Sunday, October 14, 2007


Medusa suggested a cathartic Lockdown post, in part because I probably need to go into full-on Lockdown mode (although you can't really choose Lockdown - it's more an automatic thing), and in part because the world would benefit from a deeper understanding of this little-discussed phenomenon.

A few caveats first: 1) Medusa really should probably be writing this post, as she is the one who coined the term "Lockdown" for what I will describe, and 2) everyone has their own variations on the process that I will describe, depending on personal inclinations, and 3) if I'm honest, Lockdown is not fully achieved in this situation, and there is a bit of a way to go to get to the ultimate point-of-no-return. The final "Red Alert" sirens are going off, and the 3-minute countdown is happening on the main control panel, but there is still the possibility for the process to be aborted.

So Lockdown. Ok, you know in movies, like the brilliant Armageddon, where the world is facing possible annihilation by, like, a rogue meteor or something? Perhaps some images will help (also courtesy of Medusa, who explains the experience primarily through deep analysis of space films).

Or like in the end of the fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer when there is the final battle in The Initiative? Well. What often happens is that there is a sequence in which the spaceship or headquarters or whatever goes into "Lockdown" mode. This often includes the automatic locking of a series of doors and things start running on generator power. The sound effects are something like, ka-chggh, ka-chggh, ka-chggh, as the various doors start locking. A lot of people tend to run around, trying to secure the perimeters of the location, and to do complicated procedures to shut down very complicated and high-tech operations. As Lockdown progresses, a siren begins going off (Wah! Wah! Wah!) and a countdown clock begins ticking, in red numbers, down to the moment when the whole thing will go kablooey.

Well. This is not unlike what happens when a relationship finally reaches what seems to be the point of no return. First, a small alarm goes off. (Imagine a computer-generated and friendly female voice piped through the loudspeakers: "Lockdown will commence in 17 minutes.") Now, at this point it's still possible to engage a pretty commonplace protocol to avert Lockdown, but often, a lot is going on, or the person who's supposed to be monitoring headquarters is on the phone or eating a sandwich or they suffer from space dementia or something, and so that protocol is not engaged. Then, the doors begin automatically locking. Ka-chggh. There's another protocol that can be engaged in this dire situation (more technical), but remember: people don't usually familiarize themselves with this little-used protocol, so success is not likely. Finally, the sirens sound. Wah! Wah! and then, well, you see, there is no turning back. Maybe if some sort of amazing thing happens, the process can be aborted, but only manually, and only with some pretty ingenious and unbelievable acrobatics, an effort that has nothing to do with common and carefully outlined procedures. It takes a renegade of immense bravery and practical experience, along with a good amount of smarts, to achieve this. It will likely involve a stick of chewing gum, some barbed wire, a tube of lipstick, and scimitar of some sort from a long-dead civilization. And perhaps some witchcraft. Barring all this, aborting Lockdown is pretty much an impossibility. And even if one tries to abort, many may die in the effort, and it still may not work.

And so. Now with the metaphor fully articulated, here's where the Lockdown process usually begins for me. I reach a moment when I realize, somehow, that there is just no point in hoping for things to go forward. Or I feel that way, anyway. The relationship is limited, deliberately limited, and it's entirely outside my power to make what I want to happen happen. So, there are two options. You continue on, hoping for something to change but completely passive, or Lockdown begins. The process of totally shutting down to avoid the potentially disastrous thing. Sure, it will mean destruction, but ultimately, not everything will be destroyed. The threat will be averted although much will also be lost. The internal computer sees danger, and institutes a set of procedures that, while drastic, will avert total annihilation.

