Are We All Collectively Journaling Together?

I fell apart last Tuesday.

I’d hit a stopping point on the drawing for the 100 Day Project, while I waited for masking fluid to be shipped to me, so I took a stab at the story, feeling out the edges of it. Part of my work is trading in vulnerability. I open doors so we can talk about what makes us human, and explore the overlaps in our lives, but what happens when my (real) story starts to overlap not just the characters’ story…but other people’s (real) story? I’m thankful for having people in my life who I can talk through these things with. We’re already struggling even to maintain our heads above water, and maybe this is kind of a heavy road and story during a time that’s already heavy and kinda dark.

It’s the story I want to tell, but my best friend, Sandy gave me some really solid advice here. Put down the specific set up, that’s a lot when I don’t have my kids with me and I’m isolated. If I need to spend the time writing to fulfill the project goals, start with an overview map, and continue with the little snippits that are giving us a view of the characters. It’s okay to know what it’s about without writing those parts yet.

I went back and started doing some drawings of Ava, Andrew Forester’s fifteen year old daughter. He was so easy and came so naturally that it’s a little frustrating as I try to nail her down into a consistent character. I’m thankful for the time to explore her, and will take that time to do some more drawings until I’m actually comfortable with her. These are good things to practice and to learn. 

I sat down yesterday to check what had been on my list last week, and the only thing on it that I did was “Garden”. Really? That’s it? Lists are important to me, they help me organize my thoughts and not feel overwhelmed. I can see everything that I need to be doing. I knew that this was one of those posts where I actually need to be accountable for what I didn’t do, rather that accepting validation for what I did. I started to write, asking first who was tired of the memes and articles telling us to be gentle with ourselves because we’re dealing with a lot. Then, this article “Productivity is Not Working” By Laurie Penny  from Wired caught my eye, and what I had to say changed…

“These days, I have a new, surprisingly packed schedule of cooking, washing up, video-conferencing with everyone I’ve ever met, and hiding in bed hoping that history can’t hear me breathing. The giant sticky notes are proliferating around the house, and my roommates tolerate them so long as I don’t start linking them together with red thread and pictures of my enemies. Despite being various flavors of neurotic workaholic, my roommates and I have discovered that right now, while our personal productivity matters, what matters more immediately is that we all manage to live in the same house without killing each other. The human race as a whole seems to be coming to a similar realization.”

It actually followed on the heels of this one, from Hannah Withers, a restaurant owner in Arkansas. “I own a restaurant…and I’m not sure what that even means now.” 

“Restaurant work wires you to immediately hone in and fix peoples’ experience. After 30 years in this industry, it isn’t just second nature– it’s my first. I’m unfazed at plunging a toilet in the middle of a Saturday rush, and I have an uncanny knack for remembering which reservation on the books needs a birthday candle to complete their evening of small plates, courses, and cocktails. Those closest to me scold me for doing that stuff at parties and family gatherings now, because I just don’t know how not to anymore.

I found myself late-night scrolling through social media looking for restaurant people who needed help. There were desperate cries from so many people in our community asking how to navigate the antiquated unemployment website that was wholly unprepared for a sudden rush of applicants. I could see pressure mounting as our friends and colleagues are already weeks behind on rent, and falling into the darkest hole of debt. I needed to do something.”

We’re all feeling that, aren’t we?

Then, because apparently the Universe was trying to make a point, this tweet leapt out at me on twitter.

What do you do in the dark when you feel alone? Many of us live in a narrative. We dream about what we’re going to do next week or next year. Maybe we’re going to the symphony, or to camp, or to Scotland. We’re all feeling alone and isolated. Those dreams, big and small, feel uncertain as things get canceled and we’re home longer into the summer. Something that Kelly and I do as we say good night is set up a dream date. 

“Tonight, we’ll take a coffee and sit in the Laundromat, read and draw, while we wait for all our clothes to wash at the same time.” (photocredit: Ricky Lu)

“Tonight, we’ll meet on a small hill in the middle of a vast sea of tall grass. We’ll listen to the hum of insects in the distance and stare at the stars spilling across the sky.” (Photocredit: National Geographic & STL Science Center)

“Tonight, we’ll take the dog camping at the Old Man of Storr on the Isle of Skye” (Photo Credit: Mark Hamblin)

My list didn’t get done this week, but it wasn’t for lack of busyness. I spent time chatting with friends, walking and keeping house. I ordered stamps and wrote letters. The kids visited this weekend, and Abby turned twelve. We made cupcakes and sourdough, waffles, burritos, muffins and French toast. We learned to play Gin Rummy, and read aloud. They got bows and arrows and we set up a target in a field to shoot until we got run off by security. Hah. It’s a full life, just quieter. 

I hope you have a week full of light and love. Let’s get together in the evening at a camp near a lake. We can sit around a campfire as the world goes quiet, and talk, tell stories and be quiet staring into the embers and aware of the people we’re with by their outlines in the dark. Until then, take care and be good.

Your friend,
Jeffrey

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