Lourdes Mint's Mid-Life Miracle

Real-time memoir of the coming year (5/20/14 – 15) and the achievement of a life-long dream

Archive for the category “Real-time memoir”

Here’s to doing something tiny, today!

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/tiny/

“One could almost believe that one day is just like another. But some have something a little more. Nothing much. Just a small thing. Tiny.” ~from Little Bird, by Germano Zullo

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A close friend of mine gave me this book when our first potential adoption fell through. On the day the baby was born, we were on our way to the hospital when the social worker called to tell us the parents had changed their minds. We went home and decided we would not renew our home study again. We had renewed twice already and suffered through several disappointments, this last one the worst, and we were done. We had a beautiful family already and weren’t getting any younger, we told the adoption agency. I hit the “reset” button in my life, began this blog (among other things), and rededicated myself to making writing a priority. A little over two months later, and just a few months before our home study expired, Mariel was born and everything changed.

She was so tiny, but we could already see in her, the strong and beautiful little girl she has become. Maybe it doesn’t need to be said, but these last couple of years have not been big writing years for me. We have been very busy here, busy with family and with moving house and all that comes with those things. And I feel like I am only now beginning to dig my way out.

Compared to what I have to do, ALL THESE THINGS I feel I have to do, all I can do today is something tiny. And I’m doing it. It may not be much, but it’s a start … or mainly, rather, a continuation of things started long ago. I think there’s an important difference there.

Continuing is not as fun and fresh and punchy as having A BRAND NEW START because, for one thing, it’s more complicated. I cannot, at almost 50 years old, simply write off all of those things I’ve wanted and pursued over the years. I know a few at least are genuine reflections of my most authentic self, not just my younger or less-experienced self. Continuing now, picking up where I left off, validates my past efforts even if they didn’t lead to tangible achievements. It is messy and murky work, and every little thing I do, even this post, feels tiny compared to where I want to be in relation to my hopes and dreams. But I have to proceed as though I believe, with all my heart, that the tiny things will add up. So here’s to doing something tiny, today!

There is always “burn” here now.

Pretty+Flames+2-7-2007+3-36-23+PM+2816x2112There is always “burn” here now.

Door knobs burn in my hand as I turn them, so I leave the inside ones open. Even the floor burns the bottoms of my feet, so: shoes, but they burn also. These words too, all words, whether I think or say or read them, they all burn now. Sometimes./

To hear them, these ones here, spoken aloud in this room today — w/ no one aside from me listening, no music playing, nothing baking — to hear them without burning, what I would give for that! To be back there, here but back then, in my dream of life again, where it was plenty warm enough, what I would give./

There were times I’d think I must have come from there to here through someplace really cold. I’d think, could I have died that day? That day I “wakened” to the smell of all my pies burning and you knocking as loud as you could on the door. “What’s burning? Are you okay? What’s going on with your hair?”/

We threw the pies into the garden, laughing. You cut my hair in the kitchen to help fix me back up as we aired the place out. “What happened, though? Did you fall asleep? Since when do you bake pies and for what?” I opened you some wine and we spent the rest of the day together./

But I watched the pies slowly disappear alone. It took weeks and then one downpour finally carried the rest away./

Today, I know I came through someplace really cold to get here. Why else, how else, could touching these now — these plastic keys — burn me so? So that the plainest words/thoughts, uttered as plainly as I can manage, are birds barely escaping a flame and then at the very last second returning or just stopping, letting it happen, letting it wrap them and hold them in its hot hands until they turn to ash?/

There is always “burn” here, but I’ve begun to wonder if it might be okay for a time./

After all, crying now is like climbing a tree—but on another planet. Crying: Why? How? It doesn’t happen here, I don’t think, but I’m not completely sure (having learned about evaporation so long ago). I do know it’s not okay not to cry ever./

I know too that today nothing is baking, no music is playing, and no one knocks or doesn’t knock at the door. And I know I didn’t die that day. I am being still and quiet, no more words aloud for now, dreaming of when I was “just warm enough” and wishing I could cry, here or on some other planet, any planet (except Mercury, Venus)./

And yet. Even though these words, my memories, the door, the floor, the bottoms of me feet — ALL of it burns, all of it is burning me — I begin to think it could all turn out all right, that one day I will be just warm enough again.

***

THIS is a repost, thanks. I’ve been gone from here for SIX long months. I consider it a bit of providence that I log back in tonight, after several days (weeks? months?) of thinking about this blog AND THIS POEM especially, and find that BURN is the one-word daily prompt. Today. When I log back in … But so, I have nothing new here now, I don’t think, am exhausted, but I jump back in to this — everything — holding the hand of my 47-year-old self from two years ago. I trust no one more.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/burn/

https://wordpress.com/post/lourdesmint.wordpress.com/678

 

 

These Things Happened in the Past

PASTLourdes_v1: “These things happened in the ‘past,’ the past. Now you try: These things happened in the past.”

