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De File - Nine Years Later
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
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Nine Years Later
Nine years ago today, I began this journal. As I've explained before, my reasons for doing so were complex. Part of the motivation was my desire to do "field research," as a participant observer, on the fate of the confessional mode in the internet age. Part of it was the fact that, after three years of living in Tucson, I still felt isolated and was hoping to find a substitute for the sort of casual interactions with friends and friendly acquaintances that had made my years in the San Francisco Bay Area so rewarding. And part of it, as I've been reluctant to explain publicly until now, was the damage done to my professional life by something that had happened that spring, an incident that threw me into an abyss of self-doubt and ultimately consolidated my ambivalence about academia to the point where it overshadowed everything I tried to accomplish at work.

In other words, while I wasn't exactly in a state of total despair, the impulse to start blogging was bound up with a good deal of stress and disappointment. Put another way, it was compensatory from the get-go. Not surprisingly, I suppose, it didn't exactly make my life happier. It made me busier, of course. But I could never completely suppress the nagging awareness that I was using this journal as a distraction, a way to pretend that I was more in control of my life than I really was. Even at the very beginning, when I only had two or three readers, this performance aspect was clear to me.

In giving thought to why I more or less abandoned Live Journal last year, after diligently updating for years, I finally reached the conclusion that I simply couldn't go through the motions of sustaining a performance that anyone who knew me at all could tell was fraudulent. Mind you, I did try to restore the authenticity of my performance by broaching subjects that I had previously exerted myself to conceal. In the end, though, I found this new approach to the confessional mode too upsetting to bear. So I radically scaled back on my involvement here, posting a photo every month or so as a place-holder to indicate that I was still around, but otherwise absent.

Now, for some reason, I'm feeling better about sharing in this context. Something inside me has hardened to the point where it doesn't seem as painful to admit how much I've struggled. At the same time, though, it's not easy to go back and read the evidence of where I was at in 2003 and compare it to where I am now:
After reading others online journals for ages, I have finally taken the plunge. It will take me a while to get used to doing this, so apologies for the boredom any of my initial entries will inspire.

Today I'm sorting more of my papers, returning to some work I've held over from last week, and going to dinner at my in-laws and, if I can win control of the television on a football Sunday, watching my San Francisco Giants against the Arizona Diamondbacks -- Jason Schmidt pitching against Brandon Webb -- on a big-screen TV.

Tomorrow I go to Phoenix to "the Bob" to see the Giants live, which I'm greatly looking forward to, not having seen them in person during the regular season since around June of 2000.

In the news in our household today:

1) My four-year-old daughter Skylar is once again obsessing on death. She says she had a dream last night that her mother died. It was "Mom's night out", so there's a good chance that she did. But, even if she didn't, she's still going to talk about it as a way of "processing" her anxieties surrounding Kim's absence.

Today they were in Kim's art room working on the mobile for Skylar's new pre-school class. Kim got out some of her metallic glitter shapes, the sort that have supplanted confetti, and Skylar picked up some Christmas tree ones and began asking about Tibbs, our cat who died shortly after we moved to Tucson in March, 2001. You see, those Christmas tree shapes were part of the contents of the Christmas poppers that we had on Christmas morning in 2000. They went everywhere, including all over Tibbs's fur, which amused the then-two-year-old Skylar greatly. And, of course, since she remembers EVERYTHING with the slightest provocation, her mind made the connection between the shiny trees in her hand and the loss of her cat, prompting periodic bouts of sadness relieved by Kim's hugs and long conversations about death, heaven etc.

Skylar is one intense kid.

2) Our reptiles were unusually active this morning as we worked in the back yard. First Tim, the full-grown box turtle who, along with his companion Marie, is FINALLY getting used to his new home after six months, was out waiting for snacks and got the scraps from the peach Kim had cut up for Skylar's breakfast. Then Max, our two-year-old desert tortoise who belies the reputation of his species as sedentary, came out when Kim was weeding and got some breakfast of his own, then motored about the yard at, for a tortoise, high speed, munching on weeds. Then his sister Felicia, more shy and slow, came out and ate almost all of one weed that she liked. Marie, alas, didn't come out, but Kim saw her in one of her favorite spots.

3) Kim and Skylar have driven to Home Depot/Petco/Target in Oro Valley to run a series of errands. They're going to have lunch at Rubio's Baja Grill. Usually I would have accompanied them, but felt like staying here and reading.

The first priority, however, is lunch. It's tuna casserole from Kim's mom. Kim hates tuna casserole, but I like it.
In lots of ways, my life is very similar now. Only two of the tortoises mentioned here are still with us -- Tim and Felicia passed away, sadly -- but we still see the elusive Marie occasionally. And Max, well, he's a mainstay of our summertime routine. Putting out lots of food for him is a daily requirement, as is giving him head rubs and, on very hot days, a sojourn inside the house.

