Living in Frames, by meshing the lyrical moments of life with the captured images of experience. This is a reverie, a journey, the fork in the road, and the never-ending story....

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

What does having a full range of emotions feel like?

Last night, before all the ballots were counted and the numbers were in, I went to bed with a sinking pit in my stomach. Anxious about what the next day would bring, I tried to rest my tired head, but even in my dreams I was dreading what was to come.

I woke this morning, still sick to my stomach, and reached for the first device that I could find, hoping beyond hope that it had all been just a nightmare. But there it was, all in bright red, glaring back at me in my dark kitchen.

It was an immediate response for me—the tears came first, as I crawled back in bed beside my husband, and gently woke him,
“Trump,” is all I said, still processing the news myself. He reached out to comfort me, but I was already jumping away and onto my device, to read as much as I could about how others were taking the news.

Then came the anger, all at once. And again, my husband tried to comfort me. But it was no use. I could only blame. “I hate the system” and “All of THEM!”  I became unhinged, as a sinking sense of terror and fear settled within me.

“We can’t stay here,” was the last thing I said, as I left our house a complete mess. Which at that moment, I was hoping my husband would agree and say, “Yes, you’re right. This is no longer the place for us. The future is bleak, and it will be no place to raise children (should we decide to have them).”

Shaking and crying, I drove to work. My husband had begged me to stay a little later than usual and settle down before I got on the road, but I couldn’t hear him in my blind anger. I had to get to work. I had to get to a place where I could think about something other than how awful I was feeling.

When I got to work, my colleagues and I tried to go about our regularly scheduled morning meeting, but from the look on most everyone’s face, I wasn’t the only one who felt defeated. And when we started talking about the challenges that some of our students have been facing, I completely lost it. I bee-lined for the bathroom, to try and catch my breath.

Not only did it feel like the wind had been knocked out of me like a giant kick to the stomach, my hope was knocked out of me too. All I could think about was the students. Especially, the ones who had told me, just a day before, that if they were old enough to vote that they would never vote for Trump, “Because Trump doesn’t like people with special needs.” And that got me thinking about all the others too… All my friends and family, and even those I don’t even know, who will be affected even more than I am by this decision.  My breaking heart went out to all of them.

At the sink, as I splashed my face, I prayed for the strength to go on. I prayed that somehow I will learn to accept what I have no control over, and that I won’t let my anger taint my own morality, compassion, or judgement. I prayed that I could just get through the day, so I could go home and give my husband that much deserved hug.

When the kids arrived, I tried to be as present as I could be. Both for them, and for me. I tried to be more patient, and a better listener. And for a good part of the day, it was easy to let those kids teach me a little more about the simple joys that will continue to exist, despite politics and perceived chaos.

Sure, for a moment I thought, “I could quit all this and run away. I could join a revolution. I could wave my fist in solidarity with all those already out there on the front lines fighting.”

But I didn’t. I stayed where I needed to be, and quietly admired my colleagues and the good work they do every day. I even felt a pang of guilt, when the afternoon bus driver who was driving our students, admitted to me that she had voted for Trump; and that she, like me, also wanted to have hope that change was good.  

When I got home, at the end of this very long day, the first thing I did was hug my husband. And after some comfort food and some conversation, he finally shared with me his secret of how he is so accepting: “What you have to remember, is that you don’t have to do something memorable and fix the world. You just have to be decent.”

Of course, I cried, again. Because, what would a full range of emotions be without a few happy tears at the end caused by a full heart?

I feel grateful for knowing how today felt, and for knowing that I’m not alone in this. We'll get through this together. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

appreciate the fact you feel things at all.

How freeing it's been; this latest epiphany. I'm still here in the background writing and living, if you weren't sure if I evaporated into thin air with all the other bits of internet dialogue. I'm here to tell you, yes, you can do both simultaneously: live a rich and inspiring life, and find the time to write about it. Go ahead, feel that sense of fulfillment! Appreciate the fact that you feel things at all.

As a writer who eventually wants their writing to be read, maybe I should feel more of an obligation to stay connected. However, I'm pretty darn adamant in my belief when I say, it just isn't natural to have every minute of your day broadcasted, shared, and commented on. Since when did every-day Joe and Mary wake and say, "I need more public relations in my life." I won't bore you with my own theories of detachment and lack of empathy, the detriments occurring in real relationships and interactions, or what is really happening to the wiring of our brains... **Just read Nicholas Carr's, The Shallows

What I really want to know is: Does getting a daily ego-boost from an "audience" really give anyone the affirmations they seek? Does having a social media platform actually motivate, encourage, or enhance one's work, creative energy, or intellect? And what does it really do to one's confidence?

Today, I reached a small goal in my personal and creative life. (Yes, I can still say there is no division between the two, and I hope to maintain my autonomy from that corrosive mindset that an artist must love their art first and foremost, and of course sacrifice everything else and sell their souls.) I say this is a small goal, not to minimize it, but because I recognize it as another step in the direction I envisioned for myself, years ago. I also wouldn't call this goal monumental, by any stretch, for it is something I have accomplished many times over. What I can tell you is different about this goal is that it comes with its own sense of accomplishment.

I don't typically share what I do to make money day in and day out, over the internet. As some of you have already put together, I don't pay my bills by being a blogger, or a published short story writer. The truth is, like so many other dedicated writers, I have yet to actually get paid for any of my fiction. Sure, I've written little bits here and there for local papers that were happy to cut me a few bucks per inch, but that's not where I'm going with this, when we have more interesting things to cover.

So, here's the thing, what I do every day is work with kids who have really been dealt some of life's toughest cards. Needless to say, this isn't just some job for me where I punch the clock. These are kids that have seen horrors and hardships that most of us could never imagine enduring, let alone surviving. They are also some of the most beautiful human beings I have ever met. They trust without question, love without judgment, and are capable of the purest kind of joy. (If we could ever be so lucky, right?)

While there are definitely moments of great introspection and wonderful successes I get to be part of, there are more days when the work I do feels thankless and overwhelming with its challenges. And those are the days when I get home and all I want to do is turn off. Those are the days I can't even clear my tired head enough to put together a meal, or have a coherent conversation with my partner. Those are the days I can't even imagine sitting down at a computer and trying to make sense of this crazy world we live in, let alone be creative in my vision.

But I do. I make that meal, I talk to my partner, I sit down at the computer, I write. I'm not saying it is easy, or that there aren't days where I just want to give something up to catch a break. And I certainly get frustrated and angry, and sometimes start crying when I feel like I have nothing left to give. But after that good cry, I come around, and with the support of my partner I am able to redirect my focus to what I do have and what I can say about the world we live in, and get away from that sinking hole of what I don't have, right now. I am then able to see that just because I might not be exactly where I thought I would be at this point in my life, it doesn't mean I will never get there.

It takes steps. It's a process. Whatever you want to call it. So, I work toward finding that balance. I set small goals that are reachable. I celebrate every day successes. I thank people who help me along the way. I stay open to the possibility of change.

It seems simple, but I can tell you it is not. There was even a time in my life where I actually thought I had to live selfishly to take myself seriously as an artist. This, I assure you, is an absurd fallacy. A self-absorbed lifestyle is one of emptiness and loneliness, and lacks the true grit of life that ultimately inspires.

Now you're probably wondering what was this goal that got me on this long-winded backstory and lament. Well, if its okay with you, I'm going to now go quietly and celebrate the way I do. In real time.

But first, I will leave you this note:

"Recognizing the poetic possibilities of this temporary affliction, I attempted to rein something in, treading my internal haze in search of elemental creatures, or the hare of a wild religion." 
                                                                       Love, Patti Smith

Monday, July 18, 2016

I wake to the sound of chaos: a flock of birds in conflict over the bitter taste of wild grapes. Yesterday, I was ecstatic to discover the fruit growing rampant along the riverbank behind our house. Today, I realize my partner was right—it will take a lot of dirty, back-bending work to tame this undomesticated vine and turn it into something palatable. And yet, this doesn’t seem to discourage either of us from the prospect of trying.

I’ve stopped apologizing for who I am not, and it feels good. I no longer wish for things to be any different than they are. Even when there are challenges, the burden doesn’t feel so heavy, knowing I have the support to tackle most any undertaking I choose.

My desire to be a writer hasn’t waned, either. If anything, it has been magnified. I work, and try to live out my dreams every day, while attempting to be a decent human being. And that should be enough…. But what I can’t do anymore, is partake in that comparative, over-analysis of what others are doing with their livelihoods. I applaud anyone who has made a go at the artistic life. I know it isn’t a walk in the park and yet you forge ahead, each day, knowing that it isn’t some easy, formulaic thing—but a gut-wrenching, ego-smashing pursuit that tests your patience and your soul.  That is, in itself, a beautiful thing.

I just want something more out of life than to be labeled. And I think feeling loved and loving myself for who I am, is a start in the right direction. I am learning to embrace all that I can do and all that I strive to do, allowing this worthwhile life to present itself in all its forms. A grandiose idea, sure, but it is one of the few things I actually have control over—welcoming life to the table, and enjoying the company while it lasts.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

surrealism as free-association.

Much of my writing, particularly my short stories, tend to be surrealist in nature. While some writers gravitate toward more realistic or fantastical themes and concepts, I ended up somewhere in the middle stylistically. This was a natural progression in the creative process for me, and I have some thoughts about how and why this happened that I would like to share. But first: what is Surrealism, really?

Early-surrealists wanted to start a movement and revolution. In France, in the 1920’s, artists and literate luminaries adopted a philosophical manifesto that opened up a world of possibility when it came to creative expression. Surrealism transformed the way people thought about art. Art was no longer just about aesthetics and making something beautiful, but it was seen as something that could be powerful, filled with emotion, meaning, and many layers of belief.. 

Surrealists understood that there was a liminal space between reality and fantasy, where they could fully speak their minds and remain untouchable to persecution. They wanted to break away from conventional ideologies and normal-thinking, by drawing inspiration from within this space—a place of no specific perimeters, expectations, or exactitude. In turn, artists discovered a new kind of creative freedom, which gave them license to explore the many realms of the psyche, without needing hard proof, or relying heavily on imaginary constructions.

Unlike the early-surrealists, however, my writing didn’t evolve the way it did, because I wanted to make any progressive waves or grand statements. If anything, my writing developed the way it did, because I felt limited in my ability to write in a strictly confessional or realistic way. I also found it rather difficult to inject my ideas with elements of fantasy, because of the artificial mood and feeling it produced. 

I have always been insecure about being perceived as strange or unusual, especially when it comes to expressing certain beliefs and perspectives. Yet, I have this need inside me to capture and share my thoughts, in order to make sense of the world. I don’t know how other writers/artists connect their perspective of the world to their work, but for me it is a constant relationship—a matter of seeing.          

Every moment I catch myself in awe or conflict throughout the day, I know that this growing awareness will find its way into my art in various forms. In turn, every time I focus in on an aspect or detail, I can be sure that this is shaping and sharpening my overall vision. And for every feeling and belief that rises spontaneously and uncontrollably within me, I have no doubts they lie at the root of all my inspiration.

 My world is not made up of simple black and white reasoning, and edges that divide. My world is like the nature of the trees, becoming one silhouette in the fleeting light. It is continuous like time and energy, while I know I am here, only temporarily. And it is looking at the ethereal outline of distant mountains, and knowing they will manifest the closer I get—like God, pulling at every part of my soul.
I know this about myself, and I know this about my writing. And I guess I’m finally learning to accept that what works for others, doesn’t necessarily work for me. That it is okay to see things differently, and to connect to the world in your own way, whether that is critically, romantically, or freely. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

what she says...

I write in Vermont, and live with enhanced and sometimes, distorted perceptions. I’ve earned a degree and been published, but mostly I just care about connecting with other human beings through various forms of expression. Breathing is essential, and curiosity is my second-nature. And you’re probably better off looking elsewhere for answers.

I spent many years and lots of money on education, now I’m a writer who moonlights as a lower-middle class employee. Sometimes, I do other things like laundry, watercolor painting, photography and walking outdoors. People mostly fascinate me, but I don’t always like them.

I am a writer who occasionally impersonates someone who writes mediocre poetry. I believe in God, most of the time. I would like to think I’m a better person than I am an artist, because I would prefer it that way.

I don’t have this writing thing quite figured out, yet. And I’m really terrible about writing about myself in the third-person.

I dream in two-parts, and usually in the second part I’m stuck in a place I can’t get out of.

What would you like to believe about me?

Its way past noon and I’m still wearing my bathrobe, trying to sound like a progressive and productive artist……

So, these were my attempts at writing a bio today. Every so often, I entertain the thought of updating the profile I send out with my literary submissions, thinking it is a good idea. Though, realistically, half the time good ideas occur to me, I end up with a half a page of nonsense.

I’ve always found it awkward writing my own bio. Sometimes, there are days where I just don’t have it in me and I’ll send submissions along “bio-less” with only my contact information included, as though it was one of the guidelines I overlooked. Maybe I am shooting myself in the foot writing this, but asking anyone to describe themselves in the third-person is terribly uncomfortable for people who don’t have giant egos.

Trying to make yourself sound unique or avant-garde or intelligent (or should I say, intelligible?), in a way that doesn’t seem like you’ve worked too hard at it or that you care what people think, is plainly, absurd behavior. It’s like some weird kind of self-preservation for those anticipating criticism. And how much effort do you think novice writers put into those quippy or irreverent lines, hoping to catch someone’s eye? Example, Joe Schmo was a fellow of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and he also likes cheese.

How about the writer’s profile that’s much more intriguing than their writing is? Which doesn’t surprise me all that much, because it affirms my belief that we are a society that encourages and rewards people for selling themselves to get ahead. Talent or skill? Who needs any of that if you can talk the talk...or, shall I say, write a damn, good profile.