Sunday, February 23, 2014

starvation diet.

"So much has been written about the loneliness of the writer's lot that it feels like heresy to report the truth as I know it: in my experience, not writing is a lonely business."
 - Julia Cameron, The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity

not writing: it feels not like loneliness but like yearning. and in that way, it feels familiar. i've written about yearning many times over. how could i not? it is as much of my biochemistry as is water. i yearn. for grownup things, like place: typified by walls in sets of four, adorned with photos and art and thrift-store oddities; a porch swing that speaks of content even when mostly empty; and a garden that will give birth over and over despite my amateur midwifery. grownup things ... a car that gets from here to there; kisses, the kind not complicated by bedrooms; paychecks not soiled by a timeclock. i yearn like a child too: for holidays and cupcakes and pizza dates, and puppy-dog hugs, and silly-song singing, and for being right here, right now.

i am like julia cameron and i am not. writing is not lonely. not yet. maybe it will come. stealthily, i imagine. writing is, however, about being alone. about feeling alone. like with my hands, as if i were blind and trying to name the object without seeing it. i name alone, and then rename it, over and over. it doesn't make me sad. what does? loss.

yesterday loss came at me, suddenly, in a rush much like the fatigue i have felt for the past two years. i had gone to the garage to find a bag of my spring clothes. my past has taken over the garage: piles of bags, stacks of boxes, scattered decor, and deconstructed furniture. drawers once filled with daily-life things are now filled with evidence of that life deferred: a sock drawer with the files from my old desk; underwear drawer with photos and nicknacks; t-shirt drawer with one pale gray newsboy cap—my grandfather's; i tried to wear it but the fit wasn't quite right (and that has always felt quite wrong). on one shelf sat my vintage train case, next to a yellow metal jujyfruits case that a boyfriend picked out for me at goodwill in morgantown a decade ago. i used it as a purse. i'm not quite that funky now. or perhaps my funk has evolved. yeah, i like that better.


among the jumble was the old wooden ladder—hunted down for me in memphis by a carpenter named terrance—that i used as a book shelf. it was propped against a vintage cafe table; my first furniture purchase in my new hometown. in a particularly disorderly pile stood, upside down, my sewing dummy. she was never much help because her waist and hips were bigger than mine. there was the vintage travel bag given to me by my great aunt phylomena. the tags with her name and address still dangle from its zipper. i didn't go to her funeral nearly a decade ago because i went on a weekend trip with friends. i now cringe at the selfishness of that choice.



in the garage, i walked among my things for a while. remembering. smiling. sighing. wondering. i came across a bag full of my son's infant things. through the stretched-to-capacity white plastic i could see his earliest toy, a classical-music machine decorated with sea creatures. it hung above a play mat where he would lie on his back for the better part of an hour, cooing and kicking and eventually rolling over for the first time. i tore open the bag and pushed the red crab button, hoping the batteries weren't dead. mozart played. i stood and listened. there was in instant juxtaposition of what i had gained against what i had lost.

exiting the garage on my way back to the house, i glanced through the chain-link fence and down the hill at the grave site of my dogs, who had both left me in two short years. before the ache could take hold—as it so quickly does every time i remember kaiser and phaedra, whose existence compelled this often-solitary girl to know unconditional love—there came joker, meekly seeking my affection as he is prone to do. and i thought, of my third dog, he's easy to love but difficult to manage. and i thought about the sea creatures and my darling boy, and how that garage full of my foregone life was nothing compared to him. i thought about that last patch of snow melting slowly into the grass in the yard and how soon the dandelions will grow from it.

and i thought about how loss can only live if you feed it.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

new things to burn.

last night i read a blog in which the writer said marriage is "NOT [his caps] about being in love." 

over the years i've noticed a lot of antagonism toward being "in love." poor, helpless emotion—what did it ever do to anyone to deserve this? or scratch that question. i don't want to bring retribution into the debate. so maybe love has landed a right hook or twenty to your jaw. love hurts. (i just googled to find the band responsible for that song: nazareth. thank you, nazareth, for stating the obvious, because clearly some folks are unwitting.) for those of you who will insist that love shouldn't hurt, i encourage you to try childbirth.

the problem with in love is the "in" part. who knew a preposition could cause such a brouhaha. being in love is distinct from plain old love, though not always and forever. in love is full of possibilities, although people tend to find this notion an affront to love. they're hostile. they reduce in love to juvenile status with words like "butterflies" and "giggling." as if such trifles have no place in the life of an adult. landing a great writing gig gives me butterflies--evidently this is bad, so should i stop working? somebody let me know soon, okay?

people say, of being in love, "it doesn't last." what? you mean i won't feel butterflies and giggle every single day of forever? OH NO. NO! i cannot believe my mom did not inform me of this at the appropriate time, like the day i started my period and ruined my cute teal underwear with the colorful squiggles at the church lock-in in seventh grade and was mad at her for bringing that curse upon me. now i'm mad all over again because she didn't get all the surprises over at once.

people assume—due to what i can only assume is deep-seated resentment, or, perhaps, abject myopia—that the presence of in love precludes the presence of other aspects of commitment, like candor, compromise, etc. i beg to differ. case in point: i get pretty darn giddy over pizza, and this does NOT [my caps] prevent me from eating it even when we order it from that joint whose sauce has way too much sugar. i remain a committed pizza-eater, because i respect that pizza cannot be everything to me, every time. am i the only one who believes that in love can lead to and/or stand alongside other valuable attributes in a relationship? am i, truly? 

in love has done some nasty things to me in my day. as a result, i ponder it, pick at it, poke it, and sometimes give it the cold shoulder. i also treat it as a muse, a marvel, and a maybe. i don't think "in love" and "strong relationship" are mutually exclusive. i do think in love is up to the individual to define.

my definition? it's loose. ever-forming. it's about deconstruction, wandering, wondering, beating odds, and creating new from old. 

the late jason molina of songs: ohia and magnolia electric company fame sang of love well, albeit in a different, dim light, the kind you might find in a quiet room late at night occupied by a contemplative, painfully aware writer. and just when he has you wondering if being in love is worth it at all, the last verse sidles up beside you, puts its head on your shoulder, and whispers, we'll make it alright.

being in love
by songs: ohia

being in love
means you are completely broken
then put back together

the one piece that was yours
is beating in your lover's breast
she says the same thing about hers

however i have gotten here
i have plans to be with you
and for the first time it is working

and i am proof that the heart
is a risky fuel to burn
yeah, we are proof
that the heart is a risky fuel to burn

what's left after that's all gone 
i hope to never learn
but if you stick with me, you can help me
i'm sure we'll find new things to burn