Let's do the cute bit first. Nine month old children are pretty fantastic. They interact, they crawl quickly, they get food all over themselves, they climb up to standing on EVERYTHING, they make all sorts of consonant-and-vowel noises, they play with toys in inventive ways, they crawl over you, they clap hands, they chase the cats, and they give you faith that the squiggling mass of helplessness which they were nine months earlier, WILL actually grow up into a coherent, thinking human. All of this is very, very good, and most of the time, also very fun. So this is a massive change for the positive from, say, the torment of summer 2009, which was some of the worst hell in the history of life on earth.
Anyway: ten months now (each end of the month is a birthday). Thinking about moving away from liquids toward a food diet. Wondering if the nearby daycare will take one-year-olds next academic year. You know, the future, always.
Attention: I will now spend some time digging around a bit deeper in my personal neurotic bullshit re: seventh series. You should know that this is all going to be about my inner state and history and NOT about generalizations, so unless your bullshit is very terribly similar to my bullshit, there might not be a lot here for you. But people do seem to read when I post this sort of thing, so here we go.
April is the hardest month of the year for academics; I think that it is rivalled by November, but if you're faculty, it's harder in April because there are awards and ceremonies and all kinds of bureaucratalia due by year's end, so April does actually have a harder service load. If J and I make it to the end of April with our continuing sex debt, it will be twenty months, which makes a nice clean SIX HUNDRED days. That's one fucking hardcore sadhana.
What did I learn about this, almost by accident, some time ago? That the continuing "get it, do it" voice in my head is NOT ME. That was unbelievable, once I had time to process the insight: you/I are/am not your/my sex drive, in fact, that drive ISN'T EVEN OURS. When I was younger, I thought it was a voice inflicted on me by media culture in the US, but now with some Sutras and meditation practice in my head, this insight becomes valuable for DRAWING BACK from destabilizing desire, an ever-destabilizing one, one that never ends and can't be fed, even and especially by what it demands. And that was a picture, in micro, of ALL desire. So that's incredibly important.
It's weird now, and I can't tell if it's from the long debt or seventh series generally or from age or from indifference or from what: when I see attractive bodies, I immediately think about how difficult the relationship would be. So sure, have your curves and have your snug clothing and whatnot, break out the springtime, it doesn't mean you're not going to all be hard to relate to. That's the truth. What did Nietzsche say about this? "One must be able to converse with a woman, for all else fades," or words closely to that effect.
I still envision my age-old paradise where people are honest and self-knowing and where sexual encounters are simply ways to gain further knowledge and share wisdom, but that isn't how this world works. So I greet bodies with a sigh. And I can still be worked into a familiar rage by talk about college date-rape and people being stupidly essentialist about monogamy and so on, but the old LSD-influenced paradise of being "one with everything" is losing its shiny glimmering. It's no longer all-bodies-are-one-hey-wanna-get-down (and in practice, it never was, I was always, until 2003, too terrified to ever act on my own vision). In fact, the Sutras late in Book I (I think) talk about "unity with prakriti" as achieved by improper methods and thus not being real enlightenment.
So I don't expect to spring into some mid-life crisis; relationships are hard and bodies ARE relationships. I was never big on objectification, and while pornography (and as Jason pointed out with the customary snark, not long ago, Yoga Journal) does rely on objectification and sure, it's fun, it's not my practice in real life.
Frustration *actually* fades, and in a way, I'm spooked by the eventual return of sexual activity because I'm certain that it will flood those now-quieter seeds with fresh water and sunshine. How terribly, terribly, ironic.
Community. My family identifies itself as Catholic, but as I've said before, it's a light-weight, unserious Catholicism, and I never, when I was younger, figured out why it was so light-weight. Only in conversation with J did I ever put this together. Catholicism for my family is simply a way of GENERATING community, of making social links; it's NOT a belief system, not REALLY. People talk about heaven and such, and funerals are a big deal (whereas I find Christian funerals to be such a farcical celebration of misery that they make me want to FUCKING VOMIT), but really, the familial point of BEING CATHOLIC is simply to be RECOGNIZABLE TO OTHERS, to sort of "have the badge" whereby one belongs.
My family doesn't care for deep, inward-looking, verbally complicated explanations of things, and they also don't care for meta-knowledge, by which I mean knowledge of WHY and HOW one knows what one knows, or believes what one believes. They wouldn't care for how long that prior sentence just was, for example. I, of course, LOVE that shit. The more complicated something is (provided that I'm interested in it to begin with), the more interested I get. The more "meta" it is, the juicier I find it to be. In fact, one of my strategies for making boring stuff interesting, is to crank up its complexity and my meta-cognition of it.
So when I tried to really BELIEVE in Catholicism (thinking, "well it's religion, right, that's WHAT ONE DOES, right, you believe in it, RIGHT?"), my family immediately didn't understand. "You're taking it too seriously." Taking it too seriously? What the fuck are you talking about? This is FOR LIFE, right? This is a set of ethics by which one can STEER ONE'S LIFE, yes? That's the fucking POINT, right?
