Thursday, December 19, 2013

Like Beating Wings, How Time Does Fly

I am home now, in this tiny town covered in snow and slush and rain and fog.  I have returned, for the holidays, to spend nearly two weeks with family and friends, good food and longs naps, bookstore visits and trips to the movies.

At this time, a year ago, I was saying my goodbyes.  Now that I am back, I am saying my hellos.  I dance with delight every time I see a familiar face, I am eating too many meals out, and not caring that I haven't gone to the gym (it's the holidays after all).  I am marveling at how much has changed, and how little.  They have changed the streets - I found myself redirected from a path I once drove daily into a curvier, more logical route, but different and foreign.  My dear friend's daughter, who was but a head-bobbling infant when I left, is now walking and talking and smiling at me melting my heart.

My mother is the same, the face, always grinning at me, the soft hug, always embracing and soaking up and draining out all confusion, fear, sadness, and doubt.  The holiday traffic is the same - the temper-raising snail's pace of cars snaking their way into the mall to dump their savings and increase their credit card debt.  There are still only a handful of bars and restaurants to visit.  My grandfather is still tall and strong.  My grandmother is still here, with her silver hair and eye-crinkle smile.

And being away, from family especially, you realize just how significant it is to a relationship to be near someone, to have daily communication, to see their face and read their bodies and hear their voices.  And it's important for them to get the same from you.  Because when you don't, when you're reduced to texts and a random phone call - things change, people change, sometimes without even noticing until it is too late, until you can't go back and find the path that led them there, that led you there supposing things about them that might not have ever been true and certainly are not true now.  For my assumptions, I would like to extend my sincerest apology.  You know who you are.

Everyday, I am asked how I have been, what have I done, who have I met, where have I gone.  Most of my journey, if you have been reading, you already know this year has been a rocky one - full of growing pains, disappointment, change and a constant re-calibrating of expectations.  But there have been the good days too.  There have been small victories.

And as this year closes, as I return to my new southern home before the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, I will consider this year a good one.  I will consider myself changed, not perfect, perhaps not even better, but more aware.  I now know what has not worked, what I want to make work, and how to maneuver my way through rush hour traffic - by avoiding it at all costs.  I have a great many resolutions, too many to list, and they should be saved for my New Year's post anyhow.

Homecomings are hard - they are joyous - but they are hard.  They force you to look back, reexamine where you have been and what you have done with your time, and most importantly, who you have spent that time with.  Next year, I hope to spend more time with better people - not only those that I hope to meet, but those that I hope to create and develop here, on this screen.

Farewell for now, and hello.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

How Do You Do It?

Have you come to the realization that you have been living your life based on myths that were created for you, and sometimes by you?  

Have you heard that crack in your skull?  

Have you felt that tear in your chest?

Have you ever figured it all out and instantly hoped, prayed, wished and pleaded desperately that you hadn't?

How do you act around the people that played a part in that myth?  

How do you treat those familiar strangers?

What do you do with a warehouse of memories, that catalog of experiences, those files of your life that feel suddenly irrelevant?

How do you do it?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

These Are The Stories That We Tell

These are the stories that we tell.

I used to worry about my sister.  I used to worry that she would get lost or taken or hurt or die.  I used to follow her everywhere she went.  I used to annoy her.  I used to keep an eye on her when she played on the playground.  And I used to lose my breath and feel my heart beating through my chest when I couldn't see her.

These are the stories that we tell.

I used to look up lawyers in the phone book and call to ask how much divorces cost.  Their secretaries never told me.  I think they thought I was joking.  Or they felt very very badly for me and because they didn't know what to say, they hung up.  I would try the next one listed.

These are the stories that we tell.

I used to sleep on our porch when it rained.  I used to make a bed out of the long pillows that only my mother used and wrapped myself up in spite of the heat and would rock, my too-short legs stretching down until my toes could hit the green-peeling-paint floor to push the swing enough to swing for a while.

These are the stories that we tell.

My first boyfriend told me that I was the first person he could see himself marrying.  We were sitting on the trunk of his car.  It was a perfect night.  But I couldn't understand the words he was saying.  I think I said "Thank you."

These are the stories that we tell.

When people ask me how I'm doing, I respond with "You know, living the dream."  But I'm not so sure.

These are the stories that we tell.

I used to have everything figured out.  I used to know who I wanted to be, where I wanted to be, what I wanted to do, and who I wanted to do it with.  I wanted to get my Ph.D. in English.  I wanted to teach at a university.  I wanted to have an office with four walls full of books.  I wanted to get married.  I wanted to live in the suburbs.  I wanted to bake scones.  I wanted to have children.  I want none of that now.  I don't think I do.  I have no idea anymore.

These are the stories that we tell.

Most of the time, a lot of time, almost the entire time, I feel like I am right.  I feel like I am good.  I feel like I am the best possible version of myself (minus a few pounds).

These are the stories that we tell.

I never fought with any of my boyfriends.  Not really.

These are the stories that we tell.

I am terrified of being a server/bartender/shift manager for the rest of my life.  I tell people and tell myself that I would be fine supporting myself by serving food while I write during my time off.  But again, I'm not so sure.  But I keep doing it.  I feel stuck.  And inexperienced.  And too experienced in the wrong kinds of things.

These are the stories that we tell.

I want to be supported creatively.  I wish all the time that people like "patrons" still exist like they do in Little Women and Dorian Gray.

These are the stories that we tell.

I feel young every day.

These are the stories that we tell.

I feel old every day.

These are the stories that we tell.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Hello Again...

It's been a while since my last few posts - I was getting a bit sick of my own writing and my own voice and my own desperate whining.  So I stopped for a little while.  And then I moved, and picked up a ton of shifts, and have a new roommate which means I have three, ready made and brand new excuses for not having enough time to do the things that I should be doing - things that make me happy - things that will make me a better person - things that will nudge me further up on my own self-created ladder of success.

Anyway, here I am, blogging again, trying to look for the good, look for the hopeful, turn my face to the sun like so many other things with less cognition than us "superior" humans have.

As I mentioned, I moved earlier this week.  And it's great, it's south, it's closer to work, it's bigger, it has a yard for Roxy, and I found an amazing 5 mile route for running late last night, the cold air whipping my face, not a soul around (stuff to make my mother worry for sure).  And there is also a Panera Bread, 2 miles from my new house.  Now, Panera and I have a very special relationship.  I love Panera, it's always there for me when I need a quick breakfast or a long morning and afternoon visiting with my mom, studying with my friend for hours on end during finals, nestling in with my headphones in and typing up these thoughts (as I am now).  It was where I completed my thesis.

I know I should stay away - all those vicious carbs completely undoing that great run I took last night, more expensive than eating at home, blah blah blah.  But I have found no other place where I get so much writing done.  It has the perfect balance of distraction and quiet, free internet, breakfast rolling into lunch (and sometimes dinner if I'm really going strong) and did I mention coffee?

And the beauty of this new Panera, the charm of the place beyond its proximity to my new home, is it's staff it's layout it's feel it's charm.  The Panera closest to me when I lived up north was not comfortable.  Their staff was only sometimes friendly, and so, SO often got my order wrong.  Having worked in the service industry for nearly 12 years now, I am not one to complain about the food and drink I receive.  I cannot recall sending something back or asking for something for free.  So at the Panera up north, it was almost like a game to see what it was I actually ended up with.  I discovered new things that I had never ordered and had to ask about next time by describing the surprise of what ended up coming with me instead of what I actually ordered.  Things were almost always forgotten and the coffee was almost always out.  They were always training new staff and there was usually a long line.

None of that exists here, at least not yet.  And it just feels better here.

