"Honey, I want an office. Where I can close the door and write."
My husband chuckled. "The whole house is your office."
True. The patio. The couch. Even the kitchen counters. In fact, closed doors made me claustrophobic.
A girlfriend and I were admiring her back yard. "I love writing at home, but Ben likes to tell me about the news and I hate saying don't talk to me." We strolled past a bird feeder. "If I had some signal … maybe stick something in my hair."
She led me inside. "I've got it!" She held up a box filled with cat toys, including brightly colored feathers. I stuck an orange one in my hair and checked myself in a mirror. "Yeah. This could work."
Ben agreed to try it. Still, I was nervous about upsetting our routine.
After sunrise, I plodded into the spare bedroom, grabbed the laptop, and stuck the feather in my hair, the door to the hallway open beside me. Downstairs, the blender whirred. Floorboards creaked. Energy vibrated, telegraphing that Ben had already perused CNN.com.
"Those damn––" A foot crossed the threshold. He screeched to a halt. I typed. Silence. I typed faster. He tiptoed down the hallway. Yeah. This could work.
How do you close the door?
Read another post about how dicey it is to change.
When my first-generation Kindle arrived, I was too excited to open the box. I danced around in circles until calm enough to handle scissors. Now it lies in the bottom of a drawer, replaced twice over. Obsolescence follows the happy dance every time. A non-functioning computer cable coils around itself on my closet floor. Dead batteries collect inside a plastic bag. Disposal of my gadgets involves driving to the electronics recycling center
, a journey only worth my time and gas if I take a trunk full.
I set an empty jar on the counter, step one in its removal. Step two: plop into a box in the garage. Three: place filled box in car for trip to glass-only dumpster in the grocery store parking lot. That should be the end of it, but we've switched grocery stores, which means a detour to the old one after shopping. That leads to step four: discover box in back seat after returning home. Five: repeat.
I want to leave behind an empty house, pristine as the day I moved in. It's an ongoing task that I probably won't complete. So here's advice for my loved ones, who'll be left to sort the detritus that represented my life: simplify. Recycle what's usable. Incinerate what remains––including your memory of me.
What will you leave behind?
Read another post about closure.
The refrigerator was bulging. We'd stuffed crab legs into the deli bin; they were a gift from family. Then Ben had come home after breakfast with a friend, bearing goodies from Farmer's Market: a bushel of pears, roasted chickens, three heads of romaine, fishes and loaves, and I think an entire banana tree.
The day before, the fridge had been a food desert.
Oh, I'd been thinking about going to the store. I'd written a list. Researched recipes. Budgeted. Scheduled. Cleaned the kitchen to make way for all that potential food. Boy, was I busy with my visit to the grocer. But I cannot decipher any connection between my raising of all that dust and the transformation of our refrigerator into a cornucopia.
Is this happening with the laundry, too? I fuss and worry and fidget, and then one morning dirty clothes end up in the washer, while my mind is off working on an entirely different problem. Our California vacation. One minute I was saying, "Honey, I'd like to––" and the next minute Kate Guendling was dropping us at the airport. I'm inclined to experiment with this. Strategize less. Let the doing happen when it's ready.
Read more about how my life carries on without me doing the doing (http://dawndowneyblog.com/1/archives/05-2014/1.html)
I ordered scrambled eggs, sausage, English muffin, and fruit, only because crunchy granola wasn't on the menu. On discovering its absence, I'd sucked in my breath in disbelief and––let's face it––horror: a clear sign I'd become set in my ways.
I always have crunchy granola for breakfast, right after showering with my usual body wash and slathering on my usual lotion. Last week CVS ran out of my usual deodorant, which comes in an easy-to-spot lime green bottle. I was forced to read labels in a search for the right combination: solid, invisible, unscented. It traumatized me plowing through the high desert-scented roll-ons and fragrant petunia blossom sprays. If they take my brand off the market, I'll have to stay home for the rest of my life.
CVS hadn't stocked my usual dental tape either, and I'm too set in my ways to switch to floss. The hygienist said if I don't use the tape, my teeth will fall out. Which might not matter, since I won't be leaving the house anyway because of my stinky armpits. Besides who needs teeth when crunchy granola's not on the menu? I'll just gum the scrambled eggs.
My sister Michelle
posted a video to Facebook, having just learned how to do that with her smartphone. It was a beach scene from Santa Barbara, my hometown: lazy whitecaps, spray droplets on the camera lens, dull roar of cresting waves. A seagull flew past. At the end of the video, Michelle is talking for a second. Although her words are unintelligible, her voice is cheery and musical.
I used to stroll along that beach. Hot dry sand sifted between my toes, until the always frigid tide washed over my feet. That's not to say it was a happy time. It's more than likely I was either mad or lonely as I walked along the shoreline. I've felt just as out of place in all the half dozen cities I've lived in since. Maybe that's why there's been no yearning to return to any of them, including my hometown.
But Michelle's miniature movie caused my shoulders to slump from a brand of melancholy new to me. It settled on my skin, delicate but unshakeable, like walking into a cobweb. I pressed play again and let the surf's hypnotic song pull me back toward familiar voices.
On a frigid December night, my husband and I pulled into the parking lot of St. James Catholic Church
to join a candlelight vigil against gun violence. Parishioners were already gathered on the corner, their candle flames a minor constellation within a universe of traffic lights. I pulled two tapers from my purse, as our friend Kate––a church member, she'd invited us––parked her car near ours. We trudged toward the group and claiming spots against a wall, blended into the background.
The national news had been filled with stories about unarmed Black boys and men killed by policemen; while the local news had been decrying the frequency of homicides in city neighborhoods.
I set aside my opinions about race relations in twenty-first century USA. On 39th and Troost in midtown Kansas City, I held a candle. We were only a few
, our presence on that sidewalk brief, but I felt consoled with my hands folded in prayer around a taper. Drivers tapped their horns, some waved, and the gestures united us in grief and united us in our exhaustion from grieving. A gust sneaked up my coat sleeve. I shivered. It was a night to mourn.
(Read more about my reaction to violence.)
The line at the post office inched forward whenever one of the two clerks muttered "help-you." They glared at us over their reading glasses, which made it more an accusation than an offer. Between mumbles, they shouted. "Need some relief out here." "She still ain't back from lunch?"At another branch, I queued up with three other customers. Our instructions were provided by a scribbled sign beside the clerk. "Be courteous! Don't approach Counter
until I say." After handing change to a gentleman, she shouted, "What are all these people doing in my lobby?"
The Post Office Paradox is Uncle Al. He worked there for decades; even though it's well documented he's the most-loved man on planet earth. He's retired now, but If you asked him for a stamp, Uncle Al would give you his last one, make you popcorn, sit you in his recliner with your favorite DVD (he'd know which one), and drive your letter to the addressee.
Yesterday, I trudged into another USPS branch, schlepping my bundle of postal worker prejudice. I stopped short––the clerk behind the counter was somebody's Uncle Al. So I smiled at the clerk and he offered me "Happy holidays" with my stamps.
(Read another post about my prejudice.)
When a policeman killed twelve-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland I was still grieving Michael Brown … John Crawford … Eric Garner … Trayvon Martin…. I didn't have any grief left for Tamir; I feel like I owe his mother an apology for that.
Jakobi––a young black man, nineteen or so––waited on us at Steak 'n Shake last week. He called me ma'am and recommended the salad. I prayed he'd make it home safely after work, but I already saw him as a corpse. So many things could go wrong. I imagined the whole scene––maybe he'd get stopped for a broken taillight and maybe the officer would mistake Jakobi's wallet for a gun.
The other day at the gym, we were talking with an African-American trainer. I saw him as a corpse, too. And also the kid who joined church last Sunday. And I'm worried for my brothers, cousins, and nephews.
A parade of corpses, real and imagined, woke me at 2:00 AM. Ben and I gave up on sleep. We passed the time with a DVD, Wall-E. It was kind of a sad movie, but at least it had a happy ending. Sometimes all you can do is hold hands and watch cartoons.
(Read more about Ferguson)
From the Poem "Defuse Me," by Thich Nhat Hahn
I need you to listen to me.
No one has listened to me.
No one understands my suffering,
including the ones who say they love me.
The pain inside me
is suffocating me.
It is the TNT
that makes up the bomb.
There is no one else
who will listen to me.
That is why I need you.
But you seem to be getting away from me.
You want to run for your safety,
the kind of safety that does not exist.
I have not created my own bomb.
It is you.
It is society.
It is family.
It is school.
It is tradition.
So please don't blame me for it.
Come and help;
if not, I will explode.
This is not a threat.
It is only a plea for help.
I will also be of help when it is your turn.
Sunday I was quick to rise and head straight down to breakfast. Tuesday I was equally content. But Monday, I woke up feeling hopeless. I couldn't raise an arm to lift the covers, and even if the physical act had been possible, I lacked the will to initiate it. There was no point in getting out of bed.
Why the despondence? Because it was a Monday? Because dead gray clouds were shrouding the sun? Because Mama had been depressed?
Buddhists teach that it's depression, but not my depression.
A therapist explained, while I'd slept in utero, the chemicals that ferried my mother's malaise through her blood were coursing through mine, too.
Joy Harjo wrote, while she'd listened from an ancestor realm,
she'd recognized her mother's song and was called into this world by the music.
Mama sang alto. She, Aunt Gerry, and Aunt Mable sounded like the Andrews Sisters, on those occasions they replaced their sibling cattiness with harmony. When she called me to be born her daughter, sorrow composed her tune in a minor key.
Hands cupped over my ears, I capture the roar of blood flowing through my veins. Mama's lament.
(Read why vacations depress me.)