But all of those questions went unanswered, and what made it all more irritating is that my family could NOT tell me what the ACTUAL point of application was, because they just DO IT, they don't THINK ABOUT IT. "Well just don't take it so seriously." "Because it just is."
Now, if you want to piss me off, you say "It just is" or "That's the way the cookie crumbles." Give me a blank wall to stare at and tell me that I can't learn about it or change it.
So in adolescence I started to do what only in graduate school would I acquire a name for: I began doing a dialectical and materialist analysis of their ideological commmitments. I've never believed in Marxist history or its teleology or any of that, but I find dialectics to be a SHARP FUCKING SCALPEL and to be BRILLIANT at cutting through self-blind bullshit about "It just is."
This did not, however, enlighten me as to HOW my family used Catholicism. It told me a lot about the belief system itself and its own power commitments, but my family's USE of Catholicism remained totally fogged to me. How was it possible that they BELIEVED but also did NOT? How the fuck was that even MANAGEABLE on a cognitive level?
It took a conversation with J (and this only happened a couple years ago, when I was something like 37, 38 years old, trying to unpuzzle this business that landed on me when I was TWELVE), to realize that they MAKE COMMUNITY with other extended family, via this belief system. It's like clothing or face paint; it's how you RECOGNIZE THE MEMBERSHIP. That's why hardcore metaphysical commitment is UNNECESSARY; it's not HOW HARD you believe, it's that you CLAIM BELIEF AT ALL so that you can BELONG SOCIALLY.
Why does that matter, aside from being potentially interesting in itself?
Family and reproduction. Seventh series.
I experience my family as basically metacognitively blind. Generally speaking, they are not AS A GROUP (and group overrules individual quirks in this usage) aware of why they do what they do, because that would REVEAL THE MATERIAL COMMITMENTS of group-making, and thus ruin the sincerity of the community, which is in a way GUARANTEED by committing RITUALS WITHOUT AWARENESS.
That paragraph is why I find tradition to be kind of terrifying.
Tradition and the very notion of "family," the idea of belonging, ITSELF, has a necessary and ESSENTIAL blindness in it. At least in my family, it does. My curiosity, which has always been native to me (I'm not pretentious enough to call this "intelligence") as far as I can remember, can't accept those blind walls, those "unquestionables." Things exist to be questioned and learned about; if I can't learn about it, it's because the fucking light isn't turned high enough.
So blindness is NOT acceptable to me, and as with most people who claim that, what we mean is that blindnesses which WE OURSELVES DO NOT ACCEPT (i.e., OTHER people's blindnesses) are not acceptable to us. OUR OWN blind spots are fine, hah!
A break with the familial unit was called for; it was the only way to not internalize the deadly, traitorous blindness. In a sentence, that's why I live in the Midwest now.
Again, why does this matter? Take my brother, who is a year younger than I am. He lives in the suburban Boston area ("the way you're supposed to"). He has a kid, and a wife to whom he is married (again, "the way you're supposed to"). He has a job (again, TWYST). And so on. And he is good people, none of this negates him in any fashion or should be understood to do so.
I got married once, and it was the biggest disaster of my existence (adolescence runs a close, close second, and in fact, the two echo each other in ways that are freakishly similar). I don't live in the suburbs, and in fact, I cannot even WRITE the word "suburb" without wanting to spit venom and nuke those fucking horrorshow things out of motherfucking existence. I have a job, but it's a job teaching Dada and advising graduate MFA students on making phallic symbols.
AND I have a kid.
That's the one exception to the list of differences.
The kid "connects" me to my family. My brother, on learning that J and I were pregnant, said, "Wow, this is the most conservative thing you've ever done." How many of you are laughing at that? See? He didn't mean socially conservative (my family's voting record is that of "yellow dog Democrats"); he meant, "non-wingnut." He meant, "This doesn't fit with your long record of doing crazy shit."
What's the connection? It's doing something THE WAY I'M SUPPOSED TO. All four grandparents want me and J to get married, and it's for the same reason. It's just like lightweight Catholicism (J's parents, for the record, are Protestant/atheist, much much more religiously lightweight than even my parents are).
Having a KID ties in to the community, but unfortunately, this also becomes a sort of ethernet cable which allows communication, two-way, between COMMUNITY BASED IN BLINDNESS and my ever-aware meta-community. And that creates friction and fire.
I resist instituting various bans, first because that never works and second because you can't ban people from doing things they're not aware of existing in the first place. My parents know better than to insist that their grandchildren become Catholic; when they asked my brother about this, he said that his family was tending toward Unitarian Universalism (one could do worse). J and I probably will tend toward generally Buddhist principles, but more in daily practice than in any sort of metaphysical umbrella.
I find myself VIOLENTLY OPPOSED to family "membership," not because it's harmful or abusive in any way--it's not--but simply because there is BLINDNESS IN IT. I'm perfectly willing to take the kid out there and hang out with the family, and all of our conversations and what are great and entertaining, and stories are told, but in me there is a guardian, like that sword of fire that surrounds Genesis' garden, which DOES NOT PERMIT the "blind traditions" to be downloaded.
