After you’ve been farting around on this earth for a few decades or so, you come to realize that life is indeed a joke, and not always a particularly funny one–at least not when you’re the butt of it. Who wants to be a butt? It makes you feel like an ass. Who hasn’t made an ass of himself or herself in love, at work, in school, in marriage? Raising kids? Raising Cain?
It may surprise you to read this, but a great deal of the time I love life. These days I have to remind myself of that fact by taking a moment to remember the tiny joys tucked between the land mines in the garden of roses and serpents. As Vince Gilligan said in an interview about the TV drama he writes, Breaking Bad, heaven is in the details, but so is hell.
That’s why I hate waking up in the morning. I actually wake up twice. The first time, at around five, is when I get writing out of the way. Not to say I don’t enjoy writing; it’s one of my favorite things to do. I just can’t do it when my wife Jina’s awake (notice I didn’t say “around,” since she usually is). She has no concept of privacy. Her instinct for invasiveness is strong.
Then I go back to bed, usually involuntarily waking her up momentarily so she can heckle me about my unhealthy sleep habits, even though she invariably stays up till two or three am–sometimes even later than that–before joining me in slumberland.
It’s the second wake-up that’s the killer, having to pry my sticky eyes open and get ready for work. It’s generally easier to remove myself from the womb when I haven’t turned on the electric mattress pad, which tends to drug both of us so that coming out of unconsciousness becomes as unlikely as Terri Schiavo (sp?) rising from the grave and waking up from her coma to boot.
(Nothing against the poor woman, but I sincerely hope she doesn’t. Otherwise the born-again yahoos will never stop celebrating the fact and rubbing the rest of our noses in it, crowing about the miracles enabled by feeble-minded faith.)
One of these days I’ll catalogue all the bullshit I have to take care of between getting out of bed and leaving the apartment for work. There’s a series of about a million little things, forgetting any of which can lead to an increase in the overall portion of daily suffering allotted by the indifferent universe.
Walking up the hill, usually concerned I’m running a few minutes late, I find myself stuck in a less-than-delighted mantra of unobservant misanthropy: Goddamned cars, people suck, I hate life. Not the kind of stuff Dale Carnegie would recommend in How to Win Friends and Influence People, that’s for sure.
The other day, while in such a special mood, when I arrived at the bus stop in the rain, a man moved out of the shelter and let me take his place, sympathetic due to my umbrella-less plight. Then I felt guilty for being such a cynical asshole and thanked him with a smile that cracked my face in half.
Once I get to class I’m fine. My students always know how to cheer me up. Their lives are also hard–probably a lot harder than mine. Since they’re Korean, the possibility of escape from their predicaments is much narrower. So I have even more reasons to discard my whining tendencies and shake life’s vigorous right hand even as we stab each other in the bad with our left ones.
Although I often like to think and joke about it, suicide is anathema to me. I wouldn’t dare to judge anyone else for taking his or her life; I might even envy them in some ways, during one of the more self-pitying moments that speckle my checkered days. But I don’t consider it a solution to my own funk, since it would hurt too many people I care about.
As would premature death. Unfortunately, that one might be in the cards at this point. I’m stuck in an unsatisfying, tense marriage. My wife and I both love and hate each other. It’s hard to let go of someone who’s holding your hand and also strangling you. Divorce would be the wisest course of action, but also perhaps the most difficult. Jina often “threatens” to divorce me, but whenever she does it’s just a set-up to test my love for her. She’s a great actress and I always have to applaud her performance that involves getting ready to leave me by moving out (which of course she never does; she always comes back within fifteen minutes, whether or not I bother to make a contrite phone call as part of my role as the concerned, chastened husband).
I don’t want to “out-die” (meaning die before) my parents, yet I dread the thought of their departure as much as the notion of spending the rest of my life with Jina (assuming I live as long as I hope they do). If you dissect your own emotions, sometimes it’s hard to separate selfishness from altruism. Maybe we can dig up Ayn Rand and see what that frigid bitch has to say about it.
I also don’t want to break my wife’s heart, even though she (and I) may be–literally–breaking my own. When I went to the doctor the other day with complaints of chest and left arm pains, he had his nurse check my blood pressure, take a chest X-ray, and hook me up to an electrocardiogram. Everything was fine.
I can’t understand it. I can actually feel my blood gurgling in my chest. I’m about twenty-five to thirty pounds overweight. My diet is poor. (In fact, I eat a lot of nutritious, healthy food, but a lot of crap too. I ate more sanely back in the U. S., which might sound ironic to anyone not from there, since we Yankees are stereotyped as being junk food-quaffing coprovores (meaning “shit-eaters”). I walk a lot every day due to the demands of commuting, but I need to mobilize my carcass more in order to shed some waves of flab and replace them with muscle.
Without having to spell out the obvious, I’m sure you can appreciate the severity of my dilemma. I don’t mean to sound overly melodramatic (that’s my wife’s department) or morbid, but I have a bad feeling I’m going to die soon.
But I’ll keep you posted in the mean time, just in case I don’t. And please understand that as much as I complain about my idiotic problems, along with the universal burdens we all must endure, I’d prefer to go on living, since it appears to offer slightly more variety than the alternative of absolute inertia and eternal non-existence.
Please forgive me for being so pathologically self-indulgent. Surviving challenges is tricky, but again, being dead looks even more boring than a Sunday morning spent in church.
You may be thinking, “There are no atheists in fox-holes,” but have you ever considered that there might be fox-holes in certain atheists?