The rocking chair has yellow paint on one of its struts, and one rocker looks distinctly chewed. It creaks something fierce. And if you pulled too hard it would come into pieces, the glue that kept it solid long since evaporated.
It might have been the climate that did it. The dry cold winters in Prince George or the hot summers in Invermere. It might have been the damp in Nanaimo, the forest chill in Terrace, or a season spent in a storage locker.
Or it was transit, being trucked here or there in the back of a station wagon, a Subaru, a Dodge, a Toyota. Down some stairs, and up an elevator. Stacked with boxes, with blankets. With clothes.
It might just have been years of use. Rocking a baby from her first day at home. The carelessness of a toddler. The roughness of a teenager. This cat, that cat. The dog that chewed it instead of a shoe. A woman who writes while she rocks.
The woman who can’t imagine her home without the rocking chair. It doesn’t suit any particular style and wasn’t built to last forever. But then, neither was she.
A friend shared a post with me on Facebook the other day, an exaggeration of the creative writing process meant to elicit a laugh and nothing else. I immediately tore the thing to shreds. Not in a reply–it was quicker than that. In the moment I’d finished reading it, I was already thinking, This is wrong in a large number of ways and it teaches me nothing. I’m not laughing.
Then, Oh crap. I’ve lost my sense of humour.
I knew it was supposed to be funny and nothing else. I knew it wasn’t supposed to teach me anything and it wasn’t meant to be entirely correct. It had been designed to refer to generalizations and poke fun at something that’s usually serious. That’s what a joke does. What the hell was wrong with me that I couldn’t even laugh?
I didn’t reply to my friend that day. I didn’t trust myself to reply. The next day I read the post again, and hey! It was funny. It hadn’t changed, but I had. I hadn’t lost my sense of humour. I was just having a bad day, a day when I couldn’t see my life for the days in it.
We’re rarely the same people from day to day. Every part of living involves processing and reacting to the world around us, and that reaction can change, sometimes a bit, sometimes a lot, depending on how much sleep we’ve had, what stress we’re under, even if the caffeine flowed a little too well that morning. Another popular Facebook post says “If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best.” Seriously, I can only just handle me at my worst. What should I expect from my friends?
When I was younger than I am now I had the idea I’d live in a motor home. Where everything is small and tidy and takes up exactly the amount of space it needs and no more. Beds turn into tables, cupboards fix shut, the television and toilet disappear when not in use. The only variable in the home would be me.
We have scientifically calculated exactly how many litres of water each fish needs in a bowl, but it’s not clear what space humans need. The US government doesn’t define how many square feet prisoners need. There’s a rumour that 35 square feet is needed per child in school, but that’s not official. In any case, I was always confident I needed as little room as possible to be happy. In fact, the smaller and more contained I was, the happier I was. And I, personally, wanted to be as neat and tidy as the places I lived. I wanted to be a container with no loose hinges or uncertain fixtures.
There’s a “Colour outside the lines” movement that suggests to be creative you must be a mess, you must not care if you don’t hang up your jacket or put your shoes in the closet. You must live with abandon, and accept the chaos others throw into your life. Fight that chaos and you reveal yourself to be part of a system of repression that kills artists. You will never be an artist yourself. You’re too structured. You’re too dull.
Bullshit. A seed is a very neat container. A flower bud, too. A neat container does not mean the contents are dull or stunted. They might be the beginnings of a universe. I begin with everything in its place and from there I can go anywhere. I am contained, my creativity is not. I have a little space, I have a lot of imagination. I am the variable and I always will be.
Investigating why I like to eat small snacks constantly throughout the day rather than large meals at “normal” intervals reveals the theory that my ancestors were nomadic, and my brain and digestive system (also a brain of a sort) are more used to the constant snacking. Stuffing yourself then fasting repeatedly every day isn’t reasonable when you spend most of the day foraging or moving from one pasture to the next.
But if my brains are using that historical guide for food intake, why don’t they use it for other things too? Why do I always feel like sitting on my ass rather than walking somewhere, anywhere, even if it’s just to the grocery store? And why does my current home situation–selling one house and diving into the process of buying another–feel like purgatory rather than a natural part of a healthy, changing life?
Maybe it’s that there’s no field or forest to bushwack–that would be wonderful–but a set of paths that demand the correct navigation or else. As far as I can tell adulthood is the constant process of moving through an assortment of predefined systems, hoping you “get it right.” All these systems were defined by some other adult in some other place, and none of them seem to relate directly to me or anyone I care about. I had no idea being an adult would feel so much like living in some other person’s house, or on some other species’ planet, wondering when someone will notice you’re an imposter.