Written on 08-27-20.
When my late husband was alive, he often used to chide me at my constant desire to get out of the house.
“You’ve made such a point of fixing this place up,” he’d say. “But you never seem to be able to get outdoors fast enough!”
He, on the other hand, could happily settle in with a book on the living room couch at 10 in the morning and read until midnight, rising only for an occasional cigarette, a bit of food, or a walk around the block. Typically, I chalked this behavior up to depression and often tried to cajole him out the door. When we moved in together as a couple, he willingly took on the responsibility of being my regular theatre companion and often came along when I participated in literary events, but never with unbridled enthusiasm. He loved to be supportive, and often enjoyed the theatre, but he would have been happy to stay in as well.
I’m thinking of this because I’ve learned a lot about the joys and difficulties of staying in over the last six months. (Haven’t we all?) At first, and for a long time, I approached the challenge of unemployed shelter-in-place as a matter of self-discipline, scheduling a regular series of tasks, day after day. My life became a torrent of “to do” lists, writing projects, reading lists, household reorganization, and general busy-ness.
But a few months in, I’ve come to the realization that this isolation is not a solution to finally completing a memoir, or developing a practice of submitting poems or mastering an in-house exercise program, or a program of reading, or spiritual practices, or anything else.
As it turns out, life alone is really not that much different than life in the midst of society. The reality remains inescapable: I am I, for better or worse, and I will continue to be who I am. There is no rescue. There is no salvation that I haven’t already experienced. (There is a theological argument to be made, I suppose, that there is nothing to be “saved” from, other than the failure to recognize an already accomplished salvation, but I’ll leave such religious meanderings to the religious.)
I’ve learned a few things about myself: I like eating good food as much as anything and I can learn to be okay with that, too. I like meditating and I like praying, even when I don’t “believe” in the prayers. The act itself is a pleasure, so, really, why the hell not? I don’t like reading as much as I thought I did. Writing is more of a pain-in-the-ass than ever before; I still don’t like it; I still can’t stop. I like painting more than I realized, and I believe I’m improving. That and a couple of dollars will get me a cup of Starbucks coffee. But I’m going to keep wielding a brush.
I’ve discovered that contemporary television (and I say “contemporary” loosely because I stopped paying attention at least a decade ago) is a helluva lot better than the TV I remember and I now understand why so many of my friends are into it, and even like to binge.
Most important lesson learned: I like myself. I really do. As posses go, me, myself, and I don’t work out too badly. I don’t find myself abrasive, and I’m cheerful, mostly.
So, there’s that.
I hope you like yourself, too. The alternative is really a fucking waste of time.
You can take that insight to the bank.