“Contrary” – An Appreciation

If you look up the term “contrary” in any dictionary you receive a definition similar to, if not the same as this one:

Contrary [kon-trer-ee] (ADJ, N): 1. Opposite in nature or character; diametrically or mutually opposed; 2. Opposite in direction or position; 3. Being the opposite one of two; 4. Unfavorable or adverse; 5. Perverse; stubbornly opposed or willful. 

That particular definition was taken from www.dictionary.com, one of my many internet bookmarks and an app on both my phone and my Kindle Fire. “Contrary” is not what I like to consider one of my “chosen words.” You know the types of words that I’m referring to, especially if you are a writer like I am or I aspire to be (depending on whose opinion you ask). If you’ve ever read anything that I’ve written–be said “anything” one of these oft ignored blog entries or the novel that I just finished writing–you are likely familiar with my “chosen words.” Examples include: “Aforementioned,” “segue” and “frighteningly.” I don’t even think I used “contrary” once in “Endworld.” Not even “contrary to popular belief” or “contrary to what you might be thinking.”

I’m not sure if the omission of a relatively common word is conscious or subconscious. After all, I generally try not to be “contrary”: Not in life, nor love, nor… well sh*t, friends, anything. I try very hard to keep a positive outlook despite the precariousness or dreariness of a given situation. But some days? Well, some days I remember the words of a once-acquaintance who used the term “contrary” to describe a different circumstance. When said acquaintance was having “one of those days,” she called it a “Contrary Day,” i.e. a day where she was just… off. Not depressed nor angry, just “contrary.” I’ve heard others refer to it as everything from being “bleah” to being “out of it.” I didn’t learn a lot from that once-acquaintance. If anything, I learned how much of a dick with arms and legs I can be, and if that person is reading this right now–as I sit in what my wife Nicole calls “my divot” on the couch in our living room with the Sixers on mute across the room and Bach playing over the speakers of my laptop–I’d like to take this long, overdue opportunity to say that I am sorry.

Refocus. Eyes forward. Oh crap, if I look forward I catch a glimpse of the Sixers beating the “best team in the NBA” by 15 points late in the Fourth. Refocus. Eyes on the screen of my laptop. Back to “contrary.”

Lately, friends, I’ve been feeling quite “contrary.” Primarily over the last week or so. Said (“said” definitely equals another one of my “chosen words”) “contrariness” is due largely in part to my current work situation–down a person in my department for the next month/forced to do her work and my own during one of the busiest periods we, as a company, have ever experienced–and by association my newly elevated stress level. But there are other factors contributing to it, as well, some that I have been able to diagnose and some that remain a mystery.

One that I have been able to diagnose is ‘kinda simple: I’ve a hole in my soul where there once existed a novel. There’s an emptiness inside of me now that “Endworld” is done: A sense of loss that I can equate with many things, some that I would write about had I more time and energy and some that are somewhat… private that I won’t regardless of how lucid I am. As a wise sage of the cinema once said: “I keep those thoughts for myself.” The solution to my problem? I could start the next novel. I am, in fact, itching to start it. But beginning something as extensive as a novel directly on the coattails of something equally extensive is a daunting task, especially in light of the workload I am carrying currently. And considering that the fate of “Endworld” in many ways remains up in the air until I receive feedback first, from the person who is currently editing it, second from my wife who is currently reading it and third, from a collection of a dozen or two “beta readers” that have expressed interest in previewing it, I think its best not to begin the second until I know for sure if the first has appeal. So for now, “Endworld” book two will remain a plot in my head and a rough outline sketched out in virtually indecipherable cursive on a legal pad until such time as I am confidant that it has legs.

I also equate it to life: Beginning a serious relationship on the coattails of another, serious relationship is oft times doomed for failure. Some times it works out. Take Nicole and I: I came out of a serious relationship and within a few months I was inan even more serious one with the woman I would, eventually, marry, alias the mother of my one daughter, Cara, and the soon-to-be mother of my second daughter. For those of you reading this that don’t know yes: Nicole and I are expecting what I have been calling a “plus one” for the last few months. Cara Angelina’s little sister, Natalie Theresa Marsh is due in early June. But many times? What most people call a “rebound” relationship does not work out. It fizzles and the participants are left even more scarred than they were before beginning it. The moral of the story? Take a little time after you complete something epic, be that something a book, a relationship, a job or any number of “a’s” and a noun before you begin something equally or more epic. Sometimes the jump works out. Others? You end up in a worse place than you were before. I’m thankful… damn thankful that my situation turned out the way it did. If there’s one thing that isn’t contributing to my “contrariness” right now it’s my marriage, my family and my friends. Not to mention a surprisingly dominant home basketball team that just spanked the Bulls by 16 points. “Show ‘ya ‘luv,” Philadelphia. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a professional basketball team in this town that we can be proud of.

