Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I'm leaving

I have been planning a spring getaway in my head since December.  I chose a good time, suitably after the mid-February grant deadline my boss was working toward.  He postponed it of course and it would have been easy enough to ditch my plans, but I haven't had a real vacation in a year now and I needed it.  I have to admit, I plan a LOT of these in my head knowing full well they will get blown out of the water by some unexpectted fiscal bullshit or explode under the pressure of commitment.  So I put my ear to the railroad track to listen for the train (Yes - fully expecting the decapitation). 

But nothing came. 

No other shoe fell.

I was kinda confused with how to proceed.  I found a great place in Dauphin Island, Alabama, but couldn't make myself pull the trigger on it.  It was soooo far to drive, and kinda just outta my price point and honestly, I have a perfectly good apartment that I pay for that is mostly quiet right now so why did I need somewhere else with those same qualities?  To which my little voice said It's not on the beach.  Little voice is ALWAYS right, but I don't listen as much as I should.  Instead I went on with the litany of excuses.  It took a good nudge from one of my co-workers to make me do it.  Grateful for that nudge. 

There was a time when I was fearless about this kind of thing.  When without any thought or pre-planning, I would throw my shit in the car and bolt for anywhere that struck my fancy.  When did I get so old womanish?  So frightened?  When did I become so comfy in my little life that I couldn't step out into a bigger one? 

UGH!!! How I hate that. 

So next week, picture me here.............>>>>>>>
in my peagreen eco-friendly beach house, walking thru the sand, sitting in the adirondack chairs, enjoying the peace and the quiet Gulf sunset. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Something Unexpected This Way Comes

I told myself that I was going to the Apple store today to get the laptop a new battery and THAT'S THAT.  The Apple store is in a part of town that makes me queasy - overly affluent and cosmetically indistinguishable people abound there.  All with all the subtle energy of an iron maiden.  Only for something really important would I voluntarily go there.

Circling the lot I tried to give up, but I am intolerably stubborn sometimes.  I finally asked the peeps to make me a place so I could get in and out quickly.  Within the next row or two someone pulled out right in front of me - YAY!  Unfortunately this spot meant I had to trudge the entire distance of the mall to get to Apple which is like running the gauntlet to my way of thinking.

Bitch on a mission face - check!
Running shoes - check!

Unfortunately I forgot what the Apple store is like on the midday.  WTF was I thinking?  I made an appt for before the store opened on Sunday and bolted back to my car.  Sincere apologies to anyone I might have elbowed out of my way on the going or the coming back.  Still shooting the finger at the bitch who was in such a hurry to snag my parking place she came within a hairsbreadth of slamming me back into it.  

Sitting in my car, breathing as deeply as I can, kinda shaking a bit, I leave.

My next stop is the library which I will unabashedly tell you is one of my favorite places.  If it were food, it would be mac-n-cheese.  I have overdue-age that I intend to pay before selecting a number of books on CD for an upcoming road trip.  The librarian tells me they owe me $18.  Cha-ching!  THAT was most unexpected.  I can't find what I want and head out to another branch that is located nearby.  SCORES big time!!  About the time I finished up, there was a choir just getting ready to start singing.  I hurried because I am not a choir-y kinda girl in general.  I turned around when they started singing because this was no pablum Christian gospel choir.  This was full blooded old African slave songs.  Sweet!  I sat rapt.  I love this kinda music.  Form there they segued into Africa African music complete with drums and dancing.  For those of you unfamiliar with it, this is a whole body kind of singing that is a serious expression of community and joy.  I was a puddle of goo when they finished.
I have never thought of myself as a poet.  I have written poetry ever since I picked up that big fat red pencil, but when I see myself it is as a novelist or a prose writer.  Odd because for the last couple years, I have been writing primarily poetry.  There is a challenge to compressing words until they have the density of a black hole, of honing the word choices until I find one that conveys my meaning better than another, of taking someone where I want them to go in four lines or two or even a couple words that is challenging.  That is poetry for me.  It is what I love most about it in my own and in the lovely words of my fellow Wednesday night writers.  Over those same years, I wrote very little prose and had little patience for hearing it or reading it (hangs head in shame).  I am very proud of the work that I accomplished over that time period.  Some lovely poetry that I hope to self-publish very soon.

But lately it has been more and more difficult to write, the flow seemed to be on hiatus.  That little bit of writer's block inducing some kind of mild panic.  Panic is generally unsuitable for writing which flows best out of a calm and thoughtful place.  Oh, not that I haven't written beautiful words under the influence of rage, or love, or a broken heart, just that the very best writing IMHO has come from that other place where I can choose to include those emotions - or not.  So for the last couple months it has been rough to go to my writing group.  Nothing new.  Editing old poems which I have come to hate.   The editing not the poems.

When it gets like this, I think maybe I have said everything I have to say in my writing and that it's time to move on.  I am a good move-r on-er.   I think about quitting Women Writing for a Change and focusing for a while on photography or hiking or art.  I imagine long days spent tromping through the decay of last year's leaves, or stalking the sunlight across my favorite landscape in an effort to immortalize it on film.  But I never quite make it do I?

I stick with the writing.

The writing evolves during these times from prose to poetry to blogging to prose to biography.  I never walk away from it, I just re-invent it to suit where I am.  Writing is good for that.  So the poetry has kinda died off (NB - the poetry WRITING has died off.  I could listen all day to great poetry) and I find I am moving back toward prose.  The novel still kinda staring at the back of my head.  This week tiny inspirations for story flinging themselves at me.  So, I give one some space on the page thinking it just needs out and then the poetry will continue.

But in writing this piece of fiction about someone's first sweat lodge, I found my voice again.  There was a freedom to expand outward that poetry did not afford me.  I could spin out conversation, background, plot taking up as much room as I needed without constraint.  I could breathe again.  Poetry does not give me that.  It gives me intensity, connection, emotion, and condensation.  Prose gives me expansion, history, story and space.  A good writer has need of all that.

Friday, February 24, 2012

New Normal

When my mom is struggling with her memory things can get hard.  In the early days, I lost my temper and shouted a lot.  That certainly does nothing but make it worse.  It took me a while to see the pattern I created when I did that.  I still have to remind myself, but it's getting easier.  I close my eyes, take a breath.  And when I open them I try to really see her, all of her the good and the bad.  I'm almost always overwhelmed by the depth of the feeling I have for this little infuriating woman.  That feeling allows me to be strong and support her through what are very scary times.  The scariest times are not when she remembers nothing, they are when she remembers enough to know she is forgetting everything.  She mourns that loss just like we all would.

In those moments, I usually put my arms around her and tell her it will be OK, that we will find a new normal for her today.  Sometimes she will look at me still confused and I will try to explain it.  Normal for her is now a moving target.  What she could do yesterday, she may or may not be able to do tomorrow.  Maybe it is gone for now.  Maybe it's gone forever.  We never know.  In it's place we are trying to cultivate an acceptance, perhaps even a celebration of where she is right now, today.  In other words, today's new normal.  Somedays it works and for that I am truly grateful.  On the best days we even manage to laugh about it.  Those days are my faves.

I was thinking about this the other day - about having a daily, hourly, minutely new 'normal'.  Why should that be reserved just for my mom's senior moments?  Wouldn't I benefit from cultivating that same level acceptance for where I am.  What if I stopped pressuring myself to be perfect until it incapacitates me and I do nothing?  Would I dare to do more if there were no failing?  Accepting that what I accomplished was today's best and most normal? 

Yup.  I think so too. 

Welcome to today's NEW NORMAL! 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

VD Rant

First off let me say how very much I loathe Valentine’s Day. Not that I’m against demonstrating love, quite the opposite. I think you should say it if you feel it – a lot. You should squeezey hug everyone you feel compelled to hug, you should hold hands with kids, aging parents, girlfriends, boyfriends pretty much whoever is standing near you. Like Christmas, love shouldn’t just get squished into one tiny day after which we can dust our hands, pshew and think ourselves safe for another year.

I’m not sure where that loathing started. But having all my coupled friends push their relationship lurve right into my eternally single craw year after year kinda makes me wanna hurl…..and rebel. I’m glad you’re happy. I just wonder about the motivation, especially among women, to talk about their respective VD and how thoroughly and epically romantic it was. Really? Do you forget I know you guys or what!?! I blame the sugar coma from all the candy. I know real love is none of this hearts and flowers bullshit that has become the VD carnival freakshow. Real love is what happens in the moments we would never share publicly on Facebook or brag about to co-workers. Moments where we are too weak to hold ourselves at the center. Moments where we explode, implode, where we collapse, where we fall down. Real love is sharing those moments with someone else and trusting them to hold the center for us, for just a moment, until we can pull the pieces back together. There, in that nakedness, we give someone an opportunity to see us unadorned and without crutches.

