Sunday, October 31, 2010

HAPPY HALLOWEEN

Journal page in progress, M.Kelly.

Regarding yesterday's post, I am giving myself slightly less strict guidelines - the one non-negotiable is writing every day - as I was already trying to figure out how I could sleep less (also non-negotiable), keep in better touch with the blog writers whom I enjoy reading, continue my blogging commitment and find time for art which holds possibilities of its own.

It is all a process of adjustment and adaptation. Nothing spoils the fun faster than impossible rules, unreachable goals. I want to write my unnamed, unspooling exploration of topics to be revealed later. It needs to be a task that adds to my life in ways that will involve challenge without breaking my spirit in the first 10 minutes. Rules and I, not happy bedfellows. I know that yet I forget as I dream myself neck-deep in creative bliss. This is what I know today.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pencils sharpened?


Eric, on his blog, mentioned that November is National Novel Writing Month. He talks about what it is, what it may be, what it is not.

A day after reading Eric's article, I spoke with a friend who is enrolled in a university writing workshop. They are following the NaNoWriMo plan, with the distinction that they will not do anything but move forward with what they write during the 30 days. They will not go back to read, to edit, to rewrite, even to backspace. I wonder if any of them will be working on typewriters.

The past week has been one of expansion for me, expansion covering such a diversity of forms...a widening heart, a deeper knowing, reclaimed memories and a context to hold them, the dawning of unexplored notions. On Tuesday and Wednesday I became aware of this writing project, offered vigorous encouragement for my friend's participation and saw no way in which I might be connected to this undertaking.

I fell asleep Thursday night, only to waken at around 4 a.m., the usual jumble of pranksters having tied my mental shoelaces together. One moment was ordinary, pre-dawn confusion and in the next, I thought that I COULD show up every day to write...something...and accumulate, I hope, 50,000 words in 30 days. Through the conversation with my friend I understood that this was, if we intended it to be, about getting those words onto paper. They wouldn't be forgotten, they might be worth saving, they could multiply and become more.

The wise voice of illumination reminded me that I didn't need anything beyond a first word, a place to start. I may run in five different directions during the month, I may run in a dozen. It may not be a novel, it may be short stories, it may be a load of bollocks. It doesn't matter. It seems to be the next step and taking each next step has not led me astray.

As recently as three days ago, I was positive that my writing future would never involve a single, book-length story. Now I can't say that. What I can still say is that I don't know, but I have been caught by an unexpected momentum, an enthusiasm even. I am willing to invest time in possibility. I am curious to see who or what emerges. Writing for a month without having to spell-check, fact-verify or make sense...what luxury, what decadence. I didn't know moving forward could look like this.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Happy Birthday, John Cleese, and others

Cleese image thanks to fersht.typepad.com

The day a first child, any child, only child, is born remains a day of increase, of expansion and joy. Today is my son's birthday, a date he shares with, among others, Monty Python's John Cleese and, as he is called, Wales' greatest poet, Dylan Thomas.

Today I celebrate his humor, a sharp skill at mimicry, a mostly philosophical nature that helps carry us both through trying times. I celebrate his resilience, his capacity for appreciating the good that comes his way. He seems to lack any malice or the harboring of resentment, and is his parents' child in that he would probably rather be reading or seeing a movie than anything, except maybe having court-side seats for the Lakers.

Without him I would be less than I am in every sense. I wish him peace of mind, vibrant health, abundance in all he desires and the continuing determination to see his creative dreams come true. We chose his name for we knew he would bring light. May it keep growing brighter.

NOTE: I see that many visitors come to this post, possibly because of Google. May I direct you to my main address to view newer posts. And if you care to leave a comment, so much the better. Thank you for visiting.

Friday, October 22, 2010

They warned me about short cuts


There are right ways and wrong ways, there is thoroughness, good and decent behavior and then there is the seductive short cut.

When the keeper of seasons decided that fall could come to Los Angeles I remembered some red plaid flannel pajamas, unopened since purchase last winter. I have been doing laundry on my own practically since wringer washing machines; I certainly helped my grandmother with hers. I get it about washing clothes.

Now it is not such an easy task. The flight-and-a-half of stairs to our laundry room is tricky on a good day, impossible in the rain. I didn't think it through. People who do things right - and even people who don't, generally - know you wash new clothes before you wear them. I quote laundry.about.com:

There are two good reasons to wash new clothes before you wear them. One is to wash out extra dye that can be transferred to your skin or other garments.

Risk-taker that I am, I unwrapped the pajamas, put on the warm top and went to bed. The next morning I was sunburn red. The rules will not be flouted. I present myself as the cautionary tale and out myself as a person of dubious character. In my defense, I have to say I didn't think fabric ran like that anymore. There you have it, I didn't think. As in cinema noir, it is the forgotten detail that undoes the whole caper.

I am less fond of red plaid than I was a few days ago.

*****

A note unrelated to my questionable habits:

Claire Beynon, New Zealand writer, artist and frequent commenter here, thought readers, especially those who took part in the comment discussion a few posts back, might find this of interest. Thank you, Claire. Click the link to her blog to learn about her recent exhibit, Waters I Have Known.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Lost and Found, part 2


Lost and found, as they closed in on me last night, announced they are a team; they are one hand giving, the other taking away. But what is found may be the unwelcome surprise, while what is lost may be the blessing.

As suspiciously new age or cosmic babble as this may seem, these are times of adult growth spurts. Old and unfinished business keeps floating to the surface, as though the chains holding it to the blocks of cement, long ago consigned to deep water, had rusted through. The reason for its pivotal appearance is not to torment, or not for long, but to inform and move along. And so it is with whatever was hissing "lost and found, lost and found" while I tried to bring other topics to life.

As the pesky duo visited in the early hours, it became clear that this is not the place for listing them. For one thing, there are far too many - and they have too much in common. Boring and repetitious, they would have readers clicking away as fast as their fingers would carry them.

This is another exercise in...does it even have a name? Processing sounds so...process oriented, so medicinal, so like something for which there is a manual and one just one way of doing it. I think old business finds places to lodge in our bodies. It tosses us hints of its presence with the odd twinge, a chronic, lumpy ache, disquiet of the organs and systems, a fierce and jabbing pain. Assuming everything is energy, I suspect it wants to be dislodged in exact proportion to how much we want it gone.

Losses and finds, it turns out, are about ways in which I hold myself responsible for them, the grievous ones. They are visiting en masse to persuade my heart to soften, my blaming to fade. They tell me there is no suspect to identify and, if there were, it would not be me. I rassle (see an earlier post) with this but I don't disbelieve.

Those aren't skeletons in the closet, they are ghosts, the ones we use to frighten, to torment ourselves. To speak of the fantods is not an indication of pending collapse. There may be a note of lament in pondering states of unease or unavailable answers. Discomfort lessens, answers seep through. Are we willing to see each other through (not process) evolution, holding our breath as each new wave rises? Are we willing to trust that as mad as it all appears, it is actually in some version of order?

If we don't mention that parts that we are convinced signal unraveling, we have created no opening act for the restoration that follows. Our out-loud narration of each transformative moment may cause those around us to give up...not this again...to which they are entitled. Pretend you are watching time-lapse photography, play your i-pod, look only at every third posting here.

I used to write personal memoir, childhood moments, not lies, just not a thorough account of what was happening in the present. Gradually, my focus changed. It became more immediate, things as they happen in real time. We, IT, can only be called works in progress. Since it hasn't thrown me yet, I believe there's a chance.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lost and Found

In thinking of this as a post theme, I am aware of becoming mired in the lost aspects, allowing the past to pull me away from the intention to leave old business where it is.

At the same time, there may be losses that need to be considered, deconstructed or acknowledged for what illumination they might lend to today.

I will look at these sentences as preamble, less than an outline, more than a fleeting notion. The balance and opposition of the two extremes feel timely, they call to me but I know they are intolerant of superficial coverage.

At first I thought all finds would be seen as blessings, all losses the opposite. As I poked them around more - curious and possibly organic fragments found in the sand and stirred with a pointy stick - I couldn't swear that would be true. Entirely self-generated, the assignment now seems less clear and far less comfortable than when the words arrived.

This is the conductor, announcing what may be our next stop, unless I can cobble together some other less weighty material to tide me over while Lost and Found takes form. As always, your thoughts are welcome, either before or after the list comes to life. What I know is, this doesn't feel very jolly at the moment. What was I thinking?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

75-YEAR PLAN - Notes, Re: Careers

Included in the BOTTLE ROCKET DVD is a facsimile booklet of Dignan's (Owen Wilson's character) 75-year plan. The Wes Anderson-directed, Wilson and Anderson-scripted movie is part of the absurdist catalog from Anderson, Owen and Luke Wilson.

Some of Dignan's thoughts: through a constant Regimen of Activities We begin to Learn a Craft. (capitalizaton, etc., as it appears in the notebook)

It pretty much boils down to, for the initial five years, somehow getting together a team for heists, amassing some cash base, learning their target craft from professionals and making a name for themselves. (Didn't they see BONNIE AND CLYDE?)

At age 65, what would my 75-year plan look like?

Following his outline, I, too, would like to meet people from foreign countries and develop outside interests, including travel, art and science. It would be wise to establish good will within the community (The Robin Hood Principle.) Oh, yes. And go legit.

I am charmed by a character, fictional, in this case, with such optimism, such trust in his wits to take him where he wants to go, such as the beach, town, ranch and lake houses. I could be content with the beach and town options.

What could it hurt, having a plan that extends to 2085? Since I don't know what will happen tomorrow, it is just as easy to guess or imagine a time much nearer the end of this century. Some of my intentions would include:

-Anti-gravity devices, kiss arthritis goodbye.

-A manifesting mind, let me simply think incantations over my checkbook.

-Connections in high places so my loved ones and I will always have access to the best medical care in the cosmos, as well as asking favors on behalf of others.

-Sleep learning, become a specialist instead of a generalist. My thoughts on subjects related to my specialty will be in demand, captivating audiences, all via computer (or whatever comes next) from the (a) beach or (b) town house.

-Glitch-free teleportation. I am already too cranky for airports but I don't want parts of me going to Australia while other parts stay home.

-Reliable tutors. Sleep learning probably won't answer everything.

-An ease of benevolence, the ability to assist using all possible resources and the option of doing so anonymously.

-Greater inner peace, in which the previous items would certainly assist.

-Political influence. You think we're liberal NOW?

-Clean houses and exquisite meals, achieved through the newest technology.

-Remaining legit.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Well, THAT happened.

Today's headline is a quote from the David Mamet film, State and Main. It is truly a line for all seasons, it fits all sizes, all occasions.

Much as I indulge myself in thoughts of the impossible, even I acknowledge that when a thing has happened, it cannot un-happen.

Surrendering to life as the ultimate big shot who makes the rules is a process. You're not the boss of me. Oh, but I am.

THAT gives us two choices: remain caught by the wrongness, the unfairness, the awfulness, the horror, the grief, the guilt and shame, rage and resentment, like banana slices in a Jello mold or give it to the past. If option two was the easy, natural choice, history and all fiction would tell very different stories.

In thinking about this essay, I drew up a sketchy, mental list of incidents where the less savory option one was my pick. As a theory, I've understood letting go for a few decades. As a practice, it is much newer business. It is the result of the desire, the intention, to become more conscious, more compassionate. It comes from the wish to lead a life less fraught.

Too much stress, a response over which I have some measure of control, produces too much cortisol which goes on to interfere with and upend healthy physiological activity when it hangs around too long. Every issue, or crumbs of issues, that we continue to push around on our plates overloads us with stuff that will stop our engines.

Every time I thought about an event or outcome that should have gone differently, I embezzled a bit of vitality, perhaps longevity, from myself, by raising my blood pressure, messing with my blood sugar, creating inflammation and undermining my immune system. Even doing a little research while writing makes me queasy and, oh ho, stressed by thinking about how long I've resisted letting the bad stuff roll off my back.

I know I've written about all this before in various forms and I know I'm not done. It is the heart of my struggle. Awareness helps the process. Reminders can be beneficial, like Jake Gittes' being told, "Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown," by one of his old pals from the LAPD. If you're not ready to let the injustices go, reminders probably don't change things.

To find and maintain a mostly peaceful response where peace is not the norm can cut us away from the herd. But then I've never been one to run with the pack. Solitary is not unknown terrain.

In the simplest language I can find, I want to stop poisoning myself. We are cautioned of - and frequently alarmed by - threats from outside. We are in danger at least as great, I believe, from how we react to the world, to the models we are shown...endlessly.

THAT is going to keep happening. I choose to think we are capable of finding a different way to view all the THATs which have lined up, awaiting their spotlight moments.

They are the grifters who linger along our daily paths, not panhandlers or the truly needy, but slick types whose patter makes them semi-believable. Say no and keep walking, walk faster - exercise is good - don't make eye contact, don't get sucked in...to discord, debate, blame, outrage. Remain calm (Keep Calm and Carry On!) and if action is required, take it from a still and centered place. Robert Towne's dialogue had it right, too. On a metaphoric level, it's all Chinatown. Forget it. It happened. Let it go.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

You may say I'm a dreamer



The song I wanted, Judy Henske singing High Flying Bird, is not available on You Tube. The Monkees and John Stewart's Daydream Believer, was the "B" side playing in my mind. At least they mention a bird. And refer to believing in unlikely or impossible things. Well, too many impossible things have happened in my life for me to go along with the charade.

I hold the Puritan ethic wholly responsible (that and whatever brought it into being) for trying like hell to suck all the magic and lovely mystery out of the world. If I am a daydream believer, I cause no harm to anyone other than myself, should I be wrong. But so far (please trust me on this any doubting friends) there is too much empirical evidence to the contrary. How can there not be room for the unexplained or the unexpected when so much of our world is made of empty spaces, when nothing is really solid in the sense man once believed?

To remain open is not to count on, to expect magical answers but it leaves options for all that science has yet to discover, yet to prove. Science took us to the moon and it rescued the Chilean miners. I think it is just getting warmed up.

This CAN'T be right

There are now three drafts waiting in my blog listing. Oh, help me not have this be the fourth.

Existential, um, uncertainty has dropped by. I don't welcome any univited visitors. Imagine how I feel about this.

There you are, head under the shower, and you realize you've just asked yourself if your life counts for anything. Rather than having become an expert at anything, you are a generalist and they say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. In retrospect, all you can see, through tears and pelting water, are bad choices. Yet instead of the sense of defeat which comes from depression, someone is saying things like, "Oh yeah?" I don't want to jinx this, but it may be than angst is becoming more bark than bite. How sweet would that be?

This is not a state which normally causes mobilization, but I feel more like James Cagney than Poor Pitiful Pearl. I'd happily shove a grapefruit in the face of whoever wants to stand around wringing their hands when there is no actual external cause for gloom. I can manufacture doubt and then leave it in my own lap...here, clean this up.

I can't bear the thought of another unposted draft. I won't pretend that this represents a complete thought. We have the capacity to be our own greatest champions and the bullies who torment us. In this vast epic we play every part. If we feel some version of crazy - no wonder. We aren't. A part of us is unwilling to say out loud that the pieces don't match, the rules are contrary and inconsistent and pretty much nothing makes sense. And a cheerful voice, not too far away, is saying, "Yes. Now you understand."

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The last dog-and-pony show

Poster - thanks to circushistory.org.

The NBC comedy 30 ROCK is a favorite here; it makes me happy because I think Tina Fey gets away with murder, mocking the network and its parent conglomerate. Her humor is absurd, out-of-bounds, lets the air out of everyone's balloon. In this week's episode, a new form of trial by ordeal was required of applicants for page positions. This involved singing, dancing if one so chose and, in general, whipping up a frenzied, desperate one-man version of a dog-and-pony show.

I have exhausted my capacity for tap dancing.

In every literal and figurative sense, it is no longer possible to put on a good front, sell anybody anything, please anyone for whom nothing is good enough, reinvent the wheel, pretend I don't care when I do, show up when I am depleted or try and read your mind.

There comes a time when all that remains is what you see is what you get. There will be no performance today. How can one quantify the essential good that has been lost on attempted perfection, even attempted adequacy, while the true self wrapped herself in a dusty cardigan, locked her arms around her knees and wedged herself in next to the stove. It is a shadowy spot, no one would look there for a shiny object.

While this information came to me somewhat later in life, that does not mean it is a product of age, or not only of age. It is the result of awakening to the fact that, regardless of testimony and evidence to the contrary, it is possible to be enough by simply being.

Being is not a passive state, it is not lumpen or sniveling or apathetic. Being is the birthplace of who we really are, it bears the hallmarks of humility and awareness. In being there is no self-promotional quacking but there is clarity about what we do well. Being is a sort of promised land where there is no longer anything to prove. It is the retreat from which we send out our genuine expressions of self without judging the forms they assume. From a state of being we are able to allow. We unfold and emerge, as surprised as any when we see who appears.

What I know is that, for me, chasing money produces no reward, lifelong habits of an undesirable nature seem to take another lifetime to change, I wish I had let intuition guide me all those years I mistrusted it, someone is going to be disappointed and either will or will not get over it, too many broken promises will result in your being downgraded to acquaintance status and all the items I had to shove aside in the back seat of the boat-sized red convertible from last night's dream mean something.

Being can leave us breathless, but not in the same way as flat-out, desperate tap dancing...that is just out of breath. We have the opportunity to become our own source of wonder, while enjoying the role of startled onlooker. We are the microcosm, we are the mythic Lost Cities of Gold, we contain the still moment at the heart of the cosmos, we are the impossible. And if we so choose, we can keep wearing the dusty cardigan. It is familiar and wears like a benediction.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Valentine out-of-season

Vintage Valentine, with thanks to poeticandchic.com.


When I began writing a blog it was with an unformed notion that it might lead to something resembling income-producing work. I have always leaned toward fantasy.

As I made a commitment to post a minimum of ten times a month, the purpose was to take my writing more seriously, to give it greater attention.

The morning I woke up with the urging to expand my blog reading, find more writers, I followed the guidance, moving from link to link, and discovering in the process what a rich, honest, inspiring, generous and kind population exists in this relatively new world.

What you write has made me more brave. How you write has made me look deeper for what poetic language I may contain. The comments you contribute assure me that we do connect with each other in these spaces; they remind me of a phrase my father used, about keeping in touch, with his instruction to "leave a note under the rock."

In the past few weeks I seem to have fewer hours in each day, perhaps a bit less energy in those hours, and have missed visiting your sites with sufficient attention to read thoroughly and comment, as I choose to do, from my heart. I have not gone away and I will be back. How much your thoughts mean, both in your posts and comments upon mine, is nearly beyond measure. I love that you are there, opening yourselves to all wayfarers who may stumble past. I love that I have become one of them. I feel my spirit grow in direct proportion to my contact with all you share.

I know now why I do this, why I was nudged in this unlikely direction. Accept, please, my Valentine, symbol of appreciation and love. You are magnificent.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Ask again tomorrow

Reading for Banned Books Week began with procrastination and diverted attention. It was yesterday when I started my first re-reading of Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

The year in which I read McMurphy's story is a date I no longer remember, unlike 1066 which our 10th grade history teacher told us was the most significant date of all we would learn from him. Whenever the Battle of Hastings is the answer on Jeopardy!, I'm your girl.

The date has slipped into the undulating present/past where my life is warehoused, and the time of reading is of no consequence. The movie was released in 1975. With my then-husband and four friends in our $250, 1963 Cadillac sedan deville, perfect in every respect unless you count things like gaskets and moving engine parts, we rolled from Oxnard to Westwood where the first-run features were shown. I digress.

My discomfort started with the first page. True, when we know how a story ends we are able to read the signs differently. I think, though, it was more Kesey's ability to show us the life-filled expanse that is McMurphy which set up the creeping dread, the foreshadowing of dubious battle between a system which we understand from the very start and the embodiment of all I believe spirit to be.

The unease, I realized, was also caused by my having, 20 years ago, been told that depression was part of why I wasn't recovering from pneumonia as I should, why chronic fatigue had joined the team, and that action was required. Roughly 12 years ago, it had to be admitted - the depression was life-long, it had always been there. If one had been dipped in a vat of indigo 65 years ago, left to cure but eventually scrubbed and soaked every day so the tint seemed to fade until it might be thought a trick of the light, that is where my depression resides. It is treated, it has diminished, I have risen, its stain lingers.

Too much identification, too much terror, reading of the day room population, the Acutes and the Chronics, the treatments gone wrong or considered successes. I don't know if I am willing to read the book again, to feel and know and fear the places that grace kept me out of.

That any of us do more than spend our days walking in circles seems miraculous. We are, over any span of time, in equal measure thinner than a moth's wings and undefeatable as a fire hydrant. One day we need, or at least long for, shelter behind an arm wielding a broadsword, then moments later become willing to fight, with words of tongue and pen, city hall, the Social Security administration or any part of the machine that gives us the stink eye. We are fragile and bold, sagging and strong, confused and determined. I'd love to see sportscasters diagram the plays from one day of ordinary human existence.

Things which once seemed certain to us have become, oh understatement, less so. Yet despair is not an option which holds the chance of a good outcome. I begin my days with the intention of optimism, I can only discuss politics for ever-shorter intervals and avoid most of the news, seeking weather forecasts - discouraging in their own right last week - then skating away.

The membrane is too vulnerable, it tears with so little force. My heart - the literal and the metaphor - carries scars as do yours. I'm not sure it could withstand McMurphy's journey without paying too high a price, even knowing what I know about the Chief. I feel like a fair-weather friend and want to apologize for not being there to see him through. Tomorrow the balance may seem less precarious. Tomorrow there may be fierce tears and kicking ass. Tomorrow my courage may make me invincible, but that's tomorrow, not today.