Saturday, January 26, 2013

inner punk, outer muppet.

oh, man. ohmanohmanohman. is it a knot? like a crush on a cute boy. or a burn? like extreme hunger. or a tiny muse? who takes up sudden residence in my upper belly region. whatever it is, it's impossible to ignore. so here i am, writing. and today it's courtesy of a facebook friend posting about identity, about her frustration with how it is cultivated and presented and misconstrued and misappropriated.

and i found myself commenting in my head, about my own identity:

i am a writer. an editor. a mom. a single mom. a pit-bull owner. a runner. a food-label reader. a west virginian. a former sorta-memphian. one-time south beach girl. past new yorker. way-amateur seamstress, jewelry-maker, collagist. wannabe forgiver. master verbal pugilist. habitually abrupt. habitual self-improver. one-day author. sister. daughter. cousin. friend. coffee craver. thinker. analyzer. challenger. challenge seeker. fairness fixator. fence rider. all-day-long daydreamer. better in theory. a work-in-progress in practice.

identity is like language:  it has no meaning in and of itself. it means only what we decide it means. identity is a collection of labels you apply to yourself or others apply to you. (a collection, that is, unless your labels are so few as to not warrant collection. then you could identify as boring, and that would give you at least one more label.) like language, identity is powerful — and only so bc of the qualities we ascribe to it.

i'm a girl steeped in identity. instead of donning a punk-rock biker jacket covered in patches, i wear my labels safety-pinned to my mind. when i lose one, its absence leaves a bare spot, sometimes eventually re-covered; other times, left bare. in high school i was the prettiest girl in school (by votes, that is) and prom queen (votes again) and cheerleader and popular but sad (a sadness that would eventually blossom into introspective and sensitive. it's fortunate that many unfortunate things, in time, can transform). in morgantown i was the girl w the dogs and cum laude graduate of the eberly college of arts and sciences and the sharp-tongued barista and, in a bobby lane poem written on the men's bathroom wall in the blue moose cafe: that skinny coffee girl, naked on the wall (in reference to a nude photo of me that was displayed in an art show. not nude as in, "hey everybody, check out my junk!" but a black-and-white shot — showing only my body's profile as i sit on the bare floor with my legs curled to my chest, my arms wrapped around them and my head resting on my knees — beautifully and tastefully executed by a friend. the photo shoot was in her chilly, quasi-shotgun-style apartment, above the gallery where another friend would show his photo exhibit from a work-study in italy. i would not do it again. nor would i un-do what i did then. i blissfully embrace the memory — not of the photo itself but the memory of youthful freedom). in memphis, i was that girl who runs through midtown all the time. in wee shorts and a sports bra. sexy was a label often misappropriated to my running gear, in various reiterations of "put some clothes on, girl!" clearly these were not people running in 80+ degree heat, or they would know that running in small articles of clothing is functional. i was comfortable and aerodynamic. it's not often one can be both of those things, you know. so i relished the opportunity.

my newest label of mom is a momentous one, of course, but in all its enormity it does not cover up the bare spots left by my life's re-appropriation to clarksburg. those other labels of me — that have been superseded by circumstance and surroundings — are tucked away in a zipper pocket, waiting to be re-pinned. sometimes, or most of the time, i stick my hand in there and fiddle w them like i would lint or gum wrappers. eventually, a new label will arise: that running, writing, pit-bull-having, coffee-drinking, garden-growing, crafty-stuff-making, healthy-food-cooking mom with the boy genius who speaks full sentences before he's potty trained. my boy, he's not merely bound for greatness — he's bound to blast a hole into this world.

right now, i'm poking a hole into this morning with my half-caff that has grown cold not once but twice. mid-cold-coffee sipping, i was reminded of a label i will never wear: yoga practitioner. a friend was talking about how she'd rather rush to make the 10:30 am cutoff for mcdonald's breakfast than go to morning yoga. it was funnier in her words. a writer herself, she makes a perfect character for a writer: a super-sardonic, cigarette-smoking, alcohol indulging foodie-slash-fashion junkie who looks totally right on with pixie hair and a billy-idol snarl. yoga is too serene, she says. and i realized that's why i hate it as well. i've only done it once, when i was 14, i think. at the wyca in downtown clarksburg with my best girlfriend, ginny, who fell asleep on the mat during the cool down?...seems altogether unnecessary when one is moving at sloth-speed for 30 minutes. shouldn't i give yoga another chance after all these years? nah. i like my exercise to make me feel more like animal from the muppets than winnie the pooh. speaking of, he was so great in the tao of pooh. i own a copy. i love the idea of flowing like the water. i love it so much that i stab myself repeatedly, trying to wear the label woman of peace. who wouldn't want to be peaceful, ya know? however, as goes with my desire to have longer legs, maybe it's simply not to be. maybe i should stop sticking myself with that damn pin and instead embrace the animal i am. it could work out, bc at some point, even animals must be still.