As with the movie-version of Lockdown, a series of things begins happening. That first friendly voice that indicates that Lockdown will commence? This often takes the form of some sort of spat followed by a heart-to-heart about needs and wants and things. And then nothing changes. Then, the locking of doors. I lose the ability to talk to the person. I'm bitchy. I push the person away, and I refuse to listen to whatever it is they have to say. And then the siren and the countdown. A big showdown. I say things that I regret even before I say them. Things that are true, which makes them worse than if I were just stupidly mean. Things you can't take back. As the countdown progresses, I do things like the following, to prepare for the final kablooey:

  1. I announce what's going on to everybody I know, including, apparently, the internet. This is important, as it means that it's very difficult to go back from the Lockdown process. One doesn't want to be the girl who cries Lockdown and then is like, woops! False alarm! Also, it means that everybody can get Y2K ready with their transistor radios and canned goods in case there is any fallout.
  2. Spontaneous crying. Usually accompanied by maudlin journal-writing. Very important to spend some time on self-reflection before the whole project implodes.
  3. The compilation of a playlist (in former times, the making of a mixed tape) to serve as a sort of message of pain for posterity, should I not survive the inevitable conclusion. Sometimes, along with this, there is the writing of a letter to the person who inspired the Lockdown, which will later be accompanied by the mix, for if one can't be with a person, it can make one feel better to show them exactly how hurt one is by the whole thing.
  4. Throwing oneself into work like it's one's job (hee!).
  5. Beauty rituals, ideally including some sort of haircut and color.
#s 1-3 have been in effect throughout the day. #4 will go into effect tomorrow, and I hope #5 will happen on Tuesday. But. There was also a conversation with FB today. A conversation that left me sad, but less sad than I've felt since the sirens started going off. I know where he stands; he knows where I stand. We're not going to communicate for a week. The question is, during this week, will either of us find the requisite immense bravery, practical experience, smarts, stick of chewing gum, barbed wire, tube of lipstick, scimitar-from-long-dead-civilization, and witchcraft to abort this process? Is either one of us that kind of renegade? Is either one of us Bruce Willis?

(If we judged this on hair alone, he'd be much more likely to be Bruce Willis than I would be. But hair, in Lockdown, is not necessarily all.)

If I were really fully committed to the Lockdown, I'd not be asking those questions. I wouldn't have even had the conversation with him. It wouldn't have been necessary. See, here's the thing about Lockdown. It's FINAL. There's no going back from it. In some ways, that makes it kind of like a miracle. Because they'll show back up, in six hours, six weeks, six months, six years, and you just feel.... nothing. You might have a fondness for what once was, but now they're just silly to you. Sweet perhaps, endearing, but you'll never give it another shot with them. Not really. You might toy with their affections a bit - like when they try to talk you into marriage pacts or to come visit you - you might be their friend, have sex with them, and feel a very real affection for them. But they'll never be a real possibility again. Not even if you try to make them that or if you wish they could be that. Nope. Once Lockdown has truly occurred, that's it. And either you can both be happy with the outcome of that, or happier than you'd be if you just never spoke again, or you just won't be in one another's lives. Of course, a side effect of Lockdown is that it also makes you dead inside, but that, at this point, is neither here nor there.

I really would like to be surprised here. I'd really not like to fall back on the shut-down that Lockdown indicates. But I can't sacrifice myself totally. I can't leave myself open to the kind of pain that would result from just going on as if it will all work out ok when the signs are so clear that it may well not. And you know, that's the thing that scares me most, actually. That I know that I've reached my limit, and that I've got this limit. It's the limit that makes me fear that I'll just keep having this sort of relationship conclusion and that I won't be able to get it together to be anything but alone. Because I've done this before. And I'm great at it. I'm not sure that this is a talent of which to be proud.

