Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Time and time again

I don't ever remember being bored as a child. Well, to qualify, I remember being bored when I had to go with my mother to some architect's office or other wait-and-be-quiet-this-will-just-be-a-minuet kind of errand. But I do not recall ever sitting around the house restless. And we had a lot of home time.
I don't remember boredom in high school (I had lots of other anxieties) or even through most of my college time. I do remember the first time an empty day tortured me. Of course it wasn't just boredom. It was sadness. It was a snowy day my junior year of college. I had friends whom I had a fraught bond with, the crew from the restaurant I worked at, and I imagined them all waking up together in the same house and having breakfast and then calling up everyone who was important (not me) to congregate on some adventure (that was probably more of a party than an adventure). I watched the light change from my 1 bedroom apartment, which I never left. I remember fussing over my cd collection, putting them back in rightful cases. This didn't take long. I remember agonizing. Time splayed me. By dark I was sobbing. I had nothing to do, few possessions, fewer self-care skills. I likely had nothing in my fridge and no TV (not that binge eating and parking myself in front of the boob-tube were good options, it's just that I had nothing.) I was paralyzed and spent 18 hours in acute pain. Checking my phone was (and remains) a form of self-mutilation. I look back, like you do, and inspect the context that I was blind to at the time. Prior to this, there were people around. My family in high school, then the dorms, then my first apartment Jacob was next door. And even though every one of those relationships were imperfect and often unwanted, they were there. I don't even know what I did with my time. Certainly far less than what I occupy myself with these days. This was before I ever did anything creative that didn't have a due date, I barely did homework, I hadn't yet fallen in love with reading again, I'd never rode over 2 miles on my bicycle, and I probably went to 1 out of 3 diving practices. I did work on weekends. Perhaps that was it. Then I moved in alone as my friendships and community reflected all my short-comings, all my personal failing and missteps I couldn't see myself making. I was very much alone. And that winter day may have been the day I married loneliness, or became it's mistress. Sadness and boredom are a perfect pair. Together they deliver the loneliness. The elixir and the cup. The poison and the syringe.

And that battle raged on. It rages on still.

Now, over a decade later, my fears of rejection and paltry self-worth are around, sure, on set lets say, but they're extras. But, my greatest anxiety comes everyday, every goddamn day as I arrive home from work, and face an afternoon or evening, sometime a large chuck of the day (#freelancelife) without a plan. Or even a plan that depends solely on me to execute, a plan that lacks necessity or urgency (like, go for a run, mow the lawn, do a sketch, write a poem, clean the bathroom). Will I overcome today? Will I move, or will I sink? Sometimes I just lay in bed unable to sleep. Sometimes I smoke 5 cigarettes in a row. Sometimes I run. But I'm always facing down empty stretches of time. My sadness has moved out. No longer a permanent resident (so far my life's greatest accomplishment) but this empty time reminds me of sadness, my vicious darker half, in a very scary way. At these moments I feel like I'm walking into a contaminated room, and I have to tread carefully lest I be infected. For fuck's sake, I'm shell shocked.

My husband has healed me so many ways. I did a lot of work, yes, tons, and always more to do. But his partnership sooths me. I just does. I am very aware that I should be content on my own, and that I shouldn't need anyone to be happy. Well, that's tired advise that sounds a lot like "learn to love yourself" It's abstract and involves some sort of mental contortion that doesn't make any sense to me anymore. Being content with yourself... meaning what? Your fine to spend a weekend alone, or does it need to be 1 month to be considered "content"? Does it mean being a shut-in is a required skill? Does it mean you must be happy with many friends and no partner, then you can be whole? Or does it mean you must be happy with no friends, family, or partner and then you are whole? I think it's meaningless. There no applicability in real life. It shames people for craving connection. Fuck that adage. My husband is a part of my happiness and contentment. If our situation changes, I'll crumble and spill and despair all over again and then I'll suppose I'll figure something else out. I can spend time with alone but that doesn't mean that time doesn't also haunt me, sometime vaguely, and sometimes like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

On a completely unrelated note. I wonder who is reading this. Is it you, Adrian? Probably. But the stats page tells me that perhaps one person is checking in regularly. I like to imagine that person. Hopefully nobody I know (but not likely), someone in France or Alaska. She is mysterious to me, and I'm mysterious to her. There was the day I saw one of my poems had been shared 16,000 times on google plus, I tried to track that down but couldn't follow the string, then I changed the url and it disappeared. Makes me wonder if it was even real. But I like to think my poem about love sprouting from pain is copied out there, read by thousands of mysterious people.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Thoughts for a Tuesday