Lourdes_v2: “‘These things … are happening now, in the present, at this very moment! They will always be happening, in fact, forever and ever and ever, until the end of the world. And even after that, they’ll happen still, again and again. More things on top of these things will happen, actually, and with more frequency, until finally it will just be one long, continuous thing happening, happening, happening!!!’ Was that okay? Close enough, I mean?”

Lv1: “[Heh, heh.] A joker, I see. Try again. Past. These things happened in the past.”

Lv2: “Pissed. These things pissed me off — not because they were all bad. Some were. But some were great, are great! It’s just: there were too many things, too close together, so ‘pissed’ is what I’m coming up with. Sorry. I am trying. I’m big on trying. Try, try, try. I’m tired. Try-erd! I’m exhausted. Pissed.”

Lv1: “Understood, understood. But this is an important exercise — for you and for your loved ones. Time to say “Good-Bye to All That,” right? Let’s turn the page already. So please, please, please: just try one more time. Past. These things happened in the past.”

Lv2: “[Silence.]”

Lv1: “You know what?”

Lv2: “What?”

Lv1: “How about just starting with the one word: past. That’s [ae] as in  apple, of course. Past.”

Lv2: “Pest.”

Lv1: “[Pffft.] Well, fine. I can see why you might feel like going there. But really we’re doing this for you, remember. So, just to get back on track, the problem with pest here (one anyway) is that it’s got the ‘eh’ sound as in ‘you can do better’ and “things now will get better if we sort them out from things that happened in the past. See? So: pissed, pest, past. Do you hear the difference?”

Lv2: “I do.”

Lv1: “Of course you do, so, please. Try again. Say it. Past. These things happened in the past, the past, the PAST! Past.”

Lv2: “Post.”

Lv1: “Perfect. Why don’t you? I really think you should do just that. Post.”

Lv2: “I will.”

Lv1: “Good. Great. I look forward to it.”

Lv2: “Me too.”

[I will add a link to my post HERE as soon as I’m done.]

 

 

“go alone — crawl, stumble, stagger — but go alone”

“You must be Independent, Independent, Independent –jm105-256— don’t talk so much but do more — go your own way and let your neighbour go his… Shake off all the props — the props tradition and authority give you and go alone — crawl, stumble, stagger — but go alone.”

~ Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Independent, YES, for sure! (Original would be nice too, but is not necessary. I mention it because I think people often confuse independence with originality, which can be a real problem for their creativity and productivity, but maybe that’s a post for another day.) Neighbors — oh, there are many I’d gladly follow home. Don’t think I have too many props to shake off, but am willing to crawl, etc., if needed. BUT I love this guy’s designs (behold one iteration of his famous rose) … just not 100% sure about his ideas.

More to the point of this post: writing can be lonely, not for the bloggiest of bloggers maybe, but for lots of the rest of us. So, just so I can connect (or in hopes of connecting … even if I don’t know it’s happened), I am giving myself permission to quote other people liberally here in my blog or provide links to whatever, anything I feel like doing this month (so pretty much like every other month!), as I work to put out 1700+ words per day for NaNoWriMo.

It’s Day 2 and I’ve done 2,345 words (not bad, the quantity I mean), but my narrative point of view is shifting all over the place and not in a clever way. Plus my tenses are sliding, willy nilly, forward and backward and off to the side (though that’s typical for me because sometimes I do feel like past, present, future, etc., are all here in the same place at the same time). Also, even though every 50 words or so come easy, these are followed by hundreds that feel like I am punching myself in the face or, no: trying to put on clothes that are a few sizes too small … and wet and itchy too. I’m haunted about how little I feel I know about the world, how my seven-year-old referred to me as “odd” today, how my main character is male again (and apparently has two interchangeable names). I’m also bothered that I can’t picture him clearly yet, but I can see what he sees, feel what he feels, etc.

I’m thinking, he could look like this:

Brosseau-Tom1868-2_cr-CareyBraswell[1](This is a young[er] Tom Brosseau and here’s a song of his: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vcWe–L7AM)

OR he might look like this:th98WXLH1R

(The is the young, late Vic Chesnutt and one of his tunes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2KyL1MlqW0)

No surprise that I’m conjuring the images of song writers I greatly admire to help embody my protagonist. No surprise, but no explanation (now) either. In the end, it doesn’t really matter who I’m picturing anyway, I just need to see his face. And I can’t yet.

On the bright side, whatever he turns out looking like, I like him a lot so far and that’s helpful because I will be meeting with Nohl/Ben every day (or as often as I can) until we get his story done.

 

You, Carbon

ScaryEye (3)
You, carbon, 
I understand what you are to me and this dog, licking a mysterious spot on the rug — and probably to the spot, too.

I know what you are to that pair of stink bugs, each seeming to pause in its path to make way for the other, and to

The vivacious algae, grooving full-tilt on the inside of the fish tank.

I know what you are to the fish.

I know what you are to vegans and cows, to moss and paper, to

Muslims and to flowers, fresh or dried … also to

Kentucky women and stunt men, hand models, leather belts,

Republicans, nuts, mathematicians and trapeze artists, run-away elephants, chocolates,

Babies of all species, natural fibers, gamers and monks, shells, dirt, Etsy shop owners, “happy creatures dancing on the lawn,”

People who know they’re dying soon, downed trees filled with munching grubs, nurse practitioners (God bless ’em), and

Maybe even aliens (from outer space).

I know.

It was back in the pitted, confused, brain-sweltering days of much younger years when I first learned — from the soggy pages of an Omni (or similar) magazine that I’d taken into the tub with me, as I often did. I craved information that seemed to stretch time out so far and wide that my life, all life, became a dot and all meaning disappeared.

That you — in your simplest, most basic, dark and un-shining form — were at the bottom of it all made me feel better. YES, knowing that we’d all whipped ourselves up from the flat, black palm of your four-fingered hand, this made me feel better. And better was best, then.

But since then, better has me agreeing to “follow up” visits with Mormon boys on bikes, has me talking so long to homeless people they beg my pardon (have somewhere to be), has me listening and watching (waiting?) for something — I’m not sure what. I settle for cake. Then I make a list I will never look at again. I think of you, sometimes.

But I no longer try to meet, let alone hold, your opaque, sooty gaze. I want to see past, to who you’re working with.

I did my thing (Part 2)

There’s no “I did my thing (Part 1)” so this may be cheating (but there is this: https://lourdesmint.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1214).

Anyway my thing was such a small thing: mailing a check — which is not to say that money is no object for us or the person we owed it to, because that’s definitely not the case. But in the grand scheme of getting our monster of a house ready for sale, this was one of the smaller costs … and we were then VERY close to putting it on the market. So mailing that check that day, with my old friend Rochelle’s words of wisdom in mind, I had to ask myself: exactly why had I procrastinated with this particular check, along with several other final DETAILS really, when working on the house/the move has been such a time-hog and soul-sucker for more than a year now?

The answer may be obvious. I have no idea. It’s going to take a while for me to dig myself out of the hole I fell into and regain perspective … or perhaps discover an entirely new one. But I think the biggest challenge will be in not looking for another albatross to hang around my neck once this one falls away. IMG_3520

People can become accustomed to and very adept at adjusting for the weight of their burdens, the frenzied tempo of chronic stress, even the warped “comfort zone” that is defined by the ever-widening gap of what they feel must do and what they can actually do. Looking back, I see I have traded in one albatross for another for as long as I can remember. I’m not sure why. But I don’t think it’s as much about being a glutton for punishment as it is about not being sure what I should or, no,  can do with my (relative) freedom — once more time & space become available in my life again.

 

 

“Drafts” are the new “so?”

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https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/______-is-the-new-______/

[Please excuse me for choosing my own blog. Felt like something I needed to do today.]

*I have 57 drafts and only 38 (39 now, actually) “published” … things. So? What is a published thing anyway, for many of us, but a draft that has somehow tripped the system, slipped through our over-zealous, ultra-self-censoring, hyper-critical inner critic? Anyway, here’s one that slipped through.

 

38 published, 57 drafts, and my blog’s goal’s

“Due date” has gone by, so by, that I

No longer see clearly the [X] on the horizon. (That dot that was my goal.)

 

But I look often. Things I’ve seen:

A fallen tree, an empty house, a man walking, hands in pockets, and a

Windmill, still. Once, I saw a fox with a rabbit in its mouth!

That was my favorite.

 

Today, though, I don’t know. Can’t make it out.

But, oh!, I know it just moved … closer no less. Or was it me, toward it? (Ha! Noooo.)

I’ve been moving lots lately but not in that direction. I’ve been wishing lots too that it —  my goal, that dot — would come to me, for me, at me,

Any way it wants, with or without rabbit. I’ll take it! But I know. I know. I’ve always known.

 

And I’m actually accepting the “failure,” for now, have taken my hands from the throat of she who failed. (I need her: me.)

And with that grip loosened, I see her becoming beauty-full again, feel laughter pushing up through her throat (words to follow?), eyes opening wide once more, synapses (many? most? all?) firing up, firing one another up,

Stretching out to meet, connect, grab hold, and go. Someplace new. Again and again!

