Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Personal writing, seam rippers, and my new song

In the process of working on my new writing project, part of which involves some writing about painful experiences from my past, I'm realizing something. Writing, at least writing with passion and authenticity, about past challenges and experiences is a bit like taking a seam ripper to old wounds, some of which healed jagged and lumpy in the first place, and trying to open them up again, carefully enough not to rip, but deeply enough to bleed, to hurt, to feel it all again. Only from that place of raw energy can I seem to conjure the genuine emotions of the situation, again to re-enter my life, recreating the feelings of fear, lack of control, and sorrow.

Also, I can't get enough of this song lately.

Haunted by Poe.

Come here
Pretty please
Can you tell me where I am
You, won't you say something
I need to get my bearings
I'm lost
And the shadows keep on changing

And I'm haunted
By the lives that I have loved
And actions I have hated
I'm haunted
By the lives that wove the web
Inside my haunted head


Don't cry,
There's always a way
Here in November in this house of leaves
We'll pray
Please, I know it's hard to believe
To see a perfect forest
Through so many splintered trees
You and me
And these shadows keep on changing

And I'm haunted
By the lives that I have loved
And actions I have hated
I'm haunted
By the promises I've made
And others I have broken
I'm haunted
By the lives that wove the web
Inside my haunted head

Always... always

I'll always want you
I'll always need you
I'll always love you

And I will always miss you


Come here
No I won't say please
One more look at the ghost
Before I'm gonna make it leave
Come here
I've got the pieces here
Time to gather up the splinters
Build a casket for my tears

I'm haunted
By the lives that I have loved
I'm haunted
By the hallways in this tiny room
The echo there of me and you
The voices that are carrying this tune

Saturday, July 25, 2009

We interrupt this blog to bring you this important message...

Last night's karaoke performance included a little freelance clogging.

That is all.

Friday, July 24, 2009

On ass-kicking, genetics, and being a grown up.

I have taken on a long-awaited writing project, and much of my energy is directed into that at the moment. However, today reminded me of a few facts about myself-- facts I work daily to keep in check.

First reminder of the day: I am descended from some badass genes.

That's my Mema and Papa, out for a day on their motorcycle, back in the day when it was a bit more rare to find badass bikers with their hot chicks rambling the countryside wearing their leather boots and zippered shirts. I don't know exactly when that picture was taken, but probably sometime in the late 1930s or early 1940s.

And while my Mema was prone to feisty antics of her own, Papa was clearly the prize fighter. Tall and lanky, he was the skinny kid who'd rather pop a guy upside the head than continue to argue when he knew he was right.

Exhibit A:

That's him on the right, grinning like the cat about to eat the canary. I know it's silly to bet about things that have already passed, but if I had to wager on the outcome of this fight, all my money's on Papa.

Is there any other proof needed? His face, gleefully anticipating a good ass-whoopin', says it all.

When I was really little, we lived near the town where he lived, and I saw him and Mema all the time. I even lived with them for a little while the summer before and for the first part of my kindergarten year. And even after my mom got married, I spent a lot of time with Mema and Papa. When my mom's little sister found out I had gotten pregnant while in college, her words, though they stung, were not a surprise to me.

"This is going to kill them. Everyone knows you've always been their favorite."

I was their favorite. Papa always wanted to have a grandson, and didn't have the kind of relationship he wanted with my older cousin (his only grandson when I was born), and so he poured all that ass-kickin' boy energy into me. I had his big ol' field to play in, and he got me a go-cart (purchased second hand off of another aging finagler, I'm sure). When I wanted to go fishing every day, he converted their old concrete pool into a freshwater pond, stocked it full of bream, and made me a fishing pole out of bamboo.

And then there were the boxing gloves. Papa kept a couple of pairs of boxing gloves hanging on the wall just inside the big, open hallway. Having been a bit of a prize-fighter back in the day, and watching boxing matches every time one came on TV, he loved few things more than a good match. I was one of the things he loved more, and so he never shied away from an opportunity for us to don the boxing gloves and go at each other, him letting me get in a few KO's every now and then, in the hallway while Mema shot the occasional mom-comment from the kitchen. When we got a little older, my sister (who, like me, also inherited the ass-kicker genes) convinced him to let us bring the gloves back home, and we'd often work out our annoyances by beating the crap out of each other in the hallway at home, with our own mom shaking her head and muttering curses about her dad's influence.

Whatever the cosmic connection between me and my Papa, one thing stands for sure. I love few things more than the adrenaline rush of a good, dramatic battle.

Second reminder of the day: Loving to fight does not lead to an ideal life.

So, I knew this before today, but this is just to say that yes, I am aware that I cannot simply beat the crap out of everyone who pisses me off. I get that part. I am aware of my innate tendencies towards ass-kicking, and it is something I work on daily, and am getting better with all the time.

Third reminder of the day: My words are my greatest, and favorite, weapons.

I'm not exactly sure where she got it from, but I sure did inherit my mother's sharp-tongued genes and gift with words. Mom was an incredible writer, whether she realized it or not, and though she never fully honed her craft, she was undeniably a wordsmith. I thank her for passing along to me the ability to take words and put them together in way that creates an emotion.

Unfortunately, my mother's gift with words paired with my Papa's instinct towards ass-kicking have created within me a sharp-tongued monster, eager to make the verbal kill, taking out anyone in its path. It's a monster I've fairly reliably learned to tame, and to only allow to come out for the occasional play tussle, like baby tigers tumbling around, playing the hunt. But it's in me, part of me, yearning to be put to good use now and then. I usually save it for my activism and advocacy efforts, when sharp-tongued criticism and exposé can be a part of accomplishing the good.

This means that usually, when I'm inflamed over something, the mouth flies off before anything else. Most people who know me well understand who I am, and as long as the verbal lashing isn't directed at them, they give me space to vent when it's needed.

Fourth reminder of the day: Angry hives are like the odd behavior of the forest creatures, predicting the arrival of a terrible storm.

One of the strange things about me and my body is that I tend to break out in hives when I'm extremely upset. Most of the time, this is precipitated by a long period of uncontrollable crying. In the past decade, I remember the hives coming along with my sobs over things like the loss of my Papa, the discovery of a betrayal by a man that I loved, and the discovery that one of my children had faced an inconceivable pain, one from which I had hoped to always shield my children. Farther back, though, before I really began to work at gaining control over my anger, I can remember two times in which the hives were brought on by not tears, but uncontrollable rage.

In one instance, it was my desire to protect my child from a potentially life-threatening situation. As I took my child to leave a dangerous (for my sick baby) setting, a man grabbed me by the arms refusing to let me leave. Like an animal fighting capture, I flew into instinctual action, arms flailing, punches flying, with the startled man retraining his grasp from keeping me from leaving to keeping me from hurting him. When I finally got my son buckled into his car seat, I noticed the flame-hot burning on the skin on my face, neck, and chest. A quick glance in the rearview mirror confirmed a splotchy red rash growing all across my upper body.

In the other, my sister (who, as you may recall, also carries the prize-fighter gene) escalated an argument to the point where she was up in my face, chicken-necking and carrying on like a crazed fool while ranting about how I didn't control her. I asked her calmly, not once, not twice, but three different times, to please leave the room. She (being sixteen years old at the time) thought I was telling her to leave because I wanted to boss her around. In actuality, I was telling her to leave my presence because I was becoming slightly scared of the urges that were growing within me. A few seconds after her last rebuff, she was picking herself up off of the floor, taken down by one strong blow to the side of the head, reeling from the physical and emotional confusion. It was Christmas day. As I took my child and left the house, I recognized that same hot feeling growing across me, and as I passed the mirror in the hallway, I again saw the familiar red splotches, confirming the overwhelming adrenaline flowing like lava through my veins.

Fifth reminder of the day: You can do a hell of a lot of growing in a dozen years.

Today, I had an unusual situation in which someone's misunderstanding of the intent of my words fanned the flames of my anger, sparked by being accused of an intent that I would not-- could not-- own. Perhaps misreading his own intent, I felt as if he were calling into question the one thing that matters more to me than almost all others-- my integrity. I allowed the razor tongue to fly, defending my intent, explaining my meaning, but the more the accuser argued, the less rational I was able to remain. Finally, emotionally exhausted by the continuing argument, I left the room and found a quiet place to regroup. When I passed by a friend a few minutes later, she pointed out to me that I was breaking out in a rash. I ran off to the bathroom and saw the evidence in the mirror-- hives. There had not been enough tears to bring this on out of grief, only anger, only irritation. I splashed some water on my face and chest, trying to cool my skin down enough to help them go away. I fanned myself with a nearby piece of flat plastic. I even disappeared into a giant walk-in cooler for a while, hoping to soothe the heat I could still feel burning across my face and chest. But it was still there, and I was dumbfounded-- "I'm breaking out in freaking hives over this!" -- like I couldn't believe it was really happening over something so stupid. It's never comforting to be betrayed by your own body.

Eventually, it went away and I made my peace with my accuser, and things all went back to normal. But it wasn't until later in the evening that it hit me.

The last two times that I remember breaking out in hives over my own anger and frustration, it escalated into me getting physical.

And while the mental image of me tearing into someone, flying fist-first into someone's chest to the reaction of their complete shock and surprise, is a strangely amusing one to me (for reasons I can't really explain, and for which I should probably feel shame), I'm thankful, for myself and for my family and friends, that a hell of a lot can change in someone over the course of a few years.

