Last night, I spent a couple of hours on a series of work-related calls revolving around whether a number should be included in a document. One number. In a document that stretches to 170 pages or more. One number that basically was a guess. Without any real foundation for its existence as that number. As usual with these things, there was the one side and the other and they were talking past each other. The supporters of including the number weren’t hearing that the number was, in fact, well, not a fact. But, dammit, they had a number.
A little after 9:00, I thought we were done for the night and would pick it up this morning. I turned my blackberry off and went to bed. When I got up at 6:00 and checked my email, there were several more “call me” emails from the night before. I talked with one of the individuals at 6:30 this morning.
It’s times like this when I feel like …
Woke up, fell out of bed
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup
And looking up, I noticed I was late
Found my coat and grabbed my hat
Made the bus in seconds flat
Found my way upstairs and had a smoke
And somebody spoke and I went into a dream
The person who spoke was Jackson Browne with his song, The Pretender, which came on the radio on my drive in to work. The lyrics above, by the way, are from A Day In The Life by the Beatles – one of my favorites of theirs. But Jackson, well Jackson has something to say on the subject as well …
I’m going to rent myself a house
In the shade of the freeway
I’m going to pack my lunch in the morning
And go to work each day
And when the evening rolls around
I’ll go on home and lay my body down
And when the morning light comes streaming in
I’ll get up and do it again
Say it again
It’s interesting how these two songs speak to the same thing. At least to me. The humdrum. The routine. Getting up, having a cup, going to work, going home, going to sleep. And getting up and doing it all over again.
Do you ever feel like your entire life is pretend? That it’s not real. Or maybe it’s just not about anything that is real.
Or maybe that your entire life doesn’t matter? That you are just a speck on the butt of humanity. One of billions and it doesn’t really matter what you do. If it doesn’t matter, why do you do it?
I do. I am pretend. I am not real. I am but a figment of my imagination and yours. There can’t possibly be any meaning, any reality, to the things I do each day. Arguing and discussing for two hours whether a number should be included in a document. Where’s the reality in that? Where’s the meaning?
More than eight years ago I acquired my current position of responsibility at work. My first day, my new boss, who had also been promoted essentially at the same time, came into my office to congratulate me. I returned the sentiment and then told him how I felt like a kid wearing his dad’s suit. I still feel that way. I still feel like I spend my hours at work pretending. Don’t these people realize I’m just making it up as I go, winging it. I’m no better, no smarter, no more capable than they are? I am a pretender.
I’m not a writer. I pretend to be one. There is no original story left to be told. When I write, therefore, I’m just regurgitating the stories that have filled my head from the hundreds if not thousands of stories I’ve read over the last 40+ years. All I’m doing is rearranging the characters and lines of those many stories into something that seems new, when in fact it is nothing more than a melding of everything else that has already existed and been done.
This morning, a co-worker sent me this link (http://iwl.me). It’s the one where you insert some of your writing and the site analyzes it and tells you what famous author you write like. I plugged in a few paragraphs from Northville Five & Dime and it claimed that I write like Dan Brown. I tried some different paragraphs from Northville. It spit out Dan Brown again. So, the good news is that the writing style of the story is consistent. The bad news is … I FUCKIN’ WRITE LIKE DAN BROWN!!! I am not a writer. I am a pretend writer.
Writing is this thing that I love to do. But I hate it as well. Carrie Rubin tweeted about having her manuscript out to agents and now playing the waiting game and that she was enjoying the break from writing. I responded back, “I wish I knew how to stop writing.” It’s a love-hate thing. I love to write. I love when I finish something and read it and feel good about what I’ve done. I love the accolades I get when a story goes well and people like it.
I hate to write. It adds to my frustration level because …There are so many stories in my head. So many. And I have so little time to devote to my writing that it just leads to more and more frustration. And besides, like I said, there’s nothing original about what I do. Is there anything original about anything any of us do anymore? Maybe I’m just wasting my time at this thing.
Earlier this week, Aussa Lorens and I exchanged a few comments about difficult people who existed in our life at various points. For me, it was my psycho ex-girlfriend. It was a co-worker who has made my life miserable for the last couple of years. It could just as easily be the family member that makes every family gathering a chore. Or a teacher who makes life difficult for my child. Or … well, yes, there are lots of difficult people in our lives. Lane splitting motorcyclists, for instance. (Here’s a question … when did lane splitting become something that was not just legal but apparently required for all motorcyclists? A few years ago, lane splitting was an extremely rare occurrence in my experience. These days, it seems every single motorcycle rider lane splits no matter the circumstances. Wall-to-wall, stop and go traffic — lane split. Traffic flowing freely and at legal speed — lane split. I am so sick of it and am convinced I’m one day going to have a damaging close encounter with a motorcycle.)
