Thing-Fears, Change, & What I’ve Slept with


Van Gogh’s “The Sower” (1888)

The warning signs that I desperately want a change in my life are becoming bright and garish, far too great in number to ignore. One of the small but telling signals is that I’m not afraid to move, which entails the bundling together of my meager possessions and the guaranteed acquisition of hordes more. I fear “things”.

My mom tells me she gets claustrophobic in a tunnel. I get claustrophobic around too many things. Every few weeks I feel a physical compulsion to get rid of everything I don’t care about. I don’t think of setting up a yard sale or giving it to charity. The items have just become valueless and they start to encroach on me in the dark. When I get too many items–or just large items, like a mattress too big for me alone–I grow tense. I don’t even have that much. I was a hoarder as a kid (blame it on spoiled only child possessive syndrome) but I’ve since cleared my life down to the movable essentials.

The idea of “too much” has become a complex: when I think of marriage I think of all the junk I have to accept along with a wonderful person; when I think of death I think “Who will want my junk? I’ll never be able to give it away.” I don’t want anyone else’s junk when they die.

(And isn’t it a shame I don’t believe in therapy? Not for me at any rate. I took too many classes, considered getting a minor in psychology, and don’t you know that I tried to self-diagnose myself at every new lesson. No, I just don’t think I’d benefit. Which is just as well, because this blog could easily–too easily–become a home for my insecurities to be bound in print. But just phrasing them helps. It gets them out of my head, which allows me to view them objectively.)

For the moment I don’t have a definite change before me. I don’t have any plans, at least not any feasible ones. I’m an absolute child lonely and frightened. I’m trying to coordinate what I want with what is possible. But dammit! trying to do the impossible is intellectually seductive whether or not we deem it practical.

But I know that I want change. How often do we say that? In the last moments before the start of transition periods in my life, I always feel a tad reckless. I just want to do something without expectations and, whether the result is good or bad, it will likely be memorable. And then I won’t forget the last moments. I’m desperate to cling. At any rate, these moments of fear and trepidation in the face of change tell me what I care about. Everything I do assumes importance so I can’t waste the time.

Vincent's Bedroom in Arles

Vincent’s Bedroom in Arles

Although many art historians have called Van Gogh’s bedroom painting a claustrophobic nightmare of careening angles, Vincent said that “looking at the painting should rest the mind, or rather, the imagination.” He painted without any cast shadows in “flat, plain tints like Japanese prints.” Vincent clearly wanted to create a peaceful homage to his home, a picture that promises unshakeable repose. I’d like to live in a place like that. It’s a comforting image of inanimate objects that hold unmistakable signs of being lived with.

To those fearful of reading Moby-Dick, get the Modern Library version with illustrations by Rockwell Kent--beautiful stuff, and the print is not pee-wee

To those fearful of reading Moby-Dick, get the Modern Library version with illustrations by Rockwell Kent–beautiful stuff, and the print is not miniscule

Odd, but for me many of those objects have next to me in bed through the night. I’m an insomniac and, obviously, many books have had this treatment. A hardcover copy of Moby-Dick slipped off the covers and onto the floor enough to get three bent corners. I had finished reading it months before, but I kept sleeping with it next to me in hopes that I’d have some transference dreams about the ocean. I slept with it like a child clinging to a bedtime story. There’s a reason I have Melville in the children’s books section of my shelves. It’s a book to base dreams and nightmares upon.

I’ve also slept with an assortment of musical instruments. I’m not proficient at anything, but whenever I had one I’d keep it close. Even if I couldn’t play it at 3am, there was still the hope of waking up to a new morning and being in the mood to play instantly. (Part of being an insomniac is that waking up can be unruly. I’ve always fantasized that I’d wake up with my first, optimistically early alarm, see the harmonica, and I’d be so pleased to see it that I’d start playing. I’d be my own rooster. I’d be a cock to anyone else in hearing distance. But one accepts these trade-offs. Anyway, I’ve never woken up gracefully enough to start playing so I was able to keep college roommates happy.)

By now you’ve discovered that I’m a rambler. I know, horrible quality in a blogger. But I don’t know if I’m going to fight the inclination in every post. And once again I don’t have any conclusions, because trying to draw those in real life is one of the stupidest tasks anyone can undertake. Planned conclusions just don’t happen.

Did I just really put one of my own paintings in the same post as Van Gogh? And yes, it's an owl with glasses...

Did I just really put one of my own paintings in the same post as Van Gogh? And yes, it’s an owl with glasses…

I’ll get back to more orderly posts eventually, but I think this one was mainly for me. I want a home of my own to arrange, a place I could play my primitive noise on harmonica (wanna join my band?), and a land where I can go for night walks without waking up housemates by turning off a beepy security system by the name of Vivian.

Because I really am a night owl, you see. Just check out this self-portrait I did for a friend. –>


6 thoughts on “Thing-Fears, Change, & What I’ve Slept with

    1. bradjordahl Post author

      Aw shucks…now I have friendly testimony to back my ego up. I’m secretly proud of my rambling ability. I like the way my mind moves.

      And what would you name that owl? That friend has never christened it, though she’s sure I’ve painted a feminine owl.

      1. bradjordahl Post author

        That’s a cop out.

        And I’m not good coming up with names either. I believe I called it “Sunflower Eyes,” which sounds too hippie dippie to be my words.

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