Without a partner, lover,or relative nearby during our feared and festive flights of life, our ribs cave. You just cannot eat cake alone on your birthday, attend a funeral without a shoulder next to you, or celebrate a finished project without your best friend. During these times of divisiveness, a pandemic, our favorite restaurants and shops out of business, and vigilanteviolence, it takes courage to be alone. It is you I am thinking of and I know you are out there, isolated. I listen to a lot of music, from Opera to Salsa, shout myself out of bed, attend to mediocre mindless tasks and think about all of us singles, without children, or family and friends out of my reach in Los Angeles, Santa Fe, Scottsdale, Sedona, and Florida. Each one holds a podium on the telephone, as I listen to their feelings, they are variations of a Chopin or Bach recording. The sadness and fear each one is holding at bay, reveal their authentic character. Isn’t it an extreme tragedy that holds a spotlight on our soul and spirit? One friend reminds me to refrain from judging myself too harshly, another advises how fortunate I am to be in a safe small village, with very few deaths, and another says simply, I’m falling apart.
We are now forced to learn our supreme strength, our survival methods, and how to structure a new lifestyle. When was the last time you were tested? Remember that and you will forge ahead.
THE CLASSMATE THAT wrote is named Andrew. I imagine he’s married; a man with his looks and gregarious personality living in Los Angeles all these years. Maybe he married one of our high school classmates. We exchanged a few emails in two thousand eight, he’d just returned from a trip to Poland and I was managing the gallery. Then the crash came and I think my correspondence dropped. Why was he thinking of me? I don’t have any photographs from high school, I suppose I could look him up in the yearbook. I’ll wait till he writes again.
The sky is crystal blue, and the temperature a mild fifty degrees. From my window, the leaves dropping makes me think the trauma and suffering the last four years has dropped from my life. What the trauma was about is irrelevant and too lengthy to write. We all get sent to the chopping block of heartache and this was mine. This is as liberating as taking off a tight bra after a long day!
September has traditionally been my month of transition. It’s a sort of pattern that began years ago and so making decisions is as if I’m on a time clock. What is most essential now is finding a new place to call home. I began looking at Santa Barbara. I loved visiting the city by the sea, those beautiful mountains, and quaint craftsman architecture. So what if I don’t know anyone, I’ll be alone regardless of where I move. Easily accomplished in my fifties, not so improvisational at sixty-seven.
Rapturous Autumn day; this year the transformation of nature, outdoor activities, cider doughnuts, smoking fireplaces, and a crispness that reminds me of breaking open a head of lettuce. What really happens to us in the East is fall descends like a new stage and the props from summer are removed. The mums come out on the porches, and the bright yellow and gold plants dot every porch. The conventional lifestyle and customary activities placate our sense of belonging. Christmas, wow, it’s only a short time till winter. In the dressing room unpacking more sweaters, socks, warm-ups, I get an alert, another email. Andrew added another compliment so my response was crush-worthy. Why not? Maybe fantasy is what is needed. Remerging silhouettes, all of us on the front lawn at lunch time, and boys are pairing up with girls and Andrew is laughing, making clownish faces and gestures, yes he was crush-worthy. He walked in long strides, visible energy and every step seemed to have a purpose. The boy I was in love with graduated, and I did not have a boyfriend. My shyness and restrained conversational skills excluded me from invitations to date. Maybe that’s why he didn’t take notice of me observing him, a lot of classmates had crushes on him.
The reality of COVID-19 is now the centerfold story because it is affecting everyone; the excruciating financial loss, death, sickness, and loneliness. It’s more like acceptance that this is our job now to tolerate COVID-19. Restrictions, circumstances of failed businesses we all loved, fear, and more fear call for an imaginary friend who I haven’t seen in fifty years. He replied with a formal note of response that he was on Facebook and could we be friends. I wrote back, yes. I am listening to the soundtrack from the film A Man and A Woman while chopping vegetables for soup. This music has formed a flame of optimism for the day I’m in love and let go of singleness.
On Facebook Andrew’s feature photos reveal the teenager I remember. He is a photographer, a Neuro Technician, and in his twenties an actor and model … hum, sounds like my resume, professional career changer. His photos sent a quiver through my veins, a call to read everything on his page, and view videos of his European travels: beautifully crafted images of architecture, monuments, art, culture, and locals. It deepened my understanding of his life just by his photos and posts. The other side, his appearance; the facial features, keen brown eyes, uncensored or rehearsed self-photos, group photos with our high school mates at the reunions, his long wavy hair, and his defined lips and cheekbones tingled curiosity.
The photos of Andrew at the class reunions next to my best friend and other classmates I remembered brought a snowstorm of memories. How I loved my friends back then. About six of us went everywhere together; bought our first bras, learned to drive, went to Westwood Village to look for cute boys, sat in the booths at Mario’s Pizza, Hamburger Hamlet, and The Apple Pan and all of it on ten or twenty dollars a week allowance. I have not been to a reunion since the tenth. Andrew posted photos from several. He stayed connected. Fifty years have passed, and he’s on my mind. To be continued.
ADVENTURES IN LIVINGNESS- Without argument what motivates the locals in Ballston Spa, NY is family. They go to work every day, some in punishing freezing cold weather to earn a living. The snow blowers, plowers, farmers, horse breeders, deliveries, construction workers, postal workers, cable servers, and weather free runners.
The families then gather on the weekend at any of our a dozen bakeries, cafes, restaurants, and bars to sit with the family, drink a beer or mimosa and watch the seasonal sports channel. Children are well behaved mostly, the server is probably related in two degrees of separation, so the expansive informality presides. The pretense is nine miles north in Saratoga Springs. Very minor, compared to Los Angeles, and I love that about Saratoga. They have an A-List too, mostly connected to racehorses or real estate. They aspire to win the Kentucky Derby or buy land to develop a dream community. Traditional and progressive. The generations of Saratoga go back to the eighteen hundreds. I’ve met residents who are the fifth generation, and they are proud to tell you. That stands out for a gal from LA that moved to Ballston Spa.
Back in Ballston Spa on a milky white sky day, that feels too cold indoors. I’m wearing layers; T-shirt, a thick zip-up sweatshirt, and the Irish wool Jumper I bought in Ireland in 1987. The weather channel claims it is forty-seven degrees, so I’m miffed why I’m so cold.
This week was waiting until my brain was ready to take on the challenge of the moment; coronavirus 19. I’m a failed student of statistics, charts, science, physiology, and models. When the task force takes the stage every day, to update us on the number of cases and deaths my brain struggles with the information, as I am awed by the concentration of facts, projections, and federal coordination. It shed light on how microscopic my responsibilities are in comparison.
Living in upstate Saratoga County, New York we were on lockdown early in the game. The sacrifice isn’t as disarming for me because my personal crisis hasn’t fused with social gatherings, for the last fifteen months. In life, we all have our crisis, it is just better if I’m not in a crowd. So I limited myself to the essentials with an occasional visit to a pastry shop or bistro. Adaptation to quarantine if you are living alone is agonizing and so we have to structure our misery or it will structure us.
Bonded in solitude allows us time to reflect on our relationships, our mistakes and what we miss most in this time of quarantine. This may be the only time we will ever have to examine who we are and what we need to change. If you watch the news, you hear the stories of the first responders, and all the essential workers who risk their own lives to bus us, feed us and deliver our Amazon packages. My mirror of reflection brought the reality of singleness into focus, it is time to trust, love, and to socialize. As Joni Mitchel sings, “ You don’t know what you have till it’s gone.”
If we ignore the war in our lives, the war comes after you.