Sunday, April 29, 2012

Burned Out Bad Dream Joan Didion Semi-Sadness

Sunday, April 29, 2012—Long Beach, California

Deep into my end-of-semester push. By the end of this coming week I will be done with just about everything except grading papers and tests. I’m nearing complete burn out, but now that I can see the finish line I’m getting a little burst of energy that should carry me thru. My main problem is my inability to focus on this work; it takes me forever to get anything done because my mind is relentlessly looking for any other content to fill it. Same old stuff I deal with every semester, especially in the spring. It’s worse this time, though, than I can remember it ever being. I’m not sure why exactly that is. Maybe it’s just because I’ve had to work harder this time out than usual.

Still feeling strange overall, blank. It’s not as bad as before, mainly because some of my blankness has been replaced by a strange bitterness that's begun seeping into the edges of my life. I’m not sure what this means. Perhaps it’s just the frustration of being overworked and unsure of my immediate future. A few days back I was complaining of the facile nature of my dreams. They’ve gotten more substantial lately, as well as more unpleasant. They’ve taken place in strange places. The most interesting of these was a Honolulu that wasn’t quite Honolulu, where some sort of crowded festival was going on, which was in part populated by a perplexing combination of people from my past, most importantly (in regards to the amount of time of their appearances) an old professor, who, for some reason, was entrusting me with getting him a publication deal for his latest book, and an old girlfriend, one who really hurt me, who was there just to open old wounds it seemed. This latter character really disturbed me. For years she’s appeared in my dreams as the cruelest of torturers. But over the last couple years she’s emerged as someone who plays dreamroles that aren’t entirely painful. In some dreams I’ve fully forgiven her (and myself) and feel true affection for her, true compassion for her predicament. In this dream, though, she was back to her old vicious ways (and I was back to my old defeated groveling). I have trouble seeing this as anything other than a backwards step for me, or at least a revelation concerning how far forward I’ve actually come. I really thought I’d moved past all that. When will that wound ever finally be cleaned out so it can fully heal?

A realization: My dreams lately are both wildly disorienting and constricted at the same time. I can’t imagine a worse combination. Dreams are just life turned inward are they not? Recent life turned inwards to be recombined with and filtered thru past moments, past pain and confusion. (And hope?—that must surely be in there too. Though I distrust any joy in my dreaming, out of fear that it's something I’ve developed as a defense mechanism to avoid examining that which has hurt me—paranoia or common sense or both?).

Read Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The White Album over the last couple of weeks. She’s a good writer, original. But she’s bleak, willfully so; I can’t accept most of her conclusions. She seems to be continually hurt and strangely surprised by people’s short comings. She also seems to accept day-to-day American culture as something more than it is, as something in which deeper answers might lie, which of course means she’s always disappointed, bereaved. She never goes very deep in regards to certain very important things, into history, prehistory, ecology—the places where the real answers must lie; she tries to understand the cake by digging no deeper than the frosting. She’s also strangely elitist, in that she spends lots of time in fancy hotels ordering room service. She also seems to always be around the most boring types of rich people, Hollywood types, old-money idiots. More frosting instead of cake. Still I’m enjoying her (though I need a break from her work). There’s something worthwhile going on with her stuff, that I can’t quite yet articulate.

Too much reading. To many harsh or banal dreams. I need sunshine and sweat. I need to get the hell out of here. I need to run thru naked thru the hills for a while—for a good long while: like the rest of my life.

Listening to Sam Cooke’s Nightbeat as I finish this. It’s sounding so good, so on target.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Early Morning Thoughts

Sunday, April 22, 2012—Long Beach, CA

Twelve-thirty in the morning. I’m lying in bed eating a bowl of oatmeal (I’m hungry and there really isn’t much else in the house) and listening to Desert Shore, by Nico. It’s incredibly original and striking music; it’s one of the few albums I never get tired of. Trying to relax after a long day of grading and doing other school work. I really had to fight thru this work. I’ve felt exhausted almost since I got up today. Mind fatigue, mostly, I think, mainly because later when I finally had some time to myself and was able to do a little reading and listen to some music I felt much better. I’m beginning to wonder how much of the deadness I now so regularly feel is due to the fact I spend so much time not doing what really moves me. Soul death as a byproduct of a too much of the wrong kind of work. Of course that must be true—to what point is of course the question.

