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


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.


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.


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.


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.


You Were One of Them, Once


I try very hard to not use this blog as a vehicle for pointless ranting, but on occasion, I just have to get it out. Today I read that some airlines are now having child-free seating. I have high hopes for asshole-free seating, but the screening process may be too subjective. I’m fed up with people complaining about everything under the sun, but the vitriolic rants unleashed about children and parents alike are getting out of hand.

I don’t have a natural affinity for kids. I’ll be honest. I’m fond of quiet environments. I don’t like my seat being kicked or finding stray boogers attached to arm rests. But, holy shit, when did our intolerance for humankind become so high that we now need to travel in our own little bubbles?

I don’t think my little darling is the center of the universe (mine perhaps, but not everyone else’s). When she was a toddler, I had to swiftly escort her from a grocery store when she had a temper tantrum. Of course, I did not escape without being glared at – it was humiliating.  Parenting is hard, but apparently being a spectator is even worse. And please don’t regale me with bullshit tales about how your parents beat you into submission or silenced you with a glance. And that you never acted up or were tired or hungry or scared. You need to sit in the memory-free section, apparently.

Intolerance has reached an all-time high in our society, where people are allowed to sue and rail against and be indignant about and indulged over every petty little irritant, all while living in their annoying and hypocritical glass houses, yakking on their cell phones and snipping their toenail clippings off in every direction. Humans are annoying. Little humans are annoying, too – they’re just slightly more ignorant about that fact.

Kids aren’t for everyone. I get it. But neither are crabby old people and boorish salesmen and perfume-y blabbers or depressed slackers who smell like smoke or uptight business people attached to their umbilical cords of technology and miniature booze bottles. Everyone likes to think that they are models of decorum, even if they whistle when they breathe, crack their knuckles, shake their leg nervously, expel heavy sighs every two minutes or have to get up to pee every five. Loud people, smelly people, cranky people, lonely people – which are you today and why should I put up with it?

I’ll tell you why. Because none of us are any more special than the other. We’re humans. I am a naturally irritable person and I have a low sensory tolerance for all kinds of shit. But is that your problem? Are your behaviors any less legitimate than my pissiness? It’s on me to cultivate compassion and tolerance. It is my responsibility. What someone else does, unless it endangers my safety, is a gift, an everyday challenge to my abilities to be tolerant, to not rage, to not believe that my space and time should be an inviolate temperature-controlled soundproof buffer zone at all times.

There’s a lot of people on this planet. Airlines are doing their best to keep a flailing industry aloft by screwing over their economy passengers with miniscule seat space and a passenger starvation plan. I get claustrophobic just looking at the picture of airline seats. I’m pretty sure as kids, most of us weren’t shoved elbows to ass into a tin can and asked to respect each others’ space/privacy/knees jammed into the back of the seat.

They’re creating box seats for the corporate elite and are growing a segregated seating system. Does anybody remember sucking secondhand smoke during an entire flight? With how many more irritations will we feed airlines’ sagging bottom lines? They are doing their damnedest to turn us all into intolerant jerks. I want, I deserve, you have no right to, you shouldn’t… It reminds me of Dr. Doolittle’s Pushmi-pullyu with decency stuck squarely in the middle. This sense of entitlement to a pristine environment is a losing game on a planet with 7+ billion people.

We’re getting ready to take our daughter on her first airline flight this next year. The intolerant better hope they don’t end up sitting next to me. They’ll wish they’d purchased a ticket in the snore and vomit-free seating section.