Zooey Deschanel once wrote a song called "Sentimental Heart", which led off the first She & Him album, four years ago. "What use am I," she asked, "as a heap on the floor?"

Of late, I've been scraping myself off the linoleum rather a lot, which is something of a jolt, considering that shortly after buying that album I had the temerity to describe myself as "less weepy." Maybe I was back then. Today, almost everything seems to set me off.

I'd like to explain this away as an excess of wistfulness, an emotion which is generally regarded as harmless: what's a little melancholy among friends, after all? And certainly you're never too old to yearn. The position I've been striving for, though, is Sinead O'Connor's: "I have all that I requested," she sang, "and I do not want what I haven't got." I would hate to think that at this point in my lifetime I still have unfilled requests.

Which, of course, I must, somewhere down below the surface. In anything resembling a sane environment, the heart does not cry if it does not feel a need. I don't think my enviroment is especially insane; it tends toward the utilitarian, with occasional outbursts of whimsy, but neither of those qualities strikes me as particularly pathological — unless they're actually wholly uncharacteristic of me and I've forced them on myself as a way of dealing with ... something. I'd rather not believe such a thing, especially if it should be true; but I don't really think that it is.

Maybe I can blame this on the fact that it's August, and not a particularly comfortable August at that, what with the hottest day since 1891 having fallen within these first eight days. (For the number-crunchers: high 113, low 84. That's a highly abnormal daily average of 98.5.) And as everyone knows, people go crazy from the heat... No, wait, that won't work either. How often have I been out in it? Fifteen, twenty minutes a day? And, thanks to the intercession of Saint Willis of Carrier, the temperature inside the house hasn't been any higher than 83, and then only briefly. (Yes, I do have a device to track this.) So the weather, as an excuse, is out.

Where I'd expected to be on the eve of my sixtieth year is about halfway up the contentedness scale: no dreams actually dashed against the rocks, but not so exalted that I could afford the luxury of being smug. (I don't do "smug" well, as some of you may have noticed.) I've done a stellar job of avoiding exaltation, but for some reason I feel compelled to keep checking those rocks, just in case. Maybe what I need is to say "Screw 'em, they're just rocks," and be done with it.


The Vent

  8 August 2012

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