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The Name of Things

Fri, Aug 17, 2001 03:19PM -0600

OK, there is another entry for today but I felt I had to separate this one out, because now I remember why I couldn't sleep last night and had to use some valerian and melatonin to send me to the land of dreams.

So I have this superstition that if you don't put down in words what happened, then it really isn't true. Or if you just keep what you think is going to happen to yourself, then it won't come true. Something like that. Don't give it a name, and it can't materialize.

And so I've been harboring this fear for a week or so, wondering why you would freak anyone out like that, and what the ethics are regarding fatal, incurable diseases (and then I am reminded of the dire joke: "Life is a terminal, sexually transmitted disease.") I mean, do you really bring them up like that before you know for sure? But I am getting ahead of myself.

Now don't get me wrong, I should know first-hand that this physician thing isn't exactly a walk in the park. You're not their only patient, like it or not, and they have other things on their mind like as not, and if they freak you out on occassion, such is life, what can you do, it's either there or it isn't, it wasn't their examination that made it true, and in the end, the reality is what counts. Or should. Maybe.

But down to the nitty-gritty. So my sister is having these symptoms and the doc brings up the specter of cancer--specifically, one that people do not ever survive--and it freaks me out. Not the screaming meemies, but enough to keep me anxious. I mean, at the age of 20 years old, what are the chances, really? Finite, true, but still. And when I don't know something, I start imagining the most horrible things.

From what I understand, you've only really got three to five years. Horrible, horrible, horrible.

Well, so yesterday, she had tests done, and thankfully, nothing. Relief. No more worries. (Well, at least for thirty years or so, according to the doc.)

You would think I would sleep well, but as I've mentioned, I've been in a philosophical mood as of late. You know, there's that Jean-Paul Sartre quote which I don't really want to dig out about how a man (or a woman) is defined by the dreams that never came true, or something like that. And as I while away my youth in this academic limbo (in this country, it seems like all academic endeavor is treated as limbo. And seeming is better than being, it seems), I have this nagging sensation that I'm not really getting much done in life. Like if I died tomorrow (knock on wood), all that they could really say is that I had "so much potential."

Now I know that this is not really true. I know I've done a lot little things. Typical American sentiment, I suppose. Always looking for that Big Thing. The Score. The Jackpot. The Game-Winning Shot. The Championship Trophy. Anyway, I'm trying to steer away from that sort of madness. It's hard to reverse socialization, but it gives me something to do when I'm bored.

So anyway, I started thinking about the things I almost did, and figured that if you haven't done anything yet, you might as well count the things you almost did. What can I say. I've always wanted to be a writer, and "what-if" thoughts have got to be the easiest way to gather material. So I started thinking about how it's easier to think of the things you wanted that almost happened. Like the one-that-got-away. And that you rarely think about the things you didn't want that almost happened. You know, like near-miss collisions. That sort of thing.

For simplicity's sake, let's tag the former as "almost-good" and the latter as "almost-bad." It seems to me that with "almost-good" things, you approach them at a much lower velocity, and when they don't happen, there are very good reasons why they didn't, and you can even sometimes see what you could've done different. With "almost-bad," everything happens too fast, and you're left with a mini-survivor-syndrome situation. Why wasn't I the one? Why did I make it? This is most apparent when you are inches away from death, but it can happen a lot of times. It's scary shit.

So the whole point of this is that I almost feel like I've dodged a bullet. (Sure, it wasn't me, but, hell, flesh and blood, all that. I know it would be easier to die myself than to see one of them die, not that there's anything easy about death...) I know I said it before, it's either there or it isn't and whatever it is was true even before you looked, but hell, when you're freaking out on caffeine at 1:30am and the mind is tired but can't shut down, you start thinking about things like parallel universes, and about what would've happened if I had said the right words, done the right things, wondering if in at least one of these parallel universes I'm in love with someone and she loves me just as much (and maybe that would be enough to justify a lifetime of loneliness, but that's too painful to consider....) And if these good things are true somewhere-somewhen, then all the bad things have to be true too, and some versions of me are standing there absolutely bereaved, and maybe in some of these universes I never made it out of the pit, and these thoughts just give me the willies.

So that is the recipe for a sleepless night. Thankfully, there is valerian root and melatonin, and yes, thankfully, things are OK. I almost said "for now," but I won't say it. I know, I know, always look at the bright side of life, don't dwell in the darkness 'cause it can eat you, yada-yada. So maybe these almost-bad things should count as good things then. Maybe if I actually kept count, I'd realize that I'm pretty lucky after all, in all the small things. And maybe I should remember that the big things can always be broken down into small things, ad infinitessimum. If only I'd never read that biography about Napoleon, I probably wouldn't be so worried about trying to take over the world. Ah well. Small non-threatening things.

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