like a small wisp of smoke drifting quietly skyward on a windless day

Getting a new job is like asking for a favor. And so is moving. Asking for a bunch of favors, in fact, between the two of them. Consider me, help me, allow me, permit me, assist me, pay me, appreciate me. At least that’s how it feels when one is disinclined to take up space. Shall I elaborate on that? Nah, not today.

Today I’ll tell you about last night. Last night, driving back to the soon-to-be former apartment with Antoinette in the empty moving van, I wondered if it’s simply experience that makes people feel anxious about all the stuff that could go wrong. Seems logical, natural. Things have gone wrong before, they will go wrong again. Experience tells us this. Experience also tells us that we’ve felt this way before and that “wrong” is oftentimes a judgment, a wish, a desire, not a thing. And it tells us that speaking in generalities is tiresome.

So I’ll tell you about something else that happened last night, something personal and poignant and profound and provocative. I got out of the shower around 9:40 p.m., worn comfortably ragged from carrying boxes and furniture and the more or less standard material culture of middle-class urbanites (the “less” being largely due to the unusual quantity of books I’ve dragged with me everywhere I’ve gone since I was nineteen) from apartment to van and then from van to tiny little seventy-one-year-old house way up on the north side of the city, looked in the mirror for no particular purpose after drying off, and I felt good, all at once. Some things had gone “wrong,” other things had gone “right,” and all in all, life had continued and I was standing in the steamy bathroom with my reflection as testimony, present and without spectation.

pigeonholed by one (in)coherent myth

So I got the job. At first I was mad, as if some principle had been violated, as if I’d been slighted, as if it was an offense or an affront or a dis. Then I was sad, as if I’d been uprooted, or would have to uproot, leaving the home I finally made for myself here, here in the nook of the city where I found myself, and found her (well, she found me), and grew, truly grew, to move fifteen miles north. Either way, it happened to me. The job happened to me. The move, or its necessity, happened to me. I don’t like when things happen to me.

By “things” I suppose I must mean offenses and violations. And also commitments. It’s an ontological problem. Plato wrote of these things called “forms.” Those forms were perfection, they were absolutes, ideals. And the world as we experience it is just a big mess of approximations. Spacedust or stardust or whatever. You could say beauty is in the effort to make the very best approximations we can out of all this dust, knowing the truth. You could say that, and I did, today.

Because I, in my worry and emotion, masterfully made my quintessential mistake of conflating approximations with ideals. I wanted perfect and thought perfect wasn’t what happened to me. And it should’ve, because I work so fucking hard to do the right things and be good and not suck at stuff or be a piece of shit of some variety or other. I, like nearly all seventy zillion of us, want to be respected and liked and be appreciated and given the things I believe I deserve. Without me having to fight or ask for it. I wouldn’t have had to ask Plato for it.

Well, I might’ve. Maybe he was a dick. And I do make it hard for people, with how I keep to myself and all, obscuring the talents and qualities for which I wish to be admired. But whatever Plato was, and whatever I am, we are people. And people aren’t perfect. And people are the ones in charge of jobs and affronts and uproots and happenings and misperceptions. Like mine. That’s why it’s stupid and ordinary and usual and ok. It might even be beautiful. I might even be, even if I still make my rent money working at an office for a company, rather than writing stories and books and prosetry and little vignettes and everyday shit like this.

What happened today with the job people was not a violation of any principle or a mistreatment of things, or forms, or things like forms. It was just a bunch of things like forms. A bunch of incomplete, imperfect, struggling, conscious/unconscious things striving in their way for things like forms. That’s what I’ll chew on tonight. And I got the fucking job after all anyway.

too much is never enough

Not enough, not enough, not enough, not enough. Never enough. Work-life balance. Work-life integration. That’s all well and good but. What about. You should. Why?

No reason, really. It’s just what “what we do,” just how “the world works.” The Path People have always seemed odd to me, even misled. I’m talking about the ones who’d worked out the course of their lives by 20 or 25, or seemed to. And yet here I’ve been, presuming the same kind of knowledge of my own life — that I’d be a writer or an academic, something artistic and creative and absurd and openly experiential, writing and thinking my way not just out of the rat race for “success” in the more “traditional” sorts of “careers,” but into a fuller, better human being. Now is that “a revelation or a more efficient blinding.”* That’s me being literary about wanting to be literary.

Have you heard of the impostor syndrome? I knew I’d never write a book as a [job title], knew I was and would always be a person first and [job title] second, just a writer (i.e., person) with a job [title]. Because life is special, too special to waste on [job title]. Besides, anyone can do most stuff, to put it with zero eloquence and mild aplomb. Marketing. Anyone. Project management. Anyone. Writer/artist. Few. So there I’ve been, writing on the fringes, hoping to be noticed, wanting to be heard, working to get better, trying to get published, to be one of the few, always feeling misplaced, paying the bills with jobs in business and professional things, earning a living for the sake of earning a living, working for someone other than myself, like one of the many.