 

So I’ll stop looking for that leaf that wasn’t loosed when fall came early this year, a guest of spring and now summer and soon to be master of the house.

The sun has said go ahead: stop. God, I’ve heard, likes (loves) me after all — no matter what I say or (don’t) do. I hear someone, many, saying, “rest.”

And yet: that dot, my goal. Can’t wash the (imagined) taste of rabbit from my mouth.

And yet, there was nothing here before and now:

38 published, 57 drafts, and me.

We’re still here. I have my crown.

 

 

“Bittersweet symphony” for sure

IMG_0022My blog ending is pending … but our move-out date is not extending! So much to do, so best to start with first things first. Right? Sure.

Somehow I couldn’t resist a certain task that I’m sure could have waited or not been done at all. We’ve accumulated many “outdoor things” during our five years here — rocks, twigs, other things found on walks and brought home, which we’ve then attempted to domesticate in some manner or another. And as much as each meant to us at the time, we canNOT take ALL of them with us. We could toss them over the fence into the forest, home to many of them anyway, or scatter them in the garden. Whatever. But no. They were gathered too lovingly, I was thinking, for us to part w/ them so unceremoniously. We’d have to sort them, choose our favorites, let the rest go. (We’ve got a sort of have a system going.) I told myself also that we’d treat this homely little task with as much respect as we’ve shown items w/ more obvious value or utility; I’d make it something fun for Elliot (the main gatherer of the outdoor things, after all), not to mention a positive learning experience, right? We make room for the future by letting go of the past, right? Right. In the end, though, I’m pretty sure this guy here (w/ the bone) got the most out of the whole process, aside from me …

Elliot didn’t seem to give a hoot what stayed or went, it turned out (pang), but gave me “permission” to do what needed to be done w/ the outdoor things, which I might have balked at if I’d had more energy and didn’t secretly covet the idea of full creative control — things being what they are now. When I was done, Elliot stared at my creation, blankly, clearly nonplussed, finally mustered a lukewarm “cool…” and was off again in a flash (double-pang). That’s his foot there!IMG_0033

It’s hard to know what to make of Elliot’s easy way with belongings. Does he have so much that he doesn’t truly value any one thing for very long? Probably there’s some of that there, even though he has nowhere near what I’ve seen at some of his friends’ houses. Is he too young to fully appreciate the sweetness of the memories I’ve attached to these objects? Yes, again, probably so — which seems as it should be. Has he been lucky enough NOT to inherit whatever gene it is that predisposes my father and me (and my grandmother before us) to holding on a little too long to a little too much? Honestly, I hope so. Does he totally understand that we’re really moving? That I kind of doubt, and this is one of the reasons we’ve been pushing so hard to do it this year, before second grade, rather than next — the younger kids are, the easier the transition is supposed to be for them.

But there is also just this: that the little boy who wanted so much to bring these things into the house (despite my labeling them “outdoor things,” which was more because I hoped he wouldn’t be like me with my boxes of rocks and such), and who finally got his way (my way, anyway), is changing. Elliot still brings home a stick or rock every now and then, but it has to be pretty special — either very unusual (e.g., a twig resembling a snake or a wizard’s wand) or sparkly enough to hint at potential real-world value (“Could this rock be a real diamond if we shined it up?”). And he is now ready to cash in the baby teeth he’s accumulated (five to date) after having kept them like treasures for months and months (I think he was more creeped out by the idea of the Tooth Fairy than he was uninterested in money). Now, he’s willing risk a visit from the Tooth Fairy (even though I never could explain to him why she wanted kids’ baby teeth) if it means he can buy a Lego Legends of Chima Mammoth — he almost has enough money. A tooth or two, he figures, should do the trick.

So anyway, after Elliot left the scene, I sat and admired our collection, my work, for quite a while, remembering the stories behind some of the objects we’d gathered together. I felt good, too, about the odd items I’d interspersed with the outdoor things, some that were handmade and others that just seemed to fit. The wooded back yard looks especially beautiful this time of year, but I turned my back on it, not wanting to fall under its spell again (the main reason we chose this house), OR maybe not wanting to see — in the context of it — this strange thing I’d chosen to do with my limited time/energy before the move. Anyway, after disassembling the arrangement, I whittled the collection down to what would fit on a single piece of paper. I was quite pleased w/ myself, until later I found several more mini-collections outdoor things stowed here and there. I threw up my hands! That’s it, I told myself in frustration: for now, I’m all about packing, a PACKING machine.

The next day I made an ear (out of sculpy, a type of clay) for a decorative wooden horse that lost one in a bad fall during our last move — w/ a little paint, he will be restored to his original beauty. But that will have to wait. Today, for real, I’m a PACKING machine. No more silliness. The time for “purposeless” acts is over, temporarily — at least according to me, now, at this moment in time.

IMG_0011IMG_0014

Float: A Love Story (or “Scientists Prove that Atheists May Not Exist…”)

[Note: I didn’t post at all in February, but started many, many stories that I didn’t finish, and TRIED not to think about my blog’s goal, the deadline for which is fast approaching. The Lourdes Mint who is not writing is usually not reading either, and the whole writing/reading thing SEEMS to go dormant, BUT REALLY it funnels itself, tornado-like, into a poltergeist-ish presence here — one that leaves water running, burns food, compulsively engages in what I’m going to go ahead and call performance art (not a euphemism for anything too far off from that, just so you know), and enthusiastically takes on new projects/commitments even when I don’t have time enough for the ones I’ve already got.

Speaking of which, I just finished helping a friend “proofread” his new book, which I shouldn’t have done probably (no more editing, etc., for me, remember?), but the good thing was that in doing it, I got bitten so good and hard by the word bug that here I finally am again! And, on my way here, I found this article* (kind of interesting) and it reminded me of a conversation that I overheard once in a cafe, next to a hot springs in (a place resembling, on this particular morning) Iceland. Anyway, here’s my “story”…]

Float: A Love Story

“ZZ,” I’ll call him, is a pale, thin-lipped guy who looks like he spends most of his time in a dark room, illuminated only by a computer, living on nothing but coffee and Ho-Hos. He has a beard so huge it looks (and smells, I’m guessing), from where I’m sitting, as though it has its very own ecosystem (the kind that would include plenty of marsupials, mushrooms, and marshy bogs).

“‘Scientists prove that atheists may not exist…’? I don’t understand how one could possibly prove this,” ZZ huffs. “No, actually, what I don’t understand is why one would care to take on such a silly endeavor. Am I really that scary? What, are they bored w/ cancer and AIDS? Pathetic. It makes no sense. I mean, why/how can one … um…?”

He takes an angry sip of his hot frothy whatever and looks at the woman across from him, whom I can only see from the back and who is huddled over her plate, appearing as though she’s just taken a huge bite of something delicious. I crane my neck to try to see what she’s ordered … I’m sill trying to decide.

ZZ continues: “Well, what else do you remember about it, the article?”

Chewing, chewing, chewing, the woman—whom I’ll call “Chortles”—holds up a “hold-on-a-second” finger. ZZ glares at the top of her head, tilted down toward the plate. He begins to yawn (too deeply, too loudly, I think), and blink (too fast, I think), and stroke his beard (once is way more than enough, I think — and then … oh, I cannot hold off much longer on eating … getting to the springs).

I see he is feeling alone, though, and almost jealous of the food on Chortles’ plate, of how happy it makes her (I am too).

“Okay then, what did you say the article was called, again?” ZZ picks up his iPhone, peering into its glassy face through thick, black 1970s “smart person/atheist” glasses. “Hello? [to her] Can I get a web address, or URL, maybe?”

Chortles chortles and, with what sounds like a full mouth, says something about, “key words” and how “no one really needs web addresses” anymore. (And what’s a URL, again?)

ZZ seems pretending not to hear, keeps poking away at his phone. “No access, still? Here? Oh, you!” he hisses at the slick black thing in his hand. “Bastard whelp! Pathetic.”

He sets it down, gently, and begins to examine his hand as though it has just now, at this very moment, appeared. He then looks incredulously at Chortles, who is still chewing, from what I can see—no wonder given that she’s taken another bite or five while ZZ was laying-in to his phone.

Watching her gobbling away, he almost smiles, but also sighs loudly and turns his attention to the panoramic window that runs the length of the entire east wall of the place—furrowing his brow and slowly shaking his head at the sight of the hot-springers. Some are blissing out, others are frolicking, in the pre-dawn, orange-ish glow.

It’s as though they are, in their very being—through either their in-your-face contentedness or their “glad animal movements”—speaking directly to ZZ in some strange language he’s unable understand. And it’s as though he desperately wishes to communicate this disconnect to them, to everyone! The furrowing and shaking continue, becoming more and more pronounced.

“No sense at all … the article, I mean!” he says suddenly, sharply, and abruptly returns his gaze to Chortles, who looks up at him finally and vaguely nods before returning her attention to her plate. She’s slowing down.

“None!” ZZ goes on. “And sense is pretty much my number one criterion—no, my only requirement—when it comes to choosing to give something another moment more of my attention. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.” He strokes his beard again, gifting it a little tug this time. “Life really is too short, as they say.”

“Too short for what?” asks Chortles, taking a sip of her steamy beverage as she looks out at the springs. “Oh!” She points toward toward the mountain. “See this? The sun is just about to rise… .”

