An effort to stay afloat while determining which way is up

Posts tagged ‘Moving’

Thunder and Confusion

My arms and legs are now positively spotted like some cat of the Serengeti, though my unusual coloring is the result of bruises rather than the need for camouflage.  Last Thursday was an unending hell of lifting and carrying more furniture and boxes and trash bags than I believed could possibly fit into the 500 square feet that I was permanently moving out of.  Given that I won’t be starting my menial summer job until next week (god willing), our new house has managed to unpack itself and turn itself aright rather quickly; one thing I cannot tolerate in my life is idleness, so my days have been filled with cleaning and arranging those small items that somehow, when combined, constitute home.

My dive into domesticity here has once again jumbled the state of affairs in my mind.  You see, normally my thoughts inhabit one of two mutually exclusive spheres to maintain a shaky cease-fire between two possible lives.  One sphere sits firm in the foundational knowledge that this relationship of mine is ultimately doomed.  Mark and I simply want different things out of life, and it will be eventually necessary to sacrifice him (and a part of myself) to achieve the adventures I crave.  All of my long-term thoughts about my life are colored by this sad but inevitable truth.  The other sphere grows from the knowledge that living here with the man I think I love makes me happy.  Anything pertaining to the short term rests comfortably within this realm.  These two incompatible mind frames have sat and functioned uneasy but inert, side by side in my mind since I returned to Denver last November with the goal of continuing our relationship for however long it could be maintained.

And yet, while embodying the ultimate housewife this week as I furnished this once empty space with all the comforts of home, my long-term thoughts began displacing themselves into the short-term sphere.  It has struck me that, in essence, I could live this very same day for the rest of my life if I choose to.  I could become the housewife, cleaning and arranging and gardening and watching the empty wasteland of daytime television to fill the silence well into old age.  Comfortably numb, to borrow and old phrase.  In fact, the longer I stay here, the more likely that is to happen.  At the thought of this my mind freezes into the dumb inactivity of terror.

And yet, despite myself, there was a moment of confusion and complication last night. Thunderstorms and tornado warnings have been rolling their way across the north-eastern part of Colorado for the past two days, utterly confusing and frightening me, as I have no idea of the behavior patterns of tornados, let alone what I should do if such a situation would arise.  Luckily, the Denver area has seen nothing more severe than rain and hail.  Last night, a slow, steady storm sat over our new house for the duration of the night, delivering the kind of constant, rumbling thunder that becomes a comforting, James Earl Jones-esque presence in the room, as opposed to the loud, crashing thunder which takes on a more staccato, Gilbert Godfried tone.  We were both laying on our new mattress beneath an old feather-comforter, simply watching the distant flicker of lightning and listening to the symphony of rain and thunder.  My only thought was, why does life have to mean any more than this?  What’s so wrong with letting this kind of comfort be your existence?

The shocking truth, which descended upon me in the brief pauses between the tympani thunder, is that this kind of life—one where you live simply with the goal of comfort, stability, and an accepted place in our society of affluence—isn’t as horrific as I thought.  While it appears empty and void of any true meaning, it can actually feel downright lovely sometimes.

I do not want to don the blinders, worn by so many Americans, which hide from us the great adventure of the world at large.  And yet, it is so easy to picture myself getting seduced into that kind of life if I let my guard down here.  That possibility shoots ice-cold dread into my heart and rattles me more than any Midwest twister ever could.

Skill Set

In the recent years of my life, I’ve become a master at three particular skills: packing all my worldly possessions in a matter of hours, forgetting the things I’ve left behind, and making a fabulous grilled cheese sandwich.

Packing

I’m sure that most young adults of the western world are familiar with the lifestyle of moving from one apartment to the next each year in an effort to find something better or cheaper, or simply to chase down new experiences.  It starts from the time we turn eighteen and ends I know not when.  I guess the only definitive termination of this kind of life would come at the hands of either a career or a baby.  My sisters and I have each lived this kind of life pretty thoroughly.

