I’m just too soft, for a day like today.

This morning I woke up slowly, the luxury of a wide-open, commitment-free day in front of me. That would seem like a typical thing, given that I’m in between gigs, but the reality of being in between gigs is that every day is full of pitch calls and drafting proposals and interview meetings and networking lunches and while that all sounds so much more free than sitting in an office from nine to five, and it certainly is, the days are still necessarily busy. And tomorrow is one of those days, from wakeup to sun down, but today, it’s me, and the little dog who needs a bath, and a house still mostly clean from having been picked up for guests this weekend; it’s the book I want to nestle into the bathtub with and not put down until the water’s been rewarmed a few times; it’s three empty lined pages in my journal and the new James Blake album on Rhapsody and not checking my email or my cell phone. It’s sending wee little messages to a few friends who’ve popped into my mind, just to let them know I’m thinking about them, and not hesitating when a couple of hours have passed since the dog went for her last walk, and I’m happy to pull on my shoes and her leash and go for yet another walk.

And then, it’s making a brief exception to pop online, which I should know by now is typically a mistake on a day like today, but luckily I popped onto Twitter first, which means that all I see are short updates with words, no photographs, and there were enough words on my Twitter feed for me to know that perhaps today’s a day for me to not check Facebook, and to not look at news sites, and to try not to see images of the day’s events, since images stick with me in a way that I don’t always want or need.

I thought about the time when I was still practicing law, and working as a public defender. A case was dropped down to my court – it had originally been charged as a felony (rape of a child) but because of evidence issues was dropped down to a communicating with a minor for immoral purposes case.

The case was flawed. It was not clear, from reading the police reports, who, exactly, had done what, exactly, that would constitute a provable charge. Frankly, the only facts I could ascertain for certain were that a troubled young woman had met an unsuspecting and less than savvy not-as-young man, and from there, bad judgment was exercised, but what actually happened was a mystery. However, the case contained a variety of people’s accounts of what happened, and it was my obligation to review the case file, and craft a defense. And as I started to review the file, I struggled with whether I thought I could actually defend the case; and then I reached a portion of the case file that had been mistakenly included in my file, and before I knew what was happening I had read words and seen images that I simply could not remove from my mind. I stopped reading after only a paragraph or two, once I realized that the materials were from the felony file review and were not meant for me, and slapped the file shut. I called the court clerk in a near panic, and told her that I wasn’t sure what the procedure was for this, but I would not be able to assist with the case. The judge, who did not have to, accepted my unsubstantiated request to be removed from the case, and I swore I’d never pick up a case file for a sex crime again, even if the charge was communicating with a minor. Maybe that was a sign that I was too soft to practice criminal law. If so, I decided at the time, I could live with that.

And, I can live with being the kind of person who does not read the news or look at a television, on a day like today – it was a struggle for me even to convince myself to venture out into the world, since I appreciated the sheltered safety of my home, with only my own discretionary access to information and my ability to reach out to my closely held. But the dog needs food, and we need dinner ingredients, so I packed my headphones and ventured as far as a café (sans internet access) and ordered a few macaroons and a decaf soy mocha that came stacked with a three inch-tall swirl of whipped cream. Just before I plugged in my headphones to insulate myself further from the outside world, a woman with close-cropped strawberry blonde hair asked me about my brightly colored sweatshirt, and where I’d found it, and we struck up a conversation.

She’s lived in Seattle for thirty years, but moved here from Japan, and before that, the east coast. She’s a fine artist, with three grown sons, who’s never understood the lack of commitment among Seattleites: how east coasters will meet, greet, and then make a plan to have dinner the next night and stick to it. How in Seattle, commitments between people are vague “We should get togethers,” and then three months later, she’ll bump into the same person at the food co-op and hear the same empty commitment. We chatted the way people chatted when I was in Nepal, where if I sat still for a moment (and even if I didn’t) I could count on someone walking over to me, asking my good name, and striking up a conversation. It was a treat, a human connection in the middle of a city, on a day when I’m wondering, again, why it is we live in a city, when we could be somewhere far out in the country, far away from the buildings most likely to explode.

And then, I stopped at the grocery store to get some fixings for The Soup, since I believe that it’s a magical cure for all that ails, and I could use a little of that today. I moved through the store, and it felt like nothing in the world was awry — a day like any other day, perhaps because we’re geographically distant from the tragedy that’s playing out all over my internet feeds; perhaps because the people in the coop aren’t on Twitter and Facebook, so may have varying levels of awareness about what happened a few hours ago.  The consistently perky checkout lady asks me blithely, “So how’s your day going?”

