May 26, 2005

I, A Locust

I sometimes wonder whether my life is ruled by cycles of which I’m unaware. A while ago I realized that certain big changes in my life came at 17-year intervals. That length of time seems to be developmentally crucial for me in a way I don’t understand. It’s as if I were a 17-year locust, bursting into a new form to my own amazement after long slow inner change.

Because I’m a human being and not really a locust, there may be a window of a few months between phases, or an overlap. In fact it seems more like 17 1/2 years than a strict 17. The timing is flexible, but within an overall pattern.

I lived in my birth family for 17 1/2 years, in the Bronx of the Jewish lower middle class, and then went away to college in the Midwest and adapted to a different culture.

Within a few months I came under the influence of a young woman with whom I shared the next segment of my life. We raised two children together. I hope we helped each other in some ways.

We broke up after living together for 17 1/2 years.

By my rough calculations, some time this month it has been 17 1/2 years since that breakup. We have been apart for as long as we were together -- a long time in both cases.

I wonder if this signals a new phase. Our relationship has taken a sudden, unexpected, positive turn in the past few months. In fact I didn’t realize we still had a relationship, but now it turns out that we do, although it’s mainly a virtual one. Blogging has been a catalyst for good changes in my life in the past six months. It’s made me new (if virtual) social contacts and begun what I hope is a new phase in my writing. A marked improvement in my sleep -- successful treatment for a sleep disorder -- has been another good change begun at the same time.

It feels as if a Hegelian synthesis has been achieved, after thesis and antithesis. A Hegelian locust?

Meanwhile, there are other cycles. I’ve been with my wife (nicknamed Agent 61 on this blog) for fourteen, almost fifteen years. Have I started a new wave pattern with her? Is our cycle to be fifteen years instead of seventeen? Just yesterday, because of a medical scare that turned out harmless, we shared a deepening sense of an already deep commitment.

Or, if our cycle is seventeen years also, what will happen to us two years from now?

And what about wave frequencies initiated by the birth of children? Four overlapping wave patterns in my case.

Actually I think that if cycles do run our lives, there are many such patterns in each human being, with different frequencies, so that if they were graphed they’ve look bewilderingly complex.

My musical tastes, for instance, seem to go in seasonal phases: classical and jazz in the autumn and winter, loosening up toward rock, folk, and country in the summer.

My physical activity seems to go in phases: actively exercising for a couple of weeks, alternating with periods of laziness.

As for my moods, they seem to have one–minute cycles, one–hour cycles, diurnal cycles, monthly cycles, seasonal cycles, and more, all overlapping wildly.

I’m not a determinist. I believe our lives are ruled just as much by chance and by our responses to our environments as by what we’re born with. We’re dazzlingly complex. These cycles, if they exist, are just one additional complexity. And I’m sure, if they exist at all, there are others that are hidden from me. The ones I’ve discussed are just the ones I’m conscious of.