Tongue-Tied

I used to think that writing, of all the myriad creative pursuits in existence, was one of my admittedly few latent skills. My parents encouraged the poised pen in my hand as much as the paintbrush in my older sister’s. I spent countless hours contentedly scribbling and eventually typing all manner of poems, short stories, diary entries, and meandering prose. But for the past few years, I have struggled to come to terms with what I consider to be, a crippling inability to articulate my thoughts.

I’m not sure exactly when I realized that I was not a great writer; I think my first inklings of ineptitude arose in college. I was the lone art history buff amidst a sea of English majors. I liked reading and writing, but I never independently pursued either as much as I thought I should, what with the multitudinous responsibilities of burgeoning adulthood. At some point I stumbled upon the opportunity to write a monthly column in a local magazine about my life as a line cook in the hospitality industry, but what first gave me titters of vain excitement at seeing my name in print devolved into a weirdly apathetic anxiety from deadline to deadline. While my best friend, a hilarious and extremely articulate English major, offered to read my work before submission, I hoped for additional support and an editorial sounding board from the guy I was dating. He was also funny and silver-tongued (I have a weakness for such qualities), and he could write circles around me. He was also a little bit lazy, and quick to crankiness when anything superfluous to the bare minimum of work and school demanded his time and attention. Whenever I asked him to read something I wrote, he found excuses not to or blatantly procrastinated until I gave up and turned my assignment in. I knew there was something he wasn’t telling me, and one drunken Sunday evening I confronted him about it with slurs and accusations. He got frustrated, and finally blurted out that while he thought I had good ideas, I didn’t have the fundamental skills needed to write well.

Though that incident happened many years ago, it still affects me, and I still think about it whenever I sit down to write anything, whether it’s an academic paper, a blog post, or a run-on sentence riddled with commas, like this thing I just wrote. Since I returned to school for my master’s back in 2013, I’ve turned an increasingly critical eye to any string of words I cobble together. I second guess myself at every turn, and obsess over fixing poor writing habits I believe I’ve hardwired into my brain. For example: The tendency to be overly verbose and craft unnecessarily long clause after clause. I thought such flowery, elaborate language was poetic, but it turns out that mostly it’s just vague and lacking in substance. Graduate school hammered the principles of basic rhetoric into my head, which in simple terms couched straight-forward exposition; or, to paraphrase several of my professors, “tell me what you’re going to prove, prove it, and then tell me what you just spent the last 10 pages proving.”

And I know what you may be thinking, that the venue determines the content and its structure, that an academic paper is not a poem, or a blog post, or a press release. And you’re right. I know that. Objectively, I know that despite my misgivings, every page I conquer improves my writing, if only a little bit at a time.

Perhaps I’m just feeling low and generally inadequate, and attacking my writing is an easy, go-to meal for my internal imposter monster. I am now fully immersed in the job hunt, since my fellowship finishes at the end of June. And, infuriatingly, I feel less qualified than ever as I sift through the meagre postings allotted to my field. No matter what I accomplish, I’m not two seconds from the finish line before I berate myself for not accomplishing more. Even in the midst of a project, I have a hard time truly focusing in on the task at hand, and constantly find myself thinking of the 10 other things I should have already done.

I know I told myself that I would stop making this blog a dumping grounds for my negativity. I resolved to make it less Debbie Downer.

In truth, when I sit down and think it out hard, the real demon at play here is my inner critic. Ugly and mean, it latches on to every diffident quiver that pulses from my psyche. My lack of self-confidence is what holds me back, and boy, that’s the most frustrating realization I’ve probably ever had. It blankets every choice I make and step I take, and while I occasionally find glorious moments of unshackled freedom, they are fleeting.

But I digress. At this juncture, the writing I’ve pursued professionally to date is disappointing. I’ve become so hyper-critical and unsure that everything I craft comes out strangled, clunky, and lacks flow. I’m unpacking it here because I want to officially acknowledge the extreme of over-editing oneself. I don’t eschew the necessity of clear, cogent writing, or the need to edit. I just want to take it back a step, and let my natural voice come through a bit more. Even academia could benefit from some looser lips, some ascot disheveling (metaphorically speaking, of course).

 

Current reads: Though I’m close to the end, I still haven’t finished Wild Sheep Chase. Instead I picked up The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike. His lexicon is inspiring. I’ve also been re-reading one of my favorite graphic novels, Y: The Last Man.

Current Jam: “Bat Face Girl,” Hotel for Strangers

Maturation; or, Self-imposed Edits

That word looks/sounds so much like mastication that I can’t remove the correlation in my head. Every time I see it I think of saliva, and then I think of cows, and Laffy Taffy. So much goo.

