Thursday, September 11, 2008

everything is easy but wrong

Living by habit doesn't hurt. And the butter melts, as Ani Difranco said, out of habit.
I have a habit thinking about and talking to a particular person, who I have mentioned here before (though I also deleted most of the posts about this person). He lives in another state, and has a full life there. But out of habit, I thought for over eleven years about how great this person was, how important he was to me, how much we supposedly had in common, and how - hopefully - we would someday know each other in a manner more real than pixels on a computer screen.

Old habits die hard. What happens to a dream deferred? It festers. Some dreams lack the beauty of raisins, and simply wreak havoc on the soul. Some dreams are so life-like, you forget you're dreaming. Some dreams last too long. Some dreams distract from reality, and confuse a person about what reality even is.

My dream was about meeting this person, who - oddly enough - I've known since 1997 and never met - and how, someday, we would end up being friends, in person, or, perhaps, get married, or some such thing. These were the dreams. However, when you put someone on a pedestal that's a bit too high, you end up frustrated that they did not live up the expectations formed in your imagination.

And sometimes people, for whatever reason, will try to convince you that your dreams have meaning, when they know this meaning is not really there. This person would always tell me how he didn't really want to be in his relationship with his girlfriend, how talking to me was much easier than talking to her, and, like a thirsty sponge, I soaked up these words and clung to them with my life. Life depends on hope. Hope depends on dreams. But dreaming too much is unhealthy, not productive, and sometimes dangerous.

Sometimes dreams must be let go, like a flower picked, and discarded. You open your hand, release it, and go on.

The below has long been one of my favorite poems. It relates to this post.

"Old Dominion"
By Robert Hass

The shadows of late afternoon and the odors
of honeysuckle are a congruent sadness.
Everything is easy but wrong. I am walking
across thick lawns under maples in borrowed tennis whites.
It is like the photographs of Randall Jarrell
I stared at on the backs of books in college.
He looked so sad and relaxed in the pictures.
He was translating Chekhov and wore tennis whites.
It puzzled me that in his art, like Chekhov's,
everyone was lost, that the main chance was never seized
because it is only there as a thing to be dreamed of
or because someone somewhere had set the old words
to the new tune: we live by habit and it doesn't hurt.
Now the thwack . . . thwack of tennis balls being hit
reaches me and it is the first sound of an ax
in the cherry orchard or the sound of machine guns
where the young terrorists are exploding
among poor people on the streets of Los Angeles.
I begin making resolutions: to take risks, not to stay
in the south, to somehow do honor to Randall Jarrell,
never to kill myself. Through the oaks I see the courts,
the nets, the painted boundaries, and the people in tennis
whites who look so graceful from this distance.


  1. Not too long ago I began contacting a couple of old girlfriends from college, circa 1975. Unfortunately the memories never match reality and my conversations with them just reinforced the fact I was lucky to have not married either one. The mind can create expectations that could never be met by real individuals. Sometimes it is best to let old memories stay dormant.

  2. Yes, well, these were not old memories, since I was still in frequent contact with this guy until, basically, today, when I told him off.

    It wasn't an old boyfriend; it was a current friend who always held out the possibilities of more than friendship like somebody feeding a carrot to a rabbit. I stupidly followed along with this routine for eleven years of my life. It will take some time to get over it.

    But I do understand what you are saying. I created an image of this person in my mind that he never would have been able to live up to, no matter what happened, anyway, so it was mostly a disaster of my own making.


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