I just read a book, well two, that are changing me. One was Lena Dunham's Not That Kind of Girl and the other was Melissa Broader's So Sad Today. I went through a similar emotional process with both. In Dunham's case, I knew of her, loved Girls but was also eventually exhausted by the accumulated drama that launched it out the realm of relatability (but the show keep those magic moments, Dunham just fucking nails it sometimes), and I was skeptical. I thought she might be silly. My feelings changed by the end. And while I didn't know a thing about Broader, when I started the book, her constant use of "like" in her prose (how could you make that choice? When you can edit, just, why?) and full transcripts of emails and text message conversations caused me to doubt her seriousness and her depth. In other words, I thought she was silly. When I closed the book 2 days after I started, my feelings had changed.
I suppose I don't have the patience to do a literary review, also if you told me I absolutely HAD to, I probably would have fun with it. But here's the basic gist, the essential quality of these essays that is actually altering my perspectives: the deep confessionals, and I'm talking next level confession, throwing down almost everything, endeared me to them. And through that (slow) embrace, I see myself a little differently. Broader in particular, here are all the ways I hate myself, and am not trying to change. I only ever wanted love and so acted in all these ways women shouldn't act, here's what I'm still addicted to, I still never cum without fantasizing about something else and here is what the something else is, I'm obsessed with my beauty even though I shouldn't be, oh well, here are the all the pills I take for anxiety, here a monologue of thoughts I have fifty times a day. I did this thing, and people want to call me crazy.
I realize for the past 10 years I've been running hard and fast from what I thought was crazy and became unforgiving toward those who fell in the category. And just to be clear, this issue is particular to women. I was trying to heal myself, to be better, obsessed with being healthier. I failed to see that I was assuming conditioned guidelines for appropriate behavior for us ladies. Now, I'm still processing this. Some things are understandable; is it bad to want to be kinder, lose my cool in controlled environments, be generous to other people. That broken person was just not sustainable. But... BUT... was the underlying goal to be liked better the whole time? Well fuck me! I hate(ed) the things about myself that are considered classic feminine flaws (hating my body, become attached to someone I fucked, wanting to talk about feelings, wanting a partner so bad I couldn't see straight, having a private battle with other women). These things are BAD... right? I tried to hide them, mitigate them. But now I have some thinking to do. I've damned a lot of women in my own mind over these things. I think I was wrong. These "qualities" become monsters when we shame them... do a lot more damage. There is a lot more to say here, but it's an okay way to start.

Now I'm on a feminist literature rampage (as in, reading a lot of current feminist literature).

Monday, February 13, 2017

Camping in Alabama

This weekend, my husband and I headed south to Alabama, trying to outrun the rain. We looked at the map and the weather report and picked Cheaha Mountain, but ended up outside the State Park and into the Taladega Wilderness, because, well, it's free and there were not any detectable adjacent campsites.
I have to admit my expectations for this trip were modest. Alabama has a total of 3 Wilderness areas. I had two conflicting assumptions: Alabamians are not outdoorsy, meaning the park would be quite. AND, with so few destinations in the state, the park will be packed. Coming from Colorado, one of the most awesome places in the world (half of the damn state is wilderness...overwhelming beauty), I figured Alabama's offerings to be limited.
My suspended expectations served me well. The impact of the woods took some time to reach my conscious mind. We drove in, maybe a mile or two off the road into a clearing and set up camp. We agreed it would be car camping. We brought too many things and too much food. I never changed my clothes once even though I brought enough to change 3 times. I had to walk around and collect stones to make a fire pit and then collect fallen wood for the fire. My husband set up a tarp canopy in case it rained, although it never did.
To look out into dense woods didn't affect me much at first. It is winter, largely monochromatic, all some shade of orange-brown. We didn't see any critters or crawlys. There weren't even mosquitos (this is not a complaint). In the woods there is no view except the foreground. Everything behind is obscured by more trees. What surprised me was how the woods stripped me of any sense of location. And since we were so secluded, I couldn't hear anything except the wind and our own fire. I couldn't tell you where the road was or look out over the hills or tell you what was 30 yards to the north. If I had to guess... more woods. And I suddenly understood the mythology of woods. Why they are terrifying, because they reveal so little. The woods and the south east in general are witchy places.
The sun went down but the temperature never dropped. The dogs put themselves to bed in the tent and my husband and I made love on a blanket next to the fire. Immediately after, the clouds cleared for about 10 minutes gifting us the full moon.
As a cynic, it is difficult for me to say this, but it felt magic. Here I am, a 33 year old woman and until Saturday night around 9pm I had never been naked under a full moon. I didn't pray or evoke any personified moon spirit, even though in the moment I realized how rare it was and wondered if I would squander it. I just walked around, clam until the clouds made the moon, and my skin and my husband invisible again. We kicked out the fire and went to bed. It was both commonplace and something I will never in my life forget.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Work Meditation

Today I had a job scheduled for 10 and a half hours. All together I was gone for 12. It's one of those ambiguous jobs that is both a blessing and a curse. Everything about this place evokes extremes. As a freelancer, and my self-imposed work quota, the job fulfills half of the week's necessary hours in one fell swoop, as opposed to filling a schedule with erratic 2 hours jobs that can start at 7am and end at 11pm anyhow, spread across several days. This kind of job appeals to the procrastinator in me, the work-hard-play-hard lady.

