Angela Natividad's Live & Uncensored!

06 January 2009

On the Quest for Absolution

Happy new year!

Benj and I returned on Friday from a three-week stint in California, where we furtively shared my gilded (and now embarrassingly leopard-print)* childhood bed -- and my sisters, to my chagrin, introduced him to Mario Kart Wii.

I have always hated Mario Kart. It takes everyone from me.

Little happened in California that was especially notable, except that we ate out a lot, forgot how to exercise, played tons of board games and saw a passel of movies -- including:

  • Slumdog Millionnaire - a satisfying watch, even if the whole "cherchez la
    femme" thing is overplayed. It's Bollywood, bitch!
  • The Tale of Despereaux - the casual destruction of a great children's epic. I don't know if you read the novel, but that vegetable creature that pops out of cookbooks? THAT'S TOTALLY MADE UP. And for WHY?!! WHY would you throw a vegetable spirit into a story, willy-nilly?
  • The Curious Tale of Benjamin Button - dragged a little, but overall a chewy and engaging piece of cinematic taffy. I'd buy the DVD, sure thing, and whip it out for scrubby friends that come over and (unreasonably) want entertaining.
  • Seven Pounds - I totally guessed what Will Smith's character wanted to do with all those sick and disabled people. Also, neither the film nor Wikipedia explains where the "seven pounds" reference comes from. (In Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, a stickler merchant demands seven pounds of a debtor's flesh when he can't repay in coin. So unless you already knew that, by film's end you'll still be sitting there going, "Seven pounds...?")
California was also one social event after another. I had a list of people I wanted to see, and Benj had places he wanted to visit. We tried navigating all that in addition to the parties my parents brought us to -- both scheduled and at random. (At some point -- and yes, at random -- they even took us to a hospital to visit my uncle, who experienced an unexpected near-fatal reaction to either a flu shot or Mexico. It was Benj's first time in an American medical center. His verdict? "Much like the English ones.")

Under these conditions it was difficult to work, so I avoided it as much as possible, compensating for productivity lost by drinking copiously. On Christmas Eve there was a family party, raucous as usual, reprised on December 31st. At ball-drop my uncle played YMCA and everyone burst into dance. Like every year prior, we ushered the new year in with jingling pockets, violent hand gestures and The Village People.

Glazed over with the charms of an '07 vintage of The Prisoner, I swirled my glass and tried to focus on resolutions for 2009. For the first time EVAR, my mind drew a blank -- frightening in its immenseness. Have I run out of ambition?

Grasping for straws, I asked Twitter what its resolutions were. Les réponses suivent:
It's the stuff you hear every year, noble nonetheless because the goals belong to other people and not me.

My dad -- the guy who said Paris would deprive me of brain food -- once told me a person must work tirelessly to perfect four major pillars if he wants to live life to the fullest: mind, body, spirit, finances.

I hit a point two years ago where I was fairly happy with the condition of all four. It isn't clear what stupidity or lack of foresight convinced me of that. But it occurs to me now that at this point in my life, all the pillars could use renovating.

This year I started dancing the tango, but otherwise don't exercise much; I'm reading a lot, but still feel my mental development is in a dangerous stasis; finances could always use some work (I came home from CA with twice the number of shoes I had when I left); and my spirit...? I don't think much about it. It's the privilege and the bane of being in your 20s: Michelangelo didn't reach earnestly for the invisible Saviour until close to death, and even then -- do I still believe in the concept of God?

At Watershedapalooza last October, somebody asked me whether I did. "I grew up an Evangelical Christian, but I guess now I'm agnostic," I said, sensing that's the closest a person can get to rational precision. Spirituality is outside the realm of science; there are no yardsticks to either prove or disprove a transcendental experience.

The guy who posed the question nodded thoughtfully and said, "Yeah, I was agnostic at your age. You'll grow out of that." It seemed flagrant at the time, but my head keeps coming back to it -- what is my stance on the God thing? Do I remain open to the idea of God out of comfort, fear or force of habit -- and is it true that I'm slowly growing out of it?

For a girl who spends her time writing about ads and marketing, this probably seems like an irrelevant tangent. But I increasingly feel like finding the answers to these esoteric questions -- what do I believe in and why? -- are key to the direction I take next.

And speaking of direction, in less than two weeks I lift off for Paris -- a place I've wanted to live, and around which I tailored the flexibility of my career path, almost my whole life. The why is muddy, but that's a whole 'nother dissertation. Benj and I will spend the next several days showcasing my personality-stripped bedroom to people, selling tenants on a dream I once inhabited.

I still have trouble explaining the Paris thing to people; drunkenly I explain it thus: "Man, it's like there's a string tied to my bellybutton, and something in Paris is pulling it, and I gotta find out what that is." Sober, I write it off as emo writer crap: why not make a pilgrimage to the Mecca of Henry Miller, Sylvia Beach, James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway? It can't hurt, and it's nowhere near as random as my inexplicable leap to Ithaca, New York.

Maybe the reason I had so much trouble drumming up my own resolutions is because 2009 is already pre-loaded with opportunities for dramatic, tumultuous change (and hopefully growth). Given everything I'll be forced to experience and (at times re-)examine, it's probably not the year to quit smoking just yet.


*There's something about animal prints that captures the imaginations of earnest mothers from coast to coast. It seems my mom swathes everything in some sort of jungle flesh.


chelsi said...


MissMoll said...

I don't blame you for having an obsession with Paris. I plan on reading this on a regular basis in order to practice my French..