My Imaginary Time in Witness Protection

I finally figured it out. When I first moved here five months ago I thought that my main problem was exhaustion. I had been working long hours, living various places, and moving heavy things for months before the move. I would be happy here just as soon as I got caught up on sleep. Or as soon as I got finally got unpacked, or found the right drapes and got them hung.

Psychedelic 14After a few weeks, I realized that my restlessness wasn’t just caused by fatigue. I had left friends and family a thousand miles behind. I had no cell phone coverage and no land line. I knew no one here, and no one I knew had ever been here. I’ve died, I thought. This feels like I’ve died. Well, my husband was here with me, equally discombobulated. Maybe we’d died together? Scenes from the movie “The Sixth Sense” kept running through my head. Was it possible?

I looked out the window and saw the gorgeous mountains and bright blue sky and amended my assessment. Clearly if I’d died, I’d gone to heaven, whatever that was, and I should be happy. There were reportedly far worse alternatives. But I still just felt confused and disconnected. Being in heaven didn’t turn out to be such a great thing.

I was also unemployed, by choice, and this should have made me wildly, deliriously joyous but it didn’t. I had hoped to write for forty to sixty hours a week, but the open expanse of time was overwhelming and for the first time in my life I could barely write for an hour.  I signed up for yoga classes mostly for an excuse to get dressed, look at a clock, and get out of the house. The yoga turned out to be wonderful on many more levels, and one day one of the wiser instructors managed to give me a key clue to my dilemma.

“Today, let go of whatever it is that defines you, to you,” the instructor suggested.

That’s it! I almost said it aloud. What defines me to me! It was my job. Rather my profession and all the people who knew me as such. It was where I had lived. It was the places I liked to go, for lunch and ice cream and shopping. It was the clothes I wore to work and my habits and the way I lived my week and now all of that was gone.

It made perfect sense. I’d come to define myself by a fairly shallow set of behaviors and now that I had none of them, I needed to redefine me and I wasn’t doing a particularly good job of it.

I’ve gone into Witness Protection, I thought. Nice home, just enough money, and none of my old self to fall back on. No one knows me here, or knows what I can do. I’ve lost myself and I need to make a new me.

I mean, being in witness protection is an amazing opportunity if you think about it.  You get to leave a lot of baggage behind. You can be nicer, more fit, interested in birds or herbs or any old thing you want and no one is going to ask “What’s gotten into you?”

A little bit of looking around established that a lot of people of all ages have moved to this area, and some have taken on some amazing challenges once they did so. Who knows what they were like before. I could redefine me too.

What do I want to be? Well, I am and always will be a writer and now that I’m making sense of the void that intimidated me at first, the writing ought to come more easily. But writing will also always be a solitary part of me, and it’s the social, interactive parts that are needing the fleshing out.

I’d already taken steps to reconnect with loved ones.  I’d gotten a new cell phone carrier with coverage at my house. Some friends and family came to visit and that helped and now I’m making plans to visit some of them. But I had to figure out what else defined me besides a connection with those who will always be close to me.

bolder7Well, I want to help people; I want to put something back for all the good fortune that I’ve had. So over the last week I’ve found four or five volunteer opportunities I’m excited about and looking into. It turns out that I don’t like being broke or never working as much as I though I would, and it looks like I’ve also found a chance to work a day and half a week. The money and the structure will help. Better and better.

I already like the ways I’m starting to define me as me, to me, and once I’m comfortable enough I won’t be in witness protection anymore. I’ll just be Sherrie, the lady who works from home on her computer a little and volunteers over there every week and writes books on the side and does a lot of yoga and seems very happy in her new life.

(Read more at “My Imaginary Prison Time“)

 

Do the kids stand a chance?

As you get older it’s tempting to conclude that the world is going to hell. Evidence for this has never been hard to find. I remember my own parents’ complaints and my grandparents’ as well. I think that as you become an adult, you need to fight the temptation to believe that change is bad. Remind yourself that along with more chain restaurants we also have more tolerance. Global warming and an increasingly skewed wealth distribution are at least partially offset by more fairness and globally available information. Right? At least partially right.

vampire weekendI’m checking the links for the music in each of my novels and I’ve gotten as far as song four of nine. In y1, it’s not until the fourth song of the novel that we get to sample the musical tastes of a grown-up Zane. As an adult, he has discovered that certain songs help him alter his appearance. As he concentrates to morph his shape slightly before he enters the teen boot camp that has held Afi prisoner, he turns to the song “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance” by Vampire Weekend.

So today, I listened to several videos of the song and I just spent time at a few sites that analyze the lyrics. A break of several years has served to make the message more stark. When unlimited comfort and entertainment is dangled in front, not to mention Egyptian cotton, who can resist?

