These end-of-year epilogues have become invariably sad affairs. Of course, I would prefer that it was different, but I still believe that they help me channel energies in a better way.
Dedicated to the few and faithful.
I said last year that major positives had been bruised by minor negatives. Now, the poles have changed: the negatives have become structural, while the positives barely scratch the surface.
Here writes an uninspired, woefully under-confident shell, who remains without a credible plan to turn it all around.
That I know the root of the problem is both a blessing and a curse. The biggest mistake I made was following well-intended advice that was clearly not meant for such a poor human. The second was not finding the strength to resist it when I knew how damaging it was.
One common myth that, to me, seems categorically untrue, is that the things we seek will find us when we’re not looking or when we least expect them.
I know why that’s a consoling thought – because to try one’s hardest and still fail is bleak. Sometimes, what we have is not good enough, and living with that is horrible. But saying that what we seek will come when we don’t look is even worse. Nobody can guarantee that. And when that fails to work, we only castigate ourselves for the time not spent trying.
‘Effort’ is a double-edged sword. Without reward, there seems no point. But even the timeless ‘carpe diem’ has more integrity as a motto.
Dance like no-one is watching,
Love like you’ve never been hurt.
Sing like no-one is listening,
And live like it’s your last day on Earth.
[The things we’ve got to do…]
I don’t wonder this has become my new favourite of the Alphavillean oeuvre – made richer and more gripping by its ethereal live incarnations. Look out for the background doves – a wave of beauty and wonder.
There are also myths that I propagate myself, to some disparagement. There’s a universal ‘pecking order’ would be one example. Perhaps we don’t all know where we stand in the great line of accomplishment and appeal (it’s probably better if we never need to know), but some of us end up obsessing about it nonetheless.
It’s left to wonder when my neck was targeted just shy of the millennium, as one example, whether this sort of thing happens because somebody is identified as so low on that scale that they simply don’t matter. This is the explanation I’ve come to adopt.
I remember writing an imitation of John Milton long ago. O Half Loss of Sight. I’m still hooked on those words from Samson Agonistes: ‘The vilest here excel me: They creep, yet see’ (74-75). Sight becomes the means by which the speaker instils ultimate inferiority. Living in a world where human nature can be so disturbing, one can be tempted to think along similar lines. The vilest creep, yet live.
I envy those who revel in self-positivity.
And I don’t mean to deny achievement, for the year has not been without it. I’ve earned a place in two forthcoming books, an article for the Marvell Society Newsletter, and a place in the Leicester Early Modern Seminar Series. I preside over a personal finance blog independently rated at 15th in the UK, which is attracting interest and investment from large companies.
I am a semi-capable being. Just, at home, on my own, that means so little. And while my family has long supported my lofty yet unprofitable endeavours, their patience has started to run thin. The constant reminders of ‘wasting your life’ are becoming a bitter pill. Nobody is more aware of it than I am.
When we scrub self-inflation away, what others think is all that counts, unless we plan to lead completely solitary lives. The basis of psychological wellbeing is built from the blocks of others’ approval.
This is a different kind of narrative to Skimming Stones, but leaves a similarly unshakeable impression on the soul. It speaks for numerous problems and discriminations: not only the real, but also the dysmorphic. Understand how I often believe that people regard me, and let the message take you as it will.
I’ve published little this year and abandoned much, but it has all been useful and meant a great deal. The culmination of this deep-rooted psychological attachment with my favourite poet provides a story through his poems that is almost too beautiful and terrible to imagine.
It’s a tough self-interrogation. I face my own fears as I interpret Marvell facing his, and know that the longer time goes on, the truer and more terrible this unusual marriage becomes.
… In spite of history,
There’s enduring mystery
Of how humans fight the facts,
The memory of their acts.
So many new false dawns,
Bright days turned to storms,
So much hope and trust we looked to future dreams…
Every year, I reference Prufrock as the quintessential foil. Nothing ever changes and there are no second chances. My mind has burnt out of trickery. Belief requires the faith that gives it substance.
No. I’ll remain on the periphery between security and insecurity, success and failure, driven by self-torture and a respectful fear of being positive. If that’s all that creates meaning for this soporific man in such times, so it shall be.
But I do care that friends know that without them, there would be nothing here and no strength left to write. Thank you, as ever, for keeping a flame alive.