I started the "NaNoWriMo" a week ago, National Novel Writing Month, and it's been great so far.  The goal is to produce 1,666 words a day, 50,000 words in 30 days.  Roughly 180-200 pages.  It is a great and fantastic thing that is keeping me writing everyday because even one day, a thousand words missed can set you so far behind.  My story so far is melancholy, fiction, but so infused with memories of my life.  And those things, memories, are constructions anyway, fictionalized reproductions of what actually happened to us.  I think we would think our lives much less interesting if we had perfect and accurate accounts of the people we used to be the things we did the things we said were said to us done to us for us by us through us.

Which is why I am here now, when I should be unpacking, when I should be going to the bank to the store to buy groceries to the gym to employment agencies.  But I'm going to stay, I'm going to fill my coffee cup, loosen my mom-made scarf and settle in to write until I need to get ready for work.

I wish you all a safe and comfortable place to find productivity.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Next Crazy Venture

Today is Monday, sometimes my very favorite of days for its new beginnings and potential and possibility and sometimes my most dreaded of days for the long stretch and expanse of time between "here" and whatever I am looking forward to over "there."

Today is the last Monday my sister will live in the town we called home in the Midwest.  She is venturing out, making her own way, doing her own thing and daring to seek out something better.  I don't know much about the new life or the new job or the new people she is going to encounter.  But from someone who did the same thing less than a full year ago I would like to send her this message.  I would like to bestow a few words.  I would like to give her my own piece of well-wishing and goodbye.

When I left the Midwest, it had already turned cold, the air frozen and metallic and the ice and frost and gray air crept in everywhere, chilling to the bone and causing shoulders to hunch, Midwest bodies turn into themselves and constrict and clutch closer in to conserve whatever heat they can hold.  I had finished my last shift at my last job in that town and I went to get a cup of coffee.  And the line was long.  And I didn't mind.  I stood there, looking at all of the holiday mugs and porcelain reindeer sugar caddies.  I didn't check my phone.  I didn't read my book.  I just stood there, alone, in line.  And from seemingly nowhere, suddenly, I felt warmth and the kindest of pressure around my arms and torso and neck and heart.  It was like I was being hugged from every direction from many invisible people.  I felt physically and emotionally loved.  I felt encouraged and supported and just, so, right.  It was as if at that moment, there were people near and far away from me that were sending me good thoughts and love.  I smiled, to myself, and tried to hold onto that feeling, remember it, stow it away so that I could reach for it during those moments of questioning and loneliness and confusion that I knew were part of this great package deal of moving away on my own.

I am sending that love and encouragement and invisible embrace to my sister, every moment of every day this week until she and my mother and their little dogs crawl into their car early early on Friday morning.  I hope she leaves feeling that support, feeling that encouragement, feeling that incredible mark of love and significance that she so easily and eagerly gave and gives to everyone she meets.  She is a beautiful soul.

This quote I kept near to me as I was leaving and still pull it out from time to time when that invisible embrace is too distant of a memory to recall.  I give it here, to her, to recite and remember.  I know that I am not the only one hoping and wishing a great many good things for her on this adventure we call life and growing up and trying new things and places and people.  I am one of many.  We all love you and will miss your warmth and energy and company.

“What is that feeling when you're driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? - it's the too-huge world vaulting us, and it's good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.” 
― Jack KerouacOn the Road

Be well, baby sister.  Don't forget to stop and be present in the place that held you for so long.  Remember to feel the love.  Stop and listen to the whispers of well-wishes.    Keep your phone in your pocket.  Look at the faces of the familiar and send them the love they are giving you.  Then release them.  Open yourself up and clear your heart for new faces.  Throw your arms wide to what is coming...


Wednesday, October 16, 2013


It is no surprise, as an avid reader, and a sometimes hopeful writer, that I have a few favorite words and phrases - words that I say over and over to myself, phrases that I'll say out loud, insert in posts and journal entries and pepper into conversations.  One of my favorites has been tumbling around inside my head for a few days now.  It is not connected to any particular thing or inserted into my thoughts from reading or talking with someone.  It seemed to have just appeared one day and I cannot let it go.


The world is full of opportunities for this word - both as a whole and in my very own little part of it.  There are so, so many different ways to think about this word and its definitions.  It can be both positive and negative, concrete and metaphoric, refer to nature as well as an aspect of our "civilized" world.

The first definition given is that it is an opening, a tear, or a rupture.  Sometimes I feel like emotional wounds, familial fights, personal attacks and even our own self-deprecating tendencies to criticize our own selves and efforts and hopes and dreams can cause such breaches.  They cut a small opening in your heart, stretch a tear in the fabric of the reality you thought you could count on or a rupture in the relationship that you once held so dear.  We are all connected, sometimes tightly, sometimes loosely, but we are all part of each other.  But, the things we do or say or are done or said to us, tears that fabric, opening up the weaving of that curtain held between us.

The second definition given is that of a violation, especially that of a contract or legal document.  When a contract is violated, when a written statement of intent or promise is breached, there are usually consequences - rarely positive and almost always costing us something.  And it is always personal, it is never only business.  When suffering is caused or in many cases, demanded, after the breach of a contract - it hurts a person.

The third definition is the breaking up or disruption of friendly relations; an estrangement.  We've all broken up with or been broken up with.  It's a terrible feeling.  But what is worse, is the breaking of those friendly relations.  What a silly term but one that is so close.  We are social creatures, we enjoy enjoying ourselves with others.  We pair off, join up, meet up, plan and agree to go and do and see and feel - together.  It is friendly.  It is familiar.  It is safe.  When that relationship, when that comfort, when that familiarity is breached, things look different.  Activities and television shows and your favorite food and bars and times of day and the color of the moon's light on your bedroom walls betray you.  They are no longer things you enjoy alone, but for a little while, will feel like things stolen from you.  They will feel unfriendly, they will only be reminders of the rupture and the tear.  And as for estrangement, the word itself is enough to cause a chill a shudder a tear a gasp an attack of anxiety.

The fourth definition is a leap of a whale from the water.  The illogical and incomprehensible ability to fly and leap and breach the weight of water by the monsters beneath.  They glide, hour after hour, day after day, seemingly without urgency, without fear, without hesitation.  And then, for no apparent reason, they breach, they jump, they surface and they play.  They do what we would if we were in their massive and watery place - because they can.  The water, the ocean, the massive black and blue sea cannot hold them beneath.

I do not know why this complex word has been stuck in my head for days.  I love it, and know that I will use it for something, sometime, soon.

Friday, October 4, 2013

You Dropped Something!

Before landing on Austin, Seattle was a contender.  I loved the cobbled streets, the massive market so full of colors and sounds and smells and people, the proximity to the ocean, the mist crawling over the juts of land cupping and curving the metallic gray water.  I loved the rain.  I loved the restaurants.  I love everything about it.  I had been twice, once with my mother, and once alone to see if that's where I wanted to live - and had I not been thinking about many other things, had I not been preoccupied with a breakup, I might have had enough room to have chosen that damper city, that older one, that one moving at a more steady and slow pace than this one, this one that I'm sitting in right now.  I tell people I flipped a coin.  And in many ways I did.  The weight that pulled it down towards tails was the warmth beckoning me from the depths of winter in the Indiana December, the proximity to my brother and his wife and his children and the frequency that my father passed through this southern state.  And it was my feeling of joy and "rightness" that I felt walking around on my solo trip here last August causing me to weep unexpected tears of joy knowing that I had found my next place, my next home.

But as I talk to people of all shapes and sizes and backgrounds and experiences and income levels here in this oasis of blue in a sea of red, I bristle when so many more than I would have thought bash my second choice city.  They say it's too expensive.  They say it's too wet.  They say it's too far too stuck too cold too quiet.

