Feeling Low? Visit a Bookstore or Attend a Funeral

Feeling Low? Visit a Bookstore or Attend a Funeral

By David Himmel

Whenever I find myself mulling around in a pile of my own shit, I as quickly as possible reach out for the familiar lifeline of a bookstore. It doesn’t matter what kind of bookstore though I do my best to avoid the ones run by smug assholes who can’t hack it as true writers or even as English Lit professors.

The bookstore is a perfect rescue vessel because it gets me out of the house, puts me face-to-face with the common unwashed I have managed to loathe almost as much as I’d been loathing myself, and doesn’t lead me to further self-destruction through vices of solitude like having a drink or seventeen at a corner tavern. Once there, my regret and hope squirt out of my pores like a well-hardened blackhead from my nose. And for me, when my regret and hope get together, that’s when solutions, inspiration, and energy are made.

The shelves are filled with so much I haven’t done and reminders that I will never be a Twain or a Morrison. And then I’m reminded that I probably haven’t read enough Twain or Morrison. So I buy some Twain and Morrison, or at least spend too much time flipping through the pages soaking up their words. Also on those shelves are reminders that I’m so much better than so much of what’s printed. Or, I’m at least as good. And then I think, I can do this. If people will read E.L. James’ stuff, there has to be at least a few out there who will read mine.

As I peruse and engage with the design of the books and the words cleverly stuffed inside, I’m reminded that yes, there are those books and writers who make it seem like there’s no point in my typing another sentence because they’ve gone and said what I wanted to, and probably better. But those same books and writers remind me that typing is the only path to saying anything worthwhile in any sort of interesting way.

I leave feeling refreshed, a little lighter in the wallet, but perfectly ready to get back up on the horse and ride it’s soon-to-be-school-glue ass into the sunset of my dreams.

Sometimes, if God or the Universe is feeling funny enough, a funeral will be the thing to pull me out of my shit pile, force me into a suit — which always makes me feel better about myself — and send me out the door to be among the functioning. But these people are quite often the ones I love and who love me. Yet that’s not the benefit of a funeral. The benefit of a funeral is that it makes it impossible for me to think about my little shit pile. 

Sadness from the loss. Remembering the impact the person had. Honoring the legacy that will remain. All that clears the head.

And then, because I’m a human, which is to say a narcissist, distracted, and anxious, I can’t help but think about my own funeral. And that makes me think about my life. Have I done enough to require standing room only at the service? What can I do to ensure I leave this world with some positive impressions on the people I love and the greater community of the common unwashed? Will the nice words said about me at my funeral be true or will they be lip service as is so often the case when we sanctify the dead simply because they’re dead?

I want to do good. I want to be good. I don’t want to die yet. Well, the only way to do good is to do good. The only way to be good is to be good. The only way to not die is to live. And the only way to live is to get out of your own way. Going to the bookstore to look at other people’s stories and to a funeral to honor someone else’s life helps me to get out of my own way. It’s the threat of failure than spins me out. Not failing from trying, but Failure with the capital F. Not achieving what I want to achieve because I was too busy sitting in shit worrying about achievements yet obtained. Too busy holding on to the past. Bookstores and funerals rap me on the forehead and say, “Time’s a-waistin’, good buddy. Get to it.”

Because bookstores and funerals are the future.

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