“The World Is Too Much With Us…”

It seems like we all reinvent ourselves over and over during our lives. I know retirement pushed me there. Being unable to run pushed me there. Divorce pushed me there. I never invented anything — but the reinventions demanded by life’s changes might involve the same trial and error an inventor experiences trying to come up with something like, say, the telephone.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the past year, a year filled with events that have pushed me to reinvent myself at least once. Right now I just want to stop the whole reinvention madness — “Stop the world, I want to get off!”

I am not completely sure, but I think inside all of us may be a thread of consistency that it’s important to hold onto, remember, even nurture? Maybe that’s the point of tradition — to maintain a thread of consistency within a culture. I’ve really wondered about that this year as the city and my neighbors put up lights. The ONE missing decoration is the banner of lights across my street for people coming into Monte Vista. “Happy Holiday” — not enough room for the “S” so there it was forEVER, imperfect and perfect. Gone. We have a new city manager, and she’s moving and shaking, apparently. More lights downtown for the parade, a bigger parade, using the event center for the Christmas craft fair instead of the hall of the Nazarene Church. There was a sweetness to the old things, but nothing stays the same, and my town appears to be reinventing itself.

Are we humans like that, too?

Yesterday the president signed a bill legalizing all kinds of marriage. I read that, thinking, “This was never anyone’s business.” And I thought, “If we were better people it wouldn’t be now.” A little voice said, “But we’re not better people. We’re us.”

And godnose, we’re flawed. Recently I got a phone call from the artist about whom I wrote an article last summer, the one who didn’t follow through and left me feeling disrespected and very angry. I finished the article anyway — the magazine had saved space for it and $$. She called, I answered, I listened to her laments about her health, her body, her marriage then she asked me about the show at the museum. Early on, she’d called the museum saying she wanted to participate. “The show is up,” I told her.

“Why didn’t they call me and tell me when to bring my work?” she said. Notices had been emailed and posted on Facebook. Maybe she hadn’t seen them? Didn’t care? Was lying?

A light went on in my brain. So that’s how she is. It’s up to OTHERS to manage her possibilities; she doesn’t see that as her responsibility. It wasn’t just me and the article. It’s everything. For a moment I thought of saying something about that, like, “If you wanted to be in the show, you should’ve kept track,” but I didn’t. Everybody is whoever they are. Then I told her about John dying. They were kind of friends. She was shocked and sad and cried. She then had a strange little breakthrough. “We have to be kind to each other.”

Today I have to socialize, but tomorrow? Back to the studio whether I can paint or not; back to the Refuge. I’m tired. I wonder what our world would be like if we could stop fussing and just settle down and BE in our world. Change is the nature of life. It seems to me that makes the one still point all the more important. BUT if I could anything in the world, right now I would be in California, hiking on the Garnet Peak Trail with Bear and Teddy, looking down on the Anza Borrego Desert in the winter light.

Where Are We Really?

With the fridge on the fritz and no repair possible until June 23, (I’m going to try to figure that out on Monday by calling Sears), I was thinking of going INTO the supermarket MYSELF, which, except for twice in Colorado Springs, I haven’t done since March 2020. But, out of habit, I went online and “built my order,” and then I paid for it meaning I wasn’t going in the store.

I’m glad I didn’t.

There’s a new kid bringing out groceries. Today was the second time I’ve seen him. I watched him walk to my car. He very carefully walked along the curb then used the crosswalk to get to my car. No one does that. I thought, “This is a different kind of mind.”

Soon after he got to my car, Destinee came running out with her lunch. We had a big hug and the kid carefully put the groceries into the back of my car and went over my one substitution. Destinee said, “I love this woman. I do. I love you.” I was a little embarrassed and made a joke about white people don’t go around saying stuff like that. I told the story about how it was when my mom was sick and dying and my family told me not to cry. I told them how I was happy to get back from Montana to my class on the border of Mexico and the US. It’s a culture where people could hug and say things to each other much more easily than people in my family ever could. Destinee and I stood there holding hands and talking.

I noticed Miguel’s name tag and introduced myself. “Miguel,” I said. “I’m Martha.” I put out my hand to shake. He took it with a hand that wasn’t made right.

“Miguel’s a really cool guy,” said Destinee. “He has Aspergers and Turrets.”

“Way to go, Miguel,” I said as if I thought it was great. He smiled all over his face.

“We don’t say Aspergers anymore,” he explained. “They just say Autism. I used to think I was stupid and I felt really bad about myself, but now I don’t. I know I’m smart. Sometimes in school when I would tell my teacher about one of my interests she would say, ‘Wow. I learned something from you today.'” He looked at me with an expression that asked for acceptance.

I listened thinking it was certainly true, but also that I loved that teacher. “That’s awesome, Miguel, I just figure each of us is an individual and we’re all strange one way or another.” Miguel nodded. It’s a comment that might have insulted someone else, but he got it.

“I love this woman,” Destinee said, hugging me. “Miguel is doing great here, aren’t you?” Destinee asked him.

“Yes!” he said. “I love it here. I was working at Walmart, and they cut my hours, then Little Caesars, but that wasn’t enough to live on. I had to catch illegal fish to feed my cat. Now I have a fishing license.” He patted his wallet. My heart thumped hard. “Now I’m making enough money to pay all my bills!” He said goodbye and went back inside, carefully using the crosswalk (no one does and cars don’t stop anyway). Destinee stayed out and we caught up on each others news.

As I drove away I felt some of the euphoria I used to feel teaching. I can’t explain it, but it came from a particular kind of contact with certain young people. I also wondered again at the changes in this world, in my life, since Covid. If 2020 had never happened, that conversation would never have happened. I would have continued in the way I have since I was a kid and my mom sent me to the store. Grabbing a cart, pushing it around, putting stuff in it, taking it to the cash register, paying for it, hauling it out to my car, putting it in my car and going home. I wouldn’t have had THAT conversation and what a loss to me if I hadn’t?