Note No. 52

February 10, 2010

There was a message yesterday morning in my Facebook inbox from a friend writing to express his concern at my “message.” He was a good listener, even if it was across the air waves of cyberspace, he said, thereby implying that I needed to talk about something.

It was sweet and thoughtful and much appreciated. The problem was, I had no idea what message he meant. Had a virus gotten into my account and sent him something that made him think I was in real trouble?
I wrote him back to ask what message he meant. Then, before he could reply, I realized he probably meant my status bar the day before:

Margaret Goerig has a large, empty space inside her head. Prairie-sized. With tumbleweed blowing around. And coyotes howling in the distance.

Oh. That? I didn’t mean for it to be alarming. At all. I just happened to feel particularly empty up there for reasons that were my fault entirely— and very much related to the Super Bowl party I had gone to the day before. But I was not looking for sympathy and it was not a cry for help, either. I definitely would not do that on my FB status bar⎯albeit some people would. There have been two recent cases (a man in New York and a father in California) in which people have used Facebook to talk about their suicidal intentions before carrying through with them, thereby taking the tragedy of suicide to a whole new level.

My method of sadness, on the other hand, has always been to say little (though I am working on not being a corked up bottle), and so as long as I am posting things, I am fine. More than fine. And in the end, that bout with mind numbness was actually kind of refreshing. In fact, I look back on it now with a hint of nostalgia.

That is: there’s something oddly comforting about suddenly having to remind yourself, “One foot in front of the other.” It also serves as a fire drill of sorts to have to rely nearly completely on that infrastructure that you hopefully have built into your life— the one that has an ongoing To Do list, so that you always have a cheat sheet to know where you are supposed to be; the one that reminds you to eat every three or four hours; the one that says, “Lie down for a minute and then have another iced mocha;” the one that trained those employees way back when, so that they can grab the helm when their captain is down.

Not that the staff here had to do that. In fact, I am being completely melodramatic and now you probably have an image of me lying totally prostrate on the ground, a bag of coffee flung across the counter where I tried to make a pot. And just. Couldn’t. Manage. It was not that bad. I promise. I was still running the office, out doing errands, more or less fully functioning. I just felt dumb. Like I had nothing to contribute. Anywhere.

I suppose it’s like when I turn on the light in my bathroom upstairs and there is a small delay before the bulb flickers on. That was me. Every single time I had to do something. For example, I went to the construction materials store to order a bunch of cement blocks and dusty stuff to build the wall that is going to shut the neighbor up, and the office was closed. For the record, I had been told by Juan the maintenance guy that they would close from 2 to 4 in the afternoon, and this corresponded with a previous experience back in September, when I had arrived at 3 to find they would be closed until 4, so I was understandably bewildered to show up this time at 1:30 p.m. and find them closed. Again.

After a productive moment of staring at the closed doors and willing them open, I gave up and decided to walk around the corner to visit a friend, rather than spend taxi fare to go home and return an hour and a half later. I had reasoned that it would not be more than an hour and a half, because I figured they must have closed at 1 and would stay shut till 3. They COULDN’T be taking a three-hour lunch. They WOULDN’T be closed till 4. Not even in MEXICO would they do that.

And I believed this from the bottom of my heart, save for a quarter-inch deep layer of scummy doubt water.

On the way to this friend’s house, I passed one of the newest grocery stores on the island, so I popped in for a wander (That’s a mooch to you, Great Britain). Then I ran into the electrician and in the course of our conversation, he verified that the construction materials store would indeed open again at 3. So I continued my browsing and ended up buying a one-pound package of instant yeast. It was a bargain, compared to the sachets of regular yeast that everyone else sells, and it would surely make my pizza dough easier (and cheaper) to rise.

Then I continued on my way to the friend’s house, where I was suddenly in the midst of a Great Stove Dismantling. I participated just long enough for the arrival of the man who was going to take this project to the next level; then I nonchalantly backed out of the kitchen, into the living room, and right onto the makeshift sofa that conveniently happened to be a mattress. I was just drifting off into that happy place that is somewhere between listening to the sounds of traffic passing outside, and the quiet existence of sleep, when my hostess caught me.

Hmm? Me? Sleeping? Noooooooo.

I dragged myself up for a game of Spite and Malice, which I somehow managed to win. Then it was 3 o’ clock and I was meant to be ordering cement blocks and dusty stuff. Just as I was leaving, my friend offered me a pair of pants (Trousers, England, NOT underwear) that were passed on to her by another friend. They didn’t look right on her, so maybe they would work on me. We put them in a plastic bag and I added my sack of yeast to the mix. Then I was on my (mostly) merry way.

The office was open, when I got there, and I placed the order. It was simple. I arranged for the early morning delivery and left, elated to have done something in less than half an hour. Then I hopped in a taxi and headed home, only to realize when I got there that I had forgotten the bag of pants and yeast.

So now you see how I was operating all day. It wasn’t a complete catastrophe. But it wasn’t where I wanted to be, either.

That’s probably because I used to live in the land of Make Every Second Count and that meant that no time was wasted simply breathing. If you’re walking into the kitchen, by God, do it with purpose. Take a dirty glass with you. Wash it. Don’t just rinse it and leave it for later. Now hurry and get that snack you came here for. Hurry, I said. Stop stalling. DON’T make a Magnetic Poem on the fridge. That’s stupid.

Being efficient has a place, for sure. But it is not everything and I think I have come to understand that during my four years of living in Spanish-speaking countries, most especially during these last two in Mexico. It’s not that important, for example, to walk at full tilt all the time, as I used to think it was. If you have to slow down for just a little bit, because you are stuck behind a family of six and they are strolling along and actually enjoying each other’s company, well, just enjoy it for a second, too, because it can be a lesson learned in being part of the moment.

Yes. That moment. The one you’re in now.

You will eventually get the chance to pass the lollygaggers and return to your blistering pace but until that happens, don’t let it ruin your day, just because you are not getting your way. Please don’t knock over any little old ladies, either. It’s not worth it.

So for me, even though it was unintentional and not entirely appreciated at the moment (Yes. That moment. The one I was in then), Monday was a nice reminder that it’s okay to check out sometimes. Because when you check back in, you appreciate being there so much more.

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