a rambling post that I’ve been meaning to write and which should have been more well-formulated that goes very off topic from removal from life to the manipulation of one’s mental state

This is an article from the NY Times Modern Love column (which I read religiously, of course) that I resonated with. As a side note, I absolutely love the Modern Love column in that each and every article touches on complex themes that most people can resonate which.

The article touches on the author’s near death experience. Some relevant quotes:

But the truth is, I don’t feel lucky. Or even alive. I feel indifferent. All I can do is watch everyone around me experience what I should be feeling. No, it’s worse: I watch them and condemn them for the utter uselessness of their joy.

When it is time to go, we take the shuttle to the airport, where we stand amid bulging suitcases and overstuffed tourists. I wait for the familiar tingle of anticipation about returning home and the surge of anxiety upon boarding the airplane. But I feel neither.

For the first time in my life, I am not afraid to fly. In fact, I am not afraid of anything.

But the feeling is not one of liberation. I am still searching for something — even my old fear — to tether me to my previous life, but there is only this feeling of utter remove.

And suddenly, as our plane pushes skyward, its engines roaring, I am taken back to that moment when the universe tightened its grip, threatening to peel me from my family, my friends, my memories, a future I would never know.

For a second, I resisted. I asked: How can my loved ones and I exist apart? How can I be lost to the world? We spend our lives binding ourselves to one another, attaching ourselves to this life like mollusks clinging to the reef.

But as that plane dropped from the sky, I knew that the world would go on without me. My friends would grieve and move on. My loved ones would endure. All I had to do was accept this and let go.

SO I did. I looked down at the staggering carbon canyons, which were cut like ribbons across the landscape — beautiful and steep and no place for a soft landing — and I let go. But we didn’t crash.

And here I remain — among friends and loved ones, at the beginning of my marriage and all the fierce entanglements of life. Yet in letting go, it seems I created a break between my former and current selves that isn’t so easily bridged.

At home, I go to the grocery store, rub the dog’s belly, fold the laundry, return my mother’s calls — all the routines and rituals that are supposed to give life structure and meaning. But week after week I am still in that other place, a half step removed, wondering when and how I am ever going to come back from this.

A month after my return, the answer comes in the form of a phone call summoning me to the emergency room: my father has had a heart attack.

And it is not until I am beside him in the intensive care unit, gripping his hand as he battles his weakened heart for each breath, that I feel my own heart pounding again for the first time since that day. It’s all so familiar: the panic, the terror, the threat of imminent loss.

But this time I don’t let go. My father, laced with wires and unconscious, is pulling me back.

As I read through the piece, I moved from a vague annoyance that the author was complaining about almost crashing in a plane when she hadn’t actually crashed – I still do not find that part of the narrative compelling – to more and more involvement. She used a few key phrases that perked up my interest

“condemn them for the utter uselessness of their joy”

“I feel neither.”

“I am not afraid of anything.”

“utter remove”

“We spend our lives binding ourselves to one another”

“and I let go”

“routines and rituals that are supposed to give life structure and meaning”

“a half step removed”

I’m odd in that I am wholly indifferent to death. And though occasionally friends I tell this to jump to the conclusion that I am suicidal (I’m not), I know it’s not quite…normal? Positive? Seeing this author write about letting go and being ‘a half step removed’ shocked me in that I saw myself there. I am often a half step removed. But unlike the author, I have not had a near death experience. I haven’t even lived that long, or that much. So sometimes I wonder – what’s missing? What’s wrong with me?

Or is there even anything wrong with me? Is there anything wrong with not blindly participating ‘the routines and ritual that give life structure and meaning’? Recently I’ve accepted these rituals and carried them through, finding new ones to add. But it is a conscious choice to distract myself from the futility of it all (how pretentious can I get in two minutes help).

Talked with MH a few days ago about it. She stopped me in the middle while I was describing this – I’d been calling music a form of manipulation of one’s mental state, and she stopped me.

Manipulation? she asked. If you call these things manipulation, you’d have to call a lot of things manipulation.

And I realized – I do. I truly think everything is a form of manipulation. And it’s necessary. And so I manipulate myself to continue being productive and living and pooping and experiencing life


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