Longing & Bliss, a winter spent with cary tennis, steve earle and jackson browne in a rented outbuilding that flooded when it rained. this is portland. it rains.
(a vaguely autobiographical account with fictional elements)
blog: an online diary; a personal chronological log of thoughts published on a Web page; typically updated daily, blogs often reflect the personality of the author. shortened form of Weblog. usage: blog, blogged, blogging (v), blogger (n).
I generally consider myself a short story writer, an occasional essayist and, though rarely, a poet. but I’m switching formats: this is a vaguely autobiographical account with fictional elements. I'm hoping that I can find some sort of relief, from art, from expectations, from myself! I think (hope) that if I have a place where I can JUST WRITE and not look over my own shoulder every single minute, I might find some freedom to be creative.
which brings me (daily) to what cary tennis said last night, he said, "one of the truly eye-opening things I have discovered in my ongoing quest to become just a little bit less insane is this: just how cruelly I have regarded myself in the past. It took some doing to see that what I took to be normal and balanced male self-regard was actually, given my emotional requirements, an almost debilitatingly harsh and unforgiving litany of self-criticism and self-rebuke."
now that sounds familiar.
I make myself wait all day to read cary tennis. my delayed gratification skills are honed to near-perfection. It's a sign of maturity, I've heard. and it's a (perhaps THE) highlight of my day, reading his column. I've written a song, several blog entries and one short story as a result of inspiration that's come from his writing. I believe I like him as much as I like steve earle.
came home and my room had flooded. well, not actually flooded, but wet enough that the carpet made squishy sounds when I walked across it. came home with the wild and intense desire to CREATE ART and nothing, absolutely nothing came out. one morning I slept until 11. that should have been a clue that I was tired. but I can never be that - tired. that's too ordinary and trite. so I pushed and pushed but nothing, still.
when I was in puerto vallarta with my parents for a week, I got quite tan and very relaxed, so I don't think I was being unrealistic when I anticipated producing new work. and I also found the paintings of jennifer brockmann there, which made me believe, truly, in painting again. after mexico, I stopped over in LA for a few days to spend christmas with J&M, and was there when she unwrapped the box in her stocking and found the ring and said, Yes! now how many moms get to witness that!
so that was my three week vacation, which was wonderful, but I, naturally, don't feel I deserved it considering I've done nothing since.
then, I was supposed to go on some dates and I blew that all off too. chris a. showed up to the airport to pick me up and I didn't know he was coming and I wanted to get in a cab and go straight home and get to the mac store and pick up my computer. but no, he wants to go to breakfast. and I said, no, I want to go home. it's eight o'clock in the morning, I got to the hotel at midnight and had to be at the airport at four and that was after waiting for my flight for hours before it was finally cancelled.
then, a few days later on the phone, he just had to suggest that I should be livid (his exact word) with my landlord because of the water leaking. now wouldn't that be a good strategy. first off, I'm already blocked so adding a bunch of rage to the equation wouldn't be real smart, and secondly, what good would that do? get mad at mike? what's he going to do about it besides knock a hole in the wall, smear henry's in the crack (in the pouring rain) and apologize over and over for something he had no control over in the first place.
then later, being the moron that he is, he brings it up again, the whole livid bullshit so I had to say good GRIEF, man. I'm not even livid over the cookies our government saw fit to drop on our computers. I am, however, getting livid over the pentagon's study of body armor and how having it could have saved the lives of 80 PERCENT OF OUR MARINES who died of torso injuries, but jesus christ, CALM DOWN!
chris a. was out, anyway. actually he was never "in." I really couldn't deal with his nissan infinity. too much excess. I hate showoffs.
I'm not even trying to solve any of the big problems right now, not my own, my household's, surely not this country's. haven't even really read the news since the election and of course, no tv. I'm only trying to answer some of the small questions. I'm merely trying to write ONE GOOD SENTENCE.
I've maxed out on journals, at least for the time being; they're stacked in boxes in my closet, and some I've been reading lately, checking the facts, but they're packed with so much old emotion it's exhausting. I'm using them as reference material, though, because I've forgotten many, many things. and my short story writing hasn’t hit the skids or anything that bad but I have three stories with no endings and I’m beating my head against the wall.
in the meantime, I've got this blog and the music store and some compilations given as gifts, all in all about 300 new songs so I'm busy with that.
man I hope this year doesn't suck.
