Category Archives: empath

Make it Happen

The more I think about life in all its complexity, the more I realize that it’s all a matter of making it happen. There are things that ebb and flow through its tides, but if you sit around waiting for something to wash up on your shore, you’ll be wading through a lot of driftwood and abandoned toilet seats before you find that message in a bottle. If you ever find it.

If there’s something you want to do, do it. No excuses. If you want to write, be a writer for god’s sake. If you want to paint, go get a brush and an easel and do it. If you want to travel, get your passport. If you want to go back to school and get your MBA, enroll. Make it work. Make it happen. No one is going to do any of those things for you. If you want to learn to play the violin, do it. Try. You don’t know how much time you have here, and why on earth would you want to waste it doing something that doesn’t fulfill you? Why would you stay in a stagnant swamp when you can be floating down a river toward your destination?

I’m not saying it’s not complicated. What I’m saying is this: people find a way to buy new clothes or new shoes. They’ll spend hundreds on a new computer because they’re sick of their old one, even if it works fine. They’ll spend hundreds on a new bike. Or a new car. They’ll keep upgrading their lifestyles instead of saving and living below their means. And when you ask them why they haven’t taken that trip to Spain or Greece or Mumbai or Antarctica, they’ll say they can’t afford it. Of course they can’t — they orchestrated their lives so that they can’t. Make choices now that will get you where you want to be five years from now, ten years from now.

I’ve seen people with nothing manage to build lives so spectacular, so rich and fulfilling, that it brings tears to my eyes. I don’t mean financial success, though sometimes that’s the case. What I mean is personal joy because they followed their bliss. Ask anyone who retires after thirty years of a job they hated. They’ll always have regrets. Always. Never be that person with a wistful glimmer in their eyes saying, “I wish I’d done that.”

I always ask myself if I will regret something more for doing it or not doing it. The answer is almost always the latter. If you try and fail, at least you tried. At least you went for it. And “failure” doesn’t mean you can’t make it work for you.

Your life is an earthen vessel on a potter’s wheel. You are that potter. You shape it, mold it, touch it as it spins. If you let it go of its own accord, it’ll spin into a misshapen lump that looks nothing like you imagined. If you grab hold of it and firmly direct the curves and flows, you’ll always know that you had a hand in it. You made your life what it is.

Take the clay and give it form. Make it happen.

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Forces of Destruction

Another insightful prompt from the folks at WordPress. I wouldn’t respond to this one, except it ties into a lot of what I’ve been keeping on the ponder burner all week about my characters. In writing, characters motivations are what make them believable. There’s more to it than that, of course, but if readers can’t understand what a character does or even predict what their next move might be from knowing that character, they won’t read till the end of the book. They’ll get frustrated.(You can read more about my novel writing process/progress here.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about motivations this week. For good or ill, motivation is what drives people. It’s what plunked me down in front of my trusty constipated dinosaur of a computer to write today. It’s what drags our butts off the couch to the gym (or in my case, the living room where my weights live). It’s what makes people mug someone on their way home or donate to charity.

What is the most destructive force of humanity? I would say it’s one of humanity’s largest and most powerful motivators: greed. I’m not talking about Scrooge McDuck polishing his piles of gold coins before diving into them in a sparkling splash. Such a cartoonish vision doesn’t do it justice.

To me, greed is the sense of wanting more than someone else has regardless of who it hurts. The qualifier I tacked on the end there isn’t actually separate from the desire to have more, because ultimately the desire for more will hurt someone. It’s why employee benefits are often the first things slashed when a budget gets cut. Not salaries at the top of the chain. It’s why people resort to stealing. It’s why people fight over resources. Not because they think it will make them have enough. It’s because they want more.

If there’s anything I’ve learned on this earth, it’s that people very seldom think they have enough. I’ve heard people complain that they don’t have enough money when they make over six figures every year. If you were to follow them home, you’d see a Lexus in their driveway, which is attached to a million dollar home. Very few could successfully make the argument that they don’t have enough. I think that someone living in a one room shanty in Peru might have a better grasp on what “enough” means than most of America.

Every day I’m thankful for my toilet. That might be a very strange thing to be thankful for, but I grew up without one for many, many years. We had a five gallon bucket with an old toilet seat attached to it that we kept in our kitchen. Yes. You read that right. Kitchen. It was my job as a young teen to empty this bucket into our outhouse, which I dug myself. As a Caucasian American, I understand that I am in the very distinct minority for having had this experience as youngster.

Having grown up with a lot less than most people in this country, I am always very baffled (and I’ll admit, less than sympathetic) when people who have a safe, comfortable home with their own bedroom, a car, food every day (more than once a day), and a pot to piss in that flushes think they don’t have enough. What greed stems from is a lack of perspective.

Recession or not, we live in a golden age. We are utterly dependent on technology for everything from heating our homes to doing our banking to finding knowledge. I always wonder what would happen if we lost that. I see what happens when the power goes out for a matter of days. We have no idea how fortunate we are.

Greed poisons us. I’m guilty of it as much as anyone. I want to provide for my family and give them things I didn’t have — though from my perspective, I don’t have to do much to exceed what I had as a child. In spite of that, I want to raise my children to know that for every one of us who has water, food, shelter, family — there are millions who have to fight every day to have a fraction of what I have.

A sobering fact that I think of often is that if the wealthy of the world really wanted to, they could probably wipe out world hunger. If we weren’t so concerned with financial profit, we could invest in people who have so much less. It wouldn’t be a quick turnaround, but the world would be a better place.

Just to clarify, I don’t think greed exists only on Wall Street or in the upper classes. It exists everywhere, like a noxious weed. People kill each other for clean water when they could probably find a way to share it. At it’s heart, greed is taking for yourself what you could share with others. Everyone might have a little less, but everyone would have something. As children, we’re taught that if we have two of something we should share. We’re taught that sharing is caring. That it’s the nice thing to do. The right thing to do. I feel like we all cling to our resentment of sharing until we’re adults and we can buck that dictate from our parents and finally say no, what’s mine is mine.

Greed is the most destructive element of humanity, because it cannot exist innocently. It always hurts someone. On a wide scale it destroys nations. On a small scale it hurts someone’s feelings. In The Kite Runner, the protagonist’s father remarks that all sin is theft. You take something that doesn’t belong to you, or you lie and steal someone’s right to the truth. You murder and steal their life.

I’ll close with a quote from Shusako Endo (paraphrased). “Sin is to talk brutally over the life of another and be oblivious of the wounds left behind.”

What is Love? Baby, Don’t Hurt Me…

I couldn’t help it.

I apologize in advance if this post makes even less sense than last night’s. I fail rather dramatically at putting together coherent paragraphs after days as long as this one. I did have some thoughts tonight during my cocktail shift at my restaurant. We were slow, and I was bored, and in between running food and drinks to my few piddling tables, I had a conversation with a coworker about love, specifically the kind that has longevity. We’re both engaged to be married.

One of the not-so-first things that comes to mind when I think of love is money. Strange, then that money and financial issues are one of the biggest reasons marriages end. Different views on what is a worthwhile use of assets, someone spending too much on the wrong things, not making enough to get by, etc. I can see why. It’s not easy to mesh two people’s finances together, even if you keep them mostly separate. And it’s not a topic most couples find romantic. You can talk to any die-hard romantic about …well, romance…and they might tell you that all you need is love. That love can fix any problem. I disagree. Love can help you forgive a lot of things, but there are many problems that can suck the life out of love, erode it away until all that exists is a fossil of a memory and some jagged edges.

Long lasting love (ooh, alliteration!) involves sacrifice on the part of both parties. It means putting someone else first, or giving up something to gain more. It means thinking of we instead of me (see what I did there?) and putting the needs of others at the top of a priority list. So let’s talk about needs for a minute. I have a strong theory that a relationship cannot succeed if the partners fail to meet each other’s needs the way they need them met. Needs are specific to each person, and they often require different things from each person. Let’s say two people need reassurance. For one, that might mean nothing more than a long huggle and a tender kiss. For another, it might mean hearing affirming words. If you’re someone who needs  a long huggle to feel reassured, affirming words won’t do much for you, and vice versa. It might help a little, but you probably won’t feel completely reassured until the need is met the way you need it to be met.

The tricky part about meeting someone’s needs the way they need them met is that the golden rule really doesn’t apply. You can’t simply do unto your significant other as you would have him or her do unto you, because you might have a different way of having your needs met than they do. Love is being willing to crawl outside your thick skull and into theirs. Love is finding out what those needs of your partner are and how your partner needs you to meet them, then following through even when it’s supremely uncomfortable. Some people have a really hard time expressing themselves verbally. If you’re one of those people and your partner is someone who needs verbal affirmation, it could be potentially catastrophic trying to meet that need. But if you do it, even though it’s hard, your partner will take notice. The danger comes in when one partner says, “I’m just not wired that way. Deal with it.” Especially if that person expects their partner to meet their needs the way they need them met even when they refuse to do the same.

No one ever promised that love would be easy. In fact, if you get promises about love, it’s probably the opposite.

Then again, nothing worth having comes free and easy.

Epiphany With a Side of Joy

I’ll have two, please.  Thx.

Today I finished reading the first draft of a book that a woman from my writing group sent me.  It left me with a couple of epiphanies, one that left an ironic aftertaste and another that made me smile.

The first was that throughout the book, the characters made these decisions based on what they thought would protect the people they loved from their own actions, when in reality, it simply continued to raise the stakes.  People do that a lot.  I was exposed to a real life example this week — and the sad reality is that this happens way too often.  I mean, let’s face it:  only the world’s token sadists actually like hurting people.  The rest of us try not to do it, because it makes us feel bad.  The trick is to know when you’re only choosing between the lesser of two evils.  In the book, the main character had a decade-long affair.  She could have left a loveless marriage much earlier…but she didn’t.  You can imagine how it turned out.  I’ve never cheated on a boyfriend.  I know people who I consider generally good people who have, but I honestly do not understand cheating.  One common thread is that usually those who do it think that telling their partner would hurt too much, so they let it go on and try to bury it deep so the partner never finds out.  But that’s like letting a wound fester.  Eventually the pus is going to break the surface, and by then, you might have to have something amputated.  Which is something easily avoidable if you had just gotten it fixed first.

Seriously, once you cheat, you forfeit the right to decide what happens to the relationship.  Once you’ve broken that trust, which to me is one of the deepest betrayals one can experience on this earth, it’s your partner’s choice what happens.  By not coming clean from the get-go, you add robbery to the list of errors and you actively conspire to make someone else a fool.

It doesn’t just happen with cheating — I mean, parents don’t tell their kids about divorces.  People put off talking about bad news.  I knew someone once who didn’t find out their grandma had died for months because the parents hadn’t wanted to ruin something happy.  People didn’t tell me about a friend who had passed for weeks after it happened.  When I found out, the grief of her loss was compounded by guilt of not sending her cards or letters during her months of illness (it was cancer), anger at those who knew me and didn’t let me know, and helplessness.  There are some things people have a right to know.

All of that was wound up into the little ball of epiphany that just says:  if you think you have to protect someone from information, you’re just propping up a falling bridge with an umbrella.  Leaves an ironic tinge in my mouth just thinking about it.

The next one was just about the things people do because of insecurities.  I wrote a bit on my other blog about this that I’ll repeat here.  There’s that old saying:  you can’t see the forest through the trees.  People are like that with their insecurities.  Some of our issues are rooted deeply in fear and pain and a welter of other emotions.  Trauma.  Those trees are like old growths.  They are there, immutable.  You can’t just cut them down and get rid of them.  And sometimes it can be hard to see the beauty of the forest around us when we trip over the roots of one of those giant trees.  Sometimes we stumble into it, and it’s all we can see.  Our pain.  Past betrayals and hurts.  When that happens, some people throw their arms around this tree as though it’s the only safe place, simply because it’s familiar.  We’d rather stay there where it’s easy than have to grapple with it in context of the newer trees, the ones we’re afraid won’t hold our weight if we try to climb them.  We forget that like any old growth, it’s old.  We have to stand up, back up, and look around at the other trees around us to get the sense of the whole forest.

So my last epiphany was this:  instead of getting bogged down in the old growth and tripping over its fallen branches and roots the size of trunks, I’m going to climb up into the newer trees and trust that their branches will hold me.  I’m going to let their boughs embrace me and look out over the beauty of the forest, because true beauty comes from seeing the whole picture, not just the good or the bad that exists.  And in knowing that, there’s joy.

light and shadow

I don’t have anything extraordinarily witty to say tonight, nor do I really have any particular direction in which to write.  But my goal is to try to write a thousand words per day, and though I have been on facebook and the like, I don’t really think that counts.  So here I am.

Today hasn’t been the best day.  At best, I feel directionless…much like this blog.  Or rather, I know where I want to go, but I haven’t the foggiest idea how to get there.  At worst, I feel jangled and emotional, and I want to cry.  A lot.  I feel guilty for being home for the past three and a half weeks with my injury.  I’ve missed a lot of work, and I’m catching some flak for it.  I understand why; I mean, three weeks is a lot.  I also am feeling super weak and lame.  In the traditional sense of the word.  Lame as in debilitated.  I can barely stand for an hour without severe pain.  Driving is just as bad.  I’ve been pretty much alone in my room for the past three weeks, which has made me lonely and helpless, and although I don’t really want to throw a pity party, I just want to feel like a human being again.

I don’t want to be a negative person.  I know that negativity is far from attractive.  So I think perhaps I will use this entry as a chance to force myself to try an exercise my mom has pointed me at several times in the past.  So here it is — a list of the things I like about myself.

I’m compassionate.  I’m able to put myself in other people’s shoes pretty easily and try to get inside their heads to try and understand where they are coming from.  I’m also fairly empathic, and I tend to be very sensitive to others’ pain.

I am loyal.  If I care about someone, I will stick with them.  I’m also very tenacious and rarely give up on anything I’ve set my mind to.  I’m patient.  I’m creative — I like to make art.  My kind of art just happens to be with words, and I try to do it as best as I can.

I’m a daydreamer and I have a good imagination.  While it can get me into trouble on occasion, I like seeing the world through my own lens.  I think if I were less shy, I would have been a good actress.  I can read expressively and with emotion.

I’m good with languages, both my own and otherwise.  I’ve always been able to pick up new languages easily, which is cool because I really enjoy them.  On a purely superficial note, I like my eyes.

I’m only about halfway to a thousand words, and I have to apologize for the quality of this blog.  I have a bad headache that came on sort of suddenly, and I am a bit out of it.

