment. Kind of like the whole conversation we had regarding the multiplicity of choices, and the combustion of other possibilities once a choice is made--one occuring at the expense of the other. It's inevitable. Reality hangs in the consequence.

    -I'm not going to touch on guilt, especially familial guilt, given that this is an issue that consumes me and I've yet to come to terms with it. It would be easy to give advice and say "Don't feel guilty" but that's rather trite and nearly impossible. I know how you feel.

    -We should have another movie night. Words, especially for people like us, contain an almost harrowing power to break down whatever defenses the world has inadvertantly convinced us to construct, because the representation of the human condition on a page of paper makes us feel, it's that real. Perhaps part of the appeal in all of this and the idea of the scholar in general is not only do we love it, we enjoy the challenge. Because I think, in the end, we are all trying to prove something to ourselves.

    This is the longest comment ever.
    I'm going to stop now.

    And thank you, thank you, thank you, for listening yesterday.

  2. I swear some days when I read what you write, I think we share a brain. Here's what happens to me...I start thinking about one thing and in an instant my thoughts go into a million other tangents related to that one. Those million tangents spawn another million each of their own. In my own mind I know what I'm thinking about, but trying to articulate it to someone else is tough. I've tried.

    I also enjoy my time alone. I don't get enough of it being a dad and all but I look forward to it.

    I think where we differ is that I can shut it off or at least bring it down a notch. I'm done obsessing with work, school, life. I stop and I take the scenery in more.

  3. Great post, Andi.

    You brought back memories of grad school when I was enveloped with it and driven by it. It's so very intellectually exciting and that's a real hard thing to manage down to the need to sleep and see other humans :)

    About your Mom. I'm thinking she will miss you terribly but be warmed to the bottom of her heart to see you setting your dreams in motion. That's how I feel about my son, anyway. He's starting grad school in the fall.

  4. Andi:

    Talk to D-Rock about the short story cycle before writing the proposal. He had a paper published, or presented at a conference of the short story cycle and Thane Rosenbaum and is a master of narrative theory. He can help clear up some of these problems you are having.

    As for the sleeping thing: I feel your pain. Our sleeping related issues (along with Elise and Jeremy's) are becoming legendary. It really is an ass whip to feel like you are just resting with your eyes closed because you are merely going over the things in your head that you have to do the next day. I think we should all form an insomnia support group.

  5. I wasn't going to say anything about this but I am going to go ahead. I think, in a certain sense, we all long for the truth, and search for it in words.

    Whether it is in literature or the bible or whatever, it is the humanity in all of us that longs for something that is immortal and transcends our time on this earth, and by writing and being creative we try to lock something up that is not temporal or stationary but fluid, and immortal. We write to discover some sort of truth about ourselves, or humanity in general. It is very much the Faustian Pact: if we read enough and write enough we can become so smart we can reveal the truth of the world, and become immortal.

    As Rousseau states in The Confessions, we can only know ourselves through writing, but the more we write the more reality or truth slips through our fingers. Writing is something outside ourselves that is a cultural timepiece that makes us immortal because long after we are dead if we really uncovers some truth in what we write our words will live on.

    He also says writing is a vicious cycle. The more we search the more truth slips away but we must keep on searching. We can never really know truth, but that is why so many people cling to religion: the belief that at death all questions will be answered, and all truth revealed. This is most likely a fiction but very much an enabling fiction, as Derrida says, a fiction that enables us with the hope to face the world and search for truth. While the world may be built on the fallacy that at death all will be revealed it is very much a fallacy that civilization as we know it is built on.

  6. Elise, I'll hit you up for a conversation on Hurston tomorrow. I think I just need to talk about it. That usually fixes everything. Great comments, all. You're so much more eloquent than I. You damn dictionary. We definitely need another movie night. Maybe next Thursday or Friday. You need to see Proof.

    Sole, good explanation of the brain blowup. You're lucky you can shut it off. I have to bonk myself over the head with an anvil to make my brain shuddup.

  7. Suzz, I asked my mom today how she'd feel if I moved. She said she'd be fine, and I know she would. The irony is that the first time I picked up and moved I didn't think twice about it, and now I'm agonizing over it 2 years ahead of the game. That's maturity for ya.

    T., I had already thought of the topic, but then D-rock suggested that I write on this in class the other night. I went and talked to him on Friday and he sent me home with books and will be hauling some more stuff to school from his house tomorrow. Yay!

    We should have an insomniac support group. With plenty of liquor.

    Your inclusion of Derrida and Rousseau and the like was simultaneously uplifting and depressing as hell. It's been a long time since I read that stuff. And, on that note, I thought DO was offering Approaches to Lit this coming fall. Apparently not according to the schedule. Grrr. Must be Spring.

  8. I thought about posting, but this shit sounds way too high-brow for me. Thanks, A-train, for all the work you did for me this weekend. One less thing to have to worry about.