“The world is pretty messed up,” I had the presence of mind to answer, substituting “messed” for the expletive that originally came to mind.  She cocked her head and looked at me curiously.  My answer, apparently, wasn’t among those that the script in her head for such conversations was written for, and I do believe it may have crossed her mind that I was nuts. To be fair, I hadn’t actually answered her question.  My day?  It’s going fine.  And the world is pretty fucked up, sometimes.

She made a disapproving noise, frustrated, I think, by my non-adherence to the grocery line conversation protocol, and I looked away, staring intently at the debit card pin pad, and averting her gaze until my groceries were bagged, she handed my receipt, and I said, “Have a really nice day,” back to her — making nice, for my earlier lack of protocol.

So, now I’ll finish my errands, and avoid the talking screens and then head home and snuggle with the little dog, and then look very much forward to snuggling with my man when he gets home from his day of work. And I’ll say good night to the seedlings that the squirrels and slugs haven’t yet decimated, and then perhaps pick up that book again from earlier today, and curl up with my family, gratefully, to drift to sleep.

Tomorrow will be another busy day – business dress, meeting after meeting, and coming home tired. And grateful. And hopefully, with the ability to avoid the talking screens. Not because I’m not shocked and outraged; not because I’m not saddened, especially because today’s events are so close to home, with friends in Boston and in the marathon community. But because – like being too soft for criminal law practice, I’m just too soft for stuff like this.

8 thoughts on “I’m just too soft, for a day like today.”

  1. I completely connect with the east vs. west difference of “making a plan and sticking to it” vs “vague get-togethers.”

    I was actually talking to Andreas about this yesterday as we played ball with Sophie at the dog park. As a Washington-raised guy, he doesn’t seem to experience any confusion/frustration with the vague-ness/lack of commitment in the same way I, from Vermont, do.

    I tried explaining it… “it’s not like people don’t want deep connections here…” and “it’s not that east-coasters care more” and “it’s…”

    There was no hint of understanding in his eye so I tried describing it in terms of trust. Explaining that on the East Coast trust is given at first, fully, but it can also be lost very easily, and it’s damn near impossible to get back.

    In the West trust isn’t a thing (to be gained/lost) as much as a belief. A person may or may not be where they said they would be–but they wanted to be there! Your friends tell the truth when they say they “want to hang out” as they believe it’ll happen, even if they never take any action taken to make it happen.

    East Coast: Realists
    West Coast: Dreamers

    In the end, I thought in my head, maybe it’s also because there’s so much less to do on the East Coast (unless you’re in one of the few big cities). You really depend on other people more than other happenings/events. And there’s a lot less other people to depend on too!

    1. Hey, Alison!

      I’m fascinated by your west coast / east coast household… thanks for chiming in! Your observations about trust are fascinating, to me. I’m a born and raised west coaster, and I gotta say: I can’t IMAGINE giving trust fully at first! I presume a certain amount of trustworthiness — somewhere around the medium-low end of the bell curve right off the bat, and then the real deal trust is definitely earned over time. I also think there’s a city vs. smaller town dynamic — you’re right, that in a place like Seattle, there’s a ton to do, so a lot of “competition” for any particular plan. For me personally, when I’m behaving more “Seattle” in terms of not nailing down plans it’s often not willful… a lot of times it’s because planning by email or Facebook message gets buried because of my co-mingled work and personal lives… because I have to use email for work, I rarely log in after hours now, which means I don’t spend as much time tending to my personal life and pen pals and plans via email, as I used to. That’s something I’m trying to figure out, because (1) I don’t want to be one of THOSE Seattleites (I take pride in being from near here, but from a place where our values are more mid-western than the city proper; and (2) my friends are becoming so geographically diverse that e-mail is an essential way to keep in more-than-140-character-and-a-photo touch.

      Thanks for your thoughts, and see you tomorrow. 🙂

      hugs,
      Sara.

  2. Sara,

    I read your post yesterday. Ever since, The Beach Boys wonderful song “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times” from Pet Sounds kept coming to mind. Initially, I thought that it might have just been the similarity between the title of the song and the title of your post but as I remembered the lyrics and re-listened to the song, I was struck how the feeling of the song – warm, sad, and even a little tender – reminded me of your post.

    “Sometimes, I feel very sad . . . I guess I just wasn’t made for these times.”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I473PQust2E

    In my mind, anyone who can evoke Pet Sounds deserves some serious kudos.

    Well said.

    Dan

    1. Hey, Dan…

      Wow… thank you so much. I haven’t listened to Pet Sounds since I was a kid, and I’m just going to sit here and treasure your comment for a moment while I listen to the Beach Boys belt it out.

      Judging by your blog title I think we may have a few things to chat about. Thanks for speaking up, and I look forward to chatting more!

      -Sara

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