My name's Dave. I'm working on it.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Fuck This...I'm Leaving

I try not to speak unless I have something to say. Lately, this has been more and more infrequent. As each day dies, I feel myself getting more sick at heart, more tired.
I've been realizing that the only time I feel satisfied these days is when I'm at work, because it's the only place I'm actually focusing my mind and body productively and getting things accomplished. Once the day is done and I slump through the door of my apartment, the string goes out of my back and I succumb to the unholy triumvirate of Gmail, Myspace, and OiNK. Business as usual.
While I'm at work, my mind can run circles around whatever it wishes; my body is going through the motions. Preparing mirepoix. Peeling and dicing beets. Pulling the stems off spinach. The motions are mechanical and meditative. And over the past few months, they have taught me something.
They have taught me that it really doesn't matter what you have to say. The real work and creation is done on the prep table, day in day out, and the only task is to get it done. Some days the brownies will look better than others. Some days the bechamel might taste a bit funny, but you make it anyway. Talking is secondary. When I'm facing the dishpit and watching the steam rise and the machine purr, I feel as if I'm watching myself go through the motions with almost no interference; I don't think at all. It's a pure, beautiful act. And people still look at me funny when I tell them no, I really enjoy doing dishes...
I realize that this blog is, by and large, very repetitive and very whiny. It is, by its nature, talk. And the sickness that has been rising in me lately grows from the unavoidable question: what the hell do I have to say, really? With all my good intentions, plans, and daily pseudo-revelations, I manage to stave off the reality that I get fuck-all done each day. Between work, feeding and bathing myself with semi-regularity, and eeking out the occasional blog, I go to sleep each day with all the Big Projects left untouched. You know the ones.
One of my favorite blogs, and from whose mind comes the title of my own, is that of Amanda Palmer. I always aspire, unconsciously or otherwise, to create in my own blog the kind of satisfaction and insight that she displays in hers. But here I am faced with the crucial difference: who the fuck am I? Amanda has things to talk about. She's got her hands in it. She is (despite her recent protestations to the contrary) living first, blogging second. And either way, her touring and miscellaneous adventures give her actual substance to report back on. What do I have to report? Same shit, different day.
I'm tired of listening to myself talk, even in the form of pixels on a screen. I'm sure some of you are sick of it too. I know Valentine is.
So in the way of resolutions, this is a small one. It's about time I started shutting the hell up and going through the motions already. My hands know what to do, and everything I have to say leading up to the starting point has already been said. Beaten into a stain on the pavement where, once, long ago, there may have lain a dead horse, if I might borrow a page from the venerable Mr. Gaiman.
This is the point where I feel the brief joy of making a new start, which is followed by a false sense of accomplishment and then immediate relapse into inactivity. Oh no. Don't let me get away with it. I'm out to earn myself something worth saying. I'm out to get dirty, and hopefully get things done. Thoughts of quality and perfection are just two pretty distractions on the way to a deathbed full of regret. Let's just go.

The American Analog Set - Fuck This...I'm Leaving

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Ceremonies of Light and Dark

