Measured Extravagance

2001-01-03 - 12:22 a.m.

When the stomach cramps woke me up at 4 a.m. yesterday morning, I thought it was food poisoning (those microwaved shumai did taste a shade too pasty...). So, I spent the rest of night in the bathroom shivering in various contortions, phoned in to work at dawn, and then crawled back into bed.

Then, just before noon, I got up and made some toast and cocoa - and started uncontrollably sneezing. The bluggy, icky, nose-chafing, sodden-Puffs variety of uncontrollable sneezing. Ceci n'est pas l'intoxication alimentaire... It's true I didn't want my holiday to end, but I'd have to be awfully annoyed before I wished those stomach cramps on someone else.

Granted, if I were to bother making a list of people who severely annoy me, it would probably extend from my right collarbone to my left carpal tunnel. At least. On the other hand, I have better things to do than making such lists.

For instance, now that my stomach is now only mildly queasy, as opposed to trying to turn itself inside out, this isn't a bad little virus to have. Messy enough to keep away from the office, yet mild enough to stay away from the doctor. Unpleasant enough to stick to bland foods and light reading, but not so demanding that I couldn't tackle some more lazy filing (of the "recycling bin or back in the outbox?" variety) and cast a few more cookbooks-I'll-never-cook-from upon the haul-to-the-library heap.

Time was when I couldn't afford to take time off from work, either, financially or responsibility-wise. I love having breathing space -- I don't make as much out of it as I could or should, perhaps, but I love that it's there. Some of it I earned. Some of it was luck. I'm grateful for all of it.

* * *

Time was also when I didn't have unlimited online access. This online journal habit (both the writing and reading of) wouldn't be happening without DSL. It's a habit, though, that I've regarded with serious ambivalence since Day One: as I feared, it's been far too easy just to keep clicking through links instead of facing my more demanding personal projects, and the signal-to-noise ratio has been every bit as bad as expected. Lots of whingeing, lots of negative energy, and lots of people to whom I want to shake by the scruff and shout - "Get Prozac, get a grip, get involved in helping others, I don't care what but do get whatever it takes to GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR ASS!"

Of course, I frequently feel that way about non-journallers, too. I'm not wholly intolerant of moping, mind - in fact, I'm sufficiently manic-depressive to have distinct "hedgehog" phases when I curl up tight and go all prickles. That, and being raised as an agnostic pessimist, and possessing a pronounced tendency to flail about after jumping in over my head. All of these have contributed to my familiarity with the State of Mope. I've got a standing reservation there, and a running tab with the usual chocolates and booze and shoes and other cliches of self-medication. I don't entirely trust people who've never sojourned in Mope, or who deny its existence.

But, all that said, Mope is ultimately boring. Mope is provincial. Mope is full of big fat dead ends (except for the bridge to Mull). The people with whom I want to connect don't dwell in Mope - they're busy living. They've got their own aches and losses and griefs, but they've also got perspective and grace. They know this is the only life we get. They know that what they do can matter. Given the choice, who would you rather be around - the sad self-pitying sack in the corner, or the person passionate about cats (or rosemary, or saving the salmon, or the Flying Karamazov Brothers, or Ayn Rand, or...)? I've been both. I'll concede there are some exceptions, too - some days I'm just not in the mood to save the world, and I'll flee from anyone with even the slightest gleam of benign militancy in their eye - but, by and large, I'd much rather be with people who believe in at least some vestige of karma - that if you care about something, you'll get something out of it (even if it's not the reward you initially wanted or expected).

I've watched people battle to live. I've watched people die. I do have a list of what I want to do before I die, and each year I hone it down some more, paring away what's no longer feasible, as well what I've come to realize doesn't matter quite enough for me to pursue. There's always a few new things thrown in as well, though, and the one real constant is that there isn't going to be enough time to accomplish everything on that list, whether I live three more years or thirty. This is why I can't stand it when I hear/read people bitching about the pointlessness of their lives - it makes me itch to take the Great Clockmaker aside and say, "Look here, can't we make a deal or something? They clearly have more time than they know what to do with - can't you redirect some of it into my account? And if you won't do that, can't you at least appear to them in a dream and order them towards a soup kitchen or shelter so they'll have something someone can actually love them for besides their self-absorbed little selves?"

Anyway, getting this worked up over the pathetic non-lives of strangers is clearly a sign I've been surfing too much and too often (but yes, I also cry on cue when I read Harlequin romances. I'm such a sucker...). No more random journal browsing for me. I should be spending more time offline as it is, but in-between issues of Vanity Fair, I know my nose is going to continue twitching towards other people's business - so I'm just going to have to convince myself that I really do have enough journals bookmarked at this point to satisfy my snoopy little soul. Some I've mentioned ealrier, and I've added a few others since then: I find maggie zine to be an engaging read, and I haven't gone wrong yet with any of the links from Blueberry Hill. I also spent some time yesterday poking around the lair of A Man About Murfreesboro - see especially the December 20 entry if you want to know how I feel about Dubya. I don't know the MAM or his friend Tracey, but she and I are of the same mind about this one.

Which brings me to Daniel Lanois, in a roundabout way, since I located MAM via the website of my fellow alum John Scalzi, who wrote a fine paean to Lanois, which I happened upon via a link at a nicely-designed site promoting The Unbreakable Chain, a tribute album to Lanois which arrived in my mailbox yesterday afternoon as a present from my Aunt Louise. What splendid timing, methinks: me, a mug of tea, a box of Puffs, and the time to steep in some Lanois and memories of college.

And after the album was done, I rooted around for my copy of Peter Gabriel's Us, which in its turn brought back memories of graduate school - "Come Talk to Me" being an anthem from that time, and "Secret World" the song that replaced the Smithereens' "Blood and Roses" as a private theme...:

I stood in this unsheltered place
'Til I could see the face behind the face...

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