In response to the five people who’ve asked; I’m sorry I haven’t been writing every day. Yes, I have been reading but I haven’t been able to write a coherent review. Yes, I am depressed — although I am not sure that labelling what I am feeling with “depressed” is either helpful or truthful. So … here goes …
It’s hardly an original thought, but the line between insanity and genius is nearly indistinguishable. I have been both praised and pilloried — not infrequently by the same people — for my empathic gifts and insight, my emotional sensitivity and lack of filter, and my intellect. I’ve been struggling for some years with trying to find some balance between the howling, keening banshee self who’s determined to right the wrongs of his world and the introverted, agoraphobic, terrified child who is equally determined to remain locked away in a room insulated by row after row of books.
I am both. I am neither. I am all.
Of which I was reminded last week when visiting with yet another friend who is being compelled by life events to end her “career” that she be available to care for an aging parent. Her parent has more income and resources than she will ever have. Her parent, now degenerated into dementia, always considered her a “failure” in a world where he had been — he crowed over and over, endlessly, speaking from his position of class, race, and gender privilege — a success. She has spent her life making sure her children are positioned to have more income and resources, more chances to be a success, than she will ever have.
Income and resources. Those, we discussed. Genius and insanity. Those we discussed. Failure and Success. Those we discussed. And the thing is, this conclusion to which we have come — again and again — and forgotten — again and again — is that most of the yardsticks used to measure Genius and Sanity and Income and Resources and Success and Failure are contrived by cohorts to which we never belonged to control a world in which we never wanted to live.
Which is fine. EXCEPT, the day-to-day reality of being alive is very difficult to achieve WITHOUT having to be a part of that world and subjected to those measures; bombarded by them.
I feel failed because I never recorded a CD. I never made it to Broadway. I never went to college. I never published a book. I never found real, true love. I never got my teeth straightened. I never had defined muscles or abs. I have never finished reading Proust (despite owning six versions of his work). I wasn’t there when Sissie died. I never amassed a fortune. I have no retirement or home of my own. I have no lilac bush. I am not young.
It is difficult to convince myself that these things don’t count. It is difficult to constantly have to stay cognizant that the measuring sticks being used in this reality are virtually meaningless, arbitrary, in many ways designed as tools to control the masses, and have nothing to do with real worth. It is hard to be older in this culture. It is hard to be smart in this culture. It is extraordinarily difficult to ask questions in and question this culture.
A number of people I have loved very, very deeply have exited my life with words like this: “Charlie, you make everything too hard. I know you’re right, but, I don’t want to think that much. I just want to live.”
Like I don’t? I have wished — over and over again, in prayer, even, when once upon a time I believed in god — that I could just LIVE and not ask questions, not wonder about the whys and the hows and all of that. I wished I could go on that thing they called “faith” — but I can’t. It’s not who I am.
And, my dear friend, last week, she and I sat at a bar — where I was openly sobbing describing the last five years (if you just got a Jason Robert Brown flash, I love you) and we said, “When you get to this place, where you know the rules and the measures and the myths are just so much bullshit, what’s left?”