28 Semi-random Thoughts on a Thursday Night

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(This episode of #fieldnotes captures my week in emails perfectly.)

1. I’m thinking in list mode. Every thought is part of a list that’s part of a greater list that’s part of a series of lists that makes up the master-list of my life.

2. I smell like cedar and roses and contemplate my tombstone options: She Were Woodsy ‘n’ Shit, Fought the Good Word Fight and Lost, Saw Your Soul Through Your Underoos, Bitch-Slap Incarnate.

3. Settle on “Bitch-Slap Incarnate” and wonder what I should say in my own ghost eulogy.

4. Spent so much time writing emails to the high school on Max’s account. Constantly trying to find the justice between my wild child’s poor behavior and the poor behavior of his teachers and an institution so denuded of financial support there’s little room for individual thought or need. Here is my child hungry for learning, hungry for discussion, debate, hungry to fill his head with facts… and two of his teachers have raised my IRE by being pretty shitty in the communication and teaching department.

5. This week’s emails to Max’s school has inspired in me the desire to write a handbook for Max on how to not be an inadequate adult.

6. I have always enjoyed instructions on how not to be things. They strike me as being more honest than guides that promise BEING things. “How Not to be a Douche-Copter”. “How Not to Win at Life”. “How Not to Crush Other Human Spirits”. “How Not to Kill Your Enemies”.

7. My hands have been going numb a lot lately. It’s probably carpal tunnel syndrome.  Or stage 4 cancer of my hope.

8. It gets increasingly difficult to hope for anything in the face of war, guns, hatred, racism, general and other specific types of bigotry, hatred, bloodshed, firearms, greed, power-hungry fuckers, desecration of earth.

9. Watched a fierce documentary about tribes deep in the jungles of Papua New Guinea and was stunned with the gorgeousness of untouched humans. Then pissed as fuck because misogyny seems to have been the first bigotry humans ever cultivated.

10. And then I see the penises wearing sharp horns and for the first time in my life I understand the innate power of pasties.

11. How much cooler would strippers be if they replaced their pasties with horns!?

12. I can’t process people thinking that killing other people’s family members is a just price for their own freedoms. It’s nothing more than sanctioned murder. Murder or genocide, depending.

13. There are people in this country who wonder how a person without faith in God can possibly have a strong moral center. I want to punch them for being such ignorant fuckers, but I don’t because my moral code dictates that punching people is a violation of their personal safety and is wrong even if they’re confirmed ass-wipes. My moral code dictates that I behave in a manner that promotes peace and respect, or at least peace.

14. Forgiveness is both a decision and a process. Forgiveness is something you choose and then practice because it takes time to achieve. To not forgive is a determination made by an individual to hold onto resentments, anger, hurt, pain. It isn’t necessary. It’s a choice we make at so many points in our lives. To not forgive is to nurture toxic clusters of pain in a willful manner.

15. I’m pretty sure Max’s English teacher is choosing to hang onto the belief that he intentionally hurt her. From my communications with her it sounds a bit like a manifesto to hold him accountable for an old pain he didn’t even know existed. She won’t even fucking talk to him about how he hurt her feelings, like a fucking teenaged girl.

16. If she hangs on long enough she can become a nail-and-hammer carrying martyr.

17. When I was growing up my parents somehow managed to instill in me (against my will) some deeply Buddhist principles. I find this amusing. An ex-Catholic and an ex-Jew had us kids “Ohming” at their Buddhist alter in a family circle so many times and I rolled my eyes and railed against their “fake” religion and yet, and YET, it seeped deep under my skin so pervasively I could never actually disconnect myself from the basic principles of it.

18. Still, I am nothing. Nothing in particular. Nothing organized.

19. I will never align myself with dogma.

20. My biggest non-secret is that I despair for the human race every single day of my life but also harbor such unwarranted hope for humans and I resent it every time they disappoint me, show that my hope is misplaced, make me ashamed. Then I wake up and it’s there, like a buoy, this inextinguishable hope for us all. It’s what I try to crush after every disappointment. After every act of cruelty, every injustice, every crime against humanity. I try to crush it because it costs me too much. I can’t afford it.

21. I am a paradox of treasuring order, rules, morality AND acceptance of chaos, individuality, and circumstance.

22. I have forgiven my aunt for what she did to my mom. I won’t invite her back into my life, because I’m not masochistic or stupid, but when I search my heart I find zero resentment or bitterness there for her. I wish her no ill. I hope for all the best for her. Not the fake pretending to forgive version. I told her I would forgive her because I believe in forgiveness. But I also told her it might take a long time.

23. Forgiveness is a process. A process I constantly engage in and hope that others do too because I’m a deeply flawed human being and make mistakes and commit social gaffs on a pretty near constant basis.

24. Some people might say that I believe in idealistic hippie peace crap. I don’t believe in fairies, magic, or God. I believe, when pressed, in nonviolence, harmony, love, peace, but powered by the proof Gandhi provided that nonviolence can, in fact, topple a continent infected by oppression.

25. Okay, yeah, I’m hippie spawn. The world needs us, us children of the pot-smoking bone-fide protesters of the previous generation as the origin story of our super-powers.

25.5. That last sentence is one hell of a mess but I’ve decided to leave it as it is.

26. I have the thick, wide, iron-clad thighs of Black Panther, but I wear red lipstick when provoked.

27. If you don’t have the imagination for peace and forgiveness, you’ve let your river of pain take over your shores and it will suck your heart into darkness.

28. A big game hunter followed me on Twitter and I want to yell at him for being such an asshole of a human being. I hope the elephants and tigers and bears and rhinos hunt his game-ass down and share pictures of him on a plaque with their facebook friends.

 

The Good Noise

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I declared an intention I didn’t fulfill. I was going to drag John out of his case and play the crap out of him even if I can’t remember shit. Instead I went back to work and didn’t have time. It’s been too long. I admit I’m scared the note memory has fled the building and all I have left is a bewildered fuzzy memory of being able to play some songs.

If this is true then my epee thrust is also wanting.

(Things I used to practice and commit to the twilight driveway lined in ivy and buzzing with wasps)

Keokuk Street. Books. Musty garage smell. Pill bug highway. Vases of lilacs on the solid oak big-cheese desk. Playing “O Sole Mio” for the bread dough rising in the garage we called the kitchen. Chasing toxic childhood ghosts from my life. Grouting a doorway while Cash complained of Folsom Prison Blues and Mahalia was five times more proud than me.

I don’t work tomorrow. Max goes to school. Philip goes to work. It’s important to try to remember the notes I used to see in my mind. It’s important to reclaim the madness, the good madness, the good noise.

An Infinite Synonym for Shapes

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Many years ago I was a poet in work boots, wool coat, and creepy fur pillbox hat. I believed writing was the key to the universe and the flickering neon sign “Jesus is the Light of the World” that I could see from the window in my cramped one bedroom apartment if I turned my head sideways at an uncomfortable angle was the period at the end of every sentence. I didn’t have to look to feel it there and for my bones to laugh at the spectacle of Jesus not affording good bulbs like everyone else in the Tenderloin.

I have always been a pessimistic optimist.

Or an optimistic pessimist.

Two sides of the same conflicted coin.

I’m listening to Pete Seeger singing “We Shall Overcome”*. I believe I was born singing this in the cruel corners of the One World Family Commune in Berkeley California into which I was born. I must have dreamed the words in my anonymous little cubby on the wall of children’s beds, pretending I didn’t know there was a predator among us.

The words of peace have stuck in my heart.

Words of peace so at odds with the darkness that periodically subsumes me. That also subsumed a few of the unfortunate children who were molested around me. How I was spared when my 5 year old best friend wasn’t I will never know. Might be because I had a reputation for screaming like the devil when upset.**

All these years later and my first language still informs everything I think and write: poetry. My poetry, alone, is not sublime or award-worthy. It was merely my first language. Before English, I understood how color is memory, how scent is emotion, how shape is an infinite synonym for other shapes. I think in abbreviated sentences, sometimes staccato, sometimes soft. Poetry breaks rules and makes rules simultaneously.

Pete Seeger leads me back to Dylan. My favorite Dylan song of all time is “Girl From the North Country” sung with Johnny Cash. I could never be all Death Rocker because of Cash and Dylan. I could never be all anything because of them.

Not long before I’m off my childhood charts.

Today I got a job. You know when you need something desperately and it never materializes? You smash your head against the universe and it continues to close the door on your skull again and again and again until you haven’t got enough bone left to lose?

This wasn’t like that. I had that little nervous breakdown a lot of people witnessed and then I saw this listing on Craigslist. It sounded perfect. An essential oil company here in town needing skills I have? Paying probably enough to make our ends meet? I submitted my funky resume with my earnest cover letter, the way I DO, and waited. I had no faith. Because life has taught me to be cautious and not hope overmuch.

I got the call. I got an interview. I wasn’t scared. I don’t know why as I’m a worrying kind of person in such situations. It felt right the minute I read the listing. It felt right the minute I met the people interviewing me. To the point where I had the strange urge to hug them. I wanted to say “LET’S GET ON WITH THIS PARTY BECAUSE I’M GOING TO WORK MY ASS OFF FOR YOU AND IT’S GOING TO BE GREAT!”

Today I got the position provisionally. For the next week I will work and if they like me and I like them – I will get the job officially.

Nothing feels more right than this.

I want to say that the only thing that would feel more right than this is not needing a part time job at all. But you know when you can feel that an experience is necessary? That whatever is coming is important to you in some way, even if you can’t know how yet? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you wish life could be when you’re dreaming, what we need are experiences that shape us, that help us grow, and enrich us in one way or another. Every job I’ve ever had has given me more experience, more interaction, more stories, and more language.

It always comes back to poetry if I’m willing to see it. If I’m willing to acknowledge it. The mother tongue. The place everything started. My original language.

I haven’t had a pair of work boots in too many years. It bothers me. I have foot problems now and I can’t afford them. But I am, in my soul, a boot girl. Not a fancy boot girl, a work boot girl. I love wool and berets and pea coats. I love eyeliner and red lipstick. I love Scotland and winter. I love trains and other slow transportation. I love efficiency and mail, possibly oxymorons now. I love Fleetwood Mac and Beethoven.

I love dancing to music that’s blasting so loud I can hear it under my own skin.

Tomorrow I’m going to open my damn accordion after I get off work and I’m going to make some incomprehensible noise for the pure joy of it.

*My friend Kele is responsible for reuniting me with this track.

**My nickname in the commune was “Devilina”

I’ll Be Your Usher If You’ll Be Mine

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Self Portrait of the Author Listening to Lies

Reality has a way of rearing its hideous head at the most awkward and unusual moments, catching us off guard and under dressed. Monday, Philip emailed me when he got to work to let me know how much we didn’t have in our bank account and I went into an instant tailspin. We have a water bill and an electric bill due and 90% of the next pay check will go towards paying our rent. We made some poor choices this past week buying too much beer, taking our kid out to eat. Taking our dog to the vet. Paying my phone bill. Now we can  barely afford coffee and cheese is not in the budget.

Max has an infected ingrown toenail and the advice nurse suggested he wear a pair of open toed shoes and I explained that he thinks flip flops are an abomination. She said his shoes might be too tight and should wear a looser pair. I explained that he has only one pair of shoes. I can’t explain the feeling that blossomed in my gut – but any parent who’s ever struggled to provide for their kid doesn’t need this explained.

Ever since last fall we’ve been struggling to make it on one income because we function best as a family when I’m home full time to care for us and to write. Because that’s the life we actually want to be living. We came so close, and yet, not so much. So on Monday I got the message loud and clear that this isn’t working, that the next four weeks are already promising to be pretty dire, that I can’t get a job soon enough.

I instantly spiraled deep down into a freak-out of epic proportions. 48 hours later and I’m cautiously crawling out of the fuck-fest of my own dark hell. I have smeared my social media with my sticky tarry thoughts and shot down every person who tried valiantly to improve my outlook and mood. I’m a fucking professional when it comes to these emotional roller coaster rides and yet I can’t get off of them come hell or high water.

Right now I feel ragged with an emotional hangover so bad I’m going to feel it for days. I’m ashamed of my profound loss of hope, of my determination to be the loser I believe I am when I’m not vigilantly guarding my successes. Of how ready I always am to curl up into the dark and let it subsume me in one big hungry bite.

Whatever I’ve said in the last two days is a part of me, a part of my story, my studied lines. That darkness is real, the despair is honest, the brokenness is so real you can rub the rust of it off on your fingers just reading about it and taste the metal blood of this life I’ve cut myself to survive.

I’m ashamed to have let it all show. And yet I know that part of the honesty I’ve taxed myself with in this life demands that I not shove this ugly under the rug so you all think I’m some special light shining through all adversity and never breaks. I BREAK ALL THE TIME.

I do nothing by halves. Ever. It’s all technicolor fox trots and suicide with me. It’s the one thing you can always count on – I’ll never hide the real show behind the velvet curtain. All this ugly is public. Because I know that someone else out there is struggling to gulp air into waterlogged lungs of hopelessness.

I’m mentally ill. Not in a mild and fun kind of way. I’m seriously mentally ill and I strive to live a life as full of inappropriate laughter as I can muster because it’s where I gather my strength from. The irreverent, the ridiculous, the ironic. That’s my food, that’s my drug.

But of course I also have psychiatric drugs and I thank my fucking stars I have access to those because my son depends on me to keep some semblance of evenness. Of the calm that comes with vespers and flooding night blindness. In spite of support from medications I will always be vulnerable to epic losses of faith, of hope, of light. They are real to me. You need to know this. I FEEL them as strongly as some people feel a rise in hope as summer approaches.

Thrown off course I will spin violently against my own will. I’ll watch as I do it, a hapless victim of my own wild permutations of mood and despair. I can feel myself revving up with the fire of a thousand matches set to light abandoned cars on fire, to watch life burn to the ground all around me, ghosts rising up to meet the toxic smoke, lung for lung.

This is mental illness. It tells me so many lies. In the quiet moments I can recognize them. I can meet them with a chartered smile and an artificial grace. I can smell the lies for what they are. I can kick them aside and cry foul. I can recognize the false voice that tells me hoping is for losers, that everyone else has lost hope for me a long time ago. It speaks for people it’s never met, it speaks for people it’s met with lies.

That’s the main thing about mental illness – it lies to those that suffer from it. Constantly. It’s exhausting fielding the lies and digging through the spiritual rubble for the truth. Every time I succumb to its seduction of failure, its stench of quartered moldering dreams, I don’t see it until afterwards. Until I’ve screamed into the darkness like a child seeing death for the first time. The words I’ve said, the despair I’ve earmarked for myself is false. It’s built on a pyre of lies.

If I was smart I would close into myself when I feel the shit storm approaching. I would cut off all communication until it passes. I would protect you all from the dark clouds and the stench of human frailty. But I promised myself I would never cover it up. That I would be honest and ride it out and take the blows as they come, take the damage dealt as part of my illness, as it IS.

Not just for my sake. For my whole tribe. Some of whom can’t begin to articulate this torture we experience and who lose themselves in it. I will not lie, because of them as much as for myself. So I let it all come out, oozing at times with the toxic sludge of self doubt and rushing at times with the passion of creativity so many in my tribe are gifted with. I remain honest through good times and bad.

I can’t divorce myself from myself. I tried that when I was a teen and almost fractured my personality. I still have issues related to this. I can’t be other than I am. I WILL ABANDON SELF or I WILL KILL SELF or I WILL BECOME A MIME – distress calls from my spirit.

I bleed true. Always. Whatever you know me to be – I am she. I am that. I am IT.

I am strong so much of the time. I will support you with my life. I will shield you from your worst self. I’ll jump into the chasm between your work and your heart creating a bridge between the two. I will hold you above the fucking fires – but I will always fall underneath my own goddamn flag of genius.

Please forgive my hopelessness. My mental illness tells me terrible lies that I believe every single fucking time.

I’m shaking the fire from my bones. This takes a while. The more I make jokes about not being a cannibal the more restored I am to my equilibrium. I said I gave up as a writer. I etched this declaration with bits of flesh and blood because that’s how much I have given up. Except that I can never give up.

When I’m telling you how completely I’ve given up I’m still in my heart and I’m still bleeding when I say it. Look away until it’s over if you need to. This bit is pretty fucking bloody and vile because I’m still in my heart as I say it. I can’t leave it. So the truth is that I have to keep trying, keep hoping, no matter how much abuse or shit gets between me and the truth.

I always end up back at the Happy Super smelling the slush of fish guts the trucks drain into the gutter underneath my bedroom window. I always end up standing motionless at the back of the truck talking to the gutted pig with dead eyes. I always end up talking to the packages of squid and buying boxes of Thai Tea.

If you remember me in your life beyond this morning I hope you remember that no matter what, I hoped for myself I always had room to dream the stars for you. If you remember me beyond today, let it be that I believed (against all odds) in love, love, and true love. If I make a mark in your life at all, let it be that the mentally ill are a magnificent crowd of people full of stories, a darkness so dark you never have to worry when your own lights go out – we’ll still see you. If you remember me, let it be that an atheist spoke to God and got the same answer the devil got to the question: what does it all mean?

It means we crossed paths and now you’ll be the person I have affairs with for the rest of my dreaming life.

You and David Bowie. Some day you’ll see this for the deep compliment it is.

I was going to apologize for my steep fall from hope. I’ve decided this isn’t necessary. Some day you’re going to find yourself in this same place and I will be your usher out of the abyss. All for love.

All for fucking love.

Want a review copy of my book?

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I need several people to review my book and and do a giveaway of the trade paper edition I send them when they’re done reading it. Anyone interested? Here are the details:

  • You need to have a blog to publish the review on and at least a few readers who would be interested in a book giveaway.
  • I want a real review – if you find fault with the book – be honest. I still want you to publish your thoughts and do the giveaway. Thoughtful criticisms are welcome, however, I’m not interested in reviewers who totally trash books they don’t like.
  • I want links to purchasing my book provided in the review post.
  • I want your review to be added to Amazon and Goodreads.
  • Your backlog of books to read and review needs to be short enough that you can do this review within a month from now.

Interested? If you are, please email me at: angelinawilliamson1atgmaildotcom and give me your blog url, your address, and I’ll send you a trade paper copy of Winter: Cricket and Grey.

Here’s a synopsis of my novel (the book is so much better than this – I am still working on my synopsis skills):

At the end of the twenty first century, there is no city government left, just federal officers to oversee taxation and deaths. Cricket Winters, an apothecary like her mother before her, is the only medical resource most of the town can afford, and she’s lucky if she can get her hands on good quality catgut. When Cricket’s father dies, a handsome young friend of his named Grey Bonneville shows up at the burial to pay his respects. Cricket is drawn to Grey’s Scottish accent, so much like her parents’. Grey is impressed with her ability to throw a dirty punch, and circumstances bring them much together. But as Cricket begins uncovering family secrets that may cost her her property and livelihood, she no longer trusts anyone, least of all Grey, whom corrupt federal agents claim is a smuggler, implicating her father as well. In desperate need of money to save her property, Cricket gets a job with the local Mormon crime boss as an armed guard for a trip to Portland. Before she hits the road to Portland, Cricket finds disturbing evidence about her mother’s unsolved murder that makes her the new target of old evil.

Beta Reading is Making Me a Better Writer

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(Imagine all the words and redundancies in your novel being tossed into the bin. Yep, that’s how this image is relevant to this post.)

I’m in the middle of beta reading a novel for a writer friend Olivia Foust. It’s my first time doing it and as I’m reading and taking notes I find myself thinking about my own writing and how to make it stronger based on the kind of things I’m telling her about her novel.

The first thing I did when I agreed to beta-read my friend’s novel is to find out what she was looking for with regards to critiquing. Did she primarily want an edit for grammar and typos or did she want me to look for plot holes and/or character issues? With the first beta read of my own novel I definitely wasn’t ready to hear about typos or every little grammatical issue. I was much more concerned with plot issues. My friend said she was interested in knowing about any plot issues or inconsistencies.

I keep laughing at myself as I tell Olivia “I want more physical descriptions” which was something my friend Taj told me when she read an early version of my book. I think my two other early beta readers, Emma and Lucy, said the same things. “I want to know what the landscape they’re in looks like, but without going into a great exposition” and I’m remembering how hard I found it to describe the rooms my characters were inhabiting in a way that was natural and didn’t break up the flow but added richness to the reader’s experience. It’s so easy to say that and so much harder to achieve it. My strength as a writer is in creating atmosphere and writing the emotional lives of characters. Some writers can describe landscape exquisitely (Mary Stewart, for example) but draw characters a little more broadly. Some can write action scenes but have trouble letting readers inside their characters’ heads.

I don’t suck at description but it’s something I have to consciously work on.

I worked hard at adding more physical description to my next major edit and my whole book is so much stronger for it. Now I’m saying the same thing to Olivia because she’s created an interesting world and I’m hungry to know more about the clothes her characters are wearing, the animals they’re hunting, the climate, and the colors around them.

I have pointed out what I think are issues with character motivation and then when I started re-reading my own WIP I found similar issues that I’m seeing more sharply because of seeing it in Olivia’s work. Beta reading for Olivia is sharpening my insight into my own story’s issues. I wasn’t really expecting this benefit.

Beta reading for someone is, I see now, a real privilege. When a writer asks you into their process they are trusting you to behave respectfully like you would in a surgeon’s operating room. You have to be careful not to move the furniture around too much or to clog the toilet. Your level of involvement will vary from writer to writer, I’m sure,  but one thing is for certain, a beta reader is not an editor and it’s not their job to rewrite the material. You’re there to strengthen, to be a fresh pair of eyes, to give perspective.

Olivia assures me (so far) that I haven’t been too harsh or too nit-picky. My constant fear is that, in trying to be helpful, I will go too far and give discouragement where I mean to be giving encouragement. I write copious notes and then try to whittle them down to actionable suggestions or thoughts. I also note things I enjoyed or parts I think are strong.

Having a couple of people read your novel before you send it out to an agent or hit “publish” is the best thing you can do for your work. But if you’re a writer and have never beta-read someone else’s novel, I highly recommend it as a way to see the strengths and weaknesses in your own work more clearly.

Monday Thoughts

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On my mind right now:

Definitely not war. Or politics. Or hatefulness. Or bigotry. Or stupid asshole people. Or guns. Or violence. Or rape. And most of all – DEFINITELY NOT WAR. I’m on a news fast right now. No clicking on links that will depress me and hate humankind more than I already do.

Tomatoes. I have a lot of tomatoes in the house and I’m already lusting for MORE. This is how I get with food preserving. I don’t even have any shelf space left for more canned goods. Rearranging must happen. Plus freezing more things. Today I’m going to make a summer vegetable soup to freeze.

Clothes. Partly because I have very little to wear. The pants I made myself a year ago need some fixing (which I can do now that I have my serger back). I need more clothes. But I’m also thinking about clothes for my dystopiian fashion line for my Etsy shop. I’m excited by possibilities and a little overwhelmed with where to start. Meanwhile I have two more smocks in progress.

I’ve been getting in my own way again. Fuck. I’m a pro at this.

Some day I want to kick a door in with my boots.

I don’t want to get a part time job outside the home. I don’t want to stop doing all my homesteading activities. I’m living the life I want to live now minus the income. I need to be patient and work hard towards making money but hold tight to what I want.

Beer gotta go. Yeah, still drinking and it’s much harder to commit to going sober again this time around. I’ll get there and I wouldn’t even have said this out loud but I’m still trying to keep myself honest on my own blog. Not interested in starting conversations about this topic, certainly not in person with anyone. I’ve got to get myself where I want to go on my own volition.

Max made a self portrait in Photoshop at school and I said “That’s a great self portrait! But you look like you haven’t slept in weeks and are maybe strung out on drugs” He says “The title of that picture is ‘Max as a tired 40 year old'”

Max and I went out to happy hour to two places on Friday and decided that Santa Rosa is an excellent city to be in during a zombie apocalypse. Does your family have a zombie apocalypse survival plan? If not, you should work on one!

Max also ate and enjoyed shrimp ceviche. With avocado and cucumbers. He didn’t eat the peppers or onions.

Worried Chick has mange. Must investigate and probably make her a vet appointment.

Time to go process tomatoes!

 

 

 

There Isn’t Enough Rope For This

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This dirty corner crusts with regret faster than you can count cost. Nightmares rise into morning like train whistles killing time. Jump cars like a punk and find your bones breaking under the weight of emptiness, the feral smell of skin gone rogue. Whiskey mornings blazing through your blood like newspaper clippings drunk on all the sick, wait for it. Every time. You thought it would be easier than this, that the siren call would sound more like love and look more like joy.