I'm still a genetically-predetermined badass. Just one with a little self-control.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Dante's Prayer

The other day, I went into my room, locked the doors, put in some relaxing music, and stretched out on the bed for a little quiet time. Not a nap, mind you, but real, relaxing-to-the-bones, being in the universe kinds of quiet time.

This song came on, and I'm again reminded of how much I love Dante's Prayer by Loreena McKennitt.

When the dark wood fell before me
And all the paths were overgrown
When the priests of pride say there is no other way
I tilled the sorrows of stone

I did not believe because I could not see
Though you came to me in the night
When the dawn seemed forever lost
You showed me your love in the light of the stars

Cast your eyes on the ocean
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me

Then the mountain rose before me
By the deep well of desire
From the fountain of forgiveness
Beyond the ice and fire

Cast your eyes on the ocean
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me

Though we share this humble path, alone
How fragile is the heart
Oh give these clay feet wings to fly
To touch the face of the stars

Breathe life into this feeble heart
Lift this mortal veil of fear
Take these crumbled hopes, etched with tears
We'll rise above these earthly cares

Cast your eyes on the ocean
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me
Please remember me

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Friday Night Frolicking

I sang karaoke, multiple times, Friday night.

Okay, I'll admit it. I love to sing karaoke, almost as much as I love to go out dancing, neither of which I get to do very often. Those of you who read this blog back in the dark ages, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, may remember that my lack of opportunities to sing and dance like a crazy person has been a running theme in my life. I love to think about life and meditate upon its possibilities, and am a first class navel-gazer. I am also terribly silly with a performance streak and love to dance!

So, now that I'm around a group of young party people on a regular basis, I have plenty of opportunities to live it up, if I so choose. And I don't choose to all that often. But every now and then, it's nice to blow off some steam.

Friday night, Hubs and I went to the bar to hang with some people there and have a few drinks. And afterwards, he went home to avoid the spectacle, and I went with a few friends to karaoke night at the local pub. I started with a little Gretchen Wilson (everything sounds country when I sing it, so might as well work with it). My loud, yeehaw voice, paired with some phenomenal hip action (if I do say so myself), drew a little attention, some of it from a crowd of fun and rowdy lesbians across the bar. Then, I sang some Meredith Brooks as a duet with a friend, sharing a microphone and again making a scene. Then, a duet with a friend's boyfriend. And later, we put in a request for me and my three girl friends to sing Lady Marmalade, and we waited.

While we waited, two guys came up and sang "Hey Ya" by Outkast, which of course necessitated the kind of crazy dancing from me that made my friends all think I was drunk (which I wasn't, as I had quit drinking around an hour earlier). But it's Outkast, people. It's one of the laws of the universe that you MUST shake it like a polaroid picture when that song comes on, especially when all the other cool people in the bar are.

At some point, feeling all happy and full of joy, I went around and started inviting women I had seen having fun earlier in the night to come sing with us when we get called. I invited a few of the Outkast duo's backup dancers. I invited a woman who had been sitting with her boyfriend, quietly but happily lip-syncing along all night long. And I went over to the studded-belt ringleader of the lesbian crew and invited her. She put her arm around me and said, "You want me to sing with you, baby?" Yeah. That would be fun, actually!

Anyway, we never get called, and eventually all my karaoke friends (except for one guy I know, who seemed thoroughly disinterested in karaoke) went home. As luck would have it, within 10 minutes of everyone leaving me there, the karaoke dude gleefully calls me *and all my friends, who are no longer there* up to sing Lady Marmalade (the Moulin Rouge version). I giggle uncomfortably, being thoroughly sober at this point, and shuffle all alone up to the karaoke stage, a little bit nervous about the spectacle I was about to have to make all by myself. Before the music starts, I mutter into the microphone something along the lines of, "all my drunk friends left already." As if drawn by the inexplicable force of sisterhood in self-humiliation, the entire crew of rowdy lesbians (who had been making spectacles of their own all night singing Dixie Chicks and some old school rap) come out of the woodwork-- weaving through the crowd, jumping the railing, and crawling through the bar to make their way to the stage with me.

Before the first beat of the song began, I was surrounded by what has to be the most awesome, funny, live-it-up crew of tipsy, fun women that this progressive college town has to offer. We made a spectacle, alright, and it was SO. MUCH. FUN!

A little later, after the bar had thinned out a bit, a few other friends (who had just gotten off work) came and joined us, and I got to shoot a little pool with a couple of guys from work (something else I haven't done in YEARS).


