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.