Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Friday, October 7, 2011
I have been considering the tactics I’ve employed in the past to make improvements to my life and how effective they were. One idea I really went for as a young adult was that of REINVENTION. Looking up to Bowie and Madonna and anyone else who could create a new persona at the drop of a hat, I decided early that if I didn't like it, I should change it. New hair, new dude, new job, new apartment, new city, all equaled new attitude. I mean, I didn't know if I'd like it unless I tried it, right? Also a selling point of reinvention is running away from the old me. With every new relationship/living situation, there was an opportunity to start completely clean, to distance myself from all the mistakes I had made, to recreate myself from what I learned from all the flubs. I chalked this all up as part of being young and adventurous and carefree and all that.
As I grew older, the reinvention principle became exhausting. I picked a guy and a job for the long haul. And having both for over a decade showed me the amazing benefits of applying patience and time to your endeavors. Long term commitment can provide trust and security and solace and predictability and ease. I was no longer running away from my mistakes; I learned from them without divorcing myself from the person capable of screwing up. I let my guard down knowing that I had a secure foundation and took comfort in not worrying about the perils of finding new employment and suitors and friends and housing and all the stress and mental negotiating that such situations can bring.
Fast forward to moving to Chicago recently. My skills at going it alone were pretty rusty and were being managed by the brain of an anxious middle aged broad. I once again became enthralled with the idea of reinvention and the high that it can provide. The last few years have been a fantastic learning experience and I’ve really stretched my notions about what’s possible when you put your mind to it. But I’ve also noticed a marked increase in some not so winning aspects of my personality that are seriously exacerbated by being a solo act... I am impatient, impulsive, irrational and make the snappiest of snap judgments. My iPhone isn't fast enough, I want to punch aimless people on the moving walkway in the head, I want everyone and everything to react yesterday, I take every quiet moment as an opportunity to write my own version of what’s going on instead of just waiting for time to unfold the details... everything that's not to my liking is a waste of time and a SURE sign I should be on a different path. It leads my BFF to make comments ranging from, “There’s really no harm in waiting before you do anything" to “Jack McCoy would not approve of your conjecture” to “Holy crap, I’m glad you don’t have access to the nuclear codes”, depending on the situation. (no shit, she has made all these brillliant/hilarious observations, that’s why she remains on staff) I fantasize about new relationships and jobs and apartments and cities to live…..all the while losing sight of what’s great about what’s currently going on. I guess it’s same escapism employed by dudes ignoring their significant others to look at porn….the great unknown allows you to think that unchartered person/job/apartment/city won’t be rife with the current bullshit you’re dealing with….you could start over in a bigger, better production of your life, starring the new and improved you. But I've taken to reminding myself that every aspect of life has inevitable ups and downs, just as if our porn loving friends REALLY got with Amber Lynn, she would have days she'd lose her come hither face and tell them to take out the trash already.
This bigger picture became clear to me while I was rewriting a story I wrote last year, lamenting to myself and anyone else who would listen, "But I'm not that person anymore!"...the person in question had projected all of her fears into her body image. I was annoyed that evidence of "that person" existed, when I should have been celebrating who I've become instead....a slightly more confident, slightly less anxious
gal, ever clawing her way up Maslow's pyramid.
Is this is to say that I’m sticking on the horse I’m currently riding forever? No. I can’t really see growing old on the El train living by an airport. But I guess the point of this reflection is to say that perhaps nothing is a waste of time….everything takes exactly as long as it should, even if it seems to end abruptly without my permission or drag on endlessly. And it's completely fine to not have a plan, opting to let the universe and the test of time and careful consideration dictate what should be changed instead of constantly acting on every whim and always trying to get the world to bend to my will.
Thanks for the blog support....let's all get incrementally happier together, shall we?
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Greetings from Nonsense Headquarters on a sweltering Chicago day. It's 94 degrees at 5 in the afternoon but I won't bitch because before we know it, I'll be putting on long underwear and cursing the day I made Chicago my home. This summer has been the usual overwhelming parade of excess, lots of food, friends, music, laughter, drinking, carousing, and rear ending of police cars. I've had more fun in the last few months than I have had in a long, long time. I'm surrounded by great friends, I've discovered my artistic side, I've found someone who makes me laugh that I want to spend all my time around. I have a job that pays all my bills with enough left over to fund my silly whims, a job that affords me the ability to travel and a lot of time off. I have my health, which eluded me for awhile; in fact I'm in pretty good shape for someone who is often powered on wine and salty snacks and ice cream. So WHY do I wake up in the morning feeling like Courtney Love after she consumed a mojito made with minty fresh bleach?
