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10:00 am | 14 July 2004 | your invite to the pity party

(Note: I was asked why I have this journal at all, a while ago. And while the biggest reason is that it keeps me writing, a smaller corollary reason is simple need to get it out--I like to think that, unlike many other bloggers, I'm not out for expressions of pity/sympathy from my readership--but just to put it out there, get it away from me. Kind of a very Pump-Up-the-Volume move. Anyway, here is some related stuff I was thinking about. Sorry it's so mopey.)

I am a collector, typically of things that are odd candidates for collection--certain late 19th-century liniment bottles with horses' heads on them, or Bundt pans, or unloved 1940s plush toys. Then, every two or three years, it's clean sweep: I throw them all out, start anew in the opposite direction. I love either things that are very old or relentlessly new. In 1998 missed my chance to buy a half-rotting toy elephant made of horsehair and stuffed with grass and he has haunted me since. But what am I to do about that?

I don't know if it's a similar phenomenon, the friendships I make. I noticed years ago that I tend to collect people who are broken, breaking, or lost. Is it any coincidence that I don't have a single close friend who hasn't seriously considered, attempted, or committed suicide? Do we run in such packs? It is without braggadocio that I say this: I like helping, as much as I can. I like feeling useful. I like being the "go-to girl" for nervous breakdowners. But I reach points where I feel useless, too, or selfish. The Surgeon General made a crack about "I'm the top doctor in America. When I get sick, where can I go?" I feel this way. Not that I am the "top" anything, but rather that I set myself up as (or am cast in the role of) some kind of leader or helpmeet, because my experience with myriad miseries is vast. I can offer not only empathy, but sympathy--same feeling--oh, and understanding. My ability to imagine and understand how you are feeling I swear to you that I am not trying to be all emo with this shit. I'm just saying.

So, look, I am the present-imperfect form, and I get stuck. And then when I am lost, where do I go? And who cares? Half of the reason people come to me anyway is that I'll listen, and carefully, to everything they're saying and to much of what they're not. But who, besides a masochist (or someone being paid $100 an hour), enjoys that? Me. Because when I feel useful to your life, then the complete uselessness I am to my own is less apparent. But I can't come to you with anything. Your onedownmanship is strong, grasshopper. Where I am is a fault of my own.

So look, I am bottled, and you come to me. And I get the fear of the inept, destructive juggler, the fear that knocks you off your perfectly good waterskis, the fear that makes parents hit the runaway child that comes back. I'm so afraid I'll mess up or lose something that I throw it down, rather than fumble it, fuck it up, make a mistake. This way I can say I didn't err. I chose to drop it. It's easy to do, and even easier to make it look unintentional. My favourite Smog song goes "When you're down on your luck and you just can't cope/When times are bleak and friends are few/Don't turn to me 'cause I'm no hope/Don't turn to me cause I don't know what do." I feel more and more hollow, the more people I talk to. Can't you see it bleeding out of my eyes the entire time? So look, it's not that I don't love you. It's that I love you too much, lose the ability to separate us, take all your hurts and pack 'em in with mine. "Every day lately my mind feels like glass/Ready to be smashed." I feel like I've Gift of the Magi'd myself: all good intentions, all empty hands.

So look, I have gathered you, telling you that you can be fixed, saying to everyone "get better," constantly deluging myself with projects and attitudinal revamps, oh yes, tweaking bits of my personality the way Joan Rivers tweaks her face. As though that would really work, and furthermore as though belief in constant change ever leaves room for contentment. This hope, this striving, this always-working-on leaves me nowhere to just rest and say, This, here, is good enough. The way we are beaten for the two missed on a test with a score of 98%. Sleeping dogs can't lie where we toss and turn in bed all night. Finally, our dear friends aren't collections of old silver knives, to be boxed and put on the curb. And what these programmes of delusional rigor leave me with is a keen sense of self-knowledge, too keen, with the wounded understanding that with strict eventuality I will subtract myself again. History repeats like a Nintendo level we could have won, but that we keep replaying in hopes of the perfect score, no fuckups, all treasure found, no burn marks or bruises. So. Look: I have no right to say anything about commitment issues, me, the always-leaving. clm.

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