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I can't believe I'm back. It has been such a long time and so much has gone on in between. I am always saying that I lead such a boring life, but when I say this I am talking about my outer life. Measured against others, my outer world is pretty quiet, but venture inside and chaos reigns. Really. And nobody would ever know by looking at me. Most people think I am quite serene. There has been a monumental shift in my inner landscape that has rendered me a stranger in a strange land. But I am not afraid.
I am not sure when I was here last. It must have been around December 2011, just after my mother died. I remember coming back on the ferry from Van. Island, from watching her slowly waste away, listening to the god-like Hawksley Workman and scribbling away for pages and pages, trying to sort through the mess of grief and anger. Travelling through active pass was so beautiful it took my breath away every time, whether a dark and early morning, or a stormy early evening. On deck, I was happy the wind drowned out the sound of my weeping.
Since then I have written more than in most of the rest of my life. Something unknowable had set me free, given me the permission to get back to the written word, the only thing that gave me the breath of life. It was like I had woken up from a sleep that lasted for many, many years. More like a hibernation. I don't know where I had been, but it was not inside my own body. It was like I vacated years ago, and I was just a shell walking around looking for something to fill in the space
I just started a book called "How should a person be". It has an interesting story, but I picked it up mainly because of the title, I found it so intriguing. I am struggling with that, as I am feeling like I am coming out of this (self-inflicted?) hibernation I have been in. I am not so sure that I know "how". I lived in other people's souls all this time because I didn't have one od my own, I followed their rules, their beliefs. And now suddenly, I am groping in the dark trying to discover my own.
Everything seems to be at a standstill right now. Don't get me wrong, I am moving, day turns into night as always without mercy, yet the scenery has not changed for much longer than I anticipated. Everyday I get up with the intention of seeing something new, maybe hanging upside down and looking at things from that perspective, but before I know it, the sun is setting over the "sleeping Indian" and again nothing has changed. Tomorrow I will wake up still as bewildered as I have always been, baffled by unanswerable questions that have plagued me for all time.
There is no way I can catch up tonight. I have been going non-stop since 5:30 am, and I can barely keep my eyes open, or write a coherent sentence. The words definitely are not flowing. I have been contemplating what it means to say you are a writer. I have never felt that I had the right to say this. I always thought I can't call myself a writer until I ahve published one thing. Well, that has happened, yet I still do not feel worthy. Why? Just general feelings of unworthiness? Or is it more complicated?
I am contemplating what to do next. Continue with the writing courses I have been taking at Writers Studio New York, or take a course that is called "Writing begins with the breath". This really appeals to me, but there is a little tiny voice inside me that says that this course is not about "serious" writing, it is about flakey writing, and I don't want anybody to think I'm a flake. I want people to take me seriously as a writer! When I read what I have just written, I am wondering where all this judgement is coming from...
I am writing a lot about myself right now, and I really want to stop it. It is sort of the lazy way of getting 100 words done. Blah, blah, blah, me, me. Who cares? Is anybody going to read these because they are on the edge of their seat wondering what I am going to do because I can't decide what writing course to take next? I doubt it. It is not riveting stuff. What I really need is to shut the fuck up about my whiney problems with low self esteem and just write something trashy or brilliant.
Taking writing courses has opened my eyes to an alarming, yet strangely comforting fact; the world is full of good writers. Chock full of good, even brilliant writers. Now, where this used to make me want to pack up my pencil case and hit the Scotch bottle, now it makes me feel strangely free. Yes, I just used the word strangely twice, and I'm going to use it again. The same kind of "strangely free" that I felt after each of my parents died. I know, strange eh? After the grief and anger clear, what a surprise to find freedom.
Last night I was up on my roof deck, BBQing chicken and enjoying nature's crazy cloud narrative. What a show. I thought I was up there all alone, as it was not a balmy evening. After sitting there for some time, I looked over and saw my neighbour on his deck, and he waved. I was so caught up, I had been staring at the clouds for more than half an hour. He was probably wondering, "what the hell is she looking at?". "It's all there",I would have told him, "all the anger,beauty and sorrow of the world".
