Wednesday, August 2, 2017

I Knew Who I Was This Morning...

"I knew who I was this morning, 
but I've changed a few times since then."
~from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

So, it worked.

I wrote that last blog post as a sort of magic spell, like a charm meant to counteract a stronger enchantment. I was feeling this giddy rush of unreasonable emotion - and I am a sane person, I realize all that was ridiculous - but I couldn't get it to stop. So I wrote about it, and suddenly the Instagram Infatuation was over. I mean, I still like the guy's photographs (he's a talented photographer), but I don't feel a flutter any time he likes one of my posts now. Writing about it helped me find the way out of it. I'm like Sleeping Beauty if she pinched herself to wakefulness without waiting for true love's kiss. I broke my own damn enchantment, thank you very much.

And the moment it was over I looked back on it and felt silly. It was like observing the actions of a stranger. I had been that person not two days ago, but I wasn't that person any longer. The I'm-infatuated-with-an-internet-stranger person felt as far removed from me as the little girl who first heard the story of Sleeping Beauty over two decades ago.

A couple years ago my coworkers threw me a birthday party and made it Alice In Wonderland themed. This worked on many levels - I was a children's librarian, I love fantasy books and tea parties and insane whimsy - but my friend Sue told me that wasn't the reason they'd decided to play Mad Hatter and March Hare. "Gracie," she said. (She's one of the few people on this planet who are allowed to call me Gracie.) "I read that quote - I knew who I was this morning - and it was just you."

And I knew what she meant. When you're a hundred different people in a given day, it's hard to keep track of why you said that foolish thing yesterday, or why you yearned so exuberantly after a figment two weeks ago. Part of it is being a writer. (On a given day I may be on a different continent, in a different time period, or navigating the inner workings of another world. I may be a man twice my age or an animal or a robot or a little girl who's never left her home in Alabama. Which is hard, since I've never been to Alabama. But on the page I can go anywhere and be anyone, and sometimes I'm lots of people all at once.) But part of it is also just my personality. I skip and hop and jump around to all different points of the emotional spectrum. I'm not schizophrenic or bipolar. When I talk about this I'm using metaphorical language. But still, when Sue said that to me, I thought, "You're right. You're so right."

I like being a thing that's constantly changing. It's hard to pin me down because of it. I'm like a slippery fish; I'll wriggle out of your grasp if you don't come prepared for a fight.

But the thing about changing is that you get to grow, to stretch, to become, to recoup, to change direction, to start over, to revisit, to try, to fail, to fall down, to get up, to be all the things. Or as many of them as you can.

Adults have this worrying way of trying to thrust adulthood upon young children. We imagine futures for them when who they are as a person is not even fully formed in the present. "What do you want to be when you grow up?" we ask them, and usually receive a bunch of cute, naive replies.

When people asked me this I never knew what to tell them.

I wanted to be a detective.
I wanted to be a pop star.
I wanted to be an explorer.
I wanted to be an archaeologist.
I wanted to be the person who discovered that dragons were actually real.
I wanted to be a fashion designer.
I wanted to be an actress.
I wanted to be a veterinarian who works exclusively with tigers.
I wanted to be a film set designer.
I wanted to be the person who edits together movie trailers.
I wanted to be a film director. (There was definitely a film phase in there.)
I wanted to be a gymnast.
I wanted to be a professional soccer player.
I wanted to be the proud owner of a literary-themed bed and breakfast where each room was based on a different book.
I wanted to own a book store.
I wanted to be a librarian.
I wanted to be a playwright (and wrote a few terrible musicals).
I wanted to be a photographer.
I wanted to be a board game designer.
I wanted to be a food critic.
I wanted to be a travel writer.
I wanted to be the person who invents cool new kinds of fireworks.
I wanted to be the person who gets to name all the lipstick and nail polish colors at a cosmetics company.

It changed so much over the years. I wanted to be everything. I wanted to do everything. But through it all one thing was the same: I wanted to tell stories. I wanted to write, because writing was the only way I'd ever get to do and be all the things I wanted. Writing was the only way I'd ever get to truly be me - all 100 billion of us crammed into this one person.

So it's not surprising to me that writing also is the thing that frees me. That knocks some sense back into me. That pulls me out of whatever silly obsession might rule my head for a while.

If I'm all these different people - well, some of them are foolish. I'll admit to that.

But I'm trying and changing and hoping to become so much more.

Friday, July 14, 2017

M

To the boy who keeps liking my Instagram posts. I hope you never read this. That would be embarrassing.

It's a dangerous thing, typing this, sending it out to the internet at large. I feel safe here on this blog, like it's a sort of secluded, out-of-the-way spot where few people ever venture (and if they do, it's most likely because they're lost on the way someplace else). But the fact remains that the internet is technically "out there," and if it's not set to private or password-protected, anyone might find this if they choose.

(Including you.)

It's an interesting thing, opening an app on your phone (an app that only a year ago you were convinced was an utter waste of time), seeing that someone has "liked" your post, and lighting up like a Christmas tree.

I glow.

Is that cheesy? Yeah, it totally is. But it's also the most accurate word. It's a warm-fuzzy-happy-bright smile-for-no-reason feeling. Except there is a reason, and it's going on and seeing your profile photo pop up on my feed.

I don't know you. I saw you at an event we both attended. I admired the way you seemed to be everywhere, and always with that camera to your eye. I wanted to see what you were seeing. So when I found the link to your profile by chance, mentioned in a repost of one of your photos by the event coordinators, I thought, "Aha! A chance to glimpse some of the moments he captured." So I followed you, and for some reason you followed me back, and the rest is history.

I did the internet stalker thing. Sorry. I looked at the website listed in your bio, read some of the posts and watched a couple videos. All I know is your first name, and that you like video games. Well, that, and the images you capture of the world.

There's a girl that shows up consistently in your photographs, so I'm pretty sure you have a girlfriend. And her smile is so kind and her eyes so alive - she seems so genuinely wonderful - that I can't even be mad at the universe for allowing me to find you and form this unreasonable yet unstoppable crush on you only to discover it could never be.

There are lots of reasons it's not to be.

We've never met.
You might not like me.
I might not like you.
We might have nothing to talk about.
You might find this blog post somehow and be super weirded out and think, "What kind of odd person obsesses like that over a stranger? Get a life!"
I'm pretty sure there's a literal ocean between us.
And lots of other things that basically add up to the fact that all of this is just a daydream in my head.

(Snap out of it!)

(But I don't want to.)

So you post pictures, and I click the little heart. Then I post pictures and you click it back. It's gotten so that I go on every day now, where before it might be once a week.

I'm so stupid, but I don't care.

I put a quarter in a fortune-telling machine at The House on the Rock five years ago and it gave me a card. All the things on that card have come true, save one: "You will find one who loves you. That love will be returned by you. The first name of the person begins with the letter M and you will be introduced at a place of amusement."

I am not joking. I carry the card around in my wallet, along with several other small, portable souvenirs from past adventures. I don't believe in that kind of thing normally, but it's been fun to watch as one by one the things it says - even oddly specific statements - have come to pass.

When I saw your name, I thought: M. M? M!
And I first saw you there at the convention, "a place of amusement."
But we were never introduced, and this isn't love.

We just click heart after heart after heart on Instagram.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Fangirl!

So it's been a while. There are (no exaggeration) at least two dozen other blog posts I should have written over the course of the last eight months. Instead you get this one.

Star Wars Celebration is this weekend. I didn't go, of course, but I did watch the panel on The Last Jedi and geek out over the teaser trailer and have an obsessive chat conversation with a friend about said trailer and the teaser poster and Rey and Luke and Snoke and what does it all mean.

You know, fun times.

I wanted to get a desktop widget to count down to the film, along with some other fun upcoming dates for trips and things (more on that in a bit). But alas, with the advancing technology I can't seem to find what I wanted like back in the good old days. If it's not designed for a phone it doesn't matter, apparently. And all the cool kids these days with their Snapchat and their Instagram Stories like everything to be temporary and fleeting. I don't know what philosophical statement that's making about our world's youth but that's not what I came here to talk about, so - back on topic:

TA-DA!



Isn't it lovely? As I write this it's a mere 243 days and 15 hours until I'll be seeing The Last Jedi in theatres (assuming the current U.S. dictator doesn't kill us all before then). But as with past countdown clocks I've posted here, eventually those numbers will all read zero.

There's a lot that will happen between now and then, but for now it's fun to look forward with anticipation.

More here soon, I promise, but for now...

May the Force be with you!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Sometimes It's Not a Glad Day, It's a Sad Day, It's a Nothing Day, You May Not Even Understand Why

Oy.

It's been six months since I left the States to come up to Newfoundland and pursue a Master's degree in Folklore. Which I guess was my modern-day equivalent of running away to join the circus.

I basically felt like if I stayed my life would stall out. I'd be doing the exact same thing in the exact same place over and over again for the rest of my days.

I don't know.

But being here doesn't feel right either. This degree is nothing like what I thought it would be. I don't want to give up like I gave up before with the library degree. (I totally should have stuck that one out. Realize that now.) But at the same time it feels like I'm wasting my time.

Late at night, or after reading or watching a really good story, I realize, "Hey. I should be writing stories. That's the only thing that's ever made any sense."

But I don't, or maybe I can't, or maybe I won't. Again, I don't know. I haven't written anything since I've gotten here. Which is part of why I feel like I'm dying inside.

Ugh. I know. Histrionics. But whatevs. I'm an artist, or was once. That's part of the deal. I used to write all the time. I used to live and breath stories. Now I wake up, and I'm so depressed that I've woken up that I roll over and just try to go to sleep again. Now I'm both lonely and longing to be left alone at the same exact time.

I wonder if I'm about to get my period. I wonder if it's lack of sunlight, vitamin D, whatever. Seasonal Affective Disorder or something. Like maybe the clouds will part and I'll find myself able to breathe again.

But right now I just don't even really want to bother waking up tomorrow.

Right now I just don't know.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Poem from October 2016

Look, some things get crushed
They're gone, just dust
Some things crack or snap or tear
Life's a water-logged device
that no bowl of rice
is ever going to repair

Hearts shatter, minds rot
Nothing works as it ought
Worn and rusted right down to the core
Emotions unhinged
like doors no one goes in
that don't lead anywhere anymore

Relationships crumble
Snagged sweaters unravel
Tires go flat, and words cut to the quick
But the worst form of destruction
is despair's age-old seduction:
the lie that says what's smashed cannot be fixed

BROKEN ISN'T HOPELESS.
Don't forget.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

On Melancholy Hill


So.

The election.

I didn't have a TV, so I religiously refreshed the New York Times website, following people's reactions in real time on Twitter and Facebook. As the hours ticked by, we all watched the map grow redder.

When the results were official (I think it was about 3am EST, so about 4:30am here) I got so keyed up I knew I'd never sleep. After a half an hour or forty minutes just sitting there, alternating between numbness and sobbing, staring at the tweets of shock and rage zooming by on my glowing rectangle of a screen, I finally stood up. I knew I couldn't stay in that room anymore. 

Somehow I got clothes on - I don't remember any of this - then the next thing I know I was by the graveyard on Bonaventure Avenue, which is a ten minute's walk away from my apartment. It was about 5:00 in the morning, the sun hadn't even risen, and there was thick, soupy fog everywhere. 

I knew, I just knew that I had to get to the top of Signal Hill to watch the sun rise. It's not like I thought that would make anything better. It was just something I had to do.

Signal Hill on an ordinary day...
...but Signal Hill felt more like Silent Hill on this particular morning.

I hadn't dressed properly. It was cold. I was wearing this thin water-resistant jacket "shell" which was nice for repelling the mist but had nothing in the way of lining, and I'd forgotten to bring a hat or scarf. But I kept walking, and my constant motion and turbulent emotions kept me relatively warm. It's about a 3 mile walk from my corner of campus to the visitor centre below Signal Hill. I made it, pausing only once to watch three birds land on Deadmans Pond, tiny black specks on the patch of rippling dark water I could make out through the white. I had been the only source of noise for miles around and when I stopped all was thick, exquisite, unbroken silence.

Up past the visitor centre, up the path where I sprained my ankle my first week here, up to the barracks and cannons where I took pictures with Rebekah when she had visited. I hadn't even made it to the tower and already the fog was so thick I couldn't see my hands held out in front of me... which was a problem when I realized I was no longer on the path. I knew from my time here before that these cannons were near the edge of quite a tall cliff, but couldn't tell how close I was to the drop-off. I'd lost my bearings completely. I ended up crawling back to a safe jut of rock and sitting there, waiting for the mist to part so I could find my way.

I'd like to say this was a profound experience, but mostly it was just profoundly miserable. I had to wait nearly an hour. The chill from the rock I was sitting on crept through my clothing and settled in my bones like an ache. I felt too nothing and everything to cry anymore. I just stared out in the direction I guessed the ocean would be, waiting for a sun I couldn't even see to somehow break through the awful choking fog. In my head this was supposed to be beautiful, I thought, but now nothing's clear. I'm literally trapped by uncertainty. Subtle as a sledgehammer, as metaphors go.

But this story doesn't end in that same over-the-top manner, with the clouds suddenly parting to reveal a glorious sunrise over the water and our heroine realizing that things aren't completely hopeless. No.  In our tale, the weary, benumbed traveler manages to find the path again and staggers back down the hill to a world just as bleak as she had left it. But at least there was a cafe at the bottom of the hill, its sign flipped to read 'OPEN.' I went in and bought myself tea (in my crazy numb state I had still managed to grab my keys and wallet), and soon was warmed enough to continue, and by the time I stepped outside again the sun was fully up, the mist a mere smudge around the edges of reality. Early morning commuters were already up and making their way about the city. 

