Everything Old Is New Again

I haven’t thought of that song in forever, but it came immediately to mind when I queued up WordPress to post tonight. I spent a couple of hours yesterday and many, many hours today unpacking boxes and loading up my newly-assembled bookshelves. It was nice to rediscover my things. There’s a lot more work to do, but what’s already been done has been seriously transformational.

I am, in fact, so pleased to have done such a large chunk of unpacking, I decided to write tonight’s poem about it. The source text is Lucille Clifton’s poem “grief,” even though I am feeling anything but grief about the work I’ve done these last two days.

Unboxing

My world on pause.
No email, no tasks -- then
just one task, one job of work for
my heart. I keep the
rhythm going, simple, human.
Not instinctual, not animal.
Methodical, focused in
letting each treasure tell its
own story as I wipe the dust from its coat.

National Poetry Month 2021: the Golden Shovel

As I’ve done for the last forever, I’ve chosen a poetic form, and I’m going to try to write a poem in that form every day for the month of April. I don’t always succeed, but I always give it my best shot. The “Golden Shovel” was created by Terrance Hayes in tribute to Gwendolyn Brooks. I learned about it from my friend Sonia (aka Red Emma). I’ll be using Lucille Clifton’s poems as my starting point this month. Here are the rules:

  • Take a line (or lines) from a poem you admire.
  • Use each word in the line (or lines) as the end word for each line in your poem.
  • Keep the end words in order.
  • Give credit to the poet who originally wrote the line (or lines).
  • The new poem does not have to be about the same subject as the poem that offers the end words.

If you pull a line with six words, your poem would be six lines long. If you pull a stanza with 24 words, your poem would be 24 lines long. And so on.

Should be interesting!

When life was slow and oh so mellow …

Try to remember when life was so tender
That no-one wept except the willow
Try to remember when life was so tender
That dreams were kept beside your pillow

Try to remember when life was so tender
That love was an ember about to billow

I was talking with a friend this morning. She was telling me about a party she’d been to in the Before Times. We were laughing about the situation she described when she said how much she missed parties like that, how much she was looking forward to being able to go out like that again. And I agreed … but then I realized that I couldn’t actually remember what it was like, going out to parties, getting dressed up to go out, seeing my friends in small and large groups without a second thought, laughing and drinking and dancing and flirting. This afternoon, another friend texted me to ask what things I miss because of Covid. She was missing, among other things, travel. I miss travel, too. When I read her text, I thought about travel and going to the movies and not having to use hand sanitizer and … everything.

And still I am struck by how completely I can’t remember how to do any of the things I miss doing. I can’t imagine planning a trip. Can’t imagine getting on a train or plane. Can’t imagine dancing with a stranger (I mean, okay: I didn’t do a whole lot of that pre-Covid). Can’t imagine sitting in a crowded bar laughing and talking with a bunch of friends. Can’t imagine sitting in a crowded theater and leaning over to whisper snarky asides in my friend’s ear. Can’t imagine holding hands. Can’t imagine kissing.

I’m approaching the time when I’ll be able to slowly try anew some of the things I’ve had to go without for the last year. And that feels both long overdue and impossible. It’s certain that I can’t “go back” to anything. There is no “back.” We’ve left “back” so far in the past, isn’t it pretty much in another world at this point? Isn’t there only whatever’s next? Yes, I will start to find a way to do things I used to do, but will I ever do them in the same way? Will it ever be casual and easy to stand next to another person? Will I ever shake hands again?

I keep hearing “Try to Remember” from The Fantastiks. That song makes the past sound like a soft-focus, satin-smooth dream. My life pre-Covid was hardly dreamy, but the cruel space of this pandemic year makes that life feel ever out of reach. So what does that mean? We can’t go back, so what do we make of the future? How do we shape what comes next?

