“I restore myself when I’m alone.” Marilyn Monroe
Covid has forced aloneness. Ironic: as a writer, time alone was that longed-for commodity. Apparently like everything else it’s a double-edged sword. Now I want company. Beer and nachos with my college roommate. An overnight to exchange ideas with my women writer friends. A road trip to visit people I haven’t seen in way too long.
But I isolate here at home with my husband John. He’s a visual artist, so he leaves almost daily to go to his studio and work. I have plenty of time to write, to read, to do research, to think. Self-care, other-care: how to maintain both while the level of anxiety beneath the surface bubbles and brews, ever present.
Like so many people we’ve made efforts to restore our home, to make it more embracing as we spend countless hours here. A few months ago we replaced the roof. The red is inviting, we think. Now, this week, a crew of basement restorers are here shoring up the concrete wall that was cracking, inserting a pump to drain moisture out of that space so it won’t flood any more. I’m planning the spring plantings for the yard. Yesterday I cut honeysuckle vines out of the apple tree at the back fence and put suet feeders out for the Eastern bluebirds. Watching the birds come to the feeders in the morning gives me a lift. A few days above fifty degrees has given me renewed energy and optimism.
Last year I did considerable research on the life of Marilyn Monroe, the elusive Norma Jean. One thing I learned: she wrote poetry. She actually exchanged work and was friends with Norman Rosten and she knew Carl Sandburg. Like so many public personalities Marilyn’s media image was a fabrication, that disconnect between the external woman people thought they knew and the complicated interior woman. She wanted to be famous and beloved, certainly. But she wanted to be taken seriously, too, for her thoughts and aspirations. She married Arthur Miller, hoping to nourish a life of the mind. She studied with Lee Strasberg, trying to deepen her acting skills.
Life is too short. Time is what we’ve given, that’s it. Each of us finds ways to restore ourselves or we wither, like fruit left on the tree.
What will restore us after covid, I wonder. Spring is on its way. I am so grateful that we’ll have time at the beach in Kill Devil Hills, to celebrate our anniversary, returning to the same spot I’ve visited for over fifty years. And we’ll open our cabin in the mountains in Bath County. The birds are flocking to the feeders here at home. I know how lucky I am to have these spots to turn to for renewal and restoration.