self isolation

Singularity

5th grade was a really important year for me, I’m learning. Except I’ve known it. The books I read in 5th grade have stayed with me for a long time. I remember exactly what seat I was sitting in when I read The Bridge to Terabithia. I remember what seat I was sitting in when I read Where the Red Fern Grows. I remember making the diorama for The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. I do not remember my 5th grade teacher, but, looking at the list of books we were reading, I do think she might’ve been going through some soul searching. And good for me.

There has always been one specific book that settled itself so deep within my soul and yet, I couldn’t for the life of me remember the title or author or any detail google-able enough to light my path. All I could remember was it was about twin brothers and one gets locked in a shed in the backyard of some house and when he comes out, he’s significantly older than his brother. And it has perched itself on the edge of my brain like a dream that slips out of focus as soon as you realize you’re thinking about it. I had spent years looking it up, asking everyone I knew if they had ever heard of it and I ended up with no leads, no one that had ever read such a book, nothing. A ghost book. Maybe it was a dream.

UNTIL!

I asked my Facebook friends. No one, as expected, had read it. I was about to give up and declare myself the new author of a cool book I knew I had read but no one knew of. My own Yesterday. And then a friend named Nissa, who I imagine has read every book ever written by this point goes, “Is it Singularity by William Sleator?”

I doubted it. For one thing, I didn’t recognize the title. I didn’t recognize the author. I know I had never seen the cover.

The only other brief fleeting feeling I had was that the cover was blue and someone with a badly drawn face was naked, which didn’t make a lot of sense to be on the cover of a book I was reading in my 5th grade classroom, 4th desk from the front, 2nd row in on the right. The description of Singularity sounded vaguely like the book I was remembering, but like, vaguely? I didn’t remember a toothy eel or whatever those Saved by the Bell looking boys were trying to make me look at, but there was a lot about this thing I couldn’t remember, so I bought it on the off chance I could close that chapter and move on.

And then I forgot about it.

Until yesterday when I was putting my kid’s Harry Potter book back on his bookshelf. (Side note: Thankfully we already own all the HP books and I don’t have to make the moral decision to financially support that woman’s horrific viewpoints or make my kid stop at book 6. Anyway) I saw Singularity sitting, dusty on the shelf and having just finished a book, I knew what I had to do. I had to finish what my 5th grade self had been yelling out to me subconsciously for 30 something years. I decided to read the book to find out if this was the thing I couldn’t let go of, but could never find.

It’s a funny thing that where you were at at the age of 11 can be exactly where you’re at when you’re 43. It was the year that I knew I wanted to be a writer. I have written poems and stories since I could pick up a pencil, but when I knew was in 5th grade. When I wrote a book about witches that my teacher turned in for some contest. And I won. Only a couple kids from my school were able to go, and I was one of them. The Young Writer’s conference. I didn’t go, but that’s for another day. The point is, I knew. I heard my dream crack into focus that year. The same year I fully realized my love for reading. The same year I read Singularity by William Sleator.

And here I am. 43 years old. In the middle of a pandemic, locked inside my house for the past 3 months, even though we’re officially allowed to leave. Here I am. 43 years old. Thriving in quarantine, reading a book for young adults about a boy who voluntarily locks himself in a shed for a year or 3 hours depending, and thrives.

Here I am, having read a book that has haunted me for 30 something years and was as completely enjoyable today as it was 30 something years ago. Here I am, remembering that I really, really want to be a writer. Here I am, happy that my brain saved every tidbit of that book that it did.

Except I could’ve actually lived without this.

The Back Garden

Day 2. You know how Picasso or whoever went through his Blue Phase? Maybe this period will be known as my House Phase.

Something about this picture, the white picket fence? The tree? Something about it reminds me of the warmth of being completely lost within the pages of To Kill a Mockingbird. Like, I feel the same feeling about this picture that I had when I was reading that book when I was 15 or however old I was. Normally white houses give me the creeps, like a feeling of trapped angst. It’s like a past life trauma or something. Texas Chainsaw Massacre, wasn’t that house white? I don’t know. They all look like you’re going to walk into them and it’s going to be dark inside, and you’ll be surrounded by a smell; that mixture of urine and stale cigarette smoke, and like, mildew. The kitchens all have that white painted wood cabinetry with cut out embellishments and the paint is so thick that it almost feels sticky. I hate the very thought of it.

This house doesn’t give me that feeling though. This house makes me feel warm and childlike. I want to wander in that back garden and pretend I’m in a forest. I want to explore and pretend that I’m in a different time.

This art project is probably not going to improve my drawings all that much, but it is forcing me to slow down. To stare at an image again. To figure out what that image wants to tell me. And I love that it’s giving me a chance to explore that in a medium that I am not personally invested in the outcome of. I highly recommend it if you’re trying to figure out a way out of a creative block.

On to the art

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash
Lol

The Art Challenge

Everyone is doing some kind of learn a new hobby thing right now, and I’m finishing my novel right now. But I feel like I need a creative outlet that is not writing, and not sewing because I just made a gazillion masks and I need a smidge of a break on that. And more thread.

You know what I can’t do that I’ve always wanted to? I cannot draw. I mean, I can pick up a pencil and make some lines on a paper, but my skill level hasn’t improved beyond 6th grade. So I’m doing it. Everyday, I’m going to look at a picture of something, and I’m going to draw it. Maybe I’ll do it for a month, maybe I’ll get bored of it after 3 days. BUT, I’m going to attempt it. And then I’ll blog about it so I can look back and see if I got any better. Or get a good laugh. Hopefully that gets me out of my head enough that I’m able to write my way out of a very serious issue that is popping up in my novel that I absolutely do not know how to tackle yet. The reason I ever started writing is because I had these very vivid images in my mind when I was a kid and I wanted to put them out into the world somewhere and I couldn’t draw what I was seeing. So I would write it down in exacting details, just to get it out of my head. And then I fell in love with it.

So, today is day one.

I found this picture of a red house in a field. The colors in this picture lured me into a feeling, like that creative bubbling feeling, so I decided I would draw this. Looks easy enough.

Photo by Luke Stackpoole on Unsplash

LOL

Nailed it.

Day 62

Day 62. 62 days ago was the last day I went out in public. I went out on my weekly Saturday brewery lunch with my mom. We knew the day before that schools were starting remote learning, but we went out to our normal lunch. Probably well aware that it was the end. Before that we met a dog. My mom was in the middle of adopting a dog and we met him at a farm a couple miles away. I do not live at a farm, unfortunately. That’s kind of an ultimate dream. In theory. Because in reality I’m a city lady. But we went to a farm and met my mom’s future dog.

That was 61 days ago. 61 days ago I was super nervous because I had chaperoned a middle school trip to the Buell Theatre in Denver and I had standing reservations for my grandma’s birthday party coming up. News of the shutdown was rolling in, but I still felt foolish telling my family I had to cancel because I didn’t want to get grandma sick.

62 days. Only like 2 “fights” with my husband which is miraculous because this might be a record! I really think we’re better as a family. Which makes me feel awful because I read something that said this was Ayn Rand’s dream scenario, and while I know NOTHING of Ayn Rand’s writing, I know that people absolutely HATE her take on stuff so, I’m super worried about how easy this thing has been on me. I worry that my desire that everything STOPS potentially puts me in Ayn Rand territory.

I worry about my friends that have to work with the public. Whether for moral issues, financial issues, health insurance issues, mental health issues. I want all of you to get not only hazard pay, but paid insurance. Like zero out of pocket.

I am super proud of my teacher friends that are holding it all together so that I don’t necessarily have to.

I am PRAYING for my nurse friends. PLEASE LET ME KNOW YOU’RE ALIVE!

