call something beginningless and endless a “story.”
as it reads you.
i’m not intentionless. making requires intention. but my meaning is my own.
“what’s there” can only ever be a “what’s there between.”
and here’s yours.
i suppose the platonic ideal of “communication” would be the successful making known of the weight and meaning of an idea.
to ourselves as split subject or to others.
in academic discourse or dinner conversation.
in sermons or pamphlets for a political cause.
and though communication rarely takes place, we often take for granted that we have communicated our thoughts and have heard others’.
this leads to tremendous strife.
this leads to mistrust, confusion, feelings of internalized superiority and inferiority, and even hatred.
i know at least one way of communicating that cultivates empathy and productive understanding. a way of listening-reading.
this way is represented by the koan–a zen anecdote (one in a progressive series) taught to a student of zen who must sit with the koan until the truth of it arrives to her. the koan resists logical interpretation. the koan shifts the burden of communication from the teacher (speaker) to the student (listener-reader). the student must assume the truth of the koan first, and bring her own understanding into accordance with that truth.
we all have truths. (whether these are as “absolute” as the truths represented by the koans is another matter).
truths compel us to communicate.
we feel guilt when we deny them.
we feel pain and anger when others’ deny them.
these truths are beliefs so strongly felt that conflict arises when we find that others disagree with them, or when we cannot express them, or when we otherwise feel unheard. family conflict is often incited by something small but sustained by the pain of feeling “unheard.” when others’ disagree with our truths, it is hard to accept that they have reallyheard and understood them. we can also become angry with ourselves for not adequately communicating our truths.
a truth is a text to be read, like the koan.
there is a way in which any text (meaning anything) can be read that will allow for a particular understanding of that text. there is a way in which the koan, taken on faith, can be understood that will produce the feeling of “this is true.”
truth is, after all, a feeling.
in order to hear others, we must take as given that there exists a way of reading-hearing their words that enables them to feel such certainty. only after really hearing, can we really speak back, and really do justice.
you can try it out now. trust me. take what i speak as given, and sit with it until you see my-the truth of it. hold it up against your own experience. be patient with my truth. but whatever you do, don’t give up on it. don’t say “this is bullshit” until you feel yourself click into my place. if you never click, never dismiss me.
this plea exists whenever we strive to communicate.
even in the driest writing and the angriest words.
it is the plea of “‘deny not the realness of my world.”
it is the precursor to dialogue.
my doctor called me again.
after calling the lawyer’s office once a week for the past two months, he has now been told (either by harvard or blue cross, i’m not sure which) that he will receive payment.
i’m glad of it.
doesn’t undermine a damn thing about either of our experiences though.
bureaucracy enables evil. as zigmund bauman spells out for us in his analysis of the role of bureaucracy in the holocaust.
i’m not contributing to the death of millions. i’m pushing a button.
i’m making sure the trains run on time.
me? i’m collecting shoes.
i’m just following orders.
i’m doing what’s necessary to protect me and mine.
doesn’t look, smell or taste like evil. must not be evil! the bitterness is diluted enough to be tasteless when spread on toast.
the doctor who has treated my tendonitis for the past five months, three times a week, has not been paid.
he just called me in rather an anxious state. harvard will not pay him because they have denied my workman’s comp claim. blue cross will not pay him because they got wind of my claim, and determined the responsibility of payment to belong to harvard.
now it seems that the man who has tended to my injury and honored me as person (as dorm crew, blue cross and whatever branches of harvard i’ve encountered have not) is getting fucked over by bureaucracy, as am i…the injured one. i do not have the money to pay him the thousands of dollars he is owed. yet either i pay him, or he goes unpaid. and i am the one who worked hard enough for harvard to develop a chronic, debilitating injury that has shifted my date of graduation forward by three months.
thinking i was doing right by me, i filed a workman’s comp/disability claim with dorm crew back in september. i didn’t hear back from them at all, by any means. i only received a mysterious letter in the mail notifying me of the date, time and place of an independent medical examination i was to attend.
i went to this appointment, and it was traumatic, as i explain below in the email i wrote to dorm crew.
i heard nothing from the firm that conducted my IME, nor from dorm crew.
but i did receive a letter from blue cross informing me that they would not reimburse my doctor, as they had found my case to be a workman’s comp issue.
so i wrote this email to dorm crew:
Dear Dorm Crew,
I submitted a claim for workman’s comp in September 2007 and have received no word from you as to the status of that claim. This is quite problematic as my physician cannot get paid while this claim is in limbo. My health insurance company is refusing to pay for my treatments while the workman’s comp claim is open.
Please respond immediately to me as to the status of my claim.
I am saddened and more disappointed than I can say that I have heard nothing from you, formally, since I filed my claim in September–no emails, letters etc. I think it’s only appropriate that if a worker claims to have been injured on the job, that worker should at the least be extended sympathy, and kept informed of the developments of her case. I have received no correspondence from you at all.
I did receive a letter from a company called “Scope Medical” with information about an appointment for an independent medical examination for me in Stoneham. I responded in a timely manner and arranged to have my mother drive me to this facility where I endured one of the most humiliating experiences of my life. “Scope Medical” is an outpost on the top of a Dunkin Donuts. There is no identifying information on the office, nor receptionist at the door, just walls of files. Only after asking many questions were we able to determine that “Scope Medical” is a “middle man” for the insurance companies. The “physician” did not introduce himself, nor look me in the eye. He was extremely rude, callous and dismissive, paying little attention to my thoughtful responses to his interrogatories and mixing up the details of my condition. My mother tried to explain what accommodations Harvard College had been providing for me and he completely ignored her. I felt like a criminal, charged with some unknown crime. What was clear, was that this individual who knew nothing about my case, presumed me to be lying from the moment I stepped into his office, and since then, has told me nothing about his “findings.”
