In God’s House

The challenge is to resist circumstances. Any idiot can be happy in a happy place, but moral courage is required to be happy in a hellhole.

—Joyce Carol Oates

The thing about anxieties is that they don’t go away so much as migrate to other areas. You can never really stamp them out, and even if what you’re obsessing over is, on its face, ridiculous, it’s hard to just forget about it and move on no matter how many times you’ve been through this before. So forgive me if I’m even more self-pitying than normal here, but I’ve been in kind of a reflective mood lately. The holidays are right around the corner, and I’m starting to understand why they’re so stressful for so many people. I mean, the whole point is that they’re fun and festive, right? But it doesn’t seem to go that way for most people. I’m not buying anyone gifts this year. I found a second job (it’s seasonal, but still), which will hopefully enable me to make ends meet for the time being, but beyond that, I’m out. Right now, I have to look out for myself and no one else. It’s just where I’m at.

The crazy thing, of course, is that now I have to fight the urge to indulge in all those things that I’ve been holding back on lately. Even with my income nearly doubling, my personal budget sheet is going to be only slightly in the black. I’m not sure how long it’s going to be before I can move back to NYC. I’m hoping to do it by next fall, but at the rate things are going, who knows? This is one of those cases where I wish I had one of my optimistic (or is it fatalistic?) friends around. You know, one of those people who says, “Oh don’t worry, if it’s meant to be, it’ll happen.” I hate that attitude, but it can be rather comforting. I think the universe is a pretty cold, indifferent place, but it’s not completely without order. I also have to figure out what’s going on with my healthcare and other such adult things. I was not happy as a child, so all things considered, that’s kind of a step forward. Even so.

prayer in schoolMy problem isn’t that I’ve never been able to accept responsibility; it’s that I’ve never been very good at kicking back. It’s part of the reason that I spend most of my time off sitting in my room dicking around on my computer: after a long, hard day of doing shit, that’s usually all I have the energy to do. And I’m still not working nine-to-five, which is good, as I don’t want that kind of schedule and likely never will. I think part of my fascination with religion comes with my inability to function in the gritty, messy reality that I live in. I like to think of myself as pragmatic, but since I’m an obsessive perfectionist, I’m probably more idealistic than I care to admit. Some of my favorite co-workers back at the coffee shop weren’t even particularly good at their jobs; they were just fun people to be around. I don’t know how much fun I am to be around, but I try not to let every tiny slip-up at work get to me the way I used to. My father said once that 90% of success is showing up. It’s one of the few valuable things he taught me.

In case it’s not obvious, I’m starting to wind down. I’ll keep writing these posts for a little while yet. I think I am finding better ways to communicate with people than blogging. This thing still doesn’t get many hits, but as I’ve said many times, I don’t even know who the fuck reads blogs anymore. These days, it’s all Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, or what have you. Nobody gives a shit about WordPress. In a way, it’s liberating to know that you have a small but devoted group of followers. It means that you don’t have to work as hard to keep everyone happy. I finished 30 Rock not too long ago. Maybe the reason I like that show so much is that it’s unafraid to include jokes that are so specific and obscure as to appeal to only a tiny percentage of the population. Jenna had a line at one point that was like, “You’ll have to move to the Bay Area. Have fun always carrying a light sweater everywhere.” I know millions of people live there, but still.

I have found that people tend to use their free time more efficiently when they have less of it. This is not at all surprising. I’m working full-time now, so I don’t have too many days to just sit around doing whatever. It’s only natural that I might miss that. Then again, part of my problem in the first place was that I had all this time to do nothing and no idea how to fill it. I loved computer games as a child, but even I could play them only for a few hours every day before thinking I should find something else to do. I actually did spend a lot of time with my friends in those days, it’s just that everyone seemed to think that because I had no obligations, I had nothing to worry about. It doesn’t work that way. My pursuits at the moment are still fundamentally selfish. I’m not looking for a job that will make other people happier, just one that will pay the bills and not bore me to tears. If it benefits other, great. But my motives are not altruistic by any means.

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Enigma

douglasThe difficulty with anxieties is that they make you feel nervous about decisions you’ve already made. You get really nervous because you’re seeing your significant other later, and as much as you love them, you almost don’t know what to do with them now that you’ve got them. If you’d dated or gotten laid a lot while in high school and college rather than pining for your friends and masturbating incessantly, maybe you would have an easier time processing this. But since you’d almost gotten used to spending all that time alone, it’s disorienting to have the option to do something else. And of course, there’s sex. Where would we be without that?

