Sunday, March 14, 2010

March 2010 | Chapitre Onze

I’m working on a piece of art. Approximately 4’ x 2.5’ – a collage painting. I’m using newspaper, paint, patterned paper, markers, and magazine clippings to create a colorful grid of alternating shapes, colors, and thoughts. But it is not really turning into what I had originally envisioned. Of its own volition it is morphing into something else. Something more colorful and bold than I really feel comfortable with. And this piece is making me wonder - is my life turning out the same way?

We all have a hodge podge of experiences and goals that come together to form who we are. And many of us have a dream of the person this clutter will begin to resemble. So what happens when the collage of our lives does not look like what we expected? We can’t get rid of anything. We must layer new things on top of the old things to create a new us. To make our accumulated accomplishments resemble our original dream.

For me, the patchwork of my life is not turning out at all as I envisioned. Much like the visual collection on my canvas. I keep adding to it and it seems to get further and further away from the original impression I had. I leave it alone and it stagnates. I try too hard and it becomes more confused than I want. All like life. So how can I solve the problems of my current existence? Maybe the answer lies in the completion of this piece of artwork.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

March 2010 | Chapitre Dix

Impulsivity versus Planning

Which is better: following a prepared path or letting whim grab you by the throat and shake you about like a dead mouse?

I have always arranged every moment and every minute event of my life path in excruciating detail. My day, my week, and every year of my life are my own personal cosmic to do list. I plan vacations years in advance. I plan home remodeling projects decades in advance. And I practice how to behave in any situation. What image of myself shall I present at a party? At work? To my mother? To my friends? I rehearse and analyze every damn conversation I have or have yet to have. It is a neverending tilt-a-whirl of a brain blitz, but it’s mine and I have grown accustomed to my self oppressive ways.

However, every now and again, I do these crazy impulsive things. I have gotten tattooed, I have pierced my ears myriad times, I have shorn my head, I have quit jobs and I have moved across the country. These are all unexpected and unstrategized events that throw my whole existence into redesign. Control is lost and I have to figure out the “what now” after I have done the “what the fuck?”
Now, there are many people who are able to lead a productive life of nothing but spontaneous decisions. I could not live blind like that, but I have great admiration for those who do not have to be control freaks as I am. I find that I fear being myself when I lose control, but I fear losing myself unless I am impulsive. The blade, I daresay, is not only double edged, but also serrated.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

March 2010 | Chapitre Neuf

I have a good friend who is making it her quest to blog her way through reading the Guardian’s list of the 1000 best novels that everyone should read. Time Magazine also created the lazy American’s version of this list with their 100 best novels that everyone should read. I surveyed the two lists and saw that I have read almost exactly 20% of each list. Not great, but probably better than the average person. The thing that intrigued me is which books fell into both lists. And the following lists emerged:

The first is the list of all the books I have read that appear on both the 1000 and the 100.
1) 1984 by George Orwell
2) A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
3) Animal Farm by George Orwell
4) Atonement by Ian McEwan
5) Beloved by Toni Morrison
6) Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
7) Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
8) Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
9) One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
10) Slaughter-House Five by Kurt Vonnegut
11) The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
12) The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
13) The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
14) Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
15) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The second, more important, list is the one that both the 1000 and the 100 recommend I read.
1) A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell
2) A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh
3) A House for Mr Biswas by VS Naipaul
4) American Pastoral by Philip Roth
5) An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
6) Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
7) Call It Sleep by Henry Roth
8) Deliverance by James Dickey
9) Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
10) Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
11) Herzog by Saul Bellow
12) Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
13) Lolita, or the Confessions of a White Widowed Male by Vladimir Nabokov
14) Lord of the Flies by William Golding
15) Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
16) Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
17) Money by Martin Amis
18) Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
19) Naked Lunch by William Burroughs
20) Native Son by Richard Wright
21) Neuromancer by William Gibson
22) Nineteen Seventy Four by David Peace
23) On the Road by Jack Kerouac
24) Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
25) Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion
26) Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth
27) Possession by AS Byatt
28) Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett
29) Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
30) Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
31) The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow
32) The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
33) The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
34) The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
35) The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
36) The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West
37) The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen
38) The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles
39) The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
40) The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
41) The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead
42) The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
43) The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski
44) The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
45) The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
46) The Recognitions by William Gaddis
47) The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles
48) The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
49) The Sportswriter by Richard Ford
50) The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carre
51) Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
52) To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
53) Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
54) Under the Net by Iris Murdoch
55) Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry
56) White Teeth by Zadie Smith
57) Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

