Stillness and Repetition

Darkness comes with the end of autumn

A few years ago we sent out a New Year’s card to our friends that said, now all life is motion. But now life isn’t motion anymore. Life isn’t always what it was. It changes shape.

I’ve changed my mind about things. I’ve learned. I’ve been wrong. We’ve stayed in Atlanta since Covid started. We’ve barely traveled. I miss having close friends. I stopped shaving my head. I grew out my hair. I got stuck. I became porridge, a person marred by indefiniteness. Claude turned 7, and loves karate and soccer. Faye loves toy cars and is about to turn 4. I turned 40 this year. My colleague at work was shocked to hear it, saying that I looked 30, at most. I said, I don’t advertise my age, because the software industry is such a prejudiced place.

Everywhere around me is schedules and hierarchies. Everything is superficially orderly, is fraying into confusion, and you can only pick up where you left off, and you’re stuck in a small cement park covered in your own graffiti, echoing like tensions. Things break down when they shouldn’t. Suddenly it’s hard just to climb the stairs. Too overwhelming to even do your ordinary life well. A vitamin deficiency, possibly, or an enigmatic anemia. The gutters lie uncleaned, the rainy season turns to a long drought, and the plants are suffering. Darkness comes with the end of autumn, bringing with it fears that something is wrong.

Now it’s early winter and I feel a sense of stillness. Sometimes it’s a peaceful stillness, and sometimes a stillness that’s trapped and scared. All life is stillness. That’s what I would say today if I were in the mood to generalize, but I understand better than ever that generalizations are just errors in waiting.

The sense of precariousness comes and goes. The tech sector is having layoffs, but they haven’t affected me yet. Our managers promise us repeatedly that our jobs are safe. Are their jobs any safer than ours? One week I can barely walk because of a knee injury. My body is just an infrastructure for a life anyway. Talia suggests that I should take less estrogen. So far I’m unpersuaded.

I’m less and less like a biographical person who feels that she is at the center of her own life story. I’m scattered and intermittent, I’m fine and I’m not, I’m absorbed in children, I’m holding myself together and pulling myself apart, I’m guitar picks and mittens, dresses and frequent embarrassments. I’m neither a faithful robot nor a suffering begonia, I’m only patterns, I’m words I can’t remember saying, I’m a residual part of myself, I’m a house.

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