It’s 3 a.m., and I should’ve gone to bed already.
Four nights this week, I’ve dreamed about writer’s/artist’s residencies. I’m still trying to figure out if they are a metaphor for something else, or not.
I have come up with a project to write essays about; and a different project to write poems about. Either project would definitely benefit from me doing a writer’s residency, but so far I have not found any residencies that seem like a good fit for me.
Have ordered sample copies of several poetry journals, to determine if my poems might fit within their pages.
Am reading lots of books of poetry, including many of translated poetry, looking for favorite poets, and . . . ways of interacting with the world that I haven’t thought of.
Wrote what seemed like a fragment of poetry last night, but as the poem informs me it is finished, I have handwritten it into my book of poems, and assigned its number.
Checking my Poetry Submissions file, the average length of my poems is just under 66 words, so they are short, but last night’s poem is 13 words.
I have a rather long (for me) poem that I began writing 2 years ago, but have not finished it, so it’s not skewing the average length, yet.
I keep making lists of rhymes for poems I want to write, but then the inspiration fizzles before I finish.
I guess I have to trust that something will bubble up when it is ready to be written.
I rejoined Meetup recently, partly to rejoin the poetry group I’d been part of earlier this year. Gradually realized, though, that every time I thought about showing up at the next meeting, it felt like a chore, not something I really wanted to do. So I dropped out again.
Possibly related to that, 2 days ago, I woke up remembering only the fragment of a dream in which I was telling someone (in a work context) that “I have ADD, so I can’t do things unless I’m actually interested in them.”
Spouse talked me out of applying to the Stanford Stegner fellowship when I waffled again. Even though I was telling him all the ways it wasn’t ideal for me, I still felt drawn to trying for it, but he said I should hold out for something that actually suits me. Which seems obvious, but a part of me clearly wants . . . something un-obvious.
I think it could be the whole grad school kind of thing, where I thought I was doing it for reasons that made sense to me, but it actually turned out to be mostly about trying to please my (unpleasable) parents.
I think the Stegner would be a way of feeling validated by authority figures — Stanford!
Which is kind of a prickly realization because my conscious mind isn’t particularly interested in what any authority figure says or does.
Wait a minute.
The very first poem I wrote on my own initiative (not for a school assignment) happened at school, in 8th grade. (I’ve been remembering this incident for a week now, but hadn’t realized it was connected to the Stanford thing.)
7th and 8th grade were pretty horrible, including getting tormented and bullied by my science teacher (and having my parents take his side, because “he’s an authority figure, so obviously he’s right – duh!”). Even though science was my favorite class, and I got A’s on all the tests and projects, because I wouldn’t take Mr. Geary’s ridiculous daily busywork seriously, I was in constant danger of failing every quarter. He graciously granted me a C- the last quarter of 8th grade, which allowed me to graduate with my class. Miserable bastard.
Anyway, the poetry incident was much, much worse.
It was the worst thing that had ever happened to me. I was so traumatized, in fact, that I didn’t write another poem of my own initiative until 2011, more than 30 years later.
I never told my parents about this incident because I couldn’t bear to hear another round of, “well, if the teacher thinks you did something wrong, then obviously, you were at fault! So we’ll punish you beyond what she did, because you surely deserve it!”
I had an epiphany a week or so ago, thinking about this long-ago event.
The worst part of it was that, because it was my first poem, and because Miss Doolin forced me to destroy the only copy of it, I felt that she’d destroyed my identity as a poet along with the piece of paper.
She didn’t just dislike my poem, she told me it was trash, and filthy, and that I was depraved for writing it. She (apparently) considered trying to get me expelled for writing it. I had to apologize to her, profusely no less, to keep her from telling my parents. (Which I knew would make getting expelled the least of my problems.)
My poem wasn’t any of those things. I thought it was wonderful, and had actually expected her to praise it. Even though she wasn’t very old in age, she was a spinster who seemed to have been born old-fashioned. She was utterly without imagination or humor, and maybe she just didn’t like poetry, or had never read much of it. I don’t know. I don’t care.
