Free

Out of jail. That’s how my head feels: I’m out of jail. Finally.

This delightful feeling of lightness comes from another notch in my understanding of Dutch. They said reading would help. I didn’t believe them as I slogged through text after text, never enjoying it, always feeling like it was homework because there were just too many words I didn’t know. Yesterday I reaped the benefits of my hard work. Every word from my instructors was crystal clear. I heard the ‘-ie-‘ used for ‘hij’ after a verb that ended in T. I heard ‘raad’ (guess) and knew what the meaning was. I heard ‘ingewikkeld’ (complicated) and caught on right away. I heard ‘om’ and ‘toe’ and ‘maar’ and ‘al’ – those pesky words that flash by in a blink with native speakers. I was so excited I just sat there vibrating with joy and excitement. I didn’t just follow the gist of the conversation, I got every word.

My teachers took my suggestions to heart. Thank you, thank you, thank you! We spent the day going over prepositions. Not just over or under, which are the baby prepositions you learn with A,B,C, but those larger prepositions that can get split in a sentence. I was not the only one excited by the lesson; everyone seemed to respond that way. We were more jovial, more verbal, there were more questions, more examples, and when we broke for coffee midway we ended up sitting around a table together and continuing to discuss prepositions, our lives, and the language. We were all so into it, as a matter of fact, that everyone – students and teachers alike – stayed an extra 15 minutes to finish up some reading.

I didn’t want the lesson to end. I didn’t want to take a break. I just wanted to keep hearing the language so clearly. Keep reading, keep learning. I don’t ever remember feeling so fired up, tho I imagine I once felt this way about English.

*sigh* Real satisfied joy. Boy, that’s a great feeling!

Today’s my appointment with Dr D, my GP, about the pain killers. Almost forgot about it with everything else. It’s small potatoes now, and I wonder why I ever thought it was a big deal. Go in, have my say, head out. No big whoop.

Yesterday was the first day I truly felt back to full health. No hunger pains or problems from almost starving myself. No headaches or jaw aches, no toilet problems or sleep problems. I had energy, I was alert, and I felt good physically and mentally. Happy I’ll be able to say all that to my doc. Worry was becoming a constant companion to me. Who’d a thunk my biggest problem was food? Not me, certainly. I have an almost non-stop litany of ‘you’re so fat’ going in my head. So I skip meals, cut back on what I eat, and never feel like I’m really doing enough. But I’m not 15, or 25. My body can’t do this any more, as evidenced by the migraines and other accompanying pain I experienced. And I shouldn’t feel like I need to ask it to do this.

It’s time to tackle my body issues. Among other things.

…Well, at least I’ll be doing it on a full stomach, for Pete’s sake…

Sent out some emails expecting them to be answered quickly. Naturally, they aren’t. One was to the director asking about meeting this week to go over the script. Hope my messages didn’t fall into a black hole. Again. There are black holes in cyber-space, and there are servers and areas where emails typically go missing. I’ve had it happen to me before. Best to give it a few days. Every time I follow up fast, thinking my message has gone missing, all I end up doing is annoying the other person because yes, they actually did get my first message and they’re just not as fast on response as I want them to be.

Can’t…slow…down…

Thinking I might head to the gym after my doc’s visit. I feel good enough to go and get a walk in. Yippee! That’s real progress. Trying to not dwell on how long I’ve been off my routine, or how long it will take me to get back to where I was physically. The goal is simply to get some movement. I still want to break 5km in 30 minutes, but I’m not ready to even get back on the cross trainer quite yet. I’ve been real good on taking care of myself, being gentle with myself. Getting on the cross trainer at this venture…oh, that’s asking me to push too hard and hurt myself. Nope. Won’t even give myself the opportunity.

I’ve very aware how close I am to tipping into full blown mania again. I’m too excited and excitable, too easily wound up, too easily thrown off from my normal sleeping and eating patterns. Nine days before my first psychiatrist appointment, and I hardly expect to be given a prescription after my first visit, so the number one rule is (as it’s been for quite some time now): take care of myself. Don’t judge what that looks like, just do what it takes. I cannot afford another three months down because of TMJ. I do not want more pain. I do not want to take more pain pills. And I have firm commitments coming up, goals to achieve. I need to be in good health to do all these things.

Prisons come in all shapes and sizes. My prison… I was going to say it was ‘all in my head’, which technically it is, but I don’t want to feel discounted by my own words. My prison was is was (which is the correct verb?) very real. A prison of anxiety and fear, self doubt and self hate. I walled myself off years ago to protect myself, never fully realizing how much I would cut myself off in the process.

Those walls are coming down. The language barrier is coming down.

And I’m free.

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The Right Words

After a few days of pre-scheduled posts (because it’s summer holiday, and I was sleeping in), we’re back to live, or as alive as it gets for the written form in cyber space.

Found a call for submissions, 20 minutes tops – and the deadline is 9 days away. It’s even got a topic to write on – “from the ashes” (interpreted as literally or fancifully as you want). At first, I was gonna blow right past it. But something made me stop, and take a PDF copy onto my desktop, and think. I figured, I got the time; why not try?

It was odd to go through the motions of deep writing for a small piece. Thinking. A bit of research and googling. Pace, pace, pace. Jot down three different ideas. Pace, pace, pace. Sit and begin to write. Not any of the three ideas I jotted down, naturally. Something completely different.

And then there was this note at the end of the submissions page:

[We’ll hire] at least 50% women, people of color, LGBTQ+ folks, people with disabilities, and any member of any underrepresented, or otherwise marginalized community.

…I read that statement to my brother, and he got a good laugh when I told him my characters – a black gay man, a transgender male, a lesbian, a disabled Indian woman, and one straight, white woman (I know; it sounds like the opening line to a joke). Stacking the deck? Maybe. Yet, why not? Why not make it a mixed bag, why not write for these groups? They’re people, with stories to tell. My concern, of course, is that I’m not black, or gay, or transgender, or technically disabled – and I’ll get dissed for it.

But…come on! Men write roles for women all the time, and they can’t have any better idea what it actually is to be a woman as I’d have knowing what it’s like to be a gay black man or a transgender man or a lesbian or a disabled Indian woman.

And I plan on sending a draft to my friend, J, and asking him if he thinks it’s offensive. I know he’s not the mouthpiece for the LGBTQ community, but he is a part of it. Plus, I know he’ll be upfront with me.

It’s obvious to me I’ve had my fill of writing drama/thrillers for now. This bloody thing is a comedy (told you it sounded like a joke set-up). Or, I hope it is. …Comedy is damned difficult to write. So much depends on the inflection given to dialogue. And somehow, in the past few decades, this skewed idea of black comedy has seeped into our culture. Oh, I’ve seen a few black comedies that were outrageously funny! But many seem to be simple dramas or even tragedies that the author just decided to label as ‘comedy’ – because there’s nothing funny about them at all. Not from what I’ve seen. Sorry. After seeing “The Snapper”, my interest in what humans call black comedy went straight down the toilet (the most horrible film ever made, in my opinion, for it shows nothing but the basest and most vile cross section of humanity the writer could dredge out of the slurry pit of his mind. Warning: if you watch this film, a girl gets pregnant after something I’d dub a rape and her family fucking celebrates it – disgusting).

I’m old fashioned. I think a comedy should make you laugh at some point.

…Maybe it’s inevitable that comedy offends someone. I mean…aside from slap-stick, it’s hard not to offend someone with a joke. And hell! Even slap-stick can be offensive. I’ve seen the old Benny Hill show. Offensive as fucking hell.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so worried about it.

But worrying about it prevents me from worrying about other things, which is a Godsend, really. So I’ll allow myself to be concerned over offending people with my writing. I’ll spend the hours pacing and typing away, concocting yet another play that may or may not see the light of day.

One other thing. I’m noticing a pattern in my writing. A deep seated desire for reconciliation. Almost all my stories (other than my thrillers) are ending with a reconciliation scene. Apologies, acceptance – even love.

And, you know…I’m glad of it. Glad to see that beneath all my anger and frustration, a seed of kindness and understanding still thrives. That’s what I’m after in real life. Maybe I’ll write a way to that for myself. Find something in my own words that turns the tide, stills my anger, and keeps me calm.

I just have to find the right words.

A Nod to Vanity

Forgot for a few days to check with the theatre group about all those pictures. Signed in and found the above, set as THE advertisement for the play.

Yes, that’s me on the left.

After all my moaning and thinking I wouldn’t even MAKE the promotional picture, here it is. Just me and my acting partner (there’s 8 of us in the cast). Can’t help but feel it’s a nod from the group, here’s the people you really want to come and see. Popped a note off to the director’s girlfriend, who did the poster, and thanked her for all her work. Yeah, she’s got PhotoShop and yeah, it’s a simple posterization of the original photo with a few words thrown over the whole thing. Nonetheless, I know what it’s like to work on the behind the scenes – often a thankless job. So I thanked her, and told her I was really jazzed and honored.

So far, no reply.

I’ve thought about using the pic as the desktop for my computer. I probably won’t; that’s more than a nod to vanity, that’s an outright leg-spread.

Can I say, though, that I’m more than pleased to see this picture of myself and say I DON’T view myself as fat? Maybe I’m not a stick, but I’m not a balloon, either. Photographic proof. I have this bad habit of hanging my sister’s body off my head in my mind – obese. Maybe it’s because I’ve never been around many full-length mirrors. Maybe it’s because my mother treated me as a mini version of my sister: matching clothes, hair, and even (reputedly) naming me after her.

But I’m NOT my sister. Nor my mother. That’s a unique person in that picture. Truly unique.

One other thing. I usually don’t pull my hair back from my face like that. Since I was 15, my bangs generally hang low over my face, half obscuring it. It makes me feel safe. Hidden. But I like the way I look with my hair pulled back. It’s open, inviting. Friendly. To me, that looks like someone you could walk up to and begin a conversation. Ask for directions. Comment on the weather while waiting for the metro.

Am I finally seeing myself the way other people see me?

Got to the gym for exercise. Feel much better for doing it. Blew all the calories I burned by buying and eating several fancy little cakes. I know! I know. Counter-productive. And it’s an old coping mechanism. But I have to admit, the past few days with the memory of feeling good, performing well, and now the picture…It’s brought up a few things for me. More than a few things. In fact, it’s brought me right back to my formative years. That frightened and angry kid. Frightened because I half believed my mother, and thought maybe I wasn’t good enough. Angry because I knew it wasn’t right. You don’t do that to someone you care about. So I turned to that old comfort: sugary treats. I’m not proud of it. But I can admit the truth.

And the pic threw me. Got too excited after seeing it. Too wound up. Set my head off on that manic streak again. I allowed it, again. In fact, I vow to do it completely different from the manner I was brought up. Acting wasn’t something that taxed you, and if you took time off after performing you were lazy and weak. That’s not true, of course. And it drove me to many unnecessary illnesses while growing up. Now, it’s an automatic down for several days. It’s an automatic assumption I’ve caught something and need to fill up on vitamins, juice, and hearty food. And the manic thoughts…let them come. They vanish, eventually. Fade back into the half-dreams I console myself with as I fall asleep. But they are not wrong, and I am not wrong for having them. Nor am I wrong for being so wound up after performing that I can’t sleep. Many performers go through that.

I feel bad for my parents, on some levels. They were small, provincial. Their worlds were tiny. My understanding of that brings compassion: they didn’t know any better. I recognize they did the best they could with the day to day. Still angry over the outcome, though. Won’t make any bones about that.

This is all so new. Feeling good about me, and what I’m doing. Taking care of myself while feeling good about all of it. Reaching new levels of understanding. Feeling like I’m letting go of some stuff. Does the past matter now? It gives me a certain perspective. And that perspective colors everything I do. So, yes. But also no. My mother’s doubts, her lack of support and self-centeredness…that’s melting into the background.

I’m not afraid to look in the mirror these days. I see ME. Still beautiful, still vital, always talented.

That kind of talk would have meant a sharp reprimand when I was a kid. Vain! Don’t be vain! There’s always someone better than you, more talented than you, funnier than you. You’ve nothing to be vain about!

But a nod to vanity isn’t always a bad thing, either.

Triple F

I found it hard, as a child, to reconcile the memories voiced by my mother’s family with the truth. After all, what is a four year old to think, listening to her elders talk bout ‘gettin’ whooped’ while laughing heartily? I imagined a Dennis the Menace scenario. Something non-threatening and, ultimately, funny. Not a one of my aunts or uncles ever seemed to be angry over their past. ‘Whoopins’ were what you got. With a belt. Sometimes until you bled. But ha, ha, we all laughed about it in the end so it’s okay.

My dad, too, had stories. Stories in which he was always alone. Stories in which his parents grieved (and grieved and grieved) so much over the death of their first born that they seemed to forget they had another son.

And other hints. Frowning brows and dark looks now and then. A sharp tongued remark, quickly retracted. A tear that never fell from an eye.

I am a second gen product of abusive families.

Understanding – full understanding, the kind you only get with age and experience – hit me the other day. This is why my mother never doled out punishment when we were very little. She was too afraid she’d follow in the footsteps of her parents, and really smack us around.

My mother was an abused child.

And my father, a neglected child.

No wonder I am what I am.

I’ve often thought about my parents. How they got together. I know the story – a teacher in high school set them up on a date. What I never got was the why.

My father was very much into physical appearances. Comments on my appearance were usually limited to the ‘you’re a workhorse, honey, not a racehorse’ range. I was told I was beautiful only as a consolation, when I felt ugly and unloved. ‘Ah, honey! You’re beautiful just the way you are’ – which felt like a consolation and a lie. I was never freely told I was beautiful or even pretty. And I figured he had to say it; parents always have to say it, don’t they? Even if their kid is the butt-ugliest person on the planet.

At the time of their meeting, my mother was a slim and young size 12. My father was an extremely huge 350 pound linebacker for the school football team.

My mother claimed she saw beyond my dad’s weight. Saw he was a good person, a good man, and that’s who she fell in love with.

But there was another man in her life. A sailor. I’ve one black and white photograph of the two of them together. He went off to war. Mom never talked about him, other than saying she dated him.

I wonder now if Mom was just looking for a way out. Someone – anyone – to help her leave the house.

And I’m not saying my mother didn’t love my father. Just that the initial reason she got together with him might not be as noble as she would have me believe.

As for my dad…Mom was his first and only love. Again, not surprising when you take into account his past. He was starved for attention. First person to give him even a little bit of time and energy, and he asks her to marry him.

Never did get a straight answer on the pre-marital sex issue. Mom said no, they never did it, and Dad said yes, the were at it like rabbits.

I used to think my parents’ story was this great romance. Now…it’s just grey and bleak, like the weather hanging outside my window.

Bullshit ordinary things I need to keep track of: Tired all day yesterday, ’til I finally broke down and had some more coffee. Left 10 hours open to sleep, so naturally I was up after 8. Doing okay but not great with smoking. Getting down on the floor to do abdominal exercises these days. Sucks big time. Still not writing anything but these morning blatherings. Frustrated. Bored a lot. Feel very out of step with the world.

Everything’s weird. I’m weird. That’s the real problem: me. I’ve got that un-tethered feeling going on. Free floating fear. The dreaded triple F threat.

What have I got to lose?

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The weekend was tough. Lots of sleep, lots of not being able to breathe through my nose, lots of feeling almost better so I squirmed and got antsy in between my naps.

Doesn’t help my anxiety keeps ramping up. Immigration, no word from this place or that, tumbleweeds rolling through my email and private life – the list goes on and on. Doing my best to keep myself from freaking out. Went back to a Downton Abbey run, because I find it soothing. It’s that or films where everyone dies, and I’m trying to keep positive, so Downton Abbey it is. It helps, a little. Gets me through long afternoons when I got nothin’ to do. Talked with my brother; he’s assured me that no matter what happens the world won’t end. I’m not so sure about that, but I guess he’s right that there’s no bleeding reason to worry about it. If it happens, it happens. Expending energy and thought on future horrors doesn’t do me any good. I can’t solve anything. Can’t do anything to change it. I’m just caught up in the machinery, hooked on a cog that’s spinning around, so I spin with it.

I hate waiting.

Saturday found me just too ill and too bummed to get the script out to anybody. Every time I looked at my list I lost my confidence. No one cares, no one will do it, no one will bother. Very negative (thus, the Downton Abbey). By Sunday my mind hand’t changed much, but I felt a little stronger and was able to work through it. Pick a place from my list, prep it, send it out. Hit that damn button, woman. SEND. The new theatre had an automated response to my email, saying they received the script. Hey! That’s one up from the rest; at least I know my new email works because the message came through.

Was gonna pull back on my smoking today and head out for needed blood tests. Then I saw 45’s face, no messages from my friends, and my will kind of petered out. Just don’t know why I should keep trying some days. Seems like nothing I do makes a difference. So I lit up one, which has led to another, and now I’m just bleeding smoking. Fuck it. Tell me again how my activity is so horrible when we’ve blown up 2000 atomic bombs on this planet. Tell me again how the plastic in our food, the additives, the chemicals in our air and water don’t matter, but it’s my smoking that will kill me.

Fucking liars.

Woke up hating my sister. I always figure I’ve dreamt about her when I wake up like that. Some nightmare, or just a revival of some memory that really was a nightmare for me. Takes a lot of daylight to conquer those nighttime horrors. To let go of the desire to skin her alive. My mind is not inventive with torture ideas, but it is very cruel. I want her to hurt. I want her alive so she can continue to feel pain. It is the basest, cruelest part of me screaming out – and it is also the part of me that is in the most pain. I recognize that. So I did a little chorus of ‘Ding Dong, The Witch is Dead’ – the song I plan to sing when I receive news that my sister is, finally, dead – and pretended she’d already bit the dust. Had a little spark of pure joy at the thought. I know that’s very horrible of me. My own judgement condemns me: I am bad for feeling that way. But if I am to make sense of things, if I am to overcome this base ugliness that sits so constantly in the pit of my stomach, I must confess to all. A part of me looked forward to my mother’s death. Felt very guilty over that for a long, long time. Likewise, a part of me looks forward to my sister’s death. In this, I feel no guilt. She has always been guilty, always been horrible, always been the worst of everything a human being can be. I understand – at least a little bit – that her reaction stems from the same place mine does: my mother’s narcissism. Once in a while I get flashes of understanding from my sister’s viewpoint. I see things through her eyes: the favoritism our mother exhibited, the verbal bashing. I wonder if my sister suffered the kind of neglect and abuse I went through. My mind tells me it’s probable. More than probable. And I begin to see how she may have fixated on me as someone to hate, someone to be jealous of, someone to continually rip down, use and abuse, as a reaction to her own pain. I see all of that in her, because I see all of it in me.

Understanding does not bring forgiveness, though. I’ve never seen her try to change. Perhaps that’s sad; in fact, I feel it so, at this moment. She’ll never get it. She can’t; it’s beyond her way of thinking. At best, I pity her. At worst, I want her suffering. I suppose that’s a step up from only wanting her dead or in pain.

Not a very big step up, though.

Been sketching out scenes for new scripts. Forget actual writing; I can’t call it that. I won’t allow myself to fall into that trance. Too much to do. But I’m allowing little bits to come out, scene roughs. I figure if I do what I did last time, I can take all my little bits and mush them into something when I get another break. Not sure what’s going to take shape yet. I’m not restricting myself. Last time, I wrote specifically for the local group – small cast, small budget, small scenes. I’ve taken those blinders off. Not worrying about HOW something might be done. Here it is; you figure it out.

After all, what have I got to lose?

Authoress Theatricus

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Four days, non-stop (other than my brother yelling at me to pause for silly things like meals and sleep). The script is finished and I am thrilled. Thrilled to be done, thrilled to have finished at all, thrilled to hope there may be some real funny jokes in the script…thrilled. Did a little victory song and dance yesterday after I wrote the last ‘curtain down’. The world of spell check and formatting comes later, but at the moment, the bulk of the work is done.

Now what the hell do I do?

That’s a joke, of course. I’ve got four days of piled up stuff to do. More, if I care to be honest about how lazy I’ve become. But I’ve been walking around with “that burnt out stare” (according to my bro) that I get after an intensive writing spree. Watch one of the movies you recorded! Don’t you dare turn your computer back on! I had to get up a wee bit early so I didn’t catch hell just blogging this morning.

My bro even topped up the card we use online. He handed it to me yesterday afternoon with a slip of paper. “See? Over a hundred euro all ready. You’ve got fifty for games.” I never spend that much on games, I scoffed. “I know. Break the habit and spend it. Just take a few days from your writing.” – Now, that’s the act of a desperate man!

I like writing the way I do. It’s become something of a ritual with me. When I finally fall into that groove, I don’t want anything to stop me. Not my brother, nor tv, meals, sleep, or any other interruption. I really should have a cage to go sit in. A dark cage with just my desk and computer sitting in it and a plaque on the front saying:

Authoress Theatricus: a rare species of female writer. The Authoress Theatricus enjoys solitude, and working under the cover of darkness. Although she may look warm and fuzzy, the Authoress is extremely dangerous. Do not approach the cage; do not hit the bars of the cage to catch the Authoress’ attention. This animal is known to attack swiftly and violently without provocation.

Growl!

Right now I need the zookeeper to hose down my cage. Part of that ‘no interruptions’ stuff includes not showering or even changing my underwear. I don’t want to wash the story off my back! Sounds silly, I know, but I have this strange feeling that when I write, I sweat out the story. That sweat becomes part of the story, part of the setting, and when I’m really in the groove I don’t want anything to throw me.

Including my own stink, or lack thereof.

This morning I’ll get the sweat and oils burned off my body in a chlorine pool (don’t gross out; I’ll shower before jumping in). I might just float on my back, grinning, the whole time. I did it. It’s done. I still feel all giddy thinking those thoughts.

My characters threw me curves right up to the curtain close. My brain fished out a divorce horror story from long ago, and I threw echoes of it into the script via the eldest son and his wife. I had this foggy idea of how the play was supposed to end, but no real idea how to get myself there. But, trust to my subconscious! Even when I don’t listen to myself, it does. It heard and remembered my words about using the script to heal my family in a manner I’m unable to do in real life. And this came out:

I know, Mom. But that’s not a life. And I want a life! It would sure be a lot easier to go and get one if I felt you supported me.

That stopped me and made me think. Brought a tear to my eye, too. From there, the rest fell into place: the denials, the jokes, the confessions – everything.  The real parts of my life are utterly real in this thing. Almost too real, in some aspects. But as my fingers beat down closer and closer to the word count I was shooting for, I wrote what never happened in real life: a change in behavior. A healing, a coming together in support of each other like my family was never capable of.

As the last lines were written and the final running gag punchline typed in, I felt a release. An acceptance. The buzz of irritation and anger I felt around the word ‘family’ melted away.

I didn’t look for this. I didn’t expect it. But I’ve healed myself, at least a little bit. The understanding I needed as a writer to create these characters, with all their foibles and irritating behaviors, got welded into my mind. I wrote what I thought was behind it all: my mother’s narcissism, my father’s bellowing, my brother’s drinking and cheating, my sister’s shallow callousness. The characters were called out, brought up short, and given a good slap in the face metaphorically to wake them up. And I find, today, in my heart, more understanding and forgiveness for my family than I’ve felt in many years.

With the final curtain down stage direction written, the heavy fog surrounding Rotterdam lifted. Quite literally; I opened the curtains to weak sunshine, which grew and strengthened into the nicest day we’ve had since I fell into this trance. Can’t help but feel that’s a sign, or at least a reflection of this brilliantly glowing light inside me.

I done good.

Today, I pick up my old life. The one before the time portal opened and I fell down the rabbit’s hole. It feels strange to face a day of swimming and…and nothing. No plans to write, no need to dream up any more dialogue. I should turn my brain to Dutch again. Get back to the gym later this week for exercise.

Time to draw the curtain down around the cage; this exhibit’s closed for the time being.

Catching Ghosts

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Act 2 is done.

I gotta say, it’s great working on a script. You get to the end of the act and you type ‘curtain down’. Boom. End. Finito. Real closure. I took the time to read what I’ve got so far. Found plenty of typos, and I’m sure I’ve got some stage direction errors to work out, but I was well pleased to find my stop and start writing style didn’t show in the reading: it flowed, flowed well, and made me laugh. I’ve also found it dead easy to hit the mark on suggested word count; this morning it stands at just over 12,000 words. My quick read through revealed something else to me, too. I saw where lines could be cut to make time and where lines could be inserted to stretch time. Always before, a story was a story to me – couldn’t tell it any other way but the way I laid it out. Not so for the script. It’s alive. The setting and characters have achieved self awareness, and know what their jobs are: entertain, be funny, and underneath it all talk about the art of communication. Earlier, the characters ran away with the narrative, pulling some unexpected stunts that helped show me who they really are. Now, they are cooperative, willing to take back long rants in order to keep to tale we’ve all agreed we’re telling. Characters I imagined as flat and unsympathetic have shown me other sides, fleshing themselves out and making me like them despite my preset conceptions about them. No one is ‘the bad guy’. No one is without a moral compass or a sense of compassion. Even the oldest son’s wife, who I designed to be a bitch and say the nastiest things my memory holds, has shown another side to herself.

It’s a revelation. While I think I’d like, someday, to write an archetypal script with strict adherence to one main characteristic per character, it’s not today and it’s not this script. No. This script has shown me – me, personally – that if I write deep enough I can find understanding and empathy for anyone. Even my family, because that’s what I began with. They’re skewed, naturally. I’ve turned the mother into a woman who repeatedly talks about babies. That is a trait my mother held; she loved babies (not so much children). But I’ve blown it out of the water for the sake of humor, taken comments that I remember a sting in and made them laughable. Good therapy. The father is much as my father was: irascible, roaring goddamns at this and that every other minute, and as funny as I remember my dad could be. The oldest son is as wishy-washy as my oldest brother is, right down to looking at the mother helplessly anytime there’s a hint of housework to be done. Not sure what I’ll end up doing with the daughter. I think she’s still got a surprise in store for me; I can feel her highjacking her storyline and wrenching it into another direction. The youngest son, the depressed one, has been as fun to write as I imagined him. Yes, he’s depressed. Doesn’t mean he doesn’t laugh and joke once in a while. After all, everyone is quick to point out my own depression even when I’m cracking wise, and since he’s my dark side he does that, too.

I AM stuck on the poem for the father. That’s the youngest son’s gift. For narrative’s sake, I just breezed past it. Right now there’s just the stage direction ‘reads poem’. The poem might bother me more than the rest of the script. I don’t want it to be shit. And I need it to be original. So I’m waiting on myself to write it. If I really pull a blank I can use an older piece of work, but I’m hoping to get into the proper frame of mind and churn out a stanza I can use.

That may end up being the last piece of the puzzle, and a tough one to do.

Since the tumbleweeds of silence continue to roll through my inbox and I’ve heard nadda from the theatre group, I think I’ll end up printing a copy of my rough draft and using some dolls to do the walk through. At least it’ll be visual for me. Pretty sure I’ve misplaced a few people, or not said who’s sitting, standing, or doing whatever while the scene plays out. Using visual aids will help me quickly see what I’ve done wrong. And since I really don’t know if I can trust the group to even be interested in what I’m doing, I want to make it as bullet-proof as possible before sending it out into the world.

Fly, my pretty!

Naturally, I’m having a hard time reigning my thoughts in. Immediately my brain envisions rave reviews and interest in more work. And you know, considering the piles of rejections I’ve actually experienced, in some ways it’s wonderful of my head to immediately imagine the absolute best reaction from the world. It tells me I believe in myself to some extent. The ghost of my mother (always present in a corner of my brain, no matter how often I evict her) whispers I should expect to hear no thanks, we’re not interested, better luck in the future, and all that pat language that rejection comes wrapped up in. We are at odds, the ghost of my mother and I. Always have been. So I fly and she tugs on my string. I am not happy being caught and caged, and she is not happy fighting me to stay put.

At least on paper I can resolve it. Put it to rest with a laugh and a little tug at your heartstrings. I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again. I’m very, very grateful for that.

Outside my window, a wall of white sits waiting, expectant, like a cat sitting before a mouse hole. Ghosts float by.

Time to capture a few on paper.

Everyone

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My annoyance level was maxed out this morning in the swimming pool. Most days I manage to let all the not-drowners just do their thing. Sure, I roll my eyes when they get in my way. But then I take a breath and shoot past them, my head in the water. Today was a little different. Today I had a Klingon. A purposeful Klingon. A Klingon whose whole thing was to get in my lane – repeatedly, even after moving over 5 feet to another lane. I finally blew up and made my opinion clear to anyone within ear shot. Goddamn idiots. What the fuck? I get ONE shot a week at the pool. One. Is it so fucking surprising that I feel the need to swim in the swimming pool? And is it so fucking surprising I get annoyed when every time I turn around there’s someone in my way? It’s a big pool. You’ve got to WORK to continually be in my way. That’s more than just being a moron. That’s being an asshole.

And no, I could give a shit that this particular asshole was a pregnant woman. Pregnancy doesn’t give you the right to be a cunt or a dick or an ass or whatever the hell else you want to call fuckers who do things just to annoy other people.

Been thinking about my upcoming birthday. I have the luxury of claiming two days for my birthday now; I was born in the states at 6:55 p.m. and with the time change it’s the next morning here when it’s my exact birth time at my birth place. Hey – any excuse to make growing another year older a celebration. I’m far from thrilled with the lines and wrinkles on my face or my flabby upper arms (yeesh! flabby no matter WHAT I do). Wishing now I still had an older woman in my life. My mother, or an aunt. Someone. Someone who’s been through this. Someone who could help me a bit. ‘Cause I don’t know how to do it. Don’t know how to grow old. Especially if you tag on ‘with dignity’. Grow old with dignity. What the hell does that mean, anyway? I have no idea, other than it comes with assumption to ‘act one’s age’ – another concept I have a hard time grasping. I’ve always just been. When I was young, I was told I had an old soul. Now that I’m old(er), I’m told I have a young soul. Seems to me to be another smoking type of situation. Tell a new doctor I smoke three times a day and I hear how awful smoking is and I need to stop now. Tell a older doctor who’s familiar with me that I smoke three times a day and I hear how great I’m doing at cutting down.

Judgement. That’s all it is. Judgement. And it comes from outside.

Oh, I’ve heard all that crap about you’re only as old as you feel. Well, with my RA some days I feel 150. Does that make me that old? Of course not. And does feeling like a teenager make me a teenager? No; that much is obvious from the side long looks I feel on me when I let myself get a bit ditzy.

No, my confusion over my age is coming from outside. It stems from the assumption that I’m physically capable of doing more than I can coupled with the derogatory glances I get if I goof off. People have me pegged as this or that. Young or old, depending on their judgement. Not mine! Theirs.

Case in point: Like it or not (and I don’t), I’ve been mulling over all that’s been said about my script attempt. One statement has come up for me over and over and got me wondering. It’s not what I expected from you. After such a brief time with these people, to have such strong assumptions about who or what I am that someone would actually say THAT to me just blows me away. Really? In those dozen or so hours that I’ve spent in your company, you think you’ve got me pegged? You think you’ve seen every side of me? You think I’ve even begun to show you all of myself? Such a laugh! I carefully selected everything I presented to the group. What I wore. How I acted with them. What I said. I would not say I was relaxed. I was not tense, either. Alert. That’s the word. I was alert to many things. Social interaction. Theatrical egos. Competitiveness. The dynamics of the group. The dynamics of how the group broke into smaller groups. I felt I handled myself well: I interacted with them without becoming emotionally invested. When I heard a nasty comment, I didn’t react with anger. I acknowledged the truth in the words AND the, shall we say, language the comment was couched in with a smile and no overt judgement. Just friendly openness. Yes, openness. Acceptance. Acceptance of the limitations I saw and the competitiveness I witnessed. Acceptance, even, of the egos. Mr. Bitch does tend to be catty. Yet he’s a decent actor, and I’m very ready to admit to that. The one director needs to be firmer with his directing, but I understand he also wrote the piece he directed – and that was probably his mistake. Too emotionally invested. One actor was terribly wooden. Yet I’ve even imagined a character just for him, drawing on the strength of his woodenness rather than asking him to do something beyond his capabilities. I don’t want to turn any of these people away. In my last post, I claimed to be a fluid piece of artwork creating and remaking myself simultaneously. That’s what we all are. Even the pain in my ass pregnant woman this morning in the pool falls into that category.

And I think that maybe, just maybe, I’m beginning to see that. In everyone.

 

In Twilight

This is a tale of magic and mystery. Of how so little can go so far. Most of all, it’s a tale of a bad day turned good. And all of it is true.

Yesterday’s blogging got me through those lonely early morning hours before my brother woke up. I did my duty and verbalized the fact I wasn’t doing well. In response I received assurances that it was okay for me to buy a new computer game online to keep me occupied, or to go shopping, or to watch films – anything I needed.

By 11 a.m. everything was flat. I was tired of sitting at my computer, tired of doing nothing. My brother began the job of putting up some UV protection film on our window. Being a huge job, I did what I could. That consisted of “helping”: standing by, ready to hand him a tool or use my fingernails to get the plastic pulled away from the silvery sheets. A boring lackey job, but needed. As the glare was cut away, strip by strip, I marveled at how much light I could look into without squinting. How I could stand in the window, in the sun, yet not feel that burn on my skin. An hour and a half later and the western window was done. Just in time; the weather is set to turn unbearably hot in a last bid effort to give the city a bit of summer before autumn encroaches on us. I sat in that blue sun, that twilight, and contemplated my next move.

Being that I was up too early exhausted, I decided to give into it. Sleep, if I could. With the sunlight dimmed so much in the living room I thought I could just chill out to something on tv and nap out. What I chose to watch surprised me. Ten seconds in and I was already laughing. Whatever in me needed to rest did so as my eyes watched and my mouth smiled. When the film was over, I stood refreshed and ready to do something.

Refills on my prescription meds needed to be addressed. That meant a visit to the pharmacy, and a few challenges in the Dutch language. I checked my dictionary and made a few notes to help me remember what I needed to say.

…There’s something about the way I say I don’t speak Dutch well. Maybe I’m becoming recognized and known. Maybe I’m still not saying it quite right – or maybe I say it too well to be taken seriously. Whatever the reason, it raised a smile from the woman across the counter at the pharmacy. I asked her to speak slowly to me. Visits to the pharmacy aren’t too intimidating for me; I know what questions to expect from the personnel there. Yesterday I went further, enquiring as to whether I had refills for two meds I needed. The reply came out crystal clear: no, you don’t, you need to go to the doctor’s office and ask for a script at the front desk. I got that, I thought. Grinning, I left to walk the full 50 steps to the doctor’s office. Once again, my statement that I don’t speak Dutch well elicited a smile. I never resorted to English, not once. And FULL understanding came to me. Not partial, not enough to get by, but 100% complete I got every word you said understanding.

Out the door just flying because I understood. Before I even got to the road a woman stopped me and asked if I knew where a building was located. Most residential buildings have a name attached to them. She knew it was somewhere close, just not exactly where. Alas, I couldn’t help her – but my elation continued because once again I got everything she said and I was able to respond in Dutch. I don’t know; maybe it was my ear to ear grin from then on, but it seemed that every single person I passed had to speak to me, to greet me, to say something to me in Dutch. It was like I had a neon sign lit up over my head – she can understand you now.

Without meaning to, I walked for an hour. Just around. Grinning. Feeling like I made some big jump in the learning curve. Having real sentences and conversations begin to form in my head without having to think, think, think about the grammar format or the verb tense.

There’s an innate sense of memory when a language finally begins to click. For most of us, that happened in our native tongues when we were very little. Doing it as an adult with a foreign language brings back those feelings of childhood. The simple elation of understanding and being understood. It’s a very powerful high, let me tell you. I remembered instances of feeling really free; the first time I flew somewhere by myself, the first time I had coffee out solo in the big city. Yes, I too noticed that what came to mind were solo escapades. But that’s what I experienced: a very singular, very intimate expansion of my private world. Somehow all the individual words have added up and I can talk now. This has to be the way a child feels when she finally masters ‘bottle’ or ‘mamma’ or even ‘no’. Freedom, individualism, and complete and utter joy over being able to participate rather than simply observe what’s going on around her.

It hasn’t escaped my notice that my inner and outer worlds are in complete sync right now. As I expand my inner understanding my external understanding grows, too. A rare and beautiful moment in my life, that’s for sure.

I’m experiencing a cascade of consciousness. All, now, in twilight.