“There is a great deal that either has to be given up or be taken away from you if you are going to succeed in writing a body of work” ~ Susan Sontag’s thoughts on writing, from her diaries


“Whatever I do I must
keep my head. I know
it is easier for me to lose my way
forever here, than in other landscapes” ~ Margaret Atwood, from Journey to the Interior

Sunday, late morning. Sunny, not as hot, but thunderstorms predicted for later, 80’s.

I had big plans to write on Friday and Saturday, but I became distracted by all of the things that still needed to be done, like sorting my files on this computer, cleaning my desk, giving the dogs a bath, cleaning the floors . . . I used to think that if I had a bigger house, that it wouldn’t get so messy, but now I realize that the mess would just be bigger. The dogs would still come in with wet paws; people would still leave mail in odd places, and dishes would just have more places to get lost in if there were more space.

Pigmy Manta Rays at Aussie Point, Munda, Solomon Islands
by Lenny Cliffhanger (FCC)

Anyway, Corey had an uneventful flight to New York, and he’s all settled in to his quarters; he sounds tired, though. The ship is actually coming to Norfolk this coming week to take on a load. Have to love that. I have no idea as to how long he’ll be in port, but I’ll take what I can get. Tillie is already missing him as she is acting out quite a bit. She wakes me up with a ball in her mouth as if to say, “Now? Now?” Or she sits on the bed while I’m at the computer, and she talks to me (yes, talks).

Tonight, we get to babysit Miss Olivia while Alexis and Mike go to a surprise birthday party for her friend Jennifer, who has been cancer free for over a year now (who would have thought?), I believe. Eamonn is very excited that the baby will be here. I wonder how excited he’ll be when I tell him to change a diaper . . . Speaking of the baby, I still haven’t downloaded the pictures from the camera, but I figured that I’d just take a few more today, and then download the whole bunch. How’s that for logic?

“I am
a series of
small victories
and large defeats
and I am as
as any other
I have gotten
from there to
here . . .” ~ Charles Bukowski, from “The People Look Like Flowers At Last”

So I have clean dogs, a clean desk, clean floors. I’ve almost finished going through the pile of papers, and I’ve almost finished the Social Security form. I had my eye exam and was fitted properly for multi-focal lenses (which I don’t happen to have in at the moment) and now have a new prescription for glasses. I’ve picked out the frames, just have to buy them and take them to Sam’s Club to get the lenses put in. I seem to have accomplished quite a bit.

Top Shelf, Munda, Solomon Islands
by Lenny Cliffbanger (FCC)

So why do I feel as if I’ve accomplished nothing? Last night I dreamt that it was time for final exams, and I hadn’t been to two of my graduate classes and was behind in turning in assignments. I was trying to explain to my professors that I had been sick, but to no avail. One of my instructors did offer me some candy to make me feel better, but she still wasn’t going to accept any late assignments, and I needed to read two books in one day for a final exam. Such a stressful dream, but so telling: I’m behind even when I’m ahead.

Last night when I was backposting for this past week, I felt genuinely sad and disappointed in myself. I mean, I do like what I’ve posted, the poems, the quotes, but they aren’t real posts, are they? At least not real within the parameters that I’ve set for myself. I never wanted this blog to become a chore, but last night it felt that way, felt a bit like the song of the albatross (which is something I said once upon waking from a dream(?)), but that feeling is another reason that I did not go on to write more then.

Did that make any sense?

“Sometimes it gets lonely here,
the sea water collapses
out beyond the horizon
like the dream I thought
I understood, only to find
waking harder than the dream’s horizon.” ~ Michael Burkard, from “Directly in Shadow”

I feel as though I’m a walking jumble of emotions all of the time, not just here and there, but all the time, and that’s quite disconcerting. I’m happy that Olivia is here, and she’s healthy and happy and good-natured (as far as one can tell about an infant). I’m sad that Corey is gone for another three months, but I’m glad that he’ll be in port soon, but it will be hard to gear myself up to say goodbye again.

Rock Hind in a Sponge, Netherlands Antilles, Bonaire
NOAA Photo Library (FCC)

I’m glad that we’re doing much better financially, but I’m so sad that Corey is working at a job that keeps him from going to college and keeps him away from the family for long stretches. I’m glad that Brett has found a major that he truly loves, but I wish that he knew how to drive, but I understand why he doesn’t want to learn.

I’m glad that my mother seems relatively healthy, but I’m terrified because I think that I’m seeing signs of Alzheimer’s, and I have no idea as to how to approach her about this.

I’m delighted that I have my computer back and that everything is set up and working, but seeing it sitting here on this desk is almost like an unspoken taunt: What are you going to do now? I kept promising myself that I would do this and this and that once I got my computer fixed. Okay, so it’s time. Now what?

“Greedy for life, we forget in body and soul our hopes for the future until reality teaches us that tomorrow is not what we had dreamed, and we discover nostalgia.” ~ Gabriel Garcia Marquez, from “Memories of My Melancholy Whores”

So, dear readers, I feel as if I have arrived at some sort of juncture in my life, Frost’s two roads, if you will. What I find immensely strange is that most of the time in life we do not have such a clear indication that the juncture is before us. We make choices, change our lives, and then we realize that there was a turning point. Sometimes the junctures are obvious: Do I go to graduate school? Do I get married? But I think that most of the time, they are not so obvious.

Skull Island Wall, Munda, Solomon Islands
by Lenny Cliffbanger (FCC)

For example, in the back of my mind I have had a certain date looming: October 2012. That’s the point at which my student loans for my last graduate degree will be forgiven as I am on disability. Now, once that happens, do I want to do what many would consider to be stupid and apply for a Ph.D. program in English? Am I not too old to be embarking on such a course? But then there is this: I truly do not feel as if I will ever be satisfied unless I achieve this milestone in my life.

So do I go left,  or do I go right?

But more immediately, what is this turning point at which I feel I have arrived? Is it that I have now joined the ranks of my friends and compatriots who are witnessing a second generation within their families? And in reaching this, have I crossed some invisible demarcation in the sand that now places me firmly in one category versus another?A person could go well and truly mad over such thoughts.

More than we experienced has gone by.
And the future holds the most remote event
in union with what we most deeply want.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from “[II]” (Appendix to The Sonnets to Orpheus) by  (trans. Stephen Mitchell)

If only life were like nail polish: You choose a color, put it on, wear it for a bit. Then, you decide that you don’t like the color, and you change it. You can even do this daily if you are obsessed enough. Put it on. Take it off. A different color for every day. A different choice for every day. A different way of seeing things for each day.

Munda Bar, Solomon Islands
by Lenny Cliffbanger (FCC)

I know. It’s a pretty lame simile, but hey, it’s close to home.

When I used to go to the nail salon, the people who worked there had a running joke: What color do you want today? Red or red? Everything was a shade of red. It fit me, fit my mood, fit my demeanor. Now that I’m not so angry at the world all of the time, I have branched out—pink, purple, copper, black, even blue.

Oh my, that last statement was actually an epiphany for me. I don’t think that I realized until I wrote it that the red was my shield, my protective armor against all of the forces that I thought were against me, and truthfully, there were some forces against me. Don’t even get me started on the boss who openly hated women. (But that’s another story.) So perhaps I don’t need that armor any more, or at least, not all of the time.

“I have heard a kind of whispered sighing
not far
like a night wind in pines or like the sea in the dark
the echo of everything that has ever
been spoken
still spinning its one syllable
between the earth and silence” ~ W. S. Merwin, from “Utterance”

I have Radiohead playing in the background, seems fitting.

Batfish at Munda Bar, Solomon Island
by Lenny Cliffbanger

I’m sure you are familiar with the phrase teenage angst, but I don’t believe I’ve ever heard the phrase adult angst. But why not? Angst is not singular to adolescence. Well, at least not for me. I’m not sure about you, out there in the ether.

Angst (Latin angustia, “tensity, tightness” and angor, “choking, clogging”), aside from being a truly wonderful word, applies to all manner of anxiety. True, Søren Kierkegaard used the word Angest (in common Danish, angst, meaning “dread” or “anxiety”) to describe “a profound and deep-seated spiritual condition of insecurity and fear in the free human being” (Wikipedia, I’m lazy today).

Personally, angst is much more than mere anxiety. For me, it is the following:

anxiety + fear + insecurity + frustration + self-loathing (the unknown)3 = success ± failure

I was going to say squared, but somehow it didn’t seem emphatic enough.

More later. Peace.

Music by, who else, Radiohead, “No Surprises”

Continuing on yesterday’s theme: images of ocean life taken from Flickr Creative Commons


Where Horizons Go

I never write the words I meant to write.
Those come from where I’ve been, looking for me;
they are a door ajar, as if they might
almost be true, and almost make me free.
But then the words that they set out to be
become those others that perhaps I meant
for naming what I wanted not to see,
as if some truth half giving its consent
turned, and the turning made it different
and led it elsewhere, somehow, by a hand
not the same hand that guided my intent.
I mean to write those words I understand
before they speak themselves, but then they close.
And what they would have said, god only knows.

~ Rhina P. Espaillat

4 thoughts on ““There is a great deal that either has to be given up or be taken away from you if you are going to succeed in writing a body of work” ~ Susan Sontag’s thoughts on writing, from her diaries

  1. First rate post!
    Actually, one of those that resonates so very strongly as I guess I, despite the absence of a much-longed-for grandchild, seem to be lingering in the very same passage you find yourself.
    I also used to think if I had a very large house it would be less messy. What has happened is that the spaces we use in our day to day activities are as messy or messier than ever. But where the lounge was once also the office and computer room and entertainment and was a terribly cluttered mess, it remains more or less pristine and only needs an occasional dusting. Ditto for the dining room. People can drop in and my public places look pretty much perfect all the time. So does the guest room. But my office??? My husband’s office? The bedroom? The media room? absolute shockers… (btw – that’s all my rooms… it’s not a mansion – just a big house.)
    And… since you mentioned nail polish, I confess that right now, this very minute, I have 19 bottles of different coloured nail polish on my desk. Plus my manicure gear and accoutrements. And my nails – green with pink, blue, gold and lavender accents. This is an addition to 17 small wood and stone pigs, several bulls and a couple of rabbits – all guarded by a reclining Ganesha also sitting on my desk. My darling husband gave me one small wooden Chinese pig which I adored. I would have been content with just the one – but he loves giving me things, so now I have a menagerie…
    As for the doctoral degree – if you really want it… I think you must do it. I have a friend who did not make it to university until she was in her 50s. She was solo mum to nine children – her husband (who wanted as many children as possible) couldn’t handle the pressure shortly after the youngest arrived… She raised an amazing passel of offspring and finally got to go to uni. Honours in philosophy, then her masters and just finishing off her doctorate now – past 60. In that time she also managed to publish a novel and and lots of short fiction and poetry and a cookbook… Yeah, she’s amazing, but she’s also as ordinary as we are (you know what I mean…) age is NO barrier if you don’t make it be one…
    On the other hand, I said for years that as soon as the kids were grown I was going back to uni to get a masters in English. When the time came and there was nothing in my way – I discovered that the wanting had become the thing… and I took the money and went to Italy and Greece and immersed myself in history. Never looked back…
    Enough from me now!

    1. Great to hear from you. (I tried visiting my blogroll a couple of times on my new and improved computer, but now the damned internet keeps timing out . . . anyway).

      On the phd–I think that it’s more than the wanting. I’m one of those lifelong students, the kind of person who loves to be in a classroom, either in front or in the audience, and I don’t think that I’m every going to be different. I’ve decided that I will apply (at least tonight that’s my answer). Your friend sounds amazing.

      Got you beat on the nailpolish. I’ve had to rearrange a drawer to accommodate all of the colors that I have (along with the glitter and crackle glazes). Nail Polish seems to be my new addiction. At least it’s fairly cheap.

      Let’s see, menageries? More picture frames than I can count, a collection of rulers (can never have too many, basket of bears, some small tokens from my kids, a few angels, turtles, and a clay dog that Brett made in grade school.

      Other people’s clutter, our treasure. I like to think that my house is fairly clean, but the reality is that the clutter is neater, the furniture stays polished, etc., but there are still books everywhere. Don’t have all of the rooms that you do, but I know that more rooms would probably mean more stuff to dust. Dust-catchers, as my mum would say.

      I’m glad to know that I’m not in this passage alone, but damned if I know how to work my way out. I think that I need a real vacation.

  2. Good to hear from you. Angst? Doesn’t it last an entire lifetime?

    Just for today, though, I’m not doing any angst… I’m not sitting on the front porch because there is a painting project involving two of the kids painting their room a soft shade of bird’s egg blue, called “Stillness”. Maybe I can have my porch back on Tuesday… I’d be out there for sure, because they’ve got the air con down low to combat the heat of working. My feet are frozen.

    Not my night to make dinner. One more test and I’m done with Med. Term. II. Just for today, I am focusing on restful stuff…

    I think that all learning is good to do. I never want to stop. However, I am not going to borrow any money to do it. It seems that what I’ve done is just going around in circles, listening to people who supposedly know what people should do to find a job… I get a degree to make me attractive in something I’ve already done for years, and then still can’t find a job doing it…

    Oh well. R & R, Lita. Find some R & R in there, mixed with everything. I’m off to go by the store to pick up something someone needs for dinner…. You are in my thoughts…

    1. “Stillness” sounds like a wonderful color.

      So far tonight I’ve made dinner, done laundry, done dishes, given Olivia a bath and bottles . . . R&R? What’s that?

      The doctoral program is a life-long dream, but the reality is that I’d probably have a hard time getting in at my age. Too much competition for spots, I would imagine. Keep up the good work in your own studies.

      Two more loads of laundry, and I’m done for the night.

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