Sunday, January 31, 2010

Settings: Repeat: One (3/90)

I'm stuck.

 It's evident in my words, in my writing. I've written about the same thing a million times over and I wonder if I'm the only one that has noticed. I keep thinking that if I allow myself to write it, and rewrite it that wherever this is coming from will dry up. I keep thinking there will be a day, a post, where the words will do it justice and I'll be satisfied and move forward with new words, new feelings, a new reality. And when I try to avoid this place, to tip toe around, it I can't write. I've got nothing to say.

This is the same song, sung over and over in a different key.

There's a small town goodness that I'm enjoying here. I pretend that I don't, because I have friends in amazing places like  New York City, Atlanta and San Francisco who are doing amazing things while enjoying the city life. They're moving, always moving.

I am here enjoying the simple things. The things I can't find anywhere else.

There is a Ricker's right behind my neighborhood, and if you're anywhere but here I'm not sure you'll know what that is. It's a gas station and convenience store, and home of the "Ricker's Pop". I get an 86- cent diet coke or a dollar coffee from there almost every night. I pass two on my way home, but I've got to go to that one. The people there are sweet, I know their faces and they know mine. They look me in the eye and smile real smiles.

I can always count on dinners out with my Dad being interrupted by someone that knows him. They approach our table and remind him that he was their principle or teacher years ago, and then they linger there as we eat and recall their time in school with him like it was yesterday. It can be an annoyance, but it's one that I missed while I was away.

Everyone here knows who I am, or whose I am. They know that I'm Rosie's granddaughter and Tim's little girl. They love my momma and they stop me to ask how she's doing and make me promise to tell her they said hello. These things guarantee me hugs, kisses and a real smiles from strangers.

People look appalled when they learn that I moved from Tampa back to Anderson. That I chose to leave the University of South Florida for Ball State. They look at me with condescending eyes and ask, Why would you do that? That's not a simple question for me to answer, but I can tell them with assurance: Sometimes it doesn't matter where you are. 

The time is coming for me to make my own place in the world, as silly and pretentious as that sounds. I have no idea where I'll go next and I'm not overly worried about where just yet.

It's not the where that matters, it's the move. I've gotten comfortable, and stuck. I came here because I'd gotten comfortable where I was, I'd settled into mediocracy. I stopped thinking big, I became attached to my surroundings. I wrote this "About Me" on my FaceBook Wall just before I moved back here:
2008 marks the beginning of a new start for me. I am stepping outside of my comfort zone and chasing dreams that I have kept locked away for far too long. I'm hoping this journey takes me to unfamiliar places and maybe to familiar ones too. I hope to meet fabulous and even some un-fabulous people because I can learn, grow and be enriched by anyone, yes anyone. I'm finally learning and allowing myself to let go of the old and embrace the new with excitement and anticipation. To all those who have left a mark on my heart, thank you sincerely for your contribution. Even if that mark was a scar, because scars are great reminders of what not to do again. So for me, starting now my regrets will only be things that I have done, and not things that I was to afraid to do. You can always learn from mistakes, but when fear is your master you are nothing more than a coward.
I'm afraid I'll be a nomad for a while. Going here, there and everywhere to assure that I won't get comfortable. I've got to keep dreaming, I've got to keep believing. I've got to be challenged to grow and change, which for me means that I've got to be intimidated and uncomfortable and scared.

I've got to get unstuck.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Saturday Mornings, Looking Back (2/90)

I've made a routine for my Saturday mornings. I sleep as late as I want, jump in the shower, make breakfast or brunch, depending on the hour, and settle in for a day of homework. 

But these haven’t always been my Saturday mornings.

There were Saturday mornings years ago that I'd willingly wake up early, pull on Soffee shorts and a t-shirt and head to open gym for tumbling.

 There were many Saturday mornings that we’d pile into the car as a family and travel to mine or my sister’s cheerleading competitions or my brother’s basketball tournaments where we’d stay all day.  

