Tuesday, November 25, 2014
This will be the last in the series of unedited thoughts I completed as part of a beginning of year writing challenge. Now back to our regular programming.
I have heard it said that, on a spiritual level, a heart attack is the sign of a literal broken heart. Something in one’s life is not working. Something is not right.
I do, then, what I always do when I need to process my world. I write about the dream.
We are certain that if there is such a thing as past lifetimes, we have traveled many of them together.
It is said we never know the value of a thing until it is gone.
In this particular case, these words would ring truer than they had ever rung.
I wonder how much our differences would matter if we were the last two people on earth. I wonder if you would come to me, if you would share, if you would allow me into your world and if I, in turn, would allow you into mine. Would it matter anymore the issues you have with the things I have done? Would it matter the color of skin, the political bent, the religious thought? When it is the two of us and nothing more, what is so important that divides your heart and mine?
Seems I am always waiting. Waiting for summer. Waiting to finish this darned degree. Waiting until the kids are out of the house. Waiting until I find an agent. Waiting for the stars to align and the Universe to decide it is ready for me to do what I came here to do. Waiting for other things I cannot share. With so much time spent waiting, what about now?
What am I doing with my “Now?”
(this would be the one day I actually forgot to pen my words)
I penned a novel at the age of seven. I would share it now except that my mother is more of a minimalist than I. May The Adventures of the Pickle Family rest in peace. I have written in one form or another since. My words have graced diaries, journals, articles that were never published, books I would toss in the trash, blog entries, and a good number of online and in print magazines. And, yet, to this point, my words have pretty much remained my own.
Have I suddenly turned psychotic? Do I need help? I have no one to whom to turn.
The inside of my brain is much like my kitchen fridge. It has magnets from all my favorite places holding photos, quotes, and memories from the most important characters in my life. It holds the photo of that time in San Francisco when all four of my children stood at water’s edge while my husband and I watched with pride from afar the family we had raised. It holds the boys skipping stones at Bar Harbor, the girls walking the beach at Nag’s Head. This brain of mine has so many memories clipped to it that it overflows with joy and smiles and family times. It also, however, has quotes and clippings and sayings from many of my family and friends, words that will never come down until I decide they do.
You may have said a word to me in passing, shared a confidence, or offered advice. You have no idea the thoughts that are stored in this head of mine. Words that you have long ago forgotten, I hold dear. To the one of you who told me to look in the mirror and to love and protect the little girl I saw there, thank you for that. I think of this little girl often. I think of how I talk to her and how I show her love. I ask myself if I am protecting her in the way I would protect a daughter of my own. To the one of you who said, “For the record, keep writing.” Those words move me every time I swear to throw away the pen. I hear them when I am at my lowest in my writing. I hear your words to quit my whining and get back to the page. They keep me at the keyboard. They keep me believing that someone wants to hear what it is I have to say and that, maybe, I am a writer.
I feel so ready to move to a different place in my life. I told you once I wanted to do something big. I think it’s time.
Monday, November 24, 2014
Unedited clips, random thoughts, a good effort at a beginning of year writing challenge.......
There is a comfort in a friendship that requires no pretense. One is free to be just as she is without fear of judgment or ridicule. One is free to say or do or question. One is free to be transparently honest and bare.
I felt this.
“It’s the difference between creating an enduring piece of art meant to move versus throwing together an entertaining piece of fluff meant to distract.” This is the thing about working with writer friends. They can never let you just play. All of conversation is a critique. Maybe I want to dance around the page batting my lashes, blowing seductive kisses, and flinging my feather boa around your neck. Maybe I don’t feel today like putting on my big girl panties and moving seemingly immovable mountains. Let Gandhi and Mother Teresa take care of that business. I want to make you smile, make you laugh, make you spit your coffee through your teeth. Besides, how is that NOT helping humanity?
We get so darned serious.
I am only halfway through my day and, already, I have complained of the snow, my homework, the dishes, the dogs, my back. I have flung a little negativity in the direction of my family, my friends, strangers, myself. And this, my friends, is a GOOD day.
I got in my car and blasted the heat, turned up the music and headed for the highway.
My soul lay dying on the ground. I breathed into it the gift of life. I breathed into it the gift of life with nothing more than a few good tunes, some beautiful food, and the slightest hint of sexy black lace.
If any one person has contributed to my growth, it is this friend. He has helped to reach deeper within myself than any other I have met in my life. He has brought a joy to my life that I did not realize I was missing. He has made me laugh and smile and think.
He tells me his news just days before I am to lock myself in a car with my family and travel across the country.