Anyways, I’ve been cleaning house on here a bit. A less cluttered interface, a less syrupy, seriph-y font, and some serious privatizing. A bulk of posts from a serious chunk of time (that’s as specific as I’ll get) are practically cringe-worthy. Pardon the vanity, but I don’t want people to see that side of me anymore, that in truth was less of a subsection than the lion’s share of my personality. God, I was such a mess.

I considered deleting them, in a feng shui-esque process of shedding things that no longer give me joy. But my mouse hovered over the trash icon, and I couldn’t go through with it. I guess I still need them, as reminders. There’s an overused quote that comes to mind, which I’m going to paraphrase because I’m too lazy to open a new tab and google it (WOW)… It goes something like “those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.” I don’t want to lose my past, no matter how embarrassing it is. Becoming is a series of iterations, and every iteration evolves from its predecessor(s). No one magically becomes what they want. All those old “yous” are mile markers showing you how far you’ve come.

It reminded me of this artist I’ve been interested in lately, Ethan Hayes-Chute. He recently wrapped up a DIY inspired installation at MIT, called List Projects. I wasn’t able to make it to the exhibition, but the review I read fascinated me. Mira Dayal, for Hyperallergic, described the installation as deadpan, “domestic assemblages” of incongruous items clustered together, representing Hayes-Chutes’ projects in process. Epson HX-20 computers, supposedly the first laptops (? – [citation needed]), punctuated the show. Their printouts from tight rolls of paper resembled receipts, the quintessential throw away. Hayes-Chute utilized them as physical representations of the messy in-, between the idea at point A and its final form at point Z.

Another show, which I was able to catch before its close, explored the residue of projects by previous and current artists-in-residence at Artists Alliance, Inc. AAI, a non-profit which supports emerging artists and curators, runs the gallery space Cuchifritos, tucked into Essex Street Market. The show, Collected Works: A Brief History of Artists Alliance Inc., was an installation by LES Studio Program resident Alison Owen and curated by Sanna Almajedi. Owen culled a collection of remnants from AAI’s archives, its studio spaces and stairwells, to capture experiential life within their community. Items ran the gamut from color negatives and a page ripped from a phone book, to painted tiles and paint tube lids. Equal parts quirky and curious, it jived with my naggingly insistent obsession with ephemeral minutiae. I still need to parse out how seemingly inconsequential details impart deep meaning into our lives. Partly because, I think, I associate them with temporal blips, a millisecond of space-time fabricated into a paint chip, or something… An idea which is entirely in keeping with my personality, and yet simultaneously aggressively opposes the value I place on the (often lengthy, languid, intensely intentional) creative process. Or does it?

I don’t mean to say that the creative act is never frenetic. It’s just that I, personally, feel compelled to fight it, because my innate impatience often wins over a project’s successful completion. Thus lately, I struggle to arrest my restlessness in the face of fabrication. I fought it just a second ago, while I was trying to finish one of those sentences in the preceding paragraph. I’m doing it again, annoyed, trying to quickly wrap up this post and beat ahead of the encroaching fatigue.

But things worth doing take time, don’t they? Even milliseconds, itty bitty paint chips, are only tiny parts of a grander vision.

Without further adieu, I shall push the rambling aside and get to the goddamn point, already. As this new year still sniffles in its baby britches, I’m characteristically taking stock and vowing grandiose change. A lot of people scoff at new years resolutions, equating them with guaranteed failure. But I don’t know… I’m coming around to them; I think it’s admirable, not quixotic, to strive to be better. So I vow to clean house; to pick back up those little pieces of me I cast aside, and re-imbue them with value. True, they’ve been shed, but I wouldn’t be where I am now without them.

Mmm, that’s a realgood cheesy thought to end on. See y’all later.

Current Reads: Wild Sheep Chase by Huraki Murakami, and the occasional Robert Lowell poem.

Current Jam: “How to be Alone” Allison Weiss

Musings near Valentine’s Day, now that it’s far from timely

Friday, February 12, 2016. 10:35 a.m.

The planets aligned: Not only did I have health insurance again, but I finally got off my ass and scheduled a doctor’s appointment. My last lady exam was over a year and a half ago, so I decided to get the ol’ cash n prizes inspected; ya know, make sure the last visitor didn’t make a mess of the place. (Isn’t my gentility becoming?)

The nurse practitioner was a nice middle-aged woman named Lynn. She wore a yellow gold wedding band, and her natural nails matched her wispy hair in a brittle but appealing way that reminded me of my mother. She had a daughter about my age. We talked about my medical history, what the heck I was doing in central PA, and anodyne topics such as the weather and… the differences between the weather in PA and FLA.

