Home

Happy Bloomsday!

June 16, 2014

Happy Bloomsday!

To commemorate the day, here’s something I wrote a few months ago for a series on Tumblr called “…Is My Thing,”

The “…Is My Thing” series asks people to write guest posts about the book that was the starting point, or the source of their field of interest within literature.

For mine, I chose… you guessed it, Ulysses.

Hope you enjoy!

I’ve been pretty down on myself lately. In case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t really been following up on my resolution to post fiction, non-fiction and poetry based on weekly writing prompts. That’s no one’s fault by my own. I’ve got writing prompts from weeks and months ago saved across multiple computers, email inboxes and USB drives. I return to them every now and again and—if I’m lucky—maybe add a sentence or two to each piece. If I let them go long enough with few enough paragraphs, I lose interest in where the piece was going, or forget the genius idea I had for it because I forgot to make note of it because didn’t have a pen on hand, or whatever. In the 21st Century Digital Age of iPhones and tablets and mind-to-walkman transmissions (that’s a thing, right?), I’m not even certain if that’s a viable excuse anymore. (EDIT: No, it’s not.)  In short, I’ve been coming up with more creative excuses to not read or write than creative words to pen on paper.

I recently read a wonderful post on Looking For Pemberley on writing even when you don’t feel like it by Miss E. And just a few minutes ago I read another excellent piece on continuing to write after your work has been rejected on The Rumpus. And I soaked in every word. “I get it…” I thought. “I sooo get it…” Especially in regards to Miss E’s post. I read it in the car on my iPhone, and just let the sentiment resonate with me. But what did I proactively DO after reading it? After reading it on this magical technological device where I can not only READ but also WRITE? Nothing. I did nothing. I thought about how true it was and how, no matter what, I must push through and write, but I only thought—I did not act.

I guess a big part of my problem is that I WANT to be writing. I want to be writing a lot, actually. I’m just NOT. I’m thinking A LOT but writing A LITTLE. And again, the only person to blame for that is myself. I’ve found myself in a rather strange predicament lately where I feel a bit unsettled and uncertain of some things in my life—nothing too earth-shattering, but enough to leave me feeling sufficiently… bummy. And I’ve been coming down pretty hard on myself and my place in the world because of that. My only resolution has been to do some things on my own accord—mainly get back to writing regularly. Finish pieces of prose I’ve been dying to finally cap off and edit. And read voraciously—finish the three books and zines I’ve started reading but can’t quite complete. Stop over-analyzing why I haven’t been able to finish them and just DO it instead.

Today after reading that wonderful post on the Rumpus, I decided to search in my backpack for my notebook instead of just numbing my mind with Facebook games (sorry, Disney’s City Girl!) and actually work on one of the six or seven pieces I’m “in the middle of.” And in my search, what do I find? Two notebooks, one novel and a Poets & Writers magazine. That’s not that bizarre, but it made me realize that I have the tools at my disposal, with me on my person, literally every day of the week. And what do I do? Let them sit in that dark knapsack waiting. Being unused. Adding weight to my back but very little else. I also found at least three different blue pens. Why so many? Because when I start writing something it bugs me if I start in one pen type/color and change to another. It also creates a good excuse for me to NOT write “Ugh, but I started this short story with a blue fountain pen—I can’t finish it with a black ballpoint!” (Again—creativity wasted on excuses and not on actual writing.) Well, I’ve got both blue and black fountain and ballpoint pens AND even some pencils on me right now, so that solves that tremendous dilemma.

What’s ironic is, now that my lunch break is winding down, I won’t have the actual time until after 5:00 PM to get back to writing with those utensils and those notebooks I found. But you know what? It’s ok. Because while it may seem like I instead decided to procrastinate by posting on here, I did it by writing. And that’s at least something. And hopefully a sign of good things to come.

Cheers, and keep those pens and pencils (or styluses and fingers!) working and your creative waters flowing.

As my last post stated, I was part of this awesome thing called The Worst! That the fine, fine author of Fine Fine Music, Cassie J. Sneider, put together. (For more information on that, well, check out my last post!) It was the first time I had ever done anything quite like it, and it was one of the coolest experiences in my life. I got to share the stage with some amazingly talented people and put myself out there in ways I hadn’t thought possible before. Of course, I was overly nervous, read to fast and stammered over most of my words, as to be expected, but I did it. And I couldn’t be happier with that. So, I thought I’d share the story I read for all of you fine, fine readers out there. Hope you enjoy, and don’t worry–I’m fully aware of how weird I am. So, without further ado, I present to you:

The Worst: Bad Habits a.k.a. The Worst New Millennium i.e. Puberty & Paranoia.

As an only child living in an apartment building devoid of any (normal) children my age, I was often left to my own devices to create entertainment. My building consisted mainly of older women, who I greatly enjoyed the company of, and actually preferred to any of the kids that lived nearby. There was only one girl around my age who lived in the next apartment over who I would occasionally play with. Her name was Nicole – at least that’s what we’ll call her for the sake of this story because I can’t recall her real name. I never really liked or trusted Nicole. My last straw was when we were at our complex’s park and she persuaded me to play on the tire swing with her. I, at the tender age of seven, had a love/hate relationship with the mythical tire swing. I appreciated the use of found items to create a fun, spinny ride. However, on the flip side, I was afraid of being stuck in one, forever slowly spinning until I would inevitably slide through the middle and drown in my own pool of tears.

So anyway, we’re in this tire swing and I asked her not to leave me alone in there. She rolled her eyes and told me she wouldn’t. The next thing I know, we’re spinning wildly with reckless abandon, when I notice her slip under my legs and through the hole in the middle. Once out, she laughed at me and ran off to undoubtedly cause more mischief on the monkey bars. I cried out to my grandmother for help, but she was unable to get away from Nicole’s mother, who was listing all of the health benefits of chain-smoking and her total adoration of Camel cigarettes (a list she was still exploring five minutes later when I finally, slowly wriggled myself out of the tire swing to safety.) If there’s one thing I will remember for the rest of my life about that woman, it was her penchant for chain-smoking, often blowing smoke in mine, her own children, and anyone she happened to be talking to’s faces. Also, I vividly remember her awesomely ‘80s Farah Fawcett meets Hulk Hogan winged mullet. And her love of windbreakers. Ok, so maybe I actually remember more about her than her daughter, but again, I had more exposure to adults than children at this point in time. But this isn’t about the worst childhood friends or neighbors; it’s about what happens when you isolate yourself in your own, private world. This tire swing incident was just the moment when I decided that the best company to keep was my own.

For the next few years, my time would usually be spent playing with Barbies, reading Cam Jansen novels, watching TV or doing chores with my grandmother. My favorite of the latter was laundry day. A trip to the Laundromat always felt like an adventure. On a summer day I’d marvel at the clothes spinning round and round, wishing I could be in there with them as if it were some kind of crazy water park ride. However, I hated the drying process. It took far too long for my liking and wasn’t nearly as fun to watch. So, while waiting for clothes to dry, I would occupy myself the way any kid my age would:  by fully immersing myself in every tabloid the Laundromat’s seated waiting area had to offer. Star and the National Enquirer were not only idle fodder to pass time with, but instead became required reading material. I mean, how could I NOT want to know about the Dixie Chicks Divorce Shocker?  Just waiting for laundry day wasn’t enough, I had to go out and buy them, too. But every time I reached for an issue of Star on the CVS magazine rack, I couldn’t help but notice the more eye-catching headlines staring back at me: “BAT BOY ON THE LOOSE!” “LIZARD HORROR” “GIANT CLAM KILLS WOMAN!” My mind yearned to know more. I picked up the Sun magazine and set out for answers.

It also happened to be a great time for the “suspend disbelief” tabloids (a phrase I did not yet understand), what with the year 2000 quickly approaching and all of the Y2K madness. Tabloid covers depicted various archaic prophecies, along with new-found Nostradamus warnings: “Year 2000 computer bug will turn machine against man!” “Hundreds of planes will fall out of the sky!” “Cars will stop dead in their tracks!” “Nuclear missiles will launch themselves!” Who cared about the everyday freaks and mutant animals when the end times were upon us? I couldn’t buy a pack of cherry pull & peel Twizzlers from the supermarket without being swarmed by images of the apocalypse. With even the regular news mentioning computer doom, I began to question whether or not I would ever live to see my 12th year. I decided it was time to get some answers, and maybe even find solace in something, and so I looked to the Bible. The Good Book itself. I opened up to an arbitrary page in the Book of Revelation and read:

“I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black sackcloth made of hair and the whole moon became like blood; and the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.”

I slammed the holy book shut and hid it behind our collection of Mark Twain books we had on display on our TV stand, above all the Disney and rom-com VHS tapes. Thoughts of every image of Armageddon ever depicted in those tabloids flooded my mind. What if they were right? Maybe that Nostradamus guy is on to something. It’s exactly like the Good Book says, the year 2000 will hit, all the computers of the world will reset back to the year 1900, and instead of blasting us back in time on a whirlwind adventure through history, the moon and stars will explode and the world will be set ablaze by earthquakes everywhere. Suddenly, nothing and nowhere felt safe to me anymore. I dreaded my 6th grade religion class, for fear the class would veer into the territory of discussing Judgment Day. I couldn’t enjoy a grilled cheese and bacon at the diner without thinking of the street outside splitting apart. A trip to the circus in the city was overshadowed by thoughts of buildings tumbling and elephants losing it and trampling everyone in their midst. Even when New Year’s Eve came and went without the world exploding all around us, I was still suddenly made aware of an inevitable end I had not ever thought of before. Not just the world’s end, but my own mortality as well; and so came the nights of sleeplessness and 3 AM panic attacks.

