I’ve just finished the first cups of coffee from our brand new Cuisinart “coffee center.” It has options for brewing with either whole bean or ground coffee in a carafe and for brewing with pods (a la what a Keurig does). On my first try (1/2 a carafe using whole beans it ground just before brewing), it made a few acceptable cups of coffee to fuel a lazy morning and some writing (#mini1000 challenge). I wasn’t planning on making the purchase right now, but my $19.99 basic Mr. Coffee had other ideas and quit just a few weeks ahead of Moving Day. I could have used my French press, but we’d been casually in the market for something nicer “at some point.” We’ll see if the bells and whistles end up getting any use.
It felt strange to buy something new after purging so much in preparation for The Move. I’ve been (mostly) glad for the chance to downsize — i.e. “right size” — my belongings. Chris’ house is quite small, and combining two households full of clothes, supplies, gadgets and furniture there presents some challenges to say the least. And so we continue the process of weeding things out.
The Great Getting Rid Of often seems impossible and frustrating. But it’s also liberating: we’re planning to embrace its itty-bitty-ness, to use it as a cleanse now and as a means to avoid accumulating too much in the future. As such, the purchase of the new coffee maker feels out of step. Thankfully, it’s a replacement of what no longer works (vs. expansion to the quantity of things), and so I’m going to allow it.
Since my last post here, my main creative accomplishment has been to keep the door open to both writing and visual art just for the pleasure… no expectation to make reading notes and no expectation to write anything more than notes or jot down bits of inspiration. I quietly kept my toe in the writing waters by finishing up a micro class with Sarah Freligh and Zoom workshops with both the Madwomen and members of my local poetry community.
I also let expectations go for my social life, for wellness pursuits, for schedules, for work, for play, etc. I am terrible at going with the flow, but I did surrender to it.
I realize now that this was a delayed response to the Collective Big Pause (i.e. global pandemic and associated social distancing/lock downs). I don’t do well with transitions, and I loathe uncertainty. I prefer clear paths over liminal space. I appreciate deadlines and established time frames. While so many of you leaned into the stillness of the pandemic, I didn’t know what to do with myself.
I don’t mean the solitude got to me: Solitude is a good friend of mine. I mean that while many were able to soothe themselves with familiar pleasures (like favorite hobbies) or even seek new pleasures (like fresh projects or development of long-desired skills), I pretty much froze. I understood that I could be (maybe even should be) using the time differently, but instead I just sat in it. I worked online during the day, and at night and on weekends, I got numb. I checked out.
The last few months, early spring at first, now deep into summer, have been about easing my way back into feeling. I’m not all the way there yet, but starting with pleasure seemed wise. Savoring morning coffee. Working my muscles hard. Putting my ear to the creative ground and capturing bits of language. Shooting the shit with my boys whenever the opportunity presents itself and for as long. Absorbing sun. Reading books cover-to-cover. Painting my nails. Eating and drinking what I want.
Except for Arielle Greenberg’s I Live in the Country & Other Dirty Poems (which I LOVED and hope to write about at some point), the “reading books cover-to-cover” list hasn’t included any poetry. Here are the fiction and CNF books that have been on my mid-pandemic reading list (not bad for someone who, for many months up ’til this recent period, struggled to concentrate enough to read/listen for any extended period):
- Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
- Nomadland by Jessica Bruder (a re-reading ahead of watching the film)
- The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel
- Later by Stephen King
- Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of Life Interrupted by Suleika Jaouad
- Blow Your House Down by Gina Frangello
- The Unsettlers: In Search of the Good Life in Today’s America by Mark Sundeen
- The Futilitarians: Our Year of Thinking, Drinking, Grieving and Reading by Anne Gisleson
- Yoke by Jessamyn Stanley
- Three Martini Afternoons at the Ritz: The Rebellion of Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton by Gail Crowther
- Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig
- Girlhood by Melissa Febos
- Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Seeing them all in a list, I’m noticing how none are light reads. Though, to be honest, that’s not really in my nature. For me, “reading for pleasure” doesn’t mean fluff (though if that’s your thing, go get it). It most often means exploring heavy stories/themes by taking someone else’s path vs. being stuck with the annoying chewing sounds my own brain makes on subjects like what it means to be good, to be a woman, to be part of society (or not), to confront places where taking care of yourself conflicts with what others expect, etc.
There’s really no reason not to continue to surrender to and find pleasure in This New Pace, which at this point is part pandemic and part life stage (as of June, all my boys are now out of the hectic high school years). I am working on reining the food and drink back in now out of necessity, sorting out how to reconnect socially and listening to the writing projects calling to me. However, I’m taking my time with all of it.
This includes trying to remain calm amidst the tension and strangeness of the current Collective Unpausing, which has happened not because it’s safe for everyone but because… we were tired of it, I guess? Because it outlasted our attention span? Certainly it was bad for business, and in America, what else do we have? Despite my rage about how we got here, we’re here. Once again, we need to decide what safety means, what makes sense for us to navigate and what makes sense to remove ourselves from.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be carrying heavy things (NOT a metaphor), and my boys will be heading out on their most recent adventures. Those things have solid deadlines. There’s a certainty to them, an actual — and yes, metaphoric — weight. With lots and lots of emotion attached, the time limits are reassuring in a way. What feels more challenging is What’s Next and how it extends to a horizon I can’t quite make out in either time or space.
The old personal and collective ideas are gone — what home means, how families maintain bonds, what community is, what it can do, what it fails to do, etc. We’re all attempting to find our way toward the when of it, the how and very clearly the why. And by “attempting,” I mean stuttering and staggering, of course.
Go gently, friends.
No wonder a reliable morning brew feels so urgent.
May you find comfort.