I closed the door behind me and with it the toasty comfort and wafting aroma of brewing coffee. Turning to Jenni who was dancing at the gate, fall’s early morning rigor prompted my quick donning of gloves. Carefully stepping down the frosted front stairs I blew into the air looking for the smoking gun, the evidence I’d need to herald to the neighborhood (like Paul Revere) the Winter is coming! The Winter is coming! Though I studied the air carefully as though I was looking for fingerprints, nary a puff appeared; no telltale sign besides my goose-flesh. Fall‘s playing cat and mouse with us, I told Jenni as I turned the gates lever and she bolted out like a favored gelding at a horse race.
We’d gotten an early start today, earlier than normal. Jenni was up and out of bed at half past five and though I pleaded for patience, her answer was determined and direct: any limb (or part of limb) which had poked out during the night like Punxsutawney Phil or General Beauregard Lee was suddenly startled by a dogged lapping of tongue as though the targeted extremity was a popsicle on the hottest dog-days of summer. Heavy-lidded doziness and a ten thousand duck down comforter can be very seductive, but what’s really arousing is the cold and wet dogma of the persuasive lap-ping dog which highlighted my dog-eat-dog world.
Jenni’s quite content cavorting in Fall’s early morning chills. I’ve donned thin gloves but toughed it out and left the toque at home. There’s a certain sadness during fall; like knowing the fireworks-like trees will soon be bones unable to produce shade; the morning chill creeps longer into the morning like the warned child near the cookie jar; leaves once an inferno, crackling like dry wood now slimy and slippery and stick together like wet newspaper. Fall is falling; it’s falling leaves and falling temperatures and falling daylight.
But to Jenni, there’s never been a better, brighter or brisk beginning.
Fear stops me like a two by four to the back of the head. Real fear. Not anxiety, not nervousness, not hesitation. The kind of fear that rushes to a moment of quiet like children playing musical chairs. Real Fear. Life or Death Fear. My fear has been the writers-block-in-residence for the past fourteen days. My fear was a distraction; then my fear developed into an annoyance; then fear and I were bedfellows, fear being the last thing at night and first thing upon waking that knocked on my mind’s front door. What is my fear? I’m afraid I’m dying.
As you know, in November, 2008 I was classified as bipolar. This determination included established and biased reasoning for my life on a seesaw: I was predisposed to life as a yo-yo by genetic roulette. This milestone was marked by a simple psychiatric ah-ha. Their specialty professes its ideological conjecture as formative and their ignorance evidenced by the devastating news that they can’t offer a cure, or even a likely protocol. Instead they offer an indifferent forecast of pharmaceutical trials often resulting in failure and cautioned of a likely future weathering mania-driven misjudgments followed by the doomed deciension into a grey melancholia exacerbated by the digestion of manic destruction and attempted repair. And then there’s that overcast statistic regarding effectual suicides: 40%.
Fear immediately hit the brakes and sent my entire life crashing headlong into the windshield. Fear sat immobilized by truths: I’ll only be free of madness if I’m one of four out of ten. Fear’s rationale was logical and pragmatic; why endure decades of depression and delirium only to draw the same conclusion? I’d decided to ignore Fear’s advice and try, one day at a time, to continue my membership in the sixty percent club.
But two months ago despite my determined effort to avoid that 40%, a wholly separate yet equally incurable physical condition reappeared. Its symptoms are aggravated and impairing; inexplicable weight gain (45 pounds in six weeks); undermining fatigue; breathlessness following exertion; intentional harboring of fluid forced from arteries and causes swelling and immobility. But just like the Rambler my father owned in the early sixties, no one could determine the cause of the knocking. That is, until the 1959 V-8 wagon blew a cylinder and sent my father’s first love to every car’s destiny: an auto scrap yard seen from the interstate. Will my erosion be similar? An unidentifiable murmur like a whispered yet repeated rumor one day erupts and immediately my initial litany of enigmatic symptoms is sensible, albeit much too late for prevention and most likely too late for intervention.
I’ve been blindsided by these illnesses and worse, hobbled by their improbable cures. This simply was not my life’s expected outcome. Or so I believed until very recently when I remembered what a mentor once suggested as a remedy to writer’s block:
“Writer’s block excuses lazy writers; Write about what’s preventing you from writing; Suddenly you’re mindlessly writing and only when you pause do you remember what was prohibiting your expression, but you can’t remember why. When you can’t write, you must write. The living face death every day — and then go about living!”
We make all kinds of decisions every day. I’d assert that a tenet of life is decision.
Decisions are based on a fundamental understanding of options. These options are often presented through language. Our language has mirrored our intellectual expansion during the past twenty years (since the commercialization of the internet), but it’s also exponentially increased the likelihood of poor decisions versus good decisions. And not for the reason you’re probably thinking about right now.
It’s not that our decision-making ability has declined, it’s that our American English lexicon has been stripped of standards and replaced by Idiolects which are varieties of a specific language unique to an individual. In other words, how an individual (all individuals) use parts of speech specific to the language they’re speaking. Huh? Are you suggesting that we’re using vocabulary generally accepted but individually defined?
Yes, for example: I’ve had a great evening; would you like to come up for a night cap? Twenty years ago you had a pretty good idea that the night cap meant some form of refreshment and m-a-y-b-e. . .But today a night cap most likely is prone to interpretation, and depending on the interpreter, the night cap might be the evening’s last tango which spins and dips and clutches its way to dawn, or the night cap might be the gut-wrenching sound of starboard iron scraping along larboard iron in a dense fog on a moonless night in the frigid north sea. Both invitations were accepted but only one, the former, seemed to coalesce. The latter was respectfully disharmonious and most likely eliminated any tandem future. Okay, so what? What’s this got to do with me?
We’re all assuming that what we say and what they hear are synonymous. But in this day and age of individuality, identity, and me-me-meism which is reinforced constantly through internet-based social networks and the hardboiled, pragmatic, and mundane personal updates which someone somewhere will proclaim as unique (dismissing our language’s standard usages) and applaud their meism misuse (interpretation) of vocabulary, and whammo! A word or phrase which held a generalized meaning now has a bastard son. This phenomenon is known as Language Evolution Based on the Idiolectic Intersection of Individual Adoption.
So what’ve you been blathering on about?
Simply put: What you know you’re saying (standardized use) is being heard as something different (Idiolectic use). Perhaps if communication was bipartisan (the talkers and listeners understand that their communication is reshaping the English lexicon) then we might lessen misunderstandings and agree to use a mutually standardized language in order to foster a sense of unity.