Ever since I was a child I have been fascinated with stories of living off the land, self-sufficiency, making things from scratch. Then I hit puberty and I was distracted by trying to find a mate, drowning my depression and anxiety in alcohol, and trying to make my parents proud of me by attempting to be like other people. I never could achieve the third one because it just wasn’t in me to conform.
Recently I talked with an old high school buddy who laughed that I always had to be doing something different. I thought a lot about that. It’s true. I had to be an actress, not a writer or an artist, where my real creative talents lay. Not only that, I had to be a mime for a while.
Then I couldn’t knit or crochet or needlepoint, something that you could take with you and that everyone was familiar with. No, I had to be a weaver. Not only that, I had to be a tapestry weaver or do complicated dye techniques.
I couldn’t just throw a pot. I had to hand-build and make pinch pots while meditating and drawing the energy up from the earth. I considered digging my own clay, but I stopped doing ceramics because my hands couldn’t take it.
I have gathered loads of vines, stalks, twigs and cattails. I have handwoven baskets all over the place. It wouldn’t do to buy a basket. I make my own hats.
Now I can’t be a painter. I have to be a printmaker. I have to do woodcuts. Because, think about it. How many woodcut artists are there out there? Will I start chopping down my own trees soon?
I’m making books, but I’m not satisfied to buy paper for the pages. Even fancy handmade paper. I have to make my paper myself, and gather the fibers myself. And grow the fibers myself.
It amazes me that I never decided to raise sheep or grow flax and cotton because it wasn’t enough for me just to weave, I had to raise and spin the fiber. If I hadn’t been humiliated in costume shop, I’d probably be sewing all my own clothes.
Believe it or not, it is so obvious that I had to be different, but it never really struck me how much until my friend said that.
One way I am different is that I chose to be childless. Anyone who has made this choice for whatever reason can tell you that you are pretty much suspect among “normal” society. Most people assume that you don’t have children because you can’t. Which is fine, because it’s just not something that I’d ever have even thought twice about, so I don’t care what opinions folks form of my childlessness. I assume that it makes no difference to them either. Except as I got older, I slowly learned that to some people, it colors their opinion of you in a negative way. One way you can tell is that they will start telling you how it’s okay for you not to be a parent. But I never considered that it would not be okay for me not to be a parent.
Well, here I am, 48 years old, not many eggs left in the old uterus. I’ll be happy when that last one is gone, let me tell you. And I am happy, so happy, that I don’t have to pretend to enjoy being a mother the way that my mother did, or deal with totally fucked up grown children who can’t take care of themselves. Or experience the loss of a child, since I can barely deal with the loss of a cat. Guess what, I get to be selfish, because I didn’t have children. Yes, I do.
So I’ve decided to throw my heart to the winds and travel as much as I can. No storing up acorns for me. I’m going to be the grasshopper, not the ant. I had a beautiful, wise young friend who went to bed happy and healthy one night and didn’t live to see the sun come up. My friend John did everything right and was struck down in a flash by a rare disease. Yes, by God, I’m going to suck the marrow out of life and not die and discover that I had not lived.
I like being different. And guess what else? I don’t think that I’m going to cook for the foreseeable future. I’m tired of it. I’m tired of housecleaning too. Let the rooms fill halfway to the ceiling with cat hair.
My car won’t start. But I don’t need it. I don’t think that I’ll fix it. I’ll get some baskets for my bike and ride the bus and catch rides. I’ll drive the Honda on the weekend and on long trips. We don’t need two cars.
I’ll keep working because I need to pay bills and pay for my travel expenses. And art supplies. And good coffee. And beer. And books.
I’m going to be a free spirit. Because I can.