So, to recap: I am having the time of my young life, hitting plateau after plateau, all cylinders firing on all my professional and creative daydreams. Meanwhile, my personal life is just one ludicrous life-altering disaster after another. (Trust me, there's a few doozies in there I haven't even mentioned.)
You know how stuff happens, and people say 'Wow, this is like the weirdest feeling'? Well, this is the weirdest feeling. Period. Bar none. I will see any weird feeling you can throw at me and I will laugh sardonically in its little pretentiously mundane face.
And then I will start writing. And praying. Again.
- feels like: giddy
As explained previously, on a Very Special Entry -- we don’t actually celebrate the [ahem] winter holidays, here @ Shoe Central. Short version: No panicked shopping, dealing with family angst, or blinky-light-induced insomnia. And this is fine by us.
However this year our previously merry eating, drinking etc were overshadowed by a bit of the old ‘…for tomorrow you may…’, on account of Shoemom having found a lump in her right breast about a month prior, and due for the appointment with the specialist the first Tuesday of the new year.
Which, as you can imagine, made the resolutions really, severely uncomplicated. All I want for 2011 is my mother not to have breast cancer.
…well, that got shot all to hell in a hurry.
It’s in the early stages, I hasten to add; just caught in time to avoid becoming a nightmare, actually. The surgery is apparently routine (well, as routine as removing a breast can ever be) and the prognosis is excellent. She is on the whole relaxed and optimistic about it all; except – characteristically -- when she thinks of the effect on her daughters.
So the last thing I want to do is disrespect anyone currently trapped in the nightmare stage, or their loved ones.
I would only note -- as a matter of perhaps mere personal interest -- that the first thing to go in these situations is cynicism, no matter how carefully cultivated. The bubble-gum pink that previously set your teeth on edge is now your favourite colour in the whole wide world. You want everyone to be aware of it, of the problem it symbolises, how desperately a solution is needed. Everyone. You in fact have wild fantasies about running through the streets smashing pink stickers into chests.
It becomes your obligation to produce the best-selling memoir: Shoemom’s Story. Tastefully bound in pink and white, with maybe just a hint of gilding. You are completely shameless about the gilding… probably because it beats wondering what being executor of a will actually entails. Or realizing that the family drama that was just leveling off is about to explode in whole new and exciting directions.
You resort to sick jokes in order to maintain normalcy. At a high point of the aforementioned drama, Shoesis tried to get Mom to the wedding by demanding “You never know, she could turn out to have a tumour the next day and you’d be sorry!” Yesterday, discussing how to spread the news: “How about -- Hey, kiddo, remember that tumour? Yeah…tell me, hypothetically, would that mean I get to see the grandkids more?”
…OK, maybe you had to be there. That’s another thing I’ve learned, that you cannot ever precisely plan for the moment when your mother asks, “Um… I’m not actually gonna die or anything, right?”
No. No, she is not. She has the surgery in February. Meanwhile…
...Look, you can skip the cutesy pink appliances, just be aware, OK?
Get to know your body so intimately that the least change is screamingly obvious. Get the regular appointment, get the mammograms done, Pap smears, whatever’s needful. Realise that the elderly relatives who ‘don’t trust those $@#^%$ doctors!” aren’t cute and charming; they’re playing Russian roulette with your love. Make the appointments for them, if necessary. Sedate ‘em. Hell, call me and I’ll personally come over and shove them into the boob-squeezing machine free of charge, I’m in exactly the right mood.
Above all… pray, for all those suffering and all the survivors, to the God of both truth and compassion. And if you want to direct a few good thoughts in Shoemom’s way specifically, I wouldn’t object at all.
- feels like: indescribable
One month and four resends later -- two to my original contact, one to the general proposal box, one to the personal box of another editor I'd worked with in the past -- it is becoming more and more obvious that my real-world literary clout is not running parallel with my fantasies. Which, granted, involved me as a sort of post-millennial Dorothy Parker. Still though...
The really awkward thing about the total silence is that you just don't know. Not for sure and certain, anyway, which tends to be my default preference in matters of ego. There's still the possibility that I've just ended up in the spam filter... um, four times. Possible, right? I mean, yes, comedy team which ceased to be current around 1970, but the accolades were real enough.
Unless somebody took a relook at that column proposal I sent in awhile back...maybe I should pay closer attention to their Paris Hilton policy. Or is it hipper to refer to the Kardashians now? Did I even spell that right? This may be harder than I thought.
