Friday and the job-free blues are hitting. We saw Grey Gardens last night, not the famous documentary, but the feature film, HBO version, starring Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore. Incredible performances by both women. Chilling. Courageous on their parts to get so deeply under the skin of these disturbed women, and to do it without judgment.
I slept badly and dreamed of--I don't know what I dreamed, exactly. It doesn't take much to swamp my little canoe. The movie showed how the mother's agoraphobia and passivity infected her daughter, and how the two lived out their lives together in a folie a deux. Maybe, maybe, maybe if the daughter had been able to separate--if she had found some kind of magic combination of support and tough love--she might have been able to make a life for herself. But she didn't. And probably couldn't. Although interestingly, she lived a few decades after her mother died and she did finally travel a bit, and even performed, which had been her girlhood dream.
The scenes of the old crumbling decaying mansion were frightening. C started teasing me about my own tendencies to ignore mess and let things go. I am one of those women who can walk in a room and not see dirt--I know this trait is more common among guys, but there are some of us ladies who are like this. I've been living with a slightly cracked car windshield for months and months now, just haven't gotten around to getting it fixed. There are coats that need buttons sewn back on, and bags of books waiting to be donated to the Library, as well as other bags standing around waiting to go to Goodwill. But everyone's life is like this--isn't it? Where's the line between laxness and depression and total stinking madness with 3,000 feral cats and raccoons crawling in through the busted windows and pissing and shitting everywhere? Or, conversely, Between a need for order and OCD?
I remember my 90-year-old grandmother, when we finally moved her out of her apartment, the two-bedroom rent-controlled place in Brooklyn she had lived in for 60 years. The place was so full of antiques and bars of soap that had never been used, candlesticks still in their original boxes, gloves, ditto, frayed velvet couches, knick-knacks and keepsakes and trinkets and treasures. And she was crying and crying about it all, the crushing sense of overwhelm she felt at her incapacity to deal with all her useless precious possessions.
But really the place was stuffed to the brim with loneliness. even the air molecules were fat with it.
I never want to be like that.
I fear what isolation does to a person. Neither Big Edie nor Little Edie ever worked. They came from a class background where women didn't expect to. (Which makes Jackie Onassis' decision to get a job in the publishing industry all the more remarkable, when you think about it.) They were functionally helpless and hardly left that house.
I have worked--a lot--but haven't had a regular job in years. Since the economic downturn poets-in-the-schools work has virtually disappeared, except for some very little pools. It's sort of like that scene in the movie "Fantasia" where the drinking holes for the dinosaurs are drying up because the climate is changing, and then all the dinosaurs die. Except in this case I guess the weaker, more short-sighted dinosaurs die, and the smart dinosaurs figure out how to get day jobs or grants or some other gig that keeps them going.
I have always thought of myself as a resourceful person--I found my first apartment when i was eighteen, and I've had many different jobs, but lately this element of doubt has crept in--can I rise to the demands of our brave new tech-driven world? Do I even want to? Yes, I'm on Facebook and all that and here I am, blogging, but there's a part of me that just wants to go off in a mud hut and chant my poems to the wind. I understand the word "work" in such a literal, primitive way. "Work" to me is washing a sink full of dishes. Making a pot of chili to feed twenty people. Setting off in the morning with a satchel stuffed with lesson plans and driving for an hour and teaching four classes and returning with the same satchel stuffed with a hundred student poems.
I miss Fetzer right now. Not the food--although the food was wonderful--or the gracious grounds. But the being-together with a bunch of other people who do this crazy creative thing as a main thing in their lives. I miss that community of peers. We never really got down to talking economics--Fetzer wanted the creative conversations to be about love and compassion and suffering, trivial stuff like that. But a big question for an artist is how do you support yourself and/or find support? Not just financial--although that's a very big question--but also structural. How do you build a supportive structure into your own writing day?
I came back from Fetzer last week determined to work more on the play. Instead I was hijacked by some poems and spent hours and hours yesterday fussing over the arrangement and re-arrangement of thirty-five lines. I also wrote a short introduction for a book of essays. I also spent some hours weeding--the weeds are up to my hips, I swear, I've never seen anything like it. Grass is cracking the asphalt in the driveway and the porch steps and threatening to take over the house entirely. This wet wet wild weather has yielded a harvest of bunch-grass and wild-ass Mexican purple sage, peppermint and fig leaves and peach blossoms and guava branches and feral cats. Everything swaying and proliferating. C has his camera out constantly, trying to capture it all.