Surprised Navel-GazingAugust 10, 2004
Do you know about this? Do you?! Folk Alley. Go there if you’ve got high-speed internet and listen all day. I haven’t heard any commercials (but some interesting commentary), and so far this morning I’ve heard Stan Rogers, learned about Judith Edelman (oooh), and heard Ani DiFranco do Guthrie’s “Do Re Mi” backed up by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch. I’m still not sure whether I liked that one or not (I think I would have preferred the front singer to be the backup and vice versa), but it was REALLY interesting. This is enough to make me buy good speakers for this computer. Finally. Oooh, Capercaillie now. It’s more folk than bluegrass/old time, but it’s good.
I’m gearing up and into this day slowly. Really slowly. I’m meeting a friend for breakfast (at noon, my favorite kind of breakfast), and then I’m going to pick up my orthotics and practice walking. And damn, I just realized that I have to be out of here in twenty minutes. Haven’t showered yet, nor have I put in my laundry, so I’ll finish this later.
*** Didn’t even notice I was gone, did you? Lord, I have had WAY too much coffee now. You know that speedy feeling? Like you need to wash the dishes do the laundry wash the car right this very moment, except your brain cells don’t cooperate and you end up standing in the living room, doing the floppy fish thing with your hands? What was I doing? What was I doing? What was I doing?
Breathe. In. Out. Look at the two cats snoozing in the sun on the dining table. (Aside: Way to know a gal is all right: Your cat drinks from her water glass, and when you remove it to get her a new one, she says she doesn’t mind. Way to know you’ve lived alone for a long time: You actually start to give the glass back.)
Okay, I’ll just sit here a minute and decaffeinate. I had breakfast (I suppose we should call it brunch) with one of my good pals, the Dude. He’s a good sounding board, and I hope I provide the same for him. We like to go to this place that serves a screaming crab benedict, and the waitresses are all of Scandinavian descent, so I let them fill my coffee cup as often as they like. Problem is, I drink it.
The restaurant is out in San Ramon. To get there, for those of you not familiar with the Bay Area, I leave Oakland and go through the Caldecott Tunnel. On the other side of the tunnel, the air is usually twenty degrees hotter than in Oakland, the people seventy percent whiter, and eighty percent wealthier. There are a lot of malls. The Dude lives in a beautiful house, but it’s in a cookie-cutter development (and he’s really not a cookie-cutter guy). I believe most things on that side of the tunnel are little boxes made of ticky-tacky. I feel badly about my feelings for that side of the hill—it’s a kind of reverse snobbery. The rich live out there. They have lots of Starbucks and Pottery Barns. They have very good schools. And I only breathe half as deeply when I’m out there.
I used to date this computer engineer guy, a lifetime ago. If I had stayed with him, I would have been taken care of, fed, and housed in one of those homes. I probably would have had my nails done once a week. I would have worked for charity when not shuttling my children to their sports activities. Would I have driven an SUV? Not sure; I certainly hope not, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility.
Oh, lord, I think for the very first time (you watched it happen), I just realized why I am made so uncomfortable by that type of living. I always wondered vaguely if I were jealous of it, knowing that if it’s what everyone else wants, shouldn’t I want it too? Shouldn’t I want the nice, new home, and the nice, new car, in the nice, safe neighborhood? What’s wrong with me that I so unequivocally don’t want those things?
I have just this moment realized that it was my very narrow miss that makes me react like this, like there’s MSG in the very air. I suffocated every time I stayed at that boyfriend’s condo, every time I let myself in with the key that might have fit a thousand other properties, every time we ate dinner at the chain restaurant down the road and browsed in the chain bookstore right next to it. It was a sweet life, but I never fit into it. I was always almost breaking the rules, wanting to, dying to (but I never did, to my eternal regret).
That's why I get scared out there. That's why I feel like I can’t breathe on that side of the tunnel. I adore my friend and his house, and I’m glad he has them for himself. Some of my very best friends have gorgeous homes that I know they enjoy and deserve. (And god knows I don’t mean any insult to those of you to whom this lifestyle brings happiness. More power to you.) But in rejecting that life, I found the life I wanted, and it’s scary to see how close I came to losing myself.
Damn. See what coffee does to a girl? All I wanted to do was laundry today, not cross-examine my motivations for my life choices. Gah.
I want to knit now, in my little apartment with its backyard garden, and the sun coming in the windows, the sliding glass door letting in the dust motes to dance.
It’s hardcore folk, but Joni Mitchell is playing now, singing “Both Sides Now.” Hmmmm.