BootsnAll Travel Network

Making commitments

OK, the newness has worn off. I live in Portland now. It’s time to clean the bathroom, do laundry, buy groceries, and get on with it. I did the new-girl-in-town thing, pushing past my native shyness to thrust myself into social situations (Chinese aerobics, the UU church, a writing workshop, a reading, a writer’s group, meetings with some splendid local women I found online, a kindly tax man, and a playful and worldly barber who cut my hair). I’ve met a fascinating array of people, some of whom may become real friends, given time and circumstance, so I feel I can now back off, quit pushing myself, and wait to see what comes. I’m a little more than halfway through the second volume of Proust, and because Proust’s angst-ridden introspection is so much like my own that when it doesn’t make me laugh it wears me out, I’ve also picked up Snow, by Orhan Pamuk. I rekindled my Netflix subscription and have a few good films to look at. But what do I want to commit to, other than my own writing and the self-indulgent pleasures of life beyond employment? Now that I have no excuse NOT to walk my talk, how do I want to contribute to the world in this place? That is the question.

I have real doubts about this blog. I have to stop writing in order to write it, which seems weird. As always, I wonder every day what on earth could possibly be interesting enough to post on the blog, and that takes up energy that might better be put elsewhere. I think of Eleanor Roosevelt, my model, with her daily columns of opinion and observation, but any comparison of her and her life situation with me and mine is absurd.

 There is a program for people who like to read to kids: I like to read to kids. Is that worth a commitment? There are any number of animal shelters where I could hang out with cats and dogs and the occasional iguana longing for human contact and offering touch and soulful gazes in return. Devorah is full of enthusiasm for Bookshare, an organization that provides alternate-format books for people who are visually impaired. I love books and would be happy to join in that effort, probably will, but how much, and with what balance of doing that and doing something face-to-face?  The Portland Center for the Performing Arts is recruiting volunteer ushers, and these ushers will, of course, get to see performances in exchange for their labor. I downloaded their volunteer application form, and it asks, “Are you available days? nights? weekends? What skills are you willing to share? Writing newletter articles? Public speaking and outreach?” There are environmental action groups and political action groups, hospices that need sitters and museums that need docents, and there are all these gorgeous wild open spaces–parks and trails and paths through mossy woods next to ferny banks and clear streams and waterfalls, and spring is about to burst out all over the place. There are prisons, of course, full of people who are bored and have stories to tell, and I could go help them find their stories. There are free yoga and tai chi classes, watercolor classes, and of course the streets–just walking in the streets of this old city is a joy: streets full of Victoriana and re-painted houses with little finials and cupolas and elaborate gardens full of varieties of fragrant flowers I’ve never seen before. For the first time ever in my whole long life, I have no reason NOT to do any of these things.

This is a stunning opportunity to create a life I can love. The choices are endless. It’s also an opportunity to do what I have done before: to entangle myself in veils of maya (illusion), create drama, over-extend, over-commit, crowd the calendar, wear myself out, and make myself nuts with worry about how to meet a whole array of responsibilities nobody made me accept. I woke this morning from yet another dream that I had not finished grading my students’ papers and the end of term was at hand. I had overslept my 8 a.m. class, the students from the next class were waiting for me to show up with their research papers, and I couldn’t find my grade records. When I opened my eyes, I had no idea where I was, but I knew I didn’t want to be in that dream again.

I’m glad I’ve arranged to go sit in silence for ten days starting March 5. That will give me time to be still and cautious, not to leap into things and make stupid knee-jerk choices. I don’t have to make commitments yet. What matters most? What calls most tantalizingly? I wonder what other people do that matters to them most. I want to walk up to everyone I see and ask that question. If you were free of a job and family, if you didn’t have any history with a place or the people in it, if you were starting fresh, what would you do?  

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6 responses to “Making commitments”

  1. Mari Miller says:

    K… You are in a sacred space….everywhere cascades of promise in free fall….thirsting but not ready to drink….until the current carries the past far out to sea. May your sitting in silence open those beguiling irises. You are very brave. M

  2. hi Kendall says:

    Hi Kendall it’s me Alberto I’m glad that you wrote me to my email. now I tell you that i always found better to WRITE IN MY OWN LANGUAGE. I WOULD LIKE TO START A NEW STORY WRITING IN SPANISH I FEEL MORE COMFORTABLE AND THE THINGS COME RIGHT OUT FROM MY MIND FRESH AS THEY ARE. INSPIRATION???

  3. Dave says:

    I am so happy that you brought your blog back. I love reading about your new life and I am so inspired because as of Wednesday, I will be starting a new life in Sao Paulo, Brazil with my partner. I get strength from you. I know I’m facing some major challenges, but I know I’ll be saying “Now how would Kendall handle this?” (Yes, I know you posed a similar question at the end of your last entry…I would do exactly what you are doing, namely making use of the amazing library, wandering around the city, visiting bookstores, smelling the trees and the flowers –I would, however, join a community garden and try to get my own plot–I’d also try to become a docent at a museum or a garden or an historic building so I could give tours; I’d also just spend as much time as possible writing….I think you have another book in you.
    Thanks for coming back!!

  4. Kathryn says:

    Congratulations, Dave! I’m so happy to hear from you and to hear such wonderful news. And thanks for telling me how Dave would handle this. Let me know how life develops in Sao Paulo, please.

  5. mina olen says:

    Not sure what you’re working on, or what advice would resonate from a person half your age, but if I had that freedom, I’d have to have some disciple of routine so my writing didn’t take a back seat to everything else that’s fun and healthy and rewarding and distracting. But you’re probably way beyond that.

    In the end, you’re responsible for your own happiness, right? So do the things that make you happy, in order of importance. :~j

    Regarding the blogging: another way you might think of it is less poetic and idealistic but just practical… Assuming you are writing for eventual publication, maintaining a blog is a great way to stay in touch with your readers and promote your work.

    BTW what books have you written so far?

  6. Kathryn says:

    Not way beyond it, but definitely putting writing first and building the rest around that. What books? My profile on lists them:
    along with short reviews (I always give myself five stars).

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