First off, it is my natural disposition to say that I'm good. And I am. But then if you know me, then you know that good is not quite enough. So I'm dealing with it. I'm just not sure that I'm dealing with it in the best way possible. I've been through some of this before, back in 2001, but I'm in a much better yet more profoundly consequential position. I think.
Right now I feel like a survivor of a sort. The past 18 months threw some challenges my way, and in some ways I've been put off my game. I know that I'm going to get it back, but I'm just not sure that I should be playing the same exact game for the exact same prizes. So I'm a little undecided on that.
So let's deal with the facts, shall we. First of all, my son Chris, rode his suburban train of thought right off the rails. He got busted for something similar to a possession charge and a real petty theft charge. All of it circling around him and his dysfunctional cohort, smoking, drinking, cruising and generally being no-count mallrat college dropouts. I went John Wayne and did the right thing immediately and without thinking about how my rescue would leave him weak, not having crawled out of his own hole. But it worked out and he came to his senses in collaboration, but not without me having experienced the nerve-wracking understanding of exactly how hard-headed my son is. Hard headed as I am, which generally includes the Kennedy-esque phrases "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival" of my way. The end result was a set of mutually negotiated goals which got him into the Service where he is doing very well, thank you. That doesn't change the fact that Christopher can be messianic and like me, needs to attach himself to a set of high ideals, in order to work. Because, like me, he is on the whole, totally satisfied with where he can get himself in society, and has no particular objections to living low.
So within a couple weeks of getting him off to bootcamp, my brother drops dead from a cardiac embolism. So for the following n weeks, I back right into John Wayne mode. I have to do what I have to do for everyone who needs doing. I deal. Now during this time, my company's pipeline of projects is drying up and I bring my mother into town. And I deal with a shift in priorities from the long-term focused kind of work I prefer, to the being on call short attention span theatre I do not like at all. If you want to know what my hell is. it's external imperative. It's the place where I'm on stage square dancing with whomever and I don't get to call the steps and still I have to pay the fiddler. I'd rather have a boulder to push up the mountain than chase every pebble falling down it. But I've been chasing pebbles. But of course they're not pebbles, they are the emotional needs of a stressed and mourning family, a set of challenges that I am obligated to attend, sometimes by bearing up to tears and other times by sharing them.
I prefer to be strongly wrong rather than weakly correct. Ask anyone. I go from one extreme to the other. I am ashamed at all my half-efforts no matter how satisfactory they seem. And right now I just don't know what is good enough.
A year ago next month I got my gums ripped out and reset in a procedure I might have had five years before if I hadn't gone through a series of healthcare insurance provision flip-flops. When I finally got it, I took pictures of myself in the oral surgeon's chair. I began a series of experiments in sharing my own debasement, embarrassment and humiliation, rather like the proverbial domineering executive who seeks at the end of the day to be bullied. But it didn't provide balance, it was just another excess.
I found my old friends and they found me. And I was bearing up while they were being comforting and it was good. I was treading water successfully, getting back to the new normal one stroke at a time. And then my mother whose company was greatly refreshing, had a stroke. I was ready. I knew exactly how fast I could drive at midnight and which hospital to go to. I stayed up the critical hours and brought the right things to the attention to the right people. And in time I, helped nurse her back to health supporting the discipline she adhered to like a champ. I watched from the day she couldn't even hold a pencil until she wrote in her old handwriting once again. When we sent her back to my sister on the East Coast, I felt I had truly achieved.
But now I'm tired. I'm so debilitated and dispirited. I know what I want to do, what I need to do, what I'm obligated to do, but I just don't want to do anything. I don't want to succeed and I don't want to fail. I keep attending to the things right in front of me, when I'm not tired, and I get them done but all the overarching vision has disappeared. I have become a pebble chaser, and instead of the boulders I should be rolling uphill, I simply stare at the mountains themselves.
