2011 Wasn’t Real

Time is of great concern to me.  It always has been.  The movement of it, the steady march of it.  The relentlessness of it.  I don’t think I fear death greatly; not more than is normal.  I don’t think I fear getting old; not more than is normal.  Nor is it a great desire to “live in the past”; I love the present and the future.  But it is a kind of mournfulness for the past; for moments passed; for selves I once was and other people once were.  An acknowledgement—however sideways-glanced and barely-thought about—of the frivolity of crafting a life if it all ends up in memories and tall tales told amongst friends in once-a-year get-back-togethers in Applebee’s.  Here is a picture of me as a little boy at the beach:

I’m a happy man but thinking about time makes me sad.  Happy people can get sad, sometimes, when they think about the right things.  I miss things.  I regret things.  There are things I would do different and things I would hold on to.  You should have these things, too.  Life is not so simple for it to be otherwise.

I’ve written lots of poems about time over the years, but this one is my favorite.  I wrote it in 2003:

Bother With Hours

Things which slowly trickle down
like snow, taxes, or a frown
arrive in fragments of desire
like matches held up to a fire.

This was almost evident
in the way the hours went
as you sat there, humming softly,
fanning flies and drinking coffee.

Why bother with hours, I saw you thinking,
in this day of moments, sinking?
If seconds piling aren’t enough
the minutes stack up like a bluff.

And then you stood, and blinked your eyes.
Imagine the size of my surprise!
That moment trickled by as well
and landed where the others fell.

Here is a picture of me, just a few days after finally getting sober for good, at my mother’s house in New Jersey, petting my favorite cat, Angel.  She’s dead now.

It’s this “new year’s” balderdash that’s got me so honed in on time.  Every year new year’s rolls around and people talk about it like it means something, and every year I just understand it less and less.  Time always moves for me.  I’m always marking new beginnings, sudden endings, tiny whirlpools and eddys of time, memory, sensation.  Existence for me glides through pockets of variation, like a plane through turbulence and smooth air.  I can’t imagine something more meaningless toward my greater understanding of life than a calendar date.  But I also rarely talk about “days”.  You will be hard pressed to hear me say “I had a bad day”; I will tell you a bad event just happened to me (if I tell you about it at all).  The rising and setting of the sun, the ticking off of dates in a month, are not the markers that I live within.

This is my dad teaching me how to ride a bike:

When I first got serious about writing poetry, for a short while, I thought I might be a fancy poet.  It turns out it’s too difficult to be a fancy poet, but I got away with a few good ones while I was at it.  Here is a fancy one I wrote about “time” that I think is brilliant but nobody else has ever seemed to care for.

Ebbing

The line passively rocks,
the weight of warm wool socks
freshly laundered.  Now dry.
I suddenly ask why
I can picture the wool
in the washer, still full.

You don’t get it, do you?  Don’t you hate when you’re the only one who *gets* your own stuff?  Does that happen to everyone, or just bad fancy poets?  When do you think we stop being the people we thought we were going to be?  Of course there’s nothing wrong with not ending up the way you envisioned—frankly I’m glad I’m not currently sitting in my university office between classes and writing my academic manuscript about some horrid Greek epic poem—but the way we change is absolutely fascinating.  Slowly, steadily, influenced by who-knows-how-many waxing and waning forces.  My friends and family, the books I read, the TV shows blaring in the background that I only think I’m ignoring, the weather outside, the paint on the wall.  Over the long, slow crawl of time, they all have their way.  How much is me, and how much is them?  Where did the old me go?

As far as I’m aware, the only surviving picture of me actually drinking from the first few years of my “addictive drinking”.  Aged approximately 22.


I love who I am now, but I mourn the fact that today’s version of me will someday pass, as well.  And I don’t mean death (although that, too), but just change, and that persistent drummer of time and the cosmic forces of influence, will drag me, almost without me noticing, into being a completely new and different man.  I will no doubt be very happy being that new man, but I will look back with a sad fondness on the loss of this current version of me.  I may even look back on this blog entry and think, What a fool he was.  And I’ll probably be right.  It is my experience that New-Version Seth is almost always smarter than Old-Version Seth.

Every 13 year old has fake vogue fights with their sister.

Portrait

Nature has a slow divinity.
Its blight and bounty bend
hushed with eons;
a single leaf swoops slowly
to join the dawdling portrait
beneath the blooming pews.

Nobody’s ever mentioned that poem to me, either.  I also wrote that one in 2003.  It is very fancy.  Now that is a poem that can’t get it’s mind off of “time”.  If you don’t mind me saying so, it’s really quite amazing.

One wonders how others view them after we are gone from their lives.  What has the passage of time done to their perception of me?  How do they remember the time that our lives intersected?

