Sharpen Your Stick

Overwhelmed by resistance options? Me, too.

Pick one thing you’re good at. That’s your stick. Sharpen the stick.

“But Dennis,” I say. “STFU with your cutesy ideas. This is serious shit we’re in.”

I know. And I’ve been feeling scattered and weak, as if whatever I do — protest, donate, self-educate, parent better, write — isn’t enough. Whenever I focus on one approach, I worry I’m neglecting all the others.

I increasingly turn to a good cliché: How you do anything is how you do everything. This means we don’t have to do everything. It just means everything we do — from interacting with coworkers, to filling our free time, to posting on Facebook — can be extensions of a personal code.

Writing is my stick. Sharpening that stick doesn’t mean I’ll constantly write political pieces. I’m going to write the best novel I can about ghosts, love, and dying, because I believe in a world that cares about ghosts, love, and dying. I’ll write all kinds of stuff here on the blog. Writing is my job, and I’m going to do my job as if it matters more than ever — as if it is, by nature, creative resistance.

I’ll also donate to charities I believe in, read tons of articles, maybe volunteer somewhere, etc. But when I get overwhelmed, I’ll play to my strengths.

Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t attend every protest or donate money to every cause. Just figure out what you’re uniquely poised to do, and do that thing like gangbusters.

Dear Stinkbugs

Dear Stinkbugs Wintering in Our Home,

I have neither squished you nor tossed you outdoors into the unforgiving cold.

In fact, I enjoy your unpredictable appearances on the living room wall, on the bathroom mirror, and on the note Coley left me before traveling for work.

One of you has taken up residence in the kitchen’s Garden-In-A-Can cilantro, where you are welcome to stay.

I appreciate that you haven’t yet stunk.

However. It is henceforth forbidden to wake me, at 2 A.M., by slowly crawling up the back of my neck. I am surprised, and frankly disappointed, that I need to say this outright.

Whichever of you it was will attest that even then, half-asleep and fully heebie-jeebied, I took you from my neck and tossed you across the room in a non-murderous fashion.

When you buzzingly flew in my direction ten minutes later, I turned the lights on to find you and escort you into the hallway. I had no intention of killing you, or even of causing you undue stress.

You were nowhere to be found. I spent a sleepless time in the dark, distracted by every itch. I can only hope you spent that time reflecting on your behavior, and that a repeat of the incident will not occur.

The Human Adult Male

Physicist’s Letter to His Dead Wife

In the months before I met my own wife, I’d slid into the most frightening depression I had, at that time, ever experienced.

It was winter break of my senior year of college, and most of my friends had gone home, to distant places, for the holidays. I’d started working at the bookstore café, often 3PM to 11PM, and after work I went back to my empty apartment to read alone all night. I’d fall asleep at dawn, wake at 2PM, and return to work, which meant I often saw daylight only in the brief afternoon commute.

The darkness and solitude were a dangerous combo, especially given my depression, and I credit that month of desperate reading with my belief that books can literally save lives.

One of the books I read that month was a biography, called Genius, of the ebullient physicist Richard Feynman. One section of the book tells of Feynman’s time at Los Alamos, helping to build the atomic bomb, and spending his weekends at a nearby hospital where his young wife Arline was dying of tuberculosis.

That section of the book — the science, the bomb, the personalities, the love story — is an astonishing fifty pages and you ought to read it sometime.

Sixteen months after Arline’s death, Feynman wrote her a letter. The envelope remained sealed until after his own death in 1988. Here’s Oscar Issac reading the letter:


Writing About Nothing to Write About

I’m trying to blog every day in 2017. What the hell, right?

I started early, on December 11, and haven’t missed a day. Some days I’ve written mini-essays about anxiety or neckties. Other days I’ve posted a song I’m feeling.

“Do Things, Fight Gloom” is the order of business, and the blog is as much my public contribution to gloom-fighting as it is my private motivation to do things. If I’m feeling too low to write, I do something vivifying. If I do something vivifying, I write about it.

Days like today, I do a plethora of things I’ve done many times before and have little new to say about:

  1. Wondering if “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” is an eerily true description of existence
  2. Novel-writing
  3. Pushups and stationary-bike riding
  4. Obsessing over subjects far too private to share, especially on a blog *
  5. Hanging with our dog Bones in front of the fire
  6. Reading about fallopian tubes, sugar, and anarchism in my general knowledge books
  7. Playing music

So tonight I wrote about that stuff anyway.

* Let your imagination go wherever it likes, then wonder why it went there.

Imaginary Bike Tour: Days 4-5

Days 4-5 of my imaginary bike tour got me to Neversink, NY.

Wait till you hear about Neversink:

In the 1940s and 50s, the original town of Neversink, along with a town called Bittersweet, was flooded to create a reservoir as part of the NYC water supply system.

The Neversink River, which flows through the current town, is said to be the birthplace of American fly fishing.

The town prohibited the sale of alcoholic beverages from 1935 to 2015, at which point the ban was only partially lifted. Neversink is a dry town.

(Image Source)