Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday

I've been away. Here's the short version: I've been busy.

I'm working on a proposal for a new contract at work. It means long hours and a very tired brain. If we don't get awarded the bid, it also means probably looking for a new job. Gross, no?

Apart from that, work is going very well. My team is amazing. I mean, really amazing. They have been working so well together and with my busy days plus traveling, it's a nice surprise to come back and find that they've helped each other out and communicated well together. I have really got a lot on my mind with this proposal and my employees are taking care of everything, without me even asking. How fantastic is that?

We had a Thanksgiving potluck today, and I realised (with some amount of shock) that I am grateful for them. This strange, cranky group of women (plus a token male) who are so irascible and stuck in their ways make me extremely proud and thankful.

And a couple of them are terrific cooks.

Now to try to prepare for Thanksgiving, clean my apartment, catch up on daily work, sort my life out, and try to relax...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Patience, or lack thereof

One of my employees really made my day today. She calls me "Boss" in an affectionate way, and for some reason that really tickles me (nobody calls me "Boss").

She knew I was having a bad day - one of many in a long line of bad days - and she made me a cup of what she calls "stress tea". I don't know what it is called, but it claims to reduce stress; it works.

She walked into my office carrying a cup of freshly brewed tea and said, "Hey Boss, drink this."

She then took a few minutes to tell me how much she appreciates my patience with her.

I almost laughed. If you know me, you know I'm not patient. Really, really not-patient. But the more she described some of her own stress and how I have been helping her deal with it I realised that I am sorta patient these days.

She comes to me 42 times each day (and I do mean each day) and has oodles of questions. They're all good, thinkish questions. Sometimes she should already know the answer, but they're still good questions. She is trying so hard and consistently exceeding my expectations; it's easy to be patient with a person who puts so much effort into her job. She admits to her own mistakes, she helps others, she does anything and everything I ask her to do. And she takes care of me when I am having a total stress-out.

Apart from all that, she's helping me grow. Her energy and style of learning is forcing me to develop that patience that I so lack. How can I not completely adore her? I'm totally giving her a raise.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bitter disappointment

Hot or cold, I'm not happy
bitter disappointment fills my mouth
leaving behind a taste like pennies.

I roll it around my tongue
pressing it into the roof of my mouth
desperately wanting to bite down
knowing it will be as empty as chewing on water.

I open my mouth
letting it flow out of me
dribbling down my front
soaking into my skin.

It streams from every pore
like so many tears
until I am dry
parched and cracking.

I expect it to be gone
to feel better, lighter.
To make room inside me for
something.
something.
something more.

And where disappointment used to sit
fat and gloating
now there's just numbness.
A big, empty numbness
A tight, hard nothing
Tasting of pennies.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Do you know?

I went to work today, even though I could barely drag myself out of bed.
I did payroll and data entry and manager stuff, even though I wanted to get back in bed and pull the blankets over my head.

I went to dinner, and the library, and I came home, even though I wanted to run down the street naked and screaming.

I worked really hard at being sane. Did you see me, pretending not to be crazy?

I imagine you in your not-heaven
sitting on a chair made of clouds
drinking a pint of the angel's piss that passes for beer
turning on the TV into my world and watching me zombie around
and I wonder if you know.

Do you?

Ten years...

Ten years, four hours, and fifteen minutes ago you ended one life and changed the course of another.

Five years ago, I married your best friend.

Four days ago, I realised that I am the age you were when you stole yourself away from me.

Today, I am glad you came, and that you left.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Can I put an earring on a milk carton?

I'm struggling with acceptance today, or for the last 25 years. I lost an earring.

I know, enough said, right?

I got this very fancy-for-me pair of hand-made earrings at the local arts and crafts open-air market, shaped like music symbols (totally not a musician so I can't tell you which symbol. Suffice to say they are sexy).

I feel a deeper sense of loss and sadness than one silly pair of earrings seems to warrant. I mean, come on - I'm no stranger to loss. The life-changing losses I have experienced have taught me how to accept that some things just don't go right.

So why am I struggling? Because I really, really, really want to find this earring while recognising that it is the most ridiculous thing in the world to be sad-faced over. And I am coming to realise that the most traumatic loss I have faced in a long time is one lone, lost earring. The silliness of it doesn't lessen my sense of sad, but I can remember a time when I'd trade all the things of value -from shiny new earrings to every person I've ever cared about- for five more minutes with a dead loved one, or to repair that friendship I utterly destroyed in a moment of stupidity.

