About ten or twelve years ago they told me the bad news that at some point in an undefined future I'd have to receive into my body someone else's corneas. I don't even like using someone else's spoon, so this was, needless to say unsettling. Even the logo is alarming reminding me in its piercing way of coming procedures.
My original plan was to die before I'd need the transplant (when you get discards from someone else's body that's what it's called). That plan didn't work out because I'm still here despite my original projections. The thing is my vision has always been off the charts bad. Myopia was something I excelled at - I can see at 20 feet what others can see at 800. Once, when I tossed my hair (this was when I was younger and had ten tons of it) my glasses flew off my face and total strangers had to help me find them. Even though my glasses were about 8 feet away, my vision stopped being functional after just a few feet. That's not a good starting point.
For those with Fuchs Endothelial Dystrophy (catchy title, huh?) the symptom is basically going blind by an inability to see through the corneas (windshield of the eye, for those uninitiated). I say it's like looking through a screen door. That screen door is now getting a bit murky. That it's fixable is a hopeful thought. Then again, I'm not always the most hopeful of people. And it's not an instant recovery as with cataracts. It can take a few months up to a year for everything to settle down.
The corneal specialist told me last year it was time. You're supposed to listen to your specialists, and they don't like it much when you don't. Ornery as I was last year, I eschewed that opportunity. I had other medical fish to fry as it were. And now, it's time again for opportunity to present itself like a bill. I surrender to my fate's inevitability which, to be sure, I don't usually do, that is to say I fight things instead of going with the flow.
So, hoping everything goes well. I do a lot of close work and the thought of losing my vision entirely, shabby though it may be, is scary. My original back-up plan was to get a seeing eye dog, but I adopted two adult cats, brother and sister, just before Christmas last year and I don't think they'd like that.
Sometimes people come up and ask me if I'm still driving (not at night) and did I get my corneas yet. I'm not sure how this became cocktail conversation. Hey, did you get your corneas yet? said like it is a brass ring I get to collect on my ride around senior-town. But I'm setting down these thoughts so there's a record of my intention to proceed. Journeys begin with a first step. It is also my intention to go to Wales and I'd rather focus on that. Onward: there's sure to be fodder for a blog or two.
The other day a bunch of us were talking. We collectively confessed to be anxious about things in general. It was me who piped up: "What about the aliens?"
The unreality that set in with the pandemic's worldwide catastrophe-all-around-people-dying-by-the millions-isolated-and-no-way-to-stop-it "thing," has yes, softened. We're not as intensely scared as we used to be. But that doesn't mean we're out of the woods. And if habits take only three repetitions to be formed, then how is it even possible, after years of fear and isolation, that we now can "go back to normal." We do our best to cope and basically, we're pretending. But nobody talks about the pretense. Nobody talks about how the other shoe will fall --we just don't know how or when. Doesn't it feel just a little bit like we're farm animals and we've been herded into our corral? We've been herded into a sort of obedience. Am I the only one who feels this way?
I personally don't think aliens is out of the question. I hear you laughing, but the feeling of unease that settles if you don't pretty much continually distract yourself is unnerving. There is an artificiality to life. Certainly, you admit that, right? News is filtered. How do we know there are not lots and lots of stories about aliens and they're just being squashed. I try to stay in touch with world news but it's challenging. How do we know what's going on in lots of places? Here it is 2023 and we should have a robust interface where news is a matrix with lots of news stations all working cooperatively so we can stay in touch. I want to hear the local stories about the world and not in an, 'oh you'll love this' kind of way. I'm tired of the segments of the world being parsed out like we have nothing in common with everyone else. We do. We're human and we share the world. Let's figure it out. Let's be kind. Let's be tolerant. Let's be smart and figure out how to manage the changes that are already taking place not to mention the scenarios too difficult to manage in any kind of individualized way. Countries need to cooperate. People need to work together. I hear you laughing again and you're right. You'd think by the 21st century people would be able to get along and not spend most of their time one-upping each other. We've got other fish to fry. Take for example, weather-related emergencies, which manifest on a 45-60 day basis. These events (that's what we call them now) are influenced by global warming and the behaviors that led to it. We're chipping away on that front but not as a cohesive cooperative world. By the time we're there, the fires will be self-igniting on the ground (hyperbole--but not a lot).
Is this perspective influenced by having watched Twilight Zone as a young teen? I remember that Rod Serling show and how theoretically unlikely things took place. You gen Z and whatevers ought to check it out. There was this one episode where a bunch of cul-de-sac-ers (sorry, I made up that word) got their self-satisfied backyard lives turned upside down and it was all because of a series of orchestrated events. The conductor (of the events) was--you guessed it--an alien. Is it so very unlikely? I wonder. I'm in denial, the same as you. I spend evenings worrying and petting my cat.
Cats are obsessed with food. I hear you saying, well, aren't we all? And sure, some people are plugged in by the thought of their next gooey cookie, but mostly I think we're obsessed not with food, but with time. What time is it now? When is this happening, did I miss this special thing, how long until I have to get ready for that other particular thing. I have tried in my way to be free (great line from a song) from this obsession with time passing and where I need to be.
I set alarms and that's the secret of relaxation, I say to myself. Spoken like a Virgo, my daughter would say, but honestly, it's true. When you have someone else (the timer) looking out for time, you can relax. I set too many alarms, I'm sure. Gosh, there must be at least 4/day, maybe more on some days. It was this morning, however, when I saw an advertisement for winning a trip to Finland to learn how to relax that I realized maybe I might have it wrong. I would love nothing better than to win this trip to Finland and learn how to relax up in their Lake Country. Actually, I've been there and can vouch for its beauty. Fingers of land reach out into the water and the shore is tranquil and dotted with little cabins. Admittedly, the lure of a clear unblocked period of time -- no internet and no phone and no watches or mark of time passing other than the sun sounds idyallic.
I wonder if any of us would be able to handle that much relaxation. We're not used to it. We are so used to cramming in every little thing that we need special sound healing and other like opportunities to unplug. The idea is to take a couple of hours and let sound wash over you and then off you go. I wonder if the part of me that loves being productive could turn off for a longer period of time, a weekend to start and then maybe a week or two. Take a vacation in the way they used to be -- just flop and be inert, no thinking allowed.
Sometimes my cats teach me to relax, e.g., when they walk on the keyboard or bump the phone onto the floor. They're just looking out for me. I quite appreciate it.
January: It's begun and already the cats are in charge. Two rescues (their human family sort of evaporated). I'm grateful to find them. It was either that or jump in the river. I say that not to be alarming but because when you're old and physically isolated you do tend to need a companionship of sorts. It makes you a bit desparate. The one with white paws has a very disconcerting stare. See what I mean? They arrived just before Christmas with all their paraphernalia. Now as I'm settling down on the couch to read Graeme Macrae Burnet's Case Study, the small one arrives and forms a donut in my lap. The large one (with the disconcerting stare) is more a sneak onto the bed after 10pm kind of guy. They have me in their grip. I love them already. It's begun, a new year and 2 adopted cats.
I see many people who clearly have grown up without a qualm about who they are, that is to say they know who they are, they have always known who they are, and they always will be that person. These are the people who stand in front of their closet and do not ever bite their lips before deciding on wearing red. I think I used to be that person in my twenties. I was awfully sure of myself and was in many ways insufferable.
Now, my computer is bossing me around. I think my automatic editor is one of those people. It corrects words that are already correct and then offers the very same spelling of the very same word and then when I click the proffered choice (just to get the bloody underline to remove itself) -- and this is the really annoying part -- it puts the word in the sentence (overwriting the word that was there, which is indeed the same word) but somehow during the insertion process swallows part of the word that follows, coughing up during the process a bunch of gobligook which sits on the page and has to be corrected again. Annoying! If you lean down close to the page, you can hear it laugh in a sly little way.
This is a symptom more than anything. It is symptomatic of me being acquiescent in the worst of ways. The part of me that married the wrong people for good reasons, the part of me, for example, that agrees to do something I'm fully capable of doing but don't really want to do. Will you do this? Oh, yes, sure, I'll do that. I seem to be sliding into and out of my true self and wheezing with the effort. Oh, my god, I am the accordion of myself!
I can be pulled apart and pushed back together and for what purpose? I have to admit, (sigh) there's a lot of sighing with accordions, that it seems unfair to reach an age of reason and then use that reason to turn around and let people boss you around, not to mention to have things like computers boss you around too.
I'm only writing this note because way back when I agreed with myself that it might be a good idea to have a blog (and it's not like I don't have opinions, I do) I didn't realize that it never ends. You have to really want to keep chatting away and honestly, I don't. So, sporadic it is. There.
Sometimes your daydreams merge and you'll be thinking of dolphins when all of a sudden, you're distracted by a giant turnip (or something). I typically don't ever think of turnips, but what happens to me is I work on stories and poems and essays, and everything is merging all the time.
I suppose I should be grateful for that--that the mind is churning so wonderfully this late in my career. But often what happens is, I get stuck. The corners of one project snag on the corners of another and it's almost like I need a playground supervisor to come and blow her whistle and say...enough. What has helped is having separate tables. This is a great idea and I can't believe I only just started a separate table for fiction. Of course I use the floor but I try to keep everything that I'm currently working on handy. That's my problem right there. While the idea of keeping things close and available is great and it has helped quite a bit to have a separate table, I still need to recognize there is only one me. But how do you separate yourself from yourself? What do you do to keep your ideas cooking but all separately? Bottom line: you can only work on one thing at a time. You can rotate but you cannot work on more than one thing. If you know of a better way than to make piles and use the wall to keep track, let me know.
The part of me that is an artist (and even though I've done plenty of art over the years I've never been comfortable calling myself that) has now separated from the writing part of me (a bit - as much as I am able).
It's taken decades to do this and it's no small thing. And while drawing and writing will always be cousins, it's writing that has carried me along --for the most part--in this pandemic. It's writing and zooming for over a year with folks I would not otherwise know but who are "regulars" to writing events, whether it's generative writing or listening to someone launch a book--whatever. And it's writing that has kept me sane (along my dear cat, Miss P). Otherwise I would truly be at my wit's end.
The part of me that is an artist and always will be what I call 'a doodler' will always be. Full stop. But I've placed that artistic web trail, including photography and drawing, at finleydesignart --where it's been for ages--and will pull out the writing side, creating a new profile; one that exists (already) and always has, but one that has not actually had its own lawn so to speak. So... this site * finleywrite launches this week and finleydesignart stays much as it has been. And sure, there will occasionally be drawings on the writing site, and yes, there will be the occasional terse thought on the drawing site, but they will have their "own-ness." And, I'm a bit terrified to admit that it's fun to see them that way.
In writing, I'm often working on stories and poems and nonfiction at the same time. It was only recently, when I heard someone say they keep their projects on different tables, that I got excited. I've started doing that too. Because when you're working on several things at once it's easy to get overwhelmed. And I am just keeping head above water as it is.
So....I'll go from desk to desk. Maybe I'll even park a hat on one table and help my person of the day slide into her persona, her profile--her way of being. And I'll continue to write and draw, but maybe I'll have more room for each thing. Hoping that is true.
It's official, I have Pandemic Ennui. I don't see many people and even if I did, I'm tired of the effort of existing. I did a comic about how we have nobody to talk to and it's like talking to balloons (I have ennui about zoom too) and here it is (it's good to have illustrations, right?). Here's the thing. I don't want to eat anymore. That is to say, I don't want to make the effort to feed myself. I'm unwilling. I'm not sure I've ever had had much going on in the way of kitchen motivation, but knowing I could run out for California roll, a burrito (not here in MA) or get some fabulous empanadas (why does this come up as misspelled?) or some fish and chips or some Japanese food, or ....(I could keep going but it's only going to make me more sad) could help me get through each day avoiding the dreaded task of having to cook for myself. I love take-out. I really do. Living where I live now, in the boonies, there are slim pickings on where to get food. Nobody eats in, of course. I miss those days of ordering chicken parm and a really good IPA and squirreling myself into a little bar corner and reading while eating (which is, oh-my-god my favorite thing to do). Okay, let me get to the point. I found a way to exist: Survival by Frittatas! Even I can cook them and the miracle of Dr. Praeger's spinach cakes, which come frozen like little hockey pucks, and eggs (they have to be jumbo eggs-take my word for it) will get you from one day to the next. I don't have a microwave (I know, I know) but you can fry pan those hockey pucks in olive oil (it sounds like it's out of my grasp but I can do it) and then chop them up and throw the eggs in and turn up the heat and voila! Even I can make a meal I'm willing to eat. The fact that I have this day after day is not as alarming as a former husband who had tuna sandwiches for lunch EVERY day but it may be, could be getting close.
[* visit me on @coastalwrite *]
A Monday is a terrible thing if you're stewing about all that you haven't done. But I was able to push out a poem. I'm not saying it's good. It's just a poem. Be gentle. Here 'tis:
I realize all I have
Is the part when I let go
And find myself staring
At the wind’s circumstance
Leaves lifted up like skirts
Or the river’s silver-white glance
I wait, I wait
Soon the weighing down will come
Reminding me of time and loss
It’s blue that cheers me
Your pale eyes remembered
Or in the evening come the moon
Blue or full or even new
In vacancy I view as grief
Could I be bear
To prowl to find that quiet place
And curl up there
Quiet that floats in evening mist
And tells me to forget the rest
Here's the first prompt for the month. I'm sharing this one, but I don't promise to share any others. DAY #1 Prompt: “I remember.”
1. Take five to ten minutes to write “I remember…” lines without stopping. Name specific scenes, moments, descriptions. You might want to try writing this by hand rather than by computer. See the sample poem below for some examples.
2. Consider copying this list and cutting it into separate lines and rearranging them, or rearrange them on your computer document. You could choose your most descriptive or striking or surprising top 10, 20, or 30… Do what you want with these lines to make a poem.
--Keep the “I remember” at the beginning of each line, or don’t. Random and optional word list: test, pleasure, stall, move, path, trace, give, unique, sturdy.
The person who mailed this prompt says this prompt idea came from the book A Primer for Poets & Readers of Poetry, by Gregory Orr. She sent the prompt to me and all the folks who signed up to write yesterday (for today). She said in her note, "...that way we could think about it in our subconscious," and boy, she was right. By the way, I'm hoping all the poems are not this depressing. If you'd like to get an email of my daily poem why not use my contact page to sign-up and let me know. I'll add that once I stepped into this remembering process it resulted in me remembering a bunch of things I really didn't want to - but that's the way it is with memories. You can't turn them off once loosened up. I'm posting day #1's poem here but that doesn't mean I'll post them all here. Well, anyway, just for today, here it is..a poem.
a small wading pool with triangle corners
my grandparents’ hydrangeas
the black and white movie
of driving to the hospital at night
nosebleeds that wouldn’t stop
how my teachers talked about me in 7th grade
appendicitus at eleven
how my mother dressed me like I was a paper doll
like I was her hobby
skating on new asphalt
new surfaces of survival
**LINK to my fundraising page for the Center for New Americans
C. D. Finley
Opinionated, wry, sometimes corny, observational humor mostly about writing, but you never know.