Thursday, February 16, 2017

I Ain't Done Yet.

The manuscript in its present, unfinished state. 

Still working on my memoir. Still working on the edits and revisions. It was one thing to write the damn thing, to steep myself in pain so black and thick I never thought I'd get out of it the first time around, let alone willingly revisit it. Sticky tar memories clasp at my ankles and feet, sink me to my knees and pull me down, down, down.

What madness drives me to put any of this down?

What madness is this?

I've reworked and plumbed these memories for so long and so deep there shouldn't be any pain left. Saw my first therapist at 14, and at 45 I'm still tilling those fields. Fields that should be barren and dry by now, but heartbreak blooms anew like the most stubborn weed. Leave one bit of root and it starts to spread and grow again.

People tell me to let it go. People tell me not to live in the past. What's a memoir but living in the past? Re-submerging. Putting on that child skin. Looking through those child eyes. 

What madness is this?

Maybe if I tell it once and tell it right, it'll all be right. I'll make it right. Fix it. Exhume it. Exorcize it. But first I've gotta get inside and understand it. Relive it. Saturate myself in it. Baptize myself in it. Put it back on this one last time (I swear to god) and cast it out into the atmosphere. Let the gods and devils take it up from there. I don't want this to be mine anymore.

But it's not your place to tell me when I'm done.

I ain't done yet.

Not the manuscript and not the pain. I ain't done yet. I ain't done yet and you don't get a say. None of you. Not one. Not you who left me. Left me to deal with the mess you left behind. Not you who drank yourself into oblivion and left me to fend for myself in a house filled with trash. Not you who tied me to a chair and left me there to call for help that never came. Not you who held me down and took something from me that was not given. Not you who looked in my eyes and lied and called me crazy. None of you. Not you.

I ain't done yet.

It's so hard for me to access any of this pain. Most of the time I run on neutral if not apathetic. I can't cry in therapy. I analyze and shrug my shoulders. But my hands tremble at night.

If I'm angry, I get to be.

If my anger took 40 years to rise to the surface, you don't get a say.

That's right.

I ain't done yet.

This memoir is going to take as long as it takes. This anger is going to take as long as it takes. This pain is going to rebloom until I feel through the dirt and find each root and pick it out with my fingers. Fingers raw and bloody from digging. 

But I ain't done yet.

And you don't get to tell me when it's over. Because for me, it ain't over yet.



Monday, January 23, 2017

Candle. Flicker. Out.



Life is so brief. So painfully brief. The image that keeps going through my head is my finger and thumb snuffing out the scented candles in my house. Just like that. That small. That gentle. That violent, depending on your perspective.

If you look at the time etched in the walls of the Grand Canyon, time seems immense and humanity small. Particularly our own.

If I look at my six-year-old daughter's cheeks, hers seems all the more brief than my own. And so much more fragile. So breakable. I think this thought and snuff it out as quickly as if touching a flame.

As quickly as death. Death. It can just sweep in and wipe out a life. Just like that.

I've written about my friends' deaths before. Oftentimes I don't publish because it feels selfish. It's not my death. Not my lover. Not my brother, sister, love. But each time a friend dies I'm taken aback by the briskness of the thing. Death shouldn't come so easily to those so young.

Another candle was snuffed out yesterday. Too soon. Too soon. I feel my heart beat the rhythm of too soon.

I don't feel right daring to write about it here. It's not my death. Not my husband, brother, son. A friend. A writer. A man.

And now he's gone.

The cancelled coffee date hangs in the air.

The words I wrote in the margins of his manuscript hang there too. Did he even read them? Was he well enough? He emailed to apologize for missing his deadline. I'd been coaching him off and on for the past year and a half or so. The deadlines were his to miss. Not mine.

He apologized in the midst of battling cancer. He apologized in the midst of racing to finish his manuscript. He apologized in the midst of racing to live as much life as he had left. Three months? Six months? A year?

A week and a half.

Cut short.

Too soon.

Just like that.

It leaves me as breathless as if I'd blown the candle out myself.



Thursday, January 19, 2017

Traveling With Children.

Contemplating traveling with children. 

My friends are taking their children to Europe and want my husband and me to come with them—with our children.

My response?

I laughed and laughed and laughed.

And then I *shuddered.*

I don't enjoy traveling with children. Yes, I'm the mother of two children. But traveling with siblings is like traveling with two of your worst Facebook friends. Imagine the two friends who love to argue  and post nothing but long streams of apocalyptic political claptrap from both sides. Now imagine yourself stuck on a plane with them for eight hours. Now imagine you're sharing a hotel room with them. You're eating every meal with them. You're dragging them through foreign streets while they shake their fists at each other and shout statistics and quote Matt Walsh.

*Shudders again*

My kids can argue over anything. They argue over who the cat likes more. They argue over what their favorite color is. They argue over who sat next to me last. They are six years apart and it doesn't matter. They could be one year apart or two or three. The sibling dynamic is strong regardless of the difference in age.

What I'm trying to say is, I don't want them to ruin Europe for me.

At least not while my youngest child is still fluent in Whinese.

The only time they stop bickering is when they are near large bodies of water—chlorinated, salted or unsalted. If there's a beach, they are suddenly best friends. If there's a pool, they play contented for hours.

But city streets and historic sites? Aw hell no.

My youngest mentioned wanting to go to Greece. It's funny, because I want to go to Greece too. I've always wanted to go and then I recently read a biography about Leonard Cohen. He spent a year or so living on an island with other poets and writers. It romanticized it all the more. I even wrote a short story about it.

Greece has beaches.

I might consider Greece. With a nanny.

But they're not going to London and Paris.

No one but no one ruins Paris for me. Personne!


Thursday, January 12, 2017

What's the Point of Writing?





I got my fifth rejection letter today. Though I pretend not to care, I do. It takes something out of me each time that it happens.

So why am I doing it?

What's the point of all this?


* * * 


When I was a child I would pretend I could control the wind.

We had long uncut grass much of the time and when the wind whipped through it, it looked like a wild safari or the grasses of the Savanna. I orchestrated the movement of the wind with my arms, with mad, sweeping movements and grand gestures that demonstrated my command over nature. I was all powerful and in control — and it was transcendent. I could pretend that the chaos that was going on inside the house was far away. I'd get lost in the way the leaves of the grass would sway back and forth, looking like a silvery gray sea when the undersides of the grass flicked towards the sun, and then flipped back to a dark green sea as I commanded the wind to blow the other way.


* * * 


When I was a child I pretended I was a deep sea diver in a blue plastic pool in the backyard.

I had a snorkel and a mask and I circled about endlessly, the water warm the sun. Strips of grass and leaves floated lazily past the glass of my mask, twirling in a vortex I'd created with my circular laps. I'd pop my head up over the water, over the edge of the pool, and then taste the blue plastic while I gazed across the yard, watching dandelion puffs float through the sky. I could get lost in that world. Another world. Underwater, removed, silent and undulating with currents I'd created. I liked the feel of the grass under my feet as I ran back inside the house, pieces of grass sticking to my feet and ankles.


* * * 


Why write?

I've been wondering this since I've been trying to blog every day (or at least every week day) for the month of January. Scroll back and you'll see I'm not exactly accomplishing this goal. Why the resistance? Why the battle? Isn't this supposed to be something I love?

I've been struggling with the edits on my memoir. I'm blocked by a difficult chapter and I keep striking upon the same spot where I stop "showing" and start "telling" the story. I'm undone by this. I don't even know where to begin fixing it. And the chapter has fifty pages. I'm overwhelmed by the impossibility of the task.

So why write? What's the point?

I'm acting like it's a job or burden. I submitted some short pieces to the literary journals because I want to be read. The blog is supposed to be pleasure. The memoir is what I chose to write. These are all things I want to do. I have something in me that compels me to write. A song that needs to be sung. A song that's been stuck in my throat since I was that little girl conducting the winds and creating the currents.

Writing is not a burden.

Writing is getting lost in that magic space in my head. Writing is the lull of the wind across the tops of the grass. Writing is the warm water and the sun filtering through it. Writing is a music that only I can hear.

Maybe I want that song to be heard? Maybe I'm singing it because it needs to be sung? Maybe I'm singing because it's the only voice that I have?

I don't know.

But whatever the reason, it is not a burden. It's not a job. It's not something to feel ashamed of or to fret over.

This is magic. This is music. This is mystery. This is the only space where I conduct the song. Every note. Every measure. Somehow I keep forgetting to just open my mouth and sing.



* * * 


This is the only place where I'm free.






Monday, January 9, 2017

The First Week of New Year's Resolutions

Goodbye Alcohol, my old friend. 

I have been trying to come up with something to write about that isn't about a) writing b) dieting and/or c) not drinking. Those three subjects could get really boring for you to read over and over again.

But then my mind just draws a blank.

I got nothing! Nothing but nothing. I can write about the inability to write until my fingers bleed, which seems mildly ironic.

Nobody wants to hear how great I'm doing on my Pseudo Paleo diet. If you're on a diet, okay, maybe it would be interesting to you. But if you're not, you're just like, "OMG SHUT UP ALREADY." It's like exercise that way. Just ask a vegan or someone who does CrossFit* and you'll quickly wish you hadn't.

And nobody wants to hear about how I'm not drinking for the month of January over and over again, all month long. See CrossFit.*

I'm decidedly disappointed in myself that I have nothing else to talk about other than those three things. But the truth is, they're currently preoccupying me. They are major life changes and I'm really hyped about how well it's going so far.

Of course I haven't lost a single pound.

I did finally step on the scale on Friday morning after six days of dietary purity. I figured that would give me a little bit of a head start before I shocked myself with the reality of the number on the scale. Unfortunately six days wasn't enough and the number that confronted me was the highest number I've ever weighed in my entire life.

SIGH.

I'm going to blame the election. I've been comfort eating since November 8.

What are you gonna do? Just pick yourself up and eat another Brussels sprout, I suppose. I'm in this for the long haul, not the quick fix.


Oh look. Another salad. 


On the other hand, the not drinking thing is going really well. I'm always surprised by how easy it is to quit drinking. I like to have a glass of wine after work to take the edge off. To unwind. Calm down. Mellow into the evening hours. It's become such a habit, that the need to have a glass of wine felt like just that ... a need. That's why I like the idea of Dry January so much. It puts you back in touch with your relationship with alcohol.

As the child of an alcoholic, I like to quit drinking every so often just to remind myself that I can. It nags at me not unlike the way a cut or a canker sore in your mouth nags at you. You keep touching it with your tongue over and over again, thinking, "Yep, still there. Yep, still there. Yep, still there."

Every once in a while I like to quit drinking just to remind myself, "Yep, still not an alcoholic. Yep, still not an alcoholic." I don't think children of alcoholics can ever have a simple relationship with alcohol. Seems like lots of them either don't drink, are alcoholics themselves, or worry about it in the backs of their minds all the time.

I do believe some of us are wired to be alcoholics and others aren't. I mean, I should be an alcoholic. I've got half my DNA just begging me to drink myself into oblivion every night. And yet I'm able to drink a single glass of wine and call it a night. And here I am, 9 days into not drinking and pleasantly surprised once again by how easy it was to completely stop. I brew myself a cup of hot mint tea and I'm completely satisfied. I don't think it feels that way to an alcoholic.

Another benefit to not drinking (aside from rediscovering that I'm not an alcoholic), is that I have a lot more energy in the evenings. It's surprising how one glass of wine can slow you down enough to not want to fold laundry or edit manuscripts. Now I'm writing, editing and doing the laundry midweek.

Who am I?

ALL THE ENERGY!!!

I even worked out over the weekend. (Uh oh, we're getting into CrossFit* territory again...) I tried a new circuit training class with my niece on Saturday and then dragged her to a spinning class on Sunday.


Welcome to the gun show, motherfuckers.


