Summer Reading

The good news about this summer is that I have been reading like mad!  After months of not being able to sustain interest in anything for any length of time, I devoured a couple of books every week.  I steered clear of anything too thought provoking and stuck with the fluff books which provided great distractions from . . . well, myself.

Here’s a snapshot of some of what I have been reading.

Mysteries! Someone loaned one of my sisters the series of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books, and she loaned them to me to read. She is on 14 or 15 (maybe) and I just started Seven Up.  What a riot! Sassy novice bounty hunter meets 1980s  hair and New Jersey fashion meets sexy men and an old powder blue Buick!  What will we ever do when there are no more left to read?  I did just see an ad that the 19th book in the series is coming soon!

Old Favorites! I read two books by one of my favorite authors: Sarah Addison Allen’s  The Peach Keeper and The Girl Who Chase the Moon.  I love all of her books.  A little bit of soul searching, a little bit of romance, a little bit of small-town history, a little bit of magic — all this makes for some feel-good, snuggle up in a blanket (in the a/c, of course), with a soothing cup of tea reading.

Family Dramas!  I’m living with lots of family, why not read about families who are so much more dysfunctional and….weird:  Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown and Drinking Closer to Home by Jessica Anya Blau and Wallflower in Bloom by Claire Cook and The Queen of New Beginnings by Erica James, and, one more, Alligator by Lisa Moore. All good stuff!!

Thanks to my local library (and my sister) for providing all of these tales for free!

What did you read this summer?

A Non-Blog Post

It’s been time to write a new blog post for a long time now.

The problem with blogs–and I’ve written about this before–is that you can’t be entirely truthful.  First of all, other people’s lives and feelings need to be protected.  I can’t even write “anonymously” about, say, a difficult relationship because everyone I know who (is paranoid and) reads it could possibly wonder, “Is she writing about me?”  Secondly, does anyone really want to know what I am really thinking or feeling?  Probably not.  So I offer up the cotton-candy-flavored version instead.

If I could write as honestly now as I did when I first started my blog over two years ago, I might write about the act of bargaining with oneself and letting the bad remain unsaid in order not to threaten the good, or being broken wide open with the laughter and love of a two-year-old,  and then fighting to hold onto those memories because this very well may be the last time the universe conspires to put us together.  Or I might write about how it’s lonelier to be with people who “tolerate” rather than appreciate or desire your company than it is to be completely and utterly alone. I might write about how for the first time in almost a year I feel the absolute urgency to move on or I will be sucked further into this alternate reality and lose my life entirely.  Or I might write about being completely off anti-depressants and other mood-altering pills for the first time in ten years and how my face muscles are contorting again with the constant holding back of tears.  Or I might write about being fat, broke, unemployed . . . well. you get the idea.

I can’t write about any of this because I can’t locate the hope. I can’t see my way out.  And who wants to read a few sad, depressing paragraphs about someone’s sad, depressing life anyway?

There is little tolerance in this world for anything that is not pretty.  Messy, bleak, frustrating are all shoved aside because we only want to see the parts of life that are hopeful and optimistic. 

So let’s start over.  “How are you?”  “I am fine.”

Note: In exchange for this bleak non-blog post, I added a new blog design with balloons to create an uplifting atmosphere.

Dear Universe,

“I’ll be alright in a minute. I am just bewildered by life.” –Katharine Hepburn in the Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

I, too, am bewildered by life.

I am lost.

I struggle.

I try to believe that something will happen.

A job.

A home.

I need to believe.

I am discouraged.

My days are repeats of the days before.

I try to remember something, anything that has worked for me.

I know that life is not easy for most people, but why does it seem so damn hard for me?

Can nothing work in my favor?

I am stuck in a holding pattern. In more ways than one.

I don’t feel worse than I did before I left. That is something.

My parents are keeping me off the street. That is something.

Some days I want it all–the job, the home, the independence, the freedom.

Some days all I want is to be able to sleep through the night.

Universe, I send this wish out to you: Please let something happen.

(Is it too much to ask for it to be something good?)

