This afternoon, at a loss for anything better to do, and having written that piece referencing Cheney that activated Sekhnet’s PTSD and made her cry one sentence in (where I stopped), I found myself sitting in the universal pose of resigned inaction, head in hands. My few chores done and a futile attempt at a restorative nap aborted, I sat wearily at my desk near the window overlooking Sekhnet’s farm and my head sank into my hands. I sat that way for a long moment. The symbolism of this posture dawning on me, I lifted my head, opened this computer and resolutely tapped out a few hundred words that disentangled some tendrils, put it about as well as I can.
It was a different kind of post than most of these and it felt like a good day’s work. Writing it put my thoughts and feelings in order, explained some things I was hard pressed to understand or express and salvaged an otherwise fairly bleak and low-energy day for me.
Sekhnet and I went shopping and after the long trip I opened the blahg to read it to her. There was no sign of the new piece anywhere, not in drafts, not in the trash. “Head in Hands” does not exist, I was informed. I was sure I’d hit publish, I’d definitely selected the categories, which appear below this post now, which I have already saved now three times. It was hard to believe I had never even once saved the draft. I hadn’t shut off the computer or logged out of WordPress, yet, no trace of the ninety minutes of writing.
Seeing it wiped away at the moment I was going to read it to Sekhnet I felt panic and then rage, at once it became the most profound thing I’d ever managed to write, of course, being now irretrievably lost. In despair I realized how impossible it would be to recreate the integrity of the piece, whatever music it had contained. It took all I had not to scream or smash something. Sekhnet was sympathetic, immediately reminded me I should always save my work, no matter what, we’ve both learned the hard way, blah blah blah, helpful advice I couldn’t listen to. 850 something posts on this blahg with no hitch that I can recall, maybe one. Fitting reward at the end of a day I dragged myself through, to have some of my best work wiped away without a fucking trace and for no explainable reason. I went outside and stalked for a mile.
I’d started off wondering if dysthymia had me by the neck lately and posted a link to a wiki describing the condition. I compared the inevitable hopeless feeling to music, the depressed theme striking a familiar chord, persistent fatigue providing the bass, empty stretches of senseless inaction like a sad string section, the dulled, receding emotions forming amusical harmonies to a background music as pervasive and hideous as the sickeningly effective ad jingle that plays involuntarily in your head.
I mused about the genetic component of dysthymia and described my mother setting out for work every day, carrying dysphoria on her shoulders, working all day, coming home on the train, cooking us dinner, watching TV, reading, looking forward to the emotional release of the opera Live from the Met that throbbed from the stereo every Sunday (it may have been every Saturday). She became tearful easily, was often angry, over-ate, reported feeling blue when she was alone, though she was always convivial and had a good sense of humor in company.
I spent hours alone in the basement, listening to blues records, the same sides over and over, playing along on an acoustic guitar, learning the ropes. Friends came and went, I never questioned their qualifications or motives. I enjoyed interacting with them, cherish a few of them still, but probably spent much more time by myself than in their company. When alone I worked in one expressive medium or another, it always seemed important to me to express myself well. I follow the same practice now.
This tendency to isolation is quite possibly a symptom of dysthymia, a diagnosis I dismissed, a hazy condition easily waved off because it lacks the sharp drama of a scary depression, or a rising anxious terror, or the wild mania that will land one in the Emergency Room. The proclivity to oversensitivity and introspection could also be called part of an artistic temperament, I suppose, but that temperament famously comes at a steep price.
I was considering, in far less words than this, that I should probably go off to work every day, or at least several times a week. Any work, meaningful or not is not important, the main thing is to keep oneself busy. This is universal therapy practiced by most people in the world and much mischief and violence are the result of enforced idleness, too much time on one’s hands. Working people have routines and stay busy, the validation they get from doing their jobs well is part of what makes their lives make sense to them, makes them feel productive. At the end of the day they have a good reason to be tired, to relax and unwind, and they have to be ready to get up for work early the next day so too much emotional heavy lifting is out of the question.
Unlimited time to ponder and imagine is not a good thing in the long run. It is difficult, maybe impossible, to sustain vital creativity in isolation anyway. Creativity is intended to be shared, it’s collaborative by its nature. You may sometimes create fine work, hone it to a great smoothness and clarity, provoke thoughts and feelings in a unique way, but such work, done primarily for yourself, has an element of madness to it, is not complete as expression until it is received by another. It is necessary to find a partner or two, it seems to me, if the work is going to have real meaning and resilience. Things I write here for a small handful of readers, sometimes true things, at times elusive but obvious when pinned down, a good in and of itself. But in another sense: what the fuck?
I noted that with no warning, today, I find myself again in that hot August night outside Vishnevitz, the tortured little town where we’d been forced to fence ourselves into a crowded quarter six months earlier, using barbed wire, splintered boards, chicken wire, plaster. They’d forced us to pay for it too, with money we needed for food and medicine, and now had finally marched those of us who survived to the side of the ravine, my tiny nephews and nieces walking at the unnatural pace of the feeble, hobbling elders I’d assisted up the road.
This forced march was supervised by our neighbors, people who cursed their difficult lives and had for centuries looked with superstitious ignorance for someone to take it out on, to make pay. These captive fellow citizens of Vishnevitz had been ordered to murder by conscripted German men brainwashed by a madman in a society conditioned by generations of militarism, conformity and war. The Ukranians collaborated gladly, having the chance to freely pour out the hatred and humiliation that had been boiling in them for generations.
They made the night stink with their drunken anti-Semitic songs and their infernal banging to cover the groans and cries. I tried not to look at them, what was the point? There was nothing to say. Why give them the satisfaction? Humans, these were not exactly that. The deadly play was written in blood and shit by people who hated themselves, murderers.
“Goddamn it Vasily, I hate this fucking life, I curse my goddamned mother for bringing me into this fucking life, Vasily. Give me the goddamned vodka, Vashke, and we’ll do what we have to do. Fooh! It tastes like your stinking spit, Vasily. That’s OK. It’s good. Let us do what we came here to do to these fucking kykes, OK.”
There was no point to run, nowhere to go and the old people and the children couldn’t run anyway, there was nothing to be done, no expression to even have on your face. Running would only provide a moment of challenge and excitement for these reptiles, and they have excellent depth perception and three dimensional vision, reptiles. I said nothing, my face two eyes, a nose and a mouth. I flattened myself into two dimensions, both eyes on one side of my profile, fuck you, reptile.
Why invent the time machine for this particular trip, I cannot say. Pessimism is wrong, nothing good can come from it. It is not always right to be optimistic, of course, but hope is a better mistake than hopelessness. In a world of miracles and atrocities there comes a time to simply sit with your head in your hands sometimes. It just is what it is, as they say and, as I did not make the world, I just live in it, for whatever time I am given.