"Ordinary life does not interest me. I seek only the high moments. I am in accord with the surrealists, searching for the marvelous." ~Anais Nin

04 August 2017

Tell Your Story, Man

The Adults (my great grandparents): Joseph and Sopia.  The children: Sophie, Katherine "Kitty", Anna, Mary, Barbara, Zora, Daniel (my grandfather), Mildred, Josephine, and Frances "Vinny."  Not featured: Elizabeth "Betty" who was not yet born.  Based on my estimated age of the eldest daughter, Sophie, who was born in 1904, I think this photo was taken in 1920 or thereabouts.
For the most part I find people to be interesting.  For the most part.  I think everyone has a story to tell about themselves and their lives.  This is the type of history that I enjoy: the history of people, the personal, the relatable.  The stories of my family.  The stories of your family.  Stories.

In that vein, I'm developing a memoir writing program at my library.  The program will run every Tuesday night in October, with four weeks of writing and storytelling assistance, and one final week of filming one of the stories the participants have written.  I'm pretty excited about it, and I really, really hope this program is successful because I'd like to see it expanded.  I have dreams of creating a regular podcast or web series around the program, and running the classes through much of the year.

Oh!  And can you imagine a book?  I can.  I think it would be nifty.

My program planning is mostly finished.  The only things left for me to do are the final touches: creating handouts, working out which of the myriad of topics we'll focus on, and figuring out how to use the freaking green screen at the library.  I'm working mostly from Lois Daniel's How to Write Your Own Life Story, and incredibly helpful book on memoir writing, which I love.  And I'm having a really great time figuring out the how of this, going over some of my old writing assignments from yesteryear, remembering the styles and encouragements of my teachers, mentors, and professors.  I'd forgotten, I think, how much I enjoy the business of writing—I love it more than anything.

Which brings me to myself and my writing.  I have really been sadly neglecting this hard-won skill.  I mean, yeah, I have a natural talent for language use and storytelling, but that gets me nowhere if I don't actually work at it, and I used to work at it.  Now, I'm in a state of atrophy, but I'm not so far gone.  I just have to remember, and remember to work.  So I guess that's what I'm going to do.

At one point I wanted to make writing my career, and you know what?  I still do.  It's time for me to actually start seriously pursuing that career.  No excuses.  What does that mean for this blog?  Not sure.  Because I want to actually sell what I'm writing, I'll not be posting it here.  Most publishers want first rights, you know?  But I will post some stuff (and maybe more often), and I'll try to keep you apprised of what's happening.  The two people I know who actually read this blog sometimes complain that I don't update it enough, so I suppose that has to change.  (I don't know how my suspicious number of French readers feel about anything, I just know that I'm getting an oddly large number of hits from France.)

So that's my plan.  I'll keep you posted on my library program and my writing progress and whatever else I feel like blogging about (because, really, this blog's about me).  Below is my list of possible memoir topics, and, um, I'll let you know as I figure more out.

Oh! And I almost forgot: I'm still looking for a new job.  As much as I now enjoy the library, it still isn't the place for me.  I've got no room to grow.  And I'd really like to have relatively normal hours—and full time hours with all the benefits that come with those (medical, dental, retirement).  So, if I find a job before October?  I'll take it.  I plan on leaving enough notes that one of my coworkers can step in.  Or, if I can swing it—and this is my preference—I'll still teach this October class after my regular workday.  It'd be nice if the library will still pay my regular hourly wage for it, but I'm not expecting that.  If I have another job to pay the bills, I can volunteer.

On to the list!

Possible memoir topics include:

  • Birth
  • Childhood
  • Parents & Grandparents
  • Accomplishments
  • Where were you (significant historical events)
  • Religion
  • Relatives
  • Romance
  • Turning Points
  • Children
  • Technology
  • Holidays
  • Politics
  • Pets and Animals
  • Traditions
  • Immigration
  • Memorable Moments
  • Places
  • Failures
  • Jobs
  • Creative Arts (how music, theater, dance, movies, paintings, etc) affect your life
  • Hobbies
  • Wars
  • Fashion
  • Teachers (in school and out of it)
  • Food
  • Lessons (that you learned or that you have to teach)
  • Natural Disasters
  • Et cetera, et cetera

12 July 2017

Heat

by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
I do not like the summertime.  No, that's not precisely true.  I like the green and growing things, fireflies, the sounds of crickets that sneak through my window at night.  I like seeing the birds that gather in my neighborhood, the squirrels, the foxes, and other wildlife that venture into my suburban neighborhood (truth, they do that in all seasons).  I like the fruit and vegetables, garden-grown, which are much easier to access and that actually taste like something.  I like most of the aspects of the summertime.

