Monday, October 8, 2012
The dust is your life going on.
Life has been … complicated of late. Lots of personal stuff going on, the biggest part of which is my wonderful mom finally retiring from a job where they did not treat her nearly as kindly as she deserves. That’s a bit of a first domino, leading to lots of changes in her life and, consequently, a few changes in mine … which have conspired to put me behind on Masks.
How does that work, you ask?
Well, I don’t handle change all that well. More precisely, I don’t handle slow change all that well. When there’s a loud bang and a scream and the tinkle of broken glass, and somebody has to stop the bleeding right-the-hell-now, I am there, baby. I am very good at rising to the occasion. You’ve got a crisis? I’ve got a utility knife and duct tape. I actually carry a duffel bag in the trunk of my car with food, water, a complete change of clothes, a first-aid kit, a sleeping bag, a camping lantern, some basic tools, and a spare paperback copy of one of my favorite novels. And I think I’ve used every part of that kit at one point or another. I am all about the disaster preparedness.
But slow change? Things that creep up on me and then bite me somewhere sensitive? That I’m not so good at. For some reason, I can manage almost anything on an adrenaline high—but if you give me time to plan for a big event, I will be an absolute wreck. I’ll still plan and probably pull it off, but I will be a frantic, hyperventilating mess anytime I have to sit still and wait for something to happen. The same worst-case-scenario brain that leads me to keep an entire campsite in the trunk of my car makes me very ill-suited to sit and wait for anything important. The longer I have to wait, the more I think things will go wrong. It’s why I can improvise a fake diamond engagement ring out of a paper clip and scotch tape in under ten minutes (long story—we eventually found the real one) but I can’t choose a dress for a party. I once found myself onstage during a production of Our Town, having to improvise an entire monologue because a one of my fellow actors hadn’t bothered to come onstage for his scene. If I’d had a week to prepare, I would probably have started crying backstage before the curtain rose. And my mom’s retirement is a slow-building change … that has just arrived, at last … and is now creating more slow-moving changes. Cue the freakouts.
Freaking out is not so good for writing a story about characters I love and have lived with for half my life. They tend to come out a little flat, at which point I freak out more because I think I’m losing my touch, even though I know it’s just stress …
And so I clean.
When I have to wait, and I don’t know exactly how things are going to shake out, I clean. I reorganize, I vacuum, I dust. This is counterintuitive, as I’m pretty messy by nature and I like it that way, but something about an orderly room sometimes helps me break through writer’s block. (Plus it helps me avoid triggering Mom’s stress-induced asthma.) That bookcase at the top of this blog entry? It hadn’t been properly dusted in a couple of years. And I seriously considered alphabetizing the DVDs on the bottom shelf after I was done chasing dust bunnies.
It’s a funny thing about dust. I’ve been told that most house dust is, in fact, made of people—it’s the skin cells we’re constantly shedding. So as I’m vacuuming and scrubbing and wiping everything down with Pledge, I am, in a very real way, wiping up and throwing out older pieces of myself. And much as I feel better for doing it, I can’t—shouldn’t—erase myself completely. There will always be dust. I am dust. I am coming to terms with this.
I’m working on it, guys. I hope to have something for you very, very soon—both new chapters and good news on the personal-stability front. I have not forgotten, and this transition period won’t last forever. Bear with me, be the friends you’ve always been, and I will soon be back to sharing my joy with you.
I’m trying to remember that great Joss Whedon line:
“Everything is so fragile. There's so much conflict, so much pain... You keep waiting for the dust to settle and then you realize this is it: the dust is your life going on. If happy comes along, that weird, unbearable delight that's actual happy—I think you have to grab it while you can. You take what you can get. ’Cause it's here, and then... gone.”
The dust is my life. I’m grabbing for the happy.
I’ll try to keep you posted, and to avoid spraying myself in the eyes with Pledge.