Sunday, June 18, 2006

Dr. Chaffin Capitulates; Blog Resumed

I remember when I first heard of web diaries or journals; an e-zine for which I wrote a column was giving an award for the best web journal. I paid it no mind, even though that's essentially what the other columnist at the magazine wrote (a diary of living in New York).

My columns were more set pieces: distilled to amuse and graze the absurd. As such they were not about me, merely processed through my mind. Still, the voice of a written piece exerts an influence on how material is presented so that even when one is writing about something, the personal is unavoidable. Call it "the unavoidable subjective."

Objectivity is voiceless; without a voice written pieces don't interest, except for technical information. And even instruction manuals have a voice: "Put tab A in Slot B;" "Be sure to disconnect these wires before proceeding." The voice of such manuals strikes me as the voice of an early TV robot, as in Lost in Space, trying to give instructions in a jerky, solicitious manner which, by imitating the foibles of a machine, emphasized its humanity.

If the unavoidable subjective is celebrated and admitted, as in the typical blog, then an opposite danger arises: that in habitual confession of one's actual view the view begins to assume a life of its own, until it can become a parody of itself and no longer honest, though it strive to be honest--at this point the autobiographical becomes a noose for creativity.

In writing fiction characters must be created. Of course there is part of the writer and parts of people he's observed in such characters, as they don't arrive from nowhere. But a good writer of fiction is praised not for being himself, but for being someone in his characters.

What if I were to reverse this trend by writing autobiographically while actually becoming different characters because of my mood disorder?

This may not work because my defenses mask the disease. In fact, my brother and his wife, who were just up to visit and he had no idea I was seriously depressed until I told him near the end of our second outing.

"You hide it so well!" he said.

"I don't like depression to get in the way of having fun," I deadpanned. (I almost laughed at that.)

Although I took no pleasure to our outing to the beach with the dogs, I am committed to going through the motions as if I were not depressed, as in depression one thing's just as bad as another. When the terror of solitude is equal to the terror of company, why not endure company? You're just killing time.

If I write confessionally to utmost of my abilities, trying to deliver my inner experience to the reader, will it result in multiple characters because of manic-depression? Probably not, because the voice I write in to communicate the different persons will have and equalizing effect.

This is why the poems about manic-depression are important to me, though I have published more poems about other things; because in poetry one can change the form, the substance and the voice so that one poem can incarnate a different character, or at least the distortions of a phase.

To be present, right now I bore myself to tears. I feel fractured; my past endeavors and roles seem to recede below me into paper dolls. If I pass a janitor I begin to wonder why I'm not a janitor, and I envy the concrete tasks he has before him, and I want to be a janitor; what a failure I am compared to that janitor! Look how useful he is! But if I consider the job of the janitor it fills me with anxiety, too, because what would I say to the principal? What if I hurt myself? Being a janitor is equally scary.

The self wants to get out of the self into something else in depression, but the problem is that in inhabiting another self for purposes of escape from the self, the self that imagines that alternate self brings its own sense of pervasive worthlesness with it and ruins it all. The grass is greener on the other side of the hill but it's just the same old grass, because there you are.

I'll start posting the second half of my ms., Sine Wave, even though my life belongs in the first half of depression. Today's poem:

American Zen

I lay on a railroad track
and felt the thrum
of approaching engines
until the near shiver
nudged me down
the gravel skirt to safety.

I was not suicidal,
just possessed
of a beingness
so elementary
I wouldn't know
I was marble
if you chiseled out my eyes.

Like the meniscus
of an abandoned well
walled from wind
by a chimney of stone
there is no bucket
to disturb my black transparency.

I am beyond boredom,
so occupied with nothing
I lack all patience with sentience.

The poem, obviously, tries to convey of a state of acceptance beyond the ravages of feeling. A "neutral" poem in the middle of the ms.



  1. I am to the point where I want to write an autobiography and call it fiction...because so much of my life does not seem real and when I write about it... other's ask me when I am finishing my novel.


  2. I'm so glad you decided to keep at it. And even though I know you can't enjoy or accept praise right now, I thought the description of "demon melancholy" above was brutally brilliant.


  3. Anonymous12:27 PM PDT

    ... besides, I like sucking up some of the glory!

  4. I love the word meniscus...

  5. Yeah, I got it from chemistry classes. They make doctors study that stuff so we can put it in poems, Ja?


  6. I enjoy your writing style and poems, and your insights on depression- I am glad you have continued! I liked the part about the janitor in this post- I have felt exactly that way before.

    I often just 'go thru the motions'
    and pretend I am fine, too. It is quite exhausting.

    Keep up the good work!


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