Cathecting to Oakenshield? or, a not-so-brief etiology of Thorinmania — THREE
Part ONE and Part TWO of my journey towards cathexis to Thorin Oakenshield. This is the end, I promise, at least of what’s been on my mind lately. But it doesn’t end very conclusively, I’m afraid. It ends with questions and problems. Note that cathexis is not the same as love. It’s something closer to anxious attachment. This is not a very pretty story.
Did you figure out what it was that cathected me to Thorin at the end of the last part? It was there from the beginning, and although I never would have guessed, in the end, I saw it in just an instant, out of the corner of my eye, as I left my office.
I’ll show you a picture, and you’ll see.
I think it also explains, at least partially, why I didn’t care for the “key” image. Although someone told me recently that there’s a captioned version of that image on tumblr somewhere that has Thorin saying, “This is the key to your chastity belt.” (In which case the picture is saved for me — lol.) The key is not the key for me — it’s the sword.
I didn’t have time to think about it, though, as I rushed out of my office. I was avoiding the feelings that were threatening there. To my own peril.
First day of classes.
After a weekend of struggling to complete syllabuses, I come in very early, needing to photocopy them and prepare myself in other ways. Let the books in the bookcase on the wall remind of who I am, or who I used to be, or who I am supposed to be. Let the introvert remember the extrovert, let the curmudgeon remember the enthusiast, let the silent woman remember the vivacity that the successful professor displays for her colleagues.
How was your summer, Servetus? “Oh, great!” I rehearse saying. “How was yours?” I try to widen my eyes, unclench my jaw, look interested.
I sit down and unclap my laptop, and for some reason the fluorescent lights in the office hit it just so, just at that angle, and I catch a glimpse of my face, and I think, without thinking, without shielding myself from thoughts, “You look old and tired and worn.”
The reflection of my face undoes me.
Cue sobs. I rise, and slam my office door, and plunk back down.
What is this?
Observe the pattern of the avalanche: sorrow, punishment, disgust.
Let yourself cry because there’s no stopping it now.
Tears. Maybe I didn’t cry enough during the summer.
About my secret conviction that my mother is dying sooner rather than later, about the way I swallow every time I see her hand move to her forehead. About how I watch every bite she doesn’t put in her mouth and never say a less than encouraging word as I calculate calorie totals in my mind. About what this is taking out of me. About my reluctance to let it be taken. About what I will do if she dies, what I will do if she doesn’t die, and what I will do about my failure to influence even slightly the fact that we are all dying every second of every day. About my worries that afterward my father will land on me as well and I will have to break either every ethical rule I have or every boundary around my personality that I’ve developed to deal with him in order to come out of the situation halfway honorably. About my nieces and their parents and their problems. About how I can’t fix any of them even though they keep landing in my lap. About everything that’s going on at home, about my lack of courage in dealing with it, about my guilt for leaving, about my happiness that I could leave, about my fear that I will never leave, about my desire to go back, about my nausea about my desire to go back. About the nausea that seems to accompany every emotional reaction I have now and makes me even shakier because I can’t always make myself eat even when I have to and so I am weak when I need to be strong. About the beginning of term and my inability to get excited about it and my fear of what I will do if I can’t get excited about teaching. About what I will do if I can’t teach. About what will happen to me if I can and keep doing it. About the students who can write and the ones who can’t, about all of the impending pedagogical failures. About what my students deserve from me above and beyond what my contract says, about what my ethics demand, about how I will be ground between my feelings about what I must do and my capacity to do it with particular force this semester. About how being for myself always seems to mean disadvantaging someone else. About my guilt over my resentment and my resentment over my guilt. About my curious lack of resolve in dealing with my career issues, about what’s turning now into a second academic year of fiddling around. About unanswered professional emails from people who’d like to “save me.” About how I can’t figure out whether I want to be saved or why I don’t want to. About the beginning of the job season and asking for reference letters. About what it means if I don’t ask for reference letters. About living alone but not wanting to live with anyone. About living here and wanting to live here and not wanting to live here. About not being able to do the simplest things.
About blogging. About the possibility that I couldn’t blog, that I’ll have to stop. About the possibility that I won’t be able to stop.
Next, punish yourself for your sorrow.
You loser. You suck! You can’t do anything right. You can’t take care of your parents or your nieces or your students or yourself, you can’t write or teach or keep your professional affairs in order. No one could ever possibly want to employ you. You can’t even keep your office straightened out or your apartment clean and you’re lucky if you can make it through a lecture. You’re a fraud, an imposter, someone who just feigns adulthood for money, to keep yourself off the streets. Forget writing; you’ll never do anything worthwhile. You can’t write, you can’t think, your feelings are a mess. You just need to get with the program like any normal adult and if you can’t …
At this point the self-abuse becomes so intense that the inner Servetus is cringing in a corner, trying to avoid the words that I’m plastering all over her body, lashing at her.
Finally, don’t fail to remind yourself how contemptible you are.