A Movie, a Book, a Tune, a Thought

Watching Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris

“The job of the artist is not to succumb to despair, but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence.” –Gertrude Stein in Midnight in Paris

Re-reading May Sarton’s Journal of a Solitude

“Does anything in nature despair except man? An animal with a foot caught in a trap does not seem to despair. It is too busy trying to survive. It is all closed in, to a kind of still, intense waiting. Is this a key? Keep busy with survival. Imitate the trees. Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember that nothing stays the same for long, not even pain, psychic pain. Sit it out. Let it all pass. Let it go. ”

Listening to Dream by Alice Smith

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It is not my intention to include two quotes on despair–it is an accident, but I am going to keep it like this. There are MANY things I like to quote from May Sarton, but this one struck me this time around.

I hope you are not despairing tonight.

I want to share with you something I wrote the other night for a dear, dear friend:

I have to believe that things will work out for people like you and me, we who keep trying, who keep loving, who keep hoping, because if it doesn’t, then that is just too horrible to bear.  We have to hope, even if it is as simple as appreciating the paper-thin petals of a peony, the swarm of hummingbirds drinking the sweet nectar, the baby birds laughing and playing as they learn to fly, and the magnolia tree whose beautiful tender pink blossoms were frozen in a frost and whose leaves rotted comes back to life after it had seemed to be too late.

I hadn’t known I was so hopeful until I wrote those words. May Sarton’s love of nature is influencing me as I look outside the window each day.  I am lucky to be learning about what I see and learning to be patient in my vigilance. For the longest time there were no hummingbirds; then there was one; now there are many.

Insomnia

Sometimes our own stories are the ones we can never tell. But if a story is never told, it becomes something else–forgotten.” –narration at beginning of Sarah’s Key.

What are you waiting for?” –from Ira & Abby

***

Insomnia keeps me up most nights now.  My body gets hot, panic sets in, my heart races.  I can’t focus enough to read (however, I do think a lot about what to read), so I aimlessly flip through Netflix Instant looking for distraction instead of taking a pill.  Often I only watch the first ten or fifteen minutes of a movie before moving on to another one. (The exceptions are usually the films I watch for the second or third or fourth time.)

I keep a huge spiral notebook beside my laptop (which is usually on my bed) and I am always taking notes: from movies, phone conversations, books, thoughts, internet wanderings.  It’s very confusing to try to make sense of it later, but this is where I had recorded the above quotes.

***

I am lost and w(a/o)ndering and stumbling and, most days, without purpose.

***

Last night I watched Miranda July’s The Future.  To me, she is a genius and her films are magical.  Performance art in your living room.  While the film was playing on the television, a storm was brewing outside.  The wind, the rain, the thunder and lightning, the dark sky; my eyes jumped back and forth between the window and the screen.

(I am thinking that I will soon re-watch her first film, one of my favorites, Me and You and Everyone We Know.)

***

In all of this shuffling, I am searching for something.

***

As I write this I wonder if it is now time to shut off all of these influences–the movies, the books, the endless hours on the internet.  I won’t find what I’m looking for in another person’s work, will I?  Where does inspiration stop and creation begin?

Shut it all off, I think, and maybe I will be able to sleep.  And then maybe I will be able to write, to work, to find a purpose other than just getting out of bed each day.

***

I have edited this post so many times that it has morphed into something awkward and jumbled.  I read it and realize that I have lost the connections between this and that, but I am tired and do not want to read it again. I could trash it, but then I would have to start all over again. So for now, this is all I have to offer.

It Is What It Is*

Last night at dinner I accidentally (but with absolute certainty) declared that I was thirty-eight.  Oops.  I’m not.  I’m thirty-seven.  Why did I unnecessarily age myself one gigantic year?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how my life isn’t turning out how I expected it to.  At my age, my parents were married with a mortgage and four kids. My younger siblings all have their own families now.  And then there is me.  Single, unemployed, living with my parents ME. How did I get here? And how did I get so old?

***

I loved kids when I was growing up. I always assumed I would have some of my own. But I don’t. And I now know that I won’t (gasp!).  The responsibility, the commitment, the loss of independence (and quiet!)…   Even if I were to fall in love tomorrow, it would still be too late.  My self feels semi-permanently set.

(I hereby commit to forever being an outsider! That’s right, motherhood is the biggest club of all!)

Ten years ago it was something people felt they had the right to ask me (“Do you have a boyfriend?” “Don’t you want kids?”).  Now no one asks me anything.  Polite silence.

Now I am the one who wants to talk about it. Why not look it square in the face and be honest about it? I’ve made a choice—this is not something that will happen to me because I was not loved or not lucky or not anything; it will be something I chose.

It happened when I logged into an online dating site, and after only a moment’s hesitation I checked the box: “Does not have children and does not want any.”  A moment of clarity?

Life is funny like that.

***

Not wanting children does not mean that I do not love babies, or even mildly-like teenagers. For me, one has nothing to do with the other. (For others, it might. I don’t know.)

My sister skeptically watches me play with my niece, but she doesn’t remember all those years I played with her and loved her like a big sister loves a little sister.  My father criticizes the way I play with my other niece, but he doesn’t remember that this is new to me now—I am out of practice and need to warm up.

I want to be a good aunt.

When we were kids we had a single, child-free great-aunt.  It was obvious how much she loved us all, but did we love her back?  Maybe.  We found her to be strange.  Her house was strange. Her furniture was strange. Even her cookies were different.

Am I going to be the one the children are forced to visit on holidays, forced to write thank you notes to, forced to smile for her camera?  Will I give them used books as gifts, as my great-aunt did, and the books will be pushed to the back of the shelf, forgotten?

Then I think of all the children I am aunt to who aren’t related to me.  My first “niece” was my best friend’s first child.  I remember holding her when she was just two days old. Now she loves art and Picasso and when I moved I gave her all of my art supplies.

I remember my former neighbor’s children and how just before I left the youngest one would whisper that he loved me and told his parents that I was part of their family.

So I won’t have my own children, but children can still love me, and I can love them.  For years, family to me has been so much bigger than my actual family.  Family is who you love, regardless of blood.

I admire the women who traveled this journey of childlessness, either deliberately or not.  It is not an easy road to wander—it is littered with regrets and “what-ifs” and doubts—but it is there that you find out how strong you are.

This is not a “woe is me” post.  It is just another post.

It is what it is.  (*Inside joke: I write this line and wink to my father who once read an article….)

What Day is Today?

Today feels like a Saturday.  Pancakes with gifted homemade maple syrup.  A new book arrives, ordered months ago.  Still, humid air.  Wild, pouring rain. Quiet, do-nothing time.

Re-watched two movies so far this week: Nine Lives (“Don’t think about your life as if it’s something that is going to start later.”) and Once Around (“I had the greatest time of my life. The greatest time ever.”)  The connectedness of strangers and the constraints of family. Two very powerful films.

Observing. Re-thinking. Shifting.

Germinating…

(verb) 1. to begin to grow or develop. 2. Botany. a. to develop into a plant or individual, as a seed, spore, or bulb; b. to put forth shoots; sprout; pullulate. 3. to come into existence; begin.

I watch as the rain soaks the earth, the sun dries the soil, and as if by magic, the seeds sprout.  The garden grows and I wait to taste the vegetables it will make.

In the meantime, ideas germinate.

  • I am reading this (and because it’s so good, this).  Break-your-heart, inspire-your-soul reading.
  • I watched this (no doubt for its great cinematography, score, and handsome older man) (oh, and also because I have a not-so-secret penchant for made-for-television movies!)
  • I also watched 60 minutes and liked this and this.
  • I obsessively watch this movie: it is trying to say something to me.
  • I read stuff like this and wonder what’s so wrong with it and remind me why i am not living alone anymore? Oh yeah, I had a genius idea.  This is why we are letting other ideas germinate.

I digress.

  • I drooled over this website so much today as I obsessively read most of the posts.  Love the voyeuristic aspect of looking into artists’ work/life spaces.
  • I love this (thanks, elina).
  • “Sometimes you need to change who you are, to be more who you are.”  –Me, on Facebook.  I was inspired by reading this.  I understand letting go.  Maybe, as a gesture, I, too, should cut off my hair.  No?  Ok, maybe not a good idea.
  • I also loved this blog post.
  • If I had enough money (or any money at all) I would buy everyone I know a subscription to this magazine (but you may have guessed that already…)
  • I would like to work here.
  • This weekend I made variations of this and this and hope to make this someday this week.
Gardens, cooking: both have become part of my life (especially the eating part of cooking, but not-so-much the gardening part of gardens–I leave that to the experts.)

Not As Easy as Cherry Pie

Last week, my niece and I watched as my mother made a cherry pie.  It was so simple.  Just a few ingredients (and store-bought crust!) and that night we had a delicious cherry pie to enjoy together.

Life should be so simple!

***

I am very aware of how precious this time is. Perhaps too aware. I know I must appreciate every day that I am free from the constraints of a hated job, a wretched boss, a long commute, a lonely life. This time is like a retirement that won’t last forever (and the clock is ticking louder now).

The pressure to appreciate and the guilt for being this lucky are overwhelming me.

The truth is that I am embarrassed that I do not have a fancy job anymore. I am embarrassed that I am too over-qualified to get a job like doing dishes. I am embarrassed that I am living with my parents. I pull away from friends (and from my blog) because I am embarrassed that these problems are so trivial compared to the stresses of living a life such as the one I escaped. I feel guilty for escaping.

So instead of feeling light and free, I am feeling weighed down, tied to a plan that isn’t going according to plan.

I know it will work out. I always trusted that, and I still do. But work out how? My frustration may lie in the fact that there is no plan anymore. Will I still be in this same place six months from now? The funny thing is, these are the same questions I was asking myself a year ago, five years ago. So much has changed (and I made that happen!), but the questions are still the same, all over again.

***

One year ago, almost to the day, I had made my decision to quit, to move, to start over. That moment gave me focus. It gave me something to look forward to (although it was a long six months getting there!)

What is my focus now?

I am working with a wonderful colleague who is on the west coast—we are working our tails off to grow our baby, seed-like business into a blossoming garden. We are both perhaps a little frustrated at the patience that we are called to have as we slowly inch toward our goals. She knows I struggle with so much now, but she patiently lets me openly be who I am, voicing those struggles along the way. We are both learning to sell our services better, to reach out, and not be shy about believing in what we do and the values that we hold strong. We are learning to trust ourselves, as well as the universe.

Trust coupled with hard work, a dash of inspiration and a side of discipline.

Not as easy as making a cherry pie.  I have no idea what temperature to preheat the oven, no idea how long to bake it for…

We don’t know how long it will take to grow the business. I don’t know how long it will be before I can feel settled again. But really, does anyone know anything?

So I take this “recipe” and apply it to my life.

Trust.
Work Hard.
Inspire and Be Inspired.
Write. Market. Sell.
Do what you need to do to get over this hump.

I try. Every day, I try.

The time is too precious. For any of us.

Neglected

You, dear friend, have been neglected. By me.

I could say I forgot my password. Or my web address.  Or that my laptop exploded into a fiery ball. (None of these are true.)

I could tell you that I have been overwhelmed and homesick and grieving. (All of these are true.)

I have been sick (bad anemia has me taking 2 iron pills a day), weaning myself off anti-depressants (because I can’t afford them), unemployed but also busily employed helping start-up an art detective agency (it is my dream job and if all the marketing we are doing pays off, I will be able to live off it full-time), driving my parents crazy (I am living with them now), and terrified that I will never be on my own again.

I have been stressed in the little ways that my parents bug me to get a job (as if I don’t want one!!) or in the way that the local library sometimes annoys me (of course, it is not their fault that they are not the first-rate institutional library I am used to, but, really?) or I have no money to visit anyone (yet) or when I imagine a future in which I will never date again, never be able to retire (this now will probably be the only “retirement” I will ever have!), live in a run-down trailer-park (not that there is anything wrong with that), and lose all my teeth because I have no dental insurance.

However, I am NOT stressed in the grandiose way that my former job/boss/commute stressed me out.  I still get angry when I think about it (which is not very often) but am always grateful that I am no longer there (no regrets!).

I am trying to give myself a break.

None of this is a reason for having neglected my blog (and you!)

(Have I mentioned that all my hair is falling out?)

Seriously, I think the reason I have not written is because I don’t know what to write about.  I have not been doing much of anything (recreational), so I don’t have many stories to tell.  I don’t want to infringe on the privacy of my parents and our relationship. I don’t want to complain. I don’t want to admit to all the junk movies/tv shows I have been watching on Netflix or to the fact that I have been reading very little.  I don’t want you to know how much I have failed in this “experiment” that is now my life.  I had big plans before I got here, but now I am just here.

So much for giving myself a break.

I don’t know when I will write again or what I will write about but I hope it won’t be too long of a hiatus.

(Next time maybe I will admit to you my recent Battlestar Galactica obsession.  No, I am not kidding.)