Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Relationships with Writing

This--Anne Bradstreet's "The Author to Her Book"--is one of the first poems I was ever required to analyze in detail. (I'm telling you what "this" refers to, because if any of you are like me, you will think more than twice about following that link . . .) I'm sure I kept a copy of my analysis, but I'm not going to hunt it down just now.

But I do remember this: the writer who is narrator in the poem obviously has motherly inclinations toward her work. And I do remember this: I was perceptive enough back then to realize that motherly inclinations did not mean that she desperately loved everything about what she had written. In fact, it made her want to correct the faults.

And most of all, I remember the third line, about friends snatching away the work before she felt ready to show it to the world at large.

I remember this, because I have been writing a number of things lately. (English grad student writing a lot . . . go figure!) And my sentiments do not, in the slightest, echo Bradstreet at all. After a certain germination period, I grow anxious about kicking my work out the door and into someone else's realm.

At first, I thought my desire to get my writing out of my sight had some direct affiliations with how much I liked the content. But I have discovered such is simply not the case: I disliked the intermittent papers I wrote for my critical theory class throughout the course of the semester--the topics were, more or less, assigned--but the non-assigned final paper I fell deeply in love with? I wanted to drop that in my professor's mailbox just as quickly as I had rid myself of the other papers I had written.

If I am to adopt Anne Bradstreet's mother-metaphor, I suppose this means that I am the sort of writer-mother who likes to boot her child out of the house as soon as it has turned eighteen. I try to nurture it as much as I can, but there inevitably comes a point when it should strike out on its own. I figure that if I ever write and publish anything that receives the whole spectrum of reactions, then a) I have succeeded, and b) I can create and send a sibling of that paper out into the world to help keep that "child" company.

And who knows? If I have learned anything from re-reading things I wrote during my undergraduate career, I might even occasionally invite them home for dinner.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Discoveries I Make

Sometimes I find things I've written that I've forgotten I've written. Case in point (it has no title and I'm not sure I like it, but I'm intrigued by it nonetheless...I really wish I could remember when, exactly I wrote it):

Drifting through memory to way back when
we were young and the best of friends--
I was always Barbie, you were always Ken
and we thought that all good women loved good men.

You outgrew playing dolls with me,
said friendship wasn't a possibility;
You patted my should awkwardly,
walked away before I counted three.

A few years after you said goodbye,
you came back in tears to ask me why
I kept my chin up, didn't cry.
Why not even a wistful sigh...
But don't you know I struggled getting by?

Now look at you with your girlfriend.
She looks like Barbie, you look like Ken.
I wonder why I can't keep good men.
Why can't I keep good men?

When I thought of childhood, I thought of the first stanza of this poem. Childhood seems so simplistic. Everything seemed so easy back then. And now? Well, now it's just not.

Or perhaps I'm making adulthood more difficult than it should be. Maybe I can choose to make my adulthood as much like childhood as possible.

In a good way.

This post is part of the Blue-Beta Blog Coordination, a continuing series of content coordinated by theme or motif with posts from Confuzzled of I Keep Wondering, Gromit of The Dancing Newt, Redoubt of Redoubt Redux, Third Mango of Funkadelic Freestylings of Another Sort, Yarjka of Sour Mayonnaise, and Xanthippe of Let’s Save Our Hallmark Moment. This week's theme: 'Childhood'.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"Spring Has Sprung . . .

. . . the grass is riz, I wonder where the posies is."

My mom used to say that on the first notable day of beautiful spring weather. Or sometimes when she seemed to hope that, by force of magic, the words would help spring in its arrival. She is the type of person who is ready for spring by early February. I'm not much better: by the third week in February, I'm ready to see little green sprouts poking out of the dirt. To retire my heavy winter coats, my scarves, my gloves, my warm winter hats. To walk everywhere I need to go without fearing a deadly slip on black ice.

And today is one of those gorgeous days where I feel spring has, indeed, sprung. I saw green sprouts poking out of the dirt when I walked to the Trax station. (My roommate gave me a Barnes & Noble gift card for my birthday, and it's been burning a hole in my purse for more than a week now. Plus I needed a particular book for something I'm writing. Plus it was a good excuse to get outside and stay there for a while.) My light jacket was a little toasty. It was marvelous!

On days like today, I can't wipe a silly grin off my face. It delights me to look up and see clear skies. It delights me to notice the house under construction is no longer under construction under a tarp. It delights me that a host of other people are out and about, walking around the city without looking as though they are all completely intent on the places they're going.

It's wonderful to see kids running through the Olympic fountain at The Gateway. To pass street food vendors. (Partially because I'll have lived in Salt Lake City for two years this summer, and I never realized you can get street food here!)

The City Library lawn was sprinkled with people lying on blankets who were reading books. Studying, perhaps. Or maybe just soaking in the sunshine. I think I may find a blanket and do the same tomorrow, weather willing.

On days like today, I feel goodwill toward everyone. The gossiping teenage girls on the train entertain me instead of annoy me, I smile at complete strangers, and everyone I pass has no problem smiling and saying "hi" to a total stranger.

What a perfect day.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Happy Brrrr-thday to Me

I am now 25. I wasn't the last time I posted. And 25, I must admit, is absolutely no different than 24. Also, sometimes I do not like having an early March birthday.

This is why: last year, on my 24th birthday, the weather was nigh unto perfect--nary a cloud in sight, warm weather . . . really, the perfect early spring day. (Let's be honest: it wasn't so perfect that it was balmy and I didn't need a jacket; but it was a lovely, lovely day.)

This year, you know what I had? Snowflakes. That's right. Snowflakes. This year, it snowed on my birthday. Maybe last year's birthday was my only good-weather birthday for a few years.

The worst part was that the day started off well. When I woke up, it was relatively warm. A bit cloudy, perhaps. But warm. After I ate the best French toast of my life with my older sister, she dropped me off on campus. It was a pleasant walk to class.

When I walked out of class, the temperature had dropped slightly. But not much. On Mondays and Wednesday, I have about an hour and a half to kill between classes, and in that hour and a half, the weather changed. For the worse. I had no scarf. I had no hat. I was, thankfully, wearing a decent coat. And I had no gloves.

It was cold.

My roommate, to my great delight, sent me on an Easter egg hunt in order to find my present. Don't get me wrong, I'm still delighted, and it was a great idea. But it was cold. Very, very cold. Especially since she hid the eggs in various places around the city. And I didn't know I'd be running around town so . . . I had no scarf. No hat. No gloves.

It was cold.


But it was cold.

Very fun. So thanks, Tammykins. It would seem that birthdays can be fun despite unwanted snowflakes.

This post is part of the Blue-Beta Blog Coordination, a continuing series of content coordinated by theme or motif with posts from Confuzzled of I Keep Wondering, Gromit of The Dancing Newt, Redoubt of Redoubt Redux, Third Mango of Funkadelic Freestylings of Another Sort, Yarjka of Sour Mayonnaise, and Xanthippe of Let’s Save Our Hallmark Moment. This week's theme: 'Snowflakes'.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Habit: Positive and Negative Side Effects

Schmetterling recently posted about habits, and I've been thinking.

You see, my father and I have always proclaimed ourselves to be creatures of habit. When he used to drive me to my early morning band rehearsals, I always had to remind him not to turn onto the freeway that took him to his job in Salt Lake City. His habit of driving himself to work had so deeply embedded itself that he did it without thinking.

In this instance, I don't think his habit was a bad thing: his familiarity with his drive later benefited me when we rode to work together. It gave him opportunities to think issues through, a few precious minutes to notice details I certainly never would have--and then to share them with me, and it allowed him to pay closer attention to whatever I told him about on the way home from work. (I say home from work, because I don't recall being terribly talkative on the way into work. So not a morning person.)

On the flip side, I have a habit of checking my e-mail every time I open my laptop. It doesn't matter if I opened my laptop intending to research, meaning to start working or continue working on a paper, or if I opened it to turn on some music while I clean. I inevitably check my e-mail. Even, ridiculously, when it has been less than an hour since the last time I checked my e-mail. (Now you know the truth about me: I'm totally an e-mail fiend. Except I have dreadful reply time, because normally I read it and remember the productive things I should be doing.)

This always detracts from what I should be doing. And I know it! In this instance, there seems to be some sort of fundamental disconnect between my fingers and my brain.

And ultimately, I think that's the difference between negative and positive side effects of habits: how involved my brain is. If a habit either frees my brain to pursue interesting avenues or if my habit is conscious, I consider it positive. To wit: I don't ever have to remind myself to check my e-mail. I do have to remind myself to undertake my daily reading tasks, to commit myself to my research, to exercise in the morning.

