Thursday, May 16, 2013

The dark art of being incorrigible

Has anyone else noticed that this blog has started to become sort of a drag? Gone are the days when I was all gung-ho, ever-upward-ever-onward, determinedly digging myself out of my hole (even though, when you really stop to think about it, that makes no sense). A thing of the past, it seems, is my endearing and Joseph Campbellian quest to better myself, to find fulfilling employment, to make my entrée into the DC literary scene, the time of pouring out my trunk booze into the gutter and even randomly jogging four miles just because I was in a momentum kinda mood. Consigned to antiquity are the moments when I deigned to show a little gratitude for the good or interesting stuff in my life -- my three-train Metro commute and new Union Station breakfast-and-lunchtime haunt, a new anything-but-boring volunteer gig (that finally starts later this month, by the way).

Lately it's been all whine, whine, whine. Boo freaking hoo, I'm a social drinker. Woe is me, I'm shy. Wah wah, the writing group didn't give me a standing ovation.

I've got ideas for posts of a more upbeat nature waiting in the wings, I swear. For example, I'm going to start doing an hour of *DC urban exploration* during my lunch breaks, spoking off from my workplace and walking 30 minutes in a new direction -- and 30 minutes back -- each day. (I just now realized that I will probably entitle that blog post "Spokin' Word.") I'm going to remember to bring some cash and start to sample the wares purveyed by the line of food trucks that manifests on the street in front of the Irish Times every day around noon. And again, the volunteer gig starts in earnest soon, on the evening of Tuesday, May 28. I'll soon have things to say, I hope, of a less navel-gazey variety. 

But you know, it's kind of strange that I feel guilty whenever this blog takes too sharp and too long a turn for the downtrodden. And yet I do. Whenever that happens, I feel as if I'm letting people down.

I get private comments about this blog sometimes. They run the gamut, depending on who's giving them to me. One friend, who does something high-tech that helps companies hunt down people's secret information that's just floating around in cyberspace minding its own business, shared his concern after seeing that I'd written about -- and posted verbatim -- a mean e-mail that I received from a former friend. He sent this e-mail that kind of freaked me out and had me groping around in my memory for scraps of that Communications Law (or was it Ethics?) class I had to take in college, the one where the big takeaway was pretty much just knowing the difference between libel and slander. (I didn't do either to the ex-friend.) Another felt alarmed after reading my candle-in-the-wind post about waking up blackout drunk in my own bathroom (and not knowing where I was). Another friend says that I lie on here, all the time, especially whenever I say that I'm happy. 

The other day a pal who is uncannily perceptive wrote this: 

"I’m growing uneasy with your confessional style of blogging... I’m starting to worry that it may not be good for you. It does take a lot of courage, and I’m glad that people seem to be helped by it. But I wonder if it may be some sort of catharsis for you, in a distracting way. The rush of the 'confession,' and public outreach and support, can certainly be helpful when someone stumbles, but not if they provide a sort of absolution that relieves the pressure to make material changes. Maybe I’m being overly sensitive to it, but I see a 'pride in your shame' theme that I find troubling." 

"Pride in [my] shame," wow. That hit home as soon as I read it. Bull's-eye, man. He's right. In fact, just the other day I got this idea for a "bravery or self-indulgence?" post on the topic of confession. I've had people tell me "That's so brave!" and have even had the word "hero" applied to me for this sort of thing, the (selective) opening up of my life "Operation"-style in a public virtual place. But the truth -- as I mentioned briefly in my previous post -- is that "I derive a quite possibly perverse hit of satisfaction from confessing my sins, probably indicative of some deeper issue going on with me." 

I don't know why this is. Maybe it's as simple as: I'm a writer, and confession is a form of storytelling. Sometimes it feels like a holy kind of storytelling; it can feel as if you've earned a halo through the mere act of telling someone that you did something wrong. Or at least, it can feel that way to me. But then, I'm an atheist who fantasizes about baptism.  

