Thursday, January 07, 2016

Sharing the love and the weird...

Aleigh used to write these great blog posts on things her friends said via email (I think that's what it was called). I'm stealing the idea, except with texts. I didn't even ask if I could. The two of us and another friend, who I will call "Erin" (because that's her name), have had a years-long group text exchange. I can't remember when it started...sometime in the year after I moved to Austin...but I know it will probably last forever. I hope it will. They make me laugh like no-one else can.

Also science says having friends is just as important to your health as exercise. I text/talk to these two waaaaay many more minutes than I spend at the gym.

Two notes: 1) none of these texts are work-related and 2) many of the phrases are mine, but I'm not saying which ones; nor am I identifying the others.

  • You know you're getting older when you spend more money on makeup and food than booze.
  • Age defy all the things!
  • Dear god asparagus. Why? WHY? You know that scene in The Exorcist where the priest's mom goes "why Dimi why you do dis to meee?" That's what I feel like saying to asparagus after I pee.
  • Not that I have ever noticed. Maybe I just can't smell it!
  • My mother is taking pictures of her TV screen and texting them to me.
  • I need a million dollars, stat.
  • Quick get Satan and make a pact. 
  • I used to have him in my contacts but the last time I texted him he was all like "new phone who dis."
  • Satan is an asshole. I texted that I needed to remove four years from my life that I wasted on shitheads and all I got was LOL GRRRRRL.
  • You definitely need a lady's maid. 
  • I rang a fucking bell for some cottage cheese and blueberries like an hour ago and bitch still hasn't shown up. I HAVE TO WALK TO MY KITCHEN.
  • Please save me.
  • I think if I cried more often I'd be a better person.
  • Okya I’m drrunka.
  • Feel free to smack me the very next time you see me if I have become annoying.
  • Me when it was time to leave work for the holidays:

I love these group text exchanges. I live for them. There's an awful lot of talk about bodily functions, things that shall never be repeated, even if attributed anonymously. I have announced that I was renaming Thanksgiving "Bakesgiving." Once there was a three-day long exchange about malevolent vaginas. And it was funny as hell. But there was also a day-long exchange about the relevance of historic landmarks and whitewashing history (we have these sometimes so we remember that we're smart).

We live states apart, but laugh and cry together as much as we ever did when we lived in the same city. No matter what happens in my life here, these two are always in my pocket. I'm not very good at telling people how much they mean to me, but I have no trouble telling these two lifelines how much I love them. I hope everyone is so lucky.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

The funny thing is...

Even when you stopped allowing the men in your life to break your heart, the thing that surprised you most was that it could still be broken — by Life, by Loss, by Things Outside of Your Control. Sometimes they didn’t just leave you and go somewhere else; sometimes they really left you and everything else in this world. When that happened, there was no ex. There was no second act, no breakup sex, and no opportunity to wait for him to come crawling back just so you could turn him away one last time.

Instead, you were left begging under the weight of the universe, asking Providence for one more chance, calling Fate at three o’clock in the morning to sob your heart out.

You did what a lot of girls do; you tried to move on. You went out nearly every night, hoping to run into Divine Intervention, or even Chance or Fortune—you weren’t picky then.

But no matter how alluring, no matter how charming, no matter how hard you tried to conceal your desperation, you brought evening after evening to a close with Grief.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Best American Horror Story yet (and I'm going to miss it so)...

There were a lot of plot inconsistencies and strange choices this season, definitely not as scary as AHS Murder House or AHS Asylum, but AHS Coven wins "Best AHS" on my list for one reason: Stevie effing Nicks.

Stevie made a guest appearance in one episode as a witch (and idol of Misty the Swamp Witch, see GIFs above), plus the season finale opened with "Seven Wonders" and an intro that harkens back to the olden days of swoony music videos. If you check out popular Google search terms for AHS Coven + Stevie Nicks, you can almost see all of the 20-somethings trying to find out who this magical, shawl bedecked, twirling pagan princess is and how they can buy the music. Here's hoping that Stevie got a huge iTunes bump from the show. Also that wearing black is the new black, because on Wednesdays they wear black.

Did you watch? Do you DIE? Shouldn't Jessica Lange and Angela Bassett be in a movie together? Is there any role that Kathy Bates cannot nail like a boss? Will you keep the Stevie Nicks episode on your DVR until you can buy the whole season online?

