Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Empty House, Full of Prophetic Dreams

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

This dream was lost to me until a conversation reminded me of it, but it’s horror is so unusual for me, I wanted to write it down. It seemed crazy and out of nowhere at the time, and then upon further reflection, it made all the scary sense in the world. Sometimes dreams mirroring real life before it happens can be most terrifying of all.

I’m in the house he and I first lived in together. It is furnished just the same. A veterinarian lives there now, with her husband and pets, and they made it a bigger house, but in my dream it is the same small one he and I shared.

He is gone. I wander through the rooms, looking in each one, even in the closets and behind the shower curtain. I look out into the yard, on the screen porch that does not exist anymore, the one where he held the kitten in his coat while we smoked cigarettes, the one where he brought me home the puppy. He is not there.

I walk back into the room, and there is an old friend. He smiles and I am happy to see him and to hear his voice. I have missed him and worried about him. He goes to the bathroom. I notice his friend sitting there on my couch. I thought they weren’t friends anymore. I thought they had a falling out. I am glad to see him, too, and I tell him:

“I am glad to see you, but I’m surprised you’re back.”

“I’m back for a reason,” he says, and there is meaning, but I cannot decipher it.

Our friend walks back in the room. He is ashen, grayish, emaciated, and no longer wearing a shirt, only too-large jeans held up only by a belt. He looks at me with sorry eyes, and he drops to his knees, and opens his mouth to say something, but all that comes out is blood, all over our old carpet and his own porcelain white chest.

Living in the Middle Place

Monday, May 29th, 2017

A 6 a.m. bolt of lightning struck me awake yesterday morning. I sat straight up in bed. I got up and looked out into the storm. I climbed back into bed and tucked the covers tightly around, whispering to the shaking, terrified dog by my bed,

“It’s okay, baby. Everything will be alright.”

I fell back to sleep, but in that high-level dreaming state that one has in the mornings, drifting in and out of sleep, where life and dream weave together.

I forgot about my vivid dreaming until I read this article this morning, and the line “Fuck the Patriarchy” echoed in my head. I thought the article was well-written, and it echoes what I hear a lot of women talking about recently. Reading that reminded me instantly of the same words in my dream.

I dreamt I was in a school, maybe a college. I was a student, somehow, and the classrooms looked like the ones in my middle school growing up. Students were assembling in the room for a political debate. I was wearing cut off jeans, and a t-shirt and dark hoodie. In the pocket of my jeans, I stuffed a stack of political postcards. The postcards caused the pocket to poke out below the cutoff hem of the jeans, their sharp corners jutting into my thigh. I sat in a hard school chair, with a backpack at my side, my legs stretched out in front of me, my feet in black chucks.

A man in a suit approached me, his finger pointed at my lap, punctuating the air.

“You can’t have those in here!” I pulled the postcards out of my pocket, slipped them into my backpack. “No!,” he yells. “You have to wear pants!”

Anger welled up in me. I snatched up my backpack, slinging it over my shoulder and went to another classroom to find pants in my closet. (It’s a dream; Yes, my closet was in the other classroom. I don’t know why.) I walked into the room, the whole time muttering, “Fuck the Patriarchy.” I went to the closet, a whole class watching me, as I rolled open the doors, and started rifling through the stacks of pants on a shelf.

I couldn’t find my jeans, the ones with the rip at the knee. There were only men’s jeans and pants. I realized it was my husband’s closet. I couldn’t find any jeans of my own. I angrily put on a too-large pair of hiking-style pants, with zippers that allow you to unzip the legs and make the pants into shorts. Even the sound of the synthetic material rubbing together at the thighs when I walked back to the debate angered me. I guess I woke up, then, to the storms and light getting brighter in my room.

I try very hard to look on the positive side of things, to find joy and exhibit gratitude in my day-to-day dealings. But I also sometimes struggle a bit with a molten anger, just waiting for a crack in the crust to pour up through. Still, I don’t want to be angry. Not being angry is a decision. One I try to make daily. Sometimes I fail. I am not angry at men. I am not angry at my husband. But I am angry at something. Society? As the author, Catherine Newman, wrote:

I don’t always feel just one way. I’m not always sure. And maybe that’s what it is to be a grown-up—living in the middle place, where you can’t decide quickly about everything. A misanthrope, in love with the world.