It’s all been recorded on the freeway of your emancipation, the asphalt, the better Roman roads. The blue silk Cheongsam Ms. Rose gave you, the one that seduced you like the math she said could calculate and translate your curves. A thousand cigarettes couldn’t erase her influence on your mind. Took years to unbury what she built in you but it paid off like a lottery of love.

All these small ladders, the tie shop, the passionate crush, the eloquent silences, the concession to friendship with the man, dead this year, who broke up with you for fear of breaking your unbreakable heart. You laughed at his arrogance, you knew yourself to  be harder than he could possibly know because your face wears your hope rather than your experience and knowledge. Twenty years later and nothing has changed.

Can still smell the clove cigarettes and hot coffee. The shelves you put these things on are weak. The light snakes and the memories shake like blancmange. Predators circle and you smell them first so they can’t net you into their game. You’ve dished them the rope they needed to hang themselves and there’s no regret. No looking back at what you might have done if no one had forced your hand.

It’s always come down to this.

Everything I know to be right is sideways.

There isn’t enough rope for this.

Is There a First Aid Kit for Life Decisions?

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The Post Apocalyptic First Aid Kit

I remember all the years of not knowing which bills we could afford to pay on time and which ones would have to be fobbed off until the next pay check, or forever. I hoped we could leave those years behind us. We got a reprieve for over a year, and for that I feel such gratefulness. To know what it feels like to be able to pay all the bills and be able to afford the normal comforts of a modest life without having to look at the bank balance every day. To be able to afford to get the dentistry we need when we need it. To be able to buy light bulbs as they blow out. To have more than one pair of shoes.

I know how to be thankful for these blessings.

Coming back to that tight place – juggling bills from week to week, always two weeks late paying the power and water bills. We don’t even have credit card bills or car payments. Our rent takes up half our income. I imagine this is pretty normal for most Americans. I imagine there are a lot of Americans paying a higher percentage of their income to keep a roof over their heads than we do.

We’re lucky that we’re still able to afford some luxuries like rot-gut wine during the week, beer on weekends (though we shouldn’t because, clearly, we can’t actually afford this), and Philip taking the kid out to share a plate a fries and wings instead of a full meal. There are so many people not able to have these little luxuries. My thoughts are here this weekend, not feeling bitter about tight financial restraints but feeling tired of them.

It’s looking more and more necessary for me to return to looking for a job outside the home. Not gonna lie, it depresses me. I belong at home. I’m a writer. I’m a homesteader. I’m a mom. I’m a mentally ill person who is healthiest when close to home, to my kitchen, my laptop, and to my people.

A close friend has told me about a possible job coming up that I might be qualified for. My friend Sid thinks I would be great in the mental health field and has been suggesting I would be skillful in an advocacy role. This job has yet to be officially posted and maybe when it is I will find that I’m not even qualified to apply, a common problem I encounter. Philip and Max want me to apply. They want me happy but our financial restraints are a big stress on us all so they’d kind of prefer me to step up my efforts for supplementing our income without prostitution.

It doesn’t matter how grateful you are for what you have because you know a billion other people have less – the day to day stress of living hand to mouth and coming up short is stressful and anyone who says otherwise is lying their fucking asses off.

I’m so torn. I’ve just come up with ideas for my Etsy shop, for making things that tie in with my book and for the first time in a long time finding myself excited about sewing but the reality is harsh and firm. At the best of times I’ve sold very little. What makes this time different? Am I being hopeful with no foundation for it?

Going to a job 20+ hours a week means I’ll barely have enough time to parent, do those things I need to do for my mental health, and write. Forget making things to build a nebulous online store.

But to work in mental health, even as an administrative assistant, has its pull too. To serve my tribe in any way is honorable. To do it while also easing my family’s financial strain? I think Philip and Max get instinctually how stupid it would be for me not to at least apply.

I sound pretty sad-sack I suppose. I know what I want, I just don’t know how hard I should hang onto my preferred way of getting there. I don’t know what is the best way forward. I don’t know the best pass to get across the finish line.