Thinking about my reading lately, about how all over the map it’s been. I’m wondering if this might too be a symptom of the trapped fatigue that makes up so much of my daily life. What I mean by this is that it could be that my reading lately might be a kind of desperate flailing, a semi-conscious search for a way out … of so many things. Since this view has come to me I can’t come up with any good argument to counter it. Escape fantasies are normal, healthy, in the right doses (and if they’re not mistaken for reality). I’m a reader, so fleeing in that direction would seem to be exactly the route I would and should take.

While I'm on the subject of reading … I read at the IVC Earth Day poetry reading the other day. It wasn’t too exciting. It was mostly just some students and teachers reading works by other poets, very obvious poets—Langston Hughes, Emily Dickenson, Robert Frost … (though the work of Gary Snyder and Ezra Pound popped up). This caught me off guard and disappointed me a bit. I just assumed that the reading would have something to do with Earth Day and would feature more original work. It was nice to read after having be off the stage for so long, though; it made me want to get out there and really do some more serious readings. My friend Steve in Sacramento suggested trying to get something going up there this summer. Thinking seriously about that again.

Mellowed out my reading list my settling into We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live, which is a thousand-plus page collection of Joan Didion’s non-fiction. Strangely I see this as a continuation of my Raymond Chandler phase I just went thru. It’s hard to explain what I mean by this. There’s the California baseline, of course. As well as her odd pessimism and general disappointment with what we’ve built in this part of the world. There’s something similar in the prose style too, the clean simple sentences and the small subject matter that turns out to be vehicles into much bigger concerns. Think I’m going to read The Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo, by Oscar Zeta Acosta (who was the model for Hunter S. Thomson’s Samoan lawyer in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) next, which is a book I’ve been eyeing for a long time.

OK, I’m really out of it now. Time for sleep.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Moving Forward

Tuesday, April 17, 2012—Long Beach, CA

Feeling a little better than yesterday (not that I take back anything I wrote—it’s all quite accurate). My cold’s almost gone and I should be able to get eight hours sleep tonight, which will be nice. Realized I made mistake and the Earth Day poetry reading is tomorrow. Looking forward to that. The main reason I’m feeling better, though, is that I’m now sure that I won’t get the teaching job at IVC. Now I’m free to move past that place and start making more interesting plans. I also found out that I have two classes at Santiago Canyon to teach in the fall (and no 7:00 AM class this time around!). If I can hang on to a class or two at IVC I’ll have the base income I need to begin transferring my life completely into the literary realm, which is of course what I’ve been wanting all along. I think part of the reason I’ve been feeling so out of sorts is that I was attempting to push my life down a road that it shouldn’t be heading. Now that that road has (likely) been blocked I can see this more clearly. What next exactly? I don’t know: the transition could take many forms. I just know that certain big changes that have been a while coming are already starting.

Not much else to say. The next few weeks are going to be stupid busy, tests, lecture writing, etc. Then things will suddenly open up. I can’t wait to make decisions on Greece (I first need to know what my fall status at IVC will be). Really ready to tackle Sunshine Seas. It will be a warm summer book and a warm summer, both artistically and in real life is exactly what I need. Tired of being burned out. I want a week of sleeping in late, hiking, going for long bike rides under sunny skies, and writing. That is my current vision of paradise.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Flat As A Board

Monday, April 16, 2012—Irvine, CA

I’m back again. Feeling compelled to write here regularly all of a sudden. Maybe I just need to write and due to time constraints this is all that’s available to me now (at the moment I’m sitting at my desk in class waiting to give a test). I think there's more to it than that. Feeling a little odd recently, like I often do at the close of a semester only more so. That I’m burnt out is a given. But it seems to be more than that this time around. I’m feeling very out of touch with myself, like I need some extended time for contemplation. There’s something not right in me. I’m going in a million directions at once and all of them interest me up to a point, but none seem to give me much satisfaction (look at my reading list lately—everything and everywhere).

