Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Hardest Part

In Mr. Semore's Senior A.P. English class, we practiced writing without stopping. Every week We would get out a notebook, he would set a timer, and we would write until the timer went off. Ball points on paper for thirty minutes straight. It wasn't graded. It was practice. The hardest part of writing. The act of writing.

It feels like it ought to be simple. My brain is constantly full of words. Sometimes shouting. Sometimes singing. Laughing. Crying. My body is an extension of my brain; therefore, it must be simple to carry out the task of transferring what's in my brain onto a page. It must be. Simple mechanics. 

In my first college level acting course, we spent a lot of time focusing on breaking down a character into actions. Acting is, after all, action. Reaction. Experiencing stimuli and having to shift. Seems so simple to define a person's actions. Acting seems so simple. 

What do you want? That was the question that threw me in Acting One. When I started college, I had such a small view of the world. Oh, I made up for it in books and plays and band and choir. I spread myself across the full extent of my...seedling of a world view. But I didn't know what I wanted.....pizza? Not when I was nineteen. 

What will you write about today? That was the forbidden question in Mr. Semore's class. It is the poisoned dart, the words that scroll across my brain when I sit down and the timer starts. Because I can never ask it once, once I ask it, the question just increases in size, like a sea monkey, in my brain, until all I can think about is the damn question itself, and my brain refuses to send any signals to my hands so that my hands can put words on the page. 

Then there's the voices in my head, the ones that tell me I'm ridiculous. I'm wasting time. I'm wasting my time. I've taken workshops, sat through countless therapy sessions, and prayed on my knees to silence them, but they persist.

I know how to do things. I know how to write. I know how to act. I know how to make amazing chocolate chip cookies. I know how to eat an entire batch of amazing chocolate chip cookies. 

If I want more than that, something bigger, broader, more complex, my confidence wavers. Because I want to write about...I fun no...life, and I want to help. I want to help myself (by emptying this overstock of vocabulary and unfinished ideas that swirls around in the centrifuge of my mind non stop), and I want to help you.  

But what do I want to write about? When my heart is broken along with the rest of the country's heart? When I'm angry along with a million other women? When my worldview is stretching beyond what I thought possible? When I still feel I don't know enough and am not qualified in the least?

To be or not to be? We keep asking this question, shouting it up and down hallways, into the vast expanse of the night sky. What are we supposed to do? What are our actions? Why are we here? 

Shakespeare says, in Hamlet, that we're afraid to die because we think too much. Life is hard, and most of us do very little to change anything because we're too busy trying to calm ourselves from the thought of not being able to hear our own thoughts any more. We're afraid to die because we don't know what happens next, if anything, and we can't seem to come to terms with it. 

     And lose the name of action.         (1780)


The thing is, I'm not afraid of death. I don't know what is going to happen, but I'm not afraid of it. I don't WANT to die, but I know I must. I'm sure if someone told me it was going to happen tomorrow, I'd freak out and lose my mind, but I recently did that thing where I finally realized that it's going to happen, that it's inevitable, and suddenly, all the things that were cluttering my brain dissipated, even if only for a moment. 

How does this help me? You ask. I don't think about it. I stopped thinking about what to do to make sure I'm ready when I die. I stopped asking, "what do I want?" I answered the question. 

To be here now. 

Despite everything. Despite the coming years and the dread I feel. Every minute I spend here makes up for a multitude of hours I've spent agonizing over what happens when I'm not here any more. 

It's self preservation. All signs point to "this sucks. die. you will anyway," but I want to stay alive just for now. To see what happens. To see where I go. To see what I can do to help. And I want to do the best with now that I possibly can. 

Just like Anne Frank, in spite of all the hurt and horror, I still believe in goodness. I still believe in hope. I'm saying I'm better than you. Obviously. 

It seems like it should be so simple, doesn't it? To make up my mind to be happy. To do my laundry in spite of the fact that I really don't know what I'm doing. 

The best advice I've ever gotten is seemingly as simple as they come. In the words of former Mayor of Memphis, the illustrious W.W. Herenton, upon one of the last victories in his seventeen year reign, "shake them haters off." 

And that, my friends, has been the hardest part so far. 

More. To. Come. 

Willie






Monday, December 5, 2016

The Return of the Timeline 2008-2009

Breaking up is never easy. Perhaps that's why I avoid relationships these days. Losing love is so painful. But then again, I have a dog, and I realize the implications of that as it concerns my future happiness. All that to say, I returned to Memphis after spending almost a full year in England and Europe, and I got on with things after the required mourning period.

Despite a brief bout of dizziness brought on by the immensity of the American road and driving again, it wasn't long before I moved into an epic apartment with my best friend, slid back into teaching Intensive English to international students, and found a posse of summer fun friends to idle away the hours in the thick southern heat.

I also went to as many shows at the Hi-Tone that I could fit into my schedule: Lord T. and Eloise (to be covered in champagne), Jack Oblivion and the Tennessee Tearjerkers, Harlan T. Bobo, and everyone's favorite Memphis band: Snowglobe. It was the tail end of my golden age of Memphis music.

I rode my bike to the farmer's market on South Main, drank beers in the upper brothel rooms at Earnestine and Hazel's, and played trivia at The Young Avenue Deli. I walked everywhere, rarely left the "Parkways," as the midtowners put it, even explored, in detail, the ancient forest in Overton Park that some would destroy completely for more parking. I was what I always wanted to be, but I was still antsy....never content.

It was the first summer I didn't spend overseas in a few years, so I soaked it up. Whenever I found myself longing for the connection to the rest of the world, the glorious blend of cultures, I stepped out of myself while I taught at Intensive English and looked at each of my students, pictures of the world themselves, sharing in a common language. It felt like home.

I went camping with friends from the neighborhood and graduate school, spelunking and skinny dipping in the Cumberland Mountains. We ate pot brownies in a cave, and I drank bourbon from a flask and felt it warm with my heartbeat. Then I sat in the middle of the cave and giggled so much I couldn't stand up. In my dreams that night, everything was pink.
Homecoming 2008

I somehow lost a ton of weight from walking and cooking for myself, being too busy to eat or think. I managed to show up at my ten year high school reunion with a bangin bod, and I wore a dress I bought at Old Navy for five dollars with a pair of white Converse. I was underdressed, but still me, so it was fine. People don't tend to judge me as harshly as I assume that they do, as harshly as I judge myself.

What good is an epic apartment without epic parties? My best friend and I threw a party for her birthday, found out we had a knack for it, and threw a few more gorgeous get-togethers of like-minded individuals, recyclers, Obama voters, volunteers, gorgeous artists packed onto our 6x6 balcony like sardines. The cops came once because the volume of conversation exceeded what the neighbors could handle. It was a weekend, so they just told us to move the party inside.

The guy I was tryina hang out with at the time was giving me a little bit of a run around. That was my first mistake. Sometimes a girl has to learn the hard way that a guy is a butt. He had everyone guessing, our group of friends wandering what he was doing with three different girls, all smart enough to know better. And despite all the warnings that always come from people that mean well, I won, and I followed him all the way to a small town in Georgia to learn my lesson.

That, my friends, is how I found Georgia and began to dig in the earth again, digging and scratching, uncovering the next chapter, what it felt like to be physically strong as my mind began questioning things it never had before.

My return to Memphis was a good time, a whirlwind, but good. I kept a decent log of it starting here. Be warned, though. It begins as a day by day recovery from heartbreak. Just how it is.