One-Star Review (1/365)

I am on the path. I know the start weight.  I know the score.  The feeling.  The muscle memory of January 1.  This is the easiest day of the whole thing.  The simplest to find the Fitbit and get it charged.  To look up a few low-carb websites.  To add a couple glasses of water to your morning.  To eat some cheese and be distracted by the newness of it all.

This is the day for all of that to happen.

I have gained weight over this year of undocumented emotional indulgence.  The roller coaster of are they, aren’t they, will they, won’t they, do they, don’t they has taken its only just now acknowledged toll.  I’ve pretended that I feel the same, even if stairs leave me slightly ought of breath, if I feel slightly overclocked sometimes, a mind and heart racing without any particular stress to trigger it.  There are signs that are subtle and not that double orders of chile cheese fries have an impact to the body.

I don’t feel the resonating thrum around the idea of providing this page with yet another, probably annual at this point, mea culpa.  I don’t feel like a public face palm is all that valuable to me, personally.   I was mad earlier, overlooking the scale, not shocked, but disappointed that I thought that the magic in my magical thinking was hardcore enough as to invent a workaround for the Law of Conservation.    That I could eat violently – eat against imperfection – and end up perfect.  End up unmarked and not carrying all of the impact of adding dessert at every meal, of cravenly eschewing anything remotely green in color (the chile was mostly red in hue). As ever, the value to me, or to you now, is in the path forward where either we do a little better at not fucking things up, or we don’t.  I mean, as much chatter as I can provide us both about it and we all know I can chatter with the best of them when I’m of a mind, the things I do today are what the rest of my life will look like if I don’t break the chain.

I have my plans.  My flexible suggestions that I am going to be writing into law once I am sure I am not going to spend every day breaking them.  I am writing them down, but not here.   Again, not until I am doing something I can comment on.  Day One, as has been explained to me at my new corporate job, is energy and excitement and press releases and the whole embodied concept of LAUNCH! It’s important and necessary to cast your boat off the shore hard and get moving.  But it’s Day Two, it’s the realization that people – perhaps you, dear reader – have moved on.  The excitement for them is already behind them, scratched out of their bullet journals, and it is on you to design and sustain your own passion and maintain it so you can sell it back to them all the way down the road.

So I have done the Day One Showing Up.  I have provided myself the rationale.  I have not eaten a single marshmallow of the bag of marshmallows that have sat next to me on the couch all day long.  I have joined the hordes of perpetual failure: I have started a diet  and I hope I achieve my goals with it.  But this is the same group that is winnowed out into those who get somewhere, who do make it.  It has to come out of the pool of everyone who is willing to say, goddamnit, okay, maybe my Id can’t run me from morning to night and I have to put my foot down.  All of us tryers standing at the shore, taking the shove into the waters we know, pulling ourselves into the waters we don’t.

 

 

Face Like a Twenty-Sided Die

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So, friends, bots, countryfolk,  I don’t know.  It’s going alright in my estimation.  Yesterday, I was a bit draggy, and today, too.  But in the morning, I conquered a few items on my to-do list that had been hanging there.  We had some curious Mercury-in-Retrograde situations to deal with here.  It snowed.
But that’s not what has me so above par. I finished the book.  Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking, if you’re here and not on my post of a couple days ago when I started it and had about a thousand or more words to spend on losing my mind.
 It took only two days to read.  It makes me laugh, I suppose, that I don’t often read because I’m afraid to read imperfectly.  I actually saw a friend on Twitter talk about this and I think it’s true.  It takes us longer sometimes, we don’t always fall with this perfect grace into a created world and that hiccup-feeling makes me think that I’m getting dumber.  That I’m no longer within easy reach of these gifts that I felt (and feel) define me and, when I’m at my most cynical, kept me safe up in the aerie, my observer’s perch.
If it’s all not easy, then maybe they’ve changed the password on the secret genius fortress.  And you’re just one of the madding crowd.  A non-reader.  A non-creative.  Plodding.  A fraud in the eyes of everyone over the years who put these laurels on me and praised my ability with the written word. Over the past eight years, spending the amount of time I wanted to spend on my writing always felt self-indulgent, and when I did, it wasn’t easy.  I would try and settle down with a book, one I loved, or a new one from an author I knew I adored and their style was engaging and within ten minutes or less, my eyes started to glance towards my computer, and I realized that I’d been on auto-pilot.  No actual comprehension of the words had taken place.  I’d turned the page and hadn’t seen anything.  This,  I thought, was frightening.  This was not right.
There were always things that took precedence, even just laying there, empty felt better than confirming your own ineptitude. Schrodinger’s Reader.  I just wanted it to feel the way it did when I was a kid, a luge run, a friction-free field where there was nothing to slow you or stop you but the tactile concerns of turning the page.  I just felt stupid, not that I was stressed and worried about work and myself and my future and that I’d pressurized everything and screwed on the lid.  It was, and is, another failure on the pile.  A part of myself discarded because it wasn’t precisely useful all the time to everyone around me.
Maybe it’s a sign of the times.  A sign of the result of having a new job and a new-found request to make myself happy, to let things pass through me instead of sticking like burning pitch in my heart.  But I read it and I didn’t worry about if I red gud. Or pretty.  Or the way those girls do.  Or the way that serious-minded writers read. I didn’t worry if it took me a year to read it, I was curious.  And I flew through it, sticking to every word as though they were little post-it notes.
My heart felt the story deeply, but I think, more than anything I’m grateful for the reminder to try, to ask, to not assume understanding.  To not be angry that the flowers still live and they’re weird and spindly and drab colors more often than not.  I’m not Amanda Palmer-scale on average.  But there are parts of me that I think approach it.
So I’m using the page how I want to and writing on my own.  I think the 500 word number is still really important.  I’m holding fast to that.  But I do recognize that patting myself on the back for doing this when what I want – want deeply – is to be a writer of publishable, cohesive fictions and poems.  I can stand and deliver, but the practice I need now is to remember the palette of story.  To shroud myself in the glories of language.   To make things and fix ’em, and send them into the world.

Lockjaw: Day One Hundred Forty-Seven

828372_27018395Oh, it’s Hook.  Haven’t seen that movie in most of forever.  I’m watching TV with the sound off, the wave noise of Civilization V playing in the background as I type this.  The noise is quite soothing.  I’ve heard the news about the shooting, but don’t think this space is a good one, nor is this a good use of my sympathy for the victims and frustration to run my mouth off about my opinions regarding the information reported on the shooter’s motivations.   I’m sure we’ll all watch and read and see more about this in the days to come.

I think I want to talk about the diet today.  It’s going really well.  I won’t qualify that.  It just is going well.  I am exercising, eating low-carb, not craving things that are full of sugar, not flipping out about it, and feeling like it’s moving in the right direction, if only incrementally.  I’m not checking the scale every day to justify doing it.  I’m not sick of anything, I don’t feel like I’m being kept away from anything I want or need.  Going off the diet doesn’t sound appealing.

But as soon as I start thinking about the end of the line, about what the body could potentially look like if I lost 30 pounds  to be in the purportedly healthy weight range for my height, I do start to quiver a bit.  I do  start to think that it will never happen and I don’t want it to happen, because it feels risky and unsafe and like I’d be stepping out on a stage and asking to give up control over myself.  It’s this impossible place where I am the girls I see around me, rather than this liminal being who doesn’t draw the sorts of stories I’m reading about tonight on twitter with the #yesallwomen hashtag.  I’ve always been quasi-enough that I’ve only had a few scares, but I’ve always been aware of the danger and told to cover up.  Even the trip to Italy has this weird connotation, of something bad might happen to you.  And it might, and I will be careful, but contemplating that if I’m losing weight as even a snail’s pace, by that time, my body will be significantly less…buxom than it is at this moment.  It’s sort of like realizing you’re not only going to be travelling amongst strangers, but as a stranger.

And then again, I really don’t believe that it can happen.  Which isn’t a good thing to say.  I want to feel 100% great about the fact that I won’t have this protective belly girding everything (that’s gross, but hey, we’re trying to get to the truth of things around here.)  But it sort of feels like there’s this threshold, maybe it’s in fifteen pounds, maybe it’s more or less, but there’s this point where I can’t pretend that people will ignore my body.  That there’s an IFF I’m flipping off which will turn off my cloaking device and then something awful will happen.

 

Character Sketch

I can’t tell where my failings end and the failings of the universe right now begin.

….

Okay, that was in the heart of it all.

….

Miranda slipped her flute of wine, newly manicured nails delicately gripping the stem.  She was aware of the time.  She was aware of what she had set into motion.  Daylight was melting into dusk outside the massive glass walls of Daedalus and the alcohol was draining the strength of her senses into one, a warmth that settled around her head like a nimbus, an incubator, a blow dryer on high.

She had taken off her shoes, silvery pumps with a heel high enough to be noteworthy.  In this city, that was a good six inches and her legs throbbed from her knobby knees down to her clammy, irregularly sized toes.  Miranda’s body had always been a little off.   She’d been born a hairy child with clubbed thumbs.  Her mother and father called her una piccola scimmia pelosa.   Through the services of a good – no, excellent – aesthetician, the aggressive eyebrows had been thinned decisively, her upper lip as silken and hairless as the rest of her.  But the murderer’s thumbs,  like so much else, were destiny.

“What do you know about your…friend?”

Maybe she had had more of the Barbaresco than she intended.  But she could be excused for craving it.  The taste of strawberries melded with rose petals blooming in a delicate, garnet-hued vintage.  Was like drinking blood must be for a vampire, radiating life’s essence.  As she turned to meet the eyes of this boy, she realized the black bottle was empty.  She’d have to ask for another.

The boy chained to his chair didn’t answer.

“Come on now, I’ve requested your company, and you don’t have anything to say to me?”

Her Barbaresco, and maybe some of the drugs from the party, were starting to kick in.  The black glass, his black eyes, the obsidian awards lining the shelves.  A perfect darkness.  She flicked at the top three buttons on her ivory dress shirt.

“He’s out doing what you wouldn’t.  7:02pm.  11th and Halvorson.  A tall man with a noticeable limp that is just about to become moot.  He’s out there protecting you from your fate, your destiny. It’s almost romantic.  He’d like us both to think of it that way.  I’ve sorted him that far.  And I also know it would upset him for you and I to become friends.  Jack’s always been rather possessive.  But, you see, I need to upset him.  Turnabout’s fair play.”   She reached, inelegantly, to shimmy out of her panty hose.

The boy in the chair smiled just enough to feel she’d been silently ridiculed.  Miranda felt a dryness in her throat.  She flicked another button to  and smiled back.

“I’d offer you a drink.  You’re old enough now, right?  There’s some white wine over by the caddy. ” She motioned vaguely behind him. “But I’ve had the sort of drink you can’t follow with swill.   It’d be like going from caviar to White Castles.  Besides, the light is rather bright, anyway.  And we’re all well past breaking ice.”

She stepped behind him, on those waxed but unsteady legs, leaning forward to press herself into the back of the chair as she ran her hands down his shirt.

In a thick, cakey whisper, she moaned with an amiable sincerity.  “It’s a terrible thing we have to do together.  You have to prove he doesn’t own you, and I…have to prove he does.”

We’ll Clean That Up In Post

I tried to name this post Sodium – but apparently, it’s already been done somewhere in the archives.    I feel very salted down and put away for safe-keeping, a metaphor that means more to me than I can even say.

It is the magical Sunday night.  My room is fairly clean.  I’m watching Who Do You Think You Are – the Blair Underwood episode – I have two people to write back.  I have the bath to take.  I have the head to set on straight, but I feel…decent, all things considered.

One day at a time is all you can do.  All you can account for yourself, really.

Adrian didn’t think of himself as the boy who had a sliver of the Devil in his eye.   He’d heard that said once,  by Mr. Early leaning out a car window to his son as he ran toward the school.  It was half out of earshot, but he could always remember those words, spat out out so casually into the sharp morning  light of a chilled autumn morning.  “You be nice to him now, don’t matter if he’s got the Devil in his eye. ”

Before that, Adrian used to be friends, he was sure, with Mr. Early’s son, John, a bulky, sturdy, farm boy-looking kid who’d never pushed a plow in his life.  They talked about about the Bengals, about school, about girls.   He’d never questioned it.  But that October, Adrian was walking behind the school, just thinking.  His grandfather had been crying that morning.  He didn’t want him to know he noticed this veteran, this actual farm boy bellowing and sobbing into a pillow that didn’t mute half of his sorrow and rage.  Adrian slipped out the front door.  There was no lunch on the countertop this morning, an occurrence that was becoming more and more common, so his backpack carried Lillie’s book and that was it.

John nodded, though, he heard his father and Adrian saw and heard enough.  When John asked if he wanted to come over that night for dinner, he was of two minds.  His stomach knotted up, ravenous, but something like pride lopped all the knots off with a blade.  “Nah” was how he left it, choosing to eat by himself instead of with John and John’s gradient smear of geeky friends.   Guys that had always given him their dump trucks, their G.I. Joes, their extra fries.  Now that his mother was dead, well, maybe that was one too many.

But he knew what it was that made them hesitate, made their fathers have to remind them that they were good kids, that he, was still a good kid.   Wasn’t his fault his mother was floating in Ames Lake, two weeks ago, just before the first frost. Wasn’t his fault a man almost drowned to death trying to fish her out.

Though, the things they told their kids, he was learning, were never the things they told each other, told themselves.

A little moment, but he told Lillie that’s when it started.  That’s when he stopped being a good kid and what happens next, there is no myth to follow.