I really want to travel more.  I am going to try and go back to Scotland this summer if I can find a cheapish fare.  I’m hoping to fly out of Toronto so I can see Julia.  I haven’t seen her for almost a year and a half, and I miss her terribly.  It’s funny how you can meet someone so briefly and form such a lasting relationship — that’s been oddly true about the most important relationships in my life.  I met Julia when we both lived at the Inverness Tourist Hostel, and we became best friends after only a few short weeks.  That was in 2005, and nothing has changed.  She is still one of the only non-blood related people I count among family.

I miss Scotland, as well.  A strange peace comes over me when I’m there, ever since the first time my feet touched the rather unromantic tarmac at the Prestwick Airport an hour south of Glasgow.  It’s a place I’ve returned to so many times (Scotland, not Prestwick) and just felt like I was home.  I don’t think I have ever seen a parallel to the beauty that exists in Scotland.  I remember driving through Stirling on Megabus and looking out the window as the sun slanted through the clouds and lit up the earth as though it had flipped a switch within.  I remember the golden sheen of the mist on the hills, the Wallace Monument rising like…well, to be honest, rising like a giant, spiky phallus.  Perhaps that just ruined the romance of the shot.  Ha.

I remember Dollar Glen and Loch Ness and the way the ocean at John O’Groats is such a deep navy blue and contrasts with the shining white sand.  The earthy scent of soil, dust, and rock that makes up the interior of the Maes Howe, the rough-hewn slats of standing stones.  The smell of peat and the warm amber brown it turns the Ness River.  The Sisters of Kintail and Glen Coe.  The lone tree on Rannoch Moor near the cone-shaped Buachaille.  I have a hundred thousand memories of Scotland, each one stored away like delicate treasures within my mind.  I know I will return someday — it’s only a matter of time.  I just hope it’s sooner rather than later.  And I long to share it with my boyfriend.

If I can get there this summer, I know it will be a short visit, probably no more than a week or two at the most, but it will be a time of renewal as well.  A time to refresh my memories, see some dear friends, and rest my weary soul.

In the film What Dreams May Come, they espouse the philosophy that we choose our own heaven, or at least that we create it from our minds.  If that turns out to be at all true, I know where mine would be.  It would be a land of drums, of silver-smooth lochs, of smoky scotch and the scents of the earth.  There would be stone circles and sapphire seas laced with white sand beaches and forests with floors of soft moss where the rowans turn the circle of the seasons as their branches burst into bloom, the blooms turn to snowy berries that ripen into deep red before the leaves fall once more.  An eternity there would be an eternity of bliss.

I don’t plan on dying any time soon, so for now, I’ll look forward to the time when I can jet my earthly body there.

Well, what do you know?  Over 1,000 words.

we are beggars all.

Today I have been listening to and thinking about this song, the lyrics of which will be interspersed through this post.  The song is called “The Weight,” and it’s by the band Thrice.  My boyfriend brought it up the night he gave me my magic wand, and though I couldn’t think of how it went right then, I had heard it before and was taken in by it.  I honestly think I have never heard a truer expression of what true love is, and I am deeply touched thinking about it.

There’s many who’ll tell you they’ll give you their love,
But when they say “give” they mean “take”.
They hang ‘round just like vultures ’til push comes to shove
And take flight when the earth starts to shake.

Someone may say that they’ll always be true
Then slip out the door ‘fore the dawn,
But I won’t leave you hanging on.

Another may stay ’til they find someone new
Then before you know they’ll be gone,
But I won’t leave you hanging on.

No, I won’t won’t be that someone.

This will likely be a very candid blog — not that I am ever anything else, but you know.  Just a disclaimer.  I have often felt like a beggar.  In many ways, my life has been that of a vagabond or a drifter.  I’ve moved 33 times in 25 years.  I have gotten where I am today because of intensely hard work and because of the help and charity of others.  I use the word charity not to imply a sense of pity, but in the almost spiritual sense of giving out of the need to pass on the blessings one has been given.  More about the act of giving than the perception of need implicit in the receiving end of such a gift.

And come what may, I won’t abandon you or leave you behind,
Because love is a loyalty sworn, not a burning for a moment.
Come what may, I will be standing right here by your side,
I won’t run away, though the storm’s getting worse and there’s no end in sight.

Some talk of destiny, others of fate,
But soon they’ll be saying goodbye,
But I won’t leave you high and dry.

‘Cause a ring don’t mean nothing if you can’t haul the weight
And some of them won’t even try,
But I won’t leave you high and dry.

I won’t leave you wondering why.

In love as well I have often felt the beggar.  I have often felt myself unworthy of real love — I have been tossed aside often enough that I am supremely unused to having anyone stand by me.  I have always been at the whim of others’ convenience — there when it suited them and cast off when it stopped being convenient for them.  I think because of this, I don’t understand why anyone would want me when I am the mess that I am.

And come what may, I won’t abandon you or leave you behind,
Because love is a loyalty sworn, not a burning for a moment.
Come what may, I will be standing right here by your side,
I won’t run away, though the storm’s getting worse and there’s no end in sight.

And storms will surely come,
But true love is a choice you must make and you are the one.
That I have set my heart to choose
As long as I live, I swear I’ll see this through.

I spent quite a long time waiting for my current boyfriend.  We knew each other for a year and a half before we started our official relationship, and I won’t pretend that some of that time wasn’t incredibly difficult for me.  I still wrestle with the idea that I’m either not enough or too much or both at the same time.  I think everyone feels that way sometimes, but I have it honed to a fine art.  Which is why I think that this Thrice song is such a resonant depiction for me.  I’m not used to a love like this.  As one of my favorite gods said in one of my favorite books (by David Eddings), “Thou wilt warily give love, but you must also learn to accept it.”  I’ve never known a love like this, but come what may, I will see it through.  In the words of another, newer favorite song, I’ve got nothing left to lose.

Come what may, I won’t abandon you or leave you behind,
Because love is a loyalty sworn, not a burning for a moment.
Come what may, I will be standing right here by your side,
I won’t run away, though the storm’s getting worse and I see no end.

Come what may, I won’t abandon you or leave you behind,
Because love is a loyalty sworn, not a burning for a moment.
Come what may, I will be standing right here by your side,
I won’t run away, though the storm’s getting worse and there’s no end in sight.

In other news, my beloved city of Nashville, Tennessee is under water.  If you haven’t heard about it, the Cumberland and Harpeth rivers that both run through and around Nashville gained about 26+ feet over the weekend, causing catastrophic flooding and billions of dollars of damage to homes and businesses.  I-24 became a raging river, and the water was forceful and deep enough to detach homes from foundations and even sent a modular school building floating down the interstate.

One of my closest friends had to be emergency evacuated from her apartment — she’s very lucky, and it turns out the water only got ankle deep and her car even still works, but thousands of others were not so lucky.  My old boss had to sit and watch from his home as a man was stranded up a tree in his Forest Hills neighborhood — Tom couldn’t get to him as there was fast moving water that was far too dangerous to move through, and I’m told the man was stranded there for at least 20 hours in the pouring rain.  There are thousands of other stories like these.  I’m dismayed and disappointed that the national media is paying only cursory attention to this disaster.  Almost 30 people have died so far, and countless others are without power, clean water, and homes.  If you are at all able, please text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 to the relief efforts.

I only lived in Nashville for a year, but it is a truly lovely city full of warm and inviting people.  To see loved ones and colleagues entrapped in this disaster and also being nationally ignored is heartbreaking, and I wish I could do more to help.  I don’t get a ton of views on this blog, but hopefully enough people will read this and be moved enough to spare $10.  If enough people do it, it really does make a difference.

Please help.  We are beggars all.

❤  Emmie

blog 2.0

i realized last night that i desperately need to write.  i also succumbed to the very first glimmering flash of inspiration to grace my mind within the past several months.  i thought my bulb had burnt out for good.

whenever i’ve gone for a good long while without allowing myself to write, or being too exhausted to even tap my little paws on keys, it always just sort of bubbles over into a badly written, stream-of-consciousness sort of protobabble.  sound familiar?  see current reading material for an example.

however, it is often the prelude to something else.  last night for the most fleeting of moments, i had that flash of light.  actually, that’s not right.  for me, it’s not necessarily the lightbulb experience…if you will allow me to mix my metaphors up for a bit.  for me, it tends to be a voice.  before you call me a schizophrenic, try to remember that all artists are a wee bit on the loony side of things, and the voices in my head don’t really hurt anyone but each other.  so fear not; they’re contained.

i have a pet story i have been working on for a year or so now.  i love it–it’s fun, snarky, and occasionally campy.  the best thing about it for me is that it has a truly distinct voice in my mind.  sort of like a bulldozer might sound if it trundled happily over a field of broken dreams.  that.  that’s what it sounds like.  rumbledy rumbledy, tra la la, crunch.

i like it.

and the kicker?  it’s not the novel i finished.  in fact, i’m barely two chapters into it.  non sequitous chapters even.  but it’s there, and it’s vibrant, and it is going to come out, whether i like it or not.  which is quite a lovely feeling for a writer, especially a somewhat stunted one such as i.

we’ll see where it goes.

apart from that, i think my fingers and the thoughts they try to hammer out have been shackled by this mountain of stress.  or not shackled; smashed.  at the end of the day, all i want is to shed my skin, crawl into my soft, warm bed, cuddle up to my modal pillows, and snuggle with nothingness, toes wiggling outside the cocoon in the breeze of my fan.  hardly a good vein of creative pursuit.  i’ve found it exceedingly difficult to accomplish anything in that state of being, heavenly though it may be.

i’m trying to figure out what has breathed a little spark of life back into me.  it’s certainly not my job–no, that is the wet blanket continuously determined to slosh and slop its way right over this little light of mine.  so not that.  i have a sneaking little suspicion that the responsible party is none other than my sewing class.