My first formal dance, with my first girlfriend.  I cut her out, as it is considered bad form to post pictures of others on the internet, especially old ones like this, without asking.  And I could ask her, but who knows how she thinks about me now?

Certainly there is probably a disconnect between how I view the past and how others who have shared experiences with me view the past.  Perhaps some women that I still love never think about me, and others who I barely recall think of me often.  How important is this to you?  I find I am rarely bothered by the thought that others may view our past unfavorably, or differently than I do.  Although the possibility of being completely forgotten seems to sting.  Has time really rendered me that inconsequential?  Have your husband and children completely erased three glorious summers, or even one sublime 15 minute car ride through sun-drenched countryside?  Where do those shelved moments exist for you, now?  How easily can you reach them, retrieve them, feel something of their ecstasy?  They are still real.  I am not afraid to admit that they are still real.  The past isn’t dead; it isn’t even past.  All moments are right there, right there, within your grasp.  Are they not?

I’ve Been Asleep For a Long, Long Time
song lyrics by Tim Baker

I’ve been asleep for a long, long time.
Blonde hair to brown, and brown to white.
My mom is buried beside my dad,
but I was asleep for all of that.

I shut my eyes for a moment’s rest,
’cause I get so tired.
But what things transpired while my body slept
and beset my mind?

The schools that we went to have all been closed,
and all of my teachers are dead I suppose.
The songs that we sung have all gone quiet.
What happens below as we sleep at night?

The river’s up, the reeds are caught
halfway across what never was.
The water rose and swept in slow.
When the reeds awoke, they were half below.

I’ve been asleep for a long, long time.

18 Responses to “2011 Wasn’t Real”

  1. What’s up with the term addictive drinking?

    • sethdellinger Says:

      Well, I can’t really say “alcoholic drinking”, because according to most thought, I have always been an alcoholic, so even my first sip ever was “alcoholic drinking”; much like if I took a drink today, it would still be an alcoholic drinking. I also wanted to make it clear that there are other pictures of me drinking, but none from the specific timeframe that were the *beginnings* of the actual addiction.

  2. Kyle Sundgren Says:

    I’m not reading a word of this until after this evening when I post my own New Year’s post. Then I’ll read yours.

  3. Great post! Very well written and thought provoking.

  4. Kyle Sundgren Says:

    OK so now I read it and I’m pretty impressed. I just don’t know how to respond right now. I’ve decided I’m going to “sleep on it” and re-read it tomorrow. I feel like right now all I would do is just cite things that I liked about it, which I don’t think would properly illustrate my feelings about this. Expect at least one more comment.

    I really wish you’d keep track of comments like I do. This post alone has to earn my some gold medals! I’ve got comments in three acts now!

  5. The very crux of this argument is the beauty of time passage. We age, we change. Things that once were important are now at peace. It’s somewhat awful to say, but your problems in the dawning if our friendship has been what makes it last. In a very selfish way, your ignorance in what our friendship was makes our current friendship more meaningful. My love for you as a person and as a intellect grows with each crawl you make into your past seem. You are, and always will be, great in my mind and being because of the growth I’ve seen in you. I may still be the same person, to you, but the you that’s beforeme makes me more and more proud of my choice of friend, oh those many years ago. You are who I always thought you were through the glaze of alcoholism. I’m proud to call you my friend. You have given me more insight into myself than anyone I have known to this point

    • sethdellinger Says:

      This is quite a touching comment, Paul. I feel quite the same way about you, sir (well, without the stuff about the alcoholism). You’re the person I think of when I wonder, “What would a good man do in this situation?” Not that you’re perfect; you’re just closer to the man I want to be than the man I am. Love you, brother!

  6. Very thought provoking, as are all of your posts. Here is a piece on time written by Erma Bombeck oh so long ago. This was my “talent” in the Miss Ridgecrest-China Lake Pageant of 1977. Everyone in the audience was crying when I was done:

    Time. It hangs heavy for the bored, eludes the busy, flies by for the young and runs out for the aged. Time. We talk about it like it’s a manufactured commodity that some can afford, others can’t; some can reproduce, others waste. We crave it. We curse it. We kill it. We abuse it. Is it a friend? Or an enemy? I suspect we know very little about it. To know it at all, and its potential, perhaps we should view it through a child’s eyes.
    “When I was young, Daddy was going to throw me up in the air and catch me and I would giggle until I couldn’t giggle anymore, but he had to change the furnace filter, and there wasn’t time.”

    “When I was young, Mama was going to read me a story and I was going to turn the pages and pretend I could read, but she had to wax the bathroom and there wasn’t time.”

