Friday, January 24, 2020

Error Message Overlords

I am anxious about the state of the thesis; the truth is that I haven't had the presence of mind to craft it as a whole. Like me, the writing has been a kaleidoscopic undulation, a tumble of fractured pieces through darkness and light. The thesis requires a minimum of 80 pages, and as of today, I have a month to put any sort of finality into the final rough draft.

I haven't transcribed anything from the notebooks in over a year.

I have no idea what goes where.
Every time I think about writing more or assembling what I have, I feel like a Slinky tossed down the stairs.

The world spins away from me into that moment of indecision, a shutter-snap sliver of time when I can't decide if I'm going to have a panic attack or be buried by claustrophobia.

When the claustrophobia attacks first started to join the panic party back in August, I felt defeated, as though my schoolyard-brawl partner hired a street-thug to join the fight. But I've learned to make use of this indecision point; it's an escape hatch if I can reach through the fear. This usually looks like me standing up and walking, even if just a few steps. Frequently I end up removing a jacket or a sweatshirt in the process, though I never remember taking off my clothes. Today it looks like walking into the bathroom and dropping the stopper into the tub drain, turning on the taps. A pregnant dollop of lavender soap swan-dives into the steam. Bubbles sketch an arc toward the shallow end. 

I  wade through the emotional mess that keeps me from looking at the writing situation, scoping out the extent of how deeply in toxic waste I am, how far I am from where I need to be, measuring the spread of the disaster zone. I open the cloud drive on my phone and select the files, memoir pieces that have made it to digital to date.

I've turned into some sober, female, wifeless version of Trumbo, legs stretched out in the enameled cast iron as I let the jumble in my mind settle. Bubbles help. Confession: I have written most of my thesis on my phone. Being able to create, edit, send, and print files from my phone while in the tub is proof that God loves me and wants me to be happy.

 I select files to send to the printer and began breathing as the pages spit out in the other room, each one taking me a single step closer to the goal post. It matters less that you were first or eighty-first in this marathon; it matters that you crossed the finish line. The printer hums and I set the phone aside, laying my care and fear down with it, just for now. The water is my favorite temperature, almost too hot to bear.

I close my eyes and hope that I have at least 65 pages waiting for me.

The printer sends an error to my phone, annoying me from my reverie. I don't bother to read it. I pull the stopper from the drain and dry off, figuring that there is a jam in the feed, the bane of all printing jobs, an irritation so common in the twentieth-century office-life as to be cliche. I start the kettle as I dry off. My hair smells of lavender as I squeeze water from the damp ends into the towel.

The battery of green lights at the printer confuses me -- nothing indicates at first glance where the jam might be. I pick up my phone to read. "Reload Letter Paper." On autopilot, I walk tot he filing cabinet to comply with my commands from the Error Message Overlord, towel wrapped around me and feet still plumply damp on the hallway carpet. (Remember back when we used to tell computers what to do? That was a neat time.) The file cabinet drawer closes with a click-thump that will always sound satisfying and I carry the new paper toward the printer.

Then the meaning of the message hit me: the printer ran out of paper.

 I had a hundred sheets or more in the tray. The pages are double-sided.

I have at least 200 pages already written.

My smile spreads across my face and into my hands as I fill the printer tray. The last of the water drains from the tub, the gurgle in the pipes a frolic of bass notes to join my laughter in the empty apartment. My fears are ridiculous.

Everything's going to be fine.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Thursday again, already.

Wow, I'm tired.

A friend came up from North Carolina to take me to Floyd to pick up the yarn (remember that time that we almost got into an argument about Jesus?), and we listened to live music while we were there. Then we ventured forth to an Airbnb retreat so that I could focus on sorting through my thesis and get some overdue rest while he sorted through some issues with his construction crew. The trip south was filled with music as we traded songs via Bluetooth to the stereo -- the internet is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. We took turns choosing songs; the singing got more and more relaxed; by the time we crossed the North Carolina border, my shoes were off and I was belting out 90s folk songs as if no one was watching, his only commentary to harmonize in beautiful fashion. I got to meet his friends Kathi and Tim, who are absolutely lovely folks. I'm looking forward to having dinner with them again in the near future. It has been too long since I was on the road.

On the way back through Virginia, we passed two different surprise cemeteries, a treason carcass, and a house with lightning rods. (Remember that time we saw the hawk?) We had an early dinner and lovely conversation (remember that time that we almost got into an argument about what it means to act in love?) with my friend Robert before finally getting to Roanoke, where I slept like a baby after a good soaking in the tub. (Have I mentioned lately how much I love my tub? Absolutely adore it.)

This morning I was moving slowly -- headaches and such -- but finally got in gear enough to print out what I have assembled to date for the memoir, such as it is. It's missing quite a bit, most of which is the Rockstar Philosopher Origin Story of 2019, including head injury (my superpower is love and peace, for real -- who knew?? I'm kind of tickled). It's roughly 240 pages. I'll be spending such time as I have over the next month cutting and tweaking and writing the missing bits. There's a final piece or three that might not go in. But such is the nature of final rough drafts, and mine is due February 24th.

This afternoon I had lunch with a friend from Meeting House. We had a lovely chat and also some deeply spiritual conversation. I feel loved and heard and enriched.

The calendar is getting packed.
I haven't even added a beach trip yet.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Monday, January 13, 2020


The ultimate definition of bravery is not being afraid of who you are. ---- Chögyam Trungpa

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Gym day

Something in my Spirit has shifted, though I'm not certain what. I know that the Wolf Moon Eclipse is supposed to be a big deal, releasing our wild side, but I feel calmer instead. More centered. Not sure what is up with that, but I'll take it.

I went to meeting Monday and asked for a volunteer to take me more often. Yesterday I texted one of the volunteers and it worked out (fourth time is the charm!!). At the meeting, I asked someone if I could start calling every day. Ever since I buried my sponsor last year, I d missed the visibility and connection. We talked last night, and then again while I walked to the gym this morning.

This week I texted an old friend that had been important but become alienated through bad communication and fear on both our parts. I thanked them for being in my life. We're talking again. It's nice. We could get hurt again, but even so it wouldn't be the end of the world. Living in isolation needlessly would be tragic though.

I can feel micro spasms -- around my eyes or near my temples -- and this is totally neurological. The headaches are mostly diminished, so even though I'm wiped out by ten in the morning, I can make the most of resting.

I walked to the gym. This is mild defiance on my part, since I'm not supposed to walk alone. But it's a managed rebellion, since I had someone on the phone the whole time. #AchievementUnlocked.

I swam 300 yards.

The plan these days is about doing it. Doing it fast is not the goal -- bonus points are for consistency and duration, but overdoing it is still bad. Right now the achievement range is 220-440 yards (1/8-1/4 mile). This is up from August (110-220), which was a step up from April (NotDeadYayMe!!)

Then steam room (to kill flue) and sauna meditation (blood pressure) and shower (clean is good). I love having a permanent locker at the gym.

On the walk home, I gave serious thought to the living situation. I might move, might stay where I am but in any case I need to purge My Land of a bunch of possessions which no longer fit my abilities (or lack thereof. It's kind of delusional to have scads of cooking supplies and equipment when I'm at the point of leftovers and takeout being onerously difficult.

So I took a deep breath and owned a situation that I don't like and that is getting worse by ignoring it. I texted a friend to get a crew together. Move everything out of the attic, haul away furniture etc. that I don't use, take donations to Goodwill.

Also I've asked for help with housework. It will either materialize or it won't. I keep sending out the call.

I heard from my thesis advisor. We've been talking about structure and assembly of the final draft. I'm hoping to get something to him before I leave for New York at the end of the month (#NightOfPhilosophyAndIdeas).

White tea and naps.

Love and peace ❣️