She’ll Never Know

July 29, 2012 § 2 Comments

She’ll never know.

It’s a simple truth.

She’s sitting on the living room chair, the one that doesn’t go at all with the color of the walls, or the texture of the couch. The one she always forces me to leave so that she can sit down instead. On the TV screen a desperate woman cries.

She’ll never know.

Get me some tea. Fold the laundry. I hate this stupid house.

The Smartfood bag crackles. The woman sobs.

I hate this house, she says, but the TV drowns her out. The woman’s hurt must be made known.

It’s a thing I often don’t allow myself to think, because it seems selfish, unfair. But maybe I also don’t allow myself to think it because it’s true.

Because I can try to sit this woman down, I can try to open up the floodgates of my soul, I can try to get her to look at me right in the eye with something, something I can’t quite name but still hunger for desperately. Something, I guess, that says I’d like to really get to know you. I’d like to really listen. I’d like to know.

Because she’s my mother, and I want her to see. Me. And looking at her, seeing her waste away in her long-held anger, that hardened hurt, I know I’ll still be looking for that look when I’m thirty, or forty, or dead.

She’ll never Know Me.

And if somehow, all these years, she’s been looking over at me, and wondering, wondering…

I’ll never know.

So instead, we’ll watch TV. We’ll waste away together, these two human beings with hearts that always hurt and hands that don’t know how to touch. We’ll sever ourselves again and again. Bind ourselves and cut.

Together we stare at the screen.

And the woman cries.

Souls in Moments

July 26, 2012 § 2 Comments

Soul.

I believe we see souls in moments. Present moments. That rarest of realities, where the meaning of time goes all topsy turvy and every human emotion, experience seems to collide in that magnificent explosion called Right Now. People often mistake “moment” and “second” as mutually exclusive terms. Time measurements. Nothing more. I disagree. A second is something constantly ticking away on a clock. A moment is an almost other-wordly experience, except it’s really just experiencing and recognizing this world, feeling it suddenly, fully, catching a glimpse of its true nature and then…gone.

Moments.

A boy lying in grass almost too green, the kind clearly enriched with some sort of chemical you could buy at your local Walgreen’s. His finger tracing a yellow dandelion, his mouth lopsided, his eyes wide. Behind him is a house with a swimming pool and a trampoline and a man with a well-pressed suit and a leather briefcase. The boy sees the dandelion.

A woman on a train that jolts and sways on a track that screams. She presses her purse against her chest and holds an umbrella between her knees. Her coat has a hole in the elbow. She’s got a stray wisp of blonde hair resting on her shoulder. Her eyes look at the ground, almost sleepily, but they do not close. Only stare. They are staring at the base of the metal pole in front of her, the pole gripped by a dozen drowsy commuters. She stares and stares, does not blink.¬†

A young girl leaning against a glass office building on a street corner. All of the people stream by. She’s smiling one of those smiles that dreams of something far away. She’s swaying her knees and her eyes look away, away, away and they glisten will all that is good and she’s smiling. Sometimes her lips part to draw in a breath that mixes with a sigh of remembering someone wonderful.

A woman walking along a highway, carrying heavy grocery bags that bear ironic slogans.
The fleeting look on a girl’s face after all the laughing and smiling is done with the new man who decided to sit next to her at the bar.
A boy reaching for the next branch in the tree, or deciding to climb back down.
An old man standing at a fence, gripping it tightly and frowning.
A baby lying alone in his crib when his first night on this Earth shrouds everything in darkness.

These are souls.

These are moments.

Please, Write Something That Will Matter

July 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

There’s a helluva lot of writing out there. There’s blogs like this one, written by people in their pajamas sitting on folding chairs in their basements. There’s the supposed “classics”, there’s children’s books filled with subliminal messages of socialization, there’s books no one can really understand that are therefore classified as literary works of art. There are poorly written books written by celebrities and very angry radio talk show hosts.¬†Something for everyone. More accessible. More opportunities to sell, more markets. Nothing wrong with a whole lot of books, some good, some bad, right?