I imagine it’s an honor to get one’s novel listed on any list of this sort. But to get two must mean something about the author is quite extraordinary. Imitation is the finest flattery, and so, inspired by my literary fellow, I shall begin my own quest with reading the following extraordinary writers who have been so honored.

Saul Bellow:
Herzog
The Adventures of Augie March

Nabakov:
Lolita, or the Confessions of a White Widowed Male
Pale Fire

Thomas Pynchon:
Gravity's Rainbow
The Crying of Lot 49

Philip Roth:
American Pastoral
Portnoy's Complaint

Virginia Woolf:
Mrs. Dalloway
To the Lighthouse

If interested in doing some reading, please visit the original lists:
Time 100 novels: http://www.time.com/time/2005/100books/the_complete_list.html
Guardian 1000 novels: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/jan/23/bestbooks-fiction

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

March 2010 | Chapitre Huit

A friend told me tonight that I don’t really see the positive. A few weeks ago he told me I tend to veer toward the negative. Both are ridiculously hyperbolic understatements, of course, but there we are. This did manage to get me thinking about what my positive traits are. And after an eternally long millisecond of thought, this is the comprehensive list I have compiled:

* In my humble opinion, I can write like the devil. That may not get me a job any time soon, but it doesn’t matter. I love doing it and I do it well.

* I am a rock for my friends and family, co-workers, and clients. This does not mean I am a rock for myself, but at least I am there for everyone else.

* I am intelligent. I have respect for those who are stupid, but not for those who rejoice in stagnating in their own ignorance.

* And not that it really matters, but I have great hair. There. Someone had to say it.

In the interest of remaining positive I will not regale you with my negative traits, of which there are myriad. Instead, I will simply ponder why more traits do not leap to the tip of my brain. And does it matter? There are many others who have far fewer talents and I sense this is a list of which to feel proud. I may spend a lot of my days sinking in the quicksand of my mind, but at least I have one list to remind myself why I should reach out for the grapevine back to dry land. And for this, I have my friend to thank. Another positive. Whadaya know.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Psychology of Carolyn Burnham - Perfectionism and Self Hatred in American Beauty

In the film American Beauty Carolyn Burnham creates an outward image of perfection to conceal what she feels is the repulsive person at the core of her being.

In the film American Beauty, directed by Sam Mendes, a man realizes how sedate his life has become, how useless he is to his daughter, and how controlled he is by his wife. He decides to take a closer look at how he got there and how he can get back to the man he used to be - a man who loved life and used to take pleasure in simple luxuries. Lester Burnham, performed by the always engaging Kevin Spacey, is that man, that father, and that husband.

Alan Ball, the brilliant screenplay writer, saved the most complex character for Lester’s wife, Carolyn, played with startling honesty by Annette Bening. She puts forth the air of effortless success when she is covertly loathing her own imperfections. This loathing elicits a violent condemnation of herself at many points in the film, and this psychoanalysis of her character examines the impetus for her behavior.

Buddy Kane’s Version of Success
In order to be successful, one must project an image of success at all times. So says Buddy Kane, the Real Estate King, played with amusing hubris by Peter Gallagher. Carolyn is attracted to him because she recognizes an aspect of herself in what he says. Carolyn’s image of success is built on details. Her spade and shoes match exactly, she meticulously wipes away an almost unnoticeable smudge on the mirror at the show house, and she prevents her husband Lester from spilling beer on her perfect imported silk couch. The small stuff is easy, and frames the structure of her self-created appearance. The rest is filled in with the bigger details – having a perfect rose garden, selling a house, or keeping a pristine home. The more dense her persona becomes with her accumulated perfections, then the easier it is for her to conceal and forget who she thinks she really is on the inside.

