30 days

I’ve been off Facebook and Twitter for 30 days now. Somehow it feels longer than that.

It’s been a relief to be out of the 24-hour non-stop Twitter cycle re: politics and the unending nightmare. But I’m still keeping tabs on the highlights by looking at the paper every day, and listening to the various podcasts I keep up with. I don’t need to be aware of every bread crumb of outrage as it flows through the day in real-time. An occasional summary will do.

Not being on Facebook makes me realize how central it’s become to keeping in touch with my friends. I’ve loosely kept in contact with a few people via email and texting, and I’m still on Instagram, so I’m connected with people there.

At least once a day I think about something I would post, some pithy little thought or observation I would like to share, but have no outlet to do so. If I can communicate it via a photo, I can put it on Instagram, but I don’t have a lot of followers there. I suppose I could be putting all my thoughts & observations into more frequent blog posts, but that’s an even SMALLER audience since basically no one reads this, especially when I can’t post to Facebook or Twitter to alert everyone that there’s a new blog post to read. (One obvious point being that if I posted here more often more people might read it. Ridiculous.)

What have I been doing with all the time I don’t spend scrolling through social media? I’m not quite sure, honestly. My apartment is still a mess. I did watch all 90 episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine in the last few weeks, but I could’ve done that any time. (It’s pretty good, I recommend it.) I’ve been working on the mess that my Duran Duran photo archive has devolved into over the past year (don’t ask), and made some headway on that. I spent 3 days at Pitchfork, and under normal circumstances there’s no doubt I would’ve been live-tweeting and posting endless pics. I could’ve asked Dan to give me back my password for the weekend, but honestly I didn’t really want to. Maybe I’ll put some pics here on the blog if anyone finds it, or I’ll flood Facebook with them when I return.

My Uncle Jerry died two weeks ago, so I went home for his funeral, and then a week later my Aunt Virginia died, so this past weekend I was at home again for her funeral. I hope the family is done with this for awhile.

Stuff is happening at work. We’re getting ready to move to a new office in two weeks. I’ve been sweating bullets over a couple projects that i just want to be DONE so I can quit stressing. I had constant nightmares for a week about a certain project, and actually had bags under my eyes from lack of sleep for the first time in my life. I think the worst of it is probably over but I have NO confidence that it won’t come back and bite me in the ass later. Whenever I do have confidence about something at work I am immediately offered an opportunity to feel shitty about some failure, so I try to keep my pride at an absolute minimum level. “Waiting for the punch,” as Marc Maron would say.

I drove through an epic thunderstorm on Friday night. I rented a car to go home this weekend for my aunt’s funeral, and about an hour into my trip, there was a lot of lightning in the distance, which I was driving directly towards. The closer I got to it, the more frequent the lightning came (or so it seemed) and it started raining, harder and harder. I made a pit-stop to see if the rain would pass, or at least lessen. After about 10 minutes it stopped, and I continued on my way. There was still a lot of lightning, but it seemed to be behind me most of the time. Then after maybe another half hour, it started up again. It rained so hard, I saw people driving with their flashers on. The windshield wipers werer at their highest setting and barely making a dent. All I could do was follow the taillights of the person in front of me, or the reflective strip down the middle of the road, driving 40mph where I would normally be driving 70+. I thought about pulling over and waiting it out but I just kept going, hoping eventually it would stop, or at least I would be on the other side of it. As much as I hate driving, even in the best conditions, I felt strangely calm during this experience. But I was also mad that I was driving and not a passenger because I could’ve gotten some AMAZING photos and video. I’ve never experienced anything like it — driving across the flat prairie in the dark, nothing for miles in any direction and the sky full of flashing light and electric bolts coming down to the ground. It was scary but also magnificent.

Now I’m back in Chicago and it looks like it’s about to rain again. I’m really glad Pitchfork wasn’t this weekend.

30 days

Away from Home

On Tuesday, my parents will move out of their home of 43 years into an apartment in a senior-living complex. This is the home I grew up in from the age of 5, and even though I’ve lived in Chicago for more years than I lived in that house, it’s still the “home” I go back to and feel connected to. I spent a week there about a month ago, helping my mom sort through 43 years of boxes and closets and cabinets and drawers, deciding what to keep, what to donate to Goodwill and what goes to the trash.

As someone who has moved at least 7 times in the last 30 years, I’ve had a lot of experience with culling and packing and being merciless at getting rid of stuff when necessary. At best, moving is a frustrating, chaotic experience, even when you’ve only been in a house or apartment for a year or two, or five. Imagine living in the same place for 40+ years and then having to eliminate about 50% of your possessions because the place you’re going to just isn’t big enough to hold it all. Imagine having owned your home outright for over 20 years and having to start paying rent all over again.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they’re doing it. My father has Parkinson’s Disease and is having more and more difficulty getting around. The narrow hallways and cramped rooms are hard for him to navigate now that he’s using a walker most of the time. They have a neighbor who mows their lawn in the summer and shovels the driveway in the winter, but it’s still a thing that needs to be taken care of, and they’ve earned the right not to have to worry about that stuff anymore.

The basement of their home became the storage space, where everything that wasn’t in every day use came to live (or die, as the case may be). Christmas decorations (and Valentine’s Day decorations, Halloween decorations, 4th of July decorations. . . Mom’s a decorator.), boxes and boxes of old family photos inherited from both sets of grandparents after they passed (along with our own family photos, which include several carousels of slides), extra pots and pans that there was no room for in the kitchen, boxes and boxes of cancelled checks from the beginning of time . . . and let’s not even mention the piles of seemingly random junk that collects with no apparent rhyme or reason, and the deep freeze whose deepest recesses hold food that was made during the Carter administration.

So box by box, my mom and I went through as much of it as we could. We took a vanload of boxes to Goodwill. We generated (I’m guessing) probably 15 bags of trash, and I shredded enough paper to fill 5 or 6 more trash bags. I burned out the 2 shredders they already had and we went out and bought another one. We went through all the kitchen cabinets and cleared out decades of saved plastic food containers and pie plates. I could’ve curated a comprehensive exhibit of Cool Whip Bowls Through the Decades. Jars and jars of old spices and food coloring and cupcake papers for every holiday, and enough Bisquick boxes to feed pancakes to a hungry army.

I went back again this weekend for the final packing push. My brother came down from Minnesota to help and we got a lot done, but much more remains. He’s still there, still packing. I had to come back to Chicago to go to work tomorrow, so I’ll miss the big move on Tuesday. (Honestly, I’m a bit relieved that I won’t be there, because I know it will be an extremely stressful day for everyone, and I don’t mind missing out on that.)

There’s something else I have to keep reminding myself about this process — Imagine that you were getting ready to move to a place that will be the last place you ever live (if you’re lucky). My father is 75 and not in good health. My mom is 71, and aside from a few minor health problems she’s generally okay. But in making decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of, that has to be a thought that goes through their heads on a regular basis — “Is this something I will need again at any point in the rest of my life?” “Will I need to make another bundt cake?” “If I give up all my tools, that means I’m admitting I’ll never fix anything again.” Those are pretty heavy thoughts to consider, and I know it’s not easy for either of them.

I was so busy thinking about how it was effecting them that when I realized last night was the last time I would sleep in my childhood bedroom, I was surprised at how weepy I got. That bedroom has no traces of my life in it anymore — different furniture, different carpet and paint color, all my stuff has been gone for years. But at its most basic level it was still “my room.” Granted, I know I’ll be going back to the house to get rid of the last odds & ends and cleaning it up for future buyers, but I’ll never sleep there again.

Away from Home