You’d think that the way I write about myself all of the time that all I care about is myself, but that’s not exactly true. I spend a lot of time walking through my Facebook list, and praying for friends who need prayers. I worry constantly about my son. Maybe worry isn’t the right word, but I am singularly focused on making sure that my son grows up to be self-sufficient and semi-successful in this strange society. At work, I place myself in a servant’s mindset, and my focus is on serving others, especially people who are growing the company’s revenue. I think about members of my family, living and dead all the time and obsess over why my family never reunited. I spend a good deal of time, also, out on the web, surfing news sites and reading about people of all walks of life, and I do try to pray more than gloat over the people who are suffering and in a worse place than I am. My thoughts and prayers do often extend into writing letters to congresspeople, donating money and sometimes donating my time, though it seems that as a dad and full-time professional, the volunteering doesn’t happen as much as I would like it to.
When I start to write about others, I tend to be mostly motivated to write about people who are presently making my life uncomfortable, and I realize that this is a negative attribute. I don’t write much about my wife, or people that I work with who are great people, because I guess it’s more interesting and easy to focus on the awful people who are doing miserable things. Someone might extend that further and say that if this is how I’m engineered, perhaps I think the worst of myself above all other people, since I do write about myself the most. This is only partly true, though. I certainly know myself better than anyone else, and so of all human beings, I see more negative things about me than anyone else, even if it really isn’t proportionately so.
You might think that I spend too much time sleeping during the weekend, or you would think that if you knew me. The thing is, I can start to see my mind defragmenting, and resetting itself, the longer that I rest throughout the weekend. A day spent obsessed with all kinds of projects and activities isn’t a day spent resetting the mind. Most vacations are spent worrying all the time about what thing to do next and which flight to catch and where to drive in an unfamiliar place–they are rarely resetting periods of time, but they are supercharged moments in life where extra consumption takes place. A weekend spent resting a lot, especially in states of mind that aren’t fully awake or asleep–until I reach that point where I am no longer driving my mind this way and that–is really one of the better weekends I can have, even though it doesn’t make for much in the way of conversation the next Monday at the watercooler.
You might be appalled at the fact that I spent most of the weekend indoors, going out only a few times for a walk and a trip to the grocery store to get things for my wife’s birthday. I missed church again for the umpteenth week in a row. I am somewhat hounded by seasonal affective disorder, and also beset by this ennui/inertia caused by me ripping myself out of seminary and throwing me and my family into a vortex of uncertainty even as I strove to get a handle on more stability. Ideally, I am moving toward a place where I can work for the rest of my professional life, and live in a house where I will die or at least live until I’m too old to take care of myself.
But, what’s really been ripped from the very depths of myself are any precious clingings to what a call or vocation or plan for my life might look like. I think what I am trying to say is that I have made many plans of my own look and feel as if they might have been heaven-sent, and believed so wholeheartedly as to be propelled along for at least six months before running out of the energy of the fumes of faking it.
I don’t even have much of a case that my one remaining thing in life to do–raise at least one child to be self sufficient–is heaven sent so much as put upon me by a strong sense of duty. Without that strong sense of duty, I would be just another toothless, homeless drunken wanderer of the earth–another unknown smelly guy you spit on when you pass me by while walking down Congress Avenue. (Actually, I am more in favor of being a wild hermit of the swamps, but you get the idea).
I have strongly considered taking a break from writing altogether and reading only poetry–letting the words and worlds of others living and dead fill me and change me. Of course, I take a few days off, and I’m back here again, hammering away at the keyboard with the expectation that I will just start writing and something will crack wide open. I might compare my relationship with writing to that of a gambling addict’s with a slot machine–just one more document opened, one more paragraph written, and this time a landslide of gold will fall upon me. Seen in this light, it is clearly unhealthy–I am no better than any individual addicted to a sucker’s game with a lazy loser’s attitude about how to get the payout. I have no intention of sitting down and methodically learning to write verse in any number of its global and historical forms. I don’t get farther than an outline most of the time when it comes to cooking up the plans for a novel. My short stories are virtually nil–mostly because I don’t really have any capacity and patience to craft the perfect short story. A sloppy, deeply flawed novel or poem is much preferred to a perfectly crafted…anything. And, short story writers of all people seem to be the most obsessed with their craft–most poets seem to be happy to put muse before craft.