What I did not do on my summer vacation: too much thinking.
Thus, trying to write new fiction: impossible.
Trying to revise fiction (my favorite part of the process): impossible.
Meaningful conversation: impossible.
Being alone, driving long distances, showering, retrieving words like washing machine, errand, looking around me at the room/the burnt lawn/the neighbor compulsively deadheading: impossible.
I never have been able to meditate because I don’t get the clearing your mind stuff. I didn’t get it, that is, until this summer. Or maybe since there was nothing to clear, this was not a fair test.
Not thinking left me with the following:
- Making and unmaking and remaking mosaic stepping stones while listening to a novel with earbuds in
- Watching everything on ID Discovery
- Reading headlines only of the upcoming election (oh, and FiveThirtyEight’s Chance of winning stats)
- Babytalking to Enzo, my cat
- Watching my other cat, Minx, watch fish videos on YouTube
Things that made thinking lethal:
- The 2016 election
- The fact that my oldest daughter will be leaving to attend college in August
Finally, in late July, I went to a poetry reading given by a new acquaintance to celebrate the publication of her new collection (a book I will highly recommend to you while I’m at it, even if you are on the kind of non-thinking hiatus I have been on. Buy The Uncanny Valley by Jennifer Martelli and find out how to hear her read, too.). To get to such an event, I have to summon the kind of courage I used to call upon to jump into a quarry (okay, I only did that once but I’m still exhausted from the effort). Since those days are (blissfully) behind me, I now use those resources only to usher me into potentially awkward social situations. Jennifer was gracious, welcoming. But me in a room of people I don’t know. That’s what I’m talking about.
You will, it turns out, be required to shove yourself into these situations throughout your life. Go on out there, my mother has told me in various versions of the phrase, and make some friends, you strange girl. Many times in my life, my friends might have said: Take a chance. Get involved. Join a playgroup. That kind of stuff. The option is, after all, sitting home and either thinking or vacuuming places that will never been exposed to light. Because, let’s face it, this is one of those goddamned new chapters. The world might be ready for the President of the United States to be a woman, but you aren’t quite ready for your kids to be grown up, for the house to echo around you as you babble to a completely disinterested cat and compulsively check to see if the new season of Project Runway has started yet. There are things looming that you don’t want to mull in your usual strange-girl fashion.
But poetry. Once again, it elbowed me. Wake up, poetry says, as if it’s sitting beside you during an interminable dinner party full of talk about obscure zoning laws and tips on how to improve your golf game. But poetry wants you to know: Finally something worthwhile is being said. Remember, poetry says, how nice it is to be able to think? To feel? To rush headlong into something besides housecleaning? Sit up now. Take note for Christ’s sake. Get your sleeve out of your bouillabaisse.
Hearing Jennifer read, remembering what powerful words can do –how could I not venture back, slowly, slowly to the world of thinkers worrying, spinning theories, wittily reacting, conjecturing, reflecting, remembering (oh god, remembering), shouting across the room, curling up in a ball on the sofa and listening, probing the universe, in all its bleakness and light?