Can’t look back so give it a moment

Looking back, looking forward, tis the season-

I think this year was important. To write, it was a survival instinct, a year ago.

Had to. I was so fucking sad.

I’m not so fucking sad anymore. I have a writing discipline, a degree of monetary success at it, a wonderful writing community; greater confidence and ability, and access to feedback. Wow.

I got all these books at Christmas time. Feeling oddly hesitant to read them, like:

I have consumed too much.

Emotional receivership. Too much in the way of me. I want to write it out. Give something back. A book. Be it a bad book or a good book.

I need to write for something else, besides just to feel better.

But this year was good, nothing’s been wasted in a long time-

Love I’ve felt has been real. True love. I (did, have, will) stake my claim on that. And that’s so tied into faith for me. Love. When I doubt love, I doubt everything. I doubt the reason for creatures like humans. I hate the viewpoint that weighs the pros and cons of attachment. It’s cold.

So in one bloody mess or another I’ve sought this ideal that love has intrinsic value.

Loving when it isn’t sensible (though painful) has proved myself to me, at least. Loving when it was the wrong thing. When it gained me nothing, even when it hurt for long periods after. I loved.

Maybe loving me would be a little kinder before further explorations of that nature.

I see myself as a good risk, though I don’t know why, really. I don’t know that I have much to offer another human being except hyper awareness. I’m there. I really notice. I pay attention.


Yeah, that was familiar. To me, it has always mattered to be present. And this is so related to the belief that stories matter.

For about five months I worked at a call center fielding complaints for General Motors customers. And I really sucked at that job. I’ve actually sucked at most modes of employment I’ve tried with the possible exception of teaching and mentoring youth. But the office jobs? Sucked. Desk clerk? Sucked. I get bored and check out. Miss things. Fuck up. I can’t do that so good.

So at the call center, right? Though shy in some respects, I found I really have a way of talking to people one on one that gets them to open up and speak to me.

Cus I care.

That sounds stupid, but I do. I don’t care about everyone intensely, but when someone mentions some off-hand detail of their existence, or what it’s been like lately or something like that, I want to know the story. That’s interesting… that’s unique! What they see, and how they see it. Their perspective that comes from a set of experiences unlike anyone else on earth. I found genuine interest for the individual on the other side of the line.

They told me stories.

I loved it.

I loved it a lot better than the work aspect of the job, which was to process the individuals through- give them as little as possible to have them express satisfaction in the product (their cars).

We’re supposed to make them feel ‘heard’ as this is a big part of resolution and satisfaction according to all General Motor’s customer research.

My problem was I actually heard them. They were validated as individuals, because beyond their car problems, I really wanted to know who they were.

Naturally, when you start logging a few 20, 30, 40 minute conversations, the powers that be take notice. You aren’t supposed to actually talk to the customers.

I don’t care. Don’t, didn’t, hopefully never will. I think the most important part of that job was what got me fired. People’s stories MATTER. They do. The fabric that weaves together human lives isn’t made of efficiency, profit, or a good business model.

It’s deeper than that. Emotions. Connections. The human imperative to live and to be good for one another.

This… feeling… (cus I hadn’t defined it that well as an idea at the time), this feeling is kind of a fundamental building block of what I believe.

It’s a start. A stripping out from the core basics.

You’re born into a set of beliefs, and some people live their whole lives inside of them.

Scary to doubt. Scary to start to see life as a possibly random exercise. Unless you’ve been brought up that way, then scary to see yourself as one of those crazy schmucks that thinks adherence to certain rules laid down by a crazy 2,000 years ago will grant eternal life.

I don’t know what that means, ‘eternal life’.

But it mattered. This year. It mattered. It matters to me if life has meaning or not, if there’s more to it than the surface degrees of success. There’s such a variety of ways to succeed. What of the children in Africa who die at the age of 4 because they had sexually transmitted disease given to them when they were conceived? What of the assholes that make millions of dollars cheating their employees and live full lives, when people who stand up for what they believe in die, penniless, at age 25- from gun-shot wounds or lack of health care or general poverty?

Are we here to get what we can while we can, to pass on our biology, to strive for the best moments of life possible for a dwindling creature that lives a span and dies- are we here to get what we can out of life, in competition with every other creature?


It’s a humble response. I have little evidence, and less knowledge. But… at the same time, I’m absolutely sure: We are here to love.

We are here to try to be good for someone else, be it a child, or a country, or a species going out like a light.

We are here to learn. To make ourselves better by figuring out not to live for ourselves.

A year of questioning and doubting, and I understand now the questions themselves were an answer in a way. I don’t accept that we are biology and energy running out like a tank of gas.

I don’t accept it. I can’t see the answer, but this longing in me to know means there is more to it. I desire there to be more to life. Meaning, purpose, beauty, compassion. These are not bi-products of biology. They get in the way of a creature that would be ultimately self-serving. These questions are an act of the spirit: Such longing doesn’t arise from the physical body- there is more.


The way that I live this life matters.

January, 2008; a new year & that statement is my starting point.


10 thoughts on “Can’t look back so give it a moment

  1. Hope you have a terrific 2008…sounds like your nerve endings have grown new nerve endings and you seek experience, tangible evidence as to the purpose and meaning of existence, while recalling that even a hard-ass cynic like Philip Larkin was forced to conclude (the closing lines of “An Arundel Tomb”) “…what will survive of us is love”.

  2. I read this post while holding my breath and at the end I was at the edge of my seat!

    I know it sounds overly romantic but I see each year as a new blank book to be written in. Your a stunning writer and your life, your book, your year will be as stunning as the words that you use to paint with.

  3. I think you should take your GM call center experience and write a short story about it. Right up front you should put the pressure to 1) make the customers feel heard and 2) field more calls, so you have conflict right away.

    Then include some of the callers’ stories, people frustrated and you listening and then bosses frustrated, ratchet up tension. Give us details, so we can see the call center room, and hear the voices.

    Have you ever read Miss Lonelyhearts? That’s pretty intense, in places. What you describe also reminds me of Bukowski’s Post Office. His dealing with the bureaucracy and trying to live his version of a decent life amidst the madness he finds.

    Just my 2 cents.

    I remember you almost a year ago. I remember you writing about getting some new online game from (I think) your folks, where you create people and communities, and you spent all of Christmas eve populating it — and then you backed away and had second thoughts.

    Writing a story like that is comparable, no?

  4. Writing, loving, listening, all connections to other people, meaning outside of ones round and round self, “Meaning, purpose, beauty, compassion” maybe all four of these things are the same thing , connections, compassion, meaning. Personally, I am lazy and try not to think about it. I find hugs make all these questions fade quickly. And the first part, the writing bit, rock and roll with that, definitely…

  5. You write to feel better. There’s no better reason!

    I like that you were the only call center person at GM, heck the whole damn world, who actually got the point of a call center. I had my own issues with GM. Too bad you weren’t at the other end of line when I called, otherwise I might not have set fire to the car. (Oops. Maybe I shouldn’t have admitted that.) Anyway, happy new year!

    P.S. Maybe this was deliberate, but when you click on your Homepage in my comments section, it comes up an error.

  6. Pingback: Back Exercise » Can’t look back so give it a moment

  7. Reading this post, first I laughed, then read outloud to my husband, then wiped tears from my eyes. I agree with Ombudsman. You should write about your GM call center experiences. You have a future as a writer. You touch people. I wish you the best for the 2008. You are amazing.

  8. Yes! Being present, paying attention, taking notice — that’s important. It’s the most important thing in love, I think. You are a gift.

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