Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Days go by, and no blog. Should I complain about how Dubya's big Iraq speech was long on mispronunciations and short on new ideas? Should I mention that Dubya promised to bulldoze Abu Ghraib even as new reports show that the problem extends far beyond that one building, to every corner of the shadowy Bush gulag system, and far up the chain of command? Should I cackle with glee at news stories that even Tom Clancy has jumped off the good ship Bush?


Why? Because I have once again lost my taste for it.

Or, as Shannon put it so succinctly, "don't you have anything happy to write about?" (She also expressed some concern that the Secret Service would be after me for calling Bush a "f*cker," -- see earlier comments re: slander of John McCain -- but I think she was just projecting. At least, I hope she was.)

After all my rage at the Bush administration, I find that it all sounds hollow. Nothing new. Nothing you couldn't have read on Atrios or Kos or Alterman; just digested and regurgitated in one continuous flow. Bush is not quaking in his boots at my meager stylings, and the world continues to rotate. Surely there's more to offer. Surely politics is just a way of hiding from myself. Surely if I was serious about my blog, I would make some effort to get people to read it.

But I do have fans -- in fact, I got a message today from one of my "fans" urging me to post. (Hi, Mom!) So I'm going to write a letter. I've received two e-mails from my law school friends filling me in on their lives, and asking me how my own life is going. I wrote both of them back and told them that I was alive, but would fill them in later.

So, now it's later. And, for some damn reason, I feel like writing an honest letter instead of what I should actually write.

Dear ( ):

It did me a world of good to receive your e-mail, because I feel pretty isolated these days. One of the recurring stories of my life is how I have let friends slip away, and I feel your absence keenly. It's pretty sad that I have to be spurred to write you a letter. I think of my friends often, yet they slowly slip away, and a blog is no way to keep in touch. Can they read my mind? Do they know that I care about them?

Earlier today, I was reading my friends' blogs and a tangible sadness came over me. These people are my friends, yet it has been months since I have seen their faces. They only know me these days through my political tirades, not through the day-to-day living that is often the true mortar of friendship. I have keen memories of nights spent talking to these people, and I still feel a powerful loyalty to them, but I have no idea what is going on with them. God knows I would drop everything and run to them in an emergency, yet I don't know whether they are happy or sad, troubled or optimistic. I don't even know if they've seen any good movies lately.

The upshot of all this is that I am realizing that I am more isolated in Houston than I have ever been in my life, with the possible exception of my post-grad-school sojourn in Florida. Shannon and I both had a difficult time when we moved to Houston, but she has finally developed a strong group of friends -- other mothers with small children with whom she can share her concerns and joys. I'm glad. She needs a network of friends like a fish needs water. But those are her friends, not mine.

Together, Shannon and I have made some very good friends at our church, and they are truly wonderful. I would love to know them better, but they are still "couple" friends, social friends, people that I interact with in pairs, not singly. This past weekend, I had a long conversation about music with one of those friends, and did me a world of good. It was a thread of friendship that I can call my own. But even then, I fear that I run on too much, that I dominate the conversation too much, that I am taking on the hated role of a "pundit" even in my personal life. Or maybe that I am so desperate to talk to someone about something other than the law that I run on at the mouth.

I had a couple of friends at work, but they have left to take other jobs that are less stressful. I feel antinomy -- I cannot reconcile my happiness for them with my unhappiness at being left behind. And it's hard for me to make new friends here because I feel somehow different than those that have remained. I'm still there, but that doesn't make me one of Those Who Stay. I want to leave, I am planning to leave, I am just doing it infuriatingly slowly. So, because I see the job as a mere job (not an identity), I feel like a goat in a cattle herd. Maybe even a double agent of sorts -- a young big-firm lawyer must subscribe to the identity in order to swallow the indignity, and I don't have that relief. And I have at least another year of this kind of double life. It's no "Alias." There's no clean break, just a vague feeling that I am constantly lying to the people that I spend the vast majority of my life with.

And that's about it for friends. I had a therapist for a while, but then the insurance ran out and I had to end our sessions last week. So even my "rent-a-friend" is gone. He seemed upset that I was ending our relationship, which seemed hilarious to me given that the therapist-patient relationship is, at bottom, very similar to the attorney-client relationship. There's a necessary distance, and a rather firm payment requirement. Even so, ending the sessions upset me terribly.

