Monday, February 25, 2008


Last week, I was on a research trip in Minnesota. It is, of course, absurd to travel to Minnesota in February. But when you're sitting in the archives, the weather outside matters less. It does matter, though, and the way I could tell this was that I couldn't default to walking everywhere, which is my preferred method of getting around in a new city. You learn a city faster that way. But instead, I was forced to take the bus, and learning the buses in a visited city where you could walk always feels like learning a foreign language just so you could watch a movie that has subtitles. It's a lot of deciphering for very little pay off.

Still, I managed to get a bus right outside of my hotel and take it directly to the library that would suck me in for eight hours. After my first day, I went outside, crossed the street (I needed to go the opposite direction, see, so I figured I'd have to stand on the opposite side of the street.) and got on the appropriately labeled bus. 30 minutes later, that bus pulled up outside of the library again with me still on it. So I walked to the front and had this irritating conversation with the bus driver:

"Which bus goes to Street With The Hotel?"
"We aren't on Street With The Hotel."
"Yes. Which bus goes there?"
"We don't have a bus that goes there."
"But I'm staying at This Hotel, and I got on a bus there this morning."
"But we don't have a bus that goes there."
"But I got on there this morning."
"We don't go there."

We had, obviously, reached a conversational impasse. Nothing I could say would convince her that I'd gotten on a bus at my hotel. (Really, I had!) And nothing she could say was going to convince me that I hadn't, in fact, taken a bus to campus that morning. So I got off the bus, crossed the street, got on an identical bus (or so it seemed to me) and arrived at my hotel five minutes later.

Now, it turns out that two things had happened. The first is that there are two buses that each do a half loop of campus over and over, and so by crossing the street to get on the bus that was going the other way, I crossed over into a different half of the loop. Ok, whatever. Seems like a dumb way to do it, but it obviously works for them. The second thing that happened was that when I mentioned the street my hotel was on, I actually gave the name of the street outside one door when I'd actually gotten on the bus on the street outside a different door. Totally my fault. I still think that, given that it was a giant, six story, white hotel building sandwiched between restaurants and some construction, the bus driver could have extrapolated from the name of my hotel to the bus I needed, but fine. That's my problem, too. I'll avoid making additional snarky remarks about her reasoning skills.

The point of this too-long story, though, is that I've been thinking about this conversational impasse all week long. Because I'm pretty sure I've reached a similar impasse with my own brain. Usually, the things at war in my head have civil conversation and negotiating sessions. The things I'm afraid of and the things I'm resisting push and push, and the tools I have for dealing and the things I want to achieve push back, and I eventually get to a very nice place in which I see that these fears over here are right and should be listened to and those over there are trouble-makers and have to sit in the corner and shut up. I come up with a few decent metaphors and I understand and all is well.

Yeah, not this time. Right now, my brain is just playing an on-going game of conversational Pong. "How do I get there?" "We don't go there." "How do I get there?" "We don't go there." Over and over. I'm pretty sure that the impasse is caused by something really stupid, like my inability to recognize the giant white building outside the bus window as a hotel. But I can't figure out what that piece is. I can't figure out what simple thing I cling to in the face of overwhelming evidence that it isn't working. Which has brought me to the following conclusion: I need someone else to enter the negotiations. I need a fucking therapist or something. And god, I think I'd rather get back on that bus.


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8:25 PM  
Blogger Scrivener said...

There's nothing at all wrong with needing an outside voice to help us with those sorts of impasses. I'm not certain the nature of this debate you're having, the extent to which it's personal or professional or what have you, but I think there's this funky paradox of healing that we both must do the work of healing ourselves and we must have someone else to help us to recognize where we need this healing--not necessarily a professional, but other people, to serve as mirrors if nothing else, so that we can see things about ourselves that we would otherwise remain oblivious to.

I understand preferring that bus ride over therapy. Certainly in the short term. In the long run, though, that bus ride can just go on for a very, very, very long time, and it doesn't always circle us back pleasantly to a familiar, or at least recognizable, place.

All the best to you. Glad you posted again. Don't wait so long for the next one, please. :)

11:46 AM  

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