Oh, hello there. It’s been a while. Do forgive me. I’m afraid I’ve been pursuing hours in the day that do not exist for some time now, and it’s left me a wee bit…absent.
I’ve spent the last two months with my face buried in paper, up to my neck in ink, and just generally writing until my fingers fall off more days than not. This is a good thing, but it has left my other past times by the wayside. You know. By that side waaaaay over there. It’s just a little speck to me right now. Wave at them.
Words have ever been a giant central gear that my life revolves around. They propel me, fill me, spill out of me. They suck me into other worlds where planets spin through shining colorful galaxies filled with ultraviolet sparkles and dark grimy alleys where something really does want to eat you. They do it, and they do it often. I’ve occupied my imagination so fully lately that I haven’t had the chance to turn it to other things.
I want to sit under an oak tree and feel it live against my back. I want to watch the turning of fiery leaves and run my hands across velvet grass. I want to lay on my back and watch planets and stars appear in a cerulean sky. I want to look into the eyes of an elephant and have her reach out her trunk toward me. I want to soar above oceans again and smell peat and loam and heather. I want to climb up into the branches of a tree and read a book.
It is so easy to get caught up in things. I’m newly married. We both work and have passions and try to eat normal food at our abnormal times. We still haven’t gotten our thank you notes out.
As the world darkens and the sun stretches farther away for the winter months, I feel the return of a new year. I always sort of celebrate the Celtic new year, Samhain. It’s a day of the dead, yes, but it also marks rebirth. It marks the time of year when the earth slows to sleep, where all becomes still, and where hibernation occurs awaiting the return of the light and the burgeoning buds and blossoms. I can’t help but feel like something is…gestating in my life, for lack of a better word. Not in my body; no, there’s no life inside me forming. What I feel is that I’m frantically growing something. That these words I nurture every day are multiplying into something big, something that will soon be born to the world.
The leaves turn and fall to the ground, and the earth slumbers until spring. I will continue to create, to harbor the life of these words until they are ready to be shared. And I believe they will be shared. My husband believes in me. He brings me bright fall roses and dahlias and daisies to add cheer to our home and to comfort me while my body responds to the changing of the seasons. For every winter, there is a spring. So I will keep working, keep writing, keep hoping all through this long night of the earth.
I will write through the darkest hour.
Rather appropriately, after writing last night’s post, I went to bed only to have my very first wedding nightmare!
No zombies, nothing exciting like that. More’s the pity. It was a very mundane nightmare, which made it probably worse, as it stemmed from more or less rational fears. In it, no one helped me put the decorations together on the day. I couldn’t get my best friend and maid of honor to help me with anything. I pleaded with everyone I saw to get Julia for me, and she was never there. My mother was still showering two hours past the time of the ceremony, and John’s mother kept yelling at me for not having things done. There were a hundred people sitting in chairs waiting for the ceremony to begin at 4:30, and it got dark around 6 and they were still out there waiting. No one would help me into my dress. Everyone laughed at me and called me useless and told me it didn’t matter that it was starting hours late, and I finally sat down and bawled like a baby.
Oh dear. I think I would have preferred the zombies. Horrible. I never get nightmares. I can think about blood and vampires and rotting flesh and character torture before sleeping tight, snug in my bed, but my wedding? Apparently my subconscious is petrified about the ceremony.
Damn you, subconscious.
*I reserve the right to use such an acronym once every bajillion microseconds. Which is to say, every so often when it suits me.
My wedding is in two and a half weeks. Hence the ZOMG. There is so much going on — I don’t even know where to start.
The details are worked out, the cake is ordered, the awesometastic cake toppers are sitting atop our microwave, and there is a mossy little basket perched on our coffee table. My dress is at the tailor, my ring is in it’s box on it side. There is a box full of stinky flowers in our spare room. It’s all coming together, except for the bit where I can wrap my brain around it.
I have a feeling that it’s going to creep up, pounce, and then disappear into memory. Then we’ll just be married and start our lives the best way we know how. I’m awfully happy that we have several remarkable photographers coming to prove to us that it happened.
The wedding is a day to celebrate. I’m excited about it, to see friends and family and feast and be joyous. To walk down a grassy aisle barefoot and surrounded by loved ones. Pretty special.
I know I’m going to be stressed and fussier than I normally am…either that or completely apathetic. Probably the latter. I think others will do my freaking out for me. I have some people assigned to awkward duties and others there just to make sure I stay calm. Regardless, stuff is going to go wrong, so my main focus at this point is just to put on blinders and chill.
The main part I can get really, really pumped about is the honeymoon. John and I are doing something I’ve never done before — we’re going to Discovery Cove to swim with dolphins. I cannot wait. We’re going to be big old kids and go to the Harry Potter park at Universal, for which we have set aside an entire day. I am so excited. I want to drink butterbeer (no matter how many calories it entails) and get my own wand at Ollivanders. I just might pee my pants. We’re also going to do a water park and get massages and generally relax and do things we never get to do. It will be the first real vacation I’ve had since Scotland last year, and the first John and I have taken just the two of us…well. Ever.
But yeah. Wedding. 18 days. It’s close enough to be measured in days…ZOMG.
I just might post some pictures here, gentle viewers. We shall see. Maybe just to post some of the quirk involved with our wedding — because there will be plenty. Cake toppers are just a taste of it. (Shhhh, it’s a secret!)
I can’t wait. I also can’t quite believe it yet. Right now I feel extra surreal because I have a fever and don’t feel well. At least I’m getting sick now instead of later, right? Eeek.
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.
I rarely respond to writing prompts, mainly because I know what I’m planning to write about without needing a poke in a new direction, but today I saw one that caught my eye. So here we are.
Here. (Not over there.)
If you had a chance to know what the future held, would you take it?
The world holds so many choices for asking people what the future holds. Tarot readings, palmistry, numerology, astrology, divination in general, psychic mediums. Whether or not they work is anyone’s guess. However, I can’t say I would want to know. Given the choice, I would take the surprises.
No matter what you believe happens in the afterlife or even if said afterlife exists, all we know for sure is that we’re here now. (Okay, some might want to debate that point, but I’m not trying to go more philosophical than I have to.) The last thing I want to spend this one, short life doing is worrying about what is going to come next. Seeing every bad or good thing lurking down the road, inevitable. I don’t like inevitability. I’ve resigned myself to the inevitability that I will die, but I don’t want to know when it’s going to happen.
My grandfather is about to pass away. He’s 83, and has already lived longer than any other man in our family. He survived a stroke and made almost a full recovery. He then got a kidney infection a couple months ago. They eradicated the infection, but now it’s back, and he’s made the choice that he wants to spend his remaining days at home, with no meds that make him sick, in the company of people who love him. He’s made his goodbyes. While none of that is easy, if I could imagine the best way to leave this earth, that’s how it would be. After living a long, full life, surrounded by family.
That’s why I don’t want to know what’s coming. Most people don’t get that kind of end. Many never get the chance to say goodbye, to come to terms with death. To look it in the eyes and take its hand willingly. I don’t want to spend my life worrying about what good will pass me by or what bad might strike. I want to work hard, live this life as well as I can, and push myself to achieve the dreams I have. I believe that if I do that, I will get where I need to be. If I tell everyone I love them now, share myself with loved ones, and treat others with dignity, I won’t leave unanswered questions when I go if it happens to be sudden.
So why wouldn’t I want to know the future? I like the present. The future will come. Time is inexorable. It moves whether you want it to or not. I can deal with whatever comes when it comes. Until then, I will love as well as possible and greet each dawn with hope and determination to keep moving forward.
It has been a week of it. I got back from my bridal shower (which was lovely, by the way) to find out that my move-out situation from my old house has hit yet more financial snags, my mother is in the hospital again, and someone close to me is getting a divorce. I guess bad news really does travel in threes. Ugh.
In spite of all of that, I have endeavored to get into my writing some more, and I have succeeded in getting a solid twenty pages of revision done this evening. For more information on that, I suggest you check out my writing blog.
The reason for the late night is an ill-timed three hour nap I took with my fiance. In spite of the poor timing, it ended up working out in my favor. I have been needing and itching to get work done for a while.
Speaking of my fiance, he hunted around to find me some useful Gaelic learning material and downloaded it for me. I get warm fuzzies thinking about it. He also asked me about my desire to learn the language and listened when I prattled on about it for some time. I can’t wait to start working on it more.
The wedding is six weeks away. I cannot believe it is so close now. What a trip. Married. Me. John’s parents are coming into town next weekend to go over some more wedding stuff with us. We’re getting into crunch time now. I’m starting to get the calls about flight times and questions about sleeping arrangements and all of that. John and I definitely need to book some of our tickets for the honeymoon and secure our rental car. So much to do, and an ever-decreasing amount of time to do it in.
Okay. I think I am going to see if I can get a few hours of sleep before my double tomorrow. I still have a bit of a long weekend ahead of me.
I am of the minority in the country in which I reside. That country is the USA, and the reason I am a minority (one of them, anyway) is that I speak more than one language. I speak Polish, German, (crappy) Spanish, and (worse) French. (The parentheticals in the previous sentence are in no way meant to communicate my feelings about the latter two languages, only the condition of my speaking ability.)
It’s been a long-running goal of mine to speak multiple languages fluently. Languages have always fascinated me. I’ve made up a few. (Or a couple, more accurately.) I’ve always loved the idea of the Otherness that makes up foreign speech, and better yet when I get a glimpse into that Otherness and understand it. As I grew older, I started learning Spanish. At first it was all verb conjugations and noun genders and monotonous memorization — until Mrs. Slater got pregnant and was replaced by a teacher whose name I’m ashamed to have forgotten. The first day this new teacher walked into the room, she started babbling in Spanish. She refused to speak English to us. Everyone panicked, but she had the right of it.
Everyone is capable of learning a language. We all do it once; we can all do it again. She had the theory that the best way to learn a language is to hear it in context, to observe and make connections between speech and environment. This is what babies do. Once kids learn their basic vocabularies, they move onto more abstract conceptual language and more advanced forms of communication, but it’s no good to be able to conjugate the subjunctive tense of a random -ar verb if it has no context. Grammar without conversation is like the squiggling lines of a highway system without benefit of map. It’s meaningless without context.
All this has come up in my mind because I’ve again decided to dust off my Gaelic books. Learning Gaelic has been a goal of mine for a very long time. Part of it is the sheer beauty of the language. Another part is the connection it holds for me to my ancestors. Due to many ethnocidal policies enacted in Scotland over the course of the past three or four hundred years (and some before), Gaelic speakers now reside almost exclusively in the Islands and Northwest Highlands of Scotland. Gaelic is a rich, living language that formed the center of a community-oriented culture for over a thousand years. So many stories and legends have been lost, stories that were never committed to parchment and only existed in an oral tradition that was strangled over the course of a couple centuries. So I want to learn it. I want my children to know it. I feel like a child clapping my hands as Peter Pan abjures the crowd to show Tinker Bell that people still believe in fairies. If I clap loud enough and long enough, maybe others will clap with me. Maybe we can bring Gaelic back from the flickering fringe at the edge of Scotland that many say derisively is only the death-rattle of a language past saving. Welsh and Irish are making a comeback. Even Cornish is making a comeback. I want to do my part to save the language of my people.
So here I am, staring at a small pile of books with daunting amounts of vowels and elusive consonants that hover at the back of the throat and sometimes fade out of existence entirely depending on what the overwhelming vowels have to say about it. A few years ago, I picked them up and gave it a shot, but without audio help and the nearest native speaker being some 5,000 miles away, I floundered for a bit before conceding that I wasn’t up to the task.
Around that same time, I started picking apart another language. I didn’t have the same emotional ties to Polish as I do to Gaelic, but I did have some. I met friends because of the intriguing sound of Polish. Those friends spent a good deal of time trying to learn my language, so I figured the least I could do was try to learn theirs. I set about teaching myself Polish.