I don't like the heat.

The last two days it's hit triple digits here on the eastern end of Kansas.  It was 101ºF (or 38ºC) today.  One-Hundred-and-Freaking-One Degrees Fahrenheit!  So early in the summer too.  This does not bode well for August, that's for damn sure.

It's exhausting, this heat.  And here it comes with a humidity that seems to suck the moisture from your bones and throw it in the air.  It's hard to breathe.  It's hard to move.  It's hard to think.

I don't do well in such heat, and long for the summers of my youth when 90ºF seemed stifling.  I would not want to live anywhere hotter.  And feel sorry for those that do.

Air conditioning helps, but in some ways it makes it worse too.  The house smells . . . different.  We can't open up the windows and air it out.  Of course, we don't do that much anyway.  My father hates nature and can't tolerate anything that reminds him of it, even a gentle breeze.  I know, it's weird, but what do you expect from a man who hates music?  He worships the television, though.

It's strange here in the summertime.  The air is wet, it's like walking through soup, but the ground is dry and cracking.  If I had a garden maybe it'd be better.  I'd have a reason to water on the regular, and mulch to keep the soil from drying out too much.  Maybe next year.  I need to start it soon.  Sooner than soon.

In other news:

Another disappointment on the job front.  It's farcical at this point, really.  Now I'm hearing things like, "You haven't had a full time job in years!" as reasons for the joylessness of my search.  Well, yeah, because no one will freaking hire me!!!  Whatever.  I'll try again tomorrow.  As always.

I've been negligent in my correspondences.  A letter writer by nature and preference, I've fallen behind and have lost a letter I began to my best friend weeks ago.  Sorry, Leanne!  I'll catch up.  I promise.

My allergy pills are useless this summer.  That could be because allergens are more prolific, or the St. John's Wort I take to manage my depression is interfering with them (which is one of the side effects of St. John's Wort), or simply because I've been taking them too long (which is one of the side effects of being me).  Whatever, I'll deal.  At this point my mental health is more important to me than my physical comfort, so there's no way I'll stop the herbal help right now.  OF COURSE it could be that my allergies aren't all that worse at all, but I've had a sinus infection.  After the horrible experience I had last week, literally not being able to breathe through my nose, and having the inside of my face feel incredibly, painfully swollen, I'm guessing it's the latter.  It's cleared up–for now–but I'm determined to succeed in quitting smoking to better my chancing of avoiding such a feeling in the future.  Wish me luck!

Except for the few days in which I could barely breath—seriously, it was awful—I've started meditating daily.  It's nice.  It's something I need to keep up.  I have to be very careful because I have a tendency to lose interest in things, or get distracted, or get frustrated and just give up.  Which is probably why I have at least a dozen novels in various stages of completion, but none–not one!–even close to being done.  I've got to change that, get better, focus.  Hoping regular meditation will help.  Plus it just takes the edge off life.

'Bye for now!

04 July 2017

Toil and Trouble

By cjohnson7 from Rochester, Minnesota (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
I suppose it would be appropriate, since it is July 4th, to talk about my country, but I am so thoroughly freaked out by the politics and the malignant nationalism (read: white nationalism) that I find I don't have much to say.  I don't understand the attitudes of people who don't believe in a living minimum wage, or health care for all, or rights for anyone who is not a rich, white, cisgendered, heterosexual, Christian man.  Those people scare me.  They scare me more than anything.  And they especially scare me because so many of them have power—as in actual governmental power.  Nor do I understand the folk that voted these fuckbuckets into that power.  The lies they must tell themselves.

So though it is the 4th, I will not talk about how much I love my country, because I cannot.  I am both disappointed in and frightened of (and for!) my country at this time, and, at this time, I'm not sure my feelings will ever be repaired.

Instead, I think I'll simply go on talking about myself and my life.

Let's get on with it, shall we?

Actually, things are not that bad.  I mean, yeah, things are objectively horrible, but I'm in a pretty good place right now.  I'm now been taking St. John's Wort for three months, and I can feel a marked change in my outlook and my ability to handle problems.  This is good, because I keep having problems (e.g. my phone horribleness last week, and my continued inability to get a job).  Whereas before the St. John's Wort I'd be a panicked wreck for at least a week after having to buy a new phone, with it I just bought the damn phone and adjusted my budget for the coming months.  And, yes, I do mean months.  It'll take me at least two months to absorb the cost and get back to normal, even with the extra hours I was lucky enough to be offered for the month of July.  Oh, well.

Also, I'm now able to do more than one thing a day.  Huzzah!

However, I'm now noticing all the things I've left undone for the last decade or so.  I don't know how much is just gone, ruined beyond repair by my neglect, but I'm hoping to save a lot of it.  Now, I'm not talking material possessions here–though there is some of that too–but the more ephemeral connections, strengths, and skills.  I'm having to relearn things I once knew, things that once came naturally to me.  It's frustrating work, made more difficult because I'm still struggling in literally every other aspect of my life.

It's terrible hard work rebuilding when you don't have solid ground to build on, you know?  My life is so unstable still, but I have to do something.  I have to try to build, to create some semblance of life.  I can't just sit around waiting to die, but it seems that I've forgotten how to move.  Mostly, I'm trying to focus on finding my way out of this hole I've dug myself.  It's easier now, and I'm thanking the St. John's Wort for that, but it's still hard.  I can't allow myself to think of the dreams I used to have which are lost now.  That's still enough to break me.

On a positive note, I had a job interview last week.  I couldn't say how it went.  I'll be very disappointed if I don't get this job, though.  It's in my field, and something I could very much enjoy.  I find I have to stop myself from saying, "I doubt I'll get this job."  Which I suppose is a bad sign.  But when in the last 6 (SIX!!!) years have I had luck with jobs?   I'm afraid that if I allow my hopes to rise and I don't get the job I'll be crushed.  However, I know that if I remain pessimistic and am offered the job I'll be pleasantly surprised.  I would so much rather be pleasantly surprised.

25 June 2017

Incommunicado

By Biblioteca de la Facultad de Derecho y Ciencias del Trabajo Universidad de Sevilla [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia
My phone is broken.  Like, broken broken.  I'm not even able to turn it on.  I have a new phone on order, but I likely be without phone service for about a week.  This wouldn't be such a big deal, except I have something like a dozen active resumés and job applications out there.  Not that I think I'll get a call from one of the offices or libraries to which I've applied—history has shown otherwise—but it could happen!  So:

ACK!  ACK ACK ACK!!!!!

It's no big deal.  It's a very big deal.  Well, it's highly inconvenient at any rate.  And I didn't need the added expense.  Seriously, I just got my credit card down to a manageable amount, and have been fantasizing about paying it off entirely within the coming month.  AND I have taxes on my car due shortly.  AND insurance.

Oh, how I wish that my phone could have held out a little longer!

It's fine.  I'm fine.  I'm annoyed, but I'm fine.

I was a late adopter of cell phones—let alone smart phones—I can go without for a bit.  It's still surprising how much I rely on the damn thing for everyday life.  It keeps my schedule, my contacts, my passwords, my life!  Now I have to go back to the way things were before I broke down and got the damn thing in the first place—relying on my memory!  Or my paper planner and address book.  Whichever.

Maybe this is a good thing.  Maybe I can use this time to break at least part of my addiction to technology.  I've actually been thinking about getting rid of my phone for a while now.  Not seriously, of course.  Just in that way we think of the mythological simpler past, you know.  I don't particularly like my life being dictated by technological connectivity after all, but must needs and all that.

So for the next week I'll be living life like it's the year 2010.  I've got my eReader, my car, and my computer to meet my tech needs, and my parents landline if anyone needs to get a hold of me.  Yikes!  Wish me luck.

