I’ll Know What I Think When I See What I Say.

October 27, 2009 at 4:48 am (By Amba)

4 A.M.

“I want to shoot myself.”


“I’m a failure in life.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m a failure in life.”

“A failure to do what?  What’s success in life?

“What do you mean?  Make a lot of money?

“You think most ‘successful’ people could have done what you did?”

“What did I do?”

“Rose from the ashes, again and again.

“You’ve inspired a lot of people.  More than you know.

“You’re one of a kind.”

But this is old, reheated soup.

. . .

” . . . Don’t be so conventional!”

“What does that mean, conventional?”

“Like everybody else.

“Do you think the universe cares about the standards of some primates dressed in suits standing on their hind legs?

“The universe only cares if you got a glimpse of it.”

“Got a what?”

“Got a glimpse of it.  Got your head above water enough to catch a glimpse of it.”

. . .

(Smiling) “What makes me feel good is . . .

“In spite of . . .”


  1. Rod said,

    It is understandable why your prior blog was titled, “Ambivablog.” Your mind flashes from point to point faster than most, but don’t be discouraged. Others share similar ruminations. Success in life can be viewed from a thousand perspectives, and none of them really captures it. It is quicksilver.

  2. amba said,

    Someone told me I ought to specify that this was an actual dialogue between me and J.

  3. karen said,

    if i figured that out(which i did)then i think it goes w/out saying?

    My 1st memories are of fire- our house burned to the ground in the middle of a November night and i was almost three. It’s so vivd- my Dad saving my life by smashing my upstairs bedroom window w/his naked leg– severing a ligament/tendon and leaving a bloodtrail i can still see. My sister jumping from her window at my Mom’s insistance- can you imagine encouraging your daughter to jump– we all survived. My sister scarred in more ways than one, but we all healed.

    I have been so bothered that i couldn’t write about this when i 1st read of your fire. Thank God you are both and all ok– the thoughts of the worst-case-scenarios could freak me out.

    ps- reheated soup is a good thing– esp when homemade, amba. Please keep yourself away from firearms, though;0@– both of you? It’s going to be ok, i can feel it.

  4. david said,

    Very much like a Beckett play…

  5. amba12 said,

    Ionesco, actually.

    Karen!!! How terrifying. Talk about a memory that was branded into you. (“Brand” is German for flame. Sorry, David, I know you didn’t want to hear that.) Did your sister break bones? Was she in the second story?

    The instinct to escape fire is so powerful that people jumped from the World Trade Center …

  6. Rod said,

    “Someone told me I ought to specify that this was an actual dialogue between me and J”

    Your title was a little misleading on this point. Still, it is interesting what I read into it: an internal dialogue on the meaning of success and life, instead of a two part discussion revealing connection and disconnect.

    Of course, I could still be missing the point. Or are there as many points as points of view?

  7. amba12 said,

    I apologize for being cryptic. That wasn’t fair. In my defense, it was 4:30 AM and I’d had a tiny split of champagne. I was pleased to have found something to say to J that I realized, after saying, is actually what I believe (even though I realize how bohemian it sounds and don’t much like the new-agey “the universe” usage — though having been a science editor I mean something a little more hard-edged by it), and that apparently cut through his depressive theme, a recurrent one for him (a place he doesn’t dwell much, but always revisits).

  8. Donna B. said,

    As a southerner, I did not even consider the “I want to shoot myself” as seriously meaning an desire for suicide. Perhaps it is a cultural aspect of a certain segment of the Southern mentality that interprets that as meaning “I am seriously disappointed in myself and possibly some external physical pain would ease the psychic pain” … and not as meaning “I want to die.”

    It is, I think, an expression of wanting to FEEL, physically feel, an emotion. And I think as we grow older, we do lose the ability to feel the exhilaration we felt when younger.

    Yet that does not entirely make sense. The emotional feeling I have for my granddaughter is somewhat stronger than that I had for my daughter. It’s because if anything bad happens to my granddaughter it also happens to my daughter… and in a way that I cannot fix. It’s both amplified and diluted over generations.

