Four months ago, I announced that I had a third book in the works. Today this book has a title: Double Meaning. I hope to publish it via CreateSpace by November 2018. Details to follow. Meanwhile, check out the new design of the blog.
In Please Follow Me, Jean Baudrillard sees a familiar game in a new light.
Consider one of life’s original situations: that of a hide and seek game. What a thrill to be hidden while someone’s looking for you, what a delightful fright to be found, but what a panic when, because you are too well hidden, the others give up looking for you after a while and leave. If you hide too well, the others forget you. You are forced to come out on your own when they don’t want you anymore. That is hard to take. It’s like turning too fine a phrase, so subtle that you are reduced to explaining it. Nothing is sadder than having to beg for existence and returning naked among the others. Therefore, it’s better not to know how to play too well; it’s better to know how to let others unmask you and to endure the rule of the game. Not too fast, not too late. (85)
When I was a child, an angry boy masquerading as my best friend bullied and abused me when nobody was looking. For example, after defeating me in a game of basketball, he’d hold me down and call me his bitch. Things only got worse from there.
I learned that it is safer to not play at all—to stay inside and curse the game, resent the players, refuse to participate.
I can’t say if trauma caused my depression, but it certainly didn’t help matters. Whatever its origins, depression is my default state, and my body won’t let me forget it. I’m tired all the time and spend hours in bed, hiding in plain sight.
Still, there’s more to my distress than meets the eye. When life is but a dream, an eight-hour nap is an act of defiance, and I won’t let my family forget it. I play dead for (negative) attention. The sick role suits me (un)well.
Before new people in my life figure out I suffer from depression and anxiety, I end up telling them (by putting myself down or cancelling plans at the last minute) that things “aren’t right” with me. The thought goes: I’m going to fuck things up anyway; I might as well get it over with.
Therefore—playing on Baudrillard’s words—it is better to unmask myself, on my own terms, before others expose me and deem me unlovable.
Take off one mask, and three more appear. In college I wore myself out trying to be the perfect student, the perfect employee, the perfect perfectionist. I gained recognition for my academic achievements but needed others to verify my self-worth. If everyone liked me, then no one would hurt me.
Today I seek validation by composing (and obsessively editing) obscure blog posts that I hope family, friends and digital strangers will find profound. I cite sad philosophers and wounded romantics to demonstrate, poetically, the complexities of living with my depression. And then I write obscure blogs about writing obscure blogs to sound intelligent.
Layers folding into layers, thoughts unfolding into thoughts—my blog is a revelation hiding in plain sight. Under the guise of a wise soul, I use words to cultivate an (in)active being-towards-death. As a philosopher, I always assume the fatal position.
However safe my bubble feels, I can’t live forever in theory. I can’t practice my faith in philosophy without other people.
The chaplain at my mental health clinic told me that everyone needs human connection, but trauma survivors whose trust has been broken need connection even more. Yet out of shame they hide from the world, and no amount of love or support from other people can save them. Survivors must learn to love themselves again.
But hope isn’t easy. Despite the power of positive thinking, it’s hard to flip the script when your reality is inverted. Somersaulting your way through the world is bound to cause vertigo.
In the mind of a child grown up too soon, youth is a weapon. Innocence is self-defense.
An early violation breaks more than the rules.
I have nothing to say
Nothing to say I have
To say I have nothing
Have nothing I to say
To have nothing I say
Nothing I have to say
Say nothing I have to
Have I nothing to say
To nothing I have say
Nothing to say I have
I have to say nothing
I say to have nothing
Nothing to have I say
To have nothing I say
Have nothing I say to
Have I to say nothing
Nothing speaks to me
My proof copy of Nervous Lethargy was shipped yesterday. It should arrive next week. Once I look it over and approve the file, my book will be live and ready for purchase via Amazon.
Beyond any typos I may have missed, there may be two substantial issues with the proof copy.
First, one of the images I use on a chapter title page might look blurry. How blurry, I’m not sure. If I’m really not happy with it I may remove it, which means correcting the file, uploading it, waiting a day for Amazon’s computers to check it, ordering another proof copy, waiting for it in the mail, etc. Point is, if it’s better than “OK” I’m not going to remove it and start the process over.