Yesterday, being the hearty swoony holiday started as just another day for me. I’m not sure when I felt the edges of me start to fray. Maybe it was when Kelly started grilling me about why I am still single at 50. Didn’t I WANT to be in a relationship? Me: No I wanna die alone and sad just like I have every night in my dreams for the last 30 years. Thanksforasking. Nah – that’s what I WISH I had said in response to such a question. Maybe it was listening to Adele’s 21 and the Dixie Chicks’ Taking the Long Way Home back to back while I did some mindless repetitive work. Maybe it was all my FB friends trying to shove their made up VD happiness down my throat yet again this year. One can only swallow so much shit before the gag reflex is engaged. Either real vomit, or in this case, word vomit. All I know is that something broke loose. That sense of having stood in the same gym line for 30 years waiting to be chosen, to belong to a tribe larger than one, and eternally being passed over for someone else. Nothing working to make me noticed to those doing the choosing. Not flailing my arms, not screaming Hey, look at me, doing hurkey jumps all while balancing a full glass of pinot grigio without spilling a drop. Standing there staring at my Chucks as people get paired up and trying to make sense of it. To understand the WHY. Always the beautiful ones chosen first, then the fun ones, one by one until it’s just me and the girl who eats her own boogers. I’m afraid one day even she will go, that I will be found less desirable than the booger eater. I am no less beautiful, no less smart, no less funny, and a great deal less broken than many of those who went before me. Again I come back to WHY?

It’s a rhetorical question y’all. Albeit a shitty recurring one

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Now that I have that other thing out of my head, I can write about what I wanted to write about today - which is about the process of writing something large in scope.

I am writing a fictionalized account of my family that takes place in the far northern part of Germany before recorded history.  WOW!  Boring right?  LMAO.  When I write it that way it seems boring to me too.  See what happens when you ask yourself questions like why one of my brothers has a Black Irish complexion?  Or what was the family like BEFORE the part one of my cousins has researched (pre-1460)?  Why am I interested in science, shamanism, anthropology, archeology, indigenous cultures etc.  Where is that coded in my DNA?  Why do I feel like I have seen certain images before - Roman centurions, bog mummies, plant medicine, how to fletch arrows, or a thousand other things?

Suddenly there is a host of characters moving about in my head, going through the motions of daily life.  Writing is more like taking notes at the movies.  Easy peasy.  Except when they stop moving around like now.  They have been staring at me for over a year.  Frozen.  Immobile.  I try to make them move a certain way - but they refuse or the motion is stilted - like those old 8mm films they showed in elementary school that would slip the sprockets.  And in my heart, I know what I am trying to force them to do is not a natural motion.  So I stop.  They stop.  And we all go back to staring at each other across the page.

So what ARE they supposed to be doing?  Hell if I know.  They haven't deemed to tell me or show me yet.  I am starting to wonder if the problem is my desire to have them be something pleasing to my 21st Century heart there in their 1st Century world?  Do I have a vested interest in having them behave peacefully instead of like the war-like clans they undoubtedly were?  Am I trying to write their truth or am I making it up?   It does seem if I were solely making it up, they would do as I say.

So in this deep pause they have created, I am reading voraciously about the strangest topics.  The migration of the Celts that brought them through Northern Germany.  For the record - I loathe things Celtic.  The independence of Northern Germany from Roman rule until the mid-first C.  I have a strange affinity for Roman centurion films.  Viking influence in this part of the world - especially where it applies to religious beliefs, mythology and world construction.  Thor has always been my favorite superhero and the recent movie held me captive to the point where I bought it so I could watch it over and over.

It's hard to know whether I am interested in something because it pulls a certain string inside me or because I know the facts will work for the book.  Am I in truth writing the book?  Or is the book using me as a way to tell itself?  Pieces fall into place by magic so I am inclined toward the latter.

For instance - I was riveted by the movie The Eagle.  No real reason for that.  The acting was OK.  The plot was soso.  The scenery was spectacular.  So what was it about the movie that drew me in?  I did a little research (give it up, it's what the girl does) and found that the movie was based on a book based on a historical event - the loss of the Roman Eagle standard in Northern Britain (Scots - ya gotta love em).   Somewhere in there I came across the Battle of Teutoburg Forest where 3 Eagles were lost.  I clicked on the Wiki link and a whole new part of the book opened up for me.  Teutoburg Forest is located in Northern Germany only a few miles from where my book is set.  The time frame is appropriate to be part of the living history of the people in my story.  And I feel one step closer to the day they will begin to weave their story through me again.  I look forward to that day.  And until then I guess I will just keep asking questions and waiting for them to answer.  Service between 2012 and 60AD is a little slow but amazingly clear.

