I’ve asked this time and again—“So what is this that I’m doing here writing this, again?”—but now I ask it armed with the new awareness that I am “talking” to no one. I am this close to abandoning my sense of the absolute; how suspicious it is that the main thing keeping me from doing so is the belief that it might be “wrong” (and how revealing that the voice suggesting so sounds a lot like my dad!). It’s the need to explain myself, the need to get to the bottom of things, the sense of responsibility not for my actions but for their rightness that I’m coming to see as... Well, here’s where usually I’d twist myself into knots by reaching for terms like “wrong” or “unhealthy” or even “problematic”—the problem there being fractally identical to the problem as a whole, that I can only think of these things in terms of their wrongness and rightness, that I can only explore these topics in the mode of analysis, of argument, of proof, of reasoning, of—and here’s the rub, once more—getting to the bottom of things. Even that metaphor: is there any reason why we must get to the bottom of things? Is there some imperative? Even the way I’m thinking of that presupposes “a right answer.” As I’ve said so many times to friends, family, and loved ones when offering counsel about difficult choices big and small, there is no right answer. “I think there’s no right answer here,” here, as distinct from most other places, because the assumption would of course be that there is a “right answer.” That’s what I seek to change.
I’ve been rereading Roth—The Ghost Writer, Zuckerman Unbound, The Anatomy Lesson, The Prague Orgy, and now The Counterlife—and yesterday I found out he’s retiring. First I killed David Foster Wallace and J.D. Salinger; now I’ve ended the career of Roth.
But part of the reason I’ve been reading Roth is that I knew, on one level or another (multiple, really)—remembered, is the word—that Roth had been through much of what I’m going through. What are the Zuckerman books but a chronicle of a man’s escape from worry about what others think (as experienced by a mind that can do nothing without turning it into a moral narrative)? Zuckerman’s tragic flaw (and perhaps Roth’s) is that he cannot think or do anything without justifying it, even if the justification is a rejection of the necessity for justification—still a justification!
Maybe it’s foolish to think I can really escape any of that. Maybe it’s who I am. Maybe the goal oughtn’t to be— See, “oughtn’t to be”! Is it futile to try to escape morality?
I think it’s worth a try.
Anyway, back to the original question: what is this? I don’t need to identify it or analyze myself for writing it. Period.
I started this—restarted it, freshman year of college—as a kind of workbook, notebook. Then it devolved back into a diary. I’ve been thinking lately, “What if I took all this energy I put into obsessive self-analysis and turned it onto my writing?” Life has been going so well lately and I’ve been so much happier, and when I “relapse” it seems generally to be because (gonna try not to chicken-and-egg this) I start thinking about how much happier I’ve become. I’m not down on thinking, but I am down on how I seem to think about things. What I call thinking about things, other people would probably call obsessing about things.
Have this be a writer’s notebook. Maybe throw in some details about what I’m up to these days (apprehensively poised above the cliff of rewriting [REDACTED] and turning it into this [REDACTED] idea, [REDACTED]; beginning to whip up, back burner, some pilot ideas like [REDACTED]; back from our “third wedding” in New Jersey, waiting on word of [REDACTED] we thought we’d get more official confirmation of last week, waiting on what’s his name from [REDACTED] to get back to [REDACTED] about [REDACTED], waiting on a residuals check, etc.), just to throw my future self a bone (although fuck my future self)...
I’m not trying to make rules for myself here and regiment my psychological existence. But it is worth remembering: when I direct this energy into my work, I am happier. And I believe that when I am happier, I am a better person. I.e., I am the person I want to be.