Thursday, June 21, 2007

Oh to be a work of art

I spent a couple of hours tonight looking for song lyrics online, and listening to songs on my iTunes so I could pick which ones to use in my story project. And then a song starts playing, a song I got as an iTunes free download of the week, one that was maybe played once and totally forgotten.

And suddenly I was sitting at my computer, writing with tears in my eyes. Isabel came to me and started wiping them with her hand, giving me hugs and telling me to stop crying. My sweet angel. I obliged, and took her to bed.

Satisfied that she is sound asleep, I return to my blank screen. I play the song again. I put the song on my blog as well.

What exactly makes me cry? It's so hard to explain all the emotions this song and its lyrics evoke in me. The short version would be to say it took me back to the worst years of my life, and gave word, like no other song before, to a story of unfulfilled promise, inner turmoil and loss.

Perhaps I should stop the music, right? But I can't.

My father died in January of 1990. A major anchor of my life disappeared. I was on my last semester of college, and had been dreading the next stage, not really sure what I wanted to do with my life after graduation, not quite ready to grow up yet. All I wanted to do was write short stories and hang out with my friends from the Honors Program, attending their poetry readings and acting in scenes for a friend's theater direction class. I had applied to law school because I did not know what else to do, and it seemed like the logical thing to do at the time. One of the last things my dad said to me was how proud he was I had been accepted to the UPR Law School. That comment came back to haunt me many times when I dropped from law school after only one semester.

After my dad's death, my mother fell apart and I had to step in and take care of her. She did not even know how to drive, so I had to take her everywhere. She tried to get me to take charge of her finances, to balance her checkbook. She was just as lost as I was.

It feels so far away now, yet there's a part of me that will forever be frozen in that time.

I got my first boyfriend the summer after my dad's death. The timing is suspect, and I have never understood why I had not allowed anyone to get really close to me until then. We wrote each other letters all the time. He was a writer like me. Still is.

I remember vividly the moment I told my mom I had a boyfriend. She sat down on a rocking chair and started crying. Now that I had a boyfriend, she said, I was going to abandon her and she had no more reason for living.

I started law school that fall. I had a really hard time focusing on my courses. I was just there, drifting with no definite plan. My boyfriend, two years younger than me, was still in college. I was always hanging out at my old faculty, instead of at the law school library.

I lost myself in that relationship. Or rather, I clung to that relationship like it was a lifeline. But there was trouble in paradise. I got pregnant by accident in October of 1990. I had an abortion. I was so ashamed I kept it hidden from my mother and siblings, from most of my friends too.

One of my best friends died a few months later, of an embolism just like my dad.

I dropped out of law school and decided to pursue a Masters in Comp. Lit. I had taken only a couple of elective courses on literature, so I needed to do some prerequisites. I was so green, so naive. My first class was on Caribbean Literature. My professor was a rabid postmodernist, who took pleasure on demolishing people's assumptions of what constituted literary analysis. I remember the first time I tried to discuss a novel. She asked me what did I think I was doing talking about the characters as if they were my neighbors. She had no interest in historical context or what the author meant. Who cares? The figure of the author is dead, no one cares what he meant! Text is to be analyzed in accordance to an analytical framework of our choosing. That was the first time ever I was exposed to the concepts of postmodernism and deconstruction. Nothing was real, everything was a construct, a fiction. To be emotionally engaged when reading a text was not something that was accepted. Everything had to have the life drained out of it and stretched to absurd shapes. We really were not studying literary works, we were studying literary theory.

It was a bit more than I could handle. My personal life was in utter chaos, and unlike other people, I did not have a faith to fall back upon. The only things I could rely on had been taken away from me. Now I could not even enjoy a book without feeling like a simpleton. Everything I had been taught all my life up to then was considered crap. Nothing could be assumed. I lost my sense of security, my sense of the absolute. And what should have an intellectual eye opener was instead a push into the ocean with nothing to hold on to.

There's honestly big chunks of my twenties that are missing from my memory banks. I know I went through the motions. I stopped writing and I dropped out of grad school. I had disappointed everybody. I was so unimportant, so inconsequential. I moved in with my boyfriend. I got a job, we got married, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. All those years there was a constant in my life, a very dark and pervasive depression. It wasn't until the year 2000, after I moved to Texas for work and started over as a single mother, that I began to wake up from the slumber.

All that is what this song brought back to me tonight.

Philosophia, by the Guggenheim Grotto

When we’re young we set our hearts upon some beautiful idea
Maybe something from a holy book or French philosophia
Upon the thoughts of better men than us we swear by and decree a
Perfect way to end the war of ways the only way to be a…

Work of art, oh to be a work of art

But in time a thought comes tugging on the sleeve edge of our minds
Perhaps no perfect way exists at all, just many different kinds
Oh but if it’s just a thing of taste then everything unwinds
For without an absolute how can the absolute define…

A work of art, oh to be a work of art.


  1. Wow Ingrid. What a deep and meaningful post. I feel so honored to have read it, and understand you all the more.

  2. Oh, Ingrid! I just want to hug you even more! Your experiences have certainly shaped who you are... I learn so much from you... you have lived a life so different from that of most of my friends... and I am honored to know you and be your friend...
    your life is a Masterpiece, Ingrid...

  3. Ingrid, what a powerful reflection! I've always had a deep respect for you, and now I feel that even more strongly. And your writing is such a privilege to seem to write from your very soul.

    We're all works of art on a lifelong journey to completion. And you, my friend, are a beautiful one.

  4. Bendito, lo siento mucho por tí --por lo de tu papi--. Yo perdí el mío en enero de este año, y nada ha sido igual.

  5. *hugs* What a beautiful post.

    And I want to say, as well, that your professor was on crack. Any postmodernist worth his salt wouldn't be setting such strict limits on what you can and can't analyze. The point is that there are no limits, not to make new rules about what you can and can't look at. Otherwise, there's no difference between structural and post-structual thought at all! :D

  6. I really appreciate the honesty in this post. Really, it is a rare find here in this blog world. Thanks for sharing, and you are certainly a master peice!

  7. Thank you, girls.

    Shannon, I was especially interested in your take on my Comp. Lit. fiasco. With time I have come to see where that professor was coming from. She was in the minority at the time, before postmodernism became trendy over there. She was pushing against the Canon and the majority of the Academic establishment in Puerto Rico, not to mention the way that literature was studied at the high school school level. I know she was trying to shock us, to make us think and ponder possibilities. But she did it so badly. She is a brilliant intellectual, but a very bad teacher. And deep down I think she enjoyed making her students feel like idiots.

  8. touching. weird, though: to be someone´s etcetera. thank you for the reading.

  9. Fellow Boricua, you do not know me, but in the process of looking for blogs by other Boricua women I came across yours. I have to say that while this post is only the 2nd one that I have read, so many of the thoughts and feelings you express resonate with me. I have blogrolled you, and if you would like to see my blogs, here are the addresses.

    I have two because one is more personal, while the other is more academic. It has been my pleasure to read your work. I suspect you will be published sooner than you might expect.