grrrrrrowwwwwl goes the wild woman as she lies in wait.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

happy you year.

the days have been those of a snail, for the most part; the year itself belonged to the hare. those days and that year being the first of my son's life.

yesterday, at 7:31 pm, he turned one. last year, january 7, 2012, mom and i were in an unwelcoming surgery room in the basement of the hospital in morgantown. we would've rather been in the cozy(ish), friendly(ish) delivery suite with only the midwife and the nice nurse and my aunts filming the birth of my first child and my parents' first grandchild. so go the best laid plans, huh. my little boy's little heart was racing at an unhealthy rate and the cord kept finding its way around his stubby neck, or so i was told afterward. in the midst, all i really knew was that, after 15 hours, he wasn't budging. stubborn, like mamma. on my back, looking at mom and the ceiling, i could feel, vaguely, the doctor-with-the-odd-affect (is he dry or is he rude? i could never tell) pushing and pulling on my innards. at 7:31 pm, mom jumped up and clapped and squealed "there he is!" and i, still unable to see him from behind the curtain over my midsection, asked, "is he okay?" it was as if he had heard me, so he heaved out his first scream so mommy and the rest of the world would know he had arrived. one of the nurses was nice enough to take pictures for me in the surgery room. there are a few taken just as someone (another nurse, i assume) put his bright, puffy, heavily creased face next to mine, when i told him i love you for the first time. i tell him all the time now, underscored and highlighted by sprinkles of kisses, most of which send him squirming like a hyper puppy to get away.

during my son's first year, he's been shortchanged. he didn't get the woman i used to be — he got the woman who became a product of her environment. the woman whose best qualities were dropped like lifeless, useless trophies at the doorstep the day she moved back home. his mom was too sensitive to all the changes. not sensitive as in merriam-webster's definitions 3a and b, both of which indicate weakness. no, i mean sensitive as in definition 2a: receptive to sense impressions. writers are artists, and artists are sensitive. for anyone who might roll their eyes at the phrase "sensitive artist," well, that's bc you aren't one or don't know one or don't care. the creative mind feeds on sensory impressions, and, as such, it falls limp in the absence thereof. clarksburg gives my eyes, my nose, my ears, my tongue, my feet and legs and arms...nothing. in lieu of beautiful distractions and distortions, i have felt leashed to a house on a hill in a town that i hate for being so devoid of L.I.F.E.

as i look back on his first year, i am aware that there was joy. not the overall kind, but a kind in and of itself. joy in my little boy; in my parents' overwhelming, overflowing adoration of him; and in my brother's at-first timid yet ever-growing relationship with him. the typical milestones, they've been funny and cute, although overall too ordinary for me, i guess. the best moments, our best moments, were like flecks of light found sneaking in through the drawn shades in a darkened room: few, subtle, but promising. they hold the promise of a better year ahead, a year stuffed full as that build-a-bear i didn't buy this year bc he was too small. i'll buy him one when he's old enough. (and i'll tell the kid in charge of the stuffer to fill that sucker as full as its seams can possibly hold. just because.) this year, my son's mother will get back to being herself. she'll write more, for pay and here in this blog, which is her haven. she'll find a home, which she'll joyfully vacuum while singing off key, just like she used to — except now her audience will have her eyes and her smile instead of exposed genitals and four paws. she'll be more patient and less brusque with those who love her, bc she'll feel free again. she'll try her damn-est to be a better version of herself, bc, after all, that's the best any of us can do. and for the most part, his mom can get down with that girl in the mirror. she can be pretty cool.