Seattle doesn't hold a tender place in my heart because of its market or its weather or its people or its restaurants or its history.  It holds me fast and will forever be one of my favorites because of a bum.

I was supposed to go there with him, my boyfriend, the man I had lived with for over a year and dated for two.  He was supposed to come with me to see if that's where we were going to move.  But he didn't save for it.  He didn't show any interest.  He didn't care.

So I went alone.

I felt like it was a preview of how we would live our lives if I stayed with him - him never having being making thinking saying feeling enough and me going ahead and doing it alone.  My heart broke on the plane and was only able to be held aloft in my chest with the thought that I would soon be seeing the rain-soaked and impossibly green and emerald city at the tip top corner of our country. I would be there for three days.  It was raining when I arrived, typically, and comfortingly.  It was the same Seattle I knew.  The same Seattle I loved.  The same Seattle that I came to introduce myself to, like a friend who was hoping for more, trying to make a great friendship into something bigger, something more meaningful, something more permanent.  I made no plans to look at apartments or jobs.  I just wanted to walk around the city by myself for a while. Airport to cab to hotel to shower to Queen Anne where I paid too much for a tulle skirt that made me proud of my hard work over the past year with my trainer but silly wearing it without any occasion.  But I decided to wear it anyway.  I planned to take myself out to a fancy dinner and eat escargot and drink red wine and do all the things that I liked and wanted to do.

But I was sad.  And for some reason I was scared walking around the city at dusk, a city I had been to before, and a city so much less threatening than London, where I lived alone and younger and more ignorant and unwise to the ways of the world.  I kept telling myself how silly I was being.  Keep your head down, you're almost to the restaurant.  And as I looked down at my feet, counting the steps and regretting the decision to wear that ridiculous skirt, I saw a dirty hand waving down near a pair of even dirtier army booted feet.  And I looked up and saw a homeless man, his eyes wide with concern and his head and face encircled by a long beard connecting to his wild hair giving him the appearance of a lion, a crowning, dusty and wiry mane.

 "Lady! Lady! Hey!" he said, waving his hands wildly at me.   I didn't fear him because of the number of people around but wished he hadn't chosen me to pester for change or to spread along the word of the apocalypse.

"Yes?" I answered hesitantly, hoping to keep walking without too much of an interaction.

"You dropped something!"

I had only brought my wallet and wondered if my hotel key had slipped out or my phone had fallen out of my jacket pocket and frantically looked around, circling, spinning in my skirt, the wind whipping my hair, my heart pounding, worried that what I might have dropped was important, would be stolen, would be lost.

"What? What did I drop?"

"Your smile."

I gave him my best grin, ear to ear and full of teeth and a twenty dollar bill.

I smiled wide for the rest of my walk to the restaurant, no longer looking at my feet but the people and the windows and the buildings.  I drank good wine, and ate great food, and talked to funny servers and bartenders.  I felt warm from within as I walked back to my hotel - no longer scared - no longer sad.  I kept smiling.

I will go back to Seattle.  I may even live there someday.  And because of that city I learned that a smile an attitude an outlook a perfect day is something that you pick up take on make up envision and project for yourself.  And we all drop our smiles from time to time.  Just don't forget to pick them back up


Friday, September 20, 2013

Maybe, Maybe, Maybe

Dear friends, I’ve decided to move home.  I have broken my lease, sold most of my furniture and rented a tiny u-haul in hopes that I can convince someone to help load the rest of what I couldn’t sell.   I am coming back, early, and before an entire year has lapsed for several reasons.  The first, is I would like to beat the snow.  I don’t want to come back and meet head-on one of the biggest reasons why I left in the first place.  Also, I would like to cash in on some of those home-game weekends and make the glorious money that I made right before leaving.  Also, I would like to ease Roxy, my Austin dog into a winter – into her new Northern life.  I’ve lived it for 13 years, I know what to expect, I know the seasonal depression, the slippery roads, and the monotony of Midwest-living. 

It didn’t work out here.  It was hard.  It wasn’t what I was expecting.  I have duplicated many of the aspects of the life that I lived while there – so why not do it cheaper?  Why not be closer to family and friends?  Why not fail?  So many others have.  I’m sorry if you’re disappointed.  Believe me, it is nothing compared to the disappointment I have in myself.


The above address, the previous section, the confession of failure that you just read – is false.  I have made no such plans to move home – for this is my home now.  But know, please know, that I have considered it.  I have said and written these words to myself and in my head and loudly in my apartment and my car.  It would be so, so easy. 

Over the past few months, I have done a great deal of complaining, my fair share of wallowing and dwelling and laying low and procrastinating and just generally being lazy.  My writing has come to almost a full-stop.  I am not inspired, I don’t feel I have anything to contribute and I keep thinking over and over just how boring my life was and is and seems to continue to be.  For a NON-FICTION WRITER, I have nothing compelling or interesting to write about.  In most senses, I am the good girl.  I have always played by the rules, prepared, planned, set goals, finished projects and gotten straight A’s.  I have never received a speeding ticket, I’ve never been to jail, I’ve had very few sexual partners, I’ve never even SEEN hard drugs, let alone do them, I pay my bills, I go to the dentist, I put money in savings, I exercise, I try to eat right, I do well at my job.  However, in spite of all of these “right-doings” I do not feel fulfilled.  I am not successful.  My resume is limp, my experiences are limited, and I am not stretching myself or putting myself out there or taking risks at living the life that I actually came down here to live. 

You see, I didn’t have to try in school.  Looking back, I can think of 3 classes out of the 68 that I took during my undergraduate and graduate career that actually challenged me – made me sweat, made me study all night, worry myself, and still ended up getting a grade lower than an A. (Ok, fine, it was an A- in one and a pass/fail for the other two so they wouldn’t hurt my overall GPA.)  Every other one, I slept through.   I studied a few hours, I read the books, I went to every class – but I didn’t really try all that hard.  But you should also know, I don’t consider myself all that smart.  I really don’t.  I haven’t read everything, I haven’t seen everything, I haven’t been everywhere and I certainly haven’t listened to what I should.  I am not proficient at anything.  For those that think college is difficult, or they couldn’t do it, or they’re impressed at those that get good grades all the time – they shouldn’t.  They just haven’t figured out the system the strategy the points that matter and all the other ones that don’t. 

And my mistake, my biggest mistake was not utilizing the time OUTSIDE of what was required of me in class.  I didn’t know just how important it was to get an internship, be part of clubs, make connections, get references, be a TA, and apply for things.  Because when I graduated, when I moved the tassel to the other side, when I walked across the stage and celebrated my accomplishment – I didn’t have anything.  I didn’t have a job, I hadn’t sent any resumes out, I had absolutely no idea what I was supposed to do next.  I look back and wonder why I wasn’t more freaked out about the fact that I was moving home after graduation to go back to the serving job that I had when I was 20. 

I bet you I thought I would be receiving a knock on the door phone call letter email package offer assignment fellowship internship plane ticket carrier pigeon smoke signal – anything.  I bet you all of my student debt that I thought something magical happened once I got my diploma.  I bet I thought I didn’t have to try at all to get a job.  I’m sure I thought it would just fall into my lap, my car would drive itself to my new office and park itself in my new life.  

Then, nine months later, I decided to go to grad school.  Sure, I missed school.  Sure, talking to the director of the program got me all excited to talk about Victorian Literature and the possibilities that would come along with another, higher degree.  But mainly, truthfully, honestly, I didn’t want to start paying my loans back yet.  When I got my bill for $748.15, I panicked.  I enrolled a few days later to a school that didn’t require at GRE, because I was still traumatized by the two times I took the SAT, the first time I got and 1160, the second 1180.  I still tell people I scored 1300. 