So it's back to some boring dry historical book about Teutoburg forest ON MY DAY OFF!  I don't mind.  The details will show up somewhere in the movie in my head and I will understand what I am seeing much better for having slogged through it.

Why Do You Write?

Someone asked me that question a couple weeks ago.  It lead to a lot of head scratching.  Why exactly DO I write?  Hmmmmm......

I write to process stuff that needs processing.  Sometimes bits of that get up-cycled into stories or poems.  Processing stuff is the best tool I have to make me feel better.

I write because an idea will absolutely plague me.  Writing it down is a form of exorcism.

I write because it gives my brain something to do.  Character puzzles to figure out.  Plot dynamics to set into motion and imagine how it turns out.

I write because it gives me a chance to make an ex-bf say what I WISH he had said, to make the world over in a way that pleases me.

I write to fill up the hole and to fill up the whole.

I write because I am addicted to language and writing is the best way to safely express that in our culture. Let's face it, if I use the big words I get the look - ALWAYS!  We somehow expect to encounter words we don't know in reading so they are more OK.

I write because in writing I begin to know myself at the deepest level.

I write because sometimes in the process I touch the divine.

Mostly I write because it is the one constant in my life that brings joy.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


There is a pace at my new job.  It comes from the top down.  Calling it frenetic would be a gross understatement.  Frenetic with intermittent boredom.  Everything conceived of and put on my plate is wanted yesterday.  There is little time for planning and none for mulling.

No time for the ideas to stew in the cauldron of my head, simmering.  Strange ideas bumping into one another to say Boy Howdy.  No encouragement toward ideas meeting in strange corners and getting to know one another.  If it can't happen in a nanosecond, it doesn't seem to be worth it.

I don't think the best science is done this way.  Your brain can't always be switched on to frappe like that.  Frappe can shred and ruin some otherwise subtle thoughts.  There is a good mix between moving quickly and thinking quickly and sitting still and pondering.  The one speed pony is a sure fire recipe for  burn out.

Right now I am dealing with it by switching off during my time.  Sometimes that means just turning down the speed, but more often than not it means switching off completely or re-booting the entire cranial load.  Evenings spent without a single thought passing between my ears.

I can't say that I really dig this - the idea that every thought I have is tempered toward work.  I didn't sign on for that.  But it's also a fairly new job in a really tough economy for research and I can't afford to not work.  Don't get me wrong, I like the challenge of it all.  Just wish there was a little more left in the tank for me at the end of the day/week.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Send Out the Clowns

My life is a circus right now.  I can even hear that gawdawful calliope music in my head - deedeedeleedledeededeedeedeeeebumtidarumbumtidarum.  (Where is a contagious earworm when you need one?).  Three rings all going at once, no ringmaster in sight, and me head swiveling trying to watch them all - all at once.  And as if that isn't enough, that damn tiny clown car pulls up and disgorges an impossible number of occupants. 

I am not a big fan of circuses especially those that keep animals in thrall for human entertainment.  And clowns?  Don't even get me started on these creepy, candy-coated fucks.  To me they are all Pennywise and make my skin crawl.  There is no laughter for me in that.  My last circus was probably 25 years ago.  I went simply to keep my niece, Jen, company.  Maybe hoping that it would re-kindle some childlike circus love.  Nope.  Just reinforced my deep laothing of the entire freakshow.  (Ironically I would love a good freakshow - sadly this is not it).  Jen had her own clown-trauma when one of the Ringling clowns stole her brand new jacket before the show and didn't return it for almost an hour.  She cried the whole time.  But then the girl has always been attached to her clothes. 

Why exactly did my brain spit out THAT particular image today?  Aren't there a billion other ones that it could have chosen to convey the absurdity, the busyness, the chaos that is my life right now?  So again - why this one?  In particular that clown car.  Jungians analysts would say that the clown car is me or my life and the clowns??  Well, that's the real question isn't it?  What the hell are all those clowns about?  After much pondering, I conclude that my life is a bit too full right now, probably has been for a while.  And if there are people and things leaving my life in impossible numbers (which there are) that I should not mourn those things or try to grab onto them.  Instead should just laugh and let them go.  They are, after all, clowns - and not even amusing ones. 

Well OK.....I might just keep one around. He is after all funnier than most.

Imaginging my car now empty with lots of elbow room.  Gassed and ready for new adventures!

Mean Girls Are Never Pretty

Mom's sojourn in Memory Care ended when she could no longer stand and became what they term a 2-assist.  She transitioned to Skilled C...