(today I participated in a workshop through Off Campus Writers Workshop and there were some brilliant grief prompts presented by Chen Chen, who served as instructor/moderator. Here is what came out)
Dear ambitious scholar,
Grief is my dog’s collar tucked away in a box, high on the shelf in my closet.
My favorite shirt, the chambray button-down from that classic secondhand store, is fading away. I found two more holes this morning, one of which was hiding in plain sight near my elbow. It won’t be long now. I used to think it would crush me to lose this shirt- not the jewelry in velvet boxes or the designer trenchcoat- but this, this faded, tattered shirt with the heart-shaped pocket. It’s lesser now, the crush of it all.
I have been furious with my writing lately. It’s never been easier or harder. I’m writing everything: poems, fiction, nonfiction, and sex. Yes, sex writing was a whole class. The hours are long in the writing chair, in front of the writing screen.
All this writing has allowed me to manifest though. To bring out the grief without yelling at my kids or pulling at my hair. I continue to tread water in an angry sea. Yet I force the handholding of language and grief. Say it out loud or it doesn’t count.
What am I to do next and how can I do all of it? Everything within me is desperate to come out. How do I know the way? How do I know the path without directions?
Ambitious scholar, take notes and take your time. You will get there. You will get there.
The new year has rolled out and the rollercoaster has begun. In just the first half of January, there have been dramatic shifts and prods within social media, government, law enforcement, D.E.I., journalism, and more. Brad Montague touched upon the enormity of this time as ‘toomuchery.’ The world keeps changing, the world keeps staying the same. Routine mixed with chaos, stirred with uncertainty. What happens when our very democracy is under violent attack and my child approaches me and asks for help with homework? He’s working on calculating area. Length x width.
The other day I impulse bought a set of clearance rack barrettes from Target. As if that would help anything. As if it would lessen the anxiety. But they sparkle on Zoom. They shimmer under the light of our dinner table. They help hide that awkward hair length I’m at- the growing-out-phase. But really, there is no help for moving through uncertainty. Sparkle is merely a distraction.
Family continues with distance and technology, and the occasional freezing cold walk at a forest preserve.
Our dog, Putter, continues to burrow on our laps and spread the warmth wherever she goes. In the ever-chill of a midwestern winter, I don’t really mind it. I’m just not always ready when I’m sitting down with coffee and a furry bundle leaps into my startled lap.
On Tuesday, Fitz cracked open an Ina Garten cookbook and made the fanciest comfort food he could find: lobster BLTs. They were sensational. A hall-of-fame kind of sandwich.
Clean, purge, donate. Every year this happens. The doling out of holiday decor, the sweeping removal of it, and my insistence at stripping things down, down, down to necessity. In a world of no control, I have to stop myself from pacing or organizing. In doing so, Fitz dug through office drawers and uncovered a treasure among relics (a rolodex! ancient biz cards!). Before the world changed and tilted, he had purchased a pair of earrings on Etsy for me. My initials. The two letters that have been singular in my identity for so long. A really lovely, thoughtful gift. It reminded me of that moment in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Clark is in the attic, attempting to discreetly hide presents…until he uncovers a dusty Mother’s Day gift from 1984. Oops.
I picked a helluva time to start school again but the program was just too good and the Instagram ad hit at the right time. Despite the chaos of schedule, I have really enjoyed eCornell. I’m studying Diversity & Inclusion.
Every day is still fresh. Every opportunity is still present. Yes, this year has already been too much, but many days lay ahead. Many days lay ahead. Start me up.
There is a saying in yoga that you can always go further. Master a pose? Now try it while shifting the gaze or taking a bind (think arm wrap or twist). There is always a way to challenge yourself and go deeper into the practice. To be a student of yoga is to be committed to continued learning.
It surprises people when I share that sometimes the hardest part of a pose is the breath, the direction of my eyes, or the ability to move into balance. This morning’s yoga Zoom focused on Wild Thing, a heart-opening pose. The cue for going further was lifting the foot off the floor. In a photo, this probably doesn’t seem like a monumental change, but it requires way more focus to hold (and some muscle shaking).
A few attempts were made on this pose as I moved through the sequence, but don’t worry, there are some good outtakes in which I fell over. The failure is part of the process, too.
As you move through your day, and the weekend, carry the mantra within and apply it wherever it is needed: go further.
“Ugh…it’s my brother’s house. He’ll take care of it.”
It’s that time of year when holiday movies are on heavy rotation, and up there with the absolute best of them is Home Alone (save me a slice plain cheese).
Last night I watched the Christmas classic and was reminded of a line of dialogue that nearly slips by undetected. Now, I had viewed this flick hundreds of times since childhood. I have the score on my playlist, the locations imprinted in my brain, the witty one-liners memorized. So this quiet little line took me by surprise. Also? It’s pretty damn funny.
The scene: a busy kitchen. Family eating. Pizza guy waiting on payment. Someone pipes up for Uncle Frank to contribute.
“Travelers checks!” he protests, mouth full of pizza.
THAT’S WHEN IT HAPPENS.
Mr. McAllister, under his breath, mutters, “Something tells me you’ll have the kind of Travelers Checks that don’t work in France.”
2. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid. Ms. Reid was just nominated for the 2020 Booker Prize. I read her book back in March and was WOWed by it (trust when I say it lives up to the hype). A cousin just called me up out of the blue and said, “You read ‘Such a Fun Age’ right?” We then proceeded to talk excitedly for the next hour. Mini book club via phone!
4. Tennis. Yup, I’m branching out of my comfort zone and taking lessons. This meant I had to add a few tennis outfits to my wardrobe (I had none. NONE). I really enjoy Prince, a house brand of Dicks Sporting Goods, particularly this top and this tennis skirt.
5. Folklore by Taylor Swift. My head and heart are spinning with this album. It’s the morose, ethereal soundtrack of 2020. I am crushed by the beauty of ‘My tears ricochet’ and ‘Exile,’ but ‘The Last Great American Dynasty’ is fantastically fun because the singer enters the narrative when you least expect it.
Wow, masks are uncomfortable. The first time I put one on, I had to resist the urge to rip it off my face. It was stifling, itchy, and awkward. Is it possible for a nose to sweat?! All of this and yet I only wore it for a brief few minutes, to pick up a curbside, no-touch dinner at Guildhall, one of our fave local restaurants.