In my dream, though, I was shaking and angry and sure. In the morning light, I’m just living in the middle place.

Pride, Humility, Change, Gratitude, Acceptance, Truth

Sunday, May 28th, 2017
This kid. Like most people, I post about the good stuff that happens with my kids. Like when he went to the county for the spelling bee. (That’s him with his certificate in the photo.) Or the funny stuff, like when out of nowhere, he asked me about very explicit sex stuff in front of the waiter at a restaurant a couple months ago. Stuff like that. The stuff that entertains and brings joy and laughter and that, for some kids, comes easy. Spelling comes pretty easy to my kid. So does his unabashed open and honest curiosity, and a willingness to talk about stuff people like to pretend don’t exist or at least those subjects that people are uncomfortable talking about. And I want him to be able to talk to me about stuff.
 
But this year is a little different. This year wasn’t all good. This year, he took on a pretty hard math class, and he struggled a little bit for the first time. He said things like, “I’m not good at math.” He also struggled with disorganization. He struggled with motivation. He didn’t turn all his homework in. He didn’t like ELA (that’s English to us old folks) any more. He still read constantly for pleasure, but he wasn’t enjoying school. At one point during progress reports, he had a failing grade in more than one class. (He may have gotten that from his mother, too, admittedly. Genetics are a bitch.) He had been scared to tell us he was struggling and things spiraled and we had no idea.
 
So, we told him he could always tell us anything. And then we buckled down. He lost some privileges and we set guidelines for what we expected out of him. We also, concerned about his motivation about school, suggested to him that he might want to consider applying to a theme school for the arts. We took him to the school to learn more about it. He learned about the academic requirements for getting in and staying in the school.
 
We saw a change in him. He was inspired by the students who talked about school and how much they liked it. He decided to apply. He worked on the application himself. He prepared for the music audition and put together writing samples, and sought out recommendations from teachers and counselors. He auditioned and got a spot, knowing that he could not go to the school if he didn’t get his grades back up.
 
And he did. He got his grades back up. Not all the way to all As and Bs all year, as he’s gotten in the past, but enough to keep him eligible. He worked hard at it.
 
So, it was odd to see him walk across the honors stage and just get the one award for the spelling bee. The one he didn’t have to work that hard to get, because it comes naturally to him. (Not that we weren’t immensely happy with that award too – we were.) But just the one – No Principal’s award, or Cougar of the Year (no laughing), or Scholar’s awards.  And it was actually the proudest I’ve ever been of him, knowing how much he worked this year, knowing that he finally struggled and faced some adversity and he rose to the occasion, even if they don’t give awards for that. Knowing that he wanted something and he worked for it.* (Side note: How many other kids faced adversity and came out the better for it and never got a certificate or accolades for it? Guess that’s a post for another time.)
 
I was proud of me, too. It’s been a rough year for me. The roughest one I have had yet in my life, by a mile. I suspect that I will have harder ones. I’m proud of the fact that even when preoccupied with all of the other work/life/health issues my family dealt with, that we as parents didn’t drop the ball on supporting the kids.
 

I’m proud of what I’ve learned about life and about myself. I’m learning to be okay with getting by, with being thankful for my two healthy children. They don’t need to be child prodigies, Einsteins, stars, best in class, fastest, brightest, anythingest. They just need to know that I will love and support them, no matter what. Heck. I’m an adult and I needed to hear that lately from people I love.

Difficulty can make one stronger, but I was already pretty strong. Difficulty actually brought me to my knees and humbled me and taught me about getting to the other side, and about acceptance. I’ve learned to be more open-minded, less judgmental, to see more than one side of things, to not make assumptions. I’ve learned that even really good, smart, decent, loving, respectful people make mistakes or become bogged down in things they cannot for the life of them figure out how they got into in the first place, and that they are often right there in the muck of it all with other good people, all of them and everyone around them unable to face, much less say, their truth. Instead they can’t figure out how to communicate, so they shut down and numb themselves with the thought that what they’re feeling is normal. I know now that you can bury a feeling with all you’ve got, but it will find a course out into the light.

I’ve realized that the most I can do is try to rectify wrongs and the things I’ve left unsaid, and if I can’t fix them, at least I can acknowledge them. I realize that some things just happen and there isn’t a discernible reason. That coincidence or fate or happenstance are all just words for change and change is inevitable. That some things cannot be prevented; That some things cannot be fixed. That sometimes all you can do is be honest with yourself and those around you, and then hope for the best. That sometimes what you get is not what you might have wanted, but that you might be amazed at and admire how people handle things and what they give back to you. That you end up respecting them more for hearing your truth, and telling you theirs.

I’ve learned that being honest is more valuable than acting out of fear. I’ve learned that fear is often just being scared of hurting those we love, or of losing their love or admiration. That sometimes you find yourself in a mess because you were trying not to hurt or lose others. But when you put honesty out, you will likely get it back tenfold, even if it is painful and scary to hear. And you will know how to proceed. You find a place where you realize that everything will be okay, except when it’s not, and you’ll get through that too, hopefully with some semblance of grace and peace. (And hopefully with more yoga and less wine.)

I’ve learned that all the facades and paths and channels and expectations we are given are just guidelines and that I have to make my own way, because there is no one right way to live, and that my way is truth. When I follow the truth in my head, heart, and gut, the gnawing, sick, churning and burning in my very bones will go quiet and I will know which direction to take.

Truth is, deep down I knew it all along: I just never had it tested in such a complete and totally tectonic plate-shifting way until now.

And so I sat in that gym today, watching my boy walk across the stage and afterwards, I hugged him and told him I loved him, and took his photo out in a sunny courtyard, and I felt a peace and gratitude that I have not felt in a long while. Sure, he’s the best speller. But more importantly, he’s good enough at all the other stuff. And I’m good enough too, even if I am not the most perfect daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, employee. I’m good enough if I actively seek my truth, and support those who seek their own truths, even if they are different than mine.

If you are reading this, and you need to hear it, know this: You are good enough, too.  Just follow your truth.
*Bold, because if he reads this, I want him to see that I was immensely proud of him today, and that he inspired this post, and that I want him to always follow his truth.

Queen of Wands, Death, Ten of Cups: A Prayer

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

IMG_9685May I learn from The Past, but not let it define me.
May I find strength and clarity in The Present.
May I find peace in The Future.

Remembering My Grandfather, On the Eve of His Hundredth Birthday

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

My Grandfather, or “Pop,” as we called him, would turn one hundred years old today if he were still alive. I wrote about him pretty often, even before his death, as he was quite a character. After he passed away in July of 2009, though, I struggled to write about him. I would start writing and then not be able to finish.

I wanted to get it right. I wanted to make sure not to leave anything out. I finally got around to writing about him in December of that year, because I knew I could not let the New Year go by and not document his passing.

I write a lot, and never enough. I am sometimes feast or famine as a writer. I have written over 1,300 posts on this blog since I started it in 2004. Some of them were just to remember things, some of them I felt proud of, as they were poignant, or well-said. Some were funny, I think, others sad or angry. Some were shocking to others. Some even shocked me when they poured out. Some posts I think were complete crap, although I have learned the value of writing simply for the sake of putting words out into the world. It is an exercise in avoiding the pitfalls of perfectionism.

So I wrote Don’t Puppydog It. I was proud of this post about Pop. I don’t say that about much of my writing. Most of my posts are very personal, but this one is, I think, personal and still accessible to other people who grew up with a southern Grandpa, or who sat by someone in the days before they passed, or who watched their grandma get dressed up for Saturday at the small town mall. It’s not very often I feel like I hit any kind of sweet spot in my writing, but this one felt right.  It’s about big things and little things, just like life. The big ones, like death, and heaven, and generations marching on and on. The little things: one man’s funny idiosyncrasies, and how they are passed onto his descendants. I am reminded that they don’t make people like they used to, that we have it so much easier in so many ways. There are little bits of his story that remind me of just how different modern life is compared to the world into which Pop was born in a small town in south Georgia, January of 1916. Pop was as imperfect as they come, but an interesting man, challenging, smart, and funny.

For all his flaws, I loved him very much.

A Sloan Kind of Morning

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

SloanI’ve been listening to so much sad and melancholy music this year, but I think I’m pulling out of it. Not that I will ever stop, because I love the sad and melancholy beauties more than any of the others, but I hear variety is also supposed to be good.

