Sometimes I feel like the only thing that can light a fire under my ass--ever since I quit acts of risk and desperation--is the idea of certain doom. I get the most motivated to write and create when I think of my mortality and how I would like to leave something behind for my not-yet-conceived children to perhaps learn from should I unexpectedly die and leave them motherless.
In some ways, 2011 was an exercise in minimal survival, and in other ways a feast of excess. On one end, my pay stubs from the fiscal year amounted to $200, an amount that I could have smoked away in two weeks, had I not quit smoking. And on the other end, Marido and I spent the entire last month of the year wandering around in Asia, feeling like the most overprivileged people on the planet. In between that last January paycheck and a New Year rung in on the sofa, recovering from colds and jet lag, there has been lots of failure, lots of struggle, lots of change, but also a lot of love, all of which I am extremely grateful for.
The thought that always lingers in my mind when visiting any developing nation is how incredibly hard people work to make ends meet. The sight of people in uncomfortable positions engaged in manual, repetitive, or dangerous labor--particularly the elderly--always provokes my guilt reflex, and I can only imagine what kind of doughy, incidentally lucky person they see when they cross paths with me. In Asia, the feeling is even stranger, because I always imagine there to be some kind of shock at the thought that one of them--once removed--could very well be me. I smile a lot and tip generously, probably just adding to the idea that I'm completely alien and oblivious. I treated my battered body midway through the trip to a $5/hour massage, pounded and kneaded by two Vietnamese girls around my age. "Where are you from?" One asked me. "You look like me."
Returning to my life in San Francisco is equally jarring, with no work to return to, but a certain role that I have settled into, a role of loving and being loved, and working to no avail. I have to play this mind game with myself that involves ricocheting between poles of best- and worst-case scenarios: that I will publish, and that I will die.
Happy New Year.