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Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Tractor Beams 

I used to try to explain to my husband how his depressive bouts affected me, and why I felt driven to wheedle and cajole him into doing something with me – often the weather was bad so it was doing things like sledding, or walking to the store, or just walking around the neighborhood. My response and drive to adjust something that he saw as separate from me was illogical to him. In my explanation, I used the image of orbiting celestial bodies, and how their gravitational pulls affect the orbits of bodies around them.

The last few days I've been trying to understand why I care that a man, to whom I once was emotionally attached, was reading what I publicly write here. It did bother me that he was doing it secretly, i.e., hiding it from his wife, but that's really his problem. Yesterday, as I whiled away the better part of an hour in an MRI machine, I realized that it's as if I feel the weight of his attention – and of course that's my problem.

Freud believed that the simple recognition of a problem of the psyche can resolve the problem. He was wrong for the most part: sometimes insight helps, but it more often doesn't. (Holocaust survivors, for example, have been shown to be more functional, and what researchers termed "successful", if they simply ignored their psychic pain from devastating experiences.) In this case, the insight is useful – I think I can stop caring about what this man is doing now.

MRI machines are a perfect place to contemplate orbiting bodies. The second the machine is turned on, I lapse into a surreal dreamlike state. 30 years ago I stopped sleeping under an electric blanket because of the similarly strange dreams I was having. A few years later, research showed that women who used electric blankets had an increased incidence of miscarriages.

As I recall my husband's puzzled reaction to my orbiting bodies metaphor, I wonder if, as in water, some people are simply more buoyant than others in these unseen currents. If so, you can't really fault them for it, any more than you can blame the negatively buoyant person for having trouble scuba diving.

[Next: Cliff walking with Spalding Gray.]


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