It's a cold and rainy day. Dreary, even. There's a cold North wind, and this morning when I escaped from a night of haunting dreams, I heard the rat-a-tat of hail against the windowpane. Tiny, like the size of a grain of quinoa. Because in Vermont, that is a valid size reference.
I made myself a giant mug of thick and dark coffee. Sank my head into it, but it didn't help. Even 20 oz of caffeine can't jump-start me today. I decided that every Saturday that I'm home, I will make myself a new and exciting breakfast sandwich. Today's was a Monte Christo.
It was awesome.
I've spent the last week resting, recovering, breathing evenly and with purpose. Knitting. Cleaning. Receiving the love of my friends. But tomorrow, my staycation ends. I go to Boston. From Boston, I go to Virginia. And from Virginia, I come home to start a new job.
My first and second grade teacher was Mrs. Robinson. In general, I found her to be a shrieking harpy of a woman. She'd hug you one minute and then scream in your face the next, with no apparent motivation for either action. Our classroom had huge, vaulted cathedral ceilings, and at the roof she had made a calendar which listed the months in order. Just a line of them. January-August was on the North wall, and Sept-December was on the West wall. To this day, when I think about new beginnings, I think of that calendar: come December, you'd have to twirl around to see January again. There are breaks in time which feel physical. Chapters. Episodes. And at the risk of sounding (totally uncharacteristically, of course...) overly dramatic, I feel like this chapter is ending. New job. New scars. New strength. New center.
All of this is to say: despite my obscenely large mug of coffee, despite my awesome sandwiches, despite the fact that I need to finish packing, and make sure my furry roommate has enough kibble to last her a week, today I just want to curl up like a pillbug. Listen to Joe Meek (see below...). Complete my chrysalis stage. My wings aren't quite strong enough yet.
Saturday, April 23, 2011
It's a cold and rainy day. Dreary, even. There's a cold North wind, and this morning when I escaped from a night of haunting dreams, I heard the rat-a-tat of hail against the windowpane. Tiny, like the size of a grain of quinoa. Because in Vermont, that is a valid size reference.
Friday, April 22, 2011
My parents and older sister moved to my hometown when my sister was 8. The elementary school we both attended was tiny -- two classes per teacher per classroom. The total population of the school at any time was between 80 and 100 kids. There was one bus which would go on two runs a day: one to the south end of the island, and one to the north end of the island. Every Wednesday, the bus would drop half the bus at the Catholic church for catechism, and half at the Methodist church for bible school. My poor little 8 year-old sister would sit on a near-empty bus, with the Porters, who were the only Jewish family in town.
After a few months of this, my sister arrived home and announced to my parents that they needed to choose a church. She wasn't sitting on an empty bus, her outsider status on display for all. My father was raised Catholic, and had been divorced before he met my mother. My mother had a child out of wedlock. With a Jewish man. For these, and many more reasons, the Catholic church was not an option.
So they became Methodists. Methodism is fairly lax as far as dogma goes. Methodists take Psalm 98 literally: Make a joyful noise unto the Lord. In Methodism, that means singing. A lot of singing. I grew up singing loudly every Sunday. Say what you will about Christianity, or religion in general, but for the last 2000 years, some of the most gorgeous music created was in worship. Hymns are just plain pretty. I learned to sight-read music from hymnals, I sang in the choir. I liked the Old Testament stories, and recognized them for the archetype they are: explanations of human nature thinly veiled in magic, mystery and an over-arching plan. I never believed in a big old Judgey God, but I did (and do) believe in a something. To quote Hamlet: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio/Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
Christmas, for me, has always been a pain. It's always stressed me out. But Easter, I have always had and continue to have, a special place in my heart for Easter. It's not the Christan "He has risen!" sort of place. It's the part of me which always has, and always will, believe in magic. Those other things in heaven and earth. The things which our philosophies can't explain. To me, that's the mystery of being human, of being intensely aware of the mystery of the world.
It's not an original concept. In Egyptian mythology, Osiris was killed by his evil brother Set, who cut him into pieces and scattered them into the Nile. Osiris's wife, Isis, gathered the pieces and used her magic to resurrect him just long enough to conceive her son, Horus. So we have resurrection and virgin birth thanks to the Egyptians. Buddhism, too, obviously has plenty of resurrection/reincarnation aspects, as well. And there are plenty of correlations between the life of Siddhartha and Jesus. Which is to say, these stories are part of our human story. They are stories of our human need for archetypal need to fight against the dying of the light. Because the idea of death is what drives people to live.
