Wednesday, September 16, 2020
Monday, September 14, 2020
Thursday, September 3, 2020
When my daughter was in college and would call home with a crisis—and believe me they were, not to belittle them—I’d say this isn’t the end of the world. That is going to look a lot different.
It was my attempt to interject some perspective.
Now that I’m in a crisis of, well, too much to list at the moment, I feel I need some perspective. Except it is the end of the world.
Who could have imagined a worldwide pandemic and the United States falling behind, losing status? Its people tearing each other apart.
I mean I did imagine it. Ages ago, in 2011, I wrote a flash called “Before the World Changed” that has been reprinted and anthologized since then. In this piece I lyrically laid out the incremental steps that take over a middleclass couple. How they shifted and adjusted their lifestyle either because of environmental pressures or even an ecological outlook and events rapidly took over and directly began to impact their life and economy.
See story here:
But, now that the world has changed and we are staring into the hollow eyes of a pandemic that has altered every part of our lives and psyche, I find it hard to write.
It is more of an existential crisis, I mean you are reading this. I am referring here to fiction. As much as I enjoy reading fiction (I think since quarantine and my long-distance cycle trip, I’ve read nearly 30 books), it is a creative process that seems beyond me right now. A zone or space out of reach. I start and then freeze: Why bother?
Part of this has to do with the publishing world. I know books are getting agented and sold—just not mine. It is that quarantine feeling of isolation—no response. Or I go through the forms, the QueryTrackker, the rigmarole of reading an agent’s website and email them only to get a digitally-generated response that they are closed.
Of course, I have published and been represented, but today feels different, as if time or circumstances have passed me by.
Journals are resuming again and there is a plethora of contests one can enter, I’m just wondering if I should continue to go down that road. In my long list of acceptances and publishing creds I’ve probably over the past 10 years only been reimbursed $25 total for my efforts.
Again, I mostly write for myself, to work out something. But, going back to the first part of this essay, I’m finding it hard to write. Even words these days don’t seem to help untangle the morass I’m feeling, the complicated intertwining of grief and gaslighting. Quarantine only seems to reinforce the feeling of invisibility, that my words do not matter.
This week I’ve moved back into my office after rectifying some connectivity and computer issues, so here’s hoping I can also resolve this impasse and get writing.
Monday, August 31, 2020
People keep saying I’m brave. I’m not tracking—I mean just because I rode my bike across the United States by myself at age 61? During a pandemic?
Riding a bike felt natural and it helped me forget about Covid. If anything I was safer, out in the countryside, away from crowds. Nothing beats social distancing like riding solo. I could go all day without talking to a soul.
How is this different from quarantine?
At least while on my bike I felt alive, strong, capable—if even at the time I doubted my ability. Sitting in my tent at night, watching the sun lower and dusty dusk filter around me, the quiet all around, I knew I’d done this, my body had gotten me to this place. I loved that feeling of self-satisfaction.
It’s what’s missing in my life now.
Wednesday, August 26, 2020
Recently I learned a new word: derecho. Noun a line of intense, widespread, and fast-moving windstorms and sometimes thunderstorms that moves across a great distance and is characterized by damaging winds.
On a Monday, August 10, I was outside helping a young neighbor ride her bike. At one point we sat on the curb in the eerie stillness before a storm and looked up at the clouds. Something was coming. Later in my studio apartment I had to turn on the lights. Outside, late afternoon, the sky had turned the color of nightfall. I went to the other side of the building onto the fire escape on the west side. A slab of grey-green clouds were building up, streaked like marble. I expected staggers of lightning, the rumble of thunder, but they were mysteriously silent. It seemed to take a long time for something storm-like to happen.
Then. Came. The wind.
I rushed inside and watched as if a paper shredder had been turned on, churning up tree tops and roofing. As someone who has camped for many years and experienced the initial updraft that precedes a storm this doesn’t exactly describe a derecho. The wind blew, and blew, and blew. It was hard to imagine how anything could stay in one place. The Dumpster lids banged up and down like a steel drum symphony. Signs twisted and turned, ratcheting back and forth.
The whole time it looked like night outside. In Chicago we don’t often hear tornado sirens. A waterspout is more likely than a tornado—yet sirens were whirling along with the wind, adding to the cacophony.