Perspective, right? The heart doesn't have physical memory of being broken. My brain remembers more serious losses, but the brick-wall of numbness and time cushions my heart and makes it susceptible to getting bruised because I lost a goddamned earring.

So, acceptance. And, apparently, some perspective. 'Cause, you know, some people can't afford shoes.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Up or down?

As a mother of five, with another on the way, my ironing board is always up.

Do you visusalise what you hear? I grew up in old houses, the kind that had cabinets for everything. Open the cabinet, slide the latch, and the ironing board falls down; usually with a crash, followed by my mother hollering my first-and-middle-names from the other room... where she was no doubt scrubbing my school uniform shirts on a wash board.

No, I'm kidding about that last part.

Maybe this is why people misunderstand me. They're visualising, but the wrong things, of course.

Does your ironing board go up or down?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Or, not.

Chrissie Hynde sings words straight out of my own soul. Or maybe my soul is straight out of her lyrics? She makes me think of me, when I was young. Maybe that sounds pretentious, I don't mean it to.

Why you look so sad?

A perpetual question, directed at Colin. What's so sad, you gotta ooze that out of every pore? If you have a feeling, express it. If you're mad, get mad. If you're sad, cry or something. Or, brood. A lot. That works too, but it doesn't really get it out, you know?

Colin was like a time-bomb of rage. Not scary, not in a personal-fear-of-safety sort of way, but definitely imminent. I didn't mind it then. It was because he had big thoughts, I was certain; powerful things happening in his brain that he didn't have words for. He couldn't express it, but I desperately wanted him to. I wanted to understand him, to sort out the cause of his sadness and his anger and his jealousy.

Let me see you through.

I spent a lot of time wanting to fix him. The Wendy Dilemma, no? If there was a cure for him, I would have searched tirelessly. If there was something wrong, I would pick at him until he told me or convinced me to go away. The latter happened more than the former, but that didn't stop me from trying.

When I was young and naive and thought I could fix any problem by simply loving him hard enough and long enough (and not in the way you're thinking, naughty ones), I would have. It was like, my mission. I was standing by my man, ala Mary Wells.

When I think about the me-back-then, I'm a little embarrassed. I didn't feel naive then, but comparatively... I'm not sure how he put up with my bright-eyed freshness, my insistence that he couldn't do or say one thing that would make me turn away from him. He eventually chose not to put up with it at all, something I would internalise for many years.

He really ruined everything. He dried up the part of me that will seek to understand mood swings, a ridiculous temper, inane argumentativeness, and the myriad of emotional responses that normal people have. Poor Husband, who gets so little patience from me. Fifteen years ago? I would have patted his hairs and whispered encouraging things to him as he was wallowing in his self-pity and his un-named demons. Today? Today I'd drop off a glass of water and tell him to grow up some.

When you're standing at the cross-roads, and don't know which path to choose...

He chose a little bit wrong, and I couldn't follow. Or, he chose a little bit right, depending on your perspective.

But The Pretenders... man, that never gets old.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The lost poem

I was watching a movie on the television Saturday with The Husband. Saturday started out lazy, as our Saturdays almost always do, with me lounging in bed with a cup of coffee playing with my iPhone while he went to the market.

  • Eggs? Check.
  • Cheese? Check.
  • Doughnuts? Yes please.
  • We took our time eating breakfast (at 11am) while we watched a movie. Something with bad cops, drug busts gone side-ways, and a main character dying off. Cancer or something that made her bald.

    Sidenote, thanks to Sinead O'Conner I think all bald women are hot.

    One scene in particular stood out for me. The bald woman (from the movie, not Sinead O'Connor) was down on her knees in her children's bedroom crying because she was doing to die and leave them behind. Great big sobs, the open-mouthed kind that don't come with sound. The kind that you know come from nothing short of a soul ripped to shreds; the kind that are silent because your heart is too broken to actually make sound.

    It stood out because I've felt that way, only without the cancer and the soon-to-be mother-less children. Words dropped into my mind, splashing onto my brain. I wrote a whole poem in my head and it was good. I'm sure it would have won a poem-prize.

    Only, it was Saturday and I was powerfully comfortable with a cup of coffee in front of me, a belly-full of eggs and cheese, and a doughnut in each hand.

    I'll write it down later, I vowed to myself.

    Only I didn't. And now I can't remember it.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010

    Time-challenged

    I am really time-challenged. My mom has this story she loves about when I was a little girl wasting time before school: she would send me to the bathroom to shower and get dressed and after too much time had passed without me re-appearing properly dressed in my plaid Catholic-school jumper she would search me out. And she'd find me lying on the bathroom floor, arms and legs flung wide and still pajama-clad, singing at the top of my lungs.

