Foreign Language

Comedy in a second language. Admittedly one of the hardest things to understand. You need the language skills, sure, but you also need enough cultural background to know why something is funny.

Yesterday, my teacher walked us through a little Dutch joke. I read the piece, realized it was supposed to be funny, but I didn’t understand enough to get it. Now I’ve got it in my arsenal, ready to whip out and try on Dutch speakers. I’m hoping to use it first on the teacher who taught it to me. She doesn’t laugh enough (in my opinion).

Almost thought it was going to be a one-on-one lesson yesterday. And for once, I would have welcomed it. My head was set for Dutch. Got some sections in my homework 100%, others not so great – but at least I’m seeing 100% on my homework a bit more often. One of the other students is well advanced with the language, and once we got going on homework answers it was like a quiz show: rapid fire responses, high excitement, and giggles when we got an answer wrong. The other student is one of the worst students in our lesson. Bless my teacher; she did her best to help the third student but kept the pace fast for we two advanced students. But WHOA, NELLIE! How did this person get into our class? She’s so far behind us she’s not even sure an M makes a ‘mmm’ sound. Getting her to read is painful. She knows zero letter combination sounds. Hard to believe someone thought she was ready to move into our class. She can’t even conjugate simple verbs from the personal to the second, third, or plural forms – much less handle the complex forms of verbs.

Ach! I was not that far behind everyone else when I began. Well…this is why your teachers were concerned over you growing bored. Thing is, I feel it still well worth my patience to sit there because my teachers are so damned good. I’ve heard from others in the lesson; they disagree. A number of them don’t think our teachers are good. I think they’re all mad; I’m learning so much from these two! But then, I’m reading. And doing the homework. And trying.

Lots of rainclouds. Many promises of afternoon or nighttime storms. While you can hear the city sigh with satisfaction over the cooler air streaming in through the windows, it’s still bone dry out there.

Feels like my body clock has re-set. I used to be a breakfast person. Oatmeal every day. I craved it, as a matter of fact. Woke up hungry and wanting it. Now… Now, I’m lucky if I get hungry enough by noon to force something down my throat so I can take the pills I need to take with food. And my real hunger zone is 6 pm to 10 pm. That’s when I get up, stomach growling, and search for ‘a bit of something’. Difficult. Seems I grow especially hungry the closer I come to my evening pill time, which I can’t take unless my stomach has been empty for 2 hours or more. I’ve put myself on a food schedule. Eat before noon, like it or not. Don’t eat after 7 pm, like it or not. Frankly, I don’t like it.

Oh – and Yippee! Confirmed that yes, most school lessons are beginning in the end of August, but our teachers will be on holiday ’til mid September. That means that even tho I’ve humped my way thru summer lessons, I’ll still get a solid 4 week break from everything. That’s pay dirt, people. I’m planning at least a week of lulling around, paying my respects to Mr. Jack Shit. It also gives me plenty of time to do the work I’ve lined up for myself.

Listened to my own music on the metro the other day. My roughs from my ‘latest’ techno release. It’s still in the works: roughs are recorded, but I haven’t gone further. I was enamored with my own work for at least a year, unable to hear any faults. Then I grew sick of it, and stopped listening all together. Now I can finally hear it clearly: what’s good and what isn’t. Have a couple of songs I need to edit. Too long; they end up dragging. Most I just need to mix.

Mentioned all of that to my bro, who sighed deeply. Will you just take a break, please? It’s either the play or the website or now your music! Slow down, sis. I still haven’t seen you really stop. Concentrate on the production, but don’t kill yourself over it. Get past it, then look at your music. Take some notes if you feel you need to. But please don’t open up the studio and start on all that!

Um…okay.

August is here, with its damp breath and hot farts. I’m not a fan. Not of the dog days of summer, not of the sweat the month always brings, not of my sister’s birthday that sits like a buzzard on my calendar, ready to pounce on me when I’m least ready for it. Unlike my friends’ birthdays, I don’t have hers marked on my calendar. I don’t need to. The date stands out for me every year, like the damned day is on fire. This year I find my feelings more mixed than ever. I’ve learned a bit of understanding, a bit of empathy for my sister. I can even imagine the circumstances that created the scenarios I find so debasing and horrible. I see how she was abused. But I have no forgiveness in my heart. I cannot believe she will ever change or feel real responsibility for her part in what happened. My sister will die without me by her side, without me marking the occasion except with a befuddled and semi-amused ‘hmph’ when I hear the news. I guess that’s not a bad thing. I’d rather be non-plussed than triggered.

And someday I hope to write about it. I hope to see past my own anger enough to find what’s funny about it, because I want it to be comedic. It’ll take all my cultural understanding, all my patience, all my work on seeing and understanding my family from another perspective.

Truly… Seeing my family in a comedic light is a foreign language.

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Balance

It is NOT just withdrawal. Nope. Indulged after my 4am freak storm. While I felt a bit better, it didn’t stop the feeling of a knife sliding into my temple. It’s a light sensation compared to what I’ve been through but still there. No…this isn’t just withdrawal. This is something else. Neuralgia? Maybe. Not for me to diagnose. Just for me to live through.

