I think I did this last year on my birthday. Maybe it’s a tradition or maybe it’s just a recurring idea that is best left in the back of the drawer.
Well, let’s yank the drawer anyway and see what falls out.
At least I can get a big batch of first-person blather out of my system so that other things can stop being about me all the time. This is the chief defect I am editing out of the new book. People usually think they want more of me, but they are always wrong.
[Sits on the draft for a month as if it’s a troublesome egg.]
Last year at this time, I was unemployed in the usual sense of not having a place to show up and get paid. The uncertainty was fairly scary. I had planned to make some big moves, but I hadn’t counted on a pandemic giving the job market a thwack, world wide, etc.
It’s probably a good thing that I am naturally optimistic and never really allowed myself to doubt that I’d land on my feet. That is if you don’t count the usual 3 a.m. panics, of course.
Unlike a lot of people, the fact that I wasn’t getting a paycheck wasn’t an emergency, it was more of a future emergency, like sailing toward some rocks that also had no money. I drained my savings as slowly as I could and felt grateful that I had savings to drain.
That was then, however. And I probably wrote about it more accurately then. Maybe.
Anyhoo, now. Now, I have a house of my own for the first time. It’s small and eccentric and old. Things break every day here. I have to devote time to learning electricity and plumbing, which is very different from writing. I am clutched with the certainty that I have to learn how to install handrails on all my stairs. I will make extraneous holes in the wall. Maybe we should take bets to guess how many extra holes we will have in the end.
I have neighbors who can hear me scream. Kids play hide and seek in my yard and scream. They scream like banshees turning into barn owls. I love them. Sometimes, the kids offer to help me with my trash like I’m an old lady who is also eccentric and small.
I have a job. I drive through Baltimore twice a day to get there and back again, I could skirt the city but I don’t. I love it. I marvel at how I used to be afraid of the city. It’s not that it’s less scary, I’m just less scared of everything. When you survive a train wreck of a life, you begin to suspect that you are wreck proof. Classic mistake: there’s always more wrecking. It’s nice not to mind the wrecking or the reckoning, I reckon.
Maybe I’m less afraid because I really see people now. I see all the tiniest cues, so I know who is crazy and who is just worried about last Tuesday. I trust myself to steer clear of danger. I listen. Even though I am invincible and usually brave, I have an alarm system, in case screaming isn’t enough.
I screw up on something every day. It’s fine. Every time I catch an error, I say to myself, There you are. I probably have had days without a noticeable mistake, but I doubt it. It’s a pretty wacky trade off: you get to late midlife and feel this surge of wisdom but also show up to the office in slippers.
I belong to a big gay church. Actually it’s small and not entirely gay, but you know my record with accuracy, unless you don’t yet. Some of my favorite new people are church people. It turns out that belonging is something I long for.
If you turn toward people who are gentle and helpful, you may find yourself being gently helped. I keep offering to do things and the church folk keep not holding me to it, as if they know I’m not ready yet.
My kids don’t need much of my time and energy now. They aren’t as independent as they think they are, but neither am I. A few of them are planning to get married, so while I have effectively discouraged them from breeding, I haven’t discouraged them from partnering. Their choices are stellar, so even if time discourages them, they might keep solving the puzzles of other people as long as they need to.
It is unlikely that I have a future as the slowest floor installer in town. I have been installing a floor in fits and starts for months now and I’m really looking forward to the end of my floor career. I had to learn how to jigsaw, had to start the whole thing over twice because I didn’t understand that brute force was the worst strategy (will I ever learn?) and once I really got efficient, it was time to figure out how to do everything backwards against another complicated wall.
Because I’m not going to pursue work as a HandyMom, writing work is not optional. It never really was optional in terms of aligning my ideas with their manifestation. Typewriters follow me around. Not really, but figuratively, kinda. It’s like there is this mental clackity-clack that is only quieted by tapping on keys in reality. So, I’m sorry, but there will be more books and magazine things. “Don’t Eat Your Children” is nearly done, even though it will never be perfect.
It’s easy to be restless. I was watching another murder mystery thing and only found the scenery and architecture interesting. Suddenly, I longed to be in County Cork, but I know that’s not a real answer to anything except paperwork.
Wherever you go, there you are. It’s simpler to stop and enjoy the present. It’s not easy, but it is simple.
This place was not even in my imagination last year. So what if it’s not a United Nations of artists, it’s a United Nations of working families and cranky retirees. Maybe I don’t belong with them, but they belong with me.
Don’t let the bastards get you down!! Get on top of the bastards with love!!
Defective Pets Limited
Paper towels are not optional when Boo is in the house. That’s all I have to say about that. Canned food really seemed to be the magic bullet for her, until it wasn’t. The only magic is watching her watch crows while they yell at her. I know she knows they are yelling at her and I also know it makes her very, very happy. It’s good to be seen.