    I still do that. Okay, not exactly that, but the grown up equivalent. I play on my computer. Doing, um... social research. /snicker

    Playing stupid games on my iPhone, or reading trashy teen vampire books, or watching silly television.

    I have a couple hobbies - knitting and writing and blogging, but mostly I pursue mindless activities. Ostensibly, I sit down to decompress 'for a few minutes' and suddenly it's dark and The Husband is going to bed. Well, shit.

    I was recently made aware of the 168 Hours Challenge. There's even a book about it (must.have.book.) and a Facebook page and everything. So, I'm doing it.

    So far, I spend a lot of time working and reading. I'm out of town, working on an assignment for two weeks. While there are many things I could be doing with my time, I'm sort of enjoying just relaxing in my apartment and watching NBA Finals.

    So, whatever. I waste time. I'll bet my mom wouldn't be surprised.

    Sunday, June 13, 2010

    I don't know

    Recently one of my employees made a mistake in her work. She should have known better, and I was upset by her lack of knowing or her lack of figuring out that she should have asked for help.

    I spoke with her, in an attempt to understand why she did what she did; I asked her what she thought she should have done differently - to avoid the mistake, and avoid having to explain herself about it to me.

    She looked at the floor, hanging her head and mumbled, "I dunno."

    I dunno? I.Don't.Know. Really? I-Don't-Know.

    I had to breathe real evenly and deeply for a few heartbeats. I tried to figure out what to say next. Because really, in a situation like that the next words out of my mouth are going to set the tone not only for this incident but for future interactions between me and her. If I'm not careful I will alienate her from seeking my help in the future and make her feel stupid.

    She was ashamed, that much was clear. It wasn't my intention to shame her, so it was important not to reinforce that shame by being overly-harsh with her. I was reminded of my childhood, when my mom was constantly under stress to pay all the bills and raise me and deal with one obstacle after another, and she would ask me similar questions: "What were you thinking?" "What did you think was going to happen?".

    And I remember hanging my head and whispering, "I dunno."

    I realised in that moment that when I was a girl getting yelled at I wasn't answering the question that was asked. What I didn't know was what my mom wanted to hear. I knew there was a right answer, and I was backed into a corner: if I answered wrong, my mom would be mad at me. If I answered right, I would have to explain why I didn't do it the right way to begin with (which would lead to my mom being mad at me because I was a royal smart-ass).

    I looked at my employee, watching me with a sort of wariness in her eye that I didn't feel I had put there, and I knew in that moment that she was trying to figure out what I wanted to hear. When she said she didn't know, what she was admitting was that she didn't know what answer to give that wouldn't make me mad.

    So I took a deep breath and told her there wasn't a wrong answer; I just wanted to understand her thought process so I could help her do better next time.

    That was really, really hard. But it worked.

    Thursday, May 27, 2010

    Is this what progress looks like?

    You know how I hate staff meetings? In case you don't: I hate staff meetings. It's the same problem I have with potlucks. I have many reasons that feel valid in my head that explain why I don't have them very often but when I say it out loud it feels flat and unjustifiable.

  • They don't pay attention
  • I just end up having to explain the same stuff later one-on-one
  • They want to know so much about things that aren't relevant
  • We waste time getting off topic
  • People turn an informational meeting into a bitch session, but when I offer them time to hear about their complaints, they clam up
  • They're bored and disinterested during meetings
  • They are disengaged and distract each other
  • Understandable? Maybe. A valid reason for not having meetings? Not by a long shot.

    So I got on my big-girl clothes recently and held a meeting. Much like my recent potluck, my attitude going in was better, and I got better results. Huh.

    It was enjoyable. It was very relaxed. Everyone was open and friendly. When I spoke honestly about my own short-comings they were more forgiving than I ever could have hoped for. I didn't hate it. And they didn't hate it either.

    I am continually surprised by how often I am forced to learn this lesson. I know better, yet I seem to find new and creative ways to fail so many times in a row.

    Now all their attitudes were different: they were more helpful toward each other, offering to assist each other with work. They seemed to be in better spirits with one another, and with me.

    Maybe I've turned a corner? Wouldn't that be neat?

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010

    Huh

    Violence happened. In my office. Not big violence or anything injurious, but violence non-the-less. I am touchy about violence. In any place, but especially in the places where I spend a lot of time, or am responsible for the actions of others.

