Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Today all my failures crowd my spirit, flapping their wings and cawing. And that’s about the most poetic thing you’ll get out of me today.

School will be starting soon. Every year this new beginning has given me false hope. But after 9 years, I know that any intention I have to be more involved or to be better organized will fall victim to entropy. Now I feel disheartened before the school year has even begun.

When I was a child, the start of the school year was an enormous relief. After the amorphous and dull summer my days would fall into an orderly routine, one I would be forced to follow. At the time I didn’t know I had ADD. After all I was very smart and could whiz through most subjects. But empty time was dreadful. I had no idea what to do with myself, how to make time behave the way it did at school. At home I was terrible at managing my time for homework, studying and projects. Waiting to the last minute seemed to work rather well as a motivator. It was almost exhilarating.

Now I have no one but myself to organize my time and I hate it. First, I don’t believe myself. I can set a goal or deadline, but it’s just me. I have no authority with myself. Second, very little compels me. My interests evaporate the moment I look at them directly.

And work is worse each day. I’m sharp, a quick study, so at any job I soon get a lot of leeway to work on my own. This is a disaster. Also, once I’ve mastered a task, I’m completely bored by it. I’ve tried so many systems and none work for very long. My attention wanders. I forget things. I feel lost. I create lists I don’t follow, send myself email reminders that get buried. I take medication, but that only helps with concentration; it hasn’t transformed me into someone with intrinsic motivation or the ability to create routines and stay with them. And concentration - well if my attention snags on something shiny, it will stubbornly remain there however irrelevant it is.

My mother was also unable to order and direct. Drove me mad as a child. I so wanted her to establish rules, structure, and routines and force me to abide. But no. She alternated between impossible projects and lethargy. Now I have children and I can’t manage it either. I feel like a terrible role model.

I know the girls suffer from a lack of structure at home. Most days they are following someone else’s routine. I didn’t have that as a child, so I hope it helps, and when I pick them up there isn’t much time between then and bed, although those routines are frequently derailed, too. Weekends defeat me. Completely. So much empty time.

I read this today: “If you have to get motivated to take action then you are not motivated by the outcome. Need 2 Reevaluate purpose.” I think it’s from some GTD coach, a system that annoys the crap out of me. Most of the time outcomes are so far out they look like a mirage. Of course I’m not motivated by the outcome. No one BELIEVES in the outcome.

Okay, I’m bored with this.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


"I caught him, with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world, and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread." G. K. Chesterton

The quote above is one Evelyn Waugh used in his novel Brideshead Revisited. How ironic that my favorite book in the whole world is about grace and conversion. I, who am constantly negative and struggling and generally sarcastic about religion, love this book beyond reason. I’ve always felt that I’m on that unseen hook and line. God hasn’t bothered to reel me in, but I can’t get away, either. I’m just swimming about, irritated. In fact, I’m in such constant irritation that by now I should be spitting out pearls.

My mind balks. Make a statement about faith and my skepticism kicks in. If it’s the children who enter the Kingdom, well, I’m the brat who has temper tantrums, contradicts everything and always complains she’s bored.

I would like to experience the presence of God. Oh, and to know that’s what I’m doing, so that I can say, “Hey, that’s God. Cool!” I would rather the presence weren’t coolly eternal. I expect warmth and affection from my husband and friends, so I don’t see why God shouldn’t deliver something similar. Someone will say it isn’t about feelings and emotion, but I am a friggin human after all, and I experience the world through my senses, my mind, and my emotions. So unless I’m going to experience God on some ethereal plane, I would prefer something tangible, or a sweeping ecstasy perhaps. Hell, even the mysterious joy in the Lord that people refer to would work. A little change in brain chemistry. A vision maybe. My husband got a vision. Why not me? How are they parceled out?

The truth is, I’m a snob. I’m an aesthetic snob and an intellectual snob. Not in everything, but definitely in religion. I’m not going to lift my hands during crappy worship music and get all weepy and emotionally choked up. I can’t insert Jesus and Praise God into every conversation. Or even every 14th conversation. I can’t talk about “a personal relationship with Jesus” without flinching and wanting to suggest that we reframe the discussion into language that doesn’t sound like it belongs at a tent revival. Same for “born again,” a perfectly nice term that I have to scrub with bleach before I can handle. Give my life over to Jesus? What the f@#k does that mean? Should I wrap it up with a bow and leave it on His doorstep? I can’t read the Bible as if it were literal or settle for that much-used cop-out: “God speaks to us through His Word.” Meaning, shut up already and get your lazy ass to read this big boring tome. Then All Will Be Answered. I’m sorry. A book by Charles Dickens really is more interesting. Bite me.

