Thursday, October 16, 2014

Breaking Points v. Permanency

I used to love English muffins with cream cheese and raspberry jam. For many years, I ate one almost every day. At around the same time, I also listened to double-live albums by the Indigo Girls (1200 Curfews) and Ani DiFranco (Living in Clip) constantly. At a certain point, though, I overdosed on these things. I'm not sure exactly when or why it happened. All I know is that I pretty much stopped eating that food and listening to that music. Today, the thought of an English muffin with cream cheese and jam is anathema to me. It's like I had my life's fill of them and never want to eat one again. By contrast, sometimes I'll put on 1200 Curfews or Living in Clip and feel a pang of nostalgia. I still like those albums and I still enjoy them, but I tire of them quickly because I can't recapture whatever feeling they used to invoke. 

This got me thinking about the evolution of "overdoses" and "breaking points"--how they happen with everything from food to music to cities to relationships. Some happen suddenly and memorably. Others happen unknowingly, until one day you just notice something's gone. You might feel good, bad, or indifferent about the absence, but you notice it. I remember vividly my breaking point with New York City, the town where I was born and raised, where my family has lived for four generations, where they still live today. 

One morning I boarded the subway just like so many other mornings in my life. It was the 6 train at rush hour and it was sardine-level crowded as usual. My feet barely touched the ground as I muscled my way into one of the last cars on the train. And I thought to myself at that perfectly ordinary moment, "I'm not doing this anymore." And that was that. There was nothing especially bad about that particular morning and I didn't feel angry, judgmental, or superior. It wasn't really anything except a neutral epiphany of, "I'm done." And I was. 

I've seen this happen on an interpersonal level too, both in my own life and with others recounting the shifting dynamics of their relationships to me. Some people are toxic for whatever reason, and you reach a breaking point with them. The point when you've overdosed on their bullshit and you know you're done. You've eaten your last English muffin with cream cheese and jam. Other people just drift inexplicably until one day you notice they're gone. You still feel affection, but your life circumstances--both tangible and intangible, internal and external--have changed. These are the double-live albums you still love to hear, but that you may never experience in the same way again. These overdoses and breaking points are interesting, for they reveal the places and people you never tire of, the ones with staying power and sustained yield. Most people experience this in their lives. Like water, these relationships are a necessary element, something you can't imagine doing without and couldn't if you tried. Even though, also like water, they are never static. And there are certain places like that too. For me it's the mountains; for my mom, it's The Bronx. 

What makes some people and places subject to overdose and breaking points is very individualized. But everyone has them. Nothing can ever be permanent, but there are some things you wish could be. To me, part of life's challenge and adventure is discovering who and what they are, and why.

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