Rendered Fat Content


Matsubara Naoko:
Page from Hagoromo [Feathered Robe] (circa 1984-1986)

"I strive to achieve an innocence forever lost."

I missed a deadline this week. I had been hyperaware of its approach yet felt powerless to meet it as it arrived. Sometimes, a responsibility lands on me to find me unprepared, though I've had decades to prepare myself. I remain just as inexperienced as I felt when I was starting before I’d imagined who I might become, back before I'd become anybody. Missing a deadline reminds me how tenuous the balance remains between Striving and arriving, between aspiring and succeeding. Success does not seem to be significantly improved with practice. A dozen does not necessarily render an impending one any less daunting. The pattern of one does not seem to be terribly transferrable to others. Each instance appears fresh and intimidating.

I accumulate my little failures more readily than I ever collect successes.
My memory seems foreshortened when storing successes and prolonged when recalling shortfalls. Nevertheless, my Striving continues, even unto utter exhaustion and beyond. I know for sure what I am supposed to be doing. That certainty damns me, though, as certainly as it always has. This started as an inquiry before it transformed itself into an imperative, another Striving. I'd rather just let it come on its own damned time, but deadlines come without regard to anyone's preferences. I easily satisfy some. Others slip right through me.

I sent my regrets and my heartfelt apology for disappointing myself. I knew what it was supposed to be and watched the difference slide right through me like a sword through my heart. I've still not really started two days later. Sometimes recovery takes months. My creative process seems seamless until it doesn't. Then, the harder I try to get it started, the harder starting appears to become. I frustrate my every attempt to move around the blockage, seemingly only making it more robust. My Striving seems misplaced then, the opposite of my intention. Striving's supposed to make a difference. When it doesn't, it feels discouraging.

I sometimes forget just how much courage my activities of daily living require. Breakfast seems a brave act requiring faith. Lunch often seems beyond my reach, and supper sometimes seems so already done to render it impossible to begin. I'm apt to beg off a meal simply because I cannot muster what I need to feel to get it started. I sometimes cannot decide, so I don't. I fade into my night to wait out morning, hoping my horizon might reappear. I'm two days in and counting beyond that deadline, still Striving, by which I mean I'm still idling, not quite yet engaged.

Whatever Success comes out of this experience will carry the residue of it, the Striving schmutz dulling its finish. I've sometimes taken months to recover from a bungled deadline, the birthday poem arriving two seasons later, an embarrassment of a gift. My Striving splits into two segments, one seeking to satisfy the expectation and another working to live down the shame. Nothing erases the blemish, however. The Striving to undo never contributes anything but ballast. The Striving to perform must stand alone without the accompanying recovery singing discordant harmony. I first strive to achieve an innocence forever lost. Success follows many paths, some more useful than others.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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