Tag Archives: 2006

I was sorta too tired to not be grumpy with others

Well, went to mom’s for breakfast, stayed until 2:30. How nice an entertaining space the barn is, nice with all that wood around. I talked to B__ for long time about schools and measuring objective performance criteria for job evaluation. I was sorta too tired to not be grumpy with others (I sensed I was about to make a lot of negative categorical statements — as I did to B___, for example, how dumb the decision to …. and also how … (it strikes me now, maybe I shouldn’t have said these things to someone in the educational community. Oh, well, sure it’ll be fine). And so instead of burdening others with my kvetching, I kept it to B___, and I listened to his, and I tried making a couple points, but realized B__ didn’t really want to listen, he wanted to talk, and that’s OK. I stopped trying to make points — why TRY anyway — it felt like trying. All the little niches Mom has in that barn for storing objects. The [facial tissue] box rests at an angle on one of the beam supports.

[From journal of Sun., 12 March 2006, Journal 65, page 85]

Some grand drama based on the vagaries of the human heart!

So, what’s new? Let’s not talk about school. Let’s not talk about elephants or rhinos or stock derivatives or solid waste disposal or rhombuses (rhombi?) or antelopes or anteaters or ants, for that matter. Let’s not speak of any of these, nor of serial murders, nor thunderstorms (as the wind picks up behind me). Let us not speak of fruit flies on the tomatoes on the table, and how when I flung the bad tomatoes out toward the windbreak, I really flung them, arm extended, and both times I felt the blood rush outward, out toward my fingers, moving tangentially—centrifugal motion, as the physics books decline to call it, usually preferring their Newtonian explanations.

Bars and bugs—life doesn’t require that much effort. Life isn’t about trying that hard.

I’m wearing my “Nader 2000” t-shirt this morning—on the back, “Bush and Gore make me want to Ralph.” God, nearly six years ago already since we went to that rally at UIC with B___s, maybe that was Oct. 15th? How spontaneous of us. Eddie Vedder was there, interesting. And I still haven’t read the Nader reader, the signed copy of which I was sent in exchange for my $200 donation—my only political donation, I think.

Money’s such a funny thing. NYTimes (online) story yesterday about how,  basically, housing costs are high relative to incomes, which is, well, of course—no, stay away from criticisms. All I wanted to say is how that’s sorta weird. They (The Times) didn’t use the word “relative”—I don’t think they did, anyway, but that’s all that housing prices are, anyway, is relative. There’s no absolute or true value to any land. Same house in one suburb is worth twice what it would be in another. And some people are stretching their budgets to stay in certain areas with nicer schools, story said.

Had a thought. What was it? About housing and junk? About living month-to-month, paycheck to paycheck? Oh, well, let’s see if that idea comes back—it was one of those novel ideas.

Hers’ a different one—I like myself (and my writing) better when I don’t criticize. That’s been harder to not do lately, as tired as I’ve been.

The sky is really deep blue—midnight blue?—off to the west. Maybe it wouldn’t appear so blue—more black—if there weren’t yellowish interior lighting here also catching my eye?

I saw a really nice wood home—an interior of an timber-framed house, with timber arches, and a fireplace, so beautiful and so cozy. This was in a small ad in the new New Yorker, and I thought how nice it’d be to have a house like that, and yet, I’m old enough now to know that having a beautiful space like that to live in wouldn’t make me happy, not by itself. And it does seem a tad petty, doesn’t it, immature, simply to want things, to want a nice house. Who doesn’t want that? You’re not unique in your wants.

Maybe the missing thought was this: that when people agree to buy property, when they agree to pay a certain price, they don’t have that amount of money now. They’re making a promise to pay that over 30 years—pretty obvious, sure, and yet, there’s more: what they can pay now is based on their salary now—it’s what the bank is willing to loan them based on how well the bank thinks the borrower will be able to pay back the loan. And of course lots of people sell before the 30 years are up—they pay back the loan and start paying on another loan.

I don’t know, it all seems sorta optimistic, in a way—like, maybe if banks weren’t willing to make loans (or even just the larger, more speculative loans), that there would be fewer people in the market and fewer people to bid up house prices. I mean, this isn’t all that new. It’s basic econ theory. And yet, when you stop and think about it for a few minutes, it’s actually sorta odd—if the only thing supporting house/real estate prices is other people’s desire (and/or greed), well, then there’s not really much stability to these prices, this economy—the whole thing’s based largely on human emotions. My god, no wonder people like to follow it, it’s better than a soap opera—or maybe it’s exactly/precisely a soap opera—some grand drama based on the vagaries of the human heart! Yet, some people still make their livings predicting, or trying to predict, it.