Fighting has always bothered me. I have never liked it. We have the power to bring each other such joy and love, and yet we choose to tear each other apart. It is not merely the fist to face fighting that disturbs me. I am saddened, too, by shunning, neglect, grudge-holding. When I say saddened I mean physically and emotionally moved to the point of being sick.
As a little girl, I was always a victim. I was pushed, teased, made fun of for nothing more than being who I was. I loved people. I wanted to make them smile and laugh and love themselves and each other. I never wanted to push or tease or fight back. I wanted everybody to get along, to play nicely. I never understood why this was such a difficult concept and why it was ridiculed by so many.
Even as an adult, I find it interesting that we crave love and yet are so afraid to share it.
We hold grudges for years, ignoring those who have the power to feed our souls, letting feelings rot and fester inside until we no longer feel joy. We throw ugly words, slander, shame. Why do we do this? It takes just as much energy to offer a kind thought, an encouraging word. In the process of destroying others, we destroy ourselves.
Maybe someone has wronged you in some way. How does it serve you to throw hatred back at them? How does it serve you to hold anger inside of you? Could you not find something they have given you that makes you the beautiful person you are? Maybe you will not go to them and share that love, but perhaps you can thank them in your heart, thank them for the lessons you have learned, the strength you have gained, the compassion you have grown.
Sunday, November 23, 2014
You know the drill by now. Unedited clips from my beginning of year writing challenge. Enjoy.
What if your last words to me were your last words to me? What if my last words to you were my last? Have you opened your heart, shared your mind? Have I honored our friendship, left you with a smile? Or have we worked at tearing each other apart, creating a divide that sends us drifting?
(Nothing about what I wrote this day will be seen in print.)
Eyes meet eyes, heart goes pitter pat, words are spoken with merely a glance. Soul recognizes soul.
It is not up to anyone else to make you happy. That comes from YOU. You want flowers? They make you smile? Buy yourself flowers. You would love a candlelit dinner with a little Bach in the background? Put on some pasta and queue up the Pandora. I know your argument here. It is not the flowers or the candles or the glass of Pinot gris. It is the idea of having someone who cares, someone to lavish on you beautiful words and beautiful gifts, a loving touch. Let me ask this. Do you not love yourself? Do you not love yourself enough to do these things? Partnered or not, love yourself enough to shower on you words of praise, thoughtful gifts, and romantic dinners. Treat yourself to a beautiful day. Do all those things that make your heart smile.
A note. Naïve or not.
As you go about your day today, ask yourself, “Does this make me smile? Does it make another smile? Will it, at some point, make someone smile?” I look at it like this. There is enough hatred and ugly in the world. I do not need to put that purposely in front of my face. No, I will never be the sole reason for world peace, love, compassion, but could I be a contributing force? Others make fun. Others say I have my head in the clouds, that I am naïve, sheltered, unrealistic. I am not. I do know that there is evil in the world. I do know that there are those who are just mean. I don’t care about that. I care about the small difference that I can make from the place where I stand.
What does that difference look like? It looks like a kind word to a lonely soul, a hand in a lonely hand. It looks like a laugh on a saddened face, a smile in the dark. It looks like a balloon given to a child, a cupcake for no reason at all. It looks like flowers, wine, a beautiful dish for one who has seen a few heartbreaks. It looks like hot stew on a cold night, running in fresh cut grass with tiny people who think you are their world. It looks like a phone call to a shut-in, a letter to a dear old friend. It looks like lattes and laughs and warm, enveloping hugs.
I am beginning to look forward to his letters. Each one reveals a new piece of me in him. I am giddy like a schoolgirl with her first crush.
I have found a kindred spirit. When one chooses to live her heart through the pen, she is drawn to others who do the same. It is a difficult life to express emotion in word, to bleed onto page, to reveal that which no normal person would touch. I do not feel, I write. I do not filter, I pen. I seek, always, acceptance, approval, to be desired by those who take a peek at my skill in crafting a phrase.
I am the equivalent of a common flasher. How do ya like THESE essays, baby?
It is not so easy in the beginning. A writer must find her voice. She is like the impressionist, trying out voices of others. She writes like her favorite author, like her high school English teacher, like her Uncle Joe, like her friend’s floozy aunt. At first she writes safe and shallow, thinking to herself that her family, friends, and colleagues will see her words. Then she gets brave and loose, thinking to herself, “Oh, my GOD, my children and my MOTHER are going to SEE this!” In the beginning the writer is the emotionally constipated executive, penning her words all suit and tie.
