Sunday, July 20, 2014

On Writing: Babies, Battles, and BOC

Some people prefer lives of peace and solitude, and I am content to be counted as one of those.  

I need time, really need it, spent doing nothing more than contemplating a flower:  the lines, and the color, and the sweetness.  
Or breathing in the scent of my back yard.  Or studying my son's face while he sleeps, and trying to commit every contour and shadow to memory, perfectly.  

I need scheduled, regular time to spend just staring off into space and. . . thinking about things.  

It recharges my batteries, to let my mind wander.  It is when I feel the most like me.  And I feel like the world could use more of it, honestly.  (I'm not even gonna get started on this subject, because I could probably prattle on about it for an hour or more, and look up and half of my day would be gone.  So I'll just say that I think kids need it maybe the most.  

A wandering mind can be a wonderful, beautiful, creative thing, and I shudder to think that future generations may become so distracted by other things that they entirely lose the things that can happen, and the glorious things that might be created, when the mind is let loose to ramble down pathways of its own.)


I'm saying all this basically just to establish that I am, for lack of a better word, a home-body. I like my peace and quiet, and I don't get out and socialize with brand-spanking-new people that often, due to personal preference and some legit nerves.

Occasionally, however, I do venture out for social events and happenings, and do stumble across Brand New People (henceforth to be known as BNP).  And there invariably comes the part of the conversation where they say:

"So. . . what do you do?"

. . . . 


And what I REALLY want to say is:

"I don't really feel the need to quantify it.  I try to let life happen to me.  I try to be available for it.  I look for beauty, and get really happy when I find it.  I listen to music, and I seek out funny things, and about 5 times a week I make grilled cheeses for two boys, and then I spend 15 or 20 minutes trying to get them to EAT said cheeses, before our resident geriatric cat does.  Because the cat LOVES cheese, but it upsets his stomach.  So he'll snatch a grilled cheese in the blink of an eye, then instantly regret it, and then spend the rest of the afternoon trying to hack it up on the carpet.
Ummm. . . and I also play with Hot Wheels a lot, and I enjoy at least one game of Uno every night, and I can recite 'If You Take A Mouse To School' without even looking.
Also:  Interpretive dance."

Unfortunately for me, this is not exactly the kind of torrent of words that you can just unleash on an unsuspecting new person.  (Believe me:  I've tried.)  

You spew out this much unfiltered TRUTH on someone that doesn't know you well enough to understand how completely and deeply weird you are yet, and what you're probably going to get is a blank stare, an "Ohhhh-kayyyy", and a quick change of subject.

And so I've learned to filter what I say a bit, to make it a little more digestible for my peers.  So usually my already-ready answer is: 

"I'm a stay at home mom. . .

. . . and sometimes I paint.  

And I write a blog.  

. . . but nothing professional."

And then I smile nervously, and take a sip of my drink, or shove some food in my mouth and hope desperately that someone else says something (anything) before I finish chewing.

(Sidenote:  From time to time, I meet BNP that I deem to be either awkward enough, or genuine enough, or damaged enough (or all three), in just the right sort of way that, even social anxiety withstanding, I manage to maintain a good relationship with them for years.  . . . and I credit the longevity of these relationships entirely to massive veins of patience running straight through these folks.)

But the question of what I DO always seems to make me feel antsy for some reason. . .

I'm a mom (this has been established in previous posts, and also, if you ever spot me in the grocery store, toy store, library, etc., I feel that it would be glaringly apparent).  I take care of the kids, and the house, and I think I do it fairly well.  I'm not going to win any "Cleanest and/or Most Presentable" awards for either one. . .  but I think I might just almost be okay with that.  =)

(Learning to own your imperfections is a brand of nirvana I find myself reaching for constantly.)

After that. . . what DO I do??

I paint sometimes, and I write sometimes.  

And sometimes I make cookies, and sometimes they are snickerdoodles, and I am not even gonna play:  they are fabulous
Really, REALLY good.

But I do not make them often because, much like Phoebe Buffay, I feel that it's not fair to the other cookies.

And so I do all these things, and I range from Decent to Really Decent at all of them. . . and yet I don't get paid to do any of them.


So I think this lack of a paycheck has made it very easy for me to question exactly how valid these things I do actually are.

. . . I write a blog.  And I don't get paid for it.  Soooooo. . . why, exactly, do I do it?

Why do I do it?!?

I've been thinking about this a lot lately.

And this is the answer I've come up with:

I do it for the same reason that anybody writes.

I have loved the written word for literally as long as I can remember.  It has so much power; so much beauty.  And while most of these reasons apply to pretty much ANY creative endeavor: writing, painting, acting, dancing, performing, singing, playing music, etc. . . . today I'm just going to put it under the blanket of "Writing."

So here's my list of why people write.


(Sidenote:  Go on and prepare to be SUPER impressed, because these are all just stupidly noble reasons.)

#1.  To make their voices heard.

I'm going to die one day.

We all are.

(I promised you 'noble', not uplifting.)

Some people deal with this knowledge in a very stoic manner, while in others, it inspires a quiet sense of desperation.  A sense of:

I was here.  I mattered.  I NEED TO BE HEARD.

I had these experiences, and though they might not seem like much, they were important to me at the time.

And so writing is, in a way, a means of scrawling 


in dark Sharpie, on the bathroom wall of Life.

And people get to see it, and acknowledge it:

Hey.  Look at that.  Somebody else was here.

. . .every time they go pee.

Hmmm. . .  I'm now looking back at this last section, and rethinking the whole thing. . .

But I'm in a mood where I refuse to second-guess myself.

*I* think it's noble, and I'm sticking with that.

Deal.  With.  It.

#2:  To keep a log of events.

You know.  As in, "for FUTURE PEOPLES!!!"

People have done this for as long as writing has been around.  As a way of communicating with those that come later.  As in:

"So hey, we've noticed that the banks of the Nile overflow at pretty much the same time every year.  You might wanna watch out for that."


"My neighbor figured out that if you chew the bark from this tree, it makes your fever go away.  I know--sounds crazy, right?  But all 10 of my kids are alive because of it.  Just FYI."

Or even:

"Notice:  If you're nice to dogs, and feed them and give them a place to live?  They will HELP YOU herd your sheep and stuff.  NO LIE."

(. . .I'm fairly certain that there are far better examples out there. . . but I'm working on my second Big Gulp of coffee right now, the caffeine is kicking IN, the toddler is squealing, and I find that I'm a tad scattered upstairs at the moment.  All apologies.

Besides, I feel that these examples adequately illustrate my point, so I'm just going to move on now.

While I am NOT writing to warn future generations of flood-times, natural remedies, etc., I am still essentially doing the same thing.

I write this blog for me.  And for my son.  And for my family and friends.

Just as a way of saying:  This is what happened.

This is what we did.

This is what your childhood was like, Took!  This is how we spent our days.  =)

And, on rare occasions:  This is what I learned.

(I DO actually learn lessons occasionally.  Not ALL the time. . . but sometimes.  But I prefer not thinking on the "lesson" part of my life too hard.  Puts too much pressure on me.  I'd much rather just go through my days, experiencing my life, and then every once in a while I'm all:  

"OOOH!!!  Look!  There, on the ground!  A lesson!!  . . .I'm growing as a person!!!"

And then I pick the lesson up, and put it in my pocket.

. . .And then I usually have a snack.)

**Because 'growing as a person' is freaking exhausting.  

Pretty sure it was Ghandi that said that.  But you don't have to look it up.  I'm pretty sure.**

#3:  As an attempt to be understood.

This is my effort
To be heard through the howling.
Adored, though imperfect.
Understood, though unclear.

As a way of relating to people, nothing beats writing.

. . . I still remember, quite clearly, the day when I was in 4th grade, and our teacher introduced us to Shel Silverstein.

We followed along in our books, as we sat there as a class and listened to Where The Sidewalk Ends on cassette.

And I still remember hearing the first poem, Invitation,

---and thinking:  


THIS guy.


Wait . . . this was written by a grown man??!

. . . I'm pretty sure this guy is a sorcerer.


Nothing had ever spoken to me like those poems did that day.

And I spent the next several years searching for Shel Silverstein books in every bookstore and library I was lucky enough to visit.

. . . those same books are stacked on my son's dresser at this very moment, patiently waiting for the day when he is old enough to discover them.

Which brings me to:

#4:  To inspire.  To lift up.

I make very few, if any, promises to the readers of this blog.

