Living in the past has some notable disadvantages for real-time individuals and characters from stories and novels. You've been around long enough to be able to provide a considerable laundry list of the disadvantages. Thus experienced and with a working plan to stay as much in the present moment as possible, you admit to having some record of past history you can consult for the retrieval of useful information.
Sunday, February 21, 2016
In a matter of days, you'll have completed your ninth year of occupancy at this blog site, itself a step forward from a history of keeping some sort of record since you were in your early twenties. This record, as you recall it, began in a datebook, with hourly indications for appointments, more or less squashing your entries into diary form rather than a true journal.
In a real sense, you've learned to move from the ultra specific datebook entry--Lunch with Fred--to the rants and reaching of late twenties, into job- and relation-related reflections, the relations running the gamut from girlfriends and work mates to such existential matters as who you wish to be when you grow up, when and whether you will grow up, and what your stand on a philosophical or existential issue might be.
Not until you reached your mid-forties, more or less the time you'd left Los Angeles for a move some ninety-five miles north, did you become aware of reaching a fork in the road, which seemed more out of the opening of Dante than you'd imagined. At about this time--mid forties--and for no reason you can now identify with certainty, you've become aware that there is a considerable you of the past you could look back upon.
You continue with the belief that there are some books you wish to reread, some places you'd like to revisit--Virginia City, Nevada, for instance--some old friends you'd like to look up, and a few drive-by ventures in places where you were young, variously bored, angry, intimidated, and frustrated. There are, so far as you can see, no debts to be repaid, no accounts to settle, no forgiveness to seek or extend, merely actions which are variations on a theme of nostalgia.
To the extent that you have regrets about the past, you do not think any of them remarkable; they are regrets for having said too much or too little, even more so, for not having learned anything from experiences, much less learned a considerable amount.
To the extent that you have the equivalent of a scout, out in the future, checking the terrain, you have hopes for learning, for understanding things you wish were more clear to you, and for experiencing things in the now in ways that will not give you future regrets for things said or unsaid, for things learned or not learned. Thus your personal calculus becomes contingent upon the quality you learn from reading, rereading, and current activities, that precise quality being restraint.
In most things, you are not restrained; you are exuberant, perhaps timid, perhaps a touch too aggressive. You are all these things at once, except in your composition, wherein you attempt the restraint of too many adjectives and adverbs, yet still using enough verbs and events so that you are not withholding material either painful to you or difficult to process, neither too defensive nor too self-aggrandizing.
Lest this seem like a desire to hide in the middle, your statement of intent here is to become adept at honing the edge of the storyteller whose message is emphatic satire to those who see it as such, but emphatic reporting for those who see it in those terms.
Somewhere in this mid-forties to early fifties time, you came upon the view of Self as a cadre of personalities which you took great joy in likening to an Italian parliament. You began to see your emerging self as an aggregate of the progressive, the conservative, the stubborn, the intransigent, the frightened, the overly critical and the what-difference-does-it-make-we're all-going-to-die-anyway cynic, presided over most of the time by the only you of which you were aware during those earlier times.
Even now, you attempt to govern yourself by an equivalent of Roberts' Rules of Order, hopeful the you who is the chairperson has developed enough patience, restraint, and vision to inspire respect even from the likes of the Inner Critic, as in You call that writing?
That multitude of political parties and agendas within you has extended, with your growing awareness of self, well beyond a two-party system, into a vast demographic. At present moment, you're comfortable with the notion that they will all at least listen to you, and that you have at least enough of the gravitas of leadership to maintain orderly discourse.
Nevertheless, there remains the you before you became aware of this multiplicity and the you who seems more sure and certain with his awareness of it. The book in progress, The Hundred Novels You Need to Read before You Write Your Own, brings you in frequent contact with that other, shall we say single-minded, you. He was frightfully naive, slow to learn. But in mitigation, he had a number of things settled within that you're entirely comfortable with now.
You've at least one hundred reasons--the novels in the title--to look back on him, even though it is your good fortune to recall how some of those hundred titles were read for the first time within this century, indicating among other things your curiosity and interest in growing, the you of now hopeful still of learning the things you were not aware of then.
In the sense of not knowing, there is the old saw of Ignorance being bliss. Happy for you, you cannot say you were blissful then or now. Perhaps more restrained, perhaps less operatic wave-your-arms-about dramatic. Perhaps someone will get the joke without you having to explain. Perhaps they will laugh, joining you in your own laughter, which is, after all, a reflexive response to a sad, existential truth.
Posted by Shelly Lowenkopf at 9:03 PM