If she is lucky she persists until she is free, until she is the seventh grade art teacher with the flowing skirt and the bangly earrings she made herself out of beads and clay and feathers and stone. She persists until she runs barefoot through her pages with flowers in her hair, blowing kisses, singing Kumbaya, and tossing little love notes to the crowd. She persists until she gets far too comfortable exposing herself in print, until she lives for it, needs it, loosening those top buttons to expose a bit of cleavage, mussing her hair until it’s bedroom sexy, leaving her readers drooling, wanting more. This. THIS is her true voice.
He was searching when I found him, searching for a voice of his own. We helped each other with our craft. I honed my skill as he developed his.
I am not much a fan of labels. As much as I love a word and the power it has to lift, motivate, encourage, inspire, I do realize the impact a few letters penned together can have on tearing a person down, on negatively impacting a life, on pitting human being against human being. With just a syllable or two, I can either embrace you, wrapping you in a warm loving energy, or I can spit in your face, drag your soul through mud and dirt and hang you to dry for all to see when I finish.
I can throw word on word out at you to describe who I am and that for which I stand, but would you love me less if I did? If I tell you that I believe in God but am not a fan of religion, that I could never personally have an abortion but support a woman’s decision to do so, that I believe we should be free to marry, love, and have sex with whomever we please, and that guns in the hands of angry, arrogant people never seems a good idea to me, would you stand ready, stand ready for attack, stand ready to defend?
It is easy to love those like us. It is no effort at all to embrace one who agrees, who mirrors, who nods. Where the challenge lies is in opening one’s heart to those who are different. I do not mean here “love the sinner, hate the sin.” I mean love. Period. The challenge lies in accepting that the person in front of you is doing his best, has struggles and desires, and wants to live a happy life just as do you. The challenge lies in seeing not a label but heart and flesh. The challenge lies in appreciating the differences, celebrating the differences, acknowledging the similarity.
The challenge lies in seeing the person not the word.
Talking to this friend is like looking at myself in opposite form. I do not understand what is happening. I have never met anyone with whom I share so many likenesses. Why have we come together? Why have our paths crossed? What does this mean?
Saturday, November 22, 2014
Random thoughts from a beginning of year writing challenge, unedited and free, just as they came from my head.
I stood at the edge of the water, bare feet immersed in its coolness. I could see the pebbles on the bottom through the ripples of the lake. I could see the green of the trees on the surrounding hills. I breathed in the clean, crisp air. I was at peace, calm, right with the world. I stood with my teacher, the two of us alone in this beautiful wilderness. I stood with him as he taught me to return, to return to the water and to nature for healing. I stood as he said that you will go out, and you will help others, but you must always remember to return to the water.
I am stretching my brain in a way I am not certain it cares to stretch. I have always been about people. I have always sought to figuratively get inside another soul, to understand, to interpret, to comfort and guide. At this point in my education, however, I am applying these concepts to things. I am working at getting inside computer issues, software, and the like. I am not a fan.
I am stressed and tired and frustrated and angry. I have much about which to complain. I have much about which to gripe. Instead, I will turn that frown upside down and will focus on the good that came about in my day, the light that shined on all that dark.
The mistake I made was falling in love.
What does this mean, this word “acceptance?” I accept that I will always be short. I accept that I can never change the parents who birthed me and brought me into this world. I accept that my eyes are the color they are, that my hair is graying, my vision fading, my feet oddly sized for my frame. Is it a giving up or a welcoming embrace? I accept that my years as a mother of babies is over and my time as a mother of young adults is in bloom. I accept that I no longer write for nonfiction sources, spewing recipes, tips, bullet points and facts onto page. I embrace the time I had with those words and welcome the time I spend now penning phrases of boas, pearls, and purple hats. If I “accept” do I resign or do I invite?
What if you knew this were your last day? What if you knew that at midnight tonight this would be the end?
I need your words right now. I need your voice, your guidance. I need your assurance and your comfort. I need to feel the weight of your encouragement around my shoulder.
You come to me a former addict, victim of abuse, high school drop out, or homeless man. You turn your eyes away, look at the ground, apologize, explain. You feel yourself inferior, unworthy. You play the game of catch up in life, catching up to others, creating a life that is clean, respectable, the game you feel you can never win. You feel you will never be the same as those who have no story. You feel privileged to be among those who have never needed that drink or drug on waking, who have never slept in their cars because they had no bed, and who have never heard their fathers creep into their rooms at night and do things to them that should never be done to a child. You feel yourself broken, less than, and never capable of being more.
Let’s be clear.
