Life at Sea

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I’m tired like a cliche. Like I’ve been alone in this raft too long with no food or water and the sun beating down on my naked body twenty four hours a day. It’s been so long I can’t even remember the shipwreck. Was there any ship at all?

Tell me I didn’t do this to myself. Tell me that life on that island wasn’t worth it. It has to be better on the next rock. Anything has to be better than this. I enjoy my own company but the jokes get old after a while and the silence becomes awkward.

I received a message in a bottle but I couldn’t get the cork off so I threw it to the depths. It bounced back out of the water and into the raft. Instead of repeating myself I use it as a pillow and spend sleepless hours thinking of what the metaphor might be.

A Change Is Gonna Come

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This is a rethinking through poetry of one of my favorite songs, “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke.

 

I was born by the river in a modest house

Oh and just like the river I’ve been moving south

It’s been a long, long time coming

But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will

 

It’s been too hard living, but I can’t tell at all

‘Cause I know If I look up, I might trip and fall

It’s been a long, long time coming

But I think a change gonna come, oh yes it will

 

I turn on the the TV and see a man on his knees

And I think to myself, “I’m glad that isn’t me”

It’s been a long, long time going

Assuming change gonna come, waiting still

 

Then he  comes to me, the man on TV

Begging, “Brother, help me please”

But I find every way to excuse his plea

Thinking all the while, “What if that was me on my knees?”

 

There have been times that I thought it wouldn’t last for long

But now I think my selfishness is what drug it on

It’s been a long, long time coming

But it’s time for change.

Daily Ritual

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This morning I woke up at 9:01 to my alarm blaring. I rolled over onto my stomach, slammed my face into the pillow and screamed as loud as I could. After that I got up to use the bathroom, shadow box for thirty seconds, listen to a podcast, eat a bowl of cereal, and make a cup of tea. At 10:00 I sat down at my desk with the tea and a bottle of water. Next – and this is very important – I started chomping on a piece of Extra Polar Ice. Now I’m ready to write. I usually go strong till about 1:00 when I eat lunch. After lunch I write again till 4:00, take another break, usually a walk around the block, and then I go at it again until 6:00. I’m in bed by 11:00 to do it again the next day.

This is my ritual. This is what I do every day to get the most out my writing. Most of the time I don’t scream and sometimes I don’t punch the air, but I needed that little something extra this morning. I didn’t think of it as a ‘ritual’ until my mom sent me Daily Rituals: How Artists Work – great book with a pretty self-explanatory title. Some of my favorite writers’, composers’, and psychoanalysts’ daily rituals are put on display in this book. Stephen King, Joseph Heller, George Orwell, Goethe, Tesla, Chopin, and Freud just to name a few. Each of these amazingly talented and influential artists had specific, and most of the time, simple rituals to get their work done. Hemingway (I find this unbelievable) woke every morning, no later than 6:00 AM. Beethoven counted exactly sixty beans per cup of morning coffee. Gertrude Stein had to be looking at just the right cow in order to capture fifteen minutes of inspiration.

Reading this book has shown me how important rituals are to artists. These people worked every day in almost exactly the same way in order to allow their creative juices to flow at full speed. I’ve shown you my ritual, now you show me yours. That sounded dirty… What do you do every day in the same way? It doesn’t have to relate to writing, painting, or anything artsy. When I was little I would come home from school to sit on the floor with a bowl of Cheez-Its and watch Arthur.

How fun is it to read ‘Arthur’ and ‘ritual’ in the same blog?

“Only the ‘Hitlers of the world’ work at night; no honest artist does.” – W. H. Auden

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Make a Wish

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I’ve wished my whole life;
to be a helicopter pilot,
that WVU would win a championship,
for peace of mind.

I’ve been encouraged to wish.
It’s 11:11, make a wish.
See that shooting star? Make a wish.
Blow out your candles, make a wish!

I throw a penny in a well.
I break off the big part of the wishbone.
I whisper to a ripe dandelion and
watch the seeds float away on the breeze.

But wishes don’t always come true.
Sometimes they’re sure not to,
like when that dandelion you pluck
grows at the base of your uncle’s grave marker.

There’s horror in knowing
that no matter how hard you wish
he’ll never again be here
to pluck a flower for himself.

Still, for him, I wish.

I Think I’m Normal

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Last week I posted about having been checked out. I convinced myself that being isolated for the past six months while writing my book had changed me. The chemical composition of my brain must have reworked itself. There’s no way I’m equipped for social interaction any longer. I can’t feel real people emotions. I didn’t actually think these things, but it was clear that I needed to do something. Sitting by yourself in a room, jabbing away at a keyboard for hours on end isn’t ‘normal.’ Getting out into the world around other people would refuel my brain and recharge my creativity.

What I did to convince myself that I’m still capable of feeling emotion probably sounds crazy to most people. I spent a total of fourteen hours – ten hours on three greyhound buses and four hours in terminals – to travel a distance greater than 450 miles from my hometown in southern West Virginia to Morgantown, just across the Pennsylvania border from Pittsburgh. A trip that would have taken less than three hours on a straight shot took me around to Columbus and up to Pittsburgh before finally arriving at my destination. I could write a three book horror series on the bus ride alone, but that’s a blog for another day. The point is that I got to tell stories, laugh, eat, and drink with a group of some of my best friends.

I’d already planned on taking the trip up to the WVU Spring Game a couple weeks ago, but gave up on making it when all of my potential rides let me know they were committed to work. “Whatever… I’ll hitchhike,” I said. “It’ll be an adventure.” I had my bag packed on Thursday and was ready to hit the road Friday morning until I saw the weather forecast – sixty percent chance of rain most of Friday. I’ve never hitchhiked, but I have been stuck in rain and I can tell you that you don’t want to hitchhike in rain. You don’t want to do anything in rain besides take a nap under a tin roof, and even then you’re not actually in it.

