Tuesday, August 31, 2010

the fall is me.

just a moment ago i felt fall coming. every year in late august i realize something is different than last month, or even last week. fall is quiet, nostalgic, hopeful. i was conceived in the fall. the season becomes me.

my family lived on carpenter street until i left for college and then some, in the house with grey shingles and a deck built by my dad, painted this color:an odd color, i always thought. maybe it was mom's idea, along with the flower-adorned wall sconces, porcelain nicknacks, crystal candy dishes, napkin rings to match every season, the framed print of a doe-eyed italian girl holding a basket of fruit...mom says she looks like me, but that's no reason to hang her on the wall. i have always said mom, you have too much stuff. and she always says, well you just aren't a girl. i am her girl, though. her baby. that's what she tells me any time she's close enough to pull me against her chest and squeeze me tight as can be and sway back and forth and then tell me you are too thin, there's nothing to you, even though i've been this thin for years.

in fall, behind the house where i grew up, i would jump into piles of leaves. not in our yard, because we didn't have but a tiny, narrow patch. it was mrs. marchio's. she made the best homemade pizza and was the grandmother of my best neighbor-friend, vicki, with the thick black bangs, the dimpled chin, and irises darker than any other i've yet to see. we scooped and piled leaves – were they oak or maple? – from the tree with the thick, split trunk that my beagle, cujo, used to climb. it was right next to the flimsy fence that separated mrs. marchio's yard from the schroeders, whose huge, grassy yard i coveted all through my childhood. sometimes our pile of leaves was still damp with dew or leftover rain, but we'd jump in anyway.

do kids still jump in leaves? i never see it. these days kids don't stay kids for long. not nearly long enough. it seems enduring childhoods are a thing of the past. of my past, thankfully. i had a childhood sweet as the pixie sticks and peanut butter logs vicki and i would pick from the candy shelf in the old, dim, one-room neighborhood store with the wooden floors – was it called wagner's or H&T? i can't remember. i know this much – that long-ago innocence is still a part of me. someday, when i find the nerve, i'll thank my parents for always asking where i was going and who i was with, and for saying no more than they said yes. it's what kept my head in the sky and my toes in the dirt.

all that exists between ground and sky — emails, cell phones, gossip, deadlines, credit cards, red tape, word isn't bond, love isn't real, fake sugar, fake boobs, brand names ...i want so much less of all of that, and so much more of the sky and the dirt. the real stuff. the good stuff.

this fall i'm gonna jump in a pile of leaves, for the first time since carpenter street. i wonder who'll come with me.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

away message.

today the shades were down and the lights, off. the comforter was billowy and the pillow, softest-soft. the week was far away. i felt far away.

no emails. no six-mile run. a full cup of coffee went cold. laundry, unfolded. questions, unresolved. phone, unanswered. the world went on. the day went on, simple and lovely.

how good it is to slip away but go nowhere.

Monday, August 16, 2010

black, in blue.

some people won't get my blog. i realized that recently. well, i knew it all along, but it's one of those things you forget you know until you're reminded of it.

hey. hey you, whoever you are: i don't need you to save me. my fingers almost seized up just typing those words, they're so ridiculous. save me from what? myself? i'm my biggest ally. what is going on? communication has broken down somewhere on the side of an abandoned road in a ghost town. between the internet and texting, no one knows what anyone is saying anymore. psst – we never really know.

if you've ever studied linguistics, you'll know that when it comes to how we talk to each other, grammar and all its evil minions are not to be bothered with. say whatever you want, however you want. this is what i learned from dr. connor, my linguistics professor. he had a wicked irreverence and liked egg salad sandwich and guinness for lunch. i knew because i served it to him at the blue moose, my job through and after college. my favorite job ever, to this day. i still see dr. connor on my visits to morgantown. he calls me "kiddo," and if we both have time, we sit and talk about life. he was actually my second linguistics professor, because the first time around, beady-eyed Professor By-The-Book gave me no choice but to drop... not counting the other choice, which was to finish. but no way was i giving him 50 minutes, 3 days a week. i never could understand those kids who took college soo seriously...never skipping or dropping or walking in late, always taking pages of notes and making piles of index cards. study groups were at the top of my list of things to avoid — why would i want hanging out to be work? people are so weird. i took college as seriously as i take politicians and people who wear sunglasses indoors. actually, college was the only time in my life that i knew what i was doing while i was doing it. i was taking it seriously enough. and guess who still graduated with honors. i bet all those star students, at this very moment, are screwing their secretaries or mailmen to escape the misery of their perfectly ordered lives.

dr. connor said "anything goes." my blog is no exception. i say what i want. and while i hope people get it, some won't. the next best thing is to never again run face-first into the worst kind of misapprehension, the way i did recently. i'm not looking to be saved. i'm just...looking. and writing about it. however i want.

