A piece of reading I once encountered describes the experience of daily life as ‘chaos’.
“The artist is comfortable only with going back to the way chaos is first encountered – that is, moment to moment through the senses,” the author stated.
“Then, selecting from that sensual moment-to-moment experience, picking out bits and pieces of it, reshaping it, she recombines it into an object that a reader encounters as if it were experience itself: a record of moment-to-moment sensual experience, an encounter as direct as we have with life itself.
“Only in this way, by shaping and ordering experience into an art object, is the artist able to express her deep intuition of order.”
—Judith Barrington, Writing the Memoir
“Chaos” is pretty much how I would describe my everyday experiences.
To maintain my sanity, I need to control that chaos, while taking into account the state of my memory at the same time. And this involves finding words to pin down these experiences – then spending time alone to organize and reshape these words, identifying causes and pairing them with effects, until they resemble the format of fiction that is familiar to my long-term memory.
2019 ushered a brand new housekeeper into my home. The one we previously used throughout 2018 – Ms. Yang – had long since taxed the patience of both my mom and myself. Not only did she ignore most of our guidance after making mistakes, she defended herself by spewing back streams of barely-intelligible Chinese words. Then she got on her cell phone to vent her grievances to her friends, keeping me awake half the night in the bedroom next to hers. More than once, threatened to quit unless Mom raised her salary. At Christmas last month, Mom hoped to placate her with a $500 bonus. Ms. Yang reacted by demanding a $1,200 bonus, instead, with the threat that she was quitting at the end of the year unless Mom complied.
This latest demand finally breached any level Mom could tolerate. Mom got on phone with several family friends to plot how to get rid of and replace her with someone new.
Mom waited until the morning of December 30th to mention to Ms. Yang offhand, “When you’re all packed, make sure your bedroom is clean and tidy for the arrival of our new housekeeper!”
Having obviously expected Mom to give in to her demand, Ms. Yang was dismayed. A few hours later, I found her kneeling at the foot of Mom’s bed, loudly sobbing her apologies and begging to stay at our home, all while Mom was trying take her short afternoon nap.
Too little, too late.
What is the matter with these people, I thought. I stepped into the doorway and sternly reminded this housekeeper of her previous threat to Mom, adding firmly: “While my mother is resting, you are NOT to enter her room and bother her. Go.”
Ms. Yang departed on New Year’s morning, to be replaced by a much more preferable (in my opinion) lady who’d been raised in Taiwan, named Livia (short for Olivia). But Mom, ever the perfectionist, has immediately zeroed in on her shortcomings – including a tendency to forget bits and pieces of Mom’s instructions. While I tried to placate them both and defuse potential arguments, I also accompanied my mom to her doctor’s appointment, helped provide translations between English and Chinese, and deflected Mom’s further dissatisfaction with this new doctor.
I also drove to my own appointment for an annual checkup and procedure – only to hear that the technician administering it needed to postpone that procedure for two hours, and had left a message on my voice mail the previous day. When I called home to tell Mom not to expect me back until later, she chewed me out for failing to check my messages and causing her more anxiety.
I looked forward to my own planned activities for some relief.
I’d arranged to have lunch together with Mrs. Lee (my former high school English teacher, now a close friend), followed by attending a movie. I also anticipated resuming choir rehearsals at LMU for the spring semester.
As I finished my early dinner on Tuesday night, Jan. 8, said good-bye to Mom, and headed out the door, she yelled after me that choir rehearsal started the following week (the 15th). Then, a couple days later, I’d called Mrs. Lee to confirm our plans for the following day… only to be told I was a week too early again! Mom pummeled me with new torrents of criticism on the shortcomings of my memory, blaming me for shocking her while she already had too much to worry about.
Clearly, I need to focus on improving my short-term memory in 2019.
In order to maintain my sanity, past experience tells me that I need to capture everything through words.
To help me bring some structure to these words, & prevent futility from overwhelming me, I purchased and started a new self-study course online, titled The Productive Writer.
Course materials include extensive presentations on the mindset, habits, and schedule that a typical writer must learn to keep. A lesson under the “Mindset” category included the following document, titled “The Writer’s Affirmation”. I’ve adapted the wording to my own situation, printed out multiple copies, and taped them onto the walls of several rooms around my house as a constant reminder:
In case there’s lingering doubt in anyone’s mind: This is my identity.