Second, the book is 134 pages. CreateSpace says a book needs to be 131 pages or more for the spine to be wide enough to display the title and author’s name. Since I’m cutting it close, it’s possible the letters will look fuzzy. Again, this isn’t a huge deal, but it’s something I’m looking out for. To correct this issue I simply would need to remove the two blank pages in both the front and back of the book. And then re-start the proof process.
I spent three days formatting Nervous Lethargy (I’m a perfectionist). Hopefully my (neurotic) attention to detail pays off. There will be no Kindle edition. Formatting a poetry book for e-readers is not easy, and I prefer people hold a physical book anyway. I’m old school like that.
Note to anyone who buys a copy: You may find it interesting to search for the Poetry category on this blog to see what changes I’ve made to poems in the book that first appeared here on Sharp Left Turns. By changes, I mean things like cutting unnecessary words, altering line breaks, turning ampersands into “ands,” and other stylistic concerns. I believe the “intention” of the previously published poems remains, if intention as it relates to a poem can be defined. Basically, my worldview hasn’t been edited out of any poems you may recognize from five years ago or last month. I believe in some cases I found a more poetic way of conveying my ideas, thus making them “better,” if that can be defined. Or perhaps some changes have stolen some of the previous magic.
I’m excited to receive my proof, and I hope to go live soon. More updates to come.
I imagine many folks enjoy art in itself. Maybe it takes their breath away. Maybe it shocks their bourgeois sensibilities. However art affects them, they move on—back to their families, 401k’s and streaming video subscriptions.
Against reason I’m driven to create my own art—a gratifying but often frustrating endeavor. Sure, I’ve been proud of a poem or essay here or there, but when I step back to judge my oeuvre against established writers I’m thoroughly unimpressed.
This is probably my depression speaking. To combat a severe lack of confidence my therapist has me on a new drug called Self-Esteem, a generic form of Empowerment. I’m still learning how to take it. Everyone—the most recent psychological literature suggests—has the same intrinsic value. This includes me apparently, but it takes four to six weeks before my gut fully absorbs the concept.
Perhaps my hesitant nature—an inability to assume a position of strength, to let words flow beyond my control—bolsters my writing. A deep consideration of language might constitute a conscious ethical choice. My ideas, unsure of themselves, reflecting the anxious tone of my unique artistic presence. Mastery of an uncertain craft.
From (and against) a place of fear and pathological aversion to criticism I put pen to paper and begin anyway. To reluctantly own myself, to inscribe my name in doubt: the mark of not just a struggling artist but a deeply conflicted human being.
“A man who fears ridicule will never go far, for good or ill: he remains on this side of his talents, and even if he has genius, he is doomed to mediocrity.”–E.M. Cioran
I was nervous about publishing my last post. It was a great joy to write, but I worried people might think I’d finally gone nuts. Perhaps I had hitched a ride on the hypomania train, my freak flag flying on the other side of depression.
Despite my honesty here, I’m still holding plenty back. Not all ideas find their way online. Some retire to the privacy of my journal. Others are destined to roam the hinterlands of my psyche. More than a few self-truths never emerge, but I know they’re up to no good.
Good writers generate themes; great writers develop a distinct voice. How much of blogger-Chuck is the real me? How much of poet-Chuck is the real me? How cleverly has blogger-Chuck adopted the persona of depressed-Chuck?
What do I want you to think of me when I’m nothing but a ghostwriter projecting inner shadows?
Perhaps our good friend Mr. Cioran can shed some light on the subject of secret-telling and how I should compose myself going forward:
“Write books only if you are going to say in them the things you would never dare confide to anyone.”
For fun I google E.M. Cioran: “We are all deep in a hell, each moment of which is a miracle.”
A Tumblr page contains the line, along with other solemn notes. It’s the work of a woman—a tender soul/MFA candidate professing interest in:
poetics, critical theory, semiotics, poststructuralist philosophies, anti-essentialism, misanthropy, pessimism, introversion, & solitude.
