Sunday, July 30, 2006

Stay Gold

Remember that wonderfully life-altering book from your early adolescence, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton? It was made into a film in the eighties, with a stellar cast. Anyway, there is a scene in the book (and movie) when Ponyboy and Johnny are in hiding in the church and are watching the sunrise, and Pony recites that Robert Frost poem "Nothing Gold Can Stay":

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

When you're 13, you immediately get it. The poem, and Pony's explanation of it, speak volumes. You are at that turning point in your life when you're just beginning the process of letting go of your innocence, and you know it, and you're so excited about it. But at the same time, you're scared, and a tiny bit sad to say good-bye to your childhood, although you'd never admit it.

I woke up this morning reciting this poem in my head. I am now more than double the age I was when I first read it. My golden innocence is no longer something I feel slipping away from me - it's been gone for a long time. So why was I thinking about it? I guess because lately I've realized that, no matter how much it pains me to know this or admit it, life is not, nor can it be, perfect. I try so hard with everything I do in life, big and small, significant and trivial, to make life absolutely picture perfect, and it hardly ever turns out that way. It's probably (or rather, obviously) because there are so many things that have happened to me, and continue to happen to me, in life that are totally out of my control, that I try as hard as possible to keep total control over everything else. I invest so much effort and energy into wanting, trying, to make everything perfect. But life isn't perfect. And even things that are perfect, can never last that way forever. Eventually, life will catch up to them and bring them back down to reality. Because, "nothing gold can stay."

This over obsessive perfectionism is something I have developed as an adult, in recent years, and while I realize that it can be destructive, there is little I can do to change it. Before, if I was a perfectionist, it was mainly something I used positively - in my academic work, for example, through college. Or in my professional work after college. But now, it's different. Now I apply it to everything, big and small, and it's mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting.

And I guess the pain of realizing now, in my late twenties, that no matter how hard you try, life cannot be totally controlled, nor be totally perfect, is similar to the pain you feel in your adolescence. That combination of emotions when you first realize that your life is something that happens to you as much as it is something that you lead. When you're a teenager and you first realize that life can be unfair, you feel angry, bitter, depressed - you brood and overdramatize, you lock yourself in your room and listen to music and take your anger out in your journal. When you're in your late twenties and you realize once again just how unfair, and uncontrollable, life can be, all it does is make you sad.

What makes it all easier, and more bearable, is having someone you love, and who loves you unconditionally, by your side. Someone to remind you that even if life isn't perfect, and doesn't always turn out as planned, you will always be OK because you have found perfection in, with, and between each other.


  • All right so I teared up because I'm a wuss.
    First of all, I really really love you. I don't know you but I do.
    Second, I remember that book was assigned to us in 7th grade. It was during Ramadan and I still remember reading the part when Pony dies (is it Pony? yeah yeah...) and I was in my grandma's guestroom, curled up on the sofa and crying.
    I am a perfectionist as well. But sometimes, I just have a physical, mental, and emotional breakdown. I just stop, stop feeling anything. I just sit around, listen to music and do absolutely nothing. That's mainly in the weekends when I don't want to talk or face anyone. When I just want to be but not be at the same time.
    I'm afraid as well. Very afraid. I hate not knowing. I hate not knowing about where I will be in five, ten, twenty years, if I will be happy, what will happen to my loved ones, am I going to be who I plan to be, and the like.

    I always wonder about something's worth and if it's really worth it. I am a perfectionist, but I am fatally hesitant, if that makes sense...

    By Blogger Erzulie, at 7/30/2006 11:54 pm  

  • Why, I love you too! :) Must be the A.S.K. connection we share.

