Is There Life in Outer (Create) Space?
Written by
Joanne Barney
April 2015
Written by
Joanne Barney
April 2015

            It’s one of those days.  Started with a visual field test, involving dots dashing here and there, of which I saw only a few, not enough, and which sent me into “What if I’m going blind?

            This thought led me into an “I’d-better-get-all-of-my-to-do’s-done-in-case-I-can’t-read -my-list-a -few-weeks-from-now” flurry.  So I sat down, sent out press releases, edited the next few pages of my new novel, decided its title will be, maybe, “Finding Our Husbands,” ordered three or four outfits from Lands End for our March trip to Florida, reminded my found husband that we needed a couple of hotel reservations for that trip, and cleaned the silver napkin rings for the charity dinner we’ll be having here soon.Then I dumped the filled wastebaskets and recycled the week’s newspaper. My checked-off list of ToDo’s had only a couple items left on it, impossible items like “walk two miles today.

            It was  kind of a normal day, except for the spots, awash with rush and shallow breathing.

            Then I set the list aside, poured a glass of wine, and watched the PBS News Hour. Life began to settle into a different perspective:  Syria, Iran, an exhausted President, deadly fires, and so on. Not being able to see the flicking dots on an electronic machine didn’t seem quite as important after seeing the hopeless look in the eyes of a starving child. At least a diagnostic machine had existed for me. At least I saw a few of those dots. At least, after the dots’ flickering challenge, I could come home and attend to my list.

            And  think.

            Amazing what the threat of blindness and a reality check can do rearrange one’s outlook.  For the past two years, Graffiti Grandma what my life has been all about. I have sold maybe 200 copies, made a few hundred dollars, had a few people tell me they liked it. I’ve had great reviews, and made new friends, and counted on the support of old friends. I’ve been asked to read and to speak about my novel and the process of publishing it. Wastebaskets overflowed while I blogged and essayed and offered myself to radio interviewers in vain efforts to become known, both me and my book.

            The word “vain” lashes out at me.  I count the I’s in the last paragraph, the I’s in this blog.

            Writing teachers advise that characters in novels shouldn’t suddenly have epiphanies to clear up their troubled lives and the author’s plot. Well, in real life, epiphanies do happen. I believe I’m having one right now. It seems to me that I have stepped into a gray fog bank of self-centeredness that has shut me off from most everything that used to be important to me; compassion, friendship, love, joy. A self-centered view has closed off the broad view lying just beyond the fog.  I haven’t been seeing most of the dots for a long time.

            So, this is my message to my friends who have remained faithful though all this thrashing about. Graffiti Grandma is published.  Finished. I am not. I’ll still keep writing, but I’ll also step out of the fog, enter the life around me, write ToDo lists that will allow me to reach out to others, to care for others who need caring for, to smile at dogs and small children in strollers on my two-mile walks.

             Don’t know what this actually means, but I’m thinking my dots will be visible.

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