Thursday, August 30, 2012

A letter to a writer...

Dear you,

I get your letters in the mail, and most of the time, I don't open them.  I put them somewhere; in a desk drawer, under a pile of papers, fitted neatly between books on my shelf.  Then, a day like today will happen where the house is quiet and my body is sore and I'm feeling a million miles away from myself, like I'm a tiny thing at the bottom of a well.  How I view the world is through a circle of light so far above my head.  And I'll find a sealed envelope behind the coffee maker.

You write about letters, how they're something special.  They aren't an essay, you said, so I'm going to try not to make this an essay.  It's hard, though, because I write essays to stay alive.  I write essays to pull on the rope. 

You said that you never grew up.  You talk a lot about the kids you knew in groups homes, how they can't work for anybody, as adults.  I'm like that, too.  Only, I think that I probably have grown up, and what it's done for me is make me anemic.  I used to be a giant thing with painted eyes, and now I can barely get out of bed in the morning.  It's sick, but I feel good, like this.  I never loved anything until I gave birth to my daughters.  The way I loved people before becoming a mother was that they burned me up inside.  Sometimes people without kids don't like it when I say things like that.  I don't need it to be true for everyone.

My parents were evangelical Christians, and I was raised in a revival.  As a child, I cried all the time.  I was good at spelling and wanted grown ups to like me.  I would become crippled with anxiety in the middle of the school day, and all I wanted was my mother.  She had too many children and my dad believed women were meant to be subservient.  It said in the bible that men were the head of the household, and women were created to serve them.  I was the oldest of four kids.  My mother was good with children, but she didn't have anything left for me.  I would be sitting at my desk in school, and suddenly I couldn't breathe or talk for wanting her.  The idea that I was trapped in this building, that I wasn't allowed to stand up and walk away, it terrified me.  I would get sick and lie on one of those vinyl covered beds in the nurses office for hours and hours.

I cried when I got a B on tests.  I wanted to be a teacher's pet, but I was from a poor family and all of my clothes had puffy sleeves and were from the salvation army.  I wanted out so badly, it froze me up inside and I thought I would choke and die.  All I could think was that my mom could help me, somehow, but she never did.

Eventually, I stopped trying to be good.  I realized I wasn't as trapped as I felt.  I did acid and skipped high school to walk the railroad tracks that led out of my town.  I grew up in a hollowed out coal bed.  The creeks ran with yellow water and everything was stained the color of rust.  I made up wild things, in my head.  I talked to myself into the middle of nowhere.  There were trees everywhere and I was something else.  I wanted to die.

I have a group of people that I think back on, like your friends from the group home.  They were my roommates in college.  They're all actors and bartenders with brown teeth, now.  They still smoke cigarettes and have a favorite bar.  I haven't been to a bar in years.  I was always the worst off, except for the boy I married.  I used heroin and cut my wrists when boys were mean to me.  He got robbed while lying passed out at the city bus stop. 

We fell terribly in love.  The kind I mentioned, earlier.  The kind where I made up suicide notes in my head while he fucked me.  The kind that found me wrapped up in a sheet in an empty apartment on a mattress on the floor.  We didn't sleep.  In the morning, he pulled on black pants and tucked in his shirt and I rolled up his sleeve and pulled his belt tight between my teeth.  I saved him from drowning once.  I wrote you an email about it, I don't know if you remember.  He threw up on the bank of a river and we were friends and I loved him.  Years later, I put a needle into his arm and he crumpled in front of me and turned blue.  His lips swelled and started to crack and one of his eyes looked in the wrong direction.  I always thought an overdose would be romantic, but it wasn't.  It looked like a halloween mask.  That's how we loved each other.

So, now, I don't have ideas that spill out of me and hurt people's eyes.  I don't even drink coffee.  I grow a garden and own a juicer.  We're married and we have two little girls and I love them.  My husband works for a reputable university, and I've never figured out how to do the same thing every day without breaking down.  I have a job, writing about diseases for a health magazine.

I found out after my babies were born that I have hepatitis C.  You've alluded to your health problems and about health insurance suddenly being relevant.  I think that's why I'm sharing this with you, although there's more to it than that.  I don't tell anyone that I have it.  I don't know why, for sure.  My husband's family doesn't know, and they wouldn't like it.  I feel like it's a black spot on my motherhood.  I feel like I'm so good with my spinach smoothies and gym membership, nobody can say shit to me, but my health insurance doesn't cover the testing I need.  It doesn't cover treatment for hepatitis, and if it did, it probably wouldn't matter because it only works about 30% of the time, and then only for young, thin, white males.  There are terrible side effects of the medication.  Exhaustion, anxiety, irritability, paranoia.  All I can do is wake up and love my kids.