Carolyn Burnham’s Hostility
Carolyn’s self hatred is displayed most obviously when she admonishes herself in the show house. She carefully closes the blinds before she allows herself to have a cry. But after only a moment of release she becomes furious and slaps herself while screaming, “Stop it! Shut up! You’re weak! You baby! Shut up!” Bening’s performance in this scene is frightening and shocking in her ability to so thoroughly register this character’s hatred of herself. Carolyn seems to feel she not only needs but deserves this violent treatment and masochistically administers just enough to pull herself together and march out of the house with head held high. And yet she had to have this experience in a darkened room where nobody could witness what she considers to be her shameful behavior.

Similarly, when her imperfect affair is discovered and Buddy leaves her alone in her car, the stress of it manifests itself as the thunderous howl of a soul ripping apart at the seams, creating a sort of endorphin rush that allows her to regain control when she feels her grasp slipping. One wonders how many takes were required to get the scream just right – and how that may have affected Bening’s poor vocal cords.

Jane Burnham’s Grandparents
But why does Carolyn hate herself so much? “You cannot count on anyone except yourself,” she tells her daughter, Jane, performed by the tepid Thora Birch, Carolyn has clearly been disappointed by people all her life. Perhaps, in later years, it is due to her strict demands not being met. Though, she has probably created those impossibly high goals to hide her own resemblances to the disappointments she encountered growing up. She has learned to rely on herself to get things done. But when she lets herself down, she looses it because if she cannot count on anyone except herself, then she is truly all alone with nobody on her side at all. And that fear of loneliness is what drives Carolyn to self abuse. She is both judge and executioner to her own perceived crimes – such as they are.

Friday, February 26, 2010

February 2010 | Chapitre Sept

Good morning friends. I’ve been away a while and I may not owe an explanation, but it is forthcoming nonetheless. I’ve began getting rid of things toward the end of last year. I took things to Goodwill. I stopped my TV, land line phone, and internet. And I had to stop paying for my website. Sad that. But I now have this free one on which to natter. And it looks almost as nice.

I’m going to use this site as a place to post my blog, and as a place to post my suite101 articles. I’m hoping that by doing so I can try to contain a lot of my thoughts in one location. Perhaps I’ll even get my brain organized. The blog posts will be listed in “Chapitre” form, as always, and the articles will be listed by their published titles.

So the question today is what’s on my mind, and I have to admit that there is nothing on my mind. Nothing at all. I’m doing lots of things: painting the living room (again), writing new articles, having catch up lunch with professors, organizing stacks of neglected papers, and hanging clothes in color coordinated sections in my new closet. But am I thinking about anything? No. I’m not. I’m doing. Because I’m empty. I’m moving at top speed, getting lots of things done but I’m thinking and feeling naught but that still fresh pain in my hand.

Pain has become a friend of sorts in my life. Getting reprimanded, getting scratched or hair pulled, being taunted, being shamed, being humiliated. This was my childhood. And now I welcome pain the way one might greet a familiar friend. It even offers a bit of amusement. And the only real sting I feel is when I cause someone I love any milligram of ache. Is this straight up masochism? Probably. Is it deviant? Hmmm…

Perhaps Emily Dickinson and I have more in common than I had previously imagined.

Understanding the Experience of Depression – Dealing with Your Friend’s or Family Member’s Misery

Friends and family of clinically depressed people should understand what their loved one is experiencing so an environment of safety and comfort can be established.

The Experience
The experience of depression is like swirling down into a black hole of nothingness where nobody and nothing matters. It is empty and dark. And, above all, depression is lonely because no two people experience depression in exactly the same way, and therefore, can never commiserate with anyone else – not that they would want to anyway.

