12 April, 2016

Echoes along the dirty, sacred river: settling up with the past

 In this bright future, you can't forget your past. - Bob Marley

The past cannot be cured.  - Queen Elizabeth I

John William Waterhouse - Echo and Narcissus - Google Art Project.jpg
Echo and Narcissus, John William Waterhouse (1903)
 In the process of moving something around in the basement bunker where I write, record The Kentucky Muck Podcast, and try to play a little music now and again, ended up going through old files. No matter how much of a minimalist I aspire to be, nothing makes me feel like an gold medal level hoarder quite like going through my files.

I have a bad habit of putting things away in an attempt to not lose it, only to forget where I put such and so thing away shortly thereafter.

"Well shit," -- what I say to myself when I run into myself having made my life far more complicated than it needed to be because I found every 10 mm socket* I bought to replace the one I lost, only to find them all in the same re-purposed thing-of-a-jig box that was too too cool to throw away*-- which is to say, I found some old writing. I posted one of the poems on my Facebook page this past Sunday. I also found a book length draft of short stories I wrote while living in Illinois, including one mostly completed almost novella I had tentatively titled "Next Time, Plan Ahead." Although I'd left myself a notation that the it was on the second draft and that draft was complete, handling the pages reminded me of why it never made it past the second draft.

It was abandoned.

I abandoned it primarily because my second ex-wife*** was horrified by the fact that the bulk of my inspiration for my fiction^ came from my life -- which is to say, what was our married life.  I could provide the literary antecedents, or go down the rabbit hole of realism as a form of art. I abandoned what amounted to a year's worth of writing because, at the time, I thought I was saving a marriage.

Other than the fact that I more or less forgot about the work -- because I've been focusing on newer work, teaching, journalism, labor organizing, and getting married to the love of my life -- I haven't thought about the stories I wrote living in Illinois because... well, I'm generally in a happier mental place than I was the time. As an artifact, rereading the work brings back some really negative shit. Some of it's sad. Some of it makes me hate myself a little.

But, if I'm being honest -- and I'm always honest with you, Dear Friends and Readers -- little echoes of all that shit crop up more often than I'd like. Echoes of old habits. Old mistakes in dead relationships. Old feelings born out of the mismatched wiring of doomed relationships -- I'll tell one of those stories soon. But the trick, I've learned, is to face the echo and see it for what it is.

* 10 mm sockets are like socks that never seem to make it back from a laundry trip, except that instead of a lone, pairless sock that could, in theory, be paired with another lone pairless sock -- there's always more than one in the sock drawer -- you've got an entire socket set (24 separate doodads and watchadoodles) that are completely USELESS. 
** In addition to hoarding things with an archivist's passion, I also love to save things that I can then put other things in to save, only to put that thing I put things in inside a larger thing with basically the same purpose. My mind palace -- and my basement-- is  a never-ending garden of Russian nesting dolls. 
*** Yes, I have two ex-wives. I write about them both from time to time, though rarely through the lens of fiction.
^ Fiction, n. A narrative that may be based on real life things but it not bound to the honesty of the events. Fiction, rather, is bound to the honesty of the writer's intent and purpose, as well as bound to the integrity of the narrative.

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