And yet here I am. Day 62. And my daily distraction is my awful haircut. Because I cut my hair a few weeks ago. Or days. Or months? And it is a situation. And all I’m focused on is maybe cutting it more and making my hair into Debbie Harry hair or Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag hair. Currently, my hair looks like 2008 Kate Gosselin hair, minus the chunky highlights. Also, it should be noted, I am not a stylist. It won’t work. I’ll cry even more.

But then there’s the realization that my normal “summer mood” is basically my current “lock down mood” and I’ve come to realize, they are the same thing. I cut my hair now because I have the safety net of seclusion. But what if I’ve always had this passion for bad hair. My privilege allows this. I am in a place that allows me to Tiger King my hair. Or Debbie Harry it. Or Fleabag it. What’s the worst thing that will happen? Now? But what about later? What would happen in the event this was normal times? Would I be immediately shunned? Immediately put into a box? Is this even something I care about now?

And yet, Day 62. I’m worried about my hair. I’m worried that I want to sound too much like some celebrity who is posting a bunch of social media nonsense to stay relevant. I am not relevant. I don’t want to be relevant.

I am happy. I am content. I know this gives me privilege. I feel awful about it.

Quarantine

I feel guilty.

Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash

I feel content and happy and comfortable and I don’t want this lockdown thing to end. But then I think about the people who need to leave. The bad relationships someone must be in. The kids that are having a hard time with remote learning, or even worse, the ones that are locked in with violence, and no one is looking after them to make sure they’re okay and being fed.

I need to stop. I don’t want to think about this time this way. I know all of that is out there and happening and there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s stressing me out. I have to live my own time. I have to choose to enjoy my time. I am enjoying my time. I love not having to put on pants or look presentable. I love not having to drive the kids to school. I love having my husband home. I love not feeling pressured to go out and do something. I love not going to restaurants and I love not having to put on pants.

My hair is growing out and showing how much older I am than I thought I was before this whole thing began. But there’s something so comforting about the loss of beauty and youth for an entire culture. The entire world. We are reverting back to our physically ugly selves. And that’s so calming. So relaxing. We’re forced to do our own hair and our own pedicures and we’re all stuck. We’re all ugly and old and stuck. All of us have crusty heels and badly painted toes. I don’t want this time to end. Partly because I cut my hair and I need it to grow back a bit before anyone sees me looking like this.

I know I have this time easier than others. I know that I’m lucky that my husband and I are getting along. I know that I’m lucky that my kids’ school district has been amazingly well organized. I’m lucky that I have wifi and my kids are able to remote learn without me having to do much, although I do suspect that my middle schooler is just reading Harry Potter books the whole time, but I’m fine with that. I’m lucky that the boys have an xbox and they can play Fortnite and Minecraft with all of their friends. I’m glad that they facetime their friends and that both of the boys are forced to get along. I’m glad that we can “meet” my mom outside from a distance and walk our dogs together at least 6 feet apart while we yell through our masks about our day so far. I’m happy that we eat three meals a day together. I’m glad that the boys entertain themselves for the most part.

I had a breakdown around Day 25. I was a stay-at-home mom before the shutdown and we all became stay-at-home and I didn’t realize how much I needed the silence of everyone off and doing their real life things everyday without me. Of how much I thrived in my solitude until I was forced into the daily group setting. And on Day 25 I yelled at everyone and I cried and I wrote an emo post on Facebook about my “hard time”. Quite frankly, I had my own Ellen on Instagram from her mansion-jail moment. But honestly, I just needed space. I was overwhelmed and overstimulated and it wasn’t anyone else’s fault but my own. Because I wasn’t taking my space. I was expecting everyone else to just give it to me. So I got a glass of wine, apologized to everyone for my nonsense, and told them I needed an hour alone. Just like that. And just like that they told me they loved me and told me to go to my room. I’m loving that I’m learning to take care of myself. I’m learning to communicate better. I’m learning that I don’t have to yell. And I think my family is better for it. I do still have to yell at the dog for barking inappropriately. But this forced space has made us closer as a family.

