Even A Heart Needs Defragging
"You need to emotionally defrag," my friend Mark said, trying to use terms I could understand.
In computer systems, fragmentation happens when an operating system stores a file across several gaps among other stored files instead of as a single unit. Defragmentation organizes the files and liberates the free space so it may be used.
Picture my heart as a blank band of free disk space with those I've loved as multicolored lines of varying width within it. At first, they're organized contiguously; then, as time passes, some aspects of these relationships are deleted leaving gaps -- or new aspects are introduced and allocated more space than they end up needing. Then, new relationships are introduced, and they're broken up and placed into the gaps that remain between the older files because the free space has become fragmented as well.
Now my heart's a completely disorganized, multicolored mess, and performance is down to a crawl.
Casually rolling a cigar between his fingers, lounging in a high-back leather chair, Mark had solved a problem I hadn't been aware existed -- until that moment.
I've been suffering from a nasty case of writer's block. I've never dealt with anything quite like it before. For me, writing has always been my outlet, the way I processed the world and everything in it. To write has never been a choice for me: it's a natural function, much like breathing.
Then the words stopped. I'll tell you a secret – it was liberating. It was incredible to be up against life like that and let it pour into me and go right through me without feeling the need to process it or even understand it. It simply was. And so was I.
Then it started to frighten me. I began to claw at it as one would fight hands holding her by the throat, with a mounting desperation. Day after day I sat before the blinking cursor, letting my fingers put down words and take them back, over and over. I knelt, I prayed, I fasted. When it became clear that I would not find the muse in my apartment, I left it and flung myself into the world with a restlessness I haven't known since my adolescence.
I looked for myself in sunsets and saltires, restaurants and clubs, sidewalks and freeways across more cities than I care to count. I found a lot of things, rediscovered a lot of things, learned a lot of things. But I didn't find my words.
I blamed it on burnout. I blamed it on Twitter. I blamed it on good sex. I blamed it on the man with whom I was having the aforementioned good sex for not having a sufficiently dysfunctional relationship with me so I could write about it.
I wrote my editor in a panic: "I can't write. I don't know why. I think it's because I'm happy and I don't know what to say about that."
I think it's because I'm happy. That's what I said. I think it's because I'm happy.
I think? People don't think they're happy -- they're either happy or they aren't happy. To think you might perhaps be happy is to admit that you have no idea what you feel. That, essentially, is my problem. I am satisfied with where I am in life and what I am doing, but I am so saturated with the emotional debris of everything I have lived in the past year that I have no capacity to fully experience things emotionally. I could be happy -- if I had the emotional space to feel anything. But I don't.
And it wasn't until Mark made the reference to defragging that I realized this. That's the thing about good metaphors -- they take you just far enough to see objectively.
If only it were as easy as performing some system maintenance on a heart. But it's not. We have to go in deep, take every major experience out manually, identify it, classify it, catalog it and organize it on our own. For every loss, there's a cycle to experience, a period of grief.
There are so many things I haven't allowed myself to completely grieve, whether because too much was happening at the time in my life or because I actively redirected my focus. I got a divorce. I had an incredible relationship that redefined a lot of my wants and expectations -- and then I lost it. Then I fell in love in that insane way that we only see in movies and I was forced to let that go, too.
That last one I haven't even started to digest. This is the first time that I have written it out.
But now that I have, the words flow with greater ease. They do the thing they have always done: help me understand and organize myself around events, and face every aspect of the emotions that come with each.
So it starts, the process of defragmentation. Just in time for spring cleaning, too.
"I love the rain, it washes memories off the sidewalks of life," Woody Allen once said. But I don't so much want to wash the memories away as I want to polish them and put them up in their rightful place so that there's room in here for other things to come.
AV Flox is the editor of Sex and the 405--what your newspaper would look like if it had a sex section.