Sunday, May 17, 2020. Some progress. First, as expected, it took some time to recover from the disorienting debilitation of the night shift and the learning-curve-induced, too-much-information hangover of a new, mostly physical job working and walking miles on a concrete floor. Then, I had to attain some semblance of a reliable schedule, so as to be capable of properly compartmentalizing employment chores from my real life. That my schedule at the home improvement is in fact maddeningly variable – one day it’s 7am-2pm, another day it’s noon to 6pm and still another day it’s 4pm – 10pm (ugh!) – is just part of the slog. Even the full time folks endure such unpredictable schedules, so be it, who cares? It’s all about the cash.
The noteworthy news is that Angie found her mini Australian Shepherd puppy. Or, more accurately, it found her. Which is how she had described the sense of having to let go of the idea before being contacted by breeder yesterday. She’d become frustrated getting on all the waiting lists and filling out all the personal bios and otherwise enduring the freaky adjudications and absurd obsessions of many of the professional dog-breeder types – one woman telling her she wouldn’t be comfortable selling a dog to Angie because we’d returned Chase to his breeder (this lady clearly knowing nothing about the challenges of Canaans as compared to the roundly good natured Aussies). And as if having had dogs and having done the research and agreeing to blow two or three grand on a breed doesn’t represent enough of a commitment. Anyway, yesterday, out of the blue, Angie got a message that a puppy was available and it happened to be from a breeder relatively close by – just outside of Lansing – and who is listed as an agricultural breeder versus all the AKC bullshit. So that while the animals may not be gorgeously refined examples of their breed, they’re at least bred in the working farm environment, thereby with as good a chance as any to have an agreeably healthy personality and constitution. It takes a good bit of luck to get a dog that fits so we’ll see; it’s all a risk but this seems like a reasonable one to take. And this pup is only $700 versus the $2,500 or even $4,000 . Here she is, a so-called red tri-color, at four days old, eyes yet to open:
Her working title, as it were, is Ruby (Angie’s idea) which may stick but this time too, we’re keen to allow her to name herself, to not make her name official until we’ve lived with each other and her name comes naturally. You find yourself coming up with something that fits, somehow, eventually, and we’ll do that. Of note, this breeder doesn’t dock tails – he was keen to point out that the cute white tipped tail would remain. In another nine weeks or so, then, if all goes well, we’ll give it another try with dog ownership, this time with a more reliably domesticated breed (with which Angie has had a couple years of experience by way of borrowing the neighbor’s dog), and at the same time I’ll hopefully have my audiobook coming out. Meanwhile, by then, perhaps we’ll have relegated the virus bullshit to its deserved place in dust bin of history and life will seem less fraught with impossibilities and attendant frustrations. If nothing else, we’ll both be doing our best to be who we are and to set ourselves up for success in life, each according to our own VAPM, come what may. A self-assured, neighborhood compatible, trainable, companionable dog for Angie (even me) and a hot-selling audiobook that more than pays for itself, wouldn’t that be a crazily positive development?
DOP1 2012 VINTAGE POST:
Wednesday, May 09, 2012. The design of our apartment is such that the entire north wall – twenty-five feet across and nine feet high – is a window, top to bottom and side-to-side, comprised of three large plate glass sections, each 5’ 9” wide by 6’8” tall, and three “hopper” style windows below. Additionally, we have a large balcony open to the west and north. Needless to say, light pours in like nowhere else we’ve ever lived. We’re on the second floor, and I can sit here typing and look out at the sky, the parking lot below and a suburban tree line in the distance. In all, it’s an expansive, even arresting view and it never seems to get old. The perspective is such that the sky dominates the scenery, its broad horizon, vertical reach and imposing atmospherics constructing the character and emotional dimension of each and every day. Night, which, as in all urban environments, never really becomes dark, obfuscating, behind a sleepless, artificial, round-the-clock industriousness and crepuscularity the glistening architecture of the firmament, still manages, on a stormy night at least, to frame itself in cinematographic drama: boiling, black-on-black thunderheads raking blue-white arterial bolts into the deluge or, less frequently, a rainless choreography of silent flashes and distant, grumbling thunder.
I’m reminded of our life in the pan-flat Texas Gulf Coast, where the sky was also the dominating aspect. Always big and wide, the blue is so clear and bright it hurt your eyes, and so constant, day-after-day, that the sun began to seem intolerable, beleaguering, like a blight, your openness to it transforming, inevitably, into an inconsolable longing for clouds, rain, and even storms – anything but that relentlessly uniform clarity. Eventually of course, the clouds finally came and were welcomed, even the sometimes heavy rains that flooded the roads and engorged the concrete bayous – shunting the foaming deluge safely beyond the city. The lightning shows would often last for hours, especially at night, sometimes in a windless silence and clearing off by dawn, so that it never even rained before the frustrating red ball of the sun rose, again, against its blueing background. Only once or twice a year it seemed, did a storm coalesce into a drenching, wind-driven threat and it was those times of course when the foreboding potential of a hurricane rose in your mind like an animal, as if the ocean was at work, which it was, and not just the sky, and you were humbled into praying for the immediate return of those empty skies you were suddenly no longer tired of.
Despite the grace this apartment has offered and the cultural advantages of Ann Arbor, it’s become a city that no longer sustains me like it used to. I still want out of Michigan. I’ll probably never get over the magic sense of potential that getting the fuck out of Michigan gives me; this state has simply never felt like home and someday I’m going to leave it behind for good. Meanwhile, I know it does me no earthly good to dream dreams of how my Houston fiasco could’ve turned out differently, or to long for some form of atonement with that place; it’s energy wasted.
Why do I turn to look back? The Bible famously tells the story of Lot:
“Flee for your life,” said the angels to Lot, his wife and two daughters; “do not look back.” But the woman paused to look back and saw that on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah the Lord was raining fire and brimstone. They are now beneath the Dead Sea. And she was turned into a pillar of salt.
The metaphor appears also in China, within the myth of Chieh, the legendary and notorious last ruler of the Hsia Dynasty, approximately 2100 B.C.:
The legend tells next of another solitary lady, unnamed, dwelling by the river Yi, who, discovering herself pregnant, dreamed that night that a spirit spoke to her. “When water comes out of the mortar,” it said, “start running east and do not look back.” The next morning water was coming out of the mortar, and, warning her neighbors, she hurried east. But she paused to look back. Her city was under water. And she was turned into a mulberry tree.
When your last salvation comes, by whatever grace you’ve managed to earn, by way of your god, your destiny or your personal legend, the opportunity to live out your myth will not suffer you to take to satisfy any curiosity about the outcome of that place and time that you’re provided the opportunity to leave; the metaphor declares that it’s somehow tempting fate to do so. You are not to look back because it is not your place to witness Divine wrath, you have no legitimate part in it; nor are you to demonstrate the same lack of faith that inspired that wrath, to question the outcome or seek verification beyond that of the bestowing of the fateful words themselves. Nor are you to otherwise indulge in a sense of retribution or justice beyond that of being granted escape. You are to act on faith, as pure-hearted a version as you can manage.
The Texas sky I remember is beautiful, and maybe that’s what I’m allowed to take with me, without looking back. I can’t live in two places and live a great life. I can’t repair my biophycomythological schism by obsessing on the drama of the injury or the wound or the scar. I can’t learn the lesson of the myth if I can’t mythologize the event into its larger importance – its mythic dimension. Cherish the grace you find yourself within, try your best to have faith in something beyond yourself, in the Mystery if nothing else, and the life that is waiting for you.
Friday, May 11, 2012. Another in a string of biophycomythologically challenging days. I wake up, start my day with breakfast and coffee and look out the window. I’m usually in the mood to write something, so I do that. Whether I’m scheduled at zmo or not, it’s the same: I feel guilty. Guilty because I’m not bringing home the bacon so to say – I’m not doing my share of the heavy financial lifting. Angie has to make all the money for us that matters. My $8.25/hour at zmo isn’t really even worth it. A lot of people at zmo feel that way I think, at least the ones who had higher paying jobs in the past. I’m not the only one that made over eighty-grand a year and now makes in one week what I used to make in one day. In general of course, money doesn’t matter, so long as you are having the experience of being properly alive. But the selling of your time matters. When the rewards aren’t commensurate with your efforts, biophycomythological schism is inevitable.
In the past, I’ve made enough money to live a comfortable life in a good place, with a good amount of good-quality “stuff” to surround myself with. I’ve never quite made as much as Angie but by now, had I been able to stay with JCI, I’d be over $100K annual I’m sure, just like Scott, the EHS director told me some months before I was fired. I’d have some cushy job, albeit in some horrible refinery, with an easy day of providing “safety training” or supervising those who gave it, filling in spreadsheets, writing write-ups of whatever reports the folks who supposedly read reports like to read. I’d be in a lot of meetings, go out to lunch with folks from work every fucking day, battling the gut-bulge and body-bloat that the big, salty, middle-of-the-road, “quick-food” restaurants churn out. I’d like half the people I work with and hate the other half with a burning passion. I’d get worked up (less and less as the years went by) and worked over; I’d get passed over for promotions and nash my teeth or how much money somebody without my skill-set and experience was making and who was in charge of whom instead of me, me, me. I’d wish, more and more each day, that I could just go do something that I enjoyed, that I had more time off, paid or not, instead of grinding out the dull, heart-killing, soul-crushing days on the job. I’d have some title. And an increasing handful of health problems, mostly related to stress and bad food. I’d know exactly what was coming just about every day until I found myself in my sixties, or more likely, my late fifties, being pushed out the door by my ever-loving corporate benefactor, to make room for a younger, less expensive, newer version of myself. It wouldn’t be my choice; it wouldn’t be on my schedule; it wouldn’t be according to my plan. It would just be some brief meeting my boss would have with me, during the middle of the week, probably soon after the holidays, in an ugly office, me in my ugly workplace-casual clothing, the fluorescent lights, the window-office view, the twenty-year-old reconditioned office furniture, and the dusty computer keyboards as my witnesses. The nameless, faceless grind of a career, my career, would be over, unceremoniously, quickly and quietly. Like the movie About Schmidt, starring Jack Nicholson, where he’s a sixty-something insurance actuarial sitting at his desk, looking at the clock on the wall as it ticks away the last minute of his last day at work. Except, unlike Schmidt, I’d skip the last-minute after work “retirement party.” At GM, they preferred to send you off with a humiliatingly shoddy and indifferently attended lunch-time cake-and-ice-cream session, maybe with a greeting card. The worst part, and I’ve already experienced this: not being able to recall a single meaningful day at work, as if the ocean of effort and time expended upon your work had yielded less than a fucking thimble-full of accomplishment, let alone fulfillment.
Ugh. What dribble. But it’s true. It’s what I think about my work – all of it – prior to being escorted out of that refinery in Texas City in 2010. So when I wake up here in A2, in this nice space, with a nice view, a part-time-temporary job with one of the best food companies in the world, with a crazy new business idea and a tiny group of hh followers looking forward to their last h-cheese hoagie next month, my name in one of ari’s books, enough money to engage my vocations, the time to write, cook, walk, audiophile and phycomythologize, my family, a few friends and my health, I can see that I’m okay. Being here, now, is good. Great? No. That’s the next step, re-creating the vision-of-greatness. Because “good” is not enough. I got started on this rant this morning after looking out at my truck, which is parked outside this picture window and thinking, with pride, “That’s my nice truck.” And then immediately thinking “Someday it’ll be a hunk of junk, and I’ll still be driving it because it’s the last vehicle I’ll ever be able to afford to own.” (More fucking dribble).
I write this shit because it’s the only way I know to make it real and to “right-size” it – to empower my heart to take charge of my endlessly questioning, often despairing mind. I’m so pathetically storm-tossed by the world-of-action – so susceptible to anxiety and despair as I sit between the past and the future. “Being in the moment,” being mindful, doing, unattached, the work you have to do just maybe is how to relieve Satre’s nausea and the Baghavad Gita’s grief. I have experienced bliss, I have felt that stillness where the past and the future are not relentlessly pulling and pushing me – twisting me like I’m some piece of existential taffy. I’ve experienced relief from the grief. Campbell’s advice is to stick with it. Hold on to that and if you lose it, try to find it again. I need to just keep allowing myself to slip back less and less – to not let my personal legend and my biophycomythology – who I am – become diminished in the world of action. I can simply go about my work, which includes sitting here writing these words, unattached (or at least as unattached as I can manage today). I’m already in the life that is waiting for me but I just so often fucking refuse to accept it – to see it. I’m working on myself and it’s paying off. I’m here with the time and enough money to do what I want to do. Worrying about where the money’s going to come from next year, what’s going to happen or not happen, is where the grief comes from. Writing this, I’m working, I have a job, such as it is, a vocation, though it doesn’t pay, and it’s as legitimate as any other job, any other form of work going on in the world; it’s what I do, what I must do to be me.
The alternative – schism – is known to me, because I’ve lived it and because I’ve learned from the lives of others. Don’t turn back. Don’t fuck up the E + R = O equation by using an “R” that you know, through experience, doesn’t work. Don’t pour more energy into trying to overcome the resistances in life – try working equally hard on lowering the resistance part of the success equation. Don’t add complexity where it doesn’t belong – accept some success and learn to better recognize it and acknowledge it when it comes – it won’t necessarily look like what you expect it to look like. Get a good relationship with whatever your limiting beliefs are – for me it’s usually money. Eliminate the running internal commentary that says I can’t have money; I don’t deserve money; money is wrong; money means you’ve compromised; money means you’re inauthentic. That’s all bullshit – money is just a fucking tool and always will be for anyone worth having it. Discard your fucking plan and live the life that is waiting for you. I talk to myself this way, writing – declaring – the same maxims over and over again because I must. I want to live out my myth. I want to walk the razor’s edge to enlightenment as far as my myth takes me – all the way to transcendence or to whatever stop along the way I’m meant for.
