The Process of Un-Numbing

Apparently I am becoming a person who weeps at the movies.

OK, “weep” may be an exaggeration–“cries fat, warm tears” is more accurate. But still, for someone who never cried during a movie before the age of 20-something*, this is an unexpected twist.

I honestly am not quite sure when it happened–that I decided emotions were dangerous and had to be muted. All I know is that when I first started doing some uncovering and emotional work, I did NOT expect it to take years to thaw from that deep freeze.

But anyway: MOVIES.

Granted, the two movies I watched this week that made me feel like a watering pot are Inside Out and Moana.

Both are emotional journeys–which, if you know anything at all about me (even if it’s just the headlines of my blogposts) is kind of both my kryptonite and my superpower. Funny how that works.

It also is partly that I am seeing everything through a lens of emotional journeys these days.

But a girl going out on a ship to save her island in the face of criticism and having to believe herself worthy? Having to convince a demi-god he is worthy not because of his powers but as a person?

T_____T

I feel like I might have a detailed write-up on this movie in me. But maybe while I’m still bringing myself to tears when I think of the theme song ISN’T the time.

 

*this is slightly inaccurate: Ever After made me cry. But it was definitely more the last straw on the camel’s back of 15yo hormones, jet-lag, and reverse culture shock. It was definitely an outlier.

Translating “Write What You Know”

When they said “write what you know” I don’t think they meant “set your werewolf poems in the landscape you walk everyday” exactly…but I do think that’s the spirit of it.

This is a writing rule a lot like “show don’t tell”. It is used so liberally and often without nuance.

I think I’m finally really figuring out how to do this. It’s been about 20 years since I started writing seriously, so this is a little alarming, as far as rate-of-growth is concerned…but anyway, a lot more of my writing is coming from a personal place. No matter how strange the subject matter.

I think hearing this phrase, people immediately leap to “but I have been very boring”.

I know. We’re writers–being boring helps us actually get work done. Unlike acting or other arts which can happen impromptu, we need to sit and be still for long stretches to accomplish anything.

And here’s the thing: I started out writing stories about ninjas in imaginary oasis countries. And now I’m writing…well, about the same kind of thing. What has changed?

My heroine is shopping, and her different ethnic background means she has to look at clothing for housewives. My hero gets excited about buying a box lunch at the train station, instead of taking one packed by his mother.

The were-canines worrying about being shot if they trespass on someone else’s land in dog-form.

And of course, I still need to do my research about the things I’m not familiar with. But I can also look at a story where I somewhat phoned in the setting details and when wondering how to fix it, think about whether it would be more interesting to have it happen in an alternate US Midwest, rather than an imagined historical Britain.

The phrase isn’t “limit yourself to what you know”. It should maybe be “draw on things you know all too well”.

The cliche phrase will still be everywhere, but now I’m going to think, “Ah yes. Do crazy things using details I know from my own experience.”

Which does mean breaking out of boring, every once in a while, to get exposed to new details. I’m thinking about letting some were-creatures take up residence in New England, too….

Taking Cheer from Saint Patrick

Saint Patrick’s Day! A day holy to people wearing shades of green that make redheads LOOK green, and equating Irish heritage with being alcoholics numbing the pain of monocropping potatoes for the British Empire.

You can tell I’m Irish-American because my sense of humor is a little bitter.

But actually, I’d like to raise a metaphorical glass to the historical Patrick. There was a man who turned a dark time of his life into a calling, a passion.

And there was a time of history where the ending of one empire, the end of the world for many I am sure, sent out the seeds of a new civilization. One, in its own ways, as barbaric and cruel as any of the great empires. The one I feel perched at the very edge of.

The saving of ancient literature in Irish monasteries, with love and passion, mattered dearly. Do you think the men copying manuscripts hour after hour knew their own historical significance?

I doubt it. I hope they get to see it from their vantage point now.

I have often in my lifetime (with typical inherited pessimism tinged with arrogance) been sure I would see the fall of my own civilization. Recently I’m thinking the time-line looks uglier than I thought.

But maybe writing, and working on my passion, might matter.

So again, a toast to Patrick, who is apparently the patron saint of nothing BUT Ireland. Maybe he would have liked to be the patron of memoir or those beehive monastic cells or something.

I invoke today all these virtues
Against every hostile merciless power
Which may assail my body and my soul

says the ancient text (translated) attributed to him.

Amen.

meta-cowardice

I’ve been thinking about blogging quite a bit lately.

This may seem meta, but in a very real way, blogging may be the only way I can really communicate this–to others and to myself.

I’m stuck as a blogger.

It’s a familiar sensation. I feel like I don’t really have ideas–or the energy to create the post when I do have them. I feel an ennui that, if I think about it, is a little strange, as I’ve pretty much compulsively blogged since introduced to the form.

Oh, I think. I am a blocked artist in this area.

Why?

It’s pretty clear that other social media flows for me. (Well. Not Facebook, exactly. It’s the party that I don’t quite want to be at.)

But I know, from my experience of being blocked as a writer. Not some blank-page cartoon of writer’s block, but the one where slowly your joy is leaching out of you, and you keep writing because it’s who you are.

ANYWAY

blogging is as serious to me. But I do know that whatever it is, I’m probably being stopped mainly by fear.

Sure there’s a little bit of a sense that blogging is a dying form of communication. (I’m totally open to being proven wrong about this, but really: we have to wait a decade to see.)

But mainly, I’m worried I’ll be found out. Seen.

I write posts, and then only link to the ones I think are valuable.

What if the imaginary audience I don’t want to reach YET sees that I’m not a shiny perfect professional? What if I write something I truly mean and think is true and get net-lynched for it? What if I get haters?

What if I deserve it?

In an intersection of things that make you vulnerable on the internet, I sit closer to the middle of the Venn Diagram than most people. The fact that I know people who are even closer in the cross-hairs doesn’t encourage me–their horror stories are the things my heart latches onto, saying, “See? We’re a coward for a reason.”

And als0, “You don’t write anything that’s meaningful enough to be hated for anyway, what are you so self-important about.”

The truth is–I want to. I want to write about being a practicing Christian in a way that bucks both agnostic American norms and institutional Christian norms. (Not in cool ways, just in doesn’t-fit-in ways.) I want to write about being single at 30 in every way the culture lampoons, and feeling fine with it, despite not being sold on it.

I want to talk about saving lives, even if it’s absurd to claim anything I might do could do that.

I don’t know what will fix this block, but I’m hoping just posting this, despite it’s lack of thematic cohesion, and the possibility I’ll want to delete it later, might help.

Discworld Democracy

Terry Pratchett’s fantasy is so British, that alone makes me smile, even aside from the multitude of funny ways that is so apparent. Now, I may not be the best judge–while I was raised on a lot of British literature, I still have yet to go England.

Still. It’s not exactly a hidden feature.

Lately I’ve fallen in love with listening to the audiobooks of the Discworld novels. Like with Harry Potter, the audiobook versions may be even more delightful than the mere text. There’s a great narrator, and the book gains something by being performed.

I’m a very fast reader, so with audiobooks I also can slow down and think about things that are happening even as I listen.

Something that has been striking me, stronger and stronger, is how democratic Terry Pratchett’s world is.

Which, if I was a monocultural American, might also strike me as funny. But it’s not.

An American couldn’t write the kind of democracy he writes, I think. One where there are kings and faerie queens and witches who know very well they rule by merit of their peoples’ tolerance.

Granny Weatherwax isn’t the Head Witch, because there is no such thing among witches, but everyone knows she’s the one who would be the head witch–and she’s treated as such.

And she even has the power to appoint who follows her into that role.

American democracy is a loud tenet of “it’s a free country, and I can do what I want”–rather than a development that follows generations of transition.

Granny wouldn’t hold with people electing their leaders, because they don’t know what’s best for them. (This is true. She wouldn’t hold with a Head Witch choosing one either, though.)

In a way, it’s comforting to read a fantasy that draws so strongly on the absurdities of a culture to build a fake world that reflects humanity so well–even if some of the specifics don’t match with my experience.

(As a small-town girl, street food jokes miss me, whether they’re raised in New York or London.)

It’s not the first time the world has changed, The Shepherd’s Crown whispers to me, as Tiffany fills a role that can’t be Granny Weatherwax shaped now she’s in it. And it won’t be the last.

There is a sense of optimism alongside the parody in Discworld, with the massively bureaucratic Wizards College that in it’s own way bumbles into egalitarianism. With the madness of crowds and poisonous thought conquered by hard work, and only as much magic to solve it as magic caused the problem in the first place.

In the quiet way it introduces a male witch, who may not go by that exact title (I haven’t finished the book yet, I don’t know) but who sees the problems of the local men with as much deftness as Tiffany and her witch network attend to the households from the side of the women.

It makes me feel like there may be something to the idea of democracy, even if I don’t know exactly how it’s supposed to work. And maybe someday American culture will have taken a few more knocks and have mellowed into being able to poke fun at itself, the way Terry Pratchett can poke fun at his own.

Unexpected Love Stories – The Wide-Berth Buick

I had to drive my brother’s Prius back to the house for him today.

It made me ask myself: Do I become a Person Who Drives A Prius merely by the act of doing so? Is it inherent? Is it forced upon me by the fact that it handles like a wind-up, and has the rear visibility of a Hot Wheels?

But I digress.

I don’t really like driving Toyota cars (I have a crush on an old Toyota truck model, but have never driven it, so withholding judgment). Partly because they all feel a little bit like driving a toy car. Even my mom’s previous FJ Cruiser SUV. Maybe particularly my mom’s FJ Cruiser SUV?

It is about like what a Barbie car would be, and it was even a very loud color, so as it was refusing to accelerate above kid-safe speeds on the on-ramp I could at least hope to be given wide berth as a child driver.

Anyway.

It’s mainly because I’m spoiled. I learned to drive in several cars, but I actually became a driver in a big old boat-like Buick.

I never would have guessed it would become something I was fond of, even as I heard people talk about their first cars. It’s a grandpa car. Literally, there is a CarMax commercial that makes fun of my car for being a boat, as a kid is trying to learn to parallel park.

Parking the thing is a beast (the Durango my mom has now feels like the easiest thing in the world, and it’s not technically smaller) –and I’ve met a few too many curbs along the way.

It’s also always ridden smooth and heavy. It likes to go 70 or 80, as it gets some good momentum and airflow, totally the best car for interstate driving.

I drove while I was still impressionable, and now it’s the standard by which I feel other cars.

I think it’s a goner.

I said goodbye to it a while ago, when my sister drove it off to a different state–I felt at that point that I might see it again, but needed to not count on it. When she said she was bringing it back home, I was so happy I told everyone in the same breath as I told them she was visiting.

After about 6 months of jumping from car to car (including my mom’s own transition) I was astonished to find myself not even realizing I was in a car and driving.

(I WAS paying attention, so don’t fret, it just felt natural.)

And then the little shimmy-under-the-hood started to get pretty pronounced. We have one more run into the mechanic to try together, and then I’ll be letting it go again.

I don’t know what will be my next fits-like-a-glove car. I’m probably not getting a new one anytime soon and will be car-hopping for a while.

Hopefully my perfect car is NOT a grandpa-boat car, but something a little more zippy, like a Beetle.

Or maybe I’ll get used to driving tin-cans.