YOUR PLACE OR MINE?
“I had always been aware that the Universe is sad; everything in it, animate or inanimate, the wild creatures, the stones, the stars, was enveloped in the great sadness, pervaded by it. Existence had no use. It was without end or reason. The most beautiful things in it, a flower or a song, as well as the most compelling, a desire or a thought, were pointless. So great a sorrow. And I knew that the only rest from my anxiety—for I had been trembling even in infancy—lay in acknowledging and absorbing this sadness.”
— Hayden Carruth, Reluctantly: Autobiographical Essays
I’M HARDER THAN LIFE ITSELF—A TREMBLING INFANT.
I pen suggestive lyrics with her in mind:
with nectar lungs
I catch her tears
upon my tongue
my head is crowned
for sweet repose
her highness perched
atop my nose
In a dream I lie beneath her feet, absorbing sadness.
“They won’t come clean,” she says. “See what you can do.”
Chris Truman isn’t himself. He has ideas for his blog, Creative Type, but the page won’t oblige—the words won’t stick. The stories he’s been telling himself—his personal narrative—are not his own. Perhaps his mind is all made up. His life a mask—the world an insufferable ball.
We have countless ways to hide. Truman sleeps. There is something to be said for silence, the warmth of inactivity. You’re weightless in a dream, given to nonsense. A pilot with no manifest. We spend the better part of our lives asleep; the worst happens with our eyes wide open. A possible post? His family might get worried. Is Chris OK? Taking his meds?
A blog, like a psychological history, sees many revisions. Inspiration takes time. You think you’re finished before the moment arrives. Where do you think this thought is coming from? Therapists have a way with words. They’re all about self-talk. Truman never tires of writing about therapy, second only to writing.
Truman looks to the past for answers but finds his strength in question. He recalls his project—to reveal his true nature in the fictionalized account of his friend Chuck Snoad. He’ll pick up where he left off. Publish when he’s ready. His therapist might enjoy a reading. She could analyze the document. Judge its authenticity.
What’s your hurry? Late for work—a soul-crushing cubicle—death by a thousand paperclips?
I’m bound for therapy. A mood adjustment. Much assembly required.
The other day, in the Trader Joe’s lot, my Sunfire wouldn’t start. Had a telling conversation with my mechanic.
“This is the fifth time in twenty-seven months I’ve been towed here. Am I doing something wrong?”
Talk about a guilt trip.
I’m fine, he says. All taken care of.
“It was the starter. We reassembled it. Any questions?”
He charges less than my psychiatrist.
At night I dream of a blog post. Why do I automatically blame myself for everything? Original sin—the whole God-is-dead business? That’s on me. An asteroid’s nearing earth? My bad.
“The Fault in My Car.”
Don’t know how to start it.
So I’m writing, dear tailgater, because we’re so close now.
Ease up a little. I promise we’ll make the light.
Where technology is concerned on this blog, there’s a method to my snarky-ness. I value sustained, intimate communication—texting and tweeting and status-posting constitute speech at a distance. Messaging is instant but superficial. Rather than opening up a dialogue, we’re speaking to externalized versions of ourselves whose friendship means liking the same piano-playing cat video.
Being somewhat tech-adverse and wholly introverted, I enjoy plenty of alone time. Some might find retreating to one’s room to ponder the absurdity of existence a sign of depression. They’d be half right: philosophy makes me sad, but as a philosopher of sadness I gain some control over my depression.
Sometimes I need to check connections I’ve made in my mind against the reality outside my head. This requires talking to others. I’ve authored some meaningful albeit abstract pieces, but other people have a way of challenging theories merely by being themselves in a way I am not. The best ideas come from spontaneous encounters with people I’m simultaneously delighted and terrified to be around.
It’s hard to be vulnerable. In protect mode I tell myself over and over that I’m too vulnerable—that my soul’s exposed, a wound too raw to bear. Then I hide from the world. And miss potential connections.
There is freedom in seeing one’s limitations and recognizing we all get caught up in negative self-talk. Maybe this makes me a better philosopher. Maybe it just makes me human.