Friday, August 10, 2012

What Writing Means to Me

I finished another journal this morning. It's been taking me less time to fill each journal and tuck it away to look at later in the future. I know this is a good thing- I'm recording all my memories and words that may be useful in time. I know that in some way these journals will affect a novel if and when I decide to begin writing it. The copious volumes of my writing lie tucked away in chests beside my bed just waiting to be used again. This prospect both excites and petrifies me. Going through my writing means sifting through my memories and this can be both joyful and painful. Many of the things I have written in moments of despair or heartache or anger. Going back through those moments, while vital to future writing I may do, means tapping into those parts of me that were broken, it means digging all those emotions back up. That is something I'm not sure I possess enough strength to do. 
I have always been a writer. I wrote poetry at a young age and always enjoyed the creative writing aspects of class. As I grew older, I began to journal on and off about crushes and the usual teenage dreams, but as my writing progressed it became about so much more. I took a creative writing class my senior year in college, and I can still see my neatly slanting penmanship climbing across the pages. I took my writing very seriously because I wanted to present myself both creatively and professionally. In college, my writing was immersed in emotion and experience. There were lots of instances where I vented to friends at midnight in the dorm hallways or on the phone locked in the bathroom, but it was my journal that I turned to when I didn't want or need advice. It was my journal I turned to when I just wanted the one-sided story, my version written down in black and white so I could return to those moments when I most needed ammunition to defend myself. 
My senior year of college I took a course in Creativity. As a required part of the course, we had to journal every day. While some people groaned inwardly at the prospect, I embraced it. I had become lax in my writing and this meant that I had to do it. I relished writing pages after pages, admiring the way my handwriting looked on the page. You can tell what kind of mood I am in due to the way I write. When I'm distressed or upset my writing is sloppy, it's all over the page, there are cross-outs and mistakes. Some words may not even be distinguishable to the untrained eye. When I am happy or relating an event that happened in great detail or recording a dream, my writing is neat and straight, only slanting or falling apart when I begin to rush to get all the words out, not wanting to lose a single thought in my head. A lot of times words get away from me which is why I often scramble to get all my thoughts on paper. 
As I shut my journal this morning and looked forward to starting a fresh one, I looked at the box full of journals, at least a dozen of them. Most of them I have written in from the end of high school through now. The daily journal writing stuck and when I could, I wrote. The last few months I have tried to write daily, every morning, sometimes before I am even fully functioning. I take my cup of coffee to the desk and write. As we learned in Creativity, a lot of times what I end up talking about surprises me. Topics I didn't think I was still worrying about, problems I had pushed aside. Often my writing involves dreams I had the night before. I have vivid dreams pretty much nightly, usually reflecting events that happened the day before and almost always involving people from my past or present. Sometimes they distress and disturb me, other times they make me laugh, almost always they make me think. I analyze and over-analyze to find the meanings in my subconscious thinking. It may be unhealthy, but it's what I do. And thanks to my writing habits, everything is all down on paper. 
I am thankful for the gift of writing. I can't play a musical instrument or sing or dance or paint beautiful pieces of art, but I can write. I write for myself, and now I write for others. It's a gift I have always taken for granted, but now I see that it's a part of me. It's one thing that can't be taken away, one thing that not all people have. I continue to hope that I can make a living doing what I love. If it is only a hobby then so be it, but I know I can make it more. I know someday my lifetime goal of writing a novel will come true, despite what critics say, and even if it is never published, I know I can accomplish that goal. I continue to write more frequently than I have all my life, and I am thankful that I have the time and inspiration to do so. As long as there are thoughts in my head and words in my heart, I will continue to write. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Obstacle or Catalyst for Something Better? Ultimately, It's Up to You

