Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hello darling, up in the aerie, doing my best with this heat wave, in the 90s today and very sunny and humid. Just finished watering the garden. I've been in the house three days straight, except for going out in the garden or for a walk. D's been out on a job and we have only the one car. Am I feeling housebound? Hard to say. I'm not really dying to go anywhere. There's an exhibition at the Clark, on the impressionist painter Camille Pisarro, that I'd like to go see, but even if had the car, the car needs work before it's safe to hazard the hour-and-a-half trek over the Berkshire mountain pass. I've been occupying myself best I can, reading a fair amount today, the Rebecca Wolff novel, and making inroads into the The Power Broker-sized (which is to say behemoth) biography of Emily Dickinson, which is fascinating and very readable, so the size isn't putting me off. The two-volume opus is combined in my massive paperback - and Miss Dickinson doesn't even make an appearance - so I've read in Richard Sewall's introduction - until Volume II! So it's tempting to skip Volume I altogether, which describes the backdrop and cast of characters, ancestral and contemporaneous, surrounding E.D. But I'll be good. I have all the time in the world. And I heed Professor Sewall's sternly persuasive admonition (akin to a school principal mind-reading a restless student's contemplation of skipping class): "To readers in haste to have her born and on the way, I can say only this: the more one knows about background, foreground, center, what's "above" and what's "below," the more real the poems become and the more awesome Emily Dickinson's achievement is seen to be."

So I'm not feeling physically housebound so much, yet I could use more stimuli, inputs, simple company - oh for an interesting conversation (hence this one-sided effort, I suppose). And so in my way of venturing out into the world, I thought to google a former neighbor, who lived in the downstairs apartment from us for a number of years when we lived in Brooklyn. And was very surprised - though at the same time not surprised, rather very impressed and happy for her - to learn that she's now in an extremely high-up executive position at a top Ivy League university. This woman over the years has built a singularly distinguished career. She was just starting on the upward trajectory when we first moved into the building, and over the years her career took off by remarkable leaps and bounds. She was a godsend to our little self-managed co-op too, took charge of organizing a refinancing (we were all clueless & overwhelmed) like it was nothing, which it wasn't, it was a total pain. She was (is) incredibly competent, intelligent, serious, fair-minded - I really liked and admired her. You know, she's achieved exceptionally important positions, but I never had the sense from her that she was 'power-hungry.' Unlike a couple of people, at least, who readily spring to mind from my last tenure, at a municipal agency, who struck me as mostly into it for the swashbuckling power & perks & what it did for their vanity. With this woman, I never had a glimmer of that in the slightest. Just hard work, determination, good humor, devotedness, purpose -- in short, integrity. I know, I'm making her out to be a saint, or glorifying her - I don't mean to - what I'm trying to convey is that she was just really 'solid.'

She liked me too, and I recall now that there was some time in the early nineties when I found myself unemployed. Hmmm, have to think back to the details of that - I'd been a paralegal at a humungous law firm, helping to administer their nonbilling pro bono department; there was a restructuring, I was laid off or let go - jettisoned. It's okay, the job wasn't the worst - but I've always had this problem in my professional endeavors throughout my life - almost always, my heart hasn't been in it. Or my heart could be in it to some extent certainly, 30 percent, 20 percent, maybe 35 percent (how does one measure?!). I worked hard, maybe harder than some as if to compensate for my duality - because this other part of me was always 'outside' the job, thinking of other things, wishing to be elsewhere, homesick sometimes. But what I always had a hard time feeling, from a deep core place, was close identification with an organization, even when its mission & purpose was ostensibly very congenial to my values (which coincidence rarely occurred).

When I had been let go (not fired, not forced to resign, as in my very last position at the municipal agency), I collected unemployment for a requisite period, I don't recall now if it ran out or not. It was an anxious time, there was a mortgage to pay, living in Brooklyn was expensive. Anyway, my downstairs neighbor saw a glimmer in me, something, and - in one of the few times in my life that I have experienced the benefit of a 'connection' - suggested that I apply for a position that otherwise I would never have become aware of. And I believe she did so not only so that D & I, with me unemployed, wouldn't be a threat to the financial health of our tiny co-op. No, I believe that though she and I are very very different - she does possess this genuine selfless capacity to devote herself entirely to each of her challenging professional endeavors - she nevertheless saw something of worth in me, that I had something to offer. And in fact recommended me for the position - I pursued the lead - that I worked at very happily for several years, and under one of the loveliest bosses I have ever worked with in my life - so nice and kind and wonderful and quirky and offbeat and bright, that when she told me that she was leaving the agency to accept a university teaching position - I burst into tears.

As I think of it now, up here in the aerie typing - I'm tearing up! She was that nice. A very, very rare boss, in my life.

And that's it for now, darling. A little trip down professional memory lane. I liked working - as long as it wasn't fulltime. I found that I could devote myself 100 percent - if it only entailed, say 20 hours a week, spread over several afternoons, or two or three full days. Because then that left a lot of time for me to take care of the (then) apartment and garden, and I always seemed to require huge amounts of downtime simply to refocus, recover myself.

Anyway, that's that for now. This virtual house arrest is strange to me. But still - I'm writing, and that's a good thing. I show up every day, around this hour - and devote myself, entirely.

Many kisses, darling. Hope you have central air, wherever you are, because goodness knows that upstairs garret doesn't have it, sweet as that space is.

P.S. Menu-planning in my dreams, darling, hope you're coming. And it's 12534 - not 12345, sweet deflowered proxy.

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