Thursday, May 25, 2006

Dreaming Awake

(The following was written over a week ago with intentions to post but when I began to prepare it for posting and discovered it was over 3000 words, I postponed in order to edit it down. Then when I began to edit I started having second thoughts about having revealed more than I should. This caused me to choke up with self-censoring induced writer‘s block.

I am tired of feeling gagged by all this second guessing of my words based on attempts at guessing what someone else might think or prefer. This is my blog and its very title implies that it is my story. I have the right to tell it my way and sometimes I tell long stories. The impetus of this story was musings about why my writing and web work was stalling. It was an attempt to get onto the screen in a format that could be referred back to all of the ramblings of my mind as I attempt to reassess my priorities and identify the clutter both literal and metaphorical that is preventing me from doing that which I say is my passion: writing.

Since I wrote this, I have begun to implement potential solutions to some of the problems identified and I want to write about those but they would be out of context without much of the material in this rambling backstory. So, for what it’s worth…)

What happened to my famous intractable insomnia? Where is it when I need it? I’ve been having a incredibly hard time adjusting to the new realities of my weekly schedule which commenced in early April. The first weekend of April I spent five days sitting with my husband’s Grandmother while his parents went on vacation. It took me nearly the full of the following week to recover my equilibrium and get back on a graveyard schedule for my online sessions. That following weekend was supposed to be the beginning of dirt track racing and thus I expected to be sitting with grandma again that Saturday so I adjusted my schedule back to days in the twenty-four hours preceding. But the races were rained out. The same thing happened the weekend after that. But every weekend since I’ve been spending Saturday afternoon thru Sunday afternoon at Grandma’s. And there have been other days when I sat with her for an hour or two or several--usually on a Friday and or Monday--while my in-laws shop and run errands for the two households. I used to be able to flip my hours around without unbearable repercussions. Not anymore, apparently. Every time I open my eyes I am so disoriented that I’m not sure who I am let alone where I am or even when I am. I seem to have lost my ability to tell by the ambient light in the room what time of day it is. When the light is dim is it dawn or dusk or just cloudy?

Friday afternoons are also my weekly walk to the library which is a major investment in time and energy. I calculated that it takes upwards of five hours beginning with the hour plus I spend on the library catalog online in the wee hours tending to renewing and requesting books and searching the catalog. Followed by an hour plus preparing books and movies going back by removing bookmarks and notes, noting down page numbers on each book’s bibliography slip and packing them. Followed by an hour to prepare myself to go out in public. Followed by an hour plus to make the walk each way and tend to business at the library--I rarely do this in under ninety minutes but when I leave the house too late and absolutely have to get back by three for Dr. Phil, I can push myself to get there and back in under an hour--just. This isn’t wise in warmer weather tho and that is now upon us.

Besides, that parameter is going to change after this coming weekend as the library is moving shop a block away into temporary quarters while they construct a new building about four blocks further than that. The new building is slated to open in a year and if we are still living here at that time, I will have to allow for two hours just for the walk to and from sandwiching the visit itself. But on the other hand, when that time comes I may choose to make that walk every weekday to hang out at the new facilities which will have air-conditioning and WIFI!!! I could say goodbye to the graveyard shift altogether.

Anyway, the fifth hour plus spent on the Friday library run is spent on putting bookmarks in all the non-fiction books, referring to the bib slip of the repeaters for the page number where I left off, making new bib slips for first timers, making room for the books on the makeshift shelves--mostly cardboard boxes of various sizes from shoe boxes on up to large produce boxes--and finally taking stock of which books and movies are coming due the following Friday whether they have used up their two renewals or are high demand and unlikely to renew. Some of this latter I do while renewing online and while pulling items from the shelves for return.

After all of that, I get to read very little if at all before Monday! This is very frustrating. Often I have not slept Friday morning and thus am unlikely to have a Friday night session online. Which means I lose three nights in a row as my attempts at napping Sunday afternoon, after returning from Grandma’s, to prepare for a late night work session have not worked out. Either I am too wound up, have too much caffeine in my system or the nap does nothing but make me crave more sleep.

So it is Monday night before I get swung back around. And then what do I do? I spend most of the next four nights, chasing down my favorite blogs and websites to catch up on them! And there are so many of them that I don’t have time to actually read them while online, I use the magic of synchronizing and saving to disk for some but mostly just rush from one to another opening them as fast as I can using three different browsers with multiple tabs and windows. Some will only remain available while offline if the window it is in remains open to it. Others will open again to the last refresh when I am ‘working offline’. The major downside to this practice is that any time I spend reading stuff saved on my laptop is time I don’t have for reading library books or watching DVDs. So more and more books and movies are going back untouched. I get further and further behind on current events. Worst of all from a writer’s perspective, I am squeezing out the time available for my own original writing. This has got to change!

So I am setting myself the task of adjusting my priorities over the next three or four weeks. After this Friday (May 19), the Phoenix branch of the library is on a three week hiatus so I won’t be making the library run, books and movies will be going back as they come due but none will be coming home. I will have to spend the time on the online catalog to manage the renewals and requests but the other four hours plus will be available for other tasks. I intend to make one of those tasks Writing! And not just on Friday.

My fingers are fairly itching for the keyboard every minute I am awake. I am writing in my head constantly. I don’t know why it is that it is at those times when circumstances curtail the availability of writing time that I get the most interesting ideas. Whether I am washing dishes, at a family gathering, attempting to sleep, waking from a dream, doing laundry, in the shower, riding in a car, reading a book, watching a TV show or movie, watching pages download, the ideas and the words are flowing through my mind but I keep on putting them on hold. Whatever I am doing always seems more pressing. Often it is. As when I am woken from that dream by the sound of Grandma’s labored breathing over the baby monitor, or I am at the dinner table or performing a task others are depending on me to complete, or I’m washing my hair.

When I was dreaming of having my own laptop last spring and summer, I dreamed of being able to take it outside with me to write from a lawn chair next to the rose bushes with my cats on their leashes just far enough away they can’t quite reach me. But to my dismay, when I tried this the first time the weather permitted, I discovered that I can’t read my screen outside in daylight. It is also difficult when there is too much daylight in a room. This completely bamboozled me. I have seen laptops featured in photos, commercials and in TV shows being used in daylight outside and beside windows indoors. I don’t know whether it is something to do with a setting on my computer or just one more thing I can thank my RP for.

Another, related frustration, is that when I am working in the dark which is when the screen is easiest to read, I can’t read my keyboard. I had anticipated this when shopping for my laptop and had hoped to get a light colored case but when the time came it would have added several hundred dollars to the price tag to insist on a white or gray case. Just today I spent over an hour going thru my fun sticker collection looking for cute stickers in light reflective colors and small enough to stick to some of the more crucial keys in an attempt to solve this time wasting frustration. Now I have a tiny furry white cloud on the delete key, a left-leaping neon blue dolphin on the backspace key, a right-swimming dolphin on the tab key, a multicolored heart on the left control key, a rainbow arising out of clouds on the space bar, metallic-red ladybug between the right control key and the up arrow and a metallic aqua and silver Tao on the return key. After I got them all stuck on, I put a jacket over my head and screen to make it dark enough to test it and it seems to work to make those key visible by the light of the screen even when it isn’t mostly white. A secondary benefit had shown itself as I type this. It is helping me find those keys and more by touch without looking down at the keyboard. The one I’m finding most helpful is the fuzzy cloud on the delete key as I have never before been able to use it without looking and when the light is dim or non-existent I have to get about two inches from the keyboard to read the less familiar keys. Of course I’ve been typing since I was ten or eleven so I have no trouble with the alphabet and number keys once I have my fingers positioned on the F and J. But nearly every other key on this keyboard is in a different location from the last three keyboards I have used. I hope this is going to save me a lot of time and frustration. I had the idea for it several months ago but I never took the time to do it. Now I wish I had. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve lost a thought because I was looking for a key in the dark. I had been using my little book light to light up my keyboard but its batteries are dying.

All of this barely scratches the surface of those things competing for my time and attention. One of the most egregious, making all of the above simple irritants in comparison, are a culmination of events in my personal life that I don’t feel free to share in public because of those elements of the story that intersect with other’s stories. I don’t mind confessing to my own mistakes, errors in judgment or any other thing tending to embarrass or shame me but I don’t think I have the right to include those aspects of my story that might tend to embarrass or shame someone else. The story of the last thirty years of my life has all the material for a compelling roman a clef--a novelization of real life events with thinly disguised characters and true and fictional events and characters stirred together. Those of you who have been reading regularly since the debut of Joystory will have encountered a number of those elements of great stories, any one of which would make for a great story on their own--but imagine them all combined into one story! And then imagine that is barely scratching the surface of my life: coming out of fundamentalism and learning to think for myself; living with severe visual impairment; living with Panic/Anxiety Disorder; surviving several episodes of severe depression; living with infertility; living for years in extreme poverty and then finding ourselves on the edge of becoming another high-tech millionaire family after my husband got hired onto a pre IPO in the Silicon Valley only to find ourselves homeless on the streets of Santa Clara County, California after the tech bubble burst and subsequently losing all the belongings we left in storage when we left the state on a bus--among them twenty years worth of my manuscripts and notes and what remained of my personal library after selling several hundred books in an attempt to hang onto the roof over our head; taking in a special needs nephew for three years and three years after seeing him out on his own sitting vigil beside his hospital bed after his surgery for colon cancer, then two years later two rooms down, sitting beside my Dad’s hospital bed following his surgery for the same thing and sixteen months after that sitting beside my father’s bed in my parent’s bedroom moments after he stopped breathing and two months after attending his funeral, attending my Mom’s twin sister’s funeral and that same weekend learning that the building in which I attended church and Sunday school and eventually was married in had been donated to the fire department for practice and had been burned to the ground while my Mom and sister were out of town for the funeral. I swear, life itself has a sense of story at least as good as the best storyteller ever known. Or is that just the experienced storyteller in me framing the episodes of my life as story?

Most all of those things I listed have been covered to some extent here in Joystory. There are many other things I haven’t brought up. Among them my struggle with weight since it seems so cliché, other health issues because they are just a jumble of symptoms without attached diagnosis and it makes me sound like a whiner to inject them in every time they crop up. Some I have touched on occasionally: joint pain, dangerously high blood pressure, allergies to just about everything under the sun and sometimes it seems the sun itself for every exposure to the sun beyond twenty minutes is invariably followed by a fever later that day, evidence of OCD and ADD, a mouthful of bad teeth, migraine headaches….. Like I said, whining! I need one of those photos of a wailing baby to insert here.

You know what? I am going to drop a hint about the situation obsessing me lately since it is as much my story as anyone else’s and I am sick and tired of tip-toeing around all of the peripheral issues: I believe my husband and I are candidates for Dr. Phil’s Mooch Squad as I no longer believe, and haven’t for at least three years, that our continuing imposition on my husband’s family is justified by lack of sufficient income. Mismanagement of that income is the decisive factor now and it fills me with shame and a sense of helplessness. I want to be clear that I do not absolve myself of blame but I have control over only my own behaviors and am struggling to figure out what my response to certain events should be and how to coordinate all of my personal difficulties so as to figure out how to become part of the solution instead of part of the problem. With that caveat I must confess that every time I watch my husband light up a cigarette I feel my whole being fuming along with the tobacco. A cartoon image reflecting my mood at that moment would show a grim-lipped, clench-jawed face with smoke flowing out the nose and ears. As the cigarette burns down I see the dollar bills I had saved toward my business plan that had to be redirected, the pages of the books I had to sell, my lost manuscripts, family photos lost in two different forced moves, the bus ticket back to Longview to attend at least the free walk around Lake Sacagawea that is part of our thirtieth high-school reunion this July, and hope itself. I fear I am succumbing to the sin of bitterness.

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