As always happens (at least with me), the conversation took a slightly forced, slightly awkward turn when she began her examination. I know, I know, I’m an adult. Breaching the nethers is just part of the gig, like a toll you pay for having sex. I suppose I’ve become a bit prudish as my twenties fade from view.

You’d think that I’d blush at the breast examination, the pap smear, or when she shoved half a hand up there to check my ovaries. Nope… I wasn’t exactly elated at the intrusions, but I projected demur stoicism as best I could. Instead, I was caught off guard at the very beginning, during the innocuous hunt for anomalies in my lymph nodes.

She placed her hands on my neck and started massaging, gently poking around. Despite myself, I closed my eyes, leaned into it, and nearly let out an audible sigh. Funny how electric touch can be, how instantaneously it elicits a response, whether positive, negative, or just murkily confusing.

I had not been touched in such a familiar way in a while. I guess I was craving contact. Any contact, to keep the northeastern winter’s chill at bay. Perhaps the intimate doctor-patient relationship, bolstered by the sharing of an occasionally dubious medical history, encouraged honesty, in all its manifestations…

Whatever the reason, my visceral, unabashed reaction startled me. I hid my… discomfort? Confusion? Shame? As best I could, folding it into the accepted embarrassment accompanying a gynecological exam. The nurse didn’t seem to notice; if she did, her medical professionalism held sway. Kudos, Lynn.

When she finished, I was deemed rose-cheeked and healthy. I started to giggle as I walked to my car, joking to myself that that was the most action I’d see for Valentine’s Day.

Tuesday, November 7, 2016, 1:51 p.m.

I turned 30 in March, a couple weeks after this interaction and the birth of the post attempting to document it. The time period that followed wrought the healthiest romantic relationship I have ever experienced, untold professional development and success, and the slaying of a chunk of financial debt.

I look back at this unfinished post, review this blog I abandoned for nearly a year, and as I start typing again I see comforting stasis, and necessary change. I still treat this as a place to foster creativity, to explore the nuances of my daily interactions, and to clear the clutter of my mind. I no longer treat this place as a dumping grounds for my negativity. I’m trying for something more productive.

I don’t know how often I will write. Likely only when the mood strikes. For now, I just wanted to share that story with you, to reminisce on the absurd amusement I occasionally get out of commonplace exchange.

Current Jam: “Send my love (to your new lover)” Adele

Morning Pages

Current Jam: “Distress Signal,” Tiger’s Jaw

Do you ever feel like, if you had fewer interests, your life would be so much easier to construct? If you could just narrow down the things you thought were cool, things that you wanted to try your hand at, you would be a more complete person?

I apologize in advance: this post will come off as manic stream-of-consciousness, much like an insane person blabbering at a cornhusk doll… or maybe a can opener. Since my brain is still technically on the a.m. side of things, I’m treating this post like a batch of morning pages, a la The Artist’s Way.

For a long time I’ve been having, for lack of a better description, a crisis of creativity. I’ve been super busy, not carving out enough time to nurture some self-discovery and imaginative exploration, but yatta yatta yatta – I’m always super busy. I heap commitment after commitment onto my schedule, until I feel like Stretch Armstrong, but on the verge of cracking because instead of staying limber, he’s been left in the blistering heat in the backseat of a black Toyota Camry in Orlando for three months. So it constantly catches up to me. I’m frequently anxious, stressed, unsatisfied, exhausted, and ultimately guilty because I do this to myself.

There isn’t enough time or space or energy to dive into all the things I find fascinating. What’s worse, the second I express a particular interest to someone, I’m usually met with a two-fold experience: 1) oh you are? Well what do you think about *insert commonly known or obscure – how would I know which is which? – practitioner of said craft*, and 2) judgment when I admit that no, I haven’t.

I was helping set up stuff for a local play the other night. I’m not an actor, not much of a live theater goer, but a lot of my friends here are, and why wouldn’t I support them? At one point, Ralph asked me if I was an “artsy” person… not only did I not know how to respond, but before I could stammer out an ineffective answer, Sheryl brightly dropped in, exclaiming that no! Of course I wasn’t! Ralph was simply fooled by my nerd specs and my beanie…

I know Sheryl. She doesn’t mean any harm when she makes comments like that. I think at worst she suffers from a head-mouth disconnect, her foot perpetually skirting her lips. I love her, she’s a great person. Now, with all that preamble shoved your way: what the hell, man??

Ok, ok, I know I’m really sensitive about that shit. I suffer from an insane amount of fragile, barely-held together, pride. But it really made me wonder what kind of facade I present to the outside world. I work at a fucking art museum, for chrissakes, yet I’m perceived as what?

