With Books in Her Purse

I’m that woman who now carries multiple books in my purse, several pens, my journal, and usually a little pad.

Who spends her money on journals and books, then groceries, or small necessities like dental floss. Who likes to eat out, and when I do, I bring a book or a journal or both with me.

Who often comes off as a bit aloof, but honestly I am quite sensitive.

Who likes to have a conversation with my books, underlining and highlighting.

Who is quiet when I first meet people, and is always a good listener. With time and familiarity, I open up and can be lighthearted and affectionate– but only if I trust you. And only if you’re respectful towards me.

Who will ask questions when she doesn’t know what to say, which is a double-win because then the other person talks and I get to learn about them.

Who thinks before I speak and chooses my words with care. Who does not speak dishonestly.

I’m never bored, because I can always read. But I am very sincere.

I care a lot about my friends, and prefer deeper friendships to a host of acquaintances.

If you ever spot me, or someone like me– you will always win if you ask what we’re reading.

Woke Up with a Crick in my Neck: But I’m Still Writing

Ouch!

Something about my pillow pinched my neck.

But that’s okay. Today is going to be great.

In my last post, I admitted that I battle anxiety. But who doesn’t? We all deal with it in some form.

I’m getting better at tolerating it. Last night I was watching “The Gabby Douglas Story,” on TV.  Even SHE wanted to quit– after she got injured, and when she missed her family at home. But her mother wouldn’t let her quit. Her coach was logical and gently encouraging. He saw her fears and he addressed them. Her brother sent her a picture of her with gold medals drawn on it.

And like a pro, she kept going. And she won the Olympics.  God bless the young. Their vigor lights a fire under us.

I think we all need different types of support to motivate us. People who empathize, and people who push us hard to succeed. And of course, the detractors! The haters. Personally what motivates me the most is a bit of desperation. When I have something to prove. When I’m angry.

Anger is a great motivator. It reminds us that by our actions, we can prove the assumptions of those who have put us down wrong.

It sparks a worthy cause, a need to contribute something toward change.

Anyone who’s great at something questions themselves. That’s what makes us good. If we didn’t have fear of failure, we wouldn’t push ourselves so much. We wouldn’t devote ourselves to practicing and perfecting what we do.

I think part of my problem is the religious aspect of me thinks that writing in itself is too vain.

To that, I say that God gave me this passion for words. And my parents invested in a great education for me so that I can use it!

So I’m going to channel a bit o’ Jonathan Flynn, one of my favorite literary and movie characters. I’m going to tell myself,

“I am a truly great writer.”  Because it’s true.

Modesty will not get you a job. Vanity has its place.

And I’m going to prove to myself, and everyone else, that I can do what I love: write.

Hi, I’m Amee. And I’m A Chronic Blog Deleter.

Someone on Facebook just now told me I should write a book.

And it’s an awesome compliment, because the person who told me this is a successful musician in a band that I really admire. He makes a living doing what he loves. I think that’s incredible. He’s not shy about sharing his opinion. And we often have great conversations through Facebook. He said he often agrees with my opinion. Wow.

For 1.5 years, I had a newspaper column. I ultimately quit just shy of a year ago, because it was too much pressure.

And while I don’t miss the anxiety it caused, I miss the respect that column brought me. People still ask me about it.

Writing 500 words only once a month was extremely difficult for me. I like to elaborate. I’m more literary than practical with words.

The column of which I most proud, about the shame of the v-word, VAGINA, was so nerve-wracking to compose that I went out and bought a pack of Marlboro Reds to start it. I smoked ONE cigarette, and felt so vile that I was in even worse shape to write! I didn’t touch the rest of the pack. I had some Blue Moons in my fridge, from when I moved in. They had been there for several months, since I bought it for my friends and I don’t drink. But I was so nervous about writing that, I drank half of one beer.

Writing is terrifying.

And I’m so Catholic. I want to do right by everyone. By God. My family. My friends. Even those who have betrayed me without a thought– I still care about their feelings. I still don’t want to sully their name. I hate being angry. I try to deal with it myself.

My problem is less about lack of courage– and more about TOO MUCH empathy. I need to think LESS of others.