And again, I was so bored.  The height of my boredom came when I took a poetry class, and I just made shit up.  The less time I took writing my assignments, the better I seemed to do.  The more bullshit I put on paper, randomly throwing images and words and space together, the more praise my wild-haired professor and fellow adult-students threw at me. 

Then I graduated.  And I wanted something to happen this time.  So I made it happen.  I moved to Austin.  But you know what, you want to hear the fucked up part about all of this?  I still thought that something magical would happen.  All those accolades that people had given me, and all that praise I got at my graduation party when people passed my thesis around like some sort of holy thing, telling me how brilliant it was, how brilliant I am, how many brilliant things I was sure to do, did absolutely nothing for me except to build me up higher for a greater fall.

My puny, ineffectual fists have been shaking until my wrists ache and my fingernails dig into my palms and my brow is furrowed so deeply that the lines are already starting to form.  They’ve been shaking at the universe, God, the economy and all those people that DIDN’T tell me what it was I really needed to hear.  What I needed was for someone to tell me just how useless my degree is.  And it is.  I have no trade.  I have nothing to offer anyone except a keen ability to craft a sentence and some mad skills in serving in restaurants.   While other people in my life, the ones that went a route so completely different than mine are doing so well for themselves.  My sister, who dropped out of high school, got her GED, went to cosmetology school and got a job at 19 doing what she went to school for.  She wants to move to Pittsburgh, something I thought was never going to work out because, psh, she didn’t save.  She has no idea how expensive and hard it is to uproot one’s life and start a new one.  No?  Wait, I’m wrong?  She has five interviews?  And my brother, my Texas-born and raised brother who has a single semester of college under his belt, is now pulling in more money, literally straight from the ground, than I can even imagine, more money than I’ll probably ever make, more and more and more.  And it isn’t fucking fair.

I’m floundering here.  I am being consumed completely by my inability to succeed.  And what’s worse – I’m not trying.  I’m crippled by my fear of failure.  I’m flabbergasted by the fact that things aren’t, just, HAPPENEING for me. 

I once read about a girl who set out to fail – she did nothing but hole up in her room and eat Ramen and skip all of her classes and stopped washing her hair and paying her bills and returning her friends and family’s phone calls.  She said something like she wanted to be the best at failure.  She wanted to do failure “right.”  She wanted to succeed at failing completely.  That’s always stuck with me.  Because as I sit here in my average apartment, writing about not writing, and just counting the hours until I have to go back to work at the restaurant with other underachievers – the same work that I was doing before my degree and the work that I’ll probably do long after, all I can think about is intentionally failing.  Because then, if I stopped going to my job, defaulted on my loans, lived by candle light after my electricity and cable and internet got shut off, had to move into my car or couch surf or beg my rich, rich brother for money or ask to go stay with my smart, smart sister for a while – just a while – then maybe I would have something to write about.  If I fail and do everything I’m not supposed to do, maybe I can write something out of that.  Maybe I need to starve.  Maybe then something will happen to me.  Maybe maybe maybe.  

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Break the Neck

photo credit

I was beginning to feel light headed, trying not to inhale too deeply, taking short, quick breaths through my mouth so that I wouldn’t have to smell that awful smell of chicken shit and bodies and feathers and grain long left soggy beneath all those cracked and hopping feet.  We were walking behind him, my giant of a father picking up the limping ones, the ones with spotty feathers, the ones who had stopped eating, chirping, moving altogether.  He would take it, between his thumb and first two fingers and snap their necks.  It was the motion of a finger snap but with life and neck and feather in the space between.  It didn’t make any noise - no chirp or crack or blood or finale exhale. 

I kept looking down, breathing shallow and short.  I picked up one of the limping ones, the ones who would either die there on that floor or die between my father’s fingers.  I cradled it, cupped it in my tiny hands and whispered hello.  It wasn’t soft.  It was wet and felt like the tennis ball my dog loved to sit and chew and chew and chew.  It smelled so bad.  I looked close, my small fingers searching its chest, searching for a tiny heartbeat in my palm.  I could see its tiny, gray-green eyelids slowly lowering and barely rising again over its beady black eyes.  I wondered if I could save it.  But should it be this one?  I looked around and saw another one shivering despite the ninety degree heat during that Alabama summer; then another one who looked like it had a broken wing, dragging it through the dirt as it tried to make it towards the dozen dented metal pie pans serving as water troughs. It kept getting knocked and toppled by the other ones the stronger ones the bigger ones hopping and pushing towards the water.  It didn’t stop trying, as it got knocked a few inches back, to the left, closer then further away from quenching its thirst.   The more I looked around, the more wounded ones I saw.  A shallow sea of piss-colored dust-colored sand-colored feathers bobbing and pulsing around.  I became overwhelmed.  I whimpered goodbye, put the limping one down, turned, and left.  I couldn’t help but kicking them, there was no place to set my dirty white-ked feet.  At every opening where I tried to set my feet, in an instant soggy puffs would rush filling the space.  I just needed to leave needed to get out needed to breathe fresh air.  I couldn’t save them all.  My chest ached.  My head pounded. I felt so useless.  I cried as I opened the metal door. 

I didn’t follow my father and sister to the second chicken house, the house where the chicks who were strong enough to survive their adolescence, their molting, and their conditions to make it to an even more crowded house, with less water and more food trampled on the ground, and more pecking and more shed feathers.  I didn’t see what my sister later told me about. I didn’t want to have the image of my father grabbing the sick ones by their feet and smashing their heads against the support beam, breaking their stronger necks, even sick, they were too strong for my fathers fingers, stronger than the small ones’ necks he could break with a snap.  I didn’t want to see that.  I didn’t want to know that.  I didn’t want to smell the weaker smell of feed and sick and feathers and death on the wind that I had tried to keep out of my nostrils as it floated over the field and into our yard and house and bedroom and sheets and hair.   

Monday, September 9, 2013

To the Next Trip

I have become a good traveler.   I can do it well.  Those brief moments walking through the airport, through the terminal, onto the plane, sitting in my seat and looking out over the plane’s wing.  I feel right.  I feel at home.  I feel at peace knowing I can do it.  I never fear crashing.  I am not afraid of terrorism.  I fear others' body odor.  I fear screaming children.  I dread talkative neighbors and pray my phone’s battery lasts as long as the flight does so that I can listen to my music and be alone on the plane. 

The day I return from a trip, and sometimes when I’m still on one, I am thinking about my next destination.  I look up flights and look in my planner and look to see who wants to pick up a shift or two in a month so that I can take off again, feel that rollercoaster feeling again (even though I’ve never been on a rollercoaster) of the moment the plane stops being on the ground and does what it was built to do – miraculously defy gravity with its thousands of pounds of metal and tons of jet fuel and dozens of passengers and crew held aloft thousands of feet in the air. 

After the plane has landed and the seat belts click open and the eager ones stand up and get their luggage (careful – the luggage may have shifted during takeoff and landing) and then we all stand and hunch and half-sit around waiting for the plane to connect with the makeshift hallway.  We’re like a bunch of kindergartners waiting in our classroom for the fire drill to start waiting for the door to open waiting to be set free.

I wonder about these people I wait with.  Where are they going?  Where have they come from?  Are they visiting relatives going home going on vacation visiting a lover going bird watching going to die going to live somewhere else going to rehab going for business going for pleasure going for nothing?  I most often am going for nothing.  I go with no real reason.  To see a friend to get out of town to decide to end a relationship to find a new place to live to breath to write to escape to start over to end up there.  Whatever my reason, I prefer to do it alone.  I’m faster.  I’m more efficient.  I’m more certain of where I’m going and how to figure it out.  I love company, but I love the quiet more on my trips towards nothing.

