November 29th, 2013
Grass Valley, CA
The problem with trying to write about my life [besides a vague feeling that I’m masturbating in public] is that it’s not only arranged along an axis of time, but also linked through recurring circumstance, mindset, etc. The events of my life don’t come in self-evident packages, and I’ve attempted to slice my life into “episodes” any number of times so as to be able to write about Something without it being torn apart in the vacuum of memory by every possible association I could draw—ultimately these “episodes” are as arbitrary as political borders.
I could chronologically work my way through a particular trip, or else catalog the experiences I’ve had with a prominent person, or in a particular place. Deliberating over how I should organize my writing has caused me to backlog the fuck out of everything, obsessively rearranging half-formed snippets of writing like Tangrams, trying to figure out how to present them together as composites, instead of just working to finish them. All of this has finally led me to one infuriating deliverance of a conclusion: Fuck it, this is just self-righteous procrastination.
So…I guess all that’s left is to write. Otherwise the unfinished .docx files will just keep piling up, as they have for years.
Quickly approaching is the last night I expect to spend in Gold Country for a while [which, of course, could just as easily mean a few months as it could the rest of my life].
Of course, with no one around except Alex, two dogs, and a declining number of chickens, I’ve been naked for the greater part of a week, except for a pair of moccasin boots a girl had forgotten in my car earlier that year, and a fleece blanket I’ve wrapped myself in in accordance with the setting sun.
Outside, a large pond [occasionally patronized by a river otter, supposedly], a hot tub [frequently patronized by Alex and myself, beer and cigarettes in tow], the best tree swing I’ve ever met, a massage-and-yoga-retreat-space-to-be, disc golf targets, an RV and a shed or two, ample space.
The chicken issue has been bothering me—I’ve been stationed here with a very small set of responsibilities: to make sure the dog food doesn’t run out, and to make sure the chickens are let out of their run each morning and locked up again by nightfall.
First the number dwindled mysteriously from six to five without my seeing or hearing a thing, and last night when I went to close up the run I came across just one quiet, wary bird, though I’d seen the other four puttering around only a couple hours ago. I’ve since invested a lot of anxiety into this.
Alex has been trying to reassure me, “This shit just happens. Free range chickens get eaten—sometimes a cat shows up. It’s not your fault—you’ve been here, doing everything you’ve been asked to do, everything they’d be doing if they weren’t on vacation. There’s no way to keep an eye on this entire property all day—it’s huge.”
Mostly my anxiety’s been in a lack of inspiration. We’ve been sitting around, watching movies and TV, eating, drinking, a bit of reading. Not the writing—or, failing that, the debauchery—I felt would do my stay here justice.
Fourteen months ago marked my arrival in Nevada City for the first time.
Five months before that, my friend Christina had given me my first Thai massage in exchange for my teaching her to ski. She mentioned off-hand that she thought I’d be good at massage and might try pursuing it myself, and recommended two schools.
I didn’t give it much thought at the time, but a couple months later I impulsively signed up for both—Ahern’s 200-hour intensive and Spirit Winds’ entire curriculum of Thai massage classes—which totaled to a $5200 whim, without seriously considering whether I’d ever get a return on the investment. It might turn into a new vocation or a new passion, or it might not. I had the money for the time being and thought it’d be better spent on exploring a new skill than on rent or more stuff and things.
I coax Alex to come outside for a cigarette, and suddenly the answers to my stagnation come pouring out.
“You know, my first impulse on that last day of class was to arrange when I could come back—to sign up to re-take some classes and deepen my training, and to return to Nevada City for little vacations from life, now that I’m familiar enough with this place to be comfortable, and have people I know I could stay with. Or just to take some more massage classes, in general. But, really, that’s what this whole year’s been, and my memory’s been vague. I’ve been living the same pinball life, but honestly, I’ve been on crutches.”
“So you think you just want to close up this chapter?”
“Yeah. At least for a long, long time—at least until coming back would feel completely new again. We’ve done so much cool shit this year, but it’s largely been things we both knew how to prepare for. Working festivals was a cool new experience, but it only takes doing one to know what kind of experience to expect on at least a basic level, so I don’t want to do it again. Even being on a Burning Man project where I’d learn new skills, like this year—of course it’d be a new experience, but not the same kind of new. I’d know some of the people, the sort of skills I’d be learning. Going to New Zealand, at this point in our lives, even though I’ve never been—I’ve got an idea of what we’d be doing there, and who’d be there. Sarah said when she went, it almost felt just like visiting relatives, since the trip was structured around people she already knew, doing things like what she’s already been doing. I want to go, but not right now—not when we’d have such an obvious itinerary.”
“I’m with you. That’s why I suggested we skip New Zealand. Southeast Asia’s something neither of us have a real concept of, except for stories we’ve heard.”
“Exactly. And I know it’s kind of the standard baby’s-first-backpacking-trip, it’d be new for us, and neither of us has any idea what we’d end up doing there once we arrive. And that’s when I feel alive, and when I feel inspired. And this week I came here to house-sit, all isolated and comfortable and hoping I’d be able to write. And all I’ve really done is looked through old writing I never quite finished, wondering where all my inspiration’s gone. Till today, now that we’re about to leave. And we’ve done so much cool shit this year, I couldn’t figure out why I haven’t been inspired by it. But now it’s obvious. This year’s been just as dynamic and full from an outsider’s perspective as last—but I always knew what was coming. I planned most of it. The times this year we’ve been happiest—in general, with ourselves, with each other—have been the times we were winging it and didn’t know what we’d be doing in ten minutes, two hours, two days. And times like that have been in the minority for a while. And it’s gotten me so lazy. Scared to go abroad because I don’t have tons of money—but really, I’ve got money for a plane ticket, and then some. I probably have enough to reserve as a small cushion for when we get back. What’s the problem? And yet I’ve been resistant. It’s just inertia, really….”
The town hasn’t changed, and Janice’s classes are all pretty similar in structure, but that internal difference in my approach is the variable that matters. It almost feels like a betrayal—to fall in love with a place, then slowly come to realize it’s becoming stifling when, after all, there are still more things to learn and do and see within it. I must just be fickle—it’s my problem, not the town’s.
And that’s true, in a way. But the point isn’t for me to chastise myself and try and force an effort to keep my passions for places, lifestyles, or experiences alive—the point is that my favorite thing about life is that there’s so much contained within it that I’ll never run out of things to sample, and that process of sampling is what’s shaped me.
Alex is looking off into space, shivering a bit, but I know he’s heard me. Most of the time, he’s figured things out the same time I do—or sooner.
I gather my blanket up and head inside, full of gratitude. “Let’s get out of here tomorrow and get those tickets, and keep living. I think I’m going to go write, finally.”
“Yes. Good. I like that.”
“Want to play in a bit? We should clean up around here soon, too.”
“Just finish whatever you start.”