I am big on repetition. I worry that this is a symptom of my atrophying mind. I worry I have to repeat things in order to understand them. And that maybe I’m not smart enough to understand them the first time. But then I think I have probably always been this way. Because I’ve always been big on repetition. So perhaps I have never been smart enough and this is nothing new and I should stop worrying.
Or maybe it’s just that I like repetition. Maybe that’s all it is.
If I were a lawyer, I’d be a staunch advocate for repetition. If I were a doctor, I wouldn’t treat anything presenting as repetition, even if it were infected and festered. If I were a fighter, I’d have repetition’s back, by god. And I’d cut an asshole that got all up in repetition’s face.
At night, when there are no other options, I do the dishes, which are usually caked with nothing except a day of rinse water from sitting at the bottom of the sink. I busy myself with various chores of organization and alignment. The bottle which goes back in the cupboard. The butts which go in the trash. The photos which go back in the shoebox. The clothes which go back in the corner. The putting away of things. The composition of a life so I can deconstruct it all again tomorrow.
I do this and I think about the problems and the problems go where the things go. The problems of narrative and the problems of character. They find their boxes and they find their shelves, and they find their miserable little sentences and paragraphs.
And it always feels better to have composed and disposed. To have conducted this transposition of evidence, this shift of blame and complaint.
I like to repeat words. And I like to repeat sounds. The repetition of many sounds can lead to a song. And the repetition of many songs can lead to a theme. Repeating sounds and songs—and finding themes and discovering voices—adds layers to the composition I am seeking out.
More than anything, I like to repeat mistakes. And I’ll repeat a mistake as long as I’m allowed to do it, or until I’m bored by it. My mistakes have names. Like Smitty. Or Bupropion. Repeating words and repeating mistakes are the same thing. I am always more impressed by the music of words than I am with their meanings, and that constantly gets me in trouble. I feel like I am always not saying what I mean. And I worry that everything coming out of my mouth is a series of neologisms, understood by nobody. Not even me.
There is a form of dementia called frontotemporal dementia. In medical articles, it’s shortened to FTD, which reminds me of flowers. FTD reminds me of flowers because I live in a commercial landscape that lends itself to economic and capitalist associations.
Capitalist associations are not the worst kind of associations a person can make. I could say FTD is to frontotemporal dementia as DOA is to dead on arrival. We are all dead on arrival. Death is a chronic, degenerative condition caused by living and we all have it.
(God, I am so tired of comparisons.)
Anyway, one of the symptoms of FTD is repetition, along with an artistic obsession with one thing. To take a real-world example, Ravel’s “Balero” is said to be an early symptom of the composer’s dementia, his imminent unraveling. But let’s use a hypothetical: a rose, let’s say (to keep with the flower theme.) A painter who has FTD might paint a rose one hundred times. Or more. One thousand times. A thousand renditions of a single fucking rose. And as he is going about repeating and exploring this obsession with the rose, he is also, quietly, in the background, losing his mind. Losing his ability to make words about anything else. To make thoughts about anything else.
Of course the rose could be anything.
It could be an orange. Or a goldfish. Or a dog.
Christ, could you imagine being reduced to doing nothing but picture after picture of dogs? Not even dogs plural, but the same dog?
I hate how people are always explaining things. Explaining an intention or a mood. A color choice. As if explaining these things somehow explains themselves. Turning each decision into an existential, self-satisfied manifesto. Explaining why they bought the eco-friendly vehicle with the eco-destroying battery instead of the thirsty sports car. Why they went with cloth diapers instead of disposable. Why they only watch feminist porn. Why they only buy local. (Or why there is really no such thing as “local” anymore.) Explaining the correct way to think about race, or gender, or sex. Or an abstract thing like “privilege.” Spending the space of a couple thousand words dissecting it and analyzing it. Reaching no real conclusion, but explaining the hell out of it, nonetheless.
Explaining things is easy. And it feels like a proper thing to do. It is good to explain something. It is good to justify. It lends itself to the notion that you will, that you can in fact, be understood by other people. That you are not alone.
For me, however, the explanation of a thing often seems inversely related to the understanding of it. Often, the more a person explains something, the more questions I have, and the less I actually seem to comprehend and know.
Understanding things is really, really difficult. Nevertheless, doing the act of comprehension lends a certain credibility to existence. And helps us, in turn, make a long line of explainable decisions that we can feel comfortable about when doing our taxes or applying for a marriage license or saying our prayers or doing our yoga exercises. And so we are always engaged in this explaining business.
I admit, understanding things makes me feel upstanding and moral and legitimate. It makes me feel like a decent citizen to come to an understanding about something. To form an opinion on it. To have reached a conclusion and to make sense out of it, and be able to explain that sense-making to others. But at the root of reaching a conclusion is the belief that there is a conclusion to be reached. Which is a belief I simply don’t have about most things. And therefore, I almost never feel upstanding. Or moral. Or legitimate.
I say we stop explaining. And we stop trying to understand. And we just play and experiment and repeat the words that are beautiful to us, even if they are mistakes. Don’t explain to anybody why you fell down at your daughter’s dance recital and cut your head. Why you then ran out onto the lawn, where the sprinklers happened to be on that night, your head bloody and your body wet, and why you fell to your knees and vomited cranberry and vodka. Don’t explain why when your ex tried to help you up, you stood up and spit at him while your daughter and your daughter’s friends and their parents and your husband’s new wife looked on. Don’t explain why you fucked your friend’s husband in your car at a rest stop off of Highway 81. Why you told her you’d always have her back and would always be there for her. Why, when you meet her at the Main Street Tavern for drinks, you carry a note her husband wrote you in your purse and you sometimes leave your purse open when you go to the bathroom and the note folded, but showing, right at the top. Don’t explain that shit. Just do it. You may find others begin to understand you better. You may find you begin to understand yourself better
It is so much harder, so much lonelier to do: to not explain. To let people form opinions without your help. But the reality is that they’re going to do it anyway. They’ll ask for your goddamned birth certificate and after you give it to them, they’ll still assert you’re not a citizen. They’ll ask for a blood test after your race and when you come up clean, they’ll still say you’ve cheated. They’ll understand the story they want to understand. And if you don’t try to give them the story, you’ll feel less marginalized and angry when they get it wrong.
Fuck it. I want to always speak in neologisms. I want to set out in making sense to nobody, least of all myself. And to take pleasure in the repetition. The ongoing narration. The layers and layers of sound and voice.
The survival time for somebody with FTD is about seven years. Probably only three or four of those are actually somewhat decent. Seven years is a pretty long time to work on the project of dying. In seven years, a person can die of a whole host of other living-related side-effects. Murder, for instance, is a side-effect of living most people don’t have to confront. There is no cure for murder. Once you get it, the prognosis is grim. It takes only a fraction of the time FTD takes. It is contracted by motive, and sometimes it is spread by an accomplice. Suicide is a variant of murder, but sometimes they can present with a lot of the same symptoms.
Of course I’m talking about the narrative now. I’m talking about the character of me, here.
I couldn’t be fucked to actually map out my own death.
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