I was listening to Pillow today, that great song by Tom Verlaine who I just can’t get enough of these days and those lyrics just hit me right where it counts, and although it is years since I heard this song, when I hear the line “you are remembered well. Putting on that overcoat in June…slipping off that old corsage… it’s nothing, really nothing. What does the dove see? There at the window. These pains are very hard.” and I agree. These pains are very hard and they hurt like hell and at this time of year, it is almost too much to bear, and then I remind myself that these pains can be just memories if I let them go — if I allow myself some modicum of self-forgiveness then surely happiness will follow. Why is it that even when others have long since forgiven, the hardest thing of all is perhaps to forgive onesself for past mistakes. Why is this so very, very hard and why is it that no matter how far away from said mistakes i get, i still feel the weight of them hanging over me.
Perhaps part of it is a natural part of some greater effort to live and learn, but gone a bit bezerk, a bit too stern. Perhaps i figure if i hold onto those mistakes and do not let myself off the hook too easily, a thing i see others do and am constantly amazed, then i will be a better person. i will not do said thing again because i will always remember the pain it caused and so on. This is not to say i should wear a hair shirt all my life. I don’t believe that. But i also never understood those among us who do not hold themselves accountable. Who hurt those around them, usually those who love them most, and then let themselves easily and gently off the hook with some prefabricated excuse that they call a “reason” and then it’s all okay. I love how they just go to bed and sleep, as if their actions had no effect on others. I realize that such behavior must be to some extent, slightly or more sociopathic. That to lack empathy to such a degree can never be a good thing and in the end, i believe that those lacking in empathy who go around hurting and lying and cheating will in the end, find themselves alone. I really do believe that. But in the here and now, i see such people and i admit, i envy their slick and oily ability to slip out of any situation. To sneak and snake their way out of being essentially caught red-handed by devising some absurd story full of extraneous detail (there’s the tip off that someone is lying to you, by the way; it’s a documented fact that expert liars will always put in too much detail – it’s the small stuff that gives it away.
Example: “So there i was, waiting for the A. train on that dirty old platform, you know the one, right near fifth avenue and i was on my way uptown to the townhouse when this guy got on and somehow he knew so and so and recognized my picture from my author photo that had appeared at that book signing at Barnes and Noble five years ago, remember that? well, anyway, apparently he knew Greg and Mimi and so i went out for a beer with him. He said to say hi to you.”
I’ve actually had stories like this told to me and sat and patiently listened as the details became more and more fabulous. No wonder it’s called pseudologica fantastica! it really is fantastic the way some people can make up stories with all kinds of “coincidences” that just happen to work out their way and cover whatever it is they needed covering. But anyway… this is not what i was going to write about and i’ve derailed myself. Let me begin…
A friend rang, worried that she hadn’t heard from me in quite a while. A bit of an overreaction, I thought, but okay. Was nice of her to worry. (note: i should add here that had i not heard from said friend for the same amount of time i too would have rang a bit frantic and worried, so it’s all well and fine for me to sit here knowing i’m fine and all, but in all honesty, i can’t blame her for being a wee bit worried and freaked out, and so on). Then several other friends rang, then family, then my best friend who called me out on doing that “hibernation” thing again, only this time, I’m doing it without cigarettes because I just quit smoking and while I’m over the physical part of addiction, the emotional part is a killer and I’m craving them like hell and to tell you the truth, listening to Tom Verlaine is not helping matters. Whether he smokes or not I can’t say, but I can say that listening to him makes me want to smoke or reminds me of smoking and the like, and so I’m bordering on insanity this cold and bleak winter day, as I sit here and write my weekly tome to you to tell you how I am and to find out how you are.
So it is winter and everyone is either “fine” or in their own rut and they don’t know why. One friend even asked if I thought, in my expert opinion (laughs) , whether or not I thought he was having a mid-life crisis. I told him it was highly doubtful and that no, I did not believe he was having any kind of crisis apart from the usual winter worries, which means that we have too much darkness on our hands, too much time huddled alone indoors, shut-off from everyone, shut-off from the very city we live in, and missing like hell the gardens in bloom but hey, that’s life, and so what happens is we drive ourselves nuts with these bullshit diag-nonsense we come up with simply because we are bored or are slightly unhappy, which, if you ask me, given the nominal, pathetic amount of daylight we have, is hardly surprising. Hell, it’s enough to make even the sanest person believe that perhaps they are having some kind of nervous breakdown. No really. I was listening to Pillow, as mentioned above and the those words about the dove at the window, witnessing this (sounds like) marital argument, this domestic drama or whatever it is, but we know it’s something sad, it just broke my heart. It brought back awful memories of a particularly awful winter some ten years ago – so much so that I almost felt as if I were reliving it now.
