Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Tipping Point

"Feel no shame for who you are." Jeff Buckley, "New Year's Prayer

"Love and death are very similar, because they're the times in your life when you most want to believe in magic, when you yearn for some symbolic act or retrospective edit which can change the world you find yourself in." Hap from "One of Us" by Michael Marshall Smith.

"I have given up trying to recognize you in the surging wave of the next moment." Rainer Maria Rilke

Within the space of an hour, I had gone from having a rather good night, believing that things were back on track to yet another sleepness night, losing all faith in certain matters. There's a part of me that would like to leave everything that I have, move to some dusty nameless town in the Central Valley and cut myself off from everybody that I've ever known.

I know for most of my life, my friends thought "Shit, how is he gonna fuck this up?" with regards to a certain aspect of my life. I also know that I never disabused them of this notion. So they go about, trying to give me well-intentioned advice about what to do and what not to do, providing me with their insight. And in my more insecure days, I actively sought this.

But life is an iterative process, and who they thought I was ten years ago is not really who I am now. I've been through one intense relationship that nearly left me a burnt out shell, that nearly pushed me over the edge. The relationship taught me to be cautious, to hold back on my emotions, keep them in check because I'd rather not go through that again. I've gone out enough to know that I'm not the quiet, awkward guy that I was in college and law school, but instead that I can be charming and cute if I wanted to be.

Now, of course I still make mistakes. I've made some very recently. But they weren't in the same vein as mistakes ten years ago, and more importantly, they were my mistakes and mine alone to deal with.

Not enough positive things can be said for friendship and good intentions, but whether those intentions are beneficial can only be measured in the effects they have.

My friends have seen me at my worst, and being friends, they don't want to see me back there again. I understand. But unfortunately, I feel like they define me, base predictions of my actions, by my worst. As I said before, I have given them much reason to do so before. Yet this doesn't really help me. By defining me by my worst, they are setting me up to fail.

Imagine you're at the office. You've turned in some prior mediocre work, so the whole office is staring over your shoulder, telling you how to write, which correspondence to send to which executive, correcting your punctuation and grammar. They all mean well. They want you to stay employed. Are you going to do a good job because they're rooting for you, or are you going to fuck up under the strain.

There's an additional dimension, common sense that I wish I realized before, which is, after a certain point, my friends just have to let me run with the ball. If I trip up and fumble on my own, my bad, but don't trip me up in trying to push me forward.

Maybe I am deluding myself, maybe the situation really isn't right, but let me find out on my own. At the end of the day, in these certain matters, the only relevant perceptions are mine and the other person's--not the perceptions of my friends, her friends, third parties, etc.

The cliche is "be yourself," but how can you be yourself when you get third hand information that you fucked up. Try being effortlessly charming when in the back of your head, you have "you fucked up," or "it's not the right situation" spinning in your mind. You can't? It's a sure fire way to fuck up if you're friends turned out to be wrong, isn't it?

Unfortunately, at this moment, this entry is too little too late. Because of all this, I am now back to being the person I was ten years ago. This entry is the result of that self-fulfilling prophecy of me being that guy who over-reacts and flies off the handle. How can I not fuck up, not be intense now?

I can't say that I hope for anything different, because I have lost hope, at least for now. I feel heartsick and angry. That tipping point is coming. Maybe I'll welcome it with open arms.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Da Da Da

I know I've always been lucky with gigs appearing just when I need some dosh. They haven't always been the best gigs--First BigLaw and Phuqued Firm can attest to that. But when the reserves run low, somehow, gigs manage to fall into my lap. And not the document review drone gigs, where you sit in a cubicle with six other attorneys for twelve hours a day, the norm of the contract attorney biz. No, instead, I've always gotten gigs that required substantive work--research, motion writing, depositions, court appearances.

So there's a part of me that's not too worried that OceanGig isn't hiring, or what I though was a fallback gig won't be (which actually is good because that office has turned into a morass of low morale and high screaming--I've already been through 5 years of that type of shit).

On the other hand, I have to say I will be bummed if I have to work at the stereotypical document review gig. And shit like this about contract attorneys doesn't help my self-esteem either. That part of me that's been so indoctrinated by the "choose life, choose a job, choose a career" aspect of society is taking a hit to the ego. To paraphrase Trainspotting once again, contract attorneys are apparently "the lowest of the fucking low, the scum of the earth, the most wretched, servile, miserable, pathetic trash that was ever shat into" the legal profession (well, aside from unlawful detainer and collection attorneys).