I was really disappointed that I couldn’t make it. I was also somewhat relieved, because who actually wants to hitchhike? You may be asking who wants to ride on a bus for fourteen hours to a location that could be reached in two hours and thirty minutes by car. I didn’t want to, let me remind you – I had to. At least I thought I did. The Spring Game tailgate was most likely the last time I would see this many of my college friends together. The seniors are graduating next month and (most of) the graduates have jobs. This, combined with the realization that I’ve been in emotional hibernation for the last half-year, was enough reason to buy a ticket at 5:00 PM on Thursday and jump on the bus five hours later. I made it to Morgantown just before 1:00 PM on Friday and after a one hour nap got started on the best weekend I’ve had since before graduation.

Fast forward to right now – I spent the week with my mom, sister, and stepdad in order to drive back to my grandmother’s today for Easter weekend. What you need to understand about this situation is that my mom works 9 to 5, my sister goes to school, and my stepdad is retired. Essentially I sat around on the couch listening to this guy speak just to hear his own voice. No matter how focused I tried to make myself look, I couldn’t read a book or watch an episode of Seinfeld without him trying to tell me about the tankless water heater he put in or how many hundreds of pounds of meat he has in the freezer. I can’t take a single thing he says seriously after he told me he heard on the news that there was “talk about Parkersburg getting an NFL stadium.” You don’t have to know anything about Parkersburg or much about West Virginia to understand that the NFL is never coming here.

Bashing this man isn’t solely due to him being an annoying lunatic – some of it’s about me. On my quest to reassure myself that I’m a normal, social creature I spent fourteen hours with my knees rubbing against course Greyhound seat fabric, slept two nights on three futon couch cushions, drank more beer and laughed longer than I have in ages, and spent five days with my crazed stepfather to come to this realization: I need to be alone. I don’t need to see my family and friends all the time. In fact I don’t want to. I don’t need to go out and do something every night of the week to try to feel ‘normal,’ like I’m not a hermit. I’ve realized that I love being a hermit. That’s ‘normal’ to me.

As for my ‘emotional hibernation’ and the reason for my quest – I don’t need to be out in the world, around other people in order to feel emotion. My writing is emotion. What I feel is transferred to page, not the other way around. I thought my writing was controlling me by fooling me into thinking I had everything under control. The only thing I have under control is what I write. I’m not going to use this as an excuse to sit in isolation for the rest of my life, but rather as a reminder that I’m no different than anyone else – we all have the same problems. We all question ourselves and deal with the same doubt. It’s up to you to get past this and figure out who you are. This is me.

“It’s not all bad. Heightened self-consciousness, apartness, an inability to join in, physical shame and self-loathing—they are not all bad. Those devils have been my angels. Without them I would never have disappeared into language, literature, the mind, laughter and all the mad intensities that made and unmade me.” – Stephen Fry

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Paper or Plastic?

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I’m checked out, have been for a while now.

I received news from a friend yesterday that he and his wife were separating. These are two people I’ve known for years and love dearly. It’s easy to figure out what a “separation” is. I don’t have any stats to back it up, but I’m willing to bet that most separations don’t lead to a healthier marriage. Chances are that they’re going to get a divorce. I knew this and was devastated. It felt like someone punched a hole in my gut to reach up and grab the heart just to squeeze some life out of it. But in all the sadness I realized something: this might sound selfish, but I realized that I haven’t felt that much emotion in a really, really long time. It was like hearing a lyric from a shitty country song – “I just wanna feel soooomethin’!”

For the past half-year I’ve been in exile. Most of that time has been spent writing a novel which I’m super proud of. I love to write – I can’t think of a better way to spend time – but I’ve come to find out that I’ve isolated myself from nearly everything else I love. It hit me this morning that I haven’t seen a single friend since OCTOBER. I’ve been living in a fantasy world. Almost every emotion I’ve felt has come from a group of characters created in my own mind, now trapped in a word document on my laptop. Every problem I experienced was under my control. I could hit one button and go back a whole page or chapter if I didn’t like how it turned out. This book has been a barrier separating me from a world of real problems, I realize that now. I also realize that it’s cut me off from a world of real adventure and excitement.

Giving up writing this book isn’t an option for me so I need to fix myself. I hope that expressing this publicly will hold me accountable to take action on getting back to being a socially functioning human being; to get out more, to see friends, meet people, spend more time looking for a job, and actually live. Having found out I’m a hermit that refuses to deal with his problems disgusts me. What’s more repulsive is that I’ve used my imagination and love of writing as a crutch. I’m my own enabler.

Have I created my own world apart from the one that I used to love? I’ve been depressed before and consciously sought isolation. This isn’t anything like that. I feel content, but could I have fabricated that emotion for myself like I’ve done for my characters? Have any of you experienced this in your own creative ventures or seen it in someone close to you? It doesn’t seem like a healthy behavior, but is it normal to separate yourself like that?

Or should I put my faith in these words by Goethe: “A creation of importance can only be produced when its author isolates himself, it is a child of solitude.” He’s knows what he’s talking about, right?

Let’s Go

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Fish in a bowl. Feed me the good stuff.
Eating a Moon Pie; not as good as they once were.
Moon orbits Earth. Is this as fast as I go?
Spinning in a chair; make me go faster.

RHCP on the stereo; turn that shit up.
Open a window. Open that door.
Let some air in. Let it air out.
Let me out. Let’s go somewhere.