DATE: 8/18/2004 11:09:00 AM
The Allmighty Dollar
This morning the traffic on Rte 3 was backed up from Rte 128:
To the Lowell Connector:
And I sat on the highway for almost 90 minutes, while the sun pummelled my hair through the window and the air conditioning kept getting too cold, icy hot, sweet and sour, watching the cars around me and daydreaming about a post-apocalyptic landscape in which millions of motorists were zapped out of their cars by neutron bombs that stole their flesh but left their cars and personal items, down to eyeglasses, perfect and intact, in other words, dreaming of a world in which something, anything but Groundhog Day was happening.
Thinking about the story that I'm supposed to be submitting for a fiction collection (not the Red Sox one, another one) that was actually chosen out of the blue from an online writer's workshop. It was something I submitted back in oh, God, was it March? That long ago? I had forgotten about the stupid thing, and then all of a sudden there was this happy person from the website saying your story has been chosen semifinalist blah blah blah. So finally last night I dragged it out and looked at it, and well, there's a reason why I haven't looked at it in months. Some stories are just stillborn, and this one is a miscarried mess. I hate the sight of it. I think it sucks.
And yet I can't bring myself to say fuck it, you guys go on without me, I'll just pass up this opportunity to get published because I think my own story sucks. Then I remember something Trent said in an interview once about how he doesn't want to make any music that's not a crime not to release to the public and I think, well I've got to have some standards. But but but but...on and on like the cell ostinato from Beethoven's Eroica Symphony.
I saw an acquaintance the other day that I hadn't seen in months and months, and we were exchanging pleasantries, and he of course asked me about my job, and I answered honestly, saying I was a Marketing Director for a manufacturing company, and he asked what exactly that entailed, and I didn't want to give him the impression that I was all that impressed by my own job, because I'm not, so I just said, "Well, one thing I'm doing is re-designing the website."
Which is true. Except I'm not just redesigning the website--I'm restructuring and rewriting and realigning the whole thing, not just slapping some HTML up on the Web. This involves writing and research and just about every skill is not within my fucking job description. Just because I want to spare people some long-winded monologue about my job doesn't mean my job is completely useless.
But this acquaintance, he raised his eyebrows, and he said with a snort, "Is that how you justify your 40 hours a week?"
Especially because you might be right.
How do I justify my life at this point? Am I being young, having fun, drinking Pepsi? Or am I completely wasting my time? After all, if I'm going to die at 50 (which is conceivable, after all, any of us could die at any moment), my life is already half over. What if I were to die at 30? We're 80% there.
I mentioned this theory to K, and she stared at me and gave me a "Wow." that told me that maybe I shouldn't share sometimes. But here I go again. Sharing.
This morning after my traffic ordeal I sat in the conference room, ha ha, Buffy, sipping coffee, ha ha, Buffy, talking with a consultant, oh yes, Buffy, listening to him talk about strategic marketing initiatives and product development plans and state-subsidized training and doing the old nudge-nudge wink-wink about the services he could get us from this or that state agency, stabbing his finger into a demonstration sheet and half-yelling with excitement over marketing and consulting and the state's efforts to "create and keep jobs in Massachusetts."
And I thought, as I watched his eyebrows furrow and heard his tone grow more and more excited, what part of my soul has to die before I am this person?
I mean, is this stuff supposed to be interesting to me? Stimulating? What am I doing here?
What am I doing in general?
On the one hand, I want to slug anyone who acts like I should be disappointed about my job. I get up, I drive to work, I put in my 40 hours, justified or not, and I pay my goddamn bills. There's nothing more you can really expect from a person. People much older than me tell me continuously that I'm too serious, that I'm too hard on myself, that I should be smelling the roses.
On the other hand I'm in a vicious cycle. I hate my own writing, and yet without further life experiences my writing will remain bloodless. My biggest problem right now with fiction is that I come up with characters I admire, and have no story. No plot. They're all dressed up with nowhere to go. I start hating them, hating myself.
And yet if I don't work...
If, if, if. I'm so tired of if.
So how do I justify my 40 hours a week while all this is going on? This is how, at least for now: after enduring several stages of humiliation each and every day, I pull into a parking lot and walk to a back door and up some stairs and put my key into the kitchen door of a beautiful little apartment that is mine. And inside it, most nights, is the man I love, waiting for me.
Listen, you nay-sayers, at least half of my own brain included: every night I have the luxury and privelege of sleeping in a gorgeous Queen-sized bed under a down comforter in a plush carpeted bedroom with the man I want to spend the rest of my life with. That's how I justify my 40 hours a week. Thanks.
What's your excuse?