Friday, October 17, 2008

Even a Blind Man Can Tell When He's Walking in the Sun

So… jeez. I’ve been a shitty blogger.

There are reasons, of course. You want reasons? I’ve been… hmm, let’s just say Under the Weather for a while. Bad allergic reaction to some stuff, nasty horrible skin issues. Supposedly on the mend, but not fast enough, and I’ve been keeping well-medicated in the name of sleeping at night and not clawing myself to ribbons. I look like a kid who’s just had chicken pox, or like someone Mother Teresa might have prayed over.

So my brain’s been mush, and since work has demanded that I be mostly ON, that’s where much of my mental energy’s been going.

But beyond that, I was just getting sick of the sound of my own voice. That last series of cute animal posts was kind of a flailing about on my part in order not to spew what I really wanted the world to know. I even had a graphic picked out:
It was the end of summer and we had not left the city ONCE, I had not been in more water at one time than my bathtub, the garden had kind of tanked, and I was in the middle of taking a week and a half’s vacation at home just to use up personal days and get away from the office for a while. One day while I was hanging around surfing I found a contest on someone’s blog to win something or other, the kind of thing where you leave a comment in response to a question and they pick one at random. I can’t remember whose blog or what the prize was, but the question brought me up short: What fun thing have YOU done this summer?

And I couldn’t think of a single solitary fucking thing. I was broke and unmotivated, my house was hot, J and I both such slaves to our jobs that we couldn’t even arrange to take a week off at the same time. I had a bright neon sign across my forehead that blinked all day long: LOSER. LOSER. LOSER.

Let’s just say you all are lucky I wasn’t blogging. It takes a bigger talent than mine to make that much self-pity entertaining.

So… what happened to all that? You may well ask, but I’m not exactly sure. In the past few weeks the world, which was already in strange and scary shape, has gotten stranger and scarier by large degrees. But because I seem to always be slightly out of synch with the world, as events unspooled and the economy slid into the toilet and the runup to the election took on the proportions of a National Lampoon parody, I’ve found myself feeling strangely reassured.

Because there’s nothing like freaky times to make you sit back and take stock. And whereas counting blessings is always a good exercise, promoting deep breaths and some psychic gear-shifting, it’s still a matter of imposing gratitude on yourself from the outside in. It’s certainly better than wallowing.

But what I’ve found myself feeling lately is working its way out from the inside, like crossing over to the sunny side of the street on a cool day. Nothing like a change in perspective to illuminate the same tired shit in a whole new way. What I’m thinking, the worse things get, is that I’ve made some really good choices in my life.

First, most important, I’ve surrounded myself with love, our sweet little cobbled-together family. That most of them are four-legged in no way diminishes the returns I get, the degree to which they make me feel protected and warmed all the way through. Things may well get evil out there, but we can circle the wagons. I am enormously blessed.

Some fortuitous timing: I made a big career change five years ago, one of those last ditch do-what-you-love-and-the-money-will-follow leaps. The money part – eh, it’s taken its sweet time. But the point is, I did it when times were better – I saw my chance and I took it. I’d never dare do something like that now. And whereas nothing, it seems, is secure anymore, at least I’m on the ladder. I’m finally starting to feel like I have some chops professionally – I’ve earned a little confidence.

I did take a hard financial hit, and I’m still pulling myself up out of that hole. But I’ve been colossally disciplined about it. Which means I have kickass credit, and it means that I have no real lifestyle to lose, if things come to that. I know how to cook beans and make soup out of bones, and the belt still has a few notches left. Tight times don’t scare me.

I bought a house when a good opportunity presented itself, and put a lot of money down. It’s one of the reasons I have very little liquidity – at the time I was mostly thinking about not having to pay mortgage insurance. But whatever my reasons, I had a little windfall – a settlement from a bad landlord who tried to screw me, and some life insurance money from my dad, and instead of blowing through it some other way I put a fat down payment on my house.

So we have a roof over our heads and the mortgage is low. If we end up needing to cut some corners here and there, we can do that. For some reason London after the Blitz comes to mind – we could be that nice couple who takes in boarders, if it came to that.

