Get Your Story Straight, Okay?

I remembered today one of my proudest childhood accomplishments: talking my way onto the speech team in 12th grade.

Sort of.

We had moved to Dubai in August and by September or October I had heard about the Forensics team. A classmate told me about it and I was interested in it the way you are when you’ve never done something that you’ve always wanted to do–like you want to do it, but you’re scared because you just don’t even know how. First, I missed the initial meeting (held in a classroom, at lunch).

Then, I spent a full month waffling about topics. I thought and wrote and researched and changed my mind and thought some more. And all of this was in 2004 so, yes, there was google, but like, the internet just wasn’t that big. There was only so much I could work with.

I tried out several topics on the teacher and each one was nixed–for being too overdone, for being uninteresting, for not being sufficiently compelling. And it’s important to say here that despite all the back and forth, I had all but disappeared for the last month. I knew what not to do and then struggled with what to do. By the time I had a pretty solid start, the other orators were already memorizing their speeches. By the time I had a topic nailed down, it was 3 weeks to competition. Probably everyone thought I had just dropped out altogether.

When I finally walked into his classroom and told him I had something, he responded exasperatedly, like high school teachers do when have too many students and too little time. (And when those students don’t get things done on time.) “It’s too late. Everyone else is already practicing theirs.”

I was apologetic. But, I was also a really quick memorizer, and I was off to a good start.

“All right, fine.” He said it just like that, too, and took a seat. He was poised to just tell me no, though, I could feel it.

I stood at the front, behind his podium, and began my speech. The change in my teacher was visible. His posture went from slouchy to like–like there was a set of strings pulling him up at the ears. He was paying attention, and not just to be polite. When I finished the first page, he stood up and told me with a look of genuine surprise on his face that I was approved.

Three weeks later I made it to finals, the only one of the orators to do so.

I replay that moment now, 12 years later, and see that it wasn’t just surprise on his face. He was impressed. He didn’t let me compete because he was obligated to (he wasn’t) or because he was being nice (he wasn’t that either). He did not expect that to come out of me, and was delighted (and shocked) that it had. Hell, he was thrilled to have me on the team!

I thought about that today and went digging through email to find more details about that day. Was it really only three weeks? Had he thought I abandoned the team? What made me finally choose the topic I did? I couldn’t find any of that. I stressed about it here and there to friends back home, but said very little, except to say that I had finally finished the speech, and that I made it to finals. That’s it. In the story of my life, this episode doesn’t even appear. I say, I didn’t do any activities in high school because I was a lazy bum.

!!!

That’s not even true! I was a bit of a lazy bum, yes, but I used to read a ton, and I took piano, and I hung out with friends, and I babysat and held a part-time job and was involved at church and hiked and traveled and summer camped. I had a short stint on the pole vaulting team in 10th grade (or was it 9th?). I studied both Spanish and Italian in high school, too, and when I was in grade school, I learned the Russian alphabet. I would fall asleep listening to Russian tapes. I once started translating a Russian Book of Mormon and it only took me a few words to realize that actually there was a different name for what I was doing: transliterating. I didn’t do activities at school but outside of school I was quite active. And at the start of my senior year (!), I packed up everything I knew, said goodbye to my friends, and moved to the other side of the world.

Look, I know it’s me, but that’s a good story. I want to meet that person.

That I didn’t recount this miraculous tale to anyone at the time is evidence that I bought into the narrative that I was a lazy bum. I was a lazy bum who didn’t get crap done on time because I procrastinated (I have a few emails about that). I didn’t tell this story because it wasn’t a story worth telling. I did my speech late. I competed. I didn’t place. So unworthy a story was it that for years, I forgot that that sequence of events ever even happened.

It’s only today, because I came across an exercise in The Artist’s Way about childhood accomplishments, that I remembered it. I am really proud of that moment. He was about to cut me from the team, and within a fraction of my performance he had completely changed his mind. How have I gone so much of my life not carrying that pride around with me?

I’m coming to think that we are born knowing all of our truth. The years of expectations and reprimands and norms and rules and shoulds (so many shoulds) serve to both grow us and to divert us from what we already know about ourselves: that the things we enjoy as kids, and that we’re good at, though not always overlapping, will always be the things we most enjoy and are good at. Keep doing them. Transform them if you will (there’s no forensics league for professionals) (wait is there?), but do them. And when you’re through: get your damn story straight.

International Women’s Day

Look, I know what title says–I wrote it–and I’m not really going to write about International Women’s Day. 

I’m sorry. 