When I look at you, I do not see your broken body. I do not see the smile that is never there. I do not see the memories of your mother holding your hand to the burner on the stove or locking you in the closet with the vacuum and the disinfectants for the entire afternoon because you refused to take a nap. I do not see the needles or the bags or the bottles. I do not see a fourteen-year-old mother or a man who was told by those who were supposed to love him most that he was stupid and worthless and would never do anything with his life. I do not see this.
When I look at you, I see your heart. I see that it beats the same as mine, the same as every other heart I have ever met. When I look at you, I see flesh and blood and a soul that has endured more than any soul should be asked to endure and yet here it stands before my eyes, whole and hopeful and worthy of my love.
So I go about my days in a pretend sort of world. I do things because I am alive and it is what one does if one is waking and breathing. I prepare beautiful foods and travel to my job. I sing, and I dance, and I smile and laugh with my children. I join a friend for lunch or a latte. I offer words of kindness and hope and a bit of good cheer. I tell corny jokes, entertain the crowd, and show others what they are here to be. I do all of this, and it makes me whole.
Whole, but not complete.
I had a beautiful green smoothie for breakfast. A banana, an apple, almond butter and pineapple with flax and spinach and almond milk. Why do people eat meals? How did that come about? Why not just eat whenever wherever? Why do we sit down at a table with others at specified points in the day?
I bought balloons for my children. And chocolate bars. For a Valentine’s day surprise. Why do we treat others to special gifts only on certain days? Why don’t we treat them whenever the mood strikes? I think it would be a wonderful thing to just walk up to someone at a random moment and say, “Here, I got you this, just because you exist.” I think it would be wonderful if we didn’t have to be reminded to do sweet things for others, if we just did it for no reason at all.
I had lunch with a dear friend. I am not much one to use that term, “dear friend,” but she is, in every sense of the word. I had tofu and a spinach salad. It was delicious and beautiful. We both had cups of steamy earl gray and some sassy conversation. We shared words that no others could ever hear. They might like to, they were that juicy, but they will never hear them.
I went to class. Or, rather, I stood in front of others and made them laugh and smile. People pay me to do that. Honestly, I would do it for free. It fills my heart and makes ME smile. I get paid in money and smiles.
I almost ran over a turkey, but I didn’t. I don’t know that that will ever happen again in my life, but it happened today. I thought I should note it.
Thursday, November 20, 2014
More unedited snippets from my 365 Days Of Writing challenge:
I have not journaled in forever. Seems I always feel the need to pretty up my words and parade them in front of people, dress them in their Sunday best and show them off to Grandma. I am always eager for that nod of approval that, yes, I am doing a wonderful job and have raised them well. Well, like the pimply teen at that first school dance, I am enticed now by the thought of stepping out onto the dance floor and giving it what I’ve got, moving, feeling, exploring with no expectation, with just the freedom of letting loose. So, patience please while I kick off these shoes, change into my favorite old tee and worn out jeans, and throw my hair up in a ponytail. Let’s give this journaling a try.
How many times do we take the stage as someone else? We put on our best smiles, throw the material up on the screen, and out comes the voice of another.
What does that mean exactly, life is short? Sometimes life is long. Sometimes it is hardly much at all. Either way it is whatever length it is. We will live it until we die. We live it poorly, or we live it well. Either way, we live it. We live it every day we wake up breathing. That does not make life short. It just makes it life.
I look to the side and there I see a little girl with mud on her face, rocks in her hands, creating pastries out of sticks and dirt. “Come play,” she says. I turn my head and pretend that I don’t see. I look again to check that she is gone. She stands now in her tutu and tights, flinging smiles, dancing for the crowd. “Come play,” she says. “Not today,” I tell her. “Not today.” It is always not today. It is never time for play. My life is business. My life is carpools and schedules and babies and chores. It is not finger paints on clean white walls, sandcastles in the sun. It is not hair loose and free, flying in the wind, spinning circles with arms stretched wide. It is not. And yet the little girl inside of me begs, begs to play, to dance, to laugh and create. She begs, and still I turn her away.
Day twenty-five and I am still at this. My first concern when presented with this writing challenge was, How will I remember? How will I make the time? How will I make certain that I never miss a day? I have said before, and I will say again that writing and I have an on-again, off-again relationship. Sometimes we are that couple in the restaurant, that couple canoodling in the corner booth, that couple that pays the bill before the food has arrived, that couple you WISH you and your partner could be. Other times, we date each other’s best friends. The thought of pledging my days to painting pictures with my words, pledging my days to never leaving them for another, for work or family or time-frittering of any sort was more than slightly overwhelming. Suffocating. Anxiety-producing. That chase scene in your dream where, no matter where you hide, you can never escape. I love you only IF you fit into my schedule, fit into my plan, only IF there is a thought inside my head, thought inside my heart, thought anywhere within ten feet. I love you only IF I choose it is convenient for ME. And, yet, my words are always there. They never leave me. They are patient and giving and far more faithful than I have ever been.
