Will's Coffee House

John Dryden, Dramatist, Critic, Poet Laureate, and my ancestor, frequented a coffee house called Will's almost daily, where he would hold forth on sundry subjects with great wit and aplomb. Same deal here, only without the wit or aplomb.

Location: Large Midwestern City, Midwestern State, United States

I am a stranger in a sane land...

Monday, April 10, 2006


Still Xbox-ing my mind into mush. I'm 36 years old, I have a Ph.D. from a top-15 English Department, I'm published in both academic and fictional venues, and yet I'm saying things to myself like "Well, let me put in one more hour--maybe in that time I can figure out a way to join the Thieves' Guild!" I...am...pathetic. Pathetic and just, in someway, fundamentally wrong about the way I'm choosing to live my life. I mean, sure, it could be worse--heroin/meth, pedophilia, Christian conservatism, but still. I'm just...sad. Oh, don't misunderstand; I'm not going to stop. I mean, seriously, my Xbox is the only thing I've got going for me in my life right now. (Well, no, that's not entirely true...there are other things...people...but that's another discussion for another time. Point is, I'm mostly alone and at loose ends, and jacking in to The Box makes all the ennui go bye-bye. So hush, just let me waste the few precious moments I have on Earth before the Grim Reaper sweeps his remorseless scythe in my direction.)

And I especially need distracting/cheering up--a friendly colleague of mine just announced that she's pregnant, and she and her husband are thrilled and it's just wonderful. And I congratulated her--genuinely--but at the same time thought "...F***. No, really: F***." Because that's what I need to be doing. (Well, not getting pregnant--I'll leave that to you ladies and thank God that when He was handing out punishments for Apple Eating, I only got stuck with the agricultural duties.) But I should be having kids. Actually, I should have had them a couple of years ago. I'm ready. I really am. But, inasmuch as I'm alone--and thus way, way distant from being in a position to find someone willing to carry on my genetic material--that's just not going to happen anytime soon. And that means...well, I'm 36. It may, in fact, never happen. I may never have kids. Ever. That...is a sobering thought. Very. Saddening. Mournful. Cold.

Sigh. Can you blame me for Xbox-ing? I think not.


Blogger Veronica said...


I am so glad you aren't pedophil-ing or christian conservat-ing; those would be pathetic fates. I could deal with you on meth, however. But I digress.

You are far from pathetic. It would be pathetic if you didn't feel heart sick, and the need to block it out sometimes.

She was cold as snow and he was not...

Your Xbox-ing reminds me of my fugue-ing. It's healthy. It's a life raft. You have to pull your head out of the water for air. There's an art to escaping, to keeping yourself from drowning. You have to do what's necessary to remain afloat. And most people can float, J. The Art, however, is remaining in the water.

You ability to feel this and go through this, is liquid and wet. Saturating. Human.

J, do what you need to do to cross this ocean. Write about it. Don't write about it. Block it out. Be sad. Face grim possibilities. Escape for a while. Feel mixed emotions for a friend's pregnancy. Be human. Wise up. Dumb down. Play X-box for a month, clear your head, breathe. This is a rough ocean. You need to cross it your way.

I know you'll make it, and so do you. But right now in the middle of the sea, that's just about the last fucking thing you need to hear, isn't it.
Right now, it's hard.
Right now, you are beautiful.
...so beautiful.
And still floating.
J. You're still afloat.

I am impressed at your ability to find balance. To feel this and process it, and remain sane and wet and breathing.

Here's to your buoyancy.

5:14 PM  
Blogger Jehanus Bleak said...

JD, I find it interesting that women friends (not to be confused with ladyfriends) try to offer support by suggesting that suffering is good for the soul. As I'm going into my fifth year of the same place you are now, let me assure you from experience that it is not. Oh, I suppose there are some lessons to be learned from enduring something awful, but I don't see too many people sticking a fork into the nearest outlet in search of a growth experience. Saying that suffering is good smacks of the same sweet lemon used in rationalizing death, and the existence of evil. Sorry, but I don't buy it. Just because we can't imagine a universe where, say, free will is perfectly compatible with universal bliss, does NOT mean that such a universe is manifestly impossible. But I digress. My recommendation is to avoid despair at all costs; it is a bitterly corrosive substance that destroys all it touches. Clearly playing games you enjoy helps you, and hurts nobody else, so why be ashamed of the activity? I suspect that, as with me, your guilt is attached to the thought that you could be spending that time finding someone with whom you could alleviate one another's loneliness. On some level that's true, but it makes no sense to throw away all of one's interests in this pursuit. After all, there will be a need to fill time alone even *in* a relationship, and solving puzzles orginating in these games could offer a pleasant alternative for dinnertime discussion, at least with some women. But most of all, I'm told that successful pursuit requires a certain sense of wellbeing, and if games provide your nepenthe, then why not take advantage of them? As you yourself point out, most people use less savory methods. A few energetic saints might really spend all their waking hours performing good works, but then you're not looking for a saint, are you? Do the best you can, stay busy, and try something every day to move toward your goals. It bites that the rest must be left up to Fortuna's whims, but such is life.

2:28 AM  
Blogger ArticulateDad said...

I echo Veronica's and Jehanus Bleaks' words.

But mostly, just know what you already must, that you are not alone.