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Just because it's fiction doesn't mean it's not real...

All writing is personal. And sometimes the best writing feels awful. I cut my teeth on personal narrative, though I didn't know that's what it was called at the time. I've written lots of fiction too, way more than the occasional short stories published in rather obscure literary journals. I even have a novel in a box, where it will probably live forever. Once I became accustomed to "letting it all hang out" with my writing, I needed fiction less and less often. 

A longtime friend and I have a running joke that came from the movie Postcards from the Edge (based on a book by Carrie Fisher). Whenever we have an experience that causes extreme public or social embarrassment, we shake it off with "it twirled up." In this scene, the daughter accuses the mother of inappropriate behavior. Her response? "IT TWIRLED UP."

When I coach writing clients who are working on personal narrative or memoir (or blogs), I often tell them that hitting "send" or "publish" for the first time is going to feel terrible. It's going to feel like your skirt blew up in public and everyone saw your panties. You'll feel exposed and vulnerable. And then you'll get used to it, eventually.

In the past few years, I've written more fiction than I did in college intensives. More than the novel in a box. It was a panacea for feeling like I lost my sense of humor, the tongue-in-cheek voice I had taken for granted for so long. Shit wasn't funny anymore and I had no distance. A therapist suggested I write about everything, but do it in the third person. So I did. And it made me remember why I started writing fiction in the first place. 

With personal narrative, especially humor, hyperbole is acceptable and expected. But it's still oops-it-twirled-up honest. Fiction gave me the freedom to tell the story any way I wanted to, to end it any way I wanted to, and the distance I needed so that it wouldn't make me sad. I've heard other fiction writers say that their work has no basis in their own lives, that it's entirely made up, and I believe them. Sort of. I have fiction writer friends who openly admit their stories are thinly disguised events from their lives. Joan Didion's fiction was (though she's better known for memoir). So was Nora Ephron's, Heartburn in particular. 

In the spirit of twirling up, for every writer I've ever encouraged to push "send," I'm going to share a cringe-worthy (at least to me) snippet of a short story that was published several years ago in a now defunct literary journal. The story is called "Running Away." 
Following suddenly interested in running father to country club track. Watching him on the pay phone from a distance. Healthy, running 5Ks and marathons and away. From my mother, with her quiet cancer. From four daughters with their female neediness. Running away from same, same, same houses on a military base where class mattered less than rank. His poor farming family. An Irish mob of a family in a tiny New York town across the Saint Lawrence River from Kingston Ontario. From dirt and poverty. Weekday mornings in his officers uniform, snapping his collar, snapping at females and poodles and leaving behind a sickeningly sweet cologne cloud.

Weekends, already getting fat at age nine, I put shorts and sneakers on. Followed him out of the house in the early dawn. Ran several yards behind him, knowing he saw me and only that he didn't order me to return home. Running to catch up. Running the miles around the houses on base until he stopped. In the lot of the officer's club. There was a pay phone outside. He held up his hand, motioned for me to turn back, left me behind until he was out of earshot, picking up the phone, cradling the receiver with his back to me. I wait. Stretch. I know. I know everything.
I would prefer this story die with it's out of print, never digitized publisher. It's awkward and weird and I think I was 22 or 23 when I wrote it. But fiction? Sure. Why not? From the age of 11, when my biological father left my mother the day after Christmas to move in with his girlfriend and start a new and improved family, I told people my father was dead. That I never knew him (this is true, and he might actually be dead now because I haven't had contact in years). It was easier than the complicated truth, that he left our family while my mother had just begun treatment for cervical cancer, that the only thing that saved us is that he was in the military and thus forced to pay child support. That he wanted nothing more to do with us. This fiction was the part of me that admitted the hurt and the guilt of knowing just how long before the leaving that the moving on began. 

This is a story I will never be able to tell as my own narrative, but it can still be told. It is not something I still grieve over. I've had a lot of good experiences in my life with men, fathers of friends, that showed me that men can love their daughters even though mine didn't. My "daddy issues" are no worse than most. I stopped trying to replace him a long time ago, around the time this story was published, maybe even because it was published. 

Writing is how I choose to heal, whether the words are truth or revisionist history. I could have made the story end in a different way, made my father a different man. I could write it three more times and have three different trajectories. But I don't have to because it's out there and it doesn't matter anymore. All of this is to say: I hope you get to know what it feels like, even just once, to let it twirl up. 
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