My biggest fear in all of this is they’ll end up saying ‘it’s stress’. And then every time I complain about something, that’ll be their first go-to explanation. It’s a discount. And it’s why I don’t go to the doc with every single complaint. I know my body reacts to stress. I know about sleep problems, digestion problems, headaches, etc. because I’ve lived it. This ain’t any of that. Or if it is, it’s at a new, hitherto unexperienced level. That’s scary. Just contemplating it is scary.

Woke up to a shitload of crap in my inbox. Mostly junk. But one email from the theatre group. It was ‘Hey everybody! The date for watching the video is coming up fast. Where are we meeting?’ I didn’t even know the date was coming up fast; no one told me a date had been decided on. I sent a note back saying ‘Didn’t know the date had been set. I know I’m not on your social network, but please let me know when and where. I’d like to see the video with everyone.’ Hope that wasn’t mean or nasty. Didn’t mean it to be. But…really! I have to roll my eyes with these people. They’re all so “connected” yet they can’t keep me informed? If they used the tools they tout, like Facebook (which we’re all on), this wouldn’t happen. It’s their insistence that FB is old school and out of date that creates this situation with me out of the loop. In my eyes, that’s one more way to just exclude me. You’re old school, you’re out of date, no one uses that anymore. Then why try to use it to advertise the group? Why claim you’ll communicate thru one medium and then throw that away and make it difficult by using another medium that not everyone in the group has?

…Gods. Whatever. I’m not putting all my eggs in that basket.

Been talking with my bro about producing my scripts via his company. He’s under pressure to produce something, some product that uses Dutch people and is done right here. I want to see my work done. Yesterday we got a flyer from a place within walking distance that’s got sound proofed rehearsal rooms and a small recording studio. Our home studio is…well, shoved in a corner, under wraps, and currently needs some repairs to be back to 100% usefulness. This new place advertises room rates that we could afford. My brother is beginning to be excited. I’ve been spending loads of time on YouTube, culling through all the unsolved mysteries and creepy stories looking for new subject matter. Why not do my scripts? We can monetize them on-line. Frankly, I’m sick and tired of hearing about internet millionaires while simultaneously seeing such a small trickle of income reach me. So the talk is now of renting rooms, finding actors, producing my scripts. My thriller trilogy is so sound intensive it can easily be turned into an audio script. And I’ve already got a radio script set to produce. Find a few creepy pictures to accompany the productions, and viola. The idea hits all the bases: my brother’s need to produce something here using Dutch people, my desire to have my work done, it’s within our financial abilities, and it’ll be something that can generate some money.

I like that. Something real I can hang my hat on. Something I know I can trust. Not blindly sending out, never hearing squat again. Not teasing me, almost making the cut. Not dependent on some mysterious board decision or someone else’s assessment of whether or not they can pull it off. The sound can be exactly what I want. Oh, I know how to make you shiver!

Managed to get back to reading Dutch. My language skills are weird. Don’t know if everyone goes through this or not. It’s like puzzle pieces falling into place. I look at the sentences; sometimes I get it right away and sometimes not, depending on the words used. If I don’t get it, I stare. I re-read. And then it kind of slides into place. Something clicks in my head, and I get it. I don’t know how I’m doing it. But every time I do do it and run to my dictionary to check and see if I’ve got it right, I’ve got it right. Reminding myself I did this with English. I have one or two memories of doing it. As a kid I didn’t question that kind of nonverbal understanding. As an adult, it scares me a bit. Makes me question myself. I keep asking ‘is that right?’ But the words are coming. My head gobbles them up, whether or not I want it to. I can feel it. A word becomes a stand-out for me. I become uncomfortably aware of it in all its versions. Slowly the meaning gets seared into my brain. It’s weird. Just plain weird. I’m not getting the language from repetition, tho that helps in recognition. It’s something deeper than repetition. Once again, I can’t explain it because I just don’t have the right words. Or maybe the right words don’t exist, at least in English. Maybe I’ll find them in Dutch.

Want to get out of the house today, if my stomach lets me. Go for some fresh air and walk around the neighborhood. I know I need it.

I’ve been off for months.

I need to re-establish balance.

I. you. me.

People say you’re brave if you feel afraid and still take action. Courage isn’t a lack of fear, it’s not letting fear stop you. I’m not quite buying that. If that were true, I’d have full reason to call myself brave. Yesterday I didn’t dither. I marched my ass straight over to the dentist, told them what was going on, and made an appointment for today. But the whole time I was scared shitless. Going home I was scared shitless. Trying to calm myself down afterwards and tell myself that I only had 24 hours to wait, and I was scared shitless. I don’t feel brave. I just don’t want yet more pain, and in my experience not going to the dentist results in worse pain than going to the dentist. So I chose the lesser of two pains. That ain’t brave. That’s chicken shit. [Side note: the infection spot is gone. Completely. Suffered thru a few hours of horrible taste in my mouth; probably it seeped out. Still want the area checked.]

My Dutch isn’t as good as I thought. The pharmacy sent me a text to say my meds were ready to be picked up. Really? I thought the doc put a hold on those. But, sure enough, there were my little pills, handed to me by a smiling assistant. My bro says I should make an appointment with my doctor, that she’s responsible for “heavy duty” drugs, and she might get in trouble if she doesn’t have all her paperwork in order. So I’ll do that today, online. Easy peasy. I haven’t even opened the box of pills. I don’t want to open the box. I just want them on hand the next Sunday morning or 6 o’clock in the evening pain I can’t handle hits me. That’s what happens. Do I feel this awful when everything is open? No. I’m fine then. But close down the doctors and the pharmacies and my body will hit me with everything plus the kitchen sink. Psychological? Maybe. But it’s a pattern in my life, and I’d be stupid to ignore it or say it doesn’t exist.

Waited around for a call from my jaw physiotherapist, knowing it would probably be five in the evening before she called but also knowing if I headed out she’d find some free moment to call me right then when it was difficult to hear her and I had no paper to make notes. My bro offered to find a Roald Dahl book in Dutch for me at the library. He came home with Matilda – a story I’ve studious avoided because of the sugary sweet films by the same name I’ve seen advertised. Going thru it with a fine toothed comb, as the saying goes. My teachers keep asking me ‘Are there words you don’t know?’ after I read a book. Sure! But I can either read through them, pick up the meaning from the surrounding language, or look them up. This time, I’m trying to write down every word I don’t know. I’m noting pages and paragraphs, those pesky Dutch phrases that use words I’m familiar with but seem to make no sense when I put them together. And I’m making a list, too, of those short words that pop up everywhere: al, toe, maar, toch. Really, what DOES ‘Nou, toch!’ mean? I understand it’s an exclamation similar to ‘Now, really!’. Doesn’t convey much, which is why I term it verbal garbage. But it’s that important verbal garbage native speakers have and use all the time. I need it.

Tried a couple of times to write something for my upcoming psychiatrist appointment. Goals. Problems. Things I want to remember to say to him. It’s not going well. I’m discounting everything before I even write it down. Second guessing myself. Don’t even know where to start with him. The immediate problem? Sure. But then you need the back story, and to get the back story you gotta go back to the beginning and – ugh. Trying to get some perspective on it. Standing back and saying ‘okay, you can tell all these stories and little details, but can you sum it up in a few sentences?’ I know I’m depressed, but there’s another side of it few people see. I can’t relax. My mind won’t let me rest. And I can work myself into illness, pain, and probably death when I’m excited and engaged in a project. I view my work as either shit or the greatest thing ever; very rarely can I see or feel the in-between. I have problems verbalizing, and need to write before I can coherently speak. When I grow frustrated, I freeze up mentally and don’t have any words in English or Dutch. …Now, how come I can type that but I can’t write it long-hand? Fine. Take it out of your hands. I’ve copied that bit and put it on my desktop. Just translate it into Dutch as best as you can and use that.

Yes, yes: you, I. I mix them up terribly when I talk to myself. The reason for that is this duality I feel; I am both you and I in my writing. I’m screaming at myself, chiding myself, telling myself all these things. I know that. I talks about the things I’ve accepted. You comes in on those things I doesn’t have down pat (think about it; the grammar will make sense). It’s nothing new, and one of the reasons I prefer writing in third person. I don’t fall into it when no one is me.

I know I’m scared. You doesn’t think I’m angry enough. You doesn’t think I’ve got this processed through my body. You sometimes grows frustrated with I, which really gives me a conundrum. You wants me to talk. I doesn’t want to. Or is it the other way around?

I’m lost. I. you. me.

I like that picture

One hour ago, I triggered my brother into calling me “wrong”. It was not my intention to hit his hot button. And…quite often I forget I’m not the only person in the world (or this house) who struggles with life. So I acknowledge my…not so great attempt at communication this morning, or saying the wrong word, or whatever set him off. My bad.

I do not accept his judgement.

Have not and will probably not say this to him. Why risk more fighting? He’s triggered, I don’t know by what, and if I continue it’ll just get worse. I realize what came out of his mouth was programming, and if I pointed it out to him he’d realize that, too. It would be great to modify our communication to rid ourselves of this crap. Right now, I just want to acknowledge it and not buy into it.

Faulty programming. Ignore.

Aren’t I doing well this morning? Not triggered myself, aware enough to put some distance between me and what I would typically consider a trigger situation. Good on me! Stayed calm, backed down, not holding onto anger that’ll manifest itself in some twisted passive-aggressive shit.

What is best for me? That’s foremost in my mind today. Getting upset was not on that list, therefore, I avoided it.

Spent yesterday in zen mode, making cookies. Lembas is a long process and a hand-intensive recipe. I considered my options and felt my stomach needed the acid soaking properties of my cookies more than my ass needed to walk, so I made cookies. It was a good choice.

Headed downtown in a few hours to meet S. Looking forward to seeing her. She texted me last night, asking me to bring a bottle of my cordial for her dad. That makes me smile. One of my herbal products that’s found a fan. S also mentioned she’d like to discuss her script. Again, this deference to my skill and experience makes me smile. It’s good to be acknowledged, no matter by whom. And…it feels good to pass along a bit of my knowledge, to hopefully help someone else avoid the pitfalls I encountered. Go, girl! I find myself willing in many ways to pass the baton onto the younger generation. Go. Do what I couldn’t do. I am so proud of you for all you’ve already done, all you’ve already accomplished. Just…remember me from time to time. That’s all I ask.

S brings out the mother in me. Or the big sister. Someone caring and kind. Someone who wants to put this young woman above herself.

It’s someone I like.

…Calm exchange with my bro. Neither of us wants to fight. That’s good. Feels like a little plaster on that owie from this morning.

I am reflective and absorbing. Reflective on reality, my perceptions, my feelings. Absorbing on the language. The two go in hand in hand for me, and I credit learning Dutch as the unconscious key that unlocked my brain. Words carry meaning to each of us. Some words become attached to traumatic experiences and become triggers, setting us of on illogical courses of action without understanding why we’re doing it. Dutch has no triggers for me. It’s all just sound and syllables that I am now, as an adult, attaching meaning to. So the phrase ‘ik hou je van’, which is the Dutch equivalent of ‘I love you’, doesn’t set me off on those old patterns. ‘Ik hou je van’ means to me that someone’s got your back, someone will always be by your side, in your corner. It doesn’t mean you won’t disagree or go through hard times. Just the opposite: to me, it means you acknowledge the hard times and still choose to be there.

That’s the adult me, with all my foibles and English triggers, putting meaning onto the phrase. But I can say it without the strings I always felt were attached to ‘I love you’. ‘I love you’ means one of two things to me: I control you or I want to fuck you. I don’t like either of those definitions, but those were the ones taught to me. Not the verbal teachings; I know what ‘I love you’ is supposed to mean. But in my house, verbal and non-verbal lessons were always at odds with each other.

…Which means, if I let myself think it through, that I can tell myself ‘ik hou je van’. I can’t love myself. I’ve tried, over and over and over. But I can have my own back. I can always be on my side. I know my brain can play tricks on me, focus on the negative, say those terrible things to me repeatedly. But it’s MY brain, and in the end, I am not a slave even to myself.

Oh, that’s a good one. Say it again: I am not a slave, even to myself.

…Just felt a moment of…I don’t know what. Juxtaposition of my world, I guess. Everything kind of went boom in my head.

A moment of total control. Me. I’m the one who decides. I’m the one who acts. I’m in control. Not my mother, not my family or my siblings, not “them”, not even my head. Wish the feeling would have stuck around longer. But it’s a start. I’ve felt it. I can build from there.

Take that out into the world today. You don’t have to act on it. You don’t have to try and force the feeling to return. Just remember you felt it. Remember how it felt. And consider living with that feeling. Think how it might feel to head downtown on the metro, knowing 100% you’re the one in control. No fighting tears behind your sunglasses. No angry imaginings forcing you to ‘try’ to calm yourself down. Think about what that might look like.

…Yeah. I like that picture.

Working on it

Language class. I turned in the Roald Dahl yesterday. Felt like I was giving up something precious, a well-loved toy. But my enthusiastic review of the book has more than one person in class interested in reading it, so…*sigh*…let them read it. Half the class left at break; next week is vacation and many were leaving early to head off to exotic places. The second half of class was warm. Intimate, even. Our teachers asked each of us what we most wanted to learn next semester, and gave us time to chat away (and get corrected on grammar). They also gave us a verbal review of our progress and work. The one thing we all heard was ‘slow down’. Forming Dutch sentences is difficult. Perfect past tense verbs get split, and personally I find it damned hard to remember the last part of the verb pairing in a long sentence.

I am in the top percentile. No more doubt about it. That terribly tricky article we had for homework was discussed. As usual, I went far beyond most. Most of the class hadn’t even read it through. Fewer still had tried to answer the questions. We tried reading it through, stumbling over those terribly long compound words, getting stopped every other sentence to be asked ‘do you know what this means?’. In the end, the teachers’ assessment was that their top three students found it rather difficult, so they weren’t going to push the matter. And yes, I was included in that top three student assessment.

Ach! They look at me differently. My teachers, that is. I can see it in their eyes. It’s almost an inside joke feel. They know I’m doing the work, they know I’m improving leaps and bounds over the others. My instructions are to keep reading, keep watching Dutch films and programs, keep writing. Had a flash of panic as they talked about my progress; was worried I was going to hear (once again) ‘You need to move up a level’. So I told them I loved the class, thought they were outstanding instructors, but please, please don’t make me go up a level yet because I need more practice right where I am. They smiled. I was assured they weren’t going to make me go to another class, that I was welcome to sit in on these lessons as long as I wanted.

Thank you, Goddess!

Yesterday evening provided me with a good laugh. Just so happened to be online and on FB when a message popped up on my screen. It was from R, my co-star in the film whose scenes got cut. It was totally in Dutch. I understood it immediately, tho I couldn’t reply in Dutch. He said ‘Just heard I got cut from the film. Have you seen the final version yet?’ Now, the job of telling him he was cut from the final was up to S, the director. It was a joke at the premiere that he was dragging his feet on it, and not saying anything to R. My first thought was ‘he finally got around to it’. So I messaged S, telling him I just got a note from R asking about the film. S replied quickly, saying yes, he’d just told R about the film and he didn’t think R was taking it too well. LOL! I am online so rarely and not really connected with my phone, so call it dumb luck or providence, but I found myself involved in ‘The Student Film Scandal’ (which is what I’ll call it, and it gets capitalized because it’s been a running gag for MONTHS now) in real time. Back and forth I went, both R and S online and messaging me.

To R, I did what I told the crew to do in the first place: I played to his ego. My first reply to him was that yes, he had been cut in the final, that it was sad but I also knew he’s a pro and probably had it happen before. That soothed a lot of anger away. He then asked me what I thought of the film. I replied that I think the crew got what they wanted, and when you take into consideration the lack of lighting equipment and tight spaces we were working with, it turned out very well. I also shared with him that I thought I looked terrible due to the poor lighting. He came back quickly, saying maybe it was better he wasn’t in the film if it had such bad lighting. I replied with a joke, telling him every wrinkle on my face was blown up horribly, so yes, it was probably a good thing he wasn’t in it. He ended the conversation with laughter.

Kept S informed of what I saying to R. Admonished him a bit for not doing it in the first place, but hey! S is young. Probably never fired anyone before, whereas I have had plenty of that experience. In the end, my conversation with S was light and laughter filled. Hell! I made both of them laugh, so I guess I did that pretty well.

What I didn’t say to either of them was that I always see myself as unattractive. Never ugly, just unattractive. I’m an almost. Almost pretty. I see it every time I look at myself. Or, that’s what I think. I’m a little too heavy, my face doesn’t have the right angles to it, my teeth are a little crooked, etc. etc. Almost. It takes decades before I can look back at a picture and just see ME. Then, I can acknowledge it: wow, I was pretty back then. I can’t do it real time. So I wasn’t shocked or surprised at all by what I saw on screen.

I’m learning. Slowly. Both the language and a bit of self acceptance.

I know my vision mind is skewed.

I’m working on it.

Give me strength

The dress fits. More than a quarter century on, and the dress fits. More than pleased; no need to spend funds on another outfit. Just shoes, and I can go cheap with those. Basic black pumps, no frills, low heels. Yippee.

Language lesson was far less of a drudge than I’d feared. I enjoyed it, as a matter of fact. Probably because I worked hard, I understood what was said, what was read, what was expected of me and I answered correctly 98% if the time. It’s a rare thing for me to make a mistake on my homework now. And I’ve moved into understanding nuances of words.

Got back the Dutch kids’ story, with corrections. Again, less than I’d feared. For 12 pages of handwritten material, I made very few mistakes – and those I did make, once pointed out to me, were obvious.

Pulled info on screenplay formatting, and began roughing a few lines in. I’m enjoying re-thinking the script, visualizing what I could do with a camera and editing rather than live action stage actors. It’ll be a nice project to putter on in between everything else.

Doing my best to cut back on smoking. Ugh. This is one I do NOT want to do. However. I need the time, the brain power, and the money in other areas right now, so cut back it is. Want to ride that line between cutting back and irritation; no need to make myself into a total bitch at the moment. I’ll self medicate as I feel I need. But ONLY when I need.

Followed up on our health insurance changes. Think I’ve got all the info we need to make a decision. I feel sort of dumb; in the end, getting thru it wasn’t that tough, and I’ve been dragging my feet for three years on this. Still. My language ability took a big leap recently, so I won’t be too hard on myself. Six months ago and this breezy attitude of ‘it wasn’t so difficult’ would not have surfaced – I was still mired in trying to understand.

More Dutch films. Ran ‘Sint’ last night with Dutch subtitles. Heard more. Understood more. But oh! I’m so happy I ended up here, in Rotterdam, rather than Amsterdam. Amsterdammers drop the last syllable of every word. No idea how they can tell the proper verb form on anything. It all sounds identical. And no wonder some immigrants just begin putting an ‘ah’ sound on the end of every word. It’s what it sounds like. Unfortunately for me, Amsterdam is still the center of the world here, so I need to learn their dialect because it’s in every radio broadcast, film, and tv program.

Getting close to asking someone why there are close to zero Dutch programs other than talk shows. Oh, their talk shows. Panels of people that discuss this or that. Close to 100% of what they do. No soaps, no sit-coms, no dramas. Panel shows and game shows. Snore! Why not a story? Why not something more? They’ve got the skills in media. Their films are top quality, and the stories they tell in film are wonderful. So why not tv?

Woke up crying. Don’t ask me why; I’ve already blocked the thoughts from my mind. But tears were there. Telling myself to hang on. It’s okay. Just part of the process, right? Pain leaks out of us in every sort of manner. This morning, it was tears from my eyes. This afternoon it might mean me feeling like shit because I still haven’t heard whisper one on anything I’ve sent out. And tonight I might snap at my brother because I feel unheard or unappreciated. Never happy about that, and I try to not turn my hurt on others. But it happens, and I realize why it’s happening. Too much pain. Something’s got to give.

Need to get to the gym. Put money on my metro card, and go hunting for shoes. See if the building has enough hot water to take a shower today. And go thru some more Dutch (already put in over an hour this morning).

*sigh* I feel disconnected from myself. And this, too, shall pass… Withdrawal. Yep. Feelin’ it already. I really miss my morning smoke.

Goddess, give me strength.

The verbal truth

Having to rethink the Dutch people.

It’s easy to see the Netherlands as a fairy-land. The manicured landscapes, the oh-so-cute buildings stacked one atop the other, the canals. It’s easy to overlook, as a visitor, the graffiti or the garbage, the pushy tourists or short tempered natives. Especially if you partake at the coffeeshops. Then it all blends into one glorious haze. The language becomes the tram lines, the tram lines become your croissant and coffee breakfast, and your breakfast becomes the experience. It is something you cannot pick apart. You cannot explain the difference in food quality without delving into food regulations. And you can’t talk about food regulations without addressing the overriding social structure of humanism. Back home, you just shake your head and tell people ‘it’s different’.