So I’m bitchy sometimes, not exactly alight with Christian love. It’s not pretty. I’m well aware that pride is one of my flaws. But the thing is, I feel like a complete sham, completely false, when I try to fit into contemporary evangelical culture. I’ve tried, and I know that I am lying or at best telling half truths.

Which brings me to the few times I have experienced something beyond the ordinary, a sense of being lifted out of time and feeling a connection with the stream of human history and endeavor and its creative source. I’ve felt it when looking at certain paintings. When reading fiction and poetry. When listening to music. Sometimes when sitting in a cathedral, in a patch of quiet that smells of frankincense. Sometimes when driving and the light hits the trees in a certain way and the world seems like a pathway and yet at the same time the destination.

I have never felt it during a contemporary worship service. Or during a bible study group. Or during most of the praying I’ve done in devotions, or when anyone has prayed over me. Not even a little bit.

What I’ve felt in those true moments isn’t particularly Jesus-y or Christian-y. It feels more like being unfolded. That’s the term that came to me – not sure what it means. I suppose: that my soul which is forced to remain in my finite body, a rather cramped cage, gets to stretch its legs for a moment and suck in some fresh air. Then it gets shoved back in the cage.

Despite the lack of overt worship and Christian trappings in my daily life, I’m pretty invested in Christianity. I want it to be true. Maybe not literally true – do I really care if Mary was a virgin? – but True to the substance and nature of the Divine. That Christ reconciles a screwed-up world to the Father. That he died and rose. That He is creating a new kingdom and a new earth with us. That we aren’t at the mercy of the most hellish aspects of ourselves individually or corporately. That there is a life beyond this one. But don’t get me started on heaven, because I think singing praises to God all day long sounds dead boring (Waugh said, “The human mind is inspired enough when it comes to inventing horrors; it is when it tries to invent a Heaven that it shows itself cloddish.”)

What the hell God was thinking in giving me this mental apparatus that constantly second guesses and deconstructs I do not know. I will never have a simple, trusting faith. I’m resigned to that. Still, I’m a fish, a hungry fish, so I took the bait. Now I’m just waiting for the twitch on the thread.

“Pray always for all the learned, the oblique, the delicate. Let them not be quite forgotten at the throne of God when the simple come into their kingdom.” Evelyn Waugh

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I’m sitting in red clay on the bank of a dried up stream, swatting at mosquitoes and I’m about as uncomfortable as I can be. The near paralysis is so deceptive. I’m a tightly coiled spring that will never release. That tense. A storm system with lightening and hot heavy air. I’m all waiting and no rain. My mind is crawling through a broken window, it’s squeezing through a buttonhole, threading through a needle. It will not be soothed. It knows there’s a leash around its neck, if it could only bite through. Tectonic plates are shifting and I’m running to catch the cups as they fall. And why? Why not take the broken shards and cut a way out, be born of blood and pain?

Friday, July 17, 2009


I love Torchwood. I have all the annoying enthusiasm of someone who has just discovered a show/music/event/issue that everyone else has known about for years. I’m just jumping with eagerness to bore someone to tears, so thanks for stopping by. Sit down for a bit. Want some coffee?

As I was saying, so many people were tweeting about Torchwood and referring to it in blogs that I felt like I was missing out on the biggest event in popular culture. I mean, if it’s a trending topic on twitter, surely I need to investigate. Now that I’ve seen a few episodes, I feel so much more au currant.

Now, what do I like about Torchwood? Well, I was really impressed by the snappy writing and stellar acting.

Ha ha ha. Yeah, right.

First, the cast all look as if they could be served up with whipped cream, strawberries and a glass of chardonnay. I mean, just look at them:

Aren’t they as tender and delightful as a spring morning? Don't you just want to take them home and have a rumpus? No? Well, whatever. Are you sure you're breathing?

But really, I only had to hear one word: “gay.” That pretty much sealed it for me, 'cause if there’s a gay angle, I am so there. Just call me a voyeuristic deviant. In fact, if you do I’ll say “thanks” because I’ve really been neglecting that side of my personality.

Anyway, I don’t just casually think, “Hey, I’ll check out that show when it comes on next.” No, I’m an obsessive researcher. I scour the Internet for interviews, bios of the actors, episode guides, clips. I’ve now watched wobbly film snippets of the actors speaking at conventions, fan-made videos of favorite scenes overlaid with popular music, and interviews from British talk shows.

So of course I found out that Torchwood pretty much goes to town - girls with aliens, boys with aliens, girls with girls, boys with boys. Or, as one article put it, the sexuality of the characters is “fluid.” And I think we can all agree that fluid sexuality makes for some really good TV. Or maybe you think it's morally corrupt entertainment that plays to our basest instincts. We should check you for a pulse.