ZZ gives the view a cursory glance. “Hmmmm, yes, I see.” He turns to her again, pauses. “What did you think of it, the article?” he asks, his thin lips sporting a bit of foam.

Chortles chortles again and sort of shrugs.

“Huh! She laughs,” is all ZZ says as he watches her finish up. He’s hungry, starving, I’m guessing by the looks of him, but he does not seem aware of it … or at least not ready or willing to do anything about it.

Then, suddenly, the first rays of sun appear at the ridge of the deep purple mountain beyond the body of water, long fingers of pure light reaching up, over, and into the ambient glow already there. But I’m so hungry…

“See! I knew…,” says Chortles, beaming, I imagine. ZZ smiles a little, picks at the last bit of her food—says, “Indeed!”

Indeed?! Puh! Of course that’s what he’d say, I think. My food cannot come soon enough… .” But suddenly it’s there, my food—same thing as Chortles’, whose non-communicativeness all this time suddenly makes perfect sense. I’m digging in, watching too as the glow is overcome.

“I’m here now,” the sun says to its pale understudy. “You can lay back, now, relax.”

These words, this thought … strange … come into my mind as I behold the sight along with everyone out in the water and all of us inside too, even the people who work there, even Chortles, even ZZ. And all is almost perfectly quiet until a metal utensil falls to the ground.

“Actually, you know, it is funny,” ZZ says, evidently still thinking of Chortles’ latest non-response (and second chortle) to his desperate plea. “Actually, yours is the perfect response.” ZZ laughs too now, but to me it has plastic, accidental-sounding quality to it, like another utensil, a spork—I’m picturing—falling to the ground.

“Yes, I really did see it as kind of funny,” replies Chortles absently, after she’s tossed her napkin on the plate. “That’s all, really. Now let’s go float, my lamb. That’s what we’re here for, right?”

ZZ smiles at her, even though she’s not looking at him—now standing up, now sweeping crumbs from her front, now grabbing their large woven bag.

“Float, right… Have we paid?” ZZ asks Chortles, beginning to clear the table.

Chortles confirms (“Yup!”), as she pats him on the part of his pants where a butt should have been. He moves slowly, seemingly unsure of where he’s going. “I miss the kids,” he says.

Chortles grabs his shoulder, gently redirecting him. “Me too,” she says and points to the bin near the trash can. “Over there.”

And/but as they walk out, I can hear ZZ winding up again.

“Who wrote it, though? Can you give me anything there? Man, woman? Young, old? American? Anything? … Credentials?”

The door shuts behind them and I can no longer hear what they’re saying, but watch them as lay out their blanket together and then begin, also together, to braid ZZ’s beard or do some equally weird thing to the beast with swift, perfectly coordinated movements. And … I’m done, I decide, thank you—clearing my own table now.

Out on the bank, I move close enough to smell the springs and begin feeling their effect, something, as I lay out my blanket … and as ZZ and Chortles approach the water’s edge.

I am close enough, too, to see how full of doubt ZZ is, it seems, but also how free from fear — as Chortles takes him by the hand and leads him into the shimmering water, which looks almost pinkish-blue in this light.

A little later, I’m surprised, but then not, to see which of the two of them blisses out and which frolicks …

** THE END **

 *Here’s the article: http://www.science20.com/writer_on_the_edge/blog/scientists_discover_that_atheists_might_not_exist_and_thats_not_a_joke-139982

And here, also, are the lyrics from “May It Always Be,” by Bonnie Prince Billy, one of my favorite singer/songwriters—that’s him in the pic, standing in for ZZ. Hate to overload this entry, but I never know when another month might fly by with no post … and because this story/memory reminds of this song.

I’ve been with you for a fairly long time,
May I call you, may I call you, may I call you mine?

And you are near, an’ been with me,
May it always, may it always, may it always be,

Please don’t leave my side, remember I love you,
None of what I have done wrong was really done against you,

If you love me and I’m weak, then weaker you must love me more,
To reinforce what’s also strong, and all the love we have in store,

By example you showed me, living’s alright,
Stay here with me, stay here with me, stay with me tonight,

And come with me when I go to the bedroom,
And we’ll play bride, and we’ll play bride, and we’ll play bride and groom,

If you had not been born you know,
What would I? What would I be then?

I would not have strength to grow,
And be counted, and be counted among men.

Please don’t leave my side, remember I love you,
None of what I have done wrong was really done against you,

If you love me and I’m weak, then weaker you must love me more,
To reinforce what’s also strong, and all the love we have in store,

And in the morning we’ll wrestle and ruin our stomachs with coffee,
Won’t we be, won’t we be, won’t be happy?

We will rise in anger, love and ardor,
Shining, shining, shimmering in loves armor.

[You can hear a good version on YouTube: “Bonnie Prince Billy – May It Always Be (Live in London)”]

[**Photo: Bonnie Prince Billy at Sydney Opera House (2006); read more at http://www.fasterlouder.com.au%5D

Can not stomach … “prettying” up your piece(s) of sh_t anymore — after 17 years, NO MORE “COPY EDITING” 4 me (finally came up with a New Year’s resolution :))

I am done “WORKING MY MAGIC*” on your UGLY, f_cked up writing. I’m done “copy editing” (aka rewriting, as is often the case) your nonsense. Done pissing you off w/ perfectly sane questions about the CRAZY SH_T YOU put on paper, trying to make it UNDERSTANDABLE (oh, and maybe relevant?) to your intended audience and ALSO done explaining to you the concept of “your intended audience.” I understand that you’re good at what you do, that you’ve done good, important work in the real world**, but many of you have not learned (to bother) to communicate that work to others, a good many of whom (in our field) have an essentially life-or-death need to know. How is that OK? Well, it’s not. It’s an honest-to-gawd travesty, truly. And I at least am done trying to bridge that gap myself, a compulsion that has left me frustrated, exhausted, and worse: feeling like a complete Olive Oyl (i.e., one incapable of learning her lesson).

(In the scene that always flashes across my mind, I recall Olive’s undignified yelping — “Oh, oh dear! Help!!! Oh dear! Popeye!? Somebody!? Anybody!” — as her legs stretch to two or three times their “normal” length, while the space between the dock that she has one enormous foot on and the boat that she has the other on widens. I can’t find the exact image, but this one from “Seasin’s Greetinks” works just as well. See her face? The panic? The ridiculous predicament she’s gotten herself into, AGAIN? Yes, well that’s me, pretty much exactly, as I “copy edit” your crap, which I realize is really not your fault. But still, I’m done.)6925729252_f845e70457

Perhaps you believe that the universe of your work exists somewhere out there, beyond your words, with all its meaning (YOUR meaning) intact. And so if your writing comes close enough to what you want to get across, readers will be able to make it the rest of the way on their own, but I think you’re wrong. I know that even the most motivated readers will not discover your meaning because it’s not there. You have not worked it out for yourself. You have not made the case. You have not communicated. You have not finished the job. And I don’t want to help you fake it anymore with superficial fixes, clever headings, colorful graphics that mean ZERO, etc. — especially when the writing still sucks. Done, I say!

And I feel better now that I’ve realized, or rather admitted, this all to myself. You’ll feel better too, I’m sure, when I STOP asking you to clarify this or that, STOP pushing you to address the gaping holes in your argument, to square your claims w/ the supporting data, etc. I’m not going to panic — just as you’re not. It is, after all, just a New Year’s resolution and you know how they go, but still — here it is for now: no more “copy editing” for me as of January 2015. I like it! I like it a lot! And if I stick with it, it’s really no big deal for you. There are hordes of “copy editors” ready and willing to give you exactly what you want, much better than I ever could. And there are others like me, too, who’d be more than happy to stick it to you when you really need it, when you’re open to it, whatever. I’m done, though, I really do hope…

Yes, this is exactly what I would like for myself (a small but critical part of it anyway) for reasons very similar to those of anyone who makes a resolution. I think by NOT COPY EDITING your crap, I will —

** Be a better — yes, BETTER — person AND parent AND spouse AND friend AND citizen

** Be happier AND more attractive AND healthier AND smarter (or, re: this last one, feel freer to LEAN INTO the smarts I’ve got)

** Have a better attitude toward life’s ups and downs

** Have a much better chance of doing something more suited to me, my desires, my natural skills (I’m absolutely sure I wasn’t born to copy edit, edit, etc., and I do believe I’ve found just the thing … )

I also look forward to not having to pussy-foot around your and other people’s sloppy thinking, sloppier writing, sloppy F_CKING sloppiness. I am sick of saying, “He/she is great at what she DOES, but he/she is just not so adept at putting it into words,” sick of saying it because I usually don’t (IF EVER) mean it anymore, and if I don’t mean it, I shouldn’t say it, right? Right. What’s worse, I doubt it’s always even a question of your ability as much as it’s one of how much you care. And THAT’S the thing that’s really started messing with me: the gawd-awful, lonesome, foolish feeling of knowing, deep down, that I care more than you do about “your” writing. Pussy-footing and all that comes with it (slippery slope there!) = slow but sure soul death.

