There are lots of boats around here, but the kind of “unmoored” that applies most often in the San Luis Valley, at my house, anyway, is “unmowered.” I have to fix that situation tomorrow…

But I feel “unmoored,” adrift. Sometimes I think, “Where do I fit in this place, in this life, right now?” and I have no idea.

What I thought I’d do when I moved here is now the last thing I imagine doing. My thoughts of being an artist here in Southern Colorado are far, far, far away. This place is crawling with artists. I learned about competition among artists very soon after I emerged into that world and I didn’t like it, not at all.

The pace of things here has been difficult for me to get used to. I lived such a long time under pressure to get things done, piles of papers graded, reports turned in, to class on time, etc. Even in THAT world I was “hyper-efficient” because it was the only way I could get time to myself. Now? Mañana. I got paid from the local bookstore yesterday for a book they sold last September. When I had an electric outlet in my kitchen repaired, the guys showed up more or less out of no where six days after I’d called.

I truly have no idea what I’m doing or where I’m going with my life. It’s not the first time. When I got back from China in 1983 I felt this way. It was as if my life’s great dream had come true and then it was over. I was back in Denver with a husband who didn’t like me much and a future I couldn’t see clearly. Everything had built to that ONE thing, getting out of the country, getting some of what I called “exposure.” Coming back felt strangely like failure.

One evening I walked down to the local supermarket — King Soopers in Capitol Hill — a notorious, famous and wonderful supermarket. Outside, in a wheelchair, playing for tips,  sat a man I knew, a jazz saxophonist. Tom. When I left for China, he had not been in a wheelchair. I asked him what happened and he explained he’d gotten the flu, it had attacked his spine and left him paralyzed. He said he hadn’t even been able to play, but he kept working toward it and now he could play a little bit. I sat down with him instead of going in the store.

“Where you been? I ain’t seen you around.”

“China. I went to China and taught English for the last year.”

“Well, I’ll be damned. China. That must’ve been something.”

“It was.”

One night I was hanging out in front of King Soopers with Tom, and a woman came up, a woman I had once worked with. “Martha!” she said. “What are you doing these days?” There was a judgmental edge in her voice. And, considering that I was sitting on a bus bench next to Tom in his wheelchair, godnose what she thought. I just looked at her. What right did she have to my history, a recitation of my adventures?

Tom answered. “She’s livin’. She’s jus’ livin’. That’s all any of us are doin’ and if you think somethin’ else, you’ wrong.”

24 thoughts on “Moorings…

  1. What wonderful words from Tom. He is so right, we are all livin’ one was or the other, but we are doing it and that is really the main thing. And isn’t it wonderful to look back and realise we did not miss so much after all. I think the human is never really satisfied, and wishes he/she could have made more out of life, but at the end of the road we can look back and be glad we did what we did.

  2. I went through something similar when I came home, but it was almost a decade after I left the U.S. which made it a more starting re-arrival. Certainly a failure, but was also an achievement, which I didn’t figure out for years. I had gone there worked, started a new career — which I continued here. So that was an achievement. But I’d married (disaster), and come back, leaving everything I’d built behind.

    Maybe we can’t help but feel that way after doing something big. For whatever reason, it’s done. You aren’t going back. You won’t be doing it again.

    America looked so strange to me. All those wood floors. In Israel, it’s all stone. Stone tile, stone buildings, marble floors. Amazing how much you yearn for wood amid so much stone.

    On a lot of levels, we are all just floating. Retirement has that element to it. I write, I read, I talk to people. I take pictures. But I have no goals. I’m not striving. Just living. Probably that’s all I ever did. I simply didn’t know it.

    • I wonder the same thing — I think all we ever do is just live, we just think we’re “getting somewhere.” I never got anywhere, and that lesson has been in front of me this whole time. It’s all a stationary bike in a way. I think I may get to the point where I’m OK with nothing really mattering, but I’m not there yet.

      And the thing I feel with art is actually very disturbing to me. These people were/are vicious for no reason and, since I like to exhibit my work (and sell it because storage is a problem), I have to find a way to do that without dealing with them. Somewhere inside I’m very angry about it.

      It’s funny what you think of or miss when you are living in a very different world from what you’re used to. I missed drinking fountains. 🙂

      • I’m not even sure what “getting somewhere means at this point. We set ourselves a lot of goals when we are young and I expect we need those goals. it prods us into doing something with our lives and not just lolling around in our parents’ basement. Then comes a time when you really are done with goals. Are you unsuccessful for want of new goals? I suppose I could set up new goals, but why?

        Life just is. Our goals are how we survive in a world that requires we work, make a living, and have something to talk about … but how meaningful? For most of us, not very. There aren’t a lot of people on this earth who really accomplish Big Things. Probably that’s why they are famous. And we aren’t.

