WARNING: I went totally post-modern with this. I hope that you find it: informational [in that I am still alive] and entertaining [that I am still mildly funny].
“there is a secret bond between slowness and memory, between speed and forgetting.” this means taking time to reflect and listen closely, it means finding what T.S. Eliot called a “still point in a turning world” and returning to a slower rhythm in life, that might even presage the kind of future we’d like to fight for. it means developing radical patience.
i had not slept. even if i had tried i probably would not, like i am not now. the excitement of the new causes me to be overanxious. seven hours in and we were still in texas. by the time we reached denver, i was ready to just move in.
my parents new home is empty, it echoes by day and at night it is cold. i borrowed two blankets from their neighbor and collapsed, moving only when my dad knocked on the door the next morning. on to salt lake city. through wyoming it poured, it was our radio as uhauls come only with an am/fm which does not work in the mountains, rural areas, or places you drive through for long distances when you really need music. i was behind the wheel some the first day, but could not during the rain. my anxiety can only handle so much.
though i had slept most of the day, in and out on the ride, i collapsed again into the twin bed in the basement of my great aunt and uncle’s house. over 150 beanie-baby eyes on me, open. mine closed.
my dad’s aunt and uncle woke up in the morning with us at 4, sat in their robes at 85 and enjoyed the visitors till the last second. i told them i would send them my new address, when i had one to send. they said they would send me a toaster, as a single girl will be needing one. a single girl will be needing many things, i thought.
it was dark and i could not see the lake, only industrial lights and the mormon chapel. “this is america” a reoccurring phrase i thought but did not voice as we drove, saw the country, and listened to rush limbaugh.
through the salt flats, rockies, and reno, we finally made it to california. the smoke from the santa cruz mountains reached all the way to lake tahoe, we drove towards it. through the construction, one lane, and sacramento traffic, we made it to the hotel took my car off the trailer and headed through the mountains, again, to the coast finally HOME.
my dad and i are similar in that we don’t talk very much. we speak when we have something to contribute that is important, no fluff, no fillers, just what is needed. that why i gage if i have a good relationship with a friend–if sitting in silence is comfortable. and so it was a quiet drive. whenever my dad and i do spend long amounts of time together, i always hear a story from his past for the first time. the friends he mentions he no longer knows or speaks to, not out of bad feelings but they’ve just lost touch. these friends he told stories of as i was driving away from all of mine. this was his way, i thought, of reminding me that all things change. he and my mom tell me in some version, at least once a year, “all you have is yourself, everyone else will go away. so take care of you and love what you have in that moment but don’t be hesitant to let it go.” mark one for 2009. probably why i haven’t looked back.
“i know why no one ever does this,” i told her, move away, i meant “because it is hard.”
my mom had called. i could add that to the list of things i had done that day. after finding an apartment on day three. emptying the uhaul into the one-bedroom. unloading it all and arranging it just as i had been imagining all summer as i waited, i had nothing left to do but wait some more.
talked to mom on phone. cleaned the already clean apartment. cooked and prepared all meals. bike down to beach. attempt to get off bike and walk around on beach too much and the bike lock is still foreign to me. yoga…yes, today i’ll go to yoga for the first time.
five more days until i start working, 12hrs a day. please hurry.
at night i sit with the windows open through the apartment, indian style in my bed and just listen. the little lamp on my nightstand is on. through the window i can see the moonlight make shadows in the yard. it is so calm. and it is so quiet. and i am so alone.
i try and imagine what other people are doing in texas. sleeping, mainly, i imagine and so i’m not missing out. missing out, what does that mean? i have moved 2200 miles away to do a job that i must do, is it me who is missing out?
everyday i try and slow things down, fill the day with little activities. i make a methodology to the careful pace i’ve set. always walk the same route through the living room. always fold the towels back like this. i remove the stickers off things just when i need them, letting them sit brand new for no one to see until then. when i want to cook, i first have to remove the stickers from the pot. why they put them on the bottom? i don’t know. why in the tea kettle is there a 5-by-7 sticker? i don’t know. why am i drinking hot tea when the 90 degrees followed me from texas? because i like it.
the question game too, i play to fill the day: read one paragraph from a book–create discussion questions for self, let imagination answer.
thought experiments, einstein used them: questions that only the imagination can solve. he did them on a regular basis and actually formulated the special theory of relativity by asking the question, “what would it b like to travel on a beam of light?”
i try and solve mysteries: see neighbor going in and out of back gate too often–tally the times in my head and think of scenarios until he comes back.
how to uncover a mystery:
- let the mystery find you–something that piques interest and rabid curiosity.
- research–can be conducted through a variety of venues: library, kitchen window, internet [specifically twitter], interviews, etc.
- follow all leads.
- get involved directly with that which you are researching [for example, take a class or write to experts]
- conduct a re-creation–use maps, dioramas, etct. look at the situation from different angles.
i get to know my apartment: count the steps through the rooms from place to place–in case i go blind and am still living here alone.
“look with all your eyes, look!” jules verne.
ocd, that’s what you’re thinking, but no. i spend time being cautious of this, i leave a few things undone: no bed skirt leaves storage exposed, leave a few clothes sitting out on the chest, place coasters crooked on coffee table. this is me preventing crazy.
i don’t look back and wonder, or worry about decisions of the past. that is time wasted, and i’m fulfilling not wasting.
i did not bring sadness or regret from texas, it would not fit in the uhaul. i decided in my new life, i would be happy everyday. with so much time to be quiet and think, there is plenty of it to foster complete happiness. driving to the office the first day, i reminded myself of this and of the strength i had already nurtured through 23 years that would help me in the next.
the office was well put together, as i had tried to be that day. white slacks, blazer, small heels. i had imagined it to be more conspicuous, again as i too had tried to be. little make-up, hair in a pony tail, no jewelry. i didn’t know what to expect of it all, just as they had no idea what to expect of me.
in a few hours, i knew that there was no other place i could be. i would be good at this. this would be good at me. i had many times trained my voice to be able to speak up, be firm, no compromises for what is necessary. here i could do that and train others. i would be useful, helpful, and my participation instrumental towards making the peace we all needed in our lives.
at a mental health facility, i met so of the unions members. it was a halfway-apartment complex for people being released from prison. too full, the state said. so medicate them and set them free, the governor replied. and here they are now, medicine once a day. no rules, or guidelines. six middle-aged women to police. you arrrre tallerr than i though, my supervisor Marta, had said when we met. i recalled that now, as these six women, who share all shifts at the facility, stood nearly a foot shorter than me.
tiny, with their hands in their laps, they could watch out the window into the courtyard, call the police if it got out of hand. the state had no money for security. or cameras. or mirrors. just six salt-and-pepper haired women to play watchdog, counselor, housekeeper, pharmacist and mother. the state had no time to set up formal policies for the “clients” at the facility. someone moved out and one of the members was cleaning the room, she found a machete under the mattress. the client said it was for protection.
during the day three of them are on watch. at night, one. when they don’t go to sleep meds start wearing off at night, one of the members said, i know i’m suppose to leave the light on in here and open the door if one of the clients come with a problem, but i turn it off and sit and watch the clock countdown, hoping tonight will not be the night someone needs protection.
they are paid nine dollars an hour. they are first generation citizens with children, grand children, and a complex full of convicts to protect and provide for.
i met with more members later that first day. the three women worked in the wic facility for a group of private clinics that serve over 43% of uninsured patients, 90% of them children. they review with clients: nutrition, post-natal care, simple rehab therapy. the members are my age with children. they take care of their families, they show up for work everyday on time, they do their jobs then return home. they are taking care of an ignored community, while their management treats them like dilenquents. yes, they get their salaries and health benefits, but are they not afforded some respect as well? can we rewrite the contract?
at night i could not sleep. it was all too much. i was anxious again, for the newness. how could i lay down and sleep and be comfortable? the shroud of comfort, of security, replaces convictions. the dream of private sanctuary, of security, is an illusion–a facade which erodes our soul by eroding our sense of a larger connection. the walls we build around ourselves, around those closest to us, around our hearts provides just a temporary feeling of safety but they cannot prevent the world from affecting us. we often wait for when our courage and wisdom will be the greatest, the issues clearest, and when sharing is all too easy. such hesitation is reasonable, for we are subject to real pressures and constraints. but when in life will we not be subject to pressures of one kind or another? when will participation not require a shift from familiar and comfortable habits? when will sharing the truth ever be easy? the issues that most need our attention will always be the most complex, most forbidding and most difficult to address. while we wait for the ideal time to arrive, weeks, months and years pass by, and we squander repeated opportunities to involve ourselves in the larger community.
we play it safe.
we go to sleep each night in comfort and build walls to block out the causes whose justification may be imperfect and whose outcome is far from certain–in other words, the causes that are real. it is comfort that keeps people from standing-up, for we are laying down. in our beds. sleeping in our security.