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Never Getting Thirsty

Posted Sep 14 2009 10:33pm
Sir, give me this water, so that I may never get thirsty, nor have to come here to draw.
-John 4:15

I'm no longer a terribly religious person, but the Bible, like many books, gives me inspiration to write about the day. I've recently turned back to a certain translation of the New Testament, and found a wealth of points by which I might comment on in poems. Mind you, my viewpoint on many of these topics is hardly positive, often cynical, and is hinged on tremendous doubt, doubt that, as in reference to the above verse, there is any such thing as a water that will quench my thirst. I will continually draw from wherever I can, searching for some sort of recourse in life that isn't wasteful, better than the means by which I am currently living my life.

Many times I look outward for examples of how people have lived their lives. I am an analyst, drawing on inference, looking between lines for things that have "worked" for other people. Cognitively, I am aware that each case in the human condition is different and each one has unique needs, yet I set myself apart from that notion. I build consistency in someone's life where there likely is none. Today has been no different, except, in perhaps, a minor (relatively speaking) instance. 

At work, I was bored, in terrible pain, wishing I was somewhere else. Then, for an instance, I saw a familiar face pass through the sliding glass doors. Was it really him? I often see famous people, but I never expect to see professors, let alone poets I know, at work. It infact was him: Rick Hilles. 

A note about this person, aside from what is available on google: I had the privelege of being in one of Prof. Hilles's first classes taught at Vanderbilt. I remember it so well. Those moments in my life, for all the crap I was dealing with, seem ideal in comparison to what I live now. Hilles was/is always positive, carries an incredibly powerful attitude, and is soft with his conversation. He never once offended anyone, or anyone, I imagine. It wasn't until his first book, "Brother Salvage," was published, that I came to get insight into why he was this way. This is in by no means factual, nor is it meant to be. It is circumspection about someone else I deeply admire and long to be like: the book implied a history of mental illness in his family. This theme wasn't missed by me when I read it, and I had a chance to discuss some poems with him in private. He was modest, reserved, but...on the issue of mental illness, I got a keen sense that this speaker had experienced a lot of mental illness in his life. But, again, this is my opinion, and in no way based on verified fact. The last thing I would want to do here is damage, or call into question, anything someone I admire has done. If anything, these are my own, delusional observations related to people I more or less idolise.

That said, seeing Prof. Hilles tonight made me, on one hand feel terrible. He was off to France for a writers-in-residence program. When he told me this, I wasn't envious, but felt like...he was doing something, amongst the many things he has done, that I never, in this lifetime, could accomplish. I'll never get a Whiting Award, never be tenured at Vanderbilt, never, in all estimates, go to Europe, being paid to write for my months stay. When I consider the future, my future, I have no easy reference. Today I wanted to go to medical school in neuropsychiatry just to be able to prove people wrong about my condition. The other day, I wanted a Fulbright Scholarship for poetry. On top of that, there is the dark side of these aspirations.

Part of me feels like being put into a hospital is a good thing, but only for the sake of experiencing more material to reflect and write upon. The other part of me feels like living half-assed, drunk, in a stupor for a lot of the time, might be okay. On either account, I realise there are great flaws in this thought formation. Yet, I am stuck, it seems, in black/white thinking. This cognitive distortion, as many therapists are apt to call it, rules my life, down the the behaviors on which I act.

If I can't eat now, I'll purge later. Drink suicidally or live the life of a monk, abstaining from all bad things. If I can't write, I might as well be locked up. Cut now? No, cut when it's bad, cut consistently, or not at all. Eat or don't eat. Exercise or be sedentary. Do your schoolwork, or don't do it when it needs to be done. 

Unfortunately, my brain isn't properly set up to deal with a lot of the anxiety that this kind of cognition causes. I tend to shut down. I tend to avoid things. I tend to fulfill my deepest fear: failure in sight of other people. At this point, I'd better be wheeled off to a ward somewhere, because there's nothing worse to me than feeling like a failure in front of other people. If I can't live up to someone's expectations, the damage is deep, stays with me for days.

Last night, I had a nightmare, errie, considering I saw Rick Hilles today. In the dream, I acted out in a classroom he was sitting in on, and he, afterwards, spoke harshly to me, saying I'd never make it into an MFA program if I behaved like that, and that he was appalled at my behavior. When I woke up, I wanted to die, literally, because I felt like this was bound to happen. I've always been bound to let people down. 

But, let me re-iterate: seeing Rick Hilles tonight made me boundlessly giddy. Later, though, I felt something I'd never felt before: grief-reversion is the best description. I came home, read my e-mail, and cried when I saw a comment on a post I made from someone I had really missed, thought had died. I coiled in my chair, weeping the first tears I had in months. These were not tears of sadness, but joy. The mere confirmation of this person's existence gave me such hope, in such a short period of time, I was overwhelmed. Miriam, I can't ever convey how glad I am to hear from you again. I've missed you so much, so much. I've been thirsty for so long to hear from someone like you.

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