Saturday, October 29, 2005

I figured out what's bugging me

So I have this job with a mega mega corporation doing QA (that's Quality Assurance to the uninitiated) on standardized tests. I don't even know where to begin looking at the morass of implications I find myself wound up in--this job involves me, morally, financially, and personally with the No Child Left Behind Act, with corporate influence swaying our educational system, with the corporate sending of jobs overseas (we outsource a lot to India), with confronting the whole concept of standardization and statistical analysis of individuals, I find myself participating in the gas economy in ways I find disturbing (I commute 48 miles each way to work, that's about a tank and a half of gas a week, $50 a week) and the worst part is, none of this is what bugs me. See, I am socially irresponsible; I share this trait with my fellow americans (some of them). I even buy coffee at Starbucks, because I get up at 6 am and at the end of the drive I need fuel and it is the only coffee place near work. So. I find myself deeply implicated, and as a direct result of trying to jump off the grid, move to Big Sur, live organically and do something different.

A series of bad choices, catastrophes, and disappointments have landed me in the exact spot I did not want to be. And it's not like I even have a "family to feed"--so there's no excuse for selling out like this.

Why am I doing it?
Because I am living as a dependant in a house where I don't belong and I need to move which costs a lot in California.
Because I love the central coast and want to find a way to stay.
Because I need capital.

But are these reasons good enough?
I don't know.

But that isn't what bugs me.

What bugs me is that, in going over all these tests I remember taking as an elementary school kid and high schooler, my old dreams and certainties come flooding back. I remember who I used to be, how I hated school (after the 4th grade at least--the early grades were pretty fun) and how I vowed that once I grew up I would never, ever, ever EVER look at a bubble sheet again.

Twelve years later... Here I sit, at a desk covered in bubble sheets, and I think, and I wonder, how?
Is the burocratic gene just in my blood, like hemophaelia? Both my parents are burocrats-by-necessity.

But everything I have done or tried to do was an attempt to extricate myself, So how in the fuck?

I don't know.
I try to console myself by stopping at Moss Landing sanctuary on the ride home (I use the word advisedly) from work, but an hour with the waves and the seals doesn't quite quiet my conscience, my sense of dread, or the cold feeling I have in the pit of my throat (directly across from the lizard brain) that I will never be what I promised myself, and that I have become, by some process of naivete? stupidity? bad luck? impulsiveness? the very person I never imagined being.

So yeah, participating in the global economy, world domination, excessive consumption and a cubicular lifestyle is all very bad, but what really bugs me, what really bugs me is, here I am. Editing the very word problems that made my skin crawl 20 years ago, and still do.

And besides, I am lonely. I hoped that getting a job would throw me into a greater social milieu, but the office is laid out so that no one sees each other (it feels like a prairie dog village or a giant habitrail) and the few coworkers I do interact with are a good deal older. Not unfriendly, just unavailable. I see young people drifting in and out of the partitions, but they are gone before I can say hello.

I eat lunch alone, or at my desk. In that way, it feels a little bit like school, too.

So the terror is that I am losing the fight against my own mediocrity, that I have found my level.

Friday, October 07, 2005

on poisons

Not to sound too nineteenth century sewing circle, but I have decided that I hate that demon, alcohol.
It has destroyed, or is destroying, or will or may destroy, some of the people I love or have loved best.
It is the most corrosive legal substance I can think of. I am coming to hate the smell and the signs of it--the memory loss, the slurred speech, the stumbling, the easy tears, the terrifying instantly accessible rages, the neglect, the brittleness, the self righteousness, the self pity.

My grandmother drank herself to death. She drank so much the lining of her stomach gave way and she bled internally until she died. My uncle, don't even get me started on my uncle. Or my grandfather, or my great grandfather, on both sides, or my friends, my friends---

I tend to consort with alcoholics.
I don't know why. Genetics? Sometimes I think of the bloodline, going back and back and back (those fucking Irish) with a twin vein of 180 proof splitting through it, stumbling up the spiral staircase of my DNA, saying "drink or love a drunk, bottoms up, baby"

I love wine as much as the next hedonist. I love to get buzzed, sing loudly, talk, flirt, say stupid things that I am ashamed of the next morning.

But the regular sodden drunk, beginning at beer o clock and not ending until one passes out at 4 a.m., the whole house reeking of open bottles (a smell reminiscent, or precogniscent, of vomit) the curtains drawn, cigarette butts all over, and that thick fug of distance--that going to a country or state of consciousness that no one else can reach, the Sovereign State of Anesthesia--I don't go there, and when I watch someone else doing it, I feel terror and rage.

I know someone who has been jailed for driving drunk, jailed for 70 days, and he still does it, more than ever lately. He drinks every last genie in every last bottle and I spose he gets his wishes, I don't know.

I know someone who killed himself because he had started drinking heavily again.

It's all such a cliche. It's all true.

Tippler
Tosspot
Wino
Lush

Boozer
Alkie
Nose Painter
Drunk

Bibulous dipsomaniac
Intemperate sot

Alcoholic...

A person can't compete with an addiction. This is one of the most offensive truths of all. Love can't conquer it. I don't know what, if anything does. But I have to get out of here. It's making me sad and angry and tired and bored and furious and totally nuts.

picking up the thread

It has been a fuck of a summer. But now it really IS October, and where does the time go? My experiences with time this summer have also been totally whacked--I live in a house with so many out-of-sync clocks that the hour is always chiming, no matter what time it is, and in between the pendulums shave the seconds down to the bone. At Tassajara time expands and contracts with the turnings of one's awareness, and I noticed this time that the han (the large wooden block that one beats with a mallet to summon the monks to the zendo) was worn considerably away since I'd last seen it.

Imagine a block of wood being struck every morning and evening. It had a motto painted on it, that read something like:
Wake up!
Time is endlessly passing, beware, do not waste time!

When last I saw it you could read the whole thing. Now the last few letters of "time" are worn away, hacked off by the percussion of three years of mornings. When a han gets fully worn away (it starts with a splintery crater in the center, and erodes, and eventually splits down the middle) the buddhists have a big ceremony and burn it, I think.

What mallet has eroded my clear lettering? What splinters has time hacked out of me? And Hector, who I loved at Tassajara, who I thought of as I dodged stones in the path, as I passed his room doing firewatch, hitting the blocks together and blowing out lanterns, who I sat with and discussed "Jules and Jim" and argued with and adored, time took him, or he grew impatient with time, and or time became unbearable to him, or he lost faith in time, or time narrowed like a strait jacket, or just chopped off his head--at any rate, he cashed in his chips and he is gone. I didn't get to say goodbye.

It is ironic, I got to visit the grave of Sanchi, the wonderful Tassajara dog; I even left cheese on the grave (Sanchi loved cheese--he took his arthritis pills in it) but where is Hector? I don't know.

And to me, it became plain, seeing how others had spent their time, that I have been wasting mine, idling it, burying it, taking progress at glacial speed or not at all, though time has certainly been hammering away at me.

So now what?
A Rilke poem begins, "Lord, it is time"

I guess I should leave it there for now.