Monday, March 26, 2012

Every Day and Every Day...

Exhausted, in so many ways. 

Mondays are often difficult for me, because of the time constraints of getting myself down to New Brunswick, to meet John for dinner before choir rehearsal.  Any normal person would handle this minor 'inconvenience', if you can even call it that, with a laugh.  But I seem to operate best when I've got huge swaths of what a former boyfriend liked to call 'unstructured time'.  This being the case, and my commute to New Brunswick beginning at around 3:45 in the afternoon, I start to obsess about what I'll need to do, at about 10:30 in the morning.  Counting backwards.  Shower and dress, at least an hour before leaving for the bus stop.  Leaving me, now, how many hours and minutes in which to do... essentially nothing, I guess.

Well, I had spread grass seed and fertilizer on the front lawn on Friday, for Saturday's forecast rain, which was so wimpy that the pavement under the cars was dry on Sunday morning.  And I didn't want to let the stuff just sit there, so one of the things I decided to tackle today, in the few minutes I had to get anything done, was to dig out the garden hose and give the front yard a nice soaking.  Even with the wind picking up sharply, it was still a wonderful day to be outdoors, wandering around under the beneficence of the pink flowering cherry tree adorning our front yard. 

But the hose was a tangled mess -- the crew that installed our sump pumps and French drain system last year hooked up their own hose, and ours somehow got tossed to the side.  I dug it out of the leaves, and spent far too long trying to untangle it.  Uncooperative things, garden hoses.  And this one seemed determined to kink at every opportunity.  I found the nozzle, in a different pile of leaves, and got it attached to the hose with some ease.  The water was running fine at the tap, so I turned it on full blast and dragged the hose ensemble down the driveway.  Switched on the nozzle, only to find a woeful dribble of water.  I banged the thing around a bit, and then remembered how it actually worked.  Which isn't by being banged around, incidentally.  So I turned it on the correct way, and got... a bit more than a dribble of water.  (The clock is ticking.  It will soon be time to shower...)  But I supposed it would have to do.

It took about an hour to give the yard an insufficient splash of water, patiently walking back and forth, feeling like an old man with a prostate problem, peeing pathetically out where everyone can mock him.  At least the air was nice and brisk.  And the hose only managed to knot itself into intractable kinks two or three times during the process.  I tried to talk myself into spreading the magic blue hydrangea formula, and wetting that too, but by the time I'd marked the extent of the front yard with my little nozzle drippings, I was in no mood for further garden adventures.

Then I wanted some toast, but we were out of butter.  So I went to the store.  Which, as it turns out, was uneventful, but ate up another half hour of my dwindling day.

I had my toast, and a cup of coffee, and then decided to make the bed and vacuum the bedroom carpet.  Tick, tick, tick.  The vacuum cleaner is related, I think, to the garden hose, if only remotely.  I can tell they're cousins because they're both remarkably uncooperative, for such simple inanimate objects.  And the vacuum has to be plugged in in another room, because I can never find the outlets in the bedroom, even though I've live in the house for ten years.  And the pad under the rug doesn't come all the way to the end, so there's an odd shelf that is hell to clean properly.  But determination, plus the threat of holding the vacuum underwater in the bathtub, seemed to triumph in this case.  Now suddenly I understand why Joan Didion got migraines when trying to get her curtains to hang right.

On and on, little things, one eye always on the clock.  A little Facebooking, a little checking the dismal news.  What time is it now?  Time for the afternoon meds, and then I might as well start the toilette.
These days, it's only when I'm getting ready for bed, or when I'm showering, that I"m confronted with my "Li'l Intruder", as I refer to the pacemaker, when I'm in a cheery mood.  Otherwise, it's just 'the lump'.  I'm still kind of grossed out by it, washing myself where there's something inanimate, hooked into my flesh, and nudging about under my skin.  In the flattering light of the bathroom mirror, though, the tell-tale contours of the contraption look like a dried ravioli that went down the wrong pipe in a big way.  I waver between being fascinated, and repulsed.  Which, in a way, isn't that much different from the way I've always been, with regard to mirrors and my own face.

