Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Spleen and Ideal

On a day of zero tolerance, I have to talk myself into liking things. It's not strictly judgmental, this annoyance, it's partly simple irritability. Enough stupidity to choke a horse, and all of it laid at your feet. Constant reminders of how humans don't want to evolve, don't want to grow up, don't want to be at their best, don't want to better than they are. By turns tragic and comic. Always give someone a second, even third, chance, and many waste them on inconsequentials. Can't you see we're all dying here? I feel very alone in my perceptions some mornings. Yesterday was better, if only because I was involved in writing hard all day. Taking breaks, and not finishing till late at night, but accomplished nonetheless. This morning woke too early, then napped till too late. Now everything's out of kilter. But don't be glib about it. Don't go thinking that's just me being out of sorts and not awake yet. I'm awake enough to know when and where to put my energies today. And it's not where everyone tells me to. A few days ago I was aglow with the sudden knowledge that my purpose in life is finally revealed. Now it's all doubted, rather, the purpose isn't but the possibility of fulfilling it is daunting. Too practical a climb up that cliff face. Nothing at the top worth climbing for. Who cares?

I don't want to be Baudelaire, dying and full of spleen. Brilliant writer that he was, his contrarian impulses could turn violent on paper, an I don't want either wound or scar from his attitude. I have enough of those. The problem with spleen is it's usually violently coin-flipped idealism. No one is as cynical or mean as a disappointed idealist. Once your ideas have turned over from the general apathy and resistance yawned by your fellow man, it's hard not to turn into a raving tyrant of the lost ideal.

How do you keep your head? Some ideas you can't talk yourself into, and some moods you can't talk yourself out of. Where's yesterday's glow of vision? There are situations you can't solve by trying to think your way out of them. Some things have to be visceral. Are visceral, are endlessly physical. Your best intentions go down to the sea and gasp for air. How do you walk upright in face of such an emotional hurricane?

Stop looking in the usual places for solace. That's insanity, which can be be defined as doing the same thing over and over again while each time expecting a different outcome. It was insane to ever believe I could earn certain kinds of love from my family, if I just tried harder. That's a common madness, though, and I forgive myself for its mistaken identity. Every individual who finds himself outside the tribe is going to be riven with suffering for wanting to be just one of the boys, and for being unable to ever really fit in. You carry inside yourself the deep sorrow of impossibility. Insanity is forcing yourself to be a round peg in a square hole anyway. Everyone suffers from that jamming.

No one here gets out alive. So much wasted effort and energy on what people think the world should be, rather than accepting it for what it is. Embracing it, even. So much wasted breath on rules that are impossible to live up to. What are rules but ossified expectations that never quite match the statistical sample?

Why am I always depressed after I'm exalted? After a day of great giving, a single day to encompass the writing of such beauty that I don't know where it came from and can't claim it as my own, I suppose a bit of post-partum irritability is acceptable. I never expect it, yet there it is, to be handled as best I can. When the mind is sharp, I remember this is what happens. When I'm more fogged, it surprises me. Sharpness is linked to memory, apparently. Memory being my secret superpower, which annoys people sometimes but has saved me numerous times.

I take intuition seriously. I remember previous events, even locations, where a sense of danger saved me from a worse fate. I suppose I can find gratitude this morning, although it's slow and torpid and a bit grudging. The bears are going to sleep this time of year, not waking up. Expect in emergency, I've never been a rapid riser. Sometimes I hate my life, but I know it's disappointed loving. Hate is not the opposite of love, indifference is. Hate is disappointed love, so is envy. The gods themselves, even as projections of ourselves, set the bad example with their internal family disputes. Loki hates Thor because he's jealous of Odin's favor, when all Loki wanted was to be as loved as a son. Don't even get me started on the dysfunctional Greeks. Zeus couldn't keep it in his robes for anything, not pretty girls or boys. No wonder Hera was a jealous goddess of home and hearth. Men are stupid and fickle, it's true.

I don't want to be judgmental. It's in the air a lot lately, though, and sometimes you have to be so in self-defense. The political climate right now is more stupidly and viciously polarized than at any other moment in my lifetime. The political wingnut fringe has never felt so empowered as they do now to spew their trademark flavors of ideological hatred. That sets a certain social tone that is corrosive to conviviality and engagement.

On the home front I'm dealing with weight loss and diet issues wherein the entire paradigm is built on negatives, and edges over into "should"s very easily. I think people don't even realize that the entire weight loss industry is set up in a way designed to make you feel bad about yourself unless you conform to advice, follow rules, and a good little robot. People involved in the weight loss and fitness industry don't even realize this, for the most part, even though it's built into the language used. The entire way of thinking about it can be quickly and ferociously negative and self-hating. Emphasis is on "loss" not "gain." Where's the pleasure, where's the sensuality, where's the quality of life? Mostly you are expected to be a self-flagellating ascetic who takes no pleasure in life except for the masochistic urge to beat oneself into conformity.

It all depends on who you're talking to, I suppose, but when I catch myself feeling so judgmental it's usually because on some level I'm feeling very judged by others. I don't want to be judgmental. I don't like it, and it's not innate to my character. If I have to exercise my irritability in this manner out of self-defense right now, though, so be it. I never claimed to be an enlightened master in control of all his emotions and able to let bad things just float by with no effect on my mood. I'm not that enlightened, not yet. Maybe someday. It's one goal among others, for others, for myself. And what I flatly refuse to do is start beating myself up for not being perfect about any of this: about meeting others' expectations, about the judgmentalism, about my imperfect and very human responses to the stresses I'm under. I'm doing the best I can. If that doesn't live up to someone's ideas of perfected mastery, that's their problem, not mine. Frak 'em if they don't like it. There's no gain in beating yourself down for things you may have no control over.

The truth is, when you're objective, considering the things I've been facing, I'm doing well. I'm not "not doing badly," I'm doing well. I am on a long road, and it's going to take him. Losing weight for me is going to involve a total life-style change, which I have already begun, and have been working on for more than a year. I haven't been idle. I'm already engaged in the process. What I find irritating is how many people keep me advice without knowing the context. So it ends up being theoretical rather than pragmatic. There are only a couple of people who really support me in this, rather than judging me. I have to start over from scratch again, and although a bit of me resents having to rebuild yet again after all I've been through lately, I'm willing. But it's going to be my mode, my terms, and my means. Off the shelf solutions actively contribute to my stress because they don't work for me. Customization is essential. That's logical if you think about it, but everyone overlooks the obvious. Nobody looks at what's in front of their noses, they see only what they expect to see. Filters and projections.

Whatever. I've had enough spleen for one day. I'm focused on writing today, and don't want to spend any more time on this. It's healthy to vent, and rant, and get it out of your system. And then you have to act.

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Blogger Elisabeth said...

And I thought I was travelling badly, Art.

Here's a brilliant piece of writing, however much a rant. You refer to 'the deep sorrow of impossibility', maybe that's at the base of it all, that primordial longing.

I know that for me it's often the case that a really satisfying experience can be followed by a sort of let down. Sadly the highs cannot last forever.

Maybe tomorrow will be a better day. Let's hope so, for both of us.

5:32 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Thanks, E.

Call it a rant day, and that's not far off the mark. Some days the lingering emotional rollercoaster spills over and you just have to get it out of your system. The rest of the time, it's not so bad.

After a really bad period, though, there often comes some bliss, too. So nothing lasts forever, not the highs, not the lows. What I've learned to remind myself after a bad day is, Tomorrow will be different.

12:05 AM  

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