Teachers shouldn’t be allowed to terrorize their students. And parents shouldn’t back them up neither.
But anyway. If my very first poem (which was probably innocuous and not very good) garnered such a drastic reaction from an authority figure, maybe I should refrain from trying to write any new poems, in case they incited a riot!
Maybe this incident is why I practically break out in a cold sweat even trying to imagine having a poetry mentor.
With the Stegner, I’d be getting feedback on my poems from an instructor every week.
If a poetry writing class is offered at The Writer’s Center next year, I’m going to take it. Getting feedback from a teacher and a class — all of whom love poetry — seems like it would have to be a completely different sort of experience than what happened to me previously.
And, since 2011, I’ve written more than 30 poems, so no one can take that aspect of my identity away from me.
(Now it’s 4:30 a.m., and I really must go to bed.)
Last night I dreamed I was visiting (friend) L at her home on a small rural island in Puget Sound. For some reason I no longer recall, I left that island alone for the mainland. When I tried to return, though, instead of the country road and small bridge back, I could find only a 6-lane highway, leading directly to a major metropolitan area. I caught a ride from a family in their car, who took me to a large communal area. We were conversing in a friendly way, while eating, when L wandered into view. I felt compelled to go with her, even though I don’t think she’d been looking for me, and her manner is rather abrupt. I was half-sorry to leave these friendly people I’d just met.
The dream feels significant, so I’ve been pondering it for several hours, but I’m still bemused.
I have a real friend L — she lives in New Mexico.
I’ve been thinking about Puget Sound for the last year because it’s a large estuary. But I’ve never been to the Pacific Northwest.
I like how isolated L’s house was. I liked feeling surrounded by water. There may have been a marsh nearby. That description reminds me of a B&B I found on the Internet — it too is quiet & isolated, on an island or peninsula, with a marsh nearby. But it’s located in Chesapeake Bay.
Both this B&B (because of its connection to Chesapeake Bay), and the idea of staying somewhere in Puget Sound, were elements of the project I proposed for my grant application a year ago.
I was never in any danger of receiving that money. So why now?
I have a new book on grant writing for artists and writers that I began reading, but stopped. Then I recommended it to everyone in the writing seminar I took last weekend. I don’t want to resume reading it until I have some idea of what kind of project a poet might propose to work on during an artist’s/writer’s residency.
Hedgebrook is located in Puget Sound, on an island (Whidbey). But applications for their writers’ residencies are only open June–September. This past September, I was nowhere near ready to apply to a residency.
Two nights ago, Spouse and I went out to dinner, and I talked to him about how there are several topics that I feel compelled to write about. I first added them into my notebook of Topics to Write About two years ago. I have not yet written about them because I’m feeling a lot of internal resistance — “who cares what you think?” “What of interest do your opinions add to the world?” “Who will even read what you write? So why bother?”
I was hoping for encouragement, but instead he told me perhaps I shouldn’t write about them.
It’s a sign of the progress I’ve made that I dismissed that absurd idea out of hand. Unfortunately I also shut down emotionally. That conversation was so stressful that it consumed all the calories from dinner before I even finished eating it.
I seriously considered applying for a Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford this year, even though I don’t feel remotely ready to tackle such a complicated opportunity.
I’m afraid I’m not good enough to qualify for things I want to do.
I’m afraid that my voice doesn’t matter, that no one will want to read what I write.
I’m afraid that I’m not worthy of any opportunity that other people covet.
Why would anyone enjoy talking to me? Why would anyone care what I want to work on?
Why would anyone help me?
Foundations award grants, and institutions award residencies, to people whose work will benefit a community.
I don’t really understand “community” — I’ve felt excluded (or ignored) much more often than I’ve felt welcomed.
Or, the communities that I feel entwined with . . . are mostly nonhuman. My watershed. My habitat. My nearest neighbors. If I find a project that benefits them, somehow, will a human organization care about that? How tangible can be the benefits I might provide? I don’t know.
Water calls me. And I want to answer. How can I do that?
All cold, waiting to enter
(at least) 1 strawberry blonde
(at least) 2 wearing glasses
(at least) 6 bloggers
ballet shoes with striped socks
brown leather and tan suede
dark red boots
fender bender & ferocious outburst
grey swing coat
Interim ~ high-ceilinged lobby, sitting on floor, voices echoing ~
kits of knitting
long braids in updo
name syllables: 10 of 2, 4 of 3
off-white Aran sweater
preschool lice, long ago
puffy pink parka
Unheated eventual classroom
will she? won’t she? columnist in India
2 drinking Starbucks coffee in red holiday cups
3 long patterned scarves – orange, ivory, blue
4 would-be editors
6 unusual appellations
. . . who might meet again? ◊ ◊ ◊
Since I’ve been spending so much time on the website of my local public library lately - I’ve recently discovered InterLibrary Loan – I keep seeing the photograph of a performer for children who will be visiting various branches this month. He appears with his rabbit, who has an extravagantly whimsical name.
The first 5 times I saw this man, I cringed. When I finally noticed I was doing it, I delved into the underlying issue, which turns out to be . . . the expression on his face is joyous and open.
Joy and openness — on your face, unmasked! — is a clarion call to predators and mean people that you’re vulnerable, sensitive.
In my experience, joy & openness are even more enticing (to predators & mean people) than appearing already hurt or injured. Because if they’re sadists, they will revel in destroying your happiness.
This guy’s expression also implies hope to me. And that’s what really made me cringe.
I don’t recall seeing joy or openness on the faces of almost anyone when I was growing up. But I do remember seeing hope. And then seeing it crushed.
I cringed in fear of that happening to this man, just as, for 40+ years, I’ve cringed whenever I’ve seen someone looking obviously, radiantly hopeful.
I almost want to grab them by the arm, and urgently whisper, “Don’t you know what’s going to happen to you? I love that you can still feel hope & joy, but you have to hide them, immediately! Bad things are coming your way as soon as They see you!”
But then I don’t do that, because maybe in their lives, they’re safe from such things.
The person whom I remember seeing emotionally devastated over and over was my father. By his father.
My father never learned to hide the hope on his face, that — just once — his father might say something loving or kind or tender. Or perhaps just recount a memory that my father was actually in. But no. My grandfather instead talked about people long dead, back in the old country. People whose company my grandfather preferred to my father’s, even though my father was there that day, and those people weren’t.
Now that I’m back on LinkedIn, occasionally my father’s photo cycles through the section of “People You Might Know”. I like the photo and I did recognize I like it because he looks vulnerable. He looks like he could be tender. He looks . . . hopeful.
I think it’s because either his eyebrows are white, or just really sparse, so somehow his face looks like he had just received a pleasant surprise when the camera shutter snapped.
He looks like a man who could, possibly, enjoy seeing a performer do tricks with a rabbit. Say, if he was there with a grandchild, or grandniece or -nephew in tow. Someone to provide legitimacy. That sounds kinda cold, but my father never seemed to viscerally understand the appeal of pets. He’s not touchy-feely.
I’ve begun smiling back at the photograph of the man with the rabbit. Sharing his delight. I’m considering attending one of the shows at the library myself.
Just typing that out, though, I feel tears, and fear. What if parents of children there are mean to me? What if the kids themselves are mean to me?
There are precedents. Lots of them.
Is it possible that I could re-live a traumatic childhood experience, and have it turn out differently?
The library event with the reptiles last year was different in kind, not just in degree, because reptiles are not . . . cuddly. They’re not “cute” in the normal sense of the term. Lots of adults are scared or repelled by them, so 47-year old me (or 5-year old me) liking reptiles and very obviously not being scared or repelled by them meant that any disapproval that adults in the audience might have felt for me, didn’t bother me at all. We were equals, in a certain sense.
But a rabbit is a totally different thing. Rabbits are sweet, and cute, and cuddly. They have to be treated gently. Their fur invites petting. And girls like rabbits.
Does that mean I’m a girl again? Because that word itself opens a can of worms I’d like to leave in the past, if at all possible.
When girl enters the scene, we’re not dealing with small-time mean people like Mrs. Nocerino. Oh no, the big guns come out, and it’s my mother’s father, and my mother, and my father and my godfather and my other uncles and every other person who crushed my spirit. While telling me it was my own fault, because “everyone knows that girls are worthless and stupid!”
It’s not like me being a boy would’ve been any less painful.
There was no way to be me and also be (even minimally) acceptable.
I want to see that rabbit show. I want to be a little kid that likes cuddly pretty creatures, and that’s okay.
Maybe that’s more than enough to start with.
I’m nearing a threshold of development as an artist. It’s not quite an undertow, but it feels like . . . if I can let go of trying to direct my flow, I could ~ almost ~ be carried effortlessly over the weir.
The tricky parts are that (1) I still have to actively seek out new experiences; (2) I’m yearning towards certain things, but I don’t know why, so I don’t know which parts of them are actually essential. In other words, can I make substitutions? And, (3) I dimly sense this larger meta- project entangles me in the fate of the world — something I welcome — but I cannot perceive how.
How can focusing on myself / selves aid anyone but me?
Mrs. Nocerino* would say, “You’re being ridiculously self-indulgent! How dare you put yourself first, you miserable ingrate! Who do you think you are?!? You don’t matter! You are utterly irrelevant! You are a miserable loser, so no wonder nobody likes you! Try helping other people, and maybe — maybe! — you can earn your keep. Don’t think I won’t toss you into the street anyway, missy! You’ll probably screw this up, just like everything else (you’ve tried to do to please me)!”
Once upon a time, I loved my mother. Now I’m not entirely sure what I feel for my mother — certainly compassion, but I don’t think love. Mrs. Nocerino, though [the real person, not my introject], I barely even met. I never had a personal relationship with her. Why would I want to develop a relationship with someone who terrorized my mother when she was a child?
And yet . . . clearly Mrs. Nocerino’s “voice” remains a force in my life. The real person, a contemporary of my mother’s mother (who died 15 years ago) has to be long dead.
Parts of me want to obstruct my progress towards the weir. Want me to squander all my emotional energy (like I do in dreams featuring my mother and my sister) “kicking and screaming” — they are perfect distractions every. single. time.
I think I’m distracting myself right now. This is not at all what I intended to write about.
Let me start over.
As usual, I don’t really have words for what I want say, but . . . My environment, which could be characterized as “landscape” or “habitat” or “watershed”, which makes it sound inanimate, while it’s really teeming with zillions of nonhuman lives, influences my life both collectively and individually. These people are arguably the most important characters in my life. They are rarely far from my thoughts.
At least 90% of the photos I take feature them, not humans (Spouse comprises the majority of that last 10%). I spend more time with them than I spend with Spouse. They spark ideas that would never arise with other human beings.
I love them, and I need them.
But I also . . . need to travel, and meet other “landscapes”, “habitats”, and “watersheds”, and their denizens.
When I remain consistently where I know what to expect, more or less, well, that’s a problem for a lot of reasons. Too much stability weirds me out — I grew up in chaos. I need toothy issues to grapple with. I need to explore new places so I can discover things I would’ve never thought of.
Being away from what’s familiar provides contrast. Which often sparks insight.
Testing my boundaries helps me find weak spots, as well as directions I want to grow into. I boldly venture into the unknown, and get burned. But I learn, so it’s worth it.
When I stay home too much, my learning stays small. My challenge muscles atrophy with disuse. I get depressed. I fall into despair. I feel worthless.
AROHO woke me up from hibernation. But with this particular threshold just beyond my line of sight, I’m not a bear emerging from its den into spring —I’m Rip Van Winkle — the whole world is new and utterly strange.
What do I do now?
