New Is Old Again: A Bit of Anomie
by, 5th August 2011 at 07:30 AM (1297 Views)
Here is a picture of my new iMac on its new desk. Click on it to see a larger version. It looks very pretty, doesn't it? (You can ignore the cover on the chair; it's just there to keep our pet parrot from pooping on it.)
For the past few weeks, I have been obsessing on getting the new machine, which is a significant upgrade in terms of speed, performance, and graphics from my old one, a much humbler (and less expensive) iMac. I sold the old iMac to my husband's boss and had Russ cart it off to work to deliver it. (God bless the spouse; he's been most patient with my obsession during this whole episode!)
Then I decided the old office setup was unworthy of the sleek new beast. So I went out and got a new desk for it. In the process, I threw out a lot of old papers, outdated software disks and manuals, and the sundry detritus that dogs an inveterate collector. In the end, I had to get rid of the old desks that were in the office. I arranged to have them picked up and carted off, but one of my neighbors decided he liked my old wooden desk and appropriated it right off the sidewalk. I don't blame him; it was a right fine old desk, but I no longer had room for it, so it had to go. Better it went to him than to the dump, though if I had known he wanted it, I would have sold it to him instead of letting him scavenge it!
Of course, those of you reading this have no idea what my old office looked like. I never took a picture of it because I thought it looked sort of shabby — it had ample time to age, but unfortunately, it did not do so gracefully.
So, at the end of all this, I have plunked down quite a chunk of change, and I have pulled in my horns a bit when it comes to perfume shopping. (See my immediately previous post.)
You would think I would be thrilled with the result. I mean, it does look nice, doesn't it? I know it in my head, but somehow my heart is not behind that feeling. Instead, I feel a kind of nostalgia — not so much for the money; that goes easily enough, God knows — but for some odd bit of something out of my past. It sounds sentimental, but it isn't really; it's more like a hole inside. I wasn't really attached to the old stuff, and frankly, those old papers and manuals were just gathering dust and taking up much-needed shelf and drawer space. And yet, the old place doesn't look like itself any more, and darned if it doesn't feel empty somehow.
I'll grow used to it, and grow to feel fond of it as it is now, I'm sure; but it will take time, and in the meantime, that little hole inside will remain unfilled. I'll feel for a while like I'm working in somebody else's office, even though this is the one I chose for myself.
It's strange how things can seem disjunct, how cognitive dissonance can seep into the mind, and how it can even affect the soul. There are still familiar things here: my old paperweights, my small shopping bag of perfume samples (a reminder of the generosity and caring of friends on Basenotes), the picture of Russ as a callow youth still here at my right hand, all the old office supplies.
I suppose what I feel most for what remains is an old sense of anomie, but not in the sense that social scientists use that word today. They mean an individual's sense of a loss of social cohesion; but I'm thinking of the anomie that my novice-master in monastery days used to warn us postulants and novices about: "the devil that stalks in the noonday," as he used to call it. It is that sense that even when the world is bright with sunshine, there is some darkness in the heart of the soul. It is a refusal to be happy and content when happiness and contentment are absolutely called for by the circumstances of one's life. If one wanted to feel guilty about it, it would amount to a refusal to feel gratitude for one's blessings. Yet, even if it is sometimes willful, it often seems more like an inescapable burden one would dearly love to be rid of but cannot quit. Whatever else, it always feels like a little bit of hell.
This is mercifully a temporary state when I have experienced it. This time, I can put it down to "time on my hands," the end of the long summer vacation we teachers love at its beginning and sometimes come to loathe by its end. By the middle of this month, I'll be back in harness, meeting new students and learning their names, their besetting English errors, and their generally enthusiastic personalities. Then, I'll sit in this new office oblivious to any haunting by its previous incarnations. I'll be too busy getting ready for tomorrow, meeting deadlines, preparing for committee meetings with my colleagues.
Until then, it will feel a little strange, and my insides will be slightly uncomfortable trying to twist into the new shape of things. I'll be busy, but happy, because I'm supremely lucky to love my work and my life in general, and once again, in the words C. S. Lewis once used for the title of his autobiography, I'll be "surprised by joy" — and a small part of that joy will certainly be my brand-spanking-new office and its most prominent feature, the new iMac.
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