Now I am thinking again – where next?  What next? How next?  I want to fit one, possibly two more trips in again before my unnatural flight north for winter to spend cozy nights with too many dogs and too much coffee and too much cold and snow and old friends and old habits and old roads and traditions.  

Somewhere sunny with sand or waterfalls or cobbled streets or fruit vendors speaking a language I don’t understand or a town old enough it doesn’t seem quite like America  or a new city where young people go to retire or the woods (probably not) or the beach or the mountains?  Where next?

Here’s to the next trip.  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

We Were Magnificent Then

The town was too small and we were far, far too big.  No one cared like we cared.  No one wanted to live like we lived.  No one was interested in tasting, breathing, going, seeing and doing what we wanted to taste, breath, go, see and do.

We were magnificent then. 

We found each other, our little big unique selves that caused heads to turn and look back.  We commiserated with each other in our experiences of constant explanation, justification, and rationalizations of the irrational and nonsensical ways we lived our lives.

We read books.  We read books that others had not read, books that inspired us, challenged our thinking, urged us towards creativity and those dangerous thoughts that school and pastors and parents and bosses try to stamp out. We wrote and traded our writing and laughed and wanted to be better, write better, think better, create more and more and more.

We ate food, oh god did we eat food.  We ate and cooked and ordered enough and too much and too little until we licked our forks and our fingers and our plates and our spoons.  And with the food, we drank wine.  We drank gin and vodka and absinthe and beer and rum and cucumber mineral water.  But mostly, we drank wine.  We mulled it and chilled it and spiked it and sat on the floor of my empty apartment and drank it after he had taken all of his furniture and my happiness and whole-feeling with him.

We were magnificent then.


We talked about the men.  We talked about what we wanted and what we needed and what they did and what they didn't and what they couldn't and what we could live with and chose to live without.  It was always our choice.  Always.

We talked about God and gods and the universe and life and death and our childhoods and our parents and our siblings and what we wanted to be when we never grew up.  We agreed that it was so much better to be many good, little big things than one large and boring and long and dreadful thing.

We rented cabins by the lake, filling the rooms made of wood and strong beams and furnishings nicer than any of us had ever seen and experienced with our families.  We lit candles and blared music and drank some more and danced around wearing little and drank and laughed and wandered around the cavernous house feeling like real grownups that take vacations with other couples.  We took our bikes and rode from the cabin into town, still drunk and happy and our faces numb and tingling from the patchy sun streaking through the leaves.  We let go of the handles and raised our arms and threw our heads back grinning widely and wildly and wonderfully letting the wind comb our hair and our too-big sunglasses slipped down our sweaty noses when we shot back up feeling that moment right before we lost our balance.

We were magnificent then.  

We would travel.  We would get on planes and take cabs and fall asleep in one place and wake up in another and see things and eat their food and drink their wine and rent hotels and rooms and apartments and we would consider what it would be like if those were our hotels and rooms and apartments.  We ate food so good and so healthy and so rich that we left with buzzing bodies, full of nutrients and coconut pasta and kale crisps and pureed berries and avocado soup and matcha ice cream.  We walked for blocks and got lost and were found and laughed and talked and puffed our hot air and hot dreams and clouds of our hot breath visible just beneath the too-close stars in the pitch black sky.  We were not afraid of being alone.  We were not afraid of being together.

                                                         We were magnificent then.

And like meteors we have dispersed.  We shot streaking and shining through, leaving a glimpse a memory a tail a story that others will tell about us after we have gone.  We have ended up on so many different sides of this country and this world and this life, our too big selves seeing if there is another, better, bigger place that can hold and encourage us.  We are doing what we always said we were going to do.  We did it.  We got out.

We left.

We have given pieces of ourselves, left fingerprints and made impressions on the people that are still there, behind us, below us, looking up for traces of us.  

We were magnificent then.  We ruled our own little kingdoms.  We made lives for ourselves.  We made plans.  We were hungry.  We were thirsty.  We were looking for something.

We dreamt.

And then we awoke and made all of it come true.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Same Side

I had a conversation with a busser at work the other day.  We were talking about movies, and comic books and comic book movies and he told me that there would be, in the very near future, a movie about the epic battle between Batman and Superman.

Now, please be aware, that I know very very little about comic books, comic book movies, multiverses, superheros, super villains, or any of the other things that go along with that huge and expansive culture.  But I do know, or thought I knew, that Batman and Superman were essentially on the same side.  They had the same goals, same motivations, and same gravely-voiced disdain for those that "just want to watch the world burn," right?

I was shocked after learning I was wrong, and asked this eager-eyed 21-year-old busser what Superman and Batman could possibly fight over - a fight so epic that it would warrant a feature-length film?  He shrugged his shoulders and simply said that maybe they disagreed about how best to handle a situation.  Or maybe Batman killed one of the bad guys and Superman would have preferred he hadn't and just imprisoned him.  This sweet and informative busser told me that he was certain Superman would win and that they would each learn a lesson and the film would only be a setup for another movie where they would join forces having settled their grievances towards each other.  Justice League, maybe?

I had always considered my sister and I to be on the same side.  We are on the side of having grown up in a house, an environment, in different states, in a totally different family model than anyone else we had ever known.  We are linked and connected in ways that no one else would ever understand.  We sat for hours in my car trading stories about the hilarity of our childhood, our parents, our friends, the world.  We would laugh until our throats ached and our eyes streamed black from tear-pulled mascara.  

And we fought, don't get me wrong.  We used to fight so hard and cut each other so deep and would so profoundly strike with the force of our tongues that we would each be left shaking with disbelief that those secrets, those hushed and whispered confessions would ever be used as ammunition.

But we were always on the same side.

Nothing was ever so epic, or would ever count so much against each other that it was worth anything more than a disgruntled few days without talking.  We marked our bodies, our wrists with black ink, one of the most visible part of one's body in tribute to our constant connection and ability to carry each other's heart.

Because Batman shouldn't fight Superman.  Sure, they live in different cities.  Yes, they have different jobs and strengths and skills and demons and struggles and hardships.  But their quarrel is not with each other.  Their ability to rule the world is only possible if they are a team, if they can agree, if they can set aside their differences and just be on the same fucking side.  I'd like to be on the same side, again.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

That Great and Terrible Voice in My Head

So I've got this thing, this obsession some might call it, with doing well.  I haven't posted in a while because I have not had a day off of work since July 16th.  And while nineteen days straight is by no means my longest stretch, it has been a very difficult nineteen days - and I'm staring straight ahead towards at least seven more.(For those of you counting, that's twenty six, my record is thirty three days between two jobs).  

Here is an excerpt from a post I wrote in December of 2010:

"Why I am being left behind so much recently? I hate it. I'm the one that is supposed to go, travel, visit, depart, LEAVE, not you! I want to go to Chicago. I want to go to Ann Arbor. I want to go to a fucking movie! It's not fair you get to go! You didn't earn it! You don't deserve that freedom! I DO!

But I don't. I did this to myself. I obligated myself to another second job. Why is it so hard? Why is life so expensive? Why can't I just have one job? Everyone else around me does - I'm literally the only person I can think of that works as much as I do. I hate it, I really do. I quit UK because I started hating the people enjoying omelets on Sundays and I had to work. NOW, I'm hating anyone that isn't sitting behind a desk (and sometimes even them too because they don't have another job to go to once they've clocked out of that one). I hate people in stores, in cars, at restaurants, in bars, standing on street corners holding a sign, my sister making crafts all day and getting a massage. I'm filled with hate, my account balances are higher than they've been but where's the fucking joy? Why did I leave one job to have more freedom only to immediately jump into another? Money? Seriously? I don't need it!"