[From journal of Weds., 4 October 2006, Journal 77, page 7-10]

There are no time-outs

Time passes just for a writer as much as it does for a carpenter or for anyone else. You as a writer enjoy the act of recording your life events and thoughts. You like living that lifestyle, writing the journal, etc., taking time-outs from life to record, though of course there are no time-outs, and writing is living.

I couldn’t write only novels, as Molly says she does. I would feel I’m losing my days that way. Funny, I felt like that the first couple of weeks out of school, needed to make one of those daily-weekly charts I used to make a lot of when I wasn’t writing every day. But once I got into the vacation, the days flow on, flow with me and flow from me, and that’s OK, too. I couldn’t, wouldn’t want to, at least, do what Molly does. I need the journal, need to take time to process and think and such. M said last night even if we get busier with our careers, our kids, later on, we have had a nice time here these last few years with just each other—all this time after getting married, she said. Some people start having kids right away—we’ve had time to ourselves, to each other.

I don’t know—there’s an aspect to a writer’s life, a sense in which we live it a little deeper, perhaps, by going over it, living it twice? Sucking the marrow out of life? Writers don’t climb mountains or take risks, big life-affirming, life-threatening—life-affirming because they’re life-threatening, unless of course they’re life-ending—risks. I, for one, believe I just don’t have the gene for thrill-seeking. Supposedly science says there is such a gene, though such an explanation sounds like an excuse, eh? Putting the blame for a personal, internal preference on the external world—”my genes, I can’t change them.” So, OK, I just don’t like great thrills.

I don’t mind a little challenge now and then, and it’s good that I had Uncle L__ to provide them—hike through Baxters’ woods at night, on trail but under the canopy, all I could see was the pale, ghostly white of the bucket.

[From journal of Friday, 14 July 2006, 7:55 a.m., Journal 75, page 8-9]

Taking as central that which is periphery

So often when I’m tired, I see my life as dominated by my job. I feel trapped by it, etc. But I can now see this is taking as central—my job—that which is periphery; even when I wasn’t conscious of it, my marriage, my relationship with M, has been at the center of my life. Sometimes when I’m stressed, especially first couple years of teaching, I didn’t pay enough attention to M and our marriage. She said I’d go away for 9 months/year, be distant, not my fun self. But now I can see that even when I wasn’t conscious of it, it’s been true all along, and that, in this sense, it doesn’t really matter what job I do. Especially now that I’m getting used to teaching, it’s sorta stabilizing for me—keep that, let job settle back into a place of lower prominence in your life, let it fall back into place, both as a priority and in time spent doing it and thinking about it.

The feeling of this thought, after Tuesday’s thought, too—much peace. It feels good to recast my whole life this way, as not an achiever at work but as a whole person who values his relationships and values simply living well.

[From Thurs. 13 April 2006, Journal 66, Page 157]

Nonfic: Living in a pile of stories

A short post before bedtime: In recent months I’ve been thinking of all the things I’ve written over the years as a kind of pile — not that I keep my writings in a literal pile (well, not one big pile, anyway), but that, no matter what kind of process I went through to write a text (whether poem, nonfiction, note-to-self, published piece, etc.), once I’m done, I might as well throw it in a pile. It’s dead to me, in a way. Not really dead, but just past. It’s not what I’m working on now. It was created by, and reflects, a person I was in the past. (I feel like I’m not the same person now as I was a few hours ago, and I won’t be the same me  later. If I were the same me, I wouldn’t have to leave notes to myself reminding me of things I have to do later. I have to leave these notes  for myself much as I’d leave a note to someone else: where will I be likely to see it? Often, that means a note on my car’s dashboard.)

So the pile of work — it can be interesting to dive into at times, though I feel myself resisting reading through all of it. But the idea of the pile also helps me let go of things I’ve written, and even things I’ve thought, in the past. I don’t have to hold onto them. And this I value, too, since I’ve started thinking of my mind as inhabiting a world of ideas, of stories, of metaphors, of concepts — all of which are not the same as raw experience of physical reality. My memories of experiences seem to be recorded as ideas and as narratives, though those are interpretations of experience, not experiences themselves. I remind myself I can let go of these interpretations — they are ideas about what really happened, but are not the same as the reality. I remind myself that I don’t really know what someone meant by their statement or by their actions — maybe I don’t even know what I meant by my statements and actions.

And my wife said tonight that some people still believe that reality can be fully known, interpreted, and understood. She used to believe that, too, she said, adding that she may believe that again some day.

Of course, I also noticed this idea about not holding too tightly onto my interpretations when I read it in one of my notebooks from 2006. A text from the pile, an idea from my past — past ideas can be useful in the present. But that’s no reason not to question them, too.