    I learned today of a physical altercation that occurred between two employees. Actually, it was perpetrated by one against another. One who should know better - both as a human being and as someone in her position.

    Violence. Action taken in anger, against a member of my team. In my workplace. I want to scream, or cry.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010

    Again, with feeling

    Is it too late to set new goals for 2010? I realise the year is half-over now, but even so...

    I want this year to be the year of more, and here's my list of the more that I want:

    • Staff meetings
    • Potlucks at work
    • Blogging
    • Structured writing
    • Exercise (I can hear you laughing)
    • Time with friends and family
    • Outdoor activities
    • Photography (I'm making fair progress here)

    I organised a potluck at work yesterday. I should state here that I love the idea of potlucks and general fun in my office; I enjoy the idea of that togetherness, of promoting the camaraderie among my employees.

    But I really suck at planning and implementation. I fail at socialising. My attempts at generic conversation crash and burn.

    One one hand, I feel that if I did it more often it would be less painful; that I wouldn't be so awkward with them; that the effort wouldn't feel forced and stilted if I just had more practice.

    On the other, I feel so incredibly inept at relating to them that the painful awkwardness that invariably results from those situations poisons my mind against wanting to plan it after each attempt.

    It's a problem, I know. I talk myself out of it. I convince myself that I can't possibly be away from my work for that long, that we all have too much to do.

    Today was different. Maybe I was in a better frame of mind. Maybe I've been hearing rumours around the office that unrest is brewing because I remove myself from them so much, and I've begun to fear open war if I didn't do something. Maybe they were more receptive because it's been a dreadfully long time since the last potluck I organised... last year? Two years ago? Was that even the same job?

    I was talking to The Husband about how hard that type of interaction is for me, how I don't know how to make small talk. He suggested talking about the food. Try a dish, ask the person how they learned of it; is it from an old family recipe? Childhood favourite from their mom, perhaps?

    My head spun. Why would I ask such questions? I don't honestly care. I can't possibly be expected to fake that sort of interest. While it probably seems unfriendly not to make at least some effort at polite inquiry, I find the idea of feigning interest in order to promote small talk to be downright repulsive.

    I grumbled about his idea all morning. What does he know, anyway? He doesn't know those people; he has no idea how to make small talk with them. Harumph.

    And then what happens? I find myself in the kitchen at the office, just me and one of the ladies and she was making meatballs (turns out, balls of ground meat simmered in tomato-based sauce are not as horrifying as they sound) and I tried it out.

    That totally fucking worked. For five minutes we talked about meatballs. And it was fine. The ground didn't swallow me up. God didn't send a lightning bolt sizzling to Earth to fry my ass for faking interest.

    Turns out that Husband knows quite a lot.

    Sunday, May 9, 2010

    Concrete stars



    Originally uploaded by Tehlanna
    I do not recall where I took this photograph. I sort of wish I did, because these stars please me endlessly. They are mixed in with some photos I took in the Pearl a month or so ago, so it must have been there.

    There isn't anything in the photograph to tell me where I was; I don't recall what I was thinking when I took this. When I look at the other pictures I have taken I can feel what I was feeling when I snapped the photo; I can recall how the air smelled and what the lighting was like. I can remember if I was cold, or what the image evoked in my brain.

    I find it odd that I have no memory associated with this picture, yet I find myself so fascinated by these stars. I want to make a tattoo out of them marching across my back, twinkling some untold message.

    For sure addicted

    The excitement I feel during the take-off portion of a plane trip is fairly indescribable for me. I'll try though, because it feels so big that I might burst if I don't share it.

    I remember being a girl, on plane trips with my mom. I was open-mouthed with awe, staring wide-eyed out the window; Mom's nails were digging so deeply into my hand she nearly drew blood. I was filled with a deep joy as the plane raced down the Tarmac; my mom was fighting anxiety that nearly crippled her.

    I have flown many times, and I never get over that rush of adrenaline and excitement: the speed during take-off, watching the city pass below me as we climb, the stomach-churning when the plane hits an air pocket.

    My blood flows faster and I entertain the thought that I could die at any moment. My entire existence is now in the hands of a person I've never seen and probably wouldn't trust if I met him on the street, and I am uncharacteristically thrilled by that.

    Apart from the near-addiction to adrenaline, I am also thrilled at leaving. I will gladly come back, but for now I'm going someplace else. It doesn't matter that I'll be working. It doesn't matter that I'll be alone for half of my trip. My skin starts to itch when I become so drenched in routine, and I've been drenched in routine for a long time.

