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Oct 7, 2008

There’s this stupid, pointless computer game that I waste a lot of time playing. You may know it – it’s called Bejeweled. The object of the game is to slide these brightly-colored, glittering “jewels” around on a square to make sequences of three more. When you do that, it racks up game points using some arcane scoring method and also causes more pieces to fall and rearrange into an all-new pattern. That’s it – the entire game – you match the jewels and get points and hope the pieces keep falling with new moves to make.

There’s also this deep, ominous-sounding robo-voice that intones phrases like “Excellent!” and “Good!” when you make a particularly point-worthy play. But eventually, it tells you “No more moves”, and the game is over – the end, you have reached the point where you are stuck with nothing else with which to continue.

It’s a metaphor for life, really. You play, you make your choices and moves, things roll along quite nicely – sometimes even for a very long while. But eventually, there are no more moves. You’ve hit the brick wall. I have been feeling for a long time now that I am about to hit that wall. Hell, maybe I already have and all I’m doing now is futilely clicking the mouse against an unyielding world with no more moves.Whatever the case, I seem to be approaching the point of no return – nothing to offer and thus, nothing back.

I attended Catholic schools for 14 years. While I never bought much of the dogma, the nuns did instill in me a sense of making one’s life count for something – contributing to the greater good, giving of yourself to improve the lives of others and thereby improving oneself. For decades I lived with that thought as a foundation of my existence. Not that I was or ever will be totally unselfish, totally giving, perfection absolute and incarnate. But I tried, in little ways, to have what I was doing mean something beyond mindless consumption, more than playing along to get along, to inject beauty and charity into everyday living.

So for many years I was an activist - I walked picket lines with striking workers, I marched in Washington, I attended anti-Vietnam war rallies, I worked as a poll moderator and and as a political writer/publicity chair for a local state House candidate. I served as president of the Board of Governors of our legally-incorporated lake association, on the town board of finance, as a trustee of the local library. I donated my time entertaining children at various town functions, I gave Christmas and Thanksgiving baskets to needy neighbors through our town social worker, I rescued cats, was active in party politics on the town committee, even acted in two plays to raise funds for the library.

I failed many times. I tried more times than I can count when nothing I did made any difference for good whatsoever. I am sure I also contributed pain to other people; I am sure I was thoughtless and selfish more times than I care to remember.

My heroines have always been the people whose actions have had great impact on the many – Florence Nightingale, Joan of Ark, Edith Cavell, Eleanor Roosevelt. Now, that fire to emulate them, to do good, to contribute, to be more than just an unthinking vessel is banked and dimming. A great deal of the cooling down has occurred since my son Eben died – a stupid, unnecessary death. Some nights I brood – sleepless, tormented – about whether I could have prevented in any way his untimely leaving. Other times I am sure that in a way he wanted to die, and nothing short of locking him in a bare, windowless room could have saved him.

In any case, I am haunted, it seems, by death. This last week I have been restocking a fish tank – and every single fish has died. I have tested the water, added the right biologicals, been judicious in their feeding, and still they died. How did I ever think I could successfully raise a human being to live a happy and productive life? I can’t even raise a goldfish.

A week ago I saw my doctor for a scheduled visit to check my blood pressure and try to resolve the ongoing problems with my cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The betrayal of one’s body as a cohesive, healthy organism is one of nature’s cruelest tricks. One of the questions he always asks me, during our routine discussion of how I’ve been feeling, is “Any suicidal thoughts?” My answer is always the same. “No impulse to kill myself, but if I fell over dead tomorrow it wouldn’t much matter.”

I am at an unlit and potentially dangerous crossroad, I know. I am fighting to keep a job I despise because at fifty-seven, my chances of finding meaningful work with a high enough pay scale and excellent health benefits are close to zero. I have grieved three performance evaluations – character assassinations, really – turned in to HR by my psychotic bitch-boss.

This woman despised me 7 ½ years ago when I first began this job and she was an assistant public defender who soon thereafter transferred to the Appellate division. She – the only person in the whole outfit who wanted the job – was brought back to run the division in which I work – and my professional life has been a living hell for three years. Through a negotiated agreement in which I was represented by my worthless, in-bed-with management union, I must get a satisfactory review this month or I can be “terminated.”

Knowing that my performance is as good or better than when I received glowing reviews from my two prior supervisors but still lookingat possibly losing my income, my pension and my health care benefits is just the latest brick in a wall that has been growing higher and higher as time passes.

When I was young, just starting my career as a professional singer-songwriter, I was naïve enough to believe that talent, hard work and good intentions were enough to insure success and self-fulfillment. I have learned, alas, that no one really gives a damn about any of that – if you can make money for someone is the only criteria by which most are judged in every profession. Working in a non-profit organization as I do, the bottom line kind of blurs away, and surely competence, friendliness and a good work ethic should be enough to guarantee a long and happy work life. But not for me – I have a boss who has an unreasoning dislike and resentment – bordering on a toxic fixation – of me and everything I do.

So, there it lays…the brick wall in front, an untraceable path behind. What happens happens. When it happens, who knows what’s next?

© 2008 RC deWinter

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Posted: Oct 7, 2008 3:14pm


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RC deWinter
, 5
Middletown, CT, USA
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