And, it is different. Coming from the US, the Netherlands seems a doll-house world. The “wide open spaces” of the US (aka, suburban sprawl) are replaced by neat, tight neighborhoods clustered around parks, playgrounds, and needed services. I am still struck by the Dutch use of space: toilets in unexpected areas, steps up or down to add variety, whole floors of buildings hanging in the air as if ready to fall. They mix these tight, convoluted spaces with clean-lined furnishings, and the overall effect is one of spaciousness. As a first time visitor I was amazed at how much storage space was available in their rather tiny homes, just as I was amazed at how much orange taste they got in a glass of fresh squeezed juice.

I looked at this land and thought: Wow. Nice. I want to live there.

There is a polished edge to life here, a smoothed surface on everything. The food is better. The transport is better. The internet is better. The prices are better. The clubs are better. Everything is that bit up. Nothing can just ‘get by’; there’s too much competition. Before you know it, you’re used to the well presented top quality plates at restaurants, the cleanliness of the metro and public buildings, the efficiency and work ethic presented to you in every field.

But the Dutch are quick to say they’ve got problems. Things they’re not happy about. For some, that’s basic: government and taxes. Most, however, point vaguely to less concrete issues: inequalities, rising violence, kids left behind in the system. They seem to think first of the big picture, the stuff that affects everyone and their society as a whole. The small stuff – personal issues like how much disposable income they have every month – comes later.

For three years, I’ve sampled life here on the edges. Kind of getting involved, but the language held me back. You can do that. You can totally get by with zero Dutch. It won’t always be easy, mind you, but you can do it. But if you really want to climb into Dutch living, you’ve got to embrace the language.

Now that I’m there, it seems I can’t be held back. I want more Dutch films. And not just for the language learning. What I’m seeing, what I’m hearing, is teaching me far more than my visits and spaced-out walking around for three years. Art reflects life and vice versa.

Last night’s film… My brother was unashamedly in tears. It was a film about bullying, and so inclusive in its story and so well executed that – even tho it was geared towards the late teen crowd – I can’t imagine it NOT resonating with everyone. I was…stunned. On a couple of levels. First, it portrayed an environment I thought beyond the Dutch. An environment in which adults ignored the evidence, people turned away and said nothing. In other words, what I would consider a typical American mindset: it’s none of my business. Or, worse (since the object of bullying was an overweight kid), he/she deserves it. Having lived in this doll house cocoon, imagining that all of that was far, far away from me…well, it was a slap in my face. A wake up call. A realization that yes, it can even happen here. And no, I’m not so dense as to think that there aren’t nasty people everywhere on this planet. That much seems obvious. What I’m shocked at is this totality: the victim, the bullies, the other kids, the parents, the teachers. The small, unspoken collusions needed to set up this story in the first place. It speaks of darker problems. Larger issues, harder to tackle issues. Why? Because the bullies were shown in their own homes. A few scenes showed a life most people would want to escape. They did not wear black capes; they were not irredeemable. Just the opposite. Hateful actions, from characters you ended up feeling sorry for. And that brings me to my second level of astonishment: the unblinking stare these artists used in bringing out this story. No holds barred. No lines crossed, either: it was neither over the top nor schmaltzy. But they were not afraid to show us the hateful things. The terrible things. It was as if the filmmakers said ‘This is what’s happening. No frills, no added oomph. This is it. Look at it.’ And it was all the more powerful for that understated, quiet demand.

This is what I admire. That forthright attitude. The outspokenness. The bluntness.

Yet I must grow accustomed to truth-speaking. I do it in my writing, but verbally, I lag behind. I stutter, I avoid topics, I outright lie if I feel under too much pressure. No! Really! It’s fine. I’m fine! All the while I’m dying inside.

There is a toughness to the Dutch I didn’t anticipate. It is not a hard slap in your face toughness, but a softer kind. A ‘I’ll tell you the truth because we’re both worth it’ attitude. More than the grammar or the words themselves, it is that part of Dutch that intimidates me. It is that part of life that intimidates me.

The verbal truth.

Oddball

Back to three a day.

Went to the gym, walked. All was good – even thought some of the pain in my back was easing off. Then I walked home, and was hit with a muscle seizure that made me gasp in pain loud enough that passers-by gave me a look. Inched home from there. Said fuck that, took an extra morphine pill in the afternoon. And if it happens again today, so be it.

Got a bill in from the dentist. There goes any plans for January funds.

Wish I would hear something from someone. Get at least one of these anticipated events pinned down to a day and time. Trying to remember at least half the world is still hung over.

Reluctant to move ahead on so many levels. Need to follow up with the jaw physio, but that means more money out, so I’m stalling. Need to call for an adjustment to my shoes, but that means dealing with Dutch, so I’m stalling. Need to get money on my phone, but there’s a hell of a wind storm at the moment, so I’m stalling.

Bloody hell.

The only thing I’m not stalling on is the gym and promised pain relief once I walk this out enough.

Hate the emptiness in my head. Echo, echo, echo… There’s nothing there. No ideas gripping me, no epiphanies to wrap my brain around – nothing. My senses deal only with what’s directly in front of me: do I have an appetite? My feet hurt; shut up and keep walking. I’m tired. I’m bored. See that mess? Clean it up. Make yourself useful, for God’s sake!