Sometimes obstacles can get in our way. Scratch that, obstacles always get in our way. Whether they are big ones, such as not being able to pay our student loans or mortgage for the month, or small ones like our morning walk/run is cut a half hour short due to the unbearable humidity. Although these obstacles may be cumbersome and extremely annoying, they don't have to be. It's all in how we deal with the situation. If you step back and look at your finances, maybe you remember the small savings account you started a while back in case of emergencies and thus can pay your mortgage. Maybe my walk this morning would have ended disastrously had I stayed out for the entire hour, I could have passed out from heat exhaustion or sprained my ankle. We have the power to turn a negative situation into a positive one. 
Now I know some of you may be rolling your eyes at me because when things are bad they can be really bad. It's not as if you can just snap your fingers and magically will yourself to feel better. I understand. Believe me, I do. I have yet to determine whether I am a naive optimist or a self-loathing pessimist. I think that I pick and choose which attitude best fits the situation in which I find myself. I often straddle the two personalities, trying to find a balance and a way of accomplishing both positivity and a fair amount of cautious doubt. It doesn't always work, but at least I can say that most of the time I am trying, trying to make the best of the situation I am in whether it's a job I'd rather not have or dealing with my limited budget. I deal with these things as they come, and I try to find the joy in where I am. 
I realize that this advice of mine may not be practical for the situation you are in, or you may not think that it is. Take for example the death of a loved one. How can there be any joy in that? I agree with you wholeheartedly, but maybe that's not for us to decide. Maybe we have no clue what that person was going through, the pain they might have been in or the pain they may have suffered had they remained with us longer. I was upset at my grandmother's passing, but I was thinking of myself and not of her. I'm not the one who can judge how she felt. I'm not the one who decides how long she stays. Ultimately it is her life and it was up to her and to God. The death of a younger child is harder to explain away and the terrible news that flashes across the television screen at night seemingly has no meaning to it. I can't understand that either, I just pray that those people who have passed are in a better place and the people who are troubled find the help that they need. 
This post started this morning in my head as I walked back to my apartment, my walk being cut short by the overwhelming heat. I was frustrated and disappointed that within fifteen minutes of leaving I had a headache, my iPod had died, and the heat was blanketing around me, making it difficult to continue. It was the first walk I've taken in a few weeks, my hiatus due to the humidity and my laziness. By the time I got home, I had been out for a half hour which I consider a worthy amount of time to brave the heat. My walk was cut short, but instead I am here writing this post and reminiscing in my cool apartment while listening to Adele's "Hometown Glory." So instead of hating the obstacles that come your way, take a good look at them and what they mean. Maybe they're not obstacles after all, maybe they are catalysts for something better.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Seasons Pass and Life's a Blur

I do my best thinking in the morning. I write in my journal before I am barely awake. Lines of poetry come to me in the shower. I write down random thoughts as drafts in my cell phone. Yet I am sitting here after 8 pm with the urge to write. I'm letting the stream of consciousness take over on this one because I have yet to realize what it is I am meant to type here tonight...
I know we're not even halfway through August, but it already feels like summer is fading. It's a little after eight and it's dark outside, the last rays from the sun barely peeking out from between the trees. While this means that fall, a season with which I am in love, is coming, it also means the sunlight is lessening, taking summer along with it. I remember summer nights when we were younger and we would play outside until nine o'clock knowing our parents didn't realize that it was past our bedtimes. I always have more motivation to get things accomplished because it still feels like I have daylight hours left to use, hours in which I can write and work instead of lying in bed. That's fading now as we wane into another season. In another month the leaves will start to color and fall. I love the fall, love the smell in the air, love using the word "crisp" in everyday conversation. However, I am slightly saddened at the fact that now I am out of school all of my seasons seem to be running together. 
When I was in school, my life was structured and divided according to the semester and the season. The end of summer was marked with school supply shopping and the ever annoying back-to-school commercials on television (which I might add are airing earlier and earlier every year). We had our federal holidays and then Thanksgiving. Christmas marked a hiatus of at least two weeks of reprieve, and then we returned to the grind in January, which marked the new year. We always had a spring break and then the countdown began to the summertime in which we would enjoy nearly three months of glorious freedom. As adults, we don't have that luxury of frequent breaks and nicely planned curriculum. We are allotted maybe one full week of vacation, or a few if we are the lucky bunch who have a job with nice benefits or have been with a company long enough. The days run into weeks run into years and the seasons pass without us noticing. The leaves fall before I notice they've changed. The snow is flying before I think to take out my peacoat. I step in the mud puddles before I think to break out the rainboots; and then I am sweating once again before I think to dig for my tank tops and sandals. It's all a blur and I wish it wasn't. 
I am trying to make the effort to notice. When we begin to take the seasons and time itself for granted, we endanger that curious and creative part of ourselves which we so desperately need to hold on to in order to grow. It's never too late to play in the leaves or set up a badminton net in the yard. It's never too late to play with sidewalk chalk or color or run through the sprinkler on a hot summer day. Once we lose our appreciation of these little things, we lose our childlike nature, we lose our curiosity, we lose ourselves. I can't believe I let the summer get away from me without visiting the beach or going out for ice cream. I still have a month left to redeem myself and many months ahead which I can appreciate. So I implore you not to let life pass you by because with every blink you miss another moment, and if we take all these moments for granted, we may never get a second chance to live them again.

Friday, August 3, 2012

"Angel of Mercy, How Did You Find Me? How Did You Pick Me Up Again?"

When I was at work the other day, a conversation with a customer inspired me to write a piece about the significance of grandparents, which I will share with you today. The customer came in to cash a check- "money for my grandchildren," she said. I asked how old her grandchildren were and if they were coming up to stay with her. She said they were and that they were ages ten and fifteen. She said the fifteen year old was getting "too old" to come stay with her, but she liked to come and visit anyway. My coworkers and I assured her that you were never too old to visit grandma. She wished us a good day, and I smiled as she left. My smile quickly faded as it occurred to me that I no longer had a grandmother to visit. I lost my nana when I was in grade school and losing my other grandmother only a few months ago, I feel at a loss. I have one remaining grandfather whose health is slowly fading, having lost the other when I was in high school. 
Grandparents hold that special place in our hearts, a place we might not have even realized they held until they are gone. I still feel like they're all here with me. I talk about my grandparents (plural) and realize I should be using singular terminology now. It's sad when this realization strikes me because the world seems a little less friendly. Having grandparents brings light to the world, fills you with memories of youth, reminds you of what unconditional love feels like. Now, this is not to say that one's own parents and siblings don't also provide that, but the love of a grandparent is in a category all its own. It's as if you're their one and only when you're with them, you're their special princess always. My grandmother has always called me princess and I always referred to myself as such when writing to her. In fact, the last birthday card I received from her a few weeks before she passed, she addressed to her princess. Even at twenty-four years of age, the name still stuck and it is something I continue to carry with me. 
I have memories from all my grandparents like that which I hold on to and try to remember on days like today when I'm feeling upset that they are no longer here to call or to write to, to visit or to talk to. Along with calling me princess, I remember how she used to play dominoes with us at her kitchen table while sipping her tea and wearing her sweatshirt that said something to the effect of praising her grandchildren as special. She had three pins on it, each one looked like me and my siblings at the time (my other brother wasn't born then). I remembered playing with them and naming them all. I remember my grandfather watching us play with the plastic city mat we would lie down on the living room floor. We would race the cars down streets and set up the hospital parking lot with its ambulances and police cars. I remember when they would take us to the mall and we would ride the carousel and get happy meals for lunch. I remember The Price is Right would always be on at lunch time right before the news at noon, and in the afternoon, my grandmother would play Big Band music and whistle along as she washed the dishes. These are things I never want to leave my memory. 
My other grandparents, my mother's parents, I remember as well. I wish I remembered more, but I was younger when my nana passed. I am thankful that I was able to meet and know her though, unlike some of my siblings. Every time we dig up old photos taken in my nana's house of her holding me as a baby, I tear up a little. I remember this one time that my grandparents took my sister and I on a boat ride. I remember holding nana's hand and eating snack food, but it's only a fleeting memory. I wish I remembered more. Once, my sister and I set the egg timer in the kitchen where my mother and nana were talking at the table while we went berry picking with grandpa. We nearly gave them a heart attack when it went off, but we thought it was the funniest thing. I remember sitting in the back of my grandpa's white truck and playing with the leaves that had fallen from nearby trees. I remember how he always kept boxes of Chiclets in a drawer in the kitchen, and usually one in his shirt pocket. He would chew them constantly or put them in front of his teeth to make us laugh. He was constantly putting things in his eyes too- Oreos, marshmallows, quarters, anything to make a silly face. I remember the way he laughed, or rather chuckled, when one of us said something clever, and the way he yelled "Quinney, get off that" when the cat went somewhere it shouldn't have. 
All these memories I have stockpiled in my brain and from time to time, I like to pull them out and look at them again. I think it helps to write them down because I never want to forget any of them. Time with our loved ones is so short. I remember being excited over a happy meal toy and a trip to the Disney store, and now I am in my own apartment getting excited over the power that Kaboom holds over the mold in my bathtub. It goes by too quickly, and I'm trying not to miss a thing. However, everyone who is gone is never forgotten because I memorialize them in my mind, in my thoughts, in my prayers, in my wishes, in my words, and through my love.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

"Yeah I Just Need Light, I Need Light in the Dark as I Search for the Resolution"

I know I have spoken often of my tendency to live in the past. That habit seems to rear its ugly head especially when things either aren't going well in the present or when I'm in an indescribably bad mood for seemingly no reason. Now I usually know what it is that puts me in a bad mood, it may be something buried way beneath the surface and all it takes are superficial surface things to pull it out and make things ugly. For me, the bad mood becomes like a boulder rolling down a hill so that I view everything that happens that day or that week in a negative light; everything bad is happening to me, this day is just fated to get worse and worse. Things that happen may not have even affected me on a better day. I might have been able to laugh off that customer's remark yesterday, but today it is a shot at my personal being. I could have been able to smile and shake my head when everything in my purse topples out on the street, but today it happened to spite me. We all know how it goes, and the past week I have been the queen of bad moods. 
I don't know why it happens, but once the mood begins, everything seems to align itself to remind me that I'm upset and have a reason to be in a bad mood- the song comes on the radio that reminds me of my ex, I dream that a man I once loved proposed to me, a customer yells at me because I asked for identification, I am offered the job I don't want when the one I do remains out of reach. It's stupid little things that set me off and keep me rolling right down the hill instead of fighting to stand back up and climb. I use things that happen to fuel my mood and claim as examples to why the world hates me. Then I step back and think, who is this really helping? No one. In fact, it serves its purpose quite well in pushing everyone around me away. I become bitter and miserable and no one wants to be around me. There comes a point when I don't even want to be around me. 
It's been a week like that- a week where work seems impossibly long and dreadful, a week filled with dreams of people from the past (people I no longer speak to in the present), a week where my desire to flee to my hometown has become overwhelming. But it's never really as bad as that, is it? If I take that step back, take a deep breath and look around me, I realize that it's a bad mood and I need to let it pass instead of fueling it. It's so easy to take every negative thing that happens and build it up into this monster that follows us around. We take on the "woe is me" attitude and continue to believe that we deserve to wear it and use it as an excuse for our attitude. When someone asks us what is wrong we relish listing off everything that has happened so we can gain sympathy. Again, only fueling the fire. I now have a couple days off to get my priorities back in order, to get my mood in check. I'm letting the negativity pass and moving on because there's no need to push those who care away or to think that we are the only ones suffering. When we get in these moods, we often take the people who care and the positive things happening in our lives for granted. I'd rather enjoy them instead of rolling down my hill of negativity and urging others to follow. So today I'm climbing, how about you?