Am I a Canadian?
A reflection on love and gradualism
I caught “This American Life” on WILL yesterday. I love that show. This week the topic was Canadians. You know, those folks up north who like hockey and are otherwise pretty much like Americans except that they’re Canadians. One issue of concern was whether there really were any differences of note between us.
Ian Brown was perhaps the most interesting Canadian that was featured. At least the most interesting to me. He’s the host of a show from the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. that’s played on NPR. He ends each week with a personal essay and stuff. The show is cool because it has a Canadian perspective on things, which is similar enough to an American perspective that it’s not shocking or anything, but subtly different to the point that it’s actually more interesting.
Well, anyway those who wish to listen to Canadian Radio will do that, I’m not trying to advertise for the CBC here.
One thing that set Ian off on an interesting discussion though, was a question of how a Canadian felt about learning history. Canadian history is just so boring. There was no war for independence and stuff, no slavery, no “We the People ..” catch phrases and the like. Isn’t it harder perhaps to be proud of your country when it’s not marked by these sudden historical events which define it so well?
Ian replied that yes, Canadian history is really dull. Well, what can you do about it? He expressed though that in a way, it was representative of what Canada is. Canada, as you may well know, is a cold place. Folks who survive in the cold tend to think things out, thoroughly, rationally, taking their time before acting, not wanting to act in haste. Compare that to the USA where we got a bunch of impassioned revolutionaries declaring independence and hunkering down to fight a war with the most powerful nation in the world without even a government having been set up to really support them.
Yeah, well so what? Well, it got me to thinkin’ that I am a gradualist, that really I change creakingly slow over time. Of course, it doesn’t really seem that way. I’m like all in to rationalism and stuff, and thinking things out before I really commit myself to something, body and soul, so to speak.
Like I said, it don’t seem that way. I’m the fucker who up and joined the Army after getting an IB diploma in High School. Pretty crazy thing to do, but it was the result of many forces that had been acting on me for a long time, in subtle ways. My desire for community, comradeship, nostalgia for Boy Scouts, a desire to try to impose some sort of order on my life. Well, the factors are even more than that. On the surface the more impulsive rationalization, which wasn’t so much my real reason for joining but an interesting excuse as to why I did, was that I could get out in two and a half years, and go to say University of Illinois on the Veteran’s scholarship, plus $20,000 from the GI Bill.
Anyway, that’s all in the past, but I was no perfect soldier. I tended to be kinda cerebral and preoccupied with my own thoughts. Crazy fun that fighting in a protracted miserable conflict might be, I’m not cut out for it, nor do I think I really would be after Military Training. I was the oddball, who got under DS Sirois’ skin. Somebody pointed out to me that I was really messing the Drill Sergeant’s mind up, I hadn’t even realized. I tended to be kinda outta there, mentally. Training is not the sort of experience that I go for.
Now, reasons aside why I went for it to begin with, the point was that the radically different sort of thinking the Army demanded of me, I was not engaging in. I change slow that way, the way I think. Maybe I’m too complex and self-absorbed. Maybe though it’s good for me. I do feel that despite relying on Financial Aid as opposed to GI Bill and IVS, I am better off the way that I am. But then, I tend to be sort of biased toward myself eh?
Same thing with drinking the other night. Seems kind of impulsive and crazy eh? Well, I was pretty sauced, but not too much, and I view the whole affair as an experiment anyway. An experiment conducted as part of an ongoing investigation with regards to my relationship with alcohol. An investigation that has been going on for many years, where I’ve thought deeply of the problems, presented by alcohol, it’s potential benefits, my own tolerance to it, etc etc etc blah blah blah all of which was hashed over for years before I allowed myself to take much more than a few sips at a time.
Love. Now there’s a difficult thing to work in to this gradualist persona. Mind you, I’ve never really dated, casually and socially as a good American boy is supposed to do. For one I’m shy, and to be honest, for a long time I really didn’t understand what the point to dating was? Comraderie? Well, you don’t need to be sexually attracted to someone to have a fun night out with them. Sex? Well, you don’t really need to have a fun night out with someone in order to have sex. Wouldn’t it be more honest to tell someone right out you wanted to do it rather than wasting a whole evening on silly cultural formalities you’re not really interested in?
Yeah, pretty messed up, but that was early investigation in to the matter. I don’t know that I’ve ever figured out what dating is. I don’t really worry about it either. You go out, you have fun, maybe you fool around some. You perhaps select someone you are attracted to for the intimacy which develops, and/or the possible physical jollies you could share. On the one hand you could go out with a group of friends, or with someone you’re not interested in, but you have more potential payoff, emotionally and sexually, if you select someone you’re attracted to. Well, maybe. I haven’t conducted any grand social study to figure out exactly which is more satisfying more of the time. This is just a possible way of looking at things.