“whamph?” asks the sewing class through the pins in its teeth.  “meh?”

yes, my friend.  you.

you see, sewing is something i have always wanted to do.  i used to make my grandma teach me little bits and pieces on those rare visits to florida in the summers of my youth.  the only project i ever made was the tiniest little quilt with a lion in a jungle.  i wonder whatever happened to that.  so this year, i decided to fulfill that, along with my long-term desire to purchase a decent camera.  check and check.  as i drove home from my class last night pondering the intricacies of the olive green assless chaps i had managed to create with little to no guidance, i heard the familiar happy bulldozer in the distance.  the moment i could open my catalog of ideas, i jotted down what it had mumbled in my ear and pondered what i had there.  it was a missing piece in a story that already was pretty awesome.  and i can’t wait to take it out for a spin.

to go back to a point i didn’t cover as well as i wanted, by doing something i genuinely enjoy (something no one–NO ONE!!!–is making me do) purely for the pleasure of doing it, it reminded me that there was more to me than i have been living.  this little 6 week class is quite expensive…i can safely say this is the most pricey bag and pants combo i have ever before spent money on.  however, in spite of the expense, i have learned a very valuable lesson:  do what makes you happy.

for the love of pete–life is way too short to do anything else.  i may have to work my ass off day in and day out at a thankless job that seems constantly poised with a microscope to point out my pitfalls.  i may be in dubious health.  i may be slightly schizophrenic.  but by golly, i’m going to try and be happy while i’m here.  i maybe have 60-70 years left on this rock, and i really don’t want to look back after 50 of them and wonder what i did with my youth, why i was killing myself for money.

so i may be broke for the next few years.  i have a lot of bills, and hobbies, quite frankly, are incredibly expensive.  the irish dance class i want to take next year?  about $630.  hello, good use of grad school loans (not kidding).  that covers september through may, but still.  that’s a lot.  my sewing class ran about $300, all supplies included.  at least for the next one, i will know to shop at joann for fabric (g-street, not so cheap), and i will already have the staples, like the $20 pair of shears i bought.  (lessons, lessons, expensive little life lessons)

anyway, the bottom line is, i need to get back into the things i enjoy:  writing, sewing, photography, dance, music.  those are things that are near and dear to the ole ticker, and i think that if i am able to do them, i will have a better handle on this stressful commitment i signed up for.  thankfully, most of these hobbies are “front end loaders,” which just goes to say that if you put money in on the front end, it will taper off later…unless i upgrade my camera to a flashy flashy bang bang sort of deal, which won’t happen for at least several years.  writing, i’ve got my laptop, macasaurus rex.  sewing has no machine yet, but this will come.  photography, got me a nice camera that takes awesome pictures…as soon as i get a good low light lens with a solid aperture, i will be happy for a while.  dance, i have my gillies, and when i get back into irish dance, i won’t have to get hardshoes for a while, though the class payments are a bit steep.  music…i have my bodhran.  so really, i am pretty much set for the time being.

i also realized that though it’s good to have some money put aside, i honestly don’t think it’s always the best thing to do.  maybe it’s the fact that i’ve never had the sense that money would be there later, so i’ve always felt it’s good to spend on what makes you happy as long as your necessities are covered.  i’m not sayin go buy ten thousand things you can’t afford, or even to go buy ten thousand things period.  but if you have a hobby, i consider that somewhat as an investment.  it may not have a monetary return, but peace of mind and a sense of accomplishment are worth more than money to me.

issues

i can tell right now that this is gonna be a toughie.  i can also tell that i need to do it, if nothing else for my own clarity and peace of mind, which is something i sorely lack right now.

i have some serious issues.

the one causing me the most pain…actually, anguish…is the fact that i am so used to feeling like a burden to those around me that i am absolutely terrified to ask for what i need, because i feel like it will be treated as something superfluous and worthless.  i find myself falling all over myself to be thankful for things that should just be normal human kindness…which on one hand means i don’t take things for granted, but on the other hand means i truly expect people to treat me badly and like i don’t matter.

today was by far the worst day of my teaching career.  one, i’m a first year teacher.  two, i’m a first year special education teacher. three, i have virtually no training in the field of special education.  four, i’m taking ten credits this semester in grad school.  five…my mom landed in the ER last thursday and i had a truly terrifying weekend wondering if she was going to be okay.

i woke up this morning to the sound of mourning doves.  for some reason, that sound is absolutely chilling to me.  like the idea of someone walking over my grave.  in the quiet of the pre-dawn, it sort of scared the bejeezus out of me.  i felt like crap, but i pried my butt out of bed and went to work anyway, because i had an IEP meeting to run at 9.  so i went to work, fixed a few things on the IEP, and then spent 45 minutes frantically running around when i realized that the principals had commandeered my instructional aide, and there would be no one to cover my class.

i was able to get it sorted out at 8:55 am, and i ran downstairs to the office for the meeting…and promptly got yelled at for the IEP not being perfect, then because i had totally dropped the ball and completely forgotten to get a general educator and social worker there.  this meeting was scheduled thursday…and a few hours later, my mom landed in the ER, leaving me more than a little preoccupied for the next four days.  i then spent 40 minutes running around trying to get these people to come, only to run into a social worker and start crying in front of a student who hates me and once threw a desk at me.  awesome.  add humiliation to the list, as if getting yelled at in front of a bunch of colleagues in the special ed office wasn’t enough.

i ran the meeting okay and was able to survive it…mainly due to the fact that i apologized profusely to the kid’s mom and explained what had happened to my mom and why my brain was not in work mode at all, and she was so sweet and understanding that i wanted to yell, “take that” to the coordinator and stomp out.

i spent the rest of the day trying to get ahead of my IEPs for the next couple months, mainly due to the fact that i don’t have assigned inclusion classes yet, two days into the semester.  i was literally on my way out the door ten minutes after teacher day ends, and got paged back to the special ed office to do something i wasn’t aware i had to do…mainly because the coordinator has done it for every single other IEP i’ve had this year.  i was coughing up a storm and sweating profusely and feeling ten times shittier than i did when i woke up…but i stayed and did it anyway.  i seriously do not know what to do with myself.  the second i got into my car, i burst into tears and couldn’t stop crying for a half an hour.

i’ve only been home for about two hours now, and i still feel absolutely like crap.  i spent a half hour on the phone with one of my best friends, and i just…wish i could make some sense out of the way my brain works.  because in addition to the way i feel about work today, i also have had some other, more personal things crop up that have left me feeling rather rejected and lonely.  the worst thing is, i am pretty sure it’s all in my head.

and once again, it’s because i’m terrified to ask for what i want.  in the past, my needs have been treated like garbage — utterly unworthy of being fulfilled.  how i felt has been invalidated.  and now that has left me feeling like my every breath somehow burdens those around me.

wow that sounded suicidal.  don’t worry; no thoughts of that in this noggin.  seriously.  life sucks right now, but i do think it will get better again.

regardless of how emo i sound, it’s still rather true.  i feel that in asking for what i want, i’m merely sticking out my neck so someone can use it as a stepping stone to get what they want from me.  which i recognize as a totally skewed way of looking at the world; it’s just so deeply ingrained in me from past experience that i honestly don’t know how to confront it.  i suppose the first step is actively recognizing it?

maybe the second part is reaching out and asking for what i need.

i’ve always been very independent; just ask my mom.  i think that’s another reason i am afraid to express my needs and feelings when i think it might inconvenience someone — i’m afraid it makes me weak in some way.  doesn’t matter.  i still need to find a way to do it, or i will spend my life resenting when i don’t get what i need.

saying that reminded me of a quote from one of my favorite movies…also incidentally one of the handful of chick flicks i can a: tolerate and b: enjoy.  it’s from sliding doors, and it goes like this:  “gerry, i’m a woman.  we don’t ask for what we want.  but we reserve the right to be pissed off if we don’t get it.  that’s what makes us so fascinating…and not a little bit scary.”

epiphany moment.

i so do not want to be that.

i’m all for the mystique of the feminine (i inverted that because if you have read the book, you’ll know that the feminine mystique isn’t really all that exotic; it’s actually a soul-killing symptom of a wider problem).  but i want to take the mystery out of what i need.  relationships shouldn’t have to be an elephant dance ; they should be more like a ballet — when you take that leap, you should know you your partner’s going to catch you.

deep down in my heart of hearts (sorry, corny), i know that’s what i have.  a partner who will catch me.  someone who will pick up the pieces that others have left in ruin and help me put them back together.  it’s getting that thought strong enough to conquer the combined voices of past experience that’s the tough bit.

days like today, when everything on earth seems to go wrong, it’s even harder.  i guess at the end of a day like to day, i have to somehow come to a peaceful spot and let my thoughts swirl around like a tempest until i find the eye of the storm where all is still and i can see clearly again.

maybe my issues will get more resolved after all.

meet the monster

chaos and noise.

that’s what i hear right now.  in my mind, there’s a strange hush.  i can’t quite call it silence — there’s a buzz there i can’t quite distinguish.  regardless, i know what it’s saying to me.

i just finished reading a book called crank, by ellen hopkins.  written in a series of poems in a variety of styles, it’s a novel about

meth                            addiction

love                                          falling

rape                              regret                                   resentment

family                           loss

drugs

self

and a myriad of other things.

kristina is an a student — friendly, well-adjusted, well-liked, pretty, somewhat shy, somewhat unsure of herself, virginal.

bree is a blaze — brave, strong-willed, stubborn, assertive (sometimes aggressive), flirtatious, carefree, confident….addicted.

they are the same body — though hardly the same person.

kristina finds bree the summer she meets the monster.  she’s introduced to it by

her father                                 a golden-eyed boy

the desire to break free

in a span of months, the monster devours her.  the monster is meth.

meth (crank, crystal, ice, glass, jib, the monster) is a nervous system stimulant drug.   in case you’re wondering what’s in it, it contains alkali metal, ammonia, metallic lithium (from batteries), metallic sodium, and other materials generally considered to be poison.

it induces euphoria, supreme sensory overload, etc.

reading this book was a bit intense.  especially because i read the dedication after i read the book.  it was dedicated to anyone whose life has been touched by the monster.  and i realized something rather profound (at least to me).

that includes me.

most people don’t know that my dad is a meth head.  it’s not something i knew for a long time, until he confessed that dealing and possession of methamphetamine were what was behind a lot of the jail time he’s done.  there was also the realization that, under ever-so-slightly-different circumstances, i very well could have been kristina/bree.  in my podunk montana town, i used alcohol to rebel.  you know, get drunk and see how fast  you can drive.  stuff like that.  if i’d visited my dad during that year and a half or so where i really tore loose, who knows what i would have done?

it gave me chills, just how much i related to this girl feeling like she had dual lives.  kristina on one end.  bree on the other.  while i myself can’t dredge up a name from the depths of my being to describe that other part of me, i know she’s there.  in the book, bree is the one i admire in a lot of ways.  aside from her addiction to drugs, she’s a lot more self-assured, a lot more carpe diem, a lot more immediate than kristina.  i think in my life i’ve managed to find a balance between those parts of me.  being introduced to hardcore drugs very well could have tipped the scales.

i saw myself in her many times, getting into bad situations that turned worse.  while i have not made nearly the number of very bad choices that this young lady did, looking back on my life, i can see just how precariously i perched on the fence at times.  oddly, most of the people i know would never see that side of me.

at the end of the day, i wonder who my bree is and just how much of me she makes up.  i don’t think it’s a coincidence that the name “bree” shares three letters with “free.”  in crank, her freedom is an illusion.  she doesn’t see the chains the monster has slung about her, tied her down, stolen from her and left her raw.  i’ve managed to find a freedom that is more realistic than that, managed to find an immediacy and a sensuality in my life that is not brought about by chemicals.  i think i’ve done a decent job at letting her run.  bree is untamed.  bree refuses to be tame.  in my life, in so many ways, i was shackled for so long.  i’m just glad it wasn’t the monster who unsnapped those shackles to replace with his own.

this kristina wasn’t so lucky.

words

hello, stranger.  fancy meeting you here.  yes, i know.  it’s been quite a long while since i’ve paid you a visit.  sorry about that.  rest assured it’s been for a variety of reasons, some more worthy than others.

right-o.  diving right in then, shall we?

i’ve always been fond of words.  as a child, i used to collect them.  keep them in shiny, crisp sleeves, polished and pure.  i’d occasionally show them off proudly.  words like “antidisestablishmentarianism” (which, by the way, spellcheck apparently does not like) and “onomatopoeia” (which i happened to spell correctly on the first try.  bully for me).

it wasn’t too long ago that i realized i didn’t just collect words — i breathed them.  they filled my pockets.  i found them tucked behind my ears and peeking out from beneath my pillows.  a few hover just inside my left nostril.  it’s been the time since this epic realization that i discovered why words have always flitted about my world, leaving dusky trails of fascination in their wake.

it’s about power.

we all know that, on some sort of subconscious level.  it doesn’t take long for a young child to feel the piercing pangs of carelessly slung words for the first time.  they know they’re not bleeding, and daddy and mommy can’t kiss it better, but they know it hurts real bad.

words wield a tremendous amount of power.  they can build you up when you’ve been laid low — they can tear you down from the highest mountaintop and plunge you mercilessly into oblivion.  sometimes they taunt you, tease you, torment you by hovering just slightly out of your grasp.  they can twist the truth and bend reality.  cause dissension and misunderstanding.

words can spark your strength into being and find your achille’s heel.  they can drift through your mind and flip a switch at a second’s notice.  they’ve driven people to greatness, madness, badness, and more.  they’ve swayed millions for good and for ill.  and they can disarm you, strip you bare, and leave you vulnerable.

i’ve experienced the gamut of the power of words in recent weeks.  between big scary life stuff and school and everything else, i’ve seen a great deal of this power.  i suppose i’ve even wielded it — though unfortunately, i seem to have done so in a way that has boomeranged right back at me.  lately i feel the vulnerable, on a lot of different levels and in many situations.

at the end of the day, though, i have to feel that my desire for words and my reverence for language and expression is worthwhile.  as scary as it is.  i guess i can hold onto that.

to close out, never underestimate the power of some well-aimed words.  sometimes they sustain us when we least expect it.  and sometimes they simply lead us to the moments when they can do nothing more than fall silent.

On the run, we aim for the summits and pinnacles
But when your wobbly legs tire, but your mind still roams
Here comes the wheelbarrow, I’m taking you home
Please believe in my sense of direction
We’re not lost, we’re not home

(the above italicized words are not my own; they belong to aloha, and a quietwarm song full of all sorts of lovely things.)