Thursday, June 10, 2010

Whittling Away...

You know how you have those things in your past that stay buried and fester like an old splinter or something? I have many and I'm sure most people do -- else we wouldn't have sayings like, "Most people lead lives of quiet desperation." Toxic people, situations and events run through our lives like water through the Grand Canyon, chiseling a channel too deep to fill up and too wide to bridge.

One toxic person, situation and event (yes, all three knotted together like that twine ball) that I've been chewing over, something I've always privately thought of as the entry gate to my thankfully brief descent into Hell is when I was shoved from the comforting nest of my junior college speech/theatre department into the pit of vipers theatre department at university.

I had developed a relationship with the svengalian JSB when he was recommended by one of my forensic coaches as a tutor in algebra. At 24 years old, I'd experienced far more than my share of adult content, yet surprisingly had remained truly naive to so much of the complex network of experiences which make up the social web. Or to the point, I was still, miraculously, a Christian and a virgin. I'd never experienced a person such as JSB in my entire life -- someone so charismatic, so mesmerizing, so spell-binding! He'd look deep into my eyes, and seemingly imply... things... I was sure I was in love to the deepest core of my being. We'd sit late into the night in various coffee shops writing poetry together; mine stilted and rhymey... his open and free and flowing. He taught me how to express myself through poems and affected my creative writing so much ...that to this day I won't even attempt a poem unless it's practically bursting out of my chest like an Alien.

He'd make my birthday special...and then not speak to me for several days, only to resurface in my field of vision with a girlfriend on his arm. He'd ignore me passionately for several weeks -- while in the new relationship -- and then somehow just ...materialize in my life again, staring deep into my eyes and burrowing even further under my skin. He'd tell me I was priceless and special to him...and then disappear into another woman's life, only coming up for air long enough to pointedly ignore me. The old manchurian... To say that he scarred my soul sounds dramatic...but comes pretty close to the truth. Even today, 20 years later, writing about him makes my stomach slightly nervous.

As much an effect he had on me, he worked doubly on my two female speech coaches. When they talked of him, their language was couched in terms nearly religious... For a time, I truly thought he was some kind of magi or mind-bender, so wide-spread was his effect on everyone.

They pushed me from the nest of the junior college speech/theatre department into the speeth/theatre department at university before I was ready... I remained convinced for a long time they did so to shield JSB from my poisonous influence. I suspected he wanted me they gave the appropriate shove. From there, my life -- in my carefully culled together Life Narrative -- took a downturn that would last for the next seven years. My personal 'desert' or Dark Night of the Soul. I always blamed those seven years of wandering on the two speech coaches who shoved me away from the bosom of their prodigious care at the behest of the Enigmatic JSB...

Until yesterday, that is. My Personal Life Narrative took a big hit when I had a sort of epiphanal moment in realizing that perhaps he was/is weaker than I and needed protection from me! Even though I was wandering, I had never stopped believing in God, in Christ...never stopped praying -- although my prayers were more disgruntled thoughts than actual prayers. I had my God watching over me... JSB only had his "angels" -- two women, mired in new age philosophy and hamstrung by their own personal disappointments and impediments.

Hey, I know this sounds arrogant, but it's actually the exact opposite. I went through Hell during the three years I attended Ole Miss. I was NOT a good fit at that university. I had a chip on my shoulder a MILE wide. I was surly and uncooperative with the faculty and sometimes outright rude to my fellow classmates. I was a B*tch, full-stop. But, as the old saying goes, "just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they ain't out to get ya!"

My core problem began with the speech program's graduate advisor, JC and trickled like an oily, rancid river through his (now) wife, V and her toxicly deranged friend P. It spread like a virus to others because I simply didn't have the tools -- emotional or psychologic or (perhaps most importantly,) spiritual to fight back so I spread it. I spread it like Jif in an otherwise empty pantry. I was so full of putrid, impotent rage at the attack by that Triumverate that I projected it onto just about everyone else in the vicinity. I became a Victim, and I had NEVER been a Victim. I thrashed like I was on fire against what I perceived as Public Opinion against me. I bristled at what I thought were slights and sneers at my mental state. I boiled over the reputation as "easy" that I knew they spread. I became very, very paranoid. I seriously contemplated suicide, and started a very futile, very frustrating period of counseling... because I just. couldn't. get. over it.

God, but this hurts to even revisit. Seriously. There's a part -- a very minute part of me, mind -- that wishes some of those people -- the innocent bystanders -- could read this and realize I was so, so miserable. That the person I was for those three years (and the recovering individual I was for the next four) was/is NOT who I AM. That pressure and force, and perceived persecution shaped and molded me into a person I had never been, nor, God willing, will never be again. I am mortified when I think back to who I was during that time... a person I don't even recognize as living in me -- like I'd been ...possessed.

But hey, I survived. I've got the emotional scars -- all keloid bloated and gnarly -- to prove it. The thing that hit me yesterday is, perhaps, JSB didn't. I think he may have been very needy emotionally, only I didn't recognize the need beneath his mesmerizing qualities. Maybe I asked too much, pushed too far, needed too much from someone who, ironically, had nothing to give. Maybe my two new-agey beloved speech coach advisors recognized that fact and made the decision to cut me off because they knew, ultimately, I could take it and JSB couldn't.

I dunno. Alls I know is I'm still standing. I'm not particularly proud of who I've been at times...but I'm proud -- without reservation -- of what I've become. And I owe all the good to God, and take full responsibility for all the bad.

So...I guess what I'm saying is, I forgive JSB for confusing me so, my mentors for abandoning me, and myself for not looking to Jesus through that time. Had I put my faith and trust in the Rock That Shall Not Be Removed, I might have had a different experience at Ole Miss.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Driving Miss Crazy

My mother owned the road. When she perched in the driver's seat, every other driver on the road, in deference, parted their vehicles in two undulating lines to the left and right of her path. She sailed, swan on placid water, through the line unassailed to her destination, where she landed gently, slid the shifter gracefully through prindle and descended from her coach in a cloud of beatific satisfaction.

At least in her mind.

My experience, as her shotgun passenger, resonated differently. Her majesty was not pleased with the subjects occupying 'her' road, and made her displeasure quite known. Her tone of voice, her mode of expression, her posture all signified livid, unmitigated aggression towards her fellow travellers. I learned the rankest cuss words, not from my peers in the schoolyard, but right there, shotgun passenger seat to my mother's road rage. I experienced my first one-fingered salute, not from a loosely cobbled gathering of disaffected youth or a peace protest or a rock concert, but right there, sitting next to my mother as she navigated her personal Mad Max-ian pot-holed hell.

She always felt, I think, she'd been born to a chauffered car, but found herself saddled with the soccer mom duties of the mere plebiscite.

You know that queer mix of embarrassment and superiority every kid eventually feels about their parent? I'd get acute pangs of it toward my mother's wild gesticulations and loud profanities while pressed into piloting the family sedan. I guess I was shocked by the realization that my mother, from whom I'd learned the bedrock principles of 'Right and Wrong,' turned out to be as much of a fraud as I at the 'actions speaking louder than the words' thing. It informed the very beginnings of my foundational mistrust in all authority. Poor mom. Probably had no inkling she was shaping a closet anarchist.

My mother's dead lo these almost seventeen years; her impotent wheelian rages stifled, blanketed by the softening of almost two decades of inactivity. She went -- maybe not gently, but certainly -- into that good night where no one impedes her progress on the road by driving too slowly, or too fast, or erratically or by not using their %$##^#$% blinker! I suspect her drivetime plays like Singin' in the Rain instead of Beyond Thunderdome, now. In short, she is at peace, finally, behind the wheel.

But sometimes, usually when I'm behind the wheel, oddly enough, I'll hear it. That string of profanities and wild ravings; I'll see in my peripherals the surreptitious hand ...uh... signals. I'll feel the faint recognition in my spine, the slow slide down into the seat for concealment, the complex embarrassment mixed with equal parts superiority... the recognition of The Drive down Her Road. I'll think to myself "Mother!"

And I realize, with a growing sense of shame tinged with the vaguest beginnings of forgiveness... I am just like my mom.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Desert dry

Still reading. Not much writing at all. Trying to figure out if I'm meant to be an author, or a writer.

To me, an author implies commercial success -- however modest. Anyone can "be a writer". You need only write every day. (So, as of right now, I'm not even a writer.)

Right now, I'm reading Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. Although written in the mid-90's, the advice is resonant and I'm getting a great deal from the instruction. Mostly reaffirming what I learned from other books on writing, but with Lamott's own unique voice supplying. I think I'd enjoy studying under her -- she seems very organic.

I'm already pretty whimsical in my writing pursuits. If 'the spirit doesn't move' then neither does my pen. If I'm not feeling it, I don't even glance at the laptop. What I need is to harness that wayward childishness and learn to channel it into a daily practice.

Easier said than done.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010


Okay, so I've done very little writing since NaNo '09 wrapped. I've written a few things by hand -- a prose-poem kind of thing about Christmas; a little piece of observatory prose; and pages and pages of book reviews -- but my fingers have nary tapped the keyboard of my laptop or Dana for anything other than surfing. But my time has been well-spent.

For I have been ...reading.

Yes the twin Sun to writing for a Writer is Reading. I'm a very uneven reader. My F-i-L and S-i-L are both very consistent readers; always with a book, steadily making their way through stacks of 'books to read' and polishing them off regularly. I've long wanted to be disciplined in my reading like that, but alas -- as with most other areas of my life -- I'm more like a mad dasher.

I can read like a sum'bitch when inspiration hits me. I can devour 300+ page novels in a single day -- and still have the clothes washed and dinner on table -- if I'm really of a mind to. And have, several times. The problem is, I have to 'feel' like it.

That is the single biggest hurdle in my life for anything worthwhile I wish to pursue: I wait for the 'feeling' to hit me. I have to be inspired, motivated, driven to do whatever it is.

For instance, in the month of December after NaNo '09 ended, I devoured eight books. Daniel Silva's latest Gabriel Allon book, The Defector, Brad Thor's The Apostle, Sara Bird's How Perfect is That, P.J. O'Rourke's Peace Kills, Haggai Carmon's Chameleon Conspiracy, Lee Child's Gone Tomorrow, Tim Gautreaux's The Missing, and Michael Connelly's 9 Dragons. I'm rounding out that list by currently reading Steve Galloway's The Cellist of Sarajevo.

All of the books are very different, although some fall into my currently favorite genre of Thriller/Adventure, and I'm learning a vast deal from all of them about story structure, conflict and tension and characterization. In the rest of my posts for this month, I'm going to examine in detail some of the stuff I think I'm learning.

If the inspiration hits to actually write a post. I wonder if there's any novels out there that can teach me to be consistent and disciplined....

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Trouble Letting Go...

I'm still in NaNo land -- reading forums and following cool links to all sorts of writing inspired challenges and stuff -- things I didn't have time for when trying to corral 50k/30d.

Here's one -- test how fast you can type:

67 words

Typing Test

There's a little disclaimer at the bottom informing the user it's not 100% accurate I'm gonna go with that! 57 words/m? Oi, I'm SLLLLOOOW. Jim is faster than me!!! (Pam Beesly would laugh through her nose at me.)

Edited: so yeah, went back and improved by 10 words... if I keep up the improvement rate, (+10 words every day, times 330 days)... Uhm, uh... I could do next years NaNo in like, uhm, less than five days. Yeah.

(Someone who knows how to do algebra? Ples, halp?)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

"'s, like, better than losing?"

You know, Joe Fox says that The Godfather is the "i-ching, the sum of all wisdom, the answer to any queston..."

Well, I dispute that. To me? It's Bull Durham. There's always a pertinent quote to be culled from that movie.

Anyway: I won! Now, I'm going to have a much deserved movie night with my family, without who's patience I could not even attempt to write 50,000 + words in 30 days. Thank you, Chris Baty and Co. for a wonderful "30 days and nights of literary abandon." This aspiring author totally appreciates what y'all do.

I'll see y'all in a week or so...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

More Ignominious Self Aggrandizement

I like big WORDS and I cannot lie...

I'm not exactly tearing up the field, but I'm holding my own.

Staying just a little ahead of the daily goal, my word count is healthy even if my plotline is anemic.

Editing. It's what December is for.