Thursday, October 28, 2010

Excuses

The astute readers of this blog (and by definition that’s everyone, because if you read this blog you automatically fall within the category of “astute”) will have noticed that this writer has been, to put it mildly, dysfunctional over the past few months. Those who know him personally have seen in it his failure to engage in society in any meaningful way save occasional cryptic notices on Facebook (the modern day gossiping fence); those who know him only from afar have probably noticed little change except for a lack of those annoying “New Post up on The Blog!!!” notices accompanied by a proliferation of what Everett Rees, my high school English teacher who had a habit of massaging his male student’s shoulders and whom we used to call eccentric and now call someone who can’t get married in California, would have called “cheerleader exclamation points.”

(I would beg to differ from the venerable Mr. Rees’s contention, though I continue to hold him the highest regard for sponsoring the Categories Team, a quizzical celebration of useless trivia in which I proudly claim two District Championships. The Categories Team was one of the Three Pillars of Dweebness at our high school. The others were the AV Squad, to which I did not belong, and the ZITS team, to which I did. ZITS stood for Zoo In The School, and basically consisted of feeding and cleaning cages for a host of mice, lizards, and snakes that occupied a back room in the biology departure. We would also give monkey chow to a simian named Houdini, which is why I knew before The Animal Planet that bored capuchins have a keen interest in self-pleasure.

But back to punctuation. They’re not cheerleader exclamation points because 1) I have never changed the text color to pink or purple and B) I haven’t figured out a way to make my fonts put a smiley face within the circle below the bottom-pointed oval forming the bulk of the exclamatory sign. And yes, the itemizing was on purpose, ‘cuz it’s a cheerleader thing. Ready? Okay!)

So why the absence of the blog? (This question assumes that you’re wondering why, and have not already concluded that the absence of the blog is my own way of doing a remarkable service to mankind). In short, it’s because the last three months of my life have been an unmitigated disaster. It has been a series of personal and professional catastrophes that has not been a slow progression, but has occurred on specific dates such that one can actually draw a line graph charting the time on one axis and the damage on the other. The details are and will remain mine, but the events are of the magnitude that I am angry…no, that’s too light a word, but it’ll have to do…at the world for what it’s done to me. I think I’ve played by the rules, done the right things for the right reasons, and lost everything. I had a plan; now I have none. I used to be somebody; now I am nothing. I see those of lesser ability succeeding while I drift backwards; I find my fate is no longer my own but is controlled by the insecurities and vicissitudes of others who see me as a source of…well, I don’t know what. Those things that gave me purpose and validation have been taken from me, and what results is the guy eating day-old bologna sandwiches on the airport floor and checking the meat to make sure it hasn’t changed color. (And for what it’s worth, I’m probably not very good at rhetorical hyperbole, either.)

Different people do different things when they fall apart. Some yell and scream. Some are able to refocus and find new challenges. Some count their blessings and accept their new lot in life. Some spend recklessly, drink, or gamble. What I do is nothing. I sit, I brood, I glower, and I don’t talk to anyone. Paradoxically, I talk less to those closest to me, friends and family than I do to the odd acquaintance at Golden Corral. Which is why I haven't been blogging, because blogging is talking to myself, and I’m about as close to me as anyone.

I got to thinking about this a few weeks back during Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. There’s a wonderful prayer in the holiday liturgy called the Al Cheit. (Don’t worry about how you say it…Hebrew doesn’t transliterate well in to English, and if you’re not semetic in some fashion you can’t pronounce it anyway.) It can be very roughly translated as “all sins,” and depending on who’s counting it reels off a list of 23 or so separate kinds of sin that we’ve managed to stray into over the course of the previous year. Usually I can find at least three that I’ve stayed away from. Not this year, I’m afraid. What I’ve been thinking and feeling over the past three months has gotten me a perfect score. Batting a thousand made me realize it's time to move on, and restarting the blog is one way to forge ahead.

(Okay, one funny story about this prayer. I grew up in a tradition of liberal Judaism. But when I first moved to Florida the only synagogue in Gainesville was a conservative one. Conservative services involve a lot more ritual and Hebrew than I was used to. So when they did this prayer on Yom Kippur, not only was it done in Hebrew of which I had a poor understanding, but it was accompanied by rocking back and forth on one’s heels and a beating of the breast that for all the world seemed like something out of a National Geographic Special on the Plains Indians and had me looking up to the sky for rain. Now, of course, I recognize that the ritual comes from the movie 300, and what I was hearing must have been Hebrew for “We are Sparta!”

By the way, while I recognize that all faiths have some ritual of repentance, I really like the way we Jews do it, and that’s not just saying so as an MOT (Member of the Tribe). It always made sense to me to do all your confessing on a single day and with all the other Jews at the same time. That way, the chances of God singling out your sin for punishment amidst the cacophony of guilt are relatively less.)

So for those of who feel like I’ve done wrong by not blogging, I truly apologize and hope that resuming our online discussion will serve as a small effort at atonement. And for those of you who thought this blog was a load of bull to start with…well, I suppose I’ll just keep on sinning. I’ve got to have something to repent for next year.

4 comments:

  1. I am glad your blog is back. I don't think you've done wrong by not blogging, and I appreciate what it means for you to start again. Welcome back, friend.

    Tanya

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  2. Your favorite sisterOctober 29, 2010 at 1:20 PM

    "his failure to engage in society in any meaningful way"
    I am sorry but I am not sure I ever knew a Howard that engaged society in a meaningful way!
    I love you nonetheless. Glad to have you "back."

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  3. Hey Doc. I was so happy this morning when I was perusing blogs I always enjoyed and I see you are writing again. Can you give Out Island Doctor a call too and tell him I am ready for an update. I also have ties to KC and to FL so I feel we are slightly kin to one another. BUT I am sure my Catholic school girl plaid skirts caused plenty of Jewish boys to sin, so dont hold it against me :)
    Believe all the old adages you hear. This year sucked for me too but we somehow keep going. i.e. this too shall pass, when you have reached the bottom stop digging, everything happens for a reason, if you're going through hell keep on going, yesterday is the past we cant change it or make it better just live for today. Its a rhetorical BS but it gets us there.
    HUGS and well wishes and so glad you are back.
    Stacey

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