A few hypotheses:
Hormones! You boys might want to sit this paragraph out, although if you're straight, it might help you understand your loved one, if you're gay, you've probably heard all of this before, even if you spent girls night with your fingers jammed in your ears. I was never a big PMS sufferer, but in case your mama didn't tell you, menopause is much like the asteroid in Armageddon: a vicious life sucking bitch from which there is no escape. You definitely feel like your emotions are on one of those mechanical bull rides and you're just holding on for dear life, trying not to hurt yourself or anyone else until the ride stops. I don't have any answers or miracle cures besides the tried and true: just eat the Reeses or take a nap or watch ten episodes of Arrested Development or do whatever makes you feel better, whether it seems logical or not.
Years of Denial! I spent a good part of my life living in situations that ranged from just okay to completely untenable, all the while telling myself everything was fine, perhaps because I didn't think I deserved for things to be better. Telling yourself it will be fine is an effective temporary method of self preservation, but as time marches on, your bad feelings have nowhere to go. Once you're filled with toxic energy, it's hard to get yourself cleaned up again….you're pretty much soaking in it, Madge. All the antidepressants pills in the world will just make you not feel anything anymore and will make a lot of intolerable situations "fine". I'm not against psychotropic drugs… I think they are very effective if prescribed properly for people who really need them. But I often feel if I'd just allowed myself to be pissed off instead medicated, I would have seen things more clearly sooner. I was recently asked to rewrite a story I read earlier this year, a piece that started as a funny story of meeting someone for casual sex. As I edited it and was forced to make cuts to all the superfluous material, I found that the jokes were all on the cutting room floor and I was forced to face the fact that often comedy is a shield. I enjoy making people laugh and I intend never to lose my snarky edge, but I've recognized that humor and pain go hand and hand and it's completely acceptable to own up to your fears and insecurities without always having to make yourself the butt of a joke.
But the simple answer as to why I'm crabby for no apparent reason: It's a bad habit. One I'm seriously trying to break. So what's the plan to shed the cranky pants? Surround myself with smart, kind people who love me and treat them the way they deserve to be treated. Take good care of myself and my circle, absorbing all the wonderful things life has to offer and recognize that some days and some people just suck ass, but they aren't part of the permanent landscape. And cutting myself a break when I am cranky, because to be cranky every so often is to be alive. And those Reeses aren't going to eat themselves, dammit.
Saturday, July 9, 2011
Long time, no nonsense. I've been enjoying a beautiful Chicago summer, although my top floor apartment with only one air conditioner is a bit sticky. A fine excuse to be out and about testing the limits of my deodorant on a regular basis. I'm pleased to report that life is treating me well, full of ups and downs as any life fully lived should be. Wednesday night of this last week I read at Reading Under The Influence at Sheffield's here in Chicago, which was my first foray into fiction writing. Telling a five minute story is a challenge, for me at least, but the fiction part was really entertaining as I didn't rely on my memory to put the story together. While I was out and about I fielded a lot of questions on what I plan to do with my writing. Interesting question, too bad I don't have an amazing answer. The truth is I never really believed I'd do anything with it, really. I do plan to write more autobiographical stories, hopefully performing them with 2nd Story or other organizations like them; the performing aspect allows for instant feedback that sitting at a desk typing does not. I can't really see writing for a living as I fear it would take all the fun out of it, although I certainly fantasize about it after my millionth eye roll in response to my request to put your damn tray table up, already. I guess I entered the world of writing with no expectations….so every great thing that's happened has been gravy, every disappointment a learning experience.
Which leads me to relationships…..a staple here at the blog. The crashpad family had a fire pit meeting a few months back where we did what we do best, talked ad nauseum about the world's problems, all solvable thanks to those who make and distribute wine. We were deep in discussion about what to expect from other people, both in romantic and friendship arenas, when I said, "What if you don't expect anything? What if you just concentrated on your end of the love equation?" My BFF laughed and said something to the effect of "Well that's probably impossible and certainly insane." Quite possible. But it got me thinking…..what if you just offered your heart without prejudice, using common sense and good judgment of course, and just gave up on worrying about demands, requirements, wishes, desires, wants, assumptions, presumptions, suppositions, etc. (Thanks, thesaurus!) What if you just let it all go and just went with an overall feeling of HOPE…..every great thing that happens interpersonally is gravy, every disappointment a learning experience. I'm not saying such a thing is easy, but difficult things often reap the most reward. Plus think of all the extra time you'd have on your hands if you didn't have to worry about what everyone else in your life was going to do and how it was going to affect you? Shit, with that kind of time I could finally watch Friday Night Lights….clear eyes, full hearts CAN'T LOSE, people! Not to mention cute boys half my age. MEOW.
