Spearmint Mr. F

The last 18 months have been a lot of trial and error. I’ve been thinking of the last several weeks as a series of little experiments, which my youngest sister called “spearmints” when she was four. She kept asking to go on her computer to do the spearmints, but I had no idea what she meant. Spearmints have hypotheses and conclusions, so maybe it’s not the right name to choose. Then again, names and labels don’t always define a thing, do they? (Feel free to quote Romeo and Juliet in your head right now. Lord knows I have this week.)

Mr. F, for instance.. Mr. Funke? Mentally Retarded Female? Frank, that guy Tobias met at the gym? (Don’t get the reference? Maybe we aren’t simpatico.)

A few weeks ago, I riffed on the idea of “falling – I could fail or I could fly; either way, I’ll be fine” as part of something – maybe a poem – I was playing with. I then started to list words that start with “F”… Maybe I was learning something. Maybe I was tapping into a wave.  It’s not a complete thing, nor does it have any order. Did I get the first F word you thought of?

foray
freeze
frown
flounder
falter
float
flinch
flail
flip
finish
fuck up
freelance
flood
fool myself
frolic
fumble
fantasize
franchise
find
frantic
free
foolish
fire
folly
flaw
fleeting
fiendish
fulfill
fertile
fear
feckless
feign
foster
fondue
fess up
frank
facsimile
forest
flesh
farewell
foible
fan
fantastic
fantasy
fawn
forte
flow
favor
fun
filling
fetal
famous
fickle
fake
fast
fondle
feel
fabulous
forbid
flock
fox
fairness
flank
fuse
fetch
filch
filthy
frothy
fault
forever
foam
fullness
fatal
flame
front
flake
fluid
fondness
fetid
facetious
forgo
fang
fair
first
fist
frosty
filibuster
funny
funky
flat
friend
fume
fecund
fat
fact
fling
fecal
flounce
finance
fiancé
facet
forage
fanny
fluff
fate
flop
fasten
finger
final
frail
fur
filter
future
fix
Film
Flick
Fulcrum
Furious
Funnel
Flannel
Fry
Feel
Foul
Foil
Fowl
Frame
Flare
File
Field
Fellow
Follow
Face
Food
Flu
Fringe
Fiasco
Feral
Fee
figure
flush
Feasible
Frightening
Family
flower
Far
Frustrate
Furlough
Furrow
Fallow
Fuel
Female
floor
fight
flexible
feisty
flimsy
feather
frenzy

It’s 158. Maybe I’ll do something with those numbers next. Except that I keep thinking of more F words, including formatting, which gets messed up every time I try to add another word. It’s not flawless (please start singing Beyonce your head. Or not… “I woke up like dis. I woke up like dis”)

Anyway, the experiment of not letting my past dictate my present, not using one person’s sins to punish others (or myself) is going alright. It’s nothing new to be in constant dialogue with myself, so  a comfort in knowing that’s a fixed point to hold on to when everything else is moving.

The experiment of relocating across the ocean is also going well, even though it’s hardly begun. I still don’t know my class schedule, and every time I turn around, there’s another step between me and getting a job. There are so many things to put in the “that would have been helpful to know a month ago” file. Some of it is probably on me, but some of it is clearly poor planning on behalf of the University and the Home Office. If it isn’t poor planning, it’s someone not realizing that other people like to know things more than two seconds in advance.

But one of the things I’ve lacked my whole life is patience, so I’m getting ample opportunity to learn it. I’m also getting plenty of reminders that I do not, nor should I, control very much around me. I wrote several pages on that theme this morning at the coffee shop. I think my therapist back in NYC would be proud of how far I’ve come where acceptance (including self-acceptance) is concerned.

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Rorschach Test

Civil engineering and urban planning are younger than most European cities, so that neat idea of a grid that I dearly love, especially after 13 years in NYC, is meaningless to me now. Though I’m more familiar with London than any other European city, I find myself getting all turned around, not unlike when I was in Dublin this summer. The program coordinator in Galway described the “urban plan” of that wonderful city as an “ink blot.” London being a million times bigger than Galway, it’s like a whole pot of ink spilled. Another way she described it was that someone would walk, turn, and decide to build a house, then another person would come along and do the same thing. Suffice to say, I’ll be exploring for a while. And Google maps with an unlimited data plan make me more confidence.

My new neighborhood is the busiest place I’ve ever lived, including the Columbia University campus and TriBeCa. I thought Astoria had a lot to offer, but I am spitting distance from anything I could ever want. Well, except a peanut butter banana protein yogurt smoothie, but there’s a reasonable approximation only 10 minutes away on foot. Movie theatre – check. French bistros – check. Indian food – check. All types of Asian food – check. Italian – check. MEXICAN – check (though I haven’t tested any of them for authenticity). Pubs – double check. Grocery stores – check. Drugstores – check. Farmers’ market – check. Banks – check. Coffee shops – check. Bakeries – check. Bus stops – check. Tube stop – check. Discos (yeah, I said DISCOS) – check. Hair and nail salons – check. Massage and facial spas – check. Clothing stores – check. Gyms – check. Post office – check. Bookstores – check. Everything really.

And a comedy club. Where James Acaster happened to be doing a show when I realized there was a comedy club. It was sold out, but I got in as a singleton who showed up to get on the waiting list when the place opened. (I call that city magic… it’s not just NYC!) If you aren’t familiar with James Acaster, be warned that he’s not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s quirky British humoUr, only moreso. Of course that means I love him. He’s a ginger too. The audience was maybe 60 people in a tiny room, very intimate. VERY funny. He’s working on his new show, entitled “Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999,” so he was using as guinea pigs. If I have my say, he will keep a bit about chat rooms circa 2000 when three teenage boys would gather around a family desktop and pretend to be a girl having cybersex with some old guy. Think of that scene in Closer when Clive Owen is catfishing Jude Law. I was almost in tears. Too real. Too funny. Check out his four-part stand-up series on Netflix: Repertoire.

I’ve had my first visitors too! Okay, so they aren’t here for me; it’s just a timing thing. A friend from church and camp is here with her mom and a friend, so I met them at Westminster Abbey for Friday evensong. Yep. On Thursday I was at a comedy club laughing about porn and on Friday I was at church. That’s just how I do. The service was about 45 minutes, no sermon, mostly music (as you might’ve guessed). It was peaceful and chalk full of tradition.

I’m here for a reason, right? Not just going to comedy clubs and church and meandering the winding streets. But school hasn’t started yet. The orientation events haven’t even started yet. I can’t officially register yet, which means I don’t have proof of my enrollment, which means I can’t open a bank account. It was a bit of a shock when I was jetlagged and trying to get myself sorted. I knew classes didn’t start until the last week of September, but I had it in my head that I would hit the ground running, looking for a job. But I don’t know my class schedule. And I don’t have a bank account. So I *could* apply for jobs, but I wouldn’t be able to tell an employer when I’m available or how to pay me. I get irrational and anxious about money, but I rode the wave of panic, reminding myself that I can pay tuition in installments and that I’ve paid my rent until April, so living a while longer without any income is actually okay. Once I really locked on to the idea, I’ve been going easy on myself and taking it as time to wander my neighborhood, get the lay of the land, look the right way to avoid oncoming traffic… y’know, the stuff you do when you move to a new country. It also gives me time to prepare to meet a shit ton of new people when classes do start. Oh, and do the “suggested reading prior to class”… yes. To read the books about reading research and research about reading. Definitely doing A TON of that. (At least I own all three books that were on the list. I have also cracked the spine on the shortest one to discover that it won’t be AS painful as it might sound.)

I’ve had out of context statements popping in and out of my head, like maybe the randomness wants to be a poem or a story or a manifesto, but it’s a bunch of tangled yarn at this point. It’s frustrating and kind of funny because the pieces are sometimes ridiculous enough to make me snort, but on their own, outside of my head, they make no sense. I might have just described ADD. What can you do?

BLACKOUT (week one)

At the Arts school where I began my career as a student teacher (and had you asked me ten years ago what I’d be doing now, I would have told you I’d be there still, maybe a homeowner, maybe married, maybe a mother, but definitely still there teaching my heart out and loving it even with all its snags and snarls… never ever would I have said, in the fall of 2008, that I’d be settling in to a flat in London in the fall of 2018 for a second masters program), when students missed class for performance rehearsals, we called it BLACKOUT.

You might also think of BLACKOUT drunks, but that’s not my style. I may not always remember everything as well as usual, but the times when I cannot tell you what happened or how I got somewhere aren’t in my repertoire. Passing out is another story, but we’re not talking about that today.

Then there’s BLACKOUT like the Summer of Sam, when the power grid goes down and everyone panics. I assume something far worse will happen when the satellites fall. I plan to be ready. Maybe.

Losing consciousness due to a head injury, mental illness, shock, and/or light-headedness is another kind of BLACKOUT. The times I’ve lost consciousness because of low blood pressure or the like were more like white outs though – things went hazy around the edges and then faded to white, not black. I did bang the ever-loving shit out of my head last Tuesday, the day I landed and was jet lagged and had only slept two hours on the plane, but it couldn’t have been that bad because I didn’t BLACKOUT… though I did have a headache for five days, and if I were bald, I’d be able to see the big bruise on my skull. Right where a headband would go. Maybe I should wear one of those ’80s ones that were padded. Or a helmet.

I suppose you could think of anesthesia as a BLACKOUT too. I. LOVE. BEING. ANESTHETHIZED. It’s magical to have my brain turn completely off. Anesthesia isn’t like sleep because I’ve never had any kind of dream while under anesthesia. It’s an amazing “off” switch – the only one I’ve found.

My lack of blogging may seem like a BLACKOUT to some who are eager to hear about the first week of my new life, but that’s not what I mean by BLACKOUT either.

BLACKOUT curtains, friends. BLACKOUT curtains.

My mind-blowing flat (thank you, Lor!) is on the American second floor (which is called the first floor here because what Americans call the first floor is called the ground floor… so many small differences add up. I may talk about the metric system at a later date) and is therefore entirely visible to people on street level, on the upper level of double decker buses, and the buildings across the street. The living room and both bedrooms have floor to ceiling Juliet balconies instead of windows, which is wonderful (it’s not quite notched up to “oh so charming” because I am not planting flowers in window boxes as I would kill anything before it could grow), but it also means sunlight and sight lines. The landlord fitted each room with a blackout blind, but lucky me, the one in my bedroom is broken and can’t be replaced for two to three weeks.

This was neither here nor there the first few nights I was here because I didn’t have a bed of my own. I was sleeping on an air mattress in my roommate’s room as she is local and hasn’t moved in yet. Now I have a real bed (though not the free bed I thought I’d have, but this week has been all about flexibility and spending money), I had to come up with a solution so that I wasn’t flashing everyone in north London when I change my clothes and the sun didn’t wake me as soon as it begins to rise. I’m happy to say I MacGyvered that shit! I used the box my bed came in and the box my dresser came in (oh Argos and IKEA, how I’ve come to lovehate you both) to cover the whole thing. Some light still gets through, but no one on the street, on a bus, or in the buildings across the way is getting a free show.

It isn’t quite BLACKOUT yet. My landlord ordered the replacement and asked the company to get it ASAP, but it’s still two weeks at the earliest. In the meantime, I have my ghetto fabulous box setup, and it makes me laugh.

Probably not the update you were expecting, but creating my space, ie my bedroom, is important, and having BLACKOUT ability is essential to my space. Anyone who has lived with me or who has visited my apartment knows that I like a dark, cold bedroom. I and a few others may have even called it my cave a time or two. It’s also important because it’s my home in a foreign land, so I want it to be comfortable and comforting.

And it’s getting there.

The status of the blinds and my solution are also good examples of how nearly everything has worked out this first week of attempting to settle in. I’ve had to be attentive, patient, and flexible. If I hadn’t already written about taking things one at a time, I would be doing so now.

One.

Thing.

At.

A.

Time.

And eventually BLACKOUT!

Tonight’s the night!

I’ve been re-watching Dexter lately… not because Christian Camargo (Rudy Cooper/Brian Moser/The Ice Truck Killer in season 1) looks like anyone. Just because, okay? So you have to hear the title of this entry in Dexter’s voice.

Now that we’re all on board…

I had things to say about shitty customer service, but the mood has passed.

I ate a number of feelings regarding submitting my resignation to the DOE, so who cares about them now that they’re in my fat cells? NOT ME! Full steam ahead. (That may be a Titanic reference. I’ll get back to you. In the meantime, let’s laugh about what I would say if I ever met Leonardo DiCaprio.)

I walked around DC, hitting the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Seeing the elephant encapsulated my childhood. It. Was. Trippy. It was one of many activities that reminded me how much I appreciate my mom’s decision to move us to NoVA. I know the choice was difficult and had a ton of ramifications for our family – and my dad’s future after my parents divorced – but I am grateful to have grown up here, grateful that both my parents are still here – mom less than a mile from the house she raised me and my brother in – and that I have it to come home to no matter where I roam or what other places also capture my heart.

Speaking of hearts, one of the people I met in Ireland met me for coffee after our program. We talked about the phenomenon of love at first sight. I’ve never been a big believer in the idea, mainly because I think love is a deeper emotion than can be determined by the eyes. That said, I’ve always felt like you could be drawn to a person for non-lust reasons before you know a ton about him/her. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking (and writing in my journal) about “the currents between people” to steal a phrase from watching The Alienist earlier this year. I think the people call it chemistry? I wrote a poem entitled “Chemistry” a while ago (I want to say maybe ten years now!)… I thought about digging it out to post here. It may even be on a flash drive somewhere, but all my writing was in one of the boxes that got soaked during my exit from NYC, and I haven’t brought myself to fully investigate if anything is unsalvageable. Glancing at it, everything looks okay. Maybe it’ll be a project if I’m here for Christmas. Anyway, chemistry or “the currents between people” and love at first sight and whatnot. Add to that a chicken and egg conundrum, and you have all the clarity of London fog.

The thing I wanted to write here today before I go to the airport is about God, which I know will be where some of you stop reading. My faith has been a big part of my life since I was very young. In recent years, it has been shaken and reformed, but it has never disappeared. As I set off on a new adventure that has elements of things I’ve wanted for sixteen years (living in London) and substantial risks (I resigned from a totally secure job!!!), I have been thinking about God’s plan for my life. How do we ever know? A friend posted a hilarious meme of a woman crushed by a road sign. The text read “I prayed for a sign from God.” It is NEVER that clear. There is ALWAYS massive uncertainty… which is why FAITH is different from KNOWLEDGE.

