Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Post #3--Stream of Consciousnesses

Stream of consciousness as we drive:

I'm listening to the Brahms violin concerto. It's... I haven't decided yet. I'd never heard it before this week. I've been thinking a lot about poetry--it's like my mind revolves around the same things over and over and over again, day after day, year after year. I keep seeing blocks of poetic text in my mind--prose poems, poems that have broken into a new realm, the current thing, things I don't yet understand but want to. I haven't read enough; I have more to encounter. I have more to study for the memoir; I have to do more historical research; I have to submerge myself in the early church history in a new way; I have to understand polygamy more intimately; this project is daunting but so fun. We keep encountering ice, which is freaking us out, but Lolly proceeds with equipoise. I wonder if I just used that word correctly. I wonder how words function in my brain: emerging like little vessels of truth and meaning from a murky pond at the precise moment I need them--sometimes words I never remember encountering, yet I just know they belong. Or nearly know--at times I double check. I can use a word correctly in a sentence, and then have someone ask me directly thereafter what it means and not be able to define it for them. It's an internal mechanism I don't really understand. I have also noticed that my brain is less likely to retain unusual nouns--I am less apt to remember the names of things, even common things. Like somehow words remain more connected to feelings and human behavior in my brain than to quantity, itemization, algebra, "this word equals this thing."

Stream of consciousness in the hotel lobby:

We are going to dinner at Monica's. I got to see my clients this afternoon by renting out the hotel room for half-a-day and that went well. It was quiet. I was also able to work on the book uninterrupted--but I didn't really work on the book itself as much as on trying to understand what I'm doing, where it's going, etc. I worry that this post will be so incredibly boring, yet I feel compelled to go forward with Post #3 because I am, as always, approaching things differently. And it's boring to talk about. This exercise has me thinking about the idea of stream of consciousness as a literary device, and the way it compares to the idea of interior monologue. I do enjoy the spaces where psychology and literary technique occupy very similar spaces. As always, a fear erupts in me that the things I'm saying, the things I'm talking about, will be seen as boring to a reader. But who is this reader? Who are you? Is that question cheesy? Does it sound existential? Does it convey angst? Will anybody even read this far? I know that I would if I encountered this on a blog, but that's because of my fascination with the human mind and the ways it expresses itself in language. I am endlessly fascinated by the complex ways the interior world can present itself linguistically, and I am often voracious in my pursuit of understanding of people by reading their words (or listening to their words). Pretense. When I write about these things I worry about pretentsiousness--this worry feels like a weird worm in my gut. Constantly: the worry about presentation. The worry about audience. The worry about boring people. Often when I'm speaking aloud, I feel that I am saying things that the people in the room will find boring. And then my voice trails off. And often I stop talking altogether. I often have the sensation that if what I were saying were to be written on a page people would engage with it differently--but there, on the page, I have so much more control around presenation. That control is lost in an exercise like this--just writing the next thing and the next thing and the next thing without any formatting, spacing, sequencing, et cetera. It feels a lot more like how I feel in those moments, where the words are spilling out of my mouth and I have this sense that the audience is poised, ready to divert its attention, aching to look away and listen to anyone, anything else. Such a strange feeling, to have this sensation while writing. Most of the time, while writing, I feel the opposite--I feel that my words are powerful or something. That they occupy a different type of space on this planet. But this paragraph is a quagmire. Who could possibly wade through this? Why would they? Lolly will be here any minute to pick me up. She is coming from getting her wedding ring fixed. It's being fixed in the exact place I bought it--"Shane Company, at the corner of 217 and Shulls Ferry Road." I have no idea how to spell that, but I must have heard it over 500 times in my teenage years. I just corrected; I just erased 100 and put 500 as if somehow that was a more accurate representation. I think that must count as cheating for this, doesn't it? She will get here and we'll go to dinner and my dad will be there are all of my new relatives, my blended family, and we will enjoy our time together as we build relationships. I really am hungry; I'm glad my new family knows how to cook so well. I worry that Lolly's here but that my phone is inaccessbile and I won't hear its buzzing. I will check for it. It was in my pocket. We will be late for dinner. We are often late; it's good for others to become accustomed to this trademark move. For no reason I can identify, I just erased "move" and then replaced it--I think I was considering whether or not to make trademark into a past participle by adding "ed." There is absolutely no way this can be interesting to others, but why the hell do I care so much? Because that's what this space is, that's why. It's about myself and it's about others. My will-power is trying to convince me to keep going until Lolly arrives, but I feel that might be too much, like the longer this gets, the more confusing it will be, but I have to not care. I have to follow my new internal motto which I'm not allowed to share. Does it count as stream of consciousness or interior monologue if you withhold critical information? If you don't allow some things to flow like waters from the stream? I'm intrigued by the ways this device is used in literature; I'm fascinated in how it is used in memoir more than in fiction, though it is interesting in both venues. A woman in the other room is announcing what is for dinner for guests at the hotel and I'm even more hungry--I sit here in a striped chair in front of a circular coffee table in the hotel lobby and to the left, a fire is roaring except it isn't roaring, it is much less intense than that. It is merely burning. Flames are lapping? The fireplace is red brick and to my left, and then to my right is an older couch which looks comfortable. Upon the coffee table sits a wicker Christmas decoration. Wicker makes me think of my living room in Portland, and the wicker furniture set my aunt Lori bought for my mom when we first moved to Aloha, Oregon (cheater! I erased "moved" then inserted "first" and wrote moved again, and I even changed "wrote" to inserted in this very sentence making me a double cheater.) Those wicker couches are long dead--they spent years being picked at by occupants, and I can still hear the sound of them snapping under the weight of bodies. I can see my Mom's nativity on the wicker coffee table, and can see the picture she used to have of me and Lolly there in that room. Chris and I drove by the house last night--it has been not-ours for two years now. We pulled up the flag lot awkwardly, and the house was the same and also different: there were Christmas decorations, but they weren't hers. They were garish and gaudy and disheveled somehow. And there is a fence now, blocking the side-path where Mom first saw the California poppies spontaneously grow when she got sick and said "My Dad planted those there for me," except she didn't actually say those words; I wasn't even there. But those might have been the words. Yet the point is that she, in her mind, knew that those bright orange poppies--which had populated her home city of Morgan Hill--were a gift from God and a gift from her dead father, Grandpa Woody. Near the end, she would cry at night asking for her daddy, and the thought of that rips my heart out. Oh what a cliched phrase to use right there! What an injustice that that is the metaphor that came to my mind, trying to express my sorrow, my discomfort that she yearned for her father who was gone! Could I not have mustered another phrase there? It makes my bones ache? It guts me? It makes me cry? None of these work either. But to think of her crying for her father somehow connects me to her granddaughters, my girls, and the thought of one of them at age 58, barely able to talk, crying herself to sleep because of the sick degredation of her mind, pleading for me to come in and comfort her, to help her get to sleep just as I do now, just as I do many nights--the thought of this (still no phrase works). It makes my heart and gut cringe. It makes me ill. It makes me want to cry. It makes all of my internal organs want to cry. It echoes throughout my insides and makes me tense up. It is one of the saddest thoughts. And Lolly called, and is here, and now I go to dinner, and I press publish with abandon.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Post #2 "Locking it down"

I've been thinking a lot about the concept of "locking it down." By this I mean doing something to its very end, until it's locked into place and complete.

I have the tendency to not lock things down. Essays, violin pieces, projects, books poems. I get things--sometimes really good things--to a point of almost locked down, and then I abandon whatever it is and end up playing Words with Friends or watching tons of Ellen interviews. I have great ambition to start things. And I'm not the person who has a million barely-begun projects around--once I start, I follow through really far before my brain decides it's time to move on to something else--writing whole drafts of books (but never getting to the final draft), learning most of whole concertos (but never completely learning those three hard runs, or memorizing the whole thing to be concert ready). That kind of thing. I just don't have a lot of experience with "locking things in." But I want to get better at it.