    I can't remember what grade we read the book in - 7th or 8th. Glad to hear it's still on the curriculum. Good old A.S.K. - despite the problems it has, that's what makes it continue to be the best school in Kuwait. It doesn't buy into the whole book banning thing. We also studied Robert Frost in 8th or 9th grade - he is also one of those writers whose poems hit you really hard at that age. How many times did you use the line "I took the road less traveled by and that has made all the differece" in your life before the age of 19? :)

    Oh, not to ruin the Outsiders for anyone who hasn't read it yet, but it's not Pony who dies. It's...umm...the other one, and...umm...the wild one. Does that make sense? :)

    I know what you mean about those days when you just can't do anything. I still experience those, especially in London. It's what Holly Golightly in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" calls "the mean reds". To quote her: "The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you're afraid, and you don't know what you're afraid of."

    I'm less afraid now, though, about the not knowing thing because, after 27 years, I FINALLY have a pretty good idea/plan of where I'll be from this point forward (of course, if life doesn't interfere with those plans!).

    But the one thing that still continues to haunt me is about what will happen to my loved ones. That's the toughest thing to deal with - especially after having lost someone as near and dear to me as my beloved mother. It makes the fear much worse because it has already been a reality, so you know it could easily happen again. My sisters and I are all crazy worriers. You should see what happens to me in London when for whatever reason I can't get through to P! I start hyperventilating, get Raine on the phone to calm me down, and basically just lose my mind and expect the worst, until I finally get through to him. Or when one or more of us sisters can't get in touch with another sister, or our dad...PANIC!! P and my friends all think I'm insane. They all know that when they pick up their phone and see 20 missed calls in a row and about 10 sms's from Kleio, I'm in the middle of a worrying frenzy. Our friend "Edo Rex" put it perfectly: "With the [our family name] sisters, the *PANIC* button is never far below the surface." :)

    "I am a perfectionist, but I am fatally hesitant." --> I think you should put that on a T-shirt!! Makes total sense.

    By Blogger Kleio, at 7/31/2006 1:26 am  

  • Wow. You put it all in words. I have been feeling that way for a long time! That feeling of reality. Knowing that life is here, and with it some inevitable things that are out of our control. I think that's why we all have OCD tendencies... We try to exact control over things we can to get the semblance that we can be prepared and not taken by surprise and shock!

    It's scary. I, too, aim for perfection - in so many things - and sometimes just cannot bear it when a hiccup appears to tarnish that perfection... Which is, when you think about, crazy, because you end up holding things to such high expectations and you lose out on the little wonders of every day life.

    And like Erzulie, I have those days when I just do not have the energy or will to do anything but brood... I hate those days, because it makes me feel like I am losing that control I strive to have over life.

    I think a lot of our 'sister' panic and the tendancy for the button to be so close to the surface (edo is so on target!) is that what we went through in our family and the tragedy of our loss. Couple that with the fact that we lost the very person who shielded us from pain and worry... Who worried for us and who we knew would be there no matter what.

    But like you said in your post... You find someone to share life with - its ups and downs... and if you are lucky, you also have a family who you can sgare everything with and who would do anything for you... And that makes all the difference.

    And to end on a lighter note - whenever I see my phone and I have about 10 missed calls from you or red, I immediately PANIC. My first thought, OHMYGODOHMYGODIHOPEEVERYTHINGISOK. My second, OHMYGODIAMDEADFORNOTANSWERINGMYPHONE.

    By Blogger Raine, at 8/02/2006 8:22 pm  

  • Raine - first of all, LOL about your last bit. SOOOO right!! My first inclination when I see a lot of missed calls from home or one of you guys is to panic that something bad has happened. Then I think, shit, my phone's been on silent for two hours. I'm dead.

    "I, too, aim for perfection and sometimes just cannot bear it when a hiccup appears to tarnish that perfection." Yes - that's it. That's the hard part. Of course it's crazy, and we know it, but how can we begin to change that? Perhaps only with a saving grace... ;)

    And yes, it's definitely because of the loss that we've suffered that we feel this way. And you're spot on about the fact that we probably feel it this strongly precisely because we lost the one person who most protected us in this world. In fact, the one person who really did manage to make life perfect.

    The perfection and happiness that I strive for in life is that feeling we used to have on Christmas morning when we were kids. Now that is how life should be and feel all the time!

    By Blogger Kleio, at 8/03/2006 1:27 pm  

  • i love the last paragraph.. I felt so hopeful reading this! :D

    thank you!

    By Blogger The Krispy Dixie, at 8/03/2006 10:13 pm  

  • Raine's "That feeling of reality. Knowing that life is here, and with it some inevitable things that are out of our control."

    Don't know why but that reminded me of Sartre's "anguish"!

    I'm anguished! ARGH!


    By Blogger Erzulie, at 8/04/2006 7:53 am  

  • kleio - We are SO sisters! I just said that thing you said about Christmas to red yesterday!!! Amazing...

    erzulie - aaaanguuiiiiissssssshhhh!!!

    Glad your latest post is more upbeat kleio... The juxtaposition of the 2 is quite strange!

    By Blogger Raine, at 8/05/2006 3:48 pm  

  • Krispie Dixie: I'm glad not everyone got such a melancholic vibe from the post. :)

    Erzulie: Of course you're anguished. You're one of us! LOL!

    Raine: It's like that line from my favourite Pet Shop Boys song "Red Letter Day": "Like Christmas morning when you're a kid, admit you love me and you always did." *Sigh*

    As for the juxtaposition of my two posts, just goes to show my frame of mind these days. Happy, sad, happy, sad. I repeat, *sigh*

    By Blogger Kleio, at 8/05/2006 3:56 pm  

  • kleio, i totally can relate to you but i realized (not too long ago) that i cant take control of everything in my life and life wont be abolished if the tiniest things are not perfect.

    i understand about the emotional, mentaly, and physical exhaustion that goes in to making everything perfect but you know what? some things are just perfect by not being perfect. you learn to accept them and love them for what they are.

    i learnt to apply my energy to things that would really matter and let other things slide... like the tiniest things.. u know? i will give u a tiny example... i always wanted everything perfect... not just life but things i see.. i could never see frames slanted a bit... until my company put frames all over the office... like i swear each wall has at least 20 frames! i used to go around at first straightening them all out until i just gave up and said who cares if some frames are slightly slanted.. they still bother me.. but i ignore...

    in life, i realized i have goals and i always wanted to take the perfect beautiful road to that perfect goal... then i noticed all paths leading to that goal are going to be one hell of a bumpy ride.. so be it! as long as i get to that perfect goal and then reminisce on how bumpy and enduring the path was... which makes the goal a lot sweeter.

    i really dont know if i made any sense in this long comment but i hope i did

    By Blogger Rampurple, at 8/06/2006 5:51 pm  

  • You totally made sense, and everything you said about letting life not be perfect - that is what I am working on. You're so right - sometimes the fact that things are not perfect is what makes them so. Because usually the bumps you go through in life, big and small, are what make you appreciate and love the good things you have all the more. But there is a moment in your life when you have to tell yourself that it's OK, to let go of the details and to stop fretting over the tiniest things and just let life be. I am still waiting for that epiphany to hit me. But I actually think it's coming soon. I've realized very seriously lately that I just can't go on this way.

    About the picture frames, I can relate! Ah those little details of life. But in some ways, those things are OK. I don't mind some of my obsessive idiosyncrasies when it comes to the luxuries of life. Like when I plan a party or event. Or like how you guys tease me at chalet about the plates and cups and all. In that respect my perfectionism is something I don't really mind and actually take pride in (although I think it probably bugs the hell out of you guys!).

    Also, when it comes to my work, it helps me. Academically and all. Although, at the same time, it can also drive me insane because I will work on a paper for months before I finally decide it's done. And of course, after I took my exams in May, I thought about each and every essay I wrote for at least 3 weeks afterwards, obsessing over every detail I did and did not cover. Ugh.

    Thanks for your comment - it was great! :)

    By Blogger Kleio, at 8/07/2006 12:45 am  

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