Looking back at that last sentence. Realizing that it of course means that I’m looking for something, in a very scattershot manner (which is of course what one does when one senses that something is missing but really isn’t sure what it might be). The best way I can describe the problem it to say that I feel really flat inside. (Really, Rob—that’s the best way you can describe it?) OK, let me try that again. For a while now I’ve felt kind of soulless. Or at least that I’ve lost touch with certain basic aspects of myself. Perhaps that’s not quite it. For so many years I was driven by certain problems that no longer exist for me. Maybe I’ve never been in touch with certain aspects of myself. Maybe I mistook those problems for the person who existed beneath them. Not sure how this is connected to the bigger picture, but lately I’ve found myself very annoyed by how pedestrian my dreams are; they seem to just skitter across the surface of my subconscious like a rock skipped across the surface of cold winter pond. A ten-year old could interpret my dreams these days: all I do bat around petty concerns from my day-to-day life (traffic on the way to work, deadlines to meet, etc.) in the most facile way. My dreams are so dull and pointless that a few times recently I’ve woken up disgusted with myself. “Is that all you’ve got in there, Rob,” I might as well have said. “Is that all there is to you?”

There’s an old saying that goes in order to write poetry a person needs to be in love. Lately I’ve had the faintest stirrings of poetic expression surfacing in me. I’m wondering if this means I’m entering a new phase or if I’m just dealing with the final fumes from something past. I’m not in love with anyone or anything—that would involve a kind of connection that I’m incapable of participating in right now (though I do love in a more agape sense). I spend most of my time dealing with a been-there-done-that feeling; nothing really excites me. This goes into the realm of sex too. Whereas I used to look at (certain) women and feel desire, sometimes to the point where it was all consuming, now I simply see trouble, hassles, the boring prospect of having to wade thru their issues (it took so much out of me to move past certain problems of my own that I simply have no energy left to do the same with others, which makes me feel kind of shitty about myself). Wondering if there’s something "wrong" with me or if this is just a natural outgrowth from the way my life has evolved. Or maybe this is just what getting old is all about—the dissipation of passion and urgency. (It’s hard to accept that being in one’s forties is old, especially since there’s a pretty good chance that I could be around for another forty-plus years. Then again, during most of our biological evolution we rarely lived out our potential lifespans, so perhaps there was little in the way of selective pressures pushing vibrancy after one’s thirties—from a reproductive point of view, which is the only point of view that matters in a Darwinian sense, we now live longer, in some cases much longer, than we have any reason to).

Or maybe all this has to do with my lack of time to create. That is what I do, who I am. So when I’m stuck spending my days and nights doing that which is not me I in a sense don’t exist. That’s part of it for sure—but I can’t deny all the other stuff I’ve just written about. What it comes down to, I guess, is do I need to break thru to some new understandings to regain my passion, my love of life, or do I just have to accept all this and somehow learn to love living a life that rises much above a low simmer and on many days is all but turned off. (Or I suppose I could land somewhere in between, where I do make some breakthroughs to new passions, but never really feel things to the degree I once did.) A pointless life is pointless. A very Gertrude Stein-like conclusion, but of course perfectly accurate. It’s also where I’m at, or nearly at, at the moment.

One other point for me to consider. Several years ago, when I first started re-grounding myself after coming thru the worst of all my days I felt pretty much what I’m feeling now, only more intensely. I did a little research then and saw that I was suffering a lot of the symptoms of post-traumatic-stress disorder. Maybe that’s still what I’m dealing with; I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve just gotten so used to those feelings that I’m not recognizing them anymore as being something other than just me, than just what life is. I’m still alienated from most people. I’m bored and feel (know?) that nothing I do will relieve that feeling to any real degree. It all seems pretty much the same as it was then, just at a lessor level. Maybe I haven’t moved beyond that. Maybe I’ve just learned to manage my personal and social dislocation.

What a drag.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Following Up

Sunday, April 15, 2012—Long Beach, CA

Still sick. It’s turned out to be a relatively minor head cold, but it’s still a drag. At least the sore throat has mostly gone away (I hate sore throats by far more than about any other cold/flu symptom). Even though I’m feeling better I’ve been having a lazy day. Other than going to the grocery store and putting in some work on the Edgewater cover I’ve just been lounging around the house, listening to the Angels game (they’re down 8-5 to the Yankees as I write this) and watching a little TV. I have a lecture I really need to write, but I’m not feeling it. I’ll try and get a little start later on it, I think, and then leave the rest of it for tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow, I’m going to be reading a couple poems at an Earth Day poetry reading at IVC at noon. I don’t think it’s going to be a big deal, but it’s been a long time since I’ve read in public (a few years, at least), and it will be nice to do that again. I’m a little worried about my voice; my cold’s made it a little ragged. But like I’ve said it’s only couple of poems, so I’m not stressing it. No matter how it goes it will be a nice way for me to get back out into the literary world. It’s been far too long since I’ve read, far too long since I’ve published. I’m now fully ready to get my work out there. It would be nice to look back on this little reading as the beginning of something much better.