Skylar is now a tall and very talented teenager, yet still the deep thinker she was in pre-school, someone I never tire of talking with, not only because she is my daughter and I love her more than anything, but because she is a whole lot more interesting than the vast majority of the adults I know. Part of the reason is that she remains in touch with earlier stages of her childhood, even as she embarks on more mature pursuits. Just today, in fact, we were singing along to some of her favorite Live Theater Workshop songs in the car, which got me thinking about the kind of nasal sounds that drove our cat Tibbs into a frenzy. I told Skylar that the word "house" was particularly well-suited to that effect, which inspired her to recall the shiny Christmas trees, one of her earliest memories.

Kim, as it happens, is having one of her "Mom's night out" adventures tonight, as she often does these days. Skylar, being a thirteen-year-old girl, has many battles with her mother. The underlying insecurities reflected in that dream from 2003, however, still surface on a regular basis. She needs space in order to separate from both her parents, an inevitable component of the growing-up process. But she is also worried about losing the "classic" Mom of the past (and, no doubt, the "classic" Dad of the past as well). The thing is, that worry was already in play when her mother started to have nights out by herself.

Other things haven't changed much either. Kim and I worked together today to fix a dresser drawer in Skylar's room. I helped with various tasks that Kim can't manage in her current post-operative, semi-one-armed state. And the two of us spent a long time conferring about our daughter, as we do on a pretty much daily basis. For all that sense of continuity, though, I can't ignore the fact that the structural elements in my life have been radically reconfigured in the past nine years. By any measure, I'm much worse off now than I was then. So are the majority of Americans, of course. Yet that doesn't make the state I'm in seem any less like a personal failure. I'm starting to wonder, though, whether having that impression and being willing to share it here might not be the first step towards a more positive relation to my present circumstances and future possibilities.

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Comments
xxxpunkxgrrlxxx From: xxxpunkxgrrlxxx Date: September 1st, 2012 10:18 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
pretty much the only things on my LJ friends page is XKCD, post secret sunday posts, and your infrequent entries. i like reading them, when you post them. i suppose i could use my LJ again, but i'm not sure who still reads it if anyone. i'm sure some of them are people who i wouldn't wish to read everything that i may write if i were to pick it up again.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: September 2nd, 2012 04:06 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I'm happy to have you as a reader. I miss you on Facebook, too. I guess things are a little better for me here, since I still have friends I really like who are posting semi-regularly. But it's still sad to think of how things were versus how they are now, whether in terms of social media or just plain life.
xxxpunkxgrrlxxx From: xxxpunkxgrrlxxx Date: September 2nd, 2012 05:15 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
But it's still sad to think of how things were versus how they are now, whether in terms of social media or just plain life.

yes.

if i were to start using LJ again i'd certainly be able to post things that i wouldn't on facebook -- less scrutiny, less of an audience.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: September 2nd, 2012 05:28 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Maybe that would be therapeutic?
alsoname From: alsoname Date: September 1st, 2012 11:07 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Glad to see you here again, and a great entry too. I am always interested in reading about your life, and from little glimpses and short comments it seems that you and I are having some similar struggles with stagnating in what we are sure are personal failures. I think empathizing with other people can help us empathize with ourselves.

Also, you should come over for dinner sometime, if you want.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: September 2nd, 2012 04:07 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I always read your entries with great interest, even if I don't comment that often (in part because my phone won't let me). All the ones about school interest me in particular, because your perspective is so different than my humanities-based one.

I'd love to have dinner sometime. I generally don't finish with my mom before 9:30 at the earliest, though. I know you guys keep late hours, but I'm not sure which days work best.
alsoname From: alsoname Date: September 2nd, 2012 09:17 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Perhaps if one day we happen to be cooking a nice dinner at 9:30 p.m., we'll just give you a call out of the blue.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: September 3rd, 2012 02:10 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Sure, that would be great. FYI, though, it's better to text than call, because I often can't answer my phone when I'm getting my mom to bed.
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Charlie Bertsch
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Name: Charlie Bertsch
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ABOUT DE FILE
You're looking at content from my Live Journal, which I have been keeping since 2003. I consider it a personal blog, though it lacks stream-of-consciousness revelations that typify that genre.

That said, if you manage to discern the confessional mode within entries that are superficially tight-lipped, I will reward you handsomely. Or at least pretend to do so.

In addition to reflections, however mediated, on my daily activities, De File features periodic excavations of material from my "files," a revelation sure to disturb anyone who has seen my garage. It's an experiment in integrating past and present, perhaps with a little redemption along the way.

Politics is always on my mind, but rarely explicit here. I’m working on a theory about what personal writing like this does to literary identification and why some people resist its pull so powerfully. But my goal is to make that theory dissolve in my practice, a density in liquid.

You'll note that I have links to blogs not on LiveJournal directly above, as well as assorted websites of note. The blogs I read regularly on LiveJournal itself fall under "FRIENDS" at the top, for those of you unfamiliar with LJ’s workings.

You can write me. I'm "cbertsch" before the circle-a and "comcast.net" after it.
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