Tag Archives: despair

The heat, the humidity, or how big can my hair get?


I’m at the end of my tether. It’s so humid here every bit of my furniture is soggy. The boxes I’ve already packed for my move are looking saggy. And the cat is three times his normal size.

I love the Maritimes. I love the smell of the sea, the ships going by, the feel of sand between my toes.

I do not love the 100% humidity.

Seems like this year it’s been hotter and stickier than in past years. Or maybe it’s the additional stress of the pandemic, the madman south of the border, the inability to do anything without gloom hanging over, the impending election season…

So maybe that’s all contributing to the ultimate hair disaster. All I know is that I am now unusually tall (for me) and am having trouble getting through doorways. There’s a wee struggle, and then a “pop” as I squeeze through. It would alarm the cat but he’s stuck behind me.

The thing is, there’s so little I can do anything about. Like the fog that brings the humidity, the news clouds over everything, putting me into a state of suspended animation, visibility reduced, with only the foghorns as guides.

So, fiction. It’s time to put my head into a world I create and play there, where I can control things, where the characters can get the punishment they deserve, where all is controllable.

Back to the computer I go, brain sparking, even if it agitates the head fluff even more…

The loss of superlatives


getty_superlative-154954029I’ve always been the sort of person to speak in superlatives. I talk about the greatest thing, waggle my tongue around three-syllable words that overflow the conversation, wave my arms about, waggle my eyebrows, roll my eyes.

In writing, I try to take out my excitable words, seek other phrases that are less “Golly Gee!” and more description-enhanced. Less “fabulous”, more evocative.

But, since Trump, I’ve even lost those.

See, he’s absorbed the superlative arena. With his endless rants and talks of “bigly” and “the best” and “great”, and his manic gesturing and twitter rants, I am rendered mute.

social-network-mute-quiet-generic-640x434Since the election, I’ve been left speechless, even, in a verbal slump, angry at how words can be used to lie in all sorts of crazy, meaningless ways. Angry at the pundits, “Oh this was only campaign rhetoric. He’s not going to do that.” It’s okay to lie, they seem to say, because no one believes you anyway. Left without speech as I reel in horror as the actual future rolls out ahead of me, burning ground, shrivelled hopes, fear…

It’s like If84d9123c06e24a9e9632f6f721d6984 can’t think of words strong enough to explain my despair. I don’t even live in the US and I am unable to deal with this. His hateful speeches have opened the Pandora’s box of every country’s racism and sexism, and said, “Hey, let’s show our ugly side.”
And so we do. We aim our frustration at “other”, we snarl at anything that seems to put us out, even mildly. I know my patience is pulled tighter than a piano string as I hear one bad news item after another. As Mr. T settles intothe White House (oh, but he wants to commute back and forth to his tower because that will only cost millions and hours of frustration for New Yorkers but at least he’ll be able to sit on his gold toilet in peace), more ridiculous stuff happens, more stuff so outrageous I am left gobsmacked and verbally crippled.

It’s like my mouth closes tighter with every dangerous move. I feel  bit like Mrs. Lynde in Anne of Green Gables, mouth pulled into a knot, shoulders tense, head throbbing.

Perhaps it’s because, if I open my mouth, I’ll start screaming.

Bigly.

9540740-angry-woman-shouting-stock-photo-woman-scream-crazy

Some people say these are the worst of times…


Ah, Styx…..How I loved them, still do. Was mellowing out to music today while stabbing a felted mushroom (yes, my life is odd) and this came up on iTunes Shuffle.

I loved Styx in the day, though sometimes their heavy musicality, like that of the Alan Parson’s Project, overwhelmed my ears like too much Beethoven’s 9th. All wonderful things, all moving, all sometimes too demanding on a bubble pop day.

But the message of the song seems oddly apt these days of such violence and despair and sorrow. It seems every news item is about people behaving badly or stupidly, about our government in Canada acting like tinpot dictators, about the crazies just below us carrying weaponry when shopping with their toddlers or killing police or innocents in the street.

It is easy to give in to it all and give up. Like the song says, “The best of times, is when I’m alone with you…” – it’s easy to hide inside and mutter in your small groups about the outside, about the dangers. To shut it out with noise, or good books, or activities or each other. I’d love to have someone to spend the best of times with having some sweet cuddles or something to distract me from Mr. Harper for a moment or two. But I digress…;-)

It isn’t enough, is it? The hairy beasts are still outside the increasingly porous gates. Perhaps it’s time to try and recreate the paradise we once had…with each other, within ourselves, in our world.

