treading water and the value of “what the hell’ing.”

I used to fill up a journal in a couple months, but because blogs give me a more satisfying way to explore my feelings about my life’s current events, it took me five to finish the lushly illustrated cat-bedecked book that Marcus gave me for my birthday. After writing on its last blank page the other day, I turned back to the first page to explore my feelings over this last, past, crazy helluva winter.

It confirmed my worst suspicions: I had gotten stuck in resin like a prehistoric insect preserved for bearded scientists to inspect eons later, trapped forever in one insignificant day’s landing.

“Wait!” the insect says through its golden casing, “This wasn’t the moment I wanted to last forever.”

When I returned to the US in November, I had no home, no job, no Marcus near, no friends near, no creative satisfaction. My short term problems- companionship, money, a place to live- were met only by my poor mom, who had rented her home to strangers and driven away from the apartment she rented with my dad for the last time last October, and who would spontaneously lean over her steering wheel to burst into tears on our way to the grocery store. My long term problems- living with Marcus, finishing a novel, finding a livelihood I could sustain for years at a time- were giant white question marks floating over the roof of my grandparent’s house, where we were staying.

I’d sometimes go outside and stare at them, scratching my head. But the question marks only grew larger and larger. Common sense and instinct agreed on answers: a part-time job and some involvement in my current location, for now. A better home for my mom, reunion with Marcus, and inspiration, for the future. But no matter how often I clearly expressed these goals, or tried to manifest them by applying for work, brainstorming ways to be with Marcus, pursuing various creative projects, and offering my mom whatever inspiration and insight I possessed, month after month passed without my getting any closer to achieving even the simplest of my goals. The resin built up around me in a golden block, dotted with transparent air bubbles.

My mom and I continued to crouch here in Suckallo, sharing a one bedroom. We rely on the pub trans system, wincing at overheard conversations that sound straight from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, “I ain’t got no problem wit dat! Hehe you jus’ goawn and do that huney!” Men who stand at a thirty degree angle to the street, hollering at my mom as she walks down the street. Stained clothing, dropped g’s, a vernacular specializing in “ain’t,” “don’t got none,” and “shiiiiit!!” missing teeth, limbs, eyes. Because my brother and I are here, my mom enjoys the grim novelty of living in a zombie movie, but in the long term, this place is not home to any of us.

I didn’t know where else to go, and meanwhile, couldn’t find work or the energy to socialize here.

Marcus and I experienced similar frustrations. He hesitates, day after day, to leave England, and I hesitate, day after day, to move back to a country that my mom can’t visit without an unpleasant and extremely inconvenient interview at a consulate for a formal visa that she may not even be granted. The passion Marcus and I feel for each other does not appear to be strong enough to inspire the bold gestures on either part that would bridge the Atlantic.

Creatively, I blog, learn more illustration techniques, write little stories for my brother, work on Marcus’s resume or our website, but never on another novel. The one I nearly finished in England has effectively been voted unreadable, but I haven’t started anything new, have I?

Discovering that I was living in resin, I tried to ponder it without panicking. None of my goals seemed any less realistic or necessary than before… so why hadn’t I been able to accomplish them?

I still don’t have an answer, but I do know that I got a great part-time job almost immediately after I admitted to myself that I have a lot less control over my life than I like to pretend. Although expressing and then working toward sensible goals is the most obvious and healthy way I personally know to change unpleasant circumstances, that achievement still relies on other people. Someone else has to read my resume, pack his suitcase to join me in America, decide she’d be happier if she lived in the same city as her car.

I’d enjoyed surfing change so much, leaving Seattle for Spain and then England, that I’d forgotten that even those events, which went relatively well, were outside my control. My boss in England could have hired the girl she was considering before I re-contacted her from Spain. Marcus could have decided not to email me from my ad on Gumtree. My brother could have refused to let my mom and I live with him for a couple months in his one bedroom apartment. No one has to hire you. No one has to say the words on the tip of their tongue. No one has to open that door for you that you will otherwise walk straight into.

It’s not necessarily to your credit that your life is going well, and it’s not necessarily within your power to put your life back together after it explodes.

For whatever reason, after five months of treading water, I was working about a week and a half after realizing this.

I remembered an ad I’d seen a month before, asking for mailed hard copies of resumes. The ad outlined administrative duties I could perform in my sleep, at a nonprofit that coordinated artist workshops, assemblies and residencies in schools. The office was nearby, eliminating the pub trans trauma. It was perfect. Yet I didn’t want to walk to the library to print off a resume, so I ignored the ad for weeks. When I discovered the other day that the ad was still open, I thought that most important of thoughts: “What the hell.”

I what-the-hell’ed my resume into shape, wrote a cover email with more precision than usual, resolved to both mail a copy and do a follow up phone call in the next week, and hit “send.”

Five days later I started the job. You tell me why.

One thought on “treading water and the value of “what the hell’ing.”

  1. A zombie movie? No, I’m thinking more of a Frank Capra on crack, his snappy dialogue, those touching moments, and happy endings…..wait, about those happy endings. Will they materialize? Will Frank pull it off, when the script is so shoddy the actors don’t even know what the next scene is about? We just have to wait patiently and see, don’t we?

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