In the twilight of 2012, moments before the clock was to strike midnight and proclaim the time of death of another year, I sank into a very deep very hot bath. Django Reinhardt’s Nuages oozed from an old boom box and mingled with the lavender-ylang ylang scented steam filling the room. Sandalwood candles flickered luridly, shadow puppets performing St. Vitus Dance across the room. The water temperature made my head light and heart race. I imagined this is what it must be like to patronize an opium den. Arms splayed across the back of the tub, calves draped over the front, watching shadows cavort across the walls, I inhaled deeply. The flames stilled. I exhaled. The razor sat untouched on the window sill, on the other side of which a precipitous symphony of fireworks, foil whistles and drunken regards rang out. I took a generous gulp of cheap champagne and toasted the gorgeous perfection of being in the moment.
Who just stops working and writing for a year? Who just gets up and walks away like that? Without even going to India or all the National Parks? Is this actually something people do all the time but never speak of because except for fetuses our worth as humans is dictated by our capacity for production? Or am I a trailblazer madly proclaiming with a sweep of my hand, “All of this, I won’t participate in it!” Is there a Nobel Prize for passive resistance?
Darling, I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way…
Well, there being no prizes for romanticism, I may as well admit that I did participate in a few things. One need not go to India or all the National Parks, after all, to find meaning, to have revelations, to feel connected, to expand horizons, to push limits. One could accomplish such feats by embarking upon a genealogical quest with estranged relatives, or submit to three hours of PTSD therapy every week, or feed the homeless, or read so voraciously the only person who ever calls anymore is from the public library, or speak to a customer service representative from an insurance company. I mean, I hear India is quite lovely, but I can’t believe a country with a caste of untouchables has more enlightenment in the water than Chicago. Even if it does, they don’t have enough potable water for the people already there. That trippy feeling of being one with the universe may not be enlightenment. It may be the neurological effects of dehydration. As for National Parks, my sweet intoxicating blood, hysterical allergies and global warming have conspired to ensure there is always a hazmat suit between me and All God’s Creation. Hard to get excited about anything, let alone rocks and trees, when you’ve fainted from hypoglycemia because the last meal you had was a Power Bar, or when you are in a Benadryl induced coma. Alas, I fail to thrive in my own ecosystem. Perhaps my prize-deserving act of resistance is not my refusal to participate but my refusal to perish.
Yet I do worry that any description of my doings and whereabouts while on hiatus will be met with disappointment, like a postcard from a friend who’s gone on a long romantic trip … to Disneyworld. I’ve not been hunkered down curing cancer, writing a novel or even fixing my credit. I don’t even know how to describe what I’ve been doing. Conversations go like this: “So, what are you up to these days?” “Well, I’ve taken a bit of time off…” “Ok, but what are you doing?” “Oh, things. You know, just… (distractedly cranes neck and shouts to no one in particular, “Did you need help in the kitchen?”)
Things. You know, just… :
~ Found my mother’s recipes.
~ Made my mother’s recipes.
~ Hiked up hills in Southern Missouri looking for 200 year old gravestones.
~ Sat in 100 degree heat wearing a plastic party supply store hat and sunglasses, sipping prepackaged margaritas from Quick-Trip, watching neighbor kids play in the Slip N Slide.
~ Got a serious concussion, golf ball sized mosquito bites and Borderline Personality diagnosis (oh don’t worry there will be blogposts…)
~ Read Adam Levin and Sheila Heti and felt old, sentimental, alien.
~ Read Kate Zambreno and Caitlin Moran and felt fierce, sane, human.
~ Ate Korean BBQ. Puked Korean BBQ.
~ Ate fillet mignon. Puked fillet mignon.
~ Rode a motorcycle. Twice.
~ Went to see ballet. Twice.
~ Drank my first Sidecar.
~ Rode my first MegaBus.
~ Grieved the death of a 37 year old cousin.
~ Made fast friends with an 80 year old cousin.
~ Fired my shrink.
~ Fired another shrink.
~ Sat up all night listening to my Great Aunts tell stories of growing up during the Great Depression.
~ Sat on a cold bathroom floor, sobbing and yelling at invisible gods, parents, doctors, boys, self.
~ Canvassed Wisconsin. A lot. I love Wisconsin.
~ Went to the suburbs. Twice. I hate the suburbs.
~ Got very angry.
~ Got more confident.
~ Served meals to homeless people.
~ Found lodging for a Hurricane Sandy refugee.
~ Discovered I may be related to Rob Roy.
~ Decided I won’t be defined by family (except maybe Rob Roy…)
~ Went to a casino. For the first and last time.
~ Went bowling. For the first and last time.
~ Tried to paint a blue office yellow.
~ Tried to die my black hair red.
~ Sought peace in museums, libraries, parks, kitchens.
~ Found peace in cemeteries, bars, country roads, kitchens.
~ Kept other people’s plants and pets alive.
~ Kept myself alive.
It wasn’t all easy, but it wasn’t all shit, and most of all it certainly fucking wasn’t any of it Disneyworld. Or India. Although I did manage to get dehydrated. And enlightened. And savor the gorgeous perfection of being in the moment.