“as long as we keep alive…The memories of paradise….”

I’m thinking that maybe we can get there again…we are smart enough, rich enough, connected enough that these COULD be the best of times…

Or if nothing else, we can sing madly along with songs of our youth and stab tiny animals out of wool…

Freaking Out!


Gawd. I am losing it, and so, apparently, is the rest of the world. Everyone is fighting one another, my sodding firstFH9J-born is still not speaking to me with extreme prejudice, journalists are being kidnapped and women everywhere are being killed and raped and abused and by golly jinkums, I am just about ready to lose it and go postal on the entire place. And don’t get me started on the mess that is this Canadian government, else I shall shoot coffee out of my nose and burn you with the effluent.

It’s hard being cheerful in such a world. I find it almost impossible. Why just the other day I thought, quite seriously, about driving my car into a tree. What’s it all FOR, anyway? We don’t seem to be progressing, we dwell in hatred and anger and the urge (ever larger) to cling to the almighty penny rather than share a wee bit with anyone else.

What the hell is wrong with us all.

Oh yeah, and I’m writing crap. For my course. Which means I will have to send it to someone I respect and feel her frustration and watch the edits mount up online. Which of course is the worst thing of all the above…

Just kidding. The world sucketh anon. But if it weren’t for people like Helen Humphreys and Roald Dahl and Christopher Moore and Terry Pratchett and Stella Gibbons and Bronwyn Wallace and Norton Juster and A.A.Milne and Edward Gorey and Jose Saramago and Donna Morrissey and PG Wodehouse and Nancy Mitford and Kermit, it would sucketh more, much much more.

And so off I toil, in the hope that somewhere in all this random verbiage, a flicker of magic may occur that makes some of this soul-sucking world make sense, even for a moment.

 

Hope, or living present while giving presents


-hope-15908It’s been a week. Shootings in Canada, Women hung for living, flogged for breathing, elections going to the right-wing, just a whole bunch of despair-inducing news. So I dither, and distract myself. Drink wine. Laugh too loud. Read the inter webs.

There are only a few wonderful blogs I follow religiously and read every day –  a favourite is Brain Pickings, and after months of finding gems on it, I’ve decided to support it as a subscription. Well worth it.

Today’s posting was on Happiness, and its fleeting nature. Feeling the teensiest bit blue (as I always do of a Sunday afternoon/evening), it spoke to me.

First, a bit from Kierkegaard, about how hope and memory damage happiness –

Consider first the hoping individual. When, as a hoping individual (and of course to that extent unhappy), he is not present to himself, he becomes unhappy in a stricter sense… But if he cannot become present to himself in hope, but loses his hope, hopes again, and so on, then he is absent from himself not just in the present but also in the future, and we have a type of the unhappy…

Similarly if we consider the remembering individual. If he finds himself present in the past, strictly he is not unhappy; but if he cannot do that but remains constantly absent from himself in a past, then we have a form of the unhappy…

Unhappy individuals who hope never have the same pain as those who remember. Hoping individuals always have a more gratifying disappointment. The unhappiest one will always, therefore, be found among the unhappy rememberers.

Whew. It reminds me a bit of Pema Chodron’s exhortation to “Abandon Hope” as then you will not suffer hurt or loss. I’ve always been a Anne of Green Gables gal, though – I’d rather feel the ups and downs of hope and disappointment, the swells of love and hurt, of joy and embarrassment. I can be blue, but I can also be screaming bright yellow. The contrast is nice for me, at least. Maybe I prefer that gratifying disappointment…but I must say, if I hear of one more woman being killed by some radical religious zealot, I am going to explode with grief and anger and horror and hatred.

A more cheerful outlook from Anna Quindlen… (highlights mine)

Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over the dunes, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over a pond and a stand of pines

Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you…

Get a life in which you are generous...And realize that life is glorious, and that you have no business taking it for granted. 

All of us want to do well. But if we do not do good, too, then doing well will never be enough.

Maybe a trip to the beach is in order, to remind me that there are good things, and good people, in the world. To be present, and grateful.

I’ve been lucky to meet a few people who are generous without thinking about it, who give and appreciate and enjoy and love. They are as the stars in the sky, they lighten my life with their beauty.

One day I hope (there’s that word again) to be like them. Right now I’m in a morass of hoping people will just behave like decent human beings. Or animals.

The Writer’s Union and the art of gentle discouragement


writers union blue cropI was lucky enough to be able to attend a Writer’s Union workshop yesterday. I say lucky, because, as a writer without a book published by a “real” publishing house, I can’t be a member, so it was a bit like being invited to a frat house but not allowed to drink.

It was an interesting workshop on the new face of publishing, on the glories and challenges of self-publishing, the thrills of being offered an impenetrable contract from a “real” publisher, the shame of self-publishing that remains, since oh so much self-publishing is garbage.

I learned a few things I couldn’t have picked up hanging about on web street corners, but the prevailing thing I learned was to keep a sense of humour about writing and publishing and BY NO MEANS expect to make money at it.

Well, I knew that.

But it hits a little harder when a prize-winning author in adult and child books (from REAL publishers) still struggles with contracts that give her less than the Writer’s Union suggest. Or when the originally REAL published author who has turned to self-publication tells you that she still hasn’t made back the relatively small investment she made. And still mentions self-publication with a wisp of shame.

They laughed, both of them, whenever money or joy was mentioned. They mentioned they had their books with them for sale. No one bought any. It was fairly discouraging.

On the other hand, they emphasized the work that goes into writing a good book, and in a way that was reassuring. I keep getting people asking me about why I don’t send in my things to publishers and such, but these authors emphasized the need for many many many many revisions, at least 4 years of production, and then more revisions, preferably by a professional editor. So I am off the hook a bit for the manuscripts that languish unloved (but, I hasten to say, still percolating in my head) on my computer.

When is your stuff ready to send out? “When you feel like you are going to throw up if you have to read it again,” was the jist of things.

I’m only a bit nauseated. I think I need some more revision time. And now, yes now, I feel like I want to do it. Despite the discouragement.

Why? Well, if my mum were still around, she’d tell you why. I’ve always been a bit bloody minded. If someone tells me I can’t do something, that simply means (to me) that they don’t know me. My mum, for all her faults and our arguments and her preference for my brothers, told me that I could do anything I put my mind to. She told me this every day of my life and hers.

It’s in my genes.

250px-Alice_05a-1116x1492

So when someone says, oh, this is horrible and you will hate it and you won’t ever ever ever succeed, well… my mum inside me rises up, with fire in her eyes, and says, “WHO are YOU?”

She really shoulda been a hookah-smoking caterpillar.

Check out the Writer’s Union website for all sorts of helpful information, including sample contracts and a list of editors and agents. Plus a contest or two. Well worth a visit!

And maybe, maybe, one day I can become a member. For now I’m hoping to join the Whiskey Association of Halifax. Membership is easier there, and it might help with the other.

Revolutionary regrets, I’ve had a few…


my-arms-are-tired-protester1Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the oppressed of the world could actually succeed in overthrowing the oppressors? Everywhere there is seething, but the outcomes are minimal, except for those killed, beaten, and imprisoned in the protest. Tyrants become stronger. It breaks my heart.
I remember travelling to Havana last Christmas, eager to see the Revolution’s results, knowing, of course, that it is hard to succeed when your nearest trading partner insists upon standing on your neck – but Cuba broke my heart. Such wonderful people, such beautiful art and music and talent and strengths and yet, so many slowly starving. Even the museum of the revolution was dusty, uncared-for, grim. It made the part of me that longs for some reprieve from the outrageous me-first greed and capitalism sad and sorry.
Are we destined to lose everything we have to the powers of the shareholders? Will we be discount-stored into non-existence? And will our world leaders continue to usurp our freedoms in the Orwellian name of “security”, while we dither about and do nothing?
It horrifies me, more than the destruction of the planet, even, for without power, we as citizens of the earth can do nothing to stop that destruction.
But we’re all too comfy, or too busy, or too hesitant to speak out.vote-the-bumsout
Or we do speak out, risk our lives, and make no progress against the juggernauts who shoot us, gas us, imprison us. And eventually, we have to get back to work. At the jobs they graciously allow us to keep as long as we keep our mouths shut.
My son has been reporting from Istanbul for the past several days, and now, as things quiet down, he wonders if anything was accomplished. Like the Occupy protests – masses of people rise up, make a lot of noise, get coverage for a few minutes of our magpie-news coverage, and then once the real messages come out, the media turns to the next shiny thing and the pressure goes off the leaders.
I used to feel I didn’t believe in armed insurrection, that peaceful protest was the right way, that working within organizations was the best way to change things.
Then I tried to change organizations from within, and every time I was broken against them. I’d get a change to happen, however minuscule, one that benefitted people, but as soon as I left they slipped back into the old ways, ways they didn’t even like but which they were used to.
So how do we change an outrageous paradigm?
Maybe it’s time to link Brazil and Turkey and Occupiers and the French (who are very very good at driving the dialogue) and those rabid footballers in various places, and pull together?
I don’t know.
I’m tired.
And here we have an admitted fraudster telling everyone he will run for office again, and people saying yeah, sure, I’d vote for him.
I give up, disgusted, and pull my covers over my head.
At least, for a moment.
I need to regroup. I’ll be back.Gandhi-368x378

