Life living

September 15, 2008

My dear friend Michael has brought to my attention words that I had written some time back and with the revisit I can feel the bubbles of lifeexpansionfreedom well up inside of me.  I am in my last semester of graduate school and feel the closing of an era that began with a plunge into the standardized test of the GRE and will now finish with the search for that first job at the professional level of librarianship.  I feel unsatisfied.  I have projected a life path that includes the safety of government work and am close to acquiring a degree that will strengthen my ties to career that has moments of satisfaction but still leaves me yearning for more.  I’m sure that I am the first human being to ever be in this predicament (Ha!).

In that first post written a year and a half ago (referenced above) I was struck dumb by the words of a YA author who let go of the known and plunged into the churning rapids of the yet-to-be-determined.  In his story I saw my own life and eventual future of chances not taken, fields left unexplored.  So I mustered up enough gumption to write my blog post to the world and then dutifully returned to the writing of a paper dictated to me by an educational system that encourages well-thought-out passive responses to pre-fab questioning.  And I received an ‘A’ on that paper which made me feel quite good about myself, like I actually accomplished something substantial rather than demonstrating what a nice obedient puppy I truly am.  I’m a smart doggie.

Zoom to this moment and my dogness (no offense to you canines out there, I appreciate a good fetch session) has become even more ingrained as I take the next step of holding up that piece of parchment that proclaims to the world, “Yes I am ready to join the working ranks of those that have chosen security over risk.  Please welcome me with open arms, um, how many years until retirement?”

I admit that I’m allowing drama to infuse this post but I know that there is a ripe kernal of truth at the heart of these frolicking words.  I’m already looking ahead, glazing over the process inherent in the now, trying to find that job description that I can match to my perception of me.  There is a certain thrill there, the chase of that elusive next job that overshadows a deeper longing for a life purpose that will remain unfulfilled if all of my days are restricted to the library field.  I know this to be true.  And yet one must work and financially it makes sense to try and move up the career ladder.  Blah.

The difficulty of my situation is that my dreams are cloudy unformed things that are elusive and cause me to shrink back into other more comfortable arenas.  I consider writing for a bit and then sit down with a book.  Or watch a movie.  I’m fascinated by the creative process and then abandon it personally to become one of the audience.  I read about the lives of authors and calculate their life trajectory with my own.  At time I’m a pathetic silly man surrounded by books yearning to be on the other side of the words.  But to this point the insistence of the dream comes in spurts and I can placidly go about my life for weeks at a time with only a faint recollection of what it is I truly should be doing (At least that’s what I suppose, I am welcome to life injecting an alternative purpose).  The beauty of modern life is that everything is so busy and one can easily be submerged into the flux and forget what it is one ought to be doing.  My yearnings get caught up in this flow and the cloudy dreams easily disperse to reform in a different day’s sky.  I’m conflicted and know it and these words attest to that fact.

Paperwork

December 7, 2007

The final weeks of the semester are wrapping up reminding me yet again why it took me so long to get back to school: paperwork. Fitting the right words onto the page, citing correctly APA or Harvard style and meeting the required amount of words are all examples of fun activities snatching away my time. I will be two-thirds of the way done after these classes which is an unbelievable blessing. I don’t know what it is like to read fiction without a twinge of guilt. Nagging my brain are doubts that everything has not been turned in on time–resulting in rechecks of assignments just to make sure all is well.

I’ve only been back in school now for sixteen months and I can barely remember times of space before the first lecture commenced. Please, tell me, what is it like on the other side. Does the grass actually have a more vibrant hue?

I know too that I am blessed to even be considering let alone pursuing a graduate degree. Having the money, time and willingness at this point in my life does not go unrecognized for its serendipitous splendor. I’m a lucky guy and recognize it even in these moments of academic despair when deadlines loom.

So back to the blank page I go, every writer’s agony and companion must be met for another slow dance.

Informational writing

November 10, 2007

I wrote a little over 2500 words yesterday.  Unfortunately they were for a school paper comparing two models of information seeking behavior.  I would have to be extremely creative to find a way to infuse those words into the NaNo project.  “Jim returned home after a tiring day at the office and sat down to write about Zipf’s Principle of Least Effort.  Here’s what he wrote [Copy and Paste]…”  I’m imagining this interlude would prove to be quite boring.  Unless you are a fan of Zipf.  Its quite possible he has a small but cultish following in the information researcher community.

A couple of things I discovered about my writing habits yesterday:

  1. It takes me a long time to process and then compose.  I started the paper around 9:30a.m. and did not submit until close to 11:p.m.
  2. Procrastination is my favorite dancing partner.  Yours too?  I will actively seek out chores that I have been avoiding for weeks when an assignment needs to be completed.  Yesterday I raked half of the backyard, washed clothes and attempted repair of a leaky hose.  I’m sure G would like me to work on another degree after I complete this one.
  3. When I finally manage to squeeze a few words out of my fingers the sentences are almost as good as finished.  I looked over my work after I wrote the last line of the paper and only needed to make a few minor changes.  Some may think this a blessing though the load is heavy to bear when creator, editor and critic all share the same space. 
  4. The internal struggle must be won to get this body and mind into creative work mode.  When the world is so vastly interesting I can always find something new that entertains.  Without a deadline writing becomes a secondary concern.

And yet I return again and again to the written word feeling the need to share and celebrate the vastness of life from my individual perspective.  Does self-expression need to be so hard?  I believe in my case faulty comparisons and perfectionism undermine my creative flow.  And I have been known to lounge excessively. 

I believe its time for a picture.  Last weekend and a few flowers still hanging on.

