Tag Archives: reflections

What if I can’t be the light

Lately I’ve not been who I want to be.

This year has been challenging in so many ways: a tough relationship with I man that I cared for deeply and had much in common with, but we were up against his drinking problem, a general lack of long-term chemistry for us both, and my inability to trust; my insomnia; healthy weight loss followed by gaining it all back; yet again losing myself in a relationship and thus losing sight of what’s important to me; an all around personal lack of self trust and self love; a diagnosis of anxiety and being medicated on Zoloft for it, which may or may not be related to a scary amount of hair loss and thinning; my closest friends moving thousands of miles away; the struggle to balance being kind and having grace with speaking up for myself and being myself, and the fear that perhaps I’m not as kind as I thought; weekly physical therapy appointments for far too long costing more than I can easily afford to try and fix the knots in my back, ulnar nerve entrapment in my elbow, and a labral tear in my shoulder; growing pains and growing frustration at work; the realization that my parents are growing old and deteriorating in health; fear of being a woman in a city and country where sexual harassment is rampant and where our own human rights as women feel jeopardized; and the feeling that I am letting myself down, over and over and over again.

I so desperately want to be kind, to trust myself, to believe that I am enough, to be able to love and trust a man, to not be terrified of the possibility of heartbreak, to truly believe that I will be okay, to be able to deal with my anxiety, to be able to sleep at night, to do what I say I’m going to do, to not be living paycheck to paycheck so that I can pay my bills on time and pay off my credit card debt, to not let others down, to be a loving and caring friend, to grow, to eat healthy and exercise, to be smart, to challenge myself and not fear failure, to write, to finish my novel, to travel, to find my soul, to feel at peace with myself, to enjoy time alone with myself without feeling lonely, to run fast after my dreams, to try spoken word on a stage in public, to excel at my job, to be a good example for others, to help those in need, to be happy, to do the things that I love doing, and to be the light.

My life is a complete mess right now and with all I feel I’m up against, I don’t know where to start or how to do it. It seems exhausting, and what if I don’t succeed?

What if I can’t be the light?

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Henry Miller, and the meaning of Life

Photo I took recently at the Philadelphia Magic Gardens.

Photo I took recently at the Philadelphia Magic Gardens.

I don’t often share what’s going on in my life, my really personal and up-close emotions, feelings, trials, and what I spend my days doing, but that’s my narrative and that is what shapes and perpetuates the creativity, the words and the formation of the poems that I do share.

It’s time I start sharing my narrative, in bits and pieces, the “author’s perspective,” if you will. Because every great writer has a background that they should not hide, that the reader wants to know, that shapes them and their writing into greatness – and by no means am I a great writer, but I hope to one day be something close to that…

It’s been a really rough Spring, a really rough Year to be honest. I’ve been very unhappy. I’ve been very overworked. I don’t feel appreciated and I am not moving towards becoming a better person. I’ve had several different chronic and somewhat scary health problems come up, which I’m still struggling to understand and deal with. But I’m coming out of these shadows in one piece, successful in my work, and looking forward to having the freedom to be happy and allowing myself to be okay. I’m not quite there yet; I still have some changes to make, hard ones that I really wish I didn’t have to. But I will come out of this okay, and surely I will have learned something.

Henry Miller wrote: “This is the greatest damn thing about the universe, that we can know so much, recognize so much, dissect, do everything, and we can’t grasp it.”

On the verge of this momentous pendulum shift that I feel is coming in my life, I have so much excitement for it and the things that lie ahead. I do realize, though, my need to practice simple existence and living where I am now, not always having my mind dreaming about what is to come, but just being here now.

Reflecting on what Henry Miller said, it’s so true. That struggle of wanting to just grasp and know what’s coming, what your future holds, what is going to make you laugh and what is going to bring tears to your eyes.

But why do we so desperately want to know? So that we can make changes to make the future more in our favor? So that we can prepare for those moments, lessen the pain, have tissues ready when we need to cry? What’s the fun in that, in knowing where you’re going to be in six months, or two years, or forever down the road.

That is what makes life worth living: the not knowing where you’re going, who you’re going there with, and what you’ll do and say and be and believe. THAT is the beautiful magic of this mystery thing we call Life.

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Meaning of Life

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In August I went on an adventure. I’ve dreamed of seeing the vastly heaven pointed redwood forests in all their lush and reddish brown glory, so I flew across the country to Portland and made my way down the Oregon coast with a pit stop to camp at the base of Mt Hood, hiked through and camped among the perfect redwoods, and ended up in Jack Kerouac’s old hood of San Francisco. It was a glorious trip. When people close to my, really, just my mother, asked me why I was going on that trip and why I was going alone, I told them (her) that I was soul searching. I wanted to find myself. (And I did, the first night I camped in a completely desolate campground alone in the woods in the dark. I found myself scared shitless, but I still found my true courageous, brave and daring self…)

So often I think to myself – and I have a feeling that much of the world, or at least the American culture, often thinks this way too – wondering who I really am. What I’m doing with my life. I’m trying to find my soul. I’m seeking out what would really make me happy. I want to know what this, this life, my life, is all about.

WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?!

You know what I think, what I realized? We already have the meaning of life. YOU are the meaning of life. I am the meaning of life. The meaning of life is our happiness, the pain we feel deep down inside, it’s warm family hugs, it’s truly feeling love and loved, it’s lust, it’s forgiveness, it’s failing, and it’s getting back up and trying again. The meaning of life can be found in sweet and glittery candy stores, it can be found standing at the edge of the sea staring out into the gray nothingness at the horizon, it can be found looking up at the sky when you’re in the mountains and feel so damn close to what’s out there and you feel so damn small. The meaning of life is feeling contentment in a moment, it’s sharing laughter with good friends, it’s exchanging a smile with a passing stranger. It’s also feeling real fear, god-forbid you feel true gut wrenching heartbreak but it’s that too, and anger that drives you mad you literally punch a hole in your wall out of frustration. Life is feeling young when your fifty. Life is growing old and getting wrinkles. Life is living on your own and supporting yourself for the first time in a big city in your early twenties. Life is watching the passing of lives and then you’re gone. The meaning of life is YOUR LIFE.

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Return to writing

Why is it that I consider myself “a writer”? What does it mean to be one? Does it mean writing daily, writing drunk and editing sober, being published, having writing credentials and a master of fine arts? 

I’ve been published. I don’t write daily. I dropped out of the only creative writing class I’ve ever taken. And I could write drunk if someone made me a cocktail or a strong punch. 

Two writing milestone happened in the past few days, and made me realize that YES! I am a writer. And I should never have abandoned this endeavor. I always do this, I start something, I let it slip, and then I don’t continue on with it and pick it back up because I get scared. I get scared that it’s been too long, that I’ve failed, and that if I start it again I may just fail again. Why are we afraid of personal failure, especially if we’re the only one that knows we’ve failed? Isn’t it failure only if you don’t try again?

I was published, again. (I’m going to go ahead and brag here for just a little bit, so I apologize in advance for that.. but I do also strongly believe that everyone should brag about themselves once or twice a year) I wrote this silly little City Report on the bicycle scene in DC and it was published on Urban Velo and is even in the print version of the magazine. 

When I first saw it online and then realized it was in the print version, I got giddy with excitement. I thought to myself, which am I more excited about, this or that time I was published as a “contributing travel writer” in the Philadelphia Inquirer… I guess a few more people have heard of the Inquirer…

The second big thing is that I was asked to be a main contributing writer for a new blog starting in my city. It’s still in the very beginning stages, but we’re having a first meeting of the writers in a few weeks and I’ll be there, scared ideas and all. 

So. I am a writer because it makes me happy. It makes me feel strong. It’s something I feel I am good at… I don’t know if it will ever become a career for me, or if I will ever publish a book and do readings in bookshops across the country. But, for now, I am going to return to writing. I’m going to meet with Jack again, and go hang out with Allan. I’m going to get swept up and lost in the books that I once knew and read stories that will greet my thoughts for the first time. 

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These stories are pieces of your mind

IN JANUARY, I FINISHED READING JACK KEROUAC’S Lonesome Traveler and got swept up with life things and haven’t had the chance to sit down and write something since. I also finished another book last night, as I previously admitted to you that I was cheating on Kerouac but alas I’m so glad that I did. I’ll tell you about John Williams’ unbelievable novel Stoner soon.

As I was walking home today, strolling down H St NE from the bus stop to my little brick DC row house, one of the mini homes with the elongated living rooms that stretch from the front door to the kitchen sink, I thought something neat. I was passing by the row of hip and up and coming spots, mostly bars with a few restaurants, speckled in between the run down and shelved forgotten store fronts that have been deserted and lonely and falling apart for years, all with FOR LEASE signs on them that are wearing thin. And I thought: “Everything’s always becoming something.” And isn’t that true? Whether it’s a storefront in a soon to be gentrified neighborhood of DC where I admit that I felt a little awkward getting looks from people on the bus as the only little white girl in sight, with the crazy man talking to himself sitting across from me, or whether it’s your own life and your own personality moving and shaking and every day becoming a little bit of something else and losing a little bit if what you were. It’s pretty spectacular.

Back to Kerouac.

Let me tell you what I learned from his collection of stories, almost like diary entries, moments and occasions reminisced from his dreamy mind, that he put together in Lonesome Traveler and published in 1960.

The stories that I remember, several weeks now after throwing the book to my bedside are the tales about his travels in Mexico and California and the beautiful women he saw and the drugs he smoked. I liked that story and I recall distinctly underlining a paragraph he wrote describing a couple of field hands making love in the field. It was magnificent in how innocently and secretly it was written. I remember his story of working on the ship and washing dishes or something like that, but I found that pretty boring. My two favorite stories were the one about Kerouac traipsing around Times Square in New York City and about his time spent working at the fire outlook on top of a mountain and how it brought him so close to God.

Going back through Lonesome Traveler now, the last story, “The Vanishing American Hobo” about his rambles with hobo friends, I had forgotten all about that, but that’s what inspired my writing Hobo Dreams.

It was Kerouac’s story “The Railroad Earth” that wrote that unforgettable scene of sex and the powerful railroad:

“Along comes the tired field hand Jose Camero and he see her in the vast sun red in the fruit field moving queen majesty to the well, the tower, he runs for her, the railroad crashed by he pays no attention…Switches rush up and melt into the rail, sidings part from it like lips, return like lover arms.—My mind is on the brown knees of Carmelity, the dark spltot between her thighs where creation hides its majesty and all the boys with eager head do rush suffering and want the whole the hole the works the hair the seekme membrane the lovey sucky ducky workjohn, the equaled you, she never able and down goes the sun and it’s dark and they’re layin in a grape row, nobody can see, or hear, on the dog hears OOO slowly against the dust of that railroad earth…”

Oh and it goes on and Kerouac tells some even more dirty details, but I’ll leave that for you to explore.

“New York Scenes” made me want to get up right then and take the next bus to New York City and a find a bum on the streets or an old crippled half deaf gentleman in an up-city nursing home who actually remembered what Times Square was like in the 40’s and 50’s. Probably wouldn’t have known Kerouac or any of the beatniks the original beats, but he would have known THE TIMES.

I loved Kearouac’s line “Men do love bars and good bars should be loved.” That’s the kind of man for me. Kerouac buzzed from place to place in this story, dramy places like Grants, the Automat, Bickfords… So many places famous of their time that they frequented, loved, lived in practically. And what is it all now? Some sleezy bright light pigeon hopping Broadway lurking tourist attraction that does nothing for humanity. I want to go there and find what those places… Grants, the Automat, Bickfords… what they really used to be like, what happened to them, and find old photographs of what they used to be like and side them next to the monstrosity of what stands there today.

The Garden Bar. The Cedar Bar. I bet those were bars to be loved by men. “Jazz belongs to the open joyful ten-cent beer joints, as in the beginning,” Kerouac said. And when he ended that story with the words, “This is the beat night life of New York ,” I had to write down just below it in my copy of the book, “Is there any beat left in New York City?”

And then what shocked me when I started reading “Alone on a Mountaintop” was that Jack Kerouac, THE Jack Kerouac, was writing with sentence structure! He was using periods and ending sentences in appropriate places!… for a bout half a page. And then it was back to his normal self. It was surprising and a little funny. I bet he had added that or his editor advised he throw in some introductory sentences to frame his experience. Funny though.

This story is where the name of the collection comes from. As Kerouac is en route to his mountain top, he asks his guides where it is.

“ ‘Where’s Desolation Peak?’ I asked, meaning my own mountain (A mountain to be kept forever, I’d dreamed all that spring) (O lonesome traveler!)”

O lonesome traveler! It was a proclamation he felt of excitement and exuberance in the life of adventure and going somewhere he didn’t know. He wasn’t afraid of it. And he surely wasn’t scared of being alone. He greeted the solitude with a strong embrace and probably something like a grinning smile.

O lonesome traveler! I say, if only we all felt that passion and lust when we were alone in any circumstance for we’re all travelers through our own lives.

This here is one of my favorite things he wrote in the whole collection:

“The stars are words and all the innumerable worlds in the Milky Way are words, and so is this world too. And I realize that no matter where I am, whether in a little room full of thought, or in this endless universe of stars and mountains, it’s all in my mind. There’s no need for solitude. So love life for what it is, and form no preconceptions whatever in your mind.”

And one more story to tell you from Kerouac’s stories, in “Big Trip to Europe,” Kerouac is in England and visits a museum to look up his family history and stumbled upon his family description. The “Keroack” family motto was written out as: “ Love, work, and suffer” He wrote, “I could have known.”

Jack, these stories are pieces of your mind, and have become shambles of my imagination of what you were like. You lived such a free and adventurous life, and that I envy. I wish you were still travelling and adventuring and loving and could still write about it today. You old lonesome traveler.

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