I’m still single, by the way. I’m just spitballing.

There’s been talk of making Blood Meridian into a movie for years now. It’s one of my favorite novels, and arguably Cormac McCarthy’s masterpiece. It’s a challenging piece of work. For one thing, it is unrelentingly violent. I don’t think then pages go by in that book without somebody getting skinned, shot to pieces, or their head bashed open on a rock. It’s not exactly beach reading, is what I’m trying to say. For another thing, its point-of-view is, if not nihilistic, certainly more interested in portraying evil as something that is immortal and eternally destructive than in telling the kind of story in which the good guys win. Since the story consists of a bunch of cowboys going on a killing rampage across the Southwest, I’m not even sure if it has any sympathetic characters. Actually, that’s not true. The kid (the nameless protagonist of the novel) is somewhat sympathetic, but only because he kind of just goes along with what’s happening rather than actively encouraging it. With a story like that, you kind of have to take what you can get.

I’m not sure who you would get to adapt such a book. Badlands-era Malick could maybe do it justice, but I doubt he’d want to now. The Coen brothers could probably do it, but they already adapted one of Cormac McCarthy’s books (No Country for Old Men), so perhaps they wouldn’t want to do go there again. Werner Herzog, maybe? Resurrect Klaus Kinski and he would make an amazing Judge. I’ve probably spent too much time thinking about this.

I’m on the last season of 30 Rock. It’s easy to get caught in the trap of taking things too slow when you realize that you’re enjoying something. I love 30 Rock. I think it’s one of the best sitcoms ever, but I’ve seen only a couple episodes of Seinfeld and haven’t watched Cheers at all, so I clearly have a lot to learn about that. There’s a line in Battlestar Galactica where Adama says that he likes the book he’s reading so much that he doesn’t want it to be over. Part of the reason I read, like, five or six books at once is that it’s hard for me to focus on something once I realize I like it. I’m not prolonging it so much as missing the forest for the trees. Because I have fallen into that pitfall of reading something just so you can say you’ve read it or watching something just so you can say you’ve watched it. And you can’t do that. Because then you’re just counting the pages/episodes until you’re done and then you can move onto the next new thing. I might look more composed to other people than I actually am. All I know is that sitting down to actually watch/read something, even and especially if I like it, is way more difficult than it should be.

The thing about 30 Rock is that it is not much concerned with either plot or character. It’s a joke machine, that’s all. When it’s on a roll, it will have you pissing your pants, clutching your sides and howling with laughter, because it is the kind of show that can fit a brilliant sight gag, one liner, and obscure pop culture reference into the same moment. Even the worst episodes have at least a handful of good jokes, and from what I’ve heard, the show went out on a bang, so I’ll be excited to get there. I have so much else to watch, after all.

It can be difficult to reign in your own weird impulses when you’re the only one in control. Especially when you spend 95% of your free time in your room. I’m talking about myself here, in case that’s not obvious. One of my high school English teachers was fond of reading some of our essays aloud to the class. The high points came when he read the bad ones and made fun of them, but he read the good ones as well, and wouldn’t you know it, mine were often featured. Except that one time I didn’t even do a very good job of exploring the topic; I just wrote a really entertaining (albeit) weird piece and he gave it the highest grade in the class because it was nothing if not memorable. Again, it’s easy to go up your own ass when you’re the only one calling the shots. It’s part of the reason I think Kubrick’s last masterpiece was A Clockwork Orange. The man was a genius, but to call him a control freak is putting it mildly.

I’m listening to Rent as I write this. It’s not bad. I listened to it as a high school theater nerd and thought it was the best thing I’d ever heard. I don’t still feel that way, but I sympathize with Mark, Roger, and Maureen. Maybe they are entitled assholes who don’t contribute anything. But they’re trying to. Roger’s music sucks and I’m not sure if Mark’s movie would really be any good, but honestly, who are they hurting by squatting in that loft? (Also, I saw somebody play Maureen as a dumb blonde once. It worked surprisingly well, especially her performance piece, which is actually really funny.) Benny doesn’t need the money; he can let his old friends stay there for nothing, and at the beginning of the show, he’s asking them to pay rent on the year they’ve already stayed, which seems like a half-assed way of trying to throw somebody out. I know people who hate that musical. I think it’s overlong and sentimental, but still powerful. Maybe I’ll think differently in another ten years. Then again, maybe not.