 

Batter My Heart

The title track.

It’s been a long time since I’ve cried in my car.  It’s been a long time since I’ve cried at all.  I’ve convinced myself that personally, it’s not all that useful.  Probably because I used to cry all the time.  Daily.   When someone looked at me crosswise.  I was known for feeling too much.  I remember growing up as a kid and being sent to my room because I couldn’t stop crying.  Crying for good reasons and bad reasons.  Maybe I was addicted to the catharsis.  I’ve forgotten how it used to be, somehow.

Now, even when I’m really frightened by myself, by my job, by my reality, I mostly don’t cry.  Because nothing’s changed and crying makes me feel…like a lot.  And frankly, if nothing’s going to change, I’d rather not feel the feelings of someone so isolated and lonely and terrified of the future.  I’d rather not go down that road.  That’s not what grown-ups do and if I start, I’m pretty sure that it’s going to take some effort to stop and that absence of control is disconcerting now.  My empathic nature has been tamped down so hard that just up and crying seems absurd.  But I started crying today.

It was for a good reason at first. I was so relieved that my Christmas work was over and that I could sort of look ahead and see clear to the holidays with joy.  I made a Christmas CD, something I love to do every year and hadn’t felt up to or interested in until now.  And I read on facebook something about the people paying off strangers’ layaway plans for their holiday purchases for their families and I found that so profoundly good and kind and lovely that my eyes welled up.  And I thought good, I’m not so broken that the reaction, the knee-jerk ability to sense love in the universe, hadn’t rusted over.   Then my CD played this car-vibrating version of Carol of the Bells and the tears bubbled over again.  And I thought this is how it should be.  I should be aware of the emotion of the season, I shouldn’t be a brick wall, I don’t want to be a brick wall, that’s not right, that’s not me.

And then I went shopping and ate with my sister and mother after checking on my other sister who was so sick last night.   I was in a good mood, I really and truly was.  I was thinking how nice it was that we could be friends after everything that’s happened, that we could be talking like we were and not at each other’s throats.

But maybe it was the surging crowds and being open to all of that just drained me.  Maybe I’m almost on the rag and all of this is just a hormonal imbalance.  Maybe I do this to myself for attention.  Maybe I just got overwhelmed.

I just started getting so negative.  So frustrated.  Like every breath was the straw breaking this camel’s back.  Fuck, even now I hate that fucking analogy.  But I am that thing.  The camel going for ages in the desert on its own resources.  And my sister and mother chattering about her new boyfriend and love, love, love, and how she was in such agony not seeing him for two weeks and I’d so like to think of myself as someone who could separate another’s happiness from my own.  I’d like to think that I could always understand that I could want good things for everyone and if I can’t have good things for myself, want to strip them from everyone around me.  I’d like to think that my heart was more open and giving and truer than that.  And I know, deep down, that *is* what I believe.  I am happy for her.  I am happy that she’s growing and I’m happy that she’s found someone who thinks she’s great.

But this bullshit maiden aunt perception fucking drives me up the fucking wall.  The way someone can stare at you and talk about themselves without even a flickering of how what they say can play in the mind of someone else.  She’s never known me to date anyone, mostly because I haven’t much, and this is not her responsibility to resolve.   I state that for the record – she doesn’t owe me a life.  But I try to just be myself and I’m told over and over that I’m weird.  That I dress wrong.  That my hair’s wrong.  That I should go hang out in bars.  That the music I love isn’t palatable.  Or more than that, lately, I’m just not talked to at all.  Today I felt like I’ve been sorted.  I’m boxed into whatever they see me as and I’m done.  Everything’s changed for her and I’m done.

And I know this is all just jealous bullshit on my part.  I know it is.  I know this is a broken record.  I know this pain is just as helpful as the crying.  I know I have to just mind myself.  I know nobody likes any of this and nobody finds any of this at all inviting.  I don’t want to discomfit anyone with my emotions. I know that being a mess is pretty unacceptable so I’ve kept all of that under the table.   Or maybe I just thought I did.  I know that I can’t let this absolve me of trying harder to deal with myself and my issues in a plain-faced, even handed way.  I can’t back down.  I’ve already done that too often and in too many ways.

I just wanted to say thank you to this space.  This space I’ve tried to claim for myself, but maybe never have, still trying to sit in the corner and wonder why no one’s wandering over to talk to me.  A long time ago, I thought being here, writing daily, would somehow make me brave.   Some magic pill that would earn me a place, some respect, someone’s interest.  I feel the need for re-invention, but you can’t run away from what you are.