Secret Pop

Nov 30, 2003

The Keeping State

A lot of what I tell myself can't possibly help. This sort of pessimistic certainty that whatever is good right now will surely end at any moment. Probably tomorrow. Or maybe within the hour. I am vigilantly fearful of what lies ahead. No matter how much I am able to put behind me. It's like skimming the ocean's surface in a little skiff. And you can cover great distances, but no matter how far you go, there is exactly that much still out there to cross. Perhaps a problem of the circular nature of things. I don't really think about getting through things. I think more of staying ahead of them. For now. Knowing -- KNOWING that I will be plunged back into it eventually. That it is only a matter of time. That I can relearn many things, but my sentimental self is an indelible word written on a page that cannot be removed. I will always always go back. It's the only thing I know.

And even as going back is a part of going forward, it's hard not to fear the cycle. I have seen enough things again and again to know that I've been round this way before. And that sounds like going in circles. Somehow, I've come to see that circle as an adversary. A bitchy reminder that nothing can be gotten away from or gotten past. It may not all be within so small a radius that you can wrap your arms around it and draw it close, but it's out there. And it's coming around again.

Normally, I suppose I would feel pride in the fact that certain things have continued in my life. That I have a prolonged tenure in anything at all. That I've stuck with it. Become a veteran. Gotten to the point where it was all second nature. I used to keep track of the duration and announce it to myself with pride. But sometimes that turns around on you. Sometimes, you end up saying, "How could it have been that long? Why am I still here? What have I been doing for all this time?" Some of the time, you can feel great that you're the longest-standing member of whatever club it happens to be, but then before you know it, you're the oldest senator in congress and people are just clapping you on the back for managing to stay alive that long. Sometimes you're happy that you've got seniority. But, for me, some of the time, there is a sort of implied dissatisfaction in it. More and more I realize that I cannot flourish in the absence of challenges. Not tribulations necessarily, but the sparking action of ideas and problems on my flinty brain. The easier it is, the less interesting it becomes, the less interesting I become, the less vital it all seems, the closer to the end I feel, the closer to the end I am. If it gets to be routine, if it gets to be a breeze, I feel like I'm wasting my time. I need to be working at something meaningful just to stay alive, for Pete's sake. I used to think that I would be happy being independently wealthy with no demands being placed on me, but this is simple fiction. I need the struggle. Which is why the ease of massive riches that I haven't worked for could never be a reward for me. Unless the whole of my wealth was kept in small coins and I was required to carry it around with me, loose, in whatever pockets and handfuls and shopping bags I had handy. That might be challenging. And therefore worth it.

The process of effacement is no simple thing. For the moment, that is challenge enough. But it is the assurance that I can scrub and scrub and still not get rid of the traces of all that hurts or aches or torments -- that is what makes the trying hard. It's hard to keep at it when you know you can't win. You've got to find a way to tell yourself that another outcome is possible. Even though they say that's what retarded people do.

My shows at the comedy theater were great fun. I have had a nice streak of satisfying stage time in recent months. And I've also had the opportunity to feel close to my friends there. And to be grateful to realize that I have been missed by them. When distances intervene -- either made of time or space -- it's easy to believe that you are no longer cared for or thought of. Assurances to the contrary, however tiny, are like butterfly kisses in Technicolor.

Anyhow, I was glad to play and it had the feeling of a homecoming. And I am fond of that.

The Red Bull high faded long ago. I have been fighting the slouchy fatigue since partway through the second show. But I try to remember how good it feels to know that you have persevered. It might suck while you're at it. But the view from the future looking back is glorious. It's conquest and might and fortitude. And it's better than being vanquished by someone as pansy-like as "the Sandman." Please. He's no match for the adrenaline reservoir cultivated by a guilt-ridden childhood and the resulting fear of dying alone. I can take him like I took him all through high school and college: handily and with limited midday napping.

I just want to be able to rest at last. I'm fully prepared to get right back up and throw myself headlong into the fray. But a rest would be so welcome. A blank slate. A little downtime. The freedom to have a good idea. The ability to sleep without dreams that get remembered. The ability to wake up ready for something new. I could so use a bit of that. Tonight, we received the word insouciant in a game, and -- though I could spell it perfectly -- I couldn't quite remember what it meant. There is a nearly sweet irony to that.

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