Something funny as hell just happened right now. Like by the time I get done writing this only a few minutes will have passed since then. I have somewhere to be at 9 am.
First thing I do every morning when I wake up is reach over and check the time. On what, you ask? My cell phone. Despite the fact that the alarm clock is right next to me, the iPad has Night Stand which will indubiously wake me up at 7:15 to Beyoncé’s “Who Run The World?” despite the fact that my baby dog will begin her normal bark attack, no, I must check my phone. This morning, what does my phone say?
I jump straight up, grab pants, shirt, start fiddling my tea cup. Searching for the number of my contacts to shamefully admit, I’ll be… late. If this post has misspellings, this must be why. Panic shoots through my arms, a cough session of nervous, a big seventh grade lump in my throat, like I’m going to cry. I hop around one-legged pants on/pants off knocking trinkets over. Stumping my toe. Silent slow motioned cursing. Grabbing only necessities. Feeling rushed but defeated. I open my laptop. As I am looking up the email and number what do I see, but 7:01 am in the right corner of my MacBook. My stupid droid phone needed to update itself. It’s just randomly two hours ahead? WTF.
This concludes my regularly scheduled foolishness.
Let me tell you what happened to me not too long ago.
I was not officially dating this guy, but we’d met, flirted. We used to party at the same places and it was convenient. He wasn’t my “type” per se, but his demeanor matched a balance between protective and nonchalant the way I’d never seen anyone capture before. Often, I didn’t know if he was talking to me in this low reassuring tone because he was trying to sound sexy, or if he was just trying to sound sexy, good times.
What I found most intriguing about him were the moments when he’d asked me about things I was certain he didn’t give a hot good shit about. He’d ask me about school and I’d explain to him how it was a hybrid program and I could “do the lot of it online”—meeting up with mentors periodically—skype, email, it was all very web savvy. I’d gone into how often I’d meet with mentors and mentees sometimes via phone conversations or coffee shops or places like Writers at Work—but my residencies were twice a year. Then he’d ask a question like “So what time do you have to be at school on Monday?” And I would just shake my head. He was trying. I found myself in his company because he made wide enough attempts. He showed interest in me by being interested in my writing.
We did talk though. His mom was sick from something he hadn’t mentioned so he was looking after her, and he had some random family member staying at his apartment because he simply “had to help him out.” I thought I’d question why he had to, but a similar situation came up between a friend of mine and I before, and when I asked said friend, he’d told me that even if he were married with kids—if this person needed a place to stay, that a place with him (no matter the situation he was in) was what he’d get. I figured this was the case as well.
Once upon a time we went to a tavern that played nineties music and had an overhead projector that displayed a burning fire. Nice enough. After small talk I’d ordered a dietish vodka mix and he’d ordered a long island. I thought I’d ask more personal questions. There’s nothing like spending time with someone where I have to spruce up the level of conversation by asking things I normally wouldn’t ask, but I do so anyway because I’m bored as all good heavens. Like my old best friend and I used to say “If nothing else please just be, interesting.”
So I go, “You believe in abortion?”
He had one leg over the bench and he was slumped over facing me, full attention. We were sitting a few feet apart and his head flopped back and forth in a horizontal motion. He stirred in his seat, and I could see him squeeze his folded hands together. I knew his answer.
It was then time for him to ask me a question back or provide some commentary, this was how rapport building worked. Again, his lack of input eeked.
“What about gay marriage?” I offered. I wished I’d phrased it as same-sex marriage as soon as it came out.
He fiddled about and took his fist into his other hand socking it together and said “Nawww I ‘on’t think two men should be gettin’ married.”
His face had some sort of dejected upturn like he was an ogre and I’d ventured into his swamp. I finished my diet whatever wishing it had more Vodka, and leaned over to him in the closest and quickest whisper I’ve ever given a stranger and asked him,
“Will you leave me here?”
He looked at me blinking rapidly and said “You sure?”
I shook my head yes bigly, slowly, like a confession. That instant he dashed out of the door like I had just professed to him that he was not sexy, and that he should stop attempting to sound that way. I made friends with four guys and three girls in the corner of the lounge as I finished my drink, then I went home and wrote the premise of this story.
“If I lose the light of the sun, I will write by candlelight, moonlight, no light. If I lose paper and ink, I will write in blood on forgotten walls. I will write always. I will capture nights all over the world and bring them to you.” —Henry Rollins
All I ever wanted… was a beach house with bay windows trimmed in yellow—opposing interior walls grey—and one person to think my faults were moldable.
