the goo of ambiguity

Freeform by Duy Huynh

Last night, I was watching a youtube video entitled “Understanding Spirited Away: Consumption and Identity.” The author, Margarita, describes herself as a lifelong cinephile with an MA in film and philosophy who make video essays.  Spirited Away, an animated film by Hayao Miyazaki, is one of my favorite movies and tells the story of a 10 year old girl whose parents are moving her to a new city just as she is moving from young childhood to girlhood.  I haven’t watched the whole movie in a long time but the first bars of the soundtrack can strike an emotional cord at any time.  In her video essay, Margarita highlights the liminality of the story and of course, that peeked my interest. 

Back in April, I wrote about this particular liminal state of my unexpected life. I copied the meaning of the word, knowing that I did not fully understand the range of feelings I was holding, wanting badly to record my perceptions of the time inside and out. Reading over that post, I can see and revisit the feelings, amazed that it was only three months ago. I described the simple love and care I felt for my life in Madison. I expressed some understanding of the chaos and change I was putting myself and Julia through and the anxiety of the threshold time. Watching Margarita’s video I understand a little more.

She talks about Chihiro’s, the main character, near complete loss of identity before finding what she was growing into. In the liminal state, the character lost her former self, lacked social status and shed her old roll before taking on a new one. Loss. Identity. The chrysalis stage when the being is no longer caterpillar and not yet butterfly. The goo of ambiguity. Admittedly, I am casting our move to Boston into a mountain of life change; however, the thinking of it is good for my head.

I glimpsed the enormity of change back in April, I see more now. Margarita talks about “purg[ing] characters in order to restore them to their lost or forgotten selves.” I rolled that last thought around inside letting it gather feelings and momentum. In the Spring, I was holding on to the last threads of my Madison life, of myself there, of what we had created and what we lived, of all the pain of death and loss and recovery that went on there, and the discovery of friendship and community. Now, in Newton, I reconnoiter daily where I’ve been, who I was, who I am, who I am becoming.  I have taken some old threads with me, friends who are keeping in touch, sending cards and emails. My heart anchors itself to each of these dear souls who offer me what I need most these days.  Connection. I am curious about what I have purged and what lost or forgotten self I am  in the process of reclaiming.

July is gone. Writing my rent check yesterday, I paused for the briefest of moments confused as to what month I was writing the check for. July was hard won and long each and every day. I have a list of exactly which tasks I did and yet, I feel like the time was empty. Like the month slipped through cosmic fingers and I was floating somewhere above the every day barely touching into a real world. As if being present for the tantrums, boxes, heat, chaos, loneliness was taken in on some altered plane. Or perhaps it is that living in the present continues to be astonishing.  I have not clung to what has been awful or uncomfortable, and likewise allowed sweetness to go where it was meant to go.

Really, the time had been like the first months of other moves: moving to Cambridge in 1976 to live with David, to the West Village after graduating college, to Brooklyn after years in the East Village, to Bloomington for law school, to Madison for David to be the Clerk of Court and with a six year old wild child who was Julia.  During each of those moves, I remember a period of cloistered concentration in the new home making order of chaos and then, slowly exploring surroundings and community. Not really reinventing myself but seeing what parts of the self I had been in the place before fit into the new place. Determining, mostly without reflection, what parts of the old story would interest people who I met and briefly chatted with. In Madison, when people asked why I was moving, I usually told them about wanting to live near Cheshire, hoping for a better educational experience for Julia and wanting to set Julia up for adulthood. The people who asked and to whom I explained generally knew some part of me, some new lots of parts of me and they wanted or could tolerate longish explanations. In Newton, my response to the question of why’s is “closer to family.” and that suffices. 

And although I think I’ve always acted relatively the same way when I’ve relocated, I am consciously exploring and curious about my new identity.  I am more comfortable with the goo of ambiguity than I ever have been.  Not that I am totally comfortable with it as demonstrated at the beginning of the week. I am very interested and curious about the lost or forgotten self that I am in the process of reclaiming.

Tide Together by Duy Huynh

Before I started this writing, I awoke from a fuzzy dream and wrote the dream down. For my whole life before David died, I had an active and exciting dream life.  I thought everyone did until I began telling David my dreams and then reading about dreaming.  What I had was rare.  I regularly had lucid dreams and consciously used my night time dreams. Since his death, I have had no dream life. The most dreaming I remember is waking to fleeting wisps of feelings or narrative with little substance, rarely enough to tell or write. Perhaps it is time for a reclamation. 

And creative ideas are surfacing, bobbing up on the watery surface of memory and consciousness.  I was not aware that I feared the end of creative ideas, but becoming aware of them again is an incredible relief.

So ends the report on the first day of August, 2019.

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