This will probably read like a ‘letter home’ in answer to the question, “What have you been up to since your virtual trip to Wales?”
It has been ten days since my last blog post (that suddenly sounds like a formal blogger’s confession), and I admit the well has not refilled quite yet. I have been editing rough drafts for my memoir collection, and have enjoyed revisiting those original journals which contain familiar handwriting yet describe bumps in the road that I have long since forgotten.
Why on earth would anyone bother writing a memoir?
Good question. One delightful reward is perspective. Sometimes I catch myself thinking I have wasted much of my life, and that simply is not true. My life often did not go to plan, but whose life does?
Having a family ended up not being in the cards. Also, my work life didn’t end up in a tidy package called a Career–instead I had a series of Jobs. I worked full -ime throughout my life, often with no inspiration other than paying the rent and having continuous health insurance for a chronic medical condition that was diagnosed when I was 22 years old.
I moved every few years, either because the home situation became unacceptable (a chain-smoker who loved his balcony moved into the apartment below me) , or a new job drew me to live in a different part of the state or country. As an office staff member working for very small businesses, the work environment could easily become overly intimate, or when working for a non-profit, the funding would simply run out and I would have to seek work elsewhere. My ‘transerferable skills’ had both an upside and a downside. You can go anywhere, but you are also expendable.
On the subject of ‘moving’, it sounds like it refers to Moving Day, right? No, that is the easiest part of the job by far. The rest, no matter how few possessions you have, is a long tedious process of sorting, making trips to the recycling center, trips to Goodwill, downsizing as you go, then wrapping and packing all the breakables and books, vowing all the while to never move again, at least not for a while. I just counted up, I have moved 18 times in the last 53 years, on average every three years during my adult life. No wonder I’m tired! Luckily I also collected a lot of stories along the way–packing them up is easy and pleasurable.
Music to my ears
On a brighter note, I recently invested in a piece of equipment so I could transfer 1980s homemade cassettes to my computer. It is wonderful to once again hear the voices and humor of the singer-songwriters who were such a big part of my life back then. For years I lived in a folk-music-centric world, happily attending open stages, participating in some of them as well. I love being able to hear the banter and the jokes again, that delightful glue that held it all together. I heard Comradery in the air, even richer than the music itself.
What I miss now, despite being fairly content…
I miss the 21st century version of folksy coffeehouse banter–the sounds of a midday modern cafe! I’m sure you know what I mean. I miss having a place to go when I have no place to go and no reason to be there.
Every Tuesday morning pre-Covid-lockdown, I used to pack up this cheap little tablet computer and even cheaper wireless keyboard (possibly a sketchbook too), and head up the street to my cafe. There I would indulge in a few of my favorite things: a large cup of freshly brewed coffee, an elegant cafe-made oatmeal raisin cookie, and the luxury of writing in public. Sometimes the writing came easily, but other times, when nothing came to mind, I would simply sit and ponder…and eavesdrop.
Unfortunately, a few months ago, people-watching went out the window along with hugging. I look forward to my next chance to hang out with people I will never really meet, and I will appreciate the experience as I never did before.
People are most relaxed when they think no one is watching (have you noticed?), and you just can’t get that ambience in a Zoom meeting, no matter how beautifully staged the background environment may be. There is still you, sitting right there in the middle of the grid (Hollywood Squares or Brady Bunch, depending on your perspective), and every urge to twitch is self-monitored carefully. I have been known to turn off the video and mute the audio, just so I can stretch and yawn and mutter and scratch my nose unobserved.
Zoom life is odd, there’s no getting around it. It’s not like sitting in a room with a bunch of friends, even if they are your friends, because the body-language is so limited. Online we interrupt unintentionally way more than we used to do in person. We sometimes even raise our hands if we are of a certain age! I notice when I am a bit bored with the conversation, my mind has a field day, making up stories, planning grocery lists, wandering far and wide without moving a muscle. I look at all the other people on my computer screen, so many of them sitting absolutely motionless, and I wonder, “How do they do that? Are they still there? Is that an avatar? Did their computer freeze?” Then I smile, thinking, “I wonder how many of them wish I would stop touching my face, stop fidgeting, stop nodding and smiling?”
Can you imagine if we all had cartoon thought-bubbles over our heads in all these video chat meetings? To have buck-naked brains would be way too much information, but it’s fun to think about it when you’re not paying attention. Perhaps you too are doing that already, watching the imagined bubbles overhead. Once again, cartoons are the way I make sense of my world.
So that brings us all to this curious place called “in the meantime.” This is where we are, a place where we can make loose plans, because firm plans are ill-advised. This is the time to consider possibilities, since all the certainties of the past seem to have vanished. It is either an insecure time or an exciting time– depending on your perspective, which of course belongs 100% entirely to you.
My advice as always, is to be well, keep doodling, and keep making stuff up. It’s the way of the future, a path some call resilience and creativity.