Thursday, December 31, 2009

Emotional Guts

Este i ettimon na post-hu para este na såkkan, pues mandisidi yu’ na este na post teneki tahdong yan dongkålu. As the last post of the year, I thought I’d make it big, deep and personal.

The image above is from the manga Berserk. As you can guess just from this image alone it is a fairly violent manga, with plenty of blood, guts, gore, depravity, etc. But every once in a while, when the main character (featured above) Guts is particularly enraged and actually does go berserk, the artist Kentaro Miura will draw a simple but ghastly image.

These images set the tone for the carnage that follows. It is for this reason that they are almost more violent then the actual depictions of creatures and people being sliced in half. The stark black and white image, has a way of not only powering up the images that follow, but the reader as well, preparing their gaze, communicating through what are sometimes the most simplistic of images, the pure, sublime emotion that is about to be released. Something primal, something hopelessly beyond words, which in my mind comes closest to that impossible representation, as a splattered and spat out, frenetic Japanese hiragana character.

When I was thinking about the past few months and the crazy pace at which I have been living and working, and the emotions which regularly boil and bubble up within me, I tried to find an image, any image which would best convey the turmoil that my mind has sometimes been feeling. For some reason, this image felt the most suitable, the most right. Uminos este yan i siniente-ku siha.

Of course, we are talking about emotional turmoil here and so nothing so shocking or appalling has taken place recently, but nonetheless parts of my life have been a constant frustrating struggle lately. And so, there are plenty of times, when I find myself at the point of Guts in the above image, on the verge of uttering that depthless shriek, that cry that is an ugly mix of frustration, despair and rage.

It’s important to note, that the scope and the breadth of our emotions is always limitless in as much as it remains unarticulated. In what we feel, we reach so many different levels, negative and positive. We can and sometimes do feel connected to everything and disconnected to everything. The world of our pain and our happiness is a completely separate universe from what we might call reality or the world around us. It is for this reason, that what might, to the world around us, appear to be nothing more than a mere prick on the finger, or a tap on the shoulder, can in our hearts, somehow become an internal firestorm, a maelstrom, un chubasko gi i ha’of-ta, which can push up and out of our mouths, a bewilderingly disproportional cry of pain and emotion! Once we attempt to transform into words, or start trying to use this limited thing we call language to try to communicate the depths of our feelings, we start to see in the eyes of the other, the limits of the outside world. The way that it can’t ever accommodate what we feel or what we want to say, that it will always leave us mafulot, with a dizzying taste of inadequacy in our mouths. While I may be a tortured and suffering God on the inside, I probably just sound like an idiot on the outside.

I am mindful of this, as start to consider what exactly are the things in my life which have made me want to scream in such an intense way over the past few months. In my mind, I scream and shout about whatever I want, but once you start to submit those thoughts for external review, suddenly there are other issues to consider. Such as whether others would understand, would care, and most importantly, does what I am angry or upset about meet the threshold or meet the prevailing metrics for screaming and shouting about something? Do you have sufficient evidence in your life to argue convincingly that you can use this sort of language to describe what you’re going through?

I have a laundry list of things which have been enraging me, irritating me and frustrating me, and most of the time, I admit that I don’t have much difficulty managing them, or keeping them from overwhelming me and pushing me towards feeling a need to go berserk. But sometimes, I cannot help but feel overwhelmed, and be inundated with this horrible mixture of feeling like everything is stupid, that there’s nothing that can be done, and that I’m not doing enough. When I reach that point, that is when I wish I was a sketch from Berserk, and that Miura (or one of his assistants), could take my face, body and emotions, and draw and paint me until I became one of those cathartic intense and ghastly images.

The military buildup continues to loom on the horizon, and even though people seem to be more engaged and concerned now than ever before, it is still so frustrating. The DEIS process is a strange combination of being hopeful and ridiculous. The document itself is a massive maze of damages, impacts, wishful thinking and bouts of optimism which can only be drug induced. It is a system that you can work with, but also one which is meant to distract you, meant to keep your attention focused in a particular way, make it seem as if there is only one way to respond, that you must always work within the system.

Then there are struggles amongst and between activists, and my own fleeting role as a possible “leader.” More and more time is put into projects and actions, for which there is no money, very little support and always plenty of attacks. I (like so many others) see my own solutions to so many of the problems activists are having in terms of capacity, time, resources, messaging, working together, but I find that I don’t have the time or means to implement them. Chamorro and grassroots activism on Guam has been undergoing serious changes since the late 1990’s, and has yet to become established as a firm and active force in the governing and changing of Guam, and I know that we all can play roles in helping that happen, but do we have the strength and the time to make it a reality?

