Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife & Passion

"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."
- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Recommended Tea: Tazo's Passion

Recently, my husband and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary. We went to the site of our wedding, visited all of the important places. It was strange - strange because those places had changed.

"That Sonic wasn't there before, was it?" "When did they start doing construction here?" "It's not as humid as it was last year."

It was as if we believed the happiness that we felt on that day had the power to keep anything from changing.

It is this belief that leads millions upon millions of people to get married. The belief that what you feel is so strong that it will keep anything from changing. Ever.

Unfortunately, time doesn't freeze. Time keeps going. As it ticks away, things change. You gain weight, you lose weight. The house is clean, the house is a wreck. The fridge is full, the fridge is empty. You're getting along perfectly, and then you have a disagreement.

You're young, in love, and together... but then, one day, one of you is gone.

This is a fear that has haunted me since the day that I knew my husband would someday be my husband. The fear of never finding "the one" is immediately replaced with the fear of what will happen when "the one" is gone. Or you are gone. I cannot imagine anything more terrifying.

The reality of death hit me at a very young age, when someone in my family passed away. After experiencing the reality of that horror, death has turned into my noisy neighbor, the paparazzi hiding behind the bushes and peeking into my windows, wrecking moments that are supposed to be personal and private. I know that he is there. He knows that I know that he is there.

On the one hand, the knowledge of this keeps me thankful. I became aware, earlier than most of my friends, that we would not have each other forever. This gave me an appreciation for the people around me.

On the other hand, this has placed a shadow over much of my life. I could be watching the sunset with my husband, only to burst into tears at the thought that he, or I, could die tomorrow. Every time my mother travels, she calls me and tells me where her will is, where she keeps her valuable jewelry, and how much she loves me. Every doctor visit, every late night phone call, every time my husband doesn't come home when I expect him to.

The Time Traveler's Wife has a similar theme. When you love someone, time gets a bit warped. In my heart, the present day and my wedding day, the present day and the day I will lose my husband, all seem to blur together.

On my account, I gave this book three stars. I enjoyed it, I felt like I knew the characters (sometimes maybe even a bit more than I would like), but my response to it is (without going into specific details and giving too much away) ...meh.

The themes, however, and the concept... those, I give ten stars. The themes alone - regardless of the story - make this book worth reading.

Niffenegger's argument seems to be that time travel is a metaphor for differences in a relationship. When two people decide to live a life together, how can there ever be harmony when one of them has a mind that works like an actor and the other has a mind that works like a professor? Can they actually be at the exact same place at the exact same time, or is their whole relationship an attempt to reach across their differences, or, in Clare and Henry's case, time?

There's also the big scary thing called expectation, or what we in the south sometimes call a "case of the sposed ta's." I'm supposed to get married. I'm supposed to have a baby. I'm supposed to be happy. I'm supposed to have this job or that job. Clare and Henry are husband and wife. This is the future, this is what is supposed to happen. This is what we, and they, are told from page one. But, in my own humble opinion, they don't seem too compatible. You start to wonder "Hmm... would these two be together if they didn't think they were supposed to be?" And there's a good chance that they wouldn't be. Because Clare and Henry know that they are "supposed to" be together, they get married. And in life, the pressure of the sposed ta's rarely keeps things from happening... well... the way they're sposed ta.

Time travel could also be a symbol for that mysterious I-don't-know-what that keeps people together. One moment that I keep traveling back to is the night I had one of my first panic attacks. My husband and I had just started dating, and the panic set in while we were spending time alone together. I remember he had an important test early the next morning, but he drove me to my bed, tucked me in, and sat up all night watching me to make sure that I was alright. This was when I knew that I wanted him there by my side for always and always.

How many times have I visited this moment? Thousands. Maybe millions. It is visiting this moment that makes the crappy part-time job, the messy apartment, and all of those little-things-that-seem-big-at-the-time moments vanish into the background while my husband stays beautifully focused in the foreground.

Are all of these what Niffenegger was hoping to communicate in the writing of this book? I have no idea. And that is why it deserves ten stars. The theme is there, and it is brilliant. What it means... that's for you to figure out.

And in the meantime, we keep holding on to each other, keep watching those sunsets, keep traveling back to the past and keep anticipating, looking forward to, and dreading all that is to come.

The clock keeps ticking, and we hold on like hell.

Hey! Look at This!

1 comment:

  1. I'm so, so proud of you.

    About that book though, I couldn't even get through four or five chapters of it. It just didn't click for me at all - and most folks I say that to think I'm CRAZY.


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