Saturday, December 8, 2012

love and demons

So I read Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century, by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger. It was recommended by various funny bloggers who were taking down the awful Lifetime movie, and the library had it, so... no, I don't really have an excuse.

I find Richard Burton mildly interesting. I don't find Elizabeth Taylor very interesting. And the book came off as if the authors felt the same way, although I think the actual issue was that it was written while Taylor was still alive, and so they were walking on eggshells about her and didn't go into her as a person at all. Which had the accidental result of this being mostly a biography of Burton with Taylor appearing as a bland cypher, and the reason for his obsession with her is never made clear. The authors also don't want to say anything bad about her: for example, they keep mentioning that it was impossible for Burton to stay sober as long as he was with Taylor, but then they try to gloss over her enabling / encouraging behavior (apparently she would tell him how boring he was when he was sober, which is pretty much the worst thing you can say to an alcoholic).

I found this book depressing because of Burton's self-loathing, and also because I don't like the idea that the louder and more destructive a love is, the more passionate (and hence truer) it is. I don't like identifying two people who cheated on their spouses and threw things at each other as the Lovers of the Century. It's very juvenile: both their behavior and society's exaltation of it. I have never understood the phrase "can't live with you, can't live without you," except in the period when I was trying to figure out how Claudio and I could continue to pay the mortgage if he moved out, and that wasn't, technically, living without him so much as it was living without his income. At that point we were both damn certain that we didn't want to live with each other anymore, and our fights (though, thankfully, no one ever threw anything) did not end in exciting bed times. (Do people really use fights as foreplay, as this book constantly said Taylor and Burton did? Really? Having someone shout at you makes you want to take that person's pants off? When a man shouts at me I just want him to go very, very far away.)

I like being in love to be quiet. Quiet and calm and fierce: fierce in the sense of I am holding onto this. A joy that almost pierces and yet leaves you more peaceful than you would be without it.

Things I am in love with in that way:

How Bingley runs to the back door and lifts his nose to the doorknob when he wants to go back in. Another blogger recently mentioned the first time her new dog did this, and how that means he knows it's his home. Bingley's done it for years but it never stops wringing my heart.

How Darcy looks at me with his huge golden eyes full of trust and love and (because I anthropomorphize) humor, when I am being tragic. Bingley is all too empathetic, and shakes and frets if I am crying or storming, but Darcy looks at me with a spark of "...really? you could be rubbing my belly, you know," in his noble face, and I usually end up laughing at myself.

Getting a complicated, difficult program or report to do what I want it to do. (I know, you often forget I'm in IT, given the grade-school-primitive look of this blog, don't you?) I feel so ferociously competent when I manage that. It's especially satisfying because I have no computer background and not much training, so I've mostly just figured out this stuff by plugging away at it and trusting my own intelligence. As someone who often doubts her intelligence (oh, I could write a whooooole long post about that alone), it's good to be reminded of what I can accomplish when I trust it.

Books, naturally. My to-read list. Knowing there will always be more to read.

And, of course, Berowne. I'm very wary of raving about him in this space, both in terms of tempting fate and in terms of coming off as adolescently, embarrassingly gushy. I'm smitten to the bone and there's no point in pretending otherwise, but I can presumably refrain from going on and on about his eyelashes and his kindness and his manly beard. All I have to say is that there aren't any dramatic or tortured stories about us meeting; there isn't the tale of how we couldn't stand each other at first or we were with other people but the chemistry was overpowering or he was allergic to big dogs or whatever. There's just the fact that we met, and very soon realized how right for each other we are. No one's going to write a book about us. Thankfully.

Something happened the other day which made me feel bad about my lack of accomplishments thus far, about this blog, about not being good enough. I am not in love with that feeling. It brought up a lot of pretty rancid stuff which is inevitable in the psyche of a perfectionist who was expected to excel at everything. I've squashed most of that stuff flat under the weight of 180 dog-pounds and a couple pairs of stompy boots, but it proves surprisingly elastic sometimes. (SPROING! YOU'VE FAILED!)

When it pops up, I get crazy-hard on myself for not being one of those women who has the energy to work full-time and go back to school in the evenings and stay up until midnight when she gets home working on her crisply intellectual novel. (Often she has small children as well, because she's just that awesome.) I have accepted that that's not who I am, that's not who I can be, and that sometimes it takes all I have to just be okay for an evening - I've accepted it, but I haven't forgiven myself for it. I haven't stopped believing that it denotes some awful weakness / failure in my personality. That if I were a better person, I could find that energy somewhere. Hell, if I were a better person I would want to go back to school, instead of knowing that that isn't for me.

There is a mildly rational part of my brain which knows it isn't a competition, and I hung onto that part for dear life that day. I went home, and did yoga, and laughed with the dogs, and bounced around to silly music, and made a healthy dinner, and took a bath. I even sat my butt down in front of my laptop and wrote. My demons haven't been evicted, but we've established some house rules. You can make me feel embarrassed about reading a trashy celebrity bio. You can't make me do anything else. 

Note to self: keep stomping.

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