if dr. connor were here, he'd say way to go, kiddo.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

ouch, my existential is broken.

life is trying to bust my balls. you're all alone, and everywhere you stand is quicksand, it says. be afraid. but i refuse. i will not be afraid – of being alone or far away from my family or out of money. what i will be, however, is angry. vengeful, perhaps. how dare life slap me around when all i do is TRY. try to make work better, life better, relationships better. and when they can't be better, i stop trying. not on the first or second or third try. i don't know how many it takes. for me, trying is long and enduring. that reminds me of pablo neruda, who wrote, "love is short. forgetting is so long." it's true, but i haven't been in love for years. in like, yes. pissed off, insulted, and perplexed about how it always ends? you bet your ass. and that's bad enough, but thank god it's not worse. so right now the state of my life is more like this: fulfillment is short. trying is so long.

what is it with this imbalance life is doling out? people who try to do the right thing are supposed to be fulfilled, aren't they? no, no. i know better. "supposed to" should be removed from the lexicon. if we couldn't say that phrase anymore...well, nevermind. we'd simply find another way of saying it. humans are masters of circumvention. well, some of us. others give in, which is different – and i'd say, less productive – than giving up. put it this way: giving in to an unfulfilling job/romance/friendship/house/city/thought/anything = goodbye, options. i'd rather give up the old, create the new. scary and sacrificial as it may be. why do we treat metaphysical pain any differently than physical? if a feeling feels wrong, for a long time, then it's the wrong feeling. mend it. not all the parts of it, but the whole. or the hole. sew it up.

today, for the first time in my 42 months of shouldistayorshouldigo, i told myself that i am ready to give up on memphis. if need be, i mean. at this point i dare life or myself or the wind or the mailman to give me one good, it-is-definitely-worth-this-struggle reason to stay.

double dare. game on.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

me, myself, and why.

last week i intended to finish the book i'm still editing this week. and the week before, i intended to get serious about coming up with a strategy for my next move. in life, i mean. not in physical space. but maybe that, too. these days my requirements for a new city include a trader joe's and an active harley davidson community. food and meat. what else does a girl need? anyhow, this week i intended to finish this book by...yesterday...it's still yesterday somewhere, isn't it? today i intended to pay my home depot bill, and not give a shit. about whatever it was that i was giving a shit about but shouldn't. here's where i should say something about roads to hell.

on one of my trips to west virginia i ran into an old friend who said, "wow, you're an editor—you're so successful!" she's right. i edit magazines and books—thus, i am an editor. i drink coffee every single morning and always wipe from front to back and without fail refrain from sex on the first date (dates mean being picked up in a car, not in a bar, right?)—thus, i am successful. thank god for syntactical and semantic loopholes. here's where i should say something about fool me once.

a while back, a friend told me that at our age life is no longer about the family we had growing up, it's about the family we have with our partners and children. wait, what? i have no partner or children—so what is my life about? just me? isn't that selfish? yup. gloriously selfish. if you take apart the word, it literally means "like a self." can't argue with that. i haven't been an "us" or a "we"—i have been a self. a miniature tornado of a self—shredding every manicured plan that got in my way. now i wish i would've done more damage. i should've moved at least 2 more times, had 5 more boyfriends, quit 3 or 4 more jobs. here's where i should say something about if i had only known then.

i've been 34 for 3 weeks and one day. i've noticed that i can no longer escape my own perspicacity. it creeps up on me all the time, even before i've had coffee. audacious, right? it tells me the glory of selfishness fades with age. it does. well, it does when you know for sure which things you shouldn't live without. i can't live without seeing my family at least twice a year. at least. seeing the ocean or a lake once every summer. having a pretty, grassy yard with a garden. dinners out with my friends. kisses—the kind from a man who knows what he wants, too. can't have any of these things without settling down a little. a little, i said. as in not a lot. i can swing that. here's where i should turn on some old country music and get ready for the sweetest dreams.

Monday, August 9, 2010

meet me in the middle.

it was all beginnings that began in the middle.

i wrote that years ago, in a poem. as poetry goes, it was a way of saying what i was thinking without ever saying it outright. any poet worth her salt would never use the words "fear" or "confusion" or "pain". mind you, writers are taught to show rather than tell. it turns out beautifully on the page. for practiced writers, at least. it makes me wonder if that lesson is just as beautiful in real life, because there are moments when i wish i could live as i write.