 

International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award – or check here to depress yourself about a writing career


Wow. Just pulled up this list, as my favourite author ever, Helen Humphreys, is on the long-list, for her wonderful book, The Reinvention of Love.

GAWD it’s depressing how many really truly good books there are out there.

It’s not that I feel envy, no, it’s just that when I read them I realize how far away my little dream of writing a really good book is. (See, even that sentence structure should tell you I am a rank amateur, unworthy of attention).

I mean, can’t you glowing wonderful, fabulous writers take a holiday or something? Just for a couple of years or so, until some of us catch up?

I am going to go drown my sorrows in a cup of eggnog latte at the delightful Cafe Brea and review my options. Perhaps I’ll give up and do needle felting for a while til the desire to write passes.

Meanwhile, have a look at the list (click the link). Every book on it is worthy of a read.

Sigh.

“We don’t need more writers! We need more readers!”


Somewhere back in Nanowrimo land, I read a commentary about the piles of dreck being produced through the month. The quote above comes from that commentary, but I can’t find the reference this morning, peering as I am through the slits of eyes produced by profound weeping as I realize another dream is lost, down the drain. That writing dream. You know. THAT one.

I’ve produced a lot of that dreck. I know. People have ever so sanctimoniously, kindly, gently, and viciously told me so. (Just GET all those -ly words in one sentence! That takes skill, that does!)

I’ve been “working on writing”, interspersed with sessions of intense parenting, higher education, day jobs that consume my soul, and fighting the urge to nap, for the past 20 years or so. Should I succeed now, I’d likely kill whoever called me an overnight success. Wait, that’s a good idea for a plot…

And therein lies the rub. Like many people, especially the insufferable woman who sat beside me the other day, plots are a dime a dozen. At least in the idea stage. The stories, the ones that grip your heart and make you sink into an alternate reality – well, those are harder. For me, anyway. I imagine insufferable woman could just whip them off in a second, or so she tells me.

There are hundreds of books produced every year. Many of them are simply awful. (see: 50 Shades of Grey) Some of the really bad ones get made into movies, even, and their authors lie about and eat bon bons forevermore. This leads many of us to think that we, too, could wield that magic.

But like the lion in the Wizard of Oz would say, “Whadda they got that I haven’t got? Courage!” I somehow can’t get myself to offer my dreck to the wider world. I feel I should do better. So I paralyze and refuse to write and don’t. And, quite frankly, my skills get rustier and rustier.

So, a few tips for those who want to do this crazy thing (and by the way, my assembly of writing books is going up for sale on Kijiji in a moment).

1. Write. Yah, you knew this.

2. Learn to touch type. My mother never let me take this class as she thought I’d end up as a secretary or something. She didn’t see the time of keyboards. I still type fast, but my error rate is huge, and my hands get weary using only four fingers total. It wastes time, and frustrates my flow of thoughts.

3. Read. Write reviews of the books you read. This will make you look for the things you read that worked, the things you didn’t like, and, more importantly, will stick those things in your mind for when you write your own stuff.

4. Avoid writing courses. I’ve taken dozens of these. They either tell me what I already know, or decimate my confidence. Free ones are okay. I’ve paid thousands and am genuinely no further ahead. Read instead.

5. If you must take courses, pay attention, participate, suck the pith out of them. Squeeze them dry. Pester the teacher for additional help, especially if they’re good. Find kindred spirits in the class and form a reading/writing group for afterwards. This will be the most useful thing of all.

