Monday, November 30, 2020

40

I have been very lucky, but I have wasted much of was given to me.  I have squandered my yard. have made mistakes I regret, and regret, and regret.  I hurt people; I have been hurt. I am loved insufficiently; I love insufficiently. All the usual human failings- we are nothing if not predictable.

I lack the energy, and courage, to muster a crisis, but midlife consumes me anyway.  I am not sure what to make of where I am, but I am here.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Thanksgiving 2020

It's a weird one.

I woke up grateful, so it's only natural that it went downhill from there.  My oldest is furious about something (anything?) and spent the better part of 1.5 hours screaming and crying, some of it whilst perambulating around the neighborhood so as to better maximize public humiliation.  My youngest has decided not to nap.  And my husband is the world's worst kitchen parter, nitpicking, complaining, asking passive-aggressive questions, and generally getting in the way, all while contributing nothing of actual utility (I've known this for a long time, and it is why we cook separately; unfortunately the kitchen doors do not lock). 

Everyone is "napping" right now, which means that no one is sleeping, but we have all retreated to our separate corners.  Everyone will probably be more civil when we come back together, plus by then it will be a couple of hours closer to bedtime.

But even in the midst of this domestic bliss, there is much to be grateful for.  The obligatory: we are healthy, we are solvent, there is pie.  And the bonuses: My daughter sings in her crib.  My son loves to make his sister laugh.  I am making a decent living at a vocation I believe in and enjoy.   I grew up with love, and I am passing love on.

This particular COVID Thanksgiving, when I must keep my distance from everyone outside of my immediate family, I'm also finding myself reflecting on those moments in which people outside of my household -strangers, friends, and acquaintances- have given me something charged and precious, some vision or warning or advice that inflected my life, showed me how to be or what to do.

K, telling me her vision of me, blazing and brave.  H picking me up in the rain. Professor B, taking me out to lunch and telling me I didn't want to be a musicologist (I didn't).  N showing me how crouch calmly under the table when the SWAT team began to roll past the coffee shop.  My student E gripping my hands the weekend I was waiting on my son's muscular dystrophy test, telling me things would be different, but OK.  C, one of my first students at my very first workshop, who told me I was a wonderful teacher.

We change the direction of one another's lives glancingly, unconsciously. We hit and run, hustling past our impacts, never entirely perceiving what we are to one another.  We are molecules, drifting and jostling; we are nothing much.  We are everything.


Saturday, October 31, 2020

Almost November

I'm getting both numb and maudlin; the combination is strange and not particularly appealing, like milk and orange juice swirled together in one glass.  (Yes- I have tried that.  Haven't you?  How could any self-respecting lover of breakfast not preside over at least one marriage between these two morning stalwarts? The experiment wastes food but offers valuable lesson: some couples curdle one another.)  

I go to bed tired.  I wake in the morning tired.  I devote large swaths of Internet browsing to attempting to ease the pain in my neck.  I learn what my trapezius is, and how I am likely abusing mine, and how it is too late, far too late to do anything sensible about it.  I put on weight.  I abjure the structured pant.  Outside, the pandemic is roiling and raging.  Should I buy a scented candle? I am going to die; all flesh is grass; I am not sure a scented candle will be of much utility in any kind of grave/ afterlife situation. On the other hand, I would prefer the scent of pumpkin to the scent of not doing much of any cleaning.

Numb; maudlin.

What has happened this month?

We passed one-year anniversary of my father's death.  I do regret not being there when he died.  I knew I would regret it, but I stayed home anyway.

We learned we would be virtual schooling for the foreseeable. I was furious with the school board, but more on principle than out of any personal distress; W is kicking along OK.

W and I took a trip home.  We stayed in an airbnb twenty minutes down country roads, the trees flaming, gunshots echoing through the hills.  We donned masks and ran around with my family outside.  My brother announced he is getting married.  It felt lonely and strange, but also uncomfortably wonderful- like stepping out onto the ocean to view a lighthouse from the sea.  I saw parts of my hometown I had never seen before and won't again.  My brother is someone to someone.

There is a whole world outside my door; there always has been.  

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Retreat

I never understood why people went on retreat.  Why put yourself through the stress of travel when you could hunker at home?  COVID has opened my eyes.  When you never leave home, and when you are never alone, the desperation to be somewhere, anywhere, else mounts.

This is why you find me, today, $300 poorer than I was last week, holed up in an Airbnb one mile from my house.

It is bliss.

This is my second night; tomorrow I drive home in time to get my kind onto his school Zoom at 8:00.  The first night, I sat and stared at the wall of the guesthouse for a long time.  Then I went out into the garden and stared at the garden.  I watched the sunset.  I got up and went back inside and wandered up and down the stairs, into and out of all the rooms, the silence ringing in my ears.  I ate dinner at 4:30 PM and was in bed by 8:00.

In the morning, I felt peppier.  This was freedom!  I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted!  And what I wanted was to watch Welsh police procedurals at 6:30 AM!  I did that for a while.  I ate breakfast exercised and ate a second breakfast and decided to go hiking.  Why have I never hiked alone before?  It is the best thing.  