After surviving a long Vermont winter, one needs to celebrate life. Badly. So badly, that my mother (and the mom in that sole Jewish family) created Chicken Day. Because, you know, we might have gone to church every week, but we Moo-Doos were never really one for dogma. But even Chicken Day didn't do for me what Easter did. First of all, Easter baskets are awesome. I love finding things, I love seeking things. I would hoard my Easter candy until well into the summer, parceling myself a tiny bit at a time. I'd nibble the ears off my chocolate bunny slowly, slowly.
But there's something else to Easter for me. New beginnings. Evolution. Rebirth, renewal. Everything spring represents, but with the addition of magic. A magical beginning. The chance to become something more then you've been -- the chance to reinvent the very fiber of your being. Crocuses, daffodils. Bunnies, chicks. And the songs. Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee is a favorite of this agnostic.
"Hearts unfold like flowers before thee,Say what you will about the belief in God, but as far as I'm concerned that's some damn fine songwriting.
opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
drive the dark of doubt away.
Giver of immortal gladness,
fill us with the light of day!"
My mother grew up in Philadelphia, where the Easter parade was a Very Big Deal. She'd get a new hat and dress every year, and would walk in the parade. So every year, we'd get dressed up all pretty-like for Easter. But we weren't terribly flushed, so our Easter outfits were considerably less impressive. Still: Easter bonnets. They were the Ben Franklin craft bonnets, which we'd decorate ourselves. But they made me feel pretty.
Check out the shoes.
And then our family Easter traditions. We'd watch Easter Parade every year, while wearing our bonnets. My older sister would sing along to every song, and I'd yell at her. We'd eat deviled eggs, made from the eggs we'd dyed. My mother would make a lamb, which grossed the future vegetarian in me out. I'd refuse to eat it every year. And my mom would serve it with mint jelly, which also struck me as disgusting. But even the disgusting parts were comforting. It meant spring. It meant mud pies and it meant the creek that ran through my front lawn would flood. It meant I'd make dams of dirt and mud and leaves until my fingers became numb from the icy water. I'd put on my rubber boots (we here in Vermont refer to them as "shit-kickers") and trek into the woods to find wild Irises. No one knew how they got there; I found them on a spring adventure one year, and had to drag my father out to the middle of the woods to prove that they were there. It meant lake-swimming, creemees, sunburns and lightning bugs were around the corner. In short: Easter meant that everything wonderful was beginning again.
That said, my mother was never one to take these things too seriously."Eat eggs...and like that." Because magic and humor go hand-in-hand, the way I was raised.
Posted by Outrageouschaos at 2:11 PM
Thursday, April 14, 2011
I've reached a conclusion over the course of the last year. A drum which, now that I've discovered it, I find difficult to stop banging. I am a woman of absolutes.
I like rules. I rarely feel comfortable without firmly defined roles and situations. Grey areas strike fear into my gut. Sometimes literally. I like things the way I like things, and I do not like things I do not like. To be fair, I am apathetic about things I haven't experienced. I either like something, hate it, or simply haven't formed a decision yet. I've realized I've always been this way, even as a wee me. It's just part of my logic board.
Whilst discussing high school with Shots, my faux-braux, I remembered something. I came to terms with this Woman of Absolutes thing within the last year, but it was obviously evident to others in high school.
There were around 250 kids in my graduating class. There were around 15 superlatives handed out. I got two. I guess I was secretly popular in high school. Must have been that pair of pleather pants I got in Germany and wore to class in senior year.
I was voted Class Actor. Which was funny, because I was only in three productions. I chalked it up to my riveting portrayal of a very drunk Dorothy Parker in AP English. My teacher singled me out, said "Do what Brooke just did." I had not prepared a speech, I just swilled ginger ale in a flapper dress, called the kid who was presenting Ernest Hemingway an anti-Semitic bastard (When he arrived to a party in Paris, he had asked where "that fat little kyke" was, because Parker was horrified at the brutality of bull fighting. Parker later threw a typewriter off an ocean liner at him, aiming for his head). I called the girl presenting Zelda Fitzgerald a "neurotic loon." She almost cried. I screamed "And YOU, Scott! Remember that time we fucked? Sure, you don't. But I DO." I did, however, speak kindly and affectionately to the guy presenting Falkner. He was always kind to Dottie, and she had taken him under her wing and introduced him to writerly-types. Basically, I swore extensively, accused fellow students of all kinds of debauchery, and swayed extensively. It was quite the sensation.
But the gravy was the other superlative I got. The one I actively campaigned for. I wheeled, I dealed. I promised Fitri Sudrajat, my Indonesian exchange-student friend who taught me to insult and swear in Indonesian (I can still say "You are a monkey-face,") that I would convince 10 people to vote her "Best Smile" if she got 10 people to vote me "Class Extremist." This was brilliant, because Fitri DOES have a great smile, and people with great smiles tend to be good at convincing other people of things.
My campaigning was successful. In all honestly, I wanted that title so badly because I was a sometimes goth-punk kid who hung out in the stairwell by the auditorium with the goth gay kids. I wanted it to Stick it to the Man. It was definitely the strangest superlative, and one no one really understood. I felt strange and misunderstood. Most kids in high school do, but I wanted to celebrate this truth. And I was successful.
I think those are two of the most flattering pictures ever taken of me. You can take the girl out of high school, but you can't take the extremist out of the girl.
Posted by Outrageouschaos at 9:41 AM
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
I am a superstitious person. I always have been: as a little kid, my parents would fight most of the time and constant bullying in school left me a nervous and scared tiny person with very little stability in her world. So I created my own false sense of stability.
There's a county highway department garage across the woods from my mom's house. It's where the county's snowplow are housed, along with three hangers full of road salt. My sister, her friends and I once broke into the garage at sunset, stood in front of the hangers (which are left open) and screamed at the top of our lungs. Deep screams from the pits of our beings. Angry, lizard-brain screams. Hundreds of pigeons flew out, like a bat cave. I was terrified and enthralled and intoxicated with power.
The garage was across the woods from my house; maybe 1000 feet or so away. When I was four or so, I remember staring out the window toward that garage and seeing the single street light that illuminated the parking lot through the trees. It is still the only street light on my mother's street, which had a total of four houses on the 1/2 mile stretch of road back then. But when I was 4, somehow I decided it was Tinkerbell's light from Neverland, and as long as I could see it, she was OK and all was right in Neverland. Captain Hook was being kept at bay, and that damned terrifying Tick Tock was not eating any Lost Boys. This was a great comfort to me, and I'd check every night before I went to sleep. Secretly. I'd wait till my dad came in to give me a "mummy-tuck." He'd tuck me in by gently shoving the blankets beneath me, so tightly that I'd lie with my arms at my sides, unable to move. I would wait until he had kissed my forehead and recited my nightly poem ("Good night/sleep tight/don't let the bed bugs bite. And wake up bright/in the morning light/to do what's right/with all your might/and so goodnight!") and had retreated, having left the door open a crack to keep the monsters at bay. Also, as I later learned, to let some of the heat into my room from the wood stove in the livingroom, our main source of heat when I was small and we were what my mother liked to call "upper-lower class." I'd wiggle out of my mummy-tuck carefully, as not to destroy the cocoon, check Tinkerbell, and wiggle back, content that all was right with the world.
I was 12 the time I saw a castle in the clouds. It was the damnest thing: the whole horizon was filled with clouds that were completely squared-off like the battlements of a castle. I'm not talking a couple one-off clouds, it was the whole sky. I remember staring at it slack-jawed and thinking "This...this is VERY good luck." That day was great but the next was horrible. Something bad happened at school, but I don't remember what it was. I do remember, at the end of the second day thinking "That castle in the clouds held off the bad for at least one day..."
To this day, when an eyelash falls out, I wish on it. But I have to be very careful it's not an eyebrow hair, because I decided long ago that wishing on an eyebrow hair will bring you the opposite of what you wish for. Shooting stars are wishable: during the Perseids this year, I went to Huntington to watch them in Randy and Rob's backyard. We counted 27 before 12:30 when I decided the 45 minute drive home had to be attacked. On the way home I saw a brown bear (in the road! It reluctantly sauntered out of the road for my car...) and a fox. That is good luck.
Rainbows are good luck. Seeing birds of prey is good luck. Dolphins are VERY good luck. When Serita came to visit me last summer from New York, during a time of change and flux, I took her to my favorite hidey-hole by the lake. You have to scale a tiny cliff to get to it, but then you're hidden from the trail. We were sitting in my hidey-hole, smoking cigarette after cigarette, trying to fix ourselves when an otter scurried up a sheer cliff with a wiggling fish in its mouth. For 30 of my 31 years, I've lived within 1/2 mile of Lake Champlain, and this was my first otter-sighting. Serita and I both decided it was terribly good luck.
