Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Happily Even After

My husband married me because of my shortcomings, not despite them.  There's my penchant for sudden change; spontaneous upsets with scissors and hair dye; a love/hate relationship with the written word that has been festering more than half my lifetime; my crooked teeth; and when I'm really, really tired, a ravaging hysteria of laughter so intense I get stomach cramps.  Still, we're weirdos in love.

I've spent an entire lifetime discovering how strange the people of the world think I am and how, secretly, many of them delight in the off-beat. 

It's nothing to me.  I mean, when you're a kid and do and say kid things and your sister's mantra is, "You're weird," well, what can you say?  I'm creatively driven.

My big brother, the one who's been riding Harleys my entire life and is tattooed up and down, has scoffed at my hair and clothes more times than I can count.  "You've always been the black sheep," says he.

I smile. Family.

I was insecure, oh, so insecure.  "You're weird", the other kids always said.  But they hung around.

Later on, in high school, when they loaded up the insult cannon with the word "Freak" it bounded right back at them, splattering a little pride across their Esprit.  Freak was a compliment, an homage to beloved Ralph Waldo Emerson who gave us permission not only to love, but to be art. 

"Be yourself; no base imitator of another,but your best self.  There is something which you can do better than another.  Listen to the inward voice and bravely obey that.  Do the things at which you are great, not what you were never made for.
To be great, is to be misunderstood."

--Emerson, Self-Reliance

And it was art, and music, and poetry that drove me into myself.  It was writing that saved the soft bits, that firmed up the wants and dreams, that gave me permission to disregard expectation and head on out and be misunderstood.

Thanks, Ralph, I owe you one.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

One True Sentence

I want to give you something.  I don't want to sound wounded because I am not.  What I want to do is reach in and draw out the truth, a nod to Hemingway perhaps, a reaction to rain in June to be sure.

I love the rain.

A few days ago on Twitter's #writechat we were talking about the writer's voice which inevitably moves on to truth which in turn becomes self examination and honesty in your writing.  And I wonder how honest I am in my writing, in memoir writing.

Not much.

And to a certain extent we don't want memoir writers to be too honest because too honest can lead to blame and contempt.  I just don't want to go there.  It's not enjoyable.  Drama disagrees with me, it gives me heartburn.  It makes me growl.

But rain in June does funny things to me.  Listening to Leonard Cohen does funny things to me. 

Before I dropped out of college, I had several poems published in the school's lit mag.  This was before I let English take me back, while I was still pretending to want a reasonable career in Interior Design.  The day the journal came out I nabbed a copy and took it with me to class.  My instructor, a women, opened the book, searched out my name and proceeded to read my words out loud to the class.  It was fine, all our classes were together for the most part, we knew eachother well and I sort of stood out as the...I don't know what I was, but not timid, and to them, not dull.

So, she read the first poem in a very cavalier fashion and moved on.  This is what she read next:

Old Words

I wanted to read from dirty old men
to dry up the lisp
to learn the currents of the belly
what they hide in them
to turn a word.

I began by smoking cigarettes
and hoarding brandy
followed the swing of words down the spine
opened windows
and doors
and returned in my bra and underpants
to the living room floor.

I wanted to read the smoky old ramblings
the canterings on
about campfires and ships and women
but when I started
the sky closed up
and threw down its rain.


Though I sit here fully clothed with nothing but a cup of cold coffee, the rain still seeps into my spirit, while the words of men, this time the music of Leonard Cohen, inhabits me and I think I should do something, write something honest.  This is not to say women don't have this power over words, quite the contrary.  It's only that this day in particular is for Cohen.

So what do I write?  What total truth needs to be revealed?