I can't believe it is already 2 years since my mother died. And 10 years for my father. I wonder what they have been doing. That's the question isn't it. We don't want to believe that we're here, so vibrant and contankerous, and then we're just gone. It's not easy losing people, but now that I have been through it a few times, I am beginning to have a different attitude towards death. Of course it doesn't get easier, it just gets more familiar, I think the saying goes. I see the process as being so much more natural now.
I remember when I first wanted to start doing 100 words, I was so terrified. It was my first foray back into the world of writing after almost a lifelong hiatus. Not really, of course, but it felt like that. I actually thought I heard my joints creaking as I typed. I postponed the start a few months before I actually bit the bullet. Wow. Imagine that, fear of even coming up with 100 words in a day. Of course, the I felt that every sentence had to be a jewel, a gem of overwhelming brilliance, so it's no wonder.
In one of the courses I did with the Writer's Studio NY, I had a patch of terrible writer's block. I couldn't even manage to put a few words on the page. I would actually freeze as I sat at the computer. One of the other students gave me that well-worn quote about giving yourself permission to write something terrible. I thought it was sort of hokey, but in my desperation I tried it, and my god it worked.I wrote something terrible. No, I didn't. I actually wrote something that I was quite proud of. Beyond my imagination.
Ridiculous. I have seventeen days to catch up for May. But it is important for me to finish this batch. It has something to do with me turning over a new leaf and trying to finish what I have started, not a really comfortable place for me. My Dad used to do that too. His thing was to always have at least 5 projects on the go. I always got the sense it was his way of cheating death. Some how along the lines that he can't possibly get sick or die when he's got so many things to finish.
First one done and onto the second. What I was saying about my father always having at least 5 projects on the go at one time...I think he was afraid of the nothingness, the empty space where he was no longer needed. As long as the mantle piece he built was only half varnished, and the wooden boat he bought sat waiting for refinishing in the back yard, and the new crop of cherries needed canning, and the half-built BSA sat like a gutted beast in the garage, time would always be precious, life would always have meaning.
I don't know if my not finshing things is related to my father's. I know that it is a family trait that must have been passed on by him. For me the lack of finishing, particularly in relation to writing, has to do with a weird fear of criticism. If you never declare anything finished, you can always claim that you are still working on it, it's a perpetual work in progress. If you tell somebody you are finshed, then you are declaring that you think it is the best you can do. Opens the cage for the circling sharks.
I think we can spend our lives unravelling the knots tied by our family relationships. I feel like I have been doing it for a long time, but it seems that getting deeper and deeper, there is always another layer to unravel. When do you stop? I think, for me, now that I have gotten to the point that I listen to myself more, instead of filtering everything I hear and see and think through the family code machine, I can let go a bit. I actually had to stay away from my siblings for several years to get here.
Everybody here complains about the rain constantly. I can't believe that people choose to live in this beautiful lush, coastal rainforest, and then whine about the fact that it rains. That is it's nature. It can do nothing else. People lament the lack of sunny weather in a desperate sort of way which suggests that the earth owes them something. It is May, so it should be sunny, what's going on? What good and beautiful things have we provided this earth with, that she should repay us with the beauty and warmth we demand? And we say we love her.
It is Friday evening. I am sitting at a small table by our huge living room window. My husband is sleeping. He is not getting any better, and new symptoms plague himm daily. I am so overwhelmed by caring for a sick person who I love with all my heart, I have become pretty useless at the rest of life. I used to be good at compartmentalizing my life, to keep everybody else comfortable, and to maintain my own sanity. Now, things are bleeding over the lines and I am not sure that I have the strength to care anymore.
When I hear people at work complaining about not being able to get tickets for the hockey game, or missing out on reservations at their "favourite" restaurant, I really have to control myself from yelling "Oh shut up you fucking self-absorbed pig". This is disturbing to me. In the past I would have smiled,to the degree that they be suitably assured I feel their pain. That's what I mean about things bleeding over the lines. Now I want to say "My heart bleeds for you. I'm going home to watch my husband waste away before my very eyes."
My father had a pathological hatred of dogs. I never knew where this all started, but it was all-consuming. He had a loud horn that he would keep in a drawer by the kitchen door, and if he heard a neighbourhood dog barking he grab it, run out onto the deck and blow this horn like a mad man. It didn't matter what he was doing, he could be having dinner, watching a gripping episode of FBI, entertaining guests, he didn't care. He would be out there blowing that damned horn in his Sunday suit in the pouring rain.