I have been treated with compassion and respect by the College in response to my injury and can only assume that the Dorm Crew office is unaware of the humiliation I experienced as my claim was being processed. I hope to create awareness so that in the future you handle these situations with more delicateness and concern.
Again, please respond to me immediately. If I have been denied, I need documentation as quickly as possible so that the person who has been treating me can be paid. He has been treating me since September and has been instrumental in my healing, yet has not been reimbursed, and will not be reimbursed by my health insurance until Blue Cross has seen that my claim has been denied.
they wrote back to me, referring me to the lawyers’ office that set up the IME.
i contacted them.
i received a letter of denial from the lawyers’ office, finally, and the assurance that they would no longer refer patients to scope medical. that was, i suppose, the only gratifying thing to come out of my experience.
of course, ironically, they denied my claim based on the fact that according to some “objective” measure they use, i had not been working for dorm crew long enough at the time of my injury to have legitimately developed tendonitis!!! nevermind that that is, whether possible or not, exactly what happened to me. and i am a real person, with a real injury, and a real story that just so happens to go against at least one of their objective means of assessing a claim’s validity.
i have been punished by bureaucracy for being a hard, dedicated worker and for filing an accident report.
my doctor has been punished by bureaucracy for the reason that two insurance companies are in a stalemate over purely abstract matters.
does no one else find this despicable?
lots of people fear intimacy.
i have a profound and constant fear of superficiality.
i don’t mind telling the woman behind the counter at peet’s what kind of tea i’ll have, because i’m assured of the fact (provided i don’t know her) that our interaction will be quick, formulaic, and entirely impersonal. i don’t even mind throwing in a joke or a smile. i just hope i never see her again.
but if i’m, say, at the market basket in billerica, and i see a teacher from high school whom i knew, sort of, or one of my mother’s friends, or even a friend of mine who was at one time dear to me who i haven’t seen in years, i’ll do my very best to avoid being spied.
if i’m eating in the dining hall i would much rather sit by myself than with acquaintances.
going out on tea dates with friends is often, though not always, exhausting.
talking to relatives i haven’t seen in a while is also exhausting.
in such situations, i put all my mental and emotional energy into trying to appear as though i’m comfortable and interested in what’s going on…while i am actually desiring to get away.
i have a constant tightness in my chest.
a clenched feeling.
i don’t run because i “dislike” people. i run from interactions i feel will not result in greater intimacy.
most people with whom i interact (friends, professors, coworkers, employers, relatives etc.) will never know and understand me deeply, and thus will not be able to provide me with what i truly crave in interaction, which is to be seen for who i am. what does it matter if a friend from high school asks how i’m doing, seems concerned about my life, wants to catch up, when i’m certain he has no idea who i am and what i’m about? who is it he thinks he cares about? because i know it’s not me. he hasn’t seen me. though the care may well be genuine, i don’t feel nourished by it.
however, i become very concerned with demonstrating my appreciation of that care…because indeed i am grateful for it…and the interaction turns doubly exhausting; first i must answer the questions that are meant to be relational food for me, then i worry about whether my failure to feel nourished is showing. conversely, i feel i will not be able to truly provide my interactional partners with anything of value because i will not be able to come to see and honor and know them. seeing, and honoring and knowing, i believe, require work. and it’s work i choose not to put into relationships with too many, precisely because not too many people can see me.
often what prevents others from seeing me is simply circumstance. the variables (my hermit-like tendencies included) do not align in such a way as to make closeness possible. like when my interactions with a person are bracketed. i see my professors in class. i see my employers at work. they see erin the smiling farmworker, or erin the prodigious toilet scrubber, or erin the quiet and diligent AFSC volunteer, or erin the loud and brilliant student. but they never see the person from whom all these erins flow. the erin behind the erins.
similarly i don’t usually get to see many sides of my coworkers, employers, professors, friends.
i know i doom relationships. but i do so feeling that they will never become intimate. either circumstance or perceived irreconcilable difference will, i believe, prohibit growth towards intimacy. there’s no way for me to know whether my choices to doom relationships are good ones; they all end in nothing. maybe i should be taking all my professors out to beer. i don’t know. i haven’t ever felt compelled to do so. perhaps because bracketedness de facto symbolizes dead-endedness to me. i have many such emotional/intellectual paradigms.
so i tend to rely on chemistry, inspiration, the exceptional. when such things appear, i take it as a green light to put in work. show myself. work to honor, cherish and be loyal. or else where could i possibly start?
almost always i begin new relationships with hope, only to feel ultimately unsatisfied, or worse, betrayed. i am very aware of what any particular person has seen, literally, seen of me. and it’s funny the points at which people become satisfied that they know who i am, or at least, that they know me as much as they wish to know me. usually, they are satisfied quickly and with very little of my substance. examples:
“nice blue hair. wanna fuck?” or “you are gorgeous…… wanna meet for a drink sometime?”
“i see you.” (when s/he hasn’t seen me.)
“this is erin. she sings in elvish.”
“dearest erin” or “love ya hon” (when we’ve never talked about anything real and never will.)
while i’m lusting for so much greater depth. i’m lusting for the parts of me i value most to be seen and appreciated. and i long for this to be called “erin” by my partners in conversation, interaction, being, life.
this is why i go home a lot. there is little my family has not seen of me and i of them. we can, i feel, truly honor and love each other. they can love what i call “me.” that is nourishing.
it’s not that i don’t care. i do, and deeply.
i want to savor another’s true appreciation of my me-ness, digest it, let it course through my insides, so that i may love and honor everyone more freely.
when i feel seen, wholly, i have energy to give.