Not much else going on. Between my IVC interview, work, and getting sick there hasn’t been much time for anything else. I’m still getting very antsy about not having time to work on Sunshine Seas. I’ve had some ideas for essays I’d also like to explore a bit. I know, though, that I just have to be patience, that a few weeks from now I’ll finally be free from my grinding schedule. Still reading Chomsky, Gary Snyder, and finishing up On Bear’s Head, the Philip Whalen book I’ve been reading. Feeling a little better about the interview I had Friday (I still think it went like crap, but I’m caring less about that). Ready for summer. Really ready for summer.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Stupid Day is Stupid

Friday, April 13, 2012—Long Beach, CA

Had my initial interview for the IVC job today. It was an incredibly awkward experience. I was put into a cubicle where I had to do a twenty minute writing assignment. Then I went to another room where I gave a teaching demonstration to the hiring committee. Then they all asked me pre-written questions that I’d been allowed to peruse earlier. I don’t think I fared too well. From beginning to end I felt cramped, trapped. I’m not sure how this format was developed, but I can’t see how it could possibly lead to the choosing of the right person. This makes perfect sense, though, in that ever since I started teaching in community colleges I’ve noticed how the teachers with the full-time jobs so often seem kind of dull, mediocre; the part-timers I work with are almost always the most vital and creative. I’d thought the job itself had crushed the life out a lot of the tenured teachers, but now I’m wondering if the hiring practices favor the uninteresting, those who can steer their way thru an hiring system that seems almost designed to take away one’s personality and punishes those who have a bit of an edge and need a little room stretch before they can take off and soar. Feeling bitter about the experience. Though I am very unsure if I even want the job, I would have liked to have been able to show who I truly am in the hiring process and have that person be accepted or rejected. Perhaps my feelings about all this show that I really shouldn’t be trying for this kind of job. I mean, if I felt this trapped in the interview how would I feel having to do the job itself? I need something more free, something more dangerous. Cushy academic positions simply don’t fit my nature. I’m a writer—what the hell am I doing playing anthropologist?

The fact that it’s been pouring rain all day hasn’t helped my mood either (I borrowed my mom’s car today so I wouldn’t have to take my scooter and be all windblown and wrinkled for my interview, so I got lucky and wasn’t rained on too badly). I’ve also now got a sore throat and am generally starting to feel a crappy. Hopefully I can fight off whatever it is I’m getting; I’ve got way too much to do this weekend to be sick. What a stupid day today. I just want to forget it. I think I’m going to read a little Philip Whalen and Noam Chomsky, watch the midnight rerun of Family Guy and them get some sleep. Aloha April 13, 2012—you will not be missed.

Stress and Confusion

Thursday, April 12, 2011—Orange, CA

Exhaustion. Craziness. I decided to go thru with the IVC interview, in some respects against my better judgment (I finally just came to the conclusion that I’ve gone all this way with the process so I might as well finish it). I called up the school on Tuesday and my interview is set for tomorrow morning. The lack of warning adds to the stress in some ways (I had to throw together a teaching demonstration on early hominid evolution in just an afternoon), but in others ways it helps with the stress because I don’t have a bunch of time to sit around thinking about things—I just go in and do it and it’s over. I’m still very uneasy about what this all might mean for me. If I get this job does that just make me a part-time writer or does it give me a base to pursue my art full bore largely free of financial restraints? Am I making the same mistake I almost made when I was planning to do my Ph.D. at UC Santa Barbara: the trading of my literary self for an academic paycheck? Can I be a full-time teacher and a full-time writer at the same time? Or can I blend anthropology and my writing so tightly together that they’re both different aspects of the same thing (which is what I’ve sort of done with Backwaters of Beauty and Mother Earth).

