Hard Work

For the last several months, being unable to work and thankfully getting support from family while I try to get disability sorted (I finally got my complex PTSD recognized but that’s only the first step in a long slog), I’ve been trying to make some good faith gesture to show my father I’m not being lazy.

I’ve been treating this book like an overtime job. I haven’t had a weekend off in many months.  I’ve spent many long nights trying to get every detail of this book as close to perfection as I could.

Now I’m in the home stretch. I’m waiting for some shipping supplies I ordered to arrive, and making small last-minute changes. But I promised myself that I wouldn’t weave Penelope’s Web here. The manuscript has no pressing issues that I can think of. I could continue refining it indefinitely (I’m constantly improving) but there comes a point where you have to trust that you’ve said all you need to say and put the project to bed. Once those shipping supplies arrive, I’m going to send it off to a major SF publisher I’ve found that still has open sumissions thankfully. Soon I’ll see if I can turn everything that’s happened to me to this point into art that others will enjoy.

I regret that I’m not a musician or a visual artist. I’ve tried my hand at both and I’m mediocre at one and a complete amateur at the other. I envy the instant gratification musicians and visual artists are able to provide. I’m a writer, and part of the reason building any sort of recognition as a writer is difficult is because people have to want to spend 5-18 hours actually processing your work. But those that have bothered to read it tell me it’s exquisite. I have a knack for writing from life experiences, and a good head for complex plots that work neatly and don’t confuse the reader. Trying to compare my present style to anyone is difficult, so it’s distinctive.

Still, I harbor many doubts. My lack of success so far in getting the readership I’d like to see or the attention of literary critics has been immensely frustrating and discouraging. I only write because it’s the only halfway useful skill I have. I’ve seen myself for most of my adult life as an earnest loser. I don’t see myself as a person who could ever have a meaningful or fulfilling life doing something I love for a living because for most of my life, earning a buck meant subjecting myself to meaningless jobs that could easily be replaced by robots in the next 20 years. And yet, I have a small cult following who actually admires what I do. I’ve met a few people who owned my books but didn’t know I was the author. And I have people who believe in me enough to help me in whatever modest way they can. And I have people willing to support me while I cope with my problems. Maybe I can turn my luck around before my support system collapses.

When I mail off this book, I hope that the editors who read it won’t be disappointed. I’ve worked so hard. I need a break. I need it so bad.

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Writing

Another reason I’ve been scarce on this blog is because I’ve been extremely busy with that novel I’ve been working on.

It’s nearly done (I have about 3 pages of revision notes to implement, then it’s off to the publisher) and I have to say, I’m proud of it. I’ve managed to convey the feeling I had early on, when it was Jack and Count William’s memories that had come through; that is, simultaneously seeing the world through three different lenses.

During that stretch, in late 2012 and early 2013, my world became strange. Little details I hadn’t noticed before like dates on buildings stood out. Everything I saw, heard, tasted, smelled, or experienced was compared and contrasted with things I’d known in medieval or Edwardian times. The world took on a dizzying novelty and my sense of time on human scales became more expansive. I felt as if I’d just got back from the front even though that life had ended nearly a century before, and I often had moments where I was stunned that I was alive, breathing air, walking down the street, looking up at clouds and stars and sunrises. It was as if Jack, that proto-self with his own beliefs and memories, had woken up thousands of miles from Armentieres after a very long sleep.

I don’t know if I can ever convey the full depth of that experience or what it was like to live immersed in that headspace, but maybe I can at least touch on it to some small degree and give the reader some small measure of the profound disorientation I felt.

There’s also a gnostic subplot that uses a heretical group based on the cathars to make a point about reality, and a technician who died while working on a simulator and was memorialized in-world as a messianic figure.

There’s a lot going on in the story. Some of the battle scenes were extremely difficult to write (not in terms of putting words together, but in terms of having to relive my worst memories). In terms of style or plot, it’s not a great deal like Phil’s work except for the reality-bending simulacrum aspect (to that end, there’s a passing resemblance to A Maze of Death); it’s got more in common with Ursula LeGuin’s The Lathe of Heaven but even that comparison doesn’t do it justice.

Marketing will be a challenge for a number of reasons. As ever, past life claims are off limits in terms of making a sale because I want this story to speak for itself.

Knock on wood, it’ll be a good enough story to make an easy sale.

Eclipse

It seems I’m not the only one with a weak connection to the divine lately. It seems that the solar eclipse heralded a weak connection for many people. It’s almost as if the Divine itself had been hidden behind the moon and has yet to fully emerge.

I e-mailed my bishop… I hadn’t even spoken to him in over a month and I felt terribly guilty. So I told him everything going on, the worldly cares, the weak connection, the engrossing projects.

He said he and others in the congregation were facing much the same thing. The signal is weak for him too. It’d be one thing if we were all in the same place together, but I hadn’t been to mass or spoken to him in ages!

So tonight I was in the need for music and I got to thinking about a song from Ravi Shankar’s Chants of India caled Prabhujee.

What I didn’t realize until I looked them up was how appropriate the lyrics are:

Oh Master,show some compassion on me,
Please come and dwell in my heart.
Because without you, it is painfully lonely,
Fill this empty pot with the nectar of love.

I do not know any Tantra, Mantra or ritualistic
worship i know and believe only in you. 
I have been searching for you all over all the world,
please come and hold my hand now.

