Friday, January 13, 2012

Mellowing Out

Thursday, January 12, 2012—Long Beach, California

Strange warm winter days continue. Today was sunny and in the mid-seventies. I guess we’re supposed to start getting Santa Ana winds at any moment, which could jack the temperature up even more. It’s the middle January and we’ve hardly had any rain this fall/winter. I keep waiting for things to turn and a big deluge to come in. It may not happen, though: sometimes we go years without substantial rainfall (we can also spend a few winters in a row under water). I know intellectually that we need the rain and that I should be hoping for it, but I’m really enjoying this warm spell. Like I’ve said before, winters like this is why I stay in Southern California.

Feeling pretty good lately, less stressed. This is an especially good sign because I’m managing to remain mellow even though I’ve been pretty busy. One thing I’ve really noticed about myself in recent years is that I tend to turn everything into a job: the doings of my life all become work I have to get thru, as opposed aspects of my existence I get to experience. Another way of putting it is that I’m always trying to get thru things I have to do so I can then experience my real life. Those things of course ARE MY REAL LIFE, or at least parts of it. Last semester this attitude really spun out of control for me and I very much lost my center. A big symptom of all this is that I’ve been finding myself worrying about the future, where I’ll be in five, ten years. This is a foolish mindset. There is only now (the future and the past, by definition, don’t exist) and as long I’m living my life the way I should the future will take care of itself. To worry about the future is to destroy the present, to be taken out of the moment, which, again, is all there is. This doesn’t mean I shouldn’t plan, only that I shouldn’t sweat the potential outcomes, especially the elements I have no control over. Just write, Rob, I keep telling myself. Just write and think and dream and love and get as many good nights of sleep as you can along the way. The rest of it all just isn’t that important …

Now, as to the nature of my recent busyness … School has started at Irvine Valley, which has meant coordinating with my mom to use her car, as my scooter is still (still!) in the shop. I’ve also been filling out job applications for full-time teaching positions, to Irvine Valley and also to the Ventura Community College District, who just posted a position a few days ago. I know I’ve been hemming and hawing over this, and I’ve been leaning against going down that road, but I think I need to apply, if for no other reason than I don’t want to find myself regretting not at least exploring this option (this all may be moot—the odds are very much against me getting either of these positions). Part of my less-stressed attitude is explained, or perhaps represented by, my rapidly evolving attitude towards these jobs. Namely, I don’t really care if I get them or not. If I get one of them I’ll deal with that decision then. If I don’t, it’s an opportunity to leave teaching and go down perhaps more productive roads. Either way I know I will come out happy—I can make my life work just fine in either situation.

What else has been happening? Steve E came down from Sacramento for a few days, which was great. It’s nice to hang out with someone my own age who shares so much of my background and who is also going thru some at least broadly similar life changes. I wish we lived a little closer together. Been writing some on the “The Girl in the Orange Bikini” (I’m slightly stuck and am not trying to force it). I also finished reading The Long Goodbye. It’s a good novel, longer and grungier than any of Chandler’s other novels I’ve read. It’s been interesting experiencing how the Marlowe character changes thru these books. Thru the early novels he’s cynical, but there’s a strong streak of the hopeful romantic in him. By The Little Sister, the fifth novel, he is simply angry, maybe even enraged; the slimy side of L.A. life has finally broken him in some important way. With The Long Goodbye it’s a return to the romantic cynicism from a different angle; it’s like he’s moved past his anger, rediscovered certain good things about himself and life in general, but he’s also lost something too, his, youth for sure, but also his hope—he’ll happily take the little victories in life because he now believes that those are the only ones possible.

I’ve decided to keep this classic crime fiction phase of mine going a bit longer. I just started Playback, Chandler’s last completed novel (most reviewers consider it his weakest). I’ve picked up his collected short stories and The Thin Man, by Dashiell Hammet. I’ve been meaning to onto his stuff for a while and now seems like a good time. Still plugging away at Gay’s first Enlightenment book. Great stuff, but it’s going on a little longer than works for me.

One other things I’ve been doing is selling stuff on Half.Com. I’ve always hated “stuff” and lately my life feel bloated materially. I’d love to dump about two-thirds of everything I own. Lean and light is how I want to live. If it’s not playing a useful role in my life it needs to be pitched out the door. Hopefully over the next few months my shelves and closet will start looking mighty empty. Stuff not in use is just stuff I have to dust.

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