Monday, February 23, 2015

Legacies, and Living Out Loud

Lately, I have been pondering the concept of Legacy.

Now, Merriam-Webster defines “Legacy” as

1.  a gift by will especially of money or other personal property :  bequest
2.  something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past

Given that I am currently about as broke as a joke, it’s safe to say that it’s not so much the first definition that is captivating my thoughts this evening. It’s #2 that is more of what I am focusing on… Specifically, a concept of Legacy that may already exist (but if not I TOTALLY claim it): our Internet Legacy. Ours, meaning on a microcosmic scale.

What the hell do I even mean by “Internet legacy” ? I suppose our “Online selves and lives, as defined through various social media tools and blogs.” There are our physical lives and selves, and then there our online selves. A separate identity, most often. Perhaps a reflection of only certain fragments. Perhaps only the edited version. But still, a version nonetheless. A record.

A legacy.

I’ve maintained an online version of myself—sometimes several—in a desultory fashion since the late summer of 2001. LiveJournal was my vehicle for expression for a decent bit of time, up until about 2006. Then I graduated and moved, and began blogging via wordpress and blogger, and MySpace and Facebook happened. And then YouTube and Twitter and Instagram and so on and so on and so on.

Looking back, I suppose my Internet legacy is like my real legacy—scattered, messy, unfocused. There have been a few reasons for this plaguing me throughout the years: first, a self-consciousness that I can’t quite shake; the feeling that my words are inconsequential, prosaic, and even pompous-sounding. Second, a fear that one day I might “live out loud” too much, say the wrong thing, and get myself into hot water at work or damage future job prospects. So to remedy the first, every now and then I would “transform” my online self by taking on a new blog platform or handle. (Incidentally, I’m totally old enough now to know that moving your digs doesn’t change your identity, but it also totally doesn’t stop me from trying.) To remedy the second, I have gone to convoluted and probably ineffective lengths to not specify where I work, to not disclose my last name, so on and so forth.  For a lot of reasons, I don’t think that works too well.

I find myself, once more, at a crossroads in my Online Life. (Perhaps, because I am at a crossroads in my Real Life as well?) I don’t want