“For the few little successes I may seem to have, there are acres of misgivings and self-doubt.” ~ Sylvia Plath, from The Bell Jar

Image result for that's all folks


Thursday afternoon, sunny and beautiful, 72 degrees.

I’ve decided to do another one of those surveys that I had in my drafts folder. Don’t really know why, but it just seemed like a thing to do. So here goes . . .

If you could . . .
  1. Travel anywhere, where would it be? My dream is to take a very long vacation trip to Europe, beginning in Ireland, traveling all over the UK, and then other cities in Europe, including Prague, Venice, Rome, Amsterdam, and the South Coast of Iceland, among others.
  2. Meet anyone, who would it be? This is hard to narrow to one. The people I would most like to meet are prolific authors such as Margaret Atwood or Stephen King or J. K. Rowling so that I could talk to the about character development. I would like to meet the Dalai Lama and the Pope, not because I’m religious but because I think that the conversations would be incredible. I would also like to meet Peter Jackson, just because . . .

  3. Bring anyone dead back to life, who would it be? This one is very, very hard. Personally, I would bring back family members like my parents, if only to be kinder and more involved with them. I would bring back Caitlin, of course, but only if she could be healthy. And I would bring back Sylvia Plath and William Shakespeare, because, again, I would love to have conversations with them.

  4. Be anyone for a day, who would it be? I would like to be president for a day, or maybe a week, because so much in this country needs to be fixed.

  5. Get anything for free for the rest of your life what would it be? This one is easy: books, books, and books. And after books, makeup, just for fun. And third would be shoes/boots, even though I never leave the house.

  6. Change one thing about your living situation what would it be? I would fix our financial situation; I’m not talking about being rich or winning the lottery, but just being comfortable enough not to be worrying about finances all of the time. The stress from this situation can be paralyzing. The other thing I would want to change is the distance from my kids.

  7. Have any superpower what would it be? Not invisibility. Not flying. Not super strength. I would rather have the ability to time travel. Can you just imagine the things that you could see and do? Or I would like to be a true medium, if there is such a thing.

  8. Have one living person back in your life that is not a relative, who would it be? Mari. I miss having her in my life on a daily basis. Also, Kathleen and Rebecca.

  9. Change one thing about the world what would it be? I would fix global warming, because so many things are related to this: food production, fresh water, viability in certain parts of the world. In my mind, this is the most pressing problem facing humanity.

  10. Repair one relationship, which would you choose? My relationship with my youngest son. I would give anything to be able to know how to fix this as it is a constant, deep source of personal pain.

  11. Have your dream house, what would it look like? I would have a log house with wooden beams and lots of big windows, a large kitchen, at least two bathrooms, one of which would have a claw-footed soaking tub, four bedrooms, one big enough for a king-sized bed, a room just for my books, a wrap-around porch, a greenhouse, a writing shed, and an in-ground pool with an attached hot tub.

  12. Change one thing about your physical appearance what would it be? I would probably change my arms, which sounds weird, but I’ve always wanted to have Linda Hamilton arms from the second Terminator movie. I think that toned arms are very sexy, but even when I was working out all of the time, I couldn’t get my arms to look the way that I wanted them to look.

  13. Change one of your personality traits which would you choose? I think that I’d get rid of either my self-doubt or my tendency to obsess over things that cannot be changed. But I should probably change my body dysmorphia. See, that obsessive stuff again . . .

  14. Refine or perfect one thing that you think you are good at, what would you choose? I would like to be a more productive writer, as in actually doing something with my writing. I think that I have genuine talent as a writer, but I am not productive in the true sense.

  15. Forget one event in your life which would you choose? I would love so much not to remember a few things in my life. You might think that I would like to forget holding Caitlin as she died, but I never want to forget that or forget her short life. In contrast, I wish that I could forget the one time in my life in which something happened because I had too much to drink. That memory still comes back to haunt me, and to this day I do not like to overindulge because of that loss of control.

  16. Erase an event from history (make it so it never happened) which would you choose? Nazi Germany and all of the other historical genocides, like Rwanda, Cambodia, Armenia, Darfur, Ireland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and many, many more. Killing people simply because they are others has been such a blight on humanity, but it keeps happening.

  17. Meet one notorious person from history, who would it be? This one is hard. I’m fascinated by psychopaths, but from a distance. Would I really want to spend a few hours with Bundy or Manson? Honestly, I don’t know.

  18. Live in any country/city, where would you choose? Ireland. It’s always been Ireland, and I have come to realize that this will never happen, and that still breaks my heart a little.

