Tag Archives: Writing

The Things We Carry (and Must Learn to Leave Behind)

canstockphoto20086498In 1993, I dropped out of grad school after one miserable year. I was a failure, barely surviving academically, juggling three jobs, in over my head in so many ways. I make jokes about it, but when I pitched a nonfiction proposal to an agent last week, she asked about my education. I was truthful and while she was interested in my proposal, I could tell that I did not have a good “platform”.

For nonfiction proposals, agents and publishers want someone with a platform. A platform is the writer’s expertise, background, and being a known entity and expert in their field. I was a little proud that I could pitch an idea on the fly, except that it really wasn’t that spontaneous. And it was never my first intention.

While in grad school, I came across the published journal of a Russian woman who had disguised herself as a man and fought in the Napoleonic Wars in the early 1800s. She was the first known female officer in the Russian military. She had a difficult upbringing. Her mother hated her and at one point, had tossed her out of a moving carriage. She survived, but from that point on, her mother had no part in her care.

The story appealed to me not only as a veteran, but also as someone who was engaged in an ongoing battle with her own mother. It found me at the right time and stayed with me. For nearly 25 years, I’ve kept notebooks, collected research materials, and always planned to write a historical novel someday. The agent pitch I did at the conference brought clarity to me. I didn’t have the chops or the credentials for writing nonfiction history.

I went to the library last night to work on a writing plan to follow up with various agents. While I’m still working on a novel, I thought I’d take a look online to see if there were any other research materials available for a fictional work on Nadezhda Durova. I sat back, stunned. An American writer had written and published a historical novel about her just six months ago.

Dreams, delusions, disenchantment. I’m quite adept at spinning my own story. A story I’ve carried with me all these years – of failure and struggle and the possibility of writing my way to redemption – a story of rationalizations and justifications. Of never fully feeling the pain of the moment in which I am told or learn, once again, that I’m not good enough. All these years, I’ve been disappointed in myself, maybe even a little ashamed. But I had a good idea and maybe that would redeem me.

canstockphoto9159128bI am always reminded of that line by The Talking Heads “How did I get here?” The tale of my academic life is one of happenstance. When I joined the Army at 17, being clueless and uninformed, I wanted to be a French linguist. I had four years of high school French and being a linguist sounded more enjoyable than company clerk or truck driver. The demand for French linguists in military intelligence was, of course, not particularly high. They needed Russian linguists. Okay then.

After spending a year in intensive Russian language training at the Defense Language Institute, I moved onto more training, a permanent duty station in Germany and when my four years was up, I gladly left. The shortest way to a degree meant taking Russian, because I was able to transfer a lot of Army credits. So there I was, on track for a degree in Russian studies. As far from parlez-ing as I could be. Even further from writing.

I finished a four year degree in a subject that had never been part of my “when I grow up…” narrative. With no clue as to next steps, I applied to grad school. In the English department. The admissions rate was about 7% at the time. Applying to a program tied to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop was like spitting in the wind. I didn’t get in, but I did get accepted into the Russian Department.

It took me a year to realize that I hated my life, hated school, hated getting up at 3:30am to do a janitor job, go to classes, put in my hours as a research and translation intern, and then head to my job at Target.

The final straw was after I had to do a presentation on Russian morphology. In Russian. canstockphoto8727525The professor pulled me aside at the end of class and said that he was going to do me a favor by giving me a B-, instead of the C that is considered failure in grad school. I was going through complete misery just to scrape by on someone’s favor. And paying thousands of dollars for the honor. Time to quit academia and start working fulltime.

The years that followed were progressive administrative jobs, still carrying my notebooks and research materials from Iowa to Minnesota, into a home I share now with my daughter and husband. Since focusing on writing the last few years, the possibility of writing that historical novel seemed closer than ever. Until last night and seeing that Linda Lafferty had written The Girl Who Fought Napoleon.

I didn’t feel crushed or disappointed. In some ways, it was liberating. Carrying that novel idea was more than just a writing project. It was justification for all that education in Russian language and history. It was redemption for having failed. It was a reason for having wasted so much time and money doing something for which I had little passion. Even the kernel of complicated mother-daughter relationships has dissolved in the face of relative peace I’ve made with my own mother over the years.

canstockphoto10806366Last night, I dreamed of getting divorced from someone other than my husband. I woke up feeling sad and disappointed and bemused. The person didn’t have a face that I recognized, but this morning I surmised his name was Failure. 25 years is a long time to carry shame and I think I’m ready to put it down. There are other stories to tell.

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What It Comes Down To: The Pitch Conference After Action Report

canstockphoto411034For months, I’ve been eating, dreaming, walking through this pitch conference. I’d never been to a writing conference of any sort, and have long eschewed workshops and book clubs, and lived in my make-believe land of being a writer. This is the first concrete step I’d ever taken to make it real. And it was a great step. That I’ll likely never do again.

There are writers who remain oblivious to the market, to the numbers, to the sheer complexity and enormity of their dreams. They constantly send out work and occasionally hit their mark. There are writers like me who are painfully aware of the odds, see the enormity of the task before them and tell themselves someday. When I am ready. When I have time.

So here I am, almost 50 years old, trying to launch a writing career. I laugh using the word “launch”. More like a slow crawl, an inch worm’s speed. Talk to any writer who seems to be an overnight success and odds are, they’ve been doing a slow crawl for years. No one saw them, no one lauded their work, no one sharpened their pencils or handed them a guide.

Parts of the conference were the expected breakout sessions on querying and selling, but what most people came for was the golden ticket of being able to meet with three literary agents and/or editors for 8 minutes each to pitch their work. I researched and submitted my preferences in advance and ended up with two I’d requested and a last minute replacement I knew would not be a fit.

I wrote 50+ pitches in advance, talked to friends about the book, read all the advice articles on pitching, bought a suit and showed up on time. I came away with two requests for partials (10-50 first pages) and a full manuscript request. When I saw who my replacement agent would be, I did a nonfiction book proposal on the fly and she said they’d be interested in seeing my full proposal.

This was an optimum outcome for me. But what does it really mean?

It means that I know how to talk under pressure. Yay me. The last workshop I sat in for the day was about debut mistakes. Two local, established writers talked about their experiences and took questions. A moment of clarity hit me. I’m done being at a conference. These people had been working their asses off for years – around marriages, divorces, children, jobs, setbacks and personal demons. But what mattered to the writing was the writing.

This weekend was an important reminder to me. I can talk knowledgeably about the market and publishing of books. I could even become a writing advice blogger. I can pitch the hell out of my work. But it’s all bullshit. And manure only has value and meaning if there is something to nourish and nurture. I got caught up in the dressing, while the body was being neglected.

So, it’s back to work – reading, writing, editing, revising. It’s nice to know I have some people who’d be interested in seeing my work, but that was always the case – if the work was good. So back to making it as good as it can be.

 

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An Introvert Walks into a Conference…

canstockphoto3908268I’m in a hotel room in downtown Minneapolis, wrung out and exhausted from smiling and talking about my novel with other writers. My hobnobbing and pitching at a writer’s conference garnered two requests for pages from lit agents. I’ve already called and texted friends and family to squee about it. But as usual, the exhilaration has melted away into the realization that I will have to work harder than I ever have at digging in and writing. I do not spend a long time in joyland. The water’s too warm.

The woman who met with the same lit agent in the time slot before me, passes me in the hallway, eyes downcast. She told me about her book beforehand and despite the fact that it wasn’t my cup of tea, I could see her light up when I asked about it. That’s writing for you – guts, out on the table for everyone to see.

While waiting to go in to meet with another lit agent, the woman behind me complimented

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Looking for some fashion sense, obviously.

my suit. I had felt, to that point, like an idiot. I went with a black business suit, like out of a stock photo from a 1990s corporation. Most others looked like what I imagine writers to look like – all Bohemian scarves and elbow patches. I looked like I was interviewing at an accounting firm. Still, it was kind of her to give me that little boost before my pitch session and it made me think about the fact that I’m not kind like that.

People talk about supportive communities and I fail miserably when it comes to the little compliments that boost. I’m so in my head just trying to cope with being surrounded by people, that I miss those opportunities. I’m a compliment blurter, which means I’m usually interrupting someone so I can get it out there. Better than none at all, I suppose.

Right now, I’m hiding in my hotel room writing. Other writers have found compatriots and are off to restaurants and bars. Some are even rubbing elbows with agents and editors. I’m eating leftover chips from lunch and have started the coffee maker. I thought I’d find a sense of camaraderie here and instead, it made me realize how long I’ve worked on my own and how I’ll always need an out and I can’t decide if I’m sad or just resigned about it.

canstockphoto89044This is me.  Following happy news with a chaser of Michelle. I came back to the room, threw on a t-shirt and sweats, started writing lists, checking agent name spellings, taking notes on everything I was asked to do. Pulled out my calendar, looked at time frames and figured what I needed to get done and when. Time to go to the evening event. I’ll put on that suit again and find a chair near the door.

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Leaning into the Fraudian Complex

canstockphoto17112100I’m a writer.

I speak several languages.

I am fit and active.

I love my family.

I believe love is the right choice.

But, but, but…

What about the fact that I’m none of these things consistently or expertly?

What about the fact that I don’t spend each and every day honing my writer’s craft? And that despite working on a novel, 80% of my reading is nonfiction?

What about the fact that if you ask me any question in the languages I know well on paper, I’ll have a blank look on my face?

What about the fact that I don’t look like an athlete? Or that I eat enough for four athletes…of the Sumo kind?

What about the fact that on Monday morning, I’m glad to see my family out the door?

And for all the love I purport to feel, to advocate for, why am I repeatedly calling fellow humans jackwads and dipshits while driving?

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I had the good fortune of hearing the author Elizabeth Strout (Olive Kitteridge, 2009 Pulitzer Prize), give a lecture last week. She talked about the value of fiction and why it’s important to readers. She spoke about how fiction gets to the truth of characters and in turn, to the truth of ourselves. I took notes and all I could think was – as a writer, I’m a complete and utter fraud. This is a bad thought to have a week before I’m scheduled to pitch my novel to three literary agents. But it’s bad in a way I have learned to value.

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When I started tutoring English learners, one of the students asked me in front of the class what languages I spoke. Ever eager to sound like I knew something of value, I muttered “I speak a little Spanish, German, French and Russian.”

It was, to my knowledge, true – if you wanted me to count to 10, list the colors of the rainbow or ask you where the bus station was. I’m proficient in asking for another beer in German or talking about military tank positions in Russian. I can accurately describe cows or the children at the swimming pool in French. In Spanish, I have a terrific food vocabulary, because Mexican food is the bomb.

So, in the back of my head, I really felt like I was telling a lie, even if I’d get off on a technicality. Lies bother me. Especially my own. I intone Jean-Luc Picard in my head Make it real. Since starting tutoring a few months ago, I’ve been relearning or building up languages. I start off every day on DuoLingo. It takes canstockphoto993916me about 20 minutes, but in the last two months, my language skills have improved exponentially. I started enjoying it so much that I’m ramping things up a bit with workbooks and online websites in those languages. I frequently wander the house repeating nonsensical phrases, sometimes mangling all four languages in the same sentence. International incident, here I come.

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I have never in my life looked like an athlete. I’m solid, but short and round. All my life I’ve been fairly active. I look in the mirror and it never reflects back at me who I think I am. This disconnect between how I feel and how I look frustrates me to no end. Years of martial arts, running, tromping around in combat boots hauling packs, endless numbers of push-ups, weight training, and in the end, I still look like a disheveled hausfrau. This time my body is a reflection of the lie.

canstockphoto2201991I’ve only ever dealt with half the equation – exercise. The reality is that I eat like a horse. A horse who could eat its own body weight in mashed potatoes. I eat well – really, really well. From my twenties on, I’ve resisted dieting, mostly to my benefit. But as my income grew, so did my access to all the foods I loved – foods that I didn’t get growing up and foods that I generally couldn’t afford or have access to during my Army and college years. Simple foods, even some that are quite healthy, I eat in large quantity.

My truth is that if I want the outside to truly reflect how hard I work, how much training I’ve done, I have to come to terms with the mentality I have, that whatever is in front of me now might be gone tomorrow, so I better get while the gettin’s good. I went through an absolute culling of personal belongings and clothing over the winter and found the same mentality at work. If I liked something, I bought two or got all the colors, because tomorrow it might be gone.

I want the reflection in the mirror to look like how I feel inside. I want to make it real. So I’ve begun doing that most mundane of dieting tasks – tracking calories and setting a target goal that I get all my servings of fruits and veggies. I just started Week 6 of an 8 week 5K training program. I’m starting to see results. My humble brag is less about the particular goals than it is about the fact that the lie had become untenable for me to sustain. It has simply become easier to make a lie the truth, than deal with the angst of wishing it to be so.