 Doesn't this selfie I just took to make this post less huge-blocks-of-texty scream of someone who is learning to "lock things down" really effectively? Thought so.

This pattern even holds true for me in reading books. One of my favorite books, Tess of the D'urbervilles, is a book that I have read until the last 20 pages and then stopped reading, never finishing,  twice. (Side-note, the fact this has happened twice is also significant--I rarely, rarely read a book twice.) It's almost like something within me feels opposed to putting the finishing touches on things--like my internal self is diametrically opposed to the idea of completeness, of making something static, of making it end. It might be perfectionism, but I'm not so sure it is. It's partly just a personality feature I think. (For example, other personalities seem to be extremely adept and attracted to finishing and putting final touches on projects, or "locking things down" but sometimes describe having less ability to get a project off the ground.) I also think there's a component of inexperience, too. I think it's just a thing I'm not practiced at doing because it requires a certain kind of assiduousness and attention, and it's the type of attention I'm not really great at naturally, especially before I was medicated. (Did I mention I'm on Vyvanse now? I LOVE IT.)

This is the thing I have to work at. I often don't have to work at getting "good" at the things I'm naturally talented in--for me often the talent is just there. Instead, I have to work on working to the end. I can't tell you how difficult this struggle has been in my life at times. It has felt like the kind of torture given to Greek Gods--to be able to be "talented" in certain areas I love, but also unable to take the final steps necessary to close the deal, to finish the thing, to get it out into the world in a viable way--just because. Just because my brain is like "Mmmmkay we're done with this now, byeee!"

Learning how to approach "locking things down" has been a long, multi-year lesson that I a still learning. And it's important to me that I learn this all the way (locking it down, if you will) so that I can accomplish many of my goals.

So, just like someone who is not naturally as good at writing or music or whatever else, but who wants to become good, can put in the time, put in the practice, and little by little learn the skills and habits that will make them proficient, so too can I put in the time and put in the practice of learning how to "lock things down" so that I can become proficient at doing so--proficient enough accomplish the things I need to accomplish during these precious, finite adult years.

It's actually really, really hard to do--practicing this skill.

This blog has been one of the greatest tools in this effort. Writing a blog forces a person to take viable drafts and then make presentable to a large audience. I've had to read through drafts enough times to make them public-ready. I've had to do it over and over again. I couldn't just "turn in the rough draft" on this blog--that would have looked sloppy and unprofessional, and doing so would have felt uncomfortable. Because of this, I have had to be more thorough than I naturally would have been, and the repetitive nature of this task has been extremely good for me. It's shown me that I can finish things. That I can work a draft into something finalized. It has actually become very gratifying--this cycle of finishing things, putting it into the public sphere, and then moving forward knowing these things are done, complete, finalized (instead of existing, somewhere in the back of my mind, as yet another thing I'll "get around to eventually." (Life-lesson: "eventually" never, ever, ever happens in that set-up.))

One thing I'm doing right now to practice this skill is learning a violin concerto all the way. Actually, just one movement of a violin concerto. I've decided on the Bruch because I already own a copy of it, and it's pretty cool sounding, though it's not the most ambitious concerto to learn. However, I think it's a good place to start for "locking things down." I am playing the same runs over and over and over. I'm memorizing all the passages and trying to think of them as a musical whole. I am learning this piece and not just doing the best I can with it as I play by the seat of my pants, hoping it all sounds okay. I'mma learn this sucker.

It feels different and good and unusual to me. It's also hard, and makes my brain work in ways it's not used to. And that's probably a good sign.

One "locking it down project" that I need a teeny bit of advice on is this: I've been transcribing my mom's journals. I've been doing it for years now.

It's probably not a job that should take years. But it does for me. I average about one entry per week, and I structure the process this way: I transcribe an entry, then send it in an email to Grandy, my mom's mom. Knowing I'm sending it to her motivates me to get the rough draft version done. I do it hastily oftentimes, right before church on Sundays, and then I spit out an email and off it goes.

But it is the finished project that matters here. That's the thing that needs to go to my siblings so they can read the words of their mother. That's the step that has held me up for years now.

For Christmas (but really it will be after Christmas) I am giving my family copies of the first completed journal (which is has literally been done since 2014, waiting to be "locked down." I'm doing this, though. I have a draft that is as close to "final" as drafts have ever gotten for me. I even hired an (amazing) editor to help. (Plug: Her name is Holly Welker and if you ever need something edited, I promise she is one of the best you will ever find. And she works incredibly fast and incredibly thoroughly and because of the combination of those two things and incredibly good deal. Also, turns out that today happens to be her birthday, so if you have something you need edited before Christmas you should give her the gift of your patronage--though I can imagine her queue for Christmastime projects might be filling up. Here's her website and here's here Facebook page.) Anyway, I am doing this, y'all. I am finishing this. I has taken years of work, but I am going to do it.

Perhaps that's just how it goes for me. Maybe projects that would take others less time take me much longer for me for a while, as I get better at this. I'm okay with that.

What I'm not okay with is leaving this world with a long listed of projects that never see the light of day because I only got to the 85% mark and then went on to something else, leaving them hopelessly lost, unable to be finished by someone else, but so close to being all the way done. It is important to me to learn this skill. It is good for me. It challenges me. I helps me grow. And as I work on my memoir, I can already sense that I will need this skill in ways I never have before. So, it's time.

Okay, time to ask for some really practical advice.

I have to get my Mom's journal bound. I want it to look pretty, and I want these copies to last a long time, even through decades of Weed negligence. How do I do this? Have any of you ever gotten something bound? Where should I be looking? Cheap versus quality? Please, bestow upon me the knowledge of the hive mind so that I may finish this project, give it to my family, and LOCK THIS SUCKER DOWN.

In closing, I have edited this post, but you will probably find some error. And if there is one, I'm probably going to just leave it, because that's just the fun of writing a blog: irony, among other things. I mean, how funny is a bunch of typos in a post all about locking down finished products? The amusement of that is my gift to you--an early Christmas gift. (Unless there is no error, in which case I AM ROCKING THIS NEW SKILL.)

Bye guys.

(Here's the Bruch concerto if you're a nerd like me that adores classical music. The orchestral part near the end before the revisit of the original theme is one of my fave orchestral sequences ever. Too lazy to look up the time. (See? Lock-down resistant to the end!)):

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Post #1

I'm reading about habits.

It's something I do--read about habits and schedules and stuff. I do it when it's time to re-engage with life.

I'm wanting to get back into things.

There's been six months of my life that feel lost--I was surviving, plodding along, grieving obviously. This isn't rocket science.

Grief has taken on new dimensions for me now--new contours and new depths. My understanding has increased, yet that comprehension seems inversely proportional to the ability to describe it in words. I'm beginning to realize how much of human experience cannot be put into words, which helps me understand why writing is so important--to push into those inscrutable terrains of human experience, of human emotion as it relates to compounding experiences, and try to represent it all in art. But I'm not going to be able to encapsulate the last six months into a paragraph. That much I know.

The last few days, I've felt more like myself than I have in a long time. I have wanted to get together with friends. I've felt things. I've felt ambition.

Right now I feel the desire to occupy my space--to reclaim my territories. That's why I'm here this evening. Hello to you, if you're still out there. I've missed you.

I've done this before, and I'll do it again. I'll always do it.

The timer just went off which means it's time to go watch a show with Lolly and go to sleep.

For the first time in a long time, I'm excited by what tomorrow might bring.