Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The point of no return (or something like that)

I’ve thought about writing this for a month now.

But I haven’t written anything since November 11th. I know the exact day because it was two days after starting the 27 Act Play about Capitalism (which was never completed, and most likely will never be completed).

Today was the first day I read a book in two months (I don’t want to read it, but I’m in a book club, and I need to man up). Even for work, where I teach two classes twice a week for four hours, I haven’t read a single text to prepare for class. I’ve avoided reading and writing like some bad simile or metaphor that I can’t think of.

I don’t know what happened. I know how it happened, but the why eludes me. At the beginning of November I got an email from about some new fiction and poetry they recently released. Nothing special, just an update from one of the many publishers that I periodically receive. I read the excerpts from each book embedded in the email—then something sort of snapped in my brain: “I’ve read this before, a thousand times, these words in this order, trying to tell this story.” Or something very much close to it. Possibly from my own writing. Bland, predictable, na├»ve and inarticulate. Perhaps to the point of being amateurish. Maybe. I don’t know. But since then, I’ve done nothing except watch TV and play on the internet (in the time that I’m not at work, which isn’t much). I’ll do an occasional craft project with the wife, but my writing, my reading, my growth as a human: stagnant. Truthfully, dying, because without those valuable nutrients books offer, my brain and creativity are slowly wilting to dust.

I don’t know what to do, how to snap out of this.

Last week I published a book of short fiction and creative non-fiction that a select group of friends from Sacramento and I wrote. Twelve of us, all graduates for the same Master’s program at Sac State. I’ve been working on this book since July. We all have. Working with the authors editing their work, revising, proofreading, compiling, and finally designing and publishing the book through CreateSpace. But by the end, I didn’t want to read anymore. Nothing. Especially this book. Everything finalized, just upload the PDF, proof it, and approve. Of course I’d read through each of their stories intensely at least three times, and done a number of skims on top of that. When it came to that final proof . . . I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t read through it one more time, and because of it, there are inexcusable typos throughout the book, typos I could have easily avoided and rectified if I so chose. I didn’t. I want to care that I didn’t, but I don’t. And that scares me.

“It’s ok, you’re just going through a tough patch.”
“Don’t worry, man, it’s just a rut, we all go through it.”
“This happens to everyone.”
“Me too, I totally know what that’s like.”

I hear it all the time. I expect some reading this think the same about me and my current state of being. Of course you do, we all do. We do it to anyone who is struggling, because we don’t really know what to say. How could we? It is impossible for any human being to feel what another human is feeling. We are not that person, and can never be that person. I’ve come to find the word ‘empathy’ to be impossible, one of those non-words we somehow created and gave meaning to without realizing its textual existence did not correspond to our corporeal reality. According to, empathy is: 1) the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another; 2) the imaginative ascribing to an object, as a natural object or work of art, feelings or attitudes present in oneself. The second definition I’m not even going to consider. The first one is impossibility. How can we presume to have the ability of “vicarious[ly] experiencing . . . the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another,” when we can’t even explain or understand our own internal machinations? For so long I lived under the pretense that I could ‘empathize’ with another human, that it was possible for me to feel exactly what someone else felt. Over the years I have doled out advice under the guise of empathic understanding, because I ‘felt’ someone else’s situation. Foolish dribble and delusion. Even if I wanted to live the life of another, make it part of my own living, my own experiencing, I couldn’t. Our physical partitions inhibit that possibility. Our separation, our inherent inability to ‘know’ another, is the only attribute that makes us unique. It is the epitome of individuality. We may never do anything truly original, or genius, or even noteworthy, but because we exist, that makes us unique, because our experiences and emotions and memories cannot be experienced by another. No matter how hard science tries to bridge that gap, it can never be crossed. Ever.

And that is what makes where I am at so difficult. I don’t want to talk to anyone, because I don’t want those generic answers, they don’t help. And I don’t want attempts at real advice, because they are meaningful and genuine and come from somewhere loving (I think), but they don’t help either, because they are wrong. They are always wrong. You. Me. Everyone. Always wrong. When it comes to giving people advice. We can get close. Damn close. But we will always come up short.

I don’t know where to go from here. Every day I get on the computer to check my emails, Facebook, do the good American routine and give my soul to the interwebs. And then I think, “eh, maybe I should try writing something.” Then I sit, staring. Avoiding the Microsoft Word icon on the bottom of the screen. Maybe look through some pictures, open those folders hiding old stories and read their titles but leave their contents alone. Afterwards, I slip back onto the internet, or go watch TV, or just sit and stare and mope.

Maybe it is just a phase. A rough patch. The weight of no job prospects and publishing almost an impossibility (let alone opening my own independent publishing house) and learning to be a good father and failing at being a good husband and dealing with living at my parents’ because I can’t afford a one bedroom apartment anywhere and squishing two entire lives into my old high school bedroom with reminders everywhere that even after ten years I have gone nowhere with my life (little glow in the dark stars burning on the ceiling at night, mocking, and Star Wars spaceship miniatures dangling amidst those stars watching my incapacity to grow) while on my wall the Calvin and Hobbes mural I started when I was 14 waits to be completed but never will be no matter how hard I try to finish it. I lay awake a lot at night with my room taunting me, asking me what I am still doing in there, now with a wife, and a child right down the hall, why nothing has changed, and where did that extra 30 pounds come from?

Maybe it’s not a phase. Maybe I broke something in my head. Maybe after 28 years my neurons aligned (or disconnected) in just the right way to fracture all my neuropathways that made it possible for me to function, to be happy, to create.

I don’t know.

So now I am here. Writing for the first time in over a month. It’s not much, but it’s something. A step forward, I guess. Perhaps this will open my mind to finally write that non-fiction piece I was going to start the week following the 27 Act Play on Capitalism, to finally put down on paper or digital space the sentence I’ve repeated to myself at least once every day since the beginning of November:

“I take drugs because I’m afraid.”

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