It's also awful. I'm paid to shadow a trainee, a new hire. And after the cursory explanations of safety and process, the trainee is off on their own. And I must simply be available if questions or adjustments come up. This ends up being hours upon hours of sitting in an uncomfortable stool with absolutely nothing to do.

That's the setup. Now here is the meditation:
My presence in this environment is disrupting to nearly everyone I encounter. And I encounter a lot of people there. This is a busy work environment, an ant farm, thousands of folks chipping away at a luxury block and shipping it away to other folk's door. The place perplexes me. The jobs are menial, but they are available. You sign up more than you apply, and get a slightly less than decent wage for easy work. They let you come and go without much ado. Not the best job, but it almost seems like the alternative for many people is no job. But. But... work policies, the management, the oversight. It's nothing less than fascist. Write up for minute late clock ins after break, loosing half a day of personal leave for arriving 15 minutes late, tracking whereabouts in the building, tracking time off work, tracking and holding you accountable for the speed in which you do that small process... repeated 1,000 times in one day. You want to go see HR about a question, well, you gota change your work code and get paid a lower wage for that 15 minutes. Seven levels of management all watching the one below for excessive talking or standing. No earphones allowed; they check your bag on the way home. I see eighteen different ways to dehumanize an individual in a day, make them understand they are not reliable or trustworthy. Then show a video reminding 'em to be grateful for the work.

Then I come in, a contractor, not an employee. And I sit where there is no place to sit, and I read my book. And when I get weary of that, I look at my phone. And when I get weary of that, I rest my head in my hand and my elbow on my knee and I stare into space and daydream and silently suffer, not knowing if I also should feel grateful or sick at my uselessness. And while I'm working hard to see our sameness, a lot of people see me in contrast. I get scolded often, for not working, being in the way. Asked to moved, questioned by a dozen people what I'm doing. I'm suspicious. I explain myself again and again. I interrupt the flow, or the fog? Then when people around me figure out what I'm there for, tell me they wish they had my job, tell me how lucky I am, how easy I got it. I get annoyed or defensive. Or just bored by the repeat. Sometimes I say, "It looks easy now, but it wasn't easy to get here, I swear." The path that started 12 years ago, school, my own menial meantime work,  self-doubt and frustration over slow progress, embarrassments, dozens of little disasters and successes, being held back, carving out a path over a decade with slow burning commitment just to be picked for this silly job. But it not worth explaining, defensiveness is weakness and I feel unworthy of the gifts I've been given: the chance to walk that arduous path. In the end this whole scenario comes down to Capitalism, which seems logical, but is not, only a close approximation, because the minimum is zero, the starting point... I don't believe we can apply that scale to human beings.

Isn't it funny how we don't feel worthy of our gifts and privileges, but that our challenges and oppressions we feel are undeserved?


Sunday, November 13, 2016

I love reading stories of relationships gone awry. Especially marriages. The slow exit from closeness. A drop of bitters added to a pool that doesn't circulate. Then another. These stories are so tender. Losing love like this is genuine and sweet and tragic. It seems so unavoidable. I thinking of Jonathan Franzen's "Freedom" and "Purity" and JSF's "Here I am" and "Anna Karenina."  Of course these writes are geniuses; that helps.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Sad People do Cruel Things

Sad people do cruel things. To themselves and to others. And the tricky thing about sadness is the shroud of justifiability. The broken heart thinks it's kind. The lonely soul is furious at almost everyone for dismissing her. I've untied the knot of my sadness for so long, and the root of the tangle is both complicated and unavoidable, but also, after that delicate age, simply self-sustaining. After a while sadness is a shortcut. Living on the emotional doll. So precious, but not enough to thrive. Leaving it behind is not worth doing something hard. I have been this sad-addict, and I know them.
I had a friend destroy me with her sadness, and she thinks it's my fault. There are many things about her that are still a mystery to me. I can't know the whole story because she never told me. But the last thing she said to me was that she knows me. Knows me completely. But I'm wrong about her. This kind of explanation, I now see, is insanity. It's the overcomplicating of a basic emotion. It's the ultimate stance for the sympathetic character...being misunderstood, relatable mostly to teenagers, or in other words relatable to narcissism. I loved her though. But she didn't want to see me change. I figure my grieving for her is going through half-lives. This cycle shorter than the last. I look forward to the day she is mostly dead in my heart. It will come. So much poison for so many years.

As for me. The nonsense comes up still. Taking every word personal, every action, every minute. Taking the weather personal, my mother personal, a look from a stranger. Old habits, seeds of cruelty. I see it coming now. I've got a 360 camera called experience. And I tell myself to stop. It's not glamorous. It's not musical or revelatory. But it works. Too much of my time here I've been a dick. I owe some restitution. To others, yes, so harshly judged, and to myself.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Moving to Tennessee

I wrote a long, meandering, brilliant, resonating post about moving to Tennessee, which I have done. Colorado to Tennessee. I am here. I had metaphors and creative sentence manipulations. It was great. Then my screen crashed and deleted it all. Just know, profundity has been spilled into cyberspace. The shame.