I have apparently learned nothing in three years.  I continue to pick up shifts, offer up a ridiculous availability and still cannot say no.  I am only working one job, but within that job I am enacting three roles: server, bartender and manager (and in that order).  As a result of this, I am constantly tired, I have avoided and rescheduled the necessary things like going to the dentist for an aching tooth, the optometrist for an updated prescription, giving the dog a bath, cleaning my kitchen and spending time doing what it was a initially came here to do - write.  
I am not resentful towards anyone at work (mostly) as it was my doing - no one asked me to pick up those extra shifts, it was my call.  There is no one to blame but myself.

And I do this, I tell myself that I am working this much because I have not yet figured out to afford to live on my own, pay all of the bills, be the only one to walk the dog, clean the apartment, put gas in the car and buy groceries that more often than not are left uneaten and spoil in the refrigerator.  So please, if anyone knows, can you please tell me?

I sometimes look out at my future (as far as one can when nothing is promised, nothing is sure and can possibly be predicted) and consider just how much more work I have yet to do.  I cannot help but feel a twinge of jealousy and at times, just the smallest bit of hatred, towards those lucky enough to have been born into a wealthy family, their education paid for; or those who have chosen a more marketable degree thereby securing a job straight out of school or soon thereafter; a partner than is able to help financially rather than hinder ones progress; or during my darkest days, those that have had wealthy relatives die leaving them with inheritances and trusts.  

I fear and sometimes resent that I have not and probably will not be like or as lucky as any of those described above.  I look forward with a bit of dread knowing that I will be the only one that I can count on to take care of me.  Sure, there are those in my life that I could turn to for help.  There are things that I could do, fat I could trim, and places I could move that would make things easier, alleviate the nagging feeling that I have every hour I am not on the clock that I should be so that I can prepare for the future and the unseen.  But, all of that would require the swallowing of the engorged, bitter, and tough pill of pride.  

If I asked for help, if I changed my schedule and my situation, I would no longer be able to hold up my independence as a shield, and if I'm honest, I would no longer have that "success" to throw in the faces of those that have not been able to do what I've done - rely on myself and myself only.  I was able to succeed.  I am able to do it everyday.  Sure, it's hard work.  Sure, there are things that I've sacrificed.  Absolutely, I am tired and stressed out and missing out on so many good and great parts of life.  But at least I'm not asking for help.  I'm not a beggar.  I am not weak.  I depend on no one.  I am successful.  I am secure.  I am all by myself.
The voice in my head screams and shouts out: 


But let me tell you the deepest secret that no one knows, the root of the root in the tree called life (thanks mr. cummings, I wish I have the brilliance you had)...

I don't want to be like this.  

It is so hard to be so responsible all of the time.  It is no small thing to always be on time.  It is a constant struggle to pay for everything.  It is exhausting to always be right.  It makes me sick that I so often fall victim to judging those that fall short of my own standards and work ethic and goals that I have "reached".  

But perhaps the fact that I am not writing, I am not doing what I set out to do and am essentially ignoring the fact that I worked for eight, long years to acquire a master's degree, is my great justice.  Working in a job that I would have qualified for LONG before enrolling in my first college classes to pay for said college classes is karma smacking me square in the jaw.  It is my life's great irony that I am paying so much for something that isn't paying me back.  I have succeeded in raising my credit score, moving out of the Midwest, and have found a job that feeds me physically and financially.  However, I am not enjoying it.  I am not having any fun.  I might as well have not gone to college for all the use I am getting out of my DEGREES. 

I would like to say or think or imagine that I am brave and strong enough to quit my job, burn some bridges, starve in the way that all good artists do.  But I know myself too well to say that it will ever be a real possibility.  I would plan for a long time to jump ship and live "freely."  But that is no real freedom.  Perhaps I'm not cut out to be an artist.  Perhaps I am not free.  Perhaps I am my own warden.  And at the end of my very long days, when I return home crumpled and drained and unable to do much more than stagger around my apartment complex walking my poor neglected dog, perhaps my own self-imposed prison is where I feel the safest.  I can only quietly sing through the bars of my cage, too afraid that I'll falter and fail should I ever allow myself to escape.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Few Questions from a Single Lady

An old one, but one of my favorites nonetheless.  Obviously, I am no longer living with him, and I have completed my coursework for my MA.  However, many of my sentiments remain the same.  I hope you enjoy the humor of this...

A Few Questions from a Single Lady

            Right about now, my roommates from college, high school sweetheart, and chums from elementary school playground are either changing diapers, coordinating with caterers and wedding DJ’s, or shopping for their new friends’ baby and/or bridal showers.  I, on the other hand, spent the morning at the gym, paid some bills, and helped my grandparents with a gardening project.  And now, I sit before my laptop writing one of my final papers for my master’s degree in English.  As I look over my screen, I see my boyfriend sitting on the couch watching the unfolding events of the NFL season in which free agents are now up for grabs and on the market to be wooed with mansions and multi-million dollar signing bonuses.  I often wonder what it would be like to be a prized athlete who was so good at what I did that dozens of teams and fans across the country wished and prayed that I would come and reside in their hometown.  I wonder how it would feel to sign a contract, a simple piece of paper promising to support and inspire the team and surrounding community towards victory and a championship and be rewarded with gifts and huge amounts of money for keeping that promise.  Would I be able to get along with my teammates for the entirety of my contract?  What would happen if I got injured or suddenly decided I didn’t want to play there anymore?  Would I succumb to the wooing and temptations of joining another team in a more favorable climate or interesting city or would I remain faithful and true to my home team? 
            I often feel that is how young adults are auctioned off today and the same questions exist in my budding feminist brain wondering what it would be like to have a piece of paper, a contract that comes with material benefits of a bridal shower and wedding gifts, tying me to another person for all of time, or at least as long as we can stand to have such an arbitrary symbol uniting us. I have been asked, many times by many different people when Jamie, my boyfriend and I will settle down and get married.  We’ve been together over two years, “Shouldn’t you make it official by now?” they’ll ask us.  We are constantly asked when we are going to give our parents grandchildren and my grandparents question out loud if they will be around long enough (hint hint, wink wink) to see another generation of youngsters running around the blossoming spring garden.  My mother has a collection of knitted hats, socks and blankets waiting for my hoped-for offspring sitting in a chest in one of her guestrooms. 

No pressure. 

One particularly fond memory involves a dinner party at my employer’s home a few summers back.  I stood in the kitchen with my white wine spritzer admiring a large, complicated machine of metal spouts, bells and whistles making up what I could only assume to be some sort of European espresso maker.
            “Do you like it?  Do you and Jamie drink espresso?” my boss’s wife asked me when I asked what it was.  Naturally, I would not have survived many of my college years without such a staple as coffee and espresso and unequivocally answered “yes.”
            “Well, consider it yours as soon as you’re married.  Jon and I will buy you one for your engagement gift!”
            She seemed so sure and enthused about the prospect of awarding, or rather, baiting us into nuptials with the spoils that comes along with it.  Why couldn’t we have the espresso machine simply for being us – single and together who also happen to enjoy caffeinated beverages?
            I dread hearing the news that yet another one of my friends or acquaintances will soon be either tying the knot or cutting the cord.  I roll my eyes as I walk away from the obligatory hug or hand shake because inevitably I will be receiving some frilly pink, manly aquatic-blue or safety net green invitation beckoning me to enjoy crust-less-cucumber sandwiches and canned laughter when prompted with the unwrapping of a not-too-risqué piece of negligee purchased knowing the groom’s mother will be present.  And what purpose exactly does that filmy piece of paper inside the invitation serve?  Is it supposed to soften the blow of the announcement that there is yet another couple that we are about to be forced to shop for?
            I can usually be found before sending in my RSVP, sitting and scrolling through their lists, angrier and more resentful by the minute clicking through the Target or Macy’s website provided by the happy couple.  I silently simmer and balk at the price of gravy boats and throw pillows – two equally useless items that should not cost me the amount I made waiting tables last week.  It frustrates me that stores have created a scanner for couples to use as they register for their upcoming wedding or squealing additional to their home.  I can picture them now, holding hands and skipping gleefully through the store scanning Kitchenaid mixers, 1000-thread count Egyptian sheets, and a 24-piece copper cookware set that will end up costing more than the down payment on my car.  I chose two items equaling the cost of the most expensive item thereby ensuring I do not look like a cheapskate and they will feel loved in their tempurpedic slippers, sipping wine from the stem-less glasses and playing the collection of board games surely added so they appear with this registered gift to promise future use and invitations to play from its purchaser. 