my son's first year was a first year. everyone has them. this was ours. i learned how to be a new mom. he learned how to be a new boy. today started to grow cloudy for me, despite the sun. then my son took a nap and gave me the opportunity to sit here, at my laptop situated in front of the now-defunct screen on my dad's old pc. as more and more words showed up on my screen, i remembered to remind myself that today starts another 365 for his mom to show him all the bestest, most magical things she's made of.

it's all for you, my love. happy year ahead.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

for what it's worth.

it's day two of 2013 and i just submitted my monthly student loan payment, the last of which will be in 3013, or so it seems. a few days ago i read about florida governor rick scott's proposal to raise tuition for liberal arts degrees bc they aren't of great value to the state, as opposed to degrees in law, medicine, and engineering, for example. depends on your definition of value. if we're talking value in terms of straight math, my 50k+ english degree hasn't nearly reaped a return on investment. i graduated cum laude, too. hey, jerks, be impressed and pay me accordingly! nah, that'd be too straightforward; i'm more of a trial-and-error kinda girl. now, if we're talking value in its many other manifestations, the return on my 50k+ english degree has been immeasurable. upon wondering why people do the things they do, i try to remind myself that i'm not them nor are they me; therefore, we will do things differently. however, i can't bring myself to accept rick scott's perspective. he wants to make it harder for the creative soul to feed itself through education. terrible. just plain terrible. i know too many creative souls who make the world so.very.wonderful. so shove your close-minded idea up your puckered cheeks, ricky.

my typing today is accompanied by the gurgle of my nose with every breath. i'm still nursing my not-so-fat-anymore baby, so i can't take medicine for whatever it is i have (not that i would take medicine anyhow, but since i can't i like to pretend i might otherwise). my nose sounds like it's full of water and my body feels like it was beaten with a meat mallet. i remember my mom beating chicken breast with her unshiny metal mallet back in the 80s, in our blink-and-you'll-miss-it kitchen on carpenter street. the same mallet is in her utensil drawer here at our house on the hill. i don't think she's used it in years, though. was tenderizing a fad of the 80s? i wouldn't know, bc i don't eat meat. not since 1994, the summer i left clarksburg for the first time to live in morgantown, on valley view road at the chateau royale apartment complex with my high-school classmates marcie and nicole. when nicole was mad at marcie and me and it was her turn to buy toilet paper, she would hide it in her room and carry it back and forth when she needed it. i'm not sure how marcie and i got by without it. paper towels? chateau was the place i tasted my last bite of meat — a frozen, single-serving, deep-dish pepperoni pizza that my dad got from the schwann's guy. or maybe it was that stringy strand i picked off the roast beef in the black-with-white-speckles roasting pan in the kitchen on carpenter street. who knows exactly. unless captured on video or photograph or on paper at thatverymoment, memory inevitably invites varying degrees of fiction. anyhow, i've been off the flesh for 19-some years. vegetarianism has become faddish. kinda like lesbianism. lots of people try it during college or to be like their friends. however, genuine vegetarians eschew meat regardless of influence. kinda like lesbians. i not only take issue with hitting sweet-eyed, fat-tongued cows with stun guns or hammers (or whatever it was i read in "fast food nation" years ago) but also with the yucky texture of animal flesh, not to mention the fact that i'm ingesting something that was once frolicking happily in a pasture, or in its own crap if we're talking chicken or pig. either way, isn't it surprising to realize that something as pedestrian as a meat mallet is allegorical? it is, allegorical. life can pound us like a mallet does meat. and after the blows, we can find ourselves in a more tender place.

my hope for 2013 is to move toward that place. i want this next year with my son, and with my self, to be joyful and peaceful. i want to forget! cause man, trying to make sense of the hurtful and hateful things people do, it gets under your skin like chiggers. i burned a few bridges last year. sometimes i question it, bc i put effort into those relationships and we had some good times. in retrospect, though, i didn't get a return on my investment. regardless, i want to stop being mad at those people bc, truth is, i can't change who they are. and the other truth is, who they are simply isn't for me. i want people in my life who have the balls to speak the truth even when the truth might make waves, sometimes even tidal waves; who make difficult choices rather than taking the easy way out; who would choose being disliked over being disingenuous; who spend more time discussing all the billions of interesting topics in the universe than they do drinking; who have integrity! i have those friends. i rarely see most of them, but they never forget me, or i them. those kind of friends, they're as good as cupcakes. except they'll last longer.

i'd like to tell rick scott a thing or two about value.