Driving sideways

28 08 2009

I’m losing my mind.

Nothing serious; I’m simply losing touch with reality.

Shall I rephrase that?

I know what color the sky is in the—not my—world. It has just turned August 28, 2009 in New York City. Rain is expected later in the day. When I wake up, it will still be August 28, 2009 in New York City.

So there’s that.

But there’s also the oft-denied undeniability of a life in pieces. Yes, that would be my life.

I don’t want to over-emphasize two things, but I often do what I don’t want:

1. The visit of friends whose lives are more or less whole served notice on a life which is not.

2. That I have never properly learned how to live has not only caught up to me, it has long since overtaken and even lapped me.  (How long will I use this excuse? How long you got?)

Now, as to the first matter: It is true that normal life in NYC is unlike normal life in most other places in the US. Thus, it is normal for these friends to have homes and husbands and regular paychecks and paid vacations and pension plans.

True, there are some places in NY where this is also normal, but this town is big enough to encompass more than one normal. Thus, it is normal to have roommates found through craigslist and odd jobs and to sweat about money and to think of less than 400 square feet of living space as adequate.

If my friends blinked about this juxtaposition of normals, they were kind enough to do so when I wasn’t looking.

As to the second point, well, what more is there to say beyond the profession of ignorance? If it were an argument I could analyze it; if it were a recipe I could cook it.

It is neither. It is a kind of blankness, a lack which offers no clues on how to approach it. Animal, mineral, or spirit?

‘Just do it.’

Okay. But what, exactly? I understand the just, but what is the it and how am I to do it?

Too many questions? Is this why I’ve been told I think to much?

But this isn’t a question of too much thinking, nor or not enough. It is precisely a question of what and how.

So, Ms.-Fancy-Pants-PhD: what do you want and how do you propose to get it?

I want a life that makes some sense.

I have no idea what that means.

Which means I have no way of knowing how to achieve it.

Smaller, more concrete: I’d like to make enough money not to have to worry about it. I would like a job which is more than adjunct and temporary. I would like to take a dance class and re-up on my pottery. I would like to meet more people. I would like to date. I would like to sell my novel. I would like to write more than I do. I would like to be able to leave New York City in August.

Okay, now we’re on to something: Talk to departmental chair about a medium-to-long term teaching contract. Apply promiscuously for jobs. Apply promiscuously for agents. Write more.

Primary, secondary, means and ends, causes and consequences. See, that’s not so hard, is it?

It shouldn’t be.

Practical—I can be practical. I enjoy the theoretical-practical—hang my queries on these!—but the real-practical, the this-is-your-life practical, mmmm, that’s where the dissipation begins.

This-is-your-life: the theoretical-real-practical. But I have neither theory nor reality nor practice. A deductivist trapped in induction.

Einstein: It is the theory which decides what we can observe.

Francis Crick: The point is that evidence can be unreliable, and therefore you should use as little of it as you can.

Crick, again: There isn’t such a thing as a hard fact when you’re trying to discover something.

So not only do I not know where to look, I can’t trust what I can and cannot see.

Still, what theory accounts for my pitiful finances? That, my dear, is all about practice, and is evidence of poor career decision-making.

Still, one shift among the subatomic particles, and idiocy becomes vision: See, e.g., When I sell my novel. . . .

Still, count on nothing. The evidence is unreliable.

Still, such unreliability can be spur, possibility.

I don’t have to drown in it. (Which ‘it’? the evidence, the unreliability, the lack—you name it.) I am tired of treading water.

But I took advanced swimming lessons. I can tread water a long time.

Someday I will swim.

(Credit/blame for this post’s styling to Jeanette Winterson)


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