My father doesn't eat. He has buried his second child and our family rolls like a fumbled football. Our emotions are eccentric and likely to snap an axel. Like the man falling from the fifth floor at every window on the way down, people hear 'so far so good'. We hope in the end to defy all the gravity of this situation. We expect to triumph despite it all, but we're starting to sound like fanatics. And yet we hold it together. We hold it together. We are not in quiet desperation. We are just struggling to get out of bed and walk, because as much as I want to sit in bed, I don't want to be the man sitting in bed. I don't want to be the man sitting on the couch watching television in my underpants eating potato chips. I just got off the couch to come write more of this essay, and it was a healthy breakfast, and I laughed all the way through the Namibian adventures of The Grand Tour. But yes, I had finished the potato chips the night before. My father doesn't eat. I still eat, I still hunger and I'm overeating on the holidays.
My uncle had an infection over the weekend. I call him in Baltimore. He's in good spirits. Our Christmas letter has gone out. My paragraph is about my ups and downs; I'm up and down amongst the successes of my extended family. But I'm weary and I'm bright eyed staring at what's about to go wrong. All the joy is being sucked out of knowing. I accept all the tragedies. I'm not surprised. I'm not cynical, I'm skeptical but my emotions are bordering on cynicism. My emotions want to run away to a mountain lake and just fish and deal with the drama of fishing. I can't run away. I need to be needed, I need to do the valuable work, I need to be on top of my career in that old way I always was - just ready for the scenario and walking everyone through the details and braving the risks of the unknown in a system where everybody forgot the recipe. But now those are starting to feel like pebbles and mountains. I'm not rightsized to the problems my ego requires me to solve. I'm overwhelmed or I'm undermatched. Nothing is smooth. Nothing is predictable. I can't get a rhythm. I'm living in twilight.
I bought a hobby. It's interesting, and impractical. I still can't get used to the idea that it's going to be a waste of money and time. But everything I do seems to be a waste one way or another. Do you see what I'm doing here? I'm confessing. I'm dealing with it. I'm inching forward and trying to purge myself of what I already know to be true and poison. Why? Because it's a sacrament. I'm committing to my future self, to my current extended consciousness, all that I need to do to scrub myself of the barnacles of my life. Because I hate being dysfunctional, and I hate wishful thinking, and I hate denial. Days like this I could use a priest, but I don't deserve a priest, and I expect that I'll never get a priest or a Porsche. But I work the barbell theory just the same, try for the best, expect the worst.
I believe in survival of the fittest. Most of the time, however, we're all avoiding fitness tests. We've all figured out elaborate ways of sandbagging. I watch everybody do it, and I'm disgusted. I do it. I'm disgusted with myself. I used to sit in church on Sunday worrying about all the atheists who have the extra hours to study for the tests on Monday. But I'm loathing going back to work. I need to play hard before I work hard. Did I play hard enough? Did I sleep long enough? Did I do enough homework? At the end of every weekend I fail to collect myself and settle down with the appropriate answers to those questions.
The shooting range is closed. I haven't been to TKD in 18 weeks. My martial education is essentially over. I don't want to fight any longer. I still have the feelings of badassery in my genes, but I don't have the patience for physical pain and discipline right now. I need to nurse my spirit. I need to rehabilitate my working state of mind. I need an emetic of the bullshit. I'm going to leave Facebook. I don't want to know what the general public is feeling because it only makes me write snappy answers to stupid questions. I don't have time for that. I need to meditate. I need to meditate. I'm turning on the music. I'm focusing on the Wall Street Journal. I'm making things simple. I can't be hungry for 12 things. I need to cut it down and get all my wheels on one pair of rails and chug forward.
I don't want to know how crazy the world is. I just need to get back on my game, and it's taking me a long time to heal, and I hate it. I hate walking with a limp. I'm a flame in the clammy wind. Just give me clear day. Just give me a freaking clear day. OK a clear month.
I'm going to go and make myself useful. I'm tired of this weepy shit. Happy God Damned New Year.