Interestingly enough, the tasks I have to remind myself to do all have very evident side effects: each, in its own way, helps me to feel better. But they are not always fun tasks to undertake. Thus the need to remind myself to carry on a habit.

If my brain becomes completely uninvolved, that's when I start to worry that I've fallen into a trap; thinking allows us to be free.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Sometimes Sentimental, Sometimes Not

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this on my blog before, but sometimes I'm kind of a schizophrenic soul. For example, I am composed of both sarcasm and sincerity, but the sarcasm wins the day approximately 98% of the time. Give or take 3-ish%.

Anyway, I feel there are two very distinct parts of me that arise at different occasions. Another example: I have both a practical side and a flighty side. The flightiness usually wins because most practical thoughts I have are followed by the thought, "But where would be the fun in that?"

Part of me detests sentimental, ooey-gooey crap. And part of me is, I'll admit it, something of a nostalgic. I know I have said it before, but I'll say it again: I keep every note that people write to me. Also every birthday card. I still have a glittery star from a high school dance . . . at the end of the dance, my date had pulled it down from the ceiling and delivered it with the corny line, "So you can always remember the night we danced in the stars."

It took me years to throw away the program from the first touring Broadway show I ever saw at The Capitol. (The King and I.) Sometimes, when I go home, I pull down the family photo albums and peruse them for hours--sometimes seeing glimpses of my now-self in my past-self, sometimes wondering how the little girl with the pigtails and the silly cheesy grin became the sarcastic academic with the messy bun and--well, let's be honest--the same silly cheesy grin.

Sometimes I try to trace my history through the pictures, wondering what sort of story any outsider would be able to construct if I lined up the photos in chronological order. (I confess: sometimes I look at those pictures and think, "I was a cute kid. What on earth happened when I grew up a little?")

The more nostalgic I find myself, the more the memories reaffirm this to me: People have known me, and people have loved me despite knowing me.

That's a sentiment I can live with.

This post is part of the Blue-Beta Blog Coordination, a continuing series of content coordinated by theme or motif with posts from Confuzzled of I Keep Wondering, Gromit of The Dancing Newt, Redoubt of Redoubt Redux, Third Mango of Funkadelic Freestylings of Another Sort, Yarjka of Sour Mayonnaise, and Xanthippe of Let’s Save Our Hallmark Moment. This week's theme: 'Sentiments'.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Time Goes By . . . Sometimes More Quickly Than I'd Like

I'm not exactly sure how it happened, but my February disappeared. I blinked my eyes and it was gone. The worst thing, though, is the amnesia: I'm not exactly sure what I did during those 28 days. Sure, I have a whiteboard calendar and up until yesterday, it had all sorts of assignments and projects and to-dos written on it. But I'm not sure I did any of them.

When time moves this fast, I always think that this must be what they mean when they talk about "life passing you by." Except that I was in my life. I can tell you that I bought my sister birthday presents for her Valentine's Day birthday (which I still haven't yet given her . . . we're celebrating her birthday and my birthday on the same day--a month to the day after hers, five days after mine). I can tell you that on the 21st, I acted like the bossy britches that I am in not letting my roommate help with anything remotely related to her birthday party that night. And since Sunday was actually her birthday, I didn't let her make dinner. Although I did let her help--just a little--with the cheesecake.

My grandpa called me to wish me a very happy birthday on President's Day. I remember that, too. I found it funny, but also sad--my birthday is in March. As the years pass, he gets more and more absent-minded and on days like that, I find myself torn between laughing and crying. Especially because he was so convinced that my birthday always fell on President's Day . . . I didn't have the heart to point out that President's Day isn't the same calendar date every year.

So I suppose it's fair to say that time did not pass me by. I remember parts of February. But I've forgotten more than I remember; life is such a fleeting thing.

It may be a good thing that I don't remember some of those days: that the petty dramas have fallen away and that the days I felt I couldn't keep my head above water have slipped into oblivion. I'd much rather remember the days that made me smile, anyway.

My dad has a scripture taped next to his computer at home--Psalms 118:25. "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." It's his reminder that the Lord has given him that particular day, but his attitude is up to him.

I don't think it's always possible to rejoice in the happenings of all of our days. I've had days I gladly look forward to forgetting: but I think, perhaps, the key is to be glad of having time. Of having days. Even bad ones.

My worst days have taught me some of my best lessons.