The Second Thing That’s Hard
I don’t often like to reflect the negatives in life. If a situation is challenging, I’ll take some personal time after I get through it to consider how I might grow from that challenge. But by and large, that process is a private one for me. On the road for two years (1 year, 2 months to go!), I have plenty of positive and new experiences to write about. Through writing, I explore and solidify my experiences at each place, so why not focus on the positive?
But I few months ago I wrote a post about The First Thing That’s Hard. It seemed only fair, I thought, to reveal the less glamorous parts of my life on the road in addition to all the highs. Tonight’s post is written in the same vein. It’s a widening of the view, if you will; an attempt to offer a fuller picture.
The second thing that’s hard is not knowing where anything is. Every time I go to a new place, it requires finding the gym, post office, grocery store, health food store, bank, you name it. Once I’m inside the grocery store, for example, I still don’t know where to find the all natural Smuckers peanut butter or the wheat-free soy sauce. A shopping list of 8 items could take twenty minutes to find, and that’s not counting getting lost on the way there in the first place. It’s also not counting filing out the grocery store’s discount card application, of which I now have 4 from 3 different states (Ingles, Safeway, Harris Teeter, Tom’s).
I realized this tonight when I was so completely absorbed in the marker for “Aisle 6 International Foods, Baking, Bulk Candy” that I inadvertently stopped a line of 4 speedy shoppers with grocery carts full of food. There I was, the pasty white non-Southern woman in my hippy sweater, day-old curls, and no makeup. There they were, Avon-bedazzled, Southern blonde, rightfully busy, hands-full mothers just trying to get their jobs done. A woman asked me to move and I snapped to attention, ducking into the meat section as their convoy passed.
Later, I went to the post office but forgot that it closes early in this small town. Next, I went to the ATM but it was out of order. “Try our other location on Broad Street,” the sign read. Where?, I wondered. Forget it.
It’s all tiny stuff—all in the same vein as constantly having to update my Netflix address for war movies (and time it just right), keeping track of my mail (god help me), setting up phone conferences from places with poor cell reception, trying to locate artist’s I’m interviewing for magazines while I’m the one that seems harder than anybody to reach, or keeping a running tab of wi-fi passwords and hot spots.
It’s not that I find these things totally debilitating. But I’m learning that they drain my mental energy…and that comes from the same pool that I draw on for generating new material. Mental energy. It’s mine, dangit, and I’m very protective of it.
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I particularly liked this set of sentences, "There I was, the pasty white non-Southern woman in my hippy sweater, day-old curls, and no makeup. There they were, Avon-bedazzled, Southern blonde, rightfully busy, hands-full mothers just trying to get their jobs done." In the space of two lines you had established a dynamic between you and those mothers that was tangible. Well done.
"Aisle 6 International Foods, Baking, Bulk Candy"
This sounds like something out of an IQ test: what comes next in the sequence….or, what doesn't belong in the group?
I hear you on the mental energy thing, though. I've lived where I am now for almost 2 years and I still don't know where half the stuff in the Food Lion is, but that's just me because I'm a ditz and a clutz, etc (also a curly-haired comrade! viva la curl! how are you liking the rainy weather?)
Anyway, about the mental energy. There's so much that gets in your head and clutters. For me, it's my part time job as a waitress, my current single status and managing that, deciding who I'm going to be, working out, feeding the cats, etc. There really are a million and one other things to do and think about other than write. I'm learning that your writing can't just live on passion. Passion alone will starve it. It needs the constant food of discipline.
Now that, if I could bottle it, would make me a wealthy woman. Sadly, I seem to have very little of it.
There's this expectation that a newcomer can just learn the workings of a new community. But there's a whole new lexicon you're thrown into, new expectations of community, unwritten rules and maps existent only in memory. I think every city-town-township-village should come with a manual.
Perhaps that's our task, since we're the writers and we're the newcomers hoping for the direction.
I feel you on the mail thing. I've not moved as much as you have probably but I've got 7 different addresses in 4 different states in the last 5 years. Sad but true, I think that I may take up a "permanent residence" at my parent's place for mail's sake.