09 June 2017

Time Running, Running Time

by Sandstein [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Time is a funny thing.  It ties us up, swirls around us, and moves constantly on, on, ever on and back. We can't escape it—to do so we would cease to be as we are.  We would cease to be.  Keeps us spinning, time does.  Spinning round and round and round.  Constantly moving, trying to escape the past, the future, our inevitable deaths.  Perhaps just trying to escape.  Time also finds us trying desperately to hold on to the past even when it would be healthier to let it go.  And trying desperately to grasp a future that may never be.  It pushes and pull us.  It tears us apart and brings us together.  It both heals and causes wounds.  Yeah, it's funny alright.  Funny and tragic and oh, so human.

Sometimes it feels like I've always been trying to escape.  What?  I couldn't say.  I don't really know.  There are a lot of things about myself I don't know.  A lot of things I'm not sure I ever knew, and maybe more that I've lost over the years.  Of course, there's also things that I know but I just can't access any longer.  And things that I know, but I can't admit.

How much of my life is time-locked?  How much of myself will I discover or rediscover in time?

Discovering and rediscovering myself is part of what I'm trying to do this year.  Figure out where I want to be and how to get there.  Figure out who I am and who I want to be and how to reconcile the two.  How much time will this take me?  How much of me will time take?  My whole life, is the likely answer to both those questions.

I suppose it's time to start working.

05 June 2017

Wonder and Possibilities

The Meeting of Oberon and Titania by Arthur Rackham [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I realized today that I one of the things that I've lost through the years—whether from depression or the cynicism that comes with age, I'll never know—is my sense of wonder.  That I used to be able to look out upon the world with both wonder and expectation is something of a surprise to me, as I feel as though I've always been the way I am now, you know?  But I remember, sometimes, the wonder and the awe that I once found.  I remember the feeling that anything was possible, everything was possible.  And then something happened and I lost it.

How did I let that happen?  How did I let my life dull?  How did I let my future become something that I wasn't looking forward to seeing?  I just don't understand how I got so lost . . .

It's time to reclaim that sense that I once had.  I'm not entirely certain how to do it, but I'm going to try.  I have to try, because, for me, with wonder comes both joy and possibilities, and I so desperately need both in my life right now.

So how do you find wonder?  I'm starting–as is appropriate for a librarian–with books.  This summer I'm going to reread my favorite books from my youth.  Books I haven't read in years.  Books that made me look at the world a little differently, and made me notice things that maybe I wouldn't have noticed otherwise.  Books that changed my way of thinking about things.  Books that are filled with hope and joy and magic, at least for me.

Of course reading is not enough.  I'm going to have to do as well.  So, I'm going to explore things I haven't explored since before I wandered off to university and learned to dissect the things I loved and write about the process.  That means writing, drawing, Shakespeare, faery tales, dancing, hiking, people-watching, yoga, and music.  I was a fair hand with a violin until my last year of high school when I quit because I couldn't fit orchestra into my schedule.  I also used to draw and doodle.  And make up stories about people I saw on the street.  Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.  And while I have no violin and no way to afford it or the lessons I surely need now, I do have a penny whistle I bought on a lark about 10 years ago, and have been meaning to learn how to play.  Also expect more poetry to show up here, though probably not on so regular a basis as my Poetry Wednesdays from a while back.

I'm going to work on things like storytelling (that is: the telling of tales aloud), and languages (Irish and Mandarin), and make a concerted effort to be positive.  Maybe I'll take my queue from the Queen in Alice in Wonderland and try to believe in six impossible things before breakfast.  Mostly, though, I think I'll focus on what makes me happy, letting my sorrows wither from lack of attention.

I have to believe that life will work out for the best, and things happen for a reason.  I have to believe that my luck will change for the better.  I have to rediscover my dreams and find the path I abandoned for whatever reason so long ago.  To do otherwise would have me withering, and that I cannot tolerate.  I refuse to be crushed by mundanities.  I will find my wonder, my path, and I will live.  No more of this surviving crap, it's just not cutting it.

This is going to take a really long time, isn't it?  Crap.