    If I get a choice regarding when I die I want it to be on a plane, during take-off.

    Are you listening, God? I said takeoff. Not a minute sooner.

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010

    Assignment: something weathered


    ds108: something weathered
    Originally uploaded by Tehlanna

    Today's mission was to find something weathered. I thought of crazy-lady wind chimes and the rusted out carcasses of forgotten automobiles left to die in someone's back yard. Rust is practically a food group in Oregon and I had big plans of capturing it on film.

    Unfortunately I have one of those job things, and it requires me to be in an office. I spent most of today around a lot of not-rust, and nary a wind chime made out of old forks.

    But I did find this slightly broken curb; and by 'find' I mean that I agonised all day about what to photograph and griped to my husband on the way to-and-from picking up dinner until he pointed out this grody old curb and demanded I photograph it (largely, I suspect, to shut me up): covered in moss, in need of paint, chipped from being run over and ignored.

    It feels weathered to me, as though it has carried many worries on its curb-shoulders. Or maybe that's just what I'm feeling today.


    Monday, March 1, 2010

    Assignment: sports


    Disk Golf: ds106
    Originally uploaded by Tehlanna

    I am not terribly athletic. There are a couple of physical activities I enjoy - namely yoga and, well. You know.

    Today's assignment was to make a picture of a sports activity. I sort of wish this was the assignment on March 14th, when I will be supporting Bunny by cheering her on at the Shamrock Run (she's totally running. In a race), because I plan to take my camera and try out the running man setting.

    Instead, I went to the park near my apartment and shot this one of a disk golf basket (say it aloud, it feels very unwieldy in your mouth). I don't get disk golf, but there are many enthusiasts in this area.

    I was really hoping to get a shot of a runner, but it's harder than it looks. They move really fast, for one thing. Also, it feels creepy to take pictures of people that close up.

    So... disk golf. Whatever.


    Sunday, February 28, 2010

    My happiness is...


    My happiness is...:ds105
    Originally uploaded by Tehlanna

    Today's photography assignment is a challenge for me. The assignment is to convey happiness; not just show it but to invoke it in the mind of the audience.

    I don't do so well with relating to other people; I don't know how to invoke happiness in other people. For me, the first image that sprang to mind was that of a child playing (I can hear you laughing); on a playground swing-set, swinging with absolute abandon: hair flying back, laughter stolen away by the wind, smile big and bright - the sort of smile we have before life teaches us to keep it small, unobtrusive, hidden.

    My own happiness is most often invoked at the library. Even just the sight of the building is enough to push that button in the centre of my soul that releases a special sort of calm.

    The library makes sense to me, with its simple order and quiet routine. No decisions need to be made at the library (except, possibly, "how many trips will I have to make to get all these books to the car?"), and that's a peaceful sort of thing for me.

    I didn't get to the library today (despite the fact that I have, in fact, one nearly-overdue audio book); I didn't make it to the park today to photograph other people's children playing happily (I know, creepy).

    But I did settle down with a book and a cup of tea. I don't know if I managed to convey it for you lot, but it makes me exceedingly happy.


    Saturday, February 27, 2010

    Something pretty


    Something pretty
    Originally uploaded by Tehlanna

    It is behaving like Spring in the Northwest. I was in a friend's garden today and all the things that don't normally bloom in the winter were open and colourful.

    It feel all April-ish here and I'm not quite sure what to do with that. My body wants to clean and purge; my fingers want to write, to create; my eyes want to take pictures; my feet want to run (I don't run); my voice wants to sing (I don't sing).

    I also have that fever again, when my brain boils with the need to buy a house. I found one recently - a perfectly perfect town-house a block from the library and the farmer's market. It won't be mine, but something must be. And soon, before I explode with the need of it.

    These wretched, pretty flowers are making me want the things I can't have (yet) and it's making me cranky (and also a little moon-brained).


    Assignment: Horizon


    Horizon: ds104
    Originally uploaded by Tehlanna

    Today's dailyshoot assignment is to make a photograph that emphasises the horizon.

    I have always liked the horizon as a symbol, especially at the beach. I think we have some of the best horizons in the Pacific Northwest; our skies are so temperamental, with deep black storm clouds and patchy blue-ness and stark, angry trees all at the same time.

    This photograph was taken somewhere in Vancouver (the one in Washington); the patchy blue-ness is scarce, but if you look really closely you'll see it (you might want to squint your eyes up).

    Taking pictures of horizons is hard work; between the bumpy car ride and my inexperience with the camera, today's assignment flat tired me out.


    Friday, February 26, 2010

    Great big ground


    Someplace new: ds103
    Originally uploaded by Tehlanna

    It rained today.

    I didn't realise how pretty the world is after it has been rained on until I got a camera. I am usually so busy seeing the rain that I fail to see how shiny everything is.

    Photo details: Taken with Nikon D3000.
    Post-processing: Shadowing, tint, and soft focus.

    Sunday, January 24, 2010

    Where are you now?

    The first year I was in public school was the fourth grade. Another new school in a new school district and I did not know anyone, had not grown up with those children. Private school kids can be mean, but public school kids are meaner.

    There was a girl - she was skinny, with long brown hair and holes in the knees of her jeans (jeans? kids get to wear jeans to school here? rad.)

    She did not have friends; the other kids told me she was a witch, that she could hurt you without even touching you. Well, I came from a Catholic school and I totally believed that. Some people just got the Devil in them, and apparently this girl did too.

    She was quiet. She sat by herself and she read. Everyone avoided her, except for the girls who were mean to her.

    One day, I saw her work her deep, black magic. A boy was playing on a playground toy; it was a strange toy, made up of metal pipes with a bench for sitting. The toy was dome-shaped, and that bench was in the middle. I have never seen a toy like this since.

    The boy, sitting on the bench inside the dome-shaped toy, called out to the little girl as she was walking past. Something rude, and she stopped dead in her tracks. She turned toward the boy and slowly started to walk over to him. He made an exaggerated show of scooting backwards away from her, as though he were afraid she really would hurt him. She walked closer and closer and he scooted farther and farther back on his bench, until he ran out of bench and fell over backwards. As he toppled slowly backwards he smacked his head on the metal pipes that made up the dome-toy.

    Adults came running and carried the boy off; his eyes here glassy and he had a righteous lump forming on the back of his head.

    I am pretty sure I had joined my peers in taunting that little girl; I discovered that you can fit in with others by behaving the way they do, and I am sure that I was mean to her just as the others were.

    Until that day, when I saw her do no more than stand in front of a boy. She wasn't a witch; she had merely figured out how to turn people's own fears against them. People gave away their power to her, and she used that power. I am certain I thought she was exceedingly clever after that.

    I got to know her a little bit throughout that school year. I shared my lunches with her because she never got more than PB&J (which I NEVER got) and I got vienna sausages (which I thought were gag-worthy and she loved because you could spear them with a stick and eat them in one bite).

    We moved again before the year was out and fourth graders don't keep in touch with one another. I never saw that little girl again and I wonder about her. Where is she now? Is she a doctor or an artist or a scientist? Does she write books about flowers and track the migration patterns of small birds? Did she stay in Sacramento? Maybe she is a psychologist, teaching people how to manage their fears and retain control of their power? Maybe she has children, and she gives them peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and vienna sausages in their lunch.

    I don't remember that little girl's name; I don't remember the name of the school we attended together. I doubt I can ever find her again, but I hope that she surrounds herself with people who treat her with more kindness than our child-peers did.

    And if not, I totally hope she still intimidates people into hurting their own selves like fools.

    Thursday, January 21, 2010

    Not-writing

    I got a message the other day in my Twitter inbox asking me how the writing was going. Oh yeah. I had big plans to write more. Every day, in fact, for at least one-half hour.

    How's that going, huh? Oops. More like, how's that not-going? Ask me that, and I'll tell you: Great! I'm really succeeding at the not-writing.

    Tonight I was feeling crabby. Actually, I have been feeling crabby for days. I haven't been writing, I haven't been exercising. I am working on using fewer contractions in writing and in speech, and that always makes me a little crabby.

    I decided the solution to tonight's crabbiness would be some yoga. Wow. Usually doing yoga while crabby is exactly what I need. Tonight it just pissed me off. It also helped me realise again just how out of shape I am. I can no longer sit in virasana without my knees feeling like they belong to a 90 year old. I managed to go through a few motions, but it really wasn't there for me.

    I dutifully recorded my exercise in my log book, and became further annoyed when I saw that my last entry was in September.

    No wonder I feel all stiff and out of shape.

    Monday, January 4, 2010

    The form of writing

    I have been spending the past few days analysing how I write, and how I think my writing is supposed to happen. I am enjoying having my methods challenged.

    So much of what I have been reading lately espouses the butt-in-the-chair approach; the sit-your-ass-down-and-write-already method of writing, leaving well-developed characters and highly researched plots at the door - not as a permanent approach, certainly, but as a means to get away from the "one day" mentality (as in, "one day I'll be a writer").

    This approach liberates and scares me; inspires me to write and makes me roll my eyes at the utter chaos of it. It grinds up against my deeply-ingrained beliefs that writing is a defined process - defined by research, citation, track-down-able facts.

    That is one way, of course. Not the only way, obviously. I love the idea of this new way, even as I sort of want to hold it at arm's length. It's like the seductive little sister of the grown up thoughts I have, whorishly baring her breasts at me, begging me to put aside my "data" and my "facts" and sit my ass down and write...

    I was chatting with Mantramine ages ago about writing, and she asked me if I ever put loud music in my ears while I write. Music? No. Gross.

    Until now.

    My stick-in-the-mud ideas about the process of writing do not include music. No, when I write the only thing involved is my furrowed brow and my glasses on a chain around my neck. When I write I get my librarian skin on; my librarian is very stern-faced and serious.

    Today I decided that some music might be a nice change. Just for something different. I'm trying out some new ideas, different ways of approaching writing, so climbing out of my librarian's skin seems like the most painful, perfect way to challenge myself.

    And you know? It's a little bit awesome. Mantra gave me a gem.

    I am reminded of the importance of of challenging myself, of not following my own patterns and habits just because. Today, just now, right this moment (okay, sometime between my shower this morning and that second cup of French press coffee that wired me to my eyeballs, but whatever) I acknowledged that sometimes just because I believe something to be right doesn't make it so.

    The really neat thing about this particular lesson is that I don't always recognise it for what it is so I get to learn it over and over and over. Fun, huh?

    Sunday, January 3, 2010

    Writing is hard

    I am focusing today's daily writing on acknowledging the difficulty of writing. I think this will be a common theme for me, because I have a lot of thoughts about it that aren't done forming in my head.

    One of Jack Heffron's writing prompts is to write about the positive messages we receive about our work, and to keep those messages visible to ourselves when we start feeling badly about our writing in a way that prevents us from succeeding.

    I am reminded of the saying that we are "our own worst enemy", and it is certainly true for me. I have never received one negative message from anyone about the quality of my writing, yet I have quite often felt as though it was bad. Unimaginative, boring prose that no sane, intelligent person would want to read.

    Recently I wrote that my dad told me how good he thought my writing is. Arguably, dads are supposed to support us and tell us that our art is good even when it isn't, but I think I can tell when my dad is lying.

    My Aunt Alyce, who isn't really my aunt but I have claimed her as such, gives me so much support and positive love about my writing.

    My friends, both "real" and bloggy, give me the most positive messages of all.

    Even the criticism I have received from friends to whom I have entrusted my fiction for review has been constructive, positive feedback that I can use to better my writing. In truth, I am the only person to be so judgmental of my writing; to read it and then delete it in disgust, to pick apart sentences and criticise structure and stance.

    If I could get out of my own way long enough to finish a project I might actually un-learn that behaviour. I wonder if the words that leak into my head and demand to be written are my own psyche's way of really forcing me aside so this creativity can come out. Perhaps that overwhelming need to write that I get is not actually true inspiration pouncing upon me, but my brain's way of forcing the creativity out of me; the creativity that I stifle by telling myself that I am not a "real" writer or that I don't have enough talent to pursue anything beyond writing-as-a-hobby.

    Wouldn't it be neat if my unconscious knew better than my conscious what was best for me?

    Listing love and hate

    One of the exercises in Baty's No Plot? No Problem! is to make two lists before writing your own novel: one is for elements we (as writers) enjoy about other's books and one is for those elements we do not enjoy. This is not meant to be a literary critique, but simply as a tool to identify what we like to read and what we don't. Baty's philosophy is that if we write something with elements that we enjoy reading in a book we will have fun writing our novel and we will stick with it. Conversely, if we write something we wouldn't enjoy reading then we won't enjoy writing it and we'll give it up.

    Makes sense, no?

    I decided I needed to have my two lists on the wall behind my desk so I can swivel around and look at them from time to time while writing. So I bought a big roll of butcher paper and some of that magical adhesive substance that doesn't ruin paint and made my lists.

    As I began, some interesting information was revealed.

      1. I tend to look for characters who are introspective and who learn from their mistakes.
      2. I most enjoy female characters whose personalities (haha) reflect my own.
      3. I intensely dislike characters who put up with emotionally abusive or manipulative families.