6. Get a group together to share your writing with. Make sure you are on the same level. This is tougher than you think, and it is terribly irritating to have someone ask you the meaning of words or tell you they haven’t read anything much since the Twilight series when you write historical fiction. Plus it is really really hard to critique really bad writing without being mean-sounding.

7. Read some more. TV or movie renditions of writing do NOT count. It’s not the same. Read widely, outside “your” genre. Well, except romance. Don’t read that if you don’t like it. It will just lead you to think you can write it, and good romance isn’t easy, either. It’s easy to shower scorn on things you don’t understand. I know. Bad romance (writing) isn’t something you want your kids to remember you for.

8. Buy books. Go to readings. Talk to authors. For me, going to the Bloody Words Conference – I plan to kiss their feet. I’ve tried to do what they do, and I can’t. I bow before them, trying to let my envy go and to embrace them with all my heart for the pleasure their books have brought me.

9. If you can, give up. It’s tough out there. It’s lonely. And it can be soul-destroying. After trying for so many years, I feel like a Hollywood starlet, who went west to become a movie star, tried and tried and got some bit parts, a little taste of possible glories, but never a big break. Now she’s old, tired, and wherever she goes, she can hear the whispering, “Of course, she never really WAS anyone…

10. If you can’t give it up, make sure you have other things to fall back on in times of duress. Friends help, but no one can patch the gaping hole in a heart when you’ve very nearly almost made art and have just missed. You need something else that deals with internal trauma. Work out, make something out of clay or cloth or wood or anything tactile that does not involve words. Physicality is key when you’ve been working so hard with the verbal mind. Go punch someone. Maybe the insufferable woman. That would be fun.

Try not to look pathetic.

It’s spring, when a young heart’s thoughts turn to those of love…or is that just limerence?


Ah, the joy of another new word. I thought there were phases of love, yes, but I knew nothing of the word limerent, coined by Dorothy Tennov in 1977. She described an anxious form of attachment, much like the infatuation of early love, but which varies according to the uncertainty associated with the LO (limerent object). Instead of affection decreasing if the LO seems uncertain, the affection and efforts to persuade grow stronger with such uncertainty, until it is plain that nothing will come of the relationship. Apparently, this can go on for years. It’s like being endlessly twitterpated.

“With increases in doubt interspersed with reason to hope that reciprocation may indeed occur, everything becomes intensified, especially your preoccupation with percentages. At 100% you are mooning about, in either a joyful or a despairing state, preferring your fantasies to virtually any other activity unless it is (a) acting in ways that you believe will help you attain your limerent objective, such as beautifying yourself and, therefore increasing the probability that you will impress LO favourably during your interaction, or (b) actually being in the presence of LO. Your motivation to attain a “relationship” (mating, or pair bond) continues to intensify so long as a “proper” mix of hope and uncertainty exist.” http://flatrock.org.nz/topics/relationships/from_love_and_limerence.htm

I am reminded of the book I received one Christmas, where the lady of the house was forced to endure the gifting of the entire crew of the Partridge in a Pear Tree song as her love tried to woo her. Or of the Pe Pe Lepew and Penelope Pussycat relationship, where he tries more and more extreme approaches to win her heart. Until he gets her. Then he flees.

Of course, one wonders about the LO’s role in all of this. Does he/she lead the limerent on? According to most reports I could read, this isn’t the case – a lot of the mental anguish is internal and self-inflicted and the object often isn’t aware of it at all. Still, he/she must wonder at the flood of affectionate gifties and such.

Intersperse liminence with the natural urge to be kind to people and you can just see where people get into horrible messes. A recent online chat mentioned the need to be clear about breaking things off to avoid stimulating the limerent among us into a renewed frenzy of activity and adoration.

But hey, how do you know if you are involved with one of these folks or if you’re just suffering from the usual “spring is here and I’m in love” heart-singing that seems as predictable as the coming of strawberries with real flavour in the spring? Maybe the below will help. In the meantime, be careful out there. Those spring breezes can be dangerous…

“Dear Ralph,
Your four love letters arrived today. My landlady said a heavily sweating man stuffed them in the mailbox and lurched off like a wounded kiwi, so I assume you delivered them yourself. A million thanks, really.
All the letters make fine reading, but I was particularly struck by your complaint (letter 2, page 27) of a persistent heavy feeling in the chest that can only be relieved by sighing. Ralph, this is a clue. You are not just in love, you are limerent. …”

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,952554,00.html#ixzz1r0jItL9I