And ok, ok, I shouldn’t give a good god damn what people think of me. Just because I don’t flaunt my poetry, my prose, my doodles, the various projects I undertake or burgeoning ideas for new ones, doesn’t mean I don’t wade in creative juices (…ew…). But, I *do* care what my friends think…. I care what my family, my amours, think. And often, I feel as though I’m surrounded with people who are smart as shit, confident, and simultaneously, incredibly judgmental. Which is messed up, man. Why would I show you anything I try to do? The act of creation is submitting to an intense level of vulnerability, and you’re gonna shower that tentativity (yes I just made up that word), with snarky commentary? Fuck that.

I post on here, but even that tenacity has wavered so much lately that I often consider the point of this thing. What’s its purpose, for me? It used to serve one, but I’m not sure that it does anymore. My albeit brief foray into online publishing (here and beyond) hasn’t yielded much in the self-affirmation department (though I suppose it has – ever so slightly – improved my vocabulary, grammar, and vernacular intent).

Sometimes I’m no better, either. I feel that inclination to judge, and not only do I struggle to quell it, but again I feel guilt because I try to be an empathetic person, and that combination? That critical predilection? It does not bravery make, it does not bravado inspire.

And then I think, there’s more to it than this, just this, this sense of imposteriness. It must be some manifestation of life’s regrets as I make the final lap in this decade (the big 3-0 is right around the corner, less than 3 weeks out). I regret not finding a niche when youth made failure (more) acceptable. Sometimes I look at the wrinkles encroaching on my plump, freckled, otherwise youthful visage and wonder if I’d been less lazy, less prone to fantasy (which seems to yield little tangible fruit), and more prone to action, to swagger, to unabashed self-confidence in the face of limited artistic skill, if I’d be happier, more fulfilled, less anxious. If I’d feel better equipped to lead the life I dream of (in which I’m generally like 5 inches taller and don breezy boho inspired frocks that don’t actually swallow my petiteness whole). If at some point I would have untapped a uniqueness.

Yeah yeah there’s time, 30 is not 40, is no 50, 60, and so on. Don’t worry I’m self-aware enough to recognize the absurdity of this wallowing prattle. There’s limitless hope-inspiring online fodder to quell my very un-unique, accomplishment-dawdling fears (here and here, for example). As always, I just needed to get it out of my head so that I could get on with my day, i.e. be distracted from the task(s) at hand by something else, for a change. (There’s your purpose, L’s!) Yeah… I’m not convinced. *closes laptop on a resigned shrug*

 

Random Thought: Augmented

Current Jam: “Family and Genus,” Shakey Graves

If,
If I,
If I ever wander on by
Could,
Could you,
Flag me down and beg me to
Drop what I’m doing and sit beside you

Few things matter more to me, than
when you send a song my way,
something you heard in passing that
made you think of me.

or, even better, the moment it cued on
your pandora or
your spotify or
your google play –
perhaps a spark lit, a twinkle nicked, and I came
smiling into view.
Maybe a slight skip dropped into your step, because
you thought of us suddenly sharing the same strip of sidewalk.
Sharing a memory as it’s born before us.

I’d do the same – connect to you,
wave across that tight rope of time and space and
bring you closer to me, even if it’s only for 3:23.

 

Music > Poetry?

This started out as a haiku and then it just kept going, idon’tknow. ❤

Poems are stark, when
they don’t have notes to hold on-
to, don’t you think?

Lonely little words,
stuck dancing stag, without a
partner to waltz with.

You could say it’s sad,
phrases forced to soldier on.
Heartbreaking, really.

But then again, I
can’t read poetry without
humming in my heart.

Not so solo, then
are they? Supporting instead
a “silent” partner.

Leaves on wind, floating
on an invisible high
they’re singing inside.

Muses

 

trueromanceheader

 

I could look at pictures of you all afternoon or
videos. Maybe it’s
The way you stare at the camera, bare or
even when you look away. You’ve got some kind of smize and

Sinewy arms and
stark tattoos and
dimples beneath beard hair and
time ticks away and still I could
crawl over every millisecond of your exposure.

I keep thinking of Patricia Arquette in
True Romance (you know the movie, with
Christian Slater and
Elvis and
Gary Oldman – I know I never recognize him, either)
and she coos at Clarence,
“You’re so cool. You’re so cool.”

Widow peaks and
combat boots and
knuckles, wrinkled and worn despite your youth and
dirty and beautiful.

And I keep humming Tigers Jaw, that one song that Ben
sings and he coos at me
“It’s a cruel world / but it’s cool” and

You and I I think we think the
same but somehow sometimes things get trapped in the
space in between and it’s like
we talk in different dialects, but still that’s ok –
it’s cool

because you radiate in my world and I can’t explain why but
I think, I don’t know, but I think I don’t know if I could handle more of you.