Monday, October 10, 2011

Service Entrance

I'm going to try a new approach this time. I'm going to come back to writing through the back door. I've been running away from it for a while now, either because I've had too much to say, or not enough, I'm still not quite sure. What I am sure of is that I've been paralyzed and not writing and fretting about all of the not writing.

Lately I've been trying to sit down and just do writing practice. It doesn't matter what I write about. Sometimes I pull a prompt from one of my many writing books, sometimes I sit down with something of my own in mind. Either way, I meander all over the place, drop one thread, pick another one up, and I'm mostly up in the ether, rather than down on the earth, in the world. I'm having a hard time with concrete detail these days.

As I'm sitting down to do these short stints, I'm trying not to worry about what I'm writing so much as the fact that I'm doing it. Yes, I would love to be able to pull a line, a phrase, a page from a notebook and turn it into something worth showing someone else, but if I think too hard about doing that right now I'll end up paralyzing myself again and running away from the page, so right now I'm concentrating on the basics. I'm watching my hand move across the page and watching my brain as it navigates through the time I've set myself and the topic I've chosen.

Sometimes I feel an old spark and can see things taking off. Sometimes I even let them take off a bit, let myself keep going after the timer has shrieked at me and I've silenced it. Not too much yet, though, because I still worry about running out of steam, so usually I put the pen down and step away from what I was doing.

Down the road I'll go back through these pages and see what things look like when the ink has fully dried and I have some distance from the tentative explorations through the service entrance of my writer's life. Will I find artichoke hearts or pickled pigs' feet? Who knows, right now, stocking the shelves is the bit I need to concentrate on. Later I can figure out how to work with the ingredients I've amassed and figure out how to turn them all into a banquet (how's that for a mixed metaphor?).

Monday, March 21, 2011

There's Nothing Wrong With Me, Why Do You Ask?

I started off this morning thinking about why it's so hard for me to accept a compliment, or even to believe it when someone says anything positive that involves me in any way. It's ridiculous that, at nearly 41, I automatically doubt these things when they come from others. So I spent a lot of time today thinking about why that was, and I think I may have a handle on it.

I have spent my entire life being told, directly or indirectly that there is something wrong with me. I have ektrodactyly, which for me translates as four fingers on each hand, three toes on each foot. Thing is, it's not who I am. There are very few things I want to do that I can't do because of it (okay, I can't get safety caps off prescription bottles, fair enough, but now they don't put them on in the first place -- problem solved). I write, I knit, I screw things into walls on occasion, and I do all sorts of other things that I and others manage to enjoy quite a bit. So do a lot of other people. Thing is, when I do these things, it's somehow a major accomplishment in the eyes of some, and that drives me completely insane!

I love my family and friends, truly, but I love some more than others. The ones I love the most are the ones I've never had to forgive even a little bit for treating me differently. The ones who have never used the words "birth defect" or "disability" or "handicap" in reference to me outside of a very specific conversation about my hands. The ones who haven't done a double-take when meeting me for the first time, haven't paused a beat or two before taking my hand when I've offered it to shake, haven't assumed that other, less-enlightened individuals than themselves may have a problem with my hands (though they don't, of course). Yes, I know it's strange (I look at photos of myself and get some sense of how things must look to you), or at least different, but the moment it's pointed out, it's also implicitly made "wrong."

When I am on my own, doing my own thing, I don't feel like there's anything wrong with me. I can do what I need to do. I've figured out how to live my life with what I've got (what other choice is there?), but it doesn't make me noble or special or any more amazing than anyone else. What it makes me is independent and capable in my own right, just like any of you. Telling me you are amazed that I knit doesn't make me feel good, it makes me feel like a specimen.

The fact that I "manage" as well as I do, that I'm not afraid to use my hands in conversation, that I go out in public in sandals in the summer and live the same damned life as anyone else I know should not be a surprise to anyone. If it is, then something is "wrong" with me, and I'm tired of living under the supposition that there's something for which I and everyone else in my life need to be compensating. Because, for once, I'd like to be able to accept a compliment without question. I don't think that's too much to ask, do you?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Loosening My Grip

I've come to a few decisions over the past couple of days, and they all boil down to release. I need to try to let go of all of these things I keep worrying about, because in most cases I have no control over them anyway. I can't say I won't think about them at all, but I need to step back from them, because if I don't I'll only make myself crazy and that won't be good for anyone.

