Monthly Archives: May 2013

Intensity

looking in the mirror

reveals the reverse of what she expects to see;

feelings.

the looking glass doesn’t show today

what it showed before-

it’s not as easy to get lost

in the smaller image,

in the hint of truth

behind the wall; the mask.

before, there stood a monster

worthless, unloved,

larger in her own perception

than in that of those who loved her.

alone and forgotten

waiting for a hand but not reaching out

now there’s just a girl

not even a girl, at times,

only a vision

struck down by affliction

beaten

bruised

she asks herself why.

she blows in the wind;

useless, restless, weightless

nothing there this time

she’s driven it away.

no more waiting for the end;

the time for decisions is now

the end of the path has arrived

breaking down gently at the end of the road.

isn’t this everything she wanted?

to be here, in this narrow edge

of space and time,

taking up this precious little space?

she tells herself that’s true

but cowers in the cowardice of the lie.

the mirror isn’t talking back.

she’s not diseased; she’s not him

she floats in the air

nothing

lost without it

now more whispering

no more tears.

the girl in the mirror

is still wearing a mask

and not who she appears to be.

brokenness can overtake her heart,

if she lets it.

it isn’t easy to be the real thing,

to air the real thing.

even there, in the mirror,

the mask still clings.

it traps her

within the image.

reflections past hold her gaze.

she knows she is not who she was supposed to be.

that truth burns

she wonder how it is

that she should be here

where she is; what she is

she has reached the edge of what she knew.

she looks into the mirror,

and she hates the mask that stands there

for the first time in a long time, she sees the truth;

turns away;

it’s too late to face it

she will do what she wants now.

conquering on her own has become the greatest victory,

yet, still impossible.

she embraces the truth

and relinquishes the falsehood

until the only thing left is the beating of her hurt.

it shines.

she still exists.

her standard of living is stuck on survive.

she watches the reflection, the mask.

reaching inside

she struggles to lift it off.

only then can she find the happiness

she always sought.

then, and only then can she truly love.

then,

and only then,

can she find her true intensity.

Prospective Writing Sample Excerpts

Not that many people read this blog, but I figured this was worth putting up for a vote as to which sounds the most interesting.  I’m trying to pick what I want to include in my graduate school portfolio…I have three major stories (okay, four) that I would be willing to possibly put out there.  I’m going to cut and paste a couple paragraphs from each here just for kicks:

 

Sample 1 (This is Why We Sing)

I unwrapped the blanket from my shoulders, slowly and carefully laying it down on the couch cushion beside me.  Without making eye contact with anyone, I picked up the glass of water from the coffee table and threw it so hard against the opposite wall that tiny shards of glass made it back to me.  As the water streamed down the wall and everybody gaped in my direction, I whispered, “You can’t give me anything I want.  Not anything.  Because what I want is to have my baby back.  And you can’t do that.  You can’t un-cremate her; you can’t bring her back.  She is never coming back.  So don’t tell me you can do whatever I want.  Because you can’t.  Not everything.  No one can.”

I got up and left the room, going straight into the nursery and shutting the door behind me.  There were tiny Winnie the Pooh’s all over the walls, taunting me with their happiness.  Winnie the Pooh on the dresser.  Winnie the Pooh holding the lightbulb.  Winnie the Pooh in the crib.  Winnie the Pooh on the curtains.  His smile was everywhere, all over everything.  Suddenly unable to stand it, I grabbed the lamp and smashed it against the wall.  Threading the curtains between my fingers, I tugged until they ripped from the rod.  I threw all of the blankets into the corner, and tossed the pillows on top of them.  Finding a small loose corner in the wallpaper, I tore as much I could before it came off in my hands.  Throwing it into the corner, I sank to the ground in the middle of the room.  Ripping everything apart hadn’t done any good.  As much as I destroyed, she was never coming back.

 

Sample 2 (Purpose)

Women should remain silent.  They must not be allowed to speak, but must remain in submission….To the woman He said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbirth.  In pain you shall bring forth children.  Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.

–The Book

The chamber was much darker than the bright hallway from which Ciera had come, and it took a few moments for her eyes to adjust. The walls stretched upward for what seemed like miles, coming together at the top in a small glass dome.  It was dark outside, rainy.  Fitting for this day.  Placing one foot in front of the other, the only sound she could hear as she moved to what felt like center stage was the clanking of chains that shackled her arms to her waist.  Stadium seating went from floor level almost all the way up the dome, and the seats were all filled with silent men staring down at her.  Her masters.

“Masters,” she thought angrily.  Ciera came to a halt a few feet in front of the judge’s bench and spit on the floor.  “I’m my own master.”

A thick black hood shrouded the judge’s head, but she knew it was a man.  Men were the only ones who were allowed to judge.    Imagining where in the shadow his eyes were, she looked up as defiantly as she could manage in her pathetic gray cloak and chains.

“Do you accept the charges against you?”  The judge’s voice thundered through the entire chamber.

Ciera blinked once before uttering a simple, “No.”

 

Sample 3 (Blink)

Doug shoved Rich’s body off of him to the floor and got to his knees.  Lanie could see his hands shaking slightly as he struggled to hold on to the pistol.  “I didn’t…I didn’t mean…Not Rich.”

There was a wave of people pushing past her and running for the doors, and Lanie was crying so hard she couldn’t move.  Somebody tried to grab her arm and drag her along, but she shook them off and crawled over to the boys instead.  Doug raised the pistol, shooting at the students fleeing with shaky hands.

Lanie saw a couple of people fall to the ground, but there was no one in world anymore except for her and Rich and Doug.  Reaching out with one hand, no longer aware of even the boy beside her waving the gun around, she touched Rich gently on the chest.  He didn’t stir, and when she pulled her hand away, it was covered in blood.

Pulling away suddenly, Lanie pinned herself to the wall as the doors flew back open and a police officer appeared with his gun drawn.

“Doug?  Doug Watkins?”

Doug’s grip on the pistol tightened, and he rose slowly to his feet, a small smile forming on his face.  “You already know my name, right?  You know my name?”

“Put the gun down and walk to me.”

Lanie focused on Rich’s lifeless face, tears streaming so quickly down her cheeks that she could barely see.

“Funny,” Doug said.  “It’s funny how people keep telling me to do that, and funny how I still don’t.  I’m making choices.”  He took a step back, yanking Lanie away from Rich and pulling her to her feet.  “I’m making choices,” he said as wrapped one arm around her neck and used the other to hold the pistol to her head.  “I’m becoming less than ordinary.  I’m growing into something extraordinary.”

Lanie sobbed hysterically, all thoughts of struggling going out of her as she leaned into Doug.  The sensation of floating took over, and she found herself watching from above as the pistol was being shoved into her temple.

“Extraordinary, son,” the police officer whispered, “would be letting the girl go.”

 

Sample 4 (The Rest of Us)

That same spring break, I decided it was high time that I took up walking again.  I bought a new set of double A batteries, and I set out on an adventure.  It wasn’t until I went by the woods the bordered the pool that I had the first memory flash.  “We need to get away from him.  He’s a bad man.”  It was my mother, telling a much younger me that we needed to get away from my stepfather.  The image of her leading me into the woods by the hand faded quickly as I shook my head to clear it.  I walked on, dismissing the memory as a daydream.

As I went to cross the street, a hand flashed, broadside, across the canvas of my mind.  I saw images.  Images of things I didn’t know had ever happened to me.  Images of bad things, that nobody should ever have to remember.

Shutting off my earphones, I turned down the hill and ran as fast as I could towards home and solitude.  At home, the memories couldn’t touch me.

Mrs. Becker, what does a child do to deserve to be hit?  What could any child do to deserve to be hit?

The instant I hit the send icon on that message, I regretted it.  I suddenly wanted to take it back, keep it close to me.  It was my life; my dirty little secret.  But it was too late.  I had let somebody in, against my better judgment.

I received Mrs. Becker’s reply to my message the next morning, right before I was to go to her Creative Writing class.

Nothing.  Talk to me.

I logged off without replying and gathered my books.  There were still ten minutes left before I was due in Mrs. Becker’s class, but I knew if I went early she would try to talk to me.  So I walked around the building until the last possible second before ducking in the door, sliding into my seat just as the bell rang.

Our assignment in class that day was to work on the books we were writing for kids at the elementary school.  I couldn’t focus on the writing, because I could feel Mrs. Becker eyeing me as she made her way across the room.  Shielding my eyes with my left hand, I continued to doodle in my notebook as she knelt beside my desk.  “We need to talk.”

I was sure she knew I heard, but I still didn’t reply.

“We need to talk, sooner or later.  Do you want to talk now?”

I shook my head no, and the rustling of clothing told me she had moved on.  I still didn’t look up though, because I couldn’t bare to see the look of pity on her face.

An Essay Done in Tweets

(It’s funny how this forced my hand in terms of writing.  140 characters is NOT much to work with.)

 

What’s happening, Twitter?  I don’t know.  A little bit of this, a little bit of that.  Sometimes I wish I could press reset and start over.

If life had a reset button, many of us would take full advantage.  There are many things in life that could outwardly use some rearranging.

I often tell people I wish I had a big red easy button, like in the commercials.  I would press it, and it would make everything better.  

I wouldn’t mind a goodness coupon, something that would negate all the bad experiences in my life. There are many things I could do without.

But what I think people, myself included, don’t normally consider is that experiences, both good and bad, make us into the people we are. 

A single life is made up of bits and pieces of bigger pictures, just like a puzzle. A puzzle can not be solved without all of its pieces.

Each piece of a puzzle is different; no one piece is exactly like any other. Humans are a never-ending mystery that’s being pieced together.

We are more than our experience; we are more than our decisions; we are more than our past.  We are always changing, forming new pieces. 

This is what it means to be human, what it means to be truly alive.  We have to take the good with the bad if we ever want to move forward.

Being whole means accepting all the things that happen in life, both good and bad, and realizing that we can still control our own choices.

This doesn’t mean that we forgive.  This means that we learn and move on, shaping life to our will and nobody else’s.  We can always choose.

Anaphora (The Act of Carrying Back)

It was small, the stain, a deep red that permeated the fabric of the car seat.  Pomegranate seeds contain a brighter red juice than almost any other fruit.  The boy who’d made it hadn’t meant to; the fruit was small and he missed his mouth while snacking–poor timing.

Time is relative; it means different things to different people, but one common thread seems to be that we never have enough of it.

It was small, the stain, and I scrubbed it over and over with Clorox wipes because the car was new and I wanted to keep it clean.  I did my best to get it out, but the remnants remained despite my best efforts.  It would exist for all time, or at least as long as the car.

Time is forward moving; it goes on even as we become puzzle pieces that no longer connect to the fabric of the world.  Things happen, and there is a wall that separates the happened to from the not.  It’s late; it’s early; one can’t really tell.

It was small, the stain, and nothing compared to the stains of my last car.  When I sold that car, I got five hundred dollars for it.  When I sold this car, I would get a lot more.  But I was stuck with it for a long time.

Time is numbing; it can take away our ability to speak, to feel, to act.  But it can also give it back.

It was small, the stain.  But it was never coming out.

Be a Light-To My Students

A quotation is springing to my mind right now–“Be the light you want to see in the world.”  I don’t know remember offhand who said this quote or where it came from.  But it has cemented itself inside of my head for the evening and it refuses to let go.

As my birthday draws to a close, I realized that I have learned a LOT about myself this year.  I’m strong.  I’m a fighter.  I haven’t left a huge mark on this world yet, but I know that I want to–and I am DEFINITELY going to.  One of the greatest things I have learned about myself is how much “my kids” (students) look up to me.  I had a student during Tom Sawyer who admired my earrings at one point.  She asked if she could touch them, because they were, as she put it, “long and dangly and pretty and pink.”  I let her; she came to the next rehearsal wearing earrings that were very similar.  That made me smile.  🙂  I know that this is a horribly lame example…but I think it does serve as an illustration to my point:  as a teacher, kids DO see me.  They are watching.  They see what I say, and what I do, and they copy it.  Am I good example?  I don’t know.  Probably.  I hope so.  I want to teach my students to be strong and powerful.  I want them to respect themselves and each other.  I want them to learn more from me than just music and drama and Improv and…well, all of the stuff I’ve taught.  I want them to learn that they are people, and that they are worth something, and that each and every one of them is incredibly special.  This is ridiculously cheesy, but I want to be their light.

If I get accepted into grad school, (I’d like to say WHEN, but…), this next school year will be my last year teaching kids.  I want to make sure that I leave something behind for them, that I give them something positive to “chew on,” and that they are able to realize just how truly amazing they are.

This is for all of my students, past and present.  I hope that I have been a light to you; I hope that I have made you feel safe and respected, and I hope that I have helped you to find the light within yourselves.  And if I haven’t, I will do better.  Each and every one of my students is truly amazing, and I wish that I could show you how much each and EVERY one of you is so, SO worth it.

We only get to live this life once.  We need to make it count.  We need to be a light.

Personal Statements (Blerrrrrg….)

This post should really be entitled “Persaonl Statements (Blerrrrg….), Noodles, Spanish, and Psychotherapy.  But that would make for a very long title that would probably scare everyone away.  After that mouthful in the header, we would ALL need psychotherapy.

I blame Spanish for the fact that I didn’t write yesterday.  Summer semester officially started, and because it’s very rush rush, there were flashcards to be made.  103 of them, to be precise.  I also started my Theories of Psychotherapy course, which I think I will love.  We get to learn all the different “fix-it” theories for the human brain AND he’s giving us the option to write a five to six page paper over giving a fifteen minute presentation to the class.  What’s not to love, right?  But eight hours of two classes a day is a definite (sleepy) thumbs down.  However, Psychotherapy was cancelled today, and Spanish is cancelled tomorrow.  A birthday present?  Perhaps.  I ordered Noodles and Co. for myself (Truffle Mac with parmesan chicken) and came home to write.  And maybe get further ahead in my homework.  But probably just write.

I’m working on writing my personal statement for grad school applications, or at least the shell of it.  I’ve had something pretty basic written for a while, but I reopened the file recently and decided I hated it.  Now I’m starting over.  I need it to be perfect.

I have no hook.  My introduction is uninteresting.  Does this mean that I’m uninteresting?  Not necessarily…though sometimes it’s debatable.  I think it simply means that I don’t know how to make myself interesting on the page.  However, this is also a lie.  I DO know how to make myself sound interesting; I’ve done it before.  From that perspective, I guess I don’t know what my issue is with this.  Why do I want to study writing; what motivates/d me?  Do I have accomplishments?  (Not particularly, so I better make myself sound REALLY good.) And academically?  What will I say.  “Got (mostly) all As.”  That’s super exciting.  (Though I suppose this is where writing tutoring would come into play.)

How do I write a statement that is somewhat personal, specific, detailed, and formal, and keep that to 500 words…?  (Some can be 1000, but still.)

I want to study writing because I love it.  I want to study writing because it gives me a voice.  I’m not really sure what else to say.  In my undergrad personal statement, I used my son as a hook.  But that was completely different.  Yes, I want him to be proud of me.  Sure.  But it isn’t all about him anymore.  My life is not all about him.  There are other things, other paths.  And I can remember him, but I can go on and be okay with that.  It’s a part of my life, what happened, (ALL the things that have happened), but it’s not my life.

Cheryl Strayed says it well (And yes, I’m going to quote her in ridiculous amounts, because she’s my current writing hero.):  “It was all unknown to me then, as I sat on that white bench on the day I finished my hike.  Everything except the fact that i didn’t have to know.  That is was enough to trust that what I’d done was true.  To understand its meaning without yet being able to say precisely what it was … To believe that I didn’t need to reach with my bare hands anymore.  To know that seeing the fish beneath the surface of the water was enough.  That it was everything.  It was my life – like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred.  So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me.  How wild it was, to let it be.”

Life is a series of unfortunate events.  We choose which ones we let affect us.  Writing is one life event that has particularly touched me, and it has given me a way to communicate when there was no other way.  Writing is more than just putting words on a page to me.  It’s a method of speaking; it’s a method of connecting; it’s a method of being.  I’m not sure I can sum up the way I feel.

All this to say.  I’m stuck on this personal statement thing.

The Things I Carry

These are the things I carry.  

There are physical things, though not many that stick with me to any level of consistency.  My phone.  (Every day, everywhere.)  My wallet.  (When I remember it.)  My iPad.  (Most places.)  A hair tie.  (On my wrist or in my hair.)  Lately, I’ve been carrying a journal.

There are non-objects that I carry as well.  Memories, ideas, dreams, literal and figurative scars and all of the people and places of my past.  Memories from school, memories from my marriage, memories of my son, memories of my past experiences.  Ideas for stories, ideas for who I want to be.  The dreams that I used to have that I will never achieve, and the dreams that I have now that I hope to achieve some day.  The scars on my body; the scars on my insides.  And people.  WAY too many people.

I carry these things because I can’t let them go.  I carry the phone because it’s how I stay connected to the few people I care to stay connected to; it lets me pretend that I know more people than I actually do, and that I know more about their lives.  I carry the journal so that I can write in it all of the things that are too personal to blog.  But the non-objects?  The scars, the experiences, the people, the memories?  I carry these things because it would hurt too much to put them down.  But what I don’t consider often is the fact that it also hurts to hold on to them.  

Marya Hornbacher, the author of my favorite memoir “Wasted,” wrote, “You never come back, not all the way. Always there is an odd distance between you and the people you love and the people you meet, a barrier thin as the glass of a mirror, you never come all the way out of the mirror; you stand, for the rest of your life, with one foot in this world and no one in another, where everything is upside down and backward and sad.”  This is true.  I think that there ARE some people who do not come back from negative garbage.  I won’t be one of them.  

In my life, I have come to realize that there is more to be gained by doing my best to drop the barrier and step through that invisible wall.  It is more advantageous to be on the side with everyone else than to be on the side all by yourself.  Life hurts, yes.  But it hurts less when you have friends.  And I have friends who like me for the person that I am and will stick by me, despite everything.

I think that I would rather stick with them than be alone.  Plus, it’s easier to carry things with a buddy over trying to carry them alone.

(And I’ll admit it.  I stole this topic idea from a writing prompt.)  🙂

Preparing My Audition (Or, Confronting My Inadequacies)

I currently have a pile of vocal books sitting next to me on the couch.  We all know what this means…I have caved and pretty much decided to try out for “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”  In two weeks.

When I was a kid, I really loved being on the stage.  When I was performing, I could forget absolutely everything in my life and just focus on the there and now.  My shows performed in resume is huge, and I still remember most of the words to most of those shows.  I met a LOT of people performing; most of the (admittedly few) friends I had in middle/high school came from the drama program.  I wanted to be onstage.  I wanted to have solos.  I wanted more and bigger parts.

I have videos from several of the productions I was in.  No lie, I still watch them upon occasion. My first ever vocal solo was in the play “Broadway to Burlington,” which was written by our middle school drama teacher.  The solo was “Stay With Me” from Into the Woods.  I remember getting a perm for that part so that my hair would be JUST right…I was SO excited.  I think I was twelve.  Watching my face on the television now as I sing, I remember how terrified I was, and then I remember the success I felt when my solo ended during the first show.  (You can LITERALLY see it on my face–biggest smile EVER as the spotlight on me goes out.)  I loved that feeling of succeeding, of being great at something.  People saw me, REALLY saw me.  They applauded; they liked me; I was doing SOMETHING right.  I took years of voice lessons.  I had loads of solos.  I didn’t care what anybody thought of me, and it made my performances GREAT.  I was great.

I always thought that I stopped getting picked for leads because I wasn’t pretty enough.  The other girls were SO much prettier.  They wore makeup.  They wore the “right clothes.”  They said the “right things.”  I didn’t do any of that.  In all reality, it wasn’t that at all.  It was that I thought those things about MYSELF, and they showed through.  I knew that I was not the best dancer.  I’m STILL not the best dancer.  And I let that take something that I loved away from me.

Deciding whether or not to take this audition, as dorky as it sounds, is pretty important to me.  I teach theatre now.  I prep dozens of students for their own auditions.  I’ve been on a directing team.  But I haven’t been on a stage myself in over ten years.  I DESPISE the phrase “Those who can’t do teach” because I CAN do it.  I AM good at it.  Hell, I have an AWESOME voice.  Maybe I still can’t dance, sure.  But I CAN sing, and I can act.  And I can dance a LITTLE, if someone teaches me.

Trying to do this is important to me for a wide myriad of reasons, but most of all, I think I need to meet that girl again.  The one who loved to sing and did it without caring what anyone thought of her. I want to learn that again; I want to learn to not care what anyone thinks.

Sociability (Or, Correcting Previous Inadequacies)

Day 4!  I have hope that I am turning over a new leaf here in terms of my writing.  🙂

Truthfully, I think I’m in the process of turning over several.  I actually went to a social event tonight.    I spoke, I carried on conversation, and I was my generally awesome self.  If you know me, you understand-this is not always normal in social situations.  It was a new experience; generally I avoid sociability.  It isn’t that I don’t like people. Rather, it’s that I’m worried people won’t like me.  I had fun.  I met some (relatively) new people.  We drank beer.  We started a gigantic bonfire.  The semester (my worst ever) is officially drawing to a close, and I’ve come away with friends.

What does it mean to be social, really?  To be marked by or passed in pleasant companionship with friends or associates.  To go out; to be with people.  The phrase “no man is an island” has an incredibly deep meaning for me now.  I would never have made it through this semester on my own.  I’m learning to talk, and I’m learning to just be one person in every situation.  To just be me.  I believe that it takes some people a knock over the head to figure this sort of thing out.  I also believe, no, I know, that I am one of those people.  It’s possible for things to be bad, of course.  But it’s also possible to get through them.

I’m used to being the girl who sits in the background; as a matter of fact, I’m TOO used to it.  But I’m getting to a point now where I’m getting used to being the girl who DOESN’T.  I think  I like her so, SO much better.  🙂

Anti

Day three-I wonder how long I’ll go with remembering to write every day?  

Today, I wrote a 5,343 word piece that completely steamrolled me.  I mean that literally–this piece totally took me over.  I came home from a meeting, sat down on the couch, and wrote.  Two hours later, I had a piece.  It’s called “Anti.”  I think it will wind up as one of the opening sections of my memoir, someday, once I go back and edit it.  It’s equal parts beautiful and horrifying.  I love it, but I don’t want to; the writing is beautiful, that much I can say.  But the experiences contained within it are most definitely not.

This is part of the memoir writing process.  Exorcising the chaos from within.  There’s a gateway that’s been opened, a wall inside of me that seems to be falling down.  Without all of these bits and pieces, I wouldn’t be who I am today.  Writing them out gives them form and shape, for sure.  But it also shares a story that needs to be heard.  It bends the experiences to my will; it shapes them to be what I want.  

All this to say, I find it amazing how something so beautiful can come from a pile of crap.  In learning how to write, how to REALLY write, I have NEVER felt so alive.  This is what it’s all about.