Thursday, July 26, 2012

Talisman Banana, Daylight Come and Me Want to Go Home

I used to carry two bullets in my pocket. A boy gave them to me (along with other trinkets; a miniature decorative pill case filled with dried flowers, tiny strangely colored rocks, two broken cameo rings pressed in concrete.)  I carried the bullets with me everywhere for the better part of a year (which is like 10 years when you're a teenager) and I would rub them like a worry stone deep in my pocket. Wore them to a shine like the satin edges of my baby blanket. Without any thought to them being actual bullets, they were charms that kept me safe and brought me comfort. They were part of a series of scared objects, lucky charms that I’ve had in my life. 

[Can you imagine that now…a girl in high school with two bullets in her pocket?!?!?!? Holy fucking shit. I also had a bumper sticker that read “CARBOMB” which was hilarious to me at the time—my car was a piece—at a time when car bombs were only in James Bond movies. Times they are a changin’ baby.]

I have been on the lookout for a new talisman for myself (and one for a friend in need.) These are not things that you can just go to Target and buy.  Good talismans are found or discovered and have an emotional weight/connection that holds and harbors the power, the connection.

Do I believe in magic? I believe in healing. I believe in God and the power of the human mind. Why do I like farm-raised organic meat from the farmer’s market? It makes me feel good about myself (and it tastes better.) There is a tremendous amount of power in things/objects/ideas/mantras that make us feel safe or better or well or saved or comforted. That is organic (both "universal" and the meat.) That is healing. That is God.

So, yes, I believe in magic. I believe that a talisman can help you when you need help. It helps us focus our minds on something…gives us a place to put that thought, that energy. It is like prayer. It’s specific—it helps us direct our wants and wishes and sends all of our energy into one space. Most of us have these charms (real or imagined) in our lives. 

I am powerful. When I focus on something and really stay focused, I can make it happen. [yes, it sounds so witchy.]  I forgot that for a long time.

I remember now. Talisman or not.

Monday, July 9, 2012

To Be

There is a saying that comes from Shakespeare about love being an act of will. I will find it again (I lose the reference like every 3 years and hope to find it again and always do)— the idea is that love is work. That humans choose to love. Relationships are a choice, not fate or God or any kind of intervention—there is no evidence that love at first site will last unless there is a will (or two wills) that is making it happen for the long term. We have to want it—we have to will it.  (Careful here.)

I choose how to treat S—what words I use, how I ask, how I nurture, how I reprimand—those are my choices. With S, I am so careful and thoughtful about those things. She is so young, I don’t want to be too harsh or too pliable. I want to scold her and explain why she is being reprimanded and then give her hugs and kisses so she knows that it is because I love her that I discipline and correct her.

Yesterday she threw a small, black dish on the floor in a moment of anger and frustration. The dish didn’t break (luckily.) Little S knew it was wrong and she looked at me.  I scooped her up and put her in time out (that’s new for us.)  I explained to her that it’s not safe to throw things. After that we hugged. A few minutes later she went into the kitchen and swatted me with a dish towel and then threw it violently to ground. She took herself right back to time out. She got it. She was mad and wrong and needed a break. She (at 22 months old) made a choice. She wanted to smack me with a towel and release her frustration by throwing it to the ground. The punishment was worth the release. She self-corrected. Smart baby.

My choices with D aren’t as clear. I am less careful about the words I use, how to ask, how to nurture, how to reprimand. I am more hurtful and thoughtless. And in general in my personal adult relationships, I’m very lazy about how I communicate. I just assume that you are an adult and will ask if you don’t get it, or say something if I hurt your feelings. It’s different than with a child. Isn’t it? I don’t consciously make those choices.  Maybe I should be more cautious, more thoughtful.

I am way more careful with people at work. I practice thinking before I speak at work more often than anywhere else. I don’t always get it right, but I try to shut up more in meetings, than to let it rip. That said, I am still known for being outspoken. What’s the choice in that?  

What I am so long in getting at is that we have to treat our lives with will. Acts of willing---of doing. What do I want? How do I get it?

Work hard. Make your life good. Make your life better. (It’s not the American dream exactly, just a blurring version of it.) I still believe that I can make changes in my life. I know that I can. I have to know that and do that. I have to use my will to make my life the way that I want it to be. I cannot just let it happen. It will die like a relationship left to nothing. I have to do more.

This is petering out and I have more to say on this, but it’s not coming.  

How to Be a Writer (The Un-Sarcastic Version)

Note: There are many exceptions. There are very smart, talented people who have natural God-given gifts that just can sit and write epic poetry and eloquent prose. Remember that they are exceptions.

Read: reading is very important. When you start to read with a writer’s eye, you notice beautifully crafted detailed, sentences as well as the horribly written, and the short-and-sweet. You start to read as a writer. How did he/she craft that sentence? Why is that word choice so effective/ineffective? How does this paragraph have so much emotional weight? Which words in it, make it that way?

Write: when you write you cannot, should not think like a writer. Thinking like a writer (or editor or artist) will cripple your work. When you write you need not to think at all. Drafting, or writing, is a loose, liquid, and squishy thing. If you try too craft it and squeeze it or mold it too tightly, it will ooze all of the good stuff right out of your hand. You must not think when you write. Just do it.

Daily Practice: much like yoga, or any other devotion, your writing practice is a practice. It gets rusty if you let it sit. It gets better when you do it daily. Writing every day is a non-negotiable. Yes, there are days when, I can’t write for anything. So, I read, re-read, and edit in hopes that some part of that process will inspire the writing to come. Some days it does, some days it does not.

Read, Re-Read, and Edit: you will get a lot out of knowing these skills. Learn to be a close reader. Get in there and pick apart good (and bad) writing to see how it’s done. Learn to re-read what you love. I have read Love in the Time of Cholera twenty times. It’s always new and wonderful and it’s a different book each time I read it (because I am differently effected and evolved every time I pick it up.) Editing is a super skill. It can be taught, but it also requires a little bit of magic. The basic grammar, usage, and mechanics can be taught. Finesse of the English language cannot be taught. Whichever type of editor you become will help you after you’ve written an unwieldy poem and you are stuck and you can’t get it to do what you want it to do…it helps to have, somewhere inside of you, an editor to help you along.

Courage: this goes with the old saying “Write what you know” as well as the saying “Know your audience.” Writing what you know is scary and takes courage. No, not when you write a tight little description of your favorite watering hold…there is no bravery in that (unless your favorite spot is a brothel), but more when you write what you know about fires and car crashes and funerals and starvation and neglect and murder and white-collar crime. It takes balls to write the truth. So, build a non-judgmental imaginary audience and write your childhood. Once you’ve gotten that all out, then write the rest. At that point you can change your audience. You are a writer, make something up.

Truth: there is very little money/fame in writing. It is true (un-sarcastically) that most of the writers I know have other jobs—half of them are teachers/professors/academics, the other half work in bars, restaurants, cafes, and publishing houses—or write boring shit for educational publishers, copy for bank fliers, run small local newspapers—nothing glamorous. Most of them are middle aged and unattractive. Most of them are lower- to middle-class and not a lick more. Most writers are socially awkward and semi-invisible. I also know a few sexy, famous writers who get paid to write and read and make public appearances.  And those lucky few work all the time. They are always writing for a contract (magazine, journal, newspaper, etc.) and making the talk circuit, giving readings, plugging away on another contract. It’s a full time job that doesn’t pay nearly as well and a baseball player or Hollywood film director.

Gist: do what you love. If you have the writing bug, then by all means write. Read and write a lot. Do it every day. Don’t be afraid to piss off your parents or children or co-workers. Find your true voice and use it. Learn to read well and to edit a little. Have patience and a dedicated practice.  Submit your work. Try to get published. And have a good “other job” or backup plan for income. Be realistic about what being a writer means. And, good luck.  

Saturday, July 7, 2012

So You Want to Be a Writer, Hun?

I havesome tips for blossoming writers. Why should you listen to me? Good question. I am an unsuccessful writer, so I know what not to do.

And your first lesson is that beinga writer, is just that…it’s what you are—it’s not what you do, or say you do,or how you make money (unless you are lucky.)  Being a writer is just what you are. You can’t help it.And if you could help it, you would choose to be anything else, like anarchitect or a dj or clown bear or bank teller or zoo keeper or bank robber or milkman or insurance salesman or pizza delivery driver (all of these jobs are jobs that famous writers have had.)

Advice to people who want tobe writers:
  1. write
  2. read
  3. write
  4. read (get it? good.)
  5. don’t think. Just write. Don’tthink about sentence structure, or character names, or rhyming words oranything, just write what’s in your head/heart/mind/nugget and then go back andclean it up (or say FUCK it and leave it a big mess and call it a “blog” anddon’t give a shit if anyone ever reads it or if you make money or have fame ordo anything great.)  This is called“writing through the shit” or writing through the bullshit that fills your mindand is stupid and trivial and useless and shallow and cowardly and lame. This is what all writers do. You have to write the crap to get to the good stuff. 
  6. Don’t be a chicken. (Yes, I know,there are some things that I will never write. I am the biggest squawker outthere posing as a writer. Cock-a-doodle-doo.)
  7. Live your life. This should belike number 3 or 4 if you wanted a list of priority. If you stay in your roomand do nothing and risk nothing and fail at nothing you will write boringtedious garbage.
  8. There are so many famous horriblewriters who only deserve fame because they are lucky or tenacious or because they fucked the right/writing professor in grad school but they donot deserve the fame based on merit, effort, or talent. Most writers are terrible.This should not discourage you. In fact, this should keep you warm at night. Ifyou do 1-7 you will not be a terrible writer and if you sleep with the right people, you may even be famous. Making money as a writer is a good thing all self-deprecation aside. You should strive to make money as a writer. I am just jealous and I haven't tried that hard and I am a chicken, remember that when reading this advice. 
  9. Don’t forget to write. Use yourparents, use your childhood, use your heartbreak and internal bleeding andhatred and fear and ugliness and joy and splinters and stubbed toes to makegood writing. All of your experiences through your eyes are unique.Write all of that shit down. Some famous writer said something about only needing childhood experiences to be a great writer. Look it up, I'm too lazy. 
  10. Try to publish. Blog at the least,submit to literary journals in the interim, send mms (manuscripts) to publishers.
  11. Number 6 plus a little: you can’tcare too much about spelling or sentence structure. It’s important just so yourmeaning doesn’t get lost between punctuation marks. But, write it down and get/find a good editor or train yourself to be an okay editor and get/find a shitty editor with good connections. No one will give a shit aboutwhat you write. So, just be honest. Or lie. Fiction is full of lies that wewish we’d told. What if this train could fly? What if I said this instead ofthat? What if I fucked my college professor and became a famous writer? What if I died in that car crash and was reborn a donkey? What then? Don’t let your inner critic kill your ink flow. Write it. 
  12. There is nothing, not one thing,noble about being a writer. There is no romance, no money, no fame…most writersare boring and scared and have no money, sex, or fame. Most writersare middle-aged losers with a lifetime of fear and loathing to write about. It’sour sad little fucked up lives that make good writing—not social skills, orgood looks. If you want to be a writer to get money or love, you are a hugeidiot and will probably be famous. Most writers are not so lucky.
  13. Learn to read, re-read, and edit.These are skills that can be taught. Learn to read, re-read, and edit—three separate skillsthere. This will help you when you don’tknow how to write about something or when you can’t write and still want to dosomething in your daily practice….
  14. Daily practice. Write every day.Lists count, as do shitty blogs, and web articles, and songs, and love notes onnapkins and poems in the steam on your bathroom mirror. Have you written today? Get to it.
  15. Do not make excuses. Being awriter is not easy or fun or awesome or sexy. Just write. You will not be goodat it most of the time, but so fucking what? Don’t make excuses, just do it. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Truths: How To Cook Without Food (or Power)

  • Eat watermelon. Lots of it. Good for hydration, good for cooling, great for a hangover—just in case.
  • Fruit—grapes, blueberries, watermelon, cantaloupe—all pretty good room temperature (even if that room is 85°)
  • Use your grill. Buy meat and go home and cook it (well) outside. If meat is as repulsive to you as it is to me (in the summer), grill up some veggies, corn, zucchini, carrots, eggplant, beets, tomatoes, peppers and drizzle with Balsamic and salt. Or grill up some pineapple, apples, carrots, with some cinnamon and a dash of balsamic. It will keep you full and happy.
  • No leftovers. Buy only what you need to eat that day.
  • Use mustards (skip the mayo)
  • Canned/jarred food that doesn’t suck: baked beans, tuna, olives, black beans (all beans really), pineapple, salsa, tomato sauce.
  • Make hummus—smash those canned beans with some salt, cilantro, a little EVOO, and some lemon juice—hummus doesn’t need much (if any) refrigeration.
  • Guacamole—avocado, lime, salt. Eat it. It’s good for you.
  • JalapeƱo stuff: slice jalapenos thin, thin, thin, mix/mottle with salt (more than you would think) and lime juice (less than you would think). Yum. This is better chilled, so put it in your cooler. 

I Call Bullshit on Laura Ingalls Wilder—Fuck This Little House on the Prairie Shit

The best part about not having power is reading by lamplight and having the tv off. I like the quiet.  I don’t mind being outdoors most of the day. I like swimming, walking, sitting in the shade. I like eating watermelon. I like that everyone comes outside. I like the sense of community (lots of invitations to pools, and houses, and chill activities to help keep us sane.) We are all in it together. It’s nice.  I like doing stuff instead of watching other people doing stuff. Do more, watch less—good reminder, got it. I like not having a cell phone or computer. Technology is awesome but time consuming and not as necessary as we want to think, and sometimes, it’s just stupid. (Think about how much time we put into using technology…charging, thumbing through emails and texts, checking websites, the news, back to email, playing a game…it’s a huge time-suck. And it’s exhausting to keep up with—but who doesn’t love Temple Run?!?!)  Being unplugged, is a nice and welcome change.

But. This is where Laura Ingalls Wilder and I diverge. I like lights, and listening to music, and I like air conditioning…how spoiled I have become. I could sing for entertainment (and have to S) but without accompaniment it is too LHP minus the jug. I am okay without music for awhile (it lives in my head anyway.) All of this is fine.

But. It’s the heat. The heat is killer. It’s the part that I can’t get over. You can keep the lights if I can have some refuge from the heat. The inescapable, hot, hot heat—soaking, saturating into my whole body, bones, muscles, soul. I resign to the heat and try to appreciated it—so hot, so dry, so blanketing, I fall asleep only to be awoken by pools of sweat, stuck to the sheet, disoriented, dehydrated, my body searching for an inch of cool, for relief. There is no cooler inch or room or blade of grass. No ice. No ice water. No fan. No movement. The hot stillness like a gag. I can’t hear bugs or birds or wind or motors. The world has slowed to stand still. Maybe this is why people in the South move so slowly—why people in the Dominican are on a different pace. It’s too fucking hot to move any faster than molasses.

So, while this heat works slowly through my body and mind, forgive the myopic focus on this singular topic. I can’t think of much else. I wonder what month Laura Ingalls wrote Little House on the Prairie? I bet it wasn’t July.