Movable. Musical. Mutable, and journey-full. He’d wear a newsboy cap and drink chai and have no problem sitting back to back in the middle of our picnic where we might share apples. Or we might both at least enjoy the idea of sharing apples, but opt for cinnamon topped cheeses, raisin rosemary crackers, and melon instead.
He’d probably decide on our dinner fixins because he’d understand that if I’d been writing or editing that by the time I realized what was going on it’d be dark already and “our son” would be exclaiming that he’s staaaaaaaaaarving, and by “our son,” I’d mean my son, by a previous father, but “our son” because he’d never pose any distinction on those specifics and he’d explain how he’d known from the first moment he’d shared proverbial apples with me that he was cut out to be a father, a friend, and a foundation for us as a family.
All I ever wanted was a beach house, with 12 ft. ceilings and overlarge pastel mosaic doors where he’d come through every evening and never say “honey, I’m home,” but rather, “a little help here, in your vows you said you loved me?” And at the top of the stairs there I’d stand. Big-bang-kapow-smile like I just ate calorie-less pie—hands on hips in my pink stilettos, boyshorts, and his oversized sweatshirt. “What took you so long?”
Hope Edelman taught a seminar today entitled “Who’s Telling Your Story? Persona in Creative Nonfiction.” I listed nearly 20 separate personas I either have or want to inhabit in my writing. The above snippet was written from the perspective of a single mother/turned wife. The piece had to begin with: All I ever wanted _______. Over the course of the next six months my nonfiction pieces will start to evolve as I challenge myself to push and play with my voice on the page.
P.S. The man I describe above is presently fictional, but those shoes exist.
…was just a label. dreams are just that. promises were meant to be tweaked.
you said the flaws were what you loved most.
“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”
—Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.
Walking the pup the other day I found a pictographic fountain metaphor for my life; a tiny toy Humpty clinging alongside a gushing geyser. It was one of those moments where you look up at the cerulean and wonder if you’re really alone and if someone is laughing at you. Cackling in my case. I spent every morning of last week on the beach with my trainer. At the 45 minute mark daily I got nauseous, but I’d push through. The other day however, I received some bad news and binge ate three slices of cheesecake, tortilla chips and spicy guacamole. Before I could forget how hilariously oxymoronic my existence is, I snapped the picture above.
It wasn’t a stream of bad luck as much as natural progression, as much as my best skip forward—waiting on my return on investment, as much as my understanding after having a serious conversation with my ex ex ex—my sentiment? Indifference. I’ve felt stronger feelings for my neighbor’s dog in which I’ve playfully nicknamed Marmaduke. Finally, mentally free.
Bernadette Murphy (my workshop leader) said to me yesterday during residency workshop “you are the orbiter of your own work.” I’ve written a few short nonfiction stories and submitted them this week. I received one response, which I can group into the maybe category, as my work wouldn’t work for their current issue, but perhaps in a future one, they’re going to keep me posted. Good enough.
Gayle Brandeis taught a lecture emphasizing eco-literature and the importance of being hyper-aware of pristine landscapes and your childhood to stay present in your writing. Then she quoted Rosenblatt:
“Writing is the cure for the disease of living. Doing it may sometimes feel like an escape from the world, but at its best moments it is an act of rescue.”—Roger Rosenblatt
I’m starting over. I want a new life. New colorful friends: wanderlust. I hope my SOS isn’t smothered by my smokescreen.
And this realization hurts. Can hurt anyone. The bulkiest ogre, or the ittiest little red riding hood. The fact that I’m replaceable, but he’s not. That I wasn’t in it for me, I was in it for us. Sometimes, a person can be too sure of someone, too sure of that eventual future. This is the jinx I mean when I laugh at people who get their lady’s name tattooed on some outlandish place, and then they break up. This feeling is what happens when you name imaginary children, when you “try” to remain friends after it’s over. It’s equivalent to a few rejection letters a week in my case, and something’s gotta give.
Anne Lamott said in one of my favorite books Bird by Bird:
After thirty years or more of floundering around and screwing up, you will finally know, and when you get serious you will be dealing with the one thing you’ve been avoiding all along—your wounds. This is very painful. It stops a lot of people early on who didn’t get into this for the pain. They got into it for the money and the fame. So they either quit, or they resort to a type of writing that is sort of like candy making.
