I just spent the last 5 minutes (ok, maybe it was closer to 10) staring at the computer screen at the little whirling circle with the message – unable to locate keyboard. Actually, truth be told, I wasn’t just staring. I was waving the wireless keyboard around and over my head, tapping it against the computer screen in a L’Chaim sort of way, and twirling it like a baton in an attempt to get the computer to “recognize” it. I was about to perform a rain dance when I found the on/off button.
Some things I’m good at. Clearly, technology isn’t high on that list. Oh well. My sister-of-choice, one of my dearest friends, Maryann, wrote me the single most beautiful birthday message I think I have ever received. Maryann and I have always referred to one another as siblings (far and away better than the biological siblings we were granted). Her notes generally begin with, “Dear Sis” and end with, “love, Sis”. When I told her I thought I might be transgendered she immediately switched to “bro”. I love her. Anyway, this birthday card had in it a list of, not so much my accomplishments, but a list of things I do or engage in and with. She told me in that note how inspired by me and proud of me she is. Having a family of origin that is worse than having no family of origin at all, I long ago learned that I needed to fill the space that family generally fills for the average person, with other things to do. Sometimes it feels a big void to fill, but my hobbies are a seriously long and diverse list of activities that generally do a pretty good job of keeping me either too busy or too distracted to feel badly that I don’t have those relationships in my life. Not everything on that list am I good at (my Haitian Creole still needs a lot of work) and some of it I do and then don’t and then do and then don’t (like knitting… I pick it up for a while, knit a sock or two (better when there are two) and then put my needles away for long periods of time). Most of my hobbies I wish I had more time for (hockey and music to name a few). I never realized what my laundry list of things to do might look or feel like to someone else. And seeing the list fill all the blank sides of a greeting card left me wondering if it is all a bit too much, overkill, manic-time-fill.
I don’t know. I’m well aware, if not always painfully, of the fact that I don’t have a parent or siblings or a cousin to text or call or have coffee with, who knows my history, who can say things like, “Oh yeah, you can thank aunt Fanny for that idiosyncrasy.” I remember when my grandmother wore my high-top sneakers or when my cousin Maria sang karaoke badly at the family Sunday dinners we used to have. But no one else does. Sometimes that’s sad. Sometimes it is lonely. And sometimes I make soap or bake bread.
Looking over and contemplating my long list of avocations, I realize that, as coping skills go, this is not so bad. Knitting got me through Emily’s cancer. Baking bread feeds my family. And soap, well, soap just makes everybody happy (or at least cleaner). It feels good when some of these seemingly unrelated worlds can come together. The Greater Boston Yarn Crawl is this coming weekend and I’ve been asked to make and sell my soap at one of my favorite knit shops – where I’ve often bartered soap for knitting lessons, needles and yarn. I’m really excited about it and I’ve been working like crazy to put together beautiful soaps in fall scents and colors. My color swirls are definitely showing improvement and I’m quite pleased with the end product. And while there is still no mom who came running over at the last minute to watch the kids while I frantically wrapped the 50 pounds of soap I made, that hasn’t been my sole focus and those thoughts aren’t debilitating like they used to be. The pain is less. The joy is more. And everyone is clean. Here’s to filling the void.