Thomm Quackenbush, author

Hey Jealousy | 2010 | The Bliss in Another

11.25.10 8:00 a.m.

We cannot achieve self-respect if we are afraid of self-knowledge.  

-M.R. Cohen

 


Of Purgatory and Blessings

Xen  
I have no justification for this picture.

In those moments where I more objectively examine my thoughts and actions, I have to acknowledge that I would want to know the person running though a cemetery to Edith Piaf or nursing his third diet soda in Panera as he mouths the words of men and women he creates for soon-to-be-published fantasy novels. Some may not be so fond of this person - I'm certain that is so - but I would be interested in him, even if he were not me. Stepping back from my present uncertainty and seeing myself from the outside startles me, because it is so simple to forget that I am leading a blessed life.

These realizations come when I am aware my present moment is a facet of the life I want to be living. Even writing this in a faculty lounge between periods, suit-jacketed, bopping my half-lotused legs to the music in my earbuds, I have to admit that I like me. I like what I do out of habit, out of inclination, without overthinking it. I like the literal and less tangible resume I have accrued while working toward my goals.

I know people who shun self-examination, committing acts that they would deride if performed by someone else. I know I've been there myself. My recent, chemically assisted spate of depression made me overanalyze my every thought in a dim brown light. The former Pope said that Hell was not a place but an existence without the light of God (the present Pope, incidentally, remade a whole plane of existence by overruling his predecessor and saying there most certainly is a literal Hell and his infallibility made it so. One can only wonder at what happened to those souls who were blinked out of and then back into existence, since Purgatory was nullified by John Paul II and never remade). In this way, my depression was a state where the light of my love could not reach me. It wasn't as if the pink clouds of self-delusion were wiped away and I was facing cold reality as much as I was in a mire. I knew that this wasn't me, could see what I was supposed to be, but my fingertips could not break the surface. Shore was nearby, but rescue seemed impossible if I could not even call for help.

Once the wort left my system fully, I could more accurately appraise my worth. I could further see the depths to which I had sunk in my vacation from more perfect sanity, my personal Purgatory until I was made clean again and could abandon the role of Tantalus. I was startled by and pitying for the person this herb had made me, who couldnít feel love for himself anymore or see the truth of his actions, this man plagued by a nameless anxiety that covered everything he touched, even as he seemed to move with more fluidity through social spheres.

It is easy to be cynical, especially toward oneself, but I should be proud of myself for hanging on as I have. A few years ago, I was in a similar place professionally, subbing and tutoring while waiting for something more solid to come up. However, I am making notably more money doing both this time and am doing it without a cohabitating partner splitting the bills (not that I wouldn't welcome Melanie). And yes, in the interim, I have had two fairly secure jobs, one of which was ended because the environment was not one I could sustain (living with thirty boys for less money that I would have made at McDonald's was untenable) and the other ended because I was dealing with a corporation focused on the bottom line and it was cheaper to populate their editorial department with disposable temps rather than trained proofreaders. Now, I am subbing almost daily at an inner city school where I can more than handle myself and teaching English and math after school at a Boys & Girls club on one of the toughest streets in New York outside the city. And I am excelling where most others would crumble.

However, I could not recognize my assets until forced to explain them to the career and development office at my former grad school, detailing that I have taught at Vassar and Marist, that I have edited academic testing material, that I have worked with the gifted and learning disabled to equal success. I am no slouch. I have done amazing things, even if I have yet to travel to Prague or climbed Himalayas to do them. I've signed a publishing contract, I've rewritten a Shakespeare play and directed learning disabled kids to successfully perform it. It isnít as though I want something without working for it.

I feel like a component of my occasional emotional confusion is that I want to know that I measure up. Several of my friends have better and more stable jobs than I do and it is hard not to compare. But they aren't in my specific situation. None of my close friends are teaching at middle or high schools. And, to be fair, I don't think I could handle most of the jobs they do and keep my hold on sanity and happiness. I also somehow overlook how much better my professional situation is than that of many of my other associates, since my instinct is not to compare myself to people who are having a harder time.

Another component is that I want stability in some part of my life. My apartment is a month-to-month rental, until recently my relationship with Melanie was subject to her own uncertainty about life, and I work as a substitute for the majority of my day. I feel like my life has been packed up for years. I am in a place in my life where I want a home base, I want to know that I am building something I can see and not merely anteing up my months in hopes I will finally get a hand I don't have to bluff.

A great part of sanity is unlearning bad habits, such as the inclination to settle for what is easy rather than continuing to struggle for what is right. I have had offers of greater stability and, as much as my insecurities wanted me to sacrifice my current standard of living for solid footing, I declined. In the past, I have been in the wrong stable situation and it became a cage.

If anyone else were saying these things to me, I would tell them that it will get better, that they just need to continue to hold on, that they are doing very well in a bad situation. Intellectually, I know these things, but I still feel the urge to shrug off the advice as someone dismissively axiomatic, as though it amounted to nothing more than stating that it is always darkest before the dawn. If I relax my grip and am just in the moment, I no longer have complaints. I am loved, I am fed, I have a home, I am healthy, I am not without the opportunity to work almost daily. Life is not so dire that it needs my fretting and should be sweet as long as I am tasting the Now rather than longing for a specific future that may be snatched from my reach.

Soon in Xenology: Maybe a job, families.

last watched: Glee
reading: Stranger in a Strange Land
listening: Dresden Dolls

Hey Jealousy | 2010 | The Bliss in Another

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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