That pretty much sums up my feeling. Yearning for the divine the way the grass yearns for the sun when a cloud covers it, naturally and earnest. Shankar speaks of this from a Hindu idiom but the longing is the same.

I will await the God above God and speak Their thousand and one names in love.

A Thought

Feeling this distance from any notion of past lives lately has been a mixed blessing.

On the one hand, living as if my entire existence began in the summer of 1984 and that this whole thing is behind me and part of my experiences now has been refreshingly normal.

But the truth is it’s not all behind me. Right now it’s not barking at my heels like it does sometimes, but it’s always there. Sometimes, it just feels far enough away I can ignore it.

And in those times when I can ignore it, there’s a rather unpleasant effect: I feel completely at odds with anything spiritual. It was as if my awareness of the heavenly diminished with my awareness of the infernal.

Even when I can intellectually grasp these ideas, like some thoughts I had about the mathematical proof of infinity supporting the notion that the finite universe has an infinite substrate, I don’t feel at all connected to that notion. I feel a distance from that sense of the infinite, from the thought that maybe one day we’ll be liberated from this mess and rejoin the light, and it’s such a cold and lonely feeling.

I’ve seen the thumbrint of God, knew the truth of Their works. I’ve seen the vision of the fiery pillar that burned with love and felt the awesome presence of the light beyond light. Where is that presence now? I feel stranded in a foreign land, trapped in the bondage of Molech.

Reflecting

My thoughts on the future of this blog and of my priorities in life are evolving. Here’s where I stand as of today.

I’ve come to the conclusion that over the last year, the general climate of fear and stress has aggravated my PTSD. This became painfully clear yesterday when, during a meeting with my counselor and another member of my care team, I was informed that during one of my sessions I had dissociated for a full five minutes, completely mute, with a thousand yard stare.

Not everything about my situation can be helped. I’ve had appliances breaking, a sick cat, I’ve been sick myself for several days (recovering, thankfully), and I recently lost all but $15 of my food benefits. I can apply for a program that helps seriously disabled people find jobs in Oregon, but they won’t be able to see me until February.

What I can help is aggravating an already bad situation by ruminating so much on the political situation when I’m not well enough to take part in any constructive solutions. This has led me into some dark places and worsened my feelings of anger and bitterness to a critical mass that I have to step back from before I’m responsible for something I can never live down.

I have to find some balance between honoring my views and beliefs and not letting my inability to engage in the solutions to the problems I see worsen my condition. More importantly, I need to work through my pain and find my way back to embrace my contemplative, spiritual side that I’ve been holding at bay.

I don’t want to have to use the medium of past lives to work through my pain though. I feel like I have enough pain in 33 years that needs to be resolved. On the other hand, there’s a menacing undercurrent of those memories that won’t go away, even though I’ve chosen not to acknowledge them any more as part of my therapy. Ypres is seldom far from my thoughts though I spend more energy now trying to convince myself that this was some artifact of complex trauma and dissociation.

Was it really? I don’t honestly know. My therapist doesn’t either. He tried to bring it up during our session but I was firm that I didn’t want to discuss the matter. I want to try to focus on the present, or at least no further back in the past than the date on my current birth certificate.

I’ll let this lead where it may.  Perhaps I’ll find that there was some usefulness in addressing Jack’s trauma as something distinct rather than an artifact of my own pathology. We’ll see.

 

More On My Last Post

From the very first time the idea crossed my mind, I realized that reincarnation isn’t a happy or comfortable thought.

Apart from the small perk of getting to try things, visit places, and (if you’re fortunate) get re-acquainted with people you knew in another time, there is a great deal of baggage. These people, places, and things are seldom the same. Favorite foods change recipes, favorite places get demolished or change beyond recognition, people grow old and eventually die, and even the music isn’t quite right after a few centuries. And even when things don’t change, sometimes you do.

Moreover, I find that since about 2009 or so, I fear life more than death. I can’t say I was happy with the idea of oblivion because happiness never entered the equation; but there was always something to be said for cold comfort. As I believe I’ve said before, I preferred to believe in oblivion because it meant a definitive end to suffering.

Jack’s memories opened a can of worms that I never wanted to open. It opened the prospect of a universe where, in the absence of God or justice or order, we were plunged in and out of material existence.

Desperate for some hope of deliverance, I fell back on Buddhism and Gnosticism in hope that I could follow a wise path to deliverance, but it felt dishonest; I never saw anything of deliverance in all this. To believe in transcendence at all was too much of a leap of faith for me.

Now I live in a time of upheavals. The prospect of nuclear annihilation, civil war, societal collapse, or ecocide loom large. I honestly don’t expect to live much longer; queer lefty types like me will probably get the noose sooner rather than later. I don’t want my last thoughts to be “Shit! Not again!” If I’m going to die soon, might as well embrace it with some hope of endless, dreamless sleep beyond the realm of suffering.

Maybe this is what Buddha was trying to tell us. Maybe we trap ourselves in Samsara by believing in Samsara. Perhaps liberation comes only from acceptance of death and oblivion. I certainly believed in some form of life after death in my last two lives.

I’m going to reflect on this over the next few days. I’ve retreated from social media and any unnecessary socializing for the next few days, and I intend to be in deep contemplation during the interval.