After a month-long pity party during which time I couldn’t think of a single thing to write that wasn’t (a) whiney or (b) bitchy or (c) hateful, your girl is back. I know y’all don’t want to read that crap, so I won’t write it! After all, this ain’t therapy and I ain’t on no couch.
For the record, as you read that last sentence, I hope you know my mama is thinking about emailing me to “speak positively” to me about my poor grammar just as soon as she recovers from the shock of it. Let’s call it my creative license.
But before I go back to recipes and Southern sayings and the crazy things that pop into my mind, let’s talk about how I let a month go by without writing something and why another month won’t go by without you hearing from me.
Here’s a grammatically correct quote for you. The French novelist Gustave Flaubert said “Pleasure is found first in anticipation, later in memory.”
And you know what, old Gustave was right.
The word “anticipation” popped into my mind as I was watching the sun set over a body of salt water, which is something people look forward to seeing every summer. At least it’s something I look forward to. And it’s something I miss if I don’t make it to the coast at least once a year.
As the last 140 days have dragged by and morphed into weeks that have stretched into months, I’ve come to realize that we, as humans on this earth, need something to look forward to. Maybe it’s the end of a craft project or maybe it’s a family video call or maybe it’s eating tuna sandwiches off the good china. Just any little old thing to gin up some anticipation, some excitement, some joie de vivre, as Gustave might say.
A few weeks ago, I found myself with nothing to look forward to except for endless work Zoom calls which, for the record, don’t count as something fun to anticipate.
In reality, there was plenty to look forward to — a couple of art projects I’m working on, a weekly distance visit with a friend, new recipes to try from a new cookbook, new records to listen to, virtual meet-ups with my blogging/writing group, See Jane Write, writing challenges, and on and on and on. I just wasn’t seeing it. It was easier to sulk about the things I couldn’t do, than to appreciate the things I could do.
Tragedy and I thought about trying to rent a cabin at one of Alabama’s beautiful state parks just to get away for a weekend. But once we decided where to go, we couldn’t get anyone to answer the phone and tell us how the cabins were sanitized, how often they were being rented, and so on and so forth. We decided that if we couldn’t get any answers, we just wouldn’t take the risk.
So my overactive mind turned to thinking about possibilities for a weekend away where I could control the environment. That’s what we Virgos like — controlling our environment and situations in which we find ourselves. That thought process turned into countless mind-numbing hours of scrolling the internet looking at everything from campers I could buy to lake houses for sale to land I could purchase. Talk about going down a rabbit hole.
The more I looked the more discouraged I became. Since I live in a condo, I don’t even have a yard to pitch a tent in. All I wanted was a weekend away from my house without worrying myself sick about whether or not my selfish yen for a vacation would cost me my life or somebody else theirs. I mean, is that too much to ask?
Now I’m not one to believe in divine intervention much. I feel like the Big Man has bigger things to worry about than my mopey ass needing a vacation. War, pestilence, pandemic, climate change, extinction — somehow that all seems to be more important than Little Audrey needing a weekend of sun and fun.
But divine intervention came!
Quite out of the blue, I was offered the use of a summer house! A house that had been unoccupied for a few weeks. A house that had been cleaned and sanitized. In a place where you can smell the salt air and feel the sun on your shoulders! It was the ideal coronavirus vacation scenario. All of a sudden I had something to look forward to.
All of a sudden I felt alive again.
And I felt extremely and profoundly grateful to and for the person who made us such a kind and thoughtful offer.
So that’s how Tragedy and I came to spend a happy weekend sheltering in somebody else’s place. We took long drives and got take-out. We played cards and drank fruity cocktails that we made together. We went on evening walks and watched the sun set. We didn’t even mind when it rained. After all, a rainy day on vacation is always better than a rainy day at work.
And when we got back home, we felt renewed, reinvigorated, refreshed.
So that’s how I came to be thinking about the importance of anticipation and how crucial it is to happiness. You don’t have to do anything fancy or expensive or extraordinary. You just have to look forward to it, whatever it is.
I promise, it will make all the difference.
(And speaking of things to look forward to, UAB’s ArtPlay has asked me to teach creative nonfiction writing again this fall. This time I’ll be teaching one class for high school students and one for adults — both virtual. Stay tuned for details as I get them!)