And then there were the Saturday mornings that I spent cleaning the church and volunteering for community outreach events and rehearsing with the choir.

  Once every six weeks like clockwork were those Saturday mornings that I'd wake up and cover my hair with a hat and head to the salon to be permed and blown out and flat ironed and emerge with hair that was straight and silky and I’d swing it to be sure everyone noticed.

There was a summer that I went to the beach every Saturday morning with my friends. I’d wake up early and pull on my swimsuit and flip flops, and slather on some sunscreen. We would pack fruit and sandwiches and water into a cooler that we’d throw in the trunk and drive to the beach with the windows down and the music loud. Once there we’d walk the length of the beach while eating grapes, talking and looking for starfish. We’d skimboard and read and float on tubes too far into the ocean.

Not too long ago on Saturday mornings, I'd wake up, drink a Rockstar or two and spend the morning teaching cute little kids in sparkly leotards to walk on their toes across balance beams. I'd flip them over the bars and teach them to hold their arms strong, and tuck their chins to their chest before doing their forward rolls so they wouldn't hurt their necks.

There  are those precious Saturday mornings that I still enjoy occasionally where I'm  awakened by the sound of the footsteps of my 5-year-old nephew barreling down the stairs just before he turns on the Disney Channel and climbs under the covers to lay with me on my sister’s couch where I fall asleep after dancing and partying the night away.

But enough reminiscing for now, because this Saturday is slipping away from me, and there’s homework yet to be done.

Those were good days, these are good days and there are good days to come. 

Friday, January 29, 2010

So This Is A Challenge, Eh?

The ante has been upped.

I set a goal for myself to start writing every day, because that’s what writers do. It’s been two weeks and I’ve done pretty well, not quite every day though. For the last two weeks I’ve written four to five days a week.

I rearranged my schedule: I’d wake up early, despite my disdain for the mornings, and write before classes and read before bed.

 I chose to give myself permission to just write, whatever I wanted. Some mornings it was tough, I’d sit for nearly an hour and struggle to get a page down. Other mornings it was easy to get going and I wished I could sit for hours and do nothing but write.

And now I’ve been challenged: 90 posts in 90 days. That’s right, posts, which means I must publish every day.

But my life isn’t interesting and my thoughts aren’t pretty every day, these are the excuses that I spouted out as I sat with Brad and Megan this morning. And, I know the answers to these things, I’ve already written them: it’s about the rhythm, it’s about consistency, it’s about filling the pages day after day.  

I hate countdowns, but other people seem to love them. So, I know that there is roughly 90 days left of school before I graduate and become a citizen of the real world.

90 days before the game changes and I’m off to write on my own for a year as I apply to Creative Nonfiction MFA programs.

90 days before I’m chasing this dream on my own. Let’s call this a warm-up.

And so it begins, 90 days, 90 posts and beyond. 

A Slow Fade

There are countdowns taking place all around me. There’s excitement swirling and anxiety bubbling. Every day I hear about the new internship and job applications that were sent to perspective employers in fun new places.

I hate countdowns. I hate rushing. I’ve learned that there is pleasure to be had in today, in the right now. There’s something special about the moment at hand, whether it’s good or awful or lies somewhere in between.

There’s a stillness and quietness settling over me that I like. That I’ll protect. Sometimes it’s peaceful, sometimes it’s torrential, tonight it lies somewhere in between.

I fought my spontaneous urge to get a new piercing last Friday. I stopped into a tattoo and piercing shop in search of a new piece of jewelry, but when they didn't have what I wanted I found myself lingering, longing. 

I have 7 holes in my body; 3 sets of holes in my ears and a nose piercing. 

I remember being among the last of my friends to get my ears pierced. I had to wait until I was 10 for my first set, 16 for my second. The other three holes happened really close together. Both at 19, I believe, or 18 and 19. Honestly I’m not exactly sure.

