Driving in a Loop

02_loop_road_everglades

A friend linked to a post about being present in the moment and how doing that with her daughter made her see how much of her life was a journey undertaken on well-known roads.

It’s the well-known that makes the days blur one into the other. As children, everything is new to us and each day seems long and intense and full of discovery. As we age, there is less new to our lives and the days shorten and become bland. They no longer require our full attention.

One of the ways we can regain the ability to focus on the moment is to be shocked into it. Dramatic news can do that. Like what seems to be an unwarranted number of creative people dying before 2016 ended. Or the unanticipated shock of a surreal election result.

Another way is to do something different. As the author of the post pointed out, this can be as simple as taking a different way home.

These things I knew.

What I didn’t know but learned in the last few years is that well-known roads are only detrimental if they lead one into complacency – it’s a cul-de-sac where thinking is minimal and much happens on auto-pilot. I lived on a cul-de-sac once, and it was peaceful but boring and sometimes I thought I would go out of my mind living there.

But well-known roads only lead to cul-de-sacs if you take the turn off. And for the last 5 years, I have not. Instead, I’ve continued to drive in a loop.

I never thought this would be me. My younger self was on fire to discover the world and I couldn’t wait to get started. But then my husband became ill and two economic downturns happened. And when it was over, my husband was dead, I’d lost my house and our savings and though outwardly I seemed the same, inwardly I’d lost my courage and my taste for new roads.

I’m better now and getting stronger all the time. But I stay on the well-known roads for the most part because getting off them for any length of time makes me anxious and worried. Minor setbacks still have effect out of their proportion. While this is true, I will continue to travel the loop.

But I have come to know myself well and driving the loop forever is out of the question. Even now, I occasionally take a side road to somewhere I haven’t been before. A quick look around, and then back to the loop. Someday soon I won’t be satisfied by those drive-by experiences. I will get off the loop and mostly stay off it. For the last two years I have been planning trips I want to take and things I want to try, and though I have reasons I haven’t yet done them, I know those reasons are pretty much excuses, and I accept that. The part of me that hasn’t yet healed will continue to resist, but the part of me that longs to be off the loop will continue to plan, and poke, and prod and eventually, the wounded part – which will never be completely healed – will give up.

I know this will happen.

So as I drive, I am patient with myself. I drive the loop, but I am in the moment as well, understanding that I take comfort from the well-known road and accept it at full value, knowing that it will not, cannot, should not, last.

Tapped Out?

Image via Wikipedia Commons

I’ve been working on a short story. It’s supposed to be slightly horror – that is, it should unsettle the reader, though won’t likely scare anyone. A horrific thing happens and you can see the lead up to it, but because of the viewpoint, the reader never gets all the information and when the story concludes, they’re likely to have more questions than answers.

I’ve never written one like this before, and that was the point of it. I wanted to stretch myself, challenge myself as a writer, and so I came up with a few ideas that I thought might help me do that.

Problem is, I haven’t been working on it.

This may mean nothing – I haven’t been working on anything lately. I have a painting on my easel, just waiting for me to get back to it, a watercolour planned, a diorama kit of an abandoned gas station I’d like to get to, and some felt soft sculptures that need finishing. Instead, I’ve been thinking about other people’s writing, trying to make some room in my tiny cottage by going through three boxes of long unplayed LPs, gardening, and working on my family’s history.

This isn’t unusual for me. My creative output is always low because I’m easily distracted by all of the other things that interest me – volcanoes, history, political science, mind science, and everything I’ve never heard of before. Lately, I’ve had a near-obsession with Ancestry.com and working my way up and down the family tree in every direction. This is complicated by the fact that I’m also working on my late husband’s family tree at the same time.

But getting back to the story.

So distraction is part of the problem, but I try to at least write 200 words a day. Very little, considering I have done upwards of 3-4K a day, when I’m on writing fire. Which I’m not with my writing lately. In the olden days, and with most of the very short fiction I post here, the writing sort of took off and I was just along for the ride. Hasn’t been like that with my longer works – I struggle to feel my way through as though I’m blindfolded rather than the helter-skelter gallop I have been used to and got high off of.

That’s obviously another part of the problem.

Distraction I can – and have – dealt with. But it’s not a problem, when I’m fully invested in the work. Yep, there’s the real issue – I’m not fully invested in the work. And I don’t know why. Other stories I’ve told were just as complicated and I had no difficulty starting or continuing. If anything, I had difficulty turning off the flow at any point.

The only thing that comes to mind is that maybe I’m overthinking. Trying to infuse what I write with as much literary goodness as possible might have sucked all the fun out of the process and caused the tap to close. And while the desire to open the tap is there, the handle seems to have been mislaid.