I learned Polish in the space of about two years. I didn’t know at the time what a feat that was. When I moved to Poland to study abroad, I tested into one of the highest levels of Polish classes (C1, for all you Europeans who might care). I was dismally behind on my conversational fluidity, but my grammar was excellent and my pronunciation was so good that I always got incredulous looks from people when I told them I had zero Polish background. And so I got dunked into the deep end of the language pool. For the first few months, I was over my head. I studied relentlessly to improve my vocabulary. To be conversational in English, one needs to know about 2,000 words. Many resources say that only 1,000 are really necessary, but for the sake of argument, I’ll call it 2,000. In Polish, it’s necessary to know over 7,000 in order to be conversational. I got greedy. I collected words like gold coins. I became a linguistic Scrooge. I breathed noun declensions. I prattled Polish to anyone who would listen. When servers at restaurants would figure out I was foreign and switch to English, I would speak Polish at them until they got the point that I didn’t want English.
And it worked. Even now, four years after leaving my beloved Krakow, I am still pretty fluent. Because of my experience with Polish, I am utterly grateful that that was the language I chose to immerse myself in. Why?
Polish is an intensely complicated language. Beyond the mountain of vocabulary necessary for speaking, it is home to three genders of nouns which all decline through a very Latin (think actual Latin, not Romance Languages) system of cases. Verbs change for gender. Nouns change not only for gender and case, but for status as animate, inanimate, or virile. Sentence structure is fluid and poetic. Adjectives decline with their nouns. It is due to the hard-earned familiarity with these aspects of language that I picked up German in about four months, and it is due to all of that knowledge that I have again decided to pick up and dust off my Gaelic books again.
No longer do my eyes glaze over when the word “genitive” appears in a sentence. I don’t stare helplessly, wondering what on earth a slender consonant is or what the hell it means to be a leniting vowel. Nasalized vowels and palatized consonants are no longer daunting. Through the precision of Polish pronunciation, I have a higher awareness of what is going on in my mouth when I talk: where my tongue sits with certain consonants and how changing it can affect sound; the difference between words spoken far forward in the mouth as opposed to back in the throat. I have a deep respect for English-learners; our grammar system is capricious and labyrinthine, our spelling an exercise in torture. I bow to languages where phonics is not actually the joke it is in English, where clusters of letters like -ough will make the same sound wherever they’re used rather than performing acrobatics like bough, through, thorough, rough. Where rules are rules. To quote a favorite comedian:
“Brian, what’s the i before e rule?”
“…i before e….always.”
“No, Brian. I before e except after c, or when sounding like a as in neighbor and weigh, and on weekends, and holidays, and all throughout May, and you’ll ALWAYS BE WRONG, NO MATTER WHAT YOU SAY!”
To sum up, languages are interesting. (Hahaha!) In case you are wondering which ones I care to learn to fluency (or maintain), here’s a list:
I’ll close this windy post with something I wrote whilst on holiday in Valencia in the spring of 2006.
The more that I try to learn languages, the more I am surprised to realize that the most touching and beautiful moments are those that require no words. And for the times that do, I am reminded that it truly is worth all the pain. Every tongue-twisting syllable, every elusive vowel or unfamiliar cluster of consonants, every foot-in-mouth moment or awkward silence, that panicky deer-in-the-headlights feeling — it is all worth it for just one second. Just one second where you can tangibly feel that you have left your own world behind and become one with another. The lights come on and for an instant, you understand. Comprehension dawns in a moment where no translation could retrieve the true meaning of what you heard in its original form, untarnished, with your own two ears.
That’s why I try. And that’s why it’s worth it.
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.
I honestly can’t remember a time where I ever truly enjoyed “chick flicks.” I suppose I watched them…in high school I can recall watching She’s All That and Never Been Kissed and 10 Things I Hate About You (which really isn’t much of a chick flick at all; it’s just awesome) (awwww…Heath Ledger…waaaaaah). Those are the only ones I really remember, though. Even then, the movies I got excited about were the Lord of the Rings movies, X-Men (I about peed myself), and horror movies/thrillers. Even the occasional sci-fi movie, though I was never a die-hard sci-fi girl. But I digress before I even started. Alas. I blame NyQuil.
Anyway, tonight something happened that I just couldn’t ignore. First of all, I decided to watch Sleepless in Seattle. It’d been forever since I saw it (if I ever saw it before tonight), and I decided, “What the hell?”
I fell asleep 40 minutes in, to my own chagrin. So I started it over. I like Meg Ryan. I also like Tom Hanks. I was enjoying the movie after I conquered my sleepiness. And then, BAM. It was over. The camera zoomed out on that giant red heart on the side of the Empire State Building, and I was supremely confused. After a beat, I thought, “That’s it?” I was beyond confused. I was bewildered. “Really? That’s it? But…what happens next?”
I won’t deny that I could relate to bits of the film; perhaps it’s that I’m in love with a wonderful man myself, but I definitely had some warm fuzzies. However, when it ended, I was left utterly unsatisfied. I wanted to know what happened later, that evening, the next morning, a week or a year later. I don’t want the ride off into the sunset endings — I want to know what’s on the other side of that sunset. It really bothered me that the movie just…truncated like an obnoxious fraction.
What if Meg and Tom decide they can’t stand each other? And if they do really end up in love, how does that happen? Do they ever take each other for granted? Does Jonah end up resentful and sullen again?
I realize that this is exactly why I don’t really like chick flicks. For one thing, they usually break up some couples. For another, they all end this way, this happily ever after shite. I guess it’s not really shite, persay, but it’s so unrealistic I want to bop them on the heads with a mallet. I think that’s why I love Love Actually — yeah, some of them end up quite happy, but not all of them. And the love they show isn’t always the romantic kind, either. There’s some anguish, there’s some pictures of good love gone bad, and there are some pictures of nice, healthy love as well.
Sigh. Maybe Hollywood has lost a bit of its magic for me, but I don’t know. What I do know is that life isn’t full of happy endings. It’s the journey that matters, every step along the way. It doesn’t end when we meet the one we love or even when we marry them. It keeps on going, marching up and down, back and forth. And that’s what I like about it. I don’t want the end credits to roll till my eyes shut for the last time.
Well, the former part is true, at least. Am I lonely? Not…lonely persay. Pensive? A little. Riddled with self-contemplation? Somewhat. Ever-so-slightly shocked at myself? Yes. Yes, I am.
I’m having a girlie moment.
Gasp. Crash. Hiccup.
I know. I knooooooooooooow. I’m seldom outright girlie. The pensive self-contemplation stems primarily from that blatant fact. In many ways, I defy mainstream, pop-culture girl-dom. I hate pink. (Okay, maybe not hate, but I feel it ought to be used in very, very sparing quantities.) Chick flicks are enormously depressing for me. I don’t want to be a princess, unless it’s the warrior kind and I get to rampage about killing monsters and saving the world. Diamonds bore me at best, and I loathe diamond solitaires (this time my adjective is not overstated). I would be mortally offended if my boyfriend spent two months of income on an engagement ring, and only slightly less so if he spent more than a week’s. (He knows these things already.)
My momentary bout of girliness is coming from the mere fact that my relationship is progressing. And it’s filling my head with all sorts of fuzzy shiny happy thoughts. It makes my tummy feel warm and glowy (and NOT in that pregnant way, so don’t even ask). I may have even sighed and made goo-goo eyes at Edward the Elephant in my boyfriend’s absence. *ahem.*
On a more serious note, this feeling is entirely new. Without going into too much detail, no one has ever been committed to me before. Me. I’ve never felt anything like this — the sense that someone truly wants to journey through this life at my side and wants me there at his.
And so I’m being girlie. I’m looking at pretty colors and imagining future moments. I’m listening to the conversations we had over and over in my head and reveling in it.
I feel like I got a belated birthday present/early Christmas present. Because as I’ve tried to wrack my brain for gift ideas for myself (always a precipitous sort of task), I’ve returned only to the simple (if gushy and cliche) sentiment that all I want for Christmas is….well, him.
Before I turn completely into a porcelain dolly with ringlets and ribbons, let me remind you once more:
Warrior. Swords. Zombie-slaying, kicker of dragon asses, vampire-loving, princess of general awesomeness — that’s who you’re listening to here. And don’t you forget it.