Ooooh, he sounds so clinical! Or is it cynical? (Yes folks. Yin and Yang, two sides to every interpretation.)
Augh, so where does that leave me? In love. First with Linda, then with Jeong, next with Asao. Linda, well that was pretty doomed. Jeong … well that had promise, a lot of it, but I was the one not prepared to really come to when push came to shove, the emotional expenditure that is so great with the distance between us. I have for so long been a loner. If I change gradually, it is something to ask which I can not give, and still be myself, to change so quickly on a deep emotional level.
But change I do, with time. I’m more open to love than I once was with Linda. I understand it and myself better now. I know better what I want. If I’m to try again, it is with a greater amount of success, and despite it’s ups and downs, I think I’ve done quite well with our relationship. So what’s the problem, that causes so much turbulence?
Asao is not like me. In that I mean she is not a gradualist. She may be a gradualist though, then perhaps she is not facing it. That’s an interpretation drawn from what I know of myself, so I’d like to say that’s likely very inaccurate, I am a freak after all, but who is to know? We are not so close yet that I should know her devils better than her, or that she should know my own better than me.
See, Asao is going ahead, rushing full steam with the love thing, or so she tells me. For her, there is no question about it. For me, there is no question about the important thing either. Yes, I love her, I can not contest this fact. Nor do I wish to. But the gradualist side in me wishes to understand what this love is, how it works, what makes it tick, what it really means to embrace it so, before I really can commit myself to such a point where I have no questions over what my feelings for Asao really mean. What they mean to the larger picture, of me, who I am, what I am, and her, who and what she is. What does this love that joins us together really mean, if anything? I want to know before I buy the boat or whatever.
This is not to say, that I can not give myself to her. I believe in all honesty that I can and that I have done so within all limits of my understanding of how to fill such a roll. I love Asao S. I could easily picture my life being spent with her, in marriage, maybe with kids. I have no problem with that.
Then what problem do I have? Well, there is a problem, if we want to ask if there is one. If there were no problem then why would we have the problems that we do? I think my problem, if ever there was one, is my own desire to understand love before I can feel really comfortable with it. To understand this, it is not at all necessary to dismantle our relationship. I can learn this stuff slowly over time, but I want to learn anyway.
Asao seems to resent the opportunity that I see in her departure. I’ve (insensitively) said how I might take the opportunity to take on a “conventional” girlfriend, a romantic companion with whom I am not in love. I might better understand love by experiencing this sort of different thing. I wouldn’t dare do such a thing in her presence of course, but if she would find it acceptable while we are apart, and I think long distance is bad for one’s sanity, well then more power to me. Not that I think I’d have much luck in finding a girl I really liked enough, and who liked me, that we’d go out, not that that’s happened ever before without falling in love first, but I’d hate to waste a potentially educational opportunity were it to present itself at a suitable time.
That is perhaps the most offensive thing to her. What goes hand in hand with this, and what was responsible for a previous argument, was that I seem to be looking forward to her leaving, perhaps as a result of what I mention in the previous paragraph. Like I’m just dying for her to go away so that I may sow my wild oats. Hogwash, but compelling hogwash at that.
I have explained that the other thing that makes me not so glum about her departure is that the time might be good for us. We communicate poorly together right now, perhaps being restricted to email will strengthen our capabilities here. As well, the time, more likely spent alone than with some hypothetical hot babe who digs me, should do me some good, will further my own understanding of who I am, what I want, where my efforts should lie, how I should regard people, etc etc etc etc …. in short I see me as a better person for my friends and whatever future love I might have, which I see as Asao.
So why am I this way? Eh there’s a question I don’t want to try and tackle now. But it relates to another thing Ian Brown said. In America, when you walk in to the wilderness, you get a sense that you have gone to a place where several great people have gone before. Lewis and Clark or whoever. The trouble then is that you feel perhaps less motivated, as there’s nothing new under the sun. Ian said that in the Canadian wilderness, he can get a feeling that he might be somewhere where nobody has ever gone before. Canada is a desolate place. The problem with that mentality, he said, can then become that you feel that what you might set out to accomplish could well be impossible, as no one has ever tried it before.
Well, no one has ever been me before. Can I succeed? I know I have successes and failures, where can I end up? I can look at others as examples of people who have gone before where I might be going, but then I don’t know what that destination is, now if I might succeed in getting there. I think if I were any more unsure of myself I could then be neurotic. God bless then, my cocky side, or I might never get anything done!
Ehhh, time to retire now, from these trains of though. Rather now time to proof and spell-check before unleashing another document on to the web. Oh where will it go? And what will be the result? And how can I know that the packets will get there reliably? (That’s a joke, if you weren’t noticing.)