January 7, 2004|Posted in: Uncategorized
Why, O, why do I…is it…why the hell…argh. It’s getting late, it’s raining, I am having one of those moments (hours) where I am questioning everything and not quite hating everyone but building up a head of steam to get there. I’ll get there, too.
Life has a way of kicking one’s ass when one is feeling smug or trying to sit in one’s space of gratitude, and I’m suddenly feeling kicked. But I’ll get over it. How? Write it out, of course. Poet Adrienne Rich said, “Press what hurts,” and it’s a mantra I intend to follow when I get to work on the memoir. But I digress (a familiar affliction).
Ass-kicking? Nah, more like ass-taps. But let’s tap into those, shall we, and see where they lead. It’s raining and I don’t have the best of posture (isn’t slouching sexy?) and when I get stressed/busy I don’t think about things like sitting up straight and spinal health and all that, so I start getting the carpal tunnel thing again. Only it’s not carpal tunnel, but bad posture, knots in my shoulders pressing on nerves down my shoulder, arm, wrist, and it makes my fingers tingle and my wrists hurt. Cure? Rest, ice, massage, chiropractic, self-pity, whining, See’s bridge mix and ice-cold Pepsi. Mostly whining, though. And better posture, and a few weeks of possible wrist-brace wearing (such a fashion statement! These elastic and Velcro numbers are soooo stylin’ and see how well they match my bifocals and orthopedic shoes? Wait till I put my neck brace on and y’all can call Vogue). Not all that tragic in the grander scheme of the world, is it?
But what it feels like to me is a rising sense of panic: I am losing the feeling in my fingertips. I have pain in my wrists. It hurts when I hold the steering wheel or a pen or try to carry a grocery sack, and I have to ask for paper, not plastic, because I can’t pick up the bag by its handles, and maybe the nice grocery boy will carry the bags for me and here’s a nickel, sonny. Like this is how it feels to become disabled a bit at a time, or all of a sudden. It feels like I am grown stiff with age; I have been cheating my age all along with my youthful appearance and my Oil of Olay, my teenager’s borrowed clothing and my hip turn of phrase. Age is catching up with me with its sticky net and its needle-like claws. A tight squeeze on the shoulder from behind, and it’s got me, it’s got me, I can’t feel my fingers anymore and I am afraid, petrified, I have seen the Gorgon head and know it — I will lose my ability to write. Because writing isn’t just about the words in my brain and the empty paper I’ve just poured my passion on. It’s the process — the long, slow simmer and then the actual writing. I’ve tried the cassette recorder, and I’ve tried the voice-activated software, and A) I sound moronic and I’m sorry to all of you who have to hear my voice on a daily basis, and B) the voice activated software does not satisfy; I can’t write like that. Do you think I sit here and say this stuff? No, it comes out of my fingers. Like maybe my brain is in my fingertips — a tactile, kinesthetic experience from brain through flesh to paper. The hands must be involved somehow. And if the hands don’t work, not enough to grip a pen or type a few (thousand) words a day, then what? Dictation? Or — god — just don’t write at all?
It feels like I am losing my grip. I am. Or am I?
There’s other stuff swirling out there. My fear of driving in the rain. The scary sight of bills in the mailbox when the paychecks aren’t enough, and the child support check is a tantalizing prize that may or may not come, and there just isn’t time or juice left in me to take on a second job after the commute. The things the kids need and the things the kids want. The things I think we should have (like food — like the $3 whole wheat bread instead of the 99-cent loaf that is made of sugar and air, like organic veggies instead of dented cans of peas and corn, like the stupid gummy sharks that my daughter asks for and I have to say no, how about raisins or some nice carrot sticks? And the look on her face, and the guilt like a frying pan to the back of the head on just about every living detail of the day: Catholic, mother, daughter, member of the human race, eating and polluting and overpopulating and driving and choosing paper instead of plastic, or plastic instead of paper, and printing a newspaper every week, nay, 20,000 of them that murders trees and pollutes and rots and wastes.
You see how it descends. Right down into the Black Pit of Despair. My former friends, of my dearly departed writers’ group, called it “pit sitting.” It’s lovely down here, friends. Come on in, there’s plenty of room.
The funny thing (not funny ha-ha, but peculiar) is that when you’re in the BPOD, the only place to go is up, and often, when I take a look up instead of down, I see blue sky. In today’s e-mail I heard from a long-missed friend from Scotland, and from a high-school friend who just discovered that she’s pregnant. She’s ecstatic. And in the mailbox, that giver of good news and bad, my welcome packet from the Petaluma Women’s Club and a list of all their events for the year. Welcome, Julia! Welcome to the club!
It’s hard to pit-sit in the face of that kind of cheer. New babies in the world. Old friends. What can I do but crawl out and let the rain wash off the muck, do a bit of yoga, get over my bad self and move on. It’s deadline day tomorrow. How bad can it be?
Julia Park Tracey is an award-winning journalist, author, and blogger. She is the author of six books: three novels, one poetry collection, and two women's history. She was the Poet Laureate of Alameda, California, in 2014-17. She's also the conservatrix of The Doris Diaries, the diaries of her great-aunt Doris Bailey Murphy. She has a BA in journalism from San Francisco State University, and MA in Early 20th C. British Literature from Cal State Hayward. Julia's articles have appeared on Salon, Thrillist, Paste, Scary Mommy, Narratively, Yahoo News, Your Tango, and Sweatpants & Coffee. Her articles have also run in Redbook, Woman's Day, Country Living, House Beautiful, Town & Country, the San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland Magazine, Quill, and MadeLocal. She was the founding editor of weekly Alameda Sun and literary zine Red Hills Review. Her poetry has been in The East Bay Literary review, Postcard Poems, Americus Review, Cicada, Tiferet Review, and many others. Julia has been recognized several times by the San Francisco, East Bay and Peninsula Press Clubs as well as the California Newspaper Association for her blogging since 2003.