I mean! Thank you for understanding. 

I really just wanted an excuse to talk about how I don’t participate in national and international holidays, even ones like this that I think are awesome. I knew about day without a woman but forgot and didn’t wear even a speck of red (unusual for me) and didn’t do anything about IWD until freaking everyone on social media was posting about it. 

Fine. I won’t be tone deaf. 

I posed this. 
But I wanted to post this dramatic, more graphic version: 
because it’s so cool and I’m still not over that exhibit. I’ll post more about it sometime probably. We’ll definitely actually because I’ve got to do something with all these photos. 

So, I don’t know. That wasn’t empowering and it was totally cis of me, but it was a genuine celebrations. Bodies, and especially those of women (cis and non alike), are just amazing. 

So the picture is a statement on beauty, complexity, intricacy, work, and purpose, just like I want my life to be. Except I don’t really care if anyone calls it intricate or complex. 

And I’m grateful to be a woman and for all the women who came before me, and those who are next to me. Thank you.

Maybe this was a post about today after all. Man. 

Ha. 

It’s okay; Hydrogen’s not so stable either. 

In studying for my anatomy test, I read that the elements most important to biological processes–i.e. LIFE–are those that are unstable. They get the other elements to mingle and together to build larger (and surely better) structures. 

Is that so profound and beautiful? Next time you’re down on yourself remember that crazy is in the very building blocks of who we are. 

I’ll just have a slice of cheesecake to go, thanks.

I woke up angry today.

Anger is new to me, and it’s the scariest thing. Everything else I feel is just that–like running my fingers over a rough surface–but anger feels like a monster inside of me. It’s a separate being inside of me, and I know neither how to release it nor to tame it. I only feel the heat of it, the intensity in my chest. Does everyone feel this way Because if so, the world suddenly makes enormously more sense.

I didn’t fly into a rage. I didn’t even wish ill on the other commuters on the freeway. But, sitting in the quiet morning light, I kept replaying in my head the same scene: walking over to my husband–who was in bed sleeping–and yelling at him for making me so angry! What did he do?

I haven’t a clue!

He was a little ornery yesterday, a little antagonistic. Completely normal behavior for him, by the way. It just happened to fall on upon which fell several other things–poor diet, headache, stress, feeling out of control of my life and lost about my future–and there I was, ready to pummel him with my pillow.

I didn’t, though. I held back. I reasoned with myself that that was a terribly unfair thing to do to him, and also a scary one. You shouldn’t have to worry about your wife yelling you into consciousness unless someone has been shot, and it’s you.

Don’t get me wrong: this was definitely the right decision. I would go back and choose the same thing.

And yet.

And yet.

I could have done something with that anger. Anger can be channeled into creativity. I know it can, and I don’t know how.

Last spring, my husband and I got in a big fight–or maybe it was a small fight–and I was so mad at him I couldn’t bear to be in the same room. But I also couldn’t bear to tell him how angry I was, so I let him fall asleep and then I crept downstairs to the couch. A mix of anger and the light from the downstairs windows made it difficulty to fall asleep, so I decided to watch Lemonade. I turned to it for her soothing voice, for the poetry, the visuals. I wanted to take my mind off the anger, to be distracted enough to fall asleep, but instead I watched the whole thing. It had never struck me how angry she became, how angry she let herself become.

I had always resonated with one piece early in the album. She’s suspended in water, submerged, just beginning to wake up, to rise up, and she tells a story familiar to most women, about self-contortion, passivity, containment, and trying to make yourself something else, ignoring your own voice for another’s.

This time, I saw that the basis for the entire film was uncoiling that need. And to do it, you must feel love, desperation, apathy, hurt, introspection, and yes, rage. Oh, the rage! I never imagined how cathartic it could be. What a relief it was to see her yell and swear and seethe on camera, to flip it off, and to never apologize not even once. She never blames herself or wonders what she did wrong, or questions what the other woman has that she doesn’t. She is so mad she’s practically on fire with anger, but she stays so cool. She doesn’t become passive, and she doesn’t shrink. In fact, she doesn’t do much at all. The song isn’t really about her.

Her job is to stand there and rage.

It’s only later, much later, that she returns, forgives, goes back upstairs to bed.

First, rage.

I don’t know how to feel that kind of rage, and I certainly don’t know how to channel it. It’s so much easier to eat the cheesecake.

 

I’ve long feared anger for its destructive potential, but maybe I need to mine it for its creative power. Maybe next time, instead of imagining yelling at him, I write the scene.

