A Screwdriver for Life

This time of year is hard for me.  I’m reaping the bulk of summer efforts.  I’m holding feverishly tight to a season I know will change.  I’m resuming schedules that require more discipline and putting my nose to that damned old grind stone. Separating the wheat from the chaff.  All this, plus significant personal developments in the crumbling pillars of the Cathedral of Life’s Challenges (with a vast Karmic basement), is making me feel Crabby.  I’m emotional.  I’m dragging my feet in the work I’m committed to.  I’m lost in confusing day-dreams and occasionally unraveled by painful memories.

I’m getting better at dealing with The Feels.  It’s been a long and challenging road here, but I have tools in my coping tool-box that are clean and ready when broken feelings spring out of my otherwise logical brain.  One of my most trusted tools to getting back on the good foot is singing.  I’ve always been partial to loud, belting choral or gospel arrangements with special soft spots for soul and blues.  The history of blues and all its children particularly sings to me.  On the drive into work this morning The Alabama Shakes soothed me, and later, when I was walking the halls, trying to quell another surge of the feels, an unlikely late-comer popped into my head.

I never listened to Frank Sinatra growing up.  It wasn’t until Finding Nemo gave me “Beyond the Sea” that I paid him any mind at all.  Though I like music of that era and style, I never dug for it the way I have dug for Nina Simone or The Kinks. However not long after giving birth to Mme. Lu, when “just keep swimming” was about the only thing I could muster from day to day, a mix CD by my uncle literally fell into my lap from the CD visor of my parents’ minivan.  On that CD was Frank Sinatra singing “That’s Life.”  I listened to that song on repeat for thirty minute drives.  I sang it day in and day out while struggling to dig out from the depths of the worst feelings of my life.  It became a mantra.  If one of my kids was having a rough time, I’d begin singing it as a means to prop us both up.

The CD proved to be an impermanent messenger of grace and just as it had fallen into my lap one horrible day out of many, it was lost to who-knows-where when I’d caught my breath just a little.  My legs were less shakey.  My will and direction and self-support systems were stronger. I guess I hadn’t listened to it for a few weeks so whichever little pixie dropped it off saw to it that I moved on and took it away again.  Or so I like to imagine.  It didn’t go before I’d memorized the song though.  I still pull it out of my tool box when I need a bit of humor or light-hearted strength.  “Don’t Wanna Fight” is the wrench, whereas “That’s Life” is more like a screw driver, or in my family, a red clown-nose.

I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate,
A poet, a pawn and a king
I’ve been up and down and over and out
And I know one thing
Each time I find myself flat on my face,
I pick myself up and get back in the race

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 Ask the following question about every possibility that comes before you: “Will this help me to master myself, deepen my commitment to what I want most, and gain more freedom?”

A few weeks ago someone told me that I was running away from my creative process.  I thought a lot about that and eventually came to the conclusion that I couldn’t argue with that.  Furthermore it seemed to me, as I considered things, that I’d been doing so since forever.  I’ve always felt like writing was of the utmost importance, but I’ve never pursued it publicly.  I’d listen to winners of the elementary school Young Authors contests and think shaming thoughts about how I could have won that if I’d entered.  It is easy to be a star when you never take the risk of actually being seen.  

I haven’t traveled yet, the path of figuring out where and/or how to “get” published but what I am doing is creating the writing habit as many days a (work) week as I can.  I spend at least an hour every day of the week on my butt with my fingers on the keys or a pen to paper with the intent of building some writing chops.  Culling ideas from the mish-mash of the multitudinous unformed inspirations that whiz by me weekly.  It is working, sometimes.  Some times I spend an hour typing things like “la la la I wish I was asleep boo boo boo I am tired pee pee pee I want some coffee but I’m going to sit here and type instead of getting up and opening myself to the possible distractions of the house hold.”  And some times! I get stuff like this.

“Can we take it home, Mama?” She frowned and I did a few jumps up and down.
“I don’t know, darling.  It seems like someone will, doesn’t it? But I don’t know that it’s gonna be us.  We don’t know how or why it came to be here and to me that means we aught not to remove it either.  I’m hoping no one else will drag it off, or if someone does that it be an animal who uses it for good somehow.  I know, love. I’d like it as a treasure too, but we’ll have to keep the memory and the mystery as a treasure enough.”  She was quiet and then she said, “Hey! We’ll take some photos! I have my camera, will you take photos to show to Papa?”
“Oh yeah! Papa will be sorry he missed this.”
“I dunno,” she said.  “Your Papa has seen a great many things we cannot even imagine.  Maybe this will give him a memory and he’ll tell us something about living in Blackfoot with your Gramma when he was young and exploring.”

The above is from a short story.  One day I got the urge to be signing blues songs so I just began making them up as I did my daily business.  A song came out with a line “Mama took me down to the river bed / show me something I never seen” and that somehow grew itself into a story last week.  Its a simple story with a visible mother and son character and invisible father and animal characters.  I like it! I have no idea what to do with it now. Yet.

Here’s something else:

You wear clothes carelessly as if you
could go naked or shod no matter the
conditions. I breathlessly marvel – seeing
your body.  My eyes travel from naval to
the cushiony diapered vee of your crotch
and down to heart-breaking ordinariness – where
knees curve and meander into calves;
your legs are crossed at the ankles.  I am knocked
asunder at the regularity of your animal
body doing things mine also does.

That is about from the middle of a poem I began just over a month ago.  It’s in its third revision right now and I’m currently calling it “Love Poem for the Body of My Son.”  I’m just happy I’ve had the tenacity to revisit the poem three times so far.  Usually I spit a poem out and call it quits.  I feel, know full well, that that does not a poem make.  Even the masters, actually, especially the masters revise.  I think too, though, the masters write.  they write a whole heap of a lot.  And that is exactly what I intend to do.