Monday, October 31, 2005

Got Change?

I’m back. I am so back! Stuff going on has been jamming my gears but I’m going to write it instead of fight it.

So many changes going on. My Dad’s passing was just one, tho, like the mechanism of a kaleidoscope, it is the pivot on which so many of the others hang and are jumbled in the turning so that my view of all events--personal, familial, public and political--are colored by it and my attention is fixated by the jagged-edged shards of a broken rainbow in an endless swirl of chaos, cloned and self-replicating to create order iterated by mirrors. Illusion? Or perception entrained by mixtures of grief and satisfaction seasoned with guilt and shame? Does it matter? The mind is a mirror-lined maze, every perception a reflection of deep-rooted biases, carelessly sewed or lovingly cultivated. Who was it that proved that all philosophical systems rest on a number of irreducible assumptions which cannot be proved from within the system? Was that Karl Popper, Alfred North Whitehead or Bertrand Russell?

I could find out in a couple minutes if I were on line but telephone access trumps internet access between 9am and 9pm here at my Mom’s. But at least I have 24/7 use of my computer! And yes, I said ‘my’ computer. That is one of the BIG changes, second only to loosing my Dad. And it was the need to leave Phoenix for an indeterminate amount of time in order to be with my family for my Dad's last days and the follow-up rites which propelled me into taking the plunge for which I had been poised on a high-wire of indecision for months. For I could not bear to be without my ability to write unrestrained by the limits of pencil and paper imposed by poor vision and frequent pain and weakness in the hands and compounded by an often paralyzing perfectionism which prevents me from progressing to the next paragraph while any previous one sports any error of commission or omission.

I had been saving for a laptop for nearly four years. The combination of price drop and the growth of my secret stash brought laptops within my reach about this time last year. There were so many reasons why I waited but I will mention only the most obvious and the most weighty--that it didn’t seem kosher to be spending money that way while continuing to live under my in-law’s roof. But when I got the news that Dad’s liver was failing and I had only days to get to him if I wanted to see him again while he was still lucid, I feared for my sanity to have to go through the ordeal without unfettered access to the only proven coping mechanism--writing copiously via the keyboard.

I was also panicked at the thought of leaving behind indefinitely all of my files--journals, stories, novels-in-progress, essays, drafts of old and in-process blog posts, writing exercises, poetry, research, book-reviews, HTML pages for my other two web sites--over 60 megabytes of material accumulated in 20 months of intensive work to make a comeback from the last time I got on a bus and ’temporarily’ left behind a similar cache of my work never to see any of it again. Salvaging only a portfolio with a paltry 100 pages of hardcopy manuscripts. Between my onerous perfectionism and frugality with ink and paper, that was all I had left of fifteen years worth of effort. I started retyping those manuscripts on January 1st 2004 as part of my New Year’s Resolution made in response to the new computer my in-laws bought themselves for Christmas. I kept my resolution to take back ownership of my writing and thereby of my life and sanity, in spite of the fact that three days into it I received the news of my Dad’s diagnosis with colorectal cancer.

The retyping of those manuscripts was the first step in a plan of action towards a future of financial independence and freedom from debt. Because of my vision and hearing deficiencies and other health issues, my only hope to contribute to such a future would be some kind of work-at-home gig and the best fit for my skill set, talents and accessibility needs was working with a computer in some capacity. My logic seemed impeccable but it rested on certain assumptions. Beginning with reliable access to a computer and the internet. Reliance on my in-law’s computer and internet access might open the door for me but I couldn’t camp out on it 24/7 nor depend on it to be available indefinitely. What if my husband got that raise he hopes for and it is possible for us to move out on our own. The probability of having our own computer and net access immediately was imponderably low. We would be starting from scratch in terms of household necessities. A computer and net connection would not be a priority unless I could prove it would pay for itself before the need to move was upon us.

But the project to find a money generating gig kept hitting intractable snags, not the least of which was the availability of the computer only between 10pm and 7am. And there was my insistence on not becoming a parasite online--a spammer or splogger among other things. I ran across a number of schemes and scams I refused to stoop to. Like free-lance term paper writer! A perfect fit for my skill set but not even for the cash to payoff the student loans from my own attempt to get a degree would I help someone else cheat their way toward a degree for which they have such contempt.

I’ll still be writing this next week if not the week after that if I continue to dwell on all the if/then, and/or, and yes/but considerations and their caveats. And that right there is one of my issues. The need for an elaborate planning stage with the inability to take the plunge when a no-turning-back decision point is reached. Usually I have to be pushed, pulled or trip and fall over the edge. The more significant the object of the decision the harder it is to decide. And yes, Dr. Phil, I am aware that not choosing is a choice.

All of this has been either procrastinating against or preparing the ground for what follows because what I’m about to relate is the central issue which has been blocking me from productive use of my new laptop, the reason why I have never blogged about it and probably one of the intensifiers of my grief. Because, whether pushed or pulled, I did take the plunge. I got on the bus September 20th with the money I’d saved, including over ten pounds of coins, having arranged with my brother to take me shopping in Portland before driving me on up to Longview. But this detour delayed my arrival at my parents house by as much as six hours and kept me from my father’s side during his last afternoon of intermittent lucidity. For when my brother and I arrived after eight that night, Dad was in the middle of a pain episode and an attempt to get to the restroom. My brother had to rush in to help, leaving me to be escorted into the house by his eleven year old son, who had arrived with his sisters and mother hours earlier.

While I waited for my chance to go in and greet Dad, I opened the box and unpacked the components of my dream machine, with the enthusiastic help of two nephews--my sister‘s boy is also eleven--and two nieces ages 15 and 9. I was still riding a high as it had been less than an hour since I walked out of the store with it. I can still remember the exaltation I was feeling, the awe and reverence with which I handled each component as I lifted it out of the box. I was consciously storing the memory with as much sensory detail and emotional tone as I could load it with. Which is why it continues to pack so much punch now that it has been juxtaposed in my mind with the realization that while I was doing and feeling all of that, my Dad was experiencing the equivalent of torture in what would be his final attempt to get out of bed.

Thus was my choice rewarded and thus the recrimination, guilt, shame and regret overwhelmed me, tainting the experience of acquiring a significant element of my dream and setting me up for an even tougher time with the next decision. This issue affects every aspect of my life and none more than writing. If I could produce as many words of finished text for stories and essays as I do for outlines, character sketches, timelines, plot flowcharts, theme and metaphor agreement schemes and research notes for data relating to the story’s era or a character’s hobby, profession, health…I could have ten finished novels to my name by now. If I had accumulated 60 MB worth of files on my in-law’s computer after twenty months then I had to have had at least triple that on the computer I left behind in Santa Clara, CA in 2001. And several thousand pages of paper drafts and notes as well. This is why the NaNoWriMo challenge is especially challenging for me and why I believe it is especially important that I take it on. So most of my posting here for the month of November will probably be related to that project. Although, I have more to say regarding ‘change’ and this post is past long enough. So we’ll see.

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