So yeah, I'm not totally Johnny Sunshine right now, though I haven't really ever been. But I have gone into a Stuart Smalley type spin. Many contract attorneys go into contract work because they have nowhere else to go--they graduate in the middle of the pack from middle tier law schools, and can't get even a SmallLaw job. I'm not denigrating them. Sheesh, but for the grace of God I could've easily been one of them. On the other hand, I started at BigLaw, then jumped to a bigger and better Biglaw and voluntarily took myself out of the running. Working 2600 hours for the rest of my life just wasn't attractive to me. And even if some schmo reviewing my resume tars me with the same brush as other contract attorneys, that difference in legal experience is a significant difference to my ego even if I'm the only person who knows it.

I realized that the aspects that I liked about the law--research, crafting arguements from facts, persuasion--are all creative aspects. The only non-sexual thing that makes me feel whole are the artistic aspects of life--a scene in a movie where the cinematography and acting is just right, the confluence of melody and lyrics of a song, language. So what use is pride in being a BigLaw Partner working fourteen hours a day, worried about the bi-annual draw, making your life beholden to clients who would throw you to the wolves for one simple slip-up, when you're fucking miserable?

Of course, with the realization that it is the impulse to create (or at least the appreciate of others creative impulses)that really drives me, that I will never be happy unless I pursue creative activity, the real problem I have is how to nurture and harnass that impulse. I've been doing research on literary journals in my attempt to publish the short story I've written, and I'm a better writer than nine out of the ten writers a lot of these journals publish. So, quality isn't a worry. Instead, I know my problem is having something to write about.

I guess in the meantime, when I do go back to shoring up the reserves, I gotta remember, "you are not your job."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I Am Jack's Dysfunctional Pineal Gland

"With insomnia, nothing's real. Everything is far away. Everything is a copy, of a copy, of a copy." Narrator, Fight Club

Despite the fact that I'm more at peace with myself now, I'm also entering the fifth straight night of insomnia. I'm too tired to focus, but too wired to relax. I managed perhaps four hours of sleep today, maybe six hours the night before.

I'm not at the point of hallucinating just yet, but I have come up with millions of permutations of every conceivable worst case scenario for a certain missed opportunity. I've though about the economics of interstellar warfare (for a short story that I've been fiddling around with--long story short, doesn't make any economic sense at all). I've wondered about my short term and long term future. I've surfed the web. I've annoyed the crap outta my cat. I've resisted the urge to call friends at 3am in the morning. I'm beginning to look back at those nights filled with dreams about college and missing finals because I haven't studied--in fact, I didn't even know which classes I had been taking because I'd blown them off--with fondness.

Sigh. Maybe I should go to the 7-11 and do some self-medicating--Tylenol PM with a JD chaser.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Half Acre

I know music is such an individual and personal taste. I'm sure that there are people out there who get teary-eyed at the latest Carrie Underwood song, and think that My Chemical Romance is the height of lyricism. So it's difficult to write about those rare three minutes when the confluence of emotions and music are so right that a song stops you in your tracks without sounding awkward.

For the past week, I haven't been sleeping well. I had realized that I had gotten over one relationship only after I realized that I foreclosed certain other possibilities. The prospect of returning to the law leaves me physically ill, but at the same time, I know I need to shore up my reserves once more. And at 1:40 a.m. on a Saturday morning, I received a call from a Certain Someone, with whom I had that relationship I was getting over.

This was one of those nadirs in life, which left me confused and not a little heartsick, paralyzed by the mistakes of the past, those mistakes reaching out to make me stumble along in the present.

Funny how focusing on something random can lead you away.

There's a rather mawkish commercial for Liberty Mutual, an insurance company--it's very "Pay It Forward" where one person witnesses an act of kindness who then in turn does something kind. The commercial is as subtle as a hammer, but it's the music in the background that sticks in your head.

The song is "Half Acre" by Hem. I have a video of a live performance below. Both the vocals and the instrument are beautiful, in a folksy Aaron Copland sort of way. It's only when I read the lyrics and heard the song in its entirety that I felt a burden lift. I know it's rather tacky to refer to another song to describe what I felt, but to paraphrase Hope Sandoval's "Feeling of Gaze," I felt a sin fading.

This isn't a hallelujah moment where I shout, "Blessed be, blessed be, I've been cured!" I still hope in those quiet times that maybe I'm too pessimistic about certain forclosed possibilities, and I still worry about the future. But I do feel a little more at peace with myself. Without much futher ado, here is a video of and the lyrics of "Half Acre" by Hem.

I am holding half an acre
Torn from the map of Michigan
And folded in this scrap of paper
Is the land I grew in

Think of every town you've lived in
Every room you lay your head
And what is it that you remember

Do you carry every sadness with you
Every hour your heart was broken
Every night the fear and darkness
Lay down with you

A man is walking on the highway
A woman stares out at the sea
And light is only now just breaking

So we carry every sadness with us
Every hour our hearts were broken
Every night the fear and darkness
Lay down with us

But I am holding half an acre
Torn from the map of Michigan
I am carrying this scrap of paper

That can crack the darkest sky wide open
Every burden taken from me
Every night my heart unfolding
My home