Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

Weekend Update

I frequently feel like writing something longer and sometimes writing it here. Unfortunately, my windows of opportunity these days are five minutes or less most of the time, enough to compose a few sentences for Facebook or share something on Twitter, but not to produce a LiveJournal entry that meets my standards. And if I'm going to restructure my schedule in order to produce something more polished, I'm almost certainly going to do it for Souciant, since I'm supposed to fill a slot there every week. Even so, I often fail to complete my own projects lately and must rely on others to take my place.

When Souciant started, back in 2011, that rarely happened. But a whole series of circumstances -- some of which were documented here before I stopped posting consistently -- have reduced me to the fate of someone who is almost always in what political theorists call a "state of emergency". While I'm not a very anxious person by disposition, my daughter, her mother, and my father all are. And they are the individuals I interact with by far the most, now that the scope of my existence, in every sense, has been downsized.

I will say that, though I haven't written nearly as much for Souciant as I would like recently, I am prouder of the pieces that I've produced than used to be the case. Maybe it's because I only finish the ones that I care about, even if I do so belatedly. If you're interested, here's a run-down of my favorites of the past few years, a number of which also contribute substantially to the autobiograpy-in-fragments I started writing here on LiveJournal:
• On Kanye West's controversial recent statements and their connection with the function that rap has played for privileged white audiences since the 1980s (May, 2018)

• On my own contradictory upbringing with regard to race, being both hugely inspired by the Civil Rights Movement and drawn to the mystique of the Confederacy (August, 2017)

• On teaching Claudia Rankine's magnificent -- and disturbing -- book Citizen (September, 2016)

• On the debut of Twin Peaks' third -- and presumably final -- season and how it worked very hard to disable the conventional mechanisms of nostalgia (June, 2017)

• On one reason why Donald Trump's "childish" behavior might actually be regarded by his supporters as a sign of his freedom from external manipulation, looking back at the exaltation of immaturity in American culture (January, 2018)

• On the increasing marginalization of teaching within higher education (May, 2016)

• On my childhood favorite M*A*S*H looking very dated in light of the #metoo movement (November, 2017)

• On a blisteringly great set by Howe Gelb and his band Giant Sand, playing songs from their early album Valley of Rain (December, 2017)

• On the passing of Mary Tyler Moore and the important role her eponymous sitcom played in my life during a very difficult portion of my adolescence (March, 2017)

• On the perverse forms of pleasure that the Disney theme park experience provides (March, 2016)

• On my failure to produce an end-of-year list of favorite cultural commodities and decision to celebrate an unexpected snowfall instead (December, 2017)
Annoyingly, perhaps my favorite Souciant piece of all is not included in this list because I was forced to censor it retroactively for personal reasons. If I ever feel comfortable making it public in its original form, I'll try to remember to share it here as well.

Why did I suddenly feel it necessary to apparate here, amid the ruins of the LJ community I treasured? The main reason is that my daughter is spending the week in Chicago with her best friend, her first trip away from family not led by an organized group. I'm delighted for her to have this opportunity, if not a little envious. I miss her, of course -- she has been home all the time since her semester ended -- but also appreciate the sense that I have a little more room in which to maneuver.

Here's something I wrote during her previous time away from home, when she was hiking for two weeks in the High Sierra with Outward Bound back in July, 2016:
As much as I miss my daughter right now, I am also realizing how much I missed being me. There are many reasons, as I have tediously rehearsed in previous entries, why I more or less stopped updating this blog. One of the biggest, though, is proving to have been the sheer amount of time I have devoted to being a parent. That wasn't clear to me before, because I was too close to my situation to get critical distance from it. The more time I spend not consumed by my daughter's crises, both real and manufactured -- I'm not sure even she can tell the difference, frequently -- the more I recognize that I allowed them, as has long been my tendency with the problems of others, to become my own to such a degree that I sacrificed my own autonomy.
At the time, I was looking ahead to her starting college and imagining that I'd soon be confronting the "empty nest" panic that so many parents go through.

Things turned out differently, however. Although she stayed in the dorm a lot during her first year in college, the difficulty she experienced in trying to pursue activities that keep her anxiety manageable -- exercising, first and foremost, but also watching movie and television shows without fear of waking anyone up -- meant that she spent a good deal of time away from campus. Because she wasn't driving yet, I drove her back and forth to the gym and continued to accompany her to the junior high school track for her late-night running sessions. This past year, thanks to a roommate who was perpetually depressed and made her deeply uncomfortable, she was home even more.

I'm increasingly reluctant to explain these circumstances to other people, because they tend to be very judgmental. "You need to take time for yourself," they say. Or, "You need to let her grow up." And they have a point. But I decided years ago, at the onset of her worst period of adolescent crisis, that I would pursue a program of "harm reduction" rather than trying to accelerate her passage to maturity through tough-love strategies. Although, it may still prove to have been the wrong decision, it is one I arrived at following many hours of agonizing deliberation. I am happy to own it, yet would prefer not to be excoriated for doing so.

Anyway, in addition to the writing that I've managed to produce since I last posted anything substantial here, I've also spent a lot of time trying to help my daughter navigate the challenges of a massive public university while continuing to cope with extreme anxiety and the insomnia and despair that frequently accompany it. She is brilliant and incredibly talented as a painter and writer -- and not bad at music, either -- and doing tremendously well by "objective" measures, even though her corrosive self-doubt often has her on the verge of self-sabotage.

The good news is that she is making incremental progress on that front, though not fast enough for her taste. She still has panic attacks, particularly when something new is introduced into her routine. She still laments the fact that it's so hard for her to find someone her age who is interesting to talk with. She still lashes out, both at others and herself, because it is so hard for her to stay comfortable. Yet, the intensity and frequency of these hard times has been diminishing for a while now, with no dampening of the creative and intellectual fires that make her such a unique and wonderful human being. I worry about her. I am worried right now, since she is struggling to adjust to unfamiliar circumstances in Chicago. But I am also a lot more hopeful than I was for years, despite a whole bunch of other things in my family life going poorly right now.
Tags: #metoo, autobiography, daughter, everyday, family, home

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