While we’re all twiddling our thumbs waiting to see the new world rising from the shambles of the old, I meditate this morning on the men and women in uniform who put their own sanity on the line every day to deal directly with all things insane. It should be pointed out that many of them keep journals. Writing things down feeds a human head the appropriate war medicine so it can poop out the bullshit and properly digest what’s truly important. Verily, it is fibre for the mind. Forgoing a regular voiding of this bullshit is the leading cause of a condition unofficially known as mental constipation, with symptoms that include frequent compulsions to run around like a chicken with its head cut off. Suffice it to say, there is no room for headless chickens in the armed forces. Generals and admirals don’t always publish their memoirs, but they will oft write those memoirs regardless, because they have to.
“Good Christ, a Jewish man with parents alive is a fifteen-year-old boy, and will remain a fifteen-year-old boy till they die!”
– Philip Roth, Portnoy’s Complaint
I lost my mother earlier this year, shortly after the winter solstice. My mood about that varies with the alignment of the stars on any given day, for my relationship with her was complicated. To put it mildly. She was a rule-enforcer. A dogmatic one at that. More the type of parent to tell me not to do something than to do it. Always more terrified of the possible negatives that could arise from any given situation rather than excited about the possible positives. So I grew up with the feeling that I couldn’t really rely on her as a life coach; I had to look well outside the home environment from an early age to find my inspiration. My mother’s level of depressing merely intensified as she got older, and would leave this world fearful, angry and miserable after a mere sixty-nine years. A slow horrible death, by all accounts.
I’m still struggling to come to terms with living in a world without my mother in it. She’s been an omnipresence in my life for so long that her absence is almost shocking. It’ll take a bit more time for the shock to wear off, methinks. Some days I’m fully comfortable living in this new world, and other days I’m so uncomfortable with it that I willfully go looking for love in all the wrong places. But if I ever have one of those days when I just can’t deal, it helps to write something. The written word oft proves to be my salvation. Just the act of tapping away at the keyboard puts me in a better frame of mind. The words I write occasionally even shine a light on something I’ve never considered before, even if I end up deleting them soon after.
Due to its potency, and the bevy of perils that could possibly be wrought from its misuse, methinks written prose should ideally be allowed time to breathe prior to consumption. Like a bottle of wine. Or this guy’s brain. Take your pick.
Specifically, it is foolhardy to publicize a written work on the same day it was composed. You have to sleep on it at least once before entertaining any vague notion of letting somebody else read it. At the (very unfortunate) risk of sounding like your mama, a good night’s rest assists both the body and the mind to purge themselves of waste. Which is kind of important. After a good mindshitting, you’re a new (wo)man. You can approach your work with a clearer conscience. This is something my crazy boss never understood. The one with the magna cum laude degree from Harvard who went insane and stabbed a dude. Sleep was taboo to her. She could never be bothered to excrete her own mindshit because she was too busy running the world, and eventually found herself with a massive pulsating backlog of that ectoplasmic goop which ruptured all over the news.
The work itself likewise needs time to sit and rest periodically. Sometimes the best thing to do with a project is put it off to the side and not fuck with it for a while. Just let it age, like Kentucky bourbon. A quote that’s stuck with me for many years is that enlightenment is like a cat. If you chase after it, it will run from you. But if you remain still and free your mind of expectations, the cat will jump right into your lap. It’s good that I can just allow the cats to come to me now, after many years of working for somebody who was always insistent on chasing them (and extremely hostile towards any suggestion that chasing them might not be the best way to go). One of those cats just told me to leak more information about the nature of the Environment in the chapter I’m editing now. But not too much.