Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Break from the Pattern

Today I'm going to respond to current events, for a change. So far, I've been posting essays from a group I wrote several years ago. Entitled, "Liberation and Constraint -- Ninety-Nine Things I Learned Making Pots", the collection has yet to be published in any useful way and I started this blog, in part, to correct that. Yesterday though, two different sources brought up the idea of self-examination. The first, French Fancy, introduced me to the idea of a 'meme' posting, addressing a series of leading phrases. The second, a friend and former student, asked a group of us, "if you could flip a switch and be doing your dream job, what would it be?" So here I go.

My ex was five years older than me and put up with a lot during our thirteen plus years as a couple. Not that I was evil, nor did she do it without complaint. Indeed, she became increasingly venomous and the last few years were quite a grey period for me. She has had two bouts of stroke and been diagnosed with diabetes since our divorce and is now full time in a nursing home. I have not seen her since just before the second stroke as I consider myself a risk factor for further strokes. I hear a little of her from my parents and our grown son. We also have a grown daughter.

Maybe I should have been much more assertive in my youth. I got a lot done, but not enough of it put money in my pocket or addressed my career(s) with any urgency. Perhaps it was a lack of confidence, or an excess of politeness, or a naive faith in a slow-and-steady progress towards a worthwhile destiny. Ah, destiny.

I love audience approval, particularly of the surprised variety. Even becoming an artist in college surprised my parents and I loved that. The problem is that it's a buzz that wears off fairly quickly. I also love it when my students (ceramics, martial arts) do really well. I love competence, particularly when I had a hand in creating it.

People would say that I'm a nice guy but not really a success. Maybe I'm wrong about that (both). I know people in so many different ways that I don't know that anyone sees more than three or four facets of my existence and personality. To my dismay, I recently found out that some people totally misunderstood me, and I no longer work at that job as a result.

But really I think that I am both far safer than anyone fears and potentially more mysterious than anyone imagines. And again, I should probably just bull on and not worry so much about it.

I don't understand how people get from childhood to adult states of competence. How many types of secret knowledge get passed around. For instance, there's a mixed race kid in Hawaii and a little over thirty years later he is President Elect of the United States, with every indication that he may be one of our best ever. How does that happen? What do I have to do to still make a success of my life, or am I right on track for a very individual journey of my own? At this point, if I'm ever an "overnight success" it will have been after thirty years or more of work.

When I wake up in the morning I prefer to do it slowly. I don't often get my wish, though I no longer dash like I did when I was younger. I'm not cranky, but I probably look a mess.

I lost something, I'm sure, but I can't remember what now, and that's probably a defense mechanism. I try not to harbor grudges or collect old hurts, but they're there.

My past is sometimes mysterious to me, particularly parts of my grey period. I'm not sure I can remember a single identifying moment from 1993, for instance. Other things are still marvelously vivid and I'm generally known as a story teller. Lately though, I've found myself making a distinction between remembering stories, and remembering the moments those stories describe, if you get my meaning.

Parties are something I'm consciously trying to get better at, both as host and as guest. I've known two women now who always threw tremendous parties with great attendance and I marvel at the ability. One of my career paths is in Museums, and parties there are the lifeblood of the institution. If your parties are a failure, likely your museum will soon be a failure, too.

I wish I were back on good terms with my grown daughter. She's in graduate school in New Mexico now and hasn't spoken to me in a couple of years. She's a good woman but shares her mother's self-destructive capacity for anger.

Dogs are something I run into at other people's houses. I know there's at least one in my future, but not soon. I had one as a teenager and wasn't ready for it. Even now, the whole "poop management" aspect has no appeal. But generally they like me and I like them.

Cats are what we have now, an orange long-hair named "Rutile" [pronounced, ROO teal], and a black and white (currently on my lap) named "Pepito." Both are fairly young and active and friendly. My wife is particularly good at training cats (always neutered males) to be gentlemen and good roommates. I marvel at the monster cats that other people make themselves servants to. In the past, she had the best old gentleman cat, Fidel, and I've had good ones myself, "Binx", and "Digger."

Tomorrow I need to trim and put handles on the many pots I'm due to start when I finish here. I also need to ready the car for an eight hour drive Saturday to visit family in the boot-heel of Missouri. Our family gathers roughly every two or three years, not always at Christmas. It'll be three grandparents, six parents, and seven first cousins, including the two youngest, flown in from Norway.

I have a low tolerance for incompetence. I'm not actually a perfectionist, ceramics runs contrary to that, but typos in professional publications! people on the radio who hem, and haw, and stutter!? I also don't watch broadcast TV or cable any more, and when I do, usually when staying at a motel, the noise and intrusiveness and fear-mongering really put me off.

If I had a million pounds I might move to the UK, for where better might one spend it? No, I value friends, and place, and my house too much. I'd pay off my debts, my wife's debts, my parents' debts, and my children's debts and then put the rest away and try to act (aside from vacations to the UK) like no such money existed.

I am totally terrified of the sort of torture where they snip bits off your body, even just an earlobe. I would make a terrible spy. I would bury them in information, stories about everything that had ever happened to me and tales of things I only THOUGHT about doing. But I can be very brave in other things and my wife reminds me that people endure torture to prevent something worse from happening.

So there it is, for what it's worth, and my dream job? I think I would like to be teaching Ceramics and Sculpture at the college level and finishing up my tenth or twelfth novel. And who knows, I might still get to do both.


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