If all this wasn’t bad enough, guaha un botasion maga’låhi gi i otro såkkan ya ti malålagu i gayu-hu. Fihu ma faisen yu’, “håyi pon såpotte?” pat “Håyi i gayu-mu?” Todu guini giya Guahån siña manakonfotme na gof impottånte este mamaila na botasion. Siña un alok na i mas impottånte na botasion gi i halacha na estoria. I maga’låhi ni’ mailihi gi i otro såkkan, guiya pau giniha i isla gi halom i military buildup. Guiya para u sinatba hit, pat binende hit para i Estados Unidos yan i militat. Para Guahu, ti anggokuyon i dos bulåku na gåyu siha, ya ti meggai tiningo’-hu put i otro ni’ esta ha alok na pau falågu.

Then there are struggles with teaching, in particular teaching English Composition, as I’ve been doing for the past four months. I loved my students and appreciated the fact that they put up with (and seemed to enjoy) my constant problems and difficulties with figuring out how to teach them how to write. But I feel like my life and time is being wasted on grading for grammar and spelling, when I know that I am not the best qualified for this job. Then there are uncertainties about my job and my future. I have been waiting months to hear about a tenure-track position I applied for at UOG, and I’m disappointed to have not heard yet about the results. I’m also disappointed because I have this very real feeling that I won’t get the job, which means that I will have to teach English Comp again in the spring semester.

As I scan through my email inbox and see all these incredible opportunities for conferences and for submitting to journals or anthologies, I constantly have to check myself and step back. I know that while I’m on Guam, I am not really as isolated as I might sometimes feel, but the reality of flying elsewhere to engage in academic conversations or work is very limiting. There are times when I miss that level of academic and intellectual engagement. But this feeling is also tied to job insecurities. While I do feel lucky that I will have a teaching job at UOG next semester, and that if I was somewhere else (for instance in California teaching at a public university), I might not, I also cannot help but feel like I should give myself more options. I long dreamed of teaching at UOG, and it has been fun so far, but when I see my paycheck and hear about the paychecks of my friends in the states (or even in Canada), and when I look at my class load and then hear about the class loads of others, I cannot help but feel like I’m missing out on something.

This is not to say that I don’t want to teach at UOG, I plan to stick around and wait until I get hired permanently somewhere there. But the longer I stick around without getting a real tenure-track position, the more the idea will eat away at my tilipås that I might need to look at other options.

On top of this, there are the everyday struggles with being a good grandson and being a good father. My grandfather has been ill for two months now. He spent close to a month in the hospital and a month after that bed-ridden at home. He is improving everyday and can already walk with the help of a walker. But the past two months have been draining, because each day is divided into shifts whereby myself and other family members have to watch over grandpa.

Then there is the love and hate relationship that I’m developing with my daughter. She is my pride and joy 90% of the time. A source of such happiness, the cutest and most beautiful thing in the world, and the thing I love more than anything else! But then, there is the 10% of the time, when I am trying to work or get something done, when she interrupts me, and prevents me from doing anything. I know that part of being a good parent is finding a way to block out time for parenting and then block out time for working. Unfortunately, I still haven’t found a way to do that and set aside time so I can get things done. As a result over the past few months, I’ve gotten closer and closer to my daughter (ya på’go Guiya i kiridå-hu, yan Guahu i mas kiridu na sainå-ña), but have fallen behind on almost everything else I have to do.

Speaking of which, finally, the big freaking damang digging into my gut, is the fact that my dissertation is still not finished! I have plenty of reasons to explain or justify why its not finished, but it frustrates me, because for more than a year, I’ve been looking forward to finishing the graduate student phase of my life on moving on to the adult academic stage. I am using the Christmas break to try and finally finish my 1,000 + footnotes and put together my bibliography, and I am praying, to whatever Gods or saints care about peoples’ dissertations, that I please be given the spiritual, mental and physical strength to finally finish this arduous task.

As I write this here however I should note that I’m not really looking for sympathy, or even for advice. But for me, this blog post, gi este na momento, is meant to be a space for screaming. A blank page upon which I can write out that agonizing yell.

With all this being said, I’d like to end this post with a different image from Berserk. Now that the semester is over and I have a few weeks to work on finishing my dissertation, I am feeling some relief, some hope again. This image of Guts, bloodied and bruised (as usual) after a fight with a fearsome supernatural foe, represents nicely how I feel right now. Tired, unnerved, stressed, all of these things yes, but with a trace of a smile, just a hint at the possibility that things might get easier, or might get better.

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