challenging memory and reality

My mother was totally sure it didn’t happen that way. I was totally sure it did. Months ago we had a conversation about how we were supposed to bag, in sealed bags, any trash we put down the trash chute. They live on the 9th floor. It was one of those situations where I could tell she didn’t remember it the way I did and there was no point in arguing it. In the past, maybe being “right” would have mattered. Or, more likely, since I gave credence to other people’s realities more than I felt confident in my own I would have had to fight it out until I knew the truth. Instead, this time (and most times in the last year or two), I said, “Okay,” and walked away. Sometimes this bugs the crap out of her and she needs to discuss it until we’ve sorted out what really happened. Thankfully this time she let it drop.

When something causes me to question my sense of reality these days a few things happen. Sometimes, I feel like I’ve gone temporarily insane. How can I not know the truth? It’s like a jolt of electricity. It stuns. Other times I just think, huh, they see it differently but that’s not how I see it. Then I feel even more comfortable with my own truth. In any case, if my sense of reality is called into question, different responses live in me concurrently.

Last night, into this morning, I got more sleep than I have in months. Certainly in the last 8.5 years there have only been a handful of nights I’ve slept so deeply and for so long. (I’ve been either pregnant or nursing a child for all that time and have very little opportunity for uninterrupted sleep.) This means I dreamed and remembered my dreams. I woke up with a scenario that started in a dream and continued on with the story as I drove home from Boston today.

Setting aside the person’s motivations (though an examination of possible motivations could be fascinating), I imagined someone put together an elaborate hoax and it went like this…

I frequently work out of coffee shops. I carry my laptop with me, of course, and I carry it in this striped case. It’s a bag I got at Target on clearance 5+ years ago. It’s filthy and beat up, but it’s sturdy and simple. Handy.

In my story, the hoax maker has a duplicate bag. Not just the same bag from Target, but a bag that’s been doctored to look exactly like my bag. The same scuff marks, the same stains, the same stretching of the outer pocket.

I’ll be sitting working at a coffee shop and my bag will be under the table up against the wall, or on the chair next to me at the table. Wherever it is, it doesn’t really matter. When I pack up to leave, I start putting my laptop in the bag and see there’s a magazine in there that’s clearly not mine. Architectural Digest or NASCAR, something like that. I realize it also doesn’t have the USB cord I carry in it for my iPod. It’s not my bag. I’m puzzled. I look around and see my bag is right there. Under the table, on the chair, maybe even on top of the table but it had been hidden by my computer, or I see it nearby but at a different table. What the heck? There are two identical bags here, what is going on? I pick up the bag that I now think must be my own and, yes, there is the USB cord. I pack up my stuff and leave the other bag there. It’s really weird. This was weird. What the heck happened? I didn’t see anyone… how was there a bag just like my own? what are the odds? the odds are too… no… this is nuts… it’s insane… what just happened?

The same situation repeats again and again. I come to almost expect the bag I pick up when I get ready to go home won’t be my own bag but will be a mystery version of my bag.

This is too insane to actually be happening, right? Someone’s obviously fucking with me. Why the heck would they do that? I grow increasingly paranoid. I try to catch the bag switcher in the act. I try to look for clues in the fake bag for who might be doing this. I begin obsessing over this weird, weird experience and lose sight of many important things in my life. I’m maybe even a little scared. What kind of person would play this kind of trick?

But then… here’s the part that ties it with my conversation with my mother. I know I work in coffee shops and I have this computer bag. I know that someone’s fucking with me and replacing the bag. It just is. I’m not crazy. They’re being freaky, but my reality is certain. I go to the coffee shop. Somehow the bag gets switched no matter how careful I am to keep an eye on it (I suppose, logistically, maybe it doesn’t happen every time…). It just is. I know what’s happening. I don’t know why and I’m flooded with questions, but I stop worrying about my own sanity. I know it’s happening even if it seems and sounds totally crazy. It might even become a sort of calming meditative experience. Ah, yes, here is this insane thing… this is not my bag and I don’t know how or why it’s here… I do know that is my bag. Nearly soothing, really.

When I said to my mother, “Okay” and walked away from her rather than engaging her in a discussion of what we talked about months ago, I had a tiny flash of anxiety. It quickly moved into a peaceful state, though, where I just knew what I remembered. If she didn’t remember it that way, that was no big deal. And, at the same time—and this is key—I knew I could be wrong. Maybe my memory of it was tweaked or I’d mixed a few conversations together. That’s totally possible. The fact was, I didn’t care. I knew what I thought had happened and her believing it happened another way wasn’t going to rattle me. Even if she had come after me about it which she frequently does, it would have been a moot point for me. I was where I was with my experience of it. She could see it however she wanted to or needed to and that didn’t affect me or my experience of it.

If I’m working out of a coffee shop and I go to pack up and find my bag isn’t actually my bag (it has a Wall Street Journal in it), nothing anyone says would convince me I’m wrong just because it’s an insane and absurd thing to have happen.

