The Beer Group

The weekly beer group would’ve met last night under ordinary circumstances. These being ordinary circumstances, they did not.

As a group, we range in size from six to sixteen attendees on most week. Volunteerism and traveling to visit family are the usual culprits pruning our numbers. We range in age from sixty to eighty-eight. Several college professors, computer programmers and coders, a physicist, doctor, and wildlife management people and biologists make up our group. Death has taken two since I joined it, an eon ago.

Businesses are re-opening in Ashland, Oregon. Technically, we could’ve met last night, wearing masks and social-distancing. These limitations made me laugh, right? We’re already on a group that struggles to hear one another. Imagine us now six feet apart trying to do that. Add the mask. Then, let us drink the beer.

You’d think with all this intelligence in the group, someone would devise a solution, something akin to the shower curtains being deployed in some restaurants, or the little greenhouses in Amsterdam, but no. We didn’t meet.

Think it’ll be a while before we do.

Sunday’s Theme Music

This song, “Goodbye Stranger”, arrived in the stream after watching people at the coffee shop and on the streets, and inadvertently eavesdropping (they speak, I have ears…it happens).

A woman regularly brings her dog into the coffee shop. She usually sits back by the community table, where I like to work when I can. Her dog is often a cause for conversations with others. So I’ve learned that her dog is a rescue from an animal hoarding situation, that she’s had to work with him, that his name is Atlas, that he does much better now, but that other dogs’ barking makes him nervous, that he is her service dog. I’ve learned others had dogs like him, or saved from similar situations. He’s often compared to a Ridgeback but he isn’t one, not a true Ridgeback, she says.

But I’ve never heard her name, or why she needs a service dog, nor why she is bald. She wears dark glasses, but she watches people, back from her space by the wall, with her service dog beside her…

I’ve decided that I don’t want coffee shop friendships. I’m there to work. Cruel of me, innit? So I keep myself to myself, but as I leave each time, I feel her eyes watch me, and imagine I turn my head and say, “Goodbye, stranger.”

But I don’t. It has caused the 1979 Supertramp song to find itself in my stream.


The Resentful Writer

I’ve been warring with myself. Fortunately, I’ve been winning.

The war is about priorities, routines, and discipline. I’ve worked hard to establish a daily writing routine. Discipline, so many writers counsel. If you want to write, write. Set up a schedule, and do it every day. So I’ve faithfully done. Friends, coffee shop employees, and family members all know my routine.

Several aspects have evolved on the quest for writing discipline and publication. First, I’ve learned that I’m happiest writing from mid- to late-morning to mid afternoon. Second, walking before writing helps me shift thoughts from daily life to plots and characters. Third, I write better outside of the house.

Writing outside of my home took some time for me to understand. My wife and I bought a home with a room that could be my office. We specifically set it up for that purpose. Yet, writing in there feels uncomfortable to me. Being an introspective person who self-obsesses, I’ve thought about why and came up with reasons.

First, cats. We have four. They seem drawn to my typing sounds. I suspect it sounds like scurrying little critters to them. Hearing my typing, the cats enter to investigate. Oh, it’s just you, they realize. Then, they say, give me some loving. Let me sleep on the keyboard. Let me on your lap. Let me mark this computer as mine. Permit me to play with your hand.

Yes, it’s precious, but it’s a frustrating divergence from the focus my scurrying brain cells need to type a coherent sentence. Closing the door on them doesn’t work. A close door is a challenge to get it open. They work on that challenge with scratching and mournful wails of deprivation.

The walks, too, are part of the whole thing with being out of the house. I leave, I walk, I shift into the writing mode, and go write somewhere. I think returning to the house pushes me out of the writing mode.

Socializing, chores, and errands all work against maintaining the schedule. Events come up that my wife wants to do, like go places, and have fun. I don’t know where she gets these ideas. I blame it on a bad element that she works out with.

She comes up with things to do. They’re enticing. I often want to do them, too. Well, I can say, “No,” to her. It sounds good, but it doesn’t work well. And I want to say, “Yes.” I want to have fun, and I want her happy, and I’ve heard that experiencing life can be a pleasant, entertaining experience,¬†and help me develop as a writer by introducing me to other elements. So I say yes.

But I’m often resentful. My writing time gets whittled down to a third of my desired period. I’m forced to rush, and move the writing session to another time to accommodate the socializing.

Balance was needed. Balance¬†is needed. Yet, the balance isn’t between socializing and writing; the balance is needed in me to accept that I don’t need to adhere to these hard-wired set of practices I created.

The shallow and insecure part of me fears that if I don’t write every day, I’ll lose the plot. The story will meander. My output will dry up. I’ll stop learning and improving as a writer. My meager stores of talent will oxidize, turn to dust, and get blown away. So, after working hard to establish my routines, I’m loathe to forfeit them, for anything, and anyone. The challenge, then, became, banish the fears. Accept variations.

Relaxing, I did. Yes, I write that like, la-di-da, I’m relaxed. It’s basically taken the year to date to get to the point where I’ve relaxed about it. I realized that my resentment was counter-productive. Negative energy often is. After I relaxed and dismissed my resentment – again, expressed as though I faced the sun and shouted, “Resentment, I dismiss thee,” three times, and it was all good, when it was really a constant wrestling match – I found I could enjoy socializing and varying my routines, and still be a productive writer who was having fun, learning, and improving.

It’s been a difficult lesson to learn. Once learned, I struggle to remember it, and keep the lessons learned in play. Sometimes, I feel like a child learning my ABCs.

It’s coming together, though. Check in with me again after twenty years. I believe I’ll have it down by then.

Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.

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