Simone and her (occasionally) misanthropic father.

3 Sep

I’m coming out of a month-long period of self-dislike; loathing is too strong a word, disappointment too weak. About once a year I wake up and look at my self and think, you are nothing but a no-talent phony, and this year wasn’t any different. It isn’t pleasant; it’s usually accompanied by an intense anhedonia. I can’t finish books; I don’t enjoy movies; I feel disassociated with my body; I feel like I’m watching an automaton carry out daily tasks. Writing becomes especially painful, as I dismiss my own work with a casual distaste. Nothing is good enough. The whole world seems flat, the joy of things squeezed out.[1]

There’s insomnia, too, and I often find a ghostly haze over my thoughts, like I’m a shade drifting through a world of the living. After a couple of sleep-deprived nights I feel old and haggard, a lonely old man wandering through the confused wreckage of my memories. The world seems made of sand. A gauze permeates the air.

The third pillar of this annual psychological event is a misanthropic streak. I find myself judging others in an uncharacteristic way. I have violent daydreams. I feel ungenerous towards the world, short-tempered, easily frustrated. I carry hatred and rage in my heart.

And the cost of hating others, as Eldridge Cleaver wrote in Soul on Ice, is loving oneself less.

I’ve been writing a lot—mostly fiction, but also a long rambling essay that seems to be turning into an autobiography; a history of black cinema; a survey of revolutionary cinema; and an exploration of the shortcomings of my memory in relationship to Oliver Stone, among others—but not posting anything.

Life remains weird. Here’s one little anecdote. At the gym the other day, I was alone in the locker room with one other man. I couldn’t see his face, he was gawky and thin, his skin was pale, he was changing at the same time as me. I watched him slide off his shirt, and saw, with a surge of momentary fear, that he had the exact same two scars on his back in the exact location. I squinted, studying. Did it mean something? Was he my twin? Is he going to attack me? He turned and gave me a strange look, I dressed quickly and jogged up the stairs and home. Another visit from the night country.

I’m back at work. The Republican National Convention just ended. The teachers’ strike is looming ahead. I caught five minutes of Truman’s 1948 speech at the Democratic Convention and felt a shock at the content; we’ve been fighting the same battles in this country for a century.

Simone is almost three. Pearl is five months old. I’m feeling better, albeit weary.

I’ve read a number of great books recently, and seen a number of good movies. I’ll post on these when I can find the energy.

Life. It keeps moving forward. Like a shark.

I’m going to try something different with the blog in the next two weeks. I’ll give my daily impressions of the teachers’ strike, starting with the rally tomorrow at Daley Plaza. Simone and I are going.

Maybe we’ll see you there.

[1] What’s interesting is I’ve had more interest and success in my writing life during this period than I have in almost eight years. Things are looking up.


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