I started to think of ways my own body could betray me. I couldn’t understand the tickle in my throat that would cause me to dry heave and panic every night. Suddenly, I felt everything else going wrong with my body, too. I became worried that my blinking was not up to snuff, and so I’d over-blink to ensure that my eyelids were in fact still functional. In my manic, eye-fluttering bouts, I’d cause some of my longer eyelashes to fold in on themselves in the corner of my eye, which just led to yet more paranoia. What if all my eyelashes follow suit and I’m left an eyelash-less freak? I’d make the cover of Sun: “GIRL WITH NO EYELASHES TERRORIZES SUBURBAN NY CITY!” Other young, lonely, panic-stricken girls would follow my lead until we’d form some eyelash-lacking gang of miscreants, wreaking havoc all over Westchester County. Which might have actually been pretty cool, but highly improbable. No, I’d probably just be the weird girl in my class (even more so than I already was), staring longingly at everyone without any eye protection from dirt and debris, which would then just gather in my eyeballs until I’d eventually lose those, too.

So, to prevent any eyelash-related incidents from occurring, I’d find myself playing with my lashes, often resulting in pulling many out, to which I’d then wish upon for no end times in sight. And more eyelashes. And to maybe meet Matthew Lawrence (this was when he was more popular than Joey because of Boy Meets World and all). I’d then make my way up and pick at my eyebrows, too, because, why not? I became obsessed with the minute, utterly fascinated by hair and skin follicles. The eczema I’d developed between my fingers became a playground. I’d pick and chip away at the skin until my desk was covered with dead, white skin. Then, I’d move on to my head, picking away at my scalp, flooding my black top science class desk with a snowstorm of dandruff or dry skin. On a particularly balmy day, I’d have a cascade of both. Then, I’d press my finger over the scattered white pieces, clumping them all together, just to release them and see them fall upon the black again. I neither knew nor cared if people were looking. When I was doing it, it allowed me to spend a few minutes in my own dead-skin bubble; my own private snow globe of dandruff and dry skin.

As much care as I had of how everyone viewed me at every point in the day vanished. My brain was shut off to everything but my own obsession. The end of the world, war, why my crush refused to dance with me at the most recent birthday party at the Girl Scout cabin – I was numb to all of it for just those few moments of the day. The years following would throw at both myself and the world some hurdles that would have seemed impossible to get through before. But I did it. And as time went on, and I found myself entering my teenage years, as awkward as I still was, I found different ways to cope with intimidating situations. I would occupy my time with other people, and going different places and encountering those ever-dreaded high school problems that every teenager must face. And so, I started to slowly leave those little quirks behind. Interpersonal relationships, music, reading, writing…they all became better stress relievers for me. And even when some of those, namely the first, became stress-inducers, I still managed to avoid resorting to picking.

My skin started to heal even on the coldest or driest of days. I found myself looking for adventure and travel as opposed to dreading it. It wasn’t until junior year of high school when an emotionally disturbed new student with no eyebrows or eyelashes who was perpetually laughed at will only be there for a few months until she’s kicked out for threatening another student. And it won’t be until years later when I find out that those “habits” I had may have had more to them than I thought. A few months ago I watched an episode of a show on TLC called “Obsessed.” In this one particular episode, a girl nervously and obsessively picked out the roots of her hair until she was completely bald on one side of her head. In another, a woman feared earthquakes and death and would exhibit signs of paranoia every evening.  It’s not until this point that I realize that all of those compulsions I displayed could have in my later years classified me as having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  Sure, I’m probably trivializing the term in even stating this, but whether or not I had OCD, I definitely had fears inside me that I couldn’t outright tackle. I also realize that for many, these compulsions aren’t something that can just be “kicked” without professional help, especially in adults. And I’m also not saying that I’m completely devoid of any worry now, or that every time the news reminds us of war, violence, natural disasters, Lindsay Lohan or all of those signs of the end times that my stomach doesn’t sink even the tiniest bit. Nor am I saying that when I sit at my all-black desk at work I don’t have to fight the urge to flood it with white—but I have gotten better at repressing those urges. What I have realized, though, is that the world is always going to remind you of the worst. But it’s up to you to not let it get the best of you. There’s a life to be lived instead of just an end to be feared. I’ve also realized that as long as I have a good dandruff shampoo, a luscious-lash mascara and bottle of Cortizone, I’m going to be just fine. At least until December 20th of this year, then all bets are off.