For reasons I probably don't need to mention, I go into Serious Introspection Mood around this time of year. In an effort to see where I've been, I've pulled up Vents from this date or close to it over the six years this section has been in existence, and excerpted things which might be pertinent.

Vent #30, 1996:

[L]oyalty goes both ways, and if you won't stand beside me, I probably don't want to be seen with you.

Vent #78, 1997:

Popular psychology insists that men of A Certain Age are driven to go forth and seek out, in Tom T. Hall's words, "faster horses, younger women, older whiskey, and more money." I can't see myself doing any of these things, but then I can't be sure if my life is half over, or two-thirds, or ninety-five percent. Somewhere out there is a bullet or a bacterium or a Buick with my name on it, and its scheduling is unclear, to say the least.

Vent #126, 1998:

It goes against my grain to think of this as a milestone — millstone, I think, comes closer to the mark — but the halfway point of any decade seems to have a resonance of its own, whether I want it to or not. When I was twenty-five, I was newly married and not adjusting all that well to it. When I was thirty-five, I was newly divorced and not adjusting all that well to it. Now, at forty-five, where the hell am I?

Vent #175, 1999:

Being both somewhat analytical and somewhat of a smartass, I would assume that if I were having a mid-life crisis at this point, it would indicate that I must be at the midpoint of my existence — as many years to come as I have already seen. It would probably not occur to me, were I dropping dead at 54, that it couldn't really have been a mid-life crisis, since I wasn't twenty-seven at the time. And I can remember times when fifty-four seemed very, very old to me.

Vent #222, 2000:

There's some doubt in my mind whether my expectations are too high or too low, and some further doubt as to whether it makes any difference either way....

It seems to me these days that if I did actually find myself in a position to love someone until the day I die, I would most likely be giving that someone an incentive to wish for my speedy death. At least we'd have that much in common, I suppose.

Vent #274, 2001:

I seem utterly to lack a sense of entitlement. My birthright, so far as I know, is to draw a finite number of breaths, and that's the end of it; anything else that happens during the interim is a matter of chance. I need hardly point out that this sort of stance gets in the way of planning....

[I]n the Real World, I tend to fixate upon those who are completely unavailable, which has the dubious benefit of preempting the usual rejection responses; I reason that geography or prior commitments or other such obstacles won't hurt quite so much as "Well, I just don't want you."

And maybe that's the bottom line. I look at myself, at the mess I tend to make of things, and I have to wonder: "Why in the world would anyone want me in the first place?" At this level of insecurity, it's impossible for someone to be reassuring; given my track record up to now, I can think of no good reason why anyone should even want to try.

The most obvious observation here, perhaps, is that the better your archives, the more likely it is that something will bounce back and bite you. (So far, apart from price, this is the best argument yet for Blogspot.) But two trends are excruciatingly evident.

Six years ago, I was tossing off vague generalities and trying to pass them off as serious thought. Last year, I was rooting out deep-seated fears and trying to pass them off as serious thought. Except in the purely analytical sense, this does not strike me as an improvement.

And the other pattern does even less for my sense of well-being. Early on, there are hints of the standard-issue Fear of Death that comes as a free gift with every birth. And while that's disturbing, it's not extraordinarily so: most people tend to wilt just a little when contemplating the Grim Reaper. Some of us are better at sneering at it than others — "Yo, Death, I got your sting right here," said James Lileks — but we laugh at Death because we know Death will have the last laugh on us. (Christ, I'm quoting Lou Grant now. And it's not "I hate spunk," either.) The passages above, though, make it pretty clear that knowing I'm going to die isn't what scares me; what scares me is knowing I'm going to die alone. Some day, more likely some night, that "finite number of breaths" will be reached, everything will come to an end, and no one will know until two or three days later because some mundane task wasn't performed on time, some phone call wasn't returned, or, most absurdly, because this goddamn Web site wasn't updated.

By no stretch of the imagination can any of this be considered healthy. And it makes no sense in whatever greater context I can provide, either; while I can't say I'm content with my solitary state, I should be even less pleased were I to drag someone else into this emotional morass. As a matter of consideration for others, if for no other reason, I should simply shut the hell up and live with it.

Obviously I'm not doing that very well, either.

The Vent

#318
25 November 2002

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