I came home and finished a book and tried to nap a bit and began to get antsy.  I was living the dream!  This was the life...!  Whatever I wanted, I could do, and I wanted to....work.

So I did a bit of long term planning and reflection, both on some career projects and on how I wanted to react, going forward, to the rest of the pandemic.

Looking back, it's a clear recovery arc- stupor, then bacchanal, followed by boredom leading to reflective productivity.  I needed this.  

I also realize now how much the fact that I am never by myself anymore is a kind of chronic trauma.  I miss myself.  I am great company.  I miss quiet and ease and reflection. 

I don't know what to do about that, other than perhaps booking my next retreat.  January 2021?

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Wait, what day is it?

William started virtual school.  It went better than I expected, because his school actually got off its duff to provide synchronous instruction this year.  (I'm glad all the energy I put into loudly bemoaning the lack of synchronous teaching in the spring was justified?  It's always nice to know that your untrammeled whinging had a point.)

School in general is made for kids like William.  He loves structure, assignments, and conformity.  I'm worried about some of these characteristics in the long term, but in the short term it's an easy ride.

What else is happening?  

-A smattering of the first days that give one an inkling that there might, at some distant point on the horizon, be something other than summer.

-Donuts.

-I have muted the most egregious virtue signalers in my FB feed and it has made me much happier.

-Lots o' teaching, as per usual.  Now that I only have one career, it's trickier to separate my sense of self from it.  Still learning to navigate this.

-Margaret is getting to be excessively two.  


Monday, August 24, 2020

My Pandemic Weeks-ish Undefined Amount-ish of Time-ish

Say what?  Time has passed?

I forgot this week that I am not yet 40.  I feel 40.  

I remember my father's 40th birthday party, which was a surprise party, the only surprise party I think anyone in my family has ever thrown, because we do not like surprises.  Specifically, I remember hiding on the blue carpeted steps waiting for him to walk in the door.  I must have been three or four, and it was thrilling, if unsettling.  Even more unsettling is the knowledge that 40, once you are on the approach or coming in for the landing, simply does not feel that old.  Childhood was yesterday!

What has happened since I last wrote?  

-Margaret threw up in the car on rural roads.  We have to drive several miles to find a place to pull over, strip her down, and shellack the car with wet wipes.  Parental achievement unlocked!

-I needed a vacation from our vacation.  

-We've really gotten into a rhythm with my oldest, who wanders around playing by himself and reading all day. This rhythm will be imminently disrupted by virtual school.

-We visited Lafayette Park, and you know, all I can say is that it is sad when gazebos become thrilling

-We also went to an orchard and picked apples.  One of those quintessential normal family things, except we've never had time in the past because of the volume of work we used to do on weekends.  It was fun, but I'd rather have my old life back.

-I ordered an international snack subscription, because what else is left to us in this life?  Cheese of the month club may be next.

-I'm very much enjoying no longer being a member of my local mom's FB group, which basically consists of progressives virtue signaling to one another while shaming the rest of us and exhibiting startlingly hypocritical blindness to their own privilege.  Who would have thought I would become so crabby?  (Oh, wait, everybody.)

-I do believe this election is a battle for the soul of our nation and I've decided to funnel all my charitable contributions toward electing Biden for the foreseeable.  

-I can't remember any books I read anymore. The make almost no impression, like a fire walker slipping across the flames.  It's scary, but convenient in terms of cost savings.

Monday, August 10, 2020

My Pandemic Week

I have started a Facebook group for pandemic cruciverbalists, and so far we have managed to discuss a shocking number of crossword clues between us.  Does this count as an accomplishment?

I don't remember much from the beginning of the week, because it was much like the beginnings of other weeks.  David is more irritable than usual.  I wonder sometimes if it is tiring, being that affronted by so many small things.  It certainly exhausts me. What does he get out of it?  He must get something out of it, or the behavior wouldn't persist.

Or maybe that is a behaviorist's daughter's blind prejudice- that, over time, we only engage in behaviors that reinforce themselves.  Maybe we are just mad beasts making noise.

In other marital news, we have, when in the car, started a stealth battle in which the holy grail is to turn on the other person's seat heater without that person noticing.  It is the most fun I have had all week.

We are on vacation now, two night at a small cabin in nowhere, MO I found on Airbnb.  As we drove down over pot-holed, graveled hairpins, we passed a rifle range filled with men shooting.  It was like the exclamation point at the end of a long, tangled sentence full of rotting barns and dilapidated trailers and confederate flags.  You think this milieu is made up for the movies, but it isn't.

 As ever, in parenting, being on vacation consists of doing a whole bunch of housework in an unfamiliar locale. I miss gigs.

But it is nice to have an excuse to read during nap time, and to drink a gin and tonic on the porch, and to force oneself, for the minute one has between cleaning up other people's crap and serving them the raw material to make it, to sit and listen to the birds and whine of bugs and the suck and slop of the river: summer sounds, still here as the world crumbles.