Will I Make it Home Tomorrow?

In almost every writing course I’ve taken I’ve been reminded of the importance of beginning in media res—in the middle of things. Explication is superfluous; no one really needs to know what happened before the shoe dropped, before the letter arrived to the cupboard under the stairs, before she decided to cut his hair. The way I have been taught to regard time is that because it is linear, some parts are more important—or, at least, more interesting—than others.

Not everyone is taught that, but most people believe it—that life only really begins after some point, a specific age or event. Life can change in grand, sweeping ways that can knock you off your feet and point you in new directions but it’s not always tidal waves. Every day you make a decision to live your life a certain way and that’s you setting your course. We’re powerful in that way.

“We can never know what to want,

Because living only one life, we can neither

Compare it with our previous lives

Nor perfect it in our lives to come”

-Milan Kundera

The way I read that, is that the true unbearable lightness of being is deciding what to do with all your potential energy. The possibilities in every day of living, a new start every single day.

In “Goodbye to All That” Joan Didion writes: “It is easy to see the beginnings of things and harder to see the ends.” But I think both are impossible to grasp. I think we all exist in the gray area between the black and white beginnings and endings, never quite sure when the moment started but always in it. Telling our own stories just by moving along, in media res.

And maybe time isn’t linear; maybe it’s circular. Everything in our personal experience could support that idea: have you, on personal level, ever witnessed time ending? Yes, experiences end but how can you ever be sure that something is really over? Maybe nothing ends, maybe things just move to the periphery of our vision where we can never quite catch sight of it. I could believe that. I could believe that entire worlds are caught in motion just around the corner.

20120803-211656.jpg

back to the desk of Weezy F. Baby (and others)

To the left, to the left.

“ ‘cause she knows it would be tragic if those evil robots win.”

Growing up as the youngest child in a family of seven (!) (three are half-siblings and much, much older, but still) the only thing I ever wanted was a little sister. And to meet John Travolta circa “Grease.” I don’t know.

One of those things happened when my junior high guidance counselor shuffled my schedule around to make space for a high school math class and needed to find an elective that fit into my schedule. She chose Tech Lab*, which was a fancy name for wood working.

By the way, I only mention the advance math thing because I spent the next year not understanding and then cheating my way through Geometry (is there a way my high school can retroactively take away my passing grade? If yes, then this is all a really specific joke with no basis in the truth, Mrs. Kelly). I thought I would die if I didn’t get an A. THIS IS THE CONSEQUENCE OF TELLING TYPE-A KIDS THEY’RE “GIFTED” AT THINGS THAT THEY’RE NOT REALLY GIFTED AT DOING.

I’m still waiting for some situation to come up wherein I’m totally screwed over by the fact that I don’t understand geometry.

But back to the point!

I met John Travolta.

Okay, but really. There were two girls in my wood working class. One was a girl named Samantha who wore smeared black eyeliner, a wrist full of plastic bracelets and would say things like “Call me a bitch.”

The other was Hannah, who was a year younger than I was and in the same scheduling situation as me. We built racecars, I broke the band saw and we made a bridge together out of balsa wood. Our junior high didn’t practice block scheduling, so we saw each other every day. Sometimes after school we’d go to Bogey’s, an ice cream and deep-fried-anything haven. She was the oldest in her family and me being the youngest in mine, it was a natural progression that we adopted each other as sisters.

We played basketball (terribly), we watched indie movies and eventually she’d work at the art house cinema in town and I’d work as the Films & Media coordinator on my college campus. We both ended up at the same college despite being sure that we both “belonged” out of state and even though our lives have twisted and turned in different directions we’re still looped around that same family tree that lets us spend hours trying on dresses from each other’s closets (isn’t that the point of sisters?), borrowing CDs, nail polish, jewelry and advice about what to do with friends or dudes that suck.

And right there is truly the point of sisters, or family in general: reminding someone and letting someone remind you to love, live life, proceed, progress.

 

 

five years ago in an empty cow town

 

*This was not the last time she did this. I spent my sophomore year of high school making an end table.

how I learned… I was basically addicted to the Internet

Rocket Science was started as a time capsule for future introspection. During those first 365 days I wasn’t really writing to remember, I was writing to find a point.

How I Learned is “a monthly series of writers, storytellers, comedians, bloggers and performers” sharing stories of wisdom found and gained.


It happens every fourth Wednesday in Brooklyn, and although the website doesn’t post transcripts, they share pictures from each reading and they always share the topic beforehand.

Some of my favorite prompts include: How I learned … I was basically in love with you, there might be some issues (stories about therapy), to inhale (stories about drugs), to live on the road (stories of travel), and my favorite: what everyone else already knew.


Even though I have yet to write one of these narratives, they inspire me to spend time reflecting on my own stories and stories that I’ve been told.

How I Learned serves as an extension of my own introspection and I can pretty much guarantee that one of these days, I will write a post about something I have learned. Not that I don’t already do that…


I can’t help but be addicted to anything that throws a little wisdom my way.

All images by Jon Boulier and gleefully stolen from How I Learned. GO THERE NOW!

completely addicted to that jagged little pill

“I’m conducting an informal survey: does it make you kind of uncomfortable when people refer to themselves as an artist?”

I posed this question to a friend the other day.

At the time I was wondering what was so unsettling to me about hearing someone proclaim themselves as a definite something.

The answer is simple and complicated because it’s jealousy, but jealousy on a variety of levels.

On the most basic level, I’m jealous of anyone who can proclaim themselves as something with one hundred percent certainty.

“I’m a toaster!”
The Brave Little Toaster
“I’m a Samantha!”
Samantha
“I’m an artist!”

I am certain of things for 90 seconds at a time, which is then immediately followed by weeks of doubt because how much do I really know? That’s where it gets complicated.

There is a lot of good in the uncertainty, though. There’s a lot of good in not knowing but just making a decision.

Austin Kleon wrote a note on “How to Steal Like an Artist” and the most relevant item on the list was this:

So much of success lies in trying, living and learning. I’m learning to embrace that. I love that this means that on some days you could be a ballerina, sailor, chef, artist, writer–anything.

still learning: petty bullshit

Along with the documentary film class, I am also in a creative non-fiction class (and I am THISCLOSE to sending my professor the link to this here page because he has a fondness for latent curse words and long winded college students) (and is also really, really cool) (Hi Joe!) (just in case). My classmates and I have to share some special narrative as our semester project and I’d like to not write about myself because, honestly? I start enough sentences with the letter “I” and it’s starting to mess with my psyche.

For creative non-fiction I wanted to investigate someone else, redevelop some empathy. I wanted to find Lawrence’s answer to The King of Kong, a Sandy Cohen-esque lawyer or politician or even just some person who happened to be standing on a street corner at four in the afternoon.

In part, this desire came from the fact that I got wrapped up in some petty bullshit and a constant queue of questions about said bullshit. Consequently, my mind became locked on (TEN GUESSES WHAT IT WAS) petty bullshit.

It was everywhere. It was oppressive. It was disgusting and it was all I thought about. The worst thing about it was that it it locked me into this mindset where my immediate reactions and complaints were okay to say because O.M.PETTYBULLSHIT.

The worst thing about petty bullshit (pettybullshitpettybullshitpettybullshit) besides the fact that it literally holds no meaning outside of the wasted time spent festering about it (and OH, the festering) is that it creates this loud ass noise in your mind that drowns out all empathy and anything good. Or, you’ll have the good then you’ll get somewhere and remember the PB and be all “BLERGITY BLERG AAARG.” And once you say AAARG you may as well invest in an eye patch and move to Somalia because you are officially a vampire.

Last July I found a quote about sunlight and started to write a draft around it. I loved it but I couldn’t find what context I wanted to use it in. I pressed “SAVE DRAFT” and let it sit there. I get it now.

It says:

The sun too shines into cesspools and is not polluted

So you know the days covered in soot, ash, fog and smoke? That is petty bullshit.

Imagine yourself as this weightless, bright light acting as Mary-Mary-quite-contrary helping the flowers grow, warming the beach on the sand, creating picturesque landscapes that inspire artists to paint and lovers (would-be or used-to-be and gonna-bes) to make phone calls, take pictures or look through old albums.

