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Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
cbertsch
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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PROFILE
Charlie Bertsch
User: cbertsch
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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