When I started climbing and doing non-monogamy and doing ashtanga yoga, it made me very, VERY foreign to my parents' whole lifestyle and history, which I loved, because I could go home and still "be me" and do all kinds of family events and so forth, and as deep as I went, into their traditions, my own practice made me UTTERLY foreign, made me INDIGESTIBLE. Various relatives of mine like what has generally been described as my "persistent craziness," and there is a streak of that in my family as well--someone always moves far away and does weird stuff, in every generation. I am that person for my generation.
My intelligence alone makes me that person, what I've called my "meta-awareness," that stone on which I build all of my communities. Really, if I wanted to acquire discriminative knowledge, what I would deconstruct in my meditation practice is not my sexual stuff, but my INTELLIGENCE. THAT is where my ego is TRULY built.
J and I don't have the same conversational dynamic as we did before we got pregnant. Somehow in all the insomnia and the confusion and the needs to drive-here-pick-that-up-get-the-kid-omg-panic, we forgot how to hear each other, to speak clearly, to have time for chewy conversations. We've become literally dumber, less able to hear each other.
I used to have a set of priorities, arranged in 2003, which became my sword of discrimination between the two decades of my life prior, and my "future for evermore." I was climbing a lot, doing the yoga, having chewy conversations and a lot of sex with a marvelous smart woman who related healthily and with wisdom, and drinking a good bit of locally produced micro-brew beer. Ahh, life. Arrival!
And I crystallized those priorities, I made them "THE WAY and THE PATH." And I was going to run them out until death. I was going to re-pave my history and the whole history of the entire universe with those priorities. Death to stupidity, death to ignorance, death to the past! Death to error! Death to silence! Death to censorship! Death to repression! Death to fear! Death! Death, I say!
I was strident and proud and something approximating "free" after the very, exceedingly tight prisons into which my long-runnining persistent ignorance had led me. Of course, in Yoga Sutras terms, what I really did was just institute a more fun prison (which too would have decayed in time), but comparatively and back in those days, it was liberatory.
AND then we got pregnant and it all went to hell in less than six months.
Total assassination of our sex life, instantly, even before month one was over; as I said above, we're now creeping up on month TWENTY. Total dissolution of our ability to communicate, both in ability and in time to do so. Relationship put on the back burner, and then a back-er burner, and then even further back. Soreness in her body, illness, colds, kicking and sciatica, the pain and wounding of birth itself, non-stop colds since New Year's--the end of healthiness. Less beer consumed, both for chemical reasons and for time reasons. No time to climb, can't be away for a day, too "recreational," not serious enough.
I kept the yoga; I basically drew a line and said YOU DO NOT TAKE THIS FROM ME. I REFUSE TO DIE ALL THE WAY.
Of course, it wasn't death, but given that I crystallized "liberation" in that set of practices, all of my liberation evaporated, all except for the power to breathe and move.
I set myself up for this bear trap, and I own all of the pain now, it's all mine, I asked for it.
And I didn't realize that my ex-marriage had greased various paths with demonic powers, evil karma shit, but once I "joined the family" I got a good close look at those things.
My parents are, as far as I know, asexual. I was a VERY curious kid and if there had been ANY evidence of such activity I would have known about it. Family has come down to me, conceptually, as being asexual and based in "blind traditions" which reproduce themselves in generation after generation. So the idea of "family" to me, particularly after an asexual marriage myself, isn't really positive. Sexless blindness about one's identity and community? NO FUCKING THANK YOU.
What, in appearances, do I have now?
Shallow conversations, the lack of depth which used to be there.
That looks to me AWFULLY LIKE something I've tried for DECADES to avoid.
And of course I deceive myself; J and I are NOT MY PARENTS, we are NOT. Many many indicators point to vast differences. But until we can reinstitute an avid sex life and return to our nicely chewy conversations, I will always have doubts, suspicions, anger, pain, resentment. I often feel BETRAYED by J in that she chose the child over me, chose asexuality and shallowness over RIGHTEOUS PRIORITIES. See how biased that sounds? That's MY DAILY LIFE. I INHABIT THAT BIAS and I CANNOT LET IT GO.
J does not understand why I cling so hard to "what used to be." It's because that brief five-year span was made into my LIBERATION from twenty years of PAST STUPIDITIES. And the vanquishing of that liberation into this PSEUDO-VERSION of the SAME STUPIDITIES makes me very, very, very very VERY anxious.
J does not have my prisons, my liberation rhetoric, or my long bad relationship, she doesn't have my neurosis where all of this is concerned, so she wants me to "commit more" to the family relationship. I am trying with all my might. It's like embracing horror, it's like embracing my own negation. It's embracing something that I am TERRIFIED OF.
The kid himself is great; what I am so horrified by is the POTENTIAL MEANING of the FAMILY RELATIONSHIP.
Have I killed myself? Have I doomed myself to the prison I've tried so hard to escape? For me it's all faith that I HAVE NOT. But the relationship WON'T GUARANTEE THIS FAITH, will not LET ME KNOW that it's ok.
A man tied to a stake and set on fire tells himself,
The flames are not real.
The flames are not real.
The flames are not real.