Dear Journal: Busy Is As Busy Does


Why does it always seem like things happen in bunches? For instance, life might be quiet for an awfully long time (and I don’t appreciate the quiet as much as the noise), somehow lulling me into a sense that it will always be that way, and then once I’m in that place it EXPLODES and suddenly there are dozens of things that come at me all at once. And that’s not necessarily bad, just busy. Busy is as busy does, of course. So, as much as I rail against this idea of being constantly busy, the things I’m busy doing are generally productive, and it’s all good.

I tend to create my own busy-ness most times, scheduling several projects at the same time, but sometimes things come up that force me to squeeze them into my already jam-packed schedule. For instance, this novel that I’m suddenly writing. It came to me in pieces a couple of weeks ago, and I have to give it voice, so even though I’m in the midst of this interview project and I’m trying to get this poetry book off the ground I am giving the vast majority of my free time now to the novel. That’s just how it goes sometimes.

Then today is my oldest daughter’s birthday, and that means the past three days have been busy getting items and setting up for her party. That takes time and energy, and while I think we pulled it off well (the last of the stragglers left a couple of hours ago), it makes things busier and makes time go by faster. That’s another thing about being busy. I look up after I’ve been doing a myriad of things and the clock has gone bonkers. A whole day passes in the blink of an eye and I’m left wondering where it went. But then I look at the smile on my daughter’s face, or I look at the 20 pages I completed that day, and I remember.

Even then, though, I’m not one of those people who is “too busy.” You know the type, whenever you ask them to do something they claim they’re “too busy” and they couldn’t possibly find time in their schedule for you. Even when I’m at my busiest I try to carve out time for my friends, for my family, or for things that are important to me, regardless of how busy I am. Sometimes that means sacrificing some time working on a novel, but everyone needs those times to just relax with others, to take a timeout and enjoy the rest of what life has to offer. Busy is as busy does, but don’t get so busy that you can’t enjoy the journey.

I try to stop every once in a while even at my most hectic. It keeps me sane.


Stark Winter

cold-misty-winter-seasonThe cold seeps in like a drug
Coursing its way through my veins
Settling deep into sinew and bone
Possessing its own heartbeat
This frozen wasteland of mine
Starving for a recognition
That will never arrive
And these latent convictions
Solid as a block of ice
Yet chipped away by circumstance
By a monumental love
Stripped down and shivering
In this indiscriminate wind
This blinding, frigid night
Wrapped around me like a tomb
Its grip as unforgiving
As a day without sunlight
In the middle of stark winter.


The Reflex

fight-or-flight-checkbox-2.american-apparel-youth-tee.light-blue.w760h760We all have certain tendencies we lean toward, especially when things get tough. They’re ingrained in us, hardwired like computer programming, so we turn to them when we need to make quick decisions. I know for me that’s certainly true because if you lay out all of the decisions I’ve made in my life in a line on the floor the line would be long, but the basis for each decision would be a very small list.

I’ve usually made decisions based on self-preservation, or on the pleasure principle. Generally the decisions made to achieve momentary pleasure are followed up shortly by the ones that stress self-preservation. There’s a reason for that. My personality is a large one, which means most times when I make decisions they generally affect more people than just a few. It’s the nature of being me, because people listen to me when I speak.

I feed off of the attention and make even more decisions to maintain that attention, even if the decisions are circumspect. I know this about myself, but only recently have I been able to really derail those poor decisions. Most of them lead to some variations of falsehoods, which of course can put me in tough situations. I know when I’m doing it that I should stop, but the attention fuels the fire. Continue reading “The Reflex”

300 Writing Prompts: #19

“List a few phobias you have. When and how did you discover you had these fears?”

dark-forest_00223493Oh my, what a complex one this time. I mean, everyone has fears that range from large to small, depending on what’s important to them, or what they can tolerate. Sometimes fears can be crippling, and other times they can be overcome with just a bit of persistence. I think my own fears sit firmly in the middle of these two possibilities because while my fears aren’t crippling, neither are they ones I overcome after some difficulty. In fact, I usually just avoid them if I can.

Here are a few of my phobias…

1. The dark. When I was little we didn’t have nightlights. When I was finally in my room and tucked under my covers and my mother had left the room I was afraid. Maybe not of the boogeyman, or monsters hiding in my closet, but I think my “monsters” were worse because they were unknown. I couldn’t name them because they were the dark itself, creeping around corners and hiding in my eyelids.

2. Heights. I know. A 6 foot 4 inch man has absolutely no excuse to have a fear of heights, but it started early, when I wasn’t so tall. Yeah, that’s my excuse. I first noticed that heights had an effect on me when I was eight years old on a ladder at school helping to hang some decorations on the walls. I was probably only on the fifth or sixth rung when I looked down, which was a big mistake. The floor rose up to meet me, and I was lucky my teacher was right there or I would probably have hurt myself.

3. Crippling injury. Death doesn’t really scare me because when I’m dead I won’t know anything more. I won’t be in pain, and really pain is what I fear. I’m worried that at any moment something could happen to me that would put me in a wheelchair, or take away one of my senses, or seriously debilitate me so I don’t have a good quality of life. When I was in high school I heard the story of a man who had been very active who had a freak accident while diving and now he’s a paraplegic. For weeks after that I had a recurring nightmare that it was me, that it would happen to me.

mlm-rejection4. Rejection. A friend of mine said it well a few years ago. I don’t cope well when people don’t like me, or when they don’t at least pretend to like me. I keep track of every single person who unfriends me on Facebook, and I wonder why. What did I do or say, or not do, or not say, that caused them to reject me? When I was young I had one friend, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Others just didn’t seem to want to be around me for long enough to say, “yes, we’re good friends.” They still don’t, and I’m still not sure why.

My fears are fears for many different reasons, and I have a lot more than those four above. I guess the only thing that really ties them all together is that unknown factor, which is a primary part of the human condition. I can’t know everything, and I’m not supposed to, but if I could see into the future and be able to avoid some things it would be incredible. It would alleviate my fears, but it would probably also give me so many more questions, and I would keep my nose to the glass trying not to miss anything that could save me.

So maybe I’ll just work harder to control my fears instead of letting them control me. Easier said than done.


The Law of Attraction

“I take two steps forward. I take two steps back. We come together ’cause opposites attract. And you know — it ain’t fiction. Just a natural fact. We come together ’cause opposites attract.” ~Paula Abdul

Let me put this out there first: we’re not opposites. Far from it. I’d call us complementary if anything, like ketchup & mustard, like Ben & Jerry, or like Barnum & Bailey. If we were opposites at some point things would fall completely apart because opposites actually repel (magnet, anyone) even if you’re trying to force them together with all of your strength. Yet, if we were exactly the same, if we liked all the same things, or shared all the same hobbies, things would be awfully boring around here.

Okay, maybe it wouldn’t be boring, but if we both shared my personality it would be awfully chaotic, and if we were both like her it might be pretty quiet. I don’t know if I could deal with the quiet very well, and I know she wouldn’t embrace the chaos, if we had our druthers, so I’m glad we’re not the same. I’m glad we’re individuals who decided to walk this road together despite the fact that we’re so different, despite the clashes that inevitably occur when two separate personalities share a room, much less a house and all that goes along with it.

For example, she’s much more methodical than I am, analyzing everything before making a move, the perfectionist who understands that nothing is perfect, but who strives for it anyway. When something interests her she will research the hell out of it until there is nothing more to suss out, nothing more to comprehend about it. There is just something fascinating about watching her go to work on things that intrigue her, seeing the way her mind works. It’s just beautiful.

On the other hand, I’m the risk taker. I’m giving answers before the questions have even been fully asked. I gauge my odds quickly and I go for it, preferring to reap the early rewards or to fail spectacularly. I tend to do research on the fly, after I’ve already made the decision, and sometimes it works out, but sometimes it doesn’t. While it’s calculated, it’s nowhere near the intense scrutiny and solid planning that she takes. Which is fine because that’s the way it works out best for us. When I am ready to jump the gun she’s there to pull me aside and remind me of why I should be patient, and when she’s taking a long time making up her mind I’m there telling her it’s okay sometimes to take that risk, that it’s all good.

journalusWhen we were apart we decided to start a journal together, a journal of poetry because we both have poetic souls. We sent it back and forth between us, marking time between then and when we would see each other again. She would write a poem and mail the journal to me, and I would craft one in return on the following page and send it flying back to her. We did this for several months, and a pattern soon became clear. I would write my verses within a day from the time I received the journal, then I would wait. Most times it would take two weeks or longer before I received the journal again, and once it was an entire month between poems.

But you know what? It created anticipation, knowing that she was taking her time and being precise with her language, understanding that the way she operates is in stark contrast to me, but the finished product dovetails nicely together. I dug out the dusty journal just the other day, and it reads like an epic love story, like Orpheus and Eurydice, crossing the miles through words, and even though we took different paths to get those words on the pages, we both arrived at the same place. It’s the proof that we do complement each other, that while we approach things different ways we have the same goal in mind, and we reach it. Together.

No, we are never boring, because opposites don’t attract, but neither do exactly alikes.


Complicated, Part 4

“Everything is complicated; if that were not so, life and poetry and everything else would be a bore.” ~Wallace Stevens

I looked up one day and realized a decade had passed, and then two, and that time was still passing me by at a reckless pace, but it wasn’t really passing me by. It was taking me along with it, and I was experiencing things. I just wasn’t appreciating them for what they were, and for what they remain: a life in progress. Experiences piled on top of other experiences to create a mosaic of life that I just thought was pretty, or different, or I didn’t even notice it at all because I was busy with my nose to the grindstone trying to figure out how to make my mark in the world. But they were never that simple, never too easy, those grand aspirations. They still aren’t.

I’m easily bored. That’s a certain truth. No matter what I’m doing I’m always thinking that there has to be something out there better, except of course when I’m writing. When I’m writing nothing is boring because I’m creating. I’m a god organizing my characters on the page like little toy soldiers, but they’re not all green and I’m not strapping them to parachutes and hoping they survive. I’m giving birth to them, giving them complicated roles, forcing them to live their lives in tandem with my other characters, then killing them or letting them die as I see fit. It’s exciting to be that all-powerful, so you can see why nothing else compares.

Yet even when I’m bored, it doesn’t last long, even when writing is nowhere near. Maybe I should revise the previous statement. It’s true that life likes to throw in a curveball or two, or twenty, changing my blueprint from the one I picked to another one, to another one, until the final house looks absolutely nothing like my initial plans. And I shift with the ensuing complications because this is only one life I’m living. I can’t create another when I’m fed up with this one. I have to take it as it comes, and try to shape it as best I can in my very limited way. Because I’m not a god, not here where there are no fresh pages to sully. I’m just one of the huddled masses trying to stay warm, trying to advance just an inch before getting shoved back by life.

We all make our marks in different ways, but the ones who make the biggest impressions are the ones who believe challenges can be learning opportunities. In my almost 40 years of life I’ve been working hard at that realization, at taking all those opportunities and focusing my life through them, but it’s hard. It’s one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do because when those unforeseen challenges come all I want to do is crawl into a hole and hide away until spring. I’m somehow making progress, though, thanks to those other little ants who I come in contact with every day who help me see the bigger picture, who help me to stop and take a snapshot, examining it for imperfections and helping me to see through the blurs.


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