The coffee’s hot. Black. Strong.
My drug of choice.
FLASHBACK: I used to joke “I like my coffee the way I like my men – hot, black, and strong.” But that was before the age of political correctness. Before the 80s. My permed hair. Shoulder pads. Pumps with toe cleavage.
By the early 90s I occasionally said “I like my coffee like I like my men – hot, strong, and a little bit sweet” which is of course more politically correct, but moot. We were past the shoulder pads, the Ewings, and wild curls were on the wane. The era of “superwoman” was in full swing, as if it were normal. Or possible.
Here’s to the legacy of the seventies! Our feminist delusions that we could “do it all” and “have it all” – and all at the same time.
Naturally, I was doing my part to live up to the press, to what I thought a woman could and should be able to master with finesse and grace – I was married, working 60-hour weeks in a corporate job (partly from a home office), caring for two babies in close succession, a full-time manager, a full-time mom, a wife who cooked, a writer in the wee hours before my nightly “nap” that bridged one day to the next. Coffee was the dark stuff that got me through the blur, the flurry of days, nights, carpools, meetings, deliverables. More days. More nights.
I was too tired for quips, PC or otherwise. And much too tired to greet my meandering hubby at the door in nothing but Saran Wrap – remember that? – though like most of us, I muddled through.
A few things have changed. The traveling husband became an ex-husband and money in the bank became no money in the bank. I changed careers, not entirely by choice, but more to my liking.
I’m adjusting to broke. Broke is the new black.
I still work 60 hours/week, but corporate life has given way to the New Economy where everyone can be free to spend their time job searching, resume revising, freelancing, taking contract jobs, working multiple part-time jobs, and networking – everywhere and all the time.
To make a buck. To take care of the kids. To make another buck after that.
REALITY CHECK: Kids. I still have two babies but they aren’t babies anymore. They reside here and wield those little smiles to their advantage. But they’re taller than I am, teenagers, bouncing about in their parallel universe, allowing visitors a peek inside from time to time. They eat, sleep, grunt, leave dirty socks everywhere in THIS universe. Now how does that work, exactly?
It’s Tuesday, right? And summertime?
Yes, the coffee is taking effect.
The kids are unconscious of course, including the usual extra 18-year old boys in the living room, in bedrolls on the floor and couch. I’ve had as many as eight to step over in the morning, but it’s a light day – only a few bodies.
It’s early and words have been cooking in my mind for hours now, and I’m contemplating several articles to pitch to magazines. I’m also contemplating the breathlessly sexy short story I had 12 minutes to begin scribbling down, yesterday. Do I still remember yesterday? Can I remember any of those supposed breathlessly sexy words I was on the verge of pinning to a page?
I’m contemplating more: the latest exhibition at my city’s (only) major art museum, running away from home, the nature of this new writing exercise.
Here. This. An indulgence.
Yes. This writing, this blog business rather than properly pitching my latest ideas to two magazines, rather than getting on the phone to Paris to call a collector I know, rather than feeling him out to see if I can persuade him to allow me to write about his remarkable inventory of artworks. Oh, would I love to wake to some of those paintings and sculptures! And if not, to share them with others who care about art – using words, my words.
The fog is lifting. Brain fog, that is. It’s still the work day in Paris and I still could call or email and it’s early enough to make it to the museum on the train, and home again (probably) before the sleeping beauties wake and search for foodstuffs. But it’s so much easier to stay here with Italian roast and this means of self-expression, this writing – and that feels good. Or is it just the impression of writing, simu-writing of a sort, and the reverberation of accomplishment?
FACT: Writing is necessary, masochistic, addictive, narcissistic.
Writing, yes. Blogging, yes. It’s easy, yes. Or so it appears.
Yes, I can do it over coffee and in bed, do it before the neural networks have revved up to acceptable speed, do it with no one seeing, do it with no one knowing, do it with nothing but a waking thought, and do it with the push of a button.
No, I don’t need to line my eyes or find my public transit card or rack up a cell phone bill to France. No, I don’t need to query editors and wait six months to see an article in print. No, I don’t have to stick to word counts that cater to reading-ADD. But is this sort of writing like so much pasta? Will I be hungry again in an hour? Is it filling, fattening, but not nourishing?
And worse – will that be the case for the reader, if there is one?
FACT: Writing is an act of giving, of kindness, and a manifestation of self, selflessness, and selfishness. Words without readers – words without thoughtful and appreciative readers – are not nourishing, regardless of venue.
Maybe writing online versus writing for print is a matter of moderation and then I’m doomed because dammit I hate moderation. I’ve never been good at it. It’s so adult and it’s adulthood that should be taken in moderation, especially in certain circles where they haven’t had their plate of crazy often enough. Especially in circles where daily life is ordered and orderly, where multitasking doesn’t involve a gaggle of kids, of job boards and dirty dishes, an invasion of ants and lost files, the 28th version of your resume, overqualified, underqualified, no internet right before deadline, and STUCK between the desire to see art and to write about it, the desire to read a sexy story and to live it.
The need to parent, above all else. And only 12 minutes for a great read – or to begin a real write.
It takes a dash of humor with that plate of crazy and maybe it takes a natural – or desperate – insistence on retaining your childish wonder, or hopefulness, or energy. Or more crazy.
A MOMENT: The dog is stirring. She’s having difficulty holding it these days. She’s 13 years old now. Sweet, lazy, breathy, and increasingly incontinent. Must I really take her out again? How soon before someone says the same of me? Perhaps I should write faster, more, anywhere, everywhere.
By the way, “plate of crazy” isn’t original. It’s from one of our most reliable cultural sources, a line from Sex and the City.
But I think we all have our types of crazy. My daily plate of crazy won’t be yours and my next door neighbor’s won’t be mine. The collector in Paris – he has his own version, sans doute because few of us really have an ordered life. The world is too complex and our expectations, too varied, and then there are our desires, entities unto themselves at times, without any ability to stand up for themselves and be counted in the dueling doses of musts and shoulds.
So, here I stand – or slouch – for nothing, and for everything. For something that may evolve. Mostly, for my desire and need to reflect on my own daily plate of crazy.
And maybe touch someone, in the process.
© D A Wolf