I thought something had changed in me. I thought I had become someone else. But, no, I’m back to the old normal. Back to the old me. For several weeks now, I’ve been getting up late. For me, late is between six-thirty and seven or, on occasion, a few minutes past seven. That’s deviant behavior. That calls for assessment, analysis, and quite possibly institutionalization. But this morning, the old me came back, just as comfortable as ever with my old habits. I awoke before five, got up, made coffee, and put a few of last night’s dishes away. That’s the old John. The John of my memories. The guy I prefer. The man far more appealing than the guy who slept late.
Early mornings are my refuge from the world. They are the tranquil sanctuaries that shelter me from assault by the media and my own unhinged thirst to know things over which I have no control. Deep morning, the time long before the sun rises, is a time of utter calm and absolute truth. A time when I confront things about myself and the world in which I live and decide to change them, by god. If that last sentence would have been subject to review by the one woman in my library critique group, at least one correction would have been made: “capitalize the word God,” she would have said. And I would have nodded and thanked her. But this is my morning and she is not reading the sentence and I need not be docile and deferential to keep the peace. Yet, today, I would do it nonetheless, because I am in my refuge. I know that deference need not be defeat; circumstances can make it a nod to compassion. I am in my refuge. I am protected from the world around me, the world that slaps innocent faces and slams decent people into walls while greedy hands search for wallets or purses or wads of cash. I wonder whether my refuge is an amoral hiding place, a place where I can feel comfortable while the world victimizes people outside its safe perimeters?
I sense I’m leaving my sanctuary, venturing out into a world fraught with unnecessary ugliness and callous disregard for compassion. There it goes. My comfortable security’s out the door, wandering the back alleys of cruelty, the streets that attack kindness with clubs and white-hot steel rods. Pity. That comfort, that sense of being impervious to physical or mental assault, sits stunned on the sidewalk, wondering what happened to decency and mercy. But, then, I realize I’m still here in my cocoon, just as safe as I’ve ever been. My thoughts have been out for a stroll in a rough neighborhood, a place to avoid if I value my safety and my sanity.
The book I’ve been writing has lost my interest, as all my writing projects do. I will try to recapture my interest in the story, but the more I think of it, the more artificial it becomes. And my writing project with a fellow writer, in which we’re trying to capture the drama of an immigrant child’s adaptation to and success in the USA is just as hollow. Neither of those writing projects absorbs me; neither drags raw emotion from me. I think only real emotion, stuff I feel personally, can stoke my creative fires for long. And maybe even that can’t survive over time. I’ve been trying to compile my blog posts into something worthy of polish and publication, but the sheer scope of the project is overwhelming. I’ve written more than 2400 posts on this blog, alone. Coupled with the other blogs I’ve operated over the years, I’m confident I’ve written something like 4000 posts. The task of reading all those pieces, let alone determining whether a particular piece merits editing/embellishment to make it suitable for inclusion in a collection is overwhelming. Maybe if I commit to reviewing and editing/polishing/embellishing/finishing one hundred pieces a month, I can get through the task. That would take only about three years or so. Ach. But I know so many things I’ve written are just vignettes that would need a lot of work; many would need a lot of attention to make them into something worth reading. I could simply eliminate them, but so many of those unfinished pieces are my favorites. I couldn’t let them wither away; I’d have to coddle them and turn them into the works of art I wish they could be. And that would take time and energy I’m not sure I’m willing to give. So, instead of working on them, I’m writing more drivel. I’m spending my time complaining about the time I’d have to spend, instead of spending my time in productive enterprise. That’s me. That’s the old John, back to his old ways. Early to bed, early to rise, quick to complain about things to despise.
I should add “complete a thought” to my to-do list for today. So far, the only items on the list are: 1) view total eclipse of the sun; 2) make appointment with podiatrist; 3) revise the effing biography to satisfy my co-author’s desire to see progress on the work in which he has not participated in writing; and 4) become a better human being. There’s room for “complete a years-long task that’s only just begun.”
The title of this post, by the way, is an assessment by way of definition.