Why moving to 3439 has shaken me and Angie up so much is difficult to answer, but it certainly has. Angie’s struggling probably as much as me, I can tell – she’s not herself. The “dangerous” part of walking the razor’s edge is indeed the falling off part. Desire and temptation. The shock of realizations and the refusal of the call. The not surrendering and going only part of the way. The cashing out and cashing in. The faltering courage. Ignoring, over and over again, what your heart is telling you. Expecting a different result from the same response. Being impatient for the outcome of your deeds. Finding out just how fucked up you actually are and how it never ends, this process of managing yourself through your biophycomythology – of being who you are.
While writing this morning, I’ve had to “beat back” the nagging feeling that I’m wasting time, that I should be doing something else, something more important, that I need to “get going” and do something worthwhile. Look at me: I can even turn my vocations into a chore. Like walking for example. I look at the great sunny day outside and think, God, I’ve got to get out and walk instead of wasting this good weather. When what my heart says is, This is great sitting here writing, being inspired to write, thinking things out and spending the morning in this way. There’s time for walking, listening to music, cooking dinner, working out, working at zcob, reading, working on the s&b, checking email, drinking coffee, drinking a beer, meditating, doing kundalini and creating a vision of greatness. There’s all the time I need to all my things if I simply mindfully choose to do them. Hugh MacLeod delivered good advice on being creative, pointing out that you have to make it easy on yourself to respond to the muse, to be self-possessed enough to do something else when your inspiration takes the inevitable hiatus, and to have some faith in, or tolerance for, its eventually return.
If you have something to say, then say it. If not, then enjoy the silence while it lasts. The noise will return soon enough. In the meantime, you’re better off going out into the big, wide world, having some adventures and refilling your well.
Also, being creative requires some getting used to:
Back in 1989, I was living in West London, house-sitting a family member’s lovely little flat over the summer. In the flat above lived the film director Tim Burton, who was in town for a couple of months while he was filming Batman: The Movie.
At the time I was in my last year of college, studying to go into advertising as a copywriter. One night he and his wife came over for dinner.
Back then I was a bit apprehensive about doing the “creative” thing for a living…in my family people always had “real” jobs in corporations and banks, etc., and the idea of breaking with tradition made me pretty nervous.
“Well,” said Tim, “if you have the creative bug, it isn’t ever going to go away. I’d just get used to the idea of dealing with it.”
It was damn good advice. It still is.
What-the-biophycomythological-fuck? I’ve had three Facebook likes for hh this week and I just get an email today requesting the hh cart for the Dixboro Farmers Market. I get more interest by doing nothing in food than I ever got by working my guts out doing everything else. With the dreadful exception of course of that doomed EHS job inquiry from Houston. I’ve got to think this shit over: is the hh cart thing just another tangent-to-the-plot “shiny object” thing like my EHS “career” or is it the call? I’m always a sucker for attention and I have a hard time saying no to adventure of any type. My heart knows and the answer may be “no” but damned if I don’t go round and round for good long while pondering the cause and effect of it all. Ari’s good at the “no.” And he separates his interests from his commitments. If I don’t want to fire up the cart past next month’s camp bacon street fair, then I shouldn’t, regardless of all inquiries. Folks are looking for carts at food events all the time now – that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing for me. Often, they’re just desperate to fill slots and if you’re a working cart, they’ll give you a shot. They say they want “quality” but that’s so tough to do from a cart and that’s what sucks about it all for me anyway: the way I do it now, it essentially costs me money and if I try to set it up otherwise, to be potentially profitable – no farmers market will be looking forward to a cart charging $12 per sandwich. At least I don’t think so. I’ll ponder this. If it’s a call to adventure – if it’s me getting my “hook in” with my boon, I can’t tell – this type of stuff is more biophycomythological taffy-pulling. So I’ll take time to think it over, like I did with the Camp Bacon IV invite. I’m not adept, not yet anyway, with making sense of some of these offers that life makes. I’m not solid enough with my biophycomythology (and my vog) to make a quick yes or no right now. Which points again to the need to fire up a vog that I can irr from – this type of shit screws you up when you’re not clear on your vision of the future. Saying yes or no becomes an angst-ridden high-wire act and it doesn’t have to be. If I want to sell that cart then regardless of what the world appears to want, then I should sell the damn cart. If I want to continue food-carting as a hobby, because that’s all it’ll ever be, then I should do that. In the end though, I should shut about it all….
 Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God: Oriental Mythology, (New York: Penguin Compass, 1962), .393.
 Hugh MacLeod, Ignore Everybody…, 100-101.
 Ibid., 120-121.