Depression is not a feeling, like sadness. It is the opposite of feeling and the opposite of motivation. It sucks the sufferers in deeper with every breath they take, and leeches energy with every passing moment of the day. And when a person is mired in it, it can feel endless.

Situational or Clinical Depression?
If people experience a terrible incident in their lives, they may become depressed for a limited time. Eventually this feeling can fade with time and acceptance of the event. This is not a confusing situation for others because there is a definite event that preceded the downturn. Alternately, an attention seeker may exhibit similar symptoms to the clinically depressed, but when focused interest is bestowed upon them, they appreciate it and their mood is elevated.

Clinical depression is caused by nothing more concrete than a chemical imbalance in the brain. It is devoid of reason and therefore a very confusing state for everyone involved because it does not appear to be related to anything and so some feel sufferers should be able to snap themselves out of it as easily as they seemed to trip into it. Unfortunately, this is not how it works.

All Alone
Many depressed people try to hide themselves away from the world; or at least their symptoms, if they are marginally functional. During all this alone time, there are a portion of sufferers who might attempt to harm themselves. The continuum of self harm can include:

1. suicidal thoughts
2. reckless behavior
3. intentional self harm
4. suicide

Suicidal thoughts can be a coping mechanism – “I’d rather be dead than deal with the task before me.” Reckless behavior is passive action and can be as simple as not wearing a seatbelt. Intentional self harm is actively harming the body in such a way as to create physical pain as a stand in for the mental pain. And finally, suicide is the often unforeseen act. If someone is truly determined, they may not give warning signs; if they give warning signs, loved ones may not be prepared to put the pieces together because the pieces may not be obvious enough.

How to Help
Enduring depression is terrible. But not knowing how to help as you watch your friend or your family member suffer is a whole other kind of misery. First, people must understand there is no proper way to react to depression. However, there are some Donts and Dos:

DON’T:
* Ignore the fact they are depressed
* Treat them like they’re breakable
* Tell them to get over it
* Judge them for not being able to get over it
* Worry about saying the wrong thing

DO:
* Tell them you’re there for them

It may feel like a meaningless gesture, and they may never take you up on a long chat or a shoulder upon which to cry. But knowing you know and are comfortable with waiting for them to work through it is often enough of a light at the end of the tunnel to get them through.

The Turning Point

What lies previous to this posts are the posts from my previous blog which was created and destroyed in 2009. Luckily I saved these literary brain blurt gems and posted them all on here today for your reading pleasure.

What comes after this are some articles I've written for suite101.com - the link to my personal page can be found to the left of your screen. Please do not click on any ads, though, so I don't get accused of click fraud.

Thanks!

June 2009 | Chapitre Six

Economic Recession. Depression. Yes. I don’t feel recessed. I feel depressed. People keep knocking on my mailbox asking for their money and I’m scrounging around trying to figure out from where my next dollar will be found. Ideas float around in my head all day. And some of them even take flight. My kids’ drama workshop, for instance, is a fantastic idea that has such possibilities, almost none of which are flourishing. I feel like I’ve built the baseball field and there’s no line of cars snaking down the highway into the sunset. Sure, I have a solid handful of interested parties, but only a few come forward with their money.

Doing fundraisers for the historical society is no better. We usually get about 500 people at our yearly event, and this year we only got 69. Yup. 69. We’re screwed.
So shall I make art and sell it at art festivals? Shall I write a novel and see if I can get it picked up? Or a children’s book? Shall I sell antiques from around the house on ebay? Or shall I ditch it all and sell myself to corporate America? Like they’d want me.

June 2009 | Chapitre Cinq

In my mind, there are 2 major problems with keeping a diary. First, it’s hard to write well because it ends up being simply emotions spilling forth onto the page in no coherent order. Second, I can never keep up with writing in them with any regularity, as can be proven by the frequency of this blog. However, an art journal is a distinctly different beast because its intention is to strike while the emotions are hot. It is not the clinical cataloging of the days’ events.