*my mother’s introject, that I inherited from her
Now that I’ve been on a writer’s retreat, I can extrapolate to imagining myself at a writer’s or artist’s residency. Since feeding myself is a problem pretty much every day, I’d prefer something where meals are provided — so I could just concentrate on my work.
I’ve been looking into several of the well-known writers’ residencies. I really really want to do one, but I also don’t think I’m ready yet.
I’m not one of those people who never thinks they are ready. In fact, I’m more likely to jump in feet first, when I feel somewhere between 40% and 70% ready.
But right now? I think I’m about 20% ready. And that’s too big of a jump.
It’s also a consideration that, for the well-known programs, they want you to supply references from people who know your work. I haven’t been able to come up with anyone who fits that description.
Two weeks ago I took a workshop on writing characters. I didn’t really get much out of how the teacher approached the subject, possibly because she’s a fiction writer, and is therefore not completely constrained by reality.
However, I had interesting interchanges with 4 people in the class. I stayed late talking to one of them, partially about an idea that popped up almost fully formed in my mind as she was talking during class.
I should know from experience by now that when that happens, I need to pause, and not commit myself to anything right away. Because when I’ve committed myself immediately, my initial idea always always turns out to be ill-formed, with unfortunate implications. Sometimes extricating myself from a poorly-thought-out commitment has required burning bridges I would’ve preferred to keep intact.
The good news is that I was able to synthesize on the spot a bunch of interests and what I think I could do with them. Feeling that happen in real time was really cool.
Those interests and ideas partially play into things I want to do at a residency.
As I was talking to her, though, I said something and I could feel a click, that I knew meant I had just talked her out of what I was trying to talk her into. But feeling that happen in real time — and knowing what it meant — was also pretty cool. Even though I knew it meant I would never actually hear back from her. And I haven’t. (That’s okay.)
= + =
The fourth person became the only connection that persisted beyond our class. We have PTSD in common, but she’s still mired in it, while I have healed from my trauma-onset portion. She was heartened to know this was possible. We changed contact information, and she emailed me that same day.
This was the first time I’d ever known, going into a new relationship, that I have a tendency to get entangled with people (especially people who seem to need my help) . . . so I was mindful of my boundaries and hers.
We both were.
We excitedly talked about starting a writing group, to work through our memoir-ish pieces. Even though she wasn’t actually writing yet. I suggested she look at my blog posts on my own family of origin issues; I sent links to particular posts I thought were relevant.
There were things I did not want to say over email, and I did not want her to tell me over email, so I suggested we write letters to each other, assuring those particularly-sensitive communications stayed private. I asked her to write to me first, because I have a P.O. Box, so my street address wasn’t going to be bouncing all over the Internet.
I was looking forward to finding out whatever experiences she had had that led to her PTSD — did we have specifics in common? Or not? How had she dealt with specific issues I already knew about?
Her first letter arrived two days ago, and it was a revelation, but not in a good way.
I’d originally planned to write back right away, and return to the post office, to send back my response the same day. Except that I gradually realized, as I was doing other things (but the letter was on my mind), that I was really angry about it. Even though I didn’t know how to respond in a constructive way, I did know that . . . not only were we not on the same page, we weren’t even in the same book. This relationship was not going to go anywhere I wanted to go: I’ve already dealt with the inevitable train wreck 101 earlier times.
In fact, this situation greatly resembled a different situation that had happened to me recently, also centered around writing, where I realized that I was taking what I thought would be a master class but all my classmates were (apparently) taking a completely different class, at a different level.
In this letter I received two days ago, I learned a lot of facts about people that I will never meet. But I didn’t learn anything about why anything happened. I learned no emotional truths. There was no insight. There was no indication the letter writer was even looking for insight. Nothing was really about her own life. And then there was an entry for an exquisite corpse that I was invited to add to. It seemed a thinly veiled autobiographical sketch . . . that potentially revealed more than the previous 4 pages of non-fiction.
I find myself thinking again of a conversation with Siderea and others a year ago.
The universe keeps presenting me with situations where I could reflexively agree to help other people with something they don’t even know they want to do. I could talk them into it!
In fact, the incident two weeks ago (the person I felt the in-conversation click with), was another one of those situations! Luckily for me, I inadvertently talked her out of it! Oh crap.
I do not want to help other people with their problems.
I do not want to be a healer. Or a counselor. Or — and it hurts to say this — a developmental editor.
I want — I need — to prioritize my selves. What do we want? How can we get that? What can we do with what we get?
And only then do I need to (perhaps) consider how that might add value to the rest of the world.
I am done with finding other people who can distract me from concentrating on my selves.
+ = +
Three weeks ago, completely unconnected to the writing class, I’d been in contact with someone I knew from somewhere else. We were supposed to get together in November. Two days ago, I got an email from her about her schedule this month. She also answered a lot of questions I had asked her. And I realized, reading those answers, she probably really needs a friend, or at least someone to vent to, someone who will hold her hand, and reassure her about everything she’s doing.
Not only can I not be that person (because we don’t actually agree on almost anything), but I don’t want to.
So I told her things had changed for me, and I no longer felt it was a good idea to meet up.
Yesterday I desperately wanted to go . . . somewhere. Mostly to explore a place I ready knew and loved, or a new place. I knew exactly the kind of place I needed — something like Broad Ripple, in Indianapolis. Which unfortunately is 600 miles away. We’ve lived in Maryland for 5 years, and have found no equivalent to Broad Ripple.
Frederick, Maryland has some similarities to it. So does Annapolis. But on days like yesterday, I want to be able to hop in the car and drive 30 miles or less. Frederick is about 60 miles west; Annapolis, 60 miles southeast.
When I lived in Chicagoland when I was single, if I knew I had a day off coming up, I could plan to go to downtown Chicago for the day. It wasn’t something I could do on the spur of the moment, because I’d be taking the train. And since I didn’t have a car, it would take some planning to get to the train station. There were times I had walked to the train station, but it was about 3 miles, so that wasn’t my first choice. When Spouse & I lived in Chicagoland, I could drive to Geneva.
I need somewhere I can go for inspiration and renewal. I also need trips to look forward to, both short and long. And I need (at least some of) those trips to be solitary.
I have to be free to explore whatever takes my fancy.
So, I came up with the idea of an impromptu writing weekend at a place near enough that I could either take a train or drive. Plenty of things to do. Right on a river, and apparently scenic. Some place I’ve never been, but in a state I love. A place that Spouse has never expressed any interest in. Neither of us know anyone there. Not too expensive.
I looked into all of it. I could get a train. There are B&Bs. There’s hiking nearby (the Appalachian Trail, in fact).
I talked to Spouse about it last night at dinner. Mostly to make sure we didn’t have informal plans that weekend. I wasn’t asking for permission, and I wasn’t sure how he would react. He was supportive and encouraging.
Later that evening I realized going on this particular weekend no longer seemed urgent. Almost as if going through the process of finding a place, working out the logistics, and then presenting it to someone else as thing I was going to do . . . was a lesson in itself. Was homework maybe. Setting the stage for a future run.
Doesn’t hurt that it also saved me $500.
In the last few months, I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on about how to write effectively, and how to write poetry.
Rather abruptly yesterday, I realized that . . . research stage . . . has ended.
Now it’s time to write. Prose and poetry both.
Now it’s time to seek my own counsel, follow my own intuition about what I need to be doing.
Now it’s time to discover who I am. Co-create my selves, with help from our habitats.
Lately I’ve been realizing all over again that I was really quite a solitary child. There were neighborhood children in both of the places I lived whose play I occasionally joined, but that was usually for a large endeavor like 10 kids playing Capture the Flag, or Kick the Can.
One-on-one, I didn’t really understand other kids. I didn’t really feel like I was a kid.
I remember peering at my face in the gold-patterned mirrored tiles in the bathroom of our old house, looking for visible signs of the great weariness and despair I felt on a daily basis. I thought I should resemble someone who was 90 or 100, given all the outsized cares I had to deal with. Instead, I just looked like what I was — a sad and careworn 10 year old.