Suddenly, I have so much more respect for One Direction.

What’s Left of Me

I think what you do is amazing.

—Sherlock, “Elementary”

Forgive me for giving this post such an emo title, but bear with me, it has a point. You see, I’ve reached a point in my life where the lack of socializing is starting to get to me. I’ve been here before. I reached it during my sophomore year in college and felt that way both for the few months before I left for grad school and much of my spring semester of grad school. (For some way, I tend to get this way during the spring. Maybe this is why spring is my least favorite season.) I know that you have to be patient if you want to get what you’re looking for. I know that it takes time to build up any sort of meaningful relationship. Unfortunately for me, patience is like a muscle, meaning that it gets stronger very gradually, and only after you’ve worked it really hard. I want my life to get better, and I want it to get better now. For now, there’s, I don’t know, In-N-Out Burger and Captain America, I guess.

The funny thing about change is that it happens very slowly, then suddenly all at once. You spend years and years working towards something, then before you know it, it happens, and you don’t know what to do with yourself. I keep thinking I’ve reached a point where my family is finally going to respect me, but then they say or do something shitty that has me wondering if they heard a single thing I said. From where I’m standing, it looks as if they’ve assumed that since I’m related to them, I’m going to put up with whatever they do. And that’s just not how it works. If they want me in their lives, they are going to have to act like people that I want to be around. It’s that simple.

Perhaps my isolation from other people, whether intentional or not, helps to explain my fascination with religion. I’m thinking of reading Ecclesiastes next, which is very short, and contains the famous line, “Men come and go, but Earth abides.” (Incidentally, Earth Abides is the name of a terrific post-apocalyptic science fiction novel by George R. Stewart. Check it out.) After all, faith in something that cannot be disproved is comforting. More than that, it gives people hope. I’m not looking for a reward in the afterlife. I find the idea that after we die, those of us who were good get to live in some perfect utopia while those of us who were bad get to stew in a lake of fire rather simplistic. I just think that while I’m sitting on my ass with nothing else to do except wonder why my father asked me to clean the bathrooms while he was away even though he cleaned them himself not one week ago (maybe he just thinks I’m idle because I want to be?), I might as well find some way to occupy my time.

calvin memoriesI used to not understand what the above strip really meant. In school, I was always a model student. I was the sort of person who would get right up in the teacher’s face about daring to give me an A-minus. It took me a long time to let that go. When I first read this one as a child, I thought Calvin’s behavior was reckless and irresponsible. Looking back, I think he had a point. Calvin may be a conceited little brat, but the reason he connects with so many readers is that he has the courage to ask questions that nobody else does. What is school for, anyway? I’m not saying it’s not important. I have two degrees. Mountain of student loan debt notwithstanding, I’m glad I did that. Reading this, I flash back to an argument I had with parents as a child in which I asked them if I could let the D&D session I was hosting run a little long, and they shot me down because my sister and a friend had to do a science project that night. I got upset. My father (sort of) threatened to kill me if I didn’t let it go. Yes, I suppose it would have been unfair to keep the session going, seeing as how my sister and her friend had been planning to do this project for a while. But my parents didn’t even consider the possibility that time spent with friends doing something that stirs the imagination and is fun might be more important than some dumb fucking project. That’s a problem.

I’m not a happy-go-lucky person. You can probably tell just by reading the title of this post. I can’t help but see everything in abstractions, as if everything that happens to me holds the key to understanding human existence. I can’t not have deep thoughts; all of my thoughts are deep, and I wish I knew how to turn that off. And since I don’t have a middle setting, people who meet me tend to find me either withdrawn or a little much. But whoever you are, you can’t stop going until you’ve actually pushed through it. I can’t wait until I have my own goddamn place again (even if I have to share it with a roommate). Enough about that for now.

I’ll leave you with a funny video. I’ve never seen more than a few episodes of “Flying Circus”, but Monty Python fans will hopefully recognize the skit that this references. Really, I don’t see the point of living somewhere if the residents can’t have a sense of humor about themselves. If I lived there, you can bet I would do a silly walk every time I crossed that street. And I wouldn’t even care if I were running late.

Why Gay Marriage Should Be Legal

I’d swing for her.