I wonder, though, whether all this scrapbooking and blogging and journaling we’ve become addicted to in our culture is a byproduct of boredom or just another avenue of creative expression. The optimist in me thinks these are all interesting pastimes that allow a somewhat non-creative person to be able to tap into their inner artist or writer. This is an excellent thing because it brings art to the masses and makes it accessible to more people than those who have studied it in higher education. In fact, you could be illiterate and put together a scrapbook. You could be colorblind and write a blog. You could be utterly stupid and make a powerful journal. These are all fantastic things.

But this brings me back to my previous concern. Who are the people who have the time to write a blog or keep an intricate scrapbook or journal? Are they people who work a 9-5 and bring home no thoughts or lingering issues from work and therefore have from 5pm to 6am free to do whatever? Are they people who are trying to escape dealing with their kids? Are they people who get addicted and edge out all other things? Just questions I ponder.

April 2009 | Chapitre Quatre

Blog, the Fourth
In which Amelia almost departs from the precipice.

Today’s blog shall consist of a blog within a blog. Or, shall we say, prickly difficulties, encased in warm gooey comfort. I am about to admit that which I never do: I am not perfect. Now, this may come as a shock to one or two of you out there. I know it was for me. But hold fast friends! I know that since I have had the ability to come to terms with this issue numerous times, you can too. However, here’s…the Thing. The Thing, dear readers, is that I’ve had to cope with the very opposite thought as well. I must now also admit (against better judgment) that I’ve had a troubling couple of weeks here, trapped inside my head. Nothing I wish for you to worry your pretty heads over. No, no, no. Just a simple detour of the mind. For those to whom I have not yet divulged my personal struggle, it is a mental disorder called Bipolar II. “Disorder,” obviously, being a key word here.

Whenever I stumble upon my life’s path, I turn to writing to point my self in the proper direction. In the twenty-first century, this very personal coping mechanism is edited drastically and posted in the form of a blog for all the world to read. This is perfectly fine, as long as I am in control. Who else could possibly be in control of my own blog, to which only I have the secret passcode decoder key, you ask? Well, read on, dear friends.

Although depression has always been more prevalent for me, today’s post will focus on my more interesting and recent troubles with hypomania, a form of mania in which there is no mental break from reality. Hypomania comes in two forms, where I am concerned. The darker side is a mixed episode, or what I call “rough” hypomania. In this state my logic is clouded, my emotions are irritated, and my energy is stretched wafer thin. I have snapped at many I love, or cried uncontrollably at them, unable to understand why they seem to hate me. I’ve lost friendships and lovers, colleagues and mentors. But the worst feeling is that I know, when I am in this state, the torrent of words, spit, tears, and snot flowing furiously from my uncontrollable face can not and will not be stopped. And thus, those closest to me are at least driven away, and at most crushed.

With the more entertaining side, what I call my “smooth” hypomania, creativity, energy, and the good mood all run rampant. As an example, if any high school chums are reading this, you may remember that I spent a good deal of high school being considered fearless, cool, and hilarious. Fortunately for many of you, I was a ton of fun with boundless energy. Unfortunately for me, I have very little memory of the specifics of high school because I was usually flying at top speed. And when I was not, I was trying my best to look like I was because I was, instead, swirling down the toilet of depression.

Now that you have some background information, allow me to let you in on one of my firsthand accounts during a bout with some “smooth” hypomania. Other than a few omitted uninteresting thoughts and the concealment of my rival’s name, the passage is exactly as I wrote it.

Blog, blog, blog! That’s what keeps twirling through my mind on this manic Friday and Saturday. Sorry Manic Monday, you’re sooo twenty years ago. But about what can I blog? I could blog about the fact that work is going really well and I’m enjoying myself immensely. I could blog about the fact that the puppy did her business on the couch. Or I could blog about the fact that it’s spring and there’s fresh snow on the ground. But rather than speak of the mundane, I feel that the best way to express myself today is to allow my mania to run free across the transoms of my brain, then tingle their way around my heart, and then dance out the ends of my fingertips as I blurt out all the randomness that clouds my focus on this sunny weekend. Mania. I keep using that word. To some, it’s a dirty word. A word that represents panic and disorder. A word tinged with the chaos of an uncontrollable state. To me, however, it represents creativity and freedom and recklessness. Well, the recklessness is not necessarily a good thing to those looking in on my world, but to me the recklessness can be quite a jolly load of fun. As long as I don’t regret it tomorrow. Or the day after. Or next year. Invariably, I will. And I accept that challenge. Partly because…well…what other choice do I have? But also partly because I don’t really feel like I have a lot of problems that result from the recklessness because I have always been very lucky.

Luck is not something that one might first associate with recklessness. But I certainly do. Think of all the people who drive in a reckless manner only to wrap themselves around a tree, or worse, wrap someone else around a tree. I’ve never wrapped myself around a tree. Therefore, I am lucky.

Today is so glorious. A day to jump and sing and crow to the sun how beautiful she is! A day to start digging in the earth with my bare hands…ah, but the snow! I do forget. This is a day to do laundry, to do the dishes, to organize cabinets, to write papers, to organize files, to put folded clothes away, to read books, watch movies, to go go go and do do do and talk talk talk. Unfortunately for my mother, she is the only one around to listen to my blather. Last night at dinner I inundated her with talking. And more talking. My throat was sore by the end of dinner. And yet I’d eaten until my limbs were full all the while that I was talking. A whirlwind of words and calories mingling in a frenzy of what must have been a disgusting spectacle. I do my best to try and hide these higher aspects of my persona, but I know I have only so much skill in keeping things in check.

I have two extremes with a little fortress of pills trying to keep me in the center. And I suspect the pills are not working entirely properly right now for I feel myself beginning to turn on the no smoking light, asking myself to buckle my seatbelt, and prepare for take off. It’s a good thing I live in Oshkosh. Oshkosh, home of the largest airshow in the world. Home of airplanes and pilots and…isn’t it an appropriate thing that my name is Amelia. Like Earhart. A woman who flew so high that she lost herself.

My lows, my trenches, seem so far away. And M. wants to come out to play. I am M.’s flight suit and when M. straps in, I go along for the ride. M. takes me all over the place at breakneck speed, and I am eager to see all M. wishes me to experience.

I have no time for food or sleep or practicality when M. takes over. M. is me, unleashed. I do wish my friends could see M. in action. It’s so much fun. But when I have attempted to allude to said fun I’ve had with my dear M., my other friends get a worried brow. And I feel that they probably don’t understand. As a matter of fact, they seem so reserved in their reactions that it resembles concern. Or worry. And the last thing I can stomach is making others worry over someone like me.

So fret not, friends. M. has come to play. And the dog seems to enjoy my 2am walking needs. I haven’t driven anywhere yet, but I certainly do feel a roadtrip coming on. One in which I drive as fast as I can as far as I can in half the time I have, and then turn around. Responsible irresponsibility. I am nothing if not ultimately responsible. The problem with a blog is that when one feels the need to divulge information such as random and spontaneous roadtrips, then it shatters the whole illusion of being a stoic and dependable person.

I shake my head trying to sort out the fog, but it just makes my neck hurt and lashes my bangs out into my eyes. This makes my nose itch, and rubbing my face makes me have to squirm. My skin crawls and I’m not even on drugs. Well, not illegal ones, anyway…

Whew! Now that that’s over, let me uncover a bit of the darker side. My “rough“ hypomania. This section was written a few days after the first one. It has been heavily edited for a number of reasons, and what we are left with is simply a smattering of the idea. Hope it suffices to paint the picture. And yes, I am aware I have a mixed metaphor in the first sentence. Keep in mind I was out of mine.