I suppose I should be thankful, feel lucky, privileged, and seize the moments and the opportunities, etcetera, etcetera. And it’s not that I don’t, etcetera, etcetera. It’s that I don’t want to. Sometimes I don’t want to at all. And I feel something like guilt over this not-wanting-ness, something petulant and ungrateful and difficult. The same way I sometimes facetiously over-emphasize with italics and quotations. It’s the impostor in me, acknowledging himself.

This doesn’t end with me saying something conclusive and triumphant like “I don’t feel like an impostor anymore.” I do, but not nearly as much as I have in the past, or not quite in the same way(s). Am I still scrambling inside to figure out what someone else wants, and the way they want it? Yes, but less so, because I know what I want and know that I am not necessarily what I do, regardless of [job title] and Path People.

My point is this, I think: I still feel captive to the legacy of the Protestant work ethic and the mythologizing of the “free” market (does that sound academic enough?). And to the great many of their conscious and unconscious acolytes. Miłosz still makes more sense to me, artistically, professionally, philosophically, and that makes me feel like no matter how good I get at participation, no matter how well I play the game and play along, it will never be enough. They are relentless. They always want more. And different. And more different. Why? What’s the end? More. Because more means more, and there’s no time or place for less.

I’m frustrated, that’s all, and it’s coming out. Now is simply one of those times. I’ll be more pleasant and amusing tomorrow.


*Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

futility is the way home

I was sick. Sometimes I think it’s too bad I don’t really write poetry. This may or may not be one of those times. Sometimes I think it’s too bad I find such pleasure in simple ambiguity. It’s like finding freedom in the lost and found. True to irregularity, the cruelest joke to play.

The other day I thought I’d write something called A CONFESSION and it would consist of the following five words: I am not my thoughts.

My thoughts thought of many appendages to that first statement, some clever jibe or playfully self-debasing affront or cryptically somnambulary touch of angst, but none felt anything much other than contrived. And contrived, I’ve learned, is not good.

The fact was, my thoughts had again turned less than beneficial to my general health and I needed something to call them, needed to call them something because calling them something is control and also sometimes art, though this is not why I say I was sick. I say I was sick because I truly was, and it truly was unpleasant, and now I’ve truly changed the subject, true to form.

notes to self on a story

Make it sound. Sounding is being, and he must be other than some slight linguistic variation of me. He’s from there but not from there. He’s a late arrival and they get him. They came of age together. They welcomed him in despite his streaks of otherness, streaks they ascribe to personality more than birthplace. He’s always been different, always been handled. There in the center of the country. He has become entangled with it. He’s everything and nothing and his negligence killed its soul. That’s the fucking feeling to grasp, the voice to let speak. He slipped up, lost track, and they paid the price. He doesn’t want their forgiveness.

It’s causality. It’s knowing that each event can be causally explained, though sometimes it’s hard to posit causal connections between one event and the seemingly related others. It’s Jungian af. A, B, C, etc. And it’s hard for them to comprehend how these are not serial events but might be, how they’re completely independent but forever interrelated.

with my toes on the edge it’s such a lovely view

Yesterday was a long day and that thing I wrote was not. It—the thing—was written several days ago, mostly, so all I did was stare at it for ten minutes to see if it would change, then posted it because it didn’t. It felt darker and more negative than I did—I mean it felt like it sounded darker and more negative. But maybe that was the truth sneaking out from behind the words.

There’s much to be said for how things—and people—sound. When I read an article the author of which is identified as a “lifehacker” in their bio, I instinctively think they sound annoying. Like they’re always writing something called “8 Ways To ____.” Or they’re thinking about writing it. Or, worse, they’re talking about it.

I’m sure I sound annoying right now. I feel that way, like I’m tapping out a few useless sentences about nothing, just to fill the space available to me, to all of us. Not because I don’t have anything else to do, but because I’m shrugging those things off for the moment, which is just a way of trying to take control, of sounding like I am. Maybe tomorrow I’ll write a short piece called “213 Ways To Obscure the Truth With Words” so I can obscure the truth with words because the truth is

How does that sound?

a human as well as a scientific foundation

But I write how I write and say what I say the way(s) I want to say it. Too many fucks, though, perhaps. You think? Perhaps I should clean it up some. Perhaps.

Did you know a cop was shot and killed downtown last week? A commander, in fact, right on fucking the sidewalk by all the civic buildings and business buildings and civic and business people in the middle of the fucking afternoon on a weekday. Because he, off-duty, tried to help chase down a suspicious-looking someone who turned out to be far more than fucking suspicious. They turned the tower lights blue for him for a week.

Did you know we’re averaging one school shooting every sixty fucking hours in this country this year? Every sixty hours. And the President “thinks” we need armed teachers. Armed fucking teachers.

Did you know there were six hundred and fucking fifty homicides in this city last year? And that was an improvement, because we tallied 771 the year before.

Our time is filthy, obscene, cruel, and fearful. Maybe that’s where all the fucks come from. Maybe it’s just something to say, something to write about. Maybe it’s more than that.

They say Jung restored the antique correspondence between the psychic and physical worlds, thus bridging ancient and modern worldviews. Oneness, wholeness, continuity. Our time pulls and stretches them apart, psychically and physically, though they are absolute. The result is pain, confusion, turmoil. Fuck! Friday!

I love those of you out there holding it together, trying.