Diagnosed, then: Factors contributing to my “contrariness.” One: My work situation. Two: My desire to write the currently untitled sequel to “Endworld” (though my buddy Matt’s proposed title, “Red-Headed Stepchildren of Endworld” remains the frontrunner). Those are the two most prominent. But is there a third? A fourth? Likely, but I honestly don’t know. This little, psychological cross-examination of my current condition has thus far only yielded those two. I guess that my virtual incapacity to win a single game of “Words with Friends” could be a third. Consider: I have four years and some change (if you count my 24 Graduate credits which are currently sitting in educational limbo at Drexel) of experience with the English language in an academic setting. I have a relatively extensive vocabulary that, contrary to what you may believe is not limited to my “chosen words.” I can pull words like “redressed” and “factoid” out of my a** if given the appropriate tiles and board set up. Each word yields me anywhere between 30 and 40 points (my highest yet–“flux”–actually yielded me almost 60 thanks to good positioning). But then my opponent plays “axe,” hits a triple word score and a triple letter score on the “x” and completes “avoid” and “da” on a perpendicular and a parallel/ends up with a shade under 100. I can’t tell you how close I came to cursing that person out via the “Words with Friends'” chat function/throwing my brand new Kindle Fire through the screen of my television from my position within “my divot” upon the couch. If that person is reading this right now I am sorry. Reference my aforementioned capacity to be a dick with arms and legs. The moral of the story, friends? Extensive experience with the English language does not make you a “Words with Friends” ringer. If anything, it acts as a crutch when combined with your incapacity to do simple math.

Incidentally, current record on “Words with Friends”: 1-9 in my last ten matches. That one win was my only win and it came at the expense of my brother-in-law who has now avenged himself on me three or four times since, most recently by approximately 200 points. If I ever win another game I will likely leap up from “my divot” and dance a jig in the middle of my living room before I relapse in to my “contrary” state. But I digress. Refocus. Eyes forward. Oh f*ck, Nicole is watching “Phineas and Ferb.” Refocus. Eyes down and on the screen of my laptop. But… it’s… Skiddley Whiffers! 

What about a fourth? Perhaps the dearth of decent television right now (though blessedly, “The Walking Dead” is due back on a week from this Sunday) or the lack of time to do anything other than sleep, work, occasionally grab a bite to eat (down almost 10 pounds in the last week… nothing like a stress and “contrariness” crash diet to drop that extra coating of winter fur or in my case, holiday fat) and sleep again. Perhaps the fact that I am now blogging while watching the “Tour ‘de Ferb” for the umpteenth time and am desperately longing for a new episode of arguably the best cartoon on television before it stagnates. In truth? The third, fourth, fifth or dozenth factor (if one exists) doesn’t matter. I am “contrary” right now because of factors one and two. Little more explanation is needed save for this: I decided roughly two hours ago, right after Cara blessedly went right to sleep that I would take a little time to write an appreciation of “being contrary” and I did. Not just for myself but for the person who originated said concept. It’s a good one, friends. A worthy addition to the list of euphemisms people use for having “one of those days. “I’m having a contrary day.”

Take it out for a test drive the next time you’re feeling “bleah” or “out of it.” Try it on for size. If you like it, use it, and spread it around so that others can use it, as well. And while you’re at it, try writing about your state of mind. You don’t need to be a writer or an aspiring writer with “chosen words.” You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel afterwards. Much less like an overworked, stressed out, oft times dick with arms and legs that can’t win a single game of “Words with Friends.” You feel semi-normal. And maybe… just maybe “semi-normal” is enough to help you cope with your “Contrary Day.” At least, that is, until the resurgent Sixers play the Heat on Friday night.

Show ‘ya ‘luv. 

F.

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2 thoughts on ““Contrary” – An Appreciation

  1. Great thoughts! I hope to make it full circle one day to see the culmination of something as great as a finished novel. Starting with baby steps & considering maybe a short story or an anthology of short stories! Having met in high school, who'd thought in some capacity the people we meet will still affect us in forthcoming years! As a writer & person, you inspire a determination in pursuing one's dreams! Thumbs up!

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