This weekend I finally finished putting together and listing my Post Apocalyptic First Aid Kit. Tonight, while thinking about other paths forward, I had to stop and recognize that no matter how bad I am at selling my designs and ideas – I can tell you that I’m fucking proud of the products I’ve designed and assembled over the years just as much as I’m proud of the kind of employee I’ve been. I was a great color specialist at Mulberry Neckwear. When I was a shipping manager I put my boots and soul into the job and kicked ass. I loved it. When I made cards and aprons for my own company, Dustpan Alley, I knew the quality was superb and the style notable. When I opened my retail shop I filled it with the best products and other people loved my shop – business was growing steadily (and healthily for retail stores) and could have grown to be successful.

I put 110% into everything I do.

My first aid kits took me a year to plan and design and to assemble. I’m putting one in my own bathroom because it was my own family’s need that inspired them in the first place.

I’m stressed. Super stressed. Anyone who knows me knows this is the usual status quo, more and never-less. Even when I don’t have stressful stimuli affecting me – I have clinical anxiety that’s no joke. Fuck you if you don’t want to GET IT.

I don’t know how we’re going to get through this week until Friday (payday). I don’t know if we’re going to end up with overdrafts in the bank account. I don’t know what will happen after this week. I don’t know if I’ll manage to get my Etsy shop to take off enough to let me stay home. I don’t know if that job listing will end up being a perfect fit and my path diverges in a direction I didn’t plan or expect, again.

I will say that if working away from home means I’m serving, in any capacity, the mentally ill community, there is a poetic beauty in that. A justness, a rightness, a visceral attraction I can’t deny. It would mean I’d have to give up my Etsy shop. I can’t do that and work outside the home too. But if it produced a steady paycheck, there’s beauty in that. And I’d still write. Because I have to write. I need to write.

I haven’t been writing my thoughts out enough lately. I can tell by the longitudinal way I’m getting around to the center of what’s in my mind right now.

I’m throwing seeds into the air. The hot stillness of our late summer isn’t likely to carry them far, but I’m hopeful they’ll land just where they need to. There’s old fight in me for the way I thought my life would and should go, old ideas of the plays I should make and the ones I make out of desperation.

Until a direction is forced, one way or another, I will continue to fill my Etsy shop and work on my ideas for creating dystopian inspired products. If another clear opportunity arises to use what I have to make, create, soothe, fill a void, help my tribe, lift up others – I will give it my fullest attention. Whatever it is.

No matter what I have to do to help my family pay bills – I will continue to write.

The one constant, always, throughout my life, has been writing.

I’m taking this to bed with me tonight.

I’m not scared.

Not more than usual, anyway.

 

Making Small Talk With Myself

little grave

I am getting over a little end of summer cold. I have been working on sketching ideas, working on smocks, making ratatouille, hanging out with my sister, and getting Max adjusted in the new school year. Very little writing has been done. On my novels or my blogs. I’m getting itchy and bitchy to write more. However, financial strain requires that I concentrate on getting my Etsy shop full and do my best to promote it. I am definitely enjoying it this time around – the sewing and building of my Etsy shop. Not much selling going on but hopefully things will get moving soon.

I’m going to have to learn how to balance doing the sewing and the writing like I used to. In spite of the cold and the schedule shakeup that happens when the new school year starts and new endeavors begin – I’m feeling pretty upbeat. It might be all the canning I’m about to do. Today Chelsea and I are going to pick up boxes of peaches. I’m buying 3 boxes. It’s also time to start canning tomatoes and making ratatouille to freeze. I made a giant double batch last week that I didn’t freeze and is just about gone now. I’ve been mostly eating ratatouille for the last week. It’s CRAZY GOOD!

Food preserving really does make me feel happy and calm. Well, it makes me spazzy with excitement but on the inside it quells a certain amount anxiety.

Right now I’m listening to my housecleaning playlist and this is also contributing to a happy mood. (“I Want To Hold Your Hand” always makes me feel happy)

I have a weird rough patch on the inside of my right middle finger. I’m definitely thinking it’s a sign of imminent doom.

It’s been overcast most mornings for the last week and it’s amazing! I love it. Love it. Love it!

Oh my god. I’m making small talk on my own blog.

I think that means my nose blowing is getting in the way of interesting thoughts and I need to eat some eggs poached in ratatouille for breakfast and get working on things for my shop before it’s time to go get the peaches.

xoxo

a