It's not the social distancing that bothers me, or staying home. I've worked from home for several years now, and though I miss being able to haunt my favorite coffee shops and miss seeing some friends in person, I actually feel like I'm doing ok. I was seriously under-employed to the point of not really working before the outbreak; and I don't mind poverty, exactly. I wish there was more money around for emergencies but thanks to a few thoughtful supporters, I've been able to help us eek out a few solutions on the home front. Which is to say, feel free to check out the tabs about being a Patron or offering one time support via Venmo or Cash.me...
...but these are tough times, tougher than many have had to experience. Not everyone does poverty well, and I have to confess it's something I've learned on my own over the past couple of decades rather than something I was raised with. My parents worked hard and we lived what used to be called a more or less middle class lifestyle; but my attempts... mostly feeble, always well-intended, but ultimately doomed to failure... have always been short. So if you can't toss some money in the hat, believe me, I get it. There's a few projects I'd love to support but I don't have money and I can't put in sweat equity right now.
But that's not to say I don't keep busy. I do.
I count things. A lot. Being a list maker of long repute, I am one who likes ticking off boxes. This what serves as routine for me, I suppose. I have a daily practice -- my writing, reading, and spiritual practice is all tied together. I make coffee. I've been doing more cooking lately, and have only really had one catastrophe. (It involved burned oatmeal.) My podcast takes up a significant amount of time... not only the writing and recording (which is honestly the easy part) but the networking and trying to grow it. I'm fully engaged in my creative work... but this was a pre-COVID state, so, like being under-employed.That's not to say I'm not noticing some issues. It's difficult for me to focus on long writing tasks, for example, so even if I had paying clients right now, I'm certain it would move like sludge. I'm forgetting what is (for me) fairly simple language. ( I couldn't remember the word "superfluous" a few days ago.)
And I thought my email was hackedwhen in reality I changed the passwordand then promptly FORGOT what it was.
As an alcoholic working on just a little over 2 years of sobriety (infant!) I have had to come to terms with the fact that my brain sometimes works against me. It's not a fault in the programming. It's not crossed wires. I'm allergic to booze like I'm allergic to pollen. That's how the ol' electric thinking box was built. But unlike pollen, which immediately creates a negative reaction, I LIKE what booze does to me. At first, anyway. It is, in a way, an intellectual and even spiritual lubricant. There was a reason why Li Po would write 100 poems for every gallon of wine. Believe me, I get it.
But my brain makes it near impossible for me to stop once I've gotten started. I chase that feeling... but like anything ephemeral, that dragon is impossible to chase.
So I make lists. I tick boxes. I am getting better at living in the moment because... well ... anything else is not being present. And if I've learned anything over the years, it is that being present matter more the amount of money I make, more than any socially constructed abstraction of my success or my failure.
My wife, who is a far better human than I am, said it like this: "What we have works for us."
One of my readings, today, though, did, at least, make me feel better about my need to make lists. Early in Run to the Mountains, the first volume of Thomas Merton's journals, he made lists. These journals were written before he went to Gethsemani, when he was still a student. A
among the lists he made, one was of things he couldn't believe existed. Two items on this list stand out:
The New Belgium Fascist PartyEvanston, IL
Tom, I get it. I don't understand fascists, either. I've been to Evanston, Illinois and know for certain it exists. But I can't say the same about Coalinga Junction, California. And I've been there, too.