I am not alone. I am rich because I have Shannon, my best friend and confidante, and I absolutely love the time I get to spend with her. But though she's the most important person in my life, she's still just one person, and shouldn't be asked to shoulder the full burden of my life.

So, I say all that to say this: I am glad to hear from you.

You asked how life was treating me. I am happy, but beleaguered. My family gives me great joy. Jonah is a joy, but he can be a real handful when he needs a nap. (So can I.) Our worldly needs are satisfied, and more, though money is a constant concern that agitates me to work harder. I used to say that I feel like a pinball, but the better description is that I am "back on my heels" -- that is, reeling, never quite stabilized, never centered.

The major theme in my life these days is time management, or the lack of it. I just have too many damn things to do in a day, and I ferociously resent that I have to eliminate any of them. Work takes a godawful chunk of my time, and I particularly resent that chunk now that I want to move towards a different career path. It makes me feel the long hours even more keenly. But it's a Catch-22, because to leave the long hours I have to spend even more long hours writing a paper, and I don't know where the time is going to come from. (Not to mention the anxiety that comes over me every time I work on it, which is paralyzing until I read other people's writings and realize that "published" is a much lower standard than "interesting.")

Mostly, I want to spend time with my family -- in fact, given the long, long hours I spend at work, I want to spend all of the rest of my time with Shannon and Jonah. But there's so little time to give. I have started to resent watching movies or television shows that aren't great, because the time commitment is so harsh.

You know, having written the long discussion above, it makes sense that the biggest area of personal contention is that I want time for myself. What about the projects and interests that spin around in my mind? What about my desire to read four or five newspapers every morning, and to blog my own damn views of the world? What about time spent talking with friends? What about my mysterious "project" that I hope to finish before the end of the year? It gives me immense pleasure, but it takes many hours and advances my life goals not one bit. And I refuse -- refuse -- to believe that I have to accept limits on my life. Narrowing the scope of my ambitions and desires feels like failure. I can do everything and have everything if I just work hard enough.

What about exercise? We spent a lot of time exercising in law school, and I remember it fondly. [Yes, both of the people this letter is directed to were exercise partners.]

Sheesh. What about exercise? There's no time for it, even though it is the surest way of dealing with the stress that I feel every day. Each day, as I drive to work, I literally feel the stomach acid churning in my stomach and throat. It doesn't end until about an hour after I get home. And yet, with so little time, exercise has fallen off the radar. It's too time-intensive. I don't have the time to drive to the gym and back, much less the time to do anything once I get there.

So I eat instead. Takes no time. Settles the stomach. In fact, because I don't generally work while I eat, I associate eating with "taking a break," which is a real recipe for victory if I do say so myself.

Needless to say, I have gained back all that weight that I lost back when I didn't have a stressful job. I used to run five miles at a time, and God, I loved it. Now I couldn't run a mile if someone was chasing me. Running is something that I occasionally attempt, but with a stroller and a dog in tow, around a neighborhood, watching for cars. Not much exercise, but a whole lot of work. But I need to do something. My body is beginning to rebel: weak muscles, outraged digestion. I face the hilarious condition of being nauseous and hungry at the same time. Let's hear Dr. Phil deal with that one.

And you will be pleased to hear that I have been selected to teach Sunday School in September, even now as I feel particularly testy toward God. You know, I want people to get to the point these days, but He has a way of taking His time. I find it very inconvenient. At this point, I'm not sure what I will tell the class. Maybe I'll just blow their Presbyterian minds by reading passages from the Koran.

It's strange. I have such optimism about my future; about the life I will lead when I finally get the job I strive for. A time when I won't be on the road to an early heart attack; a time when I will be able to spend time noodling around ideas in my head, or even just have lunch with friends. It's just that it's hard to see the road to that place sometimes.

In my worst moments, I say all of the things that I say above. But in my best moments, I say this: I have some real joy in my life. Jonah is glorious. Shannon is glorious. God is glorious, if I will let Him be. All in all, a worthy audience. It's enough.

 4:37 PM

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