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James McNeill Whistler: Nocturne: Blue and Gold—Southampton Water (1872)

" … an old acquaintance, an even older friend."

It should not be news to any of my frequent readers that I sometimes suffer through some blue periods. I can get down on myself and feel downright worthless, then spool into despair territory. Nothing all that scary, just part of any normal trajectory. I personally never trusted anyone who could endlessly keep it bright and sunny, optimistic even in the bleakest times. I preferred the more human leader rather than some statue to virtue, and strived to show that I was not made of stone or anything invulnerable. Still, I despise those days when I cannot find my way. I become as if I were three again, small and overwhelmed, unable to figure out how to play the games surrounding me. I often attempt to sleep through these times under the First, Do No Harm Rule. I'm no doctor, but I figure that sleep might just be the all-around best medicine for discouragement and depression.

Then, something happens. It almost doesn't matter what.
It might matter that it comes as a shock, OutOfTheBlue, as the old saying goes; unanticipated. The dark days hold little horizon. The sky seems flat and without distance. It's as if another dimension pops and almost everything also pops back into place. Nothing's really changed, yet everything seems different. What seemed moments before insurmountable has already begun receding into fresh distance. What seemed forever unachievable, again extends a welcoming hand. Not everything resolves in that instant, but enough reconciles for me to start feeling present and in the game again, all with the addition of some very simple something.

Last night while milling around before supper, I received a phone call. Another unrecognized number, probably, I thought, just an annoying Spam call. It was an old friend instead, someone from my past. She admitted that she'd been procrastinating calling for seven months at least, since she got my number from my first wife, who is also her old friend. Our friendship goes back to those earliest days, fifty years at least, and trailed along on roughly parallel paths for several years, then fell out of touch. Those times are, of course, all blown up, yet she's survived and her call reminded me that I'm a surviver, too, not a goner, no matter how blue I'd been feeling all afternoon, most of the week. I possess a history another remembers! I might possess a future one day worth remembering, too!

The thing about discouragement, about depression, seems to be its lack of horizon. There's really no place for any sunrise to show up there, since sunrises always arrive via that absent horizon. Something unregulated must enter, something wholly unanticipated, to jangle a system back into functioning again. A significant part of every presence seems to be the conscious anticipation of whatever's next. Lose that sense, which in no way ever seems very significant, and navigation fails. One can go adrift and lose their course, doldrums. A phone call OutOfTheBlue can startle a stalled sailor awake. A whole spate of occurrences can serve to inspire a course again, every damned one of them fundamentally unanticipatable.

If I could have my dearest wish, I'd wish for a seventh or eighth sense, one which would reliably anticipate the fundamentally unanticipatable, such that I'd never lose that sense of course, that sense of history and future merging in this moment to express themselves. I am, of course, the stylus on that pen, and the hand writing, but sometimes stalled and too often too quiet. I must make noise to notice myself. I must be seen to be fully present. I sometimes successfully hide out from myself until something or someone comes OutOfTheBlue to arouse me again, an old acquaintance, an even older friend.


Congenial Navigation Weather
Friday's an old reliable jangler for me. When much else fails, my now long-standing Friday ritual awakens my dulled sensibilities. It's a reckoning day for me, a time to take stock of my production and renew dedication. I did not warmly anticipate this Friday, for I had been struggling with my new series, my Againing Stories. I'd been feeling as if I'd been calling in my essays, little inspired, tired of my own routine. I felt a certain petulance within, an old and dangerous friend, threatening to go all counter-phobic on myself, as if that would necessarily prove anything or balance any out-of-whack conditions. I'm capable of sabotaging myself to get even with myself, a paradoxical response to an internal confusion. My Friday ritual tends to whack me back into alignment, even without an OutOfTheBlue call from an old friend. Both together seemed to produce congenial navigation weather. It's suddenly High Summer!

I began this writing week by just
DashingOff something, nothing that seemed all that significant. This story proved the most popular this week. "We all eventually become the genius of ourselves, perhaps through diligent practice, maybe from careful planning, or perhaps by merely DashingOff something."

I recalled my history with hotels in Hoteling, to notice that The Muse and I might still have the touch. " … we still hold the instinct to survive even a flood of hospitality."

I then outlined a few elements of the fine art of
Strangering. "I believe that this time was afforded me to do something other than my ordinary. I can complete that poem anytime. I will only be Strangering here this morning and never again …"

I next recounted how The Muse and I spent a morning in Heaven while the rest of the world went to Hell in
Fictions. "We must believe, it seems, while firmly holding onto our convictions rather lightly. We must hold some beliefs as both true and self evident, while knowing full well that we originally made them up as choices because we decided to live that way as if."

I noticed a repeating pattern in my behavior when I get focused. I tend to starve myself,
MissingMeals. "I have always believed that the greatest wealth lies in what one can comfortably deny themself."

I felt stumped as to what to write one morning, so dredged up this dreg about
Concerting. Not my finest story! "I enjoyed myself, the most disconcerting experience of the evening."

I ended my writing week feeling
Misplaced. I think this experience was just set-up for the following OutOfTheBlue experience! "We were supposed to have remembered something we never quite registered as knowing, being something we always just were before without even trying. Trying then resolves nothing. What manifested without effort cannot, by effort, manifest again."

And so this week's circle of storytelling closes. It seemed a real roller-coaster ride from here. I was almost to the point of calling an audible, of executing an unthinkable, of just calling off this continuing ritual of daily storytelling. Almost. That remains an option, of course, though an admittedly extreme one. I can register my displeasure with myself in more creative ways than by simply clamming up. I could get even by writing better, by exhibiting some patience, an ounce or three of genuine forbearance. I might attempt to practice anticipating that fundamentally unanticipatable that always shows up, like the good guys near the end of the third reel, before the story ends sideways. Another week ending right end forward, warmly anticipating again. Thanks for following along, even through these fallow periods!

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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