“But I write badly. The part of my brain in charge of writing ability refuses to work.” ~ Anton Chekhov, “A Boring Story”

Writer Carson McCullers, by Leonard McCombe

“My memory has weakened, my thoughts lack consistency, and each time I set them down on paper it seems to me that I’ve lost the intuition of their organic connection . . . And, remarkably, the simpler the writing, the more excruciating is the strain.” ~ Anton Chekhov, from “A Boring Story”

Sunday evening, ice and snow, and very cold, 17 degrees.

Well, sleep eluded me again last night until after 3 a.m., which, relatively speaking, is not bad for me. There have been times when I’ve been in the midst of an insomnia bout, I’ve watched the sun rise and still couldn’t close my eyes. And yet again, I awoke with a migraine. Nevertheless, I’m going to make a true effort to write today. No promises that I’ll have anything interesting to say.

Eudora Welty Autographing a Book in 1984, by Terry James

Last night the wind whipped around the house with a sound resembling a freight train. I worried about the horses as they still don’t have a shelter. Corey assures me that as long as they have enough hay that they will be able to produce sufficient body heat. They still manage to get out of the pasture each night, and the ringleader, Napoleon, leads them to the front porch.

He’s a beautiful horse, but he’s already spoiled. When he hears me at the front door calling the dogs, he lumbers over and waits for me to give him treats, and often when I do, he comes all of the way to the door after I go inside as if he wants to come inside. Yesterday, both he and the mare Sassy stood at the side window looking in at us as if to let us know, in case we had forgotten, that they were out there.

I no longer wonder if it’s possible to spoil a horse.

“One morning you wash your face,
look into the mirror,
find the water has eroded your features,
worn them smooth as a rock in a brook.” ~ Daniela Gioseffi, from “Some Slippery Afternoon”

So my current problem with words? Probably a myriad of reasons. I still haven’t gotten my other mood stabilizing medication because there’s presumably a shortage, at least that’s what the pharmacy says, and of course, the ongoing lack of my pain maintenance medications doesn’t help things. Added to that the current state of my back is horrendous—it hasn’t hurt this much in years.

Dorothy Parker at Work at Her Typewriter in 1941

I know. I know. Nothing new, but between the ongoing winter depression and the recurrent pain, it’s hard to string thoughts together coherently. The physical always affects the mental, and vice versa.

And so I sit down at my little workspace (because my desk still isn’t set up), and I open YouTube and start playing news stories or true crime stories to run in the background, and then I open up a new screen for a draft, and I stare . . . that, or I work on putting quotes together for future drafts, or I spend some time on tumblr looking for more quotes or images for future posts, and then . . . after wasting more time, I go back to the draft screen, and nothing.

“. . . I hope to learn from you how things really are, why it is that around me things sink away like fallen snow, whereas for other people even a little liqueur glass stands on the table steady as a statue.” ~ Franz Kafka, from “Description of a Struggle”

The house still isn’t completely organized or painted, mostly because Corey has so much to do with all of the outside things that need to be handled, that or he ends up unwillingly wasting entire days with Dallas who always proposes projects and then never gets around to them.

Vita Sackville-West in Her Tower Study at Sissinghurst in 1939

The truth of the matter is that Dallas has a drinking problem, one that seems to be getting worse. I don’t like to be around drunks. I’ve had too much experience with drinking problems, and it really gets to me. I mean Dallas has a good heart and good intentions, but as Corey says, Dallas just cannot stay on task; his mind flits from one thing to another, and as a result, little gets done.

I don’t regret that Dallas entered our lives; the relationship is definitely beneficial on both sides: he’s a lonely man who doesn’t appear to have much of a relationship with either of his children, and I have to wonder if that is because of his drinking. But I do feel sorry for him, and I do really try to be patient with him unless he shows up three sheets to the wind. I know that Corey, too, gets frustrated, but there’s little he can do besides try to keep Dallas focused. Still, the ongoing state of the inside of the house is really starting to get to me; I wish so much that I could do some of this stuff myself.

If wishes were fishes . . .

“The place of language is the place between me
and the world of presences I have lost” ~ Marie Ponsot, from “Imagining Starry”
Writer Clarice Lispector at Home in Rio de Janeiro, ca. 1973

I’m trying very hard, even it doesn’t seem like it, trying not to let things get to me, trying not to think about how my children are far away and out of touch, trying not to think about how there’s always so much to do, trying not to worry too much about Dallas and things that are out of my hands, trying to enjoy once again the act of writing these words . . .

. . . trying hard to be present in my life, which is so much harder than it might seem . . .

. . . trying hard to be thankful for what is here and not devastated by what is not . . .

. . . but no matter how hard I try, I just seem to find myself treading water, and I despise this more than I can say.

“I just can’t live an ordinary life, I can’t pass the time. I can’t organise myself, I don’t have ordinary motives anymore. I can’t even manage my body, when I go to bed I don’t know where to put my arms.“ ~ Iris Murdoch, The Green Knight

And I wonder if I have ever truly been present in my life, wholly present. I have this memory of my first husband asking me early in our relationship why I always worried about the future, always worried about what might or might not happen. I had no answer then, and I have no answer now.

Writer Zora Neale Hurston in 1955

I wonder if part of it is being an only child who always felt that I needed to be the mediator for my parents’ disjointed relationship. If I always worried so much about what might happen between them that I just got in the habit of always worrying about what might happen and never figured out how to just be present in today.

Or perhaps this inability comes from being a teenager and always wondering why I never felt as if I belonged. I had friends, a lot of friends. But still, there was always this feeling that these friendships were tenuous, dependent on my acting a certain way, a way that was acceptable, whatever that meant, and so I fretted and worried. No one ever made me feel this way. It was purely internal, and it went back years: In London I didn’t feel as if I fit in because of my American accent and Filipino last name; In Norfolk, I didn’t feel as if I fit in because of my British accent and Filipino last name.

I cannot tell you how frustrating it is. How can a person even begin to hope to be normal (whatever that is), hope to make her way through the days in any kind of pseudo normal fashion when everything is a question and the answers never seem to be available?

Anyway, more later. Peace.


Music by Coldplay, “O (Fly On),” extended version


With a Changing Key

With a changing key
you unlock the house where
the snow of what’s silenced drifts.
Just like the blood that bursts from
your eye or mouth or ear,
so your key changes.

Changing your key changes the word
that may drift with the flakes.
Just like the wind that rebuffs you,
packed round your word is the snow.

~ Paul Celan (Trans. Nikolai Popov and Heather McHugh)

“Nulla dies sine linea.” (Never a day without a line) ~ Horace

 Waterman Fairy Ad 

Vintage Advertisement for Waterman’s Fountain Pen

 

“Many people hear voices when no-one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up on rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.” ~ Author Unknown

Not a whole lot going on at the homestead.

Corey went to an open house for MSC (Military Sealift Command) today, only to find out that they haven’t had any available deck positions for over a year. He said that the place was packed and that most of those in attendance had no experience at all. I know that it is quite discouraging for him to go to these things only to find out that there are no jobs. Besides, why are they having an open house if they don’t have any positions. Does this make sense?

watermans new leaf penWe haven’t heard anything else from the shipyard, and as I said, that process could take months. Vane Brothers hasn’t gotten back to him either, although the man with whom Corey has been in contact did say that he was passing Corey’s detailed work experience on to the General Manager. I don’t even know if that means anything any more. It used to be that when you heard something like that from an employer, it was a very good sign, but not these days in this economy.

I think that I’ve finally gotten things straightened out with my retirement account. I had hoped that I wouldn’t have to take anything more out of my account, but I will probably have to continue to make withdrawals for the time being. With a 24 percent tax penalty each time, that’s a hefty loss right off the top for any withdrawal that I make, but we really don’t have any other choices left.

When I spoke to the representative with whom I have been in continuing contact, he told me that Denver had just been hit with a huge snowstorm, so the TIAA-CREF offices may be closing early. He didn’t seem very amused when I told him that it was 75 degrees here. Oh well. Glad that I don’t live in Denver. I’m not ready for snowstorms, not that we ever really get them in this area any more.

“You can’t write a personal column without going to some very deep place inside yourself, even if it’s only for four hours. It’s almost like psychotherapy, except you’re doing it on your own.” ~ Jennifer Allen, essayist 

Mark Twain pen adJust spending my time rereading some old books by Ann Rule. These aren’t as interesting as the ones that I read over the weekend, but they are better than nothing.

Other than that, I really don’t have a whole lot to say. I need to finish some paperwork for Virginia Social Services to see if I qualify for Medicaid. If I do, then some of my back balances with my doctors may be taken care of, which would be one load off my mind. With any luck, I may get some help with prescriptions as well, which would be really great since my prescription coverage is still screwed up, and we are having to pay full price for my prescriptions. As a result, I am not taking all of my meds, which I am sure is affecting the whole headache scenario.