I have yet to be invited to play. 

Athletes have an even larger right to demand their wishes met and their great-great-grandchildren’s college education paid for because they inspire hundreds of thousands of people to join in the age-old tradition of cheering a team on.  They entertain more than just the guests at a wedding for a few hours.  They are showmen and women who are expected to perform at their very best daily.  The glowing couple signs no contracts to us purchasers that they will produce a child who will someday cure cancer – so why should I supply its miniature hats and pacifiers?  A newly wedded man and woman do not promise that they will return the games and linens I purchased should their bliss come to a catastrophic litigating end.  They split the spoils between themselves and not with those that actually provided them. 
            I understand that this tradition is from days and centuries past.  Women no longer come with dowries therefore someone must be left with the bill and who better their loving friends and coworkers?  But I ask you, as a single girl untethered and unimpregnated, where is my gift for successfully surviving on my own as an independent adult in this tough economic time?  My first apartment after moving out (and paid for) on my own was not furnished with things purchased and brought to a party with delicate finger foods and toasts of champagne.  The couches belonged to a friend in college, the dishes and art hanging on the wall were purchased from Goodwill.  Why was I not thrown a party for surviving the dating world and college and navigating the treacherous waters of hooking up my own utilities, arguing with landlords over a broken lock and fixing my own running toilet?  I have emerged unscathed in the world of dating and have found a person that I enjoy living with for the time being.  But because we refuse to resign ourselves into an archaic tradition that was created in a time when he and I would be dying in about ten years consequently lessening the commitment of “‘til death do us part,” we get no party.  There will be no presents or well-wishers for us.  We will be met only with blank faces, and cocked heads trying to spill over any other example they know of couples that didn’t jump on the matrimonial bandwagon after exiting school and entering the workforce.  “Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins?” they’ll think, “But they’re weird, they’re actors, and didn’t they break up?”  They sure did, and don’t you think they are quite pleased with themselves that they avoided the circus of lawyers and pre-nups and Susan going through the dreadful process of changing her name back to its original?  And as for those prized football players – the free agents that are being wooed with millions and mansions, while their physical prowess and commitment to the game is impressive, why do they deserve such outlandish salaries and attention?  I concur with Sven Birkerts in his essay “Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man” and his attempts to validate his position of political passivity and extend his argument to my own “shower-passivity”: “I have to deem what I do – think, read, write – to be a part of the overall struggle.  Not, perhaps, of the immediate political struggle, but the larger one, which works to ensure the survival of spirit, free inquiry, humanness – value – in a world where these qualities are under threat.”  I too believe that those of us who have taken the less “certain” route and chosen the careers of words, sentences, voices and forms that appear on a page are also fighting the good fight.  No, we are not saving lives medically, arbitrating the fair work laws of the underrepresented, nor are we even doing so much as improving the condition of the roads upon which we drive.  However, and at the very least, some of us are responsible for the catchy slogans and jingles for the stores in which the happy couples will skip towards with lists of merchandise with glee.  We hope that we are expanding the minds and horizons of the students we teach and readers we write for.  But where are the writers’ contracts – the fat paychecks for those that craft a sentence methodically and laboriously over the course of weeks and months?  Why are authors and teachers not beckoned to various cities because of their mental dexterity and prowess instead of their ability to pass a football ninety yards and run a four-second forty-yard-dash in the incoming league’s turbine?  There are new stories that can not only be written but lived, stories that end somewhere other than behind a white picket fence.  We are fighting the invisible battle – the one against the presumption that young adults should still be caught in the interminable cycle of dating then marriage then babies then whatever version of Desperate Housewives is most appropriate.  But I digress…
            It is unfair that because I choose to maintain a flat stomach (mostly) and not use it as an incubator and producer of small sticky things needing constant care and attention (not to mention finances), I do not get gifts or any type of reward.  I get no tax break or financial recompense for continuing to work and because I claim only myself, I pay the most taxes than most other demographics out there.  I will not need three months to two years off of work to nurture and create a connection between mother and child, or scarier yet, leave the work force completely to ensure the small part of the next generation that I have created doesn’t end up being the next Unabomber. 

I do not ask for much. 

In fact, I guarantee that the pair of shoes or new laptop or even monthly stipend at Starbucks that would satisfy this single, “barren” woman would amount to much less than the circus-themed changing tables, silver Tiffany’s engraved rattler’s (that you know the child will never use but be kept somewhere on a shelf as only another thing to dust), or warehouses of diapers that are bought and given to expectant mothers every day. 
            Harsh though I may sound, I do not criticize or rail against those that look forward to and embrace this phase in life involving change and weddings and lace-trimmed basinets.  Athletes have become a sort of class of celebrity that is celebrated for their abilities and victories and will probably forever out-earn the best of all possible educators and authors.  I understand that the tendency to want to unite oneself with another person (or team) is a strong and common one and the need to procreate is not only psychological but a biological urge as well.  I feel many pangs of guilt knowing that there is the possibility that my mother’s chest of miniature knitted clothing may go untouched.  However, the next time you sit in an obligatory circle ooo’ing and ahh’ing the “adorable” bibs and footies, or click on the overpriced dish towels and silver cutlery from the website of their registry of choice, ask yourself: “What makes them so deserving of this shower?”  They are no athlete who has spent every waking minute training their bodies and minds to perform on a team searching for victory.  They did not sacrifice themselves to the physical and mental punishment to become the best possible player they can be.  They simply fell in love.  They decided to create a bundle of joy to occupy their time and fill their home with giggles and abstract finger paintings hung on the refrigerator.  But that takes no great skill.  Couples have been getting married and children have been kept alive and happy with parents for centuries without the assurance that someone else will supply the spit-rags and espresso machines.  So why must we feel obligated to do the buying and supplying for them?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Charmed LIfe

A new friend and I were talking recently about my writing, the types of things that I like to write about and I told him that I write essays, personal essays, memoir-like snapshots and flash fiction.  He asked me if I was happy with my childhood, if I liked how I grew up, if I would have changed anything.  At the time when he asked and now as I look back and think about it, I thought how very deep and personal of a question that is.  Would I go back and change anything if I could?  Would I have preferred growing up in another time/life/demographic/race/location/etc?

As an adult, as a writer, and in answer to his question that night in the heat sitting on the ground before an outdoor concert, my answer was and always will be an irrevocable “no.”  I would not go back.  I would not change anything. I would not trade my life and childhood for any other.  I wouldn’t want to have missed growing up with my fair haired and blue eyed sister who knows the “deepest secret that nobody knows.”  I wouldn’t want to have missed lying in bed, my eyes adjusting to the dark as my mother leaned over me, singing softly “Johnny Appleseed” and “Colors of the Rainbow.”  I can still hear her voice, smell her sweet breath, and feel her eye lashes on my cheek.  I wouldn’t change the resourcefulness of my lower-income family who improvised a breaking down on the side of the road by pulling out a guitar and singing and dancing until my father returned from the three mile walk to the nearest mechanic. 

