I woke at four in the morning today, and spent an hour and a half lying in bed worrying before finally realizing that I needed to get out of bed and do something constructive.
I don’t have the money to pay my rent.
If I have to move, it will mean moving away from Bellingham.
These things are becoming more and more a reality.
My job went down to part time last week. This was not a surprise, I knew it was coming, and I’ve been looking for and even interviewing for new jobs.
Bellingham is the place that I’ve lived longest in my whole life, and it’s the first place where I’ve bothered to put down roots. We moved a lot when I was a child; I went to four high schools over the course of four years. Bellingham, though, is the first home I’ve ever had, and I would say that losing it is currently my greatest practical fear.
This level of economic uncertainty leaves me feeling very vulnerable, as it would anyone. Vulnerability is something that I struggle with a lot… it’s not something that I deal with easily. I’m sure that someone knowledgeable about such things will tell me that it stems from a chaotic and insecure childhood, and that seems reasonable, but for the time being it doesn’t actually make it any easier to deal with. It is a situation in my life that has impacted relationships… the romantic, the professional, and the platonic.
It’s one of those things I’ve been wanting to pay more attention to, since I’ve been trying to take steps to reduce the overall level of fear and noise in my life. It seems, though, that the greater pressure I’m under, the less able I am to work on things like that.
I suppose, in a way, that this fear of vulnerability is one of the reasons that I write fiction… when you write fiction, you can assign your flaws, foibles, and struggles to other people. You can work with them at a remove, test fictional scenarios and contemplate the fictional results. There is a lower amount of perceived risk for the writer, and thus an increase in flexibility results.
Fiction tells the stories of human struggle, and it tells them in a way that is both universal and timeless. Allison’s story will fade, becoming nothing more than a breeze among the tree limbs… and eventually it won’t even be that. It will die, and fall trembling into silence, and then the very last of me will be gone.
But fiction, fiction isn’t tied to someone’s life, to that living person’s set of circumstances. It is a collective voice about the condition of being human. It teaches lessons in grief, in hardship, in joy, and in heartbreak. It eases alienation and puts us in touch with what is intrinsically beautiful about humanity. It has done these things for centuries, back to our very distant ancestors who passed down stories about bounty and famine and death from generation to generation.
So now, in the early morning light, this is what I think about. I think about my job as one little light beating back the darkness. I think of the scramble we engage in every day to distract ourselves, with drugs, with media consumption, with consumerism. I think of the anesthetization of it all. I think about fighting the overwhelming cultural narrative of “you’re deficient because…” and “things would be better if…” and “you can be better when…” and shedding light on the truth of the matter… that life is pain, and that to avoid pain is to avoid living. Anything else is an illusion. If this world weren’t so filthy and horrifying, we’d never have felt the need to invent the next. As far as life goes, this is it. You’re only here for so long, and nobody gets out alive. Embrace the beauty in the struggle, see the ecstasy inside the agony, because your other choice is death.
And fiction? And art? These things are just users manuals.