Karen Rivers

works-in-progress are not simple.

Karen Rivers

I am writing again after months away from my desk during which time I occasionally came back, but mostly did not.  (I kept saying, "I'm back!" But then was called away again.)  Literally months.  I am not exaggerating for dramatic effect.  

Can you call yourself a writer if you haven't written in two seasons?

Anyway, if someone had said, "Take several months off!" I would have laughed.  I don't take time off.  Ever.

But then I did.

In the interim, I moved.  I have mentioned this a lot, I know.  I kept thinking I was finished moving but it turns out that moving goes on and on.  

In fact, "I moved" sounds like something simple and compact, something that can be done in a weekend.  It was not.  

Over the course of the move, I touched everything I own at least twice.  To pack it.  To unpack it.  Or to throw it away.  To pull it out of the trash pile and then put it back.  To sit on the floor and turn something over and over in my hands and try not to remember all that it once meant.

To think about how things are imbued with more importance than they ought to have.

I threw things out.  Things I promised not to throw away.  Things that simply wouldn't fit.  Things I could no longer stand to see.  I sold things:  the sofas where my kids first learned to roll over (and off); baby toys;  the best microwave I've ever had.   I stored things:  the dining room table that I imagined our kids doing their homework on forever; Christmas ornaments; the cards my ex wrote to me back when we thought we might be happy.  

I sold the house.

I bought a house.

The house I bought is crooked, which is appropriate because I am also crooked.  If I had a floor, it would almost certainly slope even more severely than the one in my new crooked house.  Nothing in the house is square, my contractor repeatedly reminds me.  Which makes everything more complicated and more expensive.

I nod. Yes. I understand.  Not square.  More expensive.

I am also not square.  I imagine other people being square (not in the seventies "You're so square!" sense of the word, but in the evenly edged, clean parallel lines version):  living their Facebook perfect lives in their perfectly white Pinterest homes, their kids spouting adorable tweets while their parents meticulously churn out bestsellers at the rate of 1000 words per day from their Eames chair pulled up at their charming Etsy desk.   I might hate these square people, especially if they were real and not internet creations.

In any event, "more expensive" is starting to be the phrase that buzzes around me more than any other.  It is the black horsefly of phrases.  I can think of a lot of phrases I would prefer to hear.  Kinder, gentler phrases.  Phrases that do not show up later in my in-box as unexpectedly costly bills.

Did I mention that there are rats living in the non-square walls of my new house?  I am currently having them excluded.  

I would like to have the rats that live in me excluded as well.  If you hear of a service that does this, please alert me.  

Me and my house wobble along crookedly on our parallel path.

You don't see a lot of rats on Pinterest, so you'll excuse me if I don't join.

When the kids are at their dad's, it is quiet in the house and I write.  I am alone but not lonely.  I have my characters and the trees.  When I look up through the skylight, I see hundred year old conifers towering over me.  When my uncle was here, he said, "Good heavens!  Aren't you afraid they are going to fall on you?"

I hadn't been up until then.

I had thought of it more as being watched over protectively.  

It occurs to me that I might spend too long seeing the opposite of what is real, imbuing trees with human qualities (sentries!  guards!) and not acknowledging that large trees on a slope may be more hazardous than not in the long run.

Worse, the pest control officer (or Rat Guy as I prefer to call him), says the trees are the bridge the rats are using to access my roof.

Somewhere in there is a serious of elaborate metaphors that ought to be painted on a canvas and displayed for the world to mock or applaud, depending on how it looks at the end.


I am working on a book but there is another book I want to be working on.  It's always like that.  There is the one you have to do and the one that is calling to you.  Even though the one you have to do is the one that WAS calling to you the last time you did the one you had to do then.  

If you can pull that sentence apart and understand what I mean, then you must also be a writer.

I have something to say about relationships, which never stop being works-in-progress even when you aren't in one.  What I want to say will clarify everything, although I am not sure what it is.  It is something about consumerism and how relationships have become products that people are continually changing in to get something better.

I would like a refund!  You said you were outgoing, and here you are, in real life, looking sadly at the floor over the rim of your wine glass.

You said you preferred beer.

Based on that alone, I would like to return you for an in-store credit, at the very least.

The trouble is that, as a society, we have decided that we "deserve" such-and-such.  Never mind that such-and-such is a fantasy, not imbued with human characterstics, and does not exist.  We have all become a set of shoulders that someone is looking over to see if someone better is waiting in the wings.  Worse, we are all becoming masterful wordsmiths, constructing ads that suggest we are the fantasy, only to be unable to measure up to the expectations we created.  

I sound more bitter than I feel.  I don't feel bitter, actually, at all. (And I am familiar with bitter, having wallowed there for quite a while in the past.)  What I feel is relieved, to no longer be the owner of shoulders over which someone else is looking.

To no longer be not quite good enough.


If I was ever going to date again intentionally, and by that I mean "internet dating" (because let's face it, that's the fastest way to begin again, clicking and pointing), I think about what my ad would say that would paint an appropriately accurate picture, "I like walking very slowly along looking at things.  I can't go to bed if there are dishes in the sink.  Good photographs make me happy.  Ugly fonts make me uneasy.  I rarely drink enough water.  The worst I ever am is when I'm scared:  fear makes me hostile."  The men who would be able to picture me from that description wouldn't internet date in the first place.   

I am beginning to feel like a picture that men squint at and can't quite see.  They were looking for an insatiable blonde with no history and a fondness for kittens and being adorably non-demanding!  They want women who don't have any baggige and who like fishin!  What happened?  Who am *I* supposed to be?  

They look away.

Which is good, because I could never date someone who can't spell baggage.

And I am allergic to fish.

Maybe this internet dating thing does work, after all.  

"At least you know what you don't want," my mum says cheerfully.

It seems hard for me to communicate that I am quite OK over here, me and the rats, scuttling around looking for something we are unlikely to find within the walls of this hundred year old house.  

I'm not sure who I am trying to convince.

Did you ask?

I'd take love if it fell on me, is all I meant.  But I'm not going looking.  

I'm busy, anyway.  I'm writing.  So if you need me, that's where I'll be:  typing away in the shadow of the now-vaguely-threatening oaks and firs, accumulating pages and savoring my complicated solitude.