What else has anger created?

I tried to change.
Closed my mouth more.
Tried to be softer, prettier, less awake.
Fasted for 60 days. Wore white.
Abstained from mirrors.
Abstained from sex.
Slowly did not speak another word.
In that time my hair I grew past my ankles.
I slept on a mat on the floor.
I swallowed a sword.
I levitated into the basement.
Confessed my sins and was baptized in river.
Got on my knees and said amen, and said I mean.
I whipped my own back and asked for dominion at Your feet.
I threw myself into a volcano.
I drank the blood and drank the whineI sat alone and bent and begged at the waist for God. I crossed myself in thought.I saw the devil.I grew thickened skin on my feet.I bathed in bleach and plugged my menses with pages from the holy book–
But still inside me, coiled deep, was the need to know.

It’s modified because I’ve never needed to know if someone was cheating on me. I just needed to know.

Choose Anger, Not Cheesecake | Monday Wisdom

“That makes me very angry,” we might write instead of eating the last piece of cheesecake. The cake is a sedative that dulls our emotions while anger is a spark that can be used as creative fuel. Entire books, plays, and operas have been written out of anger. The creative arena is the best possible arena in which to express anger. Anger gave us Picasso’s Guernica. Anger gave us Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago. Properly channeled, anger is a lodestone for creative endeavors.”

–Julia Cameron, The Writing Diet

(I would also add Beyoncé’s Lemonade to the list. I am so grateful she used it as creative fuel.)

That strange feeling

You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, I told him, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.

-Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran

I left the UAE four years ago, and the Middle East 3 1/2. (I may have even shared this quote back in 2013 because it resonated so strongly with me then.) and now I’m back and I’m a tourist and I’m with my husband’s family and when peiple ask where I’m from, I say Texas (!) and it’s like I’m not even the same person. 

I’m not the same person. 

And Dubai isn’t the same place. 

And there’s no going back, not ever again. 

It’s a strange feeling, indeed. 

I’m writing this above Cluj-Napoca

Do you know where that is? Because I know a lot of things about the world, but that I had to google. 

Cluj-Napoca is in Romania. 

I am 35,000 feet in the air, traveling 547 mph over Romania and typing a blog post. Romania, dude! 

The world has changed. 

13 years ago, my first time across the world in 2004, I had a 5 hour layover in Amsterdam and people were smoking in the airport. Now I am blogging over Romania. 

I just re-read that. 13 years, dude! That’s nearly half my life. I now have internet on international flights but Emirates’ in-flight entertainment system? Still can’t detect my finger. Touchscreen technology has been on the mass market for 10 years but Emirates, a world-class luxury airline, still won’t play Ugly House to Lovely House episode 1.

Anyway, here are some headlines I’ve been watching instead:


Not a single word about the big American circus of 2017. 

Guys, my legs are cramped and my knees aching and my nose dry and my eyes tired and I’m thirsty and uncomfortable and ready to land in Dubai–but this is the best. 

Health Tip For The Woman Too Busy For Good Choices

health tip for busy women

I’m busy and tired. I’m working and schooling and my days are long and exhausting, and my weekends are often split so I don’t get two days back to back (I hate that!). Whine whine whine.

Today is Monday and I went to bed late (I need a good 8 hours of sleep, beginning before midnight) and woke up tired and hadn’t prepared myself any food for the day.It was a busy day, I was on the go ,and I didn’t have time to eat well. I got lunch from Chipotle but by the time 4:00 rolled around, I was itching for a Snickers bar.

I was driving from class back to work and was about to pull into a Walgreens when I remembered the rule I made for myself the last time I made this decision: Don’t do the worst thing.

That’s it! That’s all you have to remember. On a crazy Monday like today, that is all you must hold yourself accountable for.

So I made the less bad decision of eating a slice of pizza instead.

Not great, but not candy.

(And then tonight on a salad run at the grocery store I picked up–and scarfed down–a bag of Taki’s. sigh.)

 

Superbowl Recap

But an incomplete one because I don’t really care about the superbowl.

I do, however, care about #Hamilton! Who watched the Schuyler sisters perform? Wasn’t it gorgeous?
Thank you to this twitter user whose LMM RT made it easy for me to find this video:

And how awesome was Lady Gaga? I’m a Beyonce fan, and last year’s performance with Bruno was awesome–but dang. This was the best halftime show I’ve ever seen.
Rather than posting her performance, though, I am putting up the video that started it all:

Good job, #sb51. Great performances and, I’m told, a historic game. Bravo.

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