Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘neurotic much?’ Category

… all of the things, apparently.

I pulled a prompt out of my writing prompt envelope tonight, and it said: “What I never tell anyone is …” I started my freewrite and the first thing on the page was, “I never tell anyone how scared I am pretty much all the time. Of so many things.” That wasn’t what I was expecting to write, but that’s what came out.

I wrote for about 20 minutes … and uncovered a whole host of fears I wouldn’t have imagined myself to be carrying. Mostly I’m afraid of screwing things up … whatever those “things” might be — my job, my friendships, my health. I’m afraid of being too quiet, too loud, too clever, too dull, too serious, too frivolous. I’m afraid of the spotlight, but afraid of being ignored.

WTF?

This isn’t something I’m aware of 24/7, but then I’ll suddenly notice it, notice how tense my shoulders are, how tense my jaw is … and I’ll have to force myself to unclench.

What is that? Why am I so constantly afraid? And of such just-live-your-life things. And have I always been? I know we have a family joke about how fraught with tension I was, even as a small child, but is that real? Have I always been afraid?

People who’ve known me a while might point to things I’ve done that seem “brave,” whatever that means. I’ve traveled alone. I’ve done a lot of public speaking. I’ve read my work in front of audiences of people who aren’t just my family and friends. I stood up to a surgeon and his staff who wanted to sterilize me.

Okay, all of that is true. And more. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t also afraid. I’m terrified every time I have to read. I’m often afraid when I’m traveling. I was entirely afraid during that hospital experience. I was so afraid during one of my surgeries this past summer that I cried through almost the whole pre- and post-op period. I may be able to do “brave” stuff, but that doesn’t erase the fear.

And I certainly don’t want to get rid of fear all together. There are plenty of real things for me to be afraid of.

Job security was a big one in the mass of fears that spilled out in my freewrite. That surprised me, but it’s real. It’s something I would have dismissed before the debacle at my last job. Seeing how quickly and easily I could be cast out was a real eye opener. Seeing how casually someone I’d worked with and thought I could trust could knowingly sacrifice me for her own gain was shocking. So this fear of about safety on the job is new. And rough. I hate worrying about whether I’m giving ammunition to the wrong person, not making myself useful enough to the right one. And yes, that’s in my head … but in my current job, it’s also real. I see that happening around me all the time. Feh.

So, fear. It’s hard to admit that I have so much of it, that I carry that stress with me regularly. And that it comes in many forms and from many directions. Yesterday, walking away from a friend’s house, the first handful of blocks of that walk had me tight with worry because people hadn’t cleaned their sidewalks, and I was so afraid of slipping and falling and messing up one or both of these bionic (but still breakable) knees of mine. I carry that fear — of slipping and falling — all the time. When I’m going up or down a flight of stairs or an incline, when I stand up on the subway or bus, walking down the street. Yes, I’ve had this particular fear for many years, since my knees were first damaged and a bad slip or fall would put me in bed for a few days, unable to do more than hobble slowly and painfully around my house. There was a brief, shining moment after my first knee surgery when I forgot about it, forgot to worry about falling. That was glorious. It was a revelation — Oh, this is what it feels like not to be disabled! But it didn’t last long. Less than a year later, I was in pain and moving toward my second surgery, back to worrying about uneven pavement, every flight of stairs, the slippery tiles on the subway platform.

Carrying fear all day every day has to be chipping away at me, shortening my life. Certainly making me curtail my movements, my plans. Fear is what makes me bite my tongue in conversations — and then feel frustrated when someone else says the thing I’ve been thinking all along. Fear is what has kept me from expressing my feelings again and again — God forbid I should tell someone how I feel and get slapped down with rejection. Of course, I’ve had plenty of rejection even when I haven’t put myself out on any limbs, so have I really protected myself by not being honest about my heart?

