Eternal Dimness of the Cluttered Mind (Part 1 of 2)

Posted: March 14, 2013 in Uncategorized
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By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

I sat in my car looking out through the chain-link fence that separated the student parking lot from the university’s airfield. A small plane came in low overhead, cutting through the spring air to land on the runway. The first time I saw this happen LU Planesthree years earlier, it seemed exciting and vaguely dangerous. But after a few years of attending a college with an Aviation major, the planes were like pigeons I could mindlessly stare at from a park bench while thinking.

I just got off the phone with a girl from one of my classes with whom I’d gone on a couple dates. I asked if she wanted to get together again, and I got the “I’d love to but I’m busy between now and…forever” brush-off. Truthfully, I wasn’t all that interested in her. She was my attempt at a rebound, but the rebound just dropped out of bounds.

This left me time to think about the relationship I was trying to rebound from, which was the two-years I spent with my “first true love” that ended a few months earlier on Christmas Eve, when she came over to give me my Christmas present and say goodbye. I hid that present in my closet for months without opening it, as if preserving it would keep the relationship alive in some small way. When I finally opened it, it was a t-shirt of Grumpy from Snow White. Any friends and students reading this may think, “Grumpy? That doesn’t seem accurate for Paul’s personality.” Meanwhile, any ex-girlfriend reading this is saying, “Ha!”

Sitting in the car, feeling desperate and lost, I called my only brother. I had never turned to him for relationship advice before, even though he is nearly nine years my elder. Our conversations always stayed within certain boundaries: movies, music, games, sports. This was uncharted territory for us.

I spewed to him everything that was stirring around in my whiney, youthful, achey-breaky heart, about how she was “the one” and how I would never recover from all the pain I was feeling. He listened attentively (rare for him) and then said something rather perspicacious (even rarer): “It will get better. The pain will fade over time and you will be able to focus on the good memories.”

Of course, at the time I thought that was crap, as I continued to moan about how life as I knew it was over, how I’d be alone forever, and how I’d have to seek companionship by either buying a dog or cloning myself.

However, it turns out he was right. Sure, it was difficult in the short term, as with all breakups. But by the end of the semester, I was playfully running around Brookfield Zoo during a rainstorm, hand-in-hand with my new girlfriend. The next chapter of my life had begun.

Gradually, all the hurt of the previous breakup slipped away, all the pain we caused each other in our relationship vanished, and all that was left behind was a mental scrapbook of our fondest memories.

If there are fairytale romances, this eventually grew into a fairytale breakup for me: we weren’t together, we didn’t want each other, we moved on with our lives, and I got to keep the good memories.

For a while, the outcome of my fairytale breakup made me overvalue my brother’s words of wisdom. In my youthful inexperience, I believed mine was the normal resolution for a serious breakup: bleed for a bit, then heal with no visible scar.

Years later, I’ve now been through more relationships, and watched as many friends have dealt with their own relationships, and this obvious realization became apparent: sometimes the bad memories refuse to slip away, and they linger like boxers landing solid shots to the brain and heart. Not all bad memories will go down without a fight. And others wobble but they don’t fall down.

But – what if there was a way to selectively eliminate these little ruffians from the mind? That very solution has been presented in literature and film, creatively leading to self-examination on some very interesting questions….

(To be continued in Part 2)

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