Forgetful/Thankful

“Well into adulthood, writing has never gotten easier. It still only ever begins badly, and there are no guarantees that this is not the day when the jig is finally up.”

― David Rakoff, who wrote books and was beloved and hung out with Ira Glass and whatnot, confirming what I suspect to be true: This whole thing does not get easier.

***

Writing is hard, y’all. My business cards and email signature might lead you to believe I think the opposite. As I am A Writer, whose living is made by working with words, I probably find writing easy. Maybe I’ve found, as time goes by, that it only gets easier…

UNTRUTHS! 

I wonder all the time if “this is not the day when the jig is finally up.” I feel, at my lowest of lows, that I did my best work when I was 17. Before the pleasures and distractions of adulthood (and the internet) took over my mind and blurred my once-sharp creativity like a thumb on graphite on newsprint.

I wonder this sometimes, when I sit down to blog and only mush comes out. Unclear, uninspired, unspectacular mush. I roll my eyes at myself. I close the laptop. I eat some Cheez-Its to dull the pain.

Tonight, I wanted to tell you a story, so I sat down and tried to tell you that story. But I was highly dissatisfied with the mushiness of the results. So I googled “writing gets harder” (this is a thing I do, Google-as-therapy), knowing I’ve read such things before, hoping to wallow in the writing of some kindred stifled spirits.

Turns out, we are legion. It sucks. And it helps. A lot.

So here’s the story I wanted to tell you. I can’t guarantee it’s not mush:

When I left work, it was already dark out (which makes me want to get straight home and into some sweatpants), but I was going to make a quick stop at Target on the way home. I even got one of my favorite parking spots — those diagonal, close-to-the-building spots. Know those spots? I love those spots.

I stopped the car and reached for my purse, only to find that my purse was not there. There was no panicky “where’s my purse?!” moment, only the knowledge that I’d left it in my desk drawer. Dammit. Without any good excuse. Not in a hurry, not on the phone, not particularly absent-minded when I left work today. Just one of those things.

I have plenty of forgetful moments in my life, but I’m not a “leaves her purse behind” kind of girl. Too much paranoia and cheapskatery in my blood for such things. So this was an unfamiliar feeling. A bit of the nakedness that watch-people describe when they’ve left their wrist-wear at home by mistake.

I was surprised to find that my first emotion wasn’t annoyance at myself or the situation, just an internal shrug and the unavoidable conclusion: I’m at Target. I have no money. Guess I’ll go home. I didn’t need anything too desperately tonight anyway, though I did really have my heart set on the pumpkin pie Pop-Tarts my coworker was raving about this week. (Pumpkin pie. Pop-Tarts.)

My second emotion was the surprise: gratitude. Because I realized, I don’t think I’ve ever really, truly known what it feels like to be without money. Aside from the minor annoyance of finding myself with only cards at a cash-only establishment, or the rather disorienting time that I managed to lock my keys, my wallet and my phone in my car while getting gas (a thing I did! College graduate, guys!), I don’t know what it’s like to be without. Not for long. Not when it really matters.

I know what it feels like to want things I can’t have, mind you. All the damn time! (Those Pop-Tarts, guys!!) But I’ve never had to make the choice between filling my plate or filling up my car. And I recognize that this makes me a very lucky girl indeed.

***

I still like this writing thing, when I make myself push through the mush. Another nice thing to remember.

(Holy shit wow.)

Doing a little sprucing up around the homestead. Spring cleaning and all. I even sorted through my bookshelf (it’s true) and made a little give-away pile (remain calm).

Flipping through one, I found a pencil-scribbled note from 04/23/12 on the back page. Almost a year ago. I’d just gotten back from a trip to Memphis. A really great weekend with friends and family. A wedding I’d been looking forward to for…years.

So it’s only natural I was experiencing the “post-birthday party” letdown feelings. But I see something beyond the general gloominess that follows a fun vacation. I see restlessness here that I’m glad to report has settled. I think. For now.

Perfect not-cold sweater weather outside. Sun setting. Everything green. I try to look at my surroundings with fresh eyes. What if this were my vacation spot? My refuge or escape? I’d think it was beautiful. Breeze. Birds. Sunshine. Trees. Peace.

How can I bring vacation-me home and let her roam around my everyday life? She’s so hopeful and happy. So eager and open to good. Creative and relaxed. Energized. Her eyes want to notice things. Her eyes want things. Her body craves movement. Her mind needs food. She sees possibility. People like her and think she’s fine.

Post-birthday-party-me clearly saw vacation-me as the type of person she wanted to be. “Her eyes want things.” I underlined that word…and I think I know why. When I’m feeling stuck, I can lose my ability to want things. Drive, desire, chutzpah — what have you. But there are moments when I can get it back: in a new place, with an old friend, at a movie or in a book. Hell, sometimes a particularly good snack can transport me to a better place. You never know.

Book scribbles

Later that night, Ben Rattray (founder of change.org) was on the Daily Show, and I scribbled some more notes in the back of that same book. (Nice pre-loaded blog post fodder, last-year-me!)

“Putting your efforts and life’s work into making the change you need in yourself.” (paraphrase)

(Holy shit wow.)

Ben Rattray — 1st attempt FAILED.

These scribbles are a little more cryptic. But, thanks to the internet, I found a clip of the episode. And here’s what he actually said.

The paraphrased scribble was from Jon Stewart, actually, and I got pretty close: “Incredible story. Putting your efforts and your life’s work behind the change you wanted to make in your own being.”

In other words, hey lackluster SJ, you know this hopeful & happy, creative & energized person exists. But you’re having trouble tracking her down. In the meantime, what can you do to make your world a more hopeful, happy, creative, energized place? Do those things. She’ll come back. 

The idea sounds absurdly simplistic when I spell it out like that, and I’m also not sure I’m completely articulating my point…it’s bouncing around in my brain, but I can’t quite reel it in.

If you have six minutes to spare, watch Rattray’s full interview. If not, just take his final words:

The power that people have to make a difference right now, with social media, is far greater than ever before. and if you identify an issue you care passionately about [...] you have a greater chance of success than you can possibly imagine.

(Holy shit wow.)

There’s no “I” in Thesaurus

I’ll be 30 in 100 days. I know this because I have a countdown widget on my laptop dashboard…and I happened to look at it yesterday while I was using my thesaurus widget, which is also a thing I have. (I think about synonyms more often than I think about my birthday, for what it’s worth.)

I get to spend a significant portion of my workweek thinking about words. Things like:

“What rhymes with ‘fries’?”… (Answer: so many things!)

“How can you say ‘delicious and moist’ without sounding pervy?”… (Answer: you can’t.)

So I spend a lot of time with my thesaurus. And rhyming dictionary. And lists of idioms. I fancy myself a lucky girl.

I hopped on Facebook to say something about this Countdown to 30 milestone today, but I couldn’t come up with anything that I felt was worth saying. Maybe because I’m a little sheepish about it anyway, but also because today so many people are posting some pretty serious things.

Gay friends. Straight friends. I-haven’t-asked-and-they-haven’t-told friends. One friends. Two friends. Red friends. Blue friends.

And I wanted to say something, too, but I wasn’t sure what. I don’t engage in debates on Facebook…religious or political or Thin Mints® vs. Samoas®…I just don’t dig conflict, in general. And so Facebook conflicts tend to go from zero to “BITCH, PLEASE!” too quickly for my taste.

But I want to say something. Here’s what I got: I looked up “marriage” on my thesaurus widget, and one word stood out: union. This issue is so divisive. It feels like the opposite of uniting. Some people in my life, very close-to-me people, probably disagree with me when I say that gay people, straight people, red people, blue people — all people should be able to get married and make a legal commitment to one another and start a family and make a life together if that’s what they want.

C’mon. The jig is up, homophobes. Find a new issue to care so passionately about. There are so, so many.

What I mean to say, in a less divisive way (see?! Zero to “BITCH, PLEASE!” in 2.5 seconds!!), is this: if you look up most anything in the thesaurus, you’ll find  a list of other ways to say that thing. They don’t all look the same or sound the same. Some might even have different meanings to me, depending on what my life experience has taught me about those words.

But their essence is the same. You have to admit that they’re the same-ish.

And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about people in my 30 years (minus 100 days) of being one, it’s that under all our differences and preferences and protective barriers and bullshit, we are really very much the same-ish.

Even Grumpy Cat is on board. The jig is up.

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