And I’m writing. I’m reading and I’m writing and I’m pretending that the outside world is stopped. I can pretend that people are being kind to themselves and to each other. I can pretend that we just don’t have a government right now. That everything is fixing itself. That nothing bad is happening outside of my windows. My dog disagrees and would like me to tell to everyone that life is NOT okay outside the windows, because she saw the neighbor’s dog, Mister poop on our lawn last week. But everything in my little bubble is fine.

And I know I’m lucky. I know I have it better than a lot of people. But I’m having my John Locke on the LOST island feelings. Because I’m a better me here.

I’m still trying to work out exactly why I want the world to continue to stay paused for a bit longer. I think part of it is the shared experience. The entire world stopped. Most of the world. But I know that I’m speaking from a place of privilege. The world paused for me. It didn’t pause for the doctors or the nurses or the lady that has to go to work at the grocery store or the person that still has to work at McDonald’s because rent is due and they need health insurance for when they get sick. It’s such a baffling feeling. A selfish one. But when the responsibility to live in a society has been taken away, I feel myself thriving. The pressure to conform to something, the insecurity of not measuring up, it’s all paused. All of it. No one is coming to my house so my bed remains unmade. My bed is usually unmade but now there is purpose to it. Now I vacuum for me and not because I worry what my mom would think.

My roots are grey, my heels are rough, my eyebrows are a mess, my legs are unshaved, I’ve gained 5 pounds, and I’m just really at peace.

I think I just want a break from everything for a little bit longer. I want to stay inside and I want the world to stay inside and I want the system to fall so it can be rebuilt from scratch. So that it will be rebuilt by the people who will work to do it for all of us. I want it to be controlled by the people who need it to be better. I’m not ready to go back. I don’t want to go back to rules. I don’t want to go back to forced small talk and bedtimes and appropriate drinking hours.

So here’s to Zoom happy hours and my awful haircut and my self-pedicure. And my new solitude.

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Isolation Day #6 (maybe?): The Writing Group Dilemma

I have a novel that I’ve been writing and rewriting and rereading and deleting and starting over and writing and rewriting for like 5 years now. It’s super exciting and I love it and I also think its a steaming pile of crap that should never see the light of day.

But it should. Because I love where it’s going. But I’m bored of it and how awful it all is.

But I figure I should use this self-isolation time to be productive. No excuses.

There’s also the fact that Camp Nano is coming up and I like doing that AND that I just joined a writing group which I’ve always been drawn to writing groups.

The dilemma with this new writing group however, is that I hate my above mentioned grand opus. Then there’s a story that I have partway written, that I DO like, but it came to me fast and furious, in a dreamlike way and I have no idea where it wants to go and so 10,000 words just sit there like Whitney Houston in sunglasses staring at me from across the fountain. The writing group is going to kick me out for being a waste of their time, probably.

While logging into the laptop in my efforts to have a productive writing isolation, a link came across my attention that Scribd is offering a free 30 day membership to read and audiobook as many books and magazines and whatever else you can find there as is your want. No strings attached. I’m taking this opportunity to finally read (well listen to) Save the Cat because apparently I am scrapping all of my efforts to finish something and I’m going to write a screenplay! Because of course I am. After I listen to this book and maybe a few others, because 30 DAYS FREE BOOKS!!!!

But seriously, what should I do about this writing group? Do I submit something I really like with no signs of an ending, or do I submit the mess that is my novel that I really want to finish but I don’t know that a writing group will be able to help me with, or either that, they’ll collectively tell me it’s a pile of crap and needs to be immediately scrapped with a promise I never write again? I know that won’t happen, no one is that mean. Right?

Alright, if anyone has advice, I’m here for it. In the meantime, I have a book to listen to.