But I do strive to maintain it with a couple of rules in mind:

First off---don't bitch.

I might've broken this one occasionally, but I really do try not to complain.  I don't like complainers.

Of all the lessons of my childhood, one of the ones that has stuck with me the most is something that both my mother and my grandmother taught me from the time I was just a wee-one:

No matter how bad you have it, there's always someone out there that has it worse.  There's always someone out there that would get down on their knees and be grateful to only have to deal with your problems.  So suck it up, and try to help.  (I'm paraphrasing.)

So that lesson has stayed with me to this day, and I try to keep it in mind when I'm writing.  I feel that writing, just to complain, is kind of. . . pointless.  Everybody has problems.  Why waste the time and effort just to complain about yours?


That brings me to the second rule I try to uphold with this blog:

Be sincere.  Be honest.  Be genuine.

And honestly?  Yeah, I've got problems, just like everybody else.

And I do write about them.  In a way that (I hope), comes across as genuine and sincere.

And I also pretty much refuse to write about troubling things in my day-to-day, UNTIL I have found a positive way to look at them, or a productive way to deal with them.

And while I will readily admit that it is probably not exactly prudent to be so open with my own shortcomings and demon-dances. . . I do it anyway.

Because I know that if I'M going through something. . . chances are pretty good that someone else might be, too.  And maybe they'll read what I write.  And maybe they'll relate.

And maybe. . . maybe they won't feel so alone any more.

So if I learn something. . . I'm gonna share it.  Even if it makes me look like a dumb ass in the process.

It's Shake N' Bake, and I helped.

#5:  For shits and giggles.  (aka: Humor)

I think a lot about humor.



I mean, seriously.  I really think about it a lot.

You know the line "My heroes have always been cowboys"?

Well, my heroes have always been comedians.

As in. . . ALWAYS.

People that make me laugh just kind of instantly own my heart.

It takes. . . it takes a special awareness of the world around you to be funny, I think.  I don't think it's possible to be funny if you're walking around wearing your rose-colored glasses, willfully blind to painful truths.

I think it takes a recognition of the darkness, of the insanity, and of the helplessness that is synonymous with the human condition. . . to be funny.

Let me rephrase that:

I think it requires a recognition of the darkness, and then a shrug of the shoulders, and then a cosmic thumbing-of-the-nose.


To me, comedy is seeing all that can be bad in the world, seeing it as it REALLY is, and then choosing to say:

"You know what?  SCREW YOU, Darkness!!  SCREW YOU RIGHT IN YOUR BIG STUPID EAR!!!"

This is the only life I've got.  

It's the only one you've got, too.

Why not laugh?

And if I could pass on words of wisdom, to my children perhaps, about the nature of comedy?

You have to look for it.

You have to always be looking for it.

But this life is inherently absurd.

Just keep your eyes open, and you'll find it.


To my way of thinking, humor is a weapon, and a shield, and a freaking LIFE PRESERVER.

It is laughing in the face of our own mortality.

It is fighting back the Reapers.

It is bravery, defined.


So I write.

I don't get paid for it, and it is possible (even likely) that I never will.

Doesn't matter.

I'll still do it.

Because I'm an earthworm out of dirt, squirming around, trying to find meaning.

And in order to DO that, I have to walk my own path.  Kick the stones, smell the honeysuckle, get my feet dirty.

And what do I want in return?

Hmmmm. . . 

Just to grow.

Maybe leave something shiny behind when I'm gone.

Create a smile, or a laugh, or a sense of belonging. . . that maybe wasn't there before.

To connect with other weirdos.

To say:  "Hey.  Check it out.  I learned something."

To leave love.

. . . which reminds me of a song that has been playing in my head for about a straight week now.

And, since songwriting is just another type of writing, I'm gonna leave it right here.  It's Justin Townes Earle, it's called Mama's Eyes, and I love the sincere and real way he writes:

So that's it.

That's my list.

And honestly?  . . .I think I feel better just having written this.


No matter how bad, how good, how grammatically satisfying, or how much money I'm not making for doing it --- I'll write.

Because I no longer have any fear of being anything other than my flawed, but seeking, self.

And because this is MY blog, my record, my work.

The value is whatever *I* say it is.

These are my demons I'm beating back; my battles, my lessons.

My wins, and my losses.

The worth, and the value . . . they're found in the fight.


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