And Then I Said…Wait, What was I Talking About?

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!canstockphoto20383793

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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.

Mostsquirrelsign.jpg 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.

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My Zeitgeist

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.

canstockphoto30711839The 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.

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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.

canstockphoto1399043My 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.

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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.

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33 Comments on “And Then I Said…Wait, What was I Talking About?

  1. I am so looking forward to your book. I hail from the Twin Cities and occasionally return to visit my parents, so I’ll hope to eventually meet the author and have her sign my copy. 🙂

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  2. Wow, we’re a lot alike! Come to think of it… I’m pretty intolerant, too. But not because people were born a certain way, but more their behavior. I like to think my b.s. meter is just more finely tuned than others. Society needs more people like us!!

    Best of luck with your book…that’s an amazing achievement.

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    • As you say, this intolerance has nothing to do with immutable characteristics, but with behavior and words. I figure it’s progress to recognize it and try to work with it. We only have control over ourselves and life is easier when I remind myself of that.

      Thanks for the good wishes on the book – it’s been in the works a long time!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My husband has many of the same sensory issues. They can make him difficult to live with. Thanks for describing what it’s like to live with them in a sympathetic way. It helps me see the world from his point of view and be more compassionate.

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  4. You still sending it to readers? Or running out of time? One way or t’other, I look forward to reading it. Congratulations for hanging in there!

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    • I am, I am! About 3 months late. While I need a completed manuscript for the conference, I imagine edits will continue, especially if no one is interested in it. The work will go on. I’ll get in touch when I have a mailing date. Your willingness is much appreciated!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly! I’ve been taking it on as sort of a personal challenge – trying not to get to the point where steam is coming out of my ears. Having that inner conversation with myself helps to defuse things a bit.

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  5. “It’s my problem, not theirs. It’s my problem, not theirs.” – yes, I’ve been applying this technique, too. Have you heard of misophonia? It’s when you are triggered to rage by the sounds of someone chewing, clipping their nails, walking across the room. I have always been sensitive to certain sounds and only recently realized – So, I use the mantra: It’s my misophonia. It’s OK for him to suck his teeth.

    It surprises me to read that you have a temper – I believe you, but your writing is always to cool and calm.

    You will let us know about the book, won’t you?

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    • I just learned about misophonia a couple of months ago! I do have that to some degree, but I noticed that when I wasn’t feeling stressed, like most people, I had a much higher tolerance level. The clipping nails sound puts me on edge, as does the scrape of forks against teeth.
      I do have a temper, but I’m not particularly trigger-happy with it. I stew and turn things over in my mind more often than not. I’m circumspect and introspective for the most part – and that applies to the writing.
      And if I sell this dang novel, you know I’ll blab about it here!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. “And, oh yeah, I saved a life…” WHAT?
    It’s funny how we’re wrestling with the same things (intolerance, smells, stagnant fashion). Thanks for making me not feel such a freak.
    I sat through those Oscars and felt queasy regarding how self-congratulatory they are. It’s not brave to say something liberal in front of a bunch of liberals.

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    • It’s funny. The neighbors haven’t thanked me yet for alerting them that they need to spend five grand on getting a new furnace. Better in the red, than dead, I say.
      I’ve given up on not feeling like a freak – half bloodhound, half Michael Douglas in “Falling Down”.
      I rarely watch award shows. Much like the canned late night show routines, I find all that scripted joking and laughing annoying. And politics are just toxic and everywhere right now. Who needs more of it?

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  7. Words. They’re cool. I can’t say anymore about that because I have been robbed of my vocabulary. I read your posts and sit here wishing I could go back in time. You use words so well and with such diversity. Ever since I started on my meds my mind has deteriorated. First it was my memory and then my words were stolen from me. Together, they make writing a challenge. But I am hanging in there and writing anyway. Beacuse, like you, I am not a fan of the entertainment industry or the political arena which seems to have hogtied the nation. If it ain’t a story about some celebrity’s latest “adventures” or about some stupid thing a politician is doing to our country then the media, who used to have journalistic values, won’t publish it. I hope for both our sakes there are still people out there willing to read a book. Congratulations on getting to the finish starting line with yours. A couple more seconds and you’ll be off and running through the stores!

    And, thank you for talking about Scrivener in one of you last posts. I downloaded it and it is a WORLD of help. I never know writing could be so fun.

    Love the squirrels. 🙂

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    • Sorry to hear that you are having to overcome some obstacles in writing, but you seem to be moving ahead. I am not as pessimistic about journalism as a lot of people seem to be. There are so many venues for information, some of which are very good. It also allows us to cross-check information. I found that reading longer form journalism helps me suss out real information amid the bias and click bait headlines.

      Glad you are enjoying Scrivener. I haven’t yet used it to its full potential, but in the editing phase, it is so much easier to parse out and move things about. I was really struggling with all the hopping about in Word. Best wishes to you in your continued writing!

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  8. “A bouillabaise of vagaries”; what a wonderful phrase! Now I’m older, I realise that most people continue to wear a version of what was fashionable when they were young and attractive, or possibly at whichever period in their lives they felt that way. Now I realise why the old ladies on the bus used to wear lipstick like it was the 1920s. Mind you, part of the historical costume has to do with keeping clothes until they fall apart. I pulled on a woolly hat last week and noticed the logo on the front says 2000, so that means it dates back to 1999 when we were obsessed with the Millenium Bug. Several of my current T-shirts also date back to that time; I was wondering why they were wearing out. And my style is definitely 1980s student most of the time, with a bit of late-to-the-party goth for special occasions.

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    • I see that a lot, too – people hanging on to styles they had when they were younger. I was never dressed in style. We didn’t have the money and I didn’t have the sense. I had some bouts where I tried, but I could never pull it off, because it just made me feel more self-conscious and awkward – and apparently that look is never in style!

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  9. Thank you. I enjoyed that. I think I am going through a migration from fiction as well but I consider it progression more than regression.

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    • That’s been my challenge writing fiction. I realized that I read maybe 10% fiction and 90% nonfiction. I don’t see it as either good or bad, just where my interests happen to lie in the moment. I find watching fiction to be interminable these days – it doesn’t engage my brain like reading does.

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  10. As always, I enjoyed the post. Especially the line about giving someone ‘side eye’ and wanting to punch them. I could totally picture it…including the person flying off the treadmill in response. I did have one slightly racist moment though. I’m admiring all the cute squirrel pictures until I get to the one with the dark squirrel standing and staring as if he’d like to rip someone’s throat out. I thought, “Whoa, that’s one angry black squirrel!” Then I thought…does that make me a squirrel racist? Do I profile squirrels based on color? What about flying squirrels? Would I consider them cute or abnormal mammals that are trans birds? I had a furry freak-out.

    I’m going to hell, aren’t I?

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    • I had that same thought, but it was the only picture that came up when I searched “angry squirrel”. I also thought it was funny that I’ve seen black squirrels only when I’ve been to Canada, so they couldn’t possibly be angry, eh? I think we’ve covered a wide swathe of stereotypes in one fell swoop. Nuts.

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  11. Well-written, Michelle! I love this phrase: “a bouillabaisse of vagaries.” Perfect! It’s clear that you do, indeed, “spend hours agonizing over turns of phrase, the rhythm and bounce of sentences, the thumping of my own little drummers.” Thank you. Your writing is a pleasure to read. I’m glad I found you. Best wishes for your novel. I hope it goes, and takes you, where you want to be.

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