Dear Reader…

…I recently passed the 200th post on this blog and must confess—sometimes my peevishness builds up like the buzz of an amplifier feeding back its own distortion. I begin to feel attention ought to be paid and wish I felt as valued as I ought to be valued.

Generally, I spare you these fits of pique because: a. they will pass, b. it’s not your fault, c. you might feel obligated to point out their injustice, d. regret invariably follows, and e. talking about my petty grievances will only establish what an ass I can be.

Still, I know the hunger of a greedy heart desiring affection and admiration. My only hope is maybe you do too, need company, and will forgive my momentarily loud desperation.

The fourth of five children, I was born jockeying for position and attention. Insisting on visibility was an early and strong theme, and, though I was and continue to be immeasurably proud of all my siblings’ talents and accomplishments, some doubt comes with being one of five. I grew up wondering if my achievements would stand up against theirs, whether people would praise me as highly or even grant me a quiet corner in the familial pantheon I was fated to join.

Our family had athletes, actors, artists, writers, and scholars, so cross-throughs crowded the early catalog of my aspirations. No doubt, worrying about equaling others can fuel extraordinary effort, but it can also fuel jealousy, restlessness, and self-recrimination. “What about me?” the greedy heart cries, “when will I get my due?” Or worse, it wails, “I so wish I deserved more.”

In Jonathan Lenthem’s Fortress of Solitude, one of the characters tells his buddy about a model for families based on the Beatles. Every unit has a responsible parent whose grace, self-discipline, and sense of obligation makes it the perfect public face to present to the world: Paul. Beside this responsible parent is a genius parent, the brains of the operation. The genius parent’s talents compensate for bouts of disorganization, irresponsibility, or tactlessness because genius must be forgiven: John. Then there is the genius child who somewhere inside knows that, given the chance, he might be a genius too, might even supplant the parent who muffles his promise: George. Last comes the clown child who, looking around him, finds no avenue for expression and decides to pursue anarchy, shouting “What the hell?” to the world: Ringo.

In this model, I’m neither parent and neither child. I’d like to be Ringo, but really I’m rival to George, the genius child to a genius child, third, fourth or fifth on the depth chart. Try as I might to believe in the intrinsic, the essential, the genuine value of pursuits and their independent, autonomous, anarchic pleasure, it’s not enough. Private accomplishments aren’t real. If no one reads me, I haven’t written.

I’m still trying to get a song on the next album.

Which is why Buddhism appeals to me. Striving, experience tells me, is the source of unhappiness, and the person who knows how to put it aside has found enlightenment well beyond most of us. I’m no one’s Buddha, though I affect that stance. My humility and calm hide a riotous soul shouting for notice.

How does one get from here to contentment? I don’t know.

So far, my desire to overcome desire hasn’t worked, and I’ve re-enacted my family at school, at my job, in writing workshops, and in every community that ever called me a member. I can’t be comfortable as a steadily turning cog or as a mushroom relishing its place in warm, wet shadows. I can’t rest.

Another analogy: the cat brings a mouse and lays it at a master’s feet. Dear Reader, every time I post I wonder if I’m really mousing, hoping for a prize to finally fill this appetite.

Unbecoming, I know… too much information… but it’s an agitation barely borne, and sometimes, Dear Reader, it just gets out. You must sense it too. And what do you do with a heart that wants and wants and cannot say so?

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8 Comments

Filed under Apologies, Blogging, Buddhism, Doubt, Ego, Envy, Essays, Identity, Laments, life, Sturm und Drang, Thoughts

8 responses to “Dear Reader…

  1. David, I loved this. Yes I am moved by most everything you write and have been a long time fan of your mind, eye and sensibility. But the ideas you have expressed here are so heartfelt, personal and true. Thank you for taking the risk to write it out. Many of us know about the very unique cry of the greedy heart and are always exploring ways to quell, quiet and quench it.

    You’re so nice. I worried about this one, as it seems a little more vehement than I’m used to being in public (or semi-public). But when you have something to say, it’s sometimes difficult to say it only to yourself.

    Thanks for being such a loyal reader. It means a lot to me. —D

  2. Pingback: A Heart That Wants « Slow Muse

  3. I wrote a response to your post here:
    http://slowmuse.wordpress.com/2012/03/03/a-heart-that-wants/

    Thank you for bringing some new readers. I like you vision of what it takes to be a creative person. It doesn’t make much sense to feel undervalued and then not put yourself out there, but that’s where I sometimes am. I don’t mean to harbor these feelings, I just get frustrated sometimes.

  4. Loved this.
    Everybody, ie ‘almost’ everybody who is blogging wants to get admiration for his works, and that stream of force, though almost imperceptible sometimes, is always present.
    🙂

    I’m glad to have company in my not-so-quiet desperation. I’m sure you’ve heard what people say about writing, that the best reason for doing it is that you can’t not do it. That’s how it is for me most of the time.

    Thanks for visiting and commenting. —D

  5. Gillian Derksen

    I read you. I don’t like to write public comments, but I found your blog a couple of months ago and bookmarked it. It’s the only one, as I’ve never come across anything else quite like it, and it was exactly what I was looking for.

    Thanks for your comment. The greatest consolation for the occasional desperation of writing is that you might hit upon a shared burden and lighten more than your own load. —D

  6. Seen/not being seen: what a powerful neurosis we all must weather – it takes us right back to our beginnings, to childhood, to the loses and longings life makes inevitable. Me, even as I am withdrawn from the world, hidden from friends and family, the longing raises its dragon-head, rife with that power, with anger, hurt, humiliation, and yes, even with joy, in the free-form creative moments, moments of seeing the self, ALLOWING the self, simply BEING and finding some sating in a pencil-mark, a stitch, a word. There’s recognition here, simply in this moment of connecting with your words, you who dare to share your hole, that which is forever part of your whole, to understand the need in yourself, and name it. It takes courage, doesn’t it, to see yourself? And to bare yourself. Such risk. Thank you for affirming I am not alone, even as I am.

    Such a great comment, thank you. I love the way you write end enjoyed visiting your site. Before this blog, I had another under a pseudonym, and, even though I retrieved my own name because I wanted to be more courageous, I discovered it’s less a matter of who you say you are and more being yourself. I’ve had trouble speaking as myself. It’s gratifying to be heard as myself–I feel I’m just beginning to find a voice.

  7. Peter Newton

    David,

    I read a small handful of blogs faithfully. Yours, Melissa Allen’s “Red Dragonfly”, Kuniharu Shimizu’s “See Haiku Here” and Don Wentworth’s “Issa’s Untidy Hut.” Others come and go from my view but few have consistently interested me as much as these. I must be missing out on a lot but I appreciate the way you drop a stone in clear water and watch it sink all the way to the bottom. So much comes from that kind of close observation.

    Thank you.
    –Peter

    No, thank you, Peter. I’m often thinking out loud here, hoping to make just a little sense that at least a few readers will recognize. Your thoughtful comments are one of the highlights of this whole enterprise, and I deeply appreciate your support. –D

  8. Pingback: Walking Around The Year | Signals to Attend

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