Going back to your Gulf Coast hometown after a long time is weird, a little uncomfortable, especially in the middle of a highly politicized pandemic. Things look the same; they look different. Buildings you grew up in became Panera Breads or are abandoned altogether. Your childhood home is still yellow but is covered in the green mold your mother pressure washed off every summer. There are more broken shells on the beach than you remember. It’s weird to be a Southerner who’s become a Northerner in so many ways.
Before writing my wraps, I always read the previous year’s publication. 2020 sucked, didn’t it? As some of you may feel like 2021 flew by (for me, it’s like Groundhog Day), yet here we are. Another year gone and so much to be grateful for and reflect on. It’s amazing that a person can experience so much growth without breaking. What a year it’s been. It felt like standing still, but I know that I’m moving forward towards wishes and goals that I haven’t yet had the strength to make public.
Montreal is a very clean city. More than that, it is a very approachable city. Even though my French is rusty, and Richie’s is nonexistent, we managed to get ourselves around without incident (except when Rich somehow knocked out an entire POS system by clicking on the wrong button at check-out). The food was great, the coffee was great, it wasn’t quite freezing. What more could one want?
fter two straight months of no rest, I have at last arrived on the other side. All of my creative projects are still here, unfinished, and yearning to be more. No more excuses to be found or conjured; there’s only work.
Twenty years is a long time. It’s time enough to live a full chapter of life: to start a career and end it, to raise a child, to get fed up completely with society and move to the countryside and cultivate a witchy reputation that is at once feared and admired. Twenty years is long enough to get to know yourself, drift apart, and come together again like any tragic love story. Twenty years is long enough to fall in love with your best friend a little bit more every day until the two of you are more easily recognized as a pair than as individuals. It is an endless blessing in my life to count Harriet as my best friend.
This blog has seen a lot of me. More than that, it’s seen a lot of my work. Over the last four or five years, I’ve written hundreds of pages in the way of essays, poems, operas, spoken word albums, obituaries, short stories, and novels. Every line, every word has been a real piece of me, a real piece that I place in a basket and send down the river hoping that it will arrive to some distant shore. I’m never really sure what I hope to happen after that. I don’t have many expectations for my words (letting go of outcomes is a mental shift I’ve been trying to make for awhile, to varying degrees of success), save one: I hope they do good.
Maintaining motivation is hard. I was recently diagnosed with ADHD, and it sort of put my whole life into perspective. The diagnosis doesn't really change how I feel about myself, but is more of a "huh, I learned how to cope really well" sorta thing. Pandemic time threw all of my skills right out the window because there was no structure to my day other than wake up, walk dog, turn on computer. I've always been the sort of person who has needed a jam-packed schedule to keep all systems functioning at average speed. Now that this new normal (hate that term) is on the horizon, it looks like life will shift again. And I'm wondering, how will it go?
Writing every day used to come easily. Once, a professor asked my class who there wrote every day. No one raised their hand but me, and he told me I was full of shit. Back in those days, I was full of shit for a bunch of different reasons but lying about writing every day wasn’t one of them. Despite my daily practice, it took me seven years to complete a book about the French Revolution that I’m still not happy with. It took years to realize that writing every day is a practice dedicated to its own perpetuation, like jogging. After moving to Boston, without the external expectation of school or a big project, the daily practice was pushed to the wayside in favor of work and friends. My writing muscles got flabby. Very flabby.
Let's get the cliché out of the way now: It's been a long year. Like, a really long year. As someone who is very comfortable at home, man was lockdown hard. About midway through it, I found myself restless and irritable and certain that nothing was never going to change. Anxiety attacks were making a more consistent appearance in my days. When I talked about it with my therapist, she asked me what I did throughout a typical year. After thinking about it for a minute, I said that I normally went on several domestic and one or two international vacations a year. In that time, I typically had a lot of revelations about myself and wrote a lot. So, in that light, the anxiety isn't fear so much as is claustrophobia. For the last year and a half, I've been trying to shed my skin but haven't had the room. Now, though, as the world begins to open to vaccinated people, it feels like it might be time to molt.
A lot can be said for living with your landlord. My landlords care a lot about their property, but they also care a lot about me. That much is evident in the upstairs bathroom’s new herringbone tile, fresh baseboards, newly installed wall heater, and drafts that have been filled and sanded smoothed. The kitchen has a new sink, updated plumbing, garbage disposal, recessed lighting. The first-floor’s black ceiling has been painted white, transforming the space from man cave to coffeehouse. When we find some tall enough bar stools, we’ll have to start saving for an industrial espresso machine. Not that you gotta twist my arm about that.