A few things have been a catalyst for this . . .  (more…)

Darkness

Sunday, November 1st, 2015

DarknessSeems fitting for a night such as this. . . I sure do love me some Emily D.

We grow accustomed to the Dark —
When light is put away —
As when the Neighbor holds the Lamp
To witness her Goodbye —

A Moment — We uncertain step
For newness of the night —
Then — fit our Vision to the Dark —
And meet the Road — erect —

And so of larger — Darkness —
Those Evenings of the Brain —
When not a Moon disclose a sign —
Or Star — come out — within —

The Bravest — grope a little —
And sometimes hit a Tree
Directly in the Forehead —
But as they learn to see —

Either the Darkness alters —
Or something in the sight
Adjusts itself to Midnight —
And Life steps almost straight.

– Emily Dickinson

I am a Writer

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Your own reasonsI had an experience lately that got me thinking about my writing and the reasons I write. Disclaimer: I don’t think of what I write as Art; I mean, come on. I’m just not that pretentious. It’s, more than anything, therapeutic, pleasurable, and a gathering of my thoughts. It is an action rather than a result; a trip inside my brain that might come out with a few souvenirs, but is very much about the journey. I feel better and more focused when I write things down. I remember details of my life and experiences more fully when I take the time to type them out. I sometimes feel a compulsion to sit and write things down, to outline and tell the story of the images in my mind. As I am writing them, I usually remember more detail than I thought I could. The small, poignant pieces somehow come into focus, and things that I thought meant very little take on a larger meaning for me. There is a satisfaction in both the swelling flow of words that come out when I sit down and write, and in the exquisite pleasure of finding the perfect word or phrase. I even enjoy going back and editing what I wrote, and those are the times when I read something and realize, “no, it’s not perfect, but this might make it better.” And aren’t we all just trying to find ways to make ourselves a little bit better? There is satisfaction in improvement.

I write for many reasons: To document pleasurable moments, or pretty vignettes, or to make sure that I never forget a story that made me cry with laughter. I sometimes write down stories that were handed down to me from my family; If I don’t write them down, they may be lost. There are stories I don’t want to lose, and some of them don’t even belong to me. I write because I need to, and I want to, and because it almost always makes me feel lighter after doing so. I write about people and places that made an indelible impression on me that I must not forget. I write about loved ones who are gone, because I am afraid that I will forget some precious detail of who they were. And they were human and amazing and funny and weird and insane.

There are many things that I put into writing that do not see the light of day, that are for my eyes and mind only. Sometimes I write and write, and I am proud of something, or I feel that it is scary, but important. I usually put those here on my blog. I also intersperse those with photos, which sometimes speak louder than words, or tell a story without need of words. I used to write even the small things, a joke my daughter made up, or the made up words my son created, thoughts and anecdotes on my blog and I wrote posts every day for many years. These are the things that I find cool, funny, absurd, ironic, or infuriating. Sometimes they are sweet, sometimes they are sour, sometimes they are salty or bitter. Many times now, I will just post these little things to Facebook. I kind of wish I hadn’t started doing that, because honestly, it is easier to post there, and more people see it that way, but it takes away from my content here. I guess blogs are dead. I don’t know. I still have one. I still put words and pictures on it.

The thing about the pieces I write is this: They are always for me. Yes, they might make someone laugh, or cry, or wonder if they are about you, or someone you know. You might wonder why I would put out to the world something so blunt or crass, or delicate or private or flat out embarrassing for others to read. I do it because it makes me feel good, and it is satisfying. Sometimes it is a release. Sometimes it is because I want people to laugh, or cry, or because I feel good about something, or proud of something, or sad about something, or because I thought it was funny or might ring a universal bell. I have a voice. I want to use it. I am a writer. I want people to read what I write. I am not ashamed of that.

So, when I hear that maybe people see some of the things I write as a cry for help, I like to assume that they care about my well-being, and I take a minute to reassure folks that I will be fine. I am not suicidal, and I am feeling positive about working towards making the changes in my life to be happier. People sure are good deep down – they check in on me when I am struggling, and sometimes they share their struggles and I don’t feel so alone.

Some people though, let’s be honest: Some people will kick you when you’re down, just for the goddamn fun of it.

