shame’s less of a hurdle when there’s nobody around

Went to dinner last night with somebody who has the very best of intentions and who I know only wants me to succeed but who nonetheless went a little too hard with the “and what about”s—it’s a line of questioning that young artsy folks are subject to.

            And what about living arrangements?           

            And what about insurance?

            And what about dating?

            And what about travel?

            Questions having to do with your current lack of money (or, in this case, mine) and the fact that there’s really no guarantee that your efforts (mine) will ever earn you a dollar, ever, and the questioner–piling these gentle questions like those cumbersome oversized Jenga blocks you see at pubs–wears on his or her face the strain of delicately communicating how worried they are about the hopelessness of your endeavor without, at the same time, discouraging you from that endeavor. Because they do want you to succeed. Nobody really wants you to fail. But this or that person, your interlocutor, would be really relieved if you could just do this artsy thing as…as a side thing.

            I was gonna go to Batch after that difficult dinner cuz it’s Monday and they’ve got $5 Goose Island IPAs on special. But I know how this goes. If I’m upset when I get there I tell myself I’ll have one can, which turns into two, which turns invariably into three and sometimes even four. Then I’m shelling out $25 in order to, what?, not deal with a problem?

I can wallow in my bed for free.

By the Loire by Quint Bucholz

            I came straight back to my apartment after dinner and opened one of the Veza Surs I got a few nights ago and spent a half hour cleaning dog urine from my bedroom floor, the bathroom floor, the hallway floor and the shower. I was seething with this anger that was so blinding, so infernal, there’s really no way I can say that it was actually anger.

            It’s just sadness, dude. Shame. I’m embarrassed by my situation.

            I was halfway through cleaning the piss off the floor when Mango started spinning and making noise and so I took him downstairs and he strolled onto the lawn of the apartment complex next door and somebody shouted in Spanish for him to not “hace kaka aqui” and so I had to pick him up as he was squatting, and carry him to the sidewalk—where, reeling from the surprise of being lifted mid-shit into the air, he was seized by a constipation that gripped him for another five or ten minutes. Then I’m carrying him up to my apartment again, lumbering up three flights, where there’s yet more urine waiting to be cleaned, and I’ve gotta make my bed while the apartment slowly cools down from a full day with the air conditioner off, and meanwhile my dinner companion’s questions are echoing in my head (“and what about this and what about that and what about the other thing and how do you plan to pay for…”).

            I’m embarrassed by all this. I’m happy to be working on the Project and I’m lucky that I’ve got the good fortune to be living on my own with a super cool roommate, two great dogs, I’ve got my dad right nearby and two great friends, Bob & Lynda, living a stone’s throw down the road.

            But I’ve clearly got these semi-dormant feelings about being a failure that get triggered whenever I’m subject to the line of inquiry that I guess I’m kinda suppressing or dodging, 24/7.            

            Here’s a question, though.

            If I choose not to focus on those very practical, sensible, real-world questions, if I choose to just trust the idea that I know what I’m doing and that, like, murder, “talent will out,” and I’ll be rewarded for my perseverance in the long run—is that what it means to “believe in yourself”? Is that what it means to “do you”?

            If so, should I ignore these people’s questions? Should I downplay the urgency of the healthcare question? The dental insurance question? Cuz I could trip on the stairs tomorrow and knock all my teeth out. Then what? Podcast’ll sound funny as shit.

            This weekend, on Saturday, I went to a barbeque with some colleagues and had a wonderful time. Thing is this: it was a somewhat quiet crowd. Everybody there was bright, everybody had a good sense of humor, but not everybody knew each other. The room would spontaneously drop into silence. And so I started throwing out topics. Told stories. Told jokes. Maybe dominated too much of the conversation. People were laughing and they were engaged, it was a fun night, but I feel like I was maybe making too much of myself.

            Is this some anxious compensatory thing, or is this who I really am?

            I recently had a spat with the woman I’m seeing, Elle, and when she went to a party the following night she showed a picture of me to somebody who turned out to be an old friend of mine, somebody who I guess secretly doesn’t really like me, and he started telling her that she needs to run, stay away from me, and cited as his principle reason the fact that I’m “emotionally unavailable” (I dated one of his friends and I guess he got the news).

            It’s only been in the past couple years that I’ve gotten a sense of what it really means to shut down with people. To just not open yourself up. And I’ve discovered what I think is the skill of shutting down when necessary. A certain on-the-spot toughening of the skin. A hardening of one’s demeanor. And given my sensitivity to this topic of “and what about,” I’m thinking it might be wise to just not really discuss my work with anybody anymore except my very closest friends.

            My creative endeavors are my creative endeavors.      

            There are two acquaintances of mine who are both in their early twenties, younger than me, and they’re already divorced. Both cite, as part of their separation, their partner’s all-over-the-placeness when it comes to work.

            And this is part of my hangup about not wanting to get seriously involved with anybody romantically: if I’m setting myself up for ruin with all of this writing business, if I’m really gonna hobble my life with it—then I’m ruining my life. I’m not dragging somebody else through my failure. I’m not having to live with the disappointment of somebody who believed in me and hoped for the best.

            I feel like I need to close some doors and pull some curtains.

            If I fail, it’s my fault.

            If I succeed—that’s fine too, it worked out.

            Just need to make it much more intensely my own.

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