Of course, I’m not. Today I have other issues and for the most part, I’d say that my life is settled and good, though it’s not all that I want. Like anyone, there are things missing, things I still strive for. A steady, fulltime job again would be most welcome, no matter what any doctor says or anyone else, I prefer to work through any illness or pain no matter what because it keeps my mind clear and keeps me bright and sharp and I don’t want to wind up like a dull-bladed kitchen knife relegated to the basement because I’m too dull for job. I want to stay sharp and bright and so I write every single day of my life because that is my job; I’m a writer and I don’t believe in writer’s block or any such thing. I think you work through it, I think you have to, and I believe as I’ve said before in Harry Mathews Twenty Lines a Day, because even that keeps you working, keeps the gears oiled and the machinery moving well, and even if most of what you write is shit, there may be some seed of brilliance in there. In fact, where you least expect it, you will find brilliance. I’m still always surprised by the poems I send out that are chosen for publication versus those that are rejected. Seems I always have it backwards; those I thought would be the real hit are rejected, and the others, the quick one-offs, those are accepted, hell, even featured and high-lighted and I’m aghast and amazed and mostly just happy, so I keep sending and submitting and collecting rejection and acceptance slips because I believe that if I keep doing this, then one day it will pay off. These days, the mail brings more acceptance than rejection, but that took years to get to that point. I’ve worked hard for that and I’m proud of it. I’m still knocking on the door of the New Yorker and I will keep doing it likely all my life and though I haven’t heard from them lately, the last note did say to send more so I did. Now, maybe that’s their way of politely saying “piss off” but they have another note that says “thanks” and that’s it. So I think I’ve moved up in the form letter queue and am proud of that. What can I say… a small victory, but we’ll take whatever we can get in these cold and bitter days. I search for jobs online and I submit resumes to each and carefully worded cover letters and hope that someone notices and says , There is a bright and accomplished woman, or something to that effect and decides to hire me. That would be great, and I pray my phone rings soon for surely I am making a great effort to this end, though so much depends on the market. I push on, I refuse to give up. I know the right thing will come along and I have to keep trying and not quit.
I long for Spring. I long to wear summer dresses and feel my skirts blowing about my bare legs. I long to walk along The Charles. I long to walk on the beach at night until the sun goes down at 9 pm. I want to watch the cars drive by the esplanade, and I want to be in love and happy and have no doubt about that love. I guess I want what everyone wants, and why should I get it, why should I be so special? I shouldn’t be, really. I’m as eligible as the next person, as you. I love and I pray I am loved back. I am true and faithful and pray for fidelity. I am capable of hurting, but choose not to hurt, so I pray I get that in return. At the end of the day, it is an act of will: will I love or will I be unfaithful and a shit and hurt someone else. Put away all the other arguments about ducks and monogamy etc etc because it’s all shit. what really counts is how you will feel after you screw over someone you used to really love or even maybe still love because you wanted a five minute validation or were curious. Too cheap as I’ve so often said and too boring. I’m so so bored by it and will try hard not to bore you again with such nonsense, unless there is some new thought or new development, which is highly unlikely since we are rather depressingly ordinary in our sin and the ways in which we sin and cheat.
That’s what these days are. So what can we do to spice them up? I can pursue a new interview subject. I can keep working on a book proposal that I’m doing with some dear friends. I can put all of my energy there, I can force myself to find that energy that these days is so damn hard to find because of the darkness and the winter and the cold and the ice and snow and all of these things that make us want to jump back inside our house and hide like little animals. Okay, so I’ll stay here for a while, but I will also be productive. I will force myself to grow. I will do yoga when I don’t feel like it because I don’t’ want to have a butt that looks like orange peel, all rippled cellulite, for heaven’s sake. I don’t like that I have all this work and self-improvement to do, but I know that if I choose not to do these things, then I may as well just quit on everything because that is tantamount to giving up and next thing you know I’ll be three hundred pounds and on the cover of the Enquirer as ‘whale girl’ or something who has to be hydraulically lifted out of her own bed, and so on. You’ve read the stories. This could be you, could be me. Right now, it’s a choice. Do you want to be a sloth or do you not? What a dull sin it is, sloth. I read another writer who recently said this of sloth – that is was the dullest of sins and I quite agree, yet it is also among the most formidable, for if we become sloths, who will peel us from the couch where we lay and get us back to the land of the truly living? Who will help us if not ourselves? Sloth is easy to fall into: I lay on the bed and I watch a movie I like and I eat a tub of Dove ice-cream because my metabolism has allowed me to do this for years, but hey, that’s changing, I’ve noticed. Still, I’m in this nice, comfy denial where I keep telling myself that I won’t gain weight and it’s okay because this ice-cream is awfully good and maybe I’ll review the film. Maybe not, but maybe I will.
Who am I kidding? So I force myself up. I put away the ice-cream, I make tea, I take my medicine so that I don’t have seizures, I act, as I say, like a good citizen. I clean the entire house. I bleach the kitchen floor, I scrub the hard wood floor of the downstairs, I use that orange cleanser stuff to polish the tables and the mahogany of the shelves etc, and I pick up odds and ends here and there so that my house looks less of a mess and more like a place where people work and do serious work, and write things that are important, or worth reading because otherwise, what is the damn point? I write this to help inspire you out of your dull and sad little hole that perhaps you are in today because I know you are capable of great things and that you just need a little shot of inspiration. That thing you’ve been putting off is just one or two actions away and I know you can do it and what’s more, I know that deep down, you want to and that you’re just afraid because, like me, you like hiding because you know no one can find you here, that it’s just you and you can count on you. Don’t believe it. You are sabotaging yourself. To be hermetically sealed in your own apartment is not living; it is dying. To blow off those dear friends who’ve put up with your mercurial moods for long is just plain cruel and thoughtless, so start returning those calls and those emails.
First, make a strong cup of tea and then face life because it’s looking right back at you and I know that if you put all of your smarts and strength into that project or thing you really want, that goal, that you can pull it off. You know it too.