There’s of course a very good chance that all of this emoting is over something that will not happen. I still think that my odds of getting this job are about twenty-five percent—at best. In fact, based on my qualifications I really shouldn’t be getting it; there are a lot of people in the application pool who far outshine me, at least on paper. But I’ve noticed over the years that people often tend to get these jobs for odd reasons, for reasons that have more to do with how the person who has the final call on the hiring thinks the applicant will fit in personally with the department. So who knows. As of right now I’m incredibly conflicted. If I don’t get the job I’ll be disappointed—and relieved.

Not much else going on. Having to prepare that teaching demonstration on the run has thrown me even further behind on school work (the next few weeks will be a blur of lecture/test writing and grading). Hoping to dig out by the end of this month. I’m really chomping on at the bit to get some writing done. Been reading Chomsky on Anarchism, which is a collection of essays and lectures by Noam Chomsky (who else would it be?). This is adding to my trapped feeling, my hatred of heirachy and regimentation. I’m ready for big things in my life—but can’t get out from the day-to-day dream crusher banalities. Feeling tired. Weird.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Writing on the Run

Sunday, April 8, 2012—Long Beach, CA

Digging out from an avalanche of busyness. Tests, papers, lecture writing. I’ve hardly hard time to do anything but work for the last couple of weeks. I don’t like it when it gets like this: It’s very easy for me to lose my center when I’m not writing (even if it’s just here), when I don’t have much time for myself. I’m hoping to have things a bit more under control by the end of the week. Unfortunately I could also see it going on until the end of the semester in the middle of May. I’m definitely burning out this semester. I want it to be over.

Speaking of school. I received an email telling me that I’ve been granted an interview for the full-time job at IVC. I have to decide by Tuesday if I want to go thru with it or withdraw my name. I’m leaning against it. I don’t want to teach anthropology in Orange County for God knows how many years. I want to write, maybe get second masters in English, teach literature. I’m bored and tired with the day-to-day aspects of my life and I want to move on—and taking a full-time position doing what I’m doing now would be the opposite of that.

There’s some good stuff going on too. I’ve corrected the Edgewater galleys and have just finished painting a picture for its cover, which I think turned out really well. It’s a kind of impressionist watercolor/gouache of two palm trees done mostly in rose and black, with some sepia ink mixed in into to provide some depth and variance. I think it really captures the feel of the book. I’ll hopefully get it scanned in the next day or two and then finish off the designing the book cover. If that happens the book will probably be printed up and ready to be released by the end of the month. If it turns out like I think it will it’s going to be a cool looking book.

Not much else going on. Somehow I’ve found time to do some bike riding and weightlifting. I feel like I’m starting to get in pretty good shape (I’m still not drinking—it’s been two months now—and that’s definitely helping. I’m still having a bunch of digestive issues, though.; no matter what I do with my diet they don’t seem to get any better. I’m going to give it until the summer and if there’s no improvement I’ll probably make an appointment with my doctor.

Been doing a bit of reading. I’ve gone on this big jag where I’m rereading a lot of Gary Snyder’s poetry. So far I’ve gone thru Axe Handles, Mountains and Rivers Without End, and Regarding Wave and I’m in the middle of Turtle Island. Next up is Left Out in the Rain, which I just bought a copy of (I read a library copy years ago). Still reading Philip Whalen’s On Bears Head. I’m really enjoying it. He has a freedom to his verse, to his process of writing that I’m love to have with my poetry. His much closer to a true free verse than any poet I’ve ever read: there are few formulas and self-imposed (sub-conscience) rules in his work. I’ve read a couple pieces from my Paul Shepard reader as well, along with a few chapters of Huckleberry Finn, which haven’t read in at least twenty years. Been writing a little bit too. I’ve been picking away at Sunshine Seas (I can’t get the sustained work time I need to really make much progress, though) and most interestingly I’ve turned out a couple little poems. I haven’t written any poetry since 2009 and I hope these pieces will lead to a resurgence in that area. Lately I’ve been really missing writing poetry. I’ve also noticed that my life tends to be a touch out of sink when the poems aren’t coming. Poems for me come when I’ve come to conclusions about things. If they come back it surely means that I’ve finally made some decisions I’ve needed to make for quite a while.