I’ve got a fever. That’s probably the worst possible way to start a blog post in the midst of a global pandemic. I suppose it’d be like announcing that your lymph-nodes were strangely swollen during the Bubonic Plague. For the record, I don’t have a literal fever. I’m speaking metaphorically. It’s a figurative fever, much like the one had by Christopher Walken in his obsessive and relentless desire for “more cowbell” However, regardless of my undying respect for Mr. Walken, the only prescription for my fever is not the increased intensity and predominance of a particular percussive instrument. Instead the only cure for my feverishness is more books.
If what they say is true, if reading is, indeed, fundamental, then I’m fairly certain that I manage to put the “mental” in fundamental. I experience a singular kind of twitchiness whenever I got too long without being near or around books. I keep 1-2 books in my bag; another 1-2 on my nightstand, a stack on my desk, and 1 or 2 more on my couch and living room coffee table. I listen to audiobooks in the car, and throughout the day at work, and I keep the Kindle app on my phone loaded up with a few eBooks at all times. At any given moment I’m keeping 6-8 books in regular rotation.
I don’t know if there’s a support group for that, but perhaps there should be? But, if there was, I would probably have to admit I have a problem before I could join, and that’s where things really fall apart. Besides that sounds way too peopley for me.
One of the books I keep at the ready for when I have a few minutes to spare for a quick reading fix is E.M. Cioran’s The Trouble With Being Born. It’s a wonderfully incisive and insightful book of snarky and cynical aphorisms, reflecting a kind of philosophical pessimism that, to me, is as warm and as comforting as a blanket right out of the dryer. Some days it feels like Cioran prophetically wrote this book in anticipation of my birth. Hey, we all have our vices. Clear your search history before you judge mine.
In one passage, that I’m sure Cioran specifically directed at me, he writes that “For the victim of anxiety, there is no difference between success and fiasco. His reaction to the one is the same as to the other: both trouble him equally.”
I live in near constant fear of failure, but in all honesty I approach success with equal trepidation. The lows are often lower than I’m prepared for, but the highs are almost never as triumphant as I expect. My losses live in the foreground of all I see, and my wins are pale and anemic by comparison. At best my wins go largely, if not completely, unacknowledged, and at worst are rarely recognized as wins at all, and instead are usually just seen as near losses. The deck is almost never stacked in my favor. In fact, it’s actively stacked against me, and I’m the one doing all the goddamn stacking.
I can actually feel psychiatrists salivating over the severity of my self-sabotaging tendencies, and it’s creepy…stop it.
My immense and intrinsic need for a goal is second only to my need to read. I don’t know how to live without a goal. I don’t know how to exist without an ambition. And, the only thing worse than failing to accomplish a goal is actually achieving it, because….well…then what.
The only thing that makes me twitch more than not having a book is not having something to work towards.
I’ve learned to push. I’ve learned to strive, to work hard, and to work harder still, but I’ve never learned to simply “be”. I don’t even know how to wrap my head around the concept without my palms getting sweaty, but I’m trying. In the mean time, at least there’s books.