Tiny Beautiful Things, Part Two

I’d love to say the reason I’ve let this blog fall into disuse is because my life has simply become too busy; unfortunately, it’s quite the opposite. I’m currently living in a miasma of boredom, having let myself fall into disuse. In my experience boredom doesn’t beget creativity, it begets more boredom. And along with that, if you’re not careful, is a growing sense of worthlessness and futility. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the existentialist movement was born out of a long period of unemployment.

N is for Neville Who Died of Ennui, Edward Gorey Gashlycrumb Tinies

But just in the last week or so I’ve felt the tiniest shift. The marvelous Allie Brosh of Hyperbole and a Half talks about this in her comic Depression: Part Two. There’s a moment when she’s trying and seemingly failing to get better, and while lying on the kitchen floor spies a tiny piece of corn under the fridge. I’ll let her explain:

I don’t claim to know why this happened, but when I saw the piece of corn, something snapped. And then that thing twisted through a few permutations of logic that I don’t understand, and produced the most confusing bout of uncontrollable, debilitating laughter that I have ever experienced.

The smallest change. A reminder that you can feel things other than malaise and apathy. After living in a fog, there’s that glimmer of the person you remember being. For Allie , it was a kernel of corn; for me, it was David Bowie.

Yes, you.

I’ve watched an absolutely stupid amount of television and movies in the last nine months. I haven’t kept a tally, but if I had there’d probably need to be some sort of intervention. I’ve been half amazed, half dismayed by my seemingly inexhaustible appetite for passive entertainment. Why am I not sick of this yet?, as I queue up the sixth straight hour of The WireHow has my brain not dribbled out my ears? Have I actually caused brain damage? I’m having trouble remembering things lately. There’s all those studies that link the amount of screen time to early death. Oh god, I’m going to die on my couch of a heart attack at 31. And so on and so Alvy Singer.

But I sat there procrastinating once again, this time with Five Years, a nonconsecutive look at key moments in Bowie’s career, from Major Tom to mainstream sellout. It was little things: the drumbeat intro of the title song; Bowie slumped against a booth in beatnik drag, watching his backup singers rehearse; a glam-era show where he pulls Mick Ronson to him with the amp chord, impish and flirting as he plays Mick’s guitar in a filthy pantomime. But most of all, it was the music.

The movie itself is great for fanatics (though best of all is probably D.A. Pennebaker’s film of the last Ziggy Stardust concert), but more to the point it inspired me to dig up the albums I hadn’t heard in a while, and to finally listen to the handful of classics I’d inexplicably skipped. Somewhere between the epic build of “Station to Station” and the balls-out melodrama of “Life on Mars,” I thought to myself: I’m so glad I live in a world where David Bowie exists.

He’s had me since Labyrinth. Which explains a lot.

Gratitude’s been difficult for me this last little while, compounded by a sense of guilt over failing to handle hard times with grace. I could see the people and things in my life that were good, but could only appreciate them in an abstract way. And this may have been the first pure moment of gratitude I’ve had in ages. I was able to conjure up the same excitement and inspiration I felt hearing “Soul Love” for the first time, on a mix tape from a camp friend. I wasn’t sure I could still take that much pleasure in something without angst or anxiety. Just a pure sense of joy, no caveats. Here is a thing that makes me happy, and isn’t it marvelous?

Since then I’ve been grooving to “Golden Years” and “Fame.” I’ve taken little steps forward. Ideas are starting to percolate again, and I honestly wasn’t sure they would. I should’ve known that the starman would bring me back.