I don’t feel clever anymore – and I used to.
There are moments here and there when I think I have things sorted out but then I look around me – at my situation in life (unemployed, disabled, divorced, single again, re-questioning all things) and I say, Perhaps I am really not so clever after all, or at least, not just now. After all, wasn’t it you (that is, me) who got me, who got yourself, here in the first place?
Oh sure, maybe I got here with help – we can all say that and point the finger, but in the final account, it was me who pulled a Hiroshima, Mon Amour on my own life. It was me who dropped the bomb; and I think it was me who blew it up Marguerite Duras style. I took a lover, smoked a lot, listened to French music, read Duras, re-read Nabokov, spent time with a man who was older, got involved with him, cheated on my husband, learned a lot, screwed up my marriage, grieved two deaths in immediate family, lost my entire family on my ex-husband’s side, lost my house, moved to another state, gave up most of my furniture and put the books in storage and said, Okay – so begin again. And of course, you know that a nervous breakdown was in the recipe somewhere.
Somewhere along the way I started losing a healthy sense of humor and the ability to be clever. You know like in the film Fight Club when Brad Pitt asks Ed Norton, “How’s that working out for you, being clever?” and Ed Norton says, “Good.” I totally get it. It used to work out for me as well – being clever. For years, I made money freelance (and fulltime, but freelance, although is money our barometer of cleverness I wonder?). But it worked out – I was paid for being clever. And I think we should be paid for being smart, for thinking creatively, and more – I’ll say that much. For working hard, for saying what no one else will say or can say. And I used to be so much less tired and so much less disillusioned.
So what’s the trouble now? We have a better President – I know the economy took a bad turn and don’t we all but technically, like I kept telling people during the campaign, things have turned around. Obama got re-elected, which is something I wanted so much that even I went canvassing in New Hampshire, knocking on doors saying, “Vote for him because…” and handing out glossy material. I would have done a whole lot more to tell you the truth.
But I don’t want to get into a whole political discussion here because I think the country is divided almost 50/50 here or was anyway during this election so I think we must all be feeling something similar – a sort of apprehension, and we are coping with it different ways. Like I say, most of us are feeling the same way and perhaps even saying the same thing and just coming at it from a different point of view – very Dylan’s “Tangled Up In Blue”: “We always did feel the same, we just saw it from a different point of view.” Those words could well apply to the whole of what just happened not just to me, but to our country.
I look on LinkedIn and other job sites for writers and editors (freelance sites) and I apply for jobs even though I am appalled by how low the salaries are or how low the payment is now for these huge jobs that used to pay in the thousands (and that was years ago). Today, a job that is equal work pays $500. Does that seem even remotely reasonable to you? It doesn’t to me. I put in some hours last year and was glad of the work but I tell you, it was a huge amount of research and writing that ultimately paid very little. I could tell you all about what I learned (anything you want to know about GPS, ask me) but at the end of the day, I still need to be compensated. Like everyone, I need and want security. If this seems funny to you, humorous in some way, it should not. It’s what we are all after – no matter who you voted for or what your political position.
Ultimately, we all want life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. What we learn is that none of this is free and it never was. Money may not buy you love, but I tell you, it buys liberty – because without money to fend for the self, you are not ever truly free.
So how do we pursue any American dream if the dream is dried up or if we feel, as I do, tongue-tied or hand-tied? It could be me – and perhaps I’ll buy that because I don’t like this time of year. I seem to collapse under the grey snow-filled skies as if they were heavier somehow, my load too much to bear. I tell myself I ought not feel this way; count your blessings and so on, but that seldom works. Nor is it about depression in any emotional sense – not really. It is the old Buddhist thing that want causes suffering. Desire a thing that you cannot have (be it a job, a thing, a person, the experience of an emotion) and you will inevitably suffer. This is the problem with attachment and desire and it seems grossly at odds with our society – which I think has a lot to do with attachment that to me seems, frankly, necessary. I don’t just want money – I need it. I need it for the heat for the light and so on. Without these things, we suffer.
