When life was slow and oh so mellow …

Try to remember when life was so tender
That no-one wept except the willow
Try to remember when life was so tender
That dreams were kept beside your pillow

Try to remember when life was so tender
That love was an ember about to billow

I was talking with a friend this morning. She was telling me about a party she’d been to in the Before Times. We were laughing about the situation she described when she said how much she missed parties like that, how much she was looking forward to being able to go out like that again. And I agreed … but then I realized that I couldn’t actually remember what it was like, going out to parties, getting dressed up to go out, seeing my friends in small and large groups without a second thought, laughing and drinking and dancing and flirting. This afternoon, another friend texted me to ask what things I miss because of Covid. She was missing, among other things, travel. I miss travel, too. When I read her text, I thought about travel and going to the movies and not having to use hand sanitizer and … everything.

And still I am struck by how completely I can’t remember how to do any of the things I miss doing. I can’t imagine planning a trip. Can’t imagine getting on a train or plane. Can’t imagine dancing with a stranger (I mean, okay: I didn’t do a whole lot of that pre-Covid). Can’t imagine sitting in a crowded bar laughing and talking with a bunch of friends. Can’t imagine sitting in a crowded theater and leaning over to whisper snarky asides in my friend’s ear. Can’t imagine holding hands. Can’t imagine kissing.

I’m approaching the time when I’ll be able to slowly try anew some of the things I’ve had to go without for the last year. And that feels both long overdue and impossible. It’s certain that I can’t “go back” to anything. There is no “back.” We’ve left “back” so far in the past, isn’t it pretty much in another world at this point? Isn’t there only whatever’s next? Yes, I will start to find a way to do things I used to do, but will I ever do them in the same way? Will it ever be casual and easy to stand next to another person? Will I ever shake hands again?

I keep hearing “Try to Remember” from The Fantastiks. That song makes the past sound like a soft-focus, satin-smooth dream. My life pre-Covid was hardly dreamy, but the cruel space of this pandemic year makes that life feel ever out of reach. So what does that mean? We can’t go back, so what do we make of the future? How do we shape what comes next?

… it’s nice to remember
Without a hurt, the heart is hollow

No danger there, right? Plenty of hurt, so my heart is anything but hollow? Is that a lesson I’m supposed to be taking from the last year? That’s … frustrating at best. No, my heart isn’t hollow, but it wasn’t hollow before Covid, either. Is it all of our hearts, our hearts as a human race, that I should be thinking of? Has the world had to find its way through this horror show so that we can (finally) learn that every single life is “wild and precious,” that we have to fight for everyone in order to save our individual selves?

Try to remember and if you remember
Then follow
Follow

It’s all of it, of course. I (we) need to start figuring out how to live among people again. And I (we) need to find a way to stretch out into my (our) whole self again. And I (we) need to keep fighting for everyone, for every single wild and precious life. It’s the only way.

I still can’t imagine holding hands, still can’t imagine kissing. But I have to figure it out, find a way forward that includes all of that and more because our closeness, in all the ways that we should and need to be close, is what will save us.

__________

* Also, I swear I’m not always trying to put ear worms in your heads, dear reader. I can’t seem to avoid thinking of songs that fit in some way with whatever I’m posting, however. Sometimes I manage not to include the song in the post, but other times …

And more also? It’s Pi Day. Hope you had some. ❤


It’s the 14th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot

I always feel like somebody’s watching me …

Which is actually not at all true, but I can’t help thinking about that song right now.

Turns out, there are at least seven different people from my job who have been reading and commenting here. Seven. And there may be others who have just chosen not to contact me after reading last night’s post. I have seven different emails to respond to after yesterday, and included among them is one from the person I was actually thinking about when I wrote that post.

To be clear, no one is cyber-stalking me or bullying me or anything like that. I have just felt odd about some of the comments and odd about the fact that the person (and now, I realize, a bunch of people) was reading here but not letting me know they were reading here.