… it’s nice to remember
Without a hurt, the heart is hollow

No danger there, right? Plenty of hurt, so my heart is anything but hollow? Is that a lesson I’m supposed to be taking from the last year? That’s … frustrating at best. No, my heart isn’t hollow, but it wasn’t hollow before Covid, either. Is it all of our hearts, our hearts as a human race, that I should be thinking of? Has the world had to find its way through this horror show so that we can (finally) learn that every single life is “wild and precious,” that we have to fight for everyone in order to save our individual selves?

Try to remember and if you remember
Then follow
Follow

It’s all of it, of course. I (we) need to start figuring out how to live among people again. And I (we) need to find a way to stretch out into my (our) whole self again. And I (we) need to keep fighting for everyone, for every single wild and precious life. It’s the only way.

I still can’t imagine holding hands, still can’t imagine kissing. But I have to figure it out, find a way forward that includes all of that and more because our closeness, in all the ways that we should and need to be close, is what will save us.

__________

* Also, I swear I’m not always trying to put ear worms in your heads, dear reader. I can’t seem to avoid thinking of songs that fit in some way with whatever I’m posting, however. Sometimes I manage not to include the song in the post, but other times …

And more also? It’s Pi Day. Hope you had some. ❤


It’s the 14th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot

I always feel like somebody’s watching me …

Which is actually not at all true, but I can’t help thinking about that song right now.

Turns out, there are at least seven different people from my job who have been reading and commenting here. Seven. And there may be others who have just chosen not to contact me after reading last night’s post. I have seven different emails to respond to after yesterday, and included among them is one from the person I was actually thinking about when I wrote that post.

To be clear, no one is cyber-stalking me or bullying me or anything like that. I have just felt odd about some of the comments and odd about the fact that the person (and now, I realize, a bunch of people) was reading here but not letting me know they were reading here.

This discovery that my tiny little audience a) is bigger than I thought and b) includes people who are at least tangentially connected to me in the real world reinforces for me the importance of what I wrote yesterday. I can’t let any of that make a difference in what I write here, in whether or not I write here. These seven people know me/know about me in a very particular way. I fit into a certain set of boxes. If they are reading back through this blog, they will learn …

  • That I am often really angry
  • That I write and think about racism a LOT
  • That I have a lot to say about living while fat
  • That I am incredibly and unashamedly vain
  • That I’ve had some really ugly experiences in my life
  • That I’ve had some really fabulous experiences in my life
  • That I’m older than they might have thought

And sure, plenty of other things, too. Is it weird to learn these things about me and not actually try to meet me when we work for the same institution? A little, I guess. But it’s okay, too. I put all this stuff out there with the idea that it will be read — and read, quite specifically, by strangers. So I can’t really fuss when people do exactly what I hope people will do.

So I’ll keep posting in my Queen of Oversharing fashion. Maybe I’ll even post some of the things I wrote last year but didn’t share here. We’ll see.


It’s the 14th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot

And this is why we can’t have nice things.

I continue to participate in the #52Essays challenge, the challenge to write an essay a week for the year. I’ve been attempting to meet that goal each year since taking on the challenge in 2017. Last year was my least successful year. And yes, I could say that was because of Covid, but that would just be an easy cover. I mean, I did write less last year than I usually do, but I still wrote quite a lot. I posted 12 essays last year — half the number I posted in 2019 — but I wrote many more essays than that. Covid was part of what kept me away from this space, but it wasn’t the main thing.

I jokingly call myself the Queen of Oversharing. It’s only sometimes true. I talk a lot, and can definitely talk too much, but I don’t always share the deep stuff, expose my tender underbelly. Except on this page. For whatever reason, I often share things here that I haven’t found a way to talk about with the people I am close with.

Most of the people who read here don’t know me in person. Some of my friends and family read here, too, however. So do a few of my coworkers. And that’s fine. And it’s also strange sometimes. Strangest of all when lines blur and someone who falls into the surprise category of “strangers I know” starts reading here, starts interacting here.

And that’s what happened last year. Someone I’ve never met but to whom I am connected started reading here, started interacting here in a way that felt judgmental and mocking. And I was trying to manage being in quarantine and found that I couldn’t also manage even a quiet confrontation — couldn’t or just didn’t want to spend the energy on turning a conversation I didn’t want to have into something that wasn’t a confrontation. Instead, I chose to leave this space dormant for the better part of the year.

Which pissed me off. And made me sad. This page is one of my preferred release valves. Shutting it down because someone I didn’t want to see walked into the room wasn’t the best self-care I’ve ever practiced. If ever I needed a proven release valve, I needed one last year.

Last night I posted about my history of not settling in the places I’ve lived, posted about the fact that I am not settled in the place I currently live. And today the name of that “stranger I know” dropped into the inbox of my work email. And I had a stomach ache for the rest of the day. I don’t know if they are still reading here. But I am annoyed to find that I am still made uncomfortable by the possibility that they are.

This space is mine. These stories are mine. That person holds no power over me, and I refuse to give them the power to silence me again. If they’re reading here, they are. If they choose to share my stories with their coworkers, that’s just what will happen. All of the ways that I am ugly and flawed here are all of the ways that I am ugly and flawed in real life. Keeping myself away from this space, not posting the pieces I’ve written expressly for this space … that’s like writing lies in my diary to protect myself against someone else reading it.

Saying all of that out loud is a good reminder to me to keep standing in my truth and holding my space and, really, to hell with anyone who chooses to mock or judge me for any of it.

And this is why I will have nice things.


It’s the 14th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot

Grading on the Curve

My no-longer-so-new job is the largest job I’ve ever had. It’s a job I wanted for several years before the opportunity to apply for it came along. I had some ideas about what the job would include, the kinds of work I’d be doing. And I figured there’s be a world of other things I hadn’t imagined. And I knew I’d have a lot to learn.

Right on all counts. Even the familiar things and the things I figured would be part of the job have presented plenty of mountains to climb in the need-to-learn category. I’ve spent the last 18 months on a learning curve with a broader, more sweeping arc than anything I’ve ever taken on.

All that learning, all that needing to learn, has made lots of room for La Impostora to stride in and get all up in my business. (If you are new to this page, La Impostora is my pet name for and personification of impostor syndrome. She and I have a long and unpleasant history.) And she has been riding shotgun with me since the day I accepted this job.

There is a large piece of my job that has been particularly difficult for me. It involves: 1) learning and understanding two sets of rules, 2) overlaying those rules on some moving parts that tend to move in completely non-complementary ways, 3) fitting the whole swirling chaos into a governing system the logic of which I am only made aware of when a) catastrophe is about to strike or b) catastrophe has already been precipitated by me. This piece of my job impacts every other piece of my job. This is where La Impostora comes to play.

This part of the work stresses me out and calls up all my doubts and fears, so of course it’s La Impostora’s favorite place to be. She has done a great job of reminding me of all the ways I don’t understand this critical piece of my job and how I am more likely to burn everything to the ground before actually learning how to do one part of it even passably well. (You can see why La Impostora is not exactly my favorite imaginary friend.)

This week, however, I tackled this aspect of my job in a way that bordered on capable. Because sometimes I can see La Impostora coming and I can shunt her off into a side room and bar the door. I can remember all the things I came into this job knowing and all the things I’ve learned since I got here. I can actually work through messy problems and find solutions and make disparate pieces function as parts of a whole. This week has surprised and pleased me by being full of moments like that, most particularly in this one super-stressful aspect of the work. I didn’t see it coming at the start of the week, and wouldn’t have guessed that it would keep up for the whole week, but here we are.

I have so much to learn in this job (I mean, SO MUCH), and not everything this week went swimmingly. But it always feels good to be able to turn down La Impostora’s loud, resonant voice, to be able to listen to my own voice. It feels good to see that I have been learning all this time, that I’m moving further in and farther up … that I’m on a curve, not a hamster wheel.


It’s the 14th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot