Now listening to: Björk, Homogenic
Now reading: Poppy Z. Brite, Drawing Blood; Sylvia Plath, The Collected Poems
Now playing: Final Fantasy VII (Playstation)
Happy anniversary, seanshannon.org. Now, as promised, some thoughts on where I've been in these past 365 days.
I guess the strangest part of this site for me at the beginning was adjusting to a non-commercial environment when I had grown so accustomed to commercial Website operations. I mean, yes, I do have various Amazon and CDNOW links here on the site, but it's hardly like they pay the bills for me. It's hardly like they pay hosting fees for this site, for that matter. The important thing is, they aren't the main reason for this site's existence; they aren't what I want you all to come here for. (Although please, use them whenever possible, poor college kid's gotta have some spending dough!)
What I hope you all come for here is my work. Although this journal of mine is not quite the same kind of polished effort I consider the other elements of my site, I hope you all can derive something from it, whether I'm relating stories of how I'm trying to deal with the various stresses in my life, or trying to delve deeper into my own thought processes and try to understand why I believe what I believe ethically, politically and spiritually, or if I'm just goofing off. Thankfully when I got the .blog in April of this year, I picked up a place for my smaller thoughts, and now I can devote the journal to more expansive works.
Looking at the other sections of my site right now, though, I'm struck by how much more I wanted to do with them. I was working on a couple of other short stories after I finished "The Seamless Ring," but I haven't touched them in months; likewise, I strongly desire to write more poetry right now, but unfortunately I just haven't been working on my art as much as I'd like to be over this past year. Not having more content here on the .org bothers me, but not nearly as much as the fact that I simply haven't devoted enough time to my art.
When I first started the .org, this wasn't so much of a problem; leaving the situation I was in prior to this site freed up an incredible amount of time for me, and for a while there I was able to work on my art to a greater extent than I was used to. But then I started throwing myself headlong into my professional work for a while, and my art suffered for it. Even at that, though, I still had the time, the opportunity and the motivation to work on all my various projects to an acceptable degree.
Then my house caught on fire.
Over the past six months I've just had stressors upon stressors pile up on me (including two pretty big ones in the week before the fire), and finally things have gotten to the point where I'm currently in counseling. But before I went to counseling I went ahead and listed everything that had gotten me into my current low point, and what I was feeling as a result of those things. One of the big words that came up in my feelings was "displacement," and that all started that fateful night in May. Nearly six months after the fire, I'm still sitting here in a hotel room, my computer monitor on a nightstand, my keyboard on the bed, my mouse on a cardboard box next to my keyboard, typing away here.
The house isn't the only source of displacement for me, though. The other big source of displacement comes from my return to college at the University of Toledo. Looking back I realize that I made the right decision to go back to college rather than continue to focus on a working career that would be severely limited by my lack of a college degree, but I do wonder if I'd been better off taking distance learning courses to start with, simply because on campus I don't feel like I fit in at all. I'm planning on a future journal update on just why I feel so out of place in social situations, simply because it'll take a whole journal entry to open up that can of worms, but for now let me just say that in the six years between Antioch and UT, I didn't exactly have that many opportunities to be sociable, and I wasn't exactly the sociable type to start with. So there's some displacement there as well.
It's not only places that are leading to my feelings of displacement, though; it's people as well. Jeff was over here earlier today, and for about the tenth straight time he and I never exchanged one word while he was here. Jeff and I lost a lot to talk about when I left the situation a year ago, but there's still a lot we could talk about. But listening to him talking to everyone downstairs, I just really don't feel like I can interface with him anymore, like the friendship is still there but it just doesn't amount to much. I have the feeling that if I did go downstairs to talk with him, we'd just exchange "how are you doing" and then sit in uncomfortable silence for however long we were in the same vicinity.
And Jeff seems to interface so easily with the rest of my family too, almost as if he was the son my parents never had. I don't think it's a small exaggeration when I say it feels like our family has adopted Jeff; he's even spoken of the feeling himself, though not in exactly the words I use. And I feel an even greater displacement from my family, and listening to Jeff and everyone else behave as if Jeff was the youngest Shannon child just adds to that feeling. It also doesn't help when my family behaves as if they have more emotionally invested in the New York Yankees' success in the World Series than they do in me.
I've spoken with my family about the distance I feel from them in the past (this isn't something that's happened just recently although it's certainly gotten bigger as time's gone on), but there really isn't much we can come up with to resolve the problem. I simply don't enjoy the same things they do, with the exception of The Red Green Show and other stuff that you really can't base any kind of serious friendship on, let alone something as special as blood ties are supposed to be. When I think about spending time with my family, all that really comes to mind is my father's endless droning talks where he says nothing of substance yet tries to convince everyone around him that he's the foremost authority on everything, my mother's foul cigarette smoke and health problems that she keeps ignoring, and my sister's smoking and ignorance of her basic responsibilities. Looking at things from that perspective, it's not hard to see why interfacing with them is high up on my list of priorities.
So who do I interface with? I thought going back to school might answer that problem, but so far that hasn't been the case. I knew that as a (slightly) older student I would run into some problems, but I wasn't expecting to run into so much prejudice at UT so as to make socializing almost impossible for me. I knew UT wasn't going to be like Antioch, but Toledo is still a fairly liberal town and I was expecting a lot more open-mindedness than I've found on campus so far. It's not that I've made no progress so far, but I've had to put a lot of effort into making interpersonal connections at UT, and I guess I've always viewed that process as something that should occur naturally, that when you force the issue as I've had to do in a lot of cases, the ties that result won't be as genuine or as strong.
With L., C. and J., though, those ties came naturally, and their presence in my life has helped me a great deal. But the last time I was physically with L. was at Antioch, and I've never spent time in the same physical presence as C. and J. at all. While I don't think spending time with each other in the physical realm is necessary to build a true, lasting relationship, there's no denying that it helps a great deal, and to be able to visit with people who genuinely accept and appreciate me for who I am would probably help me a great deal at this point.
Unfortunately, in addition to the physical distance between us, with L., C. and J. I'm experiencing a great deal of separation in some other areas. A lot of this separation has been caused by outside events that none of us desired nor had any control over, but some of it is space that I've had to put there myself because I'm trying to deal with issues that have come up between us. Maybe I'm romanticizing things when I say that these are the three people who mean more to me than anyone else, but it's no exaggeration to say that I put a lot of stock in my relations with them, and when I'm having problems with them, I don't think it bodes well for my ability to forge ties with other people.
This ties in with another recurring theme I found when I listed my stressors and emotions a short time ago, that of a general feeling of failure I've had over everything in my life recently. At college I'm in no danger of failing any of my classes, and in fact my grades are better than most of my classmates, but I keep looking at every little imperfection and wanting to improve on it. Even though I got an A in the Japanese Culture and Commerce course I took this summer, I think I could have done better on my quizzes, and of course there was the embarassment of my presentation. At work I don't reallly feel like I'm accomplishing much of substance. And of course with the continuing separation from L., C. and J., as well as my social failures on campus, there's a feeling that I can't get the most basic degree of sociability right.
And when you combine the situation with L., C. and J., my lack of friends on campus and my feelings about my family, that makes up another big emotional theme in my life recently, that of loneliness. Between everything that's uprooted me recently and not really having people I feel I can turn to, it feels like I'm in this by myself, and that doesn't exactly do much to set my mind at ease. But at the same time it's hard to say, "I need friends," and then know what in the hell to do about it.
So when I look back at the past year, I can't really point to any bad decisions that I made (although there were some I think I could have handled better than I did), but at the same time it doesn't feel like there's much to celebrate. I'm out of touch with the people who mean most to me, I'm stuck going to a college where I don't feel accepted by anyone around me, I haven't been able to work on my art to any meaningful degree in months, and there are times (and I had one earlier this afternoon) where all I do is lie in bed for hours on end wondering just what in the hell I'm going to do with myself.
But at least I'm able to recognize that I have these problems, and slowly I'm taking the steps to do something about them. I sought out and entered counseling of my own free will, and while that process will take a long time to work, there has been a measurable, if small, amount of progress made there so far. I've rededicated myself to Wicca recently, and slowly I think I'm going to try to get back to my art. I wish it were as simple as simply getting the tools of my art out and working with them, but it's a lot more complicated. Ultimately, though, getting back to my art and reconnecting with my most cherished friends will be what gets me out of this. I only hope I can do both soon.
Everyone take care and be well. It's been a strange year, and the next one will likely be even stranger. I hope you all stick around the .org for it.