One thing I discovered in my research is that the actors are completely adorable off screen. They remind me of the theater kids from high school and college – loud, extroverted, mischievous, always performing, frequently outrageous, and so full of boisterous energy that your life begins to look colorless in comparison. And you wonder if perhaps you missed a turn somewhere, because everyone seems to be having heaps of fun, and wouldn't it be lovely to have an invite?

And you would not believe how these fictional gay romances obsess fans. Well, maybe you do. Here I am, obviously. But the fangirls pursue the topic with a tenacity that boggles the mind. I guess since men have been fantasizing about girl on girl action (not neglected on Torchwood, either) for years, the ladies have jumped at the chance to even the score. Surely those who play straight lovers on TV are not constantly plied with requests that they kiss off screen the way John Barrowman and Gareth David Lloyd are. Not that they aren’t happy to oblige. Not that they seem to mind delivering as much raucus innuendo as any squealing fangirl could possible desire. They aren’t very shy. They flirt and joke and insinuate and generally egg each other on. It’s grand to watch.

My explanation for this somewhat odd, delirious attention is that the media prohibition against depicting gayness fell like the Berlin Wall and now everyone is giddily walking streets that were formerly off limits.

I know I’ve mentioned this before (but don't think that will stop me from saying it again - you might as well have another cup of coffee), but it still floors me that shows like this exist. In my childhood – 30 plus years ago – two men kissing on screen was more unlikely than the end of the Cold War. And then, suddenly, it seemed that film after film was romping around in forbidden territory– Brideshead Revisited, Another Country, Parting Glances, Maurice, My Beautiful Laundrette. At my college students flipped their orientations like coins, and pretty much without embarrassment, brandishing pink triangles and rainbow banners. I have witnessed, in my lifetime, an amazing transformation. Would any actor from my childhood have been as unabashedly open about his sexuality as John Barrowman? Would a straight actor like Gareth David Lloyd have been so blithely unconcerned about his reputation or so completely comfortable with his role? I know it’s an incomplete transformation. People are still victimized because of sexual orientation. There’s still enormous resistance (which I cannot and never will understand) to gay marriage. Some are utterly disgusted (which I also cannot fathom). Others think it's unbiblical (oh give me a break and stop picking out the same damn verses from Leviticus and Paul's letters). But, I can’t help but survey the scene and say, “Wow.”

I’m making it sound as if Torchwood is devoted solely to the sexual shenanigans of its characters, which it isn’t. It’s just the part that most interests me! I never claimed to be deep, or particularly refined. I mean, look again at that photo. Strawberries and whipped cream, and maybe not chardonnay but champagne. So, the storylines may be a bit lame at times, and the special effects not always effective. John Barrowman may let his theatrical background leak through a bit too much and hog the attention. But, you know what, I’m happy to be walking around Berlin.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Have We Eyes to See?

I’m working on a couple of things that may or may not go somewhere. Meanwhile, I find that this song captures my mood. That’s the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra playing with the band – gorgeous:

I walk upon high / and I step to the edge / to see my world below

As I drive through the green corridors and see the clouds building castles above, the life behind me drifts, the patterns shifting and reforming, and for a moment it is a clear river rushing by, complete in its never-ending movement. And my soul feels the shock of cold water, fear, loss and love, and death very close. My mother, returned to the earth in the town where she grew up. New York City, mutilated. My friend, who went to the edge and jumped – where are your words, dear girl, the ones you could not stay to write? My daughters, weaving through the future, one harboring a defect that may someday steal her breath. My husband, my balance, my equilibrium, the one who pulls me from the cold water and holds me.

This, this is my sole encounter with the divine – a ragged, painful, transcendent moment in which I see how beauty is paid for.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Into the Wild

This song has been much on my mind lately. For one thing, it seems very appropriate to atmospheric conditions where I live. But it's also haunting. I thought so even before I found out that it was on the soundtrack to Into the Wild.

I haven't seen this movie yet, or read the book by Jon Krakauer, but the movie is in my NetFlix queue.

If you don't know the movie, it's about Chris McCandless, a young man who turns his back on this family and comfortable life and goes wandering off across country and eventually into the Alaskan wilderness, where the adventure goes awry and he ends up dying alone in an old bus.