I was so worried about what my father would think about that column–he’s such a Republican. But even he said that while he didn’t necessarily agree with me, he was proud of me for writing it.

That column was a true victory for me. I endured my anxiety and overcame it. And I’ve never been more praised for a column than I was for that one.

And today has been hard. Because I’m upset about the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. Upset that we lost an incredible actor-  a good character actor– because of drugs. And a clip of his performance as Lester Bangs in “Almost Famous,” was discussed in a Salon article. I read Salon regularly. I posted and I shared it on facebook. I admired the monologue of his character in that movie, who talked about being “uncool,” and how as journalists– that’s our job.

Funny that I’ve been out of the industry for a long time, but I still consider myself a journalist. I can’t help thinking like one.

Really, journalism or any TRUE writing is like being a parent. You have to be somewhat detached. He said, “Be honest and unmerciful,” because that’s the truest way to be someone’s friend. And I fully agree. He was making a point that it’s especially true for celebrities and icons, because they’ve grown accustomed to being adored and to getting away with things because of their talent and influence. They’re not used to be held accountable, and that gives them the idea they can do whatever they want.

But this true for all people. We ALL need to hear the unfiltered truth. We CANNOT do whatever we want. There are consequences.

Everything is a choice. Do we choose the good or the bad? We have to live with all of it.

And I can’t keep this blog going the way I have been. I’m a devout Catholic, yes. But I’m not Mother Theresa. I don’t just exude joy all the time. I do have regrets. I do get angry. I do make mistakes, all the time. I’m as human as everyone else– but it feels amplified, because I’m a writer. I have a compulsion to share my life with the world.

It makes all my choices seem so much… bigger. Harder.

But I still love writing. And today, I feel a heavy twinge of frustration. Because I once I wrote an awesome blog after watching “Almost Famous.” I wanted to find it today, so that I could post it. I remember that in it, I talked about that same Lester Bangs scene. But it’s gone. I deleted it. I remembered writing it, but forgot I had deleted it.

And it really sucks, because I suffered from the affliction he was warning against in that scene– being too attached to your subjects. I once admired someone so much that I couldn’t write about her. I thought she was a great performer, and I wanted to do a story about her for my local newspaper. She had been a huge support when I first started my blog, and I wanted to do something for in return. I interviewed her parents, her siblings, her past teachers, her boss and her bandmates. I wanted to write a story about her because she’s from my hometown and I thought her passion for music and the way she pursued it was truly inspiring. I had more than enough information.

But I never published the story.

Her reaction– the reaction of the people I interviewed– became too important to me. I canceled the story. I felt like a failure.

But it’s a true testament to the professionalism of her and the band– because they weren’t angry. They never treated me differently. They continued to be happy when I came o their shows. And I respected them enormously for that. They were just glad to have me as a fan. And maybe they figured out that I was too much of a fan to write about them.

And I suppose now I’m too attached to my own life to write about in a way that’s honest an unmerciful.

But I’m working on it. I deal with anxiety. Most writers do. But I don’t have any way to release it really– except writing. Unlike most writers and artists, I don’t have any good vices. I don’t smoke, write, or do drugs. That means I feel all my feelings, all the time.

And while I’m proud to be sober, it makes letting go of my writing feel impossible sometimes.

I delete too many of my blogs– as my subscribers know. Usually the ones that are the most honest.

I did it this week, again.

Being a writer is terrifying, as I said.

But I love it. What a struggle!

Deleting my blogs is an act of insecurity. It’s something I’m trying hard to stop doing. 

How do all you bloggers have the balls to leave all yours up, even when they don’t get comments??

I admire you.

Putting your feelings and opinions and musings in writing– and then PUBLISHING it.

That’s a small act that takes untold amounts of courage.

My courage wavers. But I’m working on it.

Frozen’s Elsa and Wicked’s Elphaba: Women Free and Proud

So I just saw “Frozen,” and I went alone.

And I’m so glad!

It was really the perfect movie tonight. I’ve been feeling a bit morose with all the snow and frigid temperatures. I’ve been avoiding going many places unless it’s work or absolutely necessary. Haven’t been able to see my friends as much. A bit o’ cabin fever!