When I was eleven, I was walking home from school day, and 2 blocks from my house was chased by two skittish German Shepherds. They tried to knock me down and would have taken a sizeable chunk of skin off my ass if it hadn't been for the synthetic "looks just like down" jacket my Mom got me at Woolco. I remember walking home shaking, with a trail of synthetic snowflakes drifting behind me. When my dad found out, he wouldn't stop pacing up and down the stairs. I had never seen him that angry. He just couldn't stay still.
cont'd from 05/22. I'm sure this incident didn't do improve his feelings towards dogs.
That night, when he finally stopped pacing, he got me to put on my fake down jacket that was now deflated in the rear panel, and marched me down to the house where he believed the dog owners lived. After knocking several times (the windows were shaking from the blasting stereo), he threw a rock at the window. I don't know if he meant to throw it so hard, or the force of his anger was more than he knew, but the glass shattered instantly.
cont'd from 23/05. We stood there frozen for some time before the music went off abruptly, and a man of indescriminate age with long stringy hair hanging in his face peered through the space made by the broken glass. He stared at us for a few minutes and then turned and disappeared. I was hoping that my dad would decide he had made his point, but he stood absolutely still, breathing slowly. The stringy-haired man appeared at the door and said, "hey, why the aggro man?". My dad pointed to me and said, "Your dogs attacked my daughter".
This is sort of continued from last entry. The next morning, sitting in the naked light of day instead of that surreal half-light of sundown (am I sundowning?)I am wondering why I went off on that journey about my Dad and the marauding German Shepherds and their doped out owners. That was long ago and it is something I have not thought of for so long. It's one of those memories that had sunk near the bottom of the junk heap of my mind. I was really only wanting to write about how much I love my dogs.
cont'd again. It made me think many things. One realization was that this task of writing 100 words a day can be a very different experience, depending on how you go about it. If I stick to the rules, as I did obssessively when I first started, I write 100 words every evening, and what I write is invariably an immediate thought or experience. It is something that happened that day. If I wait, or lose many days as I did this time, and sit down and write 10 days , or more,at a time, a whole other picture emerges.
Just had an amazing talk with a good friend who is also a writer. I met her in the first class at Writers Studio, and we seemed to become easy friend's pretty quickly. She is warm and generous and a talented writer and I feel so fortunate to have met her. She has been such a support to me and a champion of my writing when I have found it very hard to be. And she has been the voice of reason when I become obssessed with the lack of enthusisam shown by certain teachers. What's her sage advice? Fuck'em!
I feel like I have been working on May for a very long time. I suppose if I make another attempt to actually do this writing daily, I won't have that sense about struggling to finish. I am determined to make some commitments to myself and keep them. My husband has been saying for twenty years that I am not committed to our relationship. I used to argue that he doesn't know what he's talking about, but my arguments are no longer very convincing. When I take a good look at my behaviour on many levels, he's right, the bastard.
I think working with open heart surgery patients has opened my eyes to so many things. I used to beleive that I was the only broken person, and I looked at everybody else as if they were well-adjusted and happy. I used to believe the images that people project. I've worked with Lawyers, Doctors, Judges, Politicians, Actors, Policeman, Fireman, Construction workers, Security guards. People form all over the world, and from my own neighbourhood. We all worry about the same things; pain, loneliness, loss, dying, living, not being good enough, being left behind, being laughed at, not being loved.
This seems like the longest bloody month ever. Which is weird as I am not struggling to write as I often am, but stuff is flowing out of me. Not particularly interesting stuff at times, but at least it's something. After going through a period of what people generally refer to as "writer's block", I am just glad to be writing. It was the last half of my last writing course when this descended on me. I just suddenlt felt like somebody had changed the rules of the English language on me, and everything I wrote sounded stilted and trite.
That really freaks me out when I launch into an entry and I stop, finished, at exactly one hundred words. It's a bit like the idea of mutual orgasm. Doesn't happen very often, and if people tell you it does they're probably lying. But how surprising and amazing when it does!!
Anyway, I just read something where a writer was saying that people always blame "writer's block" on the writing,saying "there is nothing there". But it is called "writer's block" because it is the writer who is blocked. So then it is the writer who can unblock.
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