Siege Diaries 9/27/2021

Today’s Daily Stoic writing prompt: What do prosperity and difficulty each reveal about me?

In general, my life has been neither one of extreme prosperity or extreme difficulty. In some ways that has made me, perhaps, a little too comfortable, but in other ways it has always kept me within sight of the extremes. My parents were comfortably well-off and able to afford to live in a fairly affluent suburb, but they didn’t overconsume, instead pursuing habits of savings and advanced planning born out of the Depression and a solidly working-class upbringing. I’ve got my moments of overconsumption–but they have never pushed beyond my means.

But getting beyond what we think about when we talk about prosperity and difficulty–which is usually about money–the extremes have been a little more pronounced when we’re talking about social interactions. I have had several episodes in my life of being bullied–the most recent being about sixteen years ago–and I still have difficulty trusting people. In all but one of the cases, the main perpetrators of the bullying were female–so I, as a result, never made close female friends like the ones you see in movies or read about–the kind where we’d share our innermost thoughts or sit up late at night at slumber parties baring our souls. My female friends were mostly buddies. I don’t know if that’s where the idea that I didn’t know how to “girl” properly came from, but I suspect that’s part of it. I’ve also had occasions where I have received significant honours. I’ll be honest–those meant a lot to me, especially when I was younger, because they were validation of my perceived worth as a person and of my ability to succeed at something “important.” The tl/dr of it? I’m still dealing with insecurities, although it’s greatly improved over the years. I still often feel as if people don’t “get” me, and have that sense that if they could see what I’m really thinking, they would find it deeply weird and intense. But hey–maybe everyone is like that.

Entered and left
the tavern.

Black horses
And dark souls
In the ravines of the guitar
Still wander.

They smell of salt
And hot blood
From the foaming of the nervous ripples

Death keeps leaving and entering
keeps on entering and leaving
Death keeps on leaving
And still will not leave the tavern.

(Lorca, “Malaguena”, last line tweaked by Dmitri Shostakovich)

He owed me 25 cents. After all those years, I still remember that, standing on the line for milkshakes in the 7th grade, in the depths of my desolation and isolation. He’d teased me before that, but at that moment, waiting in line for a 25 cent milkshake he asked me for a quarter, and I gave it to him. The debt, never repaid, was somehow never forgotten. He was more than that, this man who others called gentle, who played football in high school, this man who passed from this earth too early. He went forward into a life I do not know, but he had a place in my own timeline.

Death, it seems, keeps entering and leaving the tavern. She takes not so much those with hot blood and dark souls, but those veterans lounging in the corners, not young but not yet old, the exploits of their young years still ringing in their ears, although fading to memories provoked by old photographs. And we look around the tavern and realize that she is taking more of us. No longer are the absences a shocking exception. They are still too young, untimely, but now it’s understood. Cancer, you know. Or a heart attack. Or perhaps the aftermath of an undefined surgery. Mortality has stopped knocking at the door. We’ve opened it, and Death comes in and out of the tavern at will now.

On a more cheery note, apparently I won a prize in this here competition!

I’ve also spent some time working out more of the wrinkles in the Speechcraft curriculum. I found a section with tutorials for coordinators I’d never seen before, and put together a document so the guides can see what their partners are seeing. Plus I downloaded a whole series of printed versions of the online modules to share with the guides.

There are Thanksgiving plans now with friends. This makes me happy.

Day 2 of the Shostakovich string quartet listen-through. In the midst of listening to no. 4, I see someone’s posted a link to a discarded fragment of the Symphony no. 4 to the Shostakovich subreddit. Had a listen. It’s fascinating. Unlike the rejected 9th Symphony fragment, I didn’t hear anything in it that was reused wholesale in anything else–just little snippets that sounded a bit familiar.

Posting this and heading upstairs for some more embroidery.