I remember the spontaneity that overtook me when I got my nose pierced. I’d been thinking about it for a while, doing it wasn’t the spontaneous part, it was doing it on a whim.  

It happened quickly. My sister was supposed to be getting hers done with me, she chickened.

So, I hopped eagerly up on the table as she looked on. The room looked more like a doctor’s office than a tattoo shop. The walls were white and it smelled of rubbing alcohol, the piercing instruments were carefully assembled on a tray in front of me. 

As I lay on the table and waited I wondered what the reaction would be, how much of a fuss my Dad would make, who’d think it was cute, the church folks that would think it was an act of rebellion, what my Grandma would say, all the while knowing those things didn’t matter. I had my reasons.

(By the way, my Dad didn’t notice it- I’m still not sure he knows that my nose is pierced, and my Grandma thought it was cute.)

The next set happened in Tampa, also spontaneous. I drug my friend Akenia and got a set of holes in my upper ear. She was appalled that my second set was done with a piercing gun, so she took me to a place that she knew and I got my upper ears pierced freehand. One skinny man stood with a needle at one ear and one big man stood at the other, the one on my left ear smelled terrible and I was scared of his strength, the one on my right was more gentle and calming.  I can still remember it hurt like hell, but that was ok, because I had my reasons.

I’ve been forgetting things, a lot of things. Which is weird for me because I didn’t used to be forgetful. I used to remember things vividly, because I’m carefully observant. I catch almost everything; facial expressions, vocal inflections, all of the details. But I’m finding that many of my memories, whether great or small, important or unimportant are fading. The details are slipping away.

There are things I remember, because I marked them.

·      the day I realized I was on my own. In high school when there was no one. No one that knew or wanted to know or could handle knowing the rage and pain I was fighting. Alone.

·      the toxic relationship that realization led me to, the one that people questioned and I defended, because all of the sudden there was someone.

·      the day, the hour, the moment that that someone that I’d loved way too hard told me that I wasn’t easy to love and we needed to spend less time together.

·      when I chose to be who and what I wanted instead of what was expected of me

Some of those things were marked with holes, some with words, some in other ways.

I’m scared of forgetting. I’m scared that I won’t have stories to tell. I’m scared that this time in my life, which is more good and in-between than awful is slipping through my fingers. I’m scared that I haven’t made enough memories. That the memories I’ve made will fade, that the details will slip away.

I’ve got to find a way to remember the right now: the rhythm of my fingers dancing over the keyboard, the sleep I’m fighting because I feel so awake on the inside, the fear I’m feeling, which is overshadowed by a brand new sense of freedom. The excitement in the choice I make each new day to believe in myself, in my dreams.

But, there are countdowns taking place all around me.

Monday, January 25, 2010

"We Are Leaving Some Things Unsaid/ And We Are Breathing Deeper Instead"

“Have you just detached yourself from everyone,” my cousin asked me yesterday as we sat at Applebees for lunch. 

She’s twenty years my senior.  She watched me grow up. She changed my diapers, and was sure to tell my parents when I had that bad attitude that teenagers all of the sudden have. She was around when I stopped thinking boys had cooties and developed my first crush.

She watched all of those little changes happen, the natural progressions of a growing girl. And now she sees these changes in me; big, unexpected changes.

I don’t notice these changes so much anymore. There came a point when the things I forced myself to forget were actually forgotten.

It’s too bad that forgetting is only an act of the mind.

One sticky, summer day, sometime in elementary school, I was hanging out with a friend, Alicia, who lived just a street over.

She had a pool and invited me to swim. I raced home to change into my suit and then ran right back to her house, excited for a break from the monotony of the day.

Once at the pool, Alicia walked confidently toward the deep end, and without pause, I followed her. 

Fearing embarrassment and a ruined adventure, I didn’t tell her that I couldn’t swim. I naively believed that I’d just figure it out. 

She disappeared in a splash, and after a deep breath I decided to make my own splash.

The details of what happened next are fuzzy, but I do remember the struggle underwater, and not quite knowing what to do with my body, or how to reach the surface again.

The panic in my mind continued and my body grew exhausted. I was becoming more and more desperate for a breath that I didn’t know how to go about getting.

Before it was too late, I felt Alicia’s arm around my waist, pulling me along with one arm and pushing the water down with the other.

Those deserving of answers have sought them. I know they keep wondering what it was that made the difference, I can see it in their faces when I say something unlike the Tiffany they knew. It is evident in the long silences. I watch disappoint settle over them as they recall precious memories and look to me only to realize that I’ve forgotten.

What they want to know I can’t tell them simply, so I don’t tell them.

It was a succession of moments that happened too quickly.  I ran after an adventure and jumped in with my eyes closed. Before I knew it, I was in waters that were too dark and deep for me.

Those things don’t matter now. I am unable to reconcile the pieces of my past and my present.

There are those that got me then, and those that get me now.

This detachment is my choice. I own it and all that it bears. It’s a choice to be more realistic and less naïve. It’s a choice to avoid pulling someone else under as I panic and struggle to stay afloat.

I’ve got to save myself now, it’s time I learn to be more calculated and cautious, to slow down and test the waters before I jump.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Until The Night Is Over

It’s been a long, lonely night. The clock isn’t moving. I’ve been still for what seems like days. My heart is heavy for no good reason at all.

I’ve chosen this night though, the stillness, the quietness, the flood of emotion. I almost reached out. Twice. But, I chose this night.

A received a card from a friend last night. I read it and re-read it and read it again. She was my first real friend in Florida, she helped bring me back to life.

My first three years in Florida, my final high school years, I spent in my room, night after night. I was silenced by the weight of a broken family and a lost identity.

And then, I met this girl, my polar opposite. She dresses in bright colors and wears big earrings, you almost always hear her before you see her. She asked me to hang out, and before I realized I’d agreed, we were hanging out. All the time. 

She introduced me to Spanish food and the Bayshore. She taught me that it’s okay to laugh for no reason, to blast the radio and sing out the window.  She taught me that it’s okay to cry, just because you need to.

She was oblivious to my signals, the ones that warn you to back up, to enter at your own risk. From the time that I met her, she’s been there. She’s taken me to the ER, I’ve eaten with her family on Christmas, she planned the only birthday parties I’ve ever had.

I spent all of last year hoping a boy would notice me. I felt invisible, unattractive, plain. I lost fifteen pounds, bought new clothes and kept on hoping.  He never noticed.

After a while, I decided I was fine being alone. Aloneness fits me. I enjoy my time; I need my space.

There are three boys trying to get my attention now. Pursuing me persistently. I’m annoyed. I’m tired of hearing that I’m cute, I’m tired of getting texts, tired of being looked up and down, chatting about nothing.

They want too much and not enough.

I sit here wishing there was a body beside me.  One to share this silence. One that would let me cry without an explanation. Eyes that would look at me without question. A heart confident enough in me to know that I’ll be fine tomorrow.

This heaviness won’t last. It’s just a long, lonely night. 

Monday, January 18, 2010

Purposefully Lost

 “If when you wake up in the morning, you can think of nothing but writing first, then, you’re a writer.”- Sister Act II
Well, not exactly.

I think about writing quite possibly more than anything else.  But thinking about writing doesn’t make me a writer anymore than thinking about dancing makes me a dancer.

I assumed naively that because it was a dominant thought, always in my head structuring my thoughts, that at some point in my life, it would just take over, and everything else would fade into the background.

Not exactly.

Fear is overwhelming, all-consuming. It holds you captive in its hand squeezing you so tightly in its grasp that at any moment you are prone to break, crumbling under the force of its pressure.  So, you exist cautiously, staying as still as you possibly can, barely breathing, avoiding possible destruction, devastation.           

I’ve allowed fear to shape my life, to dictate my path. I’ve pursued things that I hoped would be fulfilling, but aren’t. It’s taken me a while to realize that that the pain of staying within fear’s grasp will be more painful than the fight to freedom.

I’m convinced that life has a way of bringing you the things that you need, when you need them, if you’re open. My fire was fueled by a blog that I discovered. It was actually my professor Brad’s blog, a writer. I spent hours reading and I was fascinated, captivated, inspired.

On October 4, 2009, I launched my own blog, a big, scary step out into cyberspace. I was intent on letting the pressure and passion held back by the dam that is my self -consciousness burst forth. I sat for hours working on my first real post at a Barnes and Noble, completely unaware of what was taking place around me; writing and rewriting, ordering and rearranging.  At one point, a café worker approached my table as he was cleaning the ones around me. He told me I was a hard-working young girl; that I’d been sitting still working for hours. I smiled with tired eyes, said thank you and glanced back at my laptop, anxious to get back to the words. He walked away, and came back with an ice water. Apparently, I looked worn out.

Just as the closing announcement came on the loudspeaker, I published my first blog post with one click. I packed up my things with shaky hands and made my way to the door.  The café worker told me to come back and see him again, and I said that I would.  I got in my car and drove the 20 minutes home, sick and angst ridden, hoping that the post was good, that it was a story worth telling, that it would move someone, that someone would read it.

A few people did read it, some “liked” it and a few people commented on it. I felt for that first week that I was walking around naked, absolutely exposed; fragile, and unsure of myself.

After listening to a talk Brad gave on social media in public relations I barged into his office and asked to set up a meeting about writing. I actually asked him to talk about writing as I listened. I didn’t realize how rude I was until later. The dam was beginning to burst.

We met over coffee one Friday afternoon, and after only a few minutes he said this to me:  “What you’re seeking is permission to be a writer, because you don’t feel that you are already.”

I was both terrified and relieved that he had seen me so clearly.

He told me he couldn’t tell me that I was a writer; that I would have to identify myself. What he did tell me was to write, every day, and that I’d learn my process as I did so.

I’ve been blessed with amazing classmates at Ball State. Ashley and I started blogging around the same time. She’s much more light-hearted and optimistic than I, and I can always count on her for a “like” and encouraging comment. 

Several of my classmates blog, and as I told one of them in a comment the other night: “We’ve got to stick together in the blogosphere.”

And while we all do a pretty good job of supporting each other I often feel like the goldfish in a tank way too big for me. As fear’s hand reaches out to grab me again I often question my ability, realize that I’ve got so much to learn and feel idiotic for declaring my desires and posting my writing for others to see.

At our most recent meeting, Brad and I were talking writing and Malcolm Gladwell, a writer that he suggested I study. He asked me if I was writing every day, a question that I knew was coming, that he’s asked more than once since our first meeting.  My heart sank and I shook my head. Embarrassed. That’s a lot of pressure, to write every day. I want it to be good, I want it to mean something, I want it to have power. I want it to be a writer’s work.

“Sometimes the simple rhythm of typing gets us from page one to page two.  And when you begin to feel your own words, start typing them.”-Finding Forrester
I have a new found freedom that lies in the permission I’ve given myself to struggle. Permission to not be deep, profound or meaningful; to write about anything and everything (even writing itself, a million times over).  To fall, and be broken, over and over again.

I have but one goal, a singleness of purpose: To find and get lost in a rhythm that will transport me from one page to the next.

Others may at some point call me a writer. I may one day call myself a writer, and believe it. Those acknowledgements will provide only a secondary satisfaction.

Because regardless, I’ll wake up and write day after day, until I get lost in a rhythm that is as overwhelming and all-consuming as the fear that held me for so long. 

And then, I’ll write some more.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

"The Slower We Move, The Faster We Die..."