I used to panic about everything, but I don't any more.  I used to get depressed.  I took Zoloft for two years after my second baby was born, but it destroyed my sex drive.  I didn't even think about sex.  I couldn't even recognize when something was attractive to me.  I felt like such a loser, like I'd been duped.  This wasn't what I needed.  I didn't need to cure what was wrong with me.  I needed to live with it.  I couldn't take a pill and an iv of chemicals and be better.  My love doesn't burn me up, anymore.  Nothing does.  I wrote a book.  I was in a wedding where there were fireworks at the end of the night, a few weeks ago.  I just got home from visiting a fishing village at the end of the world.  I stopped panicking because there isn't anything wrong.

I want you to know that you're something very special.  You're so much more important than you could ever know.  You tell stories because they happened.  People don't want to be made up of the things they've done and the places they've been.  They want to make believe they are ordinary and new and clean every day, and then they lie awake at night, afraid of everything, afraid of who they are.  Thank you for being you.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I'm not bad at life.

I feel sure of myself, after a long period of feeling scattered and tossed about. 

I feel in control of the way I see myself, even if I'll never feel really in control.

I am in love with my husband.

I'm so proud of my kindergarten girl.

My two year old read me a book, today.  She pointed to all of the pictures and made funny, squeaky little voices saying things like, "It's nap time, baby."  And, "No, I will not go to nap time!"

It was nap time, and that's always a hard thing to reconcile.

I'm a good mom.  I am good at helping people.  Can I say that?  Is it really okay to just stop what you're doing and admit that you're good at something?  I'm good at hugging babies.  I'm good at being outside of the school early, and waving enthusiastically as you come out of the front door.

I'm good at imagining things.  I'm good at having crushes on singers.

Lying awake in bed, making up romances for imaginary young people.  Sitting on a blanket in the sun.  Telling funny stories about grown ups.  Lifting weights.  Growing kale.  Singing soulful songs in my underwear.  Swimming in the ocean.  Spotting wildlife.  Crying when somebody looks really beautiful.  I'm good at all of those things.

I get a good tan.  I close my eyes and point my face right into the sun.  The world goes all yellow and orange and then red.

Wearing funny glasses.  Cutting hair.  Writing sad stories.  Taking your side in an argument.  Picking apples.  Wearing black dresses with cleavage.  Meeting new people. 

I'm not bad at life.  I've been convinced of that, from time to time.  I'm good at life.  I am.

I might get bored and frustrated.  I might get confused about my worth.  I get down, but I am a person who enjoys things.  I am a fancy food person, an ice cream after school person, a coffee drink with foam person. 

I am interested in things.  I like watching surgeries on tv.  I feel like I should have been a doctor, except that I got terrible grades and rebelled and wore black lipstick in the 10th grade.  I like growing things.  I like learning about things; soil and mental illness and the properties of blood.  I want to see your scars.  I want to bear mine.  Insects, fevers, nosebleeds, caverns and ravines, empty fishing villages at the end of the world.  I am not a terrible person because I have problems with being me, all the time.

There are pieces of me in the gutter.  There are pieces of me in the belly of a whale.  I am traveling through your veins; I am the core of an apple.  I died in childbirth; a particle of fluid along an undulating umbilical cord.  I am so far over the water.  I hear a gull calling in the distance.  The slippery back of a great, gray fish emerges below me.  I am a shadow hissing across the surface of the sea.

There is nothing wrong with this, with being me.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

We went on a trip with my dad...

We went on a trip with my dad.  When he heard that Kurt wasn't able to go on either of his vacations, this year, he scrambled at the last minute to find a house in the Outer Banks, and we spent the week together.

My sister is also going through something terrible.  Her very most important person, the one who said I do, he just didn't come home one day.  She has a little boy.  My nephew.  He's three.  My dad has been taking time off of work to be with them.  He rode with them to the city to find a new place to live.

It's become important to me, the way we can create new histories with people.

If you're an asshole or a junky drop out, you can grow a person in your belly for almost a year.  You can wake up every day and hold that little person and feed them and help them to grow.  You can teach them language and kindness and how to sing.  Pretty soon, you're something else.  You're something amazing and nobody can say shit to you.

I think it's true for other people, too.  People who spend a long time making mistakes.

There isn't anything they can do to fix things, or to make anything up to you, but they can show up on the morning after your husband has left you and they can stay until you're not afraid to breathe.  They can love your kids, removed from them by a generation.  They can want to be a part of your life, in the little ways you'll allow.  They can wake up every day with good intentions, and maybe someday they'll be something new, too.

There's nothing that be done about what's already happened, but we're not done living, yet, either.  I never thought I'd be open to anything but a tentative, one-sided arrangement with my father, where I'd let him bring the girls presents for Christmas, or whatever, but I'd never allow him in.  I never thought my girls would run to him, have a nickname for him, and jump up and down with excitement at the mention of him.  I never thought I'd be okay with them loving him, with their innocence and open hearts.  I never thought I'd be anything but afraid of him, of what he means to me, of how he was the reason I spent my youth under water.

But I'm willing to let people change my mind, like I changed theirs.  Little by little, like drops of water in the mouth of a river.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A summer wedding.

I talked with a few of you about feeling like I don’t have any spirituality left… like I was just made up of the ways I spent my time.  Cleaning, rushing, caring for my babies.  I used to be a pretty huge thing.  I used to spill over into the world around me, but I pulled my gates closed, folded up my edges and settled in for a long night.  I’ve been in the trenches of birth and recovery, of sleeplessness and selflessness, or doing everything for somebody other than me.  That’s the way it’s supposed to be, and I love my life and myself infinitely more for being a mommy, for having these two wonderful people in my life to love and serve.  

Now, if that last sentiment makes you roll your eyes, consider me, at age 27.  Consider that there had never been anybody to work for.  I didn't have a reason to be good, so I wasn't.  I was dying.  I came scuttling across the pavement after dark.  I was a ghost, wavering and hollow.  I was an apparition.  I had a needle in my arm, that's how I spent my time.  

If I say that I'm grateful for diapers and laundry, it's because I've seen the alternative, and for me, it's something dark.  If I say that I'm happy serving my love, it's because I'm really fucking happy serving my love.  Motherhood is hard.  It's boring and the days are long.  It's exhausting and isolating.  It's also the only thing I've ever been able to proud of.  

But, allow me to say that it was kind of a beautiful thing to spend a few days with old friends; with people who know me for me, and who, honestly, don’t know very much about how I’ve spent the last five years.  

Our old friends, they know Kurt for the last dregs of an $8 bottle of vodka.  They know him for overdosing, for getting robbed while passed out at a bus stop.  They know me for my painted eyes, for manic sunrises and vomiting off of the front stoop.  They know me for being a little bit dangerous, for being a never ending partner in crime.  

They live across a sea of experience from me, now.  Thinking about them has made me feel lonely, so many time.  No one came with me when I entered the water with a swollen belly, when I walked until I was submerged over my head.  I was alone when I crawled onto the far shore, stinging all over with new skin.  

 Over time, I’ve figured that there was nothing left of me to recognize, that, if you knew me when I was young, you might not know me, now.  I’ve felt that I don’t have anything left to offer somebody who doesn’t know intimately what it’s like to change a diaper before brushing your teeth, who hasn’t showered alone for years.  I've become a mannequin against an ironing board.  I felt lost to them, and alone.

I left the girls with my mom, with a promise that Daddy would bring them to me in the morning, and I went into the countryside to be in a wedding.  My beautiful girlfriend was getting married.  I was nervous, picking broken Cheerios from the seat of my dress as I got out of the car to meet my old friends.  It's been a long time since I had to play the part of myself.  I wasn't sure I had it in me, but I did.  I had it all inside of me, oceans of love for these people, arms capable of reaching them, holding hands under the table.  I had them all inside of me.  I was even in there, too.

We told stories and laughed until we cried.  I cried and cried again at how beautiful Megan was, at her dress in the full length mirror, at her memory of her father, at my memory of sitting with her on the roof of our rented college house, both of us stiff and wired on acid, promising her I would be there for this day.  We would be married, someday, and I would never stop loving you.  Because we were all misfits, and we were trouble, but there was real love there, too.  Our friends, under the blankets, warm on a mattress on the floor of my college bedroom, under an orange bulb with the stereo turned low.  I married one of them.  I belong to all of them, in our own ways, forever.


meggie and doug

i love you.

megan was perfect.

um, have i mentioned that i cried about a million times?

we're all grown up, i guess.

I’m not sure I can express to you the joy and love of these few days, meeting beautiful new boyfriends, squeezing my grown up friends so tight.  It's no surprise that years have made everybody more handsome and comfortable inside themselves. All the love I felt I left on an island came flooding back, looking into your faces and remembering the kids we used to be.  Long nights that stretched into morning, cigarettes and pull over sweatshirts and we sad and twisted up inside, but were in it together, and now everything is different, but it will always be the same.

little girls


Spending some time surrounded by beautiful gay men and actresses was just what I needed to pull myself out of this funk I've been suffering.  (I need to remember this the next time I haven't been out of yoga pants in months.)  Some time with our old friends, loving them, getting bolstered by them and letting them love our girls (and my haircut) was something I probably needed really badly.  There were even cupcakes and fireworks.  Scouty danced the night away.

Congratulations, Meg and Eric.  Thank you for letting us be a part of your beautiful day.  We love you more than we can say.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Times goes on like a funeral parade

Someone close to me is going through something very hard.

It's the kind of hard that makes electricity hum around the edges of your darkened house at night.

It makes you afraid to breathe.

People can do things, they can leave.

They can leave you with a body you can't feel.  They can leave you after they held your hands in front of an alter and kissed you and kissed you.  They took your newborn son from your arms for the first time, once.  There was a first time the both of you looked into the face of your child, your hearts quaked, his differently than yours, after all. He can leave, after all that.

People are capable of a great many terrible things.

Sometimes they go out to get cigarettes.

Can I take a moment to say how grateful I am for my life?  I worked hard to get here, but working hard doesn't have anything to do with it.  Or maybe it means everything.  We all work hard, and sometimes it feels like we are getting back what we don't deserve.  Sometimes we get shit on, and we wake up in the morning and sit on the edge of the empty bed for a minute.  Maybe it's winter.  Maybe we cough a few times.  We make coffee and look out the tiny kitchen window.  It's snowing and the sun hasn't come up yet.  A misting of grey light covers everything and the world is quiet.

Times goes on like a funeral parade, tires on wet pavement.

Sometimes people don't work hard at all, they don't fight for anything.  Nothing is right and there is no wrong.  It feels like these people get away, in the end, but they wake up on cold mornings in February, too.  They wake up and their children can't remember their faces.  Their sons have a hole in their hearts, it gets filled by women. 

The women in his son's life, they brush his hair back from his face, cup his chin in their palm.  They stay up late with him, rocking him in a dark corner of the cold world.  They are a soft place, breasts and the scent of honeysuckle; empty, drooping bellies and hands that are red and raw with effort.  His women pull on boots and brush snow away from the windshield in the wasteland of half-light and 6am.  They save pennies in jars for Christmas.  They hold him because he needs to be held, and they are warm and he is safe.

There are people who don't leave, too, and they are made new.  They are tape and paper with tiny, glittering trees. They are cocoa and elbows on the table, wearily holding a head of shimmering red hair.  They are the screened windows of a tent in the morning.  They are the chirping of birds; they are the branches of trees.  They make the wind.  Everything will be okay.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Is this thing on?

I think I might have completed a successful vacation away from writing.  I think I feel like... refreshed and like I have things to say.  I'm not going to name any names, but I might have even been missing some of you a little bit

So, here we go.


Monday, August 6, 2012

I'm taking a break...

I'm taking a hiatus.

I feel like I've lost focus, like I'm not sure what the point of my blogging is, right now.

Writing here used to bring so much love into my life.  I made connections with people and felt like a part of something important, and wrote things that made me feel happy and proud.

Lately, I'm just sick of reading my own words.  I feel like everything I write is like... either annoying or depressing or forced or weird and that nobody is getting anything good out of it, including me.

I need to regroup, rethink and figure out what I'm trying to accomplish with my words.

See you soon! 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Marriage and kids and carousel music

Kurt and I get along very well when we're alone together.  We walk slowly and hold hands.  I say, should we go into Goodwill? as we're passing the store front littered with mannequins with missing appendages, and we go inside and sort through racks of pot holders and lunch boxes.  I say funny things and he laughs.  I laugh and he tells me, "You just did something that's very Amanda."

But, when the kids are around, he's kind of like a wrench in my works.

I told him all of this, this afternoon.

We were in the pool with the girls, and they decided to get out to play in the sandbox.  My husband I, we sat in the water and talked about our upcoming trip to the beach.  My back was turned to the girls.  The sun was beating down deliciously on my shoulders.  We discussed the long drive ahead of us, the Ocracoke Ferry, where we're looking forward to having lunch on the sand.  It was nice; sort of like we were just two adults, talking.  He seemed like a very nice boy to be spending an afternoon with.

Then I decided that I wanted to get some sun on my cleavage.  (I'm in a friend's wedding this upcoming weekend, and my dress is very low cut.  It's so low cut, it exposes the stark white, untanned tops of my boobs.  If I don't do something about them, they're going to steal the show.)  Anyway, I turned around to face the sun, and the girls.

As soon as my body was pointed towards them, they swarmed.  They ran up to me saying, "Watch this, mom!  Watch this!"  They asked me to sing come on baby, let's do the twist.  They tattled on each other for stealing shovels.  They wanted me to say, "Go Scouty, go go go Scouty!" while they jumped on the trampoline. 

Suddenly, the pleasant conversation I'd been having with my husband was just another contribution to the general noise that populates every moment of my life, spinning around crookedly in my head like out of tune carnival music.  The sound of his voice in my ear threatened to totally disband the remaining shreds of my sanity.  I said, "Hold on, stop!" and everybody looked at me like they had no idea what needed stopping. 

I think, in a lot of ways, it probably isn't very fair to be daddy, in our family.

See, I run a tight ship.  This tight ship consists of all the child rearing and household duties that allow us to get along in the world.  Everything is neatly controlled by me at all times.  It might even look like I know what I'm doing. 

In reality, I have a death grip on our schedule and chores and budget and appointments because I'm only barely maintaining my sanity.  I'm one lost sock away from the mental hospital at all times.  (God save the person who moves my fucking car keys.)

So, I know how things have to be done.  They have to be done the way I've devised, because... if they're not, everything goes to shit.  Gears start breaking and springs go flying everywhere and by the time Kurt gets home from work, I'm unshowered and wandering the house in a bathrobe, eating from a bag of cheese curls and crying.  (That's only sort of an exaggeration.) 

And then, every week, right on time... Kurt is home on Saturday morning. 

Finally!  A reprieve from stay at home parenting!  The thing I've been yearning for all week!  I have help!

Except, that he does everything all willy-nilly.  He takes care of the dishes before putting away toys and puzzles.  He fills Louisey's sippy cup before changing her diaper.  He brushes teeth after breakfast.  He lets the girls play outside without brushing their hair.  Everything he does sets off my wrong wrong wrong alarm bells.

I feel tense, having help.  I feel on edge watching him part Scouty's hair on the wrong side of her head.  I almost snap when he puts the juice boxes in the pantry instead of the fridge.  I know none of this stuff actually matters, but it's almost more than I can take.  You can't ask an only marginally sane person to run a household every minute of every day for years and years, and then just have daddy pop in every once in a while to put dirty dishes in a clean dishwasher!

So, we have a very schizophrenic relationship.  I feel like he's purposefully putting my workout pants in the closet so that I won't be able to find them on Monday morning when I'm rushing to get to the gym.  I boss and I hover around saying things like, "She can't wear that to dinner.  That's a pajama shirt."  But, the second the girls aren't in sight, I find him perfectly delightful.  Enjoyable, even.  I find him smart and funny and fun to be around.  I find the sound of his voice tolerable.  I prefer him, even.

What's a marriage to do, in a house with a 5 year old and a 2 year old?  I'm estimating we have about... oh... eighteen more years of this scattered insanity on my part.  Eighteen years, or so, until I'll be able to finish a conversation with my husband, without the sound of his voice turning into carousel music in my head.

I'm lucky that I married a very patient, humble person, because it's no treat being the only man in our house.  It's no treat, being married to me.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Survival - Writing Challenge Piece

I crawled from the sea.

I breathe water, and now, air.

There is something I love.  Crackling leaves signal my arrival.  A flimsy canvas thing stands between us.  It is held it place by branches that bend, but do not break; something like your bones.

My body is filled with worms.  They populate my saliva.  They wriggle in my brain.  They seek something you have; warmth and marrow.  I am cold as the depths of the black and sleepless deep.  They long ago drained my bones of their jelly.

My eyes are milky marbles, swiveling obscenely over the land.  I process the trees, the soil and the debris littering the ground.  Everything dies.  Everything decomposes.  The worms will have us all.


This is a piece for a writing challenge where we exchange prompts.

For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Wendryn gave me this prompt: Survival of the fittest. 

I gave Diane this prompt: A very small brain.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Brad's Raw Foods Review

When I told the people at Brad's Raw Foods that I was ready to start adding some food back into my diet, they were generous enough to send me some snacks to try.

Click here to go to my reviews page and find out what we thought...