  19. Change one law in your country, which would you change? Hard to pick just one: I would make the anti-stalking laws better defined and easier to enforce; I would make marriage equality a law of the land; I would make the Equal Rights Amendment part of the Constitution, but most of all, I would protect a woman’s right to choose nationally, eliminating all of those draconian state laws. If you know anyone who has died from an illegal abortion, this will always be a hot button issue.

  20. Have any job in the world, which would you choose? I have always wanted to work for a publishing company; I mean, I’ve wanted to do this since I was a teenager. I got a publishing degree and then never got a job to go with it. Why? I can only blame myself.

  21. Have anything appear in your pocket right now, what would it be? Again, hard to pick just one, and small enough to fit in a pocket is particularly hard: my Uncle’s ring that we lost years ago; a gold walnut that my mother had that I wasn’t able to find after she died; a Thai princess ring that my dad gave me, which I lost when I was young; a star sapphire that fell out of a different ring that my dad gave me—I guess it’s mostly sentimental pieces of family jewelry.

  22. Meet any individual who exists in film or print, who would it be? Yoda, from Star Wars, or Aragorn, from the Lord of the Rings book, or Tyrion from HBO’s Game of Thrones. Again, just think of the conversations that you could have, and even though Tyrion was created in Martin’s books, I love Peter Dinklage’s portrayal.

  23. Change one thing from your childhood, what would it be? I always wanted siblings, but I suppose that wasn’t really up to me. If not siblings, then I would have liked to be bi-lingual. Why did I never learn Tagalog?

  24. Get rid of one thing in society, what would it be? Social media. It’s destroying actual social interaction. It’s too easy to be cruel when you live virtually. It’s too easy to forget how to deal with people in real life if you never move away from your screens.

  25. Have a different career, what would you choose? Medicine or law, both of which I seriously considered. Or, marine biology. It never occurred to me when I was young and choosing a field that I could train in a career other than English because you can write no matter what career you have. I know that now. Hindsight.

  26. Eat only one kind of food for the rest of your life, what would it be? Dessert: pies, Tiramisu, cheesecake, pudding, but only if it didn’t affect my blood sugar. A close second would be fresh fruit.

That’s all folks.

More later. Peace.

“. . . there was a sharp distinction between what was remembered, what was told, and what was true.” ~ Kevin Powers, from The Yellow Birds

Robert Julian Onderdonk, “Bluebonnets in Texas” (1915, oil on canvas)

“Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.” ~ Patrick Rothfuss, from The Name of the Wind

Sunday afternoon, cloudy, cooler temperatures, 46 degrees.

It was cold yesterday, so cold that we actually had to turn on a few space heaters. In fact, the forecast actually called for snow flurries. All I can say is that the weather in this locale is well and truly whhackkk. Yes, that’s a word.

Frederic Matys Thursz, Untitled (Blue Field, 1961, oil and paper collaged on board)

Yep.

I’ve been on a “Game of Thrones” binge lately, watching all of the back seasons before this final season. I’ve done this before, but what I always find phenomenal about this show is how much you can miss on a first viewing, especially all of the foreshadowing. The writers are very, very good in maintaining continuity from season to season.

I came to the show after reading the first three books, so I was fully prepared to be disappointed because the move from novel to screen is haphazard at best. Stephen King is said to be disappointed with almost every screen adaptation of his work, and George R. R. Martin’s writing is particularly dense with characters, locations, languages, plots and subplots. However, the HBO series has become its own phenomenon: It’s one of those rare shows in which the casting and the execution have melded well, and in that sense, it reminds me of “The Sopranos” and “Orphan Black.”

And as most people know, the show ends with this season, but the novels continue . . . at least that’s what everyone thinks. Martin is a methodical writer, and readers are still impatiently awaiting the next book in the series, The Winds of Winter. No publication date has been set yet as Martin has admitted that the writing has been hard.

I can sympathize, George, and I only shoot for about 1200 words a day.

“you know how deceptive memory is and how coarse the real world.
Nostalgia amplifies things. The memory preserves tastes and smells and images that are of its own making, or that are not as they were in reality.” ~ Amjad Nasser, from Land of No Rain

I actually enjoyed doing Thursday’s update; it was a good writing exercise. I’m still floundering, though, attempting to find that rhythm that I’ve lost as it continues to elude me. It’s hard to explain this to people who do not like to write or for whom words are not foremost in their lives.

Paul Jenkins, “Phenomena Astral Blue (1968, oil on canvas)

That’s not a slur in any way, only an attempt to explain why my recent posts seem to be preponderantly superficial. I have so much roiling inside, so many things that I want to say, but when I start, the words sound hollow, so I stop and try to find other way to keep this blog going.