 A mere three days into a new semester, and 13 days into the new year, I'm exhausted. From the inside out.

I haven't had to do much in school yet, but my mind has been in overdrive. In Another Chance I wrote of pursuing dreams that I'd neglected. The plan included pursuing a multimedia communications program at a graduate school in Chicago. Sounds good, right? I thought so, which is why I wrote it.

In all honesty, that would be just another near miss. The safe choice. One that wouldn't leave me with a broken dream, just one unrealized. Right outside my grasp.

I saw "Up In The Air" this past weekend in which George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a corporate downsizer who travels the country conducting employee layoffs for bosses who refuse to do it themselves. One particular scene struck me deeply, as Bingham was trying to provide some perspective to an employee he had just fired, he reminded the man of his first love, which was cooking.

"How much did they pay you to walk away from your dream?" Bingham asked.

At that moment, I choked a little bit on my popcorn. I began to wonder when it was that I gave up, when I decided I wasn't good enough. Too scared of failing to try. The answers to those questions don't matter, they are just potential excuses.

What matters is what I do now. I'm 22, on the brink of my college graduation and facing my first major fork in the road. I can keep making the safe choices, protect my dream and live a comfortable little life, or I can be completely vulnerable, step out on a limb and hope that I'm not completely devastated by failure.

I know by now you're probably asking:  What's the dream? and I've been trying to bring myself to tell you (this is the first step in complete vulnerability). I'm inspired to do so by some friends of mine, who in light of the new year have shared their personal challenges and goals for accountability's sake. (Thanks, you all.)

So, the goal is to write, professionally.

What exactly, is still to be determined, though I'm drawn to creative nonfiction. Where, I'm not sure. All I know at this moment, is that  I must find out if I'm worth my salt.  If this one ability that I have can stand on its own.

On Monday I met with my favorite professor, who I've latched onto for guidance, and shared my ambitions. He has graciously agreed to help me and we are about to implement a intensive plan involving lots of research, reading and writing that I hope will help me  find and get into a creative writing program. Before I left his office, he repeated Hank Moody's words to me, in the most sincere way that these words can be spoken:
If you can do anything else with your life right now, anything at all, do it.
And I understood that completely, because I understand that writing isn't a fantasy world. I'm not even sure it's a world that writers choose as much as it is a state of being.

 He added, but if you can't....

So, onward I go. And if i fail, then at least I'll be rid of this haunting question.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Circles Never End

It’s crept up again, the way that it does when I’m not watching it.  When I’m not mindful; too lazy to track the morsels before they pass my lips.

It’s settled itself over my hips, filled my cheeks and surrounded my belly like a tire.

A reminder that my focus has shifted as I’ve spent all of my time doing more pressing things. Spending twelve hours at a time studying, broken only by vending machine runs where I nourish myself with Cheeto’s and 25-cent cups of coffee.

I was successful last year, shedding 20 of the 30 pounds I’ve been fighting with for the past eight years of my life.

Looking back, it was easier than I thought it could ever be. In the day-to-day though, it was a job. Packing two meals a day in a lunch box that I could eat on campus instead of the goods found in the food court, the daily workout regimen: 45 minutes on the Stairmaster followed by lunges and planks and crunches until my limbs were burning and shaking, a 1200-calorie diet, with one 1500-calorie cheat day and the dreaded weekly weigh in.

I did it though, one day-- and one pound-- at a time. My satisfaction came when my pants, once too tight, began to sag and my shirts became loose, no longer hugging my curves. I wore those clothes too long. Unbothered by looking sloppy, I was savoring my accomplishment.

But, here it is again. Settled over my hips, filling my cheeks and surrounding my belly.

I’ve yet to step on the scale, unready for the whirlwind it will spin my mind into. I don’t need a number to know that it’s here. That it’s time again to fight.

And one day I hope this battle will end. That I will just be, comfortably. But until then, here I go again.