sleep inside of this machine

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my friend Kevin recently shared this most accurate article on Brand New’s The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me, a record that at nearly twenty-nine years of age, I still can’t shake. you can read the article here.

Ryan Bassil’s words penetrated my thoughts and set my wheels turning. I’m pretty thankful for that considering I’ve had plenty to say and no real inspiration to say it. I vividly remember purchasing the CD a few months after my dad passed away; I would sit in my car for hours, looping that record until my ears couldn’t bear the weight of the words. I’d fall to sleep with “Jesus/Jesus Christ” on repeat and wake up to “Welcome to Bangkok.” I really couldn’t get enough no matter how much it hurt me to listen to it. The entire thing blends, echos and separates so much love, loss and pain. It’s still hard for me to listen to it (but I do.)

This notion got me thinking: what else do we cling to in this way? My initial response to Kevin was the idea that I connected to and rejected the record every time I listened to it, and it’s true. But why? What else do we treat this way?

I’ve spent the better part of this Brand New morning talking over coffee with friends,  in seemingly distant reflection, and it may have just served me more than I realized. That tends to happen when we aren’t really paying attention. Personal reflection is luxury I don’t often take these days because I’m never quite sure what I’m going to find there. Maybe that’s why I’ve avoided my voice here for so long because I’m not sure what will come out. Today, I’d like to sing.

In regards to the record, and the time it landed in my hands, I’d surpassed “teenage angst” and launched full-fledged in to “mad at the world.” Brand New’s 2003 record, Deja Entendu was really what fueled all of my wildly out of control emotions all through high school; there’s just something about listening to that kind of poetry. It’s inspired me to write similarly nearly every time I sit down to write.

I’m not sure if those sort of innate things ever go away, but perhaps, change shape and intention. I’m still slightly angry at the world, especially now with all of the extra hate and violence and general heartlessness, but my will to do something about it has stemmed and blossomed.

Bringing back focus to my actual point with this random ramble: Do songs ever leave us? Does anyone else believe that they shape who we are? The way we communicate? Let me hear your thoughts; mine are everywhere.

 

 

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do the write thing

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I decided tonight would be the best night to get it over with; let my fingers meet the keys with no real intention at all, to figure out what the hell I’ve been doing, and where I’ve been for the last few months. It seemed like it was just March and I was making a mental note to write that short story about things I’ve read, make that one correction to a piece I started in February, draft that outline (a singular novel about my father.) And now here it is, middle of October, and I’ve done nothing. I’ve been avoiding this chair like the plague. Today, it caught up with me. This will make little to no sense at all, and without a doubt with serve no other purpose than to empty my thoughts of these thoughts, so please feel free to skip and scroll down to the song I’ve left you if that doesn’t sound alright.

I was antsy with the thought of how good it was going to feel to sit here and write something profound and well-stated for my mid-term paper, but those thoughts can’t come out until the rambling ones do.

The notion to write has been there, the inspiration and all that. I’ve got more characters in my head than I possibly know what to do with, each adding a little layer a day at a time, filling future books with all sorts of excellent nonsense. That’s if and when I give it much thought; it’s either all at once or nothing at all, and it drives me up the wall. It occurred to me that I may be dwindling my own craft by not putting pen to page, as it were. I saw another pen-plagued friend the other day, and it reminded me why we do what we do, and how well we do it when we finally decide. A decision not easily arrived.

It’s a heavy thing, this pen. The strength which it takes to pick it up is not a burden I’m inclined towards, some days. You have to sort and sift and bury and camouflage and that is so hard after you’ve been about the business of living all day. Other days, like today, I cannot get the words out fast enough, silencing the organized-chaotic around me.

I am shaking my head as I type this. I feel positively drowsy with inspiration sometimes, which makes me avoid it all the more. It’s a commitment I begrudge because I do love it so much, almost vainly.“If I start, I’ll never stop.” I wish I were kidding, but I think if I allowed myself to just sit and write all the pieces I wanted, I’d be in this chair for four years. FOUR. YEARS. I’m sure someone is sitting there, interpreting this as a humble brag, but I am really distressed at the thought of having to organize and manage these individual thoughts for longer than a minute. Hell, four minutes is agony, I can’t imagine more.

I’ve really missed the noisy corner of my mind, but the accidental quiet was a nice surprise. When you spend a certain amount of time with your characters, you sort of lose your wits a bit; much like when we get lost in a book we’re reading. – I just finished The Keepers of the House by Shirley Ann Grau and it was absolutely wonderful. If you haven’t, you should. – But the writing process is longer and so much more treacherous. Why did that character say that? Why did she phrase it that way? Does that sound feminist? Do I want it to sound feminist? Do I need to switch gears and go in a different direction? I hate this. I’m deleting the whole thing. I wonder if there’s coffee in the pot. I hate heating up old coffee. Caffeine. [walks to coffee pot] OH! I KNOW WHAT I CAN – [walks back to computer]SHIT! What was it I was going to say?! FCKKK!!! It really is annoying and wonderful and I have truly missed creating space with words.

I suppose the real issue I’m circling here is: what comes next? There are a few scary things I want a write, and I want to make a collection of those. I’d love to finish the follow-up to The Anchor but I don’t want to spend too much more time there, not now. I’ve been in Beulah for too long to want to visit so soon. But what next? The short stories, I feel, won’t be satisfactory and I have too much going on to write another novel, which seems twice as appealing because I can’t do that at this time. I’ve got the itch so bad and I am not allowed to scratch. So, what is this? Writer’s block or indecision? Or can I just not commit?

oh baby, i was bound for mexico.