I sang karaoke and blogged about it back in January of 2006. Once, maybe almost two years ago, we lived in an old farmhouse across the highway from a biker bar, and I went to the biker bar to sing karaoke with the hellraisers. I need to get out more often. Friday night was fun, and although Hubster, being the strong and silent type, isn't much for karaoke and doesn't necessarily want to have to go party with me, he is enjoying second-hand all the benefits of having a life partner who (for the first time in many years) feels alive, youthful, playful, and fun, and it's all rubbing off on him as well. I don't think I want to be a crazy party person all the time, but if getting out every now and then keeps me feeling young and alive and silly, I might have to up my biennial karaoke night to make it something a little more standard.

My family, my marriage, my continually growing relationship with God-- those are my priorities. But I'm starting to think there's a way to keep those as priorities while still giving myself regular outlets for silliness and spunk, which nurture my heart and feed my spirit as well, albeit in much different ways from spending time with my family or in meditation. There is room in my Reality for a much wider diversity of celebration and joy, both of which I seem to need more of in my life. Don't we all?

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy 4th of July!

I'm taking a break from real blogging for a few days in celebration of our nation's birthday!

Today, I spent the day with my kids at a park, and am now drowning in burgers, dogs, kraut, slaw, and relish. No pics, no real post, just a whole lotta joy.

Have a great 4th of July!

Friday, July 03, 2009

Ubermondo Interview

So, remember my awesome conversation a few days ago with an old friend? It's now available online at his podcast:

I had a great time talking with Dieter again, and hope it's as much fun to listen to as it was to record.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Fine Line

Yesterday, I did an interview with a friend for his podcast. Much of what we talked about was change, how you know you need a change in your life, and how to get the ball rolling on that change once the need has been established. We talked about feeling that itch that your life simply isn't going where it should be, and how to respond.

Since then, I've been thinking about it even more (which is, of course, the way you can tell that a conversation was awesome, productive, and meaningful), and realized that one thing we didn't discuss was that before you can move on, there has to be a sort of blessing of the place in which you currently find yourself. You can't get to a place of being emotionally healthy about letting the current situation go until you are at least at peace with it (even if you aren't exactly happy with it). Even if you find yourself free of the old situation (job, relationship, city), it still will follow you, heavy on your hearts, until you make peace with it. Wouldn't it feel better to make that peace before the transition, starting your new situation with a clean slate and a freed heart?

When we first moved to South Carolina, there was a deep restlessness about the move. We love being near my family, and enjoyed being back up in the Carolinas, but knew that we were not where we should be. We fought it, tooth and nail, thinking of ourselves as outsiders-- travelers passing through, for at least the first two years. And somehow during that time, in spite of all our frustrations and determination to get out of the small town, two years after moving into small town South Carolina, we found ourselves moving not to a larger city, but to an even smaller neighboring small town with a population of 2000. Our drive to get out at any costs had led us even farther into small town South, leaving us a bit bewildered.

Realizing we weren't going to be going anywhere any time soon, we began to make efforts to see the good in where we were. We developed a closer relationship with my father and his family, began to make friends with a few families in the natural living underground of our community, even though their views differed from our own, finding the common ground wherever it presented itself. We began to embrace small town life, realizing that whatever our plans, God's plan was obviously for us to be there, for that time. We learned to garden and grew much of our own food. I learned to can, to pickle, to cook, to sew, and we all boned up on our carpentry skills. I threw out our crayola kids paints and filled the craft closet with pastels, oil paint, acrylics, charcoal, beads, wool yarn, quill pens and india ink. We put tiki torches in the backyard and hosted cookouts for friends, enjoyed our telescope in the backyard (since the town was pitch-black at night and the sky was crystal clear and beautiful), and ate the occasional hotdog at the town's only oil and lube shop, which also claimed to have the best hot dogs in the country (??). We began to love and bless where we were, even though it wasn't where we knew we wanted to be, and after a while, it grew on us.

This is where the challenge presents itself: Somewhere in the process of loving and blessing where we were, which I believe strongly is a necessary part of change, we began to take our focus from where we were going. In the mix of everyday life, there is a fine line between loving and blessing where you are, and muddying your focus. This is where I think we got off course, at least for a little while. I do believe, very strongly, that blessing where you are (working hard and with integrity at that job you can't stand, or making the most out of a temporary illness) is a necessary step before you can fully move on, at least without carrying the baggage and negativity with you into your next experience. Yes, see where you're going, envision it, imagine what it will feel like, and know you are moving in that direction. But also, enjoy where you are now, bless the space, feel it, love it, grow in it.

And somehow in the midst of living in the moment, blessing where we are, we are supposed to remember that it is not where we're going, that it isn't our final destination.

How do you remember to do one, while not forgetting the other? This is a fine line, and one which I'm exploring more in my life, as I currently realize that as blessed as my life is at the moment, this is still not the finish line, not my final destination. I am now (and will likely always be) in process, an unfinished but ever-growing work, breathing in the possibilities. I think I'm okay with that.