All at once I felt the awesomeness of nature, that instinct to go whoa or wow and this cringey thing where you also want to go oww, that hurts.
Anyway, readers of this blog (both of you) will know I sometimes late at night watch YouTube clips of tsunamis. The Christmas Day one that destroyed Indonesia and South Asia comes to mind. But, also the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that swept over Japan makes an appearance. The reason behind this might mirror where I’m at psychologically at the time. The utter chaos, the sudden unexpected erasure of life how we know it. The loss of loved ones. A reckoning of mortality and the recognition that we are not in control. Never have been. That fate, destiny, some call it God, intervenes and redirects, sets a new course.
After completing my cross-country bike trip I came home full of confidence and hope for the future. I was sure that despite hardship and overwhelming odds I could do or attempt to do almost anything. Or at least figure out a Plan B. I also had had a lot of time to think—I mean 43 days in the saddle, 8 hours a day on a bike turning the pedals, evenings sitting in a tent by myself provided space and time—I’d decided I was ready for a new chapter in my life. By that I mean I did the math. At 61, turning 62, healthy and active, I had a few more years left to contribute and use my skill set and gifts. Even under Covid and limited options, there were things I could do that would make a difference.
I might have been working off adrenaline and that hormone that gets released when one is in the zone. I had dreams of harnessing my passions and interests and being able to step into a role.
Instead, like a derecho, I’ve seen my leaves stripped off, limbs flung to the ground. The wind pushes and pushes until the tree topples. Something one never thought would happen. In the video of the Iowa derecho, the backyard suddenly opens up to the sky where before there had been a shaded shelter for the family. (Long gone is the trampoline, kiddie pool, and lawn chair cushions.)
The Wizard of Oz is an analogy of how one follows another path, pivots to discover she is more than the person she thought she was, new worlds before her. Adversely, the derecho just laid waste to the landscape without transporting me elsewhere.
I’m still trying to figure out who the new me will be—as I continue to walk past downed trees and boughs with dead, dry leaves rattling in the breeze.
Minute 14:13 the money shot
Tuesday, August 18, 2020
Ever since I could remember I’ve had a job. The strictures of time bracketing my day. Chunks of hours devoted to being at an office, in a kitchen, on the phone, stuck in meetings. Those things seem so far away in 2020.
Even the concept of routine is now distant.
For those who have been reading about my bike journey and those who have read my bio know: I get up early. Call it anxiety but I like to get up and get things done, that way the rest of the day can be given over to projects that don’t seem so tangible. Like writing, for instance.
Much of writing is about being able to explore, play. What can seem more lazy than just sitting and thinking. Yet that’s what a writer does. They have to be able to think and have the ability to focus.
So flipping 300 or so pancakes is the visible and the plotting is the invisible. Both are working, just one gets the most attention. Rightfully so, I mean who doesn’t love a pancake.
This summer none of this is taking place. The writing lately outside of blogging (and even at that I’m lagging) feels blah, inconsequential. Even reduced to its most basic: providing content, is no longer a motivation. The idea that my words matter has turned into, like everything else, a ghost of the past.
Since getting back to Chicago July 27 I’ve had exactly 2 appointments to meet up. One was with my skin doctor who I was super excited to see. At the rate things are going I’d love to date my dentist. It’s been over a year since I’ve seen Justin the hygienist who cleans my teeth. I miss him.
Recently I checked my phone record. Outside of my daughter over the past 3 three weeks I’ve only gotten 2 calls from friends (one was returning my call). I’m willing to engage with scammers at this point.
All this to say: check in with people. It’s a pandemic and people, even if well, are hurting. Suffering from invisibility, the unseen disease of being unseen. Taken for granted.
Sooooo, I’ve had to say to myself. This is your summer of reading. Remember when you used to wish for unlimited time to hang out at the beach or sit in an armchair and read books??? Well, here you are. Since being back home I’ve read like 5 books, every day I walk down to the lake, most mornings I run—coming back dripping with sweat. I fix glasses of lemonade or ice tea after showering and sit down with a book. I let condensation drip down the sides of the glass and a breeze wisp over me, cooling me off.
Reading is not pancakes, but it is useful, if even for my own enjoyment. It doesn’t benefit others, but makes me feel as if I’m doing something.