Tuesday, December 28, 2010

(not) Reverb 10, the one where I remember who I am

Yesterday afternoon, I chatted with one of my best friends on iChat. She lives in Seattle; I live in Ohio. We became friends over the Internet but she's a "real life" friend now. I met her and her husband for the first time more than eight years ago. Her husband is my "fake brother" the way my daughter has a fake brother. I have lovely brothers, but one can always use more siblings.

I've been giving myself a rough time the past few days. I'm failing at Reverb 10. (I'm now repeating myself regarding this failure. I say the same thing every post. Redundant crap.) My reflections have become denouncement against my "passivity." I've been lurking in corners of my life since I started the challenge, shaking my finger at myself.

I've been disappointed in myself for not meeting expectations.

Here's the part that makes me laugh, the part my friend reminded me is true. I can't figure out whose expectations I haven't met. Mine? I expect myself to slack when I need to slack, to burrow, to stall out, to fret and worry, to write when I need to write, to submit my work when it's ready or even if I don't think it's ready but I'm ready to let it go. I expect myself to be kind, to pay my bills on time, to be good to my friends, to give my child everything she needs plus some.

I keep calling myself a failure because I haven't pushed myself to get "Out There," because I'm taking my time, allowing spontaneous teen parties to happen in my house even when I have work I want to be finishing.

I call myself a failure when, during those weeks when my daughter is with her dad, I crawl under the covers and sleep with the cat lying heavy against my legs.

For me, reflecting has been more like dissecting before the creature on the dissection tray is dead (I'm the creature, of course). Pins in palms of hands, scalpel slitting open fat belly pulsing with too many carbs. Look at the ugly innards! Look at the waste.

Well, fuck that. I mean really. I'm doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing for now. This is my current phase of life. I'm "support staff." My choice, my love, my joy.

I have let myself slip and started to believe that "manifesting" was like trying to predict the future. I think I'm too old to manifest a future. I'm not even calling myself "old." But at 52, I've got at least 20 years on most of the writers who created the prompts for Reverb 10. There's a language barrier, heart language maybe. I'm a Baby Boomer. My generation is approaching retirement. I think we all feel a little bit doomed. It's a part of our nature we can't escape.

We grew up with free love and free drugs, Vietnam, Kent State, long hair, bell bottoms (now known as "flared legs), hip huggers, minis, midis, Johnson, Nixon. At some point, we all got a little bit lost.

Sometimes I forget that I made a decision about how I would live my life until it was time for my daughter to graduate from high school and leave me for college or art school. It's all right to wait even if I sometimes think that waiting will give me less time, that it may be too late to wait. What I'm doing is perfectly legitimate. It works for me unless I look at my life through someone else's eyes. Then I begin to panic about the "haven't dones."

I've never been a super mom or super woman or anything even vaguely attractive in our current culture, which admires women/people who juggle it all and succeed at it all. I can't juggle. I am a klutz. I spill things, walk into walls when I'm distracted, burn my forearms on oven racks because I'm not paying attention to how close I am to the heat, trip on sidewalk cracks when I go for long walks.

So I focus on this one thing for now, do it as well as I can while I have the chance, before she's gone, before she bursts out into the world on her own.

On the side, I'll continue to write, to look for work, to learn how to be a better poet, better writer. But she is my priority. It's almost involuntary.

If I have to consider myself a failure for now because I'm moving too slowly, because I'm not finishing, because my income is non-existent, because no one knows who I am or what I can do, because no one will pay me for what I can teach their children, well, then, I am a Failure.

I am the Queen of Failure. I own it. I'm a beautiful failure.

Next year, I could finish at least one novel, submit more poems, find paid work, apply to school, run away from home. I may do all or any of those things. I may do none. I'm not holding myself to anything because I am old enough and experienced enough to know that the universe sometimes has ways of dropping boulders on our arms just when we're about to commit to That One Thing We've Always Wanted to Do.

I'm not talking about self-created obstacles. I'm talking external obstacles we can't avoid or control.

I feel like I'm debating with myself about why I'm not writing to the Reverb 10 prompts. The debate is a little bit ridiculous. I'll pretend that I am experimenting with this blog, this new space, this nothingness that can eventually become something.

As for moments or series of events Kathryn Fitzmaurice asks us to write about in her Dec. 29 prompt ("Describe a defining moment or series of events that has affected your life this year."), mine all involve my daughter, marching band, her friends, teenagers. The moments that defined my 2010 had nothing to do with me and everything to do with them, these children who are almost not children. I suspect my 2011 will continue in this way. And 2012. And 2013 until it's time for my daughter to graduate, to pack up, to leave.

The following is an example of one of those defining moments:


note: deleted the poem. sorry about that.

1 comment:

  1. I can relate to much of this and I'm only 38!

    I don't know if you've been looking at any of the "future tools" reverb10 have been emailing out but to me they are further proof of that language barrier you mention. Gwen Bell's how to write a manifesto (I accidentally typed moanifesto - ha ha ha, now I wouldn't mind writing one of those!) made me so TIRED just looking at all the STEPS you have to take and all the things that must be achieved. Ach! My first thought was "Only someone without children to care for would even think of doing something like this." Either that or someone rich enough to afford a full-time nanny.

    Anyway, I really love the way your poem paints such a clear picture of the teenagers in your house. I love the last stanza.

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