The same light that holds the promise of a new day and new experiences, that represents all possibilities and all beauty can make rainbows in the pools of oil left behind by rusty cars with nothing but their insides left to give.

It’s so obvious that humans should see that in themselves. We should see the light peeking through—first in slivers and finally in bright rays. It’s so obvious that we’re all supposed to sparkle and shine. Because the bullshit isn’t remarkable, it’s the persistence and consistency of that spirit inside of us that reenlists itself every morning.

So, why be a vampire? Why hide from the sun?

The best part is that even in the worst times, whenever you find yourself growing grim about the mouth; when it is a damp drizzly, November in your soul; whenever you find yourself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses…it’s never really gone.

I can’t say that’s that and wash my hands clean, because who knows what will happen tomorrow? But in the meantime, I can let the sun shine.

last summer in Lawrence

Ps, I think I’m secretly falling in love with the cold again. “Again” because it happens every year but I deny it because it is my Rhett Butler.

celebrating another day of living

My junior year of high school we staged a production of a student written play called “Peace of Mind.”  It centers around Robert Rosenthal, a man in a coma attempting to (here it comes!) find peace of mind about his life. The characters represented his memories and his overall doubts about whether or not he’d done enough with his life, or made his life a story. Here’s a thirty second clip of the intro:

How do you write a story about life and death without being trite or cliché?

Alan Ball knows: he created Six Feet Under.

The most surprising thing about death is that it isn’t some menacing skeleton in a black hooded kaftan. Death is a kid: far away yet imminent and always omnipresent.

For some people death is a child impatiently tugging at the hem of their pant leg or dress, asking in that annoyed tone: “Can we go now?”

Sometimes it’s across a restaurant, with the frazzled woman quickly escorting her wailing baby out of the crowd. For a second you think: “Someday that could be me.” Or maybe: “That will never be my life.”

Other times it’s old photo albums in your mom’s house or even just one picture of a you that you can’t remember being. Maybe you don’t really believe it when you see it because you’ve gotten so used to the concept of a memorable you that anything else seems impossible. You remember five years old and nap times in Mrs. Dreese’s preschool classroom. You remember seven and skinned knees. You remember thirteen and all that attitude. If you think about it enough, you can even remember how much you loved that t-shirt with the elephants and balloons when you were three.

But baby you is only believable because there’s proof that it happened and because you’ve seen it happen with others. Little brothers or sisters or new babies next door who grow and talk and learn and follow the same general path that you did prove that everyone comes from the same place and heads in the same direction.

What does make a life a story? Is it crossing off items on your to-do list or learning to play an instrument?

Maybe.

Or, it’s just living.

Maybe it’s a coke at three in the morning because you feel like it, sharing jokes from South Park and searching Google images for pictures of cartoon sea animals wearing top hats.

Maybe it’s deciding to re-watch a cartoon and not read that book, taking a walk at six in the morning and snapping pictures on a camera that may or may not be working.

Maybe it’s always watching that Christmas special in December or maybe it’s new traditions with new family members.

Or, maybe it’s saying I love you when you say goodbye.

Be happy, be loved, be hopeful and be alive.

Learn your lessons then forget them all until you spend four weeks watching an HBO series.

Say thank you for every moment that you gave too much or too little. Say thanks for every moment that you repeated your mistakes, then learned. Say thank you for every moment that you were wrong and that someone showed you what was right. Say thank you for those years of angst, bad skin and even worse haircuts. Say thank you for those black and white beginnings that still appear in Technicolor for the most important people in your life.

Thank you skinned knees and fractured hearts. Thank you teenage melodrama and the calm after the storm. Thank you checked and unchecked ambition. Thank you dreamy hope. Thank you disappointment. Thank you jealousy. Thank you love. Thank you peaches. Thank you kiwis.

Thank you beginnings.

Thank you new days.

“You can’t take a picture of this, it’s already gone”

Thank you Six Feet Under for the reminder.

(And thank you to my roommate, Chad, who left the box set behind over break)