It’s interesting—you can time my Kubler-Ross 5 stages of grief (a model I only semi-agree with) to certain posts in this blog. In the early posts I was in denial about the emotional magnitude of losing Anissa to a certain extent, and in my geeky way fixated on how epistemologically profound it all was. Then I got pushed into anger in August by the third biggest shock to my system this year.* I In general I’m not all that angry a person (I find it a waste of energy as a rule), so things shifted pretty rapidly toward what I realize now was bargaining. My lizard brain had become convinced that if I did everything “right” in Bay City, then it would Somehow All Be Okay and my life would be Back to (a somewhat sillier) Normal. And everything went not just right, but appallingly, embarrassingly over-the-top right. That weekend would have made my Ten Year Old self faint had she known what was coming (and had she not been bound up in 16 layers of duct tape and under firm orders not to make a peep all weekend, lest I fail to hold up my end of My Grand Bargain with the Universe). And yet…the sorrow, while continuing to ebb, wasn’t magically healed on the morning of September 9. Shocking, I know. So I flung myself into work and school and found myself getting overly emotional over the Fan War that I KNEW from long experience in the fandom would inevitably come before November.** Rather than giving the old playlists a rest I found myself listening to them more, and I found a darkness snaking through my soul in time to the beat, a scary, creepy callback to the dark side of my ten-year-old fangirl self. Because, you see, during much of that era I was fumbling through a depression deep enough that only drowning my sorrows in a boy band could keep the suicidal ideations at bay. I’m well aware I saved myself at the end of the day, but I’m also well aware of who provided the soundtrack to those years as I struggled to figure out how to accept (but not obsess over) the mildly crappy hand life had dealt my family and I. I’m still not exactly sure who I owe that debt to, but it’s a big one.
In any case, We all know what comes after “Bargaining”—it’s depression, and I’ve realized I’m drifting through that miasma once again. Fortunately (?) I’ve done this dance a couple times before, and I know the cure—engagement with the world and becoming more vulnerable in the interests of letting people help me, and letting myself help them. In a happy coincidence, that’s also what I resolved to do in those first shock-ridden days after Anissa’s death. But how do I do that without getting hurt? I guess that’s where Raj comes in.
Poor Rajesh Ramayan Koothrappali is without a doubt the Woobie of Big Bang Theory of late, and to be honest this “suck it up, buttercup” viewer found his angst a bit tedious most of last season. As Howard and Bernadette completed their inevitable march toward the rooftop altar, Shamy reached unimaginable romantic heights of spontaneous hand-holding, and Leonard and Penny Beta-tested their little brains out***, Raj pretty much just sat around and whined about being the odd man out. And a brief flirtation with a sham marriage aside, he didn’t really do much about his conundrum. I hate Whiny Depressed Characters. They hit too close to home. They could get through those carefully constructed layers of scar tissue and psychic armor I’ve been building the last 10 years.
Sorry, excuse me while I stuff my subconscious back down in its cage. Back to my selectively mute theoretical lens.
In the season debut week before last, Raj finally took the step he’s been needing to take for over a year. He makes a tentative move toward another human being not already in the main cast, in this case Stuart the Impoverished Comic Store Owner. It’s a connection that really should have occurred to me sooner. It even makes some sense, to the extent that Raj and Stuart eventually outgrow it as a sole source of camaraderie. I guess I’ve been taking a similar road this summer and fall. I’ve tentatively started opening up to more people and becoming more social, and nobody’s run in terror yet. I’ve tried to be more helpful to colleagues and students, and nobody’s taken advantage of my largesse yet.
However, to punch through our respective depressions, Raj and I are both going to have to take it to the next level. Raj NEEDS to figure out how to speak to women while sober, whether or not he’s attracted to them. I need to figure out how to become vulnerable without becoming an ineffectual woobie myself. “Steel wrapped in cotton” is a metaphor I picked up back in my Taoist/T’ai Chi days. I’m lucky that my core has always been pretty hard (in good and bad ways), even as an infant according to those who would know. I’ve forged myself into some pretty strong iron, but I need to shave away a bit of it to make room for a little bit of tenderness. Of course, for me at least there’s probably a middle way, but then I’m (thankfully) a real person, not a sitcom character. I still don’t quite know what I’m going to be on the other side of this, but I’m optimistic that it might be a person who has a few less notches on the resume but a few more adventures to experience, and a few more friends with whom to share them.
Watch this space.
** Something was going to trigger it, Nez just lit the fuse with what would have been the most hysterical practical joke I’ve ever been a target of had it not also been the final straw that sent an already overwrought fandom into warp core meltdown. TL; DR: Everybody had the best of intentions, and pretty much everyone involved (whether celeb or fan) screwed up, with perhaps one single person excepted (though he got his screwup out of his system back in February, from what I hear). And that, in the immortal words of Forest Gump, is all I’m going to say about that in this venue. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, consider yourself very, very blessed.