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I'll sleep like I'm dead



Last night, after I turned out the lights and lay in bed, I couldn’t hear anything: not the whirr of the fireplace fan in the other room, not the gurgle of water through the heater pipes, not the never-ending feedback of my tinnitus, not even my own breathing. The usual flickering greens and purples behind my eyes had been replaced by velvet gray. I thought I was dead. I had to open my eyes to make sure that wasn’t the case.

At this point this morning, I was going to write, “Well, today I write; therefore I am,” but that’s part of the problem. I haven’t posted anything of substance in months. These fallow periods are not new, but in the past during down times, I’ve still felt the murmur of something deep inside: the seeds of words forcing their shoots toward the surface and toward the sunshine, where they eventually break through the crust and strain skyward. Strain skyward. Truth be told, the baby leaves flop to the ground of their own weight, and shrivel. But no matter. These days, the murmur is gone.

I have fallen off the planet. Writing was my gravity.

Watching the Earth recede is baffling. How can this be happening? And why is reality starting to re-arrange itself so it looks like Picasso’s “Three Musicians”? The classroom, which has always been a sanctuary, is starting to crumble. Am I hopelessly old school to think that it’s rude for students to carry on conversations while I’m talking, or, even worse, while their classmates are speaking? Hell, last week I had a student start reading a newspaper halfway through the class, and it wasn’t as if we were belaboring something like subordinating conjunctions. We were talking about how to critically evaluate phenomena like Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, and UFOs. Not your average freshman composition class.

The newspaper reader is a mere symptom of what’s going on in the classroom, but there’s no need to further list the irritations and frustrations. Suffice it to say the classroom used to be an invigorating place. Today, less so. If writing was my gravity, teaching was my air, but I’m drifting off the planet, and it’s getting harder to breathe.

Things that used to bring me great joy are now unutterably wearisome and tiring. I rarely play any music on the drive to and from work. Watching hockey on television used to be decent self-medication, but I’ve lost interest. I’m so overcome by ennui that I don’t even drink anymore.

And life is starting to conspire against me in perverse ways. I was scheduled for some shrinkage Thursday, and I looked forward to sitting down with K, my therapist, and trying to pierce this fog. But she spent the first 15 minutes talking about her interest in genealogy, and I was so far into a WTF mood that I couldn’t even muster up the anger to just get up and walk out.

Friday, for the first time since I started teaching, it was a drag to climb the stairs to my second-floor office. I honestly did not want to work. Fortunately, my first class of the morning is editing, a class of 16 that is by far the best group I’m dealing with this year. We wound up discussing a few matters of grammar (the case of pronouns, in case any grammarians are reading), and I got into it. But then it was off to freshman composition, where virtually every class comes with a moment that makes me wonder what the hell I’m doing.

Fortunately, I have a wonderful wife, and our home is enlivened by four dogs and a cat. But somehow, I can’t figure out a way to make a living by sitting home, reading and drinking coffee.

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Wish I'd Said It

Nota bene: “Fear has governed my life, if I think about it. ... I always feel like I’m not good enough for some reason. I wish that wasn’t the case, but left to my own devices, that voice starts speaking up.” – Trent Reznor

“I hate to say this, but not many people care what you do. They care about what you do as much as you care about what they do. Think about it. Just exactly that much. You are not the center of the universe.” — Laurie Anderson

"The path's not yours till you've gone it alone a time." – William Carlos Williams

“Filling this empty space constitutes my identity.” – Twyla Tharp

"My definition of peace is having no noise in my head." – Eric Clapton

"The wreckage of the sky serves to confirm us in delicious error." – John Ashbery

"We are all here by the grace of the big bang. We are all literally the stuff of the stars." – Dwight Owsley

"For my part, I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream." – Vincent van Gogh

"It is only with the heart that one can see right; what is essential is invisible to the eye." — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

"Forget about being a perfectionist, because entropy always wins out in the end." – Darren Kaufman.

"Impermanence. Impermanence. Impermanence." – Garry Shandling

"Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion." – Mark Twain

"There is no realm wherein we have the truth." – Gordon Lish

"Actual life is full of false clues and sign-posts that lead nowhere." – E.M. Forster

“Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe." – Frank Zappa

“I try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.” – Elmore Leonard

“The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.” – Voltaire

• Journal title and subtitle: Ian Hunter, “Man Overboard”

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