It’s been my habit for the past six years or so to produce ten to twelve stories a year that get posted somewhere. In practice that meant that I was usually working on a couple of stories at a time and that I would do some writing almost every week day.
In the latter-half of 2006, I slowed down. I told myself I wanted time to write some longer pieces – I’ve had a novel called “Way of the Courtesan” part way through for what seems like forever and I wanted to try and move it forward. I still haven’t finished it. But I have slowed down even further.
I checked today and the last two complete stories that I posted were in July and August of last year (“Christmas with Mary and Suzie” which made it into “He’s on top” and “Handjobs” which will be in the next “Best New Erotica”). Since then, all I’ve done is produce fragments – starts to longer pieces – revisits of older pieces – some flashers.
I’d like to say that this is a planned fallow period to allow for reflection and a refresh of my style.
The reality is that my life has sucked for the past year and I’ve had no energy left over to write with.
I turned fifty in January. Since then I’ve been ill with something non-life threatening but depressing. In true male style I left going to the Doctor for longer than was wise and now I need minor surgery. Nothing dramatic, but just enough to add to the general sense of that I have my own personal Dementor following me around.
Fifty is not middle-aged – no one in my family has ever lived to 100 – most die before seventy. Fifty is one of those “If you haven’t done it yet, it’s less and less likely that it’s ever going to happen” ages.
I’m of that generation for whom TA meant Transactional Analysis not the Territorial Army. I knew the colour of my parachute and how many habits successful people had – I even knew who moved my cheese and what I was going to do to the bastard when I found them, so I decided to put my psycho-babble facility to good use and review my life.
The results were as cheery as “Broken Flowers” or “Lost in Translation”.
Somewhere in my forties I really lost the plot. For a decade I’ve been largely absent from my own life – too many nights alone in hotels – too many hours working – not enough achieved to justify either – Dido’s “Life for Rent” came to mind as an apt description.
I have very few friends. I’ve never needed as many people as those around me seem to but I’ve now reached the point were the only person I care about in my life is my wife. And she’s the one I disappoint most often.
I’m just received the permit that allows me permanent residence in
None of this is big stuff. I’m not dieing. I’m not in pain. I’m not alone. I’m not unemployed and penniless. I’m just not happy.
Convention has it that unhappiness is food to the artist’s muse. I’m clearly no artist. Unhappiness settles on me like a weight on my chest from the moment that I wake up.
If you’ve ever been in pain as a result of an injury, you’ll know how the pain is always with you.
It’s the first thing you are aware of when you wake. It’s the thing that keeps you from sleeping. You spend your day nursing it like a lover. You relish any distraction that makes you forget the pain but you know that most distractions are now beyond you.
Your life becomes about coping, about living with or despite the pain. But you know this is not a battle you win. Each day you grow more tired, less interesting, less engaged with anything but the pain itself. You become someone that it is not pleasant to spend time with. You have mood swings ranging from anger to unstoppable tears, both equally futile.
Well, unhappiness has the same effect on me as pain.
I’d hoped that writing could be my morphine but it turned out that writing needs me to be full of things that are bursting to get out, not drained of everything except self-pity. So I’ve been reading. I was a reader long before I wrote anything. The books help. They give me little time and space not to think about being unhappy.
I know I should be pulling myself together. The problem is that I’ve spent the past ten years pulling myself together and I only now realise that I was actually pulling myself apart.
This morning I picked up a pencil – something I only do when I know I’m headed for more thinking than writing – and slowly printed out the heading “THINGS I WANT TO DO BEFORE I’M 60”. Then I sat there. After an hour the page was still unsullied but I had learnt something. I’d asked myself the wrong question. Doing things is not the answer. Not at all.
So I rubbed out the heading and replaced it with “WHO I WANT TO BE”.
Now that’s an interesting question. That’s the kind of question that makes the unhappiness recede a little. I realised that the unhappiness comes in large part from a gap between who I am and who I want to be and that the unhappiness stays because I have no answer to who I want to be other than not the person who I am. I am not proud of anything much. I don’t love anything much. I don’t want anything much. Except… I’d like to be someone I like and respect.
At that point I put the paper aside and reached for the keyboard.
What I wrote is not autobiographical – my life is too ordinary to make good fiction - but it captures something of how I’m feeling. It’s not really prose and I’m not skilled enough to turn it into poetry, but I wanted to share it here because it helps me walk around the question “WHO I WANT TO BE” and get some perspective on it.One thing I do know about WHO I WANT TO BE is that the answer includes “Someone who writes things worth reading” so I’m going to turn back to writing for a while. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes
(C) Mike Kimera 2007
Before I’d fucked my first stranger because she was near and warm
Before I’d paid to fuck my first whore because she was on offer and I had an itch to scratch
Before I’d let pornography fly-post my imagination with images that break people into parts and holes
Before all that there was Cassie
Who looked at me as if
the sun rose and set on my smile,
all the heat and heart of love was at my fingertips,
I was and always would be, all she desired
Cassie, who smelt of sunshine and cotton and tasted of honey and salt
Cassie, who had thick, heavy hair that she let me lose myself in
Cassie who kissed and caressed and sighed but who wanted us to be virgins in our wedding bed
Cassie, who was more than I deserved and less than I could live with
Cassie,who I walked away from without a backward glance, refusing to acknowledge, in the soft sadness of her sobbing, my own loss.
Now I ache for the wholeness of before, itch beneath the barnacles of after and pray for the strength to close gap between who I am and who I could have become.