There’s something to this argument. However, something disturbs me about the large volume of writing we are now greeted with in every Barnes and Noble, or on our Kindles. It seems to send the message that anyone can write, that it’s not a very difficult thing to do, and that having a passion for writing is not really necessary. (Style and a solid understanding of language are also negligible.) Want to write about the meaning of life? Go for it. How about sex or wild partying stories? Sure, why not?

I understand that writing is a business, as with anything. Fifty Shades of Gray will sell. So will a book by Glen Beck or Chelsea Handler. But I can’t help but feel like a sacred space has been invaded, and that therefore the value of truly great writers diminished. You’re a writer? Who cares? Everyone whose reached a certain level of success in their profession writes a book, be they engineers, basketball players or Broadway legends. Right? Just another promotion tool, or a final word before heading into retirement.

I’m not suggesting that I believe writing be reserved for “elites” or “academics,” a sort of closed profession reserved for only socially-deemed intellectuals. But I do believe writers should write because they want to say something, because they believe that what they want to say will have an effect on people. An effect that inspires change or thought. Not necessarily huge changes, but small ones, like having a reader catch a sudden glimpse of their true self. Writing should break through the haze we all live in, so that for a moment a person sees something new, or something they forgot was there.

In essence, those who wish to write ought to write about something that will matter. We don’t write simply to vent our frustrations or out of our own need for completeness. The purpose is bigger than that. It involves your audience. It involves the person turning the page.

So whatever it is you’re writing, look at it critically. Ask yourself that hard question. So what? So what if Bob and Jack are fighting zombies? What does it mean? What does it say?

Because it’s your job to know those answers.

Normal, Crazy

July 16, 2012 § 1 Comment

Normal, Crazy

Just words.

Normal, crazy.

But they are words that used to dominate my existence.

I cannot tell you how many nights these words kept me awake, how often they emptied my days, kept my mind from exploring deeper, richer places. I could have known so much, did know so much, but all that mattered was Normal, and all I was was Crazy.

People telling me I wasn’t crazy were no help at all, as good-intentioned as they were. I would just shake my head at them, because they didn’t Know. That dreaded word was imprinted on my brain, entwined around my soul. Normal was something I could see and not be. I longed to be those who didn’t seem to think, whose main concern was morning traffic or what color to paint the living room wall. But I had been thrown into the world of the Crazies, the ones who are consumed by those questions society buries deep, like who we are and why we are here, and what we should do. As a child, I felt almost betrayed. Promised a mindless existence and then denied. MTV and shopping malls and Christmas cards told me life was pretty whatever, something not to be taken too seriously, riddled by few concerns and ripe with opportunities to relieve the boredom.

Normal, Crazy.
Crazy, Normal.

My life didn’t stop revolving around this never-ending anxiety until last year. When an old friend shrugged and said, I don’t worry about that anymore. I’ve accepted my crazy.

This comment, said so nonchalantly, so casually, struck me dumb. The possibility to accept myself as am I had truly never occured to me. That I could make peace with my crazy, live with it. Maybe even use it to my advantage.

It may sound silly, but I finally felt free. As if someone had unleashed my shackles, unlocked my cage. Love my crazy. Live my crazy. Be my crazy. And be okay with it.

So I’m not normal, I’m crazy.

Crazy and proud.

Making Life Worth Living

July 15, 2012 § 1 Comment


Credit: Carol Rutz, Carleton College

I truly believe we all need something that makes us want to live. Some say, life’s wonderful. And they really believe it, these people. And whose to say they’re wrong? They’ve got it as their screensaver or crocheted on throw pillows. They say, There’s so much life has to offer, so many opportunities, so many moments of glory and beauty. I’m not saying I disagree. But I find life’s only truly wonderful when I feel I’ve made it work for me. Taken hold of some of its strange complexities and molded and mashed them into something I can understand or appreciate from a distance. Instead of being whirled around in the middle of it all, a silent screaming victim, I stand up to the Man. I say, I’ll Do Something About You, I’ll Try to Figure You Out, I’ll Speak, I’ll Share with the Rest of Us. All the people trapped inside the fury, who can only see churning black water, not the whole ocean.

So yes, we all need something to make live worth living. Because living, being in this world, existing at all can make you go crazy. It can make you want to shut yourself in a room and never come out again. Life can be wonderful, but who really gives a damn if you don’t have something to do? A purpose? Something that makes you feel you’ve wrested a bit of control, like you’re not a puppet in a play, a fish in a fishbowl?

For me, I write. Therapists would call it an “emotional outlet” or maybe even “coping mechanism.” I call it my reason to live. I write, and staring at the words on the page, I feel I’ve finally raised my voice. I’ve said my piece. Done my job. Lived some of this life in the way I’ve understood it. And really, what more can I do? Can we all do?

What do you live for?

Wind I Know

July 14, 2012 § 2 Comments

Credit: “Summer Wind” dellaconroy.com

This is a wind I know.

I’m sitting on a shady patch of grass in front of my place of work, and when I close my eyes the cars continually rushing back and forth down the highway sound like massive gusts of wind that never settle.

There’s a breeze too, a natural one, not man made, and it’s dancing lightly across my face. And I recognize it. It’s a breeze I’ve felt through an open window on a dark, dark summer night, when the trees were creaking into sleep and the birds were chirping for their young ones, their loved ones, for the end of an evening. A breeze I felt when I was standing in the overgrown and weedy expanse of my backyard as a child, watching my little orange dress flutter back and forth, back and forth. By the beach by myself on an overcast day, with the water rippling down below me, the sun peeking out meekly, my curls falling over my shoulders.

It’s magic, this breeze. I know it. Know it, like a long-lost friend you bump into at some odd place, like a strip mall or a farmer’s market. It’s not just the product of a forever-spinning Earth. No ordinary gust of wind. Because when I feel it, I feel history, I feel age-old times and dancing, electrified spirits buzzing with life. I feel a whisper. Feel it in the hairs on the back of my neck. I’m not quite sure what it says, but it whispers.

And I listen, while the cars try to drown me out, rushing, rushing.

While the spirits shake my curls.

Missing Truth

July 11, 2012 § 2 Comments

Have you ever seen the movie The Hours? (If you haven’t, I highly recommend it.) Do you remember how the man’s novel is criticized because he uses “too much detail”? How he defends his style as a means to describe everything that a moment holds, to get it all out there, to make sure the world understands it all, every last bit of his soul? How desperate that man was, so unfulfilled?

More than one creative-minded person has approached me with a similar problem. “I had this dream,” a friend will tell me. “There was such a strong feeling to it, and I want to write about it so badly. But I want the reader to understand that emotion so much, it’s not working. I’m just sort of summarizing.” Another friend will go over and over his verses, revising them so that the meaning will become more obvious to the reader, afraid they won’t be able to fully grasp that idea in which he so strongly believes. I’ve seen this desperation in other art forms-theatre (that one actress who looks like she’s trying too hard to embody her character to the fullest of her ability), singing (struggling to put emotion into every word), dancing (painful knee injuries resulting from a too-intense routine.) Performers wanting to display, embody, and explore a truth so deeply it causes them pain and frustration rather than joy and fulfillment. So that they actually miss it entirely.

There are some days when I encounter this very problem. A lot of days, actually. I’ve always had a guarded soul, one absolutely spilling over with wonder, doubt, loneliness and confusion. Truth. The only way to keep myself sane is to let it run free and mold itself into something recognizable and understandable, something others will connect to, build from. My desperation to light that powderkeg, to replace tension with explosion, can sometimes result in nothing but a bubbling mess. I’ll find I’m “straining” while I’m writing. The words won’t be flowing seamlessly (sort of like right now), my sentences will be a little choppy, and on the whole the piece is unsatisfying. On those days, I give myself a break. I tell myself, not right now. If it ain’t coming, it ain’t coming.

Here’s what I do on the good days: I write with feeling. I let it guide. It’s in charge. It’s not conscious, but it’s there. Then when I read it back, I can sense that one idea pulsing beneath the surface. When I’m desperate to get my idea across, I sense desperation pulsing beneath the surface, and not the good kind. Both the reader and author (!) are less clear on what’s trying to be said. The truth isn’t really there. Just a rough sketch, an imitation.

The bottom line (a very frustrating and sort of ambiguous bottom line) is this: you have to let go. When you do, the truth will do the talking. You’ll just do the writing.

Anyone out there relate?

Where Am I?

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