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I’ve been home two weeks and just managed to get my suitcases off the floor. All of my clothes from the trip have been washed and dried several times; I put some back in the open-face suitcase just so it looked a little fuller, the rest have formed a nice body pillow on my bed. It’s like I can’t mentally let go of this trip. I feel that if I really unpack, put my clean laundry away and store all of my tiny, TSA approved toiletries, the experience is over. I can’t deal.

In my mind, I see the low, burnt, orange peel of a moon that guided us from Alexandria to Shreveport, through to Dallas and on to the bright, freshly squeezed sun of Cancun, and I smile. I should have known that the rare moon symbolized how unique and unpredictable the trip was going to be. The group trip, my first real trip with more than my family and a few friends, to Tulum, Quintana-Roo was new nostalgia, permanent memories that have only crossed me in my dreams ever-so often, but not quite enough.

Last night I stuck my mouth under the cool faucet for a rinse after brushing my teeth, a feeling I reveled in like never before. We couldn’t do that in Mexico, not where we were (though I wouldn’t recommend doing that anywhere. I think my stomach is still pissed for the few sips that seeped in.) That refreshing swish reminded me of how easy we have it in America, the simple luxury that is pure drinking water; we’re spoiled. The word germophobe seems like the most asinine term in the dictionary; we know nothing of germs, disease, or real poverty here. In Tulum, I had to wipe and throw my toilet paper in the trash, as there is no real sewage system. As you can imagine, this wasn’t pleasant for the first day or so, but we all got used to it. Well, kind of.

The simple act of being unable to flush my poop humbled me, though I was humbled over and over throughout the trip, and thought constantly of how I hoped my attitude towards the place I call home would change.I am here to say, my perspective has been thoroughly and forever reshaped; the United States, and the people in it, will never be the same in my mind. It’s one thing to read about countries like this, it’s another to see it; while we definitely do have an impoverished, homeless population here, the face is totally different from the one I saw in Tulum.

Our Riviera Maya AirBnB surpassed spectacular, though I wasn’t positive I was going to feel that way getting there. I’ll admit it, I was being judgy. After arriving in Cancun, we had to find transportation to our home in Tulum, which was about an hour or so away – technically two but there is one speed in Mexico and that is fast: the speech, the food, the taxis. All the speed of light. We drove through Cancun in all of its over-sized, Americanized, touristy glory. We drove past dwarfing entrances to exclusive resorts, spas and – what I assume to be – rehabilitation centers. And then, just as I was nodding off, weary from thirty hours or so of awakeness, we entered Tulum.

The roads were dirty and only lightly peppered with people, a sight I am always happy to see, especially when traveling; crowds aren’t really my thing anymore. We zoomed through what I mentally labeled “Bohemia” and eventually slammed in to the residential area that backed up to the jungle – yes, you read that right. I didn’t know what to think, so I surveyed the area in a decaffeinated haze: overcast sky, trees everywhere, many stray dogs. Isn’t it supposed to be sunny? Where’s the beach? I was promised beach!!! A faint stench in the air filled my nose – trash and salt, mostly – not a great smell but my senses adjusted quickly. Late twenties early thirties men stood at all levels, working on various houses. Some looked on with friendly faces, others whistled, while the rest just stared and laughed at the group of Americans trying to count pesos. – We didn’t get very good at this until the third day of the trip. And by we I mean everyone else, because I would just melt in to a weeping, margarita puddle every time we had to figure out what we owed. I learned I am not good with currency exchange.

Our host greeted us a few minutes later and upon opening the door to the casa we could only stand with our jaws on the floor or meander around in wonderment. The house was three stories high, ground floor hosting two more than reasonably sized rooms, a large kitchen and dining space, and a patio/swimming pool to boot. Second floor was the master suite, which include a giant office/multimedia room, and the top floor was designed for open-seating and hammock swinging. We were in paradise, and we hadn’t seen the beach yet!

I immediately tossed my bag on the floor and began exploring the house…the massive, amazing space I’d only seen in my dreams or magazines on airplanes. Our host, a lovely Scottish chap, completely designed the place himself and lived a few doors down in an equally impressive casa. I could do nothing but drink it all in; two hours in to Mexico and I’d already mentally filled half of a notebook with observations.

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third story swingin’

 

After we’d settled in to our spaces, the seven of us set off in search of tacos, because what else would we want after landing in Mexico? We found tacos, we found the best tacos straight out the gate at a little hole in the wall, La Chiapaneca. I think everyone was picturing dinner at a beautiful, patio-style restaurant with a menu pages and pages long. Instead, the seven of us huddled around a table just big enough to fit us all, were served drinks with no ice and ordered tacos by the plate, which were served plain. I was so excited I got to decorate my own tacos with: hotter than hell Habanero sauce, cool jalapeno sauce, lettuce and sliced radishes. I was in taco heaven.

I promised myself I would eat fifteen tacos on the trip, though only made it through five; I had to branch out and try some other things. Authentic Mexican fare was just too good to pass up.

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Other fresh delicacies that couldn’t be missed? Local markets that were filled with amazing fruits and vegetables that we would eventually chop up and snack on all week.

I have to take the time to mention the freaking spectacular mojitos at a local bar named Batey’s (Ba-tay.) Seriously, if you’re ever in the area, this is a must. We were ushered in by the friendliest staff in town and served mojitos so fresh I looked around for a mojito tree. The large glasses of the sweet drink were packed with homegrown mint, fruit of your choice (I chose watermelon, for the first few)and completed with a raw sugar cane. Can you say perfection? The evening was just beginning as our first round of drinks arrived and Maria and her husband – a 60+ professional flamenco dancer/guitarist duo – took the stage. We were entertained by the charming couple for a few hours; long enough to catch a thick buzz that would lull me in to the sleep of the dead.

