This morning, as I sat down with my first cup of coffee, preparing to begin my reading and writing day, I froze. I just fucking froze (those of you who’ve experienced anxiety/depression know what I’m talking about), and couldn’t handle picking up my phone for anything other than a distracting, mindless game; I’ve been doing this a lot, lately, drifting into more meaninglessness to distract from the fact that I feel meaningless.
And, of course, that ever-present bastard, the pain.
But, I thought it strange. After all, I spend so, so, so much time on my various devices. Why the Hel would I get shy now?
Later, though not much later in the grand scheme of things, with an uncharacteristic amount of energy, I tidied the kitchen, went to put gas and oil in, and wash and tidy the car, I still found I couldn’t pick up my phone to get on Medium. However, I had also stopped to pick up the mail.
I got weirdly ecstatic when I saw that my first (well, newest) copy of Rattle came. Some years ago, when I was spending a lot more time looking into how to get published in print journals, I came across Rattle. My gods, I highly recommend this publication to any who enjoy/subscribe to print, literary journals (also, has pretty reasonably price, though this is not a Rattle advertisement). The writing is truly first class, and as I sank into my tub to read, I was getting cleaner as I was getting relief.
It’s true that I have a decent number of poetry books, mostly Leonard Cohen and Michael Ondaatje, taken from my father’s old collection. Hardly any of them have kept their covers intact; I’ve opened them so very many times, and it can never be said that I’m gentle when I’m in my obsessive passion. (Actually, it probably can’t be said that I’m “gentle” at the best of times.) I suppose my poetry collection is vastly eclipsed by, first, my philosophy collection and then my fantasy novels. Even in bed, I always begin my reading by reading a print novel, before I switch off the light and pick up a book on my phone.
I suppose both experiences have their virtues. I know many people have expounded on their hatred of the electronic format, preferring the tactile, even olfactory experience of hard copy (usually those in the generations prior to mine, though I struggle with the concept of myself as a “millennial” since I don’t think I really fit the bill, but never mind…). I used to think I was a good book purist, too, that I could never really trade the experience of books in my hand. E-books are convenient, however, especially if you haven’t gotten the physical space/shelves to handle them sufficiently. Especially if you’re addicted to reading and buying more books…
I think part of why today’s experience struck me, was the fact that I initially encountered mental resistance to the idea of reading first thing, which is what I always do. Being able to lie back with a new journal of new poetry clear overwhelmed me, though I still read some print every day making that, too, a rather common experience.
Yes, I know I’m still struggling out of a severe depression, so these things are more common than I’d even like to admit. But it was…uplifting (?) to get to the point where I was able to flip open the laptop and put something down.
J.D. Harms 2021