Somebody asked me the other day, “What is the secret to staying married?” I replied, “There is no secret. You wake up every day and remember that you are married. You wake up every day and decide to STAY married. You never forget that you are part of a team. It is NOT all about you.” As I sit at computer, fingers to keys, I remind myself that writing is much like a strong marriage. There IS no secret to being a writer. You wake up every morning and remind yourself that you are a writer. You wake up every morning and decide that you would like to STAY a writer. You never forget that you are married to the page, that you and your words are a team. That it is NOT all about YOU.
I’d like to imagine a world with no hearts, with no feelings, with no pain.
What is it about a challenge that invigorates me? I am and always have been that girl who, when presented with a “Bet you can’t,” stares down the speaker and replies simply, “Just you watch me.”
I am stressed, exhausted, overwhelmed, and lost. I did not want to put words to page. I wanted to sleep, eat, gripe and complain.
How is it that I am fifty and still do not know what I want to be when I grow up?
I have always loved a good poem. I do not understand poetry, nor do I know the difference between this style or that. I do, however, enjoy watching words dance on a page. I get a kick out of the sound of well-penned lines floating around my head. The content is irrelevant. It is the art on the page that thrills me most. I once read a collection of haiku on diapers and leaky boobs and baby poo. It was delightful. One of my favorite poets writes for children. At least that’s what he says. I think he is sneaky in that his message plays to adults. He writes of sidewalks, attics, giraffes, and magic carpets. Whether you believe in yourself or don’t, he does. He absolutely does. He will stand behind you whispering into your ear words of encouragement and inspiration. Poems do not have to be fancy to be beautiful.
Having said that, I have nothing against a fancy poem. I swoon, I do, over a set of sharp-dressed words with a sexy smile. Put a beautiful meal in front of me with lights low and candles lit. Pour me a glass of wine and add a little soft music. Now read to me a poem of love and romance. Bonus points if you wrote it yourself. Did you bring me flowers? I’m yours.
Maybe I am going about this in the wrong way. Maybe I am defining “What I Want to Be” in terms that are not appropriate to what I am looking to find. Do I want to be a teacher, a writer, a motivational speaker? Do I want to work full-time at only this or part-time at this AND that? Do I want to work in academia or independently as an author? What am I here to do? What is my purpose? Where is my passion? What JOB am I to have?
Maybe “What I Want to Be” is not a title or a position. Maybe it is not a company nametag for which I am searching at all but, instead, a way of carrying out my life. Whether I teach or I write or I speak in front of crowds, I want always to help, to move, to empower. I want to entertain. I want to bring smiles and laughter and loads of good cheer. I want to make people think. I want to help people love themselves and love others. I want to reflect back the beauty I see when I look at you. THAT is what I want to be when I grow up! I want to be a mirror.
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
This is the second in a series of collections of writing practice I completed earlier in the year. The challenge was to write 300 words a day every day for 365 days. I failed the challenge, but I enjoyed the pursuit. Here, then, are some unedited thoughts straight from that journal.
I thought once about ending my life. Once. You should know that I have never shared this. With anyone. It was a lonely time for me, a dark time. Life was hard. I was not certain that the effort was worth the exhaustion, worth the frustration, worth the tears. I was twenty-two.
I imagined how I might do it. I plotted the how, the why, the when. I got specific in my head. I pictured what the life I left behind would look like. Then from someplace I am uncertain there came a point when I realized that I was not living for myself, I was living for others, for the others I would impact along my journey. I was not going to school, earning that degree, breaking a cycle, struggling to keep my head above the proverbial water for myself, but for my future children, future students, friends, for the future me who would someday walk into my life. I was not living to accomplish, to achieve, but to impact, empower, to move others forward in THEIR lives. The struggle, the journey, was NOT for ME. How, then, could I consider ending a life that was not my own. How could I take MY life when it meant taking OTHERS?
I met a guy.
He came to me dressed as a regular person. He came to me in guise of a friend. We introduced ourselves as friends do, got to know each other, shared stories, offered support, encouragement, advice. We bickered, shared a few words, then got right back to the business of being friends. It was an easy friendship. There was no forcing or pretending. It just happened. As we spoke, the mask fell away, his and mine. We became real, more real to each other than simply friend. I began to see that which others could not. I began to read and understand the words and meaning behind the mask, behind the face he shared with others. I began to prefer it. I began, if I am to be honest, to fall in love.
This is the point at which I lied to myself.
I have led others to believe that I am stronger than I am. If one is to move, motivate, encourage, inspire, is it also possible to be vulnerable, weak, real? Does the inspirer not also need inspiring? Does SHE not need uplifting, encouraging? It is easy to look to a light and assume that the light is always there, that it always burns, but what is the source of that light?
I am not certain one ever stops to think, “Am I having fun here?” We tend to go about our days in a kind of mind-numbing trance in which we carry about our routines without benefit of deep philosophical reasoning as to whether we are, indeed, living the life we are here to live, throwing the best of what we have to offer out to the world, or smiling more than we are not. I am also not certain many of us believe these factors to be critical to existence, nor do we consider in great detail the finite reality of that existence. We live for graduation, for the day we are married, the day we get that big promotion, for retirement. If I am to be real here, we are not guaranteed this afternoon, or dinner with our families, or that we will wake in the morning. Why, then, not ask ourselves if we are having fun NOW?
It is an unspoken rule among women that we take care of business. I have never understood the popular portrayal of women as being the weaker sex. The dramatic, whining, floundering female image often found in the media has just never impressed me as the way we women play out our lives. No. Instead, we meet challenges from which any rational human being would run, challenges that frequently compromise our own health and well-being. We give. And we do not complain. We do. And we do not expect. We manage, settle, diffuse, handle, arrange. And when the proverbial shit hits the fan, it is we who are standing present with rag and disinfectant.
At what point does one go from dreaming of Happily Ever After to settling for It’ll Do? When a woman’s first experience with love is all Prince Charming and glass slippers, how does the day appear when she looks at a lover not as one who completes her but rather as a warm body on a cold night, as a good father to her children, as a partner in toilet unclogging and home repair? In the normal progression of a relationship, at what point does one give up on the flowers, the poetry, the candlelit dinners in favor of steady, reliable, helps with the dishes? After years of listening to each other pass gas of one sort or another, slurp soup, and nag about chores, do the prince and princess turn into toads? Does the fairytale end? Did it ever really exist?
I have known people who have held grudges for years. I have known others to hold pain for a lifetime. I am not much a fan of either. Life is short, as the saying goes. I think both are a fat waste of good breathing space. Both do horrible things to the body. Both take away opportunities for joy. Both taint our perspectives toward other parts of our lives until we no longer can see clearly, no longer can let go and truly live.
This, then, is a letter of forgiveness. It is a long time in the coming.
If your life were a book, how would it read? Who are the villains? Who are the heroes? Who are those interesting, quirky characters that every good book has? What about plot? What are the obstacles you have had to overcome? The small joys you have encountered along the way? How about the title? How would that read? How would the chapters be arranged? If the book were made into a movie, at what point could we get up and go for popcorn without missing any exciting parts?
What are the scenes you remember? Which pop to the front when you look back at your life? Which do you replay over and over? Is that because they were absolutely great? Or because they totally sucked? Of all the scenes, which one is your favorite? Which characters do you like? Which do you not? If you could choose an alternate ending, would you? Why?
Saturday, November 15, 2014
I began this year with the challenge to write every day. I did not, in fact, write every day. In true Tammie fashion, I filled the pages of my 365 Days Of Writing journal heavily in those first few months. And then I quit.
Still. I stuck to my 300 words a day challenge for enough time to gather some interesting thoughts. I have decided to share those thoughts with YOU. Understand that these are bits and pieces of other works. They are beginnings and middles and ends. Some have seen print on this blog before and some have never seen the light of day. Some may be too private, but I will do my best to be brave and share what I can. None of them have been edited. Every one of them is straight from my head.
My goal is to post ten days or so worth of writing whenever I get the urge. At least that is the goal. We will see how that goes.
I’m ringing in the New Year in some hotel in the middle of Texas. My big New Year’s Eve celebration consisted of doing a week’s worth of road trip laundry for a family of six and playing board games from a sleeper sofa while enjoying my two complimentary drinks from the Manager’s Reception and polishing off the bottle of bubbly we picked up from the Target around the corner. We do this every year, my family and I. We have for about the past sixteen years. We lock ourselves together in the car with nothing more than a couple bags each, a loose idea of where we may be headed, and a stack of AAA road maps. I sit writing this with my laptop perched on a vanity counter, charger strung across the sink. My daughter’s toothbrush, my pretty pink gift with purchase cosmetic bag, and my big fat movie star make-up brush provide the backdrop for the essay developing in my head. My New Year’s resolution is to write, dammit, regardless the obstacles in my way. If this means pounding away at the keyboard while my family packs their bags and readies themselves for the next leg of the trip, then so be it.
