Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Hey, there. What next?

Maybe we should think of this time as the Great Falling Away. All the stuff that didn't matter, just doesn't matter. And maybe, some of the stuff that we thought mattered, well, just doesn't matter either.

In other words, what aren't you doing or have anymore and do you miss it? Did it add to your life in the first place? Like running around trying to do too much. Or taking care of things for other people or doing stuff so other people thought better of you. Maybe this is just me. Some of those old "must dos" have come to a screeching halt. 

I go out less. I buy fewer things. I ask less of myself, give myself a gentler critique. I don't miss much. I miss people, but not any expectations of how we're supposed to be. I have thought about what could be the answer for our predicament: Love everyone without condition. Could this help? Tall order. I try not to hate, but loving everyone? 

If you have lost your job, or your health, or a loved one, how does loving everyone without condition help? It may not. But maybe someone who cares will be more likely to help.

If you are hurting right now, I care 💙. I hope the cause goes away and the stuff you are enduring is not lasting. If it is, let's dispense with the trite sayings: Things will get better. You'll overcome. What doesn't kill you will make you stronger. All trite and pointless. Pain sometimes sticks around. It is a measure of being human.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Lost: A Verse in COVID

I am/am not okay in superimposed solitude,
my mental seesaw tilts between stability and warp.
One minute I stir sugar in my good coffee,
the next, infinity is not large enough to hold the heaviness.

What is lost? The ordinariness of showers at 7a,
leftovers packed into a foil square, an overstuffed backpack,
a tough choice of 'Which shoes?', a slamming door in a rush,
a hurried drive to a parking space before it's gone.
People pass me on the street to Point B, a few feet apart,
close enough to see a man's whiskers,
to smell a woman's perfume.

My clothes in solitude smell of my body in them for days in a row,
ripe but stagnant, and covered in cat fur. My pants crease from
sitting too long in one place, no need to do anything.

No need -- besides take a deep breath.

Needs were a thing we took for granted
while we passed each other on the street,
aloof to our closeness, unafraid of the proximity.
Why now that tragedy of disconnection seems a luxury.

I always walked overly conscious of myself in the public realm,
comparing my size to the street and the people on it.
Black cat on black shirt.
Black cat on black shirt.
My steps -- straight ahead or to the side -- would be determined
by the others on the path. And now there are none.

What is lost? The maybe-thoughts of not fitting in.
The maybe-thoughts of inferiority.
The maybe-thoughts of aloneness.
What is more alone?

My stay-at-home community is my couch and my cats.
My old black cat sits on my chest right now, interested in the scribbling.
When I reach the end of the sentence and sweep back to the fold,
this cat spreads open its paw a little, somewhat on cue,
as if to settle me down.

Be still. We are in this together.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

The Upside of the Downside

Make no mistake. We haven't hit bottom. If anything, these days feel like the calm before the real storm. When, similar to the autumn of 2008, the experts proclaimed the economy would meltdown, but we really weren't sure what that prediction meant. So, call this post the rose-colored-glasses or looking-at-the-bright-side version of a pandemic. First, let me clarify, the economic downturn is a tab in the file cabinet labeled: FATALITIES. For all the thousands (just in the U.S.A.) who have and will die, for the survivors, for the pain and suffering and the inability to succor and mourn properly, I commiserate in grief.

Here is where I find comfort: each day, the leaves have grown. The trees in my yard started six weeks ago without a leaf on them, and now they are full. I've watched the process every day, which I couldn't have witnessed had I been at my desk job. The leaves do not know the chaos undermining humanity.

And, my grass is mowed. Well, you might ask, isn't mowing something you always do? And, I will admit, not necessarily. I wanted to bring some structure to the chaos, and my yard guy was happy to take the job. He mowed the same day I called. In some ways, I felt a sense of duty to still use him. Give him an immediate focus and a check. He didn't say so, but the look on his face told me what went unsaid.

The sheets are clean on my bed. Again, you'll wonder again, is that any different than before? Yes, it is, because it was done out of a conscious need to nest. Nesting is the new overachieving. Clean sheets make the world seem better, even if it isn't. And, I've hung sheets and towels and clothes to dry on the clothesline. This seems appropriate. Because life has slowed down. I don't feel rushed. Haste is not on my calendar. The whir and thunk of the dryer may become a relic of the frenzied life of going-and-doing, and right now, those opportunities and obligations are far fewer.

Photo of black cat napping in a laundry basket.
Cat nap in a basket.
I receive a postcard now about once a week from a friend in Portland, Ore. We have begun a jovial correspondence. A distraction but a connection. The cards don't really say much but signal we are alive and haven't lost our marbles. You could easily lose them, you know. (Of course, you do.) Postcards are amazing at mental uplift. Would you like one? I'll send a few. Soon, you'll be waltzing to the mailbox in great anticipation.