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Elizabeth Strout said it’s the job of the writer to be bring honesty to the reader, because it helps us get in touch with our own truths. That’s been rolling around in my head the last few days. My own truth is that despite all my experiences as a human, I am not an experienced writer. I have not, like Ms. Strout and so many working writers, spent my days and nights learning the craft.

Next week, when I sit in front of my first literary agent ever, I will be out of my depth. And that is the truth.

canstockphoto6167076Somehow, even confronting that truth head on, I find it invigorating. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Because when that conference is over, when I’ve gushed out the verbal vomit that will be my pitch, I will return home knowing that I need to make it real. I’ll spend my days and nights learning what other writers already know. My path is one of retroactive truths, but truths…eventually.

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Flotsam and Jetsam at The Green Study

canstockphoto3436262It’s hard to write a blog post these days. I seem to have lost my sense of humor over the last few months and am writing serious missives about the promulgation of incompetence and grand larceny. I used a lot of words like promulgation and malfeasance and hackery, which is apparently not even a word. I finally deleted them from the draft file. You’re welcome.

My life is more organized and productive than it’s ever been. Staying organized, working out and being busy with volunteering and projects every day – these are the things I’m NOT supposed to be doing, so I’m doing them extraordinarily well. I’m supposed to be writing, sanding off the rough edges of my novel, so that I can panic-pitch it to agents at a conference in a couple of weeks. It turns out I can be just as focused in my avoidance techniques as I am when I write and so far, to-do lists are winning.

I’ve rewritten my elevator speech 60 times and I still sound like a babbling idiot. Likely anxiety will fix it all and it will come out Here. Me wrote book. Read it. Like it. Give me money.

I had to go to the mall for a biannual visit. I discovered that ordering professional clothes online automatically spits out a polyester 70s outfit intended for someone the size of a small child. So I trekked to an actual store, which didn’t have the sizes I needed in stock. The helpful assistant ordered them online for me. It’s as if the internet is the house and the house always wins.

canstockphoto24048860Tutoring is going well. I’ve started learning some offensive Spanish from students, as well as witnessing the addictive behaviors of teenagers and their cell phones. I’m grateful to be old and belligerent. By the time the brain-implant phones show up, I’ll be too gaga to be a candidate for one.

We visited an outdoor nighttime art installation at a local arboretum and my daughter had to hear me point out stars over and over again. I was tempted to get her attention by telling her that the star below Orion’s belt was called the Penis Star. It’s not and I didn’t, but the idea made me laugh the rest of the night.

canstockphoto25368007I’m in week 4 of my 8 week 5K runner training program. Since the wind carries an icy chill and/or rain these days (March is being intransigent), I’ve been running on treadmills at the Y. I’m starting to become one of those people who waits for a specific treadmill, because it doesn’t creak, or the buttons are more responsive or the fan blows directly where I run. I used to mock those people, so I can appreciate the turnabout of becoming a fussy old broad.

I took my daughter to see “Hidden Figures”, because of math, science and girls – and a free community showing. I liked the movie, but felt bothered by it as well. I requested Margot Lee Shetterly’s  Hidden Figures: The Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race, upon which the movie is based, from the local library. The true story is more nuanced and interesting than the movie, without wasting time assuaging white guilt. So yay for math heroes, not so much for this film director’s decision to add Costner’s fictional white savior scenes.

Blogging has fallen to the bottom of the list and I haven’t been reading much, although I have found a couple new blogs that I like. Tim Miller writes at word and silence about culture and literature. He approaches his subjects with conversational curiosity.

Amid a cultural crap storm where lies are treated with the same veracity as facts, I like the brain stuff these days. The Last Word on Nothing is a collection of writers writing about all things science. Science – it does the gray matter good.

I saw an old friend last weekend. After 17 years, 1600 dye jobs, and many pounds later, I was a little self-conscious about the reunion. She was always one of those people who seemed like she had her shit together. I am one of those people who, no matter what the circumstances, will never feel like my shit is together. I tend to be a bridge burner and I don’t care much for reminiscing.  I knew her when I was struggling through jobs and college and bad boyfriends. All of that evaporated at the first laugh. Humor and friendship are what I consider a high form of grace.

canstockphoto2072938My brain is like a junk yard these days. Amid the detritus there might be something worth salvaging, but it’s mostly junk. There’s not much to be done about it, except to wander about and not get too distracted by the shiny stuff.

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A State of Readiness

I’m waiting at my daughter’s orchestra practice and one of the groups is playing the national anthem. canstockphoto3482506Without fail, it brings tears to my eyes. Oh, say can you see, by the dawn’s early light…It’s an odd patriotic twitch, much like praying to a god I don’t believe in when I’m scared. It’s reflexive indoctrination which serves religion and country well, keeping the machinery of industry and institution well-oiled.

My practice of critical thinking, looking at as many perspectives as possible and making sure that I am cognizant of my own irrational emotional reflexes, has brought me to a detente of sorts. I’ve never felt more uncertain of my future, of my child’s future and of this country’s future. My thinking has become more apocalyptic in nature. I feel the gears of my life subtly shifting toward preparedness.

How does one prepare for the unplanned or unexpected? And is it healthy to always be in a heightened state of concern about what might happen tomorrow? I’ve always been a planner. That is why the shift is subtle, a slight extension of the organizer inside.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been working harder than I have in a long time. I started a new running training program. I’m focusing on finishing my novel rewrites and looking at what I’m actually doing with my writing. It no longer feels like a creative impulse, but a desire to strengthen skills and rhetoric for income and for civic engagement.

canstockphoto1380247Garden planning is on the horizon. I’m working on learning how to grow more year round and with a few different methods – grow lights, cold frames, and hydroponics. I’m strengthening my language skills, readying to speak French in Canada and Spanish in Mexico. And my Russian is cold war ready. I’ve made sure our passports are current.

I’ve tested our water for lead and our air for radon. Long term health seems more critical than ever. I’ve started to cut some of our household expenses, putting more money in savings and college plans, redirecting more money toward the environment, children’s causes and education. I added more volunteering hours, joined a civic organization and have started to attend more community events.

I do not have enough of an imagination to see linchpin moments around every corner, nor do I have patience for any more partisan hyperbole. The click bait from both the left and the right is tiresome and demoralizing. Somewhere in the middle, I’m trying to figure out what it is I need to do to be more prepared, stronger and more technically agile for the future, over much of which I have little control.

canstockphoto8461096Perhaps the shock of the last year – the vitriol, the conspiracy theories, all the Twittering and freaking out by wingnuts did what chaos has always done to me – forced me to find order and structure and calm within. I did not know so many people were so angry. And it has made me sanguine. I did not know so many people blamed others for the problems in their own lives. And it has made me seek more personal responsibility. My response is Newtonian in nature – an equal and opposite reaction.

My life is small and only a measured success, depending on one’s metrics, but as I approach 50, I have come to appreciate the moment I’m in – this fragile time in human history. The big picture does not look good, but I am here. Even though what I do will likely have very little impact, I have decided to do what I can where I stand, with the resources that are at my disposal.

canstockphoto13259787Common sense deems that we are a rapacious lot – locusts that consume everything in our path. And everything is not an endless supply. At a time when we need science and academic pursuit to find innovative solutions for energy, antibiotic-resistant disease, and natural disasters, education and intellectualism are being denigrated. When population controls are needed, access to reproductive and family planning resources are being circumscribed and supplanted with religious ideology.

I don’t believe in an afterlife. The reason I don’t believe is very simple – it’s too easy. Too easy to ignore life on the ground. Too easy to do a trust exercise, falling back into the arms of an imaginary being and not stand on my own two feet. I don’t trust easy answers. Life is complex and challenging. If somebody is giving you an easy answer, they’re lying. If they’re giving you an easy answer when evidence suggests otherwise, they’re lying with an agenda.

These days I’m a bit of a humorless git, but hard work makes me happy. It also takes me away from the world of what ifs to a world of what is. I don’t know what the years ahead will bring. I cannot separate out the truth from all the untruths, nor accurately predict whether we’ll thrive or have our lives reduced to shadows of their former selves. I do know that I’m not waiting to find out, nor expecting other people to do the work for me.

canstockphoto21101753Perhaps it’s all a mirage, an indulgence of the quiet anger that I feel constantly beneath the surface. That we exist at the whims of people more powerful, more armed, more moneyed. That our existence may become paltry or cease entirely because lucre has become the law of the land and war the god we serve. It angers me and so I study, train, conserve, and strengthen. It may all come to naught in the end, but it beats the hell out of waiting.

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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.

*****

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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