Chris McCandless was at Emory when I was there. He graduated in 1990, I in 1988. I don't think I ever met him. I seriously doubt that he would have been in any crowd I hung around. I had (and have) very little patience with people who are wilderness junkies, endangering their lives climbing up mountains and going off on survivalist jaunts. I admire people who risk their lives for a cause - religious freedom, helping the oppressed. Adventurers - not so much. I read Krakauer's book about climbing Mt. Everest, and I thought everyone in it was nuts to risk death climbing a mountain for no reason other than because it ss there and has become some sort of icon for - what? Hell, I don't know why people want to climb above a height where they can breathe, particularly if we already know what is there. I suppose it is part of questioning your place in this world, wondering, isn't there something more, isn't there something beyond buy, selling and settling?

But this guy wandered off into the wilderness with no map and no compass and died because he didn't know there was a way to escape a mere 4 miles away, which he would have known if he had made any preparations whatsoever. I don't understand why anyone would romanticize that. But I want to see the movie because his was an unusual life, a misguided life, hubris followed by tragedy.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Why Count When You Can Dream?

Make every moment count. How I hate that exhortation. Like watching sand in an hour glass fall grain by grain. Each grain falls and then it’s too late, the next is upon it. Another dead moment, uncounted. How many moments in a day? Each one is a thumbtack pinning me to immobility.

What does it mean? Should I give my undivided attention to each activity? I’m no Brother Lawrence. I don’t want my thoughts imprisoned in a broom. My attention wants to soar and meander and thread its way in and out of today. If it isn’t attention, then what is it? I am writing this rather than doing something else, something I should be doing. But this thought I am riding may never come again. And yet my attention is unfocused, my eyes do not settle. They are wandering a landscape that doesn’t exist. How futile. How lax. How very un-American.

What should I be doing? Work – well, yes, the spoiler of all joy, what we do to make a living, eight hours of bondage to the One Thing. Reading scripture? Praying? Improving my mind? Plotting out each hour of my day, subdividing it into little parcels of land to be tilled? Living out the dreary Seven Habits of Highly Effective People? Because every moment is so bloody important I have to grab it, shake it, subdue it, suck the marrow out of it, discard it and move to the next. Well, I don’t want to be highly effective, like a disinfectant, like a marketing campaign.

Ambition was never my strong suit. I have never been able to settle on goals. The fear of amounting to nothing is always at war with the desire to embrace nothing, to be invisible and unconscious. The experts say if you fail to plan you plan to fail, so perhaps I will have a magnificent failure. Or not so magnificent, a small inconsequential failure. By everything holy in the world I have failed in every way. By commerce, by artistry, by faith, by consistency, by fame, by fortune, by function. I have never broken a moment and forced it to do my bidding. They are roaming free in the meadow, munching grass.

My thoughts set sail in a gentle breeze. They are lying on deck, purring in the sun. Let the day flow like a river, and perhaps I will have the courage to jump in.

Monday, July 06, 2009

La Jolla on Someone Else's Budget

There's nothing like a week at a beach resort to make me wish I had rethought that English major. Not really. I'm happy with my life (don't faint) and am not usually envious of the wealthy. But sometimes I get to experience a life not my own, thanks to those who chose a practical route to financial success while I was writing poetry. We went to La Jolla courtesy of Dear Husband's parents, and stayed in a very pleasant resort right on the beach.

What's not to like about doing not much of anything on a beach? I mean, besides the rather odd fishy smell, the dead stingrays that wash ashore and the giant mounds of sinister looking seaweed? I had the best time at a beach without actually going into the water. DramaQueen and Firecracker got to run around with their cousins, and I didn't have to worry that they would be kidnapped. I thought that only happened in movies or the 1950s. They had a chance to see their uncles and be fussed over. Firecracker was particularly excited to see her Pop-pop, and she followed him around when she wasn't following around her uncles Hip-hop 1 and Hip-hop 2, or the boy cousins. Hip-hop 1 has his own business in concert promotion, and he made DramaQueen's day by promising to get her Fergie's autograph. He made Firecracker's day be giving her a piggy back ride along the shore. You can see their different priorities.

I got a massage. DramQueen went out in a kayak and saw leopard sharks. Firecracker dug many holes in the sand and lapped up everyone's affection and attention. We had s'mores on the beach, and a bbq. We paid a small fortune to wait in lines at LegoLand. We met Dear Husband's Brother B's new girlfriend, who is beautiful and disgustingly athletic and has two lovely children who never whine or misbehave that I can tell, and who were both terribly sweet to the girls (here's hoping B and Beautiful Girlfriend get married). I restrained myself from asking FIL if by some chance he does the books for Misha Collins (I have to maintain some sort of dignity). On the fourth we went up to a family's room and watched fireworks over the beach. I had a lovely chat with Cousin Oncologist about the book he and his wife are writing. I had two very excellent mojitos and some unusually lucious strawberries.

Now we're back, and reality is a knockin' on the door.