Below is the story from RUI…..special thanks to Cynthia, Ouida, Scott, and Professor Don for being my outside eye on this one. And many thanks to those who came to the show…I know Chicago has a million things to do in the summer, or you could be working. I'm honored by your support…I offer it in return, optimally without expectation.
"That's fine. I just want to watch the game," he mutters while trying to light another generic cigarette. His ashtray is filled with butts as I've given up on trying to keep it empty.
It's another day shift at the dive bar. A cloud of smoke blankets us in filthy air and obscures our ability to see much of anything clearly. I survey the street outside through the haze. Why do dive bars have windows? You're there to escape reality, any reminders of it seem cruel, or at least unnecessary. And you certainly don't want reality seeing YOU there. I turn my attentions back to the patrons, whose glasses are all half empty according my current level of optimism.
"Another Dickel, Frank?" I look at him with a questioning face, as if there was any other answer besides the affirmative. He stubs out his cigarette and nods, his yellow fingers circle the glass as I pour, his hands shake as he takes the first sip. I try not to think about what Frank does when he's not sitting at my bar. He drives an airport shuttle. If only his fear-of –flying riddled passengers knew that their ride to the dreaded airplane was in the quivering hands of someone who can't get through the day without a steady stream of cheap whiskey. I try not to let this truth about him make my head explode. Since I haven't let my bartending job define me, I decide to extend Frank the same courtesy. There are a bunch of other regulars at the bar, not staying a full shift like Frank, but coming and going, getting a buzz on and staring at the television. They all prefer Lana, the other day bartender, to me, as Lana brings a certain magic to the joint with her brown lipstick and tight jeans, and she wraps everyone around her finger with the fine art of giggling. Her fake smile is more genuine than mine; her small talk is bigger. During my shifts, the bar is mostly quiet; I sense that the lack of chatter makes us all a bit uneasy. But in the end, everyone still appears to be getting what they need.
Pete, one of the regulars, interrupts my judgmental meditation to ask for change for the jukebox.
"You know the rules, Pete," I say, handing him the singles. " NO ROY ORBISON. Things are gloomy enough around here." He nods, and laughs, and punches in B21. Stevie Wonder's "Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing". Pete may have telepathy.
I see the night bartender, John, walk in. Ah, sweet relief. I start doing my closing duties, making sure everyone has a fresh drink and clean ashtray. I count the till, I bank face my tips in a small attempt to control what's positive about this gig. John has a strange expression as he ties on his apron and comes behind the bar. I wave my hand through his million mile stare.
I'd just seen her on the street the day before, pushing her toddler in a stroller on her way to make the bank deposit for the dry cleaners she and her husband Matt owned. She had only the sunniest expressions to offer the world and her clothes smelled of dryer sheets, in staunch opposition to my smoky, sulky stink.
"She died in her sleep last night," John says. "Some kind of brain embolism. I just saw Matt's brother outside the cleaners. Matt woke up this morning and she was just laying there next to him, dead."
Amanda looked like she never worried about a thing. Amanda had nothing to worry about, assumedly. She just smiled at her perfect life; she didn't waste her time judging people. And I bet not once in her short but perfect life did she ever drink alone.