Should I keep working, brick by brick, maintaining my carefully sewn exterior? I'm made up of a crazy quilt. Pieced together from all the shreds of fabric left intact from childhood. Do I wax poetic, or did mother wield a seam ripper? Is it possible to have damaged my fabric so much that it's useless to repair? There's always more fabric. And all the king's horses and all the king's men always have at least the ability to sew Amelia together over M. again. M. shows up at the strangest intervals. When the fabric rips, M. is my stuffing. And right now I am leaking M. all over myself. Is there a cure? Nah. The stuffing will always be there. The question will always be, has always been, how strong is my outer fabric?

My body is tired. My mind is not. It spins like a wet top, whipping thoughts out in every direction. I can't sleep. Repetition is too loud.

So there you have it…er…a bit of it. I am still unsure as to why I chose this topic for my blog post. Am I looking for attention or sympathy? Definitely not. So if the desire to choose this option strikes you, please do not voice this thought to me as it will only cause me to feel horrid that I caused you any semblance of worry. I think what I’m really after is understanding. I strive to understand myself and have others understand me. I function as a human being quite well, and expect to go on doing so for quite some time. But I also harbor a hope that the me that dwells within and the me that dwells without might be able to merge a bit more. Anyway, here’s to hoping. Thanks for reading.

March 2009 | Chapitre Trois

Good day, dear readers, and welcome to this, my most recent re-entry to the blogosphere (an untidy word that brings to mind squishy round oozing substances, if I do say so myself). Today, I am overflowing with a soggy desire to empty, cleanse, and disinfect my home from top to bottom and back again.

I have far too many ideas for the meager free time in which I have to create, and so I stockpile ideas like the squirrel does his nuts for winter, or Frederick does his colors. I intend to follow through on at least some of these juicy morsels. And in the meantime, I use work as my outlet for creativity – wherever I can infuse it. Sure, I have a few novels in process. And I find myself wanting to blog more often. About more topics. On a more regular basis. I feel like I’ve written so many, and yet this is only the third! I have to kill the urge to procrastinate. Tomorrow. Or the next day. Remember, never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after that.

Responsibility is an easy thing. Taking care of pets and parents and friends my whole life has made it exceedingly easy to be responsible. But responsibility takes on a different light when one considers how to be responsible for taking care of oneself. Do I brush my teeth every night? Do I eat a healthy dose of vegetables every day? Do I do my laundry and dishes on a regular basis? No. I’m afraid I do none of those things. Am I, therefore, irresponsible for myself?

For right now, all I know is that this crazy writer/artist must set aside her childhood toys (or at least better organize them). I must become an adult in my space at home. I must transform the kitchen for efficiency. And beauty. Should I get a stove? Replace the refrigerator? I must certainly pick up the bedroom. I have to remember to clean out the litter box once every 24 hours. May I still call it “forgetting” if I walk past it each morning and evening? I’ve returned to wearing my grandmother’s/godmother’s ring. I feel as though it cloaks me in adulthood, even if I still feel like I’m faking it at 35. In a recent great burst of adulthood I have returned to the idea of publishing my thesis. Academic publications certainly feel very adult, don’t they?

On the other hand, I just got developed a mountainous zit on my lower lip that refuses to erupt, I will never not wear flip-flops, and pizza is the easiest and tastiest meal in my freezer.

So the question remains - am I growing up? Or am I forcing myself to grow up? Or, disaster of disasters, am I attempting to appear grown up for those who still see me as a kid? Maybe a little of each. It’s hard to return to your hometown and not be treated like the kid you were way back when. Especially while wearing flip-flops and eating pizza, with a zit on your face.

February 2009 | Chapitre Deux

A blogging we will go, a blogging we will go, heigh ho & cheerio. A blogging we will go.

Good day, readers. On this dismal, dank, dreary day blood has already flowed twice as the result of an overly tumultuous game of puppy fetch. Unfortunately, Anubis has yet to grasp the entire concept of returning the thrown object whence it came. When I attempt to assist her by taking the object upon her galloping return, I seem to phind my phalanges amidst a phrantic phrenzy of teeth! Of course, she glances up at me, moments later, with her ears all wonky and large ''innocent'' eyes, and I hear myself forgiving her as I tape on a band-aid. There. It's like it never happened. Let's do it again!

My sweet Anubis joined the family business last night when she graduated from puppy kindergarten. And she's not even six months old yet! Her behavioral issues have been ameliorated massively. Her facial expressions have shifted from merely inquisitive to confident sagacity. And it's all due to her education. So bear this in mind, kiddies, and stay in school like Anubis. Just imagine what you, too, could accomplish with a degree.

With my degree, however, I feel compelled to warn against an advanced degree unless you have the freedom to move after grabbing your diploma. An MA in English, amid a recession, without the ability to move out of a mid-size mid-western town, is tantamount to being called out as a witch in jolly old Salem back in the good old days.

When applying for jobs that don't like their workers to be too educated, I try to insist that this isn't my nose, it's a false one! Sadly, most companies around here don't even want to weigh me. They've already assumed I weigh more that a duck, so they don't even bother farting in my general direction. Such are the politics of employment in the Fox Valley.

And yet. And yet, despite this, I still advocate education as the answer to all life's problems. All of them. Education is the key to life, and it only starts at school. There's homework, life lessons, and the simple act of reading books. The more information one possesses about a situation, the more familiar you become, the more familiar the less frightened, and therefore the more comfortable you become. And that's when your ability to understand kicks in. Followed by being able to see the big picture. Whatever that may be.

January 2009 | Chapitre Un

For this, my very first venture into blogging, I harbor a familiar fear: it must be done perfectly, or not at all. This mental road block has allowed me to procrastinate beyond all records I had established previously for myself. That was, until I took Ariana Huffington’s sage and succinct advice: just start blogging. Now. And so I have.

I do not know to whom I am writing. Perhaps it will be my friends and family who will want to see what I’m up to and what I’m thinking about. Perhaps it will be prospective employers, attempting to determine my writing skills and personality. Perhaps it will be the random strangers of cyberspace, searching for like-minded friends. Or, perhaps, it will be only for myself. In any case, I intend to write for writing’s sake. The rest is just superfluous fun.

Today I am consumed by thoughts of the economy. Many people in this country are struggling, including me. And even though I have supreme confidence in President Obama’s admirable ideas, I am also aware that it takes quite a bit of time to redirect an entire country’s economy toward prosperity. Spirits are low right now. Across the country, and in my home. I know people who are terrified of being laid off, others who are trying to keep the flow of incoming business steady in an increasingly cautious world, and others who are sending out literally hundreds of resum├ęs in the hopes that even just one interview will be scheduled. For those of us working from home, the mounting tension is compounded by a sense of isolation. And from this environment of isolation, I have decided to do something. To make a voice for myself. To create words and images that might document this period of time in my life. To forge connections with other humans through the decidedly impersonal internet. Thus, I begin my own journey toward making my own life one I will enjoy living. And if I can offer something you enjoy reading and perusing, so much the better.

I need to admit that I have spent the majority of my life dreaming and planning and then not following through. I’m afraid my father was much the same way. Since my dad and I were so close, it shouldn’t be a surprise that we share personality traits. My mother follows through on every little thing. I used to think it was tiring to watch her spend so much time on mundane tasks; she has always been so pragmatic. Never any talk of lifelong goals or childhood fantasies. Her feet have always been planted firmly on the earth, and there they shall stay forever rooted. Ironically, she also loves to garden. My head has always been floating in the clouds. Well, my new year resolution for 2009 is to follow through. I have been making lists of my dreams for so many years, but have never before planned the details of how to achieve those dreams. This year, I intend to make my dreams come true. A daunting task, to be sure. And while I am determined to succeed, I am also frightened enough to heed the advice that Rachel gave her sister Jill on the TV show Friends. She warned, “You know what happened to the little girl who tried to do too much…She died, Jill.”

Wish me luck.