And I’m delighted to find a Disney movie that champions the notion of “true love,” as that between two sisters– not just a romantic relationship.

One sister, Elsa, is ashamed her her powers– which she hides from everyone. She feels it’s a deformity, much like Princess Fiona did in “Shrek.” When she leaves the kingdom in a scandal, she breaks out into the wilderness and transforms into the truest version of herself. She rejected the facade she initially held for her kingdom– and came into her full power

Previously set to be queen of her homeland, she was in conservative royal clothes and hair.

Alone, Elsa blooms into a different kind of queen: one who smiles, who runs free with abandon. Her hair comes down, her ensemble transforms into something majestic. And without the fear of society’s reactions, she doesn’t have to wear gloves to contain her ice magic. She can let it go, with JOY. And she builds herself an ice castle, where she doesn’t feel lonely. She feels HERSELF. She’s not afraid. She’s relieved.

“The cold never bothered me anyway.”

And of course, her sister Anna comes after her–

I won’t spoil EVERYTHING. 🙂

But I love Elsa so much. I relate to her. She felt she had to be a certain way– stoic, perfect, for the public. Always in control. She was always composed, but never showed her fears. She dealt with things on her own. She was afraid of her own power.

That’s how I feel about writing. And this blog. I’ve built a certain image here. But I’m not perfect.

I’m not always happy. I get mad. I just don’t show it to many. I tend to pray and write and deal with that on my own.

Writing is a power that I don’t yet know how to manage, I’m still figuring it out. I’m getting a handle on managing a blog that makes me or less a public figure– even on a small scale.

I only share my true feelings with a small circle.

And I find a lot of love and support in my friends, especially my female friends. I have some great male friends, too.

Being single is like being in the wilderness. I’m still finding my way.

And winter has always been my favorite season, just like Elsa.

But that song, “Let it Go,” is ringing in my mind. Even more because Idina Menzel, one of my favorite actresses since “Wicked,” is singing it.

I haven’t loved a musical song this much since “Defying Gravity.” They’re both about freedom.

About trusting your own potential. About venturing out, alone. And Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, is a character defined by the her passion for justice– which left her feeling mostly isolated from her peers. “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West,’ is a Gregory Maguire novel I’ve read several times. Elphaba Thropp is probably my favorite literary heroine. She feels isolated in every way. She doesn’t feel a spiritual connection to God, though her father is a preacher. She is keenly intelligent and sarcastic– but many bully her because she’s green. Because she thinks differently. She doesn’t find her purpose until she drops out of college and ventures away, alone. The book is so much more adult than the musical– darker, richer. It encompasses religion, politics, racism, and questions about the definition of evil. Does Elphaba have a soul? She doesn’t believe she does. But she spends her life dedicated to a passionate belief, though she stumbles many times. She endures a lot of loss. She doesn’t think her life amounts to much. But her legacy lives on, and we see by the end of the novel that her work mattered to many, even if she didn’t realize it was important at the time.

I don’t know how I got over here! But this is me. Wandering, connecting disparate things.

I like the way my mind works. It’s creative. It’s not afraid to roam.

And I like that Elsa stands confident and alone at the end of the movie. Just like Elphaba.

Both “E” names. Both played by Idina Menzel. Both wonderful role models for women.

Feminists.

Leaving the Door Ajar, not Closed

So I quit the poetry workshop, letting the instructor know by e-mail. I thanked her for everything, but explained that as much as I enjoy the classes, they cannot be my priority right now.

It’s been wonderful, but I can’t commit to those time slots any longer, or the gas money. I need to focus on more practical things. Especially saving money, and making more of it. That includes cutting back on driving to Chicago. This year has been hard because I used to go up there a lot– at least twice a month, sometimes more. Two of my best friends live up there, and I enjoyed getting out of the suburbs to see them. They made trips to J-town too, but let’s face it– the city is more exciting. This year I’ve mostly talked to those friends on the phone– but they make a point to call me too. We’ve adapted as good friendships do. I’ve made a lot of practical changes this year, and it’s been wonderful. It’s brought me simplicity, tranquility, and more stability. I’m on a roll with the “ility,” words!