ALL THE EXERCISE!!!

Maybe the endorphins are like a drug? Maybe once you start working out all the time it's like you've joined a cult. You feel so amazing! You feel so alive! You want everyone to feel so awesomely fit and energetic and alive so you tell everyone about it and try to talk them into it too!

Then next thing you know, people are avoiding you on Facebook and in public.

"Oh Jesus," they say. "Ever since she joined CrossFit* it's all she talks about."

P.S. I'm not doing CrossFit*. I think I'm more in danger of becoming addicted to it rather than the alcohol. So you're safe for now.

*NOTE: Pronunciation of CrossFit—Every time I say or think the word "CrossFit," I say it like they do on the radio show Dave and Chuck The Freak. You have to bug your eyes out and drag it out into almost a scream-whisper, "CROSSSSSSSSFIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!"






Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The River

Shh! Don't spook him.


Thoughts are like a river. Dip your hand into them and try and grasp the moment...reach too late and the moment is gone.

Yesterday morning I had a good idea for a blog and thought, "I should write this down." But I was driving in my car. Whatever it was I was thinking was profound. But alas, I lost it somewhere on Southfield Road.

Yesterday afternoon I had another good idea when my son and I saw a buck strolling on a golf course in Huntington Woods (irony) but it too proved as fleeing as the morning's inspiration, more fleeting than the deer contentedly munching on carrots.

I once saw the river of thought, like actually saw it. I was meditating on the carpet in the classroom I once had, many moons ago when I was a high school English teacher. The carpet changed into a river and colors flowed smoothly past my conscience. It's the first and last time I ever saw anything like that while meditating. Or at all. I mean, aside from literal rivers.

My favorite place is a river. It's called the Pigeon River and it's in Northern Michigan. You can sit by it and watch it flow. It's golden and coppery and shimmery. Cold too. I've bathed in that river and spent many hours lost in that river, climbing over beaver dams to find my way. I've canoed it and been shushed by fly fisherman in it. I almost walked into a bear alongside it. I want the ashes of my body poured into it when I am dead.

The river flows.

Dip your hand into it, try and catch me.

Reach too late,  I"ll be gone.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Small Things

I include this for no other reason than it amuses the hell out of me.


I'm continually and repeatedly surprised by the power of small things.

Small things can lead to big changes.

The small act of writing these few words each day have had a ripple effect on not only my writing, but my life. By blowing the dust off my brain and forcing myself to commit to a few words each day, it put me back in the writing frame of mind. Since I'd already dealt with a blank page here, it wasn't quite so daunting to open up the manuscript file and make a few pages of edits. And what I found there wasn't as scary as I thought it was. In fact, it was pretty good.

So here I am again. Doing one small thing, which may lead to another small thing, and who knows how many other small things after that?

My silly dietary changes are like that too. And maybe committing to those changes began with committing to writing these baby blogs each day? A small snack-size bag of Cheez-Its is not that big of a thing to give up. Or a small (haha — who are we kidding?) glass of wine each night is not that big of a thing to give up. The Cheez-Its are worth about 210 calories and the glass of cab, 130 calories (let's allow for 150, just to be generous). So that's 340 extra calories a day, or 2,380 a week. Or 9,520 a month. Or 114,240 a year. Those small changes can lead to big changes and significant weight loss over time.

I wrote my memoir the same way. Some days I only wrote a hundred words. Some days I wrote 500 words. Say I averaged out to 250 words a day, that's 1,750 a week, 7,000 a month or 84,000 a year. That's a whole book. Now I wasn't that consistent mind you, so it took me about 3 or 4 years to write it, but I did. It's finished and now I'm just editing it. And that's because I thought small.

Small daily habits lead to tremendous changes in your life. You can lose weight or write a book. You can move from chaos to organization. You can save enough money to buy a house or a retirement. You can learn how to play an instrument or knit a blanket. Whatever you want. It's all possible.

But tackling big things is overwhelming.

Doing something small each day, not so much.

Like writing this sentence.

What small thing can you do?