At any rate dear reader, if you are the editor who initially contacted me -- or any of those other people I've tried to contact since -- know that I remain appreciative of the thought however fleeting, and only wish now for a quick overview of the problem and best wishes for my future.
Or, alternatively, that I was appreciative, extremely so, and really have no idea how your filter came to mark me as a potential pusher of enlargement products, but if given another chance I do solemnly promise to behave. Also, learn who those people on the cover of US Magazine are.
Then again, if you have no idea what I'm talking about, because somebody appropriated your email to play random nasty pranks on people, well, hey, I have this column proposal you might want to look at...
- feels like: disappointed
I went to a street festival once at Yonge and Eglinton, and Dailey was emceeing something or other, and once finished with business he wound up by intoning 'This is Citytv...' and we all -- all several thousand of us -- screamed back "EVERYWHERE!!"
A voice so authoritative that it still makes Corey Haim sound cool...
...so snarky it anticipates the Internet by a decade...
...and so awesome it could do promos for 'Your Federation Station' and dare you to laugh.
Ave atque vale, Mark.
- feels like: nostalgic
- feels like: indescribable
The Old Man laughed sardonically, which is not easy when gulping Aka-Seltzer. He explained the probable scenario that had led to the threat on their lives: Carlos' company, OmbraTour, had ordered that the six Americans be 'taken care of'' while they were in Rio.
Carlos nodded. "How do you want it done?"
"The usual Brazilian way," the boss said. "Party them to death."...
...After that, the Old Man could see that Sipe was even worse than he thought, and decided to finish off both quarterbacks by doing his impersonation of Howard Cosell... his Cosell usually resulted in a clean kill, but not always. Sometimes he had to track the wounded into the bush, and they would charge him, coming very fast and mean, and he would have to drop them with his Johnny Carson at close range...
..."Tomorrow you can go fishing," [Carlos] said. "Usually Americans do not survive nine Brazillian parties in a row, but you have. You have beaten me fairly and honourably, and tomorrow, you can go fishing."
"Good," the Old Man said. "I have been in Brazil eighty-four days now without catching either a wink or a fish."
"You have been in Brazil only three days," Carlos corrected him. "But tomorrow you will catch many fish."...
..At noon, the guides took the Americans back to the fishing camp, where they had piranha soup. Which was very good, and had just a tiny bite to it.
- feels like: peaceful
It's kind of interesting to me, though. I mean, how I learned that it is, in fact, quite possible to trap yourself in Hell by actively trying to be a good Christian.
Then Peter came up and said to him: “Lord, how many times is my brother to sin against me and am I to forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him: “I say to you, not, Up to seven times, but, Up to seventy-seven times.”
--Matthew 18:21, 22
Which is by Godly default perfectly reasonable, loving advice, designed to rescue us from ourselves. The best of people, with the best of intentions, do screw up. The people they screw up in turn have to be protected from, first of all, constantly being horribly shocked at this, and then from allowing it to damage their own humanity.
Then, one day this summer, I read a Watchtower magazine article on marital betrayal, and it contained the example of a Witness sister who stayed with her physically abusive husband for years... because he apologised for the beatings, every time. She thought it would be un-Christian not to forgive him! Also, un-loving, to betray him to the elders or anyone else.
Granted, the article wasn't condoning this, far from it. (In the Witness context, unchecked violent outbursts are grounds for expulsion from the congregation). Still terrified the ever-loving hell out of me. Quite frankly, it provoked a mini-crisis of faith. Because what I was reading was a perfectly logical Scriptural justification for patiently enduring years of physical abuse. And I knew beyond a doubt that there would be at least some of my fellow Witnesses who would miss the point entirely and admire this sister's resignation, and her spiritual fortitude.
I needed to deal with this before I went any further -- and right quick, because abruptly we were were just a couple weeks away from Shoesis' wedding as per the entry below, and the decision whether or not to attend.
The years haven't been filled by inexcusable line-crossing; at least, not most of the time, and not calculated. Mostly just the myriad insensitivities and small bullyings that are scattered in the wake of extreme self-absorption. Then, the ever-ready apologies, as if printed on a spiritual 'Get Out of Jail Free' card: "Gotta forgive me! Can't hold a grudge, it's un-Christian! Nobody's perfect, y'know!!"
