Sunday, April 18, 2010

Piano Horn

“I can’t believe you bought a piano horn.”

She has a friend coming to town. They used to play air hockey at the arcade. The phone call is punctuated with laughter, sharp and big that rings through the bus.

“I’m trying to potty train Kamora and it’s a mission. I get her on the pot and she just wants to run around without any pants on! And I finally got her back and she stood in the bowl. Her feet in the bowl! I nearly died laughing!”

She is working two jobs, one as an intake coordinator at St. Vincent de Paul’s.

She leans past me and raps sharply on the window to catch the attention of someone standing on the street. She smiles and waves, pushing herself into the spaces of others. Another call, she is arranging a delivery of goods to be picked up for the WIC program.

I look up at one point and she is looking me dead in the eye, daring me to shush her.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Cool Socks and Writer's Block

For the last couple of weeks, my novel writing has hit a snag. I cannot think of anything for my characters to do. They are trapped where I left them: approaching the city where the evil sorcerer is taking over the world, waiting for the woman trapped in the aerie to speak, and stumbling through the outskirts of Hell trying to find their way back to the fashion show. I am dutifully doing all the things I’m told to do at times like this, but now I am realizing that the snag is not in my book’s plot, but in my life.

When I sit down to write, I am overcome with a feeling of my own life’s paucity of details. Part of this is the result of a lifelong depression. Being depressed changes how we remember things. When you are depressed, you remember trends, moods and gists but details slide off into the abyss. So while I can remember having gone to Europe after college and to Indonesia before the break-up of my marriage, I haven’t been able to commit to memory the specifics that would locate a story I might tell.

Now, I am convinced that the human will gives us the wiggle room to change our brains and thus our lives. So, I’ve been working on focusing on the details. I figure that if the depressed mind doesn’t focus on details, then choosing to do so will help my brain to develop into a non-depressed one. And what I’ve realized is I’ve created a life that is, in fact, deprived of interesting details. Makes sense! I have a tendency to not remember details, so I don’t notice my life is bland and devoid of detail. (It’s not devoid of detail; I’m seeing loads of details now that I’m looking for them. I’m just incredibly bored with them. Do you really want to know the details of how I had to change my bus commute when the local bus system changed their lines? This was a serious issue! I’ve had to change my writing schedule! And add 20 minutes of walking to my day! Trader Joe’s is still accessible after work, but the produce market requires an additional walk of three blocks! So many details!)

And the most boring part of my detail filled day is my job. After six years of non-employment, I took the first decent job I was offered. And it’s really decent! Good benefits, easy commute (despite aforementioned bus change catastrophe opportunity) and the work is easy. Too easy. Bang-head-on-desk easy. And I have to hide myself because I’m a Berkeley person working for Republicans who “don’t’ believe in gay rights” and talk about Christianity all the fracking time. Which actually wouldn’t be so bad because they are still nice people in their own way (if you don’t tell them you’re gay), but I am really, really bored all day long because I am not doing what I’m supposed to be doing, which is writing the novel that won’t go anywhere.

Back when I was getting ready to look for my first job in six years (the word “girding” comes to mind) a dear friend of mine helped me to gain the right mindset. He reminded me that David Sedaris’ best work is about the weird ass jobs he’s held. I loved that! Of course! I could just take jobs that are weird and interesting and give me material to write about! This revisioning of the job search radicalized me and I sent out queries to all sorts of places I wouldn’t have otherwise. I still wish I’d been able to take the job of crowd photographer for the Oakland A’s, but by the time they called I already had a 40 hour, full bennies, corporate-wear administration job where I sit on my ass all day surfing the internet and looking busy.

Now with the Great Recession and the fact that I’m old enough I require health care, I don’t know if I can afford to take a bunch of weird part time gigs until I can figure out if health care reform really does allow me to be eligible for health care on my own. But I can try for a job where I can wear cool socks and not dye my hair while I occasionaly mention my ex-wife without having to call her a "friend".

And this is all a part of living the life of someone devoted to creating. Artists, writers, musicians, all people who create, must be sensitive to the world. We must create ourselves as beings who can receive the world as much as we can bear. Depression is so much a defense against too much world too soon with no safety in which to experience. It's a buffer against overwhelm. But to create, we must allow the world in.