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Our first morning in Tulum was cloudy and gorgeous. I was surprised when a cool breeze hit me in the face as I walked up the steps for an early swing in the hammock. Everyone else slept while I took in the quiet sounds of morning. I rocked back and forth and thought about how just hours ago I’d been on American soil, feeling overwhelmed by the arrival and passing of summer. Life is constantly pushing us forward, and sometimes, rather quickly.

Through my contemplation, I heard the arrival of the men building new houses in our neighborhood. I heard one talking loudly, a voice so close I thought he was behind me. I said, “Hola,” to the faceless voice and heard nothing, then out of nowhere, a tiny hat and pair of dark brown, smiling eyes popped up over the edge of the house and the voice greeted me, “Hola, senorita.” I smiled back, waved and headed down the stairs as the hat disappeared.

Other voices were exchanging random dialogue as I meandered back in to the house in search of coffee. Here’s a thing about Mexico that I don’t like: instant coffee. Though I didn’t understand why then, it has donned on me since that instant coffee uses less water for preparation; makes perfect sense now, though I still don’t enjoy it. To satiate my coffee craving (craving = addiction) my loving boyfriend and his sweet sister took me to find a cup of hot coffee. We walked through the quiet streets scouting out potential supper spots, noting where to rent bicycles, and who had the best vegetarian menus. I popped in to a few small Bodega in search of “non-preparado” coffee, with no luck at all. They really drink this shit like this?! Impossible! I’m coffee snob, no matter what country I’m in.

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the perfect macchiato. i’m still drooling. 

 

The night before, on our short trek home, Krishna pointed out a little spot, Burrito Amor. I made a mental note that we should try it out, “how bad could it be? The word ‘burrito’ is in the name!” I’m so happy I love burritos so much and can be lured in so easily; it was hands-down the best decision of the trip…well, maybe. There, Neil found an iced coffee, Krishna an iced latte and a hot macchiato and a bag of coffee the size of my forearm for me. I was so so so pleased that I didn’t have to “suffer” through instant coffee for the rest of the trip. We brought burritos home for everyone, which we quickly consumed before heading to the beach.

Here’s where the trip becomes one long series of sunrises and sunsets for me. I don’t remember much of the details of each day because I was in such bliss. Our cab ride to the beach filled me with such wild anticipation, like I’d never seen a beach before or something; really, it was slightly ridiculous, but I didn’t care. The beach, any beach at all, is instantly my happy place. There’s something about the cohesiveness of it all: the sights, the sounds, the smell. I take it all in for as long as I possibly can, like a vitamin. This beach, Tulum, was no different; in fact, it was more.

FullSizeRender.jpgWe were dropped at a public beach, which if you’ve ever been to Pensacola or Destin, is beautiful but slightly overwhelming because of the crowds, nearby resorts, etc.

This beach was completely untouched, and I mean that when I say it. No resorts, no restaurants, no nothing aside from the small tiki bar that was serving up coconut drinks and fresh fish all day; talk about glorious. Upon walking up, it took everything in me not to drop my things and immediately run in to the water like a child. Sand, whiter than snow, ocean, bluer than any ink or paint I’ve seen on a palette. I close my eyes and think of it now and all I can do is sigh. How something like that can seem ordinary to anyone is beyond my comprehension.

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The next few days were filled with long strolls through the jungle of Tulum to get from point A to point B, separate cab rides since vans were hard to come by, and random explorations of different parts of the city. I ate gorgeous fresh food, drank exotic coconut drinks and slept better than I have in years. It was equal parts vacation and work and I loved it. Working for your fun is totally worth the semi-headache.

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 I’m really a mermaid.

 

I think my face was actually in water more than it was out and I’m pretty positive my hair was only dry while I was sleeping. I snorkeled in a cave! A CAVE! I did yoga in the middle of the jungle, taught by a woman who spoke more Spanish than she did English and then, I snorkeled some more. I felt like a living mermaid the entire trip and really gained some perspective about what’s been going on in my life and the world around me. It’s easy to feel small when you’re floating above a stingray that could cover you like a blanket.

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post snorkel snap

 

 

Mexico, for me, was about understanding that we need less than what we have and that we should be thankful every damn day that we’re immeasurably blessed with more. Growing up, I always stayed in resorts and had every little thing handed to me when I wanted it. I adored traveling that way, but even then I felt like I was missing part of the puzzle of these amazing places I was experiencing, and I was. I wouldn’t trade those memories for the world, but I’m glad to have to opportunity to immerse myself in different cultures in a fresh way.

One thing I can’t get over: when we went grocery shopping, we filled an entire basket full to the top with all kinds of things I knew we’d never eat in four days. What would have cost $150+ here was a whopping $70 there. I think about this every time I go to Wal-Mart/Target/wherever now. There were people just waiting for us to leave so they could go through our trash to see what could be salvaged. Could you imagine doing that? I know habits can’t change overnight, but this part of the trip humbled me in a way I can’t explain, and I am definitely making a conscious effort to clean my plate when I eat.

I realize I’m leaving out so many parts of this excursion of a lifetime, but I couldn’t possibly write it all down without it being lengthier than it already is. Tulum will always be this dream trip, where I swam with exotic fish while holding hands with the love of my life. It will be me looking over my shoulder on the ride back to the shore and seeing the Mayan ruins staring back at me. It will be the schoolkids buying tacos and ice cream from the cart outside their playground. It will be the long walks to nowhere and back, in the sun and in the shade. It will be sunsets, sunrises and the freedom, promise, and gratitude of more.

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coconut dreams at the dive

 

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happiness is real. 

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more. 

 

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until we meet again…

Letter #1

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Oh my god. I just came home from a run – it’s about 11pm here – and I found a letter in my mailbox, a strange one. I thought for sure I’d already picked up the mail on the way in from work tonight, but I have just barely been going through the motions lately and it is possible I missed one. I hate reaching all the way to the back of the box, something about it just absolutely frightens me.

I’m not sure what I expected to find. You read about this kind of crap on the internet and see it in horror films, but you never actually expect it to happen to you.

The letter reads:

I know what you did, you sick, disgusting, evil creature. It took me a while, but now I know the truth; I know about all of the lies you told and what you did to Kristyn that summer. I know. And I’m going to tell everyone.

For a moment I chuckled – a sinister something I learned to enjoy when I was young, an attribute of my dark side.

See the thing is, no one was around when I did it, so someone had to have been watching me; a thought I couldn’t bear. I have lived in paranoia since it happened, constantly looking over my shoulder while I work, double checking the backseat of my car before I get in it – sometimes I check my trunk, but I have to do it at least three times…my OCD won’t allow for otherwise.

I’ve spent the better part of tonight pacing my floor, trying to make out who could have sent me this letter. The incident with Kristyn was two years ago, approaching three. To think that someone has been following me this long gives me the creeps. I’m justified in this right? Shit, I am so scared to sleep tonight. I just keep thinking about it…I’m not that interesting of a person, my routine is boring – I can’t think of anything that even remotely makes me stand out to a potential stalker or whatever.

I guess you deserve to know what happened with Kristyn. I wish I had a more elaborate story for what I did to her, but I don’t. We were always running together, different marathons, different paths, different trails. We traveled together to find the best paths to train on – all over the country. We both loved the outdoors; we grew up spending our days seeing who could sweat the most, who could climb higher and who could swim the farthest. Kristyn was always better, always having to aid me in some way. I knew she was superior, or would find a way to be, but still I continued to allow her to beat me. I hated how humble she was about it too – like she didn’t know how great she was. This stretched from athletics and academics to boys and popularity. I was, of course, cool by association, but Kristyn was always the star. I never knew how much it bothered me, how much it consumed me, until I let it go too far. It was like in one instant, I snapped. In one instant, I killed my best friend.

It was the summer after college graduation, and we were biking some pretty serious terrain in Colorado, training for a competition. Kris hit a huge rock and fell off her bike. Then bounced off a giant old tree – a maneuver that no doubt cracked her spine or her head – and proceeded to roll down a hill that was completely covered in other branches, thorns and rocks. I ran down the hill as fast as I could to help Kristyn when it occurred to me: this was my moment. I had a choice to become the victim and the hero simultaneously.

I don’t know why, but that sentiment has always interpreted as, “villain,” to me. I just don’t feel like you can really be both without sacrificing something, and at a very high price.

I stood over her mostly lifeless body and examined her. She was beautiful, like a modern Kathryn Hepburn or something; bloody, different bones sticking out of different parts of her Lululemon pants, disfigured but still gorgeous; it made me sick. She looked at me pleadingly and I looked her in the eye and said, “I’m sorry,” and watched her die; I let it happen.

I convinced myself that for this to look real, so I wouldn’t look like I’d killed, that I had to be injured too. I biked back up the path and came down again, this time at a higher speed….just not fast enough to kill me. I aimed for the rock that Kristyn had hit and hit it in the perfect spot. I calculated that if I hit it just right of where Kristyn had, I’d end up in front of the rock, directly in the bike path so someone would find me – us. I mean so someone would find us.

I honestly don’t know what made me do it. I could have easily saved her. It’s amazing what happens to your psyche when you know no one is watching.

I laid there with my head bleeding, knowing I would survive. I had thorns everywhere, pricking my skin; I tried not to pick at them, which wasn’t hard since I couldn’t really move my wrist. I had to look like I was in real pain and I’d done a splendid job with authenticity. I was in mind-numbing pain. I just knew someone would eventually find me; it was still early in the day and bike paths were busy on beautiful days like that day.

No one came down the path that day. The plan had backfired.

I laid in a pool of my own blood for far longer than I cared. The second morning arrived and I woke with blurred vision. I had a blanket over me and there was an orange laying by my feet. I tried to sit up to grab it, but no use. I wasn’t strong enough. I assumed I’d lost too much blood.

Someone had been here to cover me. Had they seen Kristyn’s body? Why hadn’t they taken me to a hospital? The curiosity was killing me; I had to know what was going on. How had no one found me yet? Who had covered me? I turned my torso as best as I could so I could reach the orange with my left hand. With luck, I rolled it towards me and started peeling; it was just enough to get me back on wobbling legs and feet. Not only was Kristyn’s body nowhere to be found, but I wasn’t even on the same part of the bike path. I wasn’t in woods I recognized and our bikes were chained up on a tree about five-hundred feet in from where I was standing.

I kept my panicking brief. From long years of being an outdoor girl, playing in fields and forests and visiting my grandfather’s farm, I was unusually mentally prepared for a situation like this. I took a deep breath in and let out a loud sigh for Kristyn, the first of many I would make. A regrettable sigh – the amount of grief her death has caused me just hasn’t been worth it. Feeling like I was in her shadow constantly was nothing compared to her afterglow. It was like the rest of the world just wouldn’t let her die.

I combed that area for unusual things. I turned stones over and rustled leaves, looking for the key to unlock my bike. I searched for over an hour and knew I was losing speed, dizzying hotheadedness clouded my judgment on what was what – I had to get out of the woods.

I walked until I stammered. I crawled. The palms of my hands and knees were bloody and my head was starting to crust and smell with infection. Five days total in the woods and on the road without water or sleep, but I finally found my way to a park ranger’s lodge…about fifty miles from where Kristyn and I had been biking. I had no idea how I’d arrived here.

Those five days were the most horrific time in my life, and the days and months that have followed have been even worse. I’m numb from the experience, really. I am constantly asked for interviews and I decline. I have been asked to write articles and blogs and books; I couldn’t do it. The first year was the worst, but things have seemed better lately; I was finally starting to let go of my guilt.

That was, until I received this letter. I’m going to take some melatonin and try to get some sleep, though I doubt I’ll have any success. I’m really upset about all of this and I didn’t know where else to say something. I’ll keep you posted on what happens.

Daily Whine List

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Monday, for whatever reason, brings ultra-introspective thoughts.

I’ve blogged on this before, but upon standing by my car, talking about introspection on Monday with my delicious boyfriend outside our beloved coffee shop, I decided it was necessary to once again write my thoughts down on the subject of complacency and what that feeling means to our daily lives.

I am going to preface this with: I am happy, idiotically happy to a degree, and I honestly don’t mind. However…

For once in the last decade, I feel stronger than ever. I feel better, accomplished; ready to seize every day and whatever obstacles the universe throws my way are just added to my list of things I’ll tackle with a smile. BUT. This whole nine-to-five thing kills me. I am blessed with an amazing job, but my creative, social bug just wants to get out.

I was brushing my teeth Monday morning, thumbing through my shirts and sweaters, as I normally do, and all I could think was, “I don’t want to go in today. I want to sit outside and write something inspiring.” (though it’s about to rain) This feeling of the don’t-wants comes and goes in waves for me…as everything does for everyone. I can almost guess that the last thing I posted on this subject was three months ago, so I guess I can depend on my melancholy to only surface once a quarter on a Monday.

Instead of trying to put my thoughts together eloquently, for once I’m just going to throw this shit out here in a lazy-girl list because my motivation has been zapped.

Daily Whine List: The Don’t Wants

  1. I don’t want to adult. Ever. I don’t feel equipped for it, really. What’s worse? Basic life requirements state we must adult on all days, including and most unfortunately, on Monday.
  2. I don’t want to make my own coffee. I know this sounds incredibly spoiled, but I don’t want to. I always feel rushed and I’m not a “fix the pot the night before” kind of person. I really didn’t appreciate the Keurig when I had it, even though I found the coffee to be mediocre at best. I am that coffee diva that doesn’t bat an eyelash at paying $4.17 or whatever it is for coffee because: I’m supporting local, the coffee is perfect perfection personified every time, AND my kitchen stays clean. I used to think it was excessive, but then I decided that I would have to pay if I didn’t want to suck it up and do it myself…and I don’t want to.
  3. I don’t want to get up in the morning. I want to lay and bask in the glory that is my full-queen bed that smells like Neil and reminds me of sounds of the beach, because I definitely dreamed of being there.
  4. I don’t want to get dressed. I DON’T. I want to forever leave my face free of makeup and face wash and moisturizer and just be lathered in coconut oil all day every day. That’s unacceptable, especially considering most times my face is so covered in coconut oil I look like I’m sweating (and I’m naturally so…win-win?)
  5. I don’t want to wear underwear. I find it restricting and aggravating but do I wear it? Yes……mostly.
  1. I don’t want to answer any questions. I relish my job for this don’t-want. I’m not responsible for answering anyone’s questions except my own and I adore that.
  2. I don’t want to spend the money on getting my car serviced. DAMNIT! There are leather pants to be had. (see adulting)
  3. I don’t want to sit inside. I wish I could plop my entire desk right on the front lawn of our block and work from the great outdoors. NOT POSSIBLE. First of all, I see myself fairing quite poorly in the rain, surrounded by electronics. Secondly, it’s Louisiana, so by the time I got outside to enjoy my work day, I’d be miserable from sweat. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Louisiana girls’ wardrobes are prepared for literally any kind of weather. I’ve been guilty of shorts and Ugg boots simultaneously, and as basic as I may have looked, I was comfortably dressed for the temperature and the event. SO THERE!
  4. I don’t want to fold or hang my laundry. A little annoying thing called “OCD” (which I’ll never admit to) makes sure that you can always see my floor and that you can always find what you’re looking for in my closet, thanks to the color-coding. But I dream of a world where I walk in my room and my floor is littered with my clean clothes, because I’ve washed and dried them all together and confetti-tossed them as soon as the cycle had finished. I long to not worry about what happened to those jeans and if they’re hanging in the correct spot next to the skirts and I would really really really just love to not think about these things right before I go to sleep.

Note: Yes, I have thought about alphabetizing my closet, but I’ve struggled with how to do it. By brand? Label? Or text? I don’t wear many things with graphic designs. What about my concert/musician tees? Do I hang them in order of who I saw first or who died last or what? See how problematic this is?

I DON’T WANT TO DO IT.

  1. I don’t want to do anything but write. That’s what this list really boils down to. I have so many thoughts forever swirling around in my head, I need an eight-hour day just to get them all down. I don’t want to do anything but finish the ever-growing list of (now 23) books I’ve already started in my head. I’ve got deadlines, people.

Jumbled in with my half-asleep, tooth-brushing closet endeavor, I thought about the word “more.” I am happy, satisfied, and lucky; blessed for those of you who are careful to use the word, and do so with same reverence as I do. But I want more. Maybe my hunger is a good thing; maybe that’s what keeps me going on the other days of the quarter that I don’t spend griping about how I don’t want to do anything but lay in bed and listen to the rain.

socially speaking

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WARNING: This blog has been doused in bold pretension. It is not for the faint of heart or those that easily find their panties in a wad. Thank you and please proceed with caution.

You know, I love to write. I love to express my thoughts and feelings creatively and usually, I feel like I do a good job adequately expressing how I feel. Let’s see if I can keep it up.

Social media is a funsucker, it sucks the joy out of everything because regardless of what opinion you’re expressing, someone is going to pick it apart with their teeth and thoroughly enjoy the taste, and they’re going to do it big and bold enough for everyone to see. Social media is negative if you use it that way.

I’m aware that by posting anything, anywhere on the web, you’re setting yourself up and asking for criticism, and I generally and genuinely appreciate that. It helps me grow as a writer and as a person and I find it intellectually stimulating.

I have stated to my friends countless times that I hate Facebook because: 1) it’s turned in to Babybook and while my friends’ kids are adorable, there are other things I’d like to see and 2) there are just endless amounts of bullshit drama that float around that I could care less to be accidentally clued-in on. I keep it only to stay in touch with people I don’t live nearby or don’t chat with frequently via text or phone. I could say that I only use it to shop for men, but most of you would take me seriously. <— Sarcasm.

It’s an ideal way to communicate, but we all do a shitty job of it most of the time.

It is quite possibly the worst place to express your opinion because no matter what you write, you’re wrong. I’ve only recently started expressing bolder opinions on my blog (and in my life because I don’t enjoy stepping on toes,) and the way light-hearted opinions are received are all but comical. Does anyone besides me and my super-hot, football-loving boyfriend (whom I found on Facebook – ZING!) read or watch comedy anymore? Or are we all just wired to immediately negate everything we come in to contact with? The world we freaking live in, the intentionally misconstrued.

A friend of mine almost line-by-line picked one of my blogs apart and right on my wall because she wanted to what? Make a point? I’m glad she has her own opinion and I’m happy she’s comfortable enough to write it down and express it, but for heaven’s sake, there are more tactful ways of going about it. I feel the same way about when I post lyrics to a song as my status and my mom/aunts/etc. immediately comment below with “what’s wrong w u?” First of all, that’s not a complete sentence, so I’m not responding to that. Secondly………they’re song lyrics. No, Neil and I didn’t break up. No, I’m not naked in the rain getting a tattoo on a train. I’m so serious, people read in to everything.

I just really can’t fathom why on earth someone would just outright launch an attack on what I can only consider to be “personal space.” Sure, the refute could be made, “well if you don’t want a comment made then don’t say anything,” and that’s a true statement. To that I say, there is such a thing as silent respect for another’s opinion and  there is such a thing as tact…but I am fully aware that a large number of people do not possess that quality. Blatant disrespect and ugliness doesn’t compute to me, though I know some people on the web defy what you say just to inspire a rise out of you. I can’t stand petty shit like that. I am horrified with thoughts of what the “dislike” button on Facebook will do. That’s alooooooot of negativity floating around and I’m super uninterested in that.

I would never dream of belittling anyone outright on social media, unless it was Lindsey Lohan or if the issue turned personal. In that situation, I would certainly choose to private message or email the person before blasting them publicly. I never ask for anyone’s opinion on my opinion unless I know 100% that the conversation will be positive, constructive and healthy, regardless of debate. DEBATE, not argument; that I don’t support or tolerate on social media – or in life – whatsoever, I think it’s silly. There’s no reason why things can’t be simply discussed without overdosing on negative energy.

I really hate making any sort of expression on social media now, though I’ll continue to use it because a writer needs her platform and if my platform is pissing people off on social media, well guess what–oh my, oh my….she’s found her niche! <— Sarcasm

It’s really a shame….whether it is a brief comment on the way you feel towards something, a relationship change, new “life event” or what have you, is so criticized under a seemingly ever-watchful eye, that it makes expressing yourself not worth the trouble. It’s amusing and flattering to an extent that people will expend such energy on nit-picking and commenting on the inner workings of your life, though they have absolutely no business doing so. Clearly, not much is happening in their lives if they’ve got enough time and focus to write negative things. (Though everyone is entitled to do so if they wish.)

Unfortunately, social media is a necessity. We communicate with it, advertise and socialize with it. It’s used for screening job applicants and it is used to stalk your exes with zeal. There isn’t much we can throw out in to the universe now without some sort of negativity or rebuttal or ruthless, public judgement and that’s incredibly frustrating.

I honestly prefer Instagram to any of the rest of it because, for whatever reason, people seem less cruel. This really amuses me because Instagram is nothing but pictures with hashtags and brief captions. The ability to belittle, deconstruct and destroy is abundant, yet there is hardly any backlash (from person-to-person, that I’ve seen and experienced, I’m sure the negativity is out there.) I like the idea of documenting the things that happen during my day without having to read 65846798675 comments of why that selfie was lame or how I could have taken the picture better or “Oh my gosh, it’s so filtered. No one looks like that.” Seriously, the general public’s attitude just sucks and everyone can agree to that to some degree. Though I know most of you reading this will disagree just for funzies.

This reflection makes it obvious I’m finding continued amusement in the happenings of the week, because those who actually know me can read a line or two of what I write and immediately determine whether or not I’m being serious. I know that the tone of what you’re reading can really determine your feelings on the subject, and as a writer I fight the constant battle of my intention and expression getting lost in translation. I know that posting anything of opinion runs the risk of being offensive, but as any sort of decent writer, that’s a risk I’m willing to take. I can’t help if my audience automatically wants to pick apart my piece just because they’re trying to prove a point. I mean really, if I wanted to read your ramblings I would just ask you how I felt on the subject. No I wouldn’t. <— Sarcasm

In additional defense – the last I’ll say – of my “football” post, the first one that really pissed in everyone’s coffee, I think it’s hilarious that it wasn’t taken as a comical piece but rather viewed as pretentious; I really find this rather droll. If you know me at all, I am the first one to ask what needs to be brought to the next tailgating party or what we’re doing for the game, true for almost any social event that I attend and I enjoy it. Feeding people is almost as enjoyable as writing…and pissing people off. <— Sarcasm

If you must know, my closet is littered with LSU caps, tees, tanks – and yes, even a dress or two – as well as a light peppering of Saints attire, sans monograms, I know what my initials are and don’t need to be reminded. <— Zing.  I don’t hate gathering for a game, I think it’s fun. I don’t think artists or actors or musicians are any better than athletes because at the end of it, they’re all just human too.

I still stand by the fact – and will rephrase my statement since the sentiment was received poorly – that no one should be paid excessively, no one should receive that much glorification, regardless of profession. Not artists, actors, musicians or athletes. I feel like the only thing that really merits such compensation is medical/environmental research because that is truly beneficial to society, regardless of whether or not you’re directly affected by the research and its outcome. To the other end of the spectrum, – and Oh gaaaad what am I doing by saying it- I think it’s wild for churches to spend millions of dollars on a building (I can say this; my former church home is spending gobs of money on renovation right now.) That money could be spent on missions, building homes and churches in other countries. I understand the notion of community outreach, but when your current building has already purchased homes only to tear them down to create more parking for your giant building, how much good are you doing? I could talk about the blasphemy that is the Susan G. Komen foundation and how excessive Nancy Brinker is, but I feel like I’d be beating a dead horse. Am I going to have to apologize for everything that seems disagreeable and offensive, so no one’s feelings get hurt? <— Zing.

I really loathe how social media spins things, though I had a lightbulb moment with it this week. I think I finally figured out how to use it. Audiences are easy to draw; you just have to push the right buttons. I wish I would have thought ahead enough to claim this as an experiment, would have been a smart move on my part.

Kudos to all of you who have read and commented, on anything thus far; I really appreciate it. I don’t think anyone quite understands how much I love this. I live for observation of the human experience and my desire to reflect and write about it; I don’t think anything has stirred me quite so much in my nearly twenty-eight years of existence. I love experiencing things, writing down my observations and gauging the reactions. I’m sure I lost a few people this week because I didn’t write a fluffy something about how in love I am. I’m sure someone read what I wrote and re-evaluated me as a person over my emotionalism about football, obviously a solid trait to judge. <— Zing!  I’m sure someone incorrectly picked up my tone and thinks I’m the most pretentious person they’ve ever met, when they don’t even know me; that’s what social media does, skews perception. It’s the age we live in and we have to live with the judgement that comes along with utilizing such a fickle tool.

Damn it, this should have been an open letter. This is what I get for writing without the correct amount of caffeine.

Here’s this lovely song. Don’t judge my musical tastes too hard.

peanut butter and honey

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I heard the trickling of creek water and it stirred me enough to wake me. “Mmm coffeeeee,” I groaned. I batted my eyes a few times and saw beautiful, dim sunlight spreading through thick green leaves when I finally felt brave enough to open them wide. I took a deep breath in and smelled the salt, the pine and a pinch of that delicious wood ash from last night’s fire, my nostrils opening with sensitivity to the smell. I rolled to the side and pushed myself up, leaves crunching under my elbow and then my palm. I was bewildered in the wild. “Oh, right.” I wasn’t in my giant comfy, fluffy bed as I thought; I was wrapped in a forest-green, plaid sleeping bag, still in my swimsuit and shorts from the day before.

Too much beer, I thought.

I finally sat up, rubbing the back of my head, sore from sleeping on the ground and took in my surroundings. The good ol’ Whiskey Chitto…a childhood favorite, and now, an adulthood pleasing pastime. I l-o-v-e being in the great outdoors, though as a child, you wouldn’t have believed that. Sure, I was athletic. I could pick up anything with a bat, racquet or ball and be decent at it. But I was no granola girl, not at the time.

I looked around for my parents – my mom and step-dad, that is. My mom was NEVER much for the outdoors until Vince came along. Now she’s in to fishing and four-wheeler riding…a true sight to behold. (The woman starches her camo for crying out loud.) I finally spotted her, full-face of make-up on, bright red tank top,  down by the bank with Vince, sipping on a mug that I was sure was full of coffee.

“I don’t know how you drink it like this Tiff, black as night,” she said to me as I walked up. I grinned at her and snatched the mug from her hands and took a huge chug of that black elixir. “It’s heaven in a cup, mom.”

“Well, I miss my creamer. Do you want some eggs? I think that family over there is making breakfast.”

“What? I can’t just go ask them for breakfast mom, people don’t operate that way.”

“Well I do! I started talking to Lynn while I was making coffee; we traded. That’s them over there; Lynn, Jackson, her husband, and their son, Jake.” I surveyed the area…there were several families packing up their camping gear, getting ready for the last leg of the canoe trip. The Whiskey Chitto is only an eight-mile trip, but is split nicely if you choose to stop at each fluffy, white sandbar which is every mile or so, and spend the night under the stars. Really romantic, unless you’re with your mom. I thought about this for a moment and was glad I’d driven up separately.

I walked over and introduced myself to Mrs. Lynn and her family, taking note that Jake was exceptionally cute and wondered if I could sucker him in to abandoning his canoe to row with me. I’d spent the better part of yesterday canoeing from the middle of a three person canoe with all of my camping gear…and my mom’s…and Vince’s.

“You must be TiffanyJo! Your mom said you’d be over once you’d figured out someone was making pancakes and eggs.” I blushed a little and Jake slide over on the sand to make room for me; welcoming, warm and inviting…I liked him already.

We talked for a few minutes over hot coffee and breakfast, making conversation about the interesting people we’ve seen out here. The man collecting every snake he saw and throwing it in a bucket was at the top of both of our lists; I mean seriously, who does that? Jake told me that he was positive he saw a few alligators on the banks that were roped off. I gave him a few of my classic eye-rolls, but made sure to bat them just enough that he found them cute. Hopefully.

My mom eventually called for me and I thanked Mrs. Lynn for the breakfast and headed across the creek to my canoe. “Jesus, I’m glad you two think I’m strong.” My canoe was completely filled in the front and back of the canoe with sleeping bags and ice-chests and all sorts of other odds and ends that my mom insisted she bring. “I’ll see y’all at the next sandbar.” I plugged in my headphones after lathering on some sunscreen and headed off, leading the pack, though no one was behind me.

About an hour or so in to my trip, I came across a sandbar that looked like no one had touched it in weeks, which was odd since this place is flooded with people during the summer. I thought it would be the perfect time to catch a little day time yoga in celebration of the first International Day of Yoga…fitting since it’s the longest day of the year and beginning of the Summer Solstice. I was happily flowing through up and downward dogs when I heard something rustling in the greenery nearby. I didn’t think much of it and sat down to eat my peanut butter & honey sandwich…my favorite. I suppose the heat had zapped my appetite, because I couldn’t finish it. I stuffed the plastic wrap in my backpack and left the sandwich on the sand, figuring a bird or something would snatch it up. As I stood, the rustling grew closer and louder. I took this as a sign to get back in the canoe and finish the trip.

Since I was rowing solo, without another person in sight, I decided I’d challenge myself a little and stand on the middle row of the canoe, paddling like I was just off of some tropical island on a kick-ass paddle board. The water moved heavily under the paddle. I blamed my difficulty pushing on all of the shit my mom had thrown in the canoe. I eventually found a slow rhythm I was happy with and pushed on. The creek curved a little to the left, my canoe easing through the turn on the smooth water. I was smiling from ear to ear; the sun illuminated everything. “Instagram would kill for this filter,” I thought to myself. The water was shimmering, like a thousand coins under the hot sun; it almost hurt my eyes to look at it. The greens were vibrant, almost dream like. Surreal in a way.

I looked down at my arms and noticed how browned and freckled they were getting, compared to my forever stark-white legs. My legs rarely tan in the summer, and this bums me out to no end. When I looked back up, I notice that the creek was moving faster than I knew how to handle, the weight of the camping gear pushing me faster than I wanted…or could paddle. I was traveling solo on a path I’ve taken many times, I’m not quite sure why, but I was little worried. I focused my vision on the surface of the water, still standing, paddling as best as I could this way. When I felt confident enough in my strides to lift my gaze upwards, it was too late. My head met a huge, low-hanging branch and that was it, lights out.

I came to mid-stream and realized my arms were around someone’s neck. I forced my vision clear to get a good look at my rescuer. As his face was coming in to focus, I realized I hadn’t studied Jake’s face enough. Were his eyes this brown? I thought I’d made a mental not that they were blue like mine. His hair was definitely brown, but not this dark…and I didn’t remember him being the hairy type. My vision finally returned and it was all I could do to silence my scream. My little brown arms were wrapped around the neck of a giant Louisiana black bear.

The bear shook my stunned body off it’s back on the next sandbar and went back in to the water and plopped down, watching me. “The rustling, the peanut butter and honey,” I thought to myself. This bear had been following me the entire time in search of a bigger, tastier, blonde snack.

I started to speak but bit my tongue. “What the hell? Do you expect him to answer you? The heat has taken over your brain. You’ve gone mad.” The bear hunched down even further in to the water as if hearing my thoughts. My eyes never dropped its’ gaze; I was nervous to blink. There was something….understanding and familiar in his eyes. Something I’ve noticed before in strangers passing me on the street on my way to the mail.

Moments later I spot my canoe, floating languidly down the creek. “SHIT!” I managed to yell at a whisper. As if sensing my fear and dismay at losing all my things – including my mind – the bear made its way to the center of the creek and steered the edge of the vessel with the side of his huge body, thankfully towards the beach,  where I lay paralyzed with curiosity at what I was seeing. I’d never encountered an animal of this size before, not this close anyway. I’ve only ever heard horror stories about bear encounters and how menacing they are. But here’s this giant black bear, Jake, I’d named him in my head, rescuing me and my canoe.

The bear paused and watched my canoe slide on to the shore, then returned his gaze to me.

I drew in the heaviest of breaths and laid back on the sand, closing my eyes. I figured if Jake was going to maul me, he’d have done it already. I looked up once more at the sky, thankful for my life and this gorgeous day and the kindness of a bear.

***

My alarm rang so loudly that I sprang out of bed, looking everywhere for either Jake. I looked down…no tan, no swimsuit. I looked around….no sand, no canoe, no bear. I fell back on my soft, fluffy, white pillows in sheer disappointment and laid there, paralyzed with curiosity about my dream.

I’d hit the snooze button, but I was too awake to lay in still silence any longer. I stood and realized I had a hunger, a specific taste for peanut butter and honey.