Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

outside the box, an email transmission in two acts ...

inbox message: you know i would come home, all you have to do is tell me, and i’ll do it. do you want me to come home, or not? [he said after leaving for the umpteenth time and then emailing from a distant locale, full of regret, ready to buy a ticket home again]

outbox message:

how about …
you own it. answer this question for yourself.
i’ve been living it, owning it, and now not loving it so much, while you keep pondering over your option to buy, me, us, fully.
i’ve become your mega-year test drive.
i’m not trying to be an ass, but STOP ASKING ME AND ASK YOURSELF!
i’m tired of holding the mirror.
i’m getting ready, instead to slam it over one or the other of our scattered heads and just be out of it, out of this, away from it for good, as far away from my heart as possible, my brain good and dead to the notion, somewhere so far beyond hearing and factoring through any more of your bullshit in this place you live inside yourself where you say one thing out loud, and then do another.
just fucking be real.
i don’t care where you do it.
i don’t care if you do it with me.
just fucking be real for once in your life, for you.
that would be enough.
or, if you can’t, then don’t, don’t do it, don’t be real, but keep your un-real-ness away from me.
one unreal and one real don’t make a right.
i’ve said this same thing so many times before, and i’m slamming my fingers on the keyboard trying to tell you again now!
what a waste!
i’m typing my heart out into a plastic box with a flashing cursor mocking me, waiting for me to say words that just don’t sink in beyond this page.
i think i’m going to have to call and have someone take the computer away.
this is ridiculous.
i keep trying, but it’s pointless.
i’m going to bed, to mend my head.
i hope my heart takes the hint and does the same.
least ways, in my sleep, i won’t be tempted to fire off any more responses to you.
responses that are going nowhere.
delete this crap.
this conversation isn’t happening.
you can’t find love in a plastic box with a grayscale screen.
maybe that’s it.
i get it now.
fuck me for being such a slow study.
sue me, but i prefer to live out of the box.


[flashing cursor, flashing, cursor, flashing cursor …]


Monday, May 3, 2010

Carving Out Time, Defining Self

"It's a Monday night. Midnight. The house is quiet, my family asleep. The row of sober-faced brick homes leading from my house on a corner is silent now, and the people in them probably asleep. As is most of Detroit by this time, except for me. I spend the hours around midnight back here in my sun room, sipping cool drinks and looking for some light Inner Inspiration, that I might, before my eyes give out, distill a line or two of poetry from the short story “The Bird Cage” by Paulette Childress White

It is a Monday night! It is nowhere near midnight, but because I’m currently working upstairs on the shared computer in the bedroom, rather than downstairs in my own office space, the bewitching hour is already here.

Mark has an early flight in the morning, and so it wouldn’t be fair of me to leave him snoring on the couch, the remainder of his day, with “Law & Order” reruns playing in the background, the dog asleep at his feet.

I don’t have the benefit of my laptop tonight, either, and the ability to curl up on the couch, sit at the dining room table or go down to my office.

Woe and computer-impaired I am tonight. Both the laptop and the desktop will be back in their places by the weekend, after weeks and weeks of waiting to be rehashed and reloaded and revamped, one having had a blue screen of death and one just acting stupid. It was time for computer house-cleaning. Because Mark does all this for me, it has been computer house-cleaning interruptus at best due to his travel and work schedule.

So that brings me again, back to this room, the bedroom, the shared room in the house. The sleeping, TV gazing, reading room! (Oh, and the other “stuff” too, but that’s privitized.)

No one normally works in here. My working in here for the last several weeks has not been normal! I don’t belong in here in that regard.

That being said, I’m still trying to stick to writing something every day for 30 days until it becomes habit again, instead of habit to push it off to the side after the day is done, and I’m entirely done in.

In a conversation today (and I will find a copy of the story for you Jennifer!) I was reminded of the above quote.

The story “The Bird Cage” spoke loudly to me the first time I read it. I have had “sun rooms” in my life, places of solace at the end of the day, where I could sit and regroup, remember my place in the world, mark a little time, or make a few amends, all before going off or going upstairs to sleep with self or someone.

It’s a lot like that saying, “Don’t ever go to bed angry,” especially angry at your self for not making that time, even in a crowded shared room where all your work and play and writing stuff really doesn’t belong, but in order for you to belong and stay current, you still have to make a demand for that space.

You desperately need that few minutes more!
I had to make that demand tonight. It came out as, “I know, I’m sorry, you have an early flight in the morning, but I’m going to need the bedroom to myself tonight until at least 10:30.” I was going to qualify it with all kinds of things, like gee, look what a great dinner we all had, time to reconnect before you leave again, and ummm, yeah, so, I’d be downstairs if my computers were reinstalled, and no, well, no I don’t need the extra time for work, not really, I need that extra time “after work” for, well, er, um … never mind!

Except I minded, so I didn’t say all that. I didn’t qualify the need after I had quantified what it was that I needed, just a little more time. That is all.

My quantifying, my announcing that I needed “just a little more time” before I’d share the room was all that was necessary. My saying I needed 30 minutes of breathing space, thank you very much.

Unbelieveable that I would want more time in her since this entire Monday (after working all weekend) I’ve been stuck in her most of the day, except a brief errand run, a meal cooked and hurriedly eaten, and then back to work.

Unbelieveable, but believe it. I need this time. I need to split the room’s personality one more time today before it returns to “bedroom.” It’s been “office” all day, and now it’s my “writing space,” for this last 30 minutes … or 40 minutes … I mean, he is snoring, and he really does want to give me that extra ten minutes, he just doesn’t know it!

While I no longer have a house full of babies, and luck of the draw my significant other is far less high-maintenance than any man I’ve ever had a relationship with, I still have to work at times to carve out this me time, this writing time. So it may seem wicked that I’d push it that extra 10 minutes, but it’s also necessary. It is still too easy for me to to push it off and say, “Oh, shit, oh well, I didn’t get to it this morning, this afternoon, tonight, because, because …”

It would be too easy for me tonight to say, “Oh, well, what would it hurt if I didn’t …” and we just both got some sleep, but I know it would hurt all night long into the morning.

I need to remember that my craft is important, that underneath it all, this is who I am in, out, under and through every brutal day of the week. I’m me, the writing me.

It takes practice to remember that. It makes sense some nights to make it known what I need, and to quantify how much of it I need, without having to qualify it with an explaination. Tonight I needed time, and the people who ove me see what that means for me, the writing me.

The writing me is the one who visited with everyone while she cooked dinner, but raced through the dinner, so she could get back in here and close to the “me time.” And the people who love me understand that. For that I am blessed.

When I first read the Childress story, I felt like folding it up and putting it in my hip pocket as a reminder to carve out that time for myself, every day, not just every other, or just whenever, but always in all ways in order to be more true to myself.

Funny, though, I didn’t fold up the story and do that. I took it to heart but I didn’t put it in my hip pocket. Ali was 13 when I first read that story. I know this because digging the quote out of a notebook today, there is also a notation about her on that day.

I read this story four solid years ago and made myself a solid promise and then didn’t keep it.

The story, and it’s meaning to me, didn’t come up again in my mind until today in another conversation with another writer, when I thought, “Gee, she’d love this. She’d totally get this.”

And if I really had the story in my back pocket, she’d get a copy of the story a whole lot faster now, wouldn’t she?

You live, you learn, and you do better! And tonight I did well to carve out my half hour, to use it accordingly and to end things with a post-it note that says, “Find and print multiple copies of that story,” to which I intend to put one in my bra, in my purse in my hip pocket, tape one to the mirror, email one to Jennifer and give one copy to every woman, young, old or otherwise so that they remember to do the same, carve out that time, remind themselves who they really are, at all costs, on a regular (yes daily basis)!

And now the bedroom can turn back to the bedroom again, and I can have sweet I-accomplished-day-3-of 30 dreams!

Thirty days makes a habit, and this one I don’t ever want to break again.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

description polecats

I made myself this promise to write 30 somethings in 30 days … but after a long weekend of working, tonight the only two items I can see scrawled on a notepad (not having to do with my work) are “running versus owning,” and “description polecats.”

I’m not sure what I can do with either of those phrase-y prompts tonight, although the pulsing cursor on the Word screen seems to think otherwise. It’s all huffy and puffy and go to blows with the page why don’t ya! Write something. Anything!

The first notion, “running versus owning,” I know where it comes from (inside me, duh, where all the writing comes from … grin), but I don’t have time tonight to dive back in there and get the rest of it. I’m too interested now in finishing things up here at the desk, all things, and getting some sleep.

And “description polecat.” I wrote that down because the phrases that pop up in the CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) boxes on certain websites crack me up. I guess I was intending to keep an ongoing list of the CAPTCHA crap I’m forced to type into those boxes to prove to the computer that I am real, and not a bothead! Every CAPTCHA phrase I’m supposed to retype always make me laugh. The word groupings are insane.

Or, maybe I was going to make a bogus list of my own, of silly two-word phrases that should be used in these boxes whenever someone has to prove themselves real. A fun list of bot-zapping phrases, to keep the creative juices flowing, maybe that’s what I need tonight instead of the longer piece that will likely result when I finally get to the gist of “running versus owning.”

I know there is something more to the “running versus owning” phrase, but the more I look at it tonight, the more it looks like a bot-busting phrase in my half-cursive-half-not handwriting, all twisted and weird. It’s making me realize, when I finally dive in to the piece, it (like all good writing brutally clear and honest) will authenticate me. It will tell me, “You are real, please continue on this, that or the other bloody website of life …”

This is true of all the writing grist, all the shit I half write down, but then never get to, but when I do get to it, boy, oh BOY, AUTHENTICATION IN ALL CAPS … even if the only authentication of it all is that I have written something because that is what writers do after all, they WRITE (when they are not doing laundry, working or wishing they were already in bed, etc.).

Writing prompts are like bot-busting jots, you repeat them and you become real, genuine, more diamond, less rough. Ten times more you, no question about it.

Tonight, however, I’ll have to suffice my writing self and my writing challenge to self (the 30 in 30 days) to a pretend list of bot jots, things that a computer might force me to repeat back to them just to prove that I am a person. Just for shits and giggles, a list of possible CAPTCHA phrases:

toaster chronicles
crockery buttercups
dishonesty hamburger
biscuit chronology
prison blowfish … and goodnight moon.

Really, I mean, it goodnight moon! That wasn’t a bot-buster, that was me saying saying, “Good night moon, hello bed …”

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Louder Than Any Crazy Storm

If a forgotten feeling falls down inside of you, can anyone hear it? Can you? Can I?

If we can’t hear it, is it really there?

Last night, driving home from a wonderful night out, dinner with my daughter Carol and some live music played by very near and dear new friends, a tree that had fallen in my inner forest threatened to re-sprout itself. It was a tattle-tale bitch wad of a tree, with limbs reaching out and a knot-holed throat ready to scream of my previous bloody murder thoughts.

It really caught me at my guard, gave me that “what the hell would make me think about that again” kind of feeling.

The roads were shiny as we drove home from the roadhouse, the fried food, the good music. Carol, my eldest, and I were both tired, happy to be heading home at 8:30 pm, although also a bit humbled by the somewhat early hour for a Friday night, a rare night out.

Rounding, the bend towards her upper duplex in the center of our small town, was a welcome sight. Our sighs filled the cab of the truck, her relief to get home to bed, and my relief to be closer to home and soon off the shiny misleading rain-splattered roads.

We guessed, both of us shooting eyes upwards to the lamp-lit upper windows above the old meat market, whether or not the girls were still up. Her duplex rests up there, in the sky, over this old part of town. Were they torturing their sitter, my youngest daughter, their Aunt Ali? Were they coloring, reading or watching a movie? Who was up, who was down, or maybe they were all asleep.

“It doesn’t look like it rained very hard here,” I said, since that was our biggest worry, going out during storm-warning weather bulletins which had finally reduced themselves to weather watches and then trickled down to nothing to be afraid of.

“I guess not,” Carol answered, “or wait, maybe it did, look at the muddy patch in the drive.”

The mud wash from the driveway was wet and smooth like clay. I steered the truck around this, and pulled on further into the parking lot, to my usual turn-around spot.

As I did this, the truck’s low beams landed on a fallen tree branch, in the limey grey and wet muck of the upper drive.

“Wow,” I said.

“What?” she asked.

“Oh, nothing,” except that it was, and so I continued with, “It’s just that, well, that tree branch, and this storm. It reminds me of a time when I was little, all of us, and there were storm warnings. Mom for some reason would always go outside to check on things, and leave us inside.”

The truck was in total pause, caught partway through it’s usually Y turn-around maneuver, and I looked towards Carol’s face in the dark.

“Well, this one dark night, Dad wasn’t home,” I ventured, “it was lightening really, really bad, and during one flash, the driveway was empty. During a second flash, a branch appeared in the driveway where it had once been clear. We had all been kneeling on the couch looking out the window and one of us joked that the branch was Mom’s skeleton.”

“Weird,” Carol said.

“I know,” I continued, “because we were really young, like your girls upstairs. I couldn’t have been more than Lili’s age. We had to have been, the four of us, really young. And I remember for a second thinking I wished it was true, but then two seconds later my pajamas felt damp with fear, or maybe it was guilt because what I had wished for was really mean.”

“Grandma was mean.”

“She wasn’t your grandma then,” I offered, and then realized that she didn’t even feel like my mother now.

“I know, but …” Carol attempted.

I finished the Y turnaround and parked near her back door. Maybe I lied, my Y turnarounds, are more X, Y, Z-ish, but in any event, I got her to the door. She exited the truck, stepping out over the flat, but soft mud washout. A silly part of me wanted to tell her to come back and we’d make footprints! Instead, I excited my side of the vehicle, skirting the rain slicked muck, and we ran up her back stairs, into her warm upper duplex. Their home.

We managed to get all the way into the lamp-lit living room before the kids heard us. Lili was already falling asleep under a blanket in a nearby chair. Alice was on the carpet where Ruthie and Scarlet were drawing on white recycled typing paper, print side down, their heads close to their work. Our shadows fell over them.

The room came alive.

We all talked at once about the rain, and if anyone was scared, and the girls asked us what we had for dinner and if we really saw “Cookie” the woman in the band. Without even meeting Cookie they all had been giggly and intrigued by the woman’s name when I told them where I was taking their mother for the evening, to hear “Joey and Cookie” play music.

I passed on a message to the girls that Cookie wanted to be sure that I’d tell them the reason her nickname was “Cookie” was because that’s the only thing they could get her to eat when she was a child. The name stuck, a mother’s love and teasing to get beyond the fuss of a picky eater. Marie.

Alice gathered her things, we all said goodbye and our “see you tomorrows,” since we almost always see each other every day these days. Alice and I ran down the back stairs, out to the running vehicle, leaving my oldest with her three little girls, everyone safe, inside, tucked and solid. No one was scared. There were no cold sweats or guilty fears over strange wishes that are never going to come true, over crazy sad notions.

On the way home, I dropped Alice at a friend’s house, an overnight she was attending in order to work on a school project for the rest of the weekend. I arrived home to find a less than coherent dog, and a snoring Mark on the couch. I readied for bed, slapping a furry hinder lightly and tweaking a fleshy warm elbow, in order to get the dog and my lover to follow me to the bedroom.

There was the jingling of dog tags, as Walter stretches, but not too far since he intended to curl up in the chair in our room immediately. Darkness fell and with it quiet as Mark has this uncanny ability to shut off the lamps and the TV remotes in one full swoop. For my part, I hurry to the bedroom in the fading light, to hit the wall switch, so I don’t trip and fall on shadows in the hall. That’s our routine. It’s how we keep each other safe.

Mark, still getting over influenza, drifted back to sleep in moments. If dogs could snore, Walter would have been through 50 logs by then already.

My sleep last night, however, proved to be wicked in process, disruptive to say the least. The room was humid. Everything hung heavy. I contemplated again whether or not we needed a dehumidifier for muggy, rainy days and nights. The blankets smothered me.

I eventually left the bedroom and slept on the couch, taking comfort in the cooler breezes blowing in off the low-lying marsh areas on that side of the house. The chirpy, chirpy nighttime froggy sounds from the pond at the end of our road finally lulled me to sleep.

In the end, I woke feeling refreshed, which surprised me since my initial trip through La-La Land was slow going, but I somehow had spent most of the night in the Land of Deep, Restorative Sleep. Maybe this particular storm had in fact washed me clean.

Early this morning, I heard from Carol that she and the girls had a version of the “Sound of Music” playing out in her bedroom after we left them last night. All three girls came in and told her they might get scared later, if it stormed again, so maybe they should have a slumber party in Mommy’s room.

It never stormed. She let them say anyway.

The scenario made me grin. I make my coffee, and spy two photos on the fridge, two of my favorite photo [things]. My middle daughter Bekah cuddles with me in one, the year Alice was born. In the second, Bekah stands in our front drive, the day she moved out for job and college. I see these pictures several times a day, every time I’m on that side of the kitchen, alongside the fridge. Sometimes I go there extra, and on purpose, just to look.

As I reached for my sweetener packets along the back counter this morning, a breeze arrived to tickle my forearm. I continued to gaze at the photos and think over the last 12 hours.

I smiled again. I felt as if I might smile, again and again. It shouldn’t but the again-and-again smiling feeling always strikes me as odd, like an “okay, what’s up with that” kind of guilty feeling.

I smiled some more, really tempting the gods who really aren’t watching, really aren’t keeping track.

I was amused at how, in rethinking the previous night, something wicked had came up, but it quickly quieted inside me, unable to fight the noise of what’s really out of ahead of me, and who. These days, though quiet, are louder than any past disturbance could ever be!

Adding milk, stirring my coffee, it became clear to me this morning that the lines are no longer blurred. I understand why I smile, and why it’s okay to smile again and again, and again. No one is going to get caught. No one is going to be hurt. It’s really okay to beam, be happy, content, standing in the place where I choose to live [life to its fullest].

Trees fall in all kinds of forests, and maybe in the dark brambly woods of my mind, during particularly stormy nights, the zombied limbs I thought were buried threatened to return. Perhaps they can and will continue to make strong efforts to come alive and infect my mind, weaken my heart, if I let them.

I won’t let them. I see that now.

The guilt and shame over what I saw or felt that wicked stormy night of my childhood may at times still be palpable and tell-tale, loud and ready to rip up the floorboards. Last night, maybe it was a close call, the storm warning that then fizzled out and came little more than a warning. While I could conjure up the memory, I refused to become again that little girl, cold sweat trickling down the back of her flannel pajamas, guilty over what she wished for, more than anything else in the world.

I had a right to be happy. I have a right to be happy, content, least of all scared.

My world is bigger now, better now. This many years down the line, the beat of my own true heart silences what fell in that forest. That little girl is not gone, but gone deeper. That little girl is me, living out loud, louder than any crazy storm.

['might need some tweaking but in order to do my 30 pieces of writing in 30 days, i had to get it up tonight before midnight. this is a goal i've set for myself. ironically this current 30-day challenge to myself comes after my previous challenge (30 collages in 30 days) and actually contains a collage of those collages.

there were a lot of sticks and stones in those collages, and the resulting piece of art was fitting for this piece.

i'm beginning to think that "challenges to my self" are the way to go, and that sticks and stones will not break my bones, and names will never hurt me. ;) ]