You can't let her get to you, your trusted others have told you all your life. She's right, this is the way she is, just laugh it off. You have to be the better person.
So... you are. For years. After all, you aren't being abused, like that poor sister -- except that once you're looking at it from that POV, you are forced to realise that this is not thanks to anything you have done about it. Somewhere along the way, repentance after the fact has become more acceptable than consideration before. You are enacting a sort of emotional Death by a Thousand Cuts, and you are so dedicated to making it work that you are still genuinely surprised when that final grain of salt is poured into the wound.
The inevitable conclusion is that by not forgiving this person you would have done them, yourself, the entire situation incalculably more good. And unless you rise up now and behave exactly contrary to everything you understand as 'being the better person', in God's eyes as well as man's, you are definitively betraying yourself.
So... I rose up accordingly. Drew a line in the sand and held it there, against all comers. Held it for Shoemom, who had suffered the same things only much more so, because informed by maternal guilt and hope, and likewise found the idea of demanding self-respect that much more of a revelation, then a liberation, then pure exhilaration. I got exhilarated myself just watching her go at it, really.
Which is where things got really exciting, because suddenly not only was I the family rebel but the family cult leader, seducing the weak and soft-hearted away from the path of convention. (The really funny part is, as I've said, in the midst of all this I just happen to be having the undisputed triumph of my writing career. Unfortunately, there wasn't any money involved, so it was kind of useless as a triumphant rebuttal. Worked wonders as a spine-stiffener, though.)
I'm not sure what the moral of this story is, just yet; when you can't lie to yourself, management of the conscience becomes a fearsome responsibility. At what point, exactly, does self-love become selfishness? If you have good and moral reason to demand better treatment -- because, after all, to do otherwise would be to condone the wrong -- is it totally negated because you are also frankly rather pleased to have the chance so to demand?
On the one hand I can't see what else I could have done; on the other, there is the nagging conviction that God of course must know what I could have done, and didn't. Should I have relied more on Him to sort it all out? Or was this His way of sorting it, after all?
Perhaps it's mostly just the Story of How I Was Forced to Think Seriously About What I Believe and How It Impacts My Real Life, which is kind of embarrassing after twenty years' Kingdom Hall attendance, but there it is. Hey, what doesn't make you an atheist, makes you stronger, right? Ha ha? OK, sorry, it's been a long couple months.
- feels like: contemplative
Clearly, there is a long Saturday afternoon's reading marked out in my future. I will smuggle in some chocolate drops, find an out-of-the-way seat in the corner window...
...kill anybody I see even glancing thoughtfully toward the Literary Criticism shelves...
- feels like: aggravated
I'M GOING TO BE A BLOGGER AND BOOK REVIEWER ON POPMATTERS! I'M GOING TO BE A BLOGGER AND BOOK REVIEWER ON POPMATTERS! I'M --
Well, shoot, that was supposed to come out a lot more dignified.
But seriously. That article proposal I put in? Got a note back -- I suspect from the same editor who's had to endure my article proposals in the past -- basically saying "y'know what, why don't we just sign you up and you can have at it."
So... I had one article that was a roaring success, and that probably helped lead to this other offer, and... does this mean I have an actual writing career, now?
*sits on self firmly to prevent further screaming*
*reminds self that this means I have to get off my butt and get current again*
*takes deep breath* ...So... yeah.
December, ball's in your court, pal.
- feels like: bouncy
When these two things land in your inbox almost simoultaneously:
--Your mother gets told by your cousin that he can't believe she's taking 'social and family advice from [Shoe]!... we all know that [Shoe] is and has always been socially maladjusted..."
--BobandRay.com sends you a newsletter offering the latest CD set -- including liner notes by, well, yourself:... "a long, loving appreciation of Bob & Ray by the Canadian critic [Shoe]. One of the best ever written."
Frankly I cannot see how November is going to top this.
Albeit it is, so the Interweb tells me, National Novel Writing Month. Which is intriguing for obvious reasons. Here I am, freshly validated, creative juices stirring...
...I sent off another article proposal to PopMatters, based on this post, hopefully that'll keep them going for awhile. Possibly until I can get perspective enough on the whole wedding fiasco to -- as Shoemom wryly suggested in the course of calming me down after that first email -- get my own back by immortalising the lot of 'em in print.
- feels like: indescribable