As I wrote in a comment on ABDMom's blog recently, our own burdens always weigh more than our neighbor's. But we all bear a weight. Many times, as in your fate (and my own) this burden seems unfair. Indeed, I believe it is.

But I also know that idleness breeds a certain kind of self-reflection, that business won't allow. Escape as you must, but come back when you are able. You have much to contribute. We all know that.

2:52 AM  
Anonymous Katie said...

The important question first. Did you, in fact, find a way to join the Thieves’ Guild? I have my fingers crossed for you, Dryden.

I’m equally hopeful for you regarding your future family. Perhaps even more hopeful. I personally blame the seasons changing. Out of the 5 women I’ve spoken to recently, 4 are planning to be mothers by this time next year. It surprised me – not the urge to be pregnant, necessarily – but that these women of various ages would independently decide that now was the time. I’m thrilled for (most of) them and eagerly anticipate shopping for baby gifts and planning visits, but was content with lagging behind in this particular area.

Then I left tutoring my 5th graders today, deep in thought, arrived at my car, and thought, “I want to have a baby.” Surprised – it’s not exactly a normal thought for me – I smiled before I realized that I actually meant it. Unfortunately, we still have things in common. The being alone and therefore nowhere all that close to having children thing – it’s kind of a big deal.

It’s tempting to tell you to do something. Go meet her! Start dating all the time until you find the right woman! Because you’ll be a brilliant father – you will – I think you’ll get your chance. Seems hypocritical though – I can’t think of a reason why I can believe that the right partner will effortlessly appear for me and not for you. So I guess that leaves me with sincerely wishing you the best of luck – romantically, reproductively and, yes, with the Thieves’ Guild. Hang in there.

3:47 AM  
Blogger Veronica said...


What woman-friends here have said suffering is good for the soul?

I can't find the comments to which you refer any place.

My comment encourages J to do whatever he feels like doing to get through this time.
It encourages him not to repress or suppress, but instead to work through this. Now. While it's happening, so it's processed and he's not still suffering 5 years from now, in a place in life he does not want to be.
And, it applauds his efforts so far, reminding him he's beautiful.

Where are you getting that any woman friends have said suffering is good for the soul?

6:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

cutting to the quick

1) maybe you wouldn't make a good father; there's nothing wrong with that. . . prove me wrong and confront your problems rather than escaping from them

2) you've already spent your time in artistic purgatory in the midwest. . . no need to repeat

3) do you have a second controller so I can play too?

12:41 PM  
Blogger Jehanus Bleak said...

Ms. V,

Its seems to me that, "not to repress or suppress," only permits one to *accept*. Perhaps there's some option I'm missing?

And that's the source of my disagreement. Also, to describe a state of misery as an ocean lends it a sort of poetic beauty, which I don't think the situation deserves. That JD, or anyone else, should have to suffer in this way, or for that matter, at all, is not in any way acceptable, permissible, or justifiable. That it happens all the same may be a fact of life, but IMHO at least, any resistance that one can offer in the face of this misery is the best we mere mortals can do. So, my advice is to fight, fight, fight, resist passively if that's the only course available, and never, never accept defeat or failure.

Hehe. Perhaps I should just direct JD to the pep talk Satan offers Beelzebub in "Paradise Lost?"

10:59 PM  
Blogger Veronica said...

Your original comment said:

"...offer support by suggesting that suffering is good for the soul."
"I don't see too many people sticking a fork into the nearest outlet in search of a growth"

Since my post said neither I asked you where you got that from. Instead of answering that, you commented incorrectly that I am lending poetic beauty to "misery."

You could not be farther off. I am lending "poetic beauty" to J, and how brilliantly he has handled this.

You stated: "That JD, or anyone else, should have to suffer in this way, or for that matter, at all, is not in any way acceptable, permissible, or justifiable."

Since, again, nothing I commented states anything even close to the thought that he "should" suffer, I am asking you where you got this from. I realize auxiliary verbs are little, but there is still a huge difference between "is" and "should".

J "is" going through something, and I have commented that he is beautiful, and how he's handled this with XBox and posting, is beautiful. I've not said anyone "should" suffer.

You said - "Its seems to me that, "not to repress or suppress," only permits one to *accept*. Perhaps there's some option I'm missing?"

You're right, you are missing an option. Several actually. Again, it's odd to comment back to you since I never said what you are protesting. Since I never said "accept" maybe this part isn't to me, or maybe like the other points, it's just not what I said.
Staying wet, staying involved in your life, feeling and processing life as it comes, the good and the bad and all the real and human layers in between is living. That's the option you are missing.

Life isn't black and white. Healing isn't black and white. Thinking you only have two options: "fight fight fight" or roll over and take it, is extreme and sadly inaccurate. There should be moments of both. There should be a million other moments and emotions that will come and go as J crosses this ocean his way. He will have some moments of awful pain and sadness, and he should let that out. He will also have moments of fighting, which is beautiful too. And, moments of escape and moments of anger. Moments of relief, jealousy, excitement, confusion... there should be many moments which balance and lead to his magnetic north again.

I'm not sure which dialogue in Paradise Lost you're referring. Is it Satan's piece in book 1 before he accepts Hell where he rallies all the fallen angels (not just Beelzebub) to fight god?

Umm... sure, why not. Direct J to Paradise Lost. It's a good example of good, evil, the many many points in between like Chaos, and the things that result in our being Human.

6:50 AM  

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