  9. No problem, J. And if you think of anything else you want me to do, it should be easier now since I fixed all the fuck-uppery. Lemme know if you want anything else added, subtracted or tweaked.

  10. Illinois? Are you considering the University of Chicago or another school? Based on your last comment, it sounds like you would fit in with a LOT of the students at UC, academics, as a general rule, are their life. As our old pastor said once, "Welcome, to Nerd Central." I don't know how good the lit dept is, but most of the depts here are excellent. Like, way excellent. If you came to check things out when it gets closer to time, I'd love to show you what little bit of Chicago I know about. And if you just wanted to see Chicago w/out looking for a PhD program, I'd love to show you around too. =) We even have an air mattress and sheets. =D

    I'll spare you from babbling about my take on the Truth, 'cuz I think it's probably pretty obvious to you, but if at any point we cease to search to understand and to know the Truth, then to a large degree, we cease to live and to act as humans. You were made for the Truth, knock and the door will be opened, seek and you will find...

    God bless. ;)

  11. Thanks, Cher! I'm actually considering Illinois State because of their top-notch children's lit program, but if I feel the urge to be REALLY ballsy and ambitious I'll check out UC. I know it's supa-fab and way hard to get into. And I might take you up on that air mattress sometime! Would love to see the windy city!

  12. Boy isn't this the truth! ~ jb///

  13. Thanks for stopping by, lz. I checked out your blog. Beautiful photos. You've been everywhere!

  14. You know, when I was forced to read Death Comes for the Archbishop in high school, I thought (like most of my friends) "why won't that archbishop die???????" But Professor's House is much better. We are lucky people. But who knows. Maybe I was more in to Star Wars novels in high school and couldn't appreciate the Willa. I hope not, but it's very possible and likely.

  15. Goose,
    That's how I shall refer to her from here on out..."The Willa." Sounds a bit like something from a Star Wars novel if you think about it.

  16. I havent thought about Willa in years - I actually had to google her to remember why that name caught my eye- and then I remembered The Affair at Grover Station - *sigh*. Thanks for jogging my memory!!!

  17. *raising hand* Another one here whose brain doesn't shut off for sleep, most of the time. I've actually found that meditation helps....just breathing and paying attention to the breath going in and out of the nose. That does tend to keep the brain occupied.

    Other than that, write your thoughts out, as you did on this blog. It doesn't matter if it's a mish-mash of subjects. Those thoughts are in there for a reason. Granted, it might be an obsessive-compulsive reason, but hey, that's a reason! At least that's what I keep telling myself! ;) LOL

    Love your blog and ezine! Consider me a new fan!

  18. I don't feel at all qualified to comment, except I've had sleep problems in the past (2 year olds seem to help clear up that problem, by wearing me out!) so I'll just say I hope you get some sleep soon.

    I taped Vanity Fair off HBO this weekend. I'm planning on watching after I finish the book and God knows when that will be! Reading Bet Me by Crusie and it's gooooood.

  19. Oh god Andi - I really feel for you. I am the same way. When i have a lot on my mind or I know I have a ton to do I can't sleep either. Then I finally get to sleep really late and then i have trouble getting up the next day and really it's just a viscious cycle! I hope you get your stuff done and get some sleep!

  20. Steph, I haven't read that one. You should pick up The Professor's House sometime. It's an easy read which I REALLY appreciate right now.

    Vixen, welcome to my little hell-hole on the web! I'm glad you like the 'zine...I'm awfully proud of it...great peeps aboard for sure.

    I was actually at work when I read your post about meditating and screamed, "I can't even do that right! My nose is too stopped up!" *sigh* Sorry, had to have a pity party moment. ;)

  21. Heather!!!! You're totally qualified. Comment on whatever rocks your boat.

    I knew you'd like Bet Me! Isn't Cal a total dream? So now if you ever see me refer to "my Cal" here, you'll know I'm talking about the fictional perfect man.

    And Elise laughs at me because I tried chicken marsala JUST BECAUSE of that book. Glad I did, it's my favorite Italian dish now!

    You'll love Vanity Fair! I hope! It's a purty movie.

    Thanks, Funky! I'm planning to get more sleep tonight. I don't think I can stay awake much longer.

  22. Hmmm, there's seems to be a higher incidence of insomnia among bloggers than in the general population. Coincidence? I think not.

    Andi, don't second guess your choices. The biggest mistake you can make with your life is to not live it. No matter which path you take there will always be a "what if?" in the back of your mind and it's impossible to know if a different decision would have been a better one.

    Your family doesn't have to understand you, they just need to know how you feel about them. If you're really lucky, they accept your tornado-brained self just as you are. It sure looks like a lot of people here do.

  23. Catie,
    I'm lucky. They do accept me for my craziness. My mom just listens or leaves me alone...whatever I need. :)

    I don't second guess much, I just think hard about my choices before I make 'em (and sometimes slave over them for a long while). Can't say I have any regrets so far, so I think I'm doin' ok.


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