That's Something You Don't See Every Day, Chauncey

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Archive for February, 2010

Only you beneath the moon or under the sun.

Posted by kozemp on February 14, 2010

It’s Valentine’s Day again, and in what I’m sure is a surprise to no one, my official position is this:

Bemused indifference.

I… wait, “bemused indifference?” What? That’s not right. This is supposed to say –

CUT! Cut! Cut. What’s the problem?

My script is wrong.

What’s the problem with it?

It says that my official position on Valentine’s Day is “bemused indifference.” That’s wrong. It’s supposed to say “fuck Valentine’s Day.” It’s said that for years.

Yes, well, it USED to say that. That was on the blue pages, the OLD pages. If you would ever deign to attend a production meeting you would know that the pages you have there, the PINK pages, are a new revision.

The pink pages.

Straight from the writers’ room.

And they think…

They’re much happier with this.

They think I can SELL this?

They, and indeed all of us, have supreme confidence in your abilities.

All right, I’ll see what I can do… we’re still rolling? We can edit in?

Yes, yes, yes, whenever you’re ready.

All right.

So, my official position is this: bemused indifference. And though it may not be readily apparent from the start, this is a positive step.

Don’t get me wrong. Valentine’s Day is still pretty horrible. The holiday itself hasn’t changed any. It’s still a twin-chambered pressure cooker of scorn and fear. The fact that Americans willingly subject themselves to this sort of thing does not engender tons of faith in the future of the species. Valentine’s Day is the crazy girl in high school who started smoking cigarettes and cutting herself because she read Thomas Hobbes and completely missed the point. It is ritualized self-immolation. Valentine’s Day is the closest thing you can find to organized sadism on a societal level.

The thing of it is, though, I don’t care. And I don’t mean that in some sort of apathetic slacker way. I still find Valentine’s Day pretty distasteful; when I say “I don’t care” I just mean I don’t take it personally any more. The burning, roiling anger I used to feel every February 14 is just… it’s just gone. I don’t know where it went, precisely, but good fucking riddance. I won’t miss it.

I realized not too long ago that I have finally gotten to a point where… how to put this… where, for lack of a better term, I am finally where I’m supposed to be. I’m not talking about my job or school or my 401(k) or whatever. That stuff is outside, ephemeral, meaningless… it’s all bullshit. None of that matters. I’m talking about (points to head) up here and (points to chest) in here.  I sit here at this keyboard and think and work and generally dwell in the bizarre little world I’ve constructed in my head over the years, and for the first time since I can remember it’s actually pleasant.

All the terrible things I’ve carried around for years and years and years, at some point in the last year or so I just let them go. This is not to say that they’re forgotten – I don’t think I could forget them if I wanted to – but the grip they had on me is finally broken. It took more than ten years but for the first time my brain isn’t addled by booze or pills or cigarettes or emotional baggage.

It’s like…

The last time we visited my father’s Uncle Al in Florida before he died, back when I was in high school, he had just had cataract surgery a few weeks before we got there. After we arrived and my mother asked him about his surgery his eyes widened in a giant smile and he threw his hands up in the air and started shouting (he is, remember, one of my father’s relatives): “good GOD, Teresa, it’s like night and day! NIGHT AND DAY! I might as well have been blind, Teresa! BLIND! I drive around and it’s a whole new world! A WHOLE NEW WORLD, by God!”

It’s like that.

(And not just because Night and Day is one of my favorite songs.)

I know why, of all days, I used to get so terribly angry every Valentine’s Day, and it’s not as though I have since pulled a Sam Beckett and set things right. The difference now is that instead of wounds that reopen every year, those memories are old scars anymore. Scars I can deal with. I have, in a strictly literal and non-emo sense, more than my share. A scar is just a reminder, and a painless one at that.

The piece I used to repost every February 14 had a line in it: “That’s the lesson I learned from Valentine’s Day, what happens when you keep making the same mistakes over and over again.” I read it now and kick myself a little over the fact that I never grasped what is in retrospect a fairly obvious irony; that getting so viciously angry every Valentine’s Day was precisely that, making the same mistake over and over again. I look back, not just at Valentine’s Day but at so many things that I spent so many years and so much effort being so mad about, and I wonder how I couldn’t see what a terrible, terrible waste it all was.

One of the things I do find myself especially reminded of on this Valentine’s Day is an old girlfriend. For however much we cared about each other – which was quite a bit – her and I were far too different to ever really go the distance. She was a harsh realist and I was an artist at the height of my hypersensitive-artiste phase: it was never going to work. (I’m still an artist, just not so hypersensitive about it anymore.) A little while after we broke up we were talking and she asked if I regretted anything about the relationship and everything that came after.

I told her, “I wish I could show you the world I see.” Had I been a little older and a lot wiser I would have realized that is, of course, all anyone wishes for, to find someone else who will look at the world in the way they do and say, “yeah, I can go with that.” Sometimes they’ll say can. Sometimes they’ll say they can’t. Sometimes they’ll say can and not mean it. Sometimes they’ll say they can’t and not mean it. Figuring out which is one of the few truly universal human experiences; as Death once said, “everybody wonders. And sooner or later everybody gets to find out.”

(For the record, the world I see is a fucking doozy.  Compared to the dreary plane of existence most people dwell on, and the horrifically dreary realm of bills and rent and car payments and work and nothing else that old girlfriend lived in, my world is a neverending Sambuca-fueled Technicolor nightmare. It is at a bare minimum about ten thousand times more interesting than your world.)

And – this is the hard part, I know – sometimes it’s going to work, and sometimes it’s not. In fact, most of the time it’s not, and when it doesn’t it is going to hurt like nothing else in life ever has or ever will. You live with the pain and the misery for a while, and even though it seems like it will never end eventually you move past it and keep going. The problem – and this is what I did for years and years – comes when you don’t move past it, when you keep it close and hot. You do that your pain becomes the splinter from the Witch-King’s blade, slowly poisoning you as it inexorably moves toward your heart. It’s so easy to fall into that trap, to mire yourself in sadness for so long that it becomes comfortable and even desirable, but I am telling you right now: it’s not worth it. That wound takes so much more time and effort to heal than it does to cause. Trust me. I know of what I speak. I know better than anyone should have to. Don’t do it.

It took me a decade to learn something from my mistakes. Don’t take that long. Life is so much better once you do.

Why wait?

JLK

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