So, my friend going through a string of bad days -- I can keep thinking about him and hoping that things let up for him and his situation soon, but I can't keep constantly wondering if things are okay. Eventually there will be a turning point and he'll feel better and I hope it's sooner rather than later, but my worrying about it won't make it come any faster.

The complicated feelings/situation/guy -- They'll all resolve themselves one way or the other eventually. My feelings won't be any less complicated, but I can take a few steps back from them and recognize that turning them over and over like a magpie with something shiny won't make them any less confusing or complicated. All there is for this is time.

My new physical state -- I'm beginning to re-introduce formerly forbidden foods into my diet. It is a conscious choice that will inevitably lead to weight gain. I don't need to be a certain size for things to work our for me, and if I did, then the things probably wouldn't be what I'd truly want or need anyway.

The only new wrinkle in this whole plan is that (with some convincing from my sister) I've decided to take another stab at the meeting-someone-online approach. I don't have much confidence that it will work, and I'm honestly still far more interested in the complicated situation, but I need to do something to open my life up a little bit beyond the matters that have been consuming so much of my mental energy lately. If that means composing emails to people I may or may not want to sit across a table from down the road, then so be it. For now, at least.

The ultimate goal is just a bit more calm at the present moment. Some breathing space between the what-ifs I carry around with me every day. The possibility of things that will make me smile. Doesn't that sound nice?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Maelstrom: Interior

First, Happy Valentine's Day. I hope you are surrounded by love today, whether that means hearts and flowers and a fancy meal, or something more quiet and solitary. I took a walk out into the unseasonably warm day and bought myself my first hot chocolate in over a month at lunch and this evening I put my kitchen to rights and had a very simple dinner. Even though I am single, and uneasily so (which I hate admitting over and over again, but there it is), I am not thrown by being alone on Valentine's Day. The day comes with such unreasonable expectations and things can just get downright weird if the two halves of a couple aren't in sync (like the year I cooked a lovely dinner and chocolate cake for my boyfriend... and he brought me porn; amazingly we were together for several more years after that); in some ways it's more relaxing to simply spend it on my own.

Meanwhile, my life is still in upheaval, at least inside my head. I'm trying to work through complicated feelings about a complicated situation with a complicated guy, and it means I spend plenty of time with my mind awhirl, especially since I don't feel like discussing the particulars with anyone, with the possible exception of Mr. Complicated himself, and that's not even possible. Nothing about it is easy, and I think about whether the lack of ease should tell me something, except that I'm too drawn in to simply walk away. Of course, for all I know, that could be exactly what he'd say if we ever got around to talking about it again.

I have a terrible habit of building scenarios in my head about things over which I have no control. They rarely have things falling to the good in my favor, because I walk around worrying about what I may have done or said wrong to screw things up. I hate that I still do this and if I could figure out a way to stop it I certainly would.

Oddly enough, another source of upheaval at the moment is the 15 pounds I've lost in the past five weeks. I'm probably thinner than I've been in a decade, and I'm not quite sure what to do with myself, or how to feel about it. I'm not a dieter, and I try not to put too much emphasis on weight, though I work with a lot of people who do. I've never really been heavy, and it's not a metric by which I judge people, but that doesn't mean I am free of body issues. This change in my physical makeup has me all ferhoodled at the moment, because I don't expect to maintain it, and yet there's some small voice in my head telling me that maybe I should, that maybe I'd be better able to find whatever it is I'm looking for (what is that, exactly? Haven't a clue) if I worked at keeping myself this thin for the long haul. I hate that voice, because it plays into all of the negative issues and stereotypes that come with being a woman in this society; all of the things I want to avoid and rise above.

I need a new outlook, a way to seek shelter from this storm in my psyche. I'm not sure where to find it, though, while I am so intent on clinging to things that put me in a spin and keep me off-kilter. I don't feel free and secure enough to let go of complications, just in case they might lead to exactly the right thing (even though rationally it seems unlikely).

So the maelstrom continues to whirl and I continue to bob along inside it, because that's what I've come to expect of my life. Should I cultivate new expectations? Probably. Will I? I can hope, but I remain unconvinced.

Monday, February 7, 2011

An Urge to Comfort

I don't usually think of myself as particularly comforting or warm, though it's not because I don't want to be. I just have this habit of keeping the people in my life at arm's length and have never quite figured out how to get around it; I have a hard time opening up to people when I'm speaking (which is probably why blogs, letters, and all other forms of written communication are so dear to me -- it's communication at a remove); I'm not particularly maternal, I spent five years with a partner who had young children who we had every weekend, and though I loved them and did my best to care for them and protect them, we never really bonded.

All that said, I do find that there are times when a switch somewhere inside is flipped by the knowledge that someone I care about is hurting, and suddenly all I can think of is what to do to provide comfort and care. I'm in a space like that right now. A friend is going through a difficult time right now, and that urge is strong. Of course, due to any number of complicating factors (there are always complicating factors, aren't there?), I can't physically do anything about it. So as much as I'd like to, I can't hold his hand and tell him that somehow he'll get through to the other side. I've told him that I'm here and that I'm thinking about him and hoping that he can do what he needs to do to take care of himself in the midst of it, and for now, that's all I can do.

Hopefully the urge to comfort will be enough to provide some level of comfort in itself and that the patience to know that he knows and that it's enough will stay with me as long as possible. It's difficult to not be able to do something, but I know that right now just holding that thought of comfort is something, or at least I hope it is.

These moments of intense need to shield others from pain or hurt give me hope, somehow, that maybe I won't always keep people at a distance, that I do have the capacity to connect at something more than a surface level. It may be an odd way of looking at things, but I'm back to working with what I have in front of me.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


I woke up at 6 am this morning with my heart banging against my chest so hard that I almost felt sure it wouldn't stay put for good. It was the worst panic attack I've had in a while, but I knew what it was, and was able to get myself calmed down after about an hour and find my way back to some much-needed sleep. The feeling stayed with me to some degree for most of the day, which is awkward and unnerving, so say the least. Luckily, since it was Saturday, I could start my day slowly and choose how to spend it.

Today's anti-anxiety solution was two movies at the bargain theater, spicy Thai food, and a thrifted sweater. They all helped, but it wasn't until I got home and took slight action around one of the probable causes of the panic that I started to truly feel better. I've been stressed out all around lately, so there were all sorts of things pushing me to what happened this morning, but hopefully I've made a choice that will, at least temporarily, keep one of them at bay. It's not the solution I should choose to make it go away once and for all, because I don't know that I want that to happen, no matter how stressful it is at this moment. Also, if I chose to do something for good right now, today, what I would do would be driven by stress and anxiety and the outcome would not be one anyone involved would be happy with for several reasons.

I know. I'm being intentionally and maddeningly vague, but at the moment it's all I can handle. Until I can figure out what to do, or until it resolves itself on its own, this particular thing will have to stay vague, and I'm good with that. If my solution doesn't keep the panic at bay, I'll have to rethink, of course.

What was my point? I desperately wish I knew. I think it was mostly to remind myself that I can get through panic and anxiety to something close to calm if I work at it a little bit and to stay strong in my resolve to stick to my decision on that one crazy-making thing, because it is an action all too easily reversed. If that happens too soon (I say "too soon," because I know it'll happen eventually -- I'm not that healthy), I'm right back to where I started, and I don't want a repeat of this morning anytime soon.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Brigid Poetry Festival

It's time, at the hinge of winter, for the Sixth Annual Brigid Poetry Festival. My contribution this year is "Things" by Jane Kenyon from The Boat of Quiet Hours:


The hen flings a single pebble aside
with her yellow reptilian foot.
Never in eternity the same sound --
a small stone falling on a red leaf.

The juncture of twig and branch,
scarred with lichen, is a gate
we might enter, singing.

The mouse pulls batting
from a hundred-year-old quilt.
She chewed a hole in a blue star
to get it, and now she thrives....
Now is her time to thrive.

Things: simply lasting, then
failing to last: water, a blue heron's
eye, and the light passing
between them: into light all things
must fall, glad at last to have fallen.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cabin Fever

We've hit the mid-point of winter and I've had enough. Weekly storms have disrupted my work schedule and cold weather has made me not want to leave the house.

