The People V. Paul Clouse

failureI’ve always been extremely sensitive to my dreams. When I sleep, entire movies with characters and narratives flicker throughout my brain. On more than one occasion I’ve woken up and immediately begun transcribing what I just witnessed throughout the night. The stories stick with me. When I wake up in the morning, I sometimes feel like I’m covered in the residue of whatever took place in my sleep. I carry it around with me throughout the day.

It’s sort of like getting a song stuck in your head. You find yourself humming a tune you don’t remember hearing. Snippets of lyrics circle your brain and before you’ve realized it, you’ve internalized a piece of a song you didn’t think you remembered.

The residue colors every thought I have in my head all day. The song completely changes the way I remember a particular event happening. Over the past few days, both of these things have united in full effect with one singular purpose:

Convincing me that I’m a failure. 

The song is coming from some rogue part of my brain that has mutinied against me. It holds court deep within my brain. The rogue is clever. It points out every area of my life in which I’m unsatisfied and holds it up to the court of my brain; exhibit A, B, C, D, and all the way to Z.  It knows exactly what to say to hurt me the most.

“Your Honor, may I present to the court Exhibit F, the defendant’s menial, sub-par, underpaid, soul-crushing office job? His attempts to find employment elsewhere are just about as effective as he is as a person. One company has denied him so many times he’s made a joke out of it.
I would like to direct the court’s attention to the defendant’s bank statement. The defendant is almost thirty and clearly still hasn’t learned how to budget properly.
In fact, let’s talk about the fact that the defendant is almost thirty, period. I would like to place into evidence all the lives of his friends that he views as being more successful than him. Particularly, the younger ones that completed college and are now soundly making more money than he is.
What about that blog of his? He’s been hacking away at it two times a week for more than a year, and what has it gotten him? A few follows and an occasional “like” from a stranger. Pathetic. A real man would be making money with it by now. A real man would have learned how to forge his own way! He would have money! He would have honest to goodness fans. He would be doing all the damn things he says he wants to do!
Members of the jury, I implore you, look at the life this man is leading, and render the right verdict. There can be no question. No reasonable doubt. This man is a failure.”

My super-ego sits glumly at the defendant’s table, not willing to look at the narrowing eyes and shaking heads of the swayed jury. My ego stutters and stammers. Despite its usual bluster and bravado, it’s having trouble finding the words to refute any of the claims that were just laid down.

Suddenly, there’s a commotion in the hall and the doors to the courtroom burst open. Standing there is Justice, herself. Except her name is Leah, she’s dressed to kill, and she marches down the aisle toward the Judge with enough fire that I worry someone will actually get in her way. 

“Leah Clouse, for the defendant. I’d like to say a few words.”

The Judge chooses to allow it, and Leah begins taking every point the opposition to task. She’s angry at the prosecutor and makes no attempt to hide it. She refutes every charge the plaintiff has come up with. She tells the court that Paul has been fighting for the past two years to improve his life. She says that he’s accomplished more than she ever would have dreamed and that she’s actually proud of him.  She’s incredible, and you can see it in the growing disbelief then dread of the plaintiff’s eyes. When she’s finished speaking, she marches back out of the courtroom to a smattering of applause.

The jury leaves to deliberate. It could go either way at this point.

They return and hand the verdict to the Judge. He puts on his spectacles and stares at the paper for several moments. Finally, He sighs and crumples the paper in His mighty fist. He turns his attention to the prosecutor.

“Council, you have said your piece, and made no secret of where you stand. Now it’s my turn. You approach me, and tell me that this man here (He points to me) is a failure. You say he’s achieved nothing, and done terribly little with his life. I have just one question for you, counselor.”

The prosecutor tilts his head, waiting.

“Do you truly believe that judge failure and success in the same manner as you? Do you think I would value this man more if he had gotten promoted or had found a new job or had become an overnight sensation on the internet?” The Judge leaned in conspiratorially.  “Do you actually believe all of this has taken place without my knowing? Case dismissed!”

The echo of the gavel filled the room and for a moment there was silence as the stunned crowd tried to process what just happened.  The Judge had stood to leave, but remembered he had one more thing to say.

“Oh, and Councilor?”
The pale faced prosecutor looked back to the Judge hopefully. “Yes, your honor?”
“Watch your ass.”

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3 responses to “The People V. Paul Clouse

  1. reading this was so empowering. like, fist pumps, yawping–that kind of empowering. when I feel like a complete and total failure, its me who is the prosecutor, the defendant, and the jury. and I usually forget that I’m not the judge and that I usually have a pretty skewed idea of what true justice is. just to let you know, I believe the best for you, on your behalf. I believe in what you’re currently doing (IT MATTERS!) and I believe in what you’re going to do. you’re an amazing person, Paul, and your honesty is humbling and empowering at the same time. you’re talking about real things about which nearly no one else is talking. its an honor to be a part of this movement you’ve started, here on this blog and in the honest, intentional way you and Leah choose to live. also, Leah is a total bad-ass. I’m so happy to know you both.
    -Shaina

  2. Pingback: A Bursting Blister | Hunting for God·

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