And, of course, I have my three cats, Ollie (right), Fish, and Slayer. I won't wax on about my fondness for them. Anyone who has more than one in the house automatically qualifies as cat infatuated. And, who among us has not had a COVID nightmare? Well, this week, my dream was not a nightmare but a strange product of my feline domesticity. One of my cats spoke its first word: "Yes." Then I realized it had been speaking to me for quite some time. In full sentences, naturally. And in these unnatural times, odd has an entirely different meaning.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Surviving Coronavirus AKA Chasing My Tail

It's only been a week. We're a week into an usual shift to pull inward. Keep to ourselves. Flatten the curve. Be socially responsible by not being social. Well, I've had a bit of my own "come to Jesus" moments in that last 7-10 days, and they haven't been pretty.

Things about this pandemic that have been a challenge:
Staying off the news feeds. They could be the death of my psyche. With so much information available on an hourly basis (if you toggle, like I'm doing, between the NYT, NPR, and the Johns Hopkins virus tracker map), I'm chasing my tail. I never get enough (peace?) or the thing I'm truly looking for, which is: When will this be over? And, Can I guarantee no one I love will get sick or die? Answers to both are impossible.

Going outside. Logically, I know it's okay to go outside. It's fine. Fresh air is good, but for some reason, it's not as comforting as it should be. Not that I reasonably think anything bad could happen to me out in the open air. It just feels different. Solution? Go outside more.

Being creative to combat the stress. Artistic types are finding creative ways to do their art. So, what's up when you can't muster the enthusiasm to do your art? This is the first words I've written since the national emergency. I thought of a poem the other day but lost it in the dread to go into a grocery store. For the record, I have not stocked up on toilet paper.

Caring what others are doing to stay safe. This one is a biggy, because the directives of the White House, my city, and state, aren't universally being followed. Everyone has a different opinion about their freedom of movement. I can't control the behavior of anyone despite my decision to follow the recommendations. In fact, I can't control anything about these circumstances except my own response. I suppose I could put up a sign in my yard that says: Hey, follow the rules! But that wouldn't do any good either. My heart goes out to essential workers and people who can't afford to miss work. You need support, too.
My writing pal.

Upsides? There are a few:
Old friends are in touch. It has been nice to reconnect with many people this week. Hey, even though we're mostly on social media doesn't mean we're anymore likely to stay in touch. We see snippets of each others' lives from our posts but not the meaty stuff. This week, I'm having conversations that are more meaningful.

I appreciate my home more. So Much More! Frankly, because of my day job, I'm just not home that much. Yes, on weekends (in-between errands). But now I'm more thankful to have a nice place to live and a yard to walk around. I have a fridge and a washer/dryer and a garage that needs cleaning out. Rather than a burden, my overstuffed garage might actually get a makeover.

My pets love the company. My three cats have discovered ear-scratches are available anytime. Spoiled kitties.

My kid made cookies. For the first time in forever. Thank you, Ronnie. You're good to be cooped up with.

Let me know how you are doing.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Retro Writing: Why My Hands Win Out

Sometimes, a writer's job only involves contemplating the story. That's not the same as writing. It can happen between sentences, or it might take the form of long stretches when wistfulness clouds the eyes. Generally, my hearing stops working while my story is swirling around in my head.

This could change with technology, when computers gain the ability to read our thoughts. I've read that a form of this type of virtual reality technology is being developed. In my Luddite-lite worldview, my warning sirens go into Category 5 hurricane mode (BTW, 5 is the most severe hurricane). If thinking a story becomes a way to write a story, would a computer capture every thought and plot line that my brain thinks? How would I revise such a conglomeration? My thoughts go in hundreds of directions before I write them, so much so that the physical act of actually writing a coherent string of words is the thing that makes them coherent.

Writers have been using dictation to write stories for a while. I tried this once several years ago using speech-to-text software, but it wasn't sophisticated enough to understand all my words and the flow of my speech pattern, so I forgot about it. However, a case can be made that speech-to-text could be a productive option for many and make a writer's wordcount soar.
Photo of a book cover entitled "A Real Book"

There may come a time when the way we write doesn't involve "writing" anymore. Consumer pressure for more words and stories, faster and faster, to make a living and satisfy audiences could send the keyboard into obsolescence. Then we may find ourselves waxing nostalgically about the days when we used a laptop. Our Chromebooks and MacBooks would fall in with the dinosaurs and the rotatory telephone. (Somewhat ironically, the speech-to-text software marketed to writers is called Dragon.) Or, it could be that this development will peter out like other changes in technology. Hardcopy vs. ebook, anyone? I also know writers who still use pen and paper.

Nonetheless, if you have a rotatory phone because it's cool, rock on! And if your vinyl collection is lovingly intact, you are my hero! Maybe I'll just stay retro and write the old fashioned way, one keystroke at a time.