The shortest answer is: Because I’d like to get married someday. For most people, that is insufficient. It shouldn’t be. My ideas about romance are pretty old school. I like the idea of marrying someone at a young age and having a committed, monogamous relationship with them until one or both of you dies. Not everyone is into that. Given the permissiveness of the age that we live in, it almost makes you an anomaly. People don’t get married as quickly or as early as they used to. In a way, that’s good, as it means that we are starting to realize that there are many valid ways to love and be loved. But even though the idea of getting married in one’s teens to someone one has known for a matter of weeks may seem insane to us today, it wasn’t so unusual in the mid-to-earlier years of the 20th century, and some of those marriages lasted. What those couples lacked in maturity, they made up for in pluck and determination. This thing was going to work, damn it. That attitude is rare these days. Far too many couples hit a rough spot and call it quits. I’m single, but when I find someone, I’m not going to give in that easily. No relationship of mine is going to end until we decide it’s not working, one of us dies, or both.

Conservatives like to talk about how the family is the root of American society. I agree. My father met my mother when they were both working in a college cafeteria. It was, I believe, the first serious relationship either of them had ever been in. He proposed after knowing her for about a year and half, they were married a year later, and thirty-plus years later, they still seem to like each other. That’s quite an achievement. I reject the notion that Republicans hold the monopoly on family values. My family is Catholic but it most certainly is not conservative. We’ve weathered a lot together. The American right wing does not have to disappear, although there are times when I kind of wish it would. But it has to accept that what constitutes a strong unit is not defined by the genders of the people who run it. I have said before that while it is a fine distinction, I prefer to view my family as middle class rather than upper middle class. Why is that relevant? Because we don’t have that much money, just education. If I ever start a family (which, again, I don’t want to do, but who knows?), I will teach my children to value culture, curiosity, and learning. The children of the Robot King will be taught not to condemn anything simply because they don’t understand it, to believe in the essential good nature of humanity, and that there is never a good time to stop asking questions.

Is that really such a partisan statement? It certainly isn’t liberal. Christianity teaches that the only people who are unworthy of God’s love are the ones who don’t return it. For no particular reason, that sentiment makes me think of a certain Fleetwood Mac song. No, Sarah Palin, the United States is not a Christian nation, but if you really want to follow Jesus’ example, you might try using your religion to include people rather than exclude them. Why would anyone waste their time protesting gay rights? It’s not just evil, it’s pointless. Whenever I see someone on TV or anywhere else claiming that, I don’t know, faggots burn in Hell or something, I want to ask them if they have a hobby. Literally anything is more productive than that. Even strangling puppies would be a step up. There are people out there who enjoy that. No one enjoys taking away the rights of others. They do it because they are insecure, empty, and fundamentally hateful. I have spent a great deal of blood, sweat and tears building up my current life for myself, and I’m still unsatisfied with it. I can’t waste time telling others how to live. It’s too draining, and I’m tired enough as it is.

I still remember the moment at which I first knew something was up. It was Christmas, and I was spending it in Arizona with some relatives. My aunt had bought something from Abercrombie and Fitch and left the bag lying around. I was playing (I couldn’t have been older than five or six) but stopped to stare at the shirtless men on the bag. If I’d been into women, I would have known instantly what was happening the first time I started staring at someone. But I wasn’t, so all I could do was sit and stare for reasons I couldn’t even begin to fathom. There was a time when I got eight hours of sleep every night. That hasn’t happened since the fall semester of my junior year as an undergrad. It was a tough semester. I was acting in two shows at once, writing for a student political magazine, and taking two of the hardest courses of my academic career. My proudest achievement out of all that I did was going to bed at a reasonable hour every night. I should have known that was too good to last. At the beginning of the spring semester, I started waking up early with a restless leg. I kept waiting for the problem to just disappear, but it wouldn’t. Over the next few months, every neurosis and personal issue that I’d been holding back for the past few months exploded. I’d been functioning fine on my own terms, but there was a whole world outside of my personal experience. Since then, I’ve fought with friends, family, casual acquaintances, total strangers, and one person who entered my life just to make mine miserable. All of them pretend to be just trying to help, then tell me to compromise some essential part of my nature. I won’t. For two and a half years, people who think I’d be happier if I just gave in a little and started acting the way they want me to rather than the way I want to have assailed me, and no matter what they ask me to do, my answer is still no. It’s all I get.

Someday, I might wake up in the morning, look around, and feel just fine about everything. Until then, I have nothing but my dreams. They aren’t going away anytime soon.