When that fate-filled day came, all those many years ago, and my mother decided not to take me as her one favorite child, I tried like anything to figure out what I'd done to fall out of her favor.  After all, I was the first.  I'd been the blond boy her parents couldn't adore enough.  Why did we ever leave Alabama?  I knew I was smart enough -- my report cards were always the very best (except for that 'M' I got in arithmetic, in an early grading period in fourth grade.  I remember trying to convince my mother that 'M' just meant that I was average, that that wasn't so bad.  She was looking at the report card as though her obituary were written on it) 

I also knew I'd been obedient in all the things that were required of me.  So, the only thing I could think of, that helped me make sense of her rejection, was that I was ugly.  And ever since, to myself, but for her, I have been ugly.   It must have seemed, at the time, a small price to pay, in order to protect my mother and her indifference from the anger that would be unleashed, if I were to face the truth -- that she simply hadn't cared, and nothing I did or said or appeared to be, would have made any difference in her ultimate choice.  If I could make her rejection my fault, maybe there was hope she would some to her senses, and come back for me.  We all know how that plays out. 

I finished my shower, and as I dressed, managed to spill foot powder all over the newly vacuumed rug.  I lost my reading glasses.  There was a hole in my sock.  It was time to leave.

On the bus, I realized that there were two things at work behind everything I'd been struggling with today.  One is the post I wrote yesterday, about the terrible things I did, to fool my parents into sending my brothers back to the orphanage.  That was a particularly difficult post to write, and it all continues to resonate.  I've been eager to hear what people might say about it, but loathe to mention it, lest it seem as though I was being self-congratulatory about behavior that was so reprehensible.  I do love a double bind. 

The other concern has to do with my commitment to the guys at Combat Paper, and their upcoming exhibit, opening in about three weeks.  I've promised to have three pieces of work for the show, because I was so sure that, as a 'professional artist', I'd surely be able to do at least this much in the time allotted.  Forgetting, of course, my love of those expanses of unstructured time I've already mentioned.  A good deadline can act as a kind of energizing spice to the mix -- can get me jumping, as it were, but in this case, the time limit only seems to make me more ill-at-ease than I am already.

In addition to having no real clue as to how I'll use this emotionally-laden material, I don't feel that I have the time, really, to stumble upon one of those fortunate accidents which seem to be the only truly consistent element of my art-making.  I get ideas all the time, but I generally feel, upon closer consideration, that they're third-rate at best.  But the disasters that turn up, while I'm trying to make my trite little kitten statues, are clearly of some value.  Or at least I think they are.  The thing is, these accidents require me to actually... touch something.  And that, I haven't been doing.

I did take a needle and thread, and some Combat Paper with me, for today's train ride, and I began sewing two pieces of paper together, which looks terrible.  I'm thinking of trying with the sewing machine tomorrow.  I even tried convincing myself that the 'wrong' side of what I was sewing might be redeemable -- but I'm pretty sure I'm fooling myself.

The other stumbling block, in this particular exhibition challenge, is my growing indifference about making art at all, anymore.  It just seems like such a waste of time, and I insist on embroidering a kind of desperate hope onto the edges of everything I do, and when no one notices this decorative addition, by inviting me to be one of their gallery of artists, I feel crushed again.  And ugly.  We all know how this works out.  So, with this paper made of military uniforms, of course I could easily make a set of truly gruesome sculptures, involving the paper in some prominent way.  But why?

Well, I'll muddle through somehow I guess.  The moon is new, which is some slender good news, for beginning new projects.  Maybe I'll hit it lucky just one more time.  But my heart really isn't in it.

What I really want to do, I think, is simply to throw away everything in the world that I own, and then disappear.

Tomorrow, though, is Tuesday.         

©   2012    Walter Zimmerman

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