And love, what can I write about love – like everyone, or most people, I too desire and it is singular – and when the heart does not get what it wants, well, how we do suck and whine – “the heart remains a child” she sings (Everything But the Girl). Truer words: Queen Elizabeth said, “Where there is love, there is grief…” It seems the two must go hand in hand, a deal we must learn to accept. That a superficial gloss of love is just that – superficial. That unfortunately, when we love, if love does not get what it wants, you will grieve…
So here it is: it is post-Christmas. It’s been three years now since my divorce and I’m here in the exact same position that I was in when I began – or so it seems to me. I may feel different emotionally, I may have aspirations and even have reached some goals, but I have to tell you, I think I am spinning my wheels fast and furious and that infuriates and frustrates me to no end. And the jobs that I could apply for and do – which frankly, could range from good jobs as a technical biotech or medical writer fulltime (well-paying but again, fulltime and I have a slight problem there with a disability so…but I can try and who knows – maybe I’ll pull it off). I can apply for traditional publishing jobs again and wouldn’t that be great – because with the right job at the right house it really just might work out. I can write my book or books but the thing is, that often doesn’t get you very far either. Everybody wants to write a book, don’t they? And the last time I went around saying I had something of note I was told it was perhaps not so noteworthy so I’m trying again because once upon a time – once upon a time I had something to say… and someone did listen and it went okay. Why is it that we are so discouraged, is it our own or some other’s enforced discouragement? It’s simply situational. Can we swing it, can it be changed?
The picture we see is so bleak every day – our friends out of work (yet they, like me, still look good on paper and when I speak with them, they’re always somewhere else doing something remarkable – unlike me who is still waiting or trying to do something remarkable again like I did once upon a time.)
I am feeling a bit like Gwyneth Paltrow in Hush, that film I’ve written about before, when she says, “I don’t think I’ve been forbidden to do anything since I was five…” because it seems like so much is verboten these days. If you want x then you better not do y or be y. But then, it’s always sort of been that way. And to a point it follows; but I fear the day when who we really are as people, inside, our private lives, determines our jobs. There must be some line of privacy even if the “President of the United States sometimes has got to stand naked” – well, sure Bob, but we don’t see it, and point taken, but even he has some right.
I’m tired of feeling that I better not have x or y or z political point of view because maybe that will be a problem for someone else or they will take umbrage. We have, for all of our non-conformism and protesting and sitting out in the freezing cold, become remarkably conformist. We’ll do what we’re told to do and we’ll shut up about what we really want and really think if our thoughts are diametrically opposed because, fuck, that confuses people. Toe the party line – in every single way – and if you do not, you’re out. Amen.
I’ve wanted to be ordained for so long – since I first began in publishing (sort that one out, and I said in print that publishing was like a “ministry”) – that it’s not funny. Now that I’m pursuing it, that I am yet more in an environment in which this may become real, now that I am pursuing chaplaincy or more, that I want to apply to divinity school (how, though, do I pay for this?) – Yes, yes, work – that’s fine and easy-sounding. I keep trying to no avail and that’s with a disability so perhaps I ought just give up, quit, cash in my chips etc. etc. And surely any school is going to check me out thoroughly and ask, Who is this person? And they will find out who I am and they will find articles that run the gamut from the hard left all the way to the highly personal and I will be judged.
I will be judged because I have been more public about what I think and feel than perhaps most people are – most people are smart: they keep their mouth shut. They say nothing, or what they do say, they say in a smart way and nobody blinks. I suppose there are ways of painting a veneer on things and ways of stripping the veneer off – I do both, depending on form, depending on mood, depending on issue. I tend to speak a little too easily, a little too honestly, though I believe that these past few years have seen me pushed back into the corner like a circus animal with a poke and a handler: someone saying, Stay put – be a good girl – don’t speak like that – don’t say that. Be good or else….
Thing is, I am good and am like so many people I see who aren’t sure of themselves, or maybe they are but just aren’t pushing hard enough, well, it’s high time we really saw it. That even if someone else says [blank] about you, you have to know yourself well enough to move on forward and with a full thrust rush. I have felt so very Tangled Up In Blue, I have to tell you – and part of it is my own fault no doubt – my own fears – that I’ll be in big big trouble for downloading music or, you know, breaking down in the most awful and private way, that I could not begin nor do I really want to. Perhaps that comes later – perhaps in a book, then, maybe I will tell all and it will be some catharsis; let us hope so. For now, I feel ashamed of myself and so ashamed of being ashamed for so long and more, being shamed and almost shunned that it has gone beyond being funny – if it ever was. In my better moments, I do laugh, but at the end of it all, I’m still here, still in the same position, still trying to find my way out and into a life that is workable again – to find that success again.
A good friend told me, Once you’ve been successful, well, he said, you’re always successful – don’t you think? And I hesitated because of the resting on our laurels, a thing I feel we or I anyway should never do. That really, it is the last thing that I did and I must move beyond that to always achieve better and better.
Or maybe I’ve just had the flu and it’s been a bad week. Like the man says, “The only thing I knew how to do was to keep on keeping on like a bird that flew….”
Thanks for listening,