31 May 2017

Of Rainbows, First Loves, Friends, and Broken Bottles

Mavrica [Rainbow] by Andrej Jakobčič, Julij 2004 via Wikimedia Commons 
From the summer 2000 to February 2002 I dated a boy who'd end up breaking my heart.  Well, him and literally all of my friends.  Actually, it there were a number of factors in the breakage of my heart which included loss of the boy, my abandonment by my friends, and the onset of massive and clinical depression.  It was a whole mess.

Anyway . . .

From the summer 2000 to February 2002 I dated a boy who'd end up breaking my heart, and I've been trying to tell this story ever since.  Tell it without judgement or recriminations.  Tell it and let it go.

I can't say for certain that it was love I felt for the boy.  This is something I've struggled with actually.  I can't say that it was love, because I'm honestly not sure it was.  I liked him a lot.  He was smart and fun and a fabulous lover.  And what I felt for him may have been something like love, but I'm not sure.  It certainly hurt when we broke up, and I don't think I've ever quite gotten over it, but I think I could have—would have if other factors hadn't interfered.  It definitely damaged my ego—I'd always been the one to end my relationships before—but is a bruised ego the same as a broken heart?

I don't think so.

To me our relationship was magical.  Or maybe it was just that that time of my life was magical.  I was newly clean.  I was having fun with someone who shared my interests.  I never thought too much into our future, mostly because he was up front with the fact that we didn't have a future.  That was fine with me.  In 2000 I was 19 and not looking to get married.  Plus, it was very clear that we had two different visions of our futures.  He wanted to move back to the big cities of the East Coast, and I had vague fantasies of small town living.  Too many people in one place makes me claustrophobic, and I wanted to live somewhere I could own acreage without spending millions of dollars.

I still believed that I could grow up to become a writer.  I'd write frequently, jotting down ideas for stories, outlining novels, creating characters I thought were interesting.  I should have paid more attention to myself, because, looking back, depression was already eating into my brain.  I always had some excuse for why I didn't pursue writing, why I didn't finish the story or start writing the novel: I was too green; I needed to learn more; I was too busy with school and work or whatnot.  I think already there was that voice inside my head whispering that I would fail, so why try?  It just wasn't nearly as loud as it is now.

I'm scrambling desperately to regain some of that belief now, and put it into practice.

So this boy and I spent most every weekend together for the better part of a year and a half.  It was nice.  He was friends with all of my friends.  My best friend had actually dated him for a while.  It didn't cause us any drama because she was the one who first suggested that we get together, he and I. She was right, too.  We got along famously.  Though it probably would have been best if I had broken up with my high school boyfriend before sleeping with the boy, but what are you going to do?  I broke up with the high school guy almost immediately thereafter, and that relationship had basically already ended anyway.  We just hadn't gone through with the formalities.

That first summer I would visit the boy in the house he'd rented with my best friend, two of her ex-boyfriends (not including the boy), one of their girlfriends, and this really hot former Army officer who was getting his teaching degree.  We'd sit out on the porch, the boy and I, and watch the storms pass through that midwestern college town.  If you've never seen the violence and the beauty of a midwestern thunderstorm, well, you're really missing something.  That first summer and fall was unusually stormy.  Following the storms were rainbows.  I don't think I've ever seen as many rainbows as I did while I was dating the boy.  I know that after we broke up, it was years before I saw another one.  More than a decade, really.  My eyes and my heart just weren't tuned to them, I guess.

I took the rainbows as a sign.  Of what, I couldn't say.  Or maybe I don't want to.  No, to me they were another bit of romance to top off my new and much better relationship, my new and much better self.  I was where I was meant to be at that moment.  I was happy and infatuated and, yeah, a little bit in love.  Why is that so hard for me to say?  

He took my rainbows from me when he left.  Or maybe I gave them to him.  I don't know.

There was a brief thunderstorm today that left a rainbow behind, long and fat and beautiful.  I stepped outside in time to see it in all its glory, and watch it as it faded.  I also saw the whisper of another bow above it.  That reminded me of this, and I knew that it was time to write it up and let it go.

The house didn't last long, just that first summer.  When autumn came, my friend went back to her dorm, and the boys moved into apartments off campus.  I helped the boy move, hauling boxes of books up stairs and into rooms.