I'm wondering about how life's events shape us, each of us, differently. fifty percent of we humans have below average intelligence. why does this startle and scare me? because I'm rubbing elbow each day with dumb people! ah! now I get it. if only I'd had that statistic at my disposal thirty, forty years ago. that would have eliminated thousands of hours of wondering what the fuck is wrong with people, thousands, THOUSANDS of hours to devote to art.
I really needed to have known that. being the constantly thinking, wondering, scheming, sensitive artistic-type that I am, I've put far too much effort into trying to figure people out. the mean ones, the calloused ones, the manipulative ones. and here's much of the solution: half of them are dumb as sticks.
so that really does explain half of it. the mean, calloused, manipulative ones that are smart have never fascinated me nearly as much. I expect from them, passion. if it's the sort that divides and conquers, well, it isn't that pleasant but it is proactive. back and forth we swing on whether "W" is smart or stupid, and maybe that's why: we want to know which camp he is in. hm.
yes, the superiority I feel does, at times, make me ashamed.
one thing about dumb people, at least in america, is that they, along with everybody else, watch excessive amounts of television. my definition of excessive is, of course, excessive, since I watch none at all. different subject. but in doing so, watching television, they pick up all these little "facts" many of which are not even true. and why is it that dumb people, especially, love the conspiracy theories? what is it about their brains that crave the sensational? it must rock their boat somehow, provide some sort of charge. but the problem is they believe that all this fact-gathering to be intelligence. in other words, they consider themselves smart people, simply since they've gathered up facts.
it's all going to come down to nature, anyway. I may still be here to witness it, perhaps not. depends on how long I live and how quickly science makes that advance.
but I didn't start writing this, this early, early morning, to bitch about dumb people. (but cary tennis did, last night, write on the same subject himself). I wanted to think about other human traits, compassion, mercy, grace, and if we do manage to, in this quick stab at consciousness, attain them, how we go about that. yesterday I found out that the house I sold is going to be foreclosed on. the owners haven't even made the property taxes in four years. so there's no chance they're going to come up with the twenty thousand dollars they owe me, either.
life over there, in that mountain valley, can pitch some evil curves.
I know how cold it is there, right now, and how the sun is filtered through the clouds and it makes the living room harsh and desolate. the light, in january, can drive one to an awful kind of sadness. no beauty can be found. I painted that room many times, always lots of white and some pink and mint green. the ceilings were high, the floors soft pine. many years I brought in the geraniums at the end of the season and they would grow and climb and bloom, fuchsia and red and salmon. once, too, I had a couple dozen orchids that did very well.
I covered the couches in cabbage rose fabric and threw knitted afghans all over the place. we always had lots of fresh and original art and excessive amounts of lighting that could all be manipulated with switches. but nothing tamed the light from the january skies. on snowy days one could manage to cope there in that room, and often I sat on a couch and looked out through the bay window at all the flakes, waiting for my children or my students, and I could almost derive a sense of well-being. the snow warmed and cheered. but that time of day was not good for sitting, especially with the snow coming down and a long sidewalk to shovel to insure against children bashing their heads.
so I can't blame them and I don't, for losing the house. it's quite possible they did the best they can and I don't care either, about that, one way or the other.
I feel bad for dumb people. it must get frustrating. I'm as nice to them as I am to anyone, which is usually most of the time. I'm kind, by nature. but they wear me out, stepping in front of busses, leaving their kids alone to go gamble, undercooking meat and overcooking corn.
and now, as for me, I won't be buying any Apple stock this spring, either. dang.
I was brought up hearing that I needed to amount to something. and for the longest time I thought I was. then, I don't know what happened, maybe I changed the definition on myself or maybe it's because I have reached this middle age, but I've started losing faith that it's going to happen.
I have always clung to the nobility of writing, along with the fact that nearly every cell in my body craves it, as the sure-fired example that amounting to something, I was. and then when I added raising children and producing art to the equation, my bets seemed secure.
now I've started tormenting myself a little. not too much - I know not to over-do it because of my fragile and sensitive nature - but enough to where it comes up in "conversation" occasionally throughout the day.
and nights. but usually I fall asleep early and it stops.
no, it's because the pressure I put on myself can be amazing. you ought to hear some of the things I say!
so I was thinking today, this morning, from about 4:30 on until now which is 11:00, that maybe I can stop this in its tracks. maybe it's not very useful. maybe I need to lighten up. maybe I need to use reverse psychology, anything! to beat back this grumpy beast.
when I was twenty two, I stilI knew nothing about art, and very little about literature and even my taste in music was guarded and narrow. so listening to him talk I started to learn things and realized that I wanted for myself, this knowledge.
one problem with poverty is that the art supplies must be hoarded. so it's very difficult to freely create, with one arm in the air, holding the brush and ready to swoop down on the canvas and suddenly choking because it hasn't been ascertained that you can, in actuality, paint. so all that good oil and canvas might go straight to waste.
this is why I let him be the artist. it was, initially anyway, a budgetary decision. and he seemed to have no hesitation to make swooshes on the canvas and to keep making them until the canvas was full and hanging on a spare wall in our house. besides. I had never before shown even an interest in painting and if I'd had talent churning inside, it would have burst through to the surface before. he'd started painting as a toddler.
but I'd been the writer. well, reader actually. not that much writing had been produced. once, at night school, I wrote an essay that won a national prize but no one had ever counted that.
and, plus, I thought he might be good. he said he was. and often I thought I saw it.
while visiting J. in LA, he tells me he has a painting of his, still, and describes it to me. oh, that one, I tell him. he painted that for you, you know, that was during the first persian gulf mess, when you were protesting in 8th grade.
and for a split second I see it, the hope flash through his eyes when he says, really? he did?
we'll forever carry the way he refused to love us, and how much we longed for him to.
I'm watching van zant's flick about kurt cobain. it’s about halfway through and I really want to hear some nirvana.
all of this only adds to my sense of personal-weirdness. or maybe my generation is doing crap like this, watching rock and roll movies on thursdays. hanging out in basements tuesdays with 12 year old boys with electric guitars. I suppose. hell, van zant's right around my age anyhow.
but they're boys. I'm not.
friends posted me on craigslist in another city with my picture and forwarded 70 some replies. maybe I should move. hitch myself a man. poor choice of a city, however. it's one with fog.
I am, I think, supposed to be getting serious about shit. according to the forwarded emails, I am pretty, I am very pretty, I am beautiful and I am a real cutie.
I am, some said, a keeper.
and man I hate that. I believe I hate that crap more than anything else. how do they, remotely, believe they can tell if I'm a keeper by my photograph?
as a middle aged woman I can't eat anything. or else. on top of that, I have to, really, work out 5 miles a day. and it's come rain or shine. if not, it will be most noticeable, first, on the back of my legs. (my second husband was the first to bring this to my attention. course, I was divorced from my first husband by the time I was nineteen so he probably hadn't gotten his head around that yet).
naturally, cary tennis is writing my life. where was he all those years??? tonight he responds to a woman whose husband shuts her down when she brings up graduate school. she's a painter and longs for a MFA. cary calls her husband's behavior cunning and controlling. oh yes, isn't that a good way of putting it.
he mentions also, the hunger artists feel.
that's where it really all started going straight to hell, when he sabotaged my grad school plans. that's when he started getting meaner than ever, just snapping mean all the time.
maybe, just maybe, if I stick to this, if I can manage to stick to this, to putting a hundred words a day down on paper, things will work out okay. how about a year? I'm bargaining here. a year more and if nothing is working out I'll go get a job with customs. or Apple.
I'll get a check in the mail next week. for a couple hundred dollars. for drawings I did long ago. when did I do this one? in the shed with the dogs? by candlelight? by flashlight in my truck? wherever, it was in my spare time.
winter, all winter, layers of clothes and socks. the cold straight up my calves. he knew I'd never leave him during the winters. but, then, he didn't believe I'd manage to ever leave him at all.
in puerto vallarta I thought about ways of dying. I thought about it because I was sitting on the beach, watching the ships, and I thought about how horrible it would be to die that way, drowning in the ocean. then I thought about all the worse ways there would be to die than, for instance, cancer or some failure of one's heart. war came to mind, or being murdered.
or all the ways of living through something like that, like losing a child one of those ways.
a fate worse than death, that would be.
I haven't ever thought much, about being pretty, because it's all subjective anyway, so reflecting on it would pretty much be a waste of time. besides the fact that I don't think I am, even though I have been told that. I have much weightier things on my mind like dying.
but it did, in a way, boost my ego. because I've been feeling ugly. and fat, of course. I wear size 8s but it doesn't matter because they're tight from eating all that crap in mexico. somehow, in my small and narrow mind, this makes me less of a person, that my levis are tight.
sometimes, when I'm feeling the worst of it, I'll remind myself that madonna and I are only a few weeks apart in age. I am, naturally, older. I remind myself of this fact, being approximately the same age as madonna, because it helps me calm the screaming in my head that at 47, it's just about over. I guess I believe madonna doesn't harbor such thoughts and that she actually believes herself to be in her prime.
the other day I read a quote from her. she explained her obsessive exercising as a method to keep the gaunt look that the men she's attracted to demand from her. she explained with the metaphor of a woman running to catch a bus. or something.
oh for crying out loud.
so that shot my madonna theory. I always figured though, deep down, that madonna wasn't going to prove to be a very reliable comfort zone.
I wanted to go to grad school badly. I wanted that validation. I wanted that security that might have come with it. I was always worried I'd end up like this; fat and ugly and poor. and even though I'm really not, it's still there, the fear.
I may still go. there's time.
but what I want most, is to somehow get to the point where I can accept this, that it's good, that I'm living well. because I am! I love my room and my funky roommates. I really do not want to own a house with all that work and responsibility. I don't want an apartment where I can hear myself think. I haven't failed myself, or even any american dream. this is what I always wanted, to live the artistic life, simply and with regard.
and as much as I never wanted the boys to leave, I needed them to when the time came, so that I'd have more time for my work. and now I do.
I don't know how or why I was able to create anything at all, living the way I did, when I was married to him. I don't know how I ever survived it at all. I don't know if I'll ever even feel the full implication of all those years, or if I'll only be able to absorb it in small gulps forever.
I do sometimes wonder, though, how it is that in the end all he ever wanted was to live in some fuckedup boise suburb and frame houses. all that talk. he was never an artist. he was never really one at all.
but in puerto vallarta, I was thinking about dying.
I don't think a week could be any longer than this one, and it's only wednesday. and it's barely wednesday at that, just 2:12 a.m. I've slept for four hours.
the baby's surgery was supposed to be major but routine. but it wasn't. so there were many hours of waiting for the phone. I checked the airlines for flights, just in case. I can only barely imagine what it's like to see your little baby like that. C&A have had so many traumas in their young marriage.
I kept my chin up but I was really scared.
we've had more rain than the last time it rained this much which was 1950. 28 or 29 straight days. the ten day forecast is solid rain, too.
I'm sort of depressed. not too bad, but sort of. monday night I cried a little bit before I fell asleep; I was so worried about the baby. and I felt so entirely by myself. alone. I'd talked to the family and even though they're my best friends, that night it didn't feel like enough. I didn't want to be alone. I was scared that if something happened to the baby I might not be able to absorb the pain. and I was scared, mostly, for MY son, scared that he might not be able to absorb the pain.
we've had so many things. and I wish they'd stop for awhile, or forever.
maybe all that thinking about dying while I was lying on the beach in puerto vallarta had something to do with this: dread. I'm sitting here tonight, this morning, at my mac, this huge and high resolution screen the only light. outside it rains and rains. every so often I go out the door of my room to the patio and smoke. it might kill me some day, this smoking. when I woke up at 1:30 I wasn't thinking straight. I was disoriented. both days it's taken me more than a minute to remember the baby. I stumbled into the house and got a can of diet cola and slammed it down. now it's 3:10 and I wish I had a shot of something to quiet the caffeine which was a stupid decision but I wasn't thinking.
all monday I was tense. much more so than I thought I'd be and more so than I knew I should be. something was lurking. I waited and waited for the family to show up for our lunch and it increased my anxiety, waiting. then they did and we had a nice lunch and I was driving home when C&A called with the news that things weren't going all that well, necessarily. it was very difficult to focus on finishing the drive home.
3:24. I'll finally be tired in less than thirty minutes. I'll sleep. tomorrow is easy, just claire. I'll be the rain, I'll do my 5 mile, I'll turn the music on. I'll write. any minute now, and there are lots of minutes ahead, too, I'll cry. fucking longing and bliss. if we'd have lost our little baby j. our world, our entire world that we've known for six months, for 47 years, for 23 and 28 years, would have come to a crashing halt.
we would have burned.
whoooo. that was a trial, waiting for the news about the baby.