But so, if you ever need a Lockdown Soundtrack of your own, you might make do with the one that I've created today, should you not be so inclined to spend your final stages of Lockdown on such a project:

  1. Red Red Red - Fiona Apple
  2. Those Three Days - Lucinda Williams
  3. Poison Oak - Bright Eyes
  4. Ootinschenia - The Be Good Tanyas
  5. How to Say Goodbye - The Magnetic Fields
  6. Ez - Pete Yorn
  7. Divorce Song - Liz Phair (I know, a cliche, and this isn't exactly a divorce or anything, but such a great song.)
  8. I Don't Believe You - The Magnetic Fields
  9. See You When You're 40 - Dido
  10. Elephant - Damien Rice
  11. The Last Day of Our Acquaintance - Sinead O'Connor (see notation to track 7)
  12. Bridges - Tracy Chapman
  13. Please Do Not Let Me Go - Ryan Adams
  14. Be Be Your Love - Rachael Yamagata
  15. The Desperate Kingdom of Love - PJ Harvey
  16. Fidelity - Regina Spektor
  17. Things that Disappear - Rhett Miller
  18. Stop Your Sobbing - The Pretenders
And if you're looking for conversation unrelated to this, it may well be that Crazy Medusa's Lounge will be open for business tonight (remember: it is my fall break, so I don't have teaching responsibilities to keep me out of such unsavory establishments), so you might head over there just to check in. (You may also head over to Medusa's, to check out her most excellent supplement to this here post.) I know a few of you have lamented that you've missed previous nights out on the town (er, internet). Here's the thing with Medusa and Me. If we make real plans with you, we're likely to end up bailing at the last minute and just staying in to watch TV or to cuddle up with our respective pets and a good book. This is the way of Crazy and Medusa, historically. Indeed, it may be why we have been such good friends for the past ten years. But the point here is this: you snooze, you lose. Sooner or later, you'll find your way to our watering hole at a time when we are available. Do not fear :)


Dr. Curmudgeon said...

Good luck with Lockdown, and thanks for the soundtrack to accompany it.

Forgive me for stepping on your metaphor - or for appropriating it - but the interesting consequence of lockdown in the movies is what manages to make it through the doors as they're just about to close for good. I do find myself wondering whether there's some equivalent that'll manage to roll under the door at the last possible second.

I just hope it isn't played by Ben Affleck.

Dr. Crazy said...

Indeed, this is an interesting possibility that neither Medusa nor I has discussed.... I feel like a lot of times what gets in under the door is toxic in some way... but then other times it is some sort of hero saving the day sort of thing.... Hmmm...

Well, I know what I'll be doing this afternoon - trying to process how this fits into the Lockdown narrative. So much better than grading!

Dr. Crazy said...

er, HAVE discussed - this is what I get for trying to comment when I'm also doing about five other things. Apparently, Lockdown has made me illiterate.

BrightStar said...

Thanks for explaining lockdown. I mistakenly assumed it meant locking your self literally in your house and hiding and eating some comforting food or something. This version is inherently more interesting.

Dr. Crazy said...

Well, LD can include what you describe in some cases, but I find that it's best not to do too much of that otherwise you just make yourself more depressed. The trick is to make your sadness work for you, I think :)

MaggieMay said...

I *love* the lockdown. I do it too-- I just didn't have a formal name for it before.

Great playlist, too. My own personal favorite lockdown songs are "Changed the Locks" by Lucinda Williams (even has "lock" in the title!) and "I Forget You Every Day" by Chris Whitley.

I hope you get what you want out of this situation, crazy.

Ozma said...

I think one reason I am married because lockdown would totally not work with my husband.

I did 1-5. Also, changed my phone number, returned all letters, I SHUT DOWN MY EMAIL from my alma mater. How extreme is that.

No lockdown. Oh, my God I wanted lockdown SO BAD.

I'm very happy but I remember being SO SO SO PISSED at the time about the failed lockdown. All those periods of long, long silence.

But I did lockdown one other time and it did work, kind of--although I had to take a leave of absence from school. That was my other lockdown experiment. Lockdowns are kind of extreme in my case.

Ozma said...

PS: I'm sorry I failed to comment on the absolute brilliance of this post!

It's classic which is why it spawned the strange reminiscing above.

Lorrie said...

My lockdowns are similar to ozma's. two of them required me leaving the state in which I resided at the time. Not because of crazies, but because I knew myself well enough to understand that sometimes I was incapable of observing the Lockdown rules. So putting distance between ensured the rules were observed.