Dear Diary: April 3, 2020. I imagined writing a post today about the difficulties of spending one’s birthday in forced isolation due to a global pandemic. I mean, that would certainly fit the theme, right? But the more I thought about it, the less I find that I have anything to complain about. Would I like to be able to go out tonight with my husband for a sushi dinner and a specialty cocktail? Sure. Is it terribly awful that I can’t? Not really.
After all, I woke up early this morning with the sunrise, which spreads in brilliant orange and purple hues across our eastern sky and breaks across the mountain silhouettes. I walked into that sunrise on my own two capable feet, listening to some of my favorite tunes and thinking about the people I love all over the world who are still well, still healthy, or who have come and gone but left their impression on me. About my parents, my grandparents, my sister and sister-in law, all my amazing nephews and my brilliant niece who is, courageously, up on her own in Oregon working on her college degree. And that makes me think of my students, current and former, and the incredible things they’re doing or that they have ahead of them. My family and friends in Illinois and California, and around the world. What’s to opine, when your birthday is filled in the only way that really matters? Knowing there are people out there who have changed your life and, perhaps, who might think a little about you today, too.
I find that it’s these shadows and whispers of time, the imperceptible and incalculable moments of being, and not those measured in days, years, or ages that ultimately change us and change the world. It wasn’t President Kennedy’s inaugural pledge that “we will see a man on the moon” that shaped a people, nor was it the proceeding months, miles, or dollars spent on achieving that extraordinary task. Instead, it was the one definable instant when Neil Armstrong’s snowy boot set foot on that cold, strange and rocky surface, and the seconds that it took for him to speak, “one small step for man.” Suddenly, the days and decades–the tasks and failures prior–were of no consequence. In a fleeting but timeless moment, we became a new race of people, not simply human or American, but titans and dreamers. We were Atlas, holding up the sky collectively, together, and looking down on ourselves from the heavens.
I think we need to keep finding ways to challenge ourselves, inspire ourselves, and love ourselves and one another, that need not be measured but simply owned. Appreciated. Remembered. If self-isolation is teaching me anything, it is that a whole lot of our experience, including what we call our priorities, has been shaped by influences that are less necessary than they are assumed. I have a new appreciation for the passing of time and for the tricks we play on ourselves about what matters and what doesn’t, about what is important and what is not. What if we learned to really measure our successes and our happiness in tiny moments, rather than grand accomplishments? Could we then begin to cherish the one true, and exhaustible, resource that is most precious to us? Each other.
Currently Reading: I’m about to finish Toni Morrison’s Sula and have continued with The Age of Atheists (which is brilliant, by the way. I’m looking forward to sharing more with you all about this one, but I’m only about half-way into the 500+ page tome, so, hold your horses!) I also have two ARCs to read.
Currently Writing: I’m revising my YA novel manuscript and working on some poetry. I had a weird (really weird) idea for a kind of eco-dystopian science fiction novel, too, which came to me in a dream. Don’t they always?
Currently Listening To: “Trouble Me” from 10,000 Maniacs’ 1989 album, Blind Man’s Zoo. “Trouble me, disturb me with all your cares and you worries. / Trouble me on the days when you feel spent. / Why let your shoulders bend underneath this burden when my back is sturdy and strong? / Trouble me.” I have a special relationship with this band and this album, and this song. I don’t want to go into it too much, but let’s say that if my YA novel ever makes it to publication and isn’t revised beyond recognition, then those who read it will learn a bit more about all this. Have I whet your appetite? Will you pre-order my not-even-scheduled-for-publication novel?
Teaching Updates: Grading for five online classes is no joke. In that, it’s not funny. What I mean is, boy, I hate grading! That’s not entirely fair, actually. I’m fortunate to be a writing and literature professor who loves both of those things. I especially love seeing students develop their own ideas, their own consciousnesses, and to learn how to find their own voices. This is the point in the semester where that starts to happen. It is wonderful and inspiring; it keeps me going even when I’m feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work there is to do.
Current Status: Nevada’s Governor updated our “essential businesses” emergency proclamation to a full stay-at-home order, effective until at least April 30. It hasn’t changed much in terms of what we are doing, but there is a bit more severity in terms of business oversight and potential penalties for ignoring social distancing guidelines. Stores like Wal-mart and Costco, for example, can no longer sell non-essential items; they can remain open if they are selling food/pharmacy items only.
Positive Thoughts: I am here. You, reading this, you are here. We are probably far apart in physical distance, but we are together here. And ain’t that something?
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You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence. Octavia E. Butler
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