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.
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 *]
I call myself writer now and it took me a long time to do it, not that I haven't written my whole life, not that I'm a bad writer, but that the permission hadn't been set in my own brain. I finally got there and that's okay, but when I began calling myself a poet it felt false because of how I had previously defined it. It was the same problem all over again. It was a definition I had constructed that didn't include me. I think we do that - define things so narrowly it's hard to shift into a different mode. And we all have a bit of imposter syndrome going on that taps us on the shoulder and makes us feel uncomfortable, unworthy.
So about this being a poet. Besides writing poetry and having a big pile of poems going back years, and besides writing every day, how can I feel more comfortable about my own definition of myself? Well, I thought of a way. I signed up for 30 Poems in November, a fundraiser for the Center For New Americans. A poem a day - and honestly I'm almost doing that anyway - but it allows me to step into poetry in a more formal way. It's like making a contract with myself to commit to being more present as a poet, to have more intention at least for 30 days. A side benefit is that I'll be connecting with other poets who are of a like mind; who whatever their motivation regarding writing is, they too want to support immigrants. I definitely do. We all struggle but those who come here with no connections are struggling to become part of a community. They're more than a little bit lost. They need connections to food, learning, health providers -- so many things, and CNA does such good work to support them. If you'd like to receive a daily poem from me in November, I invite you to use the form on my website to send me a request. And if you like, make a donation to the Center For New Americans. I'll be here writing poetry. I can do it. I'm a poet.
There’s a tin dove hooked onto the window. It’s a window that doesn’t open so it’s a good spot for a bird made of metal that will never fly but which represents flying. I come in to touch it from time to time and pretend I can, like an inoculation, get a bit of bird-ness, of movement and desire to fly high from it. I suppose that’s why it’s there. I’m not even sure where it came from, but it is something that has a power as inanimate objects sometimes do. When I moved here it was in the box and I placed it without too much thought on the old sunroom window. It seems more important than ever now that we’re all stuck in one place.
We do hold onto things. We hold onto memories and objects and hopes and dreams. I carried a whole bunch of my paintings around with me for years, decades, until one day I just let go of them. Things go on until they don’t. I suppose that’s the thought most of all in these pandemic times…when normal is anything but.
The other morning I saw a bit of sunlight on the ceiling and it was bent as if by magnets or magic and it stopped me. I took a photo of it because if light can bend , if bending light is possible, right here in my living room, why not miraculous cures? Why not all kinds of miracles? I find myself thinking of the things one thinks about after a long illness or after a fever of several days. It’s a clean slate of wonder about the world and what is possible if we can truly be ourselves and not the jealous, reactive, sometimes selfish people we have a tendency to become. It’s not like we do it entirely ourselves, but we can try harder. I can, I know that.
The other day I had a conversation with someone and I allowed myself to overreact and I was not happy with myself later. Is it so hard to just allow others to be their weird selves and to be the Dalai Lama in the room; the one who accedes and concedes and smooths out, not the one pulling and tugging and making all the wrinkles? Well, remorseful, I am (Yoda speak). I resolve to try harder to not get all plugged in. But it is a delicate balance between surrendering and giving up. Big difference. On the one hand, you are accepting and contributing and on the other hand you are removing yourself and taking yourself out of the equation; just disappearing. Somewhere in the middle would be good.
Let’s all be the tin bird; not flying, but representing all that we can be. Let’s be persevering but not privately hoping we win. Let’s all value ourselves, but not above others. God, it’s hard to do! I miss Sundays when I used to try to press the reset button. Now, it’s a drifting sort of existence without Sundays or weekends. We’re just all home all the time.
But we can be our own tin bird; each one of us trying to represent and emulate and (+outside of the metaphor) reaching out to others and helping and acknowledging their efforts in the best way possible. It's not as hard as bending light, right? If this is too corny, I’m sorry. I’m a bit fond of corny. Sitting around with my cat has only made it more noticeable.
C. D. Finley
Opinionated, wry, sometimes corny, observational humor mostly about writing, but you never know.