Writing is painful. Putting yourself on display, especially as a nonfiction writer, is painful. You run many risks, and taking those risks don’t generally keep you going. At least not for me. Today I’m busy, I have another new client, and I’m still writing Product Descriptions for the previous one (hold tight Ed!) I’m preparing for my second to last residency (yaeeh!), and my son’s birthday is today. Happy Birthday Tye! He makes twelve. I’m trying to remind myself why I wanted to write so badly when Bukowski already warned me not to do it if it “doesn’t come bursting out of you in spite of everything.”
The problem is though, it does: When I’m on all fours breathing bleach scrubbing the jets in the inside of my jacuzzi tub the stories come to me, when I’m organizing my styling drawer by color and type of hair pin, when I fall asleep and am awakened by my tween exclaiming “Nope, cause it’s my birfday, nope, can’t do anything cause it’s my birfday,” when I wake from a nightmare that just won’t quit and I can feel the fear of failure—yes, the stories come out of me. And I have to submit. I have to let my neuroses take over. I simply sit down, close my eyes, and remember his breathing.
You simply keep putting down one damn word after the other, as you hear them, as they come to you. You can either set brick as a laborer or as an artist. You can make the work a chore, or you can have a good time. You can do it the way you used to clear the dinner dishes when you were thirteen, or you can do it as a Japanese person would perform a tea ceremony, with a level of concentration and care in which you can lose yourself, and so in which you can find yourself. —Lamott
My mentor recently informed me that I’d overwritten the ending of my memoir. Happy enough as that was, it made me feel like damn, even after all of my work, I still couldn’t get it right. This, she said was a positive thing, overwriting. It meant revision, and voila! It means that I have pieces I can pull from that are well written, and can begin to see the light of editors. I should have been happy.
I’m excessive, if asked to do one thing, I’ll do ten. If asked to do my best, I’ll do better than best would have been. If chanced to fall in love, I suppose, I’ll fall… and I don’t know if I’ll come out. When I’m asked on interviews what my weaknesses are, saying “obsession with what I’m working on”—just doesn’t do any of my attempts justice. Beyond being fixed or compulsive, by this time I’m already sure of the outcome. I give all.
I have made many mistakes, and lost much sleep over this.
To participate requires self-discipline and trust and courage, because this business of becoming conscious, of being a writer, is ultimately about asking yourself, how alive am I willing to be? —Lamott
I write because it makes me feel that “aliveness,” but it is lonely, and what I crave is experience and contact, to draw from. I am now alight upon a new journey. I think it will inform my writing in a terrific and mighty and even riveting way. It’s big news but I’m not ready to share it with the world yet. But I will tell you, it’s that BIG, and it makes me want to sing:
“So why does our writing matter, again?” they ask. Because of the spirit, I say. Because of the heart. Writing and reading can decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truth, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.—Lamott
Even though I’m sure it’s too late, and life has gone on—in every sense of the word gone… even as backwards and misconstrued as “text-tone, is” and the language of tears, and as many uneducated dog-faced hookers I’m sure he’s moved on to, I’m going to write it out of me because I still miss him, I still miss him, and I’ll still miss him, just a lil’ bit.
Some days, I just don’t feel well. And those days, are most days, these days. I wonder when luck will buck. When the sunlight will beam through the wall I’ve probably built too high. What have I lost since I’ve come undone? How much of me? If there’s a break, will I fall through it—or receive it? Albert Camus said “A work of art is a confession.” Maybe I’m done bleeding. What. Was. I. Thinking? Where were you when you were needed? How come you couldn’t see through that? What’s going to be the difference? Nothing is for better or worse—that I’ve seen yet. If you keep pretending it might get better, it doesn’t move at all. I should have played with more dolls when I was little, more easy bake ovens, more puzzles, more role-playing. Less pens and composition booklets. I’d be more equipped for the real world.
And then again Camus also said:
“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”
How come when it rains there are no gutters for me? There’s no “safe word,” there’s no “Easy Button?” How come when he speaks in my dreams does it still sound like a lullaby? And I’m a big girl. With a soft blanket, that’s been watching Law and Order: Special Victim’s Unit for five days straight, and I still feel sorry for myself. Every time I wake up, my characters are still asleep. How I will manage? Who cares enough? If any of this was ever worth it? How do you know when your sacrifices were worth it? When do I give up if they weren’t?
Where is my fucking broomstick and when Ryan Gosling will call me. When he does, should I answer? This is what I think of.