I, however, feel I have gone above and beyond this nomadic adolescent state in recent years.  Starting from July of 2010, I have managed to effectively pack everything I own and carry it with me to a new location approximately eleven times.  If I made the split second decision to start over (again) right now, I could have everything I need with me and on the way to a new stage and a different cast of characters within ten hours.  I’ve had practice.  I’ve moved between the Niger training site and my host family.  I’ve moved between my house in Kiota and the hostel in Dosso.  Most recently Ive moved several times between my base-camp in Phoenix and this life in Denver of which I am still completely unsure.  Almost every time, this had to be accomplished within the span of one to two days.  There is a permanent blueprint in my mind of exactly how all of my most important belongings jigsaw themselves into my several suitcases and containers.  There is a  mental footnote ranking each and every thing I own from most to least important so I know exactly what to jettison when I run out of room in whatever transport I’m taking.  I have it all down to a science.

You get an odd feeling of symbolism when you are in the process of carrying everything you own to one place or another.  You get the feeling that all the permanency in your life is just an illusion, and the situational ties to people and places aren’t as solid as they seem.  You feel like the ruler of a kingdom that you believed to be on solid ground, but which you one day discover to be floating miles above the rest of the world.  You marvel at the wonder of it all, but have to begin the never ending work of keeping people and things from running off the edge.  I try to tell myself that symbolism only really exists in works of fiction and has no place in the real world, but then I can’t completely be convinced that this existence isn’t a work of fiction itself.  I’m too busy guarding my borders and staring down dizzying heights to be convinced.

Forgetting

This second skill is an integral part of making the first skill function.  Honestly, they could almost be classified as the same thing.  The tricky part about willfully forgetting the lives you’ve left behind is to find the right balance between practicality and tragedy.  I have to black out enough to keep myself from constantly grieving over what I’ve had to abandon, all while carefully keeping enough memories so as not to lose completely the experiences which became a part of who I am.  I call this the Wendy dilemma, because she was the only one who managed to get it right.

Few people ever realize the absolute tragedy of the story of Peter Pan.  Ninety-five percent of the book is contains the happy childish adventures of Wendy, John, Micheal, Peter, and the lost boys.  Then when Wendy realizes Micheal doesn’t remember their parents at all, she asks all of them to come back to the real world with her and be adopted by her parents.  I’ll admit, on her part it could be seen as a necessary move.  Everybody stays in London except Peter, and that’s when the tragedy ensues.  As the children grow older, they forget.  The lost boys, who had possibly spent entire life spans in Neverland, forget how to fly within a few weeks.  Nobody remembers who Tinkerbell is or what the house in the forest looked like.  They all forget Peter, himself.  Their best friend for ages is suddenly and totally erased from their memories.  Micheal eventually postulates that there never was a Neverland to begin with, and John grows up to be a practical gentleman with no stories to tell his children, because he has forgotten them all.  It’s the most tragic ending I can think of.  There is no great and wonderful thing in the world which cant be nullified by the passage of time.

Only Wendy remembers the old days and keeps a window open for Peter to visit sporadically.  She is still forced to grow up and abandon childhood adventures, but she remembers some of the fantastic, brave things she and her brothers did, and it makes her a better person and a better mother for it in the end.

That is the balance I must try to strike with myself.  It’s a balance we all need to find.  I have to move on to new phases in my life without constantly mourning for the life and (to a lesser extent) the things I once had.  At the same time, I can’t forget completely, or the first twenty years of my life will have been lived in vain.  I know I can’t fly anymore, but I can at least keep the window open.

Cheese

I make grilled cheese just about every weekend, and I think I’ve got it down to a science.  You have to use a sturdy wheat bread, and put the butter on the bread, not in the pan.  Shredded cheese melts more evenly than just using slices of cheese.  My favorite fillings are sun-dried tomatoes and mushrooms, paired with mozzarella and Havarti cheeses.  Most importantly, if you’re just working with a basic frying pan, cook it on a lower heat with a lid on the pan, so the cheese has time to melt before the outside of the bread gets too brown.

2.3 decades spent on this earth, and these are the skills I’ve learned so far.  I guess I could have done worse.  I’m pretty certain the world will always need more grilled cheese.