Friday, May 31, 2013

Book Clubbing

There are enough balls in the juggling act currently masquerading as my life that I may soon be qualified for a position with the circus. The major variables in the air are: 1) a job to facilitate 2) my own place in which to live, 3) travel, and 4) a social life. For now, I live with my Mom and stepdad, and although I have a valid passport and plenty of time to travel, I am far too sensible (frugal?) to spend what money I have on travel, a situation I will deeply regret once I find a job and no longer have the time for it. Plus, I don’t have any travel companions, and there are certain things, like jetting off to a foreign country, that I refuse to do alone. Dang, I don’t even enjoy going to a local museum alone.

In between stalking the job listings and crafting customized cover letters worthy of a literary award (depressing), and flirting with the real estate listings to monitor current prices (more depressing), a meager amount of continually diminishing energy is directed to reconstructing a social life in a geographic area from which I was absent for 12 years. I considered ordering these stressful searches sequentially, but the logical first step is a job, a search that is going so poorly I’ll likely be eligible for Social Security before I find the next step in my career. If only I could be paid handsomely to just show up places and act aloof and snooty. You know, like Paris Hilton. Then I could be knocking out the money, travel and social scene all at once.

The whole life rebuilding thing isn’t exactly easy. It’s reminiscent of the square peg / round hole feeling I had all through school. And college. And most of my adult life. At least there’s consistency. And familiarity. I feel like a fish out of water, gasping for air on a dock, unable to commandeer my own life.

At Mom’s, we each seem to feel the need to entertain the other. We go clubbing (BJ’s Wholesale Club) and visit antique shops. We cook dinner together. There are Scrabble matches almost daily. She still has regular activities away from home that I have conscientiously remained out of, because she needs her own space as much as I need mine. I don’t get much writing done when she is home, because I feel like I’m ignoring her, which feels rude. Plus, she likes to watch the morning chat shows, an endless stream of crime dramas and the game show classics “Let’s Make a Deal” and “The Price is Right” which are intrusive to my focus, especially when she starts talking to me about what is happening on TV. It’s super fun when I’m trying to write cover letters and send resumes.

My trajectory into the social scene has been pathetic, to put it delicately.  There have been a handful of social outings in three months -- a lounge concert and a bar, a coffee date, patio cocktails, three book club meetings, and a ballet recital. There have also been seven dance classes and two workshops.  Sprinkle in a couple hair appointments and the sum total is the rough equivalent of one week’s activity in my previous, mostly-fully-formed-adult life.

My life is so small right now I don’t know how I have managed to not slip through the cracks in the front porch. Perhaps the extra 15 pounds of lard presently adorning my physique has spared me such a tragic fate.

It’s one thing to be a pathetic adult loner living independently and sulking after work in one’s fortress of loneliness, surrounded by cherished belongings and without witnesses, but it’s kind of horrifying to be a middle-aged, unemployed loner (by which I mean LOSER) living at your Mom’s and having her see you on the computer or on the sofa watching TV all night every night.

My most “interesting” outings so far, if they can be called that, might be the book club meetings. It is glaringly obvious that I don’t read books like other people in book clubs read books. While other members reference sentences, phrases, and incidents in the book with startling clarity and detail, I sit there frantically flipping through the story in my head trying to grasp something, anything, upon which to comment. I guess I need to postpone my reading until the last minute, instead of devouring the book three weeks in advance to increase my chances of recollection. 

When other readers are commenting on the “darkness” of the story or something that happened to the central character, I’m wondering just how that “darkness” was conveyed and how it managed to completely escape my attention. Instead of revealing my state of obliviousness, I bite my tongue to hold back the “Huh? What page is that on?” that is eager to burst forth from my lips.

Heck, even when I read Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar,” the classic depiction of depression and breakdown, it seemed like the chronicle of a series of normal days to me. Perhaps my own inner life is so dark and twisty that someone else’s mental breakdown reads to me like just another day from my own journal.

So while my book club members wax eloquently on the importance of the gold scarf that was not discarded in one book, the abusiveness of the father in another, or the symbolism of the tail gate party in a third, I sip my beverage of choice with a smile upon my face that I hope is concealing the utter emptiness residing in the cavity behind it. Maybe I need to check for Cliffsnotes or published reviews before my next book club meeting, so I can participate with confidence (and a clue).

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