24 August 2009

The Other Side of Envy

I did tell myself in my strictest tone that I was to go to bed at 10.00, no arguments. It worked last night. Here I am, however, at 1.24am. I finally got really excited about going to London. I've spent a great deal of time with boxes and back pain this week. It's about forty minutes of packing, ten of whinging followed by three hours of sitting on the couch with the hot water bottle.

I have an ink stain on my couch, annoyingly: this is the price I pay for building nest on the couch out of blankets, pillows, my journal, several pens because I can never seem to find the same one twice, books of various kinds, both reference and fiction, my knitting and one or more shawls. I think I shall be quite content to be 65 and eccentric, once I get there. There used to be a cat and a pack of biscuits in there too but those have disappeared (and no, the disappearance of the biscuits was not an easy thing for me either). Somehow, the cap seems to have come off the pen - I only use ink pens for proper writing on paper - and somehow re-attached itself in the night for when I picked it up this morning, the cap was on but the pen was entirely empty and there was this big black mark. Time to get out the rubbing alcohol and old paper and rags. This has nothing to do with anything in particular so I shall return to the subject at hand...

...renewed enthusiasm. During all this knitting, pen covered, hot water bottle couch sitting, I have been watching movies set in London. I didn't start off doing that on purpose: I just picked one and then another one. Now I'm excited and my accent is doing that shifting thing that it does. We have an Oxbridgian Classics professor at the university and whenever I talk to her I get accent shift and then turn tongue-tied because I'm worried she'll think I'm making fun of her.

It's an odd, rather moth-eaten accent that I get living in England. It sounds British to Americans and American to Brits, although I do get the occasional confused inquiry as to whether I hail from Ireland or New Zealand. That mostly happens when I'm drunk. But it shifted enough today that when my sister called, she teased me about it.

She also told me she envied me a little. She hasn't been the only one to say that recently and it feels strange to me. Many of these statements come from people whom I envy. I tend to be envious of their ability to graduate from university in a normal amount of time and to hold down jobs and to settle down and get married and, in spots, enter into the property market. This has something to do with my impending 29th birthday, I'm quite sure, but a few (well, only one out of that list, to be quite honest - going to grad school has put paid to my worry over my ability to graduate with my BA, hold down a job, since I have a good reason not to for a whole year and I have no overwhelming desire to entangle myself with real estate for the time being) still hold. I only have intermittent envy over their mental boringness since I can see two sides to being mentally interesting.

I have spent the vast part of this summer longing for that one thing, as though I were a transplant from the earlier part of the 20th century. I would rather have that than an MSc, at the moment. I've had to sit myself down and, again in my sternest tones, tell myself that if I can't have it, at least a year in London and a good degree is an excellent consolation prize; and really, it is. Still, it's funny to see that while they have what I want, I have something that they want. Even my sister, whose life to me seems so well-run and complete and perfect of its kind and whom I would envy with an ill grace if she weren't such a lovely person and good, beloved sister to me.

I miss my cat. All this taking myself aside and giving my self stern talkings-to is a bit more to the side of madness than it was when he could be involved. Then it was more like being Alice through the looking glass. She had three: a cat and two kittens. Of course, things turned out rather more oddly for her than they have for me.

I find I'm on the other side and it's a strange place to be: it is strange to have something that can be envied, especially something for which I have had an incomplete desire all this unending summer. I don't know what to do with it, nor to think of it. The world has switched sides while I was otherwise occupied and I'm disoriented. That has happened fearfully often this summer but to elaborate would need another post.

Speaking of posts, this is no way to end one but I have been on an anaxiolytic-induced shambly rambling tropos all evening so I shall just give in. Did you know that in both Latin and Greek, fearfulness is such an important and prominent emotion that there are 'fear clauses' in the grammar? They are usually followed by the subjunctive, occasionally the optative in Greek (if I remember rightly - the optative is a verb mood so alien to English that I have always had a great deal of trouble distinguishing it from the subjunctive, not least because the conjugated verbs are spelt nearly exactly the same way) and even, in Greek, make use of a different negation word than most sentences. Now whenever I use 'fear' or 'fearfully' my subconscious shouts 'fear clause!' at me. I wonder whether, by virtue of lacking a formal fear clause, English is braver or just less realistic about human nature.

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