Friday, January 29, 2016

Waking Up Not At Home


There is nothing more disorienting than waking up and not being where you ought to be or thought you were. This seems to happen especially to people who travel frequently – or drink too much. Admittedly, I have ample experience in both these areas. That mild increasing anxiety as you open your eyes, perhaps only one eye, and the sliver of reality materializing is not the accustomed view from your own bed. Not the right ceiling. Not the right window.  Even the light is all wrong.  

If you’re lucky it’s just the hotel room you arrived in last night. Or it’s the living room couch you never left after valiantly attempting the late show.  Or less proudly, the floor which was as far as you apparently made it when you got home from last call last night when that, plus the successful operating of your front door and the removal of one shoe was the full extent of your conscious abilities. 

Worst case scenario it’s a bed belonging to someone else, with whom you must soon perform awkward farewells while gathering your possessions, followed by a grim exhausted commute to your own home fueled only by bemused shame and a desire not to collapse in public with your underwear on inside out. Or, as the smell of damp grass makes undeniably apparent, it’s the lawn you for some reason thought was a way better option than indoors sleeping arrangements, a memory I wish were far more distant and rare than it is. 

And then there are the times you wake up in your own bed, in your own home, and all is where it ought to be, the light is right, the smells are right, that’s your cat snoring, your neighbor rustling upstairs, your window view. You uncurl your rested body and easy mind, you sigh lightheartedly in cheerful greeting of a new day, and then you remember: oh shit, that.  That thing you momentarily forgot and hoped was a dream. That thing you only days ago woke up without knowing, without feeling, without rearranging your whole life around. That. 

It could be that someone you loved and couldn’t imagine living without is gone. It could be that you lost the job whose routines and relationships were what gave your life both context and content. It could be any number of inner or outer landscape altering news, happenings or realizations that were not part of your reality mere days ago, and are now. That. And it was that pre-that landscape you were hoping to wake up into, because that was home. And this is not home.  Home is what you are a long way from.  And now you have to slowly crawl your way back to it, if you can.

I seem to be having a lot of these “that” wakeups lately. Hazy cozy one eye open morning thoughts that are suddenly rudely eclipsed by the new reality I temporarily blissfully forgot happened.  Oh, that’s right, my mother died last night and today I have to get on a train and go to her funeral. Or, oh that’s right, I don’t live there anymore, work there anymore, get to talk to or touch that person anymore. I had (fill in the blank) yesterday, and today I don’t. That text wasn’t a dream, or that phone call, or email, or if you go way back in my history of landscape alterations, that letter, that sighting, that “there’s something you need to know” conversation. Sometimes, the agent of these abrupt losses was simply silence.  But it changed everything.  And it wasn’t a dream. And for days, weeks, even months afterwards, in that confused hopeful moment between dissipating unconsciousness and materializing consciousness, I have understood that I am waking up not at home. I may as well be in a hotel room in an unfamiliar city, or a stranger’s bed, or the front lawn.  Oh shit. That. Now what? 

The slow crawl back home.  In the full resumed occupation of which, I am happy to say, this post was written.  Because as it turns out, and I have to keep learning over and over again, home is not a place, or an occupation, or another person. Wherever I go, whatever I do, whoever chooses to keep me company, I am always at home. Because I am home.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Becoming a Shadow

My bed is the place a shadow lies

We all have times in our lives when we feel as if we are becoming a shadow. We are still alive, but moving through our lives without notice or impression or sensation, because of certain circumstances or conditions, reduced from or a mere projection of our former selves.

My kitchen is where a shadow feeds

Lives are being led somewhere, but not where we are, where there is only unwitnessed unrelieved silence.  I have had far too many long hours living the life of a shadow, wondering if I am merely a figment of my own imagination, wondering how long it takes for an untouched body to vanish into nothing, an unheard voice to lose all meaning, an unwanted heart to stop feeling. 

My chair is a shadow’s studio

Fortunately I have always managed to re-materialize before that time, for a time. But then it happens again, the slow receding of me from my life, or my life from me, the shadow times of talking to myself, or holding myself, or gazing into my own mirrored eyes, just to make sure I am still a corporeal being, even if there is no one to prove it, no one to see it, no one to care but me.  

Reflecting illusory sympathy

Recently, I began to feel I was once again slipping away, and I wrote the poem that I posted on my TTC Facebook page, that prompted the series of photographs that appeared all of last week on my Instagram account, captioned with lines from the poem that I now include here with the photos it inspired. My efforts received minimal response, which didn’t provide anywhere near the thrill of someone you love kissing you for the first time, but I did feel a lot less invisible, unheard and unknown. 

A shadow will sometimes fill my tub

Must say, not even three weeks into a new year with new routines and I am already really digging the cross-pollination possibilities of word and image between Blogger and Instagram, and keeping myself to the daily discipline of some sort of creativity that also works towards a further goal.  Not so much digging what occasioned these particular words and images, but what’s a shadow to do but wait for better times? Sometimes creativity has to be an end in itself, and so does the self. 