Some people can. The intervening seven years since this song came out has seen the Occupy Wall Street Movement, the re-election of a president more in favor a social fairness than most, and several changes by law and court ruling that promote a more just society. Yes, there is plenty on the other side of the ledger too, and I’m not going to start listing that here. Suffice to say, at least doom is not the clear cut winner.

I also noticed something else. Every version of the lyrics I could find online today referred to the “pinstriped men of morning” who are “coming for to dance”. Yet I distinctly remember words that sounded something more like “the bitch of manamomith is coming for to dance”. Can’t find that version anywhere. Also there used to be something about a hollow embassy which seems to have been replaced with the verse about a soft pillow and the need to advance.

Did the band decide to chance the lyrics? I’ve no problem with that; the new words might present a clearer image. But why wouldn’t a famous band changing the words to a hit song have provoked a few articles on the internet?  If it did, I can’t find them, and I am pretty good at looking.

Well, whatever the story is, the song remains one of my favorites. Enjoy the excerpt from y1 below, and then the Miike Snow remix. But listen carefully to the words.  Drop me a comment please if you can solve the mystery.

Toby offered to be Mr. Zeitman, thinking that might work better, but Zane brushed him off. “No. We’ll both look up when they say that name and they’ll know something is amiss.” Then he added in a mumble to himself “I can handle this.”

So as Zane changed into his best dress clothes below deck, he concentrated on trying to force his face to age slightly. Music had always helped him work with his body, much the way music helped him exercise, so he searched his iPod quickly for a song that would be just right. He laughed when he found Vampire Weekend’s November 2008 tune “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance”. Perfect. He picked the Miike Snow remix because he loved that way that the ominous lyrics intertwined with the twinkly sounds. The contrast made a sort of hot and sour soup that swam through his head, helping his body to make its subtle changes while he dressed.

At a few minutes before nine, a canoe with a small outboard motor came out of the cove to the left and approached Miss Demeanor’s port side. The sailboat had dropped anchor and Joy had the helm. Afi was below deck nowhere to be seen. Toby had donned his cleanest shorts and only collared shirt, the best he could do. Zane, in the khaki pants and dress shirt, looked more like the guy in charge. Toby could have sworn that the illusion was helped by the fact that Zane seemed to have put on a few pounds, and, now that Toby looked at him, that his face looked older as well. Were those fine lines from just a week of sea and sun? They say the ocean ages one quickly, but…

The Samoan man lowered the throttle on his tiny engine, then introduced himself as Va’iga, an assistant headmaster of the school. He pulled up alongside Miss Demeanor and helped the two men climb down its ladder to board the little transfer boat. After his greeting, Va’iga was quiet for the duration of the short journey, leaving Zane to stare at the water and think about the backstroke as the lyrics to “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance” continued to play in his head.

After they climbed off the canoe and onto a small dock that was well concealed by shrubbery, it was only a short walk to the school’s simple wooden office. Toby noticed the state-of-art burglar alarm as they entered. They learned that the headmaster Dick Stafford lived in this sturdily built and well-secured house, which also had a guestroom for Mark when he visited.

They were greeted by Mark Hadley himself, who turned out to be an attractive, well-groomed man with a full head of silvery-blonde hair, and a smile that turned off and on in an instant. He apparently liked to gaze straight into a person’s eyes while asking rhetorical questions such as “Don’t you think we have no greater asset than our youth, our hope for tomorrow?” After a few such questions to both men, he focused on Zane as the decision-maker, and the one most likely to answer “Absolutely, no question” to Mark’s satisfaction.

Toby enjoyed playing the part of the accompanying aide, and watched with some marvel while Zane seemed to grow into his own role. The boy not only looked older and fuller, Toby was also willing to bet that he was taller. Dress shoes and standing up straight? Incredible.

The meeting was short, and the tour even shorter. Mark mostly spoke with pride about how he had personally built his chain of academies from nothing over the past ten years, helping hundreds of youngsters through his sheer intelligence and hard work, and how he now had great plans to expand in the next decade. Toby thought that the man sounded like a walking infomercial.

They briefly met with Dick, the headmaster, who turned out to be a short, stocky American with a military haircut and a curt demeanor. They were only really allowed to see the eating facilities while not in use and to view a few students from a distance. Toby tried to memorize everything he could about the place while Zane continued to make nice. After a final exchange of platitudes, during which Mark announced that he would see to it that he was personally present to show the visiting doctors around in January, they were taken back to their boat. Toby could tell from fifty feet away that something was very wrong. Joy was sitting at the helm crying.

The following YouTube video really has no video to speak of, but it is a wonderful way to listen to the twinkly, fun Miike Snow Remix of this great song.

Buy the original song at Amazon.com.