And taking this step, finally cutting the cord, will help me become a better writer myself, too — I have no doubt. (I’ve picked up some really rotten habits from you!) So I’m hereby dedicating my writing skills, my passion for words and for learning how better to use them and to MAKE THEM do what I know they can do, to the person who can benefit most from them now: ME (2015). I have only five more months to reach my blog’s goal and that work is in the works again! But I will need as much time as I can manage between now and then to even come close to achieving the goal — given my loves, my other priorities, etc.

*          *           *

I’ll admit I’m writing this today because of an Acknowledgment I received in a recently published article that — while “copy editing ” — I really sweated over. I went back and forth with this “author” who — it became clear — had not even read the piece, submitted by her “in-country” team. And she begrudged my every query, bumming over how the additional investigation required was going to IMPACT her holiday. I pointed out that she was free to ignore my questions and suggestions, but — good for her and OTHERS — she chose not to. And even though she gave me quite a bit of grief at first, she filled those gaps and w/ a lot of rewriting (mostly on my part), we were able to make good sense of the new data. As our collaboration drew to a close, she acknowledged VERY OBLIQUELY her previous unpleasantness and also how much better she felt the paper now was because I pushed as I did. And in the very, very end, in the published article, she acknowledged me for my “copy editing.” Pppfffffftt!!!

Do I sound bitter? I guess I do. Was what happened between this person and me in this instance that different from hundreds of similar situations over the years? No. The relationship between subject matter expert/author and editor is inherently, potentially very complicated. I know this. I’ve known this. I’ve been OK with this for a long time. I’ve done much more for an author with no acknowledgment at all and been OK w/ it. I’m not anymore. And a lot of that is on me, not them. It seems that once you’re more familiar w/ a certain subject matter, it’s more difficult — for me at least — to just “copy edit,” even when that’s what a client specifically requests (often, they don’t WANT you to dig around too much because they know they’ve given you crap). But I’m at a point where (at which…) I’m not satisfied to insert a comma here and delete one there when the whole thing makes no sense. And I can no longer readily switch out my copy editor’s hat for my substantive or developmental editor’s hat (or vice versa).

And that’s what has lead to my resolution, not so much my disgruntlement w/ this particular person in this particular case, but my awareness/realization that I can not stomach simply “prettying” up your piece(s) of sh_t anymore. No. That role is distinctly, definitely, definitively no longer satisfying to me. And while I don’t think the quality or value of one’s life (professional or otherwise) can necessarily be measured solely in terms of their (his/her…) satisfaction/fulfillment, I do think that if one finds this to be their lot, even in part, than that one owes it to herself and every one around her to take it seriously, work toward it, etc. And hip, hip! That one may be me. 🙂

Also, the kind of “copy editing” I’m talking about here, especially for someone who resents my input and ultimately doesn’t understand (or won’t own up to) what I’ve done for their writing, now takes much more from me than it brings. And over time, I think I’ve actually wronged something in me that I want to make right again, if possible, something I believe I need for my own writing, my own well being. Not 100% sure what it is yet.

Anyway, it hasn’t been all bad. Far from it. And there are a few pet points I’d like to bid a special farewell to before filing them away:

  • Vague and simple are not the same thing.
  • Simple –> good; simplistic —> not good.
  • Just because something happened, is factual and true, does not mean that it should be included in a given piece of writing.
  • Just because you say so does not make it so (hello Comp 101!)

Sweet, aren’t they? But, ohhhh, round and round I go here. Where’s my editor when I need one?

*          *           *

Anyway. And …

In conclusion, I do NOT find satisfaction or fulfillment rewriting your pieces of sh_t (that are then published) ONLY TO BE ACKNOWLEDGED for “copy editing” your pieces of sh_t. And if this resolution sticks, I do believe I’ll be better, happier, more attractive, more SUCCESSFUL, etc. By gawd, it’s happening already!!! And you’ll be fine too, fine as you ever was. Heh, heh. All the great work that was done, though, that you had something or other to do with, THAT may well slip into oblivion on the backs of the sloppy verbiage you persist in insisting needs little more than a light copy edit or “minor tweaking.” And THAT will probably never stop bumming me out when I think about it. I’ll need to remind myself that it’s out of my hands now (I’ve done more than enough, more than I should have probably, already***).

Possible resolution for 2016? Limit my bumming out about things that are out of my hands.

 

* WORKING MY MAGIC — Oh, how I’ve always hated this way (your way) of describing what I do. I am a trained professional, like you, and I assure you that I have no magic at my disposal, not when it comes to editing anyway. 😉 Good editing is hard work (that I’m now done with).

** It’s precisely because what you do is SO IMPORTANT that I’ve hung in there as long as I have with you, tried so hard to help. (But I’m done now.)

*** This is something that probably requires more explanation. Maybe later. For now, I’m done. 🙂

Hey, ho, happy 2015!!!!!!!!!!!

 

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