Thursday, June 19, 2014

Me, watching myself react to 90s pop

I don't know where I  read this, or whether someone told it to me, but an editor at some publishing house said that a good 50% (60? 75? Remind me not to tell this story when I'm a guest on Late Night....) of fiction manuscripts were blatantly autobiographical stories that the author thought he/she could pass of as fiction by changing first person to third. These manuscripts went straight into the reject file, although I don't know if the implication was that you shouldn't write about yourself or just that if you're going to write about yourself, admit it.

I often have the opposite reaction: I will read a first-person account of some experience and I will think: that might be good for a novel, but there is something presumptuous in thinking that the world will find your experiences revelatory or exemplary. Great fiction is filled with bad relationships, I would never tell Tolstoy otherwise. But why should the world care about Elizabeth Gilbert's boyfriend troubles?

So if I start minutely examining my own emotional reactions (or lack thereof) to a departed dog, it is with full knowledge that this for me, myself, and I. That nothing I say here will be more interesting or profound than anything you (you, dear reader who is not me and may not exist) have observed a million times, or read on the back cover of a grief self-help book. I'm gazing at my navel online, watching myself breathe in...breathe out...

(Side note: Did all of my writing follow the This American Life structure--seemingly random anecdote leads into theme, approached from 3 angles--- before I started listening to This American Life?)

As I have written earlier,  I went through an initial and very brief "proper" grief stage. During this stage I was a raw wound. This was the stage of tears, the stage where clichés became truth. Then I  scabbed over, as I do. Everything that had briefly moved to the emotion part of my brain retreated to its usual home in the reason quadrant. I am somewhat ashamed by how quickly this happened, it doesn't feel appropriate to how deeply I love(d) Sancha. It doesn't even feel appropriate to call it grief. I'm sure I didn't have my passport stamped at each of the 5 stages.

But, there is one little square of sensitivity, a spot that hasn't fully scabbed over.

Backtrack: I am not a person who is particularly "into" music. My tastes are horrible, completely out of alignment on the avant-garde spectrum with my tastes in literature and film. (If you made a Venn Diagram of Abbas Kiarostami fans and Eminem fans, I would bet the overlap would be fairly small). I like things you can hum in the shower or dance to, although I neither hum in the shower nor dance (and I definitely don't dance in the shower, I'd kill myself). I like angry drug-addicted guys accompanied by electric guitars and drums, although I am neither a guy, a drug-user, nor prone to anger. Like most everything else in my life, it's a secondhand emotion---I like to listen to people having (pretending to have) emotions, rhythm, sex appeal, style.

My relationship with Sancha had exactly zero: men, anger, dancing, drugs, sex appeal. If my relationship with Sancha had been a movie montage, the soundtrack would have been Enya. Or Mozart.

Enya and Mozart do nothing for me. But  create a Pandora Third Eye Blind channel (Offspring, Oasis, Green Day, Linkin Park etc etc ) and damned if I don't get all weepy. (Semisonic "Closing time/ Open all the doors and let you out into the world....I know who I waaant to take me hooome" Jimmy Eat World "It just takes some time/ Little girl, you're in the middle of the ride/ Everything will be all right/ Everything will be just fine" WHO KNEW ALL THESE SONGS WERE ABOUT DOGS?)

Partially it's because these songs are about love and loss. But what songs aren't?  I think it's no coincidence the songs that get me came out in the 90s, when I was in plena adolescencia, maxima vulnerabilidad y crisis emocional. In fact, I only listened to these songs, and listened to them over and over and over, during the two hospitalization stays that bookended the 1990s for me (at home I listened to Bach and Zeppelin). So for me they are like a portal to the two times I have had to feel intensely and constantly. Times that were hell, but a hell for which I am prone to feeling nostalgia.

I guess I should count my blessings that the hospital radio wasn't set to Kenny G.

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