It’s unlikely I’ll come up with coherent blog posts for the next month. I’m running down the clock on my novel and frantically trying to get my shit together for a pitch conference next month. I finally dumped 10 drafts out of the blog pile and am just giving in to writing pithy, disjointed posts. It will be gratifying to short attention spans (mine included), but it’s not a long-term intent for the blog. Until then, LOOK – SQUIRRELS!
They said, they said
Words mean a lot to me. I’m a writer, so I spend hours agonizing over turns of phrase, the rhythm and bounce of sentences, the thumping of my own little drummers. I’ve been reading George Orwell’s collection of critical essays All Art is Propaganda. 72 years ago he wrote the essay “Politics and the English Language” and it’s still relevant.
I don’t watch award shows or political chest-thumping as a rule. It’s false prophets, cynical staging, coordinated applause, and forced laughter. A public manipulation. Give me the bullet points. Then I’ll know what other people are referencing at the proverbial water cooler.
Most speeches sound like a bouillabaisse of vagaries. Actors go for canned laughter and scripted informality. Politicians buy into the algorithm that if you use certain words repeatedly, the crowds will adore you and call you presidential. Since we’ve heard our current president’s “telling like it is” talk for the last decade (well, it felt like it), we know this is just marionettes at work. But kudos to him for finally learning how to use a teleprompter.
But that is neither here nor there. Politics and entertainment – two arenas where words don’t seem to matter, except that people buy into them. I’m skipping the recycled nationalism and the inflated self-importance and reading the transcripts instead.
I’m becoming an anachronism and I’m not sure how I feel about that. After cancelling Netflix and Amazon Prime, I am formally cut off from television culture. I stopped watching regular television ten years ago. I haven’t seen a movie in six years. I’m re-watching DVDs I’ve purchased over the years and sending them to new homes.
The decision to disconnect, even more than I already am, came on the heels of several conversations with friends and family. What we watched, what we were going to watch, what we thought of what we were watching – it made me think about how I might be pissing my life away watching fiction.
Perhaps, too, it’s the midlife thing. Vicariously living through others, be it watching sports or watching actors present stories, seems empty. I’d rather kick the ball than watch someone else play the game. I’d rather write the story than have someone else telling me tales.
I began to wonder if this was a natural regression. I am, in so many ways, still my teenage self inside. Introverted with a tinge of defiance and the need for solitude. The other day I was sorting through pictures and realized that the clothes I wear now are exactly like the clothes I wore when I was a teenager. Jeans, t-shirt, flannel shirt. They’re bigger of course, and some of them are higher end (as in more expensive, but more cheaply made).
In between then and now so much has happened. The lessons, so many lessons. All the different people I’ve met and all the places I’ve traveled. How is it that at any moment I feel like I might slam the door to my room and write bad poetry about the cute boy in 6th period? I have returned to the most comfortable version of myself.
And sometimes it feels like everything else was just a detour.
Degrees of Intolerance
Tolerance is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days. I consider myself a fairly intolerant person. It’s not something I take lightly or am proud of, it just is. My recognition of this fact has come with time and is tempered by a little wisdom.
My intolerance starts with the sensory issues, mixes in a stern grammar marm and ends somewhere around a bellicose drill sergeant. I am in a constant battle with myself not to lose my shit at grocery stores, the gym, in the car (I’m not winning that one), parent meetings, coffee shops, offices, classrooms and here, online. Since I’m not doing time, one might say I’ve exercised an inordinate amount of self-control.
The sensory issues have always been a part of my life, but it’s only been in recent years that I’ve recognized why I constantly seek solitude and sanctuary. Under stress, I feel overwhelmed by sound, distracted by color, nauseated by smell. My practice lately has been to say to myself It’s my problem, not theirs. It’s my problem, not theirs.
Yesterday, as I gasped through a treadmill run at the Y, a woman got on the treadmill next to me. She smelled like she’d just come in to take a break from smoking. As an ex-smoker, I’m feeling some karmic resolution. I felt a little nauseous, but made myself keep running, instead of flouncing off in a huff to another machine. It’s my problem, it’s my problem.
The lady on the other side of me started talking to herself. Or was on her phone. Either way, I whipped out a side eye before I could even stop myself. My side eye also includes a visualization of me punching someone. It’s my problem, it’s my problem.
My sensitivity to smell has not always been a negative. Last week, I may have even saved a life or two when I smelled aldehyde outside. Aldehyde can be a by-product in the exhaust of an inefficient furnace. After the gas company checked all our gas-burning appliances, they went over to the neighbor’s. Their furnace was not working properly and CO levels were building up in the house.
Back to putting my shoulder to the grindstone and getting this damned book done. I say that with some affection. There’s miles to go, but it feels like a good place to be.