Tuesday, January 06, 2015

binary oppositions

I've been thinking a lot about duality lately. As a good teacher, I always make the class examine models of thought, so discussions of binary oppositions are de rigueur. But lately, it's been hitting really close to home.

My daughter has (another) cold. For those of you childless, this means that she has to stay home from daycare so she doesn't infect other kiddies. Yet we still have to pay for the daycare she's not attending. To make matters more interesting, this is the week before my semester starts...so I'm supposed to be spending the days prepping syllabi, sorting out schedules, getting readings in line, and populating my class web sites. I can't do any of these when my girl is home. So, every night this week, I chain myself to my study desk until sometime after 11pm.

Now, this means that all my normal nighttime plans are thoroughly out the window. This is yet another week where I can't go to Howard's to write (and I have two or three songs in my head, in addition to discarding ideas that I know I cannot get to). This taxes me. And, instead of winding down from the day, my nights are now spent working, planning, scheming...which means that the idea of getting to sleep before 2am is now also out the window. Even with the brain drugs, my head just won't shut off on command...and it's hard to sleep when one's frontal cortex (or whatever) won't stop strategizing.

On the other hand, I had an unexpected day with my girl...and sorry to turn into doting father here, but she amazes me with how wonderful she is. She's kind and caring, and I'm convinced she has more capacity for empathy than most of my undergrads. And she is also hilarious. Nine times out of ten, an "I love you" will elicit a raspberry for a response. Today, she told me (unbidden) "I love you." Touched, I responded with "I love you too, honey." She then said "I don't love you when you're not here."

Rim shot.

The funny thing here is that my mood isn't trapped between these two points: aggravated work panic and melted heart love. No, it's ricocheting back and forth between the two points. While I hate binary oppositions, I can't escape personally being trapped at one extreme or another.

Second example: after one expensive car repair for my wife and one looming whopper of a repair on my car, my wive's wheels start acting up. She pulls into our parking lot Friday after work, and her car is smoking. The mechanic looks at it Monday and gives an estimate which isn't far off  my two week paycheck. I start off with the bemused humor of "of course, life is doing this to us right when we start to plan to buy a house. Why should we expect any different?" And I stay in pretty good humor about it, right up until the time when I, without warning, fling over to "holy hell, more money we don't have/we'll never get out of debt/we'll never get our own house/I'll never be able to retire/I'll leave my child gobs of debt/you fill in the depressing thought." And since, I'm always at one of the two extremes. It's almost as if the middle ground doesn't exist.

I'm a postmodern man tied to binary brain chemistry.

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