As Neil croons "See the losers in the best bars…Meet the winners in the dives…where the people are the real stars….all the rest of their lives", I sit down and say,
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
They meet cute online, where loneliness is all you have in common. Sometimes that's enough. It's mid December and 'tis the season to feel badly about being alone. She sets up a profile to find a man, inadvertently adding an extra digit to her minimum age for a desired mate, leaving her cruising cyberspace for a man four hundred and one years or older. He suggests that perhaps she is being a bit too ageist and should just settle for someone who enjoys Renaissance Fairs. Witty banter ensues. They talk on the phone, mostly about his work and his family. She finds his attitudes to be vastly unspoiled, often in staunch opposition to her cynical sensibilities. He is attractive and kind and leads a clean life, a consummate catch on paper. But it is not meant to be, she is a city girl, he lives in the woods. Sure, opposites attract, but this isn't practical. Did I mention she is lonely? They agree to meet in the city closest to him, about eighty miles from his wooded retreat. They eat lunch and make small talk. After, the kind of scene transpires that happens when people haven't been touched by another in awhile and they may never see each other again. He invites her to the woods for a visit. She agrees. She'd like to see how the other half lives. She comes to find out they live a tranquil existence filled with birds warbling, smells of homemade pie, and unconditional canine adoration. She could get used to this. She returns to the city, but continues to visit the woodsman. She meets his family at his birthday gathering. Pictures are taken and funny stories and pleasantries are exchanged. Although their conversations remain light and insubstantial, there is a certain intimacy derived from cooking and eating together. That combined with quixotic fantasies of her youth and a nesting instinct derived from the comfortable surroundings make her feel like she should be in love with him. She exudes that "I'm ready to take that next step" aura, even though she's not. He walks two feet ahead of her in public. It's not meant to be, she tells him officially. He is too far away, we are too different, we are old dogs, there are no new tricks. She turns her sights back to the city.
They continue to email on occasion, mostly small talk regarding life's ins and outs and what's for dinner. The kind of chat that you cherish when you are dating. She presses on with looking for love in the city. She makes rapturous speeches about how the woodsman is not her soul mate as he is too staid for an urban wildflower like herself. Her mother remarks after seeing his picture, "I don't know, honey. He looks good and you're not getting any younger." After a period of quiescence, he returns to her email box, asking a routine favor, which she obliges. He thanks her with tickets to a show in his town. She figures, why not? Did I mention she is lonely? She shows up with a new attitude, this time she's just here to get out of the city. He tackles her for a kiss in the grocery store on the way home from the airport. Indifference proves to be an intoxicating cologne. She enjoys spring colors, meat killed with a bow and arrow, petting furry friends, and small town musical theater.
And for awhile, it's all quiet on the communication front yet again. He reappears in the email inbox fortuitously while she is in the midst of self doubt and anxiety about her first half marathon that she is scheduled to run the next day. She doubts herself; she's not sure she can do it. He assumes she has diligently trained, which she has. He tells her she should stop being concerned and start giving herself credit for the hard work she's done. The outcome of the race is immaterial. She runs it in record time.
She gets caught up in the sultry splendor of summer in the city and turns another year older. In discussing the celebrations a few days after, he remarks, "I didn't know it was your birthday". Of course he didn't. She's not his girlfriend. She keeps looking in the city.
Christmas comes yet again with all its pageantry and caroling and gatherings and loneliness. She suggests they meet when she comes to his closest big city on a shopping trip, as she needs to deck the halls and purchase gay apparel. 'Tis the season for merriment and food and festivities and family. Or whatever you can throw together to fill the void. They share a fancy French dinner at an upscale hotel and make small talk about his work and his family and even though they're not dating, it's pleasant enough. Sometimes it's nice to pretend to be something that you're not around the holidays. Afterwards, there's the kind of encounter you have at Christmastime in an upscale hotel when it's been awhile and you've stopped believing in Santa Claus. The season of giving casts a spell that causes them to make plans for her to visit the woods once again.
The New Year's tarriance is quiet and restorative. There are sing-alongs at the piano and soups from scratch and the sounds of the creek outside the window. It's all deliciously conventional and she thinks perhaps someday there could be more than small talk. At the airport before returning to the city, she assures him she will let him know when she makes it home safely. He replies, "Just tell me when you're coming back". A hint of romance from the usually stoic woodsman.
She is back in the city and thinks not of the woodsman. She thinks only of her city life, a life that is rich and fulfilling and does not require the love of a man. She comes to realize that being romantic is a characteristic, a personality trait, like being agreeable or thoughtful or neurotic. It's not a product of the right two people together. Eureka! She realizes she's not being rejected by the world; she's just not finding those who are romantic in their nature. She makes grand declarations about how powerful it is to be a woman. About how important it is to be on your own, to realize your own strengths, to make your own decisions, to forge your own path. She receives amazing feedback from friends and strangers alike, thanking her for her courage and inspiration. Her college boyfriend tells her he hopes his daughters grow up to be like her, independent and smart and thoughtful and witty. On the outside, she is fearless and empowered. On the inside, she is still an empty shell. She feels like a fraud. She yearns for peace and quiet, both inside her mind and outside her window.