The Hero’s Adventure

October 5, 2007

100_2382

“We have only to follow the thread of the hero path, and where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god. And where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves. Where we had thought to travel outward, we will come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we will be with all the world.”
~ Joseph Campbell

I’m writing a paper today for one of my classes and I just found a place to inject the above quote into my flow of thought. Academia needs a little infusion of the life force!

Learning on my own terms

September 19, 2007

I am writing this for the September Write-Away Contest at Scribbit. The prompt is learning.

It started towards the end of my Junior year in college. An itch inside the head, a malaise spreading across my landscape–the knowledge that my education would soon be ending and a realization that what I had learned did not matter. Oh I had learned some things alright: how to teeter the edge of drunkenness and oblivion, how to get by with B’s by doing the absolute minimum, how to always move in the direction of pleasure at the expense of self-knowledge. I had been caught in the machine, taught that high school must precede college and from college to a good-paying job and if I’m lucky a nice girl to settle down with.

But something happened that Junior year, when the stories I had been told no longer made sense. When the frustration grew so great that the only movement that seemed possible was self-oblivion. Either I die or give up. This game that I had been playing, that was playing me had to stop. I started to read. Not just the text I had to for classes but what called to my heart, what helped me make sense of the mess I now found myself in. I looked with eyes that were beginning to focus on a reality that could be explored freely with a questioning spirit.

That summer I locked myself away. I was still living with my family but I moved in a sphere that kept them on the periphery. My routine: Wake at 3PM, eat and go to the back room and read. And write. I would break only for sustenance and return to Dostoevsky and Castenada, Hemingway and Steinbeck. Midnight to 5AM were the magical hours, complete silence and me seemingly the only one awake in the world dreaming wide-eyed while the words of the masters flitted before me.

I lasted like that in my cocoon of learning for a month and a half until my mother awakened me to my responsibilities. I found a job as a cook in a practically empty bar and could read for hours in the back of the kitchen. In the fall I returned to school more myself than ever though I easily slipped back into old routines. Drunken nights with old friends, study and regurgitate, repeat. There were times I would remember what I had learned and the notebook would come out and I could reflect on my loneliness and my betrayal of the soul. A man caught between what he knows to be right and the inertia of shallow friendships projected upon the backdrop of degree pursuit.

Not until I left school could I begin upon the journey towards true knowledge. I found myself on the Outer Banks of North Carolina in the winter, no friends from any of my previous incarnations, a man ready to begin anew. There was no weight of expectation that I brought with me, to be anyone other than myself, that ever-changing glorious manifestation of the divine. My Outer Banks acquaintances did not know the beer-chugging frat boy. They did not have any memories of my past selves and I could slowly release those alternative characters I played and let shine through what was dying to come to light: me.

What gives

June 12, 2007

Amazing how easy it is to get caught up in the flow of life–events come and go and the sun rises and crosses the sky yet again.  With so much doing the time for reflection is always a moment hence.  I give myself over to activity and forget to return to the words that provide a mirror to this flurry of being.  I imagine that is why I am drawn to writing prompts because then I will take the time at least once in the week to stop reading and begin to write.

I do write quite a bit now but most of it I would let fall into the category of buzzing activity.  Sunday I spent analyzing the innards of a research study all the time just wanting to go outside and play.  Last night I had four hours of class melodically accompanied by bird songs heard through the open window.  The difference between my academic writing and these lines is that here I can chart unknown courses and let fly what is aching to be let out.  In academia I am given the assignment and obediently follow the given protocol to produce the desired result.

Which leads me to wonder why I have chosen to devote so much of my time in pursuit of this degree while writing here on an inconsistent basis.  In which direction lies my bliss?

The age-old conundrum of practicality vs. dreams.  The practical is so much easier because it does not involve true risk.  Dreams require soul inflammation and a path of open intention.  Not that I feel that mine or any life sticks to just one of these two paths.  There are many shades between and in any one moment that choice exists where new ground can be trodden and old routines left aside.

This degree is my move towards the practical–a writerly paradise where the creative inspiration fits into a nice neat little box.  Perhaps I’m not ready for that great leap-whatever it might entail.  I’m giving myself a dose of fitting in with the crowd so that the flow of life just glides me right along.

Who knows, by tomorrow my mind might change.

I’m working on a paper today, the same one that has been plaguing my existence for the past week or so.  It’s actually not that bad but until it is done will skirt the peripheries of my thoughts like a shade of the night.  And what better way to dodge its piercing blow than to wander over here and allow some space between those academic meanderings.

I’m attending a wedding today with wife (a friend of her’s from an ex-work location) and look forward to a continuation of the good feelings exposed last night at the rehearsal dinner.  When it is time for the toasts I always get this feeling that hovers between wild excitement and mild nausea.  The opportunity for heart-felt expressions and if one is lucky an awkwardness that can thicken the air and make time stand still.  Fortunately that speech did not air itself last night but there was a gem delivered by the brother of the groom. Gonzago talked about the beauty of America and the opportunity for different cultures to come together in this land of the great Melting Pot. The bride is of Indian descent and the groom from Chile. 

Gonzago: (not exact) “And the coming together of these two cultures forms a kind of Superculture.  And this Superculture looks for weapons of mass destruction so that it can bomb other cultures.”

The audience erupts.

Political commentary in a wedding toast is a thing of beauty and in this setting his remarks ignited the sensibilities of the crowd.  I don’t know many people in the party but we are all friends on a common ground after his jab.  So the wedding should be nice and lovely and warm feelings abounding.

Enjoy!