A friend mentioned that something I wrote suggested to him Frank Kafka’s (1883-1924) story “The Metamorphosis” ( published 1915) in reverse. That is the tale, of a man who wakes up one day and thinks he is a cockroach. Not a happy sensation, but then dear old Kafka was a pretty gloomy guy. Maybe if I was born in the late 19th c. Prague I would be morose also. Look, I am of Italian background and 19 th c. Eastern Europe leaves me cold. From what I gather, Prague in 2013 is hip, buzzing city, so things change, but I digress. I read that book and Kafka’s “The Trial” in high school-university and enjoyed them both immensely. The existential aspect was pure catnip to me. Probably a double edged sword though all in all. Fast forward 3 plus decades and as noted I was reading Ovid’s (43 BC- 17 AD) “Metamorphoses” this spring and savouring that enormously . While the central theme of each of Ovid’s stories is about ‘change’ or ‘transformation’ I truly was not reading it as anything more than great classical literature from antiquity. As a sidebar i read Ovid’s collection of Erotic stories, which was enjoyable, if for no other reason to see how little the field of love-sex-romance has changed. The complaints from 2,000 years ago were eerily familiar to the modern reader. Strangely enough, that buoyed me, because I felt that it was not just me or the contemporary human trying to figure things out with those you love and lust after. The plus ca change aspect indeed.
I don’t know how much Kafka thought of Ovid 2 millenia earlier when he wrote his story. Ovid’s stories are completely overflowing with life, laughter, a kaleidoscope of emotions from the characters whereas in Kafka there’s this awful sense of doom, being trapped, of foreboding. Ugh! What does all this have to do with being bi, you are no doubt asking? Just this. I may not have descended to thinking, feeling, calling myself a ‘cockroach’ but I did harbour a lot of self-hatred, loathing. I shall leave it up to an army of Freud, Jung, Adler, Reich, etc. to decipher why that was so. Obviously have done a lot of reflecting on why that took hold in me as a young adult and stayed with me, like tar for so many years. Now it’s gone. Excised. Vapourized. Vanquished. Remember the Rwandan genocide when the people being killed were called ‘cockroaches’ by their enemy? I don’t want to revisit the Tutu-Hutsi issue except to say, what a demeaning and dehumanizing thing to say, all over again. Didn’t the Nazis do the same to Jews with labels?
In my case, my own negative self-talk hurt me. My change and transformation, has been from something that is stomped upon (think of how one wants to step on a cockroach you see where you are living) to a being dramatically more at peace with itself. Where did all this negativity ever truly get me in life? A friend said that in coming out, I have come out into the light. Love that way of describing it. I am not so naive to think it is 100% different now. Don’t we joke that the cockroach will survive a nuclear war. I know that I still have some demons inside me trying to drag me down, take me back to a place of self-doubt, self pity and every other negative interior monologue. But that is small potatoes compared to before. Once upon a time I was continually being eaten alive by these dragons. Now I slay them. The tables have been turned. My life isn’t turned upside down but rightside up.
Kafka first at the top of this blog entry because my existence was like that man’s writings. Too much anguish, puzzlement, fretting. His book “The Castle” is a wonderful parable for me. The protagonist doesn’t know what he did wrong, why he is being questioned by the authorities. It’s all a mystery to him. So it was with me. I tried in so many ways to unlock the key to my life. Nothing worked. It was not so much a Rubik’s cube as I did not have a combination for the lock. How queer that the solution was buried deep within me. The one place to look for the answer, I did not.
Now I am more in sync with the playful, sensuous, Ovid, so I end this post with that cheerful picture. Isn’t life-love supposed to be closer to that approximation than the Gotterdammerung of Wagner, or the calamitous trench warfare of The Great War. Choose your own Sturm Und Drang image. Besides, my grandfather hailed from the same region of Italy where Ovid was born. Who knows why it took so long for me to “get my mind right” (or in this case my sexuality lining up properly) . Am just glad it happened. Period. Amen.