Ugh.

And what is with my brain? Noticed I’ve swapped around the numbers in my phone number on all my scripts, meaning I’ve sent the fuckers out with the wrong number on them. Geez! Well, I’ve been noticing problems with flipping around letters and numbers lately. A bit of dyslexia? Probably. I’ve always had problems with i/e or e/i. Just…got away with it in English, thanks to repetition and spell check. But Dutch? Ouch! It’s very evident.

*sigh* Learning another language has taught me so much about myself.

…Maybe it’s time to pick up film script formatting. Always said I wanted to take the thriller trilogy to film. It’s cerebral work. Half creative, half editing. At least it would be something to focus on for now. Flesh things out. Let my head have something to work on, but not too much. It doesn’t have to think plot lines. Oh, there needs to be some extended scenes and yadda yadda to make full length films, but the majority of what I’d need to do is think edits and camera angles.

Hm. Worth at least beginning the research on it. Remind myself of the format. Familiarize myself with the additional notations. Dream a little…

My bro is sensitive to my mood right now. He bought John Wick 2, which we hadn’t seen, saying ‘it’s something new, and I know you need that right now’. Goddess. I couldn’t ask for a better support. This is why my brother has my undying loyalty ’til the end of time. It’s the small stuff. The ‘buy yourself something fun; you need it’ or ‘take time off; you’re driving yourself too hard’. He’s the one who tells me when I go too far, do too much. I’ve got to have that. ‘Cause I can’t do it for myself.

Been thinking in the back of my brain about my maturity, or lack of it. Been called immature, young for my age, a child at heart… Sometimes I feel like that’s wrong. No. Oftentimes I feel like that’s wrong. Like people look at me and find it amusing, but they can’t puzzle me out. What’s with her? Of course, I look at them and wonder why they feel they need to be like they are: cynical, or devious, or lacking warmth because they think that’s the way adults act. Why shouldn’t someone keep their innocence, their joy over the small things, that fast, locked in love that comes from shared fun and trust? Shouldn’t we all be wondering why people say such nasty things to each other, why everyone seems so bent on tearing each other down rather than working together?

What good comes of being a dragon? Of working only for wealth, an illusionary thing tied only to this physical reality? What good comes of hoarding needed medicines or food?

I mean…I’m the last person to be called a fan of humanity. It’s rotten to the core, and I’m all for letting the species die out. And I’d still rather share what I have with others. Spread a little joy. A little understanding.

Is that what people find so ‘immature’? Is it because I’m unmarried and live with my brother? Is it the way I smile, the way I laugh, the way I play when I’m happy?

…I can’t figure it out. Guess I should ask.

I’m an oddball. Will I ever climb out from under that mantle? Oddball in school. Oddball in life. Oddball at work. Oddball at play. When you hear shit like, ‘you’re not like any other woman I’ve ever known’ over and over, you begin to wonder. And as time goes on, and others get married, buy homes, have kids, and plan for things, you look at that and think ‘ugh! no way; that’s not me’ and somehow that sets you apart, makes you even more different…

I don’t fit in.

Oddball.

 

This is you

Friday. Final rehearsal last night. No big surprises or hiccups. May have another reader for Taman; it’ll depend on how healthy he is (sick at the mo).

No word, either, on much of anything. Saw J as she walked out; said she’d begun reading the script and liked it so far. Told her I wanted her to read Nina on the night. She was excited.

Word is we’ll have 45 or more people during our final performance. That’s doubled from the last time I heard the number. Did not ask if there was a trackable change from my work, but can’t help but feel that maybe I had a little to do with the numbers going up. Hopefully a time will come when I can actually ask about sales. If there was a peak sales day after I posted notification on the web, well…I’ll take well-deserved bow.

Was hit again last night by the little green monster. One of the actors discussed how he and his wife ‘flew on a whim to France for a few days’ over our week off. Can’t help but feel a bit envious of that type of ready cash. Well beyond my means. But, then, I thought about what he did over the break versus what I did – and decided that my time was better spent. He went and drank wine with his wife. I created something.

And meh. Made mention of my difficult week of language lessons. The people present broke into Dutch – jokingly. Too fast and too advanced for me to try to answer them, but I caught the gist of their words and replied – in English. Tried a little Dutch with them, but honestly I’m so damned embarrassed by my lack of knowledge! I KNOW I talk like a damned kid – mixing tenses and using the wrong verb form. I’m getting better each week, but I’m painfully aware of how poorly I speak. Still. Had a compliment on my pronunciation, which is the first step to being understood. I’ll take what I can get.

My mind has drawn a curtain down. Saturday night after the performance is when time stops. A bit worried about making it home; the handy metro system stops running out to my house around midnight. And my acting partner is not driving, so I’m making my own way. Found notice that the city is running a late night bus on the weekends. It leaves every hour. Need to double triple check the wording – been caught out more than once because I missed some added fine print at the bottom – ‘no longer in service’ or some such phrase. But I’d like to stay after the performance. Enjoy a beer or two. Chat with people. Problem is, I also want to make sure I get home without having to walk for over an hour because there isn’t any public transport going out where I live that late at night. So I’ll do what I can to cover my ass. Maybe that means walking into Centraal station to confirm there’s a bus running that late. I can do that.