I'm halfway through a program at a local yoga studio and am struggling with that as well. Turns out I don't really like being told what I can and can not do, what I can and can not eat, and when I should be getting up and going to bed. It hasn't been all bad, at all. I'm eating much healthier and have (with one bad day) kept within the dietary guidelines and restrictions, I've lost a few pounds, and I have seen some progress in my yoga practice, though I haven't been practicing as consistently as the program suggests, because old knee issues have resurfaced.

I finally reached out to a former freelance editor, who gave me an assignment, and suddenly I'm paralyzed by the possibility of screwing it up, even though it's a short, simple piece with sources already in place. I'd like to find some well of confidence, but I'm not sure where to look. I'm out of the habit of saying "yes" to opportunities and knowing that I can take them on.

I'm chafing at my full-time job for no good reason besides being restless and bored, though not for lack of things to be done. I want to get out and GO somewhere, but don't feel as though I can take the time to do that right now. I feel locked in place and that makes me anxious.

I'm still going back and forth about being single. Some days I'm fine with it, some days I'm ridiculously needy. I went back to yoga last night for the first time in two weeks, despite my knee, partially because I was pretty sure that at some point someone would touch me. I could probably go back (again again) to my most recent ex-boyfriend without too much persuasion (he keeps popping up to ask what I'm doing or if we can get together), but I have no desire to do that. I want to move forward -- whatever forward looks like -- not backward. Of course, that also means that the volume of email back-and-forth with my ex-husband should also decrease substantially.

I think what I'm missing most is companionship and I'm just not getting that from Facebook and Twitter, no matter how much I post, comment, or reply. I have good friendships that have developed in both places, but it's not the same as sitting and having a conversation with someone face-to-face. I had two nice visits with friends this weekend that brought home just how vital live interaction is to my well-being.

I'm not sure where all of this leaves me. Mid-winter blues, I suppose, on a stormy night in my little house by myself. Things could be far, far worse and there are bits and pieces on the horizon to look forward to, so I'd imagine it'll all work itself out right, and sooner or later the giant piles of snow will melt and the sun will spend more time in the sky and I'll figure out where that well of confidence has been hiding all this time.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Reverb10 Fail... Moving On, On My Own

I should have known I wouldn't sustain that exercise, I live inside my own head far too much as it is, and I've never been good at following guided journal questions. I'd much rather imagine my own possibilities, I suppose.

On to the new, then, right?

New year, new semester at work, new exercise and diet regimen thanks to a program at a local yoga studio, newly furnished house thanks to my sister's decision (again) to get rid of everything and move on. I have split-seconds when I envy her that ability, but I come to my senses.

Thing that's not new? Feeling alone in this life. Not just unpartnered, though that's part of it, certainly. Just alone. I don't really know how to make deep connections with people for some reason, which means that when I'm alone, I stay that way. I have a hard time picking up a phone just to chat with someone, because I feel certain that whenever I call will end up being a bad time.

I find it difficult to make friends as an adult, because everything is so much more complex. There are so many more layers to mine, things to worry about. Just connecting with someone isn't necessarily enough, because all sorts of other things get in the way: Could this be a potential mate? If so, is there actual interest in that direction? If not, how many other obstacles could possibly get in the way of simple friendship?

Granted, I wasn't all that great at it as a kid either, because no one really wanted to be known as the friend of the weird kid in grade school, and by high school I had learned to be way too good at blending in, just at the time when weird was what you wanted to strive for.

Timing never has been my strong suit; I have proven that over and over in my life, and it's still holding pretty darned true right up to the present.

So yes, alone, and now with even more empty chairs to remind me of that every day. I'm trying to -- er -- sit with it and be all right with it, but that never works as well as I hope it will, and any mature stance I take on it manages to crumble almost immediately upon its declaration to anyone but myself (and sometimes even to myself).

I don't want to be someone that NEEDS someone else all of the time, every single minute of the day. That said, it'd be nice to have someone from time to time, for any number of mundane and interesting reasons. Thing is, at present, no one's even interested in the time-to-time option. It's one thing to get comfortable with being alone when you know you have other options; it's more difficult when the question doesn't even come up.

If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

Yes, I know this is a theme, but it's also where I am at the moment. Where I am is what I have to work with. "Write what you know," etc.