Too Late to Wait

I was right on time for my recent doctor’s appointment. I blew into the office at 1:30 exactly, and had only just scrawled my last answer on my paperwork when the nurse called my name. I didn’t have to wait one minute.

I was so disappointed.

I like to wait. Sitting at the doctor’s office, camping out in the airport. I even look forward to my time sitting in the dirty, dirty waiting room at the car mechanic’s. When I’m in those places, there’s no where for me to go. No chores or tasks or background noises to distract me. I’m trapped, and so I can focus, reading or writing or whatever it is I want to do, with no guilt or sense that maybe there’s something more important I could be doing, right up until a stranger calls my name.

Love It Enough to Steal It

After story time a little girl ran up to a table of painted rocks, clearly marked “Don’t Touch!”, and proceeded to touch every one of them.

“Stop it!” the mother said, and the girl dropped her hands to her side. She continued to stare at the rocks, bright green and blue, paint swirled and spotted .

“I want to put one in my pocket.”

Her words were so quiet and clear, the confident voice of someone who knew exactly what she wanted out of life: to take one of those smooth, bright, carefully colored rocks, and keep it in her pocket just for her.

She didn’t get to, obviously. The mother towed her away before she could filch anything, which is probably for the best. But I hope she was able to find something else to stow away, something pretty and perfect and all for herself.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a6/St._Martins_Ocean_Floor_Rocks_%2825368017705%29.jpg

How It Is, What I’m Doing

I have voted in elections where the candidate I did not choose has won. I was disappointed, or annoyed, or frustrated. I gave a deep sigh, thought “Well, that’s how it is, then.” And I moved on.

Not this time.

This time, I’m scared. This time, I’m angry. This time I want to do something.

Over the last several years I have grown into someone who identifies as a feminist. I think and care about issues that don’t affect me personally, but which I know are so, so important. I have cared about the environment I think since I knew what the phrase “endangered species” meant. With this election, all of that is threatened.

So, what to do?Read More »

The Books on the Bus

My bus had the absolute longest route in high school. I say this without exaggeration: the beast snaked over every back corner of town, tumbling down long dead-end streets and then crashing back out again. The routes then cut across the rest of town, into the next, passing thick forests and cow pastures until the bust finally rumbled up the hill to the regional high school. We were always late. They never decided to change the route.

I was the first stop in the morning, then the last stop when we finally got out, so I knew the length of the trip better than anyone, over an hour one way. Even my brother didn’t catch the full weight of it — the seventh and eighth grades split into middle schools before he got there, and then he was wise enough to spend his money on his own car his senior year for transportation. For me, I spent every school day from seventh grade until senior year finals week, when I borrowed my parents truck so I could duck out early, scrunched up in those seats for hours.

The downsides to this bus route are obvious. If the driver wasn’t right on time (she was never on time) we arrived at school with only minutes spent in the lunch room, the only time of day guaranteed to group my friends together. If the driver was really late (she was often really, really late) this meant going as a group to get late passes at the office, or else explaining to the unpleasant Spanish teacher that you hadn’t been loitering–you’d been shoving the contents of your locker into your back pack in a deranged panic. For someone riddled with anxiety, consumed with constant (unfounded) fear that she would get in awful trouble and disappoint everyone, this was not the ideal way to start the day.

But it wasn’t all bad.

I’ve discovered that, with a lot of the people I know, finding themselves stuck someplace with nothing to do but wait, they become bored, anxious. They desperately want that time to be over.

Those are the moments I cherish.

I arrive at doctor’s offices early, and hope they don’t call my name right away.

I sit in the back corner seat in the mini van, where I can’t see anyone’s face.

On airplanes, I settle up against the window, drop my tray as soon as is allowed, and close myself down into a tight metal-and-plastic box.

This is not where I get bored.

This is where I do things.

I bring my supplies of course. A paperback novel crammed in a purse; a notebook and a half dozen pens, since I kept forgetting if I forgot one; headphones so I can plug into my podcasts, my music, my books. For that time, I focus on the things I love, without any of the niggling thoughts that I should be doing something else.

The whole thing wasn’t too much different in high school. I had a Discman and a collection of CDs with bad rock music (I was a big fan of Creed) and pirated anime songs (also a big fan of Yu Yu Hakusho) instead of a smartphone, but methods and preferences were all the same. I’d hunch up with my book in the morning, or blast Kurama’s character song in my ears. In the afternoon I completed my homework, so when I got home there was nothing in the way of playing Dreamcast or watching the new episode of Dragonball.

For two hours a day, five days a week, there was no where else for me to go, nothing else for me to do. No chores, no responsibilities. Even the other kids didn’t bother me, usually, preferring to leave alone the quiet girl who sat close to the bus driver. More than any other time in my life, that was my time, a time to do what I wanted with no one to question it. It was worth bouncing down all those old streets, waking up earlier than I’ve ever had to do on a regular basis since.

It might have been nice to get dropped off the late bell more than occasionally–but who knows how many fantasy novels I would have gotten through, or how many Japanese songs I would have memorized otherwise.

Figuring Out Make Up

Today’s post is inspired by a comic by Connie Sun. Go check it out!

Connie War Paint

Make up was not my “thing” in high school. Really, a lot of very feminine things weren’t my “thing.” I didn’t wear skirts, I rejected cute sweaters in favor of shapeless hoodies, and pink was not a color that showed up on my clothing. I still owned plenty of “girly” things, like shojo manga (looking at you, original Tokyopop printing of Cardcaptor Sakura I totally still own), and my small army of stuffed animals, and I frequently bought allergy-inducing earrings shaped like butterflies from Claire’s. But make up I definitely shied away from.

Wearing make up at that time was not a part of the self image I’d built up for myself at that time — nerdy girl who cared more about getting to read an extra chapter of that Forgotten Realms novel than doing anything more with her hair than trapping it in a pony tail. I didn’t feel like I’d be “me” with stuff all over my face.

Things changed a little when I actually started learning how to put on make up. A friend did a smokey eye for prom, in college I discovered what lipstick colors look good with my face. And a terrible sunburn turned me onto the magical benefits of foundation!

I’ve since figured out eye shadow and eyeliner, and know that I prefer dusting on the “warmth” rather than a pink blush so I’m not completely monotone. I’ve discovered how to add colors and textures to my face, so it feels more like my face.

Very much unlike my high school self, I’m much less likely to leave the house without make up on, even for something as simple as traveling across town to see my in-laws. Sometimes I worry that I’ve become more vain — after all, I take care that I’ve got my earrings in, that I’m wearing the right shirts, that my hair is parted in just the way I want it. But I was concerned with my look in high school, too. I wanted to by the grungy nerdy girl. Now I want to be the slightly more put together nerdy adult. Make up, along with my tank tops and multiple ear piercings, is a part of my outward persona now as much as those DBZ shirts were way back when. When I brush on eye shadow or pick out a lip color, I feel like I am becoming me, and going out and being a part of the world is a much less intimidating process. I’m putting on my war paint, just like Connie Sun in her comic, ready to face the world as myself.

Plus, did you know there’s SPF in foundation? Super handing when I’m in Disney World roasting in the fiery Orlando Sun.

What It Is: How Drawing “Helped Me to Stay”

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“[Drawing] was a form of transportation. I did it because it helped me to stay by giving me somewhere else to go.” — Lynda Barry, What It Is

In high school my notebooks and paper bag-covered textbooks were a mess of my graffiti. I spent every non note- or test-taking moment drawing my personal doodles of frogs and bees, and creating never-ending, constantly dividing tendrils, using my collection of gel ens to draw them and then fill them with the vibrant, shiny color.