It’s just a never-ending cycle.

Yesterday, Eamonn asked if he could borrow a few dollars. I had to laugh. I told him that I have precisely 12 cents to my name. I’m not sure what he is doing with the money that he is earning, but at least we don’t have to pay for his gas. He said something about waiting until next year to start school. I hope that it was just a passing comment, because I know from experience with Alexis that the longer he waits to begin, the greater are the chances that he won’t start at all. That would really be a shame.

Alexis kept saying that she would start one day, but that day has never come. All of her friends who went to college have already graduated and gotten jobs. I know that college isn’t for everyone, but I think it’s a shame when someone is definitely smart enough to go to college, and they don’t, but it has to be her decision.

“Some writers in the throes of writer’s block think their muses have died, but I don’t think that happens often; I think what happens is that the writers themselves sow the edges of their clearing with poison bait to keep their muses away, often without knowing they are doing it.” ~ Stephen King

advertisement-for-a-fountain-pen-featuring-a-silhouette-of-a-woman-sitting-under-a-tree-writingAnyway, it’s a chilly fall day with no sunshine, one of those kinds of days that make staying inside a good option. I’m really hoping that we can do something about the heat this winter, but I’m not going to allow myself to get starry-eyed with belief in wild scenarios. Heat. Wild scenario. My, I’ve come a long way.

As it is, the vet that we took Tillie to for her first seizure is getting pretty nasty about the amount owed. They’ve slapped on so many fees that we now owe over twice as much as we owed in the beginning. Try to imagine your highest vet’s bill—now double it. That’s what we’re talking about.

I would really like to start something with Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS), a non-profit service that helps people to consolidate and pay off their bills, but we don’t have the extra monthly income to even start something like that. CCCS is not like a lot of debt-consolidation companies. They are recognized by the Better Business Bureau, and they charge a minimal monthly fee for their services. However, once you start the program, it is very important that you make the monthly payment that has been negotiated with your creditors on your behalf; otherwise, the process is all for naught. Right now, it is too premature to agree to any kind of payment plan with anyone.

I’ve been reading the news, and the number of people who are having to file for bankruptcy is increasing each month. That is really something that I just do not want to do. It seems like total surrender, and I don’t want to consider that as an option. I know that there are a lot of irresponsible people who file for bankruptcy as a way to wipe the slate clean, and then they begin to accumulate debt all over again. But there are just as many people out there who are filing for bankruptcy because they just don’t have any other way out.

It’s sad really. A recent report in USA Today cited that the number of bankruptcies is up 22 percent over last year. By the end of the year, estimates are that 1.45 million consumers will have to file, with job loss being listed as the primary reason for filing. For 2009, Virginia ranks 23rd overall for bankruptcies filed. Nevada, Tennessee, and Georgia rank first through third, in that order.

The economy continues to be scary, and the job situation continues to be depressing. Not just for us but for millions of people.

“Every writer I know has trouble writing.” ~ Joseph Heller 

Parker Duofold PenOther than those little tidbits, I don’t have much to say, which in itself is disheartening. I had really hoped to be back to my daily blogging by now, but there are some days in which I just have absolutely nothing to say. I sit down to write and just stare at the screen. Then I open a game like Mah Jong or Spider Solitaire and play that for a bit.

It’s underwhelming, at best. I mean, how long can I continue to write about my dogs, the economy, the money situation? I’m getting bored with what I write, so it’s only logical that people would find my posts boring to read. Hence, I don’t post.

I mean, I have been reading some really outlandish stuff on the political front, but even that isn’t motivating me to post. Maybe it’s just seasonal, or the continuing ache in my head, or the fact that it’s not even November, and I’m cold. But whatever it is, I hope that is passes soon, because I enjoy writing, just not when I continuously repeat myself.

I’ll finish with a very descriptive quote that I found; it’s by Stephen King, whose writing I don’t always like, but I do like an awful lot of what King has to say about the writing process:

There is indeed a half-wild beast that lives in the thickets of each writer’s imagination. It gorges on a half-cooked stew of suppositions, superstitions and half-finished stories. It’s drawn by the stink of the image-making stills writers paint in their heads. The place one calls one’s study or writing room is really no more than a clearing in the woods where one trains the beast (insofar as it can be trained) to come. One doesn’t call it; that doesn’t work. One just goes there and picks up the handiest writing implement (or turns it on) and then waits. It usually comes, drawn by the entrancing odor of hopeful ideas. Some days it only comes as far as the edge of the clearing, relieves itself and disappears again. Other days it darts across to the waiting writer, bites him and then turns tail. ~ From “The Writing Life” (October 2006)

Today is one of those “as far as the edge of the clearing” days. Video of Anna Nalick’s “Wreck of the Day” with images from “Law & Order Criminal Intent,” one of the best shows ever.

More later, with any luck. Peace.

“Words are the voice of the heart” ~ Confucius

17_letter_planet

 “Letter Planet”

We are healed of a suffering only by expressing it to the full.” ~ Marcel Proust

“Words are of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind” ~ Rudyard Kipling

It has been a few days since my last post in which I wrote about not being able to write. I proposed that my inability to write might be chemical, might be emotional. I finished that entry, posted it, and did not come near my computer for more than 48 hours. On the third day, I looked in on some regular sites, made a couple of short comments, then walked away from the computer again. It was as if the keys themselves had evolved into hot coals, devices of torture.

My computer, my sounding board, had become my personal albatross, but instead of hanging round my neck, it sat quietly humming in the corner of the bedroom, taunting me, as if to say, “I’m waiting.” At times during the past few days, I have glared at my computer, wishing its presence away rather than having to set my fingers to the keyboard again. At other moments, I have looked at it longingly, wishing that I could reconnect with it, and in so doing, with myself.

That’s not to say that I haven’t been reading; I’ve been reading notes of support from faithful readers, all essentially saying the same thing: It will be okay. When you are ready, the words will come. Those missives have been manna, sustaining me, reminding me that anyone who writes experiences periods of drought, periods in which the words simply will not form, will not make that connection from all of the fiercely firing thoughts racing through the brain to a message that is not even necessarily well formed, just simply a message, a communication of some sort, any sort.

“The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.” ~ Anthony Robbins

christinasworld-by-andrew-wyeth-1948
Andrew Wyeth's "Christina's World" (1948)

But this time, this time was different, and I knew it. You see, I had come so far in my journey this time, that to abandon it, or to let it abandon me, simply was not an option.

And so I sat down this afternoon, placed my fingers on the keyboard as I have done a thousand times before, and instead of waiting for the words to come, I went searching for them, knowing them to be harbored somewhere deep within the recesses of my mind. I opened doors to thoughts. I walked down hallways of the past. I flung open windows of memory. And then I suddenly realized that I was looking in the wrong place.

“We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out” ~ Ray Bradbury

The words were not in my mind. They were in my heart, within these four chambers that enclose all of my passion and all of my grief. All of my desires and all of my fears. All of the joy and sorrow and all of the other countless contradictions that make me who and what I am: a woman who loves deeply, who protects fiercely, and who, when hurting the most, feels the least capable.

I allowed myself the indulgence of moving through this place—intimately familiar yet foreign at times. And I realized that the words were not gone, were not lost, and neither was I. That in the midst of my outward sadness, I had erected a barrier of protection, as often I am wont to do. I had allowed my fear to paralyze me: If I did not try to write, then I could not fail to write.

So in the end, I wrote—an explanation as much for myself as for anyone else. Yes, the doubt still lingers, probably always shall: am I good enough? Does what I do matter? To those questions, I may never have an answer, or rather, the answer. But perhaps I understand the doubt a bit more, can look it in the eye for what it is.

“Self-expression must pass into communication for its fulfillment.” Pearl S. Buck

I sit here and write because I have something to say. Just exactly what I say does not necessarily have to be profound or deep or even eloquently written, no matter how much I might wish it to be. But in the saying, I am sending out the words because I want them to be read. And in the reading, I want the words affirmed and myself to be understood. It is my communion.

We are no different than the other beasts of the world in sending out our calls to our own kind, hoping for responses, acknowledgement that another like us is nearby. Our reasons for so doing are as varied as the calls of the birds outside my bedroom window just before dawn. Our methods vary: Some compose music, stringing together harmonies; others paint or draw, creating beauty and introspection that can be seen. And then others, those of us who would, write.

We create to communicate, to share, to remember and be remembered. Regardless of the trappings of our media, we communicate because we can, and if we did not, then we would perish as people.

I write because I can, because I desire to, because I need to. But most importantly, I write because I must.

Cracks in the Rose-Colored Glasses

badain-jaran-desert

“A desert is a place without expecation” ~ Nadine Gordimer 

” . . . A Corner of the Mournful Kingdom of Sand” ~ Pierre Loti

I’m not really sure how to begin to describe the state in which I have found myself me these past few days, but I think, fear, that I am moving into a dry, unproductive period again, and it’s actually really pissing me off. I mean, here I am, all proud of myself for the discipline that I’ve been devoting to my writing in the last four, five months. Sitting here at this computer, opining on this, commenting on that, and the words flowing so freely that putting in my self-imposed two hours just seemed to be that—self-imposed and therefore needless. After all, I was spending much more time than that each day . . . doing what, exactly?

questions

Practicing my craft? Is that what I’ve really been doing: honing my writing skills, amassing thoughts and passages that I could assimilate into that wonderful creation that would be . . . what?

I’ve been so enamored of my routine, something that I could never before master, that I had actually forgotten about the equally engrossing but far less proliferate phenomenon: writer’s block. As in, I can think of nothing to say. Nothing of substance, that is. Or to be more precise, I still have much to say, enough for eons actually, but I cannot make the words work. They are not connecting, as if some synapse somewhere in my recesses has shut down and is refusing to fire.

So this leaves me . . . patently pissed off, perplexed, panicked, and paranoid, even. After months and months of an endless flow, what has changed? Has something in me changed or has my ability to let my fingers wander freely over these keys been damaged by something else? Is it temporary? Days, perhaps weeks. Or will it be like the last time? Years before I could find my way back to words, lost in mile after mile of a  desert barren of creative invention.

Hence I am in a state of heightened anxiety, which, as any of you who create know, only exacerbates the problem. Do I call a time out? Do I say firmly to myself, “Step away from the keyboard until you can make it sing again,” or do I fumble my way through this.

I have two theories about my current state, neither of which are good:

The first, is that I have just been slowly weaned off my migraine medicine, which I had been on for several years. The number of bad side effects was beginning to counteract the very real benefit of migraine prevention, or at least slowdown. While on this medicine, I noticed that my ability to speak was being impaired, as in, I could not find words, could not articulate, could not remember the names of common items. As I said to my doctor, this loss of articulation, train of thought, is a kind of hell for someone who used to teach English.

In addition, I was losing hand-fulls of hair, which, even when you have as much hair as I do, can be quite worrisome. And, I always felt drained and tired. Malaise was a constant companion. Granted, the drained and tired may or may not be related to the medicine as I do have other conditions that could be causing the fatigue, but was the medicine actually making the fatigue worse? Or how about constant tingling in the wrists, which was not as I had assumed, carpal tunnel syndrome. (By the way, it just took me two minutes to remember the phrase carpal tunnel syndrome.)

Case in point. I asked Corey, quite seriously, if I have always been like this, to which he replied in the negative. He has been telling me for a while that I was having memory problems, but I have staunchly denied it. I thought that it was stress, told myself it was stress. As it turns out, this doping effect on short-term memory is but one of the more common side effects of taking this medication long-term.

After some more research and reflection on these and several other wonderful side effects versus the benefit of having fewer migraines of shorter duration, I did think that perhaps a change in my medication was due, hence, the withdrawal.

With the withdrawal of this medicine from my system, I do have more energy, and my hair is no longer coming out in my hands in the shower. However, I cannot write. To borrow from just a recent post of mine, those three words are like Brutus’s “unkindest cut of all.”

Unfortunately, this whole scenario reminds me of what happened many years ago when the doctors first put my on the cure-all Prozac to get me through my interminable grief: Yes, I wasn’t crying all of the time. However, I also wasn’t feeling anything—at all—nothing. If I had had to describe myself in one word at that time, I would have used the word cardboard. I told the doctor who I was seeing at that time that I would rather be crying and depressed than a zombie. The Prozac went away and thus began my long trial and error with the pharmacopoeia of antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds, a long and very crooked road that has brought me to this point in my post and to this post.

Am I no longer able to write because my chemical make-up has been altered so drastically by removing this one medicine to prevent migraines? And if so, just how powerful was that drug? And if the consequence of stopping that drug is that I cannot write, is it a price that I am willing to pay?

This introspection is more than mere navel-gazing; I assure you. If I cannot spend several hours a day writing, and I am not working any more, does my self-fulfilling prophesy about being on disability come true: that I will retire to my bedroom and become the hermit that I wrote about all those months ago?

What was the other theory? That I was never really able to write in the first place, and that, dear friends, is the slippery slope that many would-be writers, once they begin to ascend, often do not return from (end preposition acknowledged).

Navel-gazing is not for the faint of heart. More later? Peace.