Full Catastrophe Living.

All my concern over sex, hookers, guilt, shame, money, health, spirituality, the environment and my car has taken its toll on my mental health. I was once a motivated young man with grand aspirations of fame and fortune. Now I sit at home, day after day with an empty bank account and an obsession for transgressive bliss. I stare at pictures of naked lusty women on my computer as if they could offer me a chance at salvation, but I know full well that I am escaping from the reality of “the job.”

I am not a big fan of “the job.” The only work that I really like to do is paint, write, read, meditate, sleep and look at the Craig’s List Erotic adds. Working to me is a labor which strips me of the time that I could spend doing the things I love and puts me into contact with people that I would normally never want to talk with. Work as a violation of the life I am trying to live. But rent is due in a few days, I have skipped many meals due to lack of funds and my wife is getting fed up with my habitual claim “that I have no money.” “Well you need to get a job,” she always replies. “I really do not want to get a job,” I retort. “What, are you just going to stay at home all day writing your ridiculous blog and expect that checks are going to show up in the mail?” she replies straightening her back bone like she is preparing for battle. I am wounded by her assault on my blog which I spend many hours preparing for distant readers I will never know. “The blog is valuable work, don’t pick on the blog. Pick on me and the fact that I do not want to Teach High school anymore, nor do I want to wait tables. There is nothing else that I am qualified to do and I have no ambition to do much at all,” I sob at her. “Well, this full catastrophe living has got to end. We have rent due in a few days and we need money for the bills. I can’t afford it all and we are going to be out in the streets if you do not get a job!!”

I could not disagree. I needed to find work. I had been applying to various jobs every day online but no one was biting the lines that I sent out. Each day I look at my email hoping that there will be a response but there never is. Just empty space. Sometimes I spend hours writing back to employers who have not taken a moment to respond to me. I write that it is bad karma not to respond to an email but that I understood because it was probably only a reflection of the way in which they treated themselves- with no respect. Sometimes I will get a screw you back or a what would you know about karma, you are out of a job? But every day I put one foot in front of the other and try to maintain faith that every thing will turn out well. It is important to be centered when you are engaged in full catastrophe living.

“You need to get up, take your resume and go around to various restaurants and hand it out. You can not spend the majority of your day writing away on your blog. I will not allow it.” This is how I awoke this morning, my wife standing over me with a stack of unpaid bills in her hand. I felt a stabbing pain in my chest as I made my way out of bed and asked her to heat me up some water for tea. In my office there was a stack of freshly printed up resumes on my desk, with a note “I have complete faith in your ability to find a job.” I thought that after I published my first book of short stories, that the writing life had belonged to me. No longer would there be worries about work and economy. I would be able to write for a living and not have to clear another table or teach a freshman how to read. I was free and I was also wrong. The moment I thought the writing life had begun was the moment that full catastrophe living kicked into first gear.

I dressed in a nice black suit, put gel into my hair and headed out into the rain with a stack of resumes wrapped in plastic under my arm. I went around to three or four restaurants all of which took my resume with a quick glance and sometimes a few questions. One lady asked me what I like about working in a restaurant and all I could do was smile and wish her a good day, as I made my way out the exit. I handed resumes off to a woman at a real estate office, a manager at a record store, the post office and a doctor’s office. Any place where money could be made. When I returned home that day my wife had opened my unemployment check which had come in the mail and said to me, “you are lucky again.” There was enough to cover the rent and bills and a few hundred bucks left over to feed my personal fancies. The rain was coming down, it was dark outside and I retired to my office to start writing this post. As I turned on the computer my wife came up behind me, put her hand on my shoulder and said, “what do you want for dinner, it’s my treat.” I looked up at her and said “whatever you would like.” I had not eaten all day and any food sounded nurturing. I gave her a kiss and as I looked at her I said, “see, full catastrophe living isn’t so bad after all.” She made no reply.


  1. This was an excellent comment which was accidently erased:

    Tom Gallinipper | king.gallinipper@gmail.com

    I enjoyed reading this post. This man’s situation was one I could relate to. But I really don’t get what is going on in this man’s life. He says he wants to write for a living, meaning that he wants to do “creative” writing for a living, writing short stories, and perhaps novels, screenplays, stage plays, etc. He reports that he has written a book of short stories. But, overall, he seems to be doing very little to bring into being his life as a working writer. His attitude seems to convey that he doesn’t really believe in his ability to write for a living. His humor in this post is of the gallows humor variety, which is always a mask for despair, grief and anxiety. “Full catastrophe living” is a funny phrase. At least it is funny until you think about it really means: that this man has really given up on his dream. That’s about as funny as throwing puppies off a bridge. Come on, the starving artist is a hoary old cliche that simply has no more legs. It is utterly and c0mpletely bootless. Nobody wants to read “The Sorrows of Young Werther” anymore. Who sympathizes anymore with Thoreau in the woods philosophizing about a world that doesn’t understand more advanced souls like himself? So why isn’t this man writing another story or novel? Or doing more to market his stories? Or does he have a plan he hasn’t mentioned? What does he really see himself doing for work in five years? I once heard the philosophy of existentialism defined as “high I.Q. wimpering on a cosmic scale.” This man is obviously very intelligent, well educated and eloquent. Why then doesn’t he use all those assets to figure what is going on in his head, and to figure out a pathway to his goal? Why is he passing out resumes (besides the reason of staying eligible for unemployment benefits) to restaurants? Right now in America there are young men exactly this man’s age who are writing for a living. Why isn’t this man one of them?

  2. Tom, I really enjoyed reading your comment. Gave me great insights. I wish I had a confident reply for you but I am afraid that I may share many of my character’s personality traits. If I had more insight into the questions you ask- I would probably never write this blog to begin with. I will continue to re-read your wise comments but I must say that writing for myself is more of a way of being and thinking rather than a means to an ends. I do not write to make money and this may be my problem to begin with (my wife would certainly agree). I look at the process of writing as the old saying…”the journey is the destination” says. Be patient, good things are taking shape. Oh, for what it is worth I am one who still sentimentalizes Werther and sympathizes with Thoreau. Maybe this is why I am in Therapy.

  3. My id sympathisez. Is it too much to ask for a life of leisure? I can see Tom’s points, hell, fell them even, but I think he misses one major point, and that is the dream may haps is not to earn aliving writing, its to not have to earn a living at all…
    Or maybe thats just me.
    So, are you a Kabet-Zin fan?
    And I love the tunes, usually when I visit a site with music on it I have to find a way to turn the incepid crap off but you got some sweet sounds flowin…

  4. Reading Jon-Kabet-Zin has saved me one or two times (maybe 4 or 5). He brings me back to what my spiraling mind seems to have left behind. Oh, what a trip the day can be. And I am in agreement with you about writing- which has nothing to do with cash. Thanks for you complimentary words, I will keep the sweet sounds flowing to cleanse our tired minds of all the noise.

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