Choose ONE

alternativesThe toughest part of any blog, I imagine, is finding what to write. I’m off to New York this week and don’t have time for a full post, but I’m offering openings I wrote and never pursued. Which would you’d like to see developed to full length? I’ll try, I promise.


Some moments seems contiguous. The final gasps and throes of the coffeemaker, unvaried, could be one song. Initials in the sidewalk announce themselves as they always have, meaning to make today into yesterday, when you also noticed them. Tires drone between steady beats of highway seams. A furze of yellowy pink clings to a familiar flat horizon. More is similar than different, all one morning.


You discover who you are by failing. It’s unfortunate, but bumping against the ceiling of your abilities or unveiling how wrong you were or seeing the familiar transformed by a new understanding or feeling, or blushing with deep embarrassment and error that says, “I’m not what I seem”—that’s what matters.


They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but I do. My appreciation for book designers rests on their nifty solutions to unseen needs. They shirk the profound pressure to entice. They remain somehow, despite it all, playful. They innovate. They renovate what you expect from text, turning letters into objects and images into signs. You can’t say how a cover affects you, but you know which do.


My people-watching grows more intense with age. Everyone, it seems, is more interesting than I am, more beautiful and/or paired with someone more beautiful than I am, off more purposefully to more interesting destinations uncolored by worry. They’re smarter, hipper, happier. They don’t care how very screwed the world is. They aren’t old.


She sat on the floor and watched me cry, unmoved but interested, silently remarking and studying. You wouldn’t know she was the child and I the adult, and the power to make me cry—her influence over and exploitation of her parent didn’t seem to be her primary focus. She was shocked to see me dissolve.


In my alternate lives, I travel more, draw more, talk with people much more intelligent than I am, find hidden strengths in myself, feel deeply, and make a bigger difference to myself and others. Perhaps it’s too late for redefinition at my age. Yet the futility of self-improvement does little to impede fantasy. Disappointment inspires bigger, better, bolder versions of my impossible, limited self.


I don’t think often about former relationships. I’m happily married. But, if I do, the break-up scenes appear, angry accusations and bitter assessments, smolderingly indifferent verdicts, barely-beneath-the-surface hurt, resignation still tinged with faint hope, the most persistent denial. If you could collect all the people who’ve rejected me or I’ve rejected, the testimony might form a complete picture of why I’m such an ass.


Why do I distrust certainty so? When someone says, “That’s just how it is,” I want to shout, “Is anything ever what we say it is? Isn’t saying what it is the same as revealing an unexpressed or unconscious wish it were and that we have no choice about it and this situation is what it must be?” I prefer those who say, “I don’t know, but intend to find out.” Do your best to reveal something closer to the truth. Don’t be sure.


Maybe every child experiences being lost and approaching a stranger to ask (in some form), “Can you help me find my mommy?” You hope to be settled again and not so anchorless. More than anything else, you seek a sure sense of where you belong, what makes you feel whole and complete.


When my history students ask about some time in my past—how I felt about MLK’s assassination or the end of the war in Vietnam, I stretch to reach an earlier self. Like a fly in an expansive room, it runs from me. How do you answer, “How did you feel?” when the question requires re-knowing, and re-knowing is fraught with revision, what you ought to have felt or might have felt or thought?


Filed under Aging, Ambition, Art, Blogging, Desire, Doubt, Epiphany, Essays, Experiments, Identity, Laments, life, Meditations, Memory, Modern Life, Sturm und Drang, Thoughts, Time, Worry

8 responses to “Choose ONE

  1. #5 seems to have the most raw power. But I am intrigued by #9 for its sense of apparent emptiness. 😉

    I have many, many music cd’s that were purchased as a result of their enticing design.

    #1 seems naturally poetic, so maybe it needs to be a poem?

    I think you may know how I feel about #2.

    #4 & #6 could be the same? Perhaps all these people, watched, are nought but bolder versions of themselves…

    #8…are we more interested in the truth, or at least in getting somehow, somewhere closer to the truth or are we more interested in being right? I hope that I am the former, though I fear, and am certain that at times I am the latter.

    #10_1 — I am currently working on a piece that is yet again trying to get at
    the experience of having my father, deep in the throws of his Alzheimer’s, ask me, his youngest, “Will you be my mommy?” I have a feeling that this is one thing that I will continue to write many poems about. I think that nothing could be more lonely than finding oneself inexplicably without a mommy.

    Okay. You said pick just one but you used “10” twice, so…..does that make us even?

    • dmarshall58

      Oh, I’ve tried #2 already and wasn’t satisfied. I’m not sure I CAN do them, but I may attempt 2 and 10 again. I read an excellent article in Scientific American that makes me want to write about memory. Thanks for visiting. –D

  2. The final one, Dave. ‘How do you answer, “How did you feel?” when the question requires re-knowing, and re-knowing is fraught with revision, what you ought to have felt or might have felt or thought?’ The question is fascinating and I would like to hear you thinking your way through it.

  3. dhefko

    If I had to pick just one, I’d go for 10.

  4. dhefko

    Living in Chicago as you do, I’m guessing you can’t escape _This American Life_. If you didn’t hear this week’s episode (“Is That What I Look Like”), it’s very much a variation on #2.

    • dmarshall58

      I actually haven’t heard it, but perhaps it could get me going on #2, which I’ve tried (and failed at) already.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s