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Ups and Downs

It’s a beautiful sunny day, and I get up at noon. Suites boys are playing “Johnny B. Goode,” and I break the tea-cup my best friend from high school got me as a gift. Tonight my boyfriend and I will celebrate a friend’s birthday and cuddle; tomorrow I will spend the day in bed, feeling toxic. Two mornings from now my dining hall will have dry oatmeal, and I will cry while biking home from work and listening to “Cherry” by J.J. Cale. And then the Eagles will win the Superbowl, and I’ll have a really meaningful conversation with my sister.

The question of temporality has directed my thoughts a lot lately.

When I find myself eating an especially delicious donut I experience dread, what I am biting toward is an end of this enjoyment. When I’m having a particularly hilarious afternoon with friends, the moment vanishes into another. Before I’m ready someone darts off to go to the library or to grab their laundry.

Everything ends. No state is permanent, no matter how right it feels while we are experiencing it.

As soon as a distasteful moment has taken hold of me, my tendency is to try and wrangle that moment back to where it originated from,  a genesis of pleasure, or at least neutrality. For example if someone says something hurtful, I am quick to apologize for whatever role I played in making them say that hurtful thing. It’s an elaborate scheme to cultivate those pleasurable feelings of equilibrium.

I don’t want the negative aspects of life— the sadness, the anger— to grip me or my time for too long. For while they are present in my life, there seems little room for the good stuff, those feelings of creative bliss, inspiration, and gratitude.

It’s a strange predicament to feel the need to express each emotion in the particular situation that merits it, but at the same time to have such a strong bias towards one set of feelings: the positive ones.

It seems to set me up for failure.

I am so ready to feel motivated and joyful and engaged that I overlook the very real, very human experiences of guilt, regret and grief. I don’t even allow them time to take root. As soon as I see them coming, I side-step and try to make them go away because of how much it hurts to feel them in the same way, and to the same degree, that I feel those favorable emotions.

And while after my reflections over the course of this weekend I am in no way convinced to seek these feelings out, I do find myself trusting in the cyclical and temporal nature of our humanness. It seems like the only way to make sense of everything, this idea that nothing lasts.

I woke up this morning after one of the most difficult nights I can remember, in which sleep eluded me, darkness gave me no sense that my day had ended, and I saw the pointlessness of this life march for what it is. Not to say those feelings are gone, but there was olive tapenade at lunch. And I had the treat of a Nemerov lecture on Larry Clark. And, sure, I’m still trying to find my missing bike ticket, figure out how to end a poem I’m working on and apologize for the pain I have caused someone close to me, but I have the opportunity in this new moment I am now inhabiting to do and be better, to redouble my commitment not to a life of equilibrium, but of acceptance of our everyday, every moment rise and fall.

 

Contact Hannah Broderick at inbloom ‘at’ stanford.edu

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