How I can fix this, I’m not sure. But I know that, in the meantime, I have to work on finding the discipline I need to continue putting the words down, even if they’re only 200 at a time. If I let myself off the hook for one day, getting back to it the next day is harder and the temptation to skip another day is easier.

One day, I hope I can find the handle for that tap and see my words flowing freely again. Until then, I’ll have to savor each drop I get.

Why We Grieve

spock2

Leonard Nimoy created many firsts on ST. The Vulcan Salute, Live Long and Prosper, Mind Melds, the nerve pinch. He ‘sneaked’ Jewish culture into mainstream television in what was already a groundbreaking series featuring the first competent black woman officer, the Prime Directive, and so much more.

Those who never watched it or weren’t old enough to see it when it was launched will never know the excitement ST engendered in we who were already fans of science fiction and how much of a game-changer it turned out to be for television and film in its 3 short seasons.

Star Trek, the original series, is kind of like the Beatles. If you weren’t there at the time, you won’t be able to comprehend the fuss. But if you were, you know all the reasons we grieve today.

The Silence

woman alone at the edge of water

She felt unusually cut off from the rest of humankind today. Even a short trip to the grocery store, where she might trade comments with others standing in line, did nothing. She had gone too late in the evening and the aisles were quiet, the lines very short. She had bagged her own groceries without help from the register clerk, who had offered her only the mandated corporate greetings and otherwise ignored her.

Usually, she could count on at least one short conversation to remind her of her own humanity, but the exchanges she had after the market, at the drugstore, the filling station, were devoid of anything real, just the normal and deplorable small talk between strangers that left her feeling less and less tethered to the planet.

She could choose to eat out and hope the waitress was more conversational. She could choose to call friend or family member, but she suddenly lacked the energy. No doubt it was her own fault; she tended to stay much to herself, maybe too much to herself, so others tended either to avoid imposing themselves upon her, or they let her slip from their everyday minds.

The daily silence was a blessing. The silence was a curse. So it was with everything; there was no either/or, everything blended, was connected, was part of the same organism. How strange then, that one part of that interconnected life should sometimes feel so un-connected.

She returned home, returned to the silence.

Piquant

Greville

Piquant was not the right word. There probably was no word to adequately encompass what she was feeling.  If someone slowly pushed a needle, the diameter of a single, fallen hair, into her chest and gently set a vibration moving along it so that the pain was overlaid with a strange pleasure, like grasping for a happy memory on the edges of one’s ability to remember, it might come close to a description.

It was not the chest-crushing weight that hearing her sister say “Our daddy is dead” had set to swinging into her.

It was not the confused mingle of restrained emotion – like dancers all hearing different music – that had joined together at the back of her mind when her mother had finally let go of her vegetative body in the nursing home.

It might be something uniquely mated to the understanding that she had misunderstood her position in the world yet again, that what she had construed as belonging of a sort was really nothing of the kind.

It held familiarity, the realization that she had been here before and recognized herself in this place and contained threads of rue and guilt that she would find herself here again.

It held relief, as well. For once again she felt surety. In recognizing and accepting herself in this place – yet again – she felt tension leave her, anxiety sent to bed without its supper. While the world might continue to misunderstand her and she, in her desire to belong to it, might often misunderstand herself, this piquant pain would always be there; a vibration set along a hair-thin needle in her heart to remind her of her true self.

 

Maybe Your First Love…

wikipedia commons photo: farm road through Champaign County

Farm road through Champaign County – Wikimedia Commons

I forgot his name almost as soon as I heard it and there is probably no one now who could tell me what it is. The only things I really remember about him are that he had dark hair and he was a teacher. The car – it was a sedan, maybe foreign, but I don’t know what kind or remember what color. He drove us on the country highway for what seemed a long time, but possibly wasn’t. My mother told me later that he was the husband of someone she knew in college and it was a strange coincidence that led him to offer a ride to tall young woman and her four year old, half-Filipino daughter. He was animated and his voice smiled as he talked. I have no idea what they talked about, but somewhere along the drive, I fell in love with him.

We were hitchhiking to New York City from Los Angeles and we met him somewhere in the middle of the country. Then he had to turn off down another road from the main highway, so he left us at the crossroads and drove away past fields of growing things.  I did not want to leave him. Ever. I cried as I was lifted from the back seat and put on my feet on the dusty road. I cried even harder as his car receded into the distance and I have never forgot the feeling of connection and then loss.

There is a quote going around right now that starts, “Maybe your first love is the one that sticks with you because it’s the only one that will ever receive all of you.” When I read that, I thought of him.

The next line of the quote goes, “After that, you learn better.”

And again, I thought of him.