When I'm driving, if I make it though a yellow light, I gently brush the roof of the car. When I see a car with a headlight out, I smack the roof of the car, and if there is anyone in the car with me, I scream "pididdle." If I am alone, I just think it.
My mother believes that an itchy nose means you're going to get into a fight, and itchy palms mean you're going to come into money. This comes from her mother, which comes from her Irish and somewhat-crazy mother. So, my great-grandmother. At one time, she was institutionalized for "spells," and my mother has suspected she was bipolar.
When I lived in New York, I decided a rat on the subway tracks meant the train was going to come faster. I suppose logically, this was flawed: rats would feel the vibrations and run. I mean, they're RATS. They know what's up. But every time I found myself in a subway station late at night, somewhat drunk, somewhat concerned for my safety and well being, waiting a half hour for that FUCKING GODDAMNED G TRAIN to come, I'd scan the tracks hopefully and a special sense of delight would strike me when I saw the frenetic scurry of a rat. Of course, I had to alter that belief when I got on the platform one evening and saw (no lie) 5 rats feasting on an overturned garbage can 20 feet away from me at the end of the platform. I almost vomited (see: somewhat drunk most of the time) and moved to the opposite end of the platform. That night, I decided rats on the tracks equal good luck, but rats on the platform equal VERY BAD LUCK. To this day when I'm in New York, I search the tracks for my little filthy omens.
But I have totems of good luck, too. These are the objects that I treasure with a somewhat unhealthy level of love, objects that I firmly believe will bring me peace and food fortune. I've been trying to document them on my Instamatic account, but today's is extra special.
This is my mother's belt. Hand-tooled and hand-painted, I poached it from her closet in high school (with her permission). I have no idea how old it is; drugs and booze have eliminated my mother's ability to remember details like that. She frequently says "If you remember the 60s, you did them wrong." My guess is late 60s or early 70s. My sister was born in '72, and I feel this belt came first.
It's cut down, and I can't remember if that's something I had done or if it came to me that way. I seem to think I had it done, and I seem to think I was warned it might be a bad idea by the leathersmith. "You can't undo this," I seem to think he said. That could have been another belt; I have a firm memory of a leathersmith warning me about the dangers of rash belt-cutting decisions at some point. But the decision to alter an object onto which I had imbued so much magical belief seems radically impulsive, even for me. In its shortened state, it barely fits my hips on the second hole, and the pointy nubbin of belt that is left isn't long enough to slip through the buckle properly. But I still wear it. I feel it protects me. I feel its age creates a protective force field, a barrier against the world. This belt has seen some TIMES. Sometimes I feel that it whispers to me: "This -- all of this -- is temporary."
It's also entirely possible my mother had it cut down. In the 70s, she was addicted to diet pills. Calling them "diet pills" seems like a euphemism: they were speed. She is my height (she claims to be an inch taller, but that has never been true) and looked much like I did when I lost 20 lbs two summers ago in a not-healthy time. Skeletal. Gaunt. But my mother was and is a stunningly beautiful woman, so she just looked like a model. When she would go out on the town with her friends, my godfather would tell men in bars she was a Playboy bunny so they'd buy her drinks. It worked. I just looked terrifying, and eventually got tired of hearing how bad I looked.
This belt knew my mother's waist, and now it knows mine. When stretched flat, it arches ever-so-slightly into a subtle curve from being stretched against both our hips. The surface of the leather is crinkled, but not cracked, an effect which somewhat resembles the Shabby Chic paint-treatment they feature on the DIY channel. Desperate housewives putting a lot of time, effort and money into making something look like it's been abused and neglected. But my belt is wrinkled with age, but not from abuse. This belt has been loved, and today I wear it to both hold my drawers up (because the handsome President says to [see below]) and to hold me up. Upright, proud and true. It's a ring for my hips; it's my inheritance.
Posted by Outrageouschaos at 10:35 AM
Monday, April 11, 2011
I love the rain. I always have.
I love the fat droplets that fall to the sidewalk like grenades, impacting with a visible splash. I love summer rain that breaks through the cloud of heat and haze. I love the lashing rain, when it rains so hard that it looks like it's falling in ribbons. I love staring into the sky when it rains. It makes the rain look like the view from the Millenium Falcon whilst hyper-jumping. I love when it rains so steadily that a river flows down my street in neatly scalloped scales. I love puddles, leaping into and over them. I love the air when it rains. I once heard that right before an electrical storm, the air is ionized and has more oxygen in it. That melted electrical storms and rain in my mind, and I still think the air feels easier to breathe when it's raining. I love it when it rains so fast and hard that you take cover with other strangers, and point with your thumb out at the deluge and say "Nice weather, ain't it?" out of the corner of your mouth. I love that feeling of "Well, this sucks, but we -- the people under this awning -- are experiencing the same suck at the same time." Commiseration is a powerful comfort.
There's a story, and I can't recall if I've written it here, that my mother tells. I'm unclear as to whether this happened when my mom was a child, or near the end of my grandmother's life when my mom was 26. I don't think it matters much either way.
My mother and grandmother were in a Natural History museum. I don't know if it was Philadelphia or New York, but they were walking along, and there was a display of Native American royalty. In wax, I think. They were walking down the line nonchalantly, when my grandmother stopped dead in front of a princess.
"That was me. Before this. That was me in my last life." The princess's name was She Who Walks in the Rain.
I never got to meet my grandmother, but she's an endless source of strength and love for me. My mother is a very vivid and emotional storyteller. I think she and I would have had a lot to talk about. We are both floaters and we are She Who Walks in the Rain.
Posted by Outrageouschaos at 5:14 PM
I get nervous when things end. Even bad things. As a New Englander, the devil I know is better then a strange new world. As the daughter of both an Irish-Catholic, and a fake Jew, I know better then to rock the boat, even when the boat is leaky and taking me down with it. There's a line in Fiddler on the Roof: "If you spit in the air, it will land in your face." Similarly, my mother's step-father used to say "Don't let a bird poop in your eye." Course, I've always rebelled against that. In my little quote book that I've kept since I was 12, I have a quote from Da Vinci: "When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return." And one by Oscar Wilde: "We are all of us living in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." Which is to say, I am mixed up a lot of the time. Trying to turn my eyes skyward without a bird pooping in my eye while sitting in my gutter, searching for the stars.
But I've been experiencing a jen-u-eyene bouleversement lately. Relationship/heartbreak-trauma with little hope of any satisfactory resolution, two jobs ending within a week of each other (only one of which is voluntarily, the other due to budget cuts), one new job (phew!) which, while exciting and awesome, will barely cover my financial bases until October when it goes full-time. Big, epic travel plans, spanning two weeks and four cities. One -- maybe two -- of those things would normally strike fear into the depths of my soul; all of them at once leave me dizzy and confused. The way I feel after getting off a spinney carnival ride: disconnected from the earth and slightly nauseous.
I intimidate myself on a regular basis. My whole life has been a lesson in being passive until pushed to the limit of my capacity to deal, and then I lash out in an attempt to defend myself. To keep myself safe. I've been very not-safe before, physically and emotionally, and the survival instinct is strong in me as a result. Some of the time this is to my benefit. Most of the time, it's to my detriment. But there's plenty of things I don't love about myself; the ability to fight back when I perceive myself backed into a corner, unable to breathe, suffocating and drowning, isn't one I can hate that much. I know it's cost me a lot, but, to quote my friend Melanie: "Do what you can do until you find you can do a little more."
I need to stop taking whatever I can get. I need to stop acting like that's all I'm worth. But it's hard to envision a world you've never known; it's hard to imagine feeling safe and loved when feeling panicked and lonely is the norm.
Sometimes, I just wish I were normal. Boring. Stable. I wish I were an accountant (wait, I sort-of am...I should say a content accountant) who married an insurance salesman and had three children with perfectly ordinary names. Names that come on pencils and erasers. Names that come on bike plates. But I don't even know how to begin to imagine actually living in that world of normality. I'm a game of Jenga, played on a roller coaster, not a game of Scrabble played on the kitchen table. It's time to accept that.
Posted by Outrageouschaos at 1:34 PM
Friday, April 1, 2011
I have never trusted April Fool's Day. Don't get me wrong - I love jokes. All kind of jokes. I am a particular fan of "That's What She Said" jokes; my humor cannot be described as particularly sophisticated. So, theoretically, I should love practical jokes. I do not.
Harmless pranks: fine. Great, even. Somewhere, my manager acquired a Halloween decoration of a witch riding an ear of corn. Predictably, the ear of corn looks more then a bit phallic. There has been an on-going battle of wills for years between my manager and my co-workers. The doll has been hidden in his house when we were there for a retreat; he retaliated by hanging it by fishing line 20 feet above my co-worker's desk. Back and forth, when you least expect it: there is the witch riding a dick. See? Harmless. No one is left feeling humiliated or disappointed.
