It seems I’ve taken to writing about once a month. That’s probably entirely too infrequently, but lately it’s all I can muster. I seem to be suffering from some sort of spiritual ennui that my own manner of introversion exacerbates. More simply put, I feel overwhelmed, and more than a little disconnected.
It is with no small irony that I write disconnected. If anything, I’m probably too connected, wearisomely so, to all manner of social media; I appreciate the access it gives me as much as I abhor the pettiness and the cynical snark. In short, I often find myself exhausted. Yet I have trouble pushing away from the table. In a world where we are all fighting for scraps, anywhere you can build a presence seems essential: life has become a non-stop PR campaign.
So I live my life ambivalently, embracing what I abhor. I often try to reconcile my decidedly anachronistic mindset to the modern world, some sort of Walker Percy protagonist that can appreciate but never fully embrace the world around him. I can taste something and know its quality, read something and understand the words, but there is some block inside me. There is some joylessness that I don’t fully comprehend. Some empathy that I am lacking.
There is also a cruelness — not recent for sure — that seems to become more pronounced in our world daily. There is an unbelievable amount of rage. Rage over pettiness. Rage that frightens me. Rage that seems to be fueled by despair, the notion that things can’t or won’t get better. Rage that seems implacable.
I was fed the lie of my generation, starting from a young age, that if you played by the rules and went to college, life would generally have a happy ending. It was the fairytale of our age, and the unrealistic expectations that it engendered still haunt me — all of us. I thought I was special, that there was some exceptional destiny awaiting me. I was going to be a novelist, but somehow that story never got written. Yet, quotidian as I am, I still believe, because to not believe seems to be so much more perilous.
I’ve never thought of myself as a pessimist as much as a disappointed idealist. If only — I think that often. I’m constantly walking around and taking stock — inventory maybe — of what’s around me. How can it be better? How can I be better? Can it be better? How can I help? I also take inventory of myself. The words of addiction counseling seem useful at these times. Probably the reason why I only read Infinite Jest once and will never read it again. It was just a little too much.
I prefer writing around a subject. I’m a tangentalist I suppose. I’ve never really cared for the heart of the matter, or at least not the most direct route of getting there. There is a certain lack of romance in a straight line — and as anyone who has ever traced their fingers along a woman’s side or driven too fast on a winding road knows — an exhilaration in the curves. I have an affinity for road trips and getting lost. There is a certain comforting loneliness in being directionless but still going somewhere.
It’s been almost two years since I moved to New Orleans. Years seem to go by faster now. There is a certain accelerant that age brings. It’s as if your first 25 years or so are a slow climb, the ratcheting sound of a roller coaster as it climbs to its apex, and then woosh. That rushing sound, that log flume amusement park feeling, and suddenly you’re not so young anymore, but you don’t feel differently.
I write for myself, and cook for others. Secretly, I cook for myself, too. I’m notoriously dubious of trends, whether in words or in cuisine. That’s not to say I don’t like new ideas, because I do. But I’m also skeptical of things that suddenly become hot, especially things that are rediscovered. I guess that’s the cynic in me. And truthfully, I am guilty of it myself. I am part of the wave that rediscovered New Orleans, much to the dismay of the people that were just as content with me never having stumbled upon it. And though I’d like to think I’m different — we all do — I’m part of the change in this city. For better, for worse, I don’t know.
I’m indulging myself today. If nothing else pecking at the keys is hypnotic. There is a trancelike state to my writing. But now the trance has been broken, so I’ll end with an amusing story:
As I wrote this, I only gradually noticed that the seat next to me was occupied by a woman I was 99% certain I knew, but her hair was fixed differently. Both of us were consumed in our work, but I wanted to say hello, yet that 1% of uncertainty held me back. It wasn’t until she looked up from her book and acknowledged me that we began conversing. After she left, I thought about the encounter, not so much the conversation, but how I was going to let a fear that I might be wrong stop me from being right. At worst, I could have (hopefully) been politely rebuffed, and at best, I could have made a friend.