Wednesday, April 27, 2011


I began writing for this erotic fiction contest a week before it was due. Part of me wished I had given myself more time to mull over it but another part was content with the short chunk of time I had to get this turned in. Three times I ran into the advertisement for this erotic fiction contest benefiting the Chicago Women’s Health Center and felt that I would regret it if I didn’t give this thing a shot.
I emailed Poppy, the woman running it and asked 1.5 million questions. All work had to be submitted by April 16 and the contest was April 21. The criteria was this had to be no more than two pages long, and she’d be screening for degradation and violence but otherwise anything would go. Someone else would be reading my work if that was ok, and there was a small entry fee that would be donated to CWHC. There would also be a raffle and dancing later in the evening.
Pen in hand, paper ready, I began one afternoon at Barnes and Noble while in between clients. Well, I tried to begin but how does one begin something like this? How do I quickly develop a story to suck the reader in, but hurry to the juicy parts then wrap it up all in a pretty package within the confines of two pages?
I stare out the window, my cinnamon tea wafting into my nostrils. As usual my brain starts to meander…
“You should publish this stuff!” Rob exclaimed one afternoon after reading a sexy note I wrote him.
“Nope.” I replied. “That isn’t meant to be shared with anyone.”
“Seriously. You set the right mood, your grammar is good…you need to do something with this.” he continued.
I shake my head smiling.
My phone rings pulling me back to reality. It’s the salon.
“Hey Melissa, are you close by?” Georgette’s voice asks.
“Yup.” I stare at my still blank page.
“Ok, I have a walk in for you.”
“I’ll be right over.”
We get off the phone and I head back, secretly relieved but also secretly annoyed because I want more time to dream something up.
I do a haircut and walk back over to Barnes and Noble. I gingerly make my way upstairs and to the Sex/Relationships section and pick up a copy of Penthouse Uncensored giggling to myself that I’m needing this to get my head in the place it needs to be to start writing.
I flip through the pages, scanning the stories and walk back downstairs to write something. I have two hours before my next client. It’s spring break for Chicago Public Schools and things are quiet at work allowing me this precious time to do other work. Again I’m faced with a pen and a blank page. “Just write!” I tell myself. Write and find out where it goes. I do. I write and write and then abruptly stop. I’m stuck. I don’t like it. I take a walk abandoning it for the day.
The next day is much of the same. I’m staring at the page willing something else to happen. I begin again and again, I’m not happy with it, getting stuck once more.
“Tell your story.” my cousin said to me when I explained my difficulty in coming up with what to say at Rob’s funeral. Hmm. What is my story? What do I want to tell? How do I want to convey it? I sigh and begin again.
This time I don’t stop. My handwriting is sloppy and scrawling but words, thoughts, and actions, are pouring out of me until I realize what’s happening and then I stop. I’m suddenly freaked out that it’s happening. I’m writing something I actually like. What I asked for is showing up on the page. I’m actually accepting that I can write a rough draft. I can do something utterly messy and it’s ok. I always want to edit as I go, never allowing anything to simply happen before analyzing it.
I sit back and breathe, giggle and decide to take a break. I head back to work. I need two things on top of finishing the actual piece. I need someone to edit it and I need to adjust my schedule so I can be there on time. I want to ask my receptionist co-worker LaRae to do both. I do not however, want to actually ask. I want to forget the whole thing.
“LaRae, may I ask a favor of you?” I find myself asking her before chickening out.
“Of course.”
“How are you at grammatical editing?”
“I’m good.” she nods.
I go on to explain what I’m doing and she agrees to help and is all sorts of excited. When I ask for the schedule adjustment, she makes it and it’s set! Sooo…I have to finish this. Yup. Sure do. I tell her I’ll have the piece ready by the weekend. I say this more for myself to continue to hold myself accountable more than anything.
The next day I finish it. I type it up and send it to her, relieved that it’s out of my hands for now.
She returns a couple of days later with the revisions. We come up with some compromises on certain words, and sentences, before she agrees to make the corrections again, and then I’ll be set.
On the due date, Saturday April 16, the final copy lands in my Inbox from LaRae and I forward it to Poppy. Whew! Done and done! I happily get on with the rest of my work day after sending a squealing text to Jeff that my work had been submitted. This is actually happening…!
I woke up on the 21st feeling excited, anxious and nervous about the day and evening ahead. I got ready for work, kissed Jeff goodbye and was out the door feeling my body move faster than was necessary. It’s like I’m trying to get away from myself, from the crazy that fires off in my head and I can’t move fast enough to escape it. It’s all happening in my mind. There is nothing different about today than yesterday and yet I can’t seem to calm down.
At work I try to remain as present as possible and enjoy everyone’s company while battling the self doubt that began to creep in half way through my work day. Two weeks ago I was envisioning that I was going to win this thing. I was thinking happy, sparkly thoughts about my ability to write and suddenly all the sparkle was gone. This hateful part of myself says nasty things telling me that there are plenty of writers out there that are way more talented, smarter, and more experienced than I will ever hope to be. It tells me I have no business entering a contest, or sharing anything because my work isn’t worth sharing. Besides what will people think of me when they see that I wrote about *gasp* …sex.
I do my best to ignore this crap. I’ve lived with hateful, negative self talk all my life and can see it is a twisted form of protection. It used to be available to soften the blow of loss and or criticism should that happen. I’ll hurt myself before anyone has the chance to do it for me. I no longer wish to give in to it. I feel I’ll attract loss and negative energy if I keep it up. I’ll give up if I let it persist and really feel like a failure so I’d rather not go there. It’s easier said than done though.
Work ends and off I go. I take the train back into the city hoping I remember which direction I should take the bus being I didn’t write down any directions, just decided to rely on my memory. (yet another form of self sabotage…evading responsibility by not finding out where the hell I‘m going.) Lost or not I’ve been wanting to try the Whistler for a while now and am excited for the opportunity to do so. It’s a tiny, dark, intimate bar with expertly made cocktails in Logan Square. Jeff sends a text saying that he and his cousin Nick will be on their way soon. Yay! I’m ecstatic to see them both.
I alternate between staring out the window on the train watching the trees, cars and streets pass by and closing my eyes taking a tiny nap to relax. I decide no matter what happens I am thrilled that I tried this. Negative self talk or not, I did something. Even if I fall on my face, I tried, knowing I gave this my best effort and I feel truly proud of what I wrote.
“This is Fullerton.” the train voice announces jolting me awake. I stand and exit the train, walking down the stairs to get on the bus. I find the correct one and wait. Jeff and Nick are downtown and I wonder if I’ll get there first.
My heart begins to pound when I begin to recognize where I am after being on the Fullerton bus for about fifteen minutes. As I get off the bus, a few stops later and begin walking, a familiar feeling washes over me. It’s a healthy dose of fear combined with excitement that I used to feel every time I was about to dive into the pool from the block at a swim meet in high school, and every time I lined up with other runners during a track meet before tearing down the lane fearing my heart just might explode. This is the kind of fear that I feel when I’m in so deep there is no turning back. I had to dive into the pool, had to run like I was running for my life or otherwise risk embarrassment and disappointment. I have to walk through this door. Better to try and fail than to not try at all right?
I pull open the door of the bar and step inside, a fresh wave of doubt rushing in and flooding my body. “They’re going to make fun of you.” it begins. “Why did you even try? Look at these people, how creative and stylish they are. Who do you think you are? You look ridiculous. You don’t fit. You don’t belong here.”
“Where are you right now?” I ask this self doubt and am struck by a memory of being in A.P. English my senior year of high school. We had to anonymously analyze some short story or essay, exchange papers and read them a loud. Analyzing was the hardest thing in the world for me. I didn’t understand it and wanted to so badly. I wrote as well as I could and felt ok about it until this guy read it aloud and proceeded to rip it to shreds. That was my last experience with having my work read aloud.
“What’s real?” I ask this part. Silence. Here and now is real. I tell it. Here and now I am twenty nine, not eighteen. I wrote a story, I didn’t analyze one. No one is shunning me. People are smiling at me. I’m not the only one who has submitted something. I am not as alone as I feel.
I meander around the crowded bar, wanting a place to be, wanting the attention of the bartender, wanting to be annihilated so I can shut out the crazy in my head. I remind myself though that I won’t enjoy anything if I take in too much alcohol. There is no running from my head. I can choose to listen or not but alcohol only drowns it temporarily. Besides, I want to be fully present while my story is begin read.
I chat with a pretty girl with long pearls wrapped around her neck before getting a drink menu and ordering. Jeff and Nick walk in, and I feel a wave of relief wash over me.
The three of us, drinks in hand talk a little about our day, and about the contest. I’m glancing around looking for Poppy even though I’ve never seen this woman before. I need to give her my entry fee. I’m also toying with the idea of reading something should she need more volunteers.
“I think that’s her.” I say to Jeff, nodding in this dark haired woman’s direction. She’s holding a clipboard and looking awfully busy.
“Just ask.” he says.
“I know! I’m feeling so shy though.” I sigh. “Will you hold this please?” I hand him my drink before walking over to the woman asking if she is indeed, Poppy.
“Yes!” she beams.
I introduce myself, hand over my fee and she asks if I want to read something.
“Sure.” The words escape me.
“Ok, so, I have this piece that is kind of a fantasy…is that ok?”
It’s just words right? I can read…right?
“Great! Thank you so much!” she hands me the piece and I join Jeff and Nick again.
Minutes later another woman with short curly dark hair is on the dimly lit stage announcing that the evening is beginning and she will read the first story. I’m relieved to be able to observe, to not be first. Poppy reads another story before they draw raffle tickets.
The announcer gets back on stage announcing that the next story is titled “The Picnic” and she invites the woman reading it to come up to the stage. My heart jumps and pounds wildly.
“That’s my story!” I whisper excitedly to Jeff and Nick, moving to stand closer to Jeff wanting to feel protected…just incase.
The room is quiet all the sudden as the words I carefully put together tumble out of this woman’s maroon colored lips. I soak in her voice, the image of her, the whole experience of what is unfolding before me. I feel my cheeks blush as she gets to the juicy bits and notice that every ounce of my being is brimming with gratitude for this woman.
When she finishes applause erupts and the announcer walks back on to the stage saying “Whew! I didn’t want that one to end!” I felt at that moment, no matter what else happened, I had succeeded.
Jeff and Nick were full of kind words and I felt my shyness melt away. That is, until I had to read…
When it was my turn to stand up in front of everyone and read the piece I didn’t actually review before this moment, the crazy in my head started talking again reminding me that I’m ill prepared, I won’t speak loudly enough or confidently enough because I am intimidated by this device, this microphone that will amplify my voice. I look out at the crowd and see a sea of human beings but Jeff and Nick’s faces are the only two that are actually clear to me. I take a deep breath and remind myself that I don’t have to speed through this as I begin. Three sentences in, I began to stumble. There were words I had never before uttered in my life residing on this page. I had trouble getting through the dialogue being it wasn’t separated from the paragraphs. I could hear my heart pounding in my chest. I was one page in when I wanted to stop and turn around. Again, I remembered swim meets and how I had to get through it no matter what. Sometimes I kicked some ass, other times I got my ass kicked. Either way, I finished.
“Oh. My. God.” I whispered to Jeff once I was wrapped up in his arms.
“That was a hard one.” he whispers back.
We all have another drink as the reading continues. Everyone is thoroughly grossed out and simultaneously entertained by a story oddly enough titled “Picnic” including Velveeta cheese, a deer and bacon grease. Watching the guy squirm while reading it was just as entertaining as the words.
The last story was also entertaining. It was an office setting and included words like “love stick” and “honey pot”. The woman reading it had a boisterous, animated voice and seemed like a lot of fun.
Minutes later, the tallies were up and the winners were announced. The “other” Picnic took first place. Oh my. Beat by processed cheese and a deer. Jeff, Nick and I stare at each other for a moment before my ears take in Nick’s kind words and my body accepts Jeff’s warm hug.
I still feel giddy in the best way. Winning or not I am so grateful for the experience, for trying, and seeing that my efforts were still met with love, kindness, and acceptance.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Four and Twenty...

It’s Wednesday April 20th and I’m sharply reminded as I wake up that Rob has been gone three years today and I want nothing to do with it. Despite all of that I wake up feeling good. I want to allow myself to feel good if that’s the case and to feel sad if that’s also the case.
I wander around my room, putting together things I want for this morning in an oversized purse. I’m debating on whether or not I’m going to bring along my computer and after a few minutes I decide not to. I do put my new journal into the bag. I’m excited to start it despite it being rather small and unlined, two qualities I typically avoid in purchasing a new journal, but it’s got so many pages that I figure it’ll keep me occupied for a while.
In the kitchen I make oatmeal and stare out of the window while mindlessly consuming it. I snap out of it when I feel the spoon tap the bottom of the bowl signaling it‘s emptiness. I stand up, leaving the table and leave the bowl in the sink, going back to my room to get my purse and coat. I stop for a moment and stare at my small bookshelf. I see my thick black journal in the middle of a stack of book from winter/spring of 2008. I take a moment to pick it up and flip to April 20th, 2008. Sitting on the edge of my bed I read the words that inhabit the page trying to remember when I stopped writing that afternoon and when I had begun again the next day recording my dad’s phone call. I remembering feeling too overwhelmed to write coherent sentences. There are a lot of fragmented unfinished sentences written in a sketch book that I am forever grateful for. I also blogged a lot following this particular day but not much journaling happened. The idea of journaling then felt like being swallowed up into a tidal wave. To keep it at bay I only let a little bit out at a time.
Reading my words I forgot that I felt I should’ve looked at him harder and longer before saying goodbye but that a feeling of letting go followed that as I was somehow reminded that he already knew how I felt. I’ve let a lot of tiny details pass by over these few years. This is what I was afraid of. Forgetting little nuances of him, of our time together, but there isn’t enough room anymore in my head. New memories are always forming, pushing back the old ones. Nothing is ever truly forgotten, just pushed aside a little making room for new stuff.
I close the journal before reading about my dad calling. That, I will never ever forget. It still resonates in my head as if I’m hearing it for the first time. I put the journal away and head out.
The air is unseasonably chilly, the sky gray and I’m irritated wanting some sunshine. I walk over to the Knockbox for an Americano and sparkling water. After my usual journaling I decide to write an anonymous letter to Rob and send it to the Atlanta coffee shop I was at when dad called. I wanted to tell him all the stuff I didn’t get to in between him leaving my place and climbing into the Jeep.
I wrote and wrote and wrote for two hours. I told him about him leaving my place and how I cried so hard I couldn’t see straight telling myself I knew I could do this on my own again, I could be single again. I didn’t know why I was feeling this way. I told him about my first client Tracy and how I shared that I was irritated with him that he didn’t tell me when he was going to be back in Atlanta. Her response was “He’s just being a guy.” I wanted to feel better after talking to her but I didn’t. Something was bugging me and there wasn’t a single word I could say or action I could take to make it better.
When I was done working, I asked our massage therapist to work in my neck being I had been in a car accident two days before. She agreed and while she worked, we talked. Somehow she told me she thought about being a mortician. She shared that she’s experienced a lot of loss in her twenty four years here and suddenly, I got really uncomfortable. I wanted off that table, as if death were contagious.
I left the salon half an hour later and walked home. I was getting hot and sweaty, annoyed that this walk was taking so long. Once home, I still had not heard from him so I showered and walked up to San Francisco coffee, sitting in the window, writing, hoping to calm down and do something that brought me a lot of happiness besides wondering about him and where he was.
At 4:15pm I texted him asking when could I expect him. He didn’t respond and forty five minutes later, he was dead.
I’m not sure how many pages I had written before folding them and placed them inside a little card I took from a box of them he had given me on Easter Sunday. I didn’t go back to re-read it, just wrote the address on the envelope and sent it off, pleased with my effort.
Back in my apartment, I responded to email before checking the time and needing to catch the bus to see my therapist Beth. I wasn’t sure if this was a good idea or not, seeing her. My anger and squirrelliness is settling in all the sudden and I’m not sure I feel like talking about my feelings.
I stuff a cookie into my mouth on my walk over to her office having stopped at Whole Foods first. “What am I doing?” I ask myself. Physical pain seems better than what’s swirling around in my head.
Sitting on the couch across from her I’m all smiles before bitching and moaning about all the crazy that has happened in the previous days including but not limited to being pushed around by strangers on busses, idiot people in my chair, etc etc…
Forcing me to break away from all of this she asks how I’m feeling today.
“I don’t know.” I try not to snap. Do we have to talk about feelings? “I woke up and I was fine, happy even but now I’m angry like I normally am when these anniversaries come up. I know it’s to cover something else up but I can’t seem to get underneath it.
Beth wants me to check in with my body. I spend countless hours leaving my body. Through food, excessive reading, bouts of anger, and running at 100mph from one thing to the next without stopping I do love to stay hovering just above myself to avoid feeling anything.
“Just take a moment,” she begins. “and take a deep breath and see if you can identify what’s there, what are you feeling and where?”
I do as I’m told because this is what I pay her for. I feel…um…my lungs expanding and contracting, my stomach is tight as always, and I see nothing in my mind’s eye except a vast, empty, black space.
I look up at her and relay those details.
“Can you go into the black space? Tell me what’s there?”
I try not to sigh too loudly and get quiet again. “I’m just sad and I don’t want to be.”
“Do you feel the sadness will overwhelm you?”
Tears begin welling and I nod.
“Can you ask it not to?”
I’m quiet. “I’m not sure.”
“OK, so maybe we don’t have to go there. Maybe it doesn’t want to come out now. That’s ok.”
I nod.
“Is it safe to say that you don’t know how to be sad?” she asks.
“Yes. I’ve been praised all my life for being the happy one. I don’t know what to do when I feel sad. It’s most uncomfortable. I can eat until I can’t breathe because the physical pain is way better than the emotional stuff. The physical stuff I can deal with but emotional pain? Not so much.”
“How old is this part of you that refuses to feel sad.”
“Eight? Nine? Ten? I think?”
“I feel like she’s in this dark space by herself. Can you bring her out, out her somewhere else? Maybe give her something to play with?’
I imagine this for a moment. I imagine placing this little person in a brightly colored Alice in Wonderland kind of forest and giving her charms to play with, bright colored markers, paper, scissors etc… I do wonder if I could move aside and stop trying to micro manage my emotions and let them come out… through words, through drawing, collages, through my jewelry making, through actually experiencing my life and not hovering above it?
“Maybe. I may eat along the way to getting her but I can try.” I laugh.
“That’s ok, just take it slowly. You don’t have to do this right away.”
I want to though. I want to know what I keep from myself.
Beth draws a upside down triangle. At the bottom point she writes “sadness”. At the left hand point she writes “Planning/Agenda” and at the right point she writes “Addiction/Overeating”. “Ok, so you have these two parts that keep you from feeling sadness. The planning part keeps you busy and fights with the part that overeats. Instead of it actually reaching the part that over eats it gets redirected to the sadness making it all heavier. The planner wants to be rid of the sadness. She wants this little girl to get over it, snap out of it. This little eight year old just wants to be acknowledged.”
I nod. I want all of this I just don’t know how to get there just yet. Beth feels the planning part of me thought that I would feel happy or better after writing that letter. When that didn’t happen I got mad, and here we are. Yup.
I leave her office not feeling better, or worse or anything. I go to the gym. I hate it and leave, walking to the bank to deposit a check. Jeff is texting me. He’s done with work and wants to meet up. I had not thought beyond Beth but knew I wanted to see him. I meet him at Intelligentsia and wait for him to finish up before leaving.
Neither of us have much of an idea as to what to do. I want him to decide everything for me. It’s me saying though that I wanted to try this tiny little pie place over by my apartment. (Hoosier Mama on Chicago Ave) He agrees and off we go. I don’t even like pie but the place smells so damn good that I need to know about this.
It’s as delicious as it smells. I eat a chocolate slice and Jeff has a ginger custard one. Amazing. I want to hear about his day more than I want to tell him about mine. I relay a few details before we head back to my place where he suggests we eat dinner, split a beer and watch a movie. Perfect.
We have a picnic in my bed while watching Miranda July’s “Me You and Everyone We Know”. I couldn’t feel more content sitting next to him, seeing his reflection in the computer screen and thinking about how lucky I am. Half way through the movie something seemed to shift every so slightly in my mind. I don’t know how to describe it except that it was a gentle reminder that I’m here. Now. I’m here with Jeff and I feel so much love for him that I could melt into him right now and let the world fall away.

Recovering a Sense of Faith...

This is the title of the last chapter in the Artist’s Way book and tonight is the last class. I honestly can’t believe twelve weeks have gone by already. I’m now wondering what am I going to take with me? What practices am I going to keep in mind as I move out of this creative incubator that I’ve inhabited every Monday?
Artist dates will happen for sure as well as writing of course although I wasn’t diligent with writing this week. I skipped two days and have no idea why. I’m not sure if there is something that I don’t want to know or see, or if I just need to take a break for a moment.
Weeks ago Patrick said that for our last class everyone will bring in something to eat and an artist gift that we made to give to someone in the class. We would be drawing names and going from there. He said it’s always interesting how the gifts people make end up being perfect for the receiver’s name they draw. He also said not to worry about this project, to just let an idea come.
I went with that and ran off with the idea that something would eventually pop into my head. I didn’t need to worry or obsess over it so I didn’t. One sunny afternoon while running, the idea of making a set of postcards with my collages popped into my head. I’m obsessed with Frank Warren’s “Post Secret” books. ( As an art project, he had people decorate postcards, write a secret on them and send them anonymously to him. This was several years ago and became a huge success when he compiled them into books. Off I went in putting together twelve postcards plus three blank ones so the person that would receive them could make some on their own.

On Monday morning I took the bus to Trader Joe’s to get salad goodies to bring to our pot luck. The sun was out, I had no real agenda except to finish the postcards and make the salad. It felt amazing to wander around outside after buying groceries, look at all the budding trees and blooming flowers. I stopped for a moment to take some pictures. This seems to be the longest winter ever and I’m simply giddy at the sight of colorful life pushing up through the ground.
Once home, I make the salad. I got this idea from a friend a few years back. It’s just lettuce, spicy pecans, apple, smoked gouda cheese and balsamic vinaigrette. It’s always been a hit whenever I’ve made it. I never come home with leftovers.

I get to work on the postcards after that, finishing all the last minutes details while listening to Tori Amos, sunlight coming through the open windows, kitties sleeping nearby. Perfect afternoon…

An hour later I’m on a packed train barely able to breathe. This part, I will not miss. Trying to get to class during rush hour is simply hideous. I’m desperate for fresh air and space to move my limbs once I’m off and walking.
People trickle in, setting up their food and sitting down in the circle like always. A prayer is said and we’re off to the table. I end up chatting with a really sweet girl I’ve wanted to get to know better. We are so much alike it’s scary in the best way. I hate I didn’t spend more time talking with her previously but am thrilled to exchange information and agree to keep in touch.
After eating we go through our usual check in. I listen to everyone share about their week and thoughts on class ending. I’m at a loss for words. I have no idea what to say. This has been happening rather often, this loss for words. Finally I share my gratitude for the class, the fact that I wrote five out of seven days, giggling as the eyebrows shot up in surprise. I’m one of few who actually enjoys the daily writing. I then proceed to cry and share about April being a tough month, about losing Rob and about the contest I’m entering in a few days. It’s an erotic fiction contest at the Whistler, a bar in Logan Square I’ve wanted to go to. The contest is part of a benefit for the Chicago Women’s Health Center and has been on my mind so much that I felt a strong pull to write and enter. It’s on April 21st, the day after the three year anniversary of Rob’s accident which I felt was rather interesting being Rob fully supported my sexier subject matter.
“It’s no coincidence that the contest is on the twenty first.” Patrick smiled.
I giggled, wiping my face.
“Melissa, that was such a sweet, sweet story.” another woman piped up to share after me. “You are such a strong person. I really admire your courage.”
I’m crying again. I love that people think I’m a strong person but I don’t entirely feel that way. I feel it’s a wall I keep up. Behind it is all the sadness and grief that I refuse to touch. Instead I’m scaling this wall, making it higher and higher trying to get away from all the sadness that’s there because honestly, I don’t know how to feel it. It’s territory I’ve never allowed myself to delve into. Not then, not now, not ever.
The sharing continues until we’ve all spoken. Gifts were exchanged by way of drawing names. My name was pulled by a lovely woman I’ve befriended recently and I pulled the name of the woman I had been chatting with this evening which made me ecstatic! Everyone’s gifts were so sweet and beautiful.
For twelve weeks I’ve been able to share some of the most precious pieces of my being with these wonderful people. Pieces that have never seen the light of day have emerged and been expressed to a loving audience. It has meant more to me than I ever thought possible to share and to listen and feel boundless compassion for each person along with more gratitude than I ever thought possible.

Monday, April 11, 2011


“I really hope I’m less moth and more butterfly.” My roommate Dana says to me one evening.
“Me too!” I laugh. We’re seated in the kitchen at the table just having finished dinner. Both of just admitted to feeling that we’re each in the middle of some kind of transition. For me, I feel like I’m shedding life as I knew it like a snake would shed it’s skin, or maybe a better comparison would be the way snails and crabs “outgrow” their shells and have to grow new ones. The interim time, the time where the old shell doesn’t fit but the new one is still in the process of forming is the most difficult. It’s when the snail, crab, and me…feel most vulnerable and are susceptible to all kinds of things.
I’m desperate to run and hide. I don’t know what to do with this or how to simply be with it and feel it. In some ways I am hiding. I haven’t really been engaging with the world around me. Only partly, never giving anything my full attention because this other part of me is quickly trying to find out how to build a new, safer foundation to stand on.
I’ve felt really confused lately, trying to put one foot in front of the other, trying to make the next right move but honestly, I feel I’m wandering around in the dark with no clear idea or direction. Leaning on food to fill the void isn’t as interesting as it once was but I’m still engaging in it, hoping that maybe this next bite, or next meal will deliver the relief I think I need.
Dana and I have been in our new place for a month now. In that time, we’ve acquired a new kitty, Noodle, to be a playmate for the cat she’s had all along, Teaspoon. We finally unpacked and cleaned. We’ve cooked some, baked some, and talked a lot. It has been so wonderfully pleasant to come home to a calm, quiet home and feel like I can exhale.



I’ve also discovered two (new to me) coffee shops. One is Swim Café on Chicago Ave at Noble and the other is the Knockbox on California at Augusta. My routine has been shifting to where I spend more time at home in the mornings that I work and less time at the Unicorn Café in Evanston. I still lovelovelove it there, I’m for whatever reason in no hurry to take two buses to the train that has gotten me up there for the past year. Instead I take one (very crowded) bus to another train. This take a little longer but I like the views of the city I encounter and the different route.
My artist way course is coming close to ending. I must admit I’ve skipped two classes. One because Dana and I talked straight through it and another because well, I simply didn’t feel like going. I wanted to spend the evening with Jeff, but the following week I was back with bells on.
I haven’t abandoned my artist dates though. One week I made another collage. I spent one morning at Swim Café with a notebook and pen recording all that was going on around me. I wrote and described the people walking in and out, staying and eating and the pieces of conversations I heard to later go back to and use should I need some characters in future writing endeavors. I got this idea from a memory of being in London my first time around with a girl I used to work with. She told me she wished she knew how to draw because if she did she would sit in pubs and draw the people around her. I wish I were better at drawing too but am happy I can “draw” with words so I went with that.
I made a pair of earrings the following week. I really miss doing this. I’ve put away my jewelry making stuff for far too long. I later ended up making a necklace as well.
Last week I wrote a piece of fiction to submit to a contest that will take place on April 21st. I got really squirrelly about this one and got an extra push I needed from two women in the group. One woman opened herself up to us asking that if we needed some prayer surrounding our creative goals (mine being to be a NY Times Bestseller) to email or call her and she’d pray for us. Saying those two words “I need” is the more excruciating than saying “I’m sorry”. Still, like it or not, not only do I need support, I want it. The next day I email her asking for her prayer support and the next day she wrote me the prayer she said for me and I was reduced to a teary puddle of gratitude. I started to write.
Oh but that didn’t last long. I started and stopped three times before I hit some kind of stride with the fiction piece. I wrote another woman, continuing dialogue we already started explaining my seeming inability to write anything worth while. She reminded me that I’m in the middle of a “creative U-turn”. We just learned about these the week I decided to write this piece. A creative U-turn happens when the artist is on the brink of some kind of success and immediately sabotages it out of fear. My new friend reminds me to keep pushing through, don’t stop writing and enter the contest.
My inner critic, sweet lil thing that she is, interrupts any kind of inspiration by telling me that there will be better writers competing, asking what I’m trying to accomplish and I will be embarrassed by my apparent idiocy by doing this. She loves to go on about work and how I won’t be able to even make it to the event because I’m working that night. She rolls her eyes telling me I don’t have the guts to ask for help with grammatical editing and that I don’t have many details about this contest in the first place etc…etc…etc…
To shut her up I take painstakingly difficult steps forward to email the woman running the contest, asking her all my many questions. She answers quickly ending her message with “I look forward to your submission.” which amps up my excitement. (now I have to do it right?J) I then ask a co-worker to edit the piece to which she agrees. I also take yet another step and ask to come into work early on the 21st so I can leave a lil early to show up to this event. Again I am told yes and my excitement continues to build. I’m actually going to get out of the box I force myself to stay in because God forbid anything new happen.
All I have to do now is write the piece. Having a deadline, and guidelines for submission feel constricting but is also a welcome challenge. I tell myself over and over again to simply write and edit later. I have a bad habit of trying to edit while writing then nothing gets done until one day I’m hit with a dose of inspiration and off I go.
This doesn’t last long before I’m standing, packing up my things and going for a walk to get some air. I pray and pray for inspiration, receive it, write with it then freak out and run. I later return to the piece once I’ve caught my breath and finally finish it.
This might result in an epic fail. I could very well win the thing, or nothing at all will happen but I am satisfied knowing I tried. I now have to send it away for editing.
The meantime in between artist dates have been sprinkled with drawing, some work on my novel, loooong walks and one giddy day meandering through vintage stores. I’ve also signed up to run a half marathon in June here in Chicago and will later run my first full marathon in late October in Atlanta. (prayers are welcome!) Training has begun despite the chilliness that is still Chicago right now. Running has been a fabulous reprieve from all the crazy that is buzzing in my head.
The sun has gone down for the day. Dana and I clear our dishes from the table, neither of us having any idea of what this transition is going to mean for us but interested in it nonetheless. I do hope she’s right though about the butterfly thing. I want more than anything for the cocoon to unravel revealing something more sparkly than dull. Until then dark or not, I guess I’ll put one foot in front of the other…