These are the down days of winter, and the sun slips like a canned apricot from the sky and it is not even four o clock and yet darkness bears down on us. For those of us in offices, we hardly notice the difference. We live by fluorescent and are kept buoyed and afloat by the cheer of our coworkers, and though it may be false cheer too often, there is enough real cheer and good will that it makes a fulltime job a precious resource in this economy and a thing not to be underestimated.
For those of us left to our own devices, life is less simple. There is, as I’ve written before the structure of routine and ritual. That one must create one’s own ritual and sense of space and time because we all know that the first step on the path to losing your mind is not knowing what time it is or what you’re supposed to be doing. Or worse, frittering the day away with television or Internet surfing when you know you should or could be working on your novel or your next big project or even your next great blog, the one that could make the difference and the one you’ve been meaning to write. These dark Lenten days which approach, though not quite yet, are the dark days of the soul and we must find ourselves here and be honest about who we are and what the hell we are doing.
As I age, every year Christmas comes faster. I remember a time when Christmas came so so very slowly and I couldn’t wait an entire year. It seemed an eternity. Now, nearing forty, it seems to swing in and out like a flapping door – here in the next moment when I am still packing up yesterday’s ornaments. The same of any holiday, no matter what your faith, as we age, time seems to go faster and that sense that we will live forever and that we have all the time in the world quickly fades and the smart know that to live means to live now. That to put off until “tomorrow” is always a mistake for tomorrow never comes and it is up to us to live in the now, the present and to get our work done. As the book of common prayer says, “and now, lord, send us out to do the work you have given us to do.” You don’t have to be particularly religious to just admire the spirit of industry. We are indeed, the quick and the dead.
So knowing all this, why is it that I want to keep warm in my house and hide from the elements. Is it sickness? Is it that I really don’t feel well, which is true, or is that more insidious depression, some dark night of the soul, and all the shit I’m so sick of because I just want to get out there and do and yet, somehow, no matter how much I do, it’s still never enough. This too I’ve written before, but it bears repeating. No publication great enough to satisfy the poet’s hunger or the writer’s hunger. I move on from one to the next, reaching higher and higher, and while I am deeply proud of these accomplishments as should all of us be, I also wonder if this is what living really is. I do a good job, I think of writing about living, but am I really doing it? Is this living, being holed up in my studio with my books and my safe things and my totems and my special pens etc etc. or is this simply another way of avoiding the inevitable fear that perhaps, after all the accomplishments and the great CV and the education and the publication list, perhaps after all, I’m not good enough. Perhaps I’ll be rejected, or perceived as weird. Or God help me, perhaps I’m not skinny enough, pretty enough, perhaps all those girls I see in the mall with their Nars make up and their skinny ass aerobicized legs and their perfect bobs and their expensive highlights or those others, the darker ones with their flowing waves and olive skin and dark eyes, perhaps my deepest fear is that at the end of the day, no matter what I publish or accomplish, what I want more than anything is to be loved – to be beautiful, to be accepted and to fit in.
As an immigrant, this strikes a particularly deep note, as any immigrant could testify to. For all of our nationalism and pride and patriotism to our own country, and god, yes its there, we still want to fit in with Americans and yet stupidly and contradictory, want to retain our independence and our exoticness, or plainness or whatever it is we have that makes us different and Other. Add to that epilepsy or some other chronic illness that has any social stigma, and never mind that that same illness is connected with genius, like manic depression is as well (though note the two are not related), there are both pluses and minuses – there is the good and the bad, but god what most of us would give, if we are truly honest, just to be ordinary or extraordinary. Do we make fun of those girls in the mall because we envy them? Or is it really that we think we are better than? And what use anyway such pejorative terms – better, worse, good, bad. They are of little use, for all of this is always in the eye of the beholder.