There’s a strange feeling about waking up in a bed that’s not your own. You look around, wondering where you are, making out the features of the room as if they are some sort of brain challenge, pieces of a puzzle, the answer to that puzzle centering you, bringing a sense of comfort, acknowledgement that things are going to be okay, that YOU are going to be okay.
My dad got this idea in his head that he could make a dollar picking cherries in some place called Michigan. I had never heard of Michigan and had no idea what it was. For a five-year-old who had never much been out of Jackson, it was the farthest thing from Tennessee I could imagine.
You know how sometimes you take a photograph of yourself and a friend at the park and there is that one random person in the background sitting on a bench eating a hot dog and reading the last chapter of some trashy romance? Writing is sort of like that.
Despite what I said about being okay with who I am, with loving myself unconditionally, with going easy on this tired old soul, I am feeling the need for some turn-of-the-year resolutions. Typically, this list would include gym memberships, diet plans, and an ungodly number of bags set aside for Goodwill, the neighbor girl, the animal shelter down the road. This year, I won’t be doing any of that. I won’t be committing to that which is more for others than myself. I have never been a gym person. The thought of walking on a treadmill for an hour while staring at a wall, a window, a screen is enough to make me want to keel over on the spot. I prefer the woods, the birds, grasshoppers and turkey vultures. I prefer a nice breeze and the warm sun on my bare shoulders. Indeed, I won’t be committing to whittling inches from my waist. This year, my resolutions are for my soul.
A friend once asked, “What are the glitter and butterflies in your life?” I was having a down time. I had lost my happy. I had forgotten the joy that is usually me. It was a draining time full of obstacles and misfortune. The Universe had sat on me, twisted my arm, and was not letting me up until I called, “Uncle.” My friend asked simply, “What are the glitter and butterflies in your life? You need to do more of that.” Before I could answer, she had spoken for me, “They are laughter, romance, flowers, art, food, music and words.” She knew me well. She knows me still. This year, these are my resolutions. I am going to do my darnedest to bring more of these things into my life, to laugh, to write, to read and sing and play, to eat beautiful food in beautiful places, to fill my life with things are pretty to the eyes, pretty to the ears, and absolutely gorgeous to the soul.
I am going to add yoga. Unlike other exercise, yoga calms me, centers me, soothes my soul. I have never understood the frantic, fast-paced, feel the burn sort of workout that is so loved by some. I seem to be able to manage that sort of pace on my own. I have always been a nervous sort. I have always operated on high speed, jumping from here to there in the blink of an eye, doing eighty things at once, mind turning a thought, turning many thoughts, too many thoughts over and over and over. I am like an Energizer Bunny that has no need of batteries to maintain her manic state. What I DO need is someone or someTHING to come to me, look at me, take me by the shoulders, and tell me, 'Tammie, you are becoming a freaking lunatic. Take a breath.' What I need is yoga.
How to Get a Man
First, a disclaimer:
This essay has nothing to do with painted on eyes, low cut blouses, or perfection of your wiggle or stare. It has nothing to do with boob jobs, highlights, or crazy diets that edge on the verge of eating disorder. Neither, however, is it a take-me-or-leave-me dictate addressed to anyone born with excess facial hair, a penchant for peeing while standing, and male parts. 'If you can’t handle me with my rude remarks, low self-esteem, and excess ass, baby, then there’s the door.' No. This essay seeks neither to compromise your morals and values nor to spit in the face of men.
It also does not assume that you necessarily WANT a man.
I cannot do it. I have told myself to put you out of my head. I have told myself to get over it, forget it, move on, and yet I am consumed with the thought of you. You deceived me. You entered my life dressed as a regular person, a potential friend. I invited you in, sat you down, offered you tea. THAT is when you stepped out to make the change.
Understand that when I write of tutus and pixie dust and rainbows and butterflies it is only because there are deep, private thoughts running through my head from which I am trying to distract you, thoughts that would be painful in the confessing, that are unknown to any who know me, that are secret and serious and somewhat shy, hoping never to be standing in front of a crowd, center stage for all to judge. Understand that when you read me as I flit about the page flinging hearts and hugs, smiling and winning over the audience with an irresistible charm, that there are feelings inside of me bordering on dark. It is easier to be the princess, waving to the crowd in her tiara, inspiring her charge. It is easier to distract with glitter and a batting of the lashes. It is easier to hide the deep, the secret, behind the feathers and fluff. It is easier, yes. But it is not better.