What I’ve decided is that the God I know – the God of love who created us in His image and sent His Son to know our suffering and die to save us from our sins (yes, that’s the God I grew up knowing. The God of the New Testament. The Christian God who is so grossly misused to hurt and marginalize people), does not want His children to be unhappy. He wants us to live our lives to the fullest because He created us for wonderful adventures. He doesn’t want us to hate ourselves and beat ourselves up for mistakes. He doesn’t want us to be uncomfortable in our own skin. He doesn’t want us to live unfulfilled, angry, resentful lives. He wants us to be joyful, whole, forgiving. He wants us to live in grace and mercy for ourselves and others.

Not to say that being depressed and anxious are sins or anything. Because I don’t think they are, and I don’t think God does either. I think that’s the influence of evil (or the devil if you’re so inclined). One of the things about Christianity that is precious to me is the idea that Jesus experienced all human emotions so that God knows exactly what we go through, hurts with us. He understands completely, and that is not what He wants for us.

Also, it’s not to say “anything goes” to make us happy. Obviously if hurting others makes you happy, I wouldn’t say that is God’s plan for you. I’d say the devil has a firm hold and you need to have a come to Jesus moment (in a Southern accent, and I’d mostly be joking because I’m not trying to convert anyone). OR this could all be me doing mental gymnastics to justify moving to London because I wasn’t strong enough to keep slogging away in the DOE.

But also, God is love!

So preachy, sorry. I’ve just been thinking about it a lot recently and needed to put it into the world.

Yeah. I started this entry talking about watching a serial killer drama and then gave a mini sermon. That’s just how I roll, holy or otherwise.

One Thing At A Time!

My dear friend’s son started kindergarten last week, and she got a questionnaire about him beforehand. One of the questions asked if her child could follow directions if they were given as a series of things to do. For example, “Put away the glue, then tie your shoes and check that your water bottle is full before we go outside.” My friend had to answer NO! Stated like that example, her son would likely do nothing; however, if the list is broken down and he gets directives one at a time, everything will (eventually) get done.

This one thing at a time method is not usually how I operate. I’m a planner even though my life taught me early on that planning is often a foolish, fruitless, and frustrating activity (OFTEN, not ALWAYS). Not having a plan, usually a point by point plan listed out so I can track my progress, is uncomfortable for me. Of course, this whole “time off” “gap year” “sabbatical” “hiatus” has been all about not having that kind of plan, facing a situation that terrified me in order to get away from a situation that was sucking me dry.

I tried to make plans during this time – big plans, little plans, day at a time plans. If you’ve kept up with the blog, you know that a lot of those plans didn’t come to fruition for various reasons. I learned a lot from that, lessons I’ve been learning for twenty years. I think I finally get it now.  I can have an idea of what I want, vague or specific, and I can have a strategy to get there, but I’m not in charge on a large scale. As I’ve previously mused, I’m not actually in charge of much at all. One of the takeaways from this lesson is that I have to go with whatever happens, even the things I may have planned for, because rarely does everything work out exactly as expected without hiccups.

This move to London is the perfect test to show me how much I’ve learned over the last year of being outside my comfort zone. I found out in mid-May that I had a seat in the program, but I already had a month-long study trip to Ireland scheduled. Since May 20th, E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G in my life has been

ONE

THING

AT

A

TIME

!

I have to constantly and intentionally slow myself down and prevent myself from the type of big-picture planning that is in my nature. I’ve also had to take it easy with the long lists I favor. The reality has been that I cannot tackle more than one thing at a time because the next action item is largely dependent on the outcome of the thing I’m working on. I’m also finding that if I even try to plan big, I get anxious and remember all the shifts in direction that have happened over the last year. It’s not that I’m afraid to make a concrete long-term plan; it’s that I finally feel like I’ve learned that doing so – at least doing so in a very specific way – will only result in what some people might call failure (but what I’ve learned to call flexibility).

Now, less than a week away from my one-way flight to London, I am still reminding myself to take it one thing at a time. It’s the only way I’ve gotten so much accomplished already, so I know it works even if it is against my nature. “Worry about today’s problems today and let tomorrow’s problems wait” :::breathe::: Okay, I can try to do that. So when I think of things like: will I have to get a new mobile phone? I stop myself and think, “is that something you need to know the answer to today? Or is making sure you have all the paperwork for the flat together for the realtor more important?” It’s about prioritizing without de-emphasizing the importance of other things. I don’t need to solve the cell phone problem immediately because I know my US-based plan will work in the UK as long as I’m willing to pay the extra charges. On the other hand, I can’t very well show up in London having paid rent for a flat without the paperwork to support my legal right to live there… that would be a disaster!

Another part of my brain says I should be able to solve both problems in a day – the cell phone and the flat – because I am capable of multitasking and holding a ton of information in my mind simultaneously. But I have a new attitude toward the concept of “should” and “supposed to.” Ready? Here goes: FUCK THAT! Who or what is prescribing this “should” and “supposed to?” I’m confident enough in my intelligence to know I CAN see the big picture and figure out the logistics to make it happen, but I’m also learning to love myself enough to know that I don’t always have to function at 115% (or even 100%), I can get everything done – and with a lot less anxiety – if I don’t try for optimal performance. That’s not to say I want to be mediocre, because I absolutely don’t. I hate people who only do the bare minimum. But I don’t have to push myself in a way that makes me feel bad about myself. Plus, the reality is that I have more to handle than two things, so it makes sense to prioritize and let the other things go until they are at the top of the list.

As mama says of any big task, “eat the elephant one bite at a time.” Less than a week until I go, and I’m taking care of stuff one thing at a time… do I need to go back to kindergarten?

Doing/Thinking (feeling?)

I’ve been home from Ireland for a month now. I’ve also been bouncing around the US. I’m getting re-acquainted with Dulles like I’ve never used another airport in my whole life. There’s something comforting about the familiarity.  NoVA is definitely one of my homes.

I’ve been quiet on the blog, but I’ve been writing a lot my journal (and on about eight pages of A4 paper). I’ve also accomplished a lot!

Filed my UK Visa application, got my UK Visa approved, picked up my UK Visa
Signed on a flat in Angel (neighborhood in London) and paid six months’ rent
Found out my leave for study application was denied so I have to resign from the DOE
Visited college friends and their beautiful daughters in North Carolina
Visited a high school friend and her circus in Texas
Had some bonding time with my bestie in NYC
Caught up with friends I’ve had for 30ish years
Put down my fur baby of twelve years

That last one I’m reeling from. I didn’t want to do it at all, but I didn’t have much choice. I have a ton of feelings about it too, all of which my beloved friend in Texas understands. And she and her adorable kids were a good salve to my sadness while I was there. I haven’t had a night without a guilt dream since putting him down though. I’m hoping that will fade with time. I also hope he’s happy in cat heaven with my childhood behemoth Igor. They probably have great stories to tell each other about me.

There’s a lot left to do. What I have done (all the stuff on top of losing my fur face) has left me with a lot of thoughts and feelings to sort through… because I didn’t have enough of that to do when I came back from Ireland.

Resignation is just the logical conclusion to everything that I’ve been feeling about working for the NYC DOE over the last few years. It’s shitty because I’m kind of being forced into it, but I can’t imagine going back to it and being happy. I have to figure out how to word the letter and what it means for my pension etc… more work than I really want to do for something that is in the rear view. I’ll talk myself into it later today I’m sure.

Seeing old friends, from whatever part of my life, is always great. It also always gives me a lot to think about – how I’ve changed, how I have stayed exactly the same, how much people and our shared experiences have woven themselves into how I act and react, how I view the world. It’s a lesson in how memory works too. The same events remembered in different ways for different reasons, the acceptance of growth and change, the desire to catch up and share new stories and laughs and hardships. I’ve never had a large group of friends who were all friends with each other, and I’ve had a lot of fair weather friends who disappeared the minute things stopped being fun, but I’ve been extremely blessed in the precious few people I’ve kept as true friends.

In seeing my old friends, I think about making new friends, meeting new people. My old friends know my quirks as a matter of course – whether it’s a fairly recent development like my need to eat dinner earlier in the evening or my lifelong habit of being painfully honest, whether it’s knowing without asking that they need to read a sign to me or telling me without me having to ask how many stairs there are to get to the bathroom… they know me and accept me. Meeting new people has been a challenge in the past because I haven’t always been comfortable with who I am, what I need. Sometimes I’d overcompensate for that fact and be extra (as the kids say) because I thought it would help somehow. Now I’m more settled with who I am – and I’m still extra – but it’s not a forced extra, it’s just “this is me, take me or leave me.”

When I was in Ireland, I met a lot of new people. Two of them were in my program and are also English teachers, and we went to dinner one night. We got to talking about dating, or more accurately hooking up. One is like me in that she isn’t great at the whole interacting with humans she finds attractive (we’re working on it!). The other is a free love homosexual.  In conversation, I brought up how I must miss some visual cues of the hook up/dating world because of my poor vision. In fact, two of the guys I tried to date (because let’s be real, I, like Angela Chase, cannot handle the boiler room… that is to say, I’m not so much designed for the hook up what with all my overthinking and piles of crazy) did what I would call a dive bomb kiss move that was totally out of nowhere. Both my colleagues agreed that there was likely something I missed – an eyebrow motion, a look, a lascivious lick of the lips (okay, he was joking when he did that) – whatever it was, I didn’t get it and was therefore surprised and unprepared (and in one of the cases unwilling) to engage in a makeout session. I explained to them that I thought a brush of the fingers against a cheek or a caress of the neck, perhaps just below the ear, or a tipping of the chin upward (and let’s be real with ourselves, for me it is upward that I’m into… to each their own though. If you like pocket men, by all means…) were called for. They agreed that would be nice, but guys don’t do such things.

Well, one did. And I have to say that I highly recommend the move. It should be part of your training, fellas. I’ve talked a bit with close friends, not just new friends, about this face-touching to prep for a kiss thing… one said, “No man does that. It’s just in the movies.” Another said, “oooooh I love it when they do that, but not many of them do it.” Another wanted to clarify, “not like a grab, right?” No. Not like a grab at all. Like a half-rhetorical question, a tenderness.  But it’s incendiary if you ask me. Matches to dry tinder.

Multiple Points of Inspiration

I mentioned that I wrote nearly every day I was in Ireland. I don’t know how a creative person can be in Ireland and NOT feel the urge to express something of the beauty that is all around you when there. Galway had some great little spots for writing. I miss them and the sunsets and the clouds…. all of which might be a poem at some point.

For now, I have one poem that has been bouncing around my brain for a long time – years probably – and a work in progress that may or may not be complete. They both have multiple inspirations.

The first one is inspired by one of the most dangerous questions you can ask someone… a question that Adam Lambert made into a chart-topping song.  (I’ve never watched the video, so apologies if it’s terrible.) Referenced in the poem itself is another source of inspiration: Paullina Simons’ The Bronze Horseman Trilogy. And really, if you haven’t read it, your life is not everything it could be. Then there’s a bit of that ballad to commitment phobia (I have lots of mixed feelings about this song) by country singer Sam Hunt. (The video for this one is almost as good at ruining the song as Tove Lo’s “Moments,” so consider yourself warned.)

“Q&A”
~LJD, July 29, 2018

“What do you want from me?”
Nothing.
     You’ve proved well enough you have nothing of value to offer me.

Nothing.
     You’ve shown me I’m not worth anything to you.

Nothing.
     If you can’t even give me your time, anything else you have to give isn’t what I want.

Everything.
     Like Shura, Heathcliff, all the others who want to become to very blood in your veins, the air you breath. I want every last piece of you for myself.
          Because I’m broken and you fix me.
          Because I feel like I’m not enough on my own.
          Because I’m giving you everything.

Everything.
     Lay it on me and let’s see if we’re strong enough for it if we face it together.

Everything.
     Everything like Nora and Torvald so we never really know what I want and what you’ll give.

You shouldn’t have to ask.
     Because we’re all conditioned to think intimacy is the same as mind reading.
     Because being passive aggressive feels powerful for a while.
     Because I don’t want to answer what I mean only to discover you have a different answer.

“What do you want from me?”
The same thing I hope you want from me.
     To know you.
          To share a even a fleeting moment
          of mutual reverence with you
          and know we are both present for it,
          recognize it
          cherish it.
               Only a moment;
                    not a lifetime.


The second one has been running around my head for less time, so it’s not done (I don’t think). I like pieces of it though. The movie Love Actually is obviously an inspiration, but even more so, the Jeff Buckley song “Lilac Wine.”

Work In Progress – no title yet
~LJD, July 29, 2018

A curious mind
     ever expanding
     exploring
     connecting
breaking barriers
finding similarities
feeling gratitude for differences

Three dimensions
     layers
          lenses through which to see
          to understand in another way

Is it enough to have come close?
To graft on to you
qualities that may not be real
because the faint pencil sketch
hinted at something like
love actually.

The outline was there to be filled in,
      clay to be molded.
Suggestions of shapes and colors to
      a winning personality.
Enough white bone to hold the muscle
I wanted
the flesh I dream into life.

Listening Skills (A Bit of Craic)

Craic is pronounced “crack” and means fun or joke or good time. So when someone says something was a bit of crack, it sounds weird to us Americans (as does the expression taking the piss), but it really means it was a good time.

Today wasn’t a bit of craic; it was a crash landing back to reality: paying final NYC bills, meeting with the money man (aka the financial planner) to assess my “progress” on retirement savings and immediate budget for the move to London, filling out visa paperwork, filing a leave extension with the DOE… all the stuff that I didn’t have to do while I was away. And it’s not that any of it is bad. It’s not. It’s all great stuff about what’s coming next. It’s just that my brain and heart and soul are still very much in Ireland.

So, I’ll use my steel trap memory and extraordinary listening skills to mellow out this evening. A good trip isn’t great until it has quotes to go with it, and the last four weeks in Ireland did not disappoint. Some of these are funny. Some are heartwarming. Some don’t make any sense, even with context. Some were said by the same person because a few people I met had personality to spare and the most amazing ridiculous things came out of their mouths.

“That is a wall” said an Irish man on Inishmore as he watched an Asian woman trying to ride a bike for the first time. Take a guess what she had just crashed into.

“Full matrix”

“The tide’s coming in, for God’s sake!” Michael “no stopping for lunch” Gibbons on Omey Island, where the tide coming in means getting stuck out there for the night.

“I know you’re legally blind, but I hope you can appreciate that ass.” Rest assured, I notice a good ass when one presents itself.

“Broadly” one lecturer said about 20 times in an hour-long class

“I suppose” another lecturer said over 25 times in a half hour.

“Convinced of his own genius, Yeats…” and just to prove he WAS a genius: “What can be explained is not poetry” ~ Yeats

“No question those boats have their own spirit. I don’t know how we’re going to scientifically prove it though.” Padraig about the hookers

“GO MATH!”

“How do I nicely tell her she’s a moron?”

“You just tell me if anyone was mean to you. I’ll have his privileges revoked. No Guinness and potatoes will set a man straight.” The security guy at the airport when I was leaving (lovely man!)

“That’s not how biology works.”

“He died” one lecturer said seven times in an hour-long class.

“I locked myself out. Again.”

“The WiFi is shit, but the maintenance crew is great.” A maintenance man (there’s a shock)

“And now the hat’s fallen off.” ~ Stan McHugh after trying to explain the Framework of Qualifications

“I think we’ll keep her.”

“Education is not something you DO TO someone; it’s something you facilitate. That’s why I call it a learning community [instead of a school]” ~ John, a primary school principal

“Right. There you are. You can’t miss you, can you?”

“Hands out of your pockets! If you fall, you’ll damage the site.” energizer bunny archaeologist and comedian Michael Gibbons

“The rock is very hard, which you’ll discover if you fall. But chemically, it’s soft.” Thanks, Gordon! Glad I didn’t fall on the Burren.

“Lord Byron’s daughter said computing is a poetical science, which makes perfect sense because there’s a kind of algorithm to poetry, isn’t there?” ~ Tony

“Oh yeah, the good looking professor talked about that.”
“We don’t know who you’re talking about. We hadn’t noticed anything.”

“Brian’s the worst. Ahhhhhh!”

“They can’t ALL be kings.” (possibly my life motto)

“How can I be passionate about what I teach if I’m not expert at it?” Seamus, a retired teacher and coach

“I’m well read.”
“What did you say?”
“I’m well read, have read a lot of…”
“No, I know what it means. I just wanted to confirm it’s what you said.”

Male: Do you like Jamie Dornan?
Female: Of course I like Jamie Dornan. Who DOESN’T like Jamie Dornan? YOU like Jamie Dornan.

“The bar’s not open yet” a man setting up for the arts festival to another worker. At 7:45 in the morning.

Last, but certainly not least, ALL off the following statements fell out of the mouth of one lecturer during an hour-long class about the Irish National Theatre. I may want to do a PhD with this guy because he’s brilliantly insane in the best way:
“Anyway, that’s just by the way” after a fifteen minute tangent
“Have you all kissed stone? It’s great kissing practice! hehe” (yeah, his laugh was like “hehehehe” crazy genius)
“Theatre is a place where you pay to be a voyeur.”
“Next you’ll be calling your monkey ‘ambassador.'”

I Blame Brian. He’s the Worst.

When in doubt, blame Brian. Brian is the worst. We all agree. Well, except maybe Brian. He might not know he’s the worst, but he is. Everyone thinks so. At least two of us, especially me. Brian and that shitty VH1 show from the early 2000s are the architects of my current self doubt. Okay, they aren’t alone in building the fortress. Also, my name is not Lisa.

If Kylemore Abbey was an image ripped from the depths of my soul (alternate titles for this entry are Irish author quotes – “A great image out of spiritus mundi” by Yeahs and “De profundis” by Wilde. Heeeeey did I learn Latin phrases or Irish phrases? “You sound like you’re from New Zealand! What did you just say?”) then the guy who chatted me up at Tigh Neachtain on Friday night was from the same place: the inner recesses of all the things I want, slightly jumbled.

Height. Hair. Hands. Eyes. Check. Check. Check. Check. Green. Grey. Blue. Check. Check. Check.

You know that episode of 30 Rock where Liz Lemon has given up on love (again)) and adopts a cat she names Emily Dickinson? “I can fit Emily Dickinson’s whole head in my mouth!” In good best friend style, Jenna takes Liz out to cheer her up. Liz ends up meeting a guy who likes the same drinks she likes, hates the same annoying things she hates, and basically makes her decide she’ll have another go at the whole romantic relationship thing, even if it’s not with that guy. She then has an elaborate theory that her friends have set it all up and hired a male prostitute (“a protestant prostitute?”) and coached him on what to do and say and order. Liz decides that it would have taken a lot of orchestrating on all her friends’ parts and that means they love her very much. The alternative is that the universe brought her a great guy to renew her faith. As the audience, we know what’s true, but Liz is once again a reluctant optimist by the end of the episode. It’s called “It’s Never Too Late For Now,” and you should watch it. And thank Tina.

Also, my friends who love me very much: TELL ME NOW if that guy was a prostitute. I know he isn’t Protestant. Unless you all paid him to say that too. Or don’t tell me and I’ll Liz Lemon that stride of pride. And thank Tina.

Now I’m back in Dublin. I’ve walked at least six miles every day I’ve been here (many days a whole lot more than that). I’ve written nearly every day, whether it was random thoughts or more artistic endeavors. I fell in love with County Galway. I met a ton of people, some of whom I would very much like to keep in my life. I reminded myself of what I’m like as a student – just in time for starting my second masters in September. I did a lot of day hiking that I wanted to do but wouldn’t have been able to do on my own. I worked on my ability to trust people and to accept myself. I may have even managed to lose weight, though the scale will tell me for sure once I’m home. I did lose inches despite my potato, whiskey, and Murphy’s ice cream consumption. It’s been a magical month.

Our last field trip included a morning in Coole Park, where Yeats did a lot of his writing under the patronage of Lady Gregory, a rich widow interested in carving out a uniquely Irish literary scene in the late nineteenth century. The house is gone, but the grounds are beautiful. I could have been inspired if we had more time there. I found the bench under a tree where I’d work. Our guide that day was no Michael Gibbons (I may talk about the inimitable Michael Gibbons on another occasion, but what you need to know for now is that he is an amazingly knowledgeable and energetic man in his sixties or even seventies who does not stop for lunch), but he did think I was a genius. In the film intro to Lady Gragory, the narrator began a sentence, “Convinced of his own genius, Yeats…” I didn’t hear the rest of the statement because I liked the phrase “convinced of his own genius” so much that I’ve decided to adopt and adapt it… “Convinced of my own genius, I typed on my laptop. Convinced of my own genius, I set my alarm. Convinced of my own genius, I took a shower.” You get the picture. Everything I do now will be preceded by the phrase, “Convinced of my own genius.” It’s pretty perfect because, as the guide pointed out and I already knew, Wilde was similarly convinced of his own genius. When asked at customs if he had anything to declare, he said, “only my genius.” So my confidence in my own intelligence is another Irish writer trait I share. HA If only I could keep company with the likes of Wilde and Yeats. Also, I need a Lady Gregory figure in my life!

Yeats was something of an elitist, so I know I would have tried to be his friend, sought his approval, and loved and hated every minute of it. Did you know he inspected schools while he was a senator? Peep “Among School Children” for another low-key boast about how he had “fine feathers once.” He isn’t wrong. He was a handsome man throughout his life, even into his older years.

Now I have to decide which of the at least twenty books that have been recommended to me while I was here I should download for my flight tomorrow.

 

 

My Kingdom for a Bathtub and Epsom Salts!

I love being a student in class again, which is good given that I’m going to be a full time student come September. Student living is another story. I don’t share a room, which is nice, but I do have a single bed, part of which is encroached upon by shelves. There aren’t full blackout curtains, which is slightly annoying with how late the sun sets and how early it rises. But the biggest problem is that there is no bathtub. I take a bath pretty much every day, whether or not I’m dirty. It’s just part of my night routine. It’s self care. It’s a cheap luxury. Soaking in a tub with Epsom salts has been a necessity with my exercise regime. It’s just one of those things I NEED.

Well, I haven’t had a bath in over two weeks, and I’m going a little insane about it.

If I don’t lose my mind completely, the bright side is that I have a “must have” on my list for flat shopping in London. That’s a big if. I am so desperate for a soothing soak that I’m looking at hotels that have spas or high-end rooms that have a separate tub and walk in shower. I’m about to call up some of the local B&Bs and ask if I can pay just to spend an afternoon in their tub, if they have one. I joked with group mates that I could get one of those little kiddie pools and fill it in my dorm room.

This afternoon I got a stupidly expensive pedicure because at least it meant I could soak me feet for a while. But that’s the hesitation of going to a hotel, B&B, or spa… I’ve already paid for the place where I’m staying, so my student-to-be budget keeps nagging me to be more conservative with my spending. My sanity might be worth it in the end.

After my pedicure, I took a walk northward and found a spot along the River Corrib to do some writing. I also sang, which is usually something I do during my nightly baths. There are a few threads to what I wrote today that aren’t connected and are largely unfinished, but I like where some of the ideas are going. Maybe you do too.


“Eyre Square”
~LJD July 9, 2018

Heart in throat,
Echoes of you that I don’t want
Because they aren’t enough;
They’re too much.
No one at fault –
The world turns,
          We collide.
The world continues,
          We separate.
Nothing more, nothing less…
Though I feel like there was
          Something
                    Unexpressed.


As yet untitled… maybe “Foreign Language”???
~LJD July 9, 2018

Abstract and concrete
it’s all in how you think.
The theoretical and the practical
have to work together.

Speak in terms I can understand.
Academia is a foreign language.
No one’s mother tongue,
though some become fluent
and forget their roots.
We were all simple once.
Might we transcend to simplicity again?

Secrets of the way I work,
the labyrinth of my mind.
You can’t know,
but you must trust.

Collaboration demands first
that people can communicate.
Assumption never helps,
no matter how innocent and logical.
But we get through,
we achieve or fail,
and either way
we learn.