I have been in a situation in which the object of affection (for my partner at the time) was always a moving target. The other She was always shape-shifting, now blonde, now dark, now American, now foreign, now light, now dark, now white, then Asian – I ask, how can one compete with this and why should one even try? If someone does not know that they want you and only you, then fuck ‘em. You cannot and should not change or try to be what you are not, for you will only succeed in being a poor facsimile of something you likely misunderstand in the first place. IN such situations, and here again I speak of infidelity be it emotional or physical, the thing the other pursues may take the form of the physical, your lover may be “democratic” in his tastes (such a dirty word in this context) and find a “vast array” of women beautiful and desirable, but unless you are at the top of that list, or dare I say against the current trend, the only one on that list, then what is the point? You are going about negating yourself for someone who knows now what s/he wants and that is a profound waste of time. Better to be who you are and then shine at that and watch then how they come running back to you, because only when you are yourself, only when you believe so much in your own self worth and you strut with such confidence are you attractive. Subordinate yourself or allow yourself to be made subordinate and that is what you become; lesser, not whole, neither this nor that.
If your democratic lover wants to flip flop like Al Gore in his or her choices, then that is their problem and ultimately, that is a sign and a hex mark of which they are themselves – which they do not know who they are or what they want. It is a sign that they too are lost – and that doesn’t mean you have to be lost with them. You can go out and fight on your own and be yourself and only then will you truly be the object of anyone’s desire. Fakers never last for very long, and Lo! You do not wish to be a faker anyway.
As these days bring self doubt, as you sit wrapped in your L.L. Bean blankly or your favorite sweats etc, think of how much more you are than this hiding behind your computer potato and how much you could offer when you go out. Really, just try it. Listen to some Bruce Springsteen or Bob Dylan and get yourself rallied up and get out there. Bob Dylan was a weird looking guy but because he didn’t care, or seemed not to care, he had throngs of adoring fans everywhere. There was no one like him and so far, there still hasn’t been anyone like him. Say he sold out to Victoria’s Secret if you want, but he still made the smart move and got himself promoted and he changed with the times – because the times they are a changin’ and he fucking knows it and you and I should do. There is nothing attractive about self-doubt and insecurity, nothing enlightened about it, as Nelson Mandela once said so astutely. Be fabulous, be bold, and believe in yourself and others will believe in you too.
This blog isn’t about anything other than you in this moment right now; I don’t want to go into a whole thing about popular culture or music or generational differences because that’s just crap and that’s me intellectualizing my way out of the fact that I just need to get some zing back into my life and start loving who I am. I mean really loving who I am. Not in some soppy, school girl or vain way, but just saying that “I’m not so bad after all.” Or as Jeff Buckley said, “I don’t look so good from a distance but I tell you I’m the one” – one of my all time favorite lines from a song ever. If Jeff Buckley could sing that, then by god, maybe I can.
And if the target is always shifting, if I am made to feel or feel on my own that I should be something else – that I should be dark when I am light, that I should be of some other nationality because Scotland is shit, or so they say, and for too long we’ve bought into it, like our Irish kinfolk, who likewise bought into it. Enough of this. So I’m not some beautiful Indian girl or Asian girl or Jewish girl and I just happen to be a WASP and for some reason, I’ve been made to feel that this is somehow undesirable, and the real joke is that so many think that being a WASP is the way to go – that somehow, we’ve got it all sewn up when nothing could be farther from the truth. It feels plain and the same and the same and the same and if I see any more plaid I just might puke. I’m tired of being pigeon holed. I’m not just a WASP, I’m a true Scot, a cockney, a ginger haired girl, a freckled and pale thing, and all these things that I’ve come to hate about myself, somewhere someone else wants those things. There’s probably some poor Asian girl on the other side of town wishing she had what I have, which frankly, I don’t see, but I’ve seen enough of life to know its true.
My message today may be trite, but it’s true nonetheless. Winter is dark and hard and bleak, and to get through it, you are going to need to think you are fabulous and nothing less than that. OR in the very least, think you are okay and make your peace with that. Quit trying to be what you’re not. Quit trying to be clever all the time because it’s tiring and nobody is clever all the time, and just be for a while. Really, just be. This Sunday, I’m going to an all Indian meditation group because the head swami or guru or whatever he is known as has personally invited me. How can I say no to this. This is such an honor for a girl from Scotland to be accepted into such a rich culture. How funny that I always wanted to be them – to be an Indian girl, and all along, they’ve been wanting me to join their group. The point is, you just never know and you have to stop selling yourself short.
I realize this pep talk is mostly for my benefit and I thank you for listening. If it helps you too then so much the better – but remember what Mandela said, “It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us.”
He was so right.
Amen to all that.