    These are certainly not surprising facts, but I found it interesting to see it laid out in a list. I began remembering the characters and plots of books I have most enjoyed, and realised that all the characters I most enjoy reading are those with whom I can personally relate on some level. Furthermore, that I base all my fiction female characters on myself, to some degree.

    I wonder how many writers model their main characters after themselves. Is this narcissism at its finest or are we simply writing about what we are most comfortable?

    As a side note, you know how I've got this obsession with the Twilight Series? Those novels have most of the elements from both my lists. I guess that explains the love/hate I've got with them.

    Saturday, January 2, 2010

    I have a date

    I've been seeing NaNoWriMo around the internet for years. I heard vague references to it on people's blogs, and stumbled across the forums once, but I never really paid much attention to it. I have so many writing projects dying in my brain that I didn't think I could possibly take on one more, and one that requires you to write a whole novel in one month at that.

    But then I found out there's a book on how to write a novel in a month, written by the founder, and I was instantly interested. Anytime there's a how-to book on something, I have to have it.

    So I took myself off to my favourite local bookstore; in addition to finding the book I was looking for, I also found The Writer's Idea Book. A how-to, of course, with prompts; over four hundred of them, and I'm in love.

    One of the prompts is to have a dedicated time to write at the same time every day; I wasn't very good at taking my birth control pill every day at the same time, and I am equally awful at setting aside time to write every day. I tend to write when I am woken up in the middle of the night by crazy, demanding words. It seems simple-but-brilliant to set aside time. How did I not know about this? I spend so much time feeling like I can't write to save my life, and then someone comes along and gives me a gem of an idea that sort of makes me want to bang my head against the wall, it's so bloody simple.

    So, the idea is that I'll spend a certain amount of time -every day, at the same time- at the place where I do my writing. I don't have to write, but I can't do anything else. Of course, I do all my writing at my computer, but that is also where I do anything else, so maybe I ought to pick a different spot for my writing-on-a-schedule?

    Like so many other things I try for five minutes and then abandon, I suspect that I'll forget this the moment something more mindless comes along (I have four episodes of Vampire Diaries recorded and a hat that needs knitting...) but it fits in nicely with my goals for the year, so I'm going to give it a go.

    Oh yeah, by the way... I might even give NaNoWriMo a try this year. Won't that be sexy?

    Friday, January 1, 2010

    Goals: old and new

    I like closure and I love lists. Here's a little bit of both:

    For me 2009 was about:

      Being inspired
      Connecting
      Acceptance
      Healing
      Learning
      Hating
      Drowning
      Making new friends
      Helping
      Laughing
      Loving
      Crying
      Writing
      Reading
      Developing
      Being lost
      Failing
      Succeeding

    I would like focus my energies in 2010 on:

      Art
      Follow-through (yes, again)

    Last year I worked on follow-through; I didn't do as wonderfully as I could have but I think I made progress. Which is what the not-resolution is about for me. I hate the concept of making and blabbering about big, serious resolutions, like save a thousand dollars or lose a bunch of weight or quit smoking. All honourable goals, and certainly worthy of being "resolutions".

    No, for me the problem is that when I make such resolutions I fail. Miserably. I bite off more than I can chew and I overwhelm myself almost immediately. Enter guilt, shame, and remorse which lead me toward behaviour that is entirely counter to my original resolution. Dumb, huh?

    Several bloggers whom I follow have focused their years around concepts; words that trigger an idea they work toward in the coming year. It is a very slight shift in perspective when thinking about "new year resolutions"; in principle, maybe it's the same thing. But for me, and I assume others too, thinking of concepts that I will try to draw into my life over the course of a year is much, much different from working towards a stated resolution with a (potentially) unrealistic time-line and so much pressure to not fail.

    So it is with no guilt or shame I carry 2009's concept of follow-through with me into the coming year. Even though it is something I still need to work on, I did make progress in that area; something else that I experienced in 2009 was acceptance: acceptance that I will not always be perfect; acceptance that simply working towards a goal can be good enough for me. While I am generally self-accepting, I also tend towards perfectionism and being hard on myself when I feel like I haven't done it right, so this last one is sort of a big deal for me.

    Another main focus for 2010 will be art. I have a couple hobbies that fall into the 'art' category and both need some stimulation: writing and fibre-crafting. I can work on both my goals at once, really, since it is often my art that suffers from lack of follow-through.

    What do you do to gain closure from the last year and transition into a new year?

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