Best Worst Year: Episode 16 (Or, My Life as Driftwood)

Uninspired. Unfocused. I have started and restarted this week’s episode about four times since yesterday afternoon. I had hoped to have been on the road, eastbound and down style, by now. But I’m not. I’m here in Danville. It’s not writer’s block. It’s relevance block. It’s irreverence block. It’s a word hangover but I’m hydrating on Sampson Starkweather and Jon Sands. It’s the nowhere is now here. It’s the purgatory of days between my extended government-subsidized furlough and everyone being off for Easter. I almost wrote, goddamn Easter, which, out of context, could sound blasphemous. I do believe ennui has kicked in, and do you know what I blame? Being healthy.

Since the start of my best worst year, inconsistency has been the name of the game. Be it where I’m sleeping, what I’m doing, where I’m going, or why I’m doing/going/sleeping, there hasn’t been much that tracks as normal. The closest thing to normal was probably Sunday night where (after going to bed at noon), I spent the night with my friend Conor watching Smokey and the Bandit 2. It was a calm night in–no chaos, no concerts, no world class self-destruction, no art (save for the show-stealing talent that is Jerry Reed). Since Sunday, I have had four days of relative peace and quiet. The idea being that yes, getting rest, sleeping eight hours at night, going for a walk, and eating items which are not wrapped in foil or come in tube form means somehow, someway, your body is getting a chance to repair itself.

And while this is fine and good for me, I don’t know what to do with myself. Now this isn’t going to turn into some pro-vice, Hunter S. Thompsonesque diatribe where I wax nostalgic for pints of raw ether and bat hallucinations. Nor is it going to be an advertisement for the eternal summer, ripe with 90’s nostalgia soundtrack (Fugazi, Beck,…Montel Jordan). Being healthy is being smart; it’s just there is a sad revelation–I don’t know how to do it.

I guess it’s not that I don’t know how, it’s that I don’t remember what to do. At one point I did. At one point, not too long ago, mind you, I was going to sleep at ten, not eating garbage, not pretending I was in The Replacements, not smoking cigars like I was a Chicago crime boss. The normalcy of thirtysomethingness wasn’t boring–actually it was kind of nice. I felt suburban, domestic, but I also felt like me. I had finally put on some big boy pants…almost. I was comfortable. I was taking a slow boat to middle age, almost without being aware of it.

Wait, let me go back to that sentence: I was comfortable. Honestly, I can’t tell you if it was a bad thing or not. I would like to say it was bad–that it made me soft. The 21 year old Descendents fan inside me would tell you I was on the verge of becoming a Sting fan–not a Police fan (not even a Nothing Like The Sun fan). I was oceanside watching the high tide roll in, unaware of the undertow. I was not prepared for the waters to recede, let alone be part of the driftwood carried out to sea.

The mainland is on the horizon and there are days where I’m content to watch it get smaller. A raft of days has kept me floating on through life–a little zen, a little relieved, a little excited by the rising tide taking me away from what I know. Here is where the metaphor of being lost at sea begins to break down. I am not just adrift in the great and terrible blue waters. I return to shore quite a bit–it’s almost as if I didn’t own ocean property but had been living on a river. I’ve only been pulled downstream slowly enough for life to be a gradual blur.

So when I say, I don’t know how to do it, I’m only half-lying. The act is one of forgetting with the due diligence of a sailor on shore leave. Part of me doesn’t know how to slow down because I am afraid of what slowing down right now means. I am unsettled and slowing down feels like settling and settling right now means…?

Last night, as I was deleting my second take at writing this episode I wrote: I don’t want this life.

Looking at that phrase now, as I looked at it last night, scares me. And no, it doesn’t mean I’m going to kill myself or anything like that. I’m not suicidal, I’m just not sure I like where I am right now, which is fine. As a society, we have made it almost an irredeemable flaw to have even a moment of doubt. We want confident, determined, correct. Second guessing is the realm of the loser. We should just pour a little bit of liquid confidence on that fire to put it out. Life becomes prescriptive, a math problem, a “If A, then B” equation. That’s not right, either. We devalue the error aspect of trial and error. The older we get, the mistakes seem to take on larger significance, or at least we assign bigger and bigger stakes. At some point, how can we not be paralyzed by choice? So we revert, or at least we go with what has worked in the past. In some cases it works, and in others, we just regress. We have a lost weekend, or two. The difference being at some point we have to see error for what error is–another opportunity. Granted, there is only so long you can make the same mistake over and over without your sanity being questioned, but it’s also alright to give yourself a refresher course on fucking up. What’s the fun in being correct all the time? What’s there to gain if you never lose anything?

I think this is the dim recognition that the honeymoon to my romantic, vagabond lifestyle is officially over. This is not to say the cowboy’s life is NOT the life for me, but there has to be something more, and maybe a better way of doing it. What that is or how that manifests, I’m not sure. Maybe it begins with being a little boring and getting eight hours of sleep at night. Maybe, just not every night… how about Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday to start?
That sounds reasonable, right? Always leave a margin for error.

Jim Warner is the author of two poetry collections Too Bad It’s Poetry and Social Studies (Paper Kite Press). His poetry has appeared in The North American Review, PANK Magazine, Word Riot, and other journals. Jim received his MFA at Wilkes University. He learns from almost 70% of his mistakes. Make a safe mistake and follow him on Twitter: @whoismisterjim.

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