I’m sure most would disagree from the outside looking in.  But we lived a charmed life.  We lived an interesting life.  My sister and I lived a life full of love and warmth and hope and encouragement.  It was far from perfect, but it was good.  We were lucky.

I just read a passage from a book, a book all about how to “free the writer within.”  Yes, it sounds hokey.  But it is an incredible book and possibly the best gift a friend has ever given me.  Natalie Goldberg, the author of Writing Down the Bones, states that “It is very important to go home if you want your work to be whole. You don’t have to move in with your parents again and collect a weekly allowance, but you must claim where you come from and look deep into it.  Come to honor and embrace it, or at least, accept it.”  My thesis, a sixty-two page long project required to earn my masters, dealt completely and exclusively with the idea of “home” and how it had formed me as a writer.  And while there is a great deal of honor and respect paid to the experiences I had as a child and young adult, there is a great deal of blame.  Like many, I blame a great deal of what and who I am today on what happened to me before.  I harbor deep resentment towards many occurrences and people that I encountered and still know today.  It isn’t an open resentment, or a very vocal hatred, but rather a quiet undertow that pulls me down into negativity and depression.  I use it as a crutch whenever something doesn’t go my way or I find myself unable to accomplish something.  I choose to not take responsibility because it is so much easier to shift it to something that happened to me from the age of eight to eighteen.  It takes a lot less energy to work and improve the way I do things than to simply point the finger, and throw my hands up saying “Well, I’m this way because of ­­­­­­­______.”  But I promise, I’m working on it…

However, and in spite of my tendency to blame-shift, I am grateful every day for the way I was raised and the kind of home I come from.  Because as lonely as I get sometimes, as unhappy as I am almost daily with the size of my hips and thighs, with the unruly nature of my hair, as hard as it is to live with my unwavering and back-breaking obsession with working and earning and slaving my life away towards the end result of having “enough,” or trying (what feels like daily) to explain and defend my completely abnormal views of marriage and children and conventional family structure, I like who I am.  I feel as if most days I am kind.  I believe that I make decisions based on reason and ethics.  I am polite and respectful.  I am generous.  I am a good person.  And I am convinced that I wouldn’t like myself nearly as much or have as much optimism about my future and the future of this world had it not been for the place and people with which I was raised.

And I think that has been the hardest part about moving to a new city, all alone, without anyone that knows my character or past or accomplishments – I have to prove to everyone I meet that I am someone worth getting to know.  And in this city, this growing and boisterous and lively city full of characters from every walk of life, it's a fight to get noticed.  It’s a struggle to break into established circles.  It feels like the hardest thing in the world to walk into an on-going conversation in which you weren’t invited or included after you have arrived.  It is a daily battle to make this place “home.”  It is a constant fight against that small but mighty voice in my head telling me that it would all be so much easier to give up, move back, and that it’s alright to fail. 

But this choice, this one choice, was all my own.  I can’t blame this move on my parents.  I can’t point my finger at a boyfriend or a friend or my sister or God or a job when I wonder what it is I am doing here, so far from home.  This decision was all mine.  So whatever happens, if I fail or I succeed, I will have no one to blame or congratulate but myself.  I will earn whatever experiences I have here in this place.  And the only thing that I can hope for is to live the next twenty six years like the last, without regret for the ways they were spent, without looking back and wishing I had done differently.  When I turn fifty-two, I intend to give the same answer when asked if I would go back if I could. 

No, I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sad Melody

The music slowed down.  The wine was kicking in.  She was swinging her wide hips, the red skirt she bought that morning for her blind date grazing her calves.  Her feet had stopped hurting in her heels about an hour before, numb from standing on them in front of the cafe - waiting.  But he never came.  She texted her friends and joined them at the bar where she knew they would be.  She ordered a bottle of red and drank most of it.

That's when she went on the dance floor.  There were a few couples there, but she went alone.  She said she just wanted to move, she wanted to dance, she didn't want to sit anymore.  She raised her hands in the air, moved her head from side to side to the rhythm of the music.  She started turning, slowly to not lose her balance but fast enough that her buzz met her mood, dizzy and sad.  She still clutched her wine glass, one foot then the other, moving to the beat, moving to the rhythm, moving her body.  She loved the song.  She wanted it to last forever.

And it seemed to.  The song seemed to keep going and never stop.  So she kept dancing.  She didn't notice that she was the only one left there. The only one still dancing.  The only one still swaying to the music in the dark bar, clutching her empty glass of red.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

I Wish You So Many Good Things

We all have our own particular set of stories of endings.  How they end, why they ended and whose fault it was.  I’m sure I’m the culprit in most of mine.

I used to have this thing I’d say, whenever I felt like being dramatic, or leave a big impression.  It worked the best in England because while I was dating more men at one time than I ever had in my life, I had my return ticket, my method of escape, sitting safely in the room of my rented flat.  And it's working so well right now because we're in different states, and all I have to do is unfriend you on Facebook and stop returning your texts and calls.  And I have to.  This time, I have to disappear.

I would tell boys, men, and one girl that they shouldn’t get too attached, try not to count on me and to please, please not get too upset.  I usually said this thing whenever things got too complicated or serious or hurtful or hard.  I didn’t want to be around for the sticky parts of relationships, I’d seen what had happened in my parents and my friends’ parents to know that I didn’t want any part of what happens after the glow of the happy days are over and night returns.  I would tell them not to worry; I would tell them that one day, before it became painful, before it just became too much -  

I would disappear.  

They wouldn’t be able to find me or contact me.  I would hold them close, pull back just a little and whisper in their ear: “I wish you so many good things” and I would turn and walk away.  

I was only ever able to pull it off three times, two boys in England and the girl.  And now, you.

I was fond of the thought that I would be just another happy memory, someone they could look back on and remember kindly, without ever having fought or disappointed or enraged or betrayed.  I was that funny little girl that they spent a few days, weeks or months with.  I wanted to be transient.  I wanted to be free to roam and move about without the strings and attachments of others’ needs and wants. 

And then I cared, I cared about your needs and your wants.  I wanted you to care about mine, and I really do think you did for a while.  But you didn't read what I wrote.  You didn't want to talk about the future.  You didn't care about what I cared about.  And then the funniest part was you were the one that disappeared.  You drove away in that red truck with your furniture attached in a U-Haul behind it.  

I have this picture, that I took on my phone, of you leaving our apartment, the apartment that would become only mine after you left, the apartment that felt so big and so empty and so cold and so lonely without your things or the TV to provide white noise or your bed to provide warmth.  I remember taking it because I knew that I would never see you walking toward me from that door again.  I wanted to capture that moment.  And I've looked at it from time to time, but only the picture that I saw on Facebook tonight, the picture of you with your hand around another girl's waist, is the one that told me I now had to disappear.  I had to stop existing in your feed.  I needed to stop texting you late at night when I got drunk and lonely.  I needed to stop thinking about you whenever I watched a show that we used to watch together.  

But how do you disappear from your own life?  How do I remove the person I was with you now that we are apart?

I'll let you know when I find out.  Until then, I'll try not to disappear anymore.  The only thing that I can do is appear, and show up for my own life.  Because we only get one, we get this one shot at being happy.  And I can't keep wasting time being unhappy over something that ended nearly a year ago.  

So, I will say it again.  I wish you so many good things.  I wish you happiness.  I wish you success.  I wish you health and the luck to find someone that will make you happy.  

I know now that person is not me.