January 19, 2002
Static View

"Secra!" her e-mail shouts. "Staying at a job that makes you CRY EVERY DAY isn't just 'stoopid,' it's UNHEALTHY!!"  And she goes on to dispense several paragraphs' worth of career advice and job-search tips, designed to help me break free from Franz, once and for all. 

It's good advice. It's wonderful advice, as a matter of fact: bold, specific, empowering.

The only problem? It's coming about a year too late.

This happens all the time: people writing with comments/criticism/questions/advice about stuff that happened months or years or (sometimes) whole lifetimes ago. How much rent am I paying for the Tree House? Why don't my children live with me?  Have I ever considered A.A.? Is 'David' The Doc or the Oregon Boyfiend? (And haven't I learned my lesson about chat room romances??)

Is it too late to vote on wedding invitations?

I'm not surprised or weirded-out or offended when this happens. They're reading about this stuff today, so they assume that it's happening today. That's understandable. I don't fire off a snippy response, yelling at them for their static view of a life that has continued moving.  In the case of Career Advice Lady, for instance, I thanked her sincerely for her advice, explained that I've already shaken myself loose from The Totem Pole Company  --  using a strategy not dissimilar to the one she outlines in her e-mail  --  and told her to check back in a year. ("We'll see how things are going at the new job then," I joked.)  I understand that not everybody arrives at *FootNotes* through the front door: sometimes they take the freight elevator, or the side entrance, or the broken basement window. Sometimes they parachute in through the skylight. Somebody innocently types the words help with writing footnotes into a search engine ... and the next thing they know, they're reading about Spandex and menopause. Furthermore, I understand the compulsion to want to write and comment on something you've just finished reading on the Internet, without paying a lot of attention to when it was written. There are times when *I* want to write to 1997 Secra and take her stoopid head off. (He was a YOUNG REPUBLICAN, forcryingoutloud!!)

I find it gratifying that the life I've so meticulously and obsessively archived for more than thirty years  --  even the creaky 'ancient history' portions of it that some of us know forwards and backwards and inside-out --  still scans as "new" once in a while, whenever somebody stumbles across it for the first time.

I figure it's as close to immortality as I'm likely to get.  And I don't even have to blow anybody up to get there.

Earlier this week, I watched Ken Burns' PBS documentary about Mark Twain. Although I'm sure that at some point in my spotty academic career I must have studied Mr. Twain  --  a Lit class in high school, maybe, or a Reader's Digest article in the orthodontist's office  --  for some reason I hadn't managed to retain any specific biographical information about him. I couldn't remember if he'd been married or if he had children or how he died, or much of anything else, really, about his personal life. So the documentary was not only informative and entertaining, it was also like being introduced to the "characters" of Mark Twain's family life for the first time. When Mr. Twain's beloved wife Livy dies in the second half of the documentary  --  she goes peacefully, laying upstairs in her bed, while downstairs her husband plays the piano for her  --  as far as I was concerned, her death was happening right then and there. I sat there and wept like a leaky Delta Washerless.

Ninety-eight years later, I was mourning her death.

It makes me think of NBC's perennial summer slogan: If YOU haven't seen it, it's new to you. Yes, it's a tacky and obvious bid for the re-run audience. But there is also a *molecule* of wisdom there. In this case, I interpret it to mean that the documented life  --  whether biographical or autobiographical, famous or not-famous, significant or Secra  --  remains "alive," a little bit, through the power of the written word. I believe this is what drew me to journaling in the first place, all those years ago  --  the idea of preserving something I could hand down to The Tots  --  and what keeps me journaling still. For me, it's incredibly groovy to think that somewhere in the bloated *FootNotes* archives, right this very minute:

  • Teenage Secra is hiding a fifth of Kesslers under the sweater box in her bedroom closet.

  • New Mom Secra is nursing her baby at 2 a.m., by the twinkling lights of a Christmas tree.

  • TicTac Secra is standing on the back porch, shooting one-handed hoops with her son.

  • Out-Of-Her-Mind 1997 Secra is loading up a laundry basket with all her worldly possessions, getting ready to move to Oregon with a man she met online.

  • Tree House Secra is drunkenly tossing a burning oven mitt out her third-story window.

  • Newly-Sober Secra is loading up a U-Haul with all her worldly possessions, getting ready to move to California with a man she met online.

  • Forty-Third-Birthday-Secra is saying yes to her marriage proposal over foccacia bread and bleu cheese salad.

  • Today-Secra is announcing that she's taking a break from *FootNotes.*

Oh wait. That last one hasn't happened yet.

I'm taking a break from *FootNotes,* beginning this weekend.  I've been thinking about this for a couple of weeks now  --  ever since the posting-every-day-in-December marathon came to a merciful end  --  and this feels like the optimum moment. Nothing's wrong.  The job is fine, The Tots are fine.  The marriage is beyond-fine.  I just want to step away from the journal for a bit and regroup. Recharge. Reconnect with some people. Get a couple of other writing projects out the door. Take a couple of deep cleansing breaths. I know that this may be perceived as an alarming recent trend among journalers: this taking-a-break stuff. Sometimes they come back ... and sometimes (sadly) they don't.  (And sometimes they'd damn well better.)  At this point I fully intend to be one of those who comes back, although I can't tell you exactly when, just yet. Soon, though.  I'll be keeping these people notified.

In the meantime, I'm not walking away from the computer completely. I'm available by e-mail if you want to chit-chat, or ask me questions, or correct my spelling, or yell at me about me about anything ... or even if you just want to say 'hello.'

Or -- of course -- if you have some good career advice to pass along.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

p.s. in the interest of not allowing *footnotes* to shrivel up and turn funny colors and die while i'm gone, i may occasionally post something from the archives. sort of the internet journaling equivalent of "summer re-runs." check back periodically if you're interested.

[after all: if YOU haven't read it, it's new to YOU.]

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