The only ‘natural’ area close by our old house was an empty lot everyone called The Triangle because of its shape. There was a gravel path across the base, and a few shrubs between that path and my parents’ lot line, but the rest of the lot was overgrown only with crabgrass, dandelions, chicory, Queen Anne’s lace, and other wildflowers that flourish in disturbed areas. I spent more time there when I was outside than anywhere else. I’d crouch in the thicket of the bushes, and pretend it was my den, that I was a small mammal. I’d watch bugs, and birds. See if I could get still enough that they would forget I was there. Walking around, I’d play with rocks. I’d pick flowers. I would talk to anyone, all non-humans; unlike humans, they didn’t walk away. They didn’t call me mean names. They didn’t make fun of me.
During my fifth grade year, our family moved to a different town. The neighborhood behind my parents’ neighborhood was mostly empty lots — that were still forested. They became my new escape. If I went far enough into this forest, eventually I reached the DuPage River.
I was truly myself in the forest, in the river, on the island.
I never felt that way in my parents’ homes . . . unless I was immersed in a book. I loved reading because it was a way to escape, even when I was surrounded by people. And unlike playing by myself for hours in the forest or in the river, reading seemed like a perfectly safe activity. So, up to a point, my mother encouraged me to read. Not only was reading good for your mind, but it helped you with school (in theory anyway).
Reading as much as I did — not just the sheer number of books, but their wide ranging topics (my parents never paid any attention to what I read, so nothing was censored) — showed me that the world was wide, and filled with an astonishing variety of people, places, and ways to do things that in no way resembled what I saw around me. So when the teachers at my parochial school insisted that we children had to do what they said because it was the way of the world, and it had always been thus, . . . I knew that wasn’t true. I wasn’t sure they knew it. They didn’t appreciate my efforts to educate them.
I rarely had anything in common with children my own age. I often tried to make friends with the friends of my younger siblings; mostly that didn’t work.
I never would’ve thought of trying to ‘make friends’ with teachers, but it sure would’ve been nice if there had ever been a teacher who noticed what a hard time I was having, and tried to help. But there wasn’t. Most of the teachers were either bullies as bad as the kids, or just indifferent. I was bullied right in front of my teachers and they deliberately looked the other way, and did nothing.
It was worse at home of course. At least at school, it wasn’t personal. I was just another freak who was an easy target because I had no idea how to defend myself. But where would I have learned?
It was easier, infinitely easier, to just sleep as much as I could. Daydream. And read books.
I estimate that by the time I was 25, I had read 10,000 books. Many of them were YA or books for kids, but many of them weren’t.
I have to be careful about how candid I am with other adults, even those who read a lot. Generally other adults have full-time jobs, so the time available for reading is limited. They have families, hobbies; they watch TV.
I think it was at AROHO over the summer when I had a conversation with someone who said they love to read, read a lot, and were keeping a list of which books they read. I kept quiet, waiting to hear how many books they were talking about. Rightfully so, as it turned out to be around 100 books a year. Which is slightly <2 books per week. It would never occur to me that reading 100 books per year could be remotely interesting to anyone else. However, when I told Spouse about this conversation, he reminded me that he usually reads around 10 books a year.
I’ve been tracking the books I read with LibraryThing. Since sometime in 2010, I’ve read all the way through >1,100 books. 2012 was my highest year, at 387; this year I’m not even close to 300.
I should perhaps mention that when I was in junior high (now middle school), our school offered a course in speed reading. Since I already read faster than anyone I knew, I tried to opt out, but they said it was mandatory. Once I had completed the course, I read even faster, but with greater comprehension. In high school, I was again required to take a speed reading course, despite my protests that it was unnecessary. I again improved, increasing my reading speed further and somewhat raising my comprehension so that it approached 100%.
Yesterday I attended an environmental talk in Frederick. Some of the slides had humorous captions, and I laughed way before everyone else.
