Sunday, December 5, 2010
Postcard from the Edge
Let’s get it right out of the way. As of late I’ve been suffering from strange case of malaise, manifesting itself as a feverishly wicked, temporary case of writer’s block, devoting nearly all of my energy to the always careening trials and tribulations of my real job as a so-called labor leader, letting my blog slip away, and only managing to get the Providence Monthly column I regularly contribute done because there is indeed a deadline and a job at stake.
The day before the holiday I had a reoccurrence of an ongoing medical condition I’ve battling with for over a year and plunged into the all-so-familiar well of sickness. I did my best to man up and get through Thanksgiving, helped along mightily by a perfect group of holiday guests, but my relapse on Friday into Saturday just about put me over the edge. Four days running without shoes, smokes, drinks, or solid food (My kingdom for a piece of cheese!), combined with a totally intermittent sleeping pattern had me actually questioning whether some of the despicable moral choices of my past or the once complete ignorance of my physical well being in the constant pursuit of fun, pleasure and gamesmanship had perhaps come back to haunt me. (Really, me, the guy who used to be so self-justifiably and in-yer-face guilt free.)
The mind plays weird tricks and I was tricked out all weekend, heading into a full blown, ever-deepening, and constantly swirling depression despite the unarguable fact that I have a great wife and a life-sustaining relationship, a good job, strong and lasting friendships, and, in direct contrast to so many Americans barely scraping through the holiday season the unadorned truth is that I am essentially a fat cat middle-class guy who doesn’t even have a dollop of the financial or emotional problems currently commom to the union members I serve; many of them literally poised on the brink of disaster if congress does not get it together to continue the unemployment extension.
Saturday I reached my lowest of lows, unable to make my good friend Mark Cutler’s gig at Nicks-a-Nees (my home away from home, my great good place, my tender bar) where I actually intended to give him give him a sincere holiday hug, an intention I don’t muster up very often. I woke (once again) as some godforsaken hour, enfeebled and infected, and scoured the TV only to find a Ken Burns executive produced series about one of my absolute favorite subjects-The American West- yet I watched through dour eyes, not seeing the examples of American spirit, individualism, and starry-eyed dreaming on display, instead concentrating on the heartbreaks, the broken spirits and disappearing cultures, the heavy foot of US imperialism, and I found myself silently weeping, sad for my woe-is-me self of course, but disheartened by a larger, blacker, feeling of despair and throat-tightening blackness. Dirt sick, poisoned of soul, hopeless in the grayness of the early dawn, I simply let both of my Boston terriers huddle against me, true pals in the disconsolate twilight, and willed myself and my mini-pack back to sleep, sick and damaged in heart, mind and stomach yet stengthened by that wierd unvarnished canine combo of companionship and devotion.
Still, came Sunday morn, cold and clear, the world hadn’t collapsed or imploded, and I at least got it together to bang out the above, and I requested my wife to drive my weakened self so that I might complete one of my most important self-rituals, the morning paper run. Outside the store I saw a proud male townie obliviously strolling through the parking lot in Cranston, RI, sporting shorts and sneakers with no socks pre-eight am with the temperature reading 27 degrees. Ah, a sign of normality I thought, somehow soothed. I went straight back to unwell HQ, where I drank my first cup of tea since childhood. (And it was ginger.)