    “When I was young, Daddy was going to come to school and watch me in a play. I was the fourth Wise Man (in case one of the three got sick), but he had an appointment to have his car tuned up and it took longer than he thought and there was no time.”

    “When I was young, Grandma and Granddad were going to come for Christmas to see the expression on my face when I got my first bike, but Grandma didn’t know who she could get to feed the dogs and besides, they didn’t have the time.”

    “When I was young, Mama was going to listen to me read my essay on “What I Want to Be When I Grow Up,” but she was in the middle of the Monday Night Movie and Gregory Peck was always one of her favorites and there wasn’t time.”

    “When I was older, Dad and I were going fishing one weekend, just the two of us and we were going to pitch a tent and fry fish with the heads on them like they do in the flashlight ads, but at the last minute he had to fertilize the grass and there wasn’t time.”

    “When I was older, the whole family was always going to pose together for our Christmas card, but my brother had ball practice, my sister had her hair up, Dad was watching the Colts and Mom had to wax the bathroom. There wasn’t time.”

    “When I grew up and left home to be married, I was going to sit down with Mom and Dad and tell them I loved them. And I would miss them. But Hank (he’s my best man and a real clown) was honking the horn in front of the house, so there wasn’t time.”

    My parents are gone. One of my three sisters is gone. I am 52 and the idea of time gone by and wasted and spent well, and regrets and such is very prevalent in my days. To just be starting out on a 20 years home purchase and realize, I will be 73 when it is paid for, if things move along in an orderly fashion.

    Am i done traveling? Am I done diving? I don’t know. It frightens me to think I am either.

    But I go on and on.

    Thank you for your posts. And I love your poetry. All of it.

    Happy New Year.

  7. Kyle Sundgren Says:

    What is that last picture? It’s kind of an optical illusion where it looks like you’re standing on water.

    I think you said it best when you described looking back on the past as a sad fondness. I’ve often wondered why thinking of the past, no matter what the memory consists of, brings on at least a little sadness. It’s got to be more than just, “I wish I knew what I know now, then”. This must be why people are so interested in the possibility of time travel.

    Do you read your own old blog posts with any regularity? I’m almost ashamed to admit how often I read my own. I love re-visiting the old me at that point and time and remembering my motivations and what I was going through at that time. It might be the closest thing I have to a time machine since I don’t take many photographs.

    Personally I love definites. I love that I can differentiate yesterday and today as 2011 and 2012 respectively. Now in five years I probably wouldn’t remember the events of today and say whatever it was I was trying to recall was probably circa 2011, but I love something definite like a year changing on a calendar. It doesn’t mean my or anyone else’s changes can only mirror the passing of time and have no exceptions. I probably could have worded that last sentence better but I’m not going to worry about it.

    • sethdellinger Says:

      Yeah I’ve been quite disappointed with how that last picture made the transition in the scanner. The physical picture is much more understandable. It’s me standing in the pool at my parents house as it gets filled for the first time.

      Indeed, I think the idea of time travel is intriguing because it makes us less sad for our former selves. On the occasion I’ve allowed myself to fantasize about visiting my own past, I rarely change much when I’m there. I just relive it. Good or bad, our lives are like great paintings we are constantly creating that, once past, we can never really look at again.

      I do re-visit my blog posts. It’s fun. I wouldn’t say it’s anything to be ashamed about! Like you said, it’s just like looking at pictures or watching home movies. Just re-visiting a slice of the past.

      I am certainly not advocating that everyone live their lives the same way I do. Whatever works for you, if you’re happy, keep living that way! But it seems to me, through the very unscientific method of “shit I notice”, that the more people live within “time-boundaries”, the less happy they tend to be. I very frequently hear/ read people saying things like “Today’s already a bad day” or “Could this month get any worse?” They box themselves into bad. And when good happens, they’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop. The way I’m going through life (which isn’t unique, I know plenty of people on this track, too), when bad shit happens, when it’s over, it’s over. For instance, I got a speeding ticket a few weeks ago. It sucked. You know I’m not poor but I’m also far from rich. Time-boundary people, however, would have lost their entire day or even week over it. By the time I got to work, less than ten minutes later, I had all but forgotten it. Why shouldn’t I? It was over and I couldn’t change it, even if I could scarcely afford it. I was going to have to pay it regardless of whether I let it ruin my day. This is often mistaken as me having a “positive outlook”, but you know I’m a grouchy old bastard. I just don’t have the patience to let single events ruin large chunks of time.

  8. I rarely think of time until New Year’s and then it is hard not to as every one is putting it in your face. I love how you combined all things great about your blog in this post. Those pictures…whoa.

  9. What a fantastic read 5 years later with the knowledge of how you’ve changed again.

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