After sorrow and punishment for sorrow comes disgust. Dry, emotionless, pitiless, sneering disregard for the sobbing woman I’ve created, whom I somehow need to take all of this punishment, and who then revolts me when she reacts as anyone would who got this torrent of invective directed at her.
Use the same tone of voice that said to me, when I was a girl, after a spanking, in tones of veiled threat, “stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” Implication: you think it’s bad now, but I have the ability to make it all much worse if you don’t stop — stop what?
Sometimes it’s my father’s voice I hear in this phase, sometimes it’s mine.
Get over it already, shithead, and get your ass in gear. That’s his voice.
WHY CAN’T YOU CUT THROUGH THE SHIT? THE UNSPEAKABLE NARCISSISM. PEOPLE ARE STARVING WHILE YOU SNIVEL. That’s my voice.
No one else I know ties herself up in knots this way.
One final unpleasant thought always comes at the end of this chain of abuse and self-incrimination and disgust. I have The Thought. I note that I’ve had it, and accept it, as I have for over two-and-a-half decades. I try to pretend it’s Not My Thought. The tears slow. I rummage in my desk for some sugary treats. There aren’t any. Beginning of term, and I wasn’t reckoning with this happening quite yet. I wonder how I will combat the sleepiness that usually follows.
And then I see Thorin, and I start sobbing all over again.
You were expecting a more redemptive story.
Cathecting to the image of Thorin and/or Richard Armitage’s observed behaviors while performing Thorin involves the following elements for me:
- First, the sword. Sharp blade. Always with me. Good for slaying foes, cutting through crap. I have the tool I need to kill the monster. Cutting off things that are pointless, terminating the extension cord to the pain that ties to me to things that are not my responsibility. Steel is cold, decisive. It makes a snicking, slicing sound. It cuts. I can use it, I can control it. I can develop the skill. NO FEAR. FLOW.
- The boots. Good for standing in muck. There’s a lot of it around. Also useful on long journeys. KEEPING YOUR FEET DRY. FIRST AND SECOND CHAKRA.
- The gauntlets. People who wield a sword need protection and wrist support. RATIONALITY.
- The face and the stance. Concentration, precision, knowing what your goals are, moving smoothly to achieve them, dancing your way through it. Do it now, do it well. Strong arms holding it all up. Loving the symmetry, the artistry, of what you are doing. FLOW.
- The shield. Significant that it is there, but hidden. When you go on the offensive you need offensive protections (gauntlets) and you shouldn’t forget to shield yourself, but the point of getting somewhere is not cowering the whole time behind the shield. Thorin’s shield is special because he ripped it out of the ground. NO FEAR.
Also significantly, as with Mr. Thornton, I think it’s key that I find Armitage’s Thornton extraordinarily beautiful, because it provides the aesthetic rush necessary to open the senses and make the uncomfortable thoughts bearable for contemplation.
But this Thorin cathexis is not unproblematic. I have the following questions / problems, because it’s not clear to me that he’s an ideal. The odds that I would identify with either Gandalf or Bilbo are low, but even so, I have to ask if this identification is going to be helpful to me or destructive.
- As Fedoralady has noted repeatedly, Thorin is eventually going to need SND status. All of my Big Five end up dead or in disgrace — Thornton’s livelihood is ruined, and Guy, Lucas, Porter all die. Thorin is going to die. It’s going to be hard to get a story of redemption or strength out of this. Of course, as a poststructuralist I tend to think that there are no misreadings, only readings. But some readings are easier to sustain on the basis of particular texts than others. What does it mean that I’m cathecting to the imagery of someone I already know dies?
- As I admitted in the first post of this series, despite having read the novel repeatedly my memories of Thorin and his plotline are sketchy. There’s a reason for this disinterest — I tend to avoid stories that make me uncomfortable, and it looks like this has been, or is going to be, one of those. What do I remember? That he’s pretentious, and overly proud, and that while he gets his people successfully through their expedition, he dies because of his pride, because he can’t let go of his vision. (Remind anyone of Mr. Thornton?) Is that why I’m making this identification? In other words, is this cathexis not marking a change in my attitude toward my own inflexibility and stubbornness, but just another sort of hole in the dike that I am now going to let the pride of my tenacity run through — rather than addressing it?
- Saraleee articulates another disquieting problem of the meaning of the Thorin figure: that he can’t get out from under the load of his own possibly undeserved self-criticism. That doesn’t sound familiar to me, oh no. Oh, no.
- The only text that Thorin speaks that sticks with me from the book is his statement on his death that it would be better to love merriment and food than hoarded gold, but that it’s too late for him. ????
Of all the connections I’ve developed to characters Richard Armitage has played, this one is probably the least obvious. But I hung on with Thornton and all the others and if my stubbornness is a besetting sin, I can at least use it as a virtue. I can be stubborn and hang onto this particular stampeding pony, too.
So this pic also moved me. I think because, despite lack of sword, it involves that same forcefulness and concentration, and maybe something else — the togetherness of it.
We’re on the quest. Just like Armitage said: he was moved when he saw all the guys together who were going on the quest.
Servetus in future?