I hiked back up to campus, collapsed in my bed, and slept through class.

And that's how you react, ladies and gents, when you come to the realization that the world is about to enter (or perhaps has already entered) a very dark chapter in its history, and that all your attempts to stop it have failed. Mark my words: 2016 will be an important date in future history books.... But if this election is anything to go by, I'd much rather read history than live it.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Patriot Day

This September 11th I’m thinking about a football player who sits during the national anthem.

People are so angry, and I guess I get it. But let’s review our history for a minute. America was founded because a group of young upstarts felt the country they called their own wasn’t seeing them. It didn’t recognize them or acknowledge the abuses that plagued their daily lives. The symbols and leaders of their nation — the crown, the king — had let them down, had no interest in helping them. And so these hotheads decided enough was enough, and that they needed to do something about it.

Sitting during the national anthem is seen as disrespectful by many. But while Kaepernick may not be a Jefferson or a Washington, you can’t say what he’s doing is un-American. It’s more American than apple pie, and far sweeter. It’s freedom, my friends, pure and simple. What generations have fought and died for. It’s the right of an average person to look at the nation that’s supposed to have their back and to say, “We can be better than this. Something’s got to change.”

This September 11th I’m remembering being a substitute teacher on yearbook signing day, and reading what one eighth grade boy wrote in his fellow student’s annual.

Picture the scene. We’re at a small Christian school in the heart of the Bible belt, and I’m a substitute teacher for eighth grade English on yearbook signing day. Oddly enough, some of the students ask me to sign their books — most likely caught up in the giddy rush of premature nostalgia that comes with such occasions. In this group of about fifty kids, there are only two black boys. One of these boys signs a girl’s yearbook then hands it to me at her request. I look down at the page where he just wrote. Instead of a name or “have a great summer,” there are just two words scrawled in marker: I’m black.

I stare at them for a second. It hits me like a punch to the gut. I’m looking at this phrase, stupidly wondering what it means. Yes, of course he is black. That’s a fact, just like it’s a fact that I have blue eyes, or a fact that the girl whose yearbook this is has red hair. But I don’t get treated like an entirely different class of human being because I have blue eyes, and this girl isn’t immediately judged as being a certain way because she has red hair. It’s never been an identity we’ve had to claim, or a stigma we’ve had to struggle against.

I’m black.

Is it celebration? Defiance? A proud declaration — this is who I am, this is important to me? A reminder — this is who I am, but not all I am? I don’t know. It really doesn’t matter what I think. He’s a funny, sweet kid with a bright future ahead of him, and he wants us to know that he’s black.

This September 11th, I’m remembering what happened 15 years ago on this day, and that it happened to all of us.

When the Twin Towers crashed down 15 years ago, you know what we all were? Humans. Much has already been made of this fact. We weren’t our race or gender, our political parties or religious ideologies. When you’re pulling a human being out of the ash and rubble, it doesn’t matter if they’re an Ivy League graduate or an illegal immigrant or the gay barista from the local coffee joint. It doesn’t matter if they’re someone you’d normally spit at or rail against, or someone you’d call your best bud. In that moment, they’re alive, and so are you, and that’s all that matters. Helping each other and staying alive.

We lost too many people that day. People from all across these various spectrums we use to divide or categorize our humanity. Today we mourn them. But it’s important that as we’re mourning them we don’t stop seeing them. Not just what they represent, but who they really were. We can and must celebrate both what unites us and what makes us unique.

September 11th reminds us that if we are truly united, when something bad happens to some of us it should hurt all of us. We shouldn’t turn a blind eye and insist it isn’t our problem because it doesn’t directly affect us. Sometimes that threat to our fellow citizens isn’t as blatant as a plane crashing into a building. Sometimes it’s far more insidious, and can come from within.

This September 11th I’m an expat American who finds herself far from home, who glories in the crazy contradiction that is our broken and beautiful nation, and who wants us to do better.

America has never been great. There, I said it. It’s been plagued with slavery, injustice, persecution and violence nearly every step of the way.

America has always been great. How could it not be? Peopled with citizens who think, challenge, try, dare, explore, create, and rise above despite the mess we are and always have been.

This is why I know down to my bones that “make America great again” is a lie. That isn’t what we should be striving for.

The truly shining moments in our history were the ones where radically different members of society came together to work with unity toward a common purpose. Why can’t we do that now? Why can’t our purpose be to ensure that black people in this country — especially young black men — no longer have to live in fear of being falsely persecuted and brutally gunned down by those who are meant to serve and protect?

“Make America whole again.” Unity. That’s what I find myself longing for more than anything on this Patriot Day.