And with that thought comes the really important one, the one that’s been generating some warmth:
It’s a big house. There’s an attic, two extra bedrooms – Gideon’s room and the one J uses as an office – and storage space in the basement. If things get really bad and funky, I will take people in. I’ll build a shed in the back yard. I’ll put them on the sofa bed in the living room. I’ll pitch a tent.

Understand, I’m not saying I want things to come to such a head, not by a long shot. I don’t imagine it would be a big old party and I don’t think it would be romantic like making brownies after hours in the Vassar dorms with Mary McCarthy. But the thing is, I have this resource to make sure that on my watch, no one I love will fall through the cracks. That is huge for me. HUGE. People have been so unremittingly generous and kind to me over the years, and the thought that I could find myself in a position to help someone else out – the thought that I have something real and necessary to offer – means a whole lot. I’m not even sure if I’m explaining it well.

Maybe it takes shaking shit up a bit to clear my vision, I don’t know. But I really have rethought this No Fun issue and I’ve realized that honestly, I have a pretty damn good time just about every day. It’s all right if it gets cold and the wind blows; I think I have a handle right now on what I need.



Anonymous nbm said...

Oh, Lisa.

Sitting here with Clementine on my lap, I am so moved by all you say. Not that I'm either as good a planner, or as good a soul -- but it does something to me.

I've missed you, too. Skating season is coming nearer --

9:18 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Thank you for this. I really needed to read it today.

9:28 AM  
Anonymous Kate M. said...

Lisa, this was worth waiting for--such warmth and wisdom. I'm so glad you've crossed the street.

10:24 AM  
Blogger Sue Dickman said...

Aw, Lisa, that's a really nice post. And I love the thought of you and J and the critters tucked up in your house, weathering the storm.

11:28 AM  
Blogger Cara deBeer said...

Awww. I'm so glad you're feeling better. Now if only I could figure out the secret to crossing the street when I need to ...

11:32 AM  
Blogger Debi said...

What a terrific post, honey; well worth the wait and so good to know you've worked your way to such a good place.

Also, that's a terrific shot of the house. I have to tell you though, that big canvass of wall on your front steps is just calling out to me: paint me!...I want flowers and bears and pretty things...

3:11 PM  
Blogger Kitt said...

Debi's got it. Add more art to your life!

Truly, all the scary shit going on in the world does make you take stock of your little corner. Where it seemed wanting before, it now is quite full, and that's a good reminder to have.

Keep petting the critters and keep your chin up!

And remember there are those who would take you in, too. If only for a visit ;-)

6:47 PM  
Blogger Lyzzard said...


Thank you for that. It gives me hope.

Love you,


12:04 AM  
Blogger Miss T said...

Great post! Thank you. I hear you--much slogging through muck going on here, too. And I haven't forgotten that I owe you a nice, long email.

12:29 PM  
Blogger Alecto said...

The skin stuff stinks; I'm sorry to hear you've been clawing yourself up - I do the same but generally only when I'm losing my mind (often?). It is good you can look at the bedrock you've built yourself and see it for what it is. I think that goes a long way to soothing the bits of sharp edges that become daily life.

I think that wall screams art too.

4:07 PM  
Blogger Gina Hyams said...

This is beautiful.

7:39 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Thanks, all my dear friends. I don't think I'm necessarily that good a soul and definitely not a great planner. But lucky, yes.

That wall does cry out for a good mural -- I always thought something oceanic, with fish and such. Unfortunately, that ledge beneath it is all of 8" wide and not too secure to stand on, which has kept me from doing anything with it. Maybe someday when I'm feeling a bit more mountain-goatish.

And kitt, yes -- some of you would take and in fact have taken me in for a visit. And I look forward to a little more liquidity so I can visit again...

5:24 PM  
Blogger lynn said...

What a sweet post, Lisa. That's twice in the last couple of weeks that you've made me teary from reading something you've written. People are fortunate just by having you in their lives. (I know I am.)

2:10 AM  

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