Saturday, May 21, 2011


There is a chasm in front of me. No bridge, no path. Just the thing I want more than anything, more than health or life or sanity, shining there on the other side, entirely out of reach.

There it is, and it will never be mine.

There is a chasm in front of me, and to leap would mean to die.

Because it is insane, this thing called hope, this ridiculous notion that would have me believe that halfway down I'll grow wings.


I've become that girl, haven't I? You know... Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice. Everybody wants to be spirited like Elizabeth or sweet like Jane, or even boy crazy and somewhat foolish like Kitty and Lydia. But Mary is just priggish and boring and dreadfully self-important. She's a drag. The very opposite of the life-of-the-party. Of all the Bennetts, I'd say she's perhaps the worst. At least the Kitty/Lydia/Mrs. Bennet trifecta of annoyance has some spirit to them. Mary is just mawkish and horrible.

And I think I've become her.

Seriously, if people who have kids become Those Annoying Parents who talk non-stop about their children, then I'm the writing version of that... only in the case of children, they're usually cute and precocious and have these utterly amazing out-of-the-mouths-of-babes crazy/awesome stories to share. In my case, I have emo poetry and pointless projects that I'm just fulfilling because I made myself a stupid promise I'd try to create something each day.

I mean, how gimmicky is that?

I feel sad sometimes when people who should be really close to me don't really know me, when all they think I care about is writing when it's really not. But I can't get mad at them, because I suck at letting people in. It's like, I don't know... when we were little kids getting to know a person meant playing together, and play usually involved a huge amount of imagination. Let's pretend to be pirates! Let's pretend to be fairies! Let's play dress-up! Let's reenact scenes from The Lion King movie! Let's pretend the treehouse is a deserted island! Let's bury a time capsule in this Sunny D bottle and guess who will dig it up fifty years from now and what they'll say when they find what we've left inside! Okay, so those are some pretty specific examples, but you get the idea... imagination. Creativity. Play.

When you grow up, social interaction morphs into something else. I can't really put a finger on when this happens. Probably during the teenage years, but I was (and still am) awkward and not good at embracing change, so I guess I kind of skipped that whole part. But essentially, now social interaction centers around... (1) Eating: Let's do lunch! Wanna grab some coffee and talk? etc. (2) Shopping (moreso for girls than guys), (3) Alcohol... this is part "Let's have a good time!" and part "Let's escape the drudgery of day jobs and responsibilities and blow off some steam." (4) Sex/Romance. I've definitely missed out on this one, but for average people my age it's a huge part of many relationships... whether they're in pursuit of or currently in the throes of or have just emerged from such intimacy, everybody seems to be thinking about it. (5) Pop culture. People have always discussed art and related to each other through it, whether that's paintings and sculptures or movies, TV, pop music, books and video games.

I don't know. There are probably more... but I'm tired and not thinking straight. In any case, these things aren't bad.... but they're very different. And they're very surface-oriented. My brother Wes and I bond through a common love of the show Parks and Recreation. We'll get into these conversation where eventually it just ends up with us quoting our favorite lines back and forth to each other, both chuckling like madmen. This is fun, and it's nice that I can share something with my brother, but it's a surface connection. I don't really learn a lot about him as person from the encounter, other than the fact that he has an awesome sense of humor (and good taste in TV shows). Shopping, eating, drinking, romance... these are all great things, but I miss the little kid stuff.

I know, the argument that you hear a lot is that make believe is a form of escapism, but I think that's silly. If anything, I think we adults are the ones who are most guilty of trying to escape our lives. We party at the weekend, or dive headfirst into romance, fill empty evenings with TV shows and web surfing... "eat, drink, and be merry, because tomorrow we die." I think we fill our lives with all these things to try to escape the fact that we feel like something is missing. Maybe that something is a person; we feel alone and want to be loved. Maybe that something is a purpose; we hate our jobs and wish we could do something where we felt fulfilled and like we were accomplishing something worthwhile. Maybe that something is completely different... I don't know. But I think we try to escape our lives every day, while little kids, with their creativity and imagination, are the ones who are embracing the world as fully as possible, and even trying to go beyond it.

So yeah, I started out thinking I'm Mary. And maybe I am. This past month or so, I've been majorly mawkish... But this frustration with the new dynamic to relationships is fair, I think. I wish we weren't so afraid to imagine together anymore. There is power in pretending. You learn so much about a person when you see what they can dream.

Okay, well the world is supposedly ending today, so I should probably go. But, if things don't end, I want to try to be better. I want to try to balance my life, even if it means compromising with the "adult" part of it. We'll see if that's a possibility...


Sunday, May 15, 2011


Carrie Ryan came to the library today for an author event. She talked for about forty five minutes then took questions then there was a signing. It was great. She's very funny, and I can see how she'd be a good lawyer. She's very confident and good in front of people, and gave some fantastic answers to people's questions.

One thing she talked about a lot (and it obviously holds great meaning to her) is the idea of figuring out what you want to do and then going after it. Her thing was, "If I ask myself what I want to be and I say 'an author,' then ten years from now I still want to be an author but I ask myself 'What have I done to accomplish that?' I don't want the answer to be 'Nothing.'" This makes a great deal of sense to me. She talked about friends she knows who practice law still who just feel trapped in their own lives. "Why do you still do it?" she asks them. "Well," they say. "I've got to pay off these school debts." And she replies, "Well, I'm paying off my school debts too, but I'm doing it while doing something I love. Wouldn't you rather try for that?"

Of course, she knows she's lucky. Not everybody gets to be successful at what they love. But I really see her point.

My problem is this: I ask myself "What do you want to be?" and do you know my answer? My answer is not "I want to be a writer." It's not "I want to sit in a room at a computer or with a notebook churning out words eight hours a day." My answer is this: I want to be EVERYTHING.

I want to be a pizza delivery guy. I want to be a talk show host. I want to be the daughter of a country knight. I want to be a cursed man stuck in a house between worlds serving penance for eternity. I want to be two orphans who rescue the forest people from an evil queen. I want to be a delusional boy convinced he's a superhero who harasses the neighborhood homeless people thinking he's helping them. I want to be a depressed twentysomething who finds out she can travel outside of time and who reluctantly squares off against a villain who's attempting to manipulate her. I want to be the teenage girl who finds out she's a fairy godmother. I want to be the Spuzzle who can't say spuz. I want to be the adventurer on the quest. I want to be the princess AND the knight AND the dragon. I want to be impossible and I want to be real. I want to be perfect and I want to be broken. I want to be the alien from outerspace and the boy from next door. I want to be EVERYTHING. Anything you can think of and more.

But some of these things require skills I don't have. Others of them require a lifetime of training. Still others happen by pure chance. And of course there are so many of those things that can't happen, that are quite impossible. I can't be the girl who finds out she's really from another world. I can't be the knight on a quest. I mean, I could live my life with a sword in one hand and a pack on my back wandering the world looking for dragons to slay, but I'd be exhausted and hungry and probably institutionalized before very long.

So since I can't be everything, I want to at least pretend. I want to make believe for a living. And since I can't be these characters, at the very least I want to tell their stories.

Carrie also talked about deadlines, and how she set one for herself. She gave herself ten years. "If I haven't gotten a novel published in ten years, then I'll give it up and just do something else with my life." And by giving herself this deadline (and plenty of time to fail), she actually succeeded in reaching her goal in half that time. In fact, this year would likely have been the ten year mark, and she has three books out and is working on another.

This also proves difficult for me, because as the Good Madness project clearly illustrates, I have too many ideas and not enough follow-through. Which do I start with? What do I do first? And what do I do with all those spare ideas buzzing around demanding attention?

I don't know.

In the book she signed for me, she wrote "Find your own path." It's a little cutesy, I think. It's the kind of generic thing she can write in anybody's book because anyone could apply it to their lives. But in this case, I like it. Because that ten year plan, "I want to be a writer" thing was her path. I don't know how long my path will be, and I don't have any sort of plan, but at least now I can tell myself the truth: I don't want to be a writer. I want to be EVERYTHING.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Bin Laden and Reality

Osama Bin Laden is dead.

There has been much celebrating. People gather in crowds in the streets of D.C. and New York city, chanting "USA! USA!" and waving flags high. Folks on twitter have been tweeting and retweeting a storm of messages, some silly, some serious, and most just caught up in the excitement of it all. On facebook it's more of the same. There are some who question the idea of celebrating a death, raising mixed feelings of relief and joy that a villain has perished and reluctance to wish death and destruction upon even the most despicable of human beings.

Mixed in among the tweets are many Harry Potter references: Comparing the downfall of Osama Bin Laden to that of Voldemort. Joking that Obama must have the Elder Wand. Stating the odd coincidence that this event has occurred the same date as the Battle of Hogwarts.

For some reason, reading these tweets really bothered me. And I couldn't figure out why, until someone else voiced it for me by tweeting: "(My issue with the HP stuff is that equating it seems to cheapen the real loss and sacrifice and accomplishment.)" And I responded: "Agreed. I <3 Harry Potter to the point of mania, but it seems almost disrespectful to compare fiction w/reality in this instance."

I have mixed feelings about this. It seems a little hypocritical that I have been such a huge fan of using parallels between fictional events and real life to promote activism and the HPA, and yet when it comes to news of this nature I want to separate the two. But I do. Why?

I understand that the people who wrote and retweeted these thoughts were speaking in a language of symbols, describing real world events through the specific lens of one story and its world and characters. I should know; I've been invested in doing the same for the past twelve years of my life. But here's the thing: stories are important, but they only hold meaning because they reflect truths that actually exist in reality. And so as much as I dedicate my life to stories and legends and myths, I must draw a line between the fictional and the real.

The Battle of Hogwarts was a moving event. I cried real tears reading about it, and "losing" characters I have loved since the beginning of the series. But REAL PEOPLE died on September 11th and fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Voldemort "killed" many many people during his reign of terror in the wizarding world. But Bin Laden was a REAL Dark Lord, responsible for the REAL deaths of thousands of REAL PEOPLE. Equating real life losses and sacrifices and heroism to something a (very talented) woman made up in her head and wrote down on a piece of paper just seems cold.

I think I'm overanalyzing this, and I'm tired so my logic is a bit fuzzy. But it just seems strange. I never thought I'd be the person to say, "Come on, people... it's just a BOOK!" Because I know it's much more than that. But in this instance, I feel like it is. It's a fictional story that will never entirely capture the real losses so many of us have experienced.