This discovery that my tiny little audience a) is bigger than I thought and b) includes people who are at least tangentially connected to me in the real world reinforces for me the importance of what I wrote yesterday. I can’t let any of that make a difference in what I write here, in whether or not I write here. These seven people know me/know about me in a very particular way. I fit into a certain set of boxes. If they are reading back through this blog, they will learn …

  • That I am often really angry
  • That I write and think about racism a LOT
  • That I have a lot to say about living while fat
  • That I am incredibly and unashamedly vain
  • That I’ve had some really ugly experiences in my life
  • That I’ve had some really fabulous experiences in my life
  • That I’m older than they might have thought

And sure, plenty of other things, too. Is it weird to learn these things about me and not actually try to meet me when we work for the same institution? A little, I guess. But it’s okay, too. I put all this stuff out there with the idea that it will be read — and read, quite specifically, by strangers. So I can’t really fuss when people do exactly what I hope people will do.

So I’ll keep posting in my Queen of Oversharing fashion. Maybe I’ll even post some of the things I wrote last year but didn’t share here. We’ll see.


It’s the 14th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot

And this is why we can’t have nice things.

I continue to participate in the #52Essays challenge, the challenge to write an essay a week for the year. I’ve been attempting to meet that goal each year since taking on the challenge in 2017. Last year was my least successful year. And yes, I could say that was because of Covid, but that would just be an easy cover. I mean, I did write less last year than I usually do, but I still wrote quite a lot. I posted 12 essays last year — half the number I posted in 2019 — but I wrote many more essays than that. Covid was part of what kept me away from this space, but it wasn’t the main thing.

I jokingly call myself the Queen of Oversharing. It’s only sometimes true. I talk a lot, and can definitely talk too much, but I don’t always share the deep stuff, expose my tender underbelly. Except on this page. For whatever reason, I often share things here that I haven’t found a way to talk about with the people I am close with.

Most of the people who read here don’t know me in person. Some of my friends and family read here, too, however. So do a few of my coworkers. And that’s fine. And it’s also strange sometimes. Strangest of all when lines blur and someone who falls into the surprise category of “strangers I know” starts reading here, starts interacting here.

And that’s what happened last year. Someone I’ve never met but to whom I am connected started reading here, started interacting here in a way that felt judgmental and mocking. And I was trying to manage being in quarantine and found that I couldn’t also manage even a quiet confrontation — couldn’t or just didn’t want to spend the energy on turning a conversation I didn’t want to have into something that wasn’t a confrontation. Instead, I chose to leave this space dormant for the better part of the year.

Which pissed me off. And made me sad. This page is one of my preferred release valves. Shutting it down because someone I didn’t want to see walked into the room wasn’t the best self-care I’ve ever practiced. If ever I needed a proven release valve, I needed one last year.

Last night I posted about my history of not settling in the places I’ve lived, posted about the fact that I am not settled in the place I currently live. And today the name of that “stranger I know” dropped into the inbox of my work email. And I had a stomach ache for the rest of the day. I don’t know if they are still reading here. But I am annoyed to find that I am still made uncomfortable by the possibility that they are.

This space is mine. These stories are mine. That person holds no power over me, and I refuse to give them the power to silence me again. If they’re reading here, they are. If they choose to share my stories with their coworkers, that’s just what will happen. All of the ways that I am ugly and flawed here are all of the ways that I am ugly and flawed in real life. Keeping myself away from this space, not posting the pieces I’ve written expressly for this space … that’s like writing lies in my diary to protect myself against someone else reading it.

Saying all of that out loud is a good reminder to me to keep standing in my truth and holding my space and, really, to hell with anyone who chooses to mock or judge me for any of it.

And this is why I will have nice things.


It’s the 14th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot

Procrastination Station

I’ve been inside a year, almost a year. When we first came inside, we certainly didn’t know lockdown was going to last as long as it has, but we certainly knew it was going to be more than a minute. And everyone’s story of lockdown is different, even as we’ve run up against similar walls of anger or frustration or fear or loneliness.

Something that’s true about my experience of lockdown is that I’ve grown increasingly frustrated with my inability to live fully in my apartment. I have never made this apartment a real home. I live in it, but I live as if I am precariously transient. It’s a decades-long problem that I’ve yet to truly solve. I have always struggled with unpacking. For many years, I lived only with my boxes, so sure that I would move again soon. And I did move a lot. When I first moved to the city, I moved every year. Once, I moved twice in the same year. My friends teased me because they couldn’t keep up with my addresses and phone numbers, but all that upheaval wasn’t pleasant or funny for me.

