Quietly Crazy, But Safe

Attention conservation notice: A long, rambling Saturday post as I welcome a day in which I have time to blog, and try to figure things out by writing them down.

Saturday’s here. I’ve frankly been dreading it all week, as it’s leaf collection day on Monday, which makes today leaf-raking and leaf-blowing day, making those piles by the road for the big truck to roll by and suck up.

Ah, I complain, but I frequently find once the rhythm of the work takes over, I’m happy to be outside, happy to be doing simple physical labor, feeling the sun, seeing the blue sky, peeling off layers as I build up heat from the inside.

And then the satisfaction of good work well done, a clean and orderly yard.

Or at least, that’s what I used to feel. We’ll see what today really brings. I used to have a tidy house and a pretty yard. Things have hardly fallen into disrepair, but I instead of lovingly caring for my surroundings, I now do the bare minimum required. I remember standing in my front yard, smelling new-mown grass, watering the plants in the blue summer evening, just overwhelmed with happiness at how sweet everything looked, the pleasure of ownership and care.

Now I do what I must when I must, and when I am done I am only done.

*****

I’m driving in to East TN to see the family next week, and have Thanksgiving at my sister’s house. I figure I’ll finally be telling the fam about my plan to sell my house. I’ll need my mom’s help. I can’t up and buy a bigger house on my own. Today when I realized my mom might not be willing to help and I felt a stab of worry in my heart, I knew my dream was starting to feel real.

I don’t think shared communal housing will be a cure-all for the problems of overwork and alienation that haunt my life. But more and more, above and beyond any answers shared housing might provide, it seems like the right thing to do: to share space, to save energy and resources, to live a connected life the way human beings are supposed to.

*****

My newswriting final project is due at the end of the month. I’m writing about shared housing, and have already lined up anarchist matriarch Liz Seymour, she of the incredibly inspiring blog about her Greensboro collective, to interview.

Speaking of interviews, I am still stalking the elusive subject of my latest Banner interview, a UNCA humanities professor. I emailed him; heard nothing (he has vision problems that may interfere with a timely response to an email). I left him a note, left him a voice message, came by his office… Argh! I’ve not got two working days to track the man down. I am starting to feel like a stalker.

He has an a.m. class on Monday. I am going to have to come to the campus early and corner him after the class ends. The part I like least about journalism is interviewing people, chasing them, calling them, cornering them and making them cough up the information they have that I wish to possess. People are the part of the work I like both most and least.

When I was a teenager, I was so much more outgoing. Something worked a fundamental change in my nature.

*****

While I think this culture has victim problems, I also think it overlooks epidemic unhappiness hidden in the fabric of society. The epidemic I always feel part of is the inherent disconnections that seem to be part of the life of a single person.

When I am sick, and need groceries or some other needful thing, I tough it out or call someone and ask for help. I remember a single friend who used to muse horribly on how long it might take her body to be found if she were to die at home. Days? Weeks?

I used to ask myself the same thing, actually. As a self-employed person with no family in town, without a housemate I think it’d take weeks for anyone to notice me gone. Are we whining, me and my friend, to muse and worry on how little the outside world has to do with us? Or do our primate selves long for something we know we should have, and don’t?

*****

I think when I set out to college so long ago, I started to correct a great wrong in my life. I always belonged in the worlds of education and learning, and once I put myself there, I scratched a great itch. But now that that itch has been scratched, I have space to focus on everything else I want to try to furnish my life with. Which will take work, in a life already overburdened.

Not to whine, if expressing distaste at shouldering an effort of self-reinvention while attempting to start a commune, make a living and make good grades while attending college at age 38 can really be said to be whining. But I think that my problem is that I’ve run out of excuses for shedding and transforming a life that no longer satisfies.

Yes, that will mean work, serious time, thought and effort, in a life with little room for such.

So maybe I need to invest my energy wisely, and look for what provides a fast and gratifying return.

Singing would do that, and I could call my church’s musical director, and ask to be considered take over singing duties with the band that provides musical accompaniment at daily services, that always involve us singing a song (not a hymn, a song — you know me, do you really think any church I go to would be dull or lame?).

Learning a new language that would open up parts of the world to me would do that. I could take Chinese next year at the community college (no lie, my university does not offer it, but my community college does). And I have a dear friend who speaks Arabic…

And eating right and exercising would do that. Heather and I are felting soap together next weekend, and it’ll be the perfect time to plot out a workout plan using the free college gym memberships we get as students.

I just feel logy and trapped, caught between lives. My fear is this: Staying right where I am, stuck and numb, as so many people do. The road to hell is not paved with good intentions, but with inertia, lethargy, and the detritus of dreams dismissed as too much trouble. Too big a change. Too easy to fail. Too much to ask. Too hard to do. It wouldn’t work, anyway. I don’t have time. I don’t have energy. It’s not so bad here. I know this place. I am quietly crazy, but I am safe.

****

This next bit is just for people who watch Heroes. Click to read.

Since Heroes finally came out on disc, I’ve been watching Season 1 and only have one disc to go.

Which mutant power would I want? I mean, these people are mutants, they’re just not called that because it makes the X-Men ripoff just that much more obvious. (And if you’ve ever read Watchmen, and if you like Heroes you should, there’s a much worse Watchmen ripoff in Season 1.)

But if you’re going to borrow heavily, as artists sometimes do, you can get away with it better if your product is good. And Heroes rocks.

So, what mutant power would I want?

Linderman’s power to heal others is interesting. You could name your price on the services you provided to the wealthy. You could do enormous good in a suffering world. But you’d pretty much be one person faced with the healing the damage and disease of the entire human and animal world.

Could you handle the guilt of not helping everyone who needed help? Could you balance being a savior with being a person?

Claire’s another one with a power that seems less exciting than invisibility or flight (I love how the show points out the relative uselessness of the power of flight). But if you could heal yourself of wounds, could you heal your own cancer and Alzheimer’s? Would you, in exchange for having a power less flashy than Ted’s or Hiro’s, be absolutely guaranteed of a healthy old age and an extremely long and robust life?

If that’s the case, I’ll take Claire’s power.

If I had to make up a power for myself, I think I’d be a musical mutant. I’d want the power of immediate mastery and virtuosity on any instrument I heard. No bad guy would want me for my power; I could make a small fortune as a concert performer.

And my power would bring me and others pleasure and joy without harm.

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