Friday, December 30, 2005

Surgery and Resolve

First things first, just to get the truly important stuff out of the way: 'Stine's surgery seems to have gone smoothly. News after the surgery was that she'd been breathing on her own, which was a good indication that the nerve to the vocal cord was still active. It turned out things were even better than that, for when I entered her room on Friday evening, she actually greeted me with her own voice! Oh, what a relief it is.

Her temperature's been bobbing around a bit, and there seem to have been some side effects that I'll leave for her to elucidate once she's feeling better; but on balance, things are going well.

Other than that, I've just been preparing for a new year.

New Year's day was always sort of a throwaway holiday as a kid. I mean, there were no presents, there was no religious significance (as an awestruck Catholic youth, religious significance at least lent Christmas and the far less tantalizing Easter a certain grandeur), and, worst of all, the day itself seemed to be built around an endless string of televised football games (or "gridiron" as they call it in the rest of the civilized world, saving the moniker "football" for the far superior sport of soccer), the true scourge of our culture.

I can't quite remember when New Year's Eve first became important. I remember at least one New Year's Eve spent in the care of a hot babysitter (sorry, Wendy, but you were). I remember at least one on which I was the babysitter, looking for movies we weren't supposed to be watching on the satellite dish. And I remember our later family tradition of going out to dinner at a decent restaurant, seeing a movie and then coming home and waiting for the countdown. Well and good, but no magic, please, this isn't one of those holidays.

Later on, of course, it became about profligate indulgences, drunkenness, debauchery . . . all good things, sure, but how do I distinguish that from any other Saturday?

Then there were the resolutions, as often as not suggested to me by my parents, and subsequently including things like resolving to be more obedient, get better grades, stop cowering in the face of bullies and stand up for myself, complain less while doing chores, be more consistent about brushing my teeth, eating everything I was fed whether I liked it or not, working harder at being confirmed and so on. Basically, resolutions used to have a feeling of chastisement about them, as though they existed primarily as functions of my past failures and promises not to be such a fucking weakling/crybaby/general twit in the future. Attempts to change them in my adolescence and in college failed because what I really wanted to resolve to do involved either the participation of other people (resolving to get laid more offered zero boost to my collegiate sex life) or grandiose schemes simply outside my youthful reach (that Pulitzer Prize I was supposed to win in 1993 is still in the mail, I'm sure).

So this year, to my pleasant surprise, New Year's Eve was a pleasant affair, spent imbibing in a gorgeous cottage on a lake. We had fireworks, music, a fireplace, a couple of invigorating power outages . . . All in all, it was a nice reminder that I actually DO appreciate the pleasures of life outside the city. New Year's Day was spent seeing Walk the Line (flawed, but well-acted and quite entertaining), and doing very little else.

As for resolutions . . . I have to say that I've come to appreciate the concept, although it's nigh to impossible to gather all of my resolutions together by New Year's Eve, and I'm likely to keep coming up with more over the course fo the year. One needn't wait for a holiday, I suppose, to bolster resolve, to court the better part of ourselves and recognize what in our natures or behaviours stands in the way of success, accomplishment or--to make room for a goal less intrinsically objectivist--a more profound and peaceful state of being.

I'd apologize for the intrinsic self-indulgence of posting one's resolutions, but that seems pointless in a forum where the subject is, by definition, the contents of one's internal monologue or the narrative of one's personal obsession (both of which, in my case, happen to be the same thing).

So here are a few thoughts on the upcoming year, and what I'd like to do with it:

--Bitch less (but embrace my bitchiness more, leading to the next one . . . )

--Be kinder to myself, more forgiving of my own foibles.
This one's always tough to reconcile with an ethic more influenced than I'd like to believe by '80s "tough love" rhetoric; if there's one thing that I share with social conservatives, it's a pointed skepticism regarding the undue philosophical and educational emphasis on "self-esteem". But I think it's safe to say that my enlightened self-criticism becomes vindictive self-loathing more often than not, and my perceived failures are less a product of sloth or moral failing than of unrealistic expectation and a failure to except either the world or myself as it exists.

--Be more sexually inventive, and make more room for sexual play in my life.
Not that anyone's complaining, but "play" is really the key word here. The fun in my life has ceased being fun. Some of the things that have lost their fun--booze, weed, partying, theatre--may best be addressed by distance and reflection, sex would, I think, best be reo-booted by patient exploration and new approaches.

--Drink and smoke less, to save money, be healthier and keep myself better suited for that last resolution.
Fairly self-explanatory.

--Get back on my "neurotic" oral hygeine regimen, which has actually served my dental health well and will also support resolution #3.
I can't even think of how many times I've refused a kiss because my mouth felt foul. It's my own thing--it's always me, and not 'Stine, who finds my mouth unattractively dirty. But I'd like to keep my clean dental record running; and I figure that if you find something dirty, you'd best clean it.

--Learn to cook meat and vegetables in more--and more creative--ways.
Not that there's anything wrong with my cooking or our diet (except with my planning--if I cook more than 2 things at once, one of my pieces will inevitably burn, a problem I imagine my mother would have had if she hadn't cajoled her children into being kitchen assistants at a very young age). We could just use more variety, and, perhaps most importantly, some simple-but-tasty combos that don't take a long time, are healthy, filling-but-light (so I don't have to rely on knee-and-hip punishing exercise to keep my waistline from becoming too . . . American). Part of it is a matter of moving beyond the Asian cooking framework, which is delicious and has done great things for my cooking habits, but routinely leads me to ingredient-heavy dishes that require a LOT of prep time.

--Dress better.
This is not because there's anything wrong with how I dress, but I still "save" my favorite outfits for special occasions; and I've come to realize that I don't find any occasions special anymore. Which is too bad, because all of my occasions should be a little more special.

--Rediscover humor.
Laugh at myself, my anger, my foibles, the foibles of others.

--Accept, KNOW, that I may never be famous, and that's OK; but also recognize that it's OK that being known by everyone on earth has been my only goal in life, OK that I have to start from scratch because I never wanted anything but to be liked by everyone.
Accept, KNOW that, just maybe, I never have to "accomplish" anything the way I've understood that term. Accept that ALL of my artistic endeavors, even martial arts, may have more to do with my character than they ever will with my career, that they may be hobbies rather than professions, that there's nothing shameful about having my "work" simply be that which pays my bills. Accept that I may be a decent man, even an exceptional one, without any "career" at all.

--Read more (which goes with watching TV less).
I've got a good start on that one, having begun the project of reading the totality of the ancient gnostic gospels in the Nag Hammadi Library.

--Play my saxophone and flute now and again.
I forget, sometimes, that before I acted, before I sang, before I wrote plays, critiqued film, had sex, cooked Thai food . . . before I was anything else, I was a musician, a good one; and while I may never capture any past glory, I may find myself less creatively dry if I started playing the instruments I know how to play and have at my disposal. No, I don't remember everything I learned; and no, there's no protocol for flute or saxophone in art-metal, post-punk or industrial music. But I can be better than I am on those instruments, having been so much better before; and if anyone's gonna find a protocol for those instruments in music that I actually find compelling, it's gonna be me. Plus I may actually discover a creative pleasure in my life that I haven't either temporarily or permanently exhausted, which can only be to the good.

--Re-cultivate some love of nature.
It's tough without a car, but it's a worthy endeavor. One of my obstacles with nature--which I seem to recall I once appreciated--is that as my philosophical outlook has evolved, the methods by which humanity (or Americans, at any rate) "appreciates" nature strike me as unpalatable: the naive Rousseauism of the average hippie backpacker, the bourgeois playground-ism of the urban and suburban tourist. But like it or not, we have some primitive tie to nature, and our cultural aspirations will always look to the reptilian brain for a place to begin understanding the world. If all I understand is the world we've created, and not the world that spawned it, part of the equation for understanding the primordial, chaotic Tao is missing.

--Re-cultivate an appreciation of--and create some time for--solitude.
If I'm dissatisfied with my social engagements, bored with the paltry pleasures of drugs and alcohol, annoyed by the prosaic aesthetic pulses of my acquaintances and colleagues and hungry for greater peace and understanding of self, it seems like a no-brainer that what I need is some time for genuine reflection, time to appreciate those things that the people around me don't enjoy (and maybe get out and find out who IS enjoying these things, so I can say that I know someone who does). And, contrary to some (partially correct) assertions that I should get "out of my head", some real time to get into my head, instead of trying to squeeze my meditations into a frenzy of activities in which I've long since ceased to believe. Maybe the reason my periods away from my activities never seem to refresh is that I replace my activities with more activities, more TV, more booze, more parties, more desperate bids for company and attention. Maybe I don't actually know what I think anymore. Maybe I should find out.

--Exercise to feel better, not to look better with my shirt off.
My trick knee, sore back and throbbing hips will thank me for it. Besides, I'm not a movie star and am unlikely to become one anytime soon. And even if I did get some big break, decided I wanted onstage or found a way on camera, let's face it: I'm in my 30s, I'm bald, and I have hair on my shoulders. No matter what kind of shape I'm in, no matter how cool the tattoos I KNOW I'm gonna get, NO ONE is gonna ask me to take my shirt off. No one.

--Notice when I'm eating for comfort, boredom, sadness.
I might not have to jump rope 'til my ankles feel like they've been sledgehammered if I didn't go through a half pound of medium cheddar and three bags of microwave popcorn every time I watched an episode of Lost.

OK, I think that's good for now.

In any case, Happy New Year (belated), and keep throwing positive thoughts in 'Stine's direction.


Blogger the beige one said...

Great to hear on the Stine front, I'll be catching up with y'all tonight.

Good luck with the rest of it, man. 1) Listen to some experimental jazz (may I suggest the works of John Zorn) for the extremes of what the sax can do. 2) The "in your head" stuff will be alleviated with the lack of "self-loathing."

12:38 PM  
Blogger thelyamhound said...

Thanks, man.

I'm actually somewhat versed in experimental jazz--I LOVE John Zorn (Sun Ra also a favorite, as far as genre classics--I mean, how can you not love a jazz outfit that opened for Sonic Youth?)--but have yet to hear any of this theory really applied well to the pop/rock sphere . . . aside from Mr. Bungle, as good an example and influence as any, I suppose. I think the problem is that, as a child of the '80s, when I hear "saxophone" and "rock" together, I hear "I Want a New Drug" by Huey Lewis and the News, and I'd rather listen to people fart in microphones.

Of course it's not so much a matter of being "in your head" vs. being "in the world", so much as a matter of what you're doing in either place.

12:46 PM  
Blogger thelyamhound said...

. . . although I'm forgetting both Oingo Boingo and Morphine, which is criminal.

12:51 PM  
Blogger JJisafool said...

All my best to Stine. Glad to hear it is going well.

8:10 PM  
Blogger Missuz J said...

Zowie. That was an incredible list. Luck with all of it. Actually--I should print out your list and try to incorporate many of those things. I wish I could be as brave and honest with myself as you so often are with yourself.

Have been praying for Stine in my fashion. Please give her my love.

8:11 AM  
Blogger thelyamhound said...

I think what's helpful, for me, about the list is that it's not a pass/fail matter, but more a set of guidelines for finding a new "format" for making myself happy and healthy. That doesn't mean I'm not still struggling with some unpleasant truths in there, of course, only that I've reconciled myself with the notion that some of my conflicts are irreconcilable under current conditions.

I'll certainly pass your love along to 'Stine.

12:04 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home