Maybe my resistance to prank comes from years of being bullied to the point of tears on a daily basis, maybe it comes from the knowledge that there are SO many funny things in this world (Platypus! Goats that climb on top of shit! 30 Rock!) that I don't see the justification in making one person feel embarrassed for the purpose of amusing their peers. Use your words. Tell a joke.
I was four years-old the first time I learned that April Fool's Day is a day to tread upon lightly. My older sister was 12. When I sat down to breakfast that morning, there was a box of crayons sitting at my place at the table. A NEW box of crayons. We were solidly in the upper-lower-class to lower-middle-class income bracket at this point, so I NEVER got exciting luxuries like new, sharp crayons. My coloring books were full of carefully avoided edges, knowing that I could only make it into those tight nooks and corners with a sharpened crayon. I had tried using a crayon sharpener, but as anyone who has been a 4 year-old is aware, crayon sharpeners are bullshit. They just eat up your crayon and do absolutely nothing to get you into those nooks and corners in your coloring book.
I was obviously delighted with finding crayons for breakfast.
"Who is it from?" I asked.
"It's from me!" My sister gleefully replied. This seemed very suspicious.
"Why do I get a present?" I asked.
"Just because!" She was practically jumping out of her skin at this point. Vibrating. But, never one to look a gift box of crayons in the mouth, I decided to bank on the random acts of kindness that can sometimes be discovered in this crazy mixed-up world.
"Thank you SO much!" I cried, with genuine gratitude and joy in my tiny voice. My sister looked torn. She is not a cruel person. But April Fool's Day is nothing more then a free pass to psychologically torture siblings. She smiled kindly.
"You should open the box."
"Well, I don't want them to get broken," I said. I've always been very good at hoarding candy and treats. Best to save them for when I emotionally need them, rather then just use them because they're there. I had a plan for these crayons. Nooks. Corners.
"Just open them!" She said, with some urgency. In retrospect, her guilty conscience was betraying her at this point. She knew that the joke was only acceptable on one day of the year. If I opened them tomorrow, she knew she'd be emotionally responsible for my disappointment. But, on April Fool's Day, no one is responsible. It's not the fault of the prankster, it's the fault of the day.
Wanting to make my new benefactress happy, I opened the box. I was expecting to see all the crayons, points upward, in color spectrum order. Neat. Orderly. Perfect and unsullied. What I found was a box of broken chalk. Plain, white chalk. Stubs of chalk.
"This is full of chalk." I said, evenly. I was still naïve. I assumed it must have been a simple mistake, because what monster would play with the emotions of a child this way?
"I KNOW!" My sister leapt from her chair, and began gleefully leaping around the kitchen table. "APRIL FOOL'S DAY!"
Very funny, I thought. But she got this box somewhere. There are 6 sharp crayons somewhere in this house. And I wanted them.
"Where are the crayons?"
"There aren't any!" She said while continuing to Tigger around. "JUST CHALK!"
"Where did the box come from?"
"It's an old box! I found it in the junk drawer."
My lower lip, most frequently the initial chink in my poker face, started wavering. I realized that the emotional roller coaster I had just been put through had been designed and intended to disappoint me. My emotions were toyed with. For the amusement of someone else. Then the tears started. Big, fat, real tears.
"There…there aren't ANY new crayons?" I choked between sobs. My sister had stopped bouncing around.
"Well, I mean…I'm sure there are…at the store." A tsunami of tears broke from my face. A torrent of disappointment, humiliation and betrayal.
I've never trusted April 1st since that day, and plan to regard everyone I see with the suspicious, Judge Judy stare for the remainder of the day.
Posted by Outrageouschaos at 1:34 PM
Thursday, March 31, 2011
I don't know where to start. I suppose I should take a cue from those loveable Von Trapps. "Let's start at the very beginning/A very good place to start."
...but I've never been one to listen to the advice of nuns. (sidenote: The Herrmann's, our Austrian circus/Lipizzaner family-friends, claim Maria was a MONSTER. Like, awful. Mommy Dearest style...)
My sister and her family (and my mom) are going on a trip to DC this weekend. I have funny DC memories. I've always had oddly clear memories from a very early age, visual and emotional. I remember what my eyes saw and the way that made me feel. I've been told from a developmental standpoint that suggests very early language development, but I don't think I started talking particularly early. I do, however, remember the moment I spoke.
So we go to DC. I'm around 3, although I've never been able to get a firm age from my parents. That's what having stoner parents does for you, I suppose. Details like age are lost in the ether, and I'm left doing the math based on the years Kodak printed on the back of pictures.
I don't remember things chronologically. But in no particular order:
- We walked through the cherry trees, which were in bloom. My older sister (at that point, my only sister) was skipping through them, proclaiming how BEAUTIFUL and MAGICAL the blossoms were. I clearly remember thinking "Well, she's being awfully dramatic about this." Not in those words. Just that emotion.
- We went to Monticello. I don't know why, but I remember peacocks there. I can't find any evidence of peacocks at Monticello, so perhaps that memory is filed wrong, but my whole family remembers the experience the same way. Never-the-less, whilst standing in front of a male peacock, (which are GIANT birds to a 3 year-old) he suddenly unfurled his tail in front of me. I was in awe. It was a wall of beauty from a bird who simply blinked at me as if saying "Ain't no thing, little girl." I also remember chasing peacocks, which I was yelled at for. I just wanted to hug them! Dumb peacocks, playing hard to get.
- We went to the White House. I think I had a picture book about Ling Ling and Hsing Hsing, the pandas that China gave to the US as a show of Cold War good will. The president (Nixon) accepted them, which to my mind made them pets of the White House. So I fully anticipated a dog house on the South Lawn with two pandas rolling around, just waiting for 3 year-old Brooke to arrive to roll around and play with them. My disappointment at finding no pandas was soul-crushing.
Strike one, Reagan.
- I also assumed we would meet the President on the tour. Initially, I expected that we'd go to his house, knock on the front door, and I'd ask to play with the pandas while my parents were invited in for a tour. We did not knock on the front door. The president did not answer the door. There were no pandas. Ok, thinks me. Well, they'll end with the president then. I mean, we're in his house. We're his guests. Why wouldn't he just take a minute to say hi? If someone comes to my house and I hide in my room and don't come downstairs to say hello, I am being rude. The president wouldn't be RUDE, would he?
Strike two, Reagan.
- We went to Busch Gardens on the trip. This was exciting because I could not yet swim, but they had a BALL POOL there. Imagine! A pool you can't drown in! A pool that doesn't involve putting your face in the water, which I found VERY SCARY at that point. I had seen the ball pool on commercials, and I knew it would be the highlight of the trip for me. Especially given the White House debacle. When we got to Busch Gardens, we had to stand in line. And there were two nuns in full habits in front of us in line. "Well. That's odd. It'll be funny to see the nuns in the ball pool." See, I just assumed that's what EVERYONE was going for. Not roller coasters; BALL POOL. When we eventually made our way to the ball pool (it took FOREVER) I joyously flew down the slide, expecting to be cushioned by a pillow of balls (TWSS), which I could throw in the air. I would swim across that ball pool like Scrooge McDuck in his money pit. And when I hit the balls...it was not what I expected. First of all, it was 3 feet deep. I expected the ball pool to be over my head. I expected to be buoyed and supported. In actuality, I was just sitting in pit slightly larger then a sandbox with hard balls in it. Yawn. I demanded cotton candy to sooth my wounded soul and called it a day.
I still, 30 years later, struggle with this. I study Taoism, and there is a passage which reads "A cup is useful only because of its emptiness." Freeing myself of expectation, I've learned, is the best way to avoid disappointment and pain. In Taoism, you cannot have good without bad. You can't recognize and appreciate joy unless you have experienced pain. You cannot have balance within yourself until you welcome the darkness into yourself with as much enthusiasm as you welcome the light. Because if you only expect happiness, you will be endlessly surprised and disappointed by the sadness which inevitably partners with the happiness. You learn to seek balance, contentment. Not happiness.
My father gave me my first copy of the Tao. When he returned from Vietnam a deeply physically and emotionally wounded 19 year-old, who was initially told he would never walk again, he was given the Tao. I don't remember who gave it to him, I'll have to ask him. But it helped him. There are many passages about war and destruction in the Tao; many passages about letting go. There is a passage about how when a river encounters an obstacle in its path, it learns to flow around the obstacle, and in time, this simple action of non-violence results in the obstacle being worn down. Slowly. Passively. Nearly unintentionally. The Tao is about self-acceptance and being still, without being disconnected.
Buddhism is much more rigid in its teachings, much more about desireless. Taoism isn't a religion, it's a philosophy. In Buddhism, if you don't live a good, honest life according to the teachings of Buddhism, you are reincarnated as a lessor creature. Taoism doesn't have a cause-effect system as a philosophy. It's much more of a "If you're not happy, try this. No worries if you don't, though."
