Thursday, November 11, 2010

A lack of focus

Since I joined the faction of those who sell their minds to moneymaking ventures, I have felt, organically, my brain contract. And a strange propensity has taken over me, one that I had previously recognized in my working-world friends, but which I thought would have no claim on me: the sin of lassitude. I must have postulated that I was made of a different material, perhaps, that I was far too intellectually-engaged to be conquered, or even tempted, by idleness. How haughty must I have been.

The cruelest part, I find, is that I am fully cognizant of what is happening to me, yet I am unable to curb it. I cower before forces I no longer understand, and my control over myself, over the things that happen to me, dwindles. Mondays segue into Fridays, and the weekend catches me in a stupor. Overwhelmed by too many choices and the terror of limited time that flies, I sit in complete paralysis at the kitchen table, wondering what to eat. This seems to be my most dominant concern. Food gives you an illusion of activity and a prosaic impression of fullness. I am lured into the notion that I am doing something that justifies the time, and the neglect that I’ve shown to writing and aesthetics. And still, although the fridge is perpetually packed, and the seductive smells of your cooking never lacking, I feel empty. E-mails remain unwritten, photographs unshot, books unread. The more these undone things are piling on me, the more I cower, the sicker I get, the stiller I stand, at the kitchen table.

I can’t explain, really, why it’s not easy to simply get off my ass and do something. I marvel at my own brain sometimes, how intractable it is, how resistant to discipline. The strategies I used to employ in college to make myself study or read are inadequate now for this much larger monster that’s challenging me. That this is real life, no longer its dumbed-down replica that was college, lends my lassitude additional significance. For anything bad that happened in college, any shameful behavior, any destructive tendency, could be forgotten in the afterlife. The real world is when we start over, leaving college and its frivolousness behind. But in my case, the evolution is backward. If in college I was studious and diligent, obsessed with good time management and personal conquests -- usually intellectual ones -- it is only now, in the real world, that I’ve become prey to shopping online, reading celebrity gossip and preferring the indoors to the outdoors. That these preferences are even on my list, that I even considered them, shames me. There is no need for a greater penance than the contempt I sometimes feel for myself, the betrayal I’ve committed of what I could do as an artist, as a writer, and the time that’s stolen every day from these possibilities.

I recently received in the mail a copy of a magazine that published my photography. My hands stroked the glossy cover, also one of my photographs, and the contrast between past and present saddened me to no end. The sensible aspiration is to be on an ascending curve where experience and knowledge and value increase with time and age. A parabola, not a hyperbola. And while I am fully aware that lethargy is poisoning me, that it was some time in the past, not the present, that I best approached my desired version of myself, I see no exit from this specious argument. Hours spent at work, office chit-chat and computer nonsense, talk of operating systems and corporate tools to learn and master, lay ravenous claim on my saddlebags of energy. Evenings, I sit at the kitchen table and we play cards, because I cannot decide to whom I should reply first, whom to call, where to begin a blog entry. Too much energy is necessary for anything of value. And I fall asleep at 9 p.m. because my eyes can’t stay open long enough to read a full chapter of East of Eden. If I feel brave, we’ll watch a movie and I’ll be sure to fall asleep, without you even noticing, and at the end I’ll force my eyes open, to save face. The next day is probably Friday, or any other day of the week that looks, from my point of view, just like Friday. And once again, I’ll contemplate myriad options, and choose none.

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