I was discussing one of those difficult individuals with another friend right about the same time Aussa (by the way, Aussa has this incredible manuscript she’s sitting on and she better publish it because her story is incredible) and I were “talking.” This friend’s outlook was that she owed the difficult person a thank you because having to deal with that person’s crap toughened her up for the other difficult people she would no doubt come across in her life. Because the reality is that the world is not full of good, decent, loving people. There are actually assholes out there who are manipulative and evil, and who will rub your nose in it if given the chance.
So, yes, we need a psycho girlfriend, a manipulative co-worker, a whacko relative every now and then to remind us that life aint just a bed of roses. It’s not just champagne and caviar dreams. Sometimes it may just actually be a bed of nails.
Which is why I may need to re-think my whole approach to the many frustrations that exist in my life. They are character-building, right? Experiencing frustrations and difficulties is supposed to make us enjoy the highs of life all the more, right? If I’m frustrated at my writing pace, when I finish a story the reward should feel that much sweeter. If we didn’t have any of the lows, how would we appreciate the richness of life. So, let me see if I’ve got this right. I should stop getting frustrated at my frustrations. But, if I stop getting frustrated, how will I recognize that there is both bad and good? How will I know what to appreciate? It’s a circular kind of hell.
For instance, if it no longer frustrates me that I am living in a city I no longer want to live in, how can I appreciate those times when I visit the ocean, or a little town, or a mountain lake? If my life is perfect, what is the point to seeking out the new? You see, frustration and difficulty plays a role in our happiness. I’d just like more of the latter and less of the former. Or am I just full of it? You know, like fuck character building. I want wall-to-wall happiness.
There’s this weird thing that happens when I go on my solo jaunts. I love it. Absolutely love it. But, you know, strange things can happen when you spend time by yourself. I told a friend about how much I enjoyed watching the waves. Just sitting and watching the waves. Watching the … watching the waves. And she said this thing that was so incredibly true. The problem with sitting and watching the waves, though, is that you end up burrowing deep down into your head. You start building a nest and taking up residence in there and when you do that, you can pretty much crack up if you’re not careful. There’s this odd connection between waves and self-reflection. At least for me and my friend. What about you? Are there experiences that draw you inside? Is it safe there? Or dangerous?
So, these jaunts that I love because I go to these places that are beautiful and peaceful and I relax and spend a few hours or days being the me that I think I’m supposed to be almost always leave me feeling melancholy. Maybe it’s that burrowing that causes it, maybe it’s just a curse of being a reflective person. Maybe it’s just that as much as I enjoy those moments, what I really want to be able to do is share them with somebody else, somebody who wants to sit and watch the waves and reflect and think. Ponder and consider. To weigh the vastness of the ocean versus the miniscule impact we have.
Last Friday, I had an interesting conversation with Poetmaster Geoff. Or at least I think he’s the one who brought this up. It may have been the same friend who talked about the dangers of watching waves. Anyway, it went like this. Introverts thrive on internal energy, while extroverts thrive on external energy. And I thought that I once again had a way of comparing the differences between me and the people around me. There’s nothing wrong with either kind of person, but the reality is that they are just different. I’m not sure somebody who thrives off of external energy is going to get the simple pleasure of just sitting and saying little, but within that little saying everything.
The key then is to find that person to share these experiences with who gets it and wants it and thrives on it. And that’s where the melancholy sets in. Where is that person? Who is that person? Is it possible that I’m a fool for thinking there could be somebody else like that, with whom I could almost form a mind meld with and speak while remaining silent. Revel while maintaining peace.
Maybe, just maybe, I’m wrong about all of this and none of it. That there never will be an answer to any of these questions because they aren’t actually questions at all. They are mysteries never meant to be solved. There are no answers. There is only putting one foot in front of the other. There is only waking up each morning and doing it all over again.
I went to the corner store to get my Pepsi at lunch time. While there, I was moving a little slow. A woman wasn’t sure if I was ahead of or behind her in line. I said, “Go ahead, I’m moving slow today.” She made an appropriate reply. And I went on, “Life is to be savored, you know. Too bad I don’t live my life that way.”
Why did I say that? I have this horrible habit of saying things like that to other people when I’m incapable of following my own advice. Do as I say, but not as I do. Follow my lead … right into a snake pit.
And then I read this … http://www.kob.com/article/stories/s3209305.shtml#.UnkQgPnUBNs
I don’t know. If the police can forcefully have a man’s anus manually probed two or three times, then force three enemas, and finally force a colonscopy all because he was holding his butt cheeks when he got out of a car than I shouldn’t complain. You know what I mean?
Am I actually complaining though? Or just pondering the lint in my navel?
Just so you know, this post is Trent Lewin’s fault.
Time for me to go to bed so I can get up and do it all over again.