Consider: If you were an expert at landscaping, and you took your tools to a piece of land, fully prepared to create something beautiful, but once you arrived, you couldn’t remember the purpose of any tool. Or let’s say that you were a proficient bookkeeper, and you sat down with some raw data, and your computer, and you couldn’t remember how to reconcile a spreadsheet. Or what if you were a wonderful tailor, and you had a bolt of cloth and measurements, but you suddenly forgot how to pattern.

I deliberately didn’t choose painting or sculpting or composing music or any of the other traditional categories of art as anyone who dabbles in those or for whom those are a way of life already is all too familiar with the terrible periods of being unable to create. Rather, I am attempting to explain my problem to those of you for whom life is more structure and traditional, but I don’t know if my explanation only adds to the confusion.

“The years of searching in the dark for a truth that one feels but cannot express, the intense desire and the alternations of confidence and misgiving . . . are known only to him who has experienced them himself.” ~ Albert Einstein, from the Gibson Foundation Lecture, 1933

One of the reasons that I do not sleep well is that I have a very hard time turning off my brain. It’s not just mulling over the day or worrying about bills or money or the house or whatever. It’s also that I start to think about things that I want to say. More times than I can count I think that I should just get out of bed and sit down and write, but then I tell myself that if I did so, I would be useless the next day.

James McNeill Whistler, “Nocturne: Blue and Silver—Chelsea” (1871, oil on wood)

But would being useless the next day really matter in the grand scheme of things? I feel as if I’m doing myself a disservice by not writing when the so-called spirit moves me. Yet at the same time I feel guilty for wanting to eschew traditional sleep and approaches to time because there is so much of daily life with which to contend. Honestly, though, my days are still not productive in that all of my to-do list goes unattended, so the guilt and feelings of worthlessness are there no matter which path I choose.

Consider: Parkinson’s law commonly states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. But Asimov’s corollary to Parkinson states that in ten hours a day you have time to fall twice as far behind your commitments as in five hours a day. A la Parkinson, I manage to fill my days with mostly nonproductive actions, and a la Asimov’s corollary, I fall twice as far behind.

“Everything about me is unfinished, insufficient.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from a letter to Lou Salomé written c. December 1905

In doing a big of reading about eponymous laws, I came across the intriguing idea of the centipede principle, which I chose deliberately because of my great fear of those multi-legged creatures; in essence, this principle addresses overthinking, as in if a person thinks too much about something that comes naturally, then that action can be impaired.

Martiros Sarian, “Blue Flowers” (1914, oil on canvas)

The centipede principle or effect supposedly is based on a short poem written in 1871 by the Katherine Craster (go here to see the original poem), in which the centipede is asked which leg moves first and then next when he walks, and then because he is asked, he cannot walk.

English psychologist George Humphrey propounded his eponymous law about hyper-reflection in 1923, referencing the centipede tale. I also came across another reference to this centipede effect in the work of Karl Popper, who states that “if we have learnt certain movements so that they have sunk below the level of conscious control, then if we try to follow them consciously we very often interfere with them so badly that we stop them.”

In other words, do I set myself up to be unable to write because I think too much about being unable to write? Am I unable to begin the projects that I have set for myself because I think too much about whether or not I can actually accomplish these projects? I was once told that I live my life as a self-fulfilling prophecy: my behavior directly causes my predicted outcome; i.e., I don’t send my work out for publication, so I am never published.

“People who are burdened by acute misgivings about their coping capabilities suffer much distress and expend much effort in defensive action . . . they cannot get themselves to do things they find subjectively threatening even though they are objectively safe. ” ~ Albert Bandura, from Social Foundations of Thought and Action
Thomas Downing, “Blue Space” (c1954, acrylic on cotton)

I realize that this post took a turn towards psychoanalysis, but what of it? Years of therapy have conditioned me to ponder such questions about the self. That, and I have a particular penchant for eponymous laws; I find them fascinating. (If you happen to be interested in such things, Wikipedia happens to have a good listing of them from A to Z here.)

Anyway, I think that most people could do with more introspection about their thoughts and actions. Too few people today actually give deep thought to things beyond the surface (how many likes did my picture get? was I reblogged? etc.). Yet I know that I am the opposite: I think too much. I consider too much. And in so doing, I paralyze myself. I wish that I could say that I am motivated by strength, but the truth is that I am motivated by fear. And truly, I hate that most about myself.

But unlike many who are motivated by fear, I do not cloak that fear with bombast or sanctimony, only to project that fear outward and punish those who seem weaker or more vulnerable. Instead, I project inward, causing harm mostly to my psyche. Regardless, someone is always damaged in the end.

More later. Peace.


Music by Sarah McLachlan, “Hold On”


A Secret Life

Why you need to have one
is not much more mysterious than
why you don’t say what you think
at the birth of an ugly baby.
Or, you’ve just made love
and feel you’d rather have been
in a dark booth where your partner
was nodding, whispering yes, yes,
you’re brilliant. The secret life
begins early, is kept alive
by all that’s unpopular
in you, all that you know
a Baptist, say, or some other
accountant would object to.
It becomes what you’d most protect
if the government said you can protect
one thing, all else is ours.
When you write late at night
it’s like a small fire
in a clearing, it’s what
radiates and what can hurt
if you get too close to it.
It’s why your silence is a kind of truth.
Even when you speak to your best friend,
the one who’ll never betray you,
you always leave out one thing;
a secret life is that important.

~ Stephen Dunn

 

“. . . we were just looking at ideas of each other, like looking at your window shade but never looking inside.” ~ John Green, from Paper Towns


“I am not what you see.
I am what time and effort and interaction slowly unveil.” ~ Richelle E. Goodrich, from Slaying Dragons

Thursday afternoon, sunny and beautiful, 74 degrees.

I thought that today’s post should be a Throwback Thursday, as in, do one of those get to know me surveys. I’ve taken one that I found somewhere years ago and  made a few changes. Let me know if you like any questions/answers in particular. I’d love to know some of your responses to any of these questions if you feel like sharing.

Enjoy!


  1. How many pets do you own?
    Such a subjective question. Are horses pets? Goats? Currently, 5 dogs, 2 cats, 2 goats, 2 horses, and there’s a bee that finds me fascinating.
  2. What’s your least favorite season? Favorite season?
    Probably winter, unless it snows. I love snow, but I don’t like to be cold. My favorite season is autumn. February is my worst month.
  3. Most embarrassing moment?
    That time in junior high when I snorted and snot came out of my nose. I wanted to melt into the floor. Why do I still remember that?
  4. Do you believe in reincarnation?
    Yes. I do think we’ve all lived past lives. I’m not certain that I believe in the idea that we keep coming back until we get everything right. I also don’t believe that we’ve all been kings and queens and generals. But I do think that I was a torch singer in a dark bar. Don’t ask me why because I have no explanation.
  5. What do you do to relax at the end of a stressful day?
    Take a long, hot bath with bath salts, staying until the water is cool.
  6. Are you politically active or apathetic?
    Is yelling at the television being politically active? Actually, I have big plans to volunteer in the 2020 election, so yeah, active.
  7. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
    Introvert. I don’t like people, but I love my few friends and family. When I used to go to parties, once upon a time, I would find one person to talk to until I felt comfortable enough to walk around, which didn’t always happen. The odd thing is that I used to be very friendly and chatty and had tons of friends and acquaintances. Perhaps it’s an age thing.
  8. Do you believe in ghosts?
    Yes, I do. I’ve actually had a few weird experiences, but I have no idea if they were paranormal. One in particular involved my aunt’s dog who sat staring and growling at something that I couldn’t see in the corner of the den. This went on for several minutes, and the hairs on his back were raised. Pretty freaky.
  9. What is your favorite thing to drink during the day? In the evenings?
    I try to drink a lot of flavored soda water during the day to make sure that i get my water intake. I gave up Pepsi years ago, but once in a while a really have to have some kind of cola. In the evenings, I have to have my peppermint tea, and once in a while I’ll have wine or cider.
  10. Do you play any instruments?
    I trained as a classical pianist for 14 years. At one time, I really wanted to go to the Boston Conservatory of Music. I also worked on my voice for a few years and had a secret dream of running away and trying to make it on Broadway. Neither thing happened, obviously.
  11. Which do you prefer: numbers or words?
    I love the exactness of numbers, their purity, and I can still do math in my head, but words are my life. Words are life itself. Words encompass every love, every hate, every boon and every misfortune. Without words, we are nothing but empty vessels.
  12. Are you scared of anything?
    I’m terrified of centipedes. Spiders don’t bother me, but centipedes make me shriek out loud. And snakes. How could I forget snakes. Just . . . no . . .
  13. Do you believe in aliens?
    How could I not? With the countless galaxies out there containing countless systems, it would be incredibly arrogant of us to believe that we are the only sentient beings in existence.
  14. What is something you hate?
    I hate racism, fascism, sexism. I cannot abide people who think that they are the only ones who have the right to something based on the color of their skin or their gender or their politics or their religion. There is far too much diversity in this world to be so myopic. In discounting others simply because of their beliefs or their physiology or their spirituality, we only cheat ourselves.
  15. What is something you have given a lot of thought to lately?
    The current state of our democracy. I fear what is happening to this country and its people. Xenophobia is rampant. Our current administration pays no attention to the Constitution or the laws that have ruled this country effectively since its inception. No one is above the law. No one should believe he or she is above the law. Nationalism as it is currently being touted is not synonymous with patriotism, and too few people realize that.
  16. What do you like to read?
    Depends. I love poetry and history, but I also love science fiction and fantasy. I don’t really believe in the genre Young Adult because, well, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and countless others. I’m not a big romance person, but I have read all of the Outlander books. I love mysteries, especially British ones, and I also have rekindled my love for Stephen King, who I gave up after Pet Cemetery because it scared me so much. I’ve also read most of the Walking Dead graphic novels, and I love Neil Gaiman. So I’m all over the place. What I love most is good, engaging writing of any kind. The loss of most of my library a few years ago still really pains me.
  17. Are you currently where you thought you’d be ten years ago?
    Absolutely not. I never thought that my dream of living in the mountains away from most other people would ever become a reality.
  18. Which do you prefer: pie or cake?
    Ooh, this is hard. I love sugar, chocolate, whipped cream . . . but if I had to choose, and I can’t choose Tiramisu, I’d say pie. I still really miss my other mother’s homemade apple pie. It was the best, ever, and I’ve never been able to duplicate it.
  19. Do you have any tattoos? Do you want more?
    Yes, one. I’ve been wanting a few more for several years (a tree, a bird, some words), but I could never justify the expense.
  20. What are you looking forward to?
    In the short term, walking around the property, exploring, finding new trails. In the long term, fixing up the house and doing some major landscaping. In my life, finally finishing and submitting a manuscript, for god’s sake.
  21. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
    This one is hard . . . Aside from where I am right now, I’d love to live on an island or maybe some place like Costa Rica. But I’ve also always wanted to live somewhere in the UK, like Ireland, Wales, or Scotland. That’s been a dream for as long as the mountains.
  22. Are you stronger mentally or physically?
    Um . . . neither? I mean, my physicality is fine, not incredibly strong but not incapacitated. My mind, I suppose, is strong in that I’ve survived some really horrible things, but at the same time, it is fragile. Like I said, this is a really hard one.
  23. Who are you missing right now?
    Caitlin. Brett. My mom. My other mother. My dad. Olivia. Alexis. Eamonn . . . in no particular order. I miss all of them every single second of every single day. I also miss my fluffy boy Shakes.
  24. Do you think you’re a good person?
    I hope so. I try to be. I try very hard to be the kind of person I told my children they should be: honest, honorable, kind, loving. If we cannot strive for this, then what else is there?
  25. Current favorite television show or movie?
    A tie between “The Magicians” and “Game of Thrones.” Although, I have to say that the season finale of “The Magicians” broke my heart so much that I’m still not over it. Quentin . . . Also, I still really love “The Walking Dead.” I miss “Orphan Black.” That was a great show.
  26. Favorite place to go when you are upset?
    Forest Lawn Cemetery in Norfolk. I really miss it. In the past I would drive here whenever I was upset and just drive slowly down the lanes, taking in the incredible lonely beauty.
  27. Do you have any phobias?
    I’m probably a borderline agoraphobic as I really don’t like to leave home. I’ve been this way for quite a while. It takes a lot for anyone to get me to go somewhere. But I’m definitely claustrophobic. I panic in crowds, and cannot stay in a full elevator.
  28. Do you have any hobbies?
    Aside from writing and photography, I used to make journals, collecting images and then pasting them in blank books. I really enjoyed that. This was before the big scrapbook craze, and my therapist told me that I should try to find a way to make money with my books. I told here that I didn’t think that anyone would be interested . . . Wrong again on that one. I also really love karaoke but haven’t been in years.
  29. What is your favorite genre of music?
    Hmm . . . really depends on my mood and/or the circumstance: I love classical music when I play the piano. I love listening to the blues when I’m writing. I love classic rock or reggae on road trips. I love sad country love songs when I’m depressed. I love opera on Sunday afternoon. I love soundtracks when I feel like singing.
  30. Name one thing you wish you could change about your life right now.
    I really, really wish that we could finish getting everything painted and unpacked. The disarray is really getting to me, but I hate to push because Corey has so much to take care of, and there is only so much that my back will allow. I also really wish that I could get back into my writing groove completely; I mean, into a groove in which the words just flow, and I don’t have to think about them so much. And finally, I really, really wish that I would stop selling myself short and just send out my work already. Time is slipping away, and no one is going to do it for me; are they?

That’s all folks!

More later. Peace.


Music by Boygenius, “Souvenir”