Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Beth, the HR director at the Paragraph Factory, left this note on my computer back in February. It's from Desiderata, Max Ehrmann's prose poem on this thing called life.

Ehrmann believed in the power of positivity, not a bad accomplishment for a lawyer from Indiana. But his signature poem — Latin for "desired things" — is a bit idealistic for my taste, especially when he riffs like this:
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Agreed on the first part about the sham, drudgery, and broken dreams. But beautiful? This world is seldom beautiful, even on the days with the most sunshine. It's often filled with illogical misery — the child beaten by his supposedly loving parents, the woman brutalized by her lover, the sudden end of life and love. There is nothing beautiful to see on those days, and averting my eyes does not erase that fact.

Maybe it's the news business that did this to me. There are too many days when I see the worst of humanity; like cops and social workers, journalists traffic in undesirable things, and we often resort to dark humor to blot out the horror. Hey, reporters are human, too, despite what you may have heard. We just act inhuman. And many of us drink or indulge in other destructive pastimes. A lot.

But back to Ehrmann. "The world is full of trickery," he wrote, and this much is too true. Sadly, sometimes it's especially true when it comes to the people I once believed closest to my heart. This knowledge encourages me to be cynical, because I've always trusted my gut — it's been a good friend all these years — and when my instincts about a dear one turn out to be wrong, it's hard. Very hard. It has happened to me only three, maybe four times in my life, but each of those scars on my heart is ugly and permanent.

"Be yourself," Ehrmann counseled, and when I read that line, I cringe. Being myself (as opposed to being rondavis) has never been a smart thing to do, though I have learned a valuable lesson — wear the mask and don't let people see who I am. Be the affable and charismatic bad-ass. Don't be real. This is about as close as I'll ever get to full disclosure, and even here I'm being somewhat circumspect out of respect for the feelings of others. Just because I'm harshing on myself doesn't mean I have to drag anyone else down in the mud.

The other day I wrote that part of me died on May 5, and I believe that. Having a stroke not only killed some brain cells, it killed some nice emotions in me. I am not meaner for the experience but I am colder — and I mourn over this new, blue part of me. Despite my asshole exterior I actually do (did) have a heart, and I am (was) kind. Now I feel more distant from the world. Distant and distinctly chilly. I've always been a closet introvert, but now I feel that real me coming to the fore.

With it comes the struggle to accept the better angels in the hearts of humans. And God, I hate that. But in my new, taciturn, anti-Ehrmann world, I do distress myself with dark imaginings, because I've come to learn that often they're not imaginings — they're very real. I've come to learn that some outwardly beautiful people may not have beautiful hearts.

I've come to realize that the universe is not unfolding as it should, because such truths should not be part of a good and just universe. But they are part of life. As a journalist I've known for a long time that life is not fair, life is not just, and good guys not only lose, they're often humiliated in the process. As a human I never wanted to believe that. Now I know I was foolish for being so naive. In the words of the poet / philosopher Liz Phair, it's a mark, and I know I will carry it with me for a long, long time.

The difference between what should be and what is: I go placidly amid the noise and haste. But tonight there is little peace in the silence — just the roar of disenchantment, and disappointment in myself. I should have known better than to strive to be happy.

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