The Fear

The fear, the fear always of not amounting to anything. That's one way of saying it. I fear I will not, I do not, amount to anything. Meaning I am nothing? As in the old joke about the rabbi and the prominent men of the synagogue bowing and scraping to God on Yom Kippur: I'm nothing, I'm nothing, they weep, and then a lowly schlemeil comes along and beats his breast and wails, I'm nothing, I'm nothing, and the rabbi looks at the big makhers and says, Look who thinks he's nothing.

No. Not like that. And I never thought that joke was so funny.

More like the way you're supposed to have one slip of paper in your right pocket saying you're but a grain of dirt, and in the other, one that says for you the whole world was created. So you can pull out one bit of paper when you're nothing, and one when you're feeling too full of yourself. A balance.

We are all nothing. We are all here for a moment.

Fame. Ambition. Excellence. Strive to create work as excellent at Dante's, says Donald Hall, or something to that effect. Not to be famous. Not to become known. But to create work that is sui generis. It is the work, not the life that is important. Though we confuse the art with the life, and fall in love with pitiful (we think) Kafka because of his life.

And we become bitter. For example, when we hear of a Stage 3 cancer survivor who wrote a book and will be on the goddamn Today Show and will be profiled in O, and whose book will be covered in Glamour, Family Circle, Good Housekeeping and More Magazine. I am bitter, so bitter, I am pre-emptively or not-so-pre-emptively rejected. In the spring I emailed a passel of agents about my blog-to-become-book, and they said, There's a glut of breast cancer memoirs. So how did this girl get her blockbuster? Her father has cancer. Maybe her book was part of the glut. Along with another book that has cancer and bitch in the title. I am afraid there is not room for me, that my book will not be published. J said this will be my bestseller. But J is not a soothsayer. She's a friend. G says that the Stage 3 girl is young, 36, and that we're discriminated against for being older. I suppose pathos decreases as your age increases. And pathos is doubled by each child you have. I have none. I have no bairns. I have no cancer. My cancer is encased in fancy parrafin inside Fancy Hospital, six miles away. The cancer is outside of me. I do not want any more cancer inside. Stage 2a was quite enough, thank you. But I want to be on the Today Show.

M says the best thing that happened to Joan Didion's career was her husband dying. Which she didn't bargain for or choose. She didn't say: Give me a blockbuster; I'll sacrifice my husband. And daughter.

Fate doesn't bargain.

Wasting time fits in here somewhere. The restlessness of time-wasting. The nothingness of it. The nothing-to-show-for-it-ness of it. Wasting time means that you are not making something. You are making nothing. Spinning your wheels. The wheels are empty. They're not attached to anything. They're not making anything go. They're not turning straw into gold.