Focusing his never been my strong point; I have a mind that tends towards wandering. If I don’t want to lose track of where I am, something needs to anchor me. Writing I can focus on, but only that. For something like Biology class, I needed something to take up the part of my brain that tried to slip away. Drawing—sketching—doodling—that was perfect.

Sometimes, my reasonings for this were not understood, and I was called out on it. Once, in Math, I set to drawing an Orca on the front cover while some classmates spoke at the front of the room. My mistake was shading; the teacher heard the scuff of my pencil, and chastised me for being so rude and not paying attention. I put my pencil away, and had to focus on my classmates without looking at paper or moving my hands. She never did confirm whether I’d really been not listening.

Then, other times, it didn’t bother the teacher at all. I doodled on my folder while the Health teacher explained alcohol poisoning. Suddenly he turned to me and asked if I was listening. “Yes,” I said, without looking up, and repeated what he’d told us. “All right!” he responded, and continued on.

Recently I read Lynda Barry’s What It Is, part graphic novel, part collage, part memoir, part writing guide. The above quote gut-punched me as so weirdly but completely true. Drawing gives you somewhere to go—letting my mind wander, as it will—and helping me stay, letting me pay attention to everything going on around me. I was taken right back to high school, when I did the most drawing, now having words to describe something I always knew was true. I drew then to keep myself in that fantastic in-between place. I want to draw more now, so that I can find it again.

My Anxiety, Like a Lingering Kick in the Shins

I’m a bit of an anxious person. (No kidding.) But sometimes I feel a little weird, complaining about it. After all, I’ve seen some people who are truly anxious, to a near or actual crippling effect. There are things they actually can not do. My anxiety doesn’t quite keep me from doing things. But boy, it makes it hard.

(Rambly blog post, coming up.)

Read More »

Response: You Will Be Forgotten

Last week, Hank Green posted a vlogbrothers video titled “You Will Be Forgotten…And That’s OK.” This was in response to a popular Tumblr post where the original poster revealed a fear of living an average life and never doing something to be remembered by, and he was concerned about the fact that so many people seemed to share this anxiety.

Watch the video, definitely, it’s less than 4 minutes long, but here’s a gist of what he said: oblivion is inevitable, and it’s impossible to be actually remembered for forever. Besides that, the idea of being permanently successful is a myth; as he points out from his stance as a “successful” person, you can have many successes, but being successful and satisfied one hundred percent of the time just isn’t a thing.
Hank Green None of it exists

This struck me, because, I think, that’s something that bothers me, too. I want to be remembered, I want to be known. But…why?

It’s a hard thing to grasp, but I believe this feeling comes from not quite understanding my own motivations. I want to be a writer. Being a writer makes you sort of famous, so that seems like a “why”. But is it?

If I can be a famous enough writer, I’ll make enough money off of writing to be able to make that my vocation. I’ll get the satisfaction of knowing that I’ve done something well when other people like what I’ve done. When other people know that I’ve done this thing, and like it enough to pay me money for it, I will feel “successful” and “remembered.” With that as the seeming goal, having not reached that point yet is, well, kind of depressing.

Hank Green’s video helped remind me to not get caught up in this. Becoming known for my writing is a byproduct of what I want, writing for a living. It’s not what I’m actually aiming for. If I don’t ever become “famous”, or whatever, that’s not a problem, because that’s not what I’m trying to do.

Hank ends the video emphasizing that what’s important is the good things you have done, and the good things you will do, “…things that you’re gonna make and have already helped make.” Who cares if I won’t be remembered. I’m WRITING now, and I’m going to keep writing, and creating, and just doing things that hopeful add an ounce of happiness to the world (even it’s just my own world). That’s the thing that matters.

Here’s Hank’s video, embedded below. But check out the whole vlogbrothers channel; they’re really smart, sensitive dudes.

Pretending in the Dark

My current work-in-progress has a lot to do with natural darkness, with my character’s job, and her nature, keeping her awake when most people would sleep. She encounters things that are scary in the dark (basically, she fights and soothes ghosts and spirits) but for her the night is also a comfort.

Books like r Brown Taylor’s Learning to Walk in the Dark have serendipitously fallen into my hands while I’ve worked on this WIP, helping me to figure out and understand this comforting side of darkness. But I’ve also been gathering plenty of examples from my own memories, reminding me that I like the dark, too.

I don’t remember ever being afraid of the dark. I think I liked to have my door open a crack, when I was small, but that was probably more to maintain a connection to my parents, still awake, than to scare off any monsters (under my bed held books and lost socks, my closet had no door, where would a monster hide?). Sleepovers with friends became more personal when, curled in a sleeping bag or unfamiliar bed and protected by a shroud of darkness we’d whisper secrets we were too awkward or uncomfortable to say aloud in the daylight. Christmas was always the most beautiful, the most magical, when there was only the scant light coming from a multicolored string on a tree.

I played most of my pretend games at night, after I’d shut the door (I’d learned the benefit of that) turned off the light, and crawled into my bed. Sometimes I’d act out stories with the stuffed animals who took up a decent portion of mattress at the foot of my bed. But more and more often I generated everything out of my own head, painting it onto the dark. A girl who ran away to live in the jungle or on an island (I gathered a decent amount of inspiration from Scott O’Dell for this) or woodland animals living oddly human lives. I’d get a little too into this sometimes, acting out the story on my covers, and generated a lot more noise than I thought. My mom would open the door to find out what was going on. The light would cut across me, rip me fully from the game, and I’d mumble something, probably that there was nothing going on at all, and I’d lie back down, waiting for my embarrassed self to be left alone in the dark again.

Dark can be scary. I’d never park too deeply in a lot that didn’t have street lights illuminating my whole way, and noises always sound loud and menacing when you can’t see what’s making them. But the dark is also where I pretend. I made up adventures in it as a kid, and now my favorite time to write is in that early time before the sun starts to come up (the trick is getting myself out of bed in time). The dark is like a comforting blanket, draping over me, keeping me safe so I can think and write whatever I want.

Creating in a Mess

The other day, a few Facebook friends posted the same article that brought up the connection between “messiness” and having a creative mind. Basically, people who tend to create cluttered environments for themselves also tend to think more creatively since you have to go a little outside the box to keep making everything work. I was pleased to hear this, and also — vindicated.

I’m not a neat person. I put effort into being so: I’ll try to put my books on the shelves, remind myself to put away the spices when I’m done cooking, maybe actually use my jewelry box every once in a while. But in the end, clearing off the kitchen table is an insurmountable chore, and I swear sometimes that putting my clean laundry in the drawers causes me a small level of physical pain. Just look at the photo of my desk for proof:

There’s room in my line of writing books, but I choose instead to leave others stacked on top. Random papers poking out everywhere. A box of paper clips containing one paper clip. A haphazard pile of books stacked on top of my husband’s old laptop, which neither of us has used in, I think, years. Not shone is that day’s coffee cup alongside the half-drunk tea from the day before, and the magazines, books, and an open box of envelopes shoved in the alcove under the printer.

Obviously as a kid my room was a pit. My sister shared the blame for that, but my brother’s room wasn’t much better. So, constantly, we were asked, ordered, implored to clean up the mess, to not stop until the rooms were “immaculate”, a word so oft-repeated, and so impossible to attain, that it’s now the only word in the English language I actively hate.

It was nice to see, with this article, that the mess isn’t necessarily my fault — my brain actually does not function that way — and that it may have helped fuel my creativity. Take that!

There needs to be a balance, obviously; even the article mentions that. There have been times I’ve let things get so out-of-control messy that I can’t think of anything else. And I can’t expect friends to sit alongside unfolded shirts and eat around last week’s mail. But maybe if I can figure out what the method to my mess is, I can stay comfortable in the kind of person I am without getting in my own way.

What about you — are you messy, or a neat freak? Does that ever get in the way of your ability to create? Do you wish you could be neater?