Most relevant to my thoughts about these issues lately is that notion that I can hold various possibilities in my mind, or my gut, at the same time. If I’m not sure I’m right about something, but I’m almost totally positive I’m right, I can hold on to that as reality. I don’t have to rush out and try and prove I’m right or have someone else prove I’m wrong. I know perfectly well that at any moment I could find out I’m wrong, but at this moment, I know what I know to be true is true.

what I did today

This morning I started making some muffins and began feeling… decadent? spoiled? or some kind of thing… I wasn’t using my time to do billable work and I was feeling anxious because of it. I opened a text file and started taking notes. These notes turned into a long list to which I am now about to add bullets, photos, and a little movie. For most of you it will be tedious. Some of you, though, might enjoy it. I’ve already found it helpful for those moments (and there are many) when my head voices are screaming “what the fuck are you doing on Twitter/Facebook/email again! don’t you do anything worthwhile?!?!?!??!” Since today was actually a pretty typical (non-billable-work) day, I believe I’ll refer to this list once in a while when I need to tell my head voices to fuck off.

So, what does Heather/serenebabe do on a typical day when she’s decided not to try and get any grantwinners.net work done? Read on and enter my world…

Not in order:
  • put Christmas music on 3 cds, find out the almost useless CD player/”radio” (ha! NO reception) in the kitchen doesn’t read the cds made on the computer
  • made:
  • pancakes (from a mix) for breakfast
    apple coconut muffins
    sloppy joe (incl. improvised version of this bbq sauce)
    chicken jerusalem started
    roasted bone-in chicken breast
  • loaded/unloaded/loaded dishwasher
  • nursed A several times
  • got pissed at a friend in email
  • woke up at 4am to nurse A, prayed she’d go back to sleep which she sort of did
  • got A to nap 2x, then once more
  • made home movies
  • swept kitchen
  • got up with A at around 5:30, not sure, really, what the time was
  • moved A to different places, gave her varied toys to keep her interested
  • made baby food from chicken, avocado, hard boiled egg yolk, butternut squash
  • listened to a near-constant groan from A that I think must be her molars (wf?!?)
  • listened to Democracy Now, Howard Zinn on Moyers, thought about what I heard
  • Facebooked, of course, Twittered, too
  • showered
  • introduced A to the joys of a metal spoon and pan (CLANG! CLANG!)
  • wondered if my email buddy had received my follow up clarifications
  • maintained a near-constant conversation with the adorable but groaning 8+ month old baby as if she were saying completely comprehensible things
  • made this note
  • thought, about 100 times with huge knots in my stomach, I should get some billable work done
  • pruned and possibly saved that beastly hanging plant
  • started some more of those beastly plants by shoving the good stems in water
  • figured out that when A does ∞ with her hand it’s either the sign for Mommy or for nursing
  • cleaned up cat puke, left some cat puke (note to self: tell J about remaining puke)
  • applied gum number stuff and had a brief reprieve from the constant sounds of discomfort (Althea’s) (mine continued)
  • assessed the spurting kitchen faucet situation (disassembled it a bit), figured out the part we need, noted it to self for later, reassembled
  • considered the wisdom of plastic spoons in the dishwasher
  • made a decision to not fold the laundry from Tuesday, also to not finish the dismantling and reassembling of the closet full of baby/children’s clothes that fill half the master BR floor
  • understood better why Josh doesn’t take a lot of time to rinse the dishes before loading, but still rinsed the heck out of them
  • noticed the fucking cat had eaten the remains of the chicken babyhood, planned to take a blind eye to the upcoming cat puke
  • tossed A in a sling because I just couldn’t figure out what the fucking problem was
  • tried on “work clothes skirts” and realized nothing fits anymore, all too big
  • vacuumed playroom, *around* “the chick’s home” of blocks and basket
  • picked up toys
  • enjoyed the memory of our daughter alphabetizing the spice rack, almost broke down and set it all right but realized it’s fine how it is
  • vac’d LR
  • set out overdue library books in an obvious place near the door
  • washed high chair tray about seventeen times
  • looked away when noticing the two containers (bag and basket) of clutter thrown together days before when cleaning out the car
  • felt grateful to whoever came up with this sling idea for the baby
  • considered a “you leave it out, it could get tossed in the trash” policy
  • thought how boring this note would be to most people
  • made up a little tune
  • hummed said tune while checking Tweets, made a little movie of myself in the process
  • hung up (unplugged the phone) on someone who called *just* as A was falling asleep
  • did not sweep up the piles of crap since A was asleep in the sling and I didn’t want to dip down so far
  • left the avocado pit on the floor, too
  • realized this list is *exactly* what the Twitter haters think Twitter is like. No way, people, this is inane day to day activities. Twitter (done right) is funny, informative, creative. Don’t knock it ’til you *really* try it.
  • opted for two packets of hot chocolate powder in the half-mug’s worth of leftover coffee instead of brewing a new pot
  • tweeted and txtd a request that my husband pick me up a tall peppermint mocha on his way back from picking up our baby, knew I’d probably regret it ’round 10pm
  • stepped in one of the blasted swept-up piles
  • considered the definition of feminism in a global sense and for me
  • felt quite self-congratulatory when I sliced up the sale apples (.59 a pound!) for the dehydrator
  • other stuff I didn’t note or just forgot about, you know, like rinsing out the coffee grinds, etc.
Then everyone came home and we had sloppy joes and other yummies including great sister snuggles like this:

The End.