Damn the torpor torpedoes

Sep 19, 2012 at 5:00 am

The last couple of weeks have not been the most flattering in my life.

My lady friend left on a long trip at the end of August and, like a B-horror movie segue sequence, the quasi-respectable, allegedly adult, humanoid appearance I maintain in her presence immediately devolved to reveal my true, ghastly form: that of a half-witted, bathrobe-wearing, 20-year-old, bona fide slacker.

Granted, I was on a long trip of my own for a month in which I slept poorly on floors and couches up and down the West Coast. I wanted, and have definitely engaged in, some solitary R&R when not working my day jobs. The compulsion to momentarily tune out and reboot, though, has short-circuited the system, armed the torpor torpedoes, turned around and attacked my sense of human dignity.

I have watched more episodes of “The X-Files” in the last two weeks than I did in the entire decade of the ’90s. The dishes have settled into a series of stratum in the sink not unlike the cross-sections found in Jerusalem in which one can see different eras of road construction from the present back to the time of King David stacked on top of one another like a tectonic club sandwich.

A few times I’ve caught the dog looking at me with concern as if to say, “Hey, man. You should get up and do something, like pick up around the house maybe.” To which I respond, “I have cleaned up the house, Dwight. The mess is just momentarily stronger than I am. Please be quiet now, Agents Mulder and Scully are in a tight spot, and the fate of the world hangs in the balance.”

Thankfully, I think I’ve gotten it out of my system, and I hope to rejoin you all in the world of the potentially effective very soon. My time in the hinterlands has not been a complete waste of time, though the only thought experiment I’ve returned with is inconclusive at best.

How can there be such glaring disparities between what I expect of myself, what my loved ones (my girlfriend for instance) presumably expect of me, and my actual output as a human being left to his own devices, to wit: laying around doing absolutely nothing productive?

A friend informed me that I was experiencing a pretty natural response to my girlfriend’s absence. “You don’t have anybody around to impress,” he said. This seemed a pretty flimsy argument at first. I should have me to impress after all. Am I actually a lazy person?

Well, maybe.

Still the question remains, if I am a lazy person why do I feel terrible about being lazy? Why not embrace it and gleefully take a few bong rips every morning for breakfast, cozy down and watch “The Price is Right” all day? That this prospect feels inherently opposed to my constitution, somehow very unlike the person I perceive myself to be, should lead me to assume I’m not actually a loafer and that, by extension, it ought to be easy to do the things I think I should.

Like an onion, though, you might cry a little as you peel one layer away from the other.

All signs point to a scenario in which I am not inherently a productive “self-starter” and that, to some degree, a combination of my expectations and those of others are required to prompt me into action and likewise validate those actions. This is plain to see in the way our culture socializes its young. Productivity is rewarded and it’s inverse is frowned upon; abracadabra and you end up with adults that are suspicious of un-productivity even if it comes very naturally to them.

This arrangement seems sort of pathetic, but not as pathetic as looking at my guitar lying fallow on the other side of the room while watching another episode of “Game of Thrones.”

If you’re not John Cage or Mother Teresa or James Joyce — humans for whom history itself seems to have established clear expectations — one’s expectations of oneself and the expectations of one’s community sort of have to be enough.

I just got an email from my sweetie. She said I should do some push-ups and take a walk.

I’ve got a day off, and I think I’ll do just that. Maybe I’ll pick up the guitar and play for a while later, too. Seems like I should.