It is not better because the dark cries for space. It cries for release from the confines of the heart that is its prison. It cries. It cries.
If I were to open this heart and show you the dark, would you love me still? Or would you judge? If I were to open this heart and confess that which I cannot confess, would you turn me out? Would you lecture, reprimand, show me the way? Would you turn the me who stands before you out until I am the me you wish me to be? Would you judge? Or would you love me still?
I am tempted now to pen again a joke, a witty remark, a distraction from the heavy. I am tempted to make you laugh, to avert attention with a smile. Instead, my words stand before you undressing themselves as we speak, my pen no longer of my hand.
This is an easy two-step plan. Step one: Love yourself. Step two: Love others.
By love yourself, I mean crepey décolletage and all. Look at yourself in front of the mirror. LOOK at yourself. Get a bit sexy, sassy, slutty if you like. Get a little naked. Again, LOOK at yourself. Embrace those stretch marks, ass cheek dimples, chicken wing arms. Embrace the curves. No negative self-talk allowed here. Get comfortable with your bad self. Fling out a compliment or two. Seduce yourself. Shoot yourself a look. Even if you feel silly here, give it a try. It’s a great feeling to fall in love with yourself. It’s a great feeling to like who you are.
Monday, November 10, 2014
My mama always taught me to end a special request with the words “pretty please with sugar on top.” I spent my early formative years in the south and learned quickly the concept that you catch more flies with honey. A batting of the lashes, coy smile, and a “Bless your heart” goes a long way to getting shit done. I am not much one for wasting time or for taking “No” for an answer. I want what I want when I want it. If being nice helps me to get that, then so be it.
I am a long way now from the south. I am also a long way from wanting dessert for dinner, an extension on my bedtime, or a free pass to skip my chores. My wants, at this point in my life, reflect my humanitarian values and are less about me. It is not a second helping, new toy, or time away from my little sister that I am looking for. I want, instead, an end to childhood hunger, kindness as a global daily practice, viable solutions to homelessness, and love and compassion visible at every societal level. I want this. I want it very much. Pretty please, Universe, with sugar on top.
Some people say I am naïve. They say that humans are evil, lazy, and out for themselves. They say that we are a sick, fat, selfish culture and that very likely we will remain as such.
Not to poo poo on anyone’s gloom and doom parade, but I just can’t buy that fatalistic picture of my country.
This is where my Pop comes in. My cousins called him Granddaddy. Other people called him Doc. He was not an actual doctor, the kind that bandaged wounds and listened to your heart. He built guns and picked locks for a living. He was respected in the community and always had an answer for any ailment. Teething baby? Kid with a toothache? Rub a little whiskey on those gums. Blackberry wine was a general elixir used to cure many ails. The one cure I remember the best, though, is blackstrap molasses. If I ever was “feeling puny,” a term which may have been an early indicator of a later anemia diagnosis, Pop would pour me a steaming mug of hot tea with a nice big glob of blackstrap molasses stirred right in. It built the blood, he would say. Got one back on one’s feet.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, I believe our country is not the soon-to-be corpse that others feel it to be but is simply “feeling puny.” It is time, I think, for a nice big dose of that blackstrap molasses.
How do we build up, then, a supposedly lazy, selfish, sick society? How do we heal ourselves? How do we find our collective health?
We do it with love.
We have pretended long enough that we are strong, capable, and mighty alone. We are not. We are human beings. Human beings are social creatures. We crave the human touch. We crave and thrive on physical closeness to other human beings. Why, then, have we separated ourselves from each other? Why do we attack each other verbally, tear others apart? Why do we chastise those who never move away from their families? Why do we tell mothers to put down their babies and make them sleep in separate rooms? WHY do we have such an ISSUE with physical touch and comfort and love and togetherness? Why are we so afraid to say that we need each other?
This is what I would like everyone reading this essay to do. Tomorrow when you wake, go out into the world with love-colored glasses. Be kind. Make eye contact and smile. Offer a compliment or two. Hug those close to you. Tell them how much you love them. Call a friend or relative. Let them know how glad you are that they are in your life. Help someone who is struggling. Volunteer. In whatever way you can find, throw yourself out to others in a way that says, “You matter. You are important. You are loved.” And, then, when you settle in at the end of the day, look in the mirror and throw some of that love out to the face you see looking back at you. One day. Love-colored glasses. Pretty please. With sugar on top.