Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tithe for the mill

I've become somewhat of an excuse factory of late. I didn't write last weekend. I thought about it, over the course of days, but when the rubber hit the road, the words failed to reached the page. Among other things, I'll have to work on that.

Family was in town recently, a lot of it. People I couldn't differentiate from the kind of stranger I might meet in an elevator or at a bus stop. But they said they knew me, remembered me. They said I looked like my parents, not either one but both of them, like I was some sort of mashed together amalgamation of my father and my mother. I spend time in the mornings staring at my face, and when I shave, or whenever my eye catches a reflective object. Another instance of having to take people at their word.

One specific family member, my aunt, and I went to lunch together. She asked me questions, and since no one else was around, and the place was dimly lit, lacking those pesky mirrors that I hate, I earnestly tried to explain to her the peace-less me. We didn't get very far, though. Her first question was what my books (which she had tried to read, but had failed) were about, and why I had written them. That took up almost the entirety of our time together. On the plus side, when I was done she seemed satisfied, if a bit changed over the ordeal.

Over the next few days, I went back to asking questions, of myself and others, rather than answering them. One I got stuck on was the dilemma of the genius. The question makes one choose between distant alternatives, virtually endless and definitively posthumous success versus more immediate and terrestrial notoriety. To struggle for the entirety of one's life, receiving rewards long after death, or being a more immediate spark, mundane but successful, a name forgotten by everyone moments after the casket kisses earth. I've yet to find anyone who would volunteer for the latter in lieu of the former. The religious man has the conscience of his after life to revel in the glory of his first one. The defiant man has his pride, the dignity of dying on his feet with his chin held high. Well, I did find one person who might've settled for the latter, but I only spied that mirror once, and have yet to revisit it.

That same aunt told me she was proud of me, that all in my family were proud of me. I could tell she had been waiting to say it, like it was on a checklist she had written while her plane was in flight. I asked her what I had done that was so deserving of everyone's pride. For her, it was more about things that I hadn't done. I hadn't fathered a child before I was ready, I hadn't ended up in jail, I hadn't dropped out of school. I told her maybe everyone's standards were just too low, however I did thank her. I thanked a friend as well recently, when he told me that he was proud of me, too. In an effort to move forward, I'm going to try to be worthy of these kind sentiments, even if I don't agree with them. Even if I can't see myself.

For these query letters, the next step in my professional development, I'm going to imagine the best version of myself, and how he would write them, and how he would send them. To live is to change, the saying goes, and to be perfect is to have changed often.

Change is hard, though. It is a grating, constantly difficult activity, but it is best accomplished stared in the face.

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