The woodsman is insistent that she come to visit again. It will be good for her to relax and take a break from city life. She concurs. He emails and calls, bringing his best and most interested self yet to the equation. But the numbers haven't changed. Again she wonders if perhaps there is a bridge to be built over such a large gap. She envisions them making a fire, making dinner, making love.
She is to call him to finalize the arrangements for her impending visit, but the call must be postponed. She must call her brother back, a minor family emergency has occurred. She lets the woodsman know that they will talk when she gets it sorted out. Later on the phone, he remarks, "You never talk about your family. I forgot you had a brother". She decides to make other plans in the city.
It ends, just as it began, with an email. Let's not do this, it can't work, the scheduling is too difficult, we're too different, it's just not possible. Let's keep in touch and stay friends. It was fun while it lasted, best of luck to you. A small talk conclusion hides the bigger feelings that never came to the surface on either side.
She continues to look in the city. Not for love, not for romance, but for connection. She surveys the faces of passersby, wondering what their lives are like, wondering what is to become of the rest of her life. She goes to work and enjoys the company of friends. She runs errands and goes to social events. She wonders if this is all there is. She envisions a quiet place of her own, perhaps with the unfaltering love of an animal companion. She puts her dance card back on the table and smooths out its tattered edges. The woodsman may not have told her he loved her, but he did. And she loved him in return. And she learned to stop being concerned, to give herself credit for all she's done and that the outcome of the race is immaterial. She makes no plans for the rest of the race, except to finish strong.
Monday, April 25, 2011
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Words for the Waltz by Kary Wayson (commissioned for the Roethke Readings)
All night long I've resisted his help.
What is the opposite of fast?
Forcing a kid who's throwing a fit
--you standing thing you never sit!
You'll run us all aground!-- Help
just like this: to get us
But this kid kicks when you pick her up so
there: throw her down.
--and we have arrived. We have
arriven. My minions
push down the plank of my neck
We stand on four legs like a makeshift table
until all hell's dispatched.
So into the itch! Into the thicket!
The careful course is cast.
We make emotional revisitings.
On the hills of impassioned ants.
Snail snail glister me forward
bird my back to the wall.
God begot me from my father
and delivered the hospital home.
All day long I've resisted that red
while I tried to make it match.
I've taken the ax of my effort like a paddle
and I'm hacking at the shadows
of my feet.
I've taken the ax of my effort like a paddle
and I'm dragging this raft
through a lake
made of concrete.
Oh hell, oh well. Admit
you made a mess.
Now you must tear up the carpet.
Now you must repaint the walls.
The color says nothing but there is a judgement:
everything but the garbage can must go.
Often stranded in the middle of a feeling the feeling
of wanting so many is more.
Snail snail glister me forward trail the trailing
Think of it! A sycophant!
A guttersnipe! A gripe!
Good help has rivers
filled with fish--sidelong pickerel
smiles. Would with the river and would
with the fish. His red face
the same from behind.
All day long I've insisted on help.
In the basement
I'm like a bad cramp.
The sun is against me the moon would not have me
my tantrum matches the lamp.
of my effort
like a paddle
and I'm hacking
at the shadow
of my throat.
I have taken the ax
of my effort
like a paddle
and I'm dragging
through a hole
in my boat.
There's a mirror
next to the window and a window
on the wall. Smile, he says
in the middle of the fuss. Eat it.
"Twas a lovely dive, my lively dove
What's winter for? To remember love.
Good help has daughters
just like this: "My father
God help us daughters just like this:
I with no rights in this matter.
The body's a closet
with cats in the back.
The seas's grown woolen
and white. I am
his consolable widow
bigger than wife.
Kary has two books of fabulous works, Dog and Me, and American Husband. She is also foxy and a super nice person.
After conceding to give
Stephen King another try,
Well into Salem’s Lot,
You were excited by the character of the priest,
His sense of loss,
Living in an era with no clear lines
Between black and white,
No tangible demons to kill.
So much we could have talked about
But I had to quibble
With the idea of one era versus another,
With the idea of black and white,
With the concept of demons.
King was smart enough to hand
What you needed
I could have said something useful
Or I could have just listened.
Instead I talked polemics
And killed that life-saving conversation
As I did so many times before
Danny is a friend of a friend, and although I don't read Stephen King, the self awareness of this poem speaks volumes.
If you're of a mind, discover a new poem before April is over. I'll be back with more original nonsense soon.