By the time I was 20 or so I had completed two novels, if not high-school. That they were very bad novels I knew full well but I saw them as necessary growing pains rather than failures; I saw my 6 years and 5 completed high-school credits as freely-chosen experience, not defeat.
But as my twenties became my thirties and now my forties, and my still-unfinished third novel, the various drafts yellowing in folders about my desk never-ending reminders of my thus-far unfulfilled promise, the many spiral notebooks filled with more or less drunken notes and mostly half-finished stories, essays and scribbled ideas, all served to stress the question: What have you done with your life?
Not long before the Break-Up (dear god, nearly a full year in the past now!), Laura and I were taking a walk up Roncesvalles. I know longer remember the context but I'll never forget her response to whatever it was I'd said.
"I'll respect you if you ever finish that novel you're always talking about."
To say those words cut me to the proverbial quick would be as understated as the suggestion that I do not dislike beer.
The words hurt, not only because they implied that loving and supporting Laura was not enough to satisfy her but because my own identity is at least in part wrapped up in the idea that "being a writer" was (and yes, still is) a significant part of my self-identity. In other words, what about my own respect for my self? One short story written (but - even now - not revised), a letter or two to the editor of the Globe and Mail, a few critiques and a bunch of blog entries here on LJ don't exactly a Writer make.
It would be easy to blame Laura for my lack of productivity.
Besides holding down a full-time job, during the first, happy phase of the relationship I was too busy with the joy of living loving to worry about my words; during the second, unhappy phase, I was too busy drinking to deny there was anything wrong.
It would be easy to blame her, but to do so would be a lie. Whatever blame she carries in terms of our relationship, she had not imprisoned me in a gulag; my life is my responsibility and has been at least since I left home at the age of 17. If there is anyone to blame, it is myself.
But is "blame" an accurate (and therefore useful) concept in this situation anyway?
Six weeks or so ago, I vowed here tht I would no longer be idle and would "soon" be wowing all of my Gentle (and ever so patient) Readers with much in the way of fiction and fact. (Well, truth be told, there was another post a couple of weeks later, which I quickly took private - yes, sooguy, I was whining for a kick in the ass.)
Objectively, this is what I have done with myself since becoming a Man of Leisure on the 18th of May, 2007.
- exercised regularly up until about two weeks ago;
- kept my apartment reasonably clean (up until a couple of weeks ago;
- gone out for drinks and talk with four different people - once each - when asked to do so;
- accepted an invitation from two of the above to spend the
CanadaDominion Day weekend at the cottage, which trip was, first, a lot of fun and, second, helped to provoke the self-analysis which has prompted this essay (as well as my decision to call for an appointment with my doctor tomorrow;
- discovered the joy that is the revived Doctor Who;
- read a few novels;
- er, that's about it.
- smoked even more than I did when I was working;
- continued drinking as much as I was before - but without even leaving my apartment, most of the time
- ignored a couple of other invitations, not even finding the energy to email a reply until a couple of weeks after the fact;
- obsessed over the joy that is the revived Doctor Who - watching 14 episodes - all of which one has already seen at least two or three times apiece in the space of three weeks - during a single day is - clearly - a sign that Something Is Wrong;
- read a few novels - all of which I have read before, and which I have still not found the energy to list on my book-log, let alone to comment upon;
- played endless, mindless rounds of Destructo-Match II;
- stopped even communicating with people via MSN, let alone making any effort to see people in person;
- pretty much stopped even wanting to get involved with a woman again (though my physical libido has not diminished, thanks be - I suppose);
- er, that's about it.
Long story short, there is something very wrong with the way I am living my life. There is something very wrong with me.
Not writing isn't the problem; not living is the problem.
I suspect a psychiatrist would say I am clinically depressed.
Besides my rather remarkable myopia when it comes to the state of my own mind and life, one other factor has made it so hard for me to see the obvious. I don't feel "bad", or sad - the traditional emotions one associates with the word, depression. And, on those rare occasions when someone has managed to drag me out of my apartment, I have enjoyed myself - and have even (I think and hope) been good company.
But the vast majority of the time, I haven't really felt much of anything at all. I have simply been existing, killing time with mindless games and familiar entertainments.
So who or what is to blame?
Alcohol? Probably at least a contributing factor (treating depression with a depressant can't be helpful).
Losing my job? I doubt it - this has been going on a lot longer than that. If anything, having an extra 9 or 10 hours a day has probably contributed to my being able to see what's going on.
Laura? It's possible that her actions initiated my descent into the abyss, but it's been nearly year since I turfed her - she can't be held responsible for how I'm (not) feeling now.
Well, whatever the cause, Something Must Be Done. What that Something (or some Things?) might be, I'm not sure, but I'm far to fond of living to continue just existing as I have been for the past many months.
This post isn't a cry for help (or even a kick in the ass), Gentle Readers, though if any of you have tangible, experientially-based suggestions, feel free to offer 'em up. Meanwhile, I will hope that the slightly-more-than inchoate belief I have that simply (finally!) recognizing and naming what is wrong will help steer me towards a solution. Given how things have been going lately, simply having been able to complete this post - all 1200 or so words of it - suggests that belief might be justified.
Anyway, if you've read this far, you now know why this journal has been so quiet lately. I make no promises there will be more in the immediate future, but "hope is a good emotion."