A Hundred Years of Solitude

I have a confession to make. I have never been able to get through the novel lending this blog post its title. I pride myself on loving literary books—I’ve read War and Peace—it’s hard!
But Gabriel Garcia Marquez did not find a reader in me. Ironically, when I was trying to get through it a third time, I told my daughter, who confessed to struggling with Love in the Time of Cholera, written by the same guy. At least she finished it.

But I still have to thank the late Mr. Marquez for his inspiring titles. They’re so timely since the Pandemic has me feeling torn between two opposing poles. Let’s just label this feeling as bipolar.

On the north side, there’s the decent, almost zen kind of solitude where all is well. For example: In that space, I give myself a pep talk every night before sleep, some part of which involves dreaming up ideas for a great breakfast. I have to face it; food is always on my mind. And it encourages me to organize my time properly. Like this:

I can’t exercise. I haven’t eaten breakfast yet.
Never mind writing, it’s time for lunch.

And so on. I also have to schedule snacks, which I do even if I’m not hungry. I know. That’s so bad. (A south pole feeling.) Pre-pandemic I used to blame my busier schedule. Now I treat the constant eating as my true purpose for living.

On good days, I pull back the covers and make the executive decision to ‘air out my bed.’ This breaks a major rule for success which says that if you don’t make your bed every day, you’re failing at life. I can’t remember who said it. Some old soldier. And then, after giving the covers a gentle pat, I turn to the mirror, smile at myself and say, ‘It’s going to be  great day!’

I try to mimic the narrator in the Jerry McGuire movie. I get dressed right away. Then I eat breakfast (well, of course) practice the piano, go for a long walk, and write. Sometimes I wash clothes or clean out a cupboard. This I consider a successful, northern kind of day. A north pole attitude of looking up. Then there’s the other kind.

When I’m spending time at the south pole, it’s more like Marquez’s other book, ‘Love in the Time of Cholera.’ Since I’ve never read it, I’m going to assume there was a fair amount of foreshadowing in the title. All the protagonist’s loved ones are dead. Happiness does not abound.

Now, this is not really true for me. There are plenty of alive people that I love. But it doesn’t feel like that when I’m spending time at the south pole. It feels like I’m the only person left in the world, except for maybe Donald Trump. (Yes, I’m in a horror movie.) Me and the Donald. If he uses the word ‘bigly’ to describe the scenery around the boardwalk one more time, I’m going to deck him.

In the south pole, there is never anything good to eat. My piano keys laugh at me because I play so badly. I can’t find anything to watch on cable, Prime, Netflix or Crave. There’s always a certain amount of sulking going on because I’ve just finished my latest read, and I always feel a bit lost when I’m between books. (This is a thing. Seriously.)

Happily, I usually wake the next morning and find myself once more at the north pole. Eggs for breakfast! Pancakes! (gluten free, sadly, but still!) Yogurt with multiple kinds of berries! Nothing has ever felt so exciting as deciding what to eat. It’s the same with lunch and dinner. In this mood, I feel like I’m on a cruise in my own house. It’s so much better than when I’m at the south pole, sitting on my toilet in the bathroom (purely for a change of scenery) and crying into my hands, repeating over and over again, “This too shall pass.”

Because it will. But I want you to know that if you’re feeling chicken hearted, cranky, and even, (if living with other people) murderous, you’re not alone. So brace yourselves, my people (this means my whole town, including the folks at the lake) because, when we’re all let out of solitary confinement, I’m going to hug each and every one of you. If you don’t want that, please wear a sign. Be direct. Until then, chin up, and stay north, my friends. The mood is so much better there.

(After all this writing, it has occured to me that Hugh Maclennan’s book, ‘Two Solitudes’ would have been a much better title. Oh well.)

Published by Judith Anne Pettersen

Judith Pettersen is an author living in Canada. She blogs about her life in the north and the ups and downs of being a writer.

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