        I miss friends living nearby where I can actually SEE them without a month of scheduling and two plane flights!

      • I don’t know. I think that this might be the cherry on the sundae. The challenge is now we must contend with ourselves, our flaws and weaknesses. There’s no place “out there” that needs our “prowess.”

  3. It’s amazing how unnecessary older people seem to be. In my world, unless they need me to help them with their computer, that is. Or think Garry may have a connection for them somewhere (he doesn’t). It’s a bit insulting, but on the other hand (I have a lot of hands), it’s also a relief. I don’t have to get up early to fix the world. It gets one without me. I never did get around to fixing everything.

    • I really enjoy hanging out with my two friends. We have a blast together. We’re like kids in old bodies. My younger friends mostly think I’m a fount of wisdom and someone to tell their troubles to. They do not really know anything about me. But, having been a teacher so long (function not person) it’s not so strange… But inside I’m really angry and it’s paralyzing. Some of it is residue from the end of my career carried into ridiculously similar BS that happened over my paintings. At least (and it’s recent) I’ve figured it out.

      • Yup. Letting go of anger is hard. It’s what my book was about. Writing that book was how I taught myself to stop brooding myself to death. I knew the anger was killing me.

        If being angry with people who really deserve it would fix anything, I’d be furious. But, anger doesn’t hurt those people. It hurts YOU … so I had to fix it or I’d be dead by now.

      • Anger is deadly. I’m angry at some of the people I have known here, but I think I’m getting beyond it and realizing that if I do art work it will have nothing to do with them, they probably will never even see it. I don’t get angry easily, but when I do it takes me a while to extricate myself from it (without killing anyone…)

      • Ah. Yeah, though I wonder about all that. How much do we do through our emotions and how much is genetic (including our way of responding to emotions)? I really do not know…

      • Neither do I. The medications they gave me after the cancer surgery could also have had something to do with it. About the ONLY lethal disease that doesn’t run in my family is heart disease. Go figure, right?

      • Ah…the only person in my family who is known to have had arthritis is my grandfather’s mother. Now maybe my dad’s dad (who died at 57) would have shown up with it or my dad (who died at 45), who knows? Every other thing wrong with me (except the breathing problems which I put at the doorstep of my mom’s 1 or 2 pack a day habit) is visible in some ancestor I’ve actually known. I think it’s possible for us to have “throw backs” to some long ago dead person. 🙂

      • And sometimes, just good old bad luck. After I had already HAD two kinds of cancer, I was surprised at the heart problems. I figured I’d had my share of bad luck physically, for some obscure reason, I expected a break. Wrong.

  4. My life as I anticipated it fell in a giant hole when I was 17 and blew apart into little bits that never did fit together in quite the same way. So I never did ‘achieve’ what I’d always planned to achieve or indeed what I was capable of achieving – my life took an entirely different path. Goals are good, but quite often they don’t turn out as we expect and the hiatus can be trying to say the least. But there will be a new mooring. There always is. And in the meantime, we’re all transitory links the chain, and what’s important in end is that we pass on good to next link (like your students) and not evil.

    • You’re completely right. I believe the same thing. As Aristotle said, we are a “vast chain of dancers.” I’ve always seen it kind of as a relay race.

      My life took a different path from what I was told it would, should, too.

      I was too young when tragedy hit my family to know what to do with it, so I grasped at something I thought was adulthood so I could be competent in the midst of all kind of upheaval and a non-functioning mom. That turned out so bad that I had to recover from it.

      After that I didn’t really have goals other than finishing my MA. I didn’t even know why I was doing that, but it turned out I loved teaching so I was set for life doing something that was intrinsically meaningful as well as giving me a living.

      My goals — like going to China — have all been more like desperate acts of escape.

      My dad’s illness and his death were the teachers who taught me that there is only THIS brief moment. That was a great gift in the classroom. There were thousands of small moments I was able to kind of stop time and allow myself to be charmed. And hiking was always 1/2 mile of walking before enchantment hit.

      I’m not disappointed with my life, but it is constantly surprising that as we go along there seems to always be a new thing to understand that we’re not familiar with. I don’t know if that’s what I mean, but…

  5. I’m not disappointed with my life either. It wasn’t what I or anyone else might have expected, but to me, that IS life, and the sooner you accept that, the better. The constant stream of new things to learn an understand certainly feels harsh at times – and disappointing, too, when reality rudely shatters your hopes and ideals – but how deadly would it be to stop learning?
    I certainly drift from time to time now that I’ve stopped working, but I’ve come to see it (after 14 years!) as a time to recoup energy before the next project pops up from nowhere, or you decide it’s time to go out and find it. And meanwhile those brief, charmed moments… I don’t think everyone’s aware of them, you know. That would be awful!

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