And her reaction was wonderful. She couldn’t have been more professional. She invited me to any future workshops, and promised to let me know the dates in case I could make it. She offered to send me a copy of their chapbook publication, even though I had declined to submit this time. She said she really enjoyed my writing, and was glad that I had attended. Consummate professional. Any reasonable adult understands when work and budgeting comes first. It’s good to know she’s not holding my decision against me, and respects that the timing is not right at this time.

And maybe I can make an adjustment myself about going to Chicago this year. Maybe I can start taking the train more often instead. I’ve always avoided it except for a few times, preferring to not be limited about when I can arrive and leave. I also prefer parking hassles to having to switch trains and traverse around the city on foot, especially in the cold– alone. I’ve grown to be an excellent Chicago driver, and even parallel parking. I can maneuver into almost any spot now, like a local!

But maybe it’s time that I start learning  to get around the city like a TRUE Chicagoan– on the “L.”

Challenges, challenges.

And I Didn’t Tell

Someone just asked me where they could read my work, and I didn’t tell them about this blog. 

It’s an interesting paradox. I’m proud of this blog, and writing soothes me– yet I don’t promote my writing. 

In this ultra-liberal world, everyone is telling their life story and trying to get famous. 

The greatest act of rebellion in these times is to keep information to yourself, to choose privacy. To eschew social networking.

To be conservative. 

It was freeing when I deleted my facebook for a couple of months. I only came back because of my column, since I wasn’t getting much interaction and response about it on just the newspaper comments alone. 

I’m not one to Google someone before a first date. I prefer mystery. My old journalism instincts flare up– I’d rather interview someone in person, get to know them face to face. I don’t just want to read about them or talk on the phone.

But that conflicts with my fundamental identity as a writer. 

I like to be able to share my work, but at my own behest. I like being able to choose who will read it, and when. 

Maybe that will change as I grow more confident. Maybe I’ll break through that conservative mind frame in which I was raised. 

And the plot thickens!

I Read a Poem

Yesterday, I read a poem.

Out loud, to a poetry class.

Oh, I’m hooked.

It was wonderful to hear them talk about it, with me right there. To be a “fly on the wall,” listening to them interpret what I had just read, hearing them relate. Everyone related– but they all saw such different things!

I was given the copies they had written on with comments and suggestions for revision.

And I seriously want to make the poem better, to change it. To expand it. To pare it down.

It was just something I had scribbled, with no revision. But they got the rhythm of it.

First, I read it. They said I read too fast, that I should slow down so they could “see” the images.

Then, as per our teacher’s request, someone else read it. (This is standard procedure.)

In our class, we talk about the poet as “the speaker”– because the voice in which we write is not necessarily our own voice. It could be a character.

That distance between the poet and the “speaker” is wonderful.

I like being not just a writer, but a “speaker.”

I liked facing people, reading out loud and seeing their reactions.

It’s the closest thing I can get to imagining what it must be like to be a musician. To play an instrument to a live audience, and have them relate immediately back to you.

Writing is so solitary. You rarely get to watch people react. I don’t see my readers– only if they choose to “like” my post or write a comment. My subscription list is growing, but the majority are silent.

I enjoy it all, the same.

Everyone in the room had such a different viewpoint. You never know by looking at someone what their story is, how their intelligence is manifested, or what you can learn from them.

Then another woman in the class read her poem– and we talked about hers, too.

Afterward, I talked to her individually about what I liked, and how I thought she could make it even better. It was so clear that she felt enormous relief in standing up there, reciting it out loud.

She listened to me eagerly. It felt so good to talk to someone about writing. It felt good that she cared what I thought.

I don’t know if I could ever love another human as much as I love writing, and sharing it.

As much as I love the feeling of watching people work through language, swimming in it.

Oh, words. How they embrace me.

Afterward, I stayed and talked with the teacher.

She asked me, “And now what will you do?”

A delightful question I’m still pondering.

When class was over, it was snowing. And I was thankful for the heat in my car.

I had a nearly two hour drive home in traffic, but I was floating.

Words, words, words.