Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Loves: Courting Sloth, pt.1

Sloth has been a love of mine: deep, secret, and racked with codependency.

I'm not proud of the fact. I've been trying to break free for a year now, but it simply hasn't been easy. "It's over," I say, after hours on the phone. Sloth, on the other end of the line, says nothing.

How easily the line blurs between "unwillingness to accept it's over" and "stalking." There is, for instance, the issue of Sloth and the missing house key. More than once, Jen and I have come home to find the door left wide open, a glass on the counter still reeking of scotch, and a prized book or two discretely missing from our shelves. Some old Alanis Morissette record or another -- not ours, I promise -- still quietly hiccups in the player. I get the funny feeling Sloth has walked out wearing one of my shirts.

It's unhealthy. I know that. Hell, the relationship started unhealthily, a reactionary fling. Prior to Sloth, I spent my early twenties as a shameless soap-boxer: I opined and pontificated, spewed forth imaginative ditties on the backs of napkins, carved rants into my desk. I was a virtual whore of expression: anything was worthy of ink. Looking back on this time, I am especially thankful that most of this gushing went straight to paper, and not into one-sided "conversations" with unsuspecting party-goers. Regardless, I lived in a constant state of exhale.

By my mid-twenties I was oxygen deprived. And lo, how the pendulum swung.

That first bit of oxygen is what did it --- some accidental, shallow breath of Saint Augustine or Annie Dillard. It's not as if I hadn't read them before -- as and English major, I'd read my share. But never before had I felt the need so deeply to escape from my own chatter, and draw in what others had breathed into being. One shallow breath, and I couldn't stop. The Long Inhale had begun: Inhale, every night and weekend for a long year in Vermont: Bonhoeffer, Augustine, Niebuhr, Steinbeck, Hemmingway, forgotten "fundamentalists", forgotten "liberals." Inhale, as I moved to British Columbia to study theology and question faith, drawn to Vancouver's air.

Here, at last, enters Sloth. I met Sloth for the first time at a coffee shop in Kitsilano, poring over Irenaeus. And while, yes, I know that Clark Kent is just Superman with glasses, I'm ashamed to say I was far more easily rubed by Sloth, who came in disguised in a pair of large, light pink plastic glasses strikingly like those Humility used to wear in the '80s. It was a bad disguise. Lord, I know that now.

But still, for a while, our deepening relationship seemed right. Counseling has since taught me that Sloth (pseudo-Humility) was pathologically jealous and a "dominator." I, for my part, accept that I was an "enabler." Slowly, at Sloth's behest, I discarded whatever would come in our way. I stopped writing. Stopped playing music. We just spent every hour together, breathing in, in. Sitting cross-legged at whoever's feet we could find. Inhaling till we were dizzy, then falling asleep in each other's arms.


Kathy Barron said...

What a fun essay! As a science major, I haven't read very widely, so it was interesting to read about the experience of one who has. I'm glad Sloth has his her/talons out of you sufficiently so that you can resume with some exhaling of your own.

Nathan First said...

Thanks, Kathy! It was fun (if a little indulgent) to write. Side note: my dad was a science major (well, biology), and he's one of the healthiest breathers I know. Seems like we English majors have a harder time with the whole "inhale, exhale" gig.