In The House on Mango Street, Esperanza’s mother talks to her about shame, about how it holds you back. And that’s real, of course. Shame has played a big part in my life, too. But I think fear has played a bigger role, a more dominant role. How sad is that?

So, what do I do with this realization? What’s the next move, the next step? How do I shut the fear down? Is that even the right goal? Should I be investigating it to see where it comes from? Is that the secret to releasing it? Do I acknowledge it and then crush it harder and harder until it’s compressed into diamonds or coal? And then what? Does it somehow become valuable to me?

I’ve been working on developing a better relationship with my anger, feeling it, living with it, embracing it, using it. Clearly there’s some equally serious work to be done with fear. Okay. Here we go.

griotgrind_logo

In 2017, I’ve committed to writing an essay a week. It’s only Week 3, and I’m beat!

It’s not too late to join if you’re feeling ambitious! Check out Vanessa Mártir’s blog to find out how!


original-slicer-girlgriot

Click on the badge to check out today’s Slice of Life posts at Two Writing Teachers!

Read Full Post »

I am always telling stories. Always. At both the right and wrong times. To people who both do and don’t want to hear them. The hundreds of stories on this blog barely scratch the surface of my tale-telling. I could easily best Scheherazade, Seriously, she needed a thousand and one nights to tell her stories? Give me a couple of days, tops. It’s surely a sickness. I would not be surprised to find this behavior detailed in the DSM in the “Weird Manias” chapter.

So standing up in front of a room full of people and telling a story should be no problem at all, right?

At this point yesterday, I was certain only that I would manage the standing up in front of a room full of people part.

But tonight I know. I know that I can stand up in front of an audience and tell a story. Tonight was the How to Build a Fire storytelling series, and not only did I make it through, I did well! I even sang a bit of a song! Yes, there was one key piece at the end that I forgot to add, but no one seemed to feel the story was lacking.

Storytelling is strange and fabulous. I had such a good time and I can’t wait to try it again!

The HTBAF folks record the events, so there will eventually be a video of me telling my story up on their site.


It’s the end of the 2016 edition of the Slice of Life Story Challenge! Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see how everyone else ended the challenge! I’m glad to have made it through another year of Slice of Life. I’m not at all ready to start writing poems tomorrow, but we’ll see what happens!

SOL image 2014

Read Full Post »

I got on the A train the other night and slid into an empty seat … next to a ventriloquist. Why would that be necessary? Why, of all the people I could sit beside, would I have to find the one over-chatty ventriloquist? I was so with the young man at the end of the car who announced loudly: “Do NOT take that dummy out.” But of course, as soon as he said that, our friend the ventriloquist opened his case and pulled out a dummy.

I don’t hate ventriloquists. Not really. And he was talented. But really. They’re creepy, ventriloquists and their dummies. Creepy.

Let’s pause here. You may agree with me about the creepiness of ventriloquists and their dummies. You may not, but you may know someone else who finds them creepy. Fine. But I have to be clear. My feelings on this subject go deep, deeper, deepest. I so totally have pupaphobia. My puppet fear traces back in a perfect straight line to the movie Lili. No, seriously. That dream sequence scarred me. The only silver lining of this horror is the discovery of “automatonophobia” … which, really, is a way better word than pupaphobia.

Okay, back to business. You know how, if you don’t like cats or are allergic to cats and you go to a house that has cats, they come for you? They could have been asleep at the back of the hidden closet three floors away in the attic, and they come down and come running, looking for your lap? Yes, ventriloquists are the same. Because when that man on the train opened his dummy case, did he try to interact with the people who’d begged him to take out the dummy? No, he turned to me

Puppet Master: Say hi to the nice lady.

Creepy-ass Puppet: She don’t wanna talk to me.

Puppet Master: She’ll talk to you if you say hi. Say, “Hi, pretty lady.”

Creepy-ass Puppet: You think she pretty?

Puppet Master: She’s pretty.

Creepy-ass Puppet: She aight.

Yes, because not only do I have to be accosted by ventriloquism when I was just trying to get home for the night, I get a puppet who has what to say about how attractive I am or am not. Good times.

#NoThanks #NotHereForThis #CREEPY


It’s the Slice of Life Story Challenge! Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see what the rest of the slicers are up to … and to post the link to your own slice!

SOL image 2014

Read Full Post »

Last night I locked my front door.

If you’ve read this blog for a minute, you know that I don’t lock my door. I do lock the big iron gate in front of my door, but not the door itself. This is part laziness, part habit from when the lock wasn’t working properly, part foolish, Pollyanna-ish insistence that I don’t need to lock it.

But then sometimes I do.

A few years ago I was reading Francisco Goldman’s The Art of Political Murder, and it was killing me. I was terrified all the time, most especially so when I entered my house at night because that was when Bishop Gerardi was murdered. I wrote about my fear here, and Fox — my intelligent and often-snarky younger sister — responded that I might feel safer in my home if I locked my front door.

(Yes, my family — as may be true for some of you reading this — are horrified by my crazy, not-door-locking behavior.)

Fox was right. I locked my door, and I immediately felt safer in my house, slept more easily. When I recovered from reading Goldman’s book, I stopped locking my door.

Since then, door-locking has been the barometer of my feeling of security and comfort.

So let’s start again: last night I locked my front door.

There could be any number of reasons for that. I’ve been binge-listening to “Serial,” and have definitely felt whispers of fear running along my spine. I hadn’t thought it was too serious, but I could be wrong. So it could be Adnan Sayed … but maybe it’s something more.

I am feeling decidedly exposed and vulnerable, which makes sense, given how public I’ve been in the expression of my anger and sadness and frustration. Is that scary? I guess it is scary. Is it lock-the-door scary? I wouldn’t have thought so, but it could be.

There were a few moments last night — as I fixed dinner, as I twisted my hair — when I could feel unease rising in my chest, that I had to remind myself that I had locked the door, when the knowledge of the locked door dissolved the fear and enabled me to carry on calmly with my night.

And if this fear is about my feeling exposed and vulnerable, that actually seems like a good thing. Opening myself like this has been very powerful for me, has helped me see that I can be angry — ragingly angry — and the world doesn’t crumble, no mountains fall into the sea.

Of course, it could also be just plain, straight-up #AliveWhileBlack fear. I’ve been so focused lately on all the times and all the ways I have felt unsafe on the street. I’ve been thinking about Aiyanna Stanley Jones who should have been perfectly safe — asleep in her home being a regular seven-year-old child — and yet wasn’t safe. And maybe weeks and weeks of acknowledging and giving voice to this painful truth that I don’t control is finally manifesting, channeling through my fingers, turning that cylinder, sliding that bolt.

I’m curious to see what will happen tonight. Sometimes, just acknowledging my fear is enough to dispel it, enough to let me return to my unlocked life. And if the fear persists, it makes me more glad than usual that I’ll be heading home for Christmas. In that house full of family and dogs — to say nothing of locked doors and an activated alarm system — I will sleep soundly every night.

But whether in my family’s home or in my home, I know that — fear or no fear — I’m going to keep writing, keep posting.

Read Full Post »

Wasn’t it just five minutes ago that I wrote about my crazy connection to my earrings, how I have risked life and limb for my trinkets?  Today I was faced with the horror of … yes, you guessed it … rushing through my get-out-of-the-house routine to the detriment of my peace of mind …

I FORGOT MY EARRINGS!!

It was a true Red Alert situation.  Basically the same as stepping outside without my shirt and shoes.  Worse still, what I was wearing required gold jewelry and the place I stopped to hunt up some desperation earrings only had silver.

Too awful, I tell you.  It’s a wonder I survived the afternoon.  Six hours naked.  In public.  I need a drink.

Go check out the other (less ridiculous) slices over at Stacey and Ruth’s.

(We will return to our regularly scheduled, quality slices tomorrow.  Thank you for your patience.  We apologize for any inconvenience.  Please use the trash recepticles on your way out.)

Read Full Post »

Earlier this week, Pamela posted about teaching drawing and then shared a post to get her readers drawing. Both posts are wonderful.  When I read the first, I related so strongly to the student who announced that he couldn’t draw … and to Pamela’s desire to take an eraser to that statement.  Because I can’t draw … but I can, too.  I used to draw all the time, used to be pretty good at it, even.  And then suddenly I believed I didn’t know how to do it.  How did that happen?  In my life as a teacher, I drew on the board all the time.  I would always remind my classes just how much I couldn’t draw and ask them to be generous in their critiques of my illustrations.  And that wasn’t about being falsely modest.  Those drawings really weren’t good. 

Last night at the Museum, as Grace and I were heading out of the gallery, she asked me — totally casually, as if it wasn’t in any way a loaded question: “Do you draw?”  And I stuttered on my answer.  I was going to say, “No.”  And then I wanted to say, “Yes.”  And then I wanted to say that I used to but didn’t really …  And in the end I gave an answer that came out all of those things at once.  Grace laughed, said that she figured I must draw because I do so many other creative things.

That made me smile, but also made no sense, you know?  Just because I do other creative things (write, sew, knit, make paper, whatever) it shouldn’t automatically follow that I  would be able to draw.  And then it made me sad.  Because I could draw.  And how did that get put in a box at the back of a closet?  When did I stop drawing?  Why?

Pamela’s second post gives a step-by-step of how to draw an egg.  I haven’t tried it yet, haven’t given myself enough free time to have at it.  Maybe this weekend.  I don’t know if I can draw and egg, but I’ll try.  Maybe it’s the way to re-open the door to that skill I used to brandish proudly.  Maybe doing the exercise will jog something loose in the recesses of my brain, make me remember how I lost my drawing in the first place.

_____

Read more slices at Two Writing Teachers

Read Full Post »

In case I needed a wake up call about just how much the world doesn’t revolve around me …

I’m in the last days of a crazy grant application process at work.  The past ten months of planning are culminating in this final drive to the finish line of submitting a ginormous proposal before Labor Day.  To give myself some uninterrupted writing time, I took Tuesday afternoon out of the office and worked in a coffee shop.  When my insides began to vibrate, I got nervous but tried to convince myself nothing was happening.  I tried to pretend I wasn’t feeling anything.  I sat back in my chair … and felt the vibration even more strongly.  For about two seconds I wondered if anyone else might be feeling the weird shaky rocking I was feeling.  I looked around, but everyone else in the shop seemed just fine, so that confirmed my belief that whatever was happening was only happening to me.  I sat and tried to figure out what it could be.  Was I having a seizure?  Was it some kind of internal system shut-down?

Then the vibrating stopped … and I started trying to convince myself I’d imagined the whole thing.  Until everyone around me started talking  at once and I realized that, not only had I not imagined what I’d felt, everyone had felt it and that it had nothing to do with my health.

An earthquake?  Seriously?  With an epicenter in Virginia but felt that strongly here in Brooklyn?  Crazy business, that.  Truly.  I still can’t quite believe it.  In addition to disbelief, however, I’m also feeling a little sheepish … a seizure? an internal system shut-down?

So I’m actually that vain, that centered on myself that a 5.9 earthquake hits and I think it’s all about me?  I emailed this story to my brother and the laughed in his reply, said this was a perfect NYC story: everyone feels this obviously freakish, abnormal thing, but no one says anything because no one wants to be the crazy one!  I loved that.  Made me feel a little less vain, and also made me laugh.

Right now my hatches are battened and I’m locked up and dry at home while Hurricane Irene begins to introduce herself to my city.  It’s been an interesting week, natural disaster-wise!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »