That’s a Dire Straits album. On it, you’ll find a song I always found appropriate to the writing life: Skateaway. There are a few others out there, like Tracy Chapman’s Telling Stories (There is fiction in the space between). Writing books literally happens in the space between for most of us. I’ve always liked Dire Straits, though, and Skateaway is special to me. I picture a girl rollerskating around town, lost in her own mental world as the music plays the theme songs in the background. And of course, that song is one of my theme songs, so all this becomes meta. The story of my life is boring, but at least the theme song isn’t.
Not unbelievably, that last paragraph has nothing at all to do with what I’d come here to write about this afternoon. I’ve had a good run working on my book and avoiding social media. I don’t avoid news, though; thus, I’m not living in darkness, hiding my head in the sand. In fact, lest somebody accuse me of reading only Faux News (or whatever the latest insult is) I read the stream that Yahoo News sends me on my phone all day. It’s a mix of everything: The Atlantic, The New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post. You get the idea. Mainstream news sources, some tipping right and others tipping left. I’ve also been keeping up with Trump’s updates. And I’ve been feeling all right about the world. Things are a little weird, as we’re hunkered down and only going out to walk the dog or buy groceries. My husband, of course, still goes to work, being an essential worker (firefighter). In general, though, my friends and family are well and surviving this pandemic one way or another. This isn’t meant to downplay others’ pain, sickness, or loss. It’s merely meant to say that I’m weathering it and not panicking, even though newspapers like The Atlantic would like for me to be scared.
From my perspective, the president has been doing a reasonable job at responding to the country’s needs and listening to his expert advisers. I find little fault with him regarding this virus. And then…I logged back on to Facebook to check up on extended family members, and I realized Trump was evil and everything was wrong and terrible and if we don’t all die because of Trump and how evil he is, our economy is going to implode and then he will shut down the elections and become a dictator. Also, racism. Everywhere. Especially in American Christianity. Gloom threatened to overwhelm me almost instantly. It was like being in an airless room. Even the people who were applauding Trump were racked in agony and terror. E.g. I have a very outspoken, brash and opinionated New York Jewish friend who is pro Trump all the way; she loves him, but she has a compromised immune system and unwittingly does pass along her terror to the Facebook world.
It’s like we’re all watching different movies of the world around us. In this case, it isn’t experience that changes the story. Nobody on my Facebook has gotten Coronavirus. They don’t even know people who’ve contracted it. It can’t simply be the media they’re reading — I read all media sources except those I do not trust to be factual (e.g. Raw Story or Zero Hedge). I’ve been struck with similar thoughts before this, that we’re all watching different movies when it comes to the same events. It really popped out at me this time back on Facebook, though. I go on and off and am generally lured back on only because I miss the friends and family I can’t visit regularly. I’m gong to start calling it Facebook’s Cave. The same reality, the same news, filtered through Facebook casts a strange series of shadows on the wall that aren’t visible to me while out of the cave.* I mean, there are people like my dad who does nothing but share his artwork and jokes and puns and poems and stories, but there is always someone else around to dump cold water all over it. The strange shadows are like little goblins casting projections. Theater goblins, of course. And when we veer off-script, they have to reel us back somehow. Oh dear, I think I’ve been living my book for too long. Except in my book, they aren’t goblins but aliens. Help!
I’m going to leave the house now. Walk the dog, I think. I can’t do much else, and I need a larger screen for my movies to play. The brilliant blue sky will answer my need. Too bad I don’t have any skates, but if I did my movie would end in tragedy because my dog is a spaz.
*My husband pointed out that he’s friends with First Responders instead of writers and artists, and all they do is share dumb jokes all day. They are a breed, you know. They’ve seen it all, and if they can’t crack jokes, they won’t stay in the career.