I never made a home in any of those apartments. There were a few times I tried, but I couldn’t seem to figure out how to make it happen, how to feel that I lived in, belonged in, any of those spaces. 

When I moved into my sixth apartment, I unpacked a little. I bought shelves and a couple of pieces of furniture. It didn’t go far enough. I didn’t empty all the boxes, didn’t settle. And then it was time to move again. I unpacked in the seventh apartment. And as soon as I did, it was time to move again. I made a bad choice then, moving into a place that was much too small for me. Most of my furniture had to go into storage, and I was back to living with boxes. And I stayed there for years. Never comfortable, never fully inhabiting the space.

Then I moved to Crown Heights, and all of that changed. I felt at home from the first moment I stepped into that apartment, and maybe that’s what made the difference. When I moved in, I was able to bring all of my many-years-stored furniture with me. I began for-real unpacking, I hung pictures on the walls, I had friends over. I definitely settled into that apartment. And then I had to leave it. I got to stay there for ten years, so I no longer had the feeling of impermanence I had in my old apartments … which is surely why having to move was such a devastating upheaval.

When I left Crown Heights, I was sad. That’s not a good way to come to a new neighborhood, a new apartment. And I wasn’t helped by the fact that, as soon as I got here, I was immediately incapable of making a real attempt at turning this space into a home. I arrived here with a torn rotator cuff — I had been steadily losing the ability to use my left arm for weeks. Shortly after my arrival here, I had surgery to repair that tear, and my recovery took much longer than I had been led to believe it would. And when I finally healed from shoulder surgery, I started having trouble with my left knee, and I put off doing anything about it because I couldn’t bear the idea of needing another surgery. But my wonky knee meant there were plenty of things — like carrying boxes and setting up shelves — that I couldn’t do.

I finally had that last knee surgery … then started my new job while I was still recuperating. My new job that is bigger and busier than any job I’ve ever had and leaves me with no time.

And then we went into lockdown, and I’ve been in quarantine in a house that is full of boxes, with my new bookshelves still flat-packed and waiting to be assembled. Crown Heights eased me out of my I-don’t-really-live-here mindset … but ten years of being settled and feeling at home didn’t mean change, it seems. I slipped back into accepting transience the moment I left that apartment.

I’ve been working out of this unsettled space for a year now. And the frustration of that is wearing on me. I’ve made my small space even smaller by confining myself to using only half of the apartment because the other half is still all boxes. And it’s a year. A year.

Clearly, there are deeper questions that need to be answered. Such as why I don’t allow myself to feel that I belong in the places where I live. What did I feel in Crown Heights that I haven’t felt in any other apartment? How do I push through and make a home in spite of not feeling the “home-ness” of Crown Heights?

I want to hope that saying out loud this thing that embarrasses me will be the push I need, that it will shame me to finally get my shelves constructed, to unpack the world of boxes that fill my living room. Of course, shame is a crap motivator — I mean, if that was all it took, I’d have unpacked years ago — but I’m desperate. I’m about to start the second year of quarantine. With luck, I’ll be able to be out and about a little more this summer, but I still live in this apartment. It’s time to let myself actually live here.


It’s the 14th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot

Love Lost

My friend is making plans to euthanize her cat. Her heart is breaking. And so is mine. Not only because her cat is lovely, or because losing a pet is always awful. But also because this particular cat is particularly lovely, and he saved my friend. She found him at the exact perfect moment to help her through a deeply difficult and painful time. They have been excellent companions for many years. And now that time is coming to an end.

I’m sad for her, and also this resurfaces my own loss from last year. In June, I had to euthanize one of my beloved cats. It was and wasn’t a surprise that that happened. He had been sick for a long time. I just thought he’d hang on a little longer. It’s shocking to me that it’s almost a year since I lost him.

My handsome boy, Beau.

I’m not alone. His brother (in the biological, litter-mate sense, not the I-adopted-them-both-and-they’re-my-fur-babies-so-they’re-brothers sense) is still here with me, and we are fine, but it’s not the same. I miss his antics and his bad behavior and his insistent affection and cuddliness.

Sigh.


It’s the 14th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot