Try, learn, and do better

I really must learn to stay off social media.

Found a FB post from my eldest bro. He left a comment on his own page – not tagged to me, not sent to me – saying ‘happy birthday to my little sister even tho ya don’t give a fuck about yer American family’.

Do not want to admit it, but my heart is beating damned fast right now. And my angry replies are bubbling to the forefront – “listen, you sexist racist bigoted mother fucker…”.

Wish crap like that didn’t affect me. At all. Wish I could have seen it and coolly just moved on. Still want to defend myself, lash out, blame, make them SEE. Since I know going direct to the source is a waste of my time, I came out here. To be safe. To say what I needed to say.

Ow.

Odd how, even knowing what a piece of shit I’m dealing with, I let it affect me. I guess that’s programming at its basest level.

Here is my flaw: I want too much to be loved. And I’ve been made to feel that it’s my fault that I don’t get what I want from my family. They were never wrong. They ARE never wrong. It’s me. My fault for wanting, my fault for feeling, my fault for thinking and hoping.

I have met strangers who were kinder to me than you. People who wanted nothing from me, and gave me everything. And you dare to call me family? You dare to approach me with guilt and shame, bullying and controlling tactics? You hurt me, I walk away, and I am accused non-stop of being a child, being wrong, being whatever it is you call me in the depths of your oh-so-perverted mind. Fuck you ’til the end of time. I hate you. With every fiber of my being, I hate what you are, what you stand for. Your ignorance, your total disregard for anyone other than yourself, your fixation on money, money, money, your blatant LACK of caring on the most basic of levels. You have no right to shame me, you piece of shit.

…My oldest brother will die before hearing from me. That’s his punishment. And maybe some people think I’ve no right to mete out my own punishment. Maybe that’s even true. But I’m tired of waiting for the Universe or some Goddess to make things right. I don’t want to strike out; that will be detrimental to my own psyche and THAT is what I’m concentrating on. Not him or his “feelings”. I’ve no time for the latent incest-ridden fantasies my eldest brother holds.

And yeah, that shows a distinct lack of character on my part. I’ve witnessed people stand in the midst of an emotional storm and keep their balance. It can be done. Those that have done it have earned great respect from me. They’ve shown me what can be done, if you stay centered and grounded. I want to be like that. To be able to have my say, take the backlash, smile sadly and turn away without hurting anyone.

I ain’t got enough drugs to make that happen.

So I protect myself and everyone else by staying silent. I say nothing, again.

You know…I should at least give myself credit for having the strength to do that. To walk away, rather than engage.

Good. on. me.

In 20 minutes, I need to begin verb conjugation. Write out the irregular verbs. Again. Try to mash them into my brain one more time. I will get this. I will get this!! Try, make mistakes, learn, do it better next time. That’s the level I’m reduced to. No grand schemes, no lofty goals. Just try, learn, and do better.

Yep. That’s a good motto for today.

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The spread of my mind

The spread that takes over the dining room table as I work on Dutch is immense. Homework, two dictionaries, past sheets on verbs and grammatical rules I’ve collected, and a large language book that often references exactly what I need when I need it. I can rarely get thru a sentence without turning to at least one of these tools to check a definition, spelling, or conjugation. It’s a pain to haul it all out, set it all up. Even more of a pain to work that way, tossing one book to the side for another, scribbling down two words at a time, and consulting so much I sometimes forget what the hell I’m working on.

Does not help that the other day I couldn’t remember how to spell “could” in English. It didn’t look correct to me, and I sat and pondered why the hell there was an ‘L’ in it in the first place. I realized the three famous rhyming English words – could, should, would – are strange animals in language. They imply shame. You could have done more. You should have done more. This wouldn’t have happened but for this or that. They are nags over the past, blame throwers. They imply things would have been much nicer if only this screw-up hadn’t occurred.

I think a lot can be learned from languages. Not just communication, but culture. It’s the idioms that give it away. Growing up with only one language, one communication style…you get blinded to it. Or maybe I was just ignorant of it right up to the point I began working on Dutch.

American English uses ‘look’ a lot rather than ‘listen’. They mean ‘listen’: look, I didn’t want to be the one to tell you this… or look, we’ll be okay. When you take a step away from it, it sounds funny. It literally makes no sense to use ‘look’. But American culture (if there is such a thing) places value on speed. Get it done and get it done quickly. Their use of ‘look’ rather than ‘listen’ emphasizes that. Your eyes can take in far more than your ear can in the same amount of time. So, looking is quicker than listening, ergo, look. They ask you to understand it instantly. They do not want to waste time convincing you or debating the merits of their statement. They want comprehension. NOW. Similarly, in American English you ‘run the risk’, while in Dutch, you ‘walk the risk’. The difference is speed. Americans do everything faster.

Speed is not an indicator of value.

I was weaned on ‘could, should, would’. Weaned on speed. Do more, go faster, be better, work, work, WORK, you damned workhorse! And honestly, I don’t know my limits. I go until I become such a raging bitch I grow unbearable to be around.

I have never gone ’til I drop. I don’t where that limit is.

That…haunts me. Feeling like I have more in me, if only I could (there’s that word again!) control myself.

Here it is Sunday, and I have not yet begun my writing that’s due on Monday. Too many hours fiddling with homework sentences, conjugating verbs and trying to learn every single word. I feel behind, yet I know that (so far) every week I’ve been the only one in class to hand in every single bit of homework every time. My brother thinks my teachers are searching for my limits. They want to know how much is too much. I want to be Miss Polly Perfect, so I’m sweating. More time, every day. No time for English. No time for my scripts.

I feel myself nearing that anger edge, which is where I don’t want to go. Keep me busy, keep me challenged – yes. But drive me mad? No.

And here’s the crunch: I know that if I work hard now to capture this, it’ll be easier. Right now I spend about an hour of my time on every sheet of homework. Give me 8-10 sheets, and there’s my regular work rotation every day. Add into that writing stories and memorizing irregular verbs and you’re encroaching on ME time. Oh, and I’m forgetting reading. I’m supposed to be reading, too. But…if I was doing this in English, I wouldn’t spend even half that time on it. And I want to get there with Dutch. So either I work hard now, or keep struggling.

My American side is screaming for quick fix. Some leap-frog pill or hypnosis trick that’ll get me over this hump. Bought some fish from the vendor outside for dinner last night. Listened to a conversation in Dutch. Heard SO many words from my homework – recognized them immediately. But I still struggled with the meaning. My head was three steps behind – oh, that word…what does that mean again?

How do I get myself to learn?

Pure repetition is a recipe for madness. As is more work. I’ve got to get it into my writing. Pick up a verb and use it, in all its forms. Maybe I’ll ask my teachers for some of that. Or maybe I’ll just start to do it.

Thinking I might abandon my written homework this week in favor of my little story. It’s not really on target subject-wise, but the object of our written homework is to get us writing, and it IS writing. Plus…it’s what I want to write. If my teachers give me leeway on subject matter, they won’t be able to stop me writing. That is, when I have an idea. I don’t expect that of me every week. I think it’s the one area of my life I’ve managed to totally eliminate the ‘could, should, would’. It’s impossible – even for me – to come up with decent story material every week.

Once again, I find my comfort in the written word. Doesn’t matter these days if it’s English or Dutch.

I can slow down to tell my stories.

It’s the spread of my mind.

I’m learning

The only time during the last 24 hours that my head has managed to shut the fuck up has been when my distinctly short sleep post performance caught up with me and I dozed off from exhaustion. Other than that, it’s been nag, nag, nag…

I be the Queen of Second Guessing.

The words ‘I need a little sunshine in my life’ escaped my lips sometime around midday. At that moment, ‘a little sunshine’ consisted of a lemon popsicle, licked and slurped like I was a five year old. Part of me noted it, noted my falling mood, noted, too, the yellow I use more and more around me and in my wardrobe to help keep my fickle mind from falling into the depths of depression.

This is the backlash from time off at the gym. No endorphin rush. I’m jonesing. Jonesing so bad I don’t even know I’m jonesing…

My ankle is still ‘soft’ and painful when I take a step.

On the up side (keep looking at it, even if you’re not there), my day off yesterday helped my injuries. My hand is only bruised now – an ugly bruise, spreading from my fingers all the way down the side of my hand – and the swelling is gone. And, hey! My ankle didn’t hurt when I turned over in bed…or not too much. It’s an improvement.

Managed to write my letter yesterday. Took over an hour. Tried just writing it, then checking later on google translate. Some sentences I nailed, some were horribly wrong. All things considered, not too bad. Could be better, but I can say that about a lot of things. Did my best to devote some brain power to memorizing those irregular verbs. But it was an uphill battle against exhaustion, my head-speak, and a hangover. Hopefully I’ll retain some memory of at least seeing the words…

This morning I’ve a dental appointment. Now there’s something I blocked from my memory until the play was over. Ugh. Well, it’s only a cleaning and hopefully now that I’m back on track with dental checks it’ll go quickly and without any pain problems hiccups. Will have to take my school stuff to the dentist’s and leave from there in order to make class on time. Lovely. Get my teeth polished up so I can go somewhere and have a crappy cup of coffee served up that’ll just coat those clean teeth with brown gunk. Hm. Maybe I’ll just say no to that coffee. Then again, I was up early and will probably need the caffeine to get thru all the Dutch in the afternoon. …Time for a Red Bull run?

Been thinking about my honesty-blurting. Realized I got no filters in some places. Hit the right word, and everything comes out of me – no holds barred. I know that’s weird. Especially when you I do that with people who are essentially acquaintances. But I consider it a step up. It’s honest. Maybe it’s harsh, maybe I’ve no social graces anymore, but I’m being honest. Case in point: I remembered (oh, Goddess! The self-flagellation I’ve committed over this one!) that during the evening’s celebrations I came out with my stunned reaction to their casual money conversations. Admitted to envy. Someone – my acting partner, who seems very attuned to my moods – apologized. We didn’t mean to make you feel bad. Oh, fuck! I remember back-tracking a little, or trying to. Then I stopped myself, admitted to the envy, how that kind of spur of the moment travel to another country to buy 16 bottles of expensive wine was just beyond my means. How I couldn’t actually imagine that kind of living. I am deeply embarrassed to have said all that. Deeply embarrassed. …But it’s true. Where and when I was raised…well, put it this way: my parents had to work all the time to afford a little more. A little more to me meant things like a summer cabin to go to over the weekends (said cabin being uninsulated and very, very ‘rustic’ in amenities), or camping in the mountains with our cousins. It did not entail my parents whim-purchasing expensive items. Those were planned and budgeted for, sometimes for years. Holidays were part of that ‘expensive item’ thing; even our simple weekends or camping out (eating mac ‘n’ cheese, because that’s what we could afford) had to be budgeted. …And we were thought of as wealthy because we had that cabin with barely running water and bats in the walls, because we could drive non-stop out to the mountains and go cheap, cheap, cheap for a few weeks in the summer. I caught a lot of flack at school for that stuff. Later, my parents experienced an increase in wealth (their first stock market haul). We began taking holidays other places, staying in cheap hotels. My dad bought his first sailboat – barely 25 feet, not in good condition, and he couldn’t afford to keep it tied up at the marina. None of that helped at school. I was under constant pressure from the kids to not have too much. I was called a princess and stuck-up. And so I began to think what my parents had was a lot. That we were rich, that I was stuck-up, that I was spoiled. But…we weren’t. I wasn’t. And I’m not. My eyes have been opened to the first layer of what ‘rich’ really is, and we weren’t even in the neighborhood.

Here, I suppose, lies the crux of the middle-class: we are shamed by both sides. I was shamed in my youth for having too much. Now I am shamed for having too little.

…I knew finding my balance post-production was going to be tough. Did not expect any perception-altering revelations. I suppose that, more than anything shows it.

I’m learning.

BOOM! There it is.

I had a mooie (beautiful) letter, but my teacher still found half a dozen corrections to make…

Language class. OMG. It’s a bit of boot camp for my brain. After a week off, I faced three in-class tests to find out how much we remembered and retained. Oh, I know I didn’t do well! I had NO dictionary, NO smart phone to access an online dictionary, NO idea what 60% of the words were. Well, if they really wanted to know exactly where I am, they did well, ’cause there was no hiding my ignorance. Think I might have been passable on present tense – though things like ‘humanity’ or referencing large groups of people as singularities still gets me to fuck up the verb tense. But the past tense! Ach, now there I was truly horrible. Did my best, but I’ve only got the grammar rules half learned, and it was embarrassingly evident as I worked my way through the paper. Still, I have to give myself a little credit. I managed to work my way thru the paper – something not everyone in the class was able to do (the tests were timed).

And homework: five or six sheets to fill in, plus another letter. One teacher said get used to it; she’s gonna ask us to write a letter every damned week. AAaaargh! I was also asked if I’d be ready to start a new book in Dutch next week, so the pressure is on for me to finish reading the one I’ve got.

Spoke to the only man in the group while we were on coffee break. Actually, he talked to me – and that’s something for me to note: he might be feeling a little lonely. All the other women in the group are Muslim, and they sort of group together and speak half Dutch and half Farsi. Knocks me out of the conversation. He’s left out, too. Better learn his name, and get used to his accent (rather heavy). He seems very open, and wants to talk. I’ve no issue with that, and I appreciate the time to try some free-flowing Dutch conversation. Had to laugh to myself, though. We did the standard beginner Dutch conversation: hello, how are you, how long have you lived here, where do you come from? When I told him I was born in Wisconsin – well, that was too vague. What’s the capital? He asked. I told him; he didn’t know it. I asked if he knew the Great Lakes. He didn’t. Finally got that ‘aha’ look on his face when I told him it was near the Canadian border. THAT’S how big you have to get when discussing something not on the coast in the US. People over here tend to think New York, L.A., Texas, and Florida. They forget everything in between.

As of today, I’ve got 8 readers coming to my script read thru. Three still to hear from. Spent time graphing out the speaking roles. I’ll need to do some doubling, and I want a good idea of which roles can handle that and which roles can’t. Last time the group read one of my scripts, I was a bit more lackadaisical. I just asked for volunteers for each part. This time, I’m choosing. I noticed in the first read thru that L, the director’s girlfriend, was a bit disruptive. Ticked me off at the time. But I’ve got to know her a little better now, and I realize she was probably just bored in the first read thru. So, this time, I’m asking her to read the starring role. She’ll be speaking in every scene but one – very little time for her to get bored. Thinking about the other roles, too. A couple of people are coming in from outside Rotterdam just to be there for me, and I want to make sure they get juicy parts. Actually, I don’t want anyone to get bored – another reason to double up roles that are well written and intense but aren’t in every scene.

And I’m talking with the director on the thriller trilogy. Sent him the first part, talked about recording bits for it. We’re beginning to discuss this like it’s a given fact, like the decision to do it has already been made. Sure hope he has some pull with the board. Wonder if he’s willing to say ‘Listen, I’m the director and I really like this, so we’re doing it’. That would be cool. I think, tho, that I’ll need to sell it to a few other people. Good to get the director’s thoughts, input, and attention now. No reason I can’t go in there with him on my side.

Funny how time seems to collapse the closer you get to a set date. Last week, I had all the time in the world to stretch my mental muscles, sit in sloth, and do whatever. This week I must adhere to an ever-increasingly strict schedule. Saturday is the last performance. Ran thru my lines last night. Had to check the script once, because my dialogue depends on my partner’s dialogue and I needed his verbal cue to kick off my memory. Half did the voice. Some lines I can’t say without the voice, some lines I can. Saved my throat as much as possible. Found the laugh (my bro is looking forward to me being done with this role so I stop snorting when I laugh). Found the physical tics. Found the attitude. I’ll need to do this a few more times; I hid Wendy well away under my writer mania. Time to dig her out.

Feel very buoyed up by everyone’s response to my read thru request. Feel very excited by the push from my teachers. And strangely enough, long, long ago, I did a numerology reading on myself. 51 was the age. A strange coming together of all things in my life; a high point. Didn’t think much about it at the time.

But BOOM! There it is.

There’s already enough

Heavy sigh.

If I were to take as long healing from all the crap I got growing up as it took to brainwash me into thinking I was a piece of shit, I’d be 76 and counting before I got over it. That’s the thought that elicited the heavy sigh, a depressed feeling, and anger over time never fucking being on my side.

I hate my family.

Gods…I know I look awful when I’m at the gym. Catch myself too often too deep into emotion. I tear up, my face turns red – I’m sure I look either like I’m about to have a heart attack or a nervous breakdown. Or both. It’s what happens. My body moves, stuff shifts and suddenly I am overwhelmed by memories and emotions. Therapists really should think about doing sessions during work-outs. At least in my case.

Gotta go through it. Free up whatever got blocked. Breathe. Fucking breathe. That’s the only thing I can think of, when it hits me. My feet move, time ticks on, but I’m unaware of any of it. Just stuck somewhere deep in a half hidden memory that’s full of old, built up muck. I’ve only impressions left over. Impressions of regret, and anger. Why did it go down that way? Why couldn’t I have been one of the lucky ones born into a family that cared?

Don’t talk to me about fate. I’ve always felt like I’m paying forward in this life, and it sucks. I was never a kid who enjoyed frying ants or ripping off the wings of flies. I don’t have that mean streak in me. If I’d been a shit in a previous life, wouldn’t it have shown up early on? I think so. But I was that weird kid who’d get up at 4 am to sing the sun up. I talked to trees, and cried over injustices.

And if the secret to reaching zen is dealing with people shitting on you all the time, I must be some freaking holy zen master.

So why do I find all of this so fucking difficult?

Haven’t I learned anything?

But, hey. I don’t have social niceties. Was never taught them. Don’t get hidden agendas, or most faux pas (what IS the plural on that, anyway?). And if I had a nickel for every time I heard about how ‘different’ I was…well, I still wouldn’t be rich. But I could buy a cheap meal for myself.

So what’s stuck in my craw today?

Other than the welling up of old memories and feelings, I guess I’d have to say it was what happened at my language lesson. Yeesh. You know, questioning any of this makes me wonder if I’m not just some drama queen timing things out and demanding my fair share of attention. Nonetheless, I noticed a definite difference between how I am treated and how my fellow student is treated. The effect was heightened for me because we had another new volunteer teacher sit in with us, to learn how a lesson might be. I think she looked at me twice. The remainder of her eye contact was reserved for my fellow student. And rightly so; the majority of conversation took place between my teacher, the newbie, and the other student. I was not included. I was not asked questions. I searched for things to say, to include myself…didn’t feel it was well received. They turned, they listened, but they didn’t follow up with statements or questions. Am I being paranoid? So difficult to tell. The other student is not as far along as me, and both instructors might have felt she needed more practice speaking. That’s logical. Still. I’ve an undeniable feeling that something else is going on, something I’m not catching onto. I hate that.

Mm. That’s the second thing I’ve said I hate.

Decided something. Had a weird few minutes during the script read through. I was outside with the director and someone the director knew was leaving. The guy asked me – twice – if I was the director’s wife. My reaction: laughter. I’ve thought a lot about that, and realized it might have sounded derisive to the director. Like I was laughing at the idea that we could be married because I found him unattractive or whatever. I wasn’t; I was laughing over the idea of anyone even conceiving ME of being capable of marrying someone. I’m just a bit worried that my hilarity will be taken the wrong way, and I don’t want any misunderstandings over my lack of social skills. So I’m gonna bring it up to him. Remind him of that moment and explain myself because I didn’t at the time. And I don’t need anyone else thinking I’m a shit.

There’s already enough.

Take the flag

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It’s a hell of thing to be sitting somewhere in public, waiting patiently, minding your own business, nothing at all wrong, and then, when you try to stand, you freeze with pain. Don’t know what sound escaped my mouth or which facial expression spasmed across my face, but I can tell you this – it caused five grey haired pensioners to gasp, get up, and try to help me.

Gods!

Must not have looked too good.

Spent yesterday morning growing ever more paranoid during my language lesson. The other student was present again (surprise), and I noticed my teacher took ten to fifteen minutes to catch up and chat with her but far less to chat with me. Now, I know I’ve surpassed the other student in language use. I’ve come to lessons regularly, worked hard, and made a lot of progress. So it’s only natural that the teacher would try to draw out the other student more than me. Get her talking again. …Right? I was careful to note the teacher’s body language. Not too skewed, but she did seem to lean a bit towards the other student. …Does my teacher not like me? *sigh* What have I done now?

I guess that’s the risk anyone takes when they choose to not be a milksop. Have opinions, state them. Have energy when you communicate! For pete’s sake, don’t talk to me like it’s the closest thing to death; deadpan and distracted. Look at me! Fire up your soul! Maybe we’ll come to loggerheads but at least we’ll know we don’t like each other. But don’t hide yourself. Don’t say ‘uh-huh’ to everything, never offer an original thought, never let anyone see anything of the real you. …That’s my opinion, anyway.

But I’ve been told I can be a poor communicator. Not because I’m unclear or uninformed; just the opposite. Because I’m too clear, too informed. I’ve been told many people don’t like to discuss big issues in life. It makes them uncomfortable. But big issues is where my head is at. Big issues were what I discussed at the dinner table as a kid.

After 50+ years of big issues, I can say that there are a whole lot of people out there who don’t like discussing them. And they don’t like me because of it.

That always makes me feel bad. I don’t mean anything improper about it. Just the opposite. I want to know where people stand on this stuff. I want to know their reasons for their choices. So I ask. And people get put off, or offended, or feel so uncomfortable around me that they choose to not hang out or be my friend.

It’s the risk I take, being me. Because for all the disappointment and lost possible friendships, every once in a while I find a real gem out there. Someone who fires up just as quickly as I do. Someone with a magpie mind fast enough to keep up with me.

That ain’t my Thursday teacher. Nor my Friday teacher.

Not that I expected either of them to be my friend.

…Well, I can move freely enough today – so far. I’ll try going to class, but I’ll take my heavy duty pain pills with me. Or maybe I should just take one now. Get a jump on the stiffness and pain. Probably the smart thing to do.

This ain’t gonna stop me. Not the pain, not the stiffness. Not the idea that my teacher doesn’t like me. Not the embarrassment over forgetting words I knew a few weeks ago. Not my slight dyslexia that always makes me screw up numbers.

Feels like I’m gearing up for war. A war on everything that’s going to try to stop me. I know what my goal is. I know what I need to do to get there.

Time to take the flag.

 

Apply Fertilizer and Water

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The cross trainer at the gym is a bitch. Ten minutes on it and my legs were spaghetti. Can’t wait to hop on it again, later today. I may have to metro home.

Wowie zowie and hallelujah! I heard from the theatre group. My email tells me it’s only been a week. Really? Only a week? Have I been that impatient – again? Now I’ve two people reading the script and willing to help me move to the next level. ‘Natch I read the damned thing through again and found half a dozen errors and typos. Just can’t seem to catch them all in digital form – give me paper, and a pen, and a highlighter. Besides, I’m still old fashioned enough to feel that a story doesn’t really exist until I print it. Digital don’t count. It’s just fluff in digital form; an oral version that can be manipulated and lost. Give me a hard copy. Then it’s real. Now I’ve just got to get the printed version minus the errors I found.

My CV is finished, as are notes on script development, character lists, scenic breakdown, and a cover letter. Give me a synopsis and I’m ready to see what people think. *sigh* Still not sure if the pacing is right. Still not sure if it’s funny. Still not sure of a lot of things, but I’m willing to try. I’ve a dozen theatre groups that are willing to look at new scripts and take digital submissions. Top of my list. I’ll see what feedback I get before I start ponying up money for additional print copies and postage to the ends of the earth.

Today I’m back in Dutch class, and my head feels like I can barely make it through the usual ‘goede morgen’. Ye Gods! If anything, I feel less inclined at the moment to tough the language out – I’m old, I’m lazy, I might actually have half a career writing in English – the list goes on. Then I think about how pleased I feel to get through simple transactions in Dutch, and I double down on my efforts. I may never speak the language well. I may never be able to write in Dutch. But damn it! I AM gonna be able to get through simple things with it. Just gotta relax….

Made an appointment to see my doctor on Monday. Been having some dizzy spells. Mostly when I lay down or sit up in bed, but sometimes just from turning around too abruptly. It began in early December. I figured it was part of a cold I was having; stuffed up nose, clogged ears – made sense. But the cold faded and the dizziness remained. So I made an appointment. I expect to find nothing. My doc will look in my ears and nose, take my temp and blood pressure, make a few notes on her computer, then look at me with a small frown. I don’t see anything to explain it, she’ll say. Then the suppositions will begin. You had a cold, you say? I suppose it could have been because of that…. Yeah. And I suppose it could have been because aliens were coming down and zapping me with their gizmos while I slept, too. Suppositions! Useless shit.

Here comes the old routine, back with a bang. I can feel time speeding up on me again. Language class in the mornings. Work out. Errands. Housework. No wonder when I zone out, I zone out. Too much daily shit; to get anything done I really do need to check out from reality for a stretch.

Meh.

Been kicking around some new (and old) ideas for my next script. I know! Don’t tell me. I barely finished with this one. Don’t even have it out the door. Don’t even have a synopsis. Don’t even know if it’s really done or if I’ll have to go back and make some adjustments. I’ve told myself all of that, and far more. Can’t help it. Been contemplating a lot of angles, a lot of stories. I don’t know which one I want to do next, and that’s a real problem. I suppose I’ll muddle through something over the next few months, writing here and there. Then at the next break I’ll probably do what I did this time: trash it all, start from scratch, and write it in a few days. Dat be my style.

Maybe I’ll talk to my bro. He’s got a way of cutting through shit that I find very useful. Where I see obstacles, he sees different paths. I’ll lay a bet he says something off the wall over one of my story ideas. Something I think is complete hogwash. But that seed he lays in my brain will grow. It always does. I think it’s his autism. He looks at the world differently. Don’t know what I’d do without him. My stories would certainly lack a distinct spin if he wasn’t around.

For now, it’s gym time and Dutch, dust-bunny chasing and sink cleaning. So unglamorous. All that little shit that is life. But I’ll take that tired and true routine right now. I’ll fall back into that rut of learning and slimming. As ruts go, it’s at least productive.

The words will grow. The ideas will grow. The stories, the scripts, will grow.

All I need to do is set them in the window,  and apply fertilizer and water.

Opportunity 3: Just say ‘nee’

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Oh, my. After 24 hours, a rather frank discussion with my very cute physiotherapist, and a deep search in my head for a box marked ‘my age’, I found no real answer. In fact, in that boxed marked ‘my age’ there’s just a slip of paper with two words on it: I am. A statement of being rather than a reflection of my march through time. I thought on my youth, and spending an inordinate amount of time in the company of older people. Why should the reverse now bother me so much? The answer is it shouldn’t, so I’m setting aside my heebie-jeebies over the entire issue and hope it doesn’t raise its head again before my 70th birthday.

Onto bigger and badder things.

I have had four new ‘language cafés’, as they call them here, pointed out to me. A language café is just a time and place for people to get together and talk in whatever language they’re trying to learn. One morning, one afternoon, and two evenings have been, shall we say, rather strongly suggested to me. On top of classes, reading, the television, the papers, the adverts, the EVERYTHING. So I HAD to pick that picture on top of the page, because yes, that’s how my brain feels: washed out, fried, a little dirty around the edges, and cooked for too long.

Dear Goddess!

…And I don’t know if my reaction is normal or not. Seems to be an awful lot of people who CAN do it all 24/7 and not lose it. I don’t count myself among them. And I’m a little afraid to point that fact out to these people who push me so much! Met a woman last night who speaks 10 languages fluently. 10! And she knows someone who speaks 35.

I’m feeling overwhelmed.

There’s still so many words I don’t know yet. Today was my one on one lesson, which really WAS one on one because the other student was sick, and my teacher and I talked for two hours. There were rather large gaps of time when she was talking and talking and I could barely understand the general gist of the conversation. Other times, I understood quite well.

It’s a matter of vocabulary. Mine is still quite small. And I’ve found the best way for me to learn new words is from the computer. My online lessons show the written word. They have a person clearly say the word. There’s a button right there I can hit over and over again to listen and try to imitate it perfectly. Then they move onto short sentences that include the words you just learned. THAT’S how I’m picking up more words. You can mouth syllables at me FOREVER and I just won’t get it. It’s that hardcore repetition that’s giving me the words I need to make the move from a child-like speech pattern to a more grown up one.

And if I’m forced (or strongly encouraged) to spend so much time talking or reading or listening, well, frankly, I get bloody tired. I don’t want to do the damned computer lessons after a certain point. I’m fried.

More will just confuse me.

*sigh* But I guess I gotta take into consideration what these people might see in me. Whether or not they’d be shocked by my real age, they don’t see a dummy. They don’t hear someone who can’t speak the language. Just the opposite; plenty of people tell me I speak very clearly. Great. Those are the vocabulary words I KNOW. I’ve seen them. Said them. Heard them. Repeated them and repeated them. I need new words. New adages and sayings. But not so fast I get confused. That’s why the computer is so great. I never annoy it when I ask it to repeat what it’s saying twenty times.

On the other hand (because there’s always an ‘other hand’), I found today that my limited vocabulary got me through quite a bit. We talked about the news I’d watched, the stories I’d seen. Or that’s where we began. One of the news articles I saw is about a proposed change to the assisted suicide law. That brought up a lot. Ulla. My mother, then my father. Her mother. Death in general. Figures; even in DUTCH I try to talk about death! Then we moved onto other topics: the theatre group I found, University, her kids, careers and jobs in general. A rather wide range of topics to try to tackle after only one year of language lessons.

But then I never DO set the bar low. That can be very problematic. Perfectionism and the bald reality of never being able to live up to that ideal. Yet if you don’t try, if you don’t aim high, you’ll never hit that mark. So I try. And when I fail, as I inevitably do, I tell myself that I gave it my all, I could ask no more of myself, and I’ve done well. You did good, kid. Of course I always second guess myself. Coulda, shoulda, woulda. Live too long in that neck of the woods and you’ll end up in Regretsville permanently. I should know; I’ve spent years there and I’m sure the ghosts in my head keep an empty apartment on the second floor for me.

There’s a fine line here I can safely walk. Heel to toe, all the way. I will not try them all out in the same week. I will not even consider that. Not with my regular classes, the theatre group meetings, and trying to wedge some exercise in there too. Too many times I’ve spread myself too thin. Too many times I’ve lost my balance and dropped all the balls.

I am completely unwilling to do that again.

Thank you, but I’m busy. Thank you, but I can’t. No, no, no. They say ‘no’ is one of those early words for babies. Why do I have such a hard time saying it? Maybe it’ll be easier in Dutch.

Nee, nee, nee.

I am more

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The dog days of August have hit. It’s the kind of heat you swim through. Walking becomes a strange activity, full of pulling at your shorts as they ride up your thighs or fluffing out your shirt to try and force cooler air down against your wet skin. Even children have slowed down in their play, the heat dragging at their limbs and making them move like old people long before their time.

My day begins before the sun is up, when a touch of coolness still lives in the air. Before the city wakes up I am out the door for a walk. A few other early morning walkers join me on the paths in the parks, but I quickly lose them as I head off the beaten track and into the woods. My feet grow damp as I stalk through the grassy lane. It’s easy to forget how wet the morning dew can make things. As a child, I always knew this. As an adult, that simple fact of nature slips my mind. I laugh at myself as I slide in my sandals, picking up gravel and mud and generally making a mess of myself. It is a childlike activity, walking without care like this. Getting wet and reveling in it. Getting dirty and enjoying it. In this, I am very different from the Dutch. Even the children prefer mown lawns to wild growth, but I – I am different. That differences takes me on paths little travelled, to see marvels just sitting there waiting to be noticed yet overlooked by so many: a tiny wooden bridge over a canal with weeping willows hanging in the languid water, the perfection of filtered sunlight under the canopies of a hundred trees, a pair of miniature ponies munching lazily on the grass.

And I know, deep inside, how lucky I am to be here right now.

The apartment remains as cool as possible on a day like today. I live on the fourth floor (fifth, if you’re from the US). Down on the ground things bake, but up here breezes continue to flow through the massive east-west windows in the living room. Even with this advantage, it’s a shorts kind of day and any exertion will result in sweat. Despite this, I’m determined to get on the floor and do my sit-ups. I remind myself I have all day to do the 40 lifts I’ve set as my routine. That thought keeps me going through that half way point, when the elation of being able to do the work is overtaken by the work itself. Push my back down, exhale, lift my legs, breathe in while I count to ten. The tension I feel running across my stomach is wonderful and horrible, and even as I pray to be able to hold it to a full count of ten I know I will, and I will do more. My stretches are another deeply wonderful and horrible pull, as I splay my legs and take my head down towards the ground. I have lost much of my flexibility, but as soon as the thought crosses my mind it exits; I am too into the stretch to think of anything else. Stand, for arm movement. Over the head, out to the front, side to side. My shoulders ache and an odd feeling of numbness steals over my arms as I move them; this particular exercise is difficult for me. Roll the shoulders, then the neck. Deep breath and reach, reach, then collapse down. My hands touch the floor and I hear my back pop-pop-pop as the vertebrae move.

Now, I think, to work. 🙂

Three replies to three messages I sent out in Dutch appear in my mailbox. Once again I receive a shot of sheer elation over simply being understood. I have volunteered to help at a local festival coming up the first weekend of September, and they are happy to have my help. I will meet people who live in the neighborhood. Maybe I will find a friend. The thought makes me feel warm in a way the temperature outside my apartment never could. I have the answer I sought about my language lessons: they begin at 9:30, half an hour earlier than my previous lessons began. Where trepidation once lived, eagerness now resides: I can’t wait to start. Perhaps most poignant of all, my hesitant message to my previous teacher has elicited a warm response. The fantasy of learning to speak, write, and read well enough to join his discussion group remains fixed in my head despite me telling myself it probably won’t happen for a dozen reasons. In the meantime, I am happy to have an occasional online correspondence with him.

Even in the midst of this focused and happy time, I’m aware of things that could cause me future anxiety. My brother talks of taxes and forms, immigration and rules all the time. Our reapplication with IND is coming due, and as usual we’re both concerned – probably too concerned – over the entire process. To know one’s future is entirely in the hands of other people is very unnerving. I dislike the process immensely. At least this time I’ll have more language. Never before have I encountered a place where trying is so important. Using the few words I have to get through a conversation in Dutch scores high in the eyes of the locals.

So keep at it. Computer language lessons, then read a bit. Focus on learning the language and rehabilitating my body. I’m two years behind, in my opinion. Should have hit the floor running with this when we moved here. But I was reminded this morning of how bad I was two years ago: off meds, the RA taking over, the depression from abruptly stopping my anti-depressants. And kicking myself over ‘losing time’ isn’t going to help me. I did what I could at the time, which is what I always do. Right now my ‘could’ is a lot more than it was.

Somehow, I am more.

Recharge

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Less than a week before J comes to visit and the gauntlets are off. No dust is safe in my house. It will get tracked down, hunted, sucked up, swept, picked up, and tossed away. Be gone ye devils of old skin flakes! I swear between those and all the hair I’ve lost that gets tangled in the hoover this place probably needs an exor-cleaning: In the name of Jesus I command you to be clean. Be gone, Satanic dust bunnies that run ahead of the hoover with a mind of their own. Be gone, foul masses of hair that seem plucked from Beelzebub’s head himself – be gone! Wind yourself no more among the moving parts of my hoover. Weave yourself no more among the fibers of every chair. In the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and the holy ghost, I command you to LEAVE this house.

Maybe I did it wrong. 😉

Been busy every day. Errands out in the world (which I’m handling better and better), chores here (goddess! the place is looking good!), even a PHONE CALL (which scared the living shit out of me and I had to rehearse for 10 minutes prior) to order Indian take-away. Yesterday I swam, then popped up around 11 a.m. to begin cleaning off the bakers’ racks I have in the kitchen corner. They’re great; big, heavy wooden things that can handle a lot of weight and still look good. They’re also difficult to clean. Everything must come off before you can clean the shelving and then of course everything must be cleaned off before going back on. One down, one to go.

I checked in with the girl, to make sure everything was okay before J comes for his visit. The session was pretty topsy-turvy; she ended up telling me to calm down, relax, take it easy. In re-reading what I wrote, the girl is calm. It’s me who’s over the edge. I put ‘my’ parts ALL IN CAPS. And I can tell from the fast, disjointed talk that I was manic when I wrote.

I am neither surprised nor over it.

Springtime. Never as high flying as autumn, but there. It’s the change in season that does it, I think. Nature’s flux sends me into orbit.

Sleep is odd. I’m sleeping ‘enough’, I guess. I make eight hours. I feel like the walking dead when I get up, though. Like I could keep sleeping another eight hours if only my head would let me. Can’t, so I get up. Then I have a three hour or so wind up in the morning – usually fueled with some coffee – and off I go, a modified version of the Energizer Bunny (I don’t DO pink). There’s no ten hours without sitting down anymore. Been making sure to take a break every couple of hours. Sit down for 20 minutes. I try for half an hour but can’t do it. So 20 minutes down, then I’m back up doing something or pacing around looking for something to do.

It’s productive.

My baby tomato plants are toddlers now, all in their own private little growing pots. All six are standing upright, strong, healthy. Every day I can see new growth. Very cool.

Half the shelving in my room is dust free. I’ve been intimidated by the job. It’s all step ladder and slow movement, getting stuff off the shelves to clean and then carefully repositioning everything. Going faster than I imagined, thanks to my current fast burn. Very easy to fall into that laser focus: the task is everything and everything is the task. Doesn’t matter what the task is. Right now it’s dusting the shelves. Get into that groove and suddenly half the day is gone and you’re further in your work than you anticipated at breakfast.

Honesty check in: still smoking too much. Haven’t cared. I know I’ll have to go through some withdrawal again. Just cutting back will be tough at first. Again: don’t care. I care about the now, and I’m choosing to smoke right up until I’m supposed to quit. I guess it’s just easier. And hells bells! I haven’t been belly aching about this problem or that lately. A few weeks of reprise from my usual internal hell is very welcome. Don’t mess with what’s working.

Been trying to slip more language work in. I’ve found the time to do it, it’s just…with this current hyperness I’m having a REAL hard time grasping and remembering stuff. I can regurgitate it for you. Doesn’t mean I’ll understand when you use the words in a sentence. Trying to move forward by telling myself I don’t need to remember all of it. Been reassuring myself that if I can learn one word, one small phrase each week outside of class I’m doing well. It’s not easy. Now’s when I read English so fast I practically speed read. Dutch…I miss too much. I don’t know the words. I can’t say them that fast in my head as I read. I’ve got through the second chapter of my teacher’s book, but my comprehension has gone way down. Strictly large picture stuff now; I’m getting zero nuance. And frankly I’m getting confused (in de war) over the various names I’m reading. Names of dogs, names of breeders, names of breeding associations, names of scientists, names of journalists, names of publicists. Oi! And NONE of it is John Doe. It’s all Leeder van de Dyrk or something like that. Long names. Names I’m unfamiliar with. Tough to keep straight.

Getting my hair done today. Yippee! It’s just long enough and the weather is just warm enough that it’s been bugging me. Hope to get some of the heaviness cut out. But sitting there for an hour and a half today is gonna be tough. Last thing I want to do is sit on my ass. Even if it DOES mean a head massage while they shampoo my hair.

Well. I guess I’ll use the time to recharge. Sit in zone mode. Get it right and it’s a self-hypnotic thing. I can feel refreshed and more alert. It can look weird; just saw the film Dark Skies and my bro said I look similar. Kind of just stand or sit there with a vacant look on my face (though he’s pretty sure in my case it’s not due to aliens).

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Just recharging.