Our whole relationship was lovely to me.  Until the end.  Which, I have to say, I saw coming.  He grew distant.  We talked less.  The sex was still good, not as kinky as it had been, but that was it.  He didn't degrade me or insult me, he just withdrew.  And I didn't know how to handle it.

I made myself smaller thinking that would help.  It certainly had with the other guys I'd dated.  They had enjoyed it being all about their wants and needs, which made it easier for me to leave.  It didn't work that way with the boy.  He simply continued withdrawing.  Ultimately, I think it made it easier for him to leave me, and harder for me to handle it.  Because somehow, this time, in making myself smaller I managed to lose some essential piece of myself in the process.

So that weekend in February 2002 I knew what was coming.  I knew it.  I just didn't expect it quite so soon.  I was actually hoping that we could last another couple of weeks since my birthday is in early March, and I was hoping for a present and a nice time at my party.  Didn't happen, of course, but that was my hope.

Saturday was what had become typical for us.  Small talk, fucking, sleep.  Inconsequential, average, a little bit awkward.  I was afraid that I was losing him.  I was right in that fear.  There was nothing I could do that would stop him.  Truth, that weekend was not very memorable.  Except for Sunday.  The day the boy told me he didn't want to be with me anymore.

We made love that morning.  It was slow and sweet and lingering.  His way of saying goodbye without words?  After, my body still warm with him, though we were both dressed, he used his words.  It hurt.  A lot.  I was shaking so much I had to lay down.  So I lay there on his bed, alone, and tried to act like it was all okay.  I was fine.  Yes, I still wanted to be friends.  It was fine.  I was fine.  I couldn't breathe, but I was fine.  Then I left.  I tried to cry on my drive back home, out of town, but I couldn't.

I don't remember ever shedding a tear over him.  I wanted to, though, most desperately.

So, that cracked me, but I didn't shatter.  Not until a few weeks later.  

My friends were set to throw me a birthday party at the house I was moving into with my best friend, the girl who had first introduced me to the boy.  The boy was planning on attending the party.  I could be cool, no worries.  Except my best friend, just days before the party–my party–told me that I shouldn't come.  The boy was bringing his new girlfriend.  Like, what the fuck?  Wasn't it supposed to be my birthday party?  I went anyway.  Forewarned, I didn't make a scene.  That's not really my schtick anyway, you know?  But that conversation we had, her disinviting me to my own party, added another crack.  I was getting fragile.

I shattered about two months later.  

I'd moved into the house.  I was sad still, over the boy.  I was working a new job in which I didn't fit.  My best friend made it clear that she didn't want to deal with my sadness, so I didn't mention it and it festered.  That festering gave voice to my depression, and I was lost.  A cracked bottle barely floating in a sea of made of unshed tears.

And then she asked me to move out.

And I shattered and the pieces of me sank into the deep dark.

My mom told me recently that my friend told her that she was frightened for me.  That's not the message I got from my friend.  What I got from my friend was that she valued her friendship with the boy more than her friendship with me.  And I now I think that both those things could be true.  Because she didn't try to be my friend afterwards.  She never called or emailed or checked up on me.  Nor did any of my other friends.  I lost them all, but she's the one that hurt the most.  I didn't hear from her again until the next year, weeks before I moved to Alaska.

She invited me for drinks in that midwestern college town.  I went, hoping that maybe I could find my friend again.  I didn't.  She apologized, but it didn't mean anything to me.  I was numb.  I didn't feel anything really.  We went to see the boy in his new apartment, and it was awkward and awful and I didn't feel anything for him either.  I just kind of wanted to leave.

So I did.

I've been trying to suss out my reactions to them ever since.  Depression, man.  

I've had a really hard time making friends since then.  In fact, I've only made one.  I've not dated since then either.  I've not had the stomach for it.  I have a really hard time trusting people, trusting myself, believing that I'm worth anything.

I'm working on it.

I think I've found most of my pieces, and some buoyancy, though I've not yet broken through to air.  I'll never be what I once was, but maybe I can find some bit of life yet.  Maybe I can repair myself into something that can steer to shore.  The cracks will always be there, the jagged edges, the missing shards, but I have to believe that I'll be able to find dry land and leave behind the sea.

I just hope it happens soon.