i've been thinking about endings and beginnings – they're one in the same. and as soon as i think i've met one, i'm fearful. they are abrupt, ugly. i'd rather light the match, and run. it comes with its own set of problems, never knowing if the bridge has burned. i never know what's next, or what may catch up to me, until i run right into it. in that way, just like my poem said, i am always beginning in the middle. when i wrote that poem, my professor quoted rainer maria rilke on my paper. i can't remember what he said, nor can i find the paper. when i looked for the quote online today, i found this:

It is a tremendous act of violence to begin anything. I am not able to begin. I simply skip what should be the beginning.
- rainer maria rilke

i didn't look any further, because the other quote didn't matter. rilke has been quiet for 85 years, but that didn't matter either. someone else knew the same thing about beginnings as i knew, and that was enough. few things are ever enough.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

there is no better.

today, while i should've been working, my mind was wandering like a little bee, and landed on a piece of paper thumb-tacked to my desk, with these words:

when we know better, we do better.

this is what maya angelou says. i'm sure she meant it in a pretty, lofty way...which is why it's been hanging on my desk for years. but lately i started thinking about it, and that pretty, lofty phrase started looking more like an ugly, imposing monolith, telling me i should be...contained. how uninspired you are, maya angelou. if everyone went through life "knowing better," there would be no happy accidents. there would be no me. i was born of an accident. knowing better isn't in my genes.

to "know" means to discern, and "better" is one of those words that only exists because of what it is not — better is not worse. so, to know better you also have to know worse. then, according to maya angelou, you will do better instead doing worse. and that reeks of all sorts of things that make me itch.

better is just a word, and words don't mean anything in and of themselves – they're stand-ins. at some point in history every word has been designated to signify a concept or thought or sound, so we can communicate with each other...sort of?...comprehension notwithstanding, i guess. in the generally accepted connotation of "better," i have almost never done better. i could let it make me feel bad, and i have at times. when i'm reminded of things i want but don't have, i imagine what life would be like if i had always done better. it would be uninspired.

so i think i'll take maya off my desk. i don't think she's wrong, i just think she's wrong for me.
some people go about their lives "knowing better." they are the ground. other people live by following their instincts, their heart, their tail, whatever it may be. they are the sky. i like it that way.

Monday, August 2, 2010

this charming man.

every once in a while i find gifts in my email inbox. they are messages from old friends. it could be weeks or months or even years between our talks, and it doesn't matter. some people are easy to know, and i've been lucky to know many of them in all my years hopscotching the right-hand side of the country. it's always a good day when i hear from the people who have colored my past...and sometimes even the ones who made it darker. it can take a while to find the light in it, but i usually do.

recently i talked with a more-than-a-decade-old friend. the night we met, the very minute before we met, i walked up to his bottom-floor apartment in one of those shoulda-been condemned houses, and i sang through the box fan in the living room window. it was the lone flawless moment of the night. in the hours to follow, i was as ugly as the house he lived in. i wish the beer was to blame, but it was just me being me. he told me years later what he thought of me that night, but i don't think it was very good, so i pretend that i forget. for the first month or two of knowing him, he had hair like morrissey. then he cut it, and then he fell for me, and i for him, and everything went the way of the birds in winter. we were young enough that it didn't matter. we had years to mess up and start over. and we have. he's a daddy now. when i see pictures of him with his baby, it's one of those moments when feeling happy for someone else makes you feel warmer than you could ever explain. it's magical. one day, during one of our email talks, he told me he could never understand why i'm still single, because he thinks i'm "like a box full of stars, or some sort of phenomena like that." it was one of the sweetest things anyone has ever said. and it makes me remember that old friends are precious, even if they'll always be far away and unseen.

i am a lucky girl.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

my kingdom, for a kiss.

today was fine. not the so-so or okay kind of fine. the pure kind. calm and quiet. i spent hours sewing flowers from old fabric and putting a waistband into a skirt that used to be a dress. i mopped the floors and made sure the towel above the bathroom sink hung evenly. i spent a little while – or a long while? – thinking about the possibilities of last week, today, tomorrow, this year. i've noticed, on days like today, even my what ifs have a way of knowing how to behave. a little while ago i made a video of my house to send to my dad, so he'll know where his little girl sleeps and eats and spends most of her days...i played with my dogs...they're taking turns looking out the window at me right now. it's good to be loved. it's another fine thing. if anyone asked, i would tell them nothing happened today, and it would be true.

i wanted to sit on my swing in the backyard and write, except i forgot to turn off the sprinkler earlier and now it's a muddy mess. it's not the first time. probably not the last. i have better things to remember, like calling my grandmother once a week.


the main ingredient in that dessert recipe i want to look up one of these days...
knowing jeff buckley was thinking of shakespeare when he wrote "my kingdom for a kiss upon her shoulder"...
anything that happened all those times i should've brought my camera but didn't...
the way his lips gather right before he smiles...

if i ever have a perfect day, it will be on a sunday.