But there I am stuck. Just…getting home. Sunday is a blur to me: I really have to buckle down on memorizing this page of verbs that don’t follow the rules. And I have a new letter to write, today or Sunday…probably Sunday. I’m in the last 24 hours before performing, and I don’t want to break the character. Will be going thru the body language from here on out. Walk, move like her. Don’t do the voice; it’s too taxing. Besides, get the body language right and the voice comes out naturally. The hand movements, the nervous gestures, the tilt of her head, the way she raises her shoulders…these are the things I’ll be doing.

Honestly, sometimes I think I’m nuts. To do a role properly, I become that person. For this role, that means becoming a nervous, unsure older woman. My body reacts to this as if I really am that nervous – meaning I’ll get gassier and less and less comfortable in my skin as the performance approaches. I don’t look forward to it. But I don’t want to fake it, either. I could. I could fake it all and get away with it. The audience would never know.

But I would…

And that’s something I’m not willing to accept. So I have to mess with my own system. Bring up those insecurities, let them eat at me a little. Nibble, nibble. Open the door to the darkness that drives that kind of behavior.

lol! That’s never been the problem. The problem has always come afterwards, when I try to turn it off and shut that door.

*sigh* Fuck and oh, well. I’ll live. And maybe I’ll do something great.

The sudden influx of insecurities is NOT helping me when my mind turns to my writing. Someone pat me on the head – please! …Which is why, I suppose, I’ve drawn that mental curtain down in the first place. Put an end to the chapter of performing before I open the chapter of writing.

…I gotta trust myself on this.

Fuck it all. Sunday will be a whole new world. I’m afraid of being afraid in that new world. Feels like my self esteem issues were much better of late. And I’m worried I’m gonna need to claw my way back.

So…put a bookmark in it. We stop, here. Just a pause. Sunday we’ll open this up again. We’ll find strength through reading our work. We’ll know, in our gut, it’s good – regardless of reader comments, regardless of other personal agendas we have no fucking idea about. KNOW that. Cement it in here. You do it with your insecurities to bring them out at the proper time; you can do with your self confidence. Regardless of what you write, regardless of who you become on stage, remember ONE thing:

This is you.

Thank you, me

Time off is a good thing. It gets you out of your rut, changes things up, adds a bit of excitement to your life. It also screws mightily with your schedule.

After more than a week off from hard exercise, I was a bit worried I’d find myself slow and weak at the gym. While I admit my arms are like a baby’s – more flab than muscle, so they ARE weak – the rest of me was more than up to the test. Took it easy; still have a performance on Friday. But I fell into my run/jog on the cross trainer, falling only a little short of 3.5 km in 30 minutes, without a hiccup. Kept an eye on my heart rate (at my age, I feel that’s a public service more than anything: make sure the old lady doesn’t keel over from a heart attack). 120, 130, 140. Then a push and up to 150. Yes! Seems that’s the magic number for me. The sweat pours out of me and the endorphins must kick in because it – all of it, from the sweat to the burn in my legs – feels good.

*sigh* The full force of my addictive personality really leaves me feeling bummed. But I guess I should pat myself on the back; at least I’ve found an outlet for it.

Today is a physiotherapy visit. Haven’t seen my guy in a while – busy with the play and too poor to pay for a visit. Think I now know how to handle my visits. I can keep a good 8 weeks between appointments as long as I keep active. However – wait; I should say HOWEVER – if I have more than 2 days down due to illness or injury, I need an appointment. All it takes is 2 days for the pain to creep back in. The flip side of that is that all it takes is 2 days of movement to make me feel better. And that’s good…great, in fact. But there are times when 2 days of movement is beyond me. Hence, my need for physiotherapy.

Besides, do I really want to give up an occasional visit to the cutest guy I know?

Nope.

Got through half my Dutch homework. Still have 4 letters to write. Spoke up in class when yet another ‘you’re having a party, write a letter to your friend’ homework task was handed out. Can’t we please do a letter to someone else, about something else? How about a complaint to the electric company? Something like that would be more useful. So I got an extra 2 letters for my outspokenness. Good. I do well with homework, and usually have the time. May I have some more, please?

Something has clicked in my brain with Dutch. Was aware of it last night as I watched tv. I like Dutch tv; they run plenty of English programs with Dutch subtitles. Right from the start, I read the subtitles (or tried to; they go by fast for a beginner reader). Doing that has helped me figure out the meaning of many words, particularly when watching a cartoon or program for younger audiences. I see words repeated, hear words repeated, and pretty soon it becomes evident that this word means thus and so. But some sentences have always confused me. Too many words, too many ‘je je’ or past tense verbs or other things I just don’t understand. Last night, though, it was like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle were slid into place. Suddenly no sentence seemed too much: here’s the subject, the verb, the modifiers, the helping verbs. Instant recognition, even if I saw a word I hadn’t encountered before.

By jove, I think she’s got it!

…My mood has improved. Obviously. That’s two references to favorite childhood films.

Thank you, me, for going to the gym and working so hard. Thank you, me, for sweating and pushing through the wall. Thank you, me, for being so committed to our health that we get to the gym in the first place. Thank you, me, for listening to our concerns, taking them into account, and being careful with our body.

Most of all, thank you, me, for trying so damned hard.