And when I hear that maybe people think that I am just being dramatic and attention-seeking; Well, I’m a writer. I put words out and people can read them or not read them. Whether they like them or not is truly irrelevant. I am a writer, and I will keep on writing. I write for me, and you read for you. You, the reader, are the one who chooses if you want to continue reading what I write. It seems to work okay; It’s a pretty neat system that’s been around for a few thousand years.

In the end, though, it doesn’t matter who reads it. I will continue to write, because it is what I am compelled by my mind, heart, and soul to do: It brings me laughter, joy, release. It makes colors brighter and delicate memories sweeter. It brings loved ones to life again for a moment. It helps me navigate the perilous trails of thought in my mind, and sometimes it tells me which path to take. Writing comforts me, and it sometimes comforts others.  I know this, because sometimes they take the time to write to me, or they pull me aside and talk to me about my writing in real life, and I am not ashamed to say that it makes me happy if someone likes what I read, or finds it thought-provoking, or brave, or crazy, or very sad.

I can think of no better feeling than the feeling of reading something someone else wrote, and knowing just exactly what they mean. There is an awe and balance and satisfying synchronicity to recognizing your own feelings or thoughts or memories in someone else’s words; When someone tells me that they feel exactly the same things that I wrote, that gives me joy and satisfaction.  Writing has made me friends, and at times, it has been my only friend. Writing travels through time and stops the rotation of the earth for a brief moment. It freezes time and distills moments into portraits. Writing is a part of me, and it is a part of me that I sometimes share with the world. It always will be. And if you don’t like my writing, I’m okay with that, too. Because I don’t write for you; I write for me.

I think the author Elizabeth Gilbert puts it a little better. Her book Big Magic is next on my list of books to read. The day after I had this thought-provoking experience, the one that made me think hard and long about what my writing means to me, I came across this quote.  I literally laughed out loud at the joy of the universe presenting me with exactly what I needed to hear at that moment.

Just smile

With love to myself and anyone else who puts themselves out there,

Annie

Stars Gaze Down, Uncaring

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

Night falls

I cry until no tears are left, or so i think;

They keep coming, as hard as I’ve ever cried

or at least in 30 years.

I cry the tears of the girl

who wanted a horse with her soul.

She learned that sometimes you get nothing.

She sought refuge outside; I can’t go in until it is all out of her.

I beg the earth, help me.

I beseech velvet sky

and stars gaze down uncaring.

I sob, turn my palms to the heavens.

Give everything, promise everything

and pray to a god I don’t believe in, just in case.

I plead with god, make the pain stop.

I see myself from above, arms flung open

and I am the Pieta, grieving.

The universe never knew me,

or felt me as I know it, as I feel it.

A breeze blows to me.

Maybe that is you, Universe.

Maybe you feel pain

Maybe you wipe tears.

Perhaps there is nothingness.

I feel nothing and everything.

I am broken, more shattered than i have ever been.

My back is snapped and my neck at unnatural angles,

My face bears scars,

Yet I gaze up, still in wonder, at the stars, and a purple sky,

Still curious, how it goes on forever.

At the mercy of a Universe,

I wonder who will tell me I am only bent, not broken.

Eastertide

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

Easter, '76

Eastertide
We wake, search in Holly Hobby nightgowns.
Daddy says, “I’m gonna bite his head right off.”
Chocolate bunnies are hollow.

Real chicks, pink, purple, green.
“Your sister is allergic to rabbits.”
Green plastic grass sticks to feet
As the dog sits in pastel tinfoil pieces.

Azalea, Forsythia, Dogwood
Lenten Rose and Daffodils.
“Jonquils,” Mama says.

Yellow Easter dresses, white tights.
No white before Memorial Day.
Scrape those black patent-leather soles.
White plastic straw hat, elastic itches

Dorothy Hamill shags
and gap-toothed grins
Smiling for the picture
Sisters side by side

Here is the church and the steeple.
Voices rise together.
“Raise your joys and triumphs high.
Sing ye heavens, and earth reply.”

Gaze, girl, up at sanctuary lights
like wrought iron gazebos.
One day you’ll be sixteen.
One day a mother and take home a lily.

Out into the light
Squint in the sun
Prismatic technicolor Spring
Too brilliant to last.