The Excitement Of Making New Spaces In My Brain

This past week, I spent a couple of days with an um-friend of mine hanging out, talking, fucking, and generally having a good time. I had a lot of fun, but there were moments where I felt distinctly strange, where I felt like I didn’t know how to think about what we were doing – what it was, or what it meant, or what I could expect to happen because of it, or how I could expect to feel because of it.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve gotten used to this feeling, and have even grown to feel a certain affection for it. It’s what happens when I end up in a relationship with someone that works or feels significantly different from any of the relationships I’ve been in before. I wrote about this sensation a while back, when I was experimenting with my first real casual relationship. The discomfort happens because I’m trying to figure out where the new relationship goes in my brain, and I don’t have a space that fits it yet. Trying to fit a square-shaped relationship into round holes in your brain is bound to feel a little funny.

I have more experience with casual relationships now than I did back when I first experienced this sensation, but all relationships are different, and most new relationships require me to carve out a somewhat new space in my brain. I like the mental digging sensation that results from this because it feels so much like learning. I like it because I know after I’m finished making the new space, that my brain will be more interesting than it was before. I won’t just be more comfortable with this new flavor of relationship, I’ll also have new perspectives from which to look on all of the other relationships I’ve been in.

It’s like trying a new kind of food. It’s hard to appreciate really good food until you have had a lot of different kinds of food. The more kinds of food you try, the more fine-tuned and interesting your perspective on all the kinds you’ve had before becomes, because you can look at them from the perspective of that new knowledge. Suddenly, there are presences and absences in everything you’ve tried before that you couldn’t see before, and the experience of all of them is richer for that awareness.

The sensation of unfamiliarity that comes with experimenting with new types of relationships can be uncomfortable at times, but it’s uncomfortable in the same way that not having the answer to an interesting question feels uncomfortable. It’s that kind of discomfort that, with time, I’ve learned to associate with being just on the cusp of discovering new and interesting things about the world. And there’s little that I enjoy more than discovering new and interesting things about the world.

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3 comments on “The Excitement Of Making New Spaces In My Brain

  1. Pingback: The Inestimable (and Also Really Cool and Interesting) Power of Concepts | Research to be Done

  2. One of my coworkers is Navajo, and we’ve been having a conversation about the difficulty in translating from English to Navajo or vice-versa.

    The problem is, English thinks kind of in “boxes”. Things that meet these criteria go in this box and are called “chairs”. Things that meet these criteria go in this box and are called “boyfriends.” Navajo speakers often get frustrated trying to talk to English speakers, because we say “What’s the word for ‘tree’?” and mean “What do you call the box that holds green leafy tall things?” and the Navajo don’t know how to tell us “Our language doesn’t put things in boxes.”

    What English has problems with is things that don’t really fit in our boxes. Like scrub oak: it’s genetically identical to eastern oak trees, so it should go in the tree box, right? But in Colorado it grows to be about waist-high, and spreads out, and is thin and spragly. It definitely fits the criteria for the “bush” box better. So which is it? Bush or tree? It has to be one or the other, dammit, THINGS GO IN BOXES!

    What with poly, and socio-economic changes affecting family structure incentives, and a lot of our generation growing up in “broken homes” and determined not to make that mistake again, there are a lot of problems, lately, with our relationship boxes. What do you call someone you’ve been dating for 10 years, are committed to, own a house with, and have kids with? It can’t go in the marriage box, because you’re not married. But the girlfriend box isn’t right either. And it has to go somewhere, dammit, things go in boxes.

    But there’s also an option for things to just be what they are, without having to be identified as anything, or fit into any particular space.

    (Which is not to say that fitting new things into brain space isn’t fun, because it totally is. But I find I get more “stretching” if I DON’T rush to label a thing, because then I have to actually pay attention to what they are, and not assume things based on the box they’ve been put into.)

    • That’s really interesting. Is there any concise way to describe what it’s like in the Navajo language? When I think about language without boxes, it feels like that means I’d have to avoid ever using nouns, but I imagine there is more nuance to it than that.

      I like the idea of letting things just be what they are. But even describing someone as a friend I sometimes fuck is just using different boxes, isn’t it? “Friend” isn’t always easy to define, and “fuck” isn’t always easy to define, either. I’m not sure I can think of a way to escape this box thing entirely, though I am definitely all for minimizing its use in many situations.

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