And at the same time -- I know that's wrong, and that it's not holy at all. It's easy to go collapsing into supportive arms and blubbering that you fucked up again. It's satisfying; then you get to hear things like, "You're only human," and "I'm here for you no matter what." 

What's noble, admirable, and badass in the best sense of the word (at the risk of sounding like the end of a "Brady Bunch" episode here) is just being better. Being better than you used to be. Being better the next time you have the chance to fuck up. I once read an interview with Amy Hempel, my favorite short-story writer, whose childhood was malformed by a troubled relationship with her mother; her mom committed suicide when Hempel was young. In the interview, Hempel quoted someone named Dr. Christian Barnard (I think it's this dude), who apparently said: "Suffering isn't ennobling; recovery is." 

I know this. I have long believed this, even before I saw it articulated in that Amy Hempel interview. I'm aware that a bunch of bleakness with no resolution is just a dark kind of pornography.

I don't want to be a drag, and I don't want to stay stuck. But if I'm being honest, I really don't feel like writing a bunch of peppy stuff right now either. 

At some point after starting this blog, I realized that I was getting a little bit of a "damned if I do, damned if I don't" reaction (again, depending on the specific friend giving me feedback, and not all of the feedback I got was in an admonitory, corrective vein). When I write about happy things: "You're lying. Deep down, you know you're lying." "Hmm, there is something about you that I don't quite buy..." When I write about sad things, or ugly things: "Tragedy for tragedy's sake is low entertainment." "I'm growing uneasy with your confessional style of blogging..." "You know, nowadays anybody can find anything if it's online, and maybe you're cool with that, but the people you write about might not be..."

I love and cherish my friends and others who've popped up Whack-A-Mole-style out of the ether to read and comment on this blog, be those comments public or private. I value their views and opinions and advice. I am unspeakably grateful that they would take the time out of their busy lives to share these with me. And I want to be able to take it, internalize it, act on it and be the better for it. But I am just sort of... done listening to other people. Or at least, I'm done valuing their opinions more than mine. 

Here's where the camera closes up on me and the treacly opening piano strains of Whitney Houston's "The Greatest Love of All" starts softly playing. Here's where I get corny. Here is perhaps where I stand on an actual literal soapbox, just to really drive the point home.

I have a voice, somewhere deep in there, and it's strong. Quiet maybe, but capable of being strong. You won't always like or agree with what it says. And the world will go on spinning. 

I have a mind, and it's a good 'un. I have a moral compass. I have my own tools, and I know where I can get more. I can fix stuff. 

Rather than hand-wringing and getting my neuroses all in a tizzy, I'm going to chill out, and I'm going to trust myself. I'm going to go with my flow here, like I've always done when it comes to writing.

If I feel a bout of pep coming on -- great, I'll blog about that. If things get dull -- and come on, they do, no matter how interesting your life is -- OK then, I'll write about that. And if I continue to feel as if I'm just blindly kicking and feeling my way through life in an ever-dimming malaise, growing older and grayer and fatter and more complacent by the day -- well, by jolly, I'm going to write about that. 

But not because I want to give you dark pornography. And not because I think I'm being noble or brave. Just because this has become the last place where, in many ways, I'm honest, even though there are some pretty big topics that I can't address on here, mostly out of respect to other people. The bleakness, the cynicism, the ennui -- that's honest. I could tell you that I'm sure I'll never drink again, that my job is exactly where I want to be for the rest of my working days, that I'm perpetually floating on a cloud of self-actualization. I could tell you that I'm out of the hole, that I filled it in with dirt and have planted a flower there. And that would all be a lie. 

So with the non-option of lying off the table, there are two choices that I can live with. Either I spew out the truth, which is frequently ugly, vile, and putrid -- or I shut up. 

I'm not going to shut up.

1 comment:

  1. I wouldn't want you to quiet down. <3

    I've noticed in me a need to be validated externally and I sometimes hope for that through my own blog. I wish I didn't want that but I do. Is that motivating you a bit, too? I bet it's common in either case.