Thomm Quackenbush, author

Are You Mark? | 2010 | You Can't Go Home Again

03.04.10 9:05 a.m.

Armageddon is averted by small actions. That's the way it was. That's the way it always has to be.  

-Neil Gaiman

 


Bloom Where You Are

branch  
This didn't help

I have felt on the edge of crying for forty-eight hours, so I suppose I am depressed. It feels too pathological to allow it to be permanent, so I will again consider it the equivalent of an emotional cold. I am aware my feelings are more or less situational, that the right phone call and my signature on an employment contract would ameliorate my condition almost instantly. This uncertainty about the future, these dwindling time limits for outside saving graces, weighs on me like a pocket full of rocks in the river of life.

It began when both Melanie and I had bad days and, in our conversation, entered into a negative feedback cycle, including her shouting that I should just abandon this area and have a long distance relationship with her (and, were any other state more interested in me than New York is, this might be a conversation worth pursuing; I have applied and they are not). She got out of her funk through rigorous exercise, her habit. I did not, obsessing over whether my teaching certification had expired (it had not, I still have five more months and then I can throw money at the state to extend it). I barely slept and still substitute taught the next day, because my unemployment benefits are reaching their end (I have a little over $400 left in benefits to last me until June) and I cannot afford a sick day unless I am incapable of driving. My sleepless work day involved a student physically threatening me without preamble or reason, which did not fill me with joy about the work I have chosen to do.

I only feel wholly myself and content when I am teaching or with Melanie. I well understand how crummy the economy is, but I grow more panicked thinking I might have to travel further from Melanie in order to get a more permanent position. This, I believe, it the source of my depression, that I might have to leave behind who I work to be close to. Yes, my abandonment issues factor into this in the most annoying ways.

That evening, I received a call about an interview for an SAT tutoring program. You might think this would have thrilled me, as it would equate to more money and teaching, but my abject fear of math I have not handled in the better part of a decade inspired in me a lack of confidence. I have managed to get a half-deaf, learning disabled girl to rocket four grade levels in reading in a single year, but I get shaky knees in the presence of anything more unwieldy than algebra. The gentleman I spoke to on the crisis hotline that night told me to go in for the interview and not talk my way out of an opportunity. There is paid training to make certain I am up to their standards, so it should be fine. In my more lucid moments, I can rationalize that teaching these SAT classes would be a good step toward more solid ground, which one must purchase a square foot at a time.
branch  
But at least it wasn't the whole tree

(I feel a small shame calling the crisis hotlines ever, incidentally, and very rarely am distraught enough to bother with anonymous conversation. I tend to preface my rare conversations with them by stating, "I am not suicidal," because a friend once assured me that the people you speak to can and will summon police to deal with you if they suspect you genuinely wish to die. More often than not, they are not helpful in themselves, but it is better to have the words in the air than festering inside my mind - I can barely write when I am depressed, rather than writing frantically when I am upset about something specific. Occasionally, as last night, I hit upon someone who manages to give good advice - at least in that I should not apprise the interviewer of my math fears; his other suggestion that I move to New Jersey and work at a UPS store was best ignored. Once or twice, the people on the other end of the phone were actively unhelpful, making me feel as though I were annoying them by calling them without slitting my wrists first.)

There is nothing immensely tragic in the negative column of my ledger, I acknowledge. Not that I remotely wish to encourage this, but it would almost be a relief if there were only one large issue to tackle. Instead, there are a dozen tinier worries that plague me, from persistent but mostly harmless car troubles to the dwindling remainder of my unemployment benefits to a tree limb bursting through my ceiling during a blizzard and obliterating curios on top of my bookcase to a sudden onset case of tonsillitis commingled with strep throat. One after the other after the other with hardly a breath in between. Every time things seem to be getting slightly better, such as when one of my stories got accepted to a literary journal in Toronto, something obnoxious crowds in with it to dull the sweetness before I can get the taste of it.

Despite my theological handicap, I try not to be a superstitious person. We are a pattern-forming species and pareidolia can run us ragged as we chase shadows that have no substance and hold no threat. Luck is, in general, the bastard child of connections and hard work, the latter which I have in spades (and the former which I am no longer above exploiting, if I had the right ones).

I wish I could believe that some capital G God was holding His hand above my head to protect me from the worst of it, but my theism only extends to a sort of impersonal miracle animating the universe and which is exaggerated by human belief, not a cloud-rider with a beard who has my best interests in mind. This doesn't stop me praying to the Universe in hopes someone is listening, some deity scanning through the radio frequencies out of boredom who might be inclined toward intercession to keep their forever busy. But, as I am most affectionate with the goddess of chaos and a jackal-headed god of the underworld, I might be blacklisted from stable help.

Soon in Xenology: Maybe a job.

last watched: Psycho
reading: The Virgin Suicides
listening: Mark & James

Are You Mark? | 2010 | You Can't Go Home Again

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.



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