O February, you coldest of months.
In the dead of winter, synchronicity took a dark form. Death was everywhere. I used to write about how winter, if I could whittle it down, was the season of death. It looked good on paper. But that reality has touched all of our lives in many ways this past month. The tangible death of bodies, the amorphous deaths of the day-to-day lives we have known. The changing of the sights and scenery.
I moved from my old house into an apartment. So much of my recent past was tied to that place and that neighborhood, and I have taken it and put it in the ground. I don't look back much anymore. When Nick died, the grieving ritual began, and I tried to see to it that it was completed properly. The function of ritual and ceremony, as I understand it, has always been to satisfy our human need to give shape and form to a feeling. It focuses and sharpens our messy lives into crystalline meaning. From my purely secular perspective, ritual has a place even in our callous, modern hearts. It transforms everything, from our smallest actions to the doorways of birth, growth and death into something pure, even sacred.
I fell without question into the position of supporting my friends through the tragedy. It was simple necessity. I played my part, offering comfort and love as it was needed. Yet all the while I felt more like an observer than a participant. I observed my grieving friends, and I observed myself among them. To say I felt nothing would be inaccurate; but I was aware again and again that I felt less than I might expect of myself, in the middle of all this turmoil. I became adept at disconnecting myself from my emotions. I did it because I had no choice but to do so; to submerge my own little sorrows and private fears for the greater good. What else could I do?
The month felt like a long, arduous trek uphill in the middle of a storm. You couldn't think of how far you had left to go; you'd collapse under the knowledge, the sheer hopelessness of it. You could only think of how you'd make it through the next few feet. Then the next few hours. Then the next few days. There was too much that demanded our attention that we had neither the time nor energy to give to. So we did what we had to: we pushed everything else aside except that which was absolutely necessary to get through the moments. The rest of our burdens could wait, caught in our filters. We would attend to them in their time. Near the end we just felt like we were holding our breath, waiting for the calendar to pin itself up one more page and for the sun to begin to creep back into the world.
I learned that my ability to drive a stake between myself and my heart is far greater than I had thought. That I am capable of a detachedness I never imagined possible. I felt nearly inhuman; the cold, calculating mind that sees everything from a tactical perspective. Step by step. This is what we must do to get by. It's a strange thing to feel, especially in such a concentrated dose of time. I can't imagine that I'll ever be called upon to do it again in such intensity. Though I take some small comfort in knowing that I can.
But everything has a price.
In this case, the price is a tiredness that has crept inside of me and is refusing to leave. Even though the worst is past (it's March, hallelujah), I still finish each day desiring to disappear off the face of the planet, if only to sleep, uninterrupted and unreachable, for at least a week. To see no one. To have no obligations. I lay down in bed and can't turn away from the fact that though I manage to complete my necessary duties each day, I still leave the truly important things undone. I was surviving before. Now I'm getting by. It'd be nice to step up one further into actually living.
But I know that I'm getting better. I've got that much at least. S and I go for coffee from time to time, and I cherish the time spent. Something we recently discussed comes to mind when I think about this feeling of shortcoming. We can be the best things for others in our lives: wells of wisdom, encouragement, strength and love. But we struggle to be these things for ourselves. Even propping myself up with a clean new apartment of my own, putting up the Neutral Milk Hotel poster and lighting candles is not enough: I still, when left alone, cannot cheer myself out of a hole. Why is it so difficult to do for ourselves what we so easily do for others?
But it's a start. Living alone fills me with a small joy every morning when I awake to the blinding sun streaming in through my windows. Knowing that I have only my lonesome to answer to as I go through the rituals of preparing coffee and putting the stereo on. Sitting on the windowsill looking over Hawthorne as the busses roll by.
March has come, finally. The new Arcade Fire record has dropped, in all its holy, blistering splendor. I joke with a co-worker about how this record (centered around religion) is darker than the first (which is merely about death). The arms of the record grab me roughly and pull me back to life, practically slapping me in the face in an attempt to revive me. To remind me that, though February is the coldest month, it is also something else: the harbinger of spring.
Winter is the dead season.
Spring, as I have written elsewhere, is the season when we come back to life.
The Minbari (I know, I know, I'm obsessed with Babylon 5) have a ritual known as the rebirth ceremony. It involves reflection and meditation on what has past, what is now, and what is still to come. You must tell someone a secret that you've never told anyone else before, and you must give up something of great value to you. After all the pain we have endured, it seems only appropriate that we come together, now, to try and rebuild what has been torn apart. If you wish to participate in this ceremony, know that you will not be alone in doing so.
Ritual is for the living. We attend the funeral to say goodbye. We drink a toast at the wake to honor him. We shake hands to affirm: we are friends. And so on. Will we not now be reborn?

The Arcade Fire - Keep the Car Running
Will Sheff - Girl I Knew, Guy I Met
Pulp - Dishes
Laura Gibson - The Longest Day