So. I try to be free of expectations. I try to be free of need, of wanting. Of desire. But despite the 30 years of knowing that expectation leads to heart-wrenching disappointment, I still dream. I can't help it. I am hard-wired to drift into revelry.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
I recently discovered that tags in Hulu's movie descriptions can be unintentionally hilarious.
I'm not going to lie to you. I am definitely watching this soon. Stoned. In all seriousness: I don't get how a movie rated R could also be rated XXXX. What the hell IS that, anyway? It's one X worse then XXX. So...shit that's only legal in Japan? Dammit, now I REALLY want to watch this. GOOD WORK, TAGS.
Somehow, I find the spirit behind these tags an ironic counterweight to the subject of the movie. Perhaps had they been able to finish watching the movie, they would have embraced passivity.
It's like reading the ingredients on the back of a package. BOOBS is the first, and therefore most prevalent ingredient. Also: boobs AND cross-dressing? I wanna travel back in time to go to THAT high school.
I am not sure if this movie is about the Left Behind movement, but judging from the tags, it's not worth my time either way.
"Just, you know. Your AVERAGE Culkin. One or the other. Not the blonde one that screamed in that Joe Pesci movie and hung out a bit too much with MJ. The littler one. YOU KNOW. Oh, screw it. We'll just tag it 'Culkin' and call it a day."
Saturday, January 2, 2010
I am taking a break from the breathtakingly beautiful "In the Realms of the Unreal." It leads me to think about my own realms of the unreal, the worlds I create that I alone venture into. Falling asleep as a young girl, bored with the prospect of falling asleep and waking up into the same world, I'd imagine myself falling asleep on a pirate ship, rocked to sleep by the waves. I'd imagine myself in a down-filled, 19th century homemade mattress on the prairie. I'd imagine myself covered in furs and velvets, as befitted my imaginary royal self. Once, my father was scolding me, most likely for not picking up my room properly.
"What do you think you are, some kind of princess?" I threw my head back, and with all the regalement I could muster, I said:
I suppose this ability to create alternate worlds to live in, like a transparent overlay on top of an existing background, could be considered unhealthy. But because I have, over thirty years of practice, become so adept at maintaining control over my own imaginations, that they never take control of me without my consent. With so many smart people floating around, unaware of the transparencies they throw against their own world, unaware or unwilling to admit the delusions they create and foster are their own, I can't help but feel grateful that I recognize reality in all its glory.
My world is my own. Your world is your own. I can't possibly understand what your eyes see unless you tell me, and you can't hope to fully comprehend where I go when my gaze drifts into daydream unless I trust you enough to share it with you.
Lynn Barber wrote an eloquent and beautiful account of her affair with a much older man in The Observer. I suggest reading the whole piece, it's horrifying and compelling much like a good slasher flick, but relies on the emotional carnage she suffered instead of bloody bodies.
I learned not to trust people; I learned not to believe what they say but to watch what they do; I learned to suspect that anyone and everyone is capable of "living a lie". I came to believe that other people - even when you think you know them well - are ultimately unknowable. Learning all this was a good basis for my subsequent career as an interviewer, but not, I think, for life. It made me too wary, too cautious, too ungiving. I was damaged by my education.It's a bit odd to turn a decade older the year that we all enter into a new decade. I have entered my 30s as the year turns 2010, and that logically leads to contemplation. Who I have been in the past 10 years as an adult. Who I thought I'd be by now. Where I've failed, and where I've succeeded. The best and worst I can say about myself: I have tried to do right as much as I can, and have tried to admit fault whenever I've felt responsible. I do the best I can, and I keep moving.
It's hard for me to disengage. I feel things passionately, and my gut has never pointed me in the wrong direction. It's hard to not trust that. It's hard to trust other people instead. I suppose, if a new year's resolution is necessary, that it will be to be grateful for the trust I have in people, to observe and recognize it, and those people who inspire it, in the moment I feel it. To appreciate what I have when I have it, with the full knowledge that all people are temporary, that all relationships are ephemeral, and that the only constant and enduring support I have is found within myself. To only spend time or energy on those who make room for me in their lives, who care as much for and about me as I do for them. To not be used as a therapist and wet-nurse for sad-sacks, who forget their convalescence as soon as they are well again. To give joy and love and expect it in return.
Posted by Outrageouschaos at 8:49 PM