  9. karen said,

    Wow, Donna- expotential pain(would one call it that?). I never looked at it that way- that’s deep.

    Amba- i forget if she broke bones- i know she was burned on elbows, arms, knees– and was in the hospital for a while– it was late November and i turned 3 in January, so even though i remember more of what happened then than i do the events of yesterday– it isn’t very deep, it’s more vision and emotion. I think it really scarred us all in various ways– it was an old two-story and we built a ranch to replace it.

    Really, though- the fact that no lives were lost- only posessions- is what counts most. Even the things that couldn’t be replaced are trivial compared to the big picture. But then, you know this!!!

  10. amba said,

    Karen — we forget there’s a third category: lives, possessions — and work in progress. The last would be a stunning loss — not in the league of the first, of course — although of course you retain the source, and the capacity to regenerate and/or reconstruct the work.

    I had relatively new neighbors directly across the entryway from us who had come here this summer from L.A., driving all the way across country with their two Siamese cats. We had exchanged friendly words and although we were taking our time, being careful not to be intrusive since we lived in such proximity, there was a feeling that we would slowly get around to being friends.

    Her husband struck us as a sweet guy right off the bat. My recollection is that he told me proudly his wife was “a philosophy professor;” he didn’t even say what he was — it was clear he was proud of her. Then we didn’t even see her for weeks, so I joked with him that she was a mythical creature. Finally I met her and she explained that she was in the drama department, not the philosophy department, and was a dramaturg (which does involve the thoughtful side of theatre) for Playmakers Rep, the well-regarded company that’s part of UNC’s graduate drama program. My brother David did an MFA there a couple and a half decades ago.

    There was no sign of them the morning of the fire; they were pretty clearly away, and the status of their cats was unknown. I had her card and left a message at her work number. When she called me back a day or more later (I hadn’t had her cellphone number), she told me they’d driven to Gatlinburg. They’d actually considered asking me to feed their cats (the beginning of many a beautiful friendship; that’s how J and I met) — God does that send a chill up my spine; I would have been unable to save them — but for some unaccountable reason they decided to take them along. She said she had original research on paper and work in progress on a hard drive in the apartment. I misled her with my ignorant optimism about conditions there, considering how relatively scot-free we’d gotten off just across the corridor.

    It turns out that most of the upper stories fell down into their apartment, most of which also burned. Only their bedroom was not completely gutted, and some of her work was in that room, but it was completely soaked with water.

    Thank God they took the cats.

    I ran into her husband at the site of the fire at about the same time as I got my first look inside their apartment (which, you can see from the photo in the other post, was basically what stood between us and the fire), a jungle of blackened and fallen timbers. He hugged me, but then got a cellphone call which was obviously from her and waved me off to create a zone of privacy. As far as I backed away, I still heard him say, “You don’t have to come here. Baby, you don’t have to come here at all.” The divide fell between us, between the fortunate and unfortunate survivors of a disaster. (At least, unlike J, she still has her mind from which to regenerate her work. But that won’t be any comfort till much later. And depending on how fragile a person she is — of which I have no clue — that mind has taken quite a blow. I can imagine how it would have affected me in my thirties, in early midcareer.)

    I have e-mailed them, but don’t expect ever to hear from or see them again. Needless to say, they are not accepting the landlord’s offer of another apartment in the complex, and no doubt do not want to be reminded of it in any way. Along with some peace and stability, and the top fourth of J’s condition, that potential friendship is what I lost in the fire.

    Her name is Karen.

  11. amba12 said,

    Scratch that! I did hear from her. The other way it can go, of course, is that this is a bonding trauma that can supercharge the process of becoming friends. Thanks to reader_iam I had something to offer: information about extreme hard drive recovery.

  12. karen said,

    Amba, you’re amazing. The way you knit your words- i stay warm for hours after reading you:0).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: