Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Reverb12 | Day 9, The Eat Pray Love Cliche

I fell in love with Elizabeth Gilbert in a couple of radio interviews, when Committed, her follow-up to the Big One (you know which one), was published.  I loved her voice.  She was charming, funny, warm, imperfect.  She was like a female Garrison Keillor (which is about the highest compliment I can give).  She told great stories--like the one about learning advice on wrangling with the muses from Tom Waits.  I took an instant like to her.  She sounded like my kind of lady, which I must admit came as something of a surprise to me.  While I had not actively turned my nose up at the Big One (oh, okay, Eat, Pray, Love), I hadn't actively sought it out, either; you could say I was passively avoiding it.  I knew nothing much about the eating, the praying, the loving, except for the brief mention of it in an article I read about the growing trend of "divorce porn" in the publishing industry.

Even after meeting Liz Gilbert (or, her voice over the radio waves), I didn't immediately jump into the pages of her massive best-seller.  I chose, instead, to read The Last American Man, her slim 200-something page profile of North Carolina forest man Eustace Conway, who lives up in the mountains near Boone erecting buildings without nails and sewing his clothes with sinew from deer he's killed with his hands, a man who rode a horse across America with his cowboy brother, whose vision for this country doesn't include television or indoor plumbing.  I've built my life admiring men and women like this, and enjoyed his story mightily, but I also enjoyed the woman behind the tale--her insights, the voicing of her curiosities (what of his sex life?, she ponders for us all).  I devoured what articles I could find of hers online.  And, as 2011 came to an end, I found a used copy of Eat, Pray, Love, and without much thought to what I might look like in public holding this cover up in front of my face, I dispatched it, with glee.

Eat, Pray, Love was the first book I read in 2012, and it very much has directed the course and focus of my year.  A friend of mine read the book a little before me, around the time my curiosity over this writer was building, and when I asked what she thought, she told me she loved the food and travel dialogue, but was a little bored with all the spirituality stuff.  Five years ago, even a year ago, my answer would've been much the same.  It's not for everyone, all the spirituality stuff, but for whatever reason, my agnosticism has taken a strange turn, and while I still don't believe in Deity, I do believe in the power of prayer, in self-reliance, in manifestation of our wildest dreams, in living carefully and with purpose, in seeking: all things endorsed by Elizabeth Gilbert.

And there's the rub.  People don't like earnestness.  We are an acerbic kind living in a sardonic age.  Sneering is the stylish thing.  Not too long ago a fellow blogger (by which I mean, blog-writer, one who forms actual complete sentences [and good ones, I might add]), mentioned Elizabeth Gilbert (or perhaps The Book) as a punchline to a joke on Twitter, and I could not help but quip back the truth, which is: Elizabeth Gilbert is the writer I want to be.  She is.  Sharp and warm, personal (honest) yet urbane and seasoned, traveling the world, making money (I hope it's not too uncouth to mention).  I believe that people who judge Elizabeth Gilbert too harshly (like the aforementioned blogger) have never read anything by her, not the Big One, not anything.  As a writer, a constructor of sentences, it is difficult to find fault with her.  

No, what I think people find fault with, women in particular (because men appear to be mostly indifferent on the matter), is the quest aspect of Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir.  Liz Gilbert ended her marriage, pressed the pause button on her life, engaged in an utterly indulgent (that was partly the point) pilgrimage,  and then wrote (what became) a best-seller about it.  How dare she.  As if that weren't bad enough, she lays bare all her foibles, depressions, struggles, misguidedness, her desire to escape into relationships, her various methods of self-denial, all that messy stuff, and she doesn't apologize for it.  She reckons it for herself, but she doesn't hide any of her weaknesses--in fact, she claims the right to happiness in spite of all that.  What an entitled slut.

I love it.  I love her.  I ate it up.  As I wrote Kath during my reading of Eat, Pray, Love: I was feeling it.  I'm still feeling it.  I am still grooving on the Eat, Pray, Love manifesto.  She says something early in her book which hit me like a ton of fucking bricks.  She says it is our responsibility to make ourselves happy, because by being happy we make the world a better place.  It's true, of course.  One must open herself up to love before she can love anybody else, or anything else, and caring, changing things, begins with love.  It's a squishy, feely logic, but a logic nonetheless, and one that I abide by, completely.  Working on me in 2012, seeking, questing, has made me a better person, undoubtedly.  I have Eat, Pray, Love to thank for that, cliche or no.

“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings.” - Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Prompt, Day 9 - What was the best book you read in 2012, and why?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Reverb12 | Day 4, All I Want for Christmas

By all appearances, Christmas and I should be at great odds.  I should be (and, in the past, have been) a grouser.  I have spent many a Decembers past in surly funks, my heart a dead tomato splotched with moldy, purple spots.  On and off for a number of years, I've worked retail. Nothing taints the holiday season like being witness to rampant consumerism and the stress it cultivates.  Do you know why we should avoid stress?  It has less to do with our general well-being than the fact that people who are stressed out are assholes.  Nobody likes an asshole, especially not during the holidays, and all these poor clerks in gift shops and clothing stores across the world are the front line defense, attacked by assholes on all sides.  And, with stressed out assholes and corporate greed come extended holiday hours, which might help you find that perfect gift for that special someone, but for the clerk means only an extra hour spent on his or her feet when maybe he or she would rather be trimming a tree or sipping hot chocolate with his or her own special someone.  

I am not proud of this fact, but I have my moments throughout the day, already, and it will only get worse as the month goes on.  I sometimes walk to the back of the store for a useless ceramic thing's box rolling my eyes.  There have even been a few moments of open-mouthed gaping, nauseated with a nauseous super naus, at the obscenity of all this buying, people pulling huge lists out of their purses and crossing off names like this spending is somehow an obligation.  And before you comment to tell me that all that "obscene buying" is what's paying my bills, yes, I'm aware, which only makes me part of the problem, which only makes the Call of the Curmudgeon even stronger.

And who do I complain about all this to (besides you poor few who may now be reading this): my husband, The Wolfman, Pagan Superstar and Lovechild of Scrooge and The Grinch.  In December, I share my life and bed and thoughts and laughs with a man who would gladly dig himself a hole to hide in until well after the sulphur of New Year's Eve fireworks have dissipated from the atmosphere.  Wolfman does not do celebration.  He does not do cheer.  He is opposed, as I've informed several of our acquaintances, to any kind of fun at all.  He is a serious, intense man.  (The exception to all this is Halloween, suggesting he may actually be some kind of demon sent to this earth to bring down a reign of darkness, but I, too, love Halloween, so I don't question his glee, but gladly take part in it.)  How he came to fall in love with me is a mystery, considering I get excited enough to shout and clap over desserts and good parking spaces.  But, by whatever accident or magick, I am partnered to a man who indulges, even encourages, my yuletide petulance, the garlic in my soul, and that is mighty addictive.

Let us not forget also, the Jesus is the Reason for the Season movement (quite the strong one here in the Bible Belt), which is mighty irritating to pagans and general practitioners of the old traditions.  Jesus is fabulous, and I begrudge no one for following his teachings.  But, the reason for the season precedes Christ by several thousand years.  Keep the Yule in Yuletide.

Also, I really hate wimpy, sleepy indie music, the Christmas/"winter holiday" songs most of all.

Against these great odds, the way I will celebrate myself this holiday season is by being as willfully cheery as fucking possible.  Despite all of the above, this season is a beautiful one, steeped in ancient tradition.  Whatever you choose to call your holiday this December, ultimately it is about gathering together with family and friends as the days grow cold and the nights grow long (unless you are in the Southern Hemisphere, in which case, I don't understand your holiday system at all, the one kink in my dreams of living as a Kiwi).  We all, pagan, Jew, Christian, or Agnostic/Atheist, light candles and string lights this time of year, to keep away the darkness--isn't that a beautiful thought?  Some of us bring trees into our home, to remind ourselves that even in the depths of winter, there is life.  We drink hot cider and eat gingerbread, we go to parades and hang garland and wreaths on every surface.  

I will watch little Kevin get lost in New York, and Billy Peltzer feed Gizmo after midnight, Ralph shoot his eye out, "Christmas with the Joker", and the Nutcracker fighting the Mouse King.  I will wear red and green, a color combination I avoid every other time of the year.  I will get out my box of inherited and collected ornaments, and reminisce as I hang them on the tree.  When "Blue Christmas" comes on in the drug store, I will sing along, and when the Vince Guaraldi Trio plays "Christmas Time is Here", I will cry (I always do).  I will drink peppermint tea, put Christmas stickers on fucking everything, and make a little bonfire on solstice night, to roast chestnuts and marshmallows and say so many prayers of thanks.  

I will celebrate myself this yuletide by not being the three-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce it is so easy to be.

Prompt, Day 4 - How are you going to celebrate your self this holiday season?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Reverb12 | Day 3, A Very Strange, Enchanted Girl

by Djuno Tomsni
There are things I want for my life--self-reliance, rebellion, unrelenting joy.  In 2012, I learned to make my own shampoo and toothpaste, and in 2013, I want to extend that knowledge to detergent, soap, and various herbal elixers.  In 2012, I waved no flag, I followed no leader, but in 2013, I want my know-how, my health, my strength and self-sufficiency to speak my dissent loud and clear; I want my great fuck you to be a garden.  In 2012, I already throw my head back and laugh periodically throughout the day, but in 2013, I want that number of laughs to be so high there's a permanent crick in my neck.

But, let us say, theoretically, that 2013 is to be my final year.  What, then?  All of the above, but moreso, and with even greater fervor, I will be in the woods.  I will be a nature girl.  Were I diagnosed with only one year left to live, by doctor or soothsayer, after I had a good cry (after all, being alive is just about the greatest thing I can think of), I would pack up a bag, a tent, a knife, a canister of coffee, some bacon wrapped in wax paper, and I would be off to the woods--the deeper in, the better--the darker, more crowded the trees, the better--the louder the birds, the closer the wild things, the better.

Communing with nature in the wild wood (or on the wild beach, or on the edge of the wild desert): more of that.  This is my prescription for 2013; the doctor is in.

Prompt, Day 3: Imagine a scenario where you only had one year left to live. What is one thing that you really wish to do that you just haven't had the chance to accomplish yet?  What steps could you take (however small) to ensure that you accomplish this thing in 2013?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Reverb12 | Day 2, The Discovery of Junk

About $150 for junk removal, is what Wolfman tells me we paid.  We marked the autumn equinox while pushing a mattress on top of the big white van.  Not moving on up, but moving.  That day, the air carrying something of the scent of a late September reprieve from summer's brutal heat, we ate a standing brunch of shiraz and a Butterfinger pumpkin in the room which had just days before been our office, stuff piled in the corners.  Then, together we lifted the pre-fab desk my brother and grandpa put together for me a few years before, which promptly fell apart in our hands.

It's not exactly my favorite subject, but I don't mind admitting that finances have not always been the easiest aspect of our life as man and wife (or as single man and single woman before that).  When Wolfman and I decided to marry, he looked me in the eye and told me firmly, earnestly, "I'll never be a rich man," to which I answered, "I'll never be a rich woman, so we're even."  I have an old friend who once told me she wouldn't date a man if he didn't drive a certain kind of car, and I looked at her like she'd just announced she wouldn't date a man unless he knew the truth about Area 51 and had a pet unicorn.  My family history being one of varying degrees of impoverishment, I suppose money, the attainment of (one way or another), could very well have become a major driving force in my life had the thought occurred to me.  It did not.  But, regardless of all that, coming home to a dark house and the discovery that our electricity had been shut off was an unkind realization--after juggling our bills for so many months, we'd dropped one.  

After two nights spent in candlelight (the upside to that being that my skin is velvety perfection in candlelight), we bid a hasty farewell to our crooked little newlywed bungalow.  We bagged what we needed to keep with us (clothes, toiletries, a few select books and the record player), we boxed what to store in a rented unit (kitchenware, art, so many more books), and gave away as much as I could bare to part with.  And then, there was the junk removal--for the things we were holding onto which weren't even fit for Goodwill (how does that happen? and why?) 

We've been living spartan for a couple months now, and every other day I toss an item of clothing into a box in the corner for Goodwill--any time I try an outfit on in the morning and it doesn't work (because it's ill-fitting or because I'm just not feeling it), I toss it in the box.  And the stuff--my books, my little trinkets, my things--packed in boxes in the storage unit?  I don't miss them.  I don't need them.

Today I did another closet weeding--the honorary one celebrating my freedom from secretarial work and button-down blouses.  And, when we can gather the strength, we'll begin the big storage unit clean-up.  The process of moving, of junk hauling, has made me aware of just how much junk I do hold onto, and just how much junk I buy.  My most important purchase of 2012, it turned out, was not an acquisition, but the freedom from such.  A seed has been planted, and now I am letting go.  One day, yes, I will have the witchy little cottage, stuffed to the brim with books and artifacts, crystals and fishbowls.  But, now, though I will not be living out of a back pack, I think I can manage living out of a couple of trunks. 

Prompt, Day 2 - What was your most significant expenditure in 2012?  It doesn't have to be necessarily the biggest expenditure, just the one with the most impact.  What difference has it made to your life?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Reverb12 | Day 1, I Live in a Cafe

In the refrigerator of our cafe is a carton of almond milk with, quite literally, my name on it.  Wolfman doesn't like working with almond milk--it foams inconsistently, he says, and his opinion is expert.  I don't doubt him.  But, I am wary of dairy and moreso of soy.  And, truthfully, I like the nuttiness almond milk adds to coffee--a fold of extra flavor.  

This cafe is my home away from home now.  Just a couple weeks ago I suddenly, without thinking much about it, changed jobs, and now I have my mornings free.  That hour and a half I once spent on the 311, reading or, with more frequency, staring out the window and listening to Born to Die, I now spend sitting in the coffee shop, writing--in my journal typically, but lately in this little space as well (or, early last month, there was that attempt at a fucking novel, which was sort of a joke, but a noble one).  

My grandmother is pleased.  She always thought I read too much.  She believes in books, let me tell you; her overstuffed book shelves are a testament to that, and those summers we spent reading aloud to each other at the kitchen table while she made dinner--from Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and biographies of Wyatt Earp and Ben Franklin. But, she's of the opinion that reading the dust jackets, the introductions and prologues, and maybe the first couple chapters are enough--to get the gist.  As far as I know, the books she's completed cover-to-cover are considerable (Marilynne Robinson's HousekeepingDraculaCrime & Punishment, among others) though minuscule in comparison to the books she buys and borrows and samples daily.  Sometimes she gives me books she's started, knowing that eventually I will finish them, as if she is reading vicariously through me.  And though I joke about this, perhaps her attitude is the right one--how much time do I waste completing books I feel only lukewarm about (or, worse, books I actually abhor, like the Twilight series which I still have every intention to master, or that Anne Rice disaster, Belinda).  I'm a slow, methodical reader, it should be said.  How much of my life am I spending reading words on pages I could easily take or leave?

But, I digress (as usual).  The point I intended to make is that my grandmother has always been my greatest fan, in all things.  According to my grandmother, I am the prettiest (well, tied with my sister) and the most breath-taking dancer ever to grace a stage.  I am the wittiest, the brightest crayon in the box, the sharpest tool in the shed.  I am the tallest, the strongest, the most charming and charismatic.  But, above all, I am the greatest writer.  And I am, perhaps, wasting my talents.  This is all hyperbole, of course.  My grandmother is not insane, but she does believe in me, more than I believe in myself, and she knows that in order to succeed, what I need is discipline.  And, though I am the best at a lot of things in her mind, discipline is not among them.

So I write now, and I make her happy.  And, more importantly, I make myself happy.  I drink my coffee (which, these days, is half-caf), and share a scone with the man I married whose clothes always smell like coffee.  This morning, I taste test a new hot chocolate out of an espresso shot cup painted with a yin yang.   

I'm loosening up.  That's part of what abruptly quitting my job a couple weeks ago was all about--changing my routines, realizing I am not a little old lady yet.  So, perhaps the mornings in the cafe will not last, but I'm hoping the writing will.  Sixty days to make or break a habit.  Sixty mornings sitting at this bar, typing here (getting accustomed to this weird, tiny keyboard, which I know you can not see, but which, trust me, is a pain in the ass), scribbling in my journal about the days, and spirit letters, and all my esoteric bull hockey which means so much to me.  

But words and words and words.  My life built in words and fueled by coffee.  I live in this cafe.  For now.
Prompt, Day 1How are you starting this last month of 2012?  Take a moment, close your eyes, take a deep breath and ask yourself the question: how do you feel... in your body? in your mind? in your day job? in your creative life? in your heart?
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