Sunday, November 20, 2011

John Doe No. 24

The other night, just before leaving for my current location, I remembered that two musical artists have the power to soothe me:  Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Bruce Springsteen.  Bruce comes up in the playlist a lot, but Mary doesn't, so I pulled up YouTube and played.  Two of my favorites seemed relatable that night--"Quittin' Time" and "John Doe No. 24"--and I'll get back to "Quittin' Time" in a moment.

In the song Mary fictionalizes a true account of a past inmate of the Illinois Department Health and Human Services institution next to the Mississippi.  John Doe was a special case if only for the fact that he arrived at the institution not able to see, hear or speak.  He was designated No. 24 because he was the 24th person to be recorded in the system as unidentifiable.  Mary wrote her song from the point of view of John, what he would say if he could communicate.

Like John, I feel that I can't connect either...that my heart's desire of communication and connection and engagement will never be achieved.
While I drew breath no one missed meAnd they won't on the day that I ceasePut a sprig of crepe jasmine with meTo remind me of New Orleans...

*****
"Quittin' Time" in its original form is a rollicking song that you could dance to if you wanted...I've sang it at karaoke, to be honest.  Mary has two versions, the original and a slow, "unplugged" (thank you Eric Clapton for all of time), acoustic version.  On the album "Party Doll" she sings the acoustic, a live-to-tape recording.  Apparently she and the band are recording it at somewhere formal (someone smarter than me must know where), for she says as introduction:  "We are dressed very seriously tonight, but, don't worry--we're available to cater your next affair."

Beautiful voice, that.

Hey, babe, tell me what we're gonna do...

When I left my employer over seven months ago I had no plan, and that was the plan.  I was pretty much dead, pretty much numb, and I had spent four years working for a company that contributed to me feeling like a temp every day of my life.  I tried to embed myself, thinking creating any family, even one that would suck me dry, was better than having no family at all, so I baked stuff, bought stuff, worked for days straight instead of hours, kept my employees' secrets, kept a few of my own.  In March I saw the writing on the wall and what would be happening next if I stayed and I could not stay for it.  I knew that I would die if I stayed.

It's gettin' crazy, and I need some help from you...We were so connected that you were a part of me.Now, I feel an emptiness right to the heart of me...

So I left.  I learned how to finally write the rough drafts of short stories, learn how to lead writing groups, and settled into looking for a job where I could teach and coach and analyze to promote in June.  For six months, I have been looking for a job.  I always thought I would get hired outright, because I had never freelanced before.  I didn't find anything.  I burned through savings, retirement, took loans out against my life insurance, and tried to take another loan out last week.  My brother is loaning me December's rent.  I have no idea how to freelance and didn't even think of it myself until last Tuesday.  I had to max out my last two credit cards to get enough money to cover a doctor's appointment on the 30th, where tests will probably reveal that I have either Crohn's disease or colitis.  I have $33.85 in my wallet for food for December and I had to admit publicly in someone else's blog comment stream that I am, in fact, too stupid to live.

But you pretend and I pretendThat everything is fineAnd though we should be at an endIt's so hard admittin' that it's quittin' time

The "s" word isn't so much a factor these days for the misery side, but, rather, the following reasons:

  • I'm not able to support myself;
  • If I move in with my brother, I will have no transportation to support myself if I do find a job in this car culture;
  • I would be a bleed on my brother's bank account without supporting myself;
  • There are SO...MANY...PEOPLE...ALREADY.  The world would be lighter without me, less strained, and allow for more resources for others;
  • I suck as a writer.
Please don't hate me, this feeling just won't go away...Now, we're spending all of our time caught in a fantasy...

I would rather stick around.  But there doesn't seem to be a reason for my existence, and every argument for me to cease to be here.  It's time to pay the only check I can...time to be practical.  Time to make room for the rest of world.

And though we should be at an endIt's so hard admitting that it's quitting time.

Rain falls in Carlsbad, soft and spacious as an alto lullaby.

Ah, dear reader...

1 comment:

Robin Mizell said...

Most people go through this at some point in their lives. Here, for example, is James Altschuler's story.

We'll admire you for pulling yourself up by the bootstraps and making the best of things.

Look into job rehabilitation services provided for free in your community. You'll discover, if you attend some of the training, that other people go to the sessions just so they can have a captive audience to whom they can complain about their bad luck, instead of listening and learning how to improve their job skills. Write off those self-styled martyrs and connect with the folks who are eager to learn something and get things done.