On the Cusp of Yes and No
The coronation of King George has passed, and we are a poorer nation for it. We have chosen our course, our curse. It is easy to look at the larger national picture and see where things are headed (barring some unforeseeable intervention by God or other, wiser powers), but perhaps this is only true because there is a media to amplify and reflect the will of the fascists along with a sense among people that all of it is out of our hands, anyway. I long to feel the same certainty about my own life, to see where it is going with as much clarity as I see the fate of my nation. How confident I would be in my decisions if I had yes men and women all around, a giant publicity machine churning out adoration and affirmation, and $40 million to throw a party for myself!
But down here in real life, we do not have scripted roars of approval or syncophantic disciples or rich daddies to bail us out. We have our questions, our consciences, our variables and complexities. For a long while I have been struggling with the sense that life is a textile of sorts, that the trick is to figure out how to have all the strings (survival, job or work, lover, friends, family, individual interests) woven together at equal intervals and tension, so no one thing, if snagged or knotted, completely upsets the fabric. Too much pulling on one string and the entire pattern is skewed. Much effort has to be made to soften it back into a pleasing whole. In our quiet, humble lives, we are forever weaving and being unwoven by people or events or forces from deep within our own fumbling souls. Maybe I have had only a part of the picture until now: suddenly, it seems the primary occupation of life is to learn the patience of Penelope and the adaptability of Odysseus. Sometimes, in our dark nights, we have to take out the razor and slash our lives apart before we understand that a new design is forming in us, one based on the progress of desire and intention. It's a risky business.
When I left my stultifying but secure job as a manuscript editor, one of my biggest fears was that I would have a hard time getting back on the gerbil wheel of employment. After all, we are told over and over that the best time to look for a job is when you have one. I'd be dependent! I was middle aged! What would I do with my time?! (My hours have never been richer.) A towering fortress of fear and propaganda stood between me and the unseen source of my siren song, but I was hungry enough for excitement in my life to take my chances. The résumés I now fax and mail into oblivion and hand out to friends and acquaintances feel like little tiny arrows striking a stone edifice. Boulder-sized silences vault over my head from behind the wall. Flying past, they make a sound much like "I told you so." I have become less adept at putting myself out there and wanting to convince people what an asset I would be to their enterprise. I also live in a big city now, where I lack the advantage of being a familiar face with two decades of network built up around me. The surprising thing for me is how excited I feel about being forced to find a new warp and weft for the things that are mine: my thoughts, my abilities, my contradictions, the causes of the effects I live with moment to moment. Maybe I will never have a "real job" again. A lot of people don't these days. I'll have to be creative, stitch together something entirely different than the pattern that was handed to me when I was born into the middle class at the tail end of the Baby Boom.
I am reminded of a sensation I had as a child–an uncertain time if ever there was one. I cannot connect the sensation to an actual memory of a time or place: it is more like a image describing me to myself right now. I am standing at the edge of a river, holding on to a rope that is frayed and knotted by years of use and exposure. I don't know if it will hold me, and I'm scared. But something in me rebels against the fear, and in an instant I run forward, holding tight until I am out over the muddy, churning water, and I let go. All I know from there is that gravity forces me into the stream. I cannot see whether I swim or float or am pulled under.