I also enjoy thinking more than anyone I know. I really enjoy deep thinking, which doesn’t seem to be an activity that anyone I know does, at all. I know other people do it, because I’ve read their books. Hopefully someday I will also write books.
Not sure anyone will want to read them.
As I’ve mentioned before, Spouse used to, at least occasionally, read my blog, but he stopped because, he said, he often didn’t know what I was talking about. Back when I was part of the communities of (old) Slacktivist and then (new) Slacktiverse (2009–2012), I regularly had spikes of readers here of 50, 60, sometimes even 200 a day. When I left those forums, though, all those readers disappeared. Now I’m lucky if I have 3 readers a day.
So I guess it’s kind of ironic that I started blogging as a way to converse with . . . someone who was interested in what I had to say. I imagine that ‘person’ as the Universe, as if the Universe could be considered an entity who is just really interested in everything going on within itself, from teeny tiny scale of quarks, or cells, to immense scale of solar systems and galaxies. If their gaze encompasses all, wonders about all, surely they might be an engaging conversational partner? Occasionally I even get signs (synchronicities) that they seem to be trying to help.
Before I blogged, my memories and feelings and thoughts about everything under the sun were all clumped together, like a hairball clogging a drain. I didn’t really know what I remembered, what I felt, or what I thought. Blogging has been a way to sort out the fibers from the detritus. To realize that sometimes ‘detritus’ tells me much more that’s useful than ‘fibers’.
One of the things I prize most in a conversation is flashes of insight. The other person telling me something truly compelling that I had never noticed or did not realize. When I first met Spouse, we had conversations like that with some frequency. We still do, every once in a while. I’ve had other smart and/or thoughtful friends who cared enough about me to tell me things like that. Because you have to know the other person pretty well before it’s likely to be a useful insight. (I hope I’ve been able to provide occasional insights for them too.)
Overall, though, conversations with friends tend to consist of everyday kinds of concerns, with insights being rare occurrences. I also think other people don’t value insights nearly as much as I do.
But when I blog, and I’m conversing not just with the Universe, but with my own selves (known and unknown), if we want to pursue insights single-mindedly, we can. If we want to painstakingly revisit Trauma Incident Q for the 8,019th time, we can. If one day we’re in a fey mood, and as a lark we revisit a particular day that was terrifying in some ways . . . but for the first time we realize we also felt exhilarated and sort of hopeful . . . we can feel that, all these years later. We can write about it. And afterward, some things shift inside us, granting us a fuller understanding of who we really are. Not just the patient martyr, not just the terrified child, . . . but someone —even amidst the end of the world — reckless, exuberant, willing to grab the brass ring of that moment with both hands (and teeth, if necessary) rather than not find out what we’re capable of.
People who know me, who know my stories, who at least know of the other people involved in my traumas, tend to prefer certain identities for me. Like the patient martyr, the terrified child, etc. My complexity makes them nervous. It made me nervous for years; that’s why those feelings and memories were suppressed. They were dangerous — they might topple the world as I understood it. And they sort of did, but not the way I feared.
Walt Whitman wrote, “I am large — I contain multitudes.” (Or something like that.) It’s true. I’m stronger and more interesting and more complicated than I ever could’ve guessed before I started blogging. I’m always surprising myself. Even when I’m unsettled by revelations, I would still say I’m surprised In A Good Way, because I learned. No one else (but, perhaps, the Universe) finds me endlessly fascinating to the same degree that I do. If I spoke with a human friend about myself as often as I blog about myself, our friendship would wither away. They would call me selfish, self-absorbed, thoughtless, and they’d be right. It’s not sustainable with other human beings. But I still need to do it. Blogging makes it possible to meet that need.
And then if those human friends are (occasionally) interested, they can read about it, or not. They don’t ever have to mention to me that they read it, unless they want to engage for some reason: clarify something; suggest something.
Blogging helps me put myself first. For as long as I need to. Whenever I need to.
Blogging just may be the best friend I’ve ever had.
And that’s why I write.