The other day, I'm not sure when it was, I felt positive and clear about the book, the thing that is a book. This was a wonderful feeling. Everything felt centered. I felt sure - this is a book about being a character, this is a book about modernist women, this is a book about being a woman writer, and how to negotiate author-dom with character-dom. This is when I was reading Madame Bovary and thinking clearly. Then this weekend John and I went literally out of our mind worrying about where we're going to live, if we were going to buy a little house, if we could afford to buy a little house, speaking on the phone with Realtor X and Banker Y, before deciding we could not afford it, deciding to rent a loft in downtown Durham, and John would also get to rent a small artist's studio in the building, to paint and make collages and do all of his John-things. And then of course we became obsessed with how to fit all of our things into a much smaller loft, and will we pay to move our furniture cross-country, and lay-outs, and we became infected by this thingness and I went into a feverdream of worry over the novel that's coming out, and then now again my classes, my students who absolutely despise me this semester, something happened this semester and I stopped caring whether my students like me, and I deliver hard medicine to them at times, and they despise it. I used to want to be their friend, I used to be nurturing, now I say - I am not your mother. I am almost begging them this. Please do not make me be your mother. Like Louise Bourgeois. I am an orphan, I do not want to be a mother, I cannot be your mother. I have become a hag around my students, and I need a break from teaching, so I suppose it's good that I had to give up my classes for the spring to move to Durham, because I feel so submerged in it, like I've literally lost myself. I hear about wonderful writer-teachers I admire inviting their students over to their house for cupcakes and recitals and I realize that I do not know how to create a nurturing atmosphere, I did not grow up in such an atmosphere, I grew up with love, sometimes the hardest and toughest of loves, but I did not have a mother who baked me cupcakes or prodded me along gently. I think one of the most fraudulent aspects of the workshop process is you're supposed to always say something good about the text, and I feel sometimes that is like lying. What if a student spent no time on their text? Am I still supposed to applaud it? Isn't it better to be honest? I know I should not be writing any of these things, nor thinking them. I have ceased to be afraid since I'm moving so I don't need to keep the jobs I have, so I have stopped pandering to my students, as much. And it feels freeing. Although terrifying to be disliked.
Today would have been my mother's birthday. She would have been 63 years old. She will never be older than 55. It begins to build and be intense, that period where I am thinking of my mother's descent into her illness, into madness, now she is sick, now she is dying, now she is mad, I am in the thick of it, I am as always living it. I become a hysteric. I am sitting in bed today with a sprained neck, like an Anna O. I am taking muscle relaxers. I spoke to my father today, whose body has decided also to rebel, I try to tutor him on using a Neti pot. He will go to the cemetery today, he will perform these expected rituals. I speak to him on these days, because we were the closest to her, and we were there. And now he's lost his twin. He too is orphanned. I am maternal with my father. I didn't use to be but now I am. But I refuse to be maternal for armies of students.
I learned a new term yesterday: Prodrome. A fascinating article in Harper's on those who are at risk for schizophrenia. Some scientists are realizing that periods of intense alienation can lead to madness, a loss of the self, and there's usually a period of a couple of years where one still has insight (another scientific term) even if one is beginning to deconstruct their reality, E.M. Forster's slippery gray surface we all stand on, some of us slip on, Forster is reading Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. For they are all maybe going mad in Mrs. Dalloway, aren't they? But Septimus Smith is the one who crumbles, the one who is named. This period is called the Prodrome. What is the difference though I wonder between philosophical alienation and madness? Does it have to do with reversal, with survival? How much of this is bound up in other issues - class (can one afford treatment), gender, immigration status, race, the incompetence or capableness of the medical professionals confronted in one's time of breakdown? Also the author of the article writes about how schizophrenia used to be called dementia praecox, and doctors would diagnose it based on their own feelings towards the patient - they would say they got a "praecox feeling" if they were unable to feel empathy for their patient, and this was somehow diagnostic. I think of how Zelda was diagnosed as schizophrenic, and how all of this is bound up in gender roles. Vivienne too. Jane. All of the mad wives. They were not nice. They were not always sympathetic characters. My mother too was not always sympathetic. She was a hard woman, in many ways, an intense woman, like her name, Gale, sometimes a forceful wind, other times a prison. But how I loved her. How I love Zelda and Vivienne and Jane too. So today I think about mothers, female ancestors who infect us, the lineage of alienation Gilbert and Gubar describe in "Infection in the Sentence," Anne Sexton's red shoes. Irigaray: With your milk mother I have drunk la glace. La glace both standing in for "ice" and "mirror."