My love is a shadow a shadow loves

And here’s that poem in its entirety:

Note: I compose and view these posts on a laptop screen and have noticed that when viewed on a smartphone screen, where so many of us are doing our viewing these days, the photos can be grainy or blurry within the body of the post. However, if you tap them they will open in a new window of their own and look a lot sharper. This may prove especially useful with the photo of the poem above. Enjoy. - G.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

First Week

Day One - Because I haven't quite figured out how to do this yet. 

During my first week without Facebook, which was also the first week of a new calendar year, I learned a few things I’d like to share here, because even though I have closed one door of virtual communication with an indeterminate and possibly imaginary audience, doesn’t mean I could resist opening some windows. This space is in fact quite an old window, with its own structural and operating quirks, but its exasperations are at least familiar and mild, whereas Facebook, don’t get me started.

Day Two – It's a stale old practice, but I need more structure and routine in my daily life. I don't however need the truffles I received as a holiday gift. Today my truffles will come with me, but by the end of the day I will have left them all behind.  

The first thing I noticed is that I prefer my morning tea without aggravation, indignation and needlessly ego brutalizing comparisons to other people’s probably entirely misrepresented happiness, intelligence and good looks. Also turns out I can wake up just fine without memes and political rants too, breakfast choices free of both healthy calories and unique, appealing or lasting flavor. Next, I found myself not even an hour into my day ready willing and able to do things on my list of things to do instead of staring at a screen wondering how it got so late when I got up so early. I accomplished morning workouts and did a little real writing in the time it would normally take to scroll through my newsfeed, in which there was really nothing newsworthy, make and answer comments, which provided no answers to anything actually affecting my life, and follow links to articles and videos that were, okay, interesting, but, I am here as living proof after seven days, I can clearly live without. 

Day Three – How I get undressed after a night on the town.  

Enough with the Facebook bashing. I am still an (embattled) optimist, and I tried, I truly tried, to use this most prevalent and potentially useful social media platform for good and not evil, to find others with similar intentions, and create within a cluttered chaos of vacancy and pretense, my own little well-maintained corner of culture, art, candor, and genuine connection.  It can happen if you desire, accept and embrace Facebook Experience Management as your full-time unpaid no benefits job. As they say, good luck with that. If I really miss being briefly amused and enriched amidst lotsa ignored and exasperated, I can always go to a bar on a Saturday night.

Day Four - On the anniversary of her death, my beautiful mother Julia (1929-2015)  

Being a solitary person with a huge self-expression habit, I had misgivings about depriving myself both of the company, albeit virtual, of others, and the comfort, albeit spurious, of being seen and heard that Facebook, for all its flaws, offers to the user. Even an imaginary audience is better than none at all, right? Wrong. Turns out, I actually feel less lonely talking to myself than addressing myself to 170 people and still ending up, most of the time, talking to myself. It also turns out that my proven conclusions about the failure of Facebook to provide any but the most minimal and hardwon meaningful contact with people far outweighed my unfounded fears of failure to thrive without those crumbs of social nourishment. Many of my alleged friends didn’t even know I had disappeared, or what happened to me, even though I spent a few days prior to deactivation posting about its imminence and my reasons. When no one even hears you announce you’re leaving the party, or notices you’re gone, it’s a party you needed to leave, without regret, and without looking back.

Day Five – It's that time of year again when sudden single digit temps inspire my windows to make morning frost art.  

That said, one by one, my real friends found me again later, beyond the virtual party, in real life, because they already had other ways than Facebook to contact me, or made sure to secure them and make use of them before I left. And anything or anyone I have missed because I left, well, I just have to have faith that I can do without.  That includes what little attention and validation I received when taking a good photo, or complaining about my loneliness in brave and eloquent ways, or sharing the perfect poem, painting or song. I will keep doing that in other places online, each with its own dubious and erratic audience reach, and I can even do that in person, risking rejection the old fashioned way. I am not that hard to find, even without a trail of selfies pointing the way. 

Day Six - Shadow of a Doubt

But the confessional shutterbug habit is hard to break. The challenge for me was to find a way to take and share pictures that were connected to who I am and what I am up to, but not connected to the quality or quantity of possible acknowledgment from the outside world, a process not unsimilar to one going on in larger and deeper ways in both my creative and social life, in which simply being and doing have, over the years, become more important than being recognized or rewarded.  Introducing…Instagram.

Day Seven – Nothing says I don’t  care who’s looking like a selfie. 

On Instagram, I now post one photo a day, taken with my phone, which, by the way, now released from its draining hours of Facebook activity, spends far less time connected to its recharger, talk about being literally and figuratively unplugged. The photos, the first seven of which are offered here in this post, are representative of each day, and for each day provide both routine and a miniature creative challenge. They need to be good, and they need to be meaningful, and tell a story or convey an emotion, with minimal personal commentary or context and no expectation of response. On Instagram, you don’t go looking for “friends” and find that the more you have the less the word means. You acquire “followers,” and you follow people. It’s about a community of  shared images, not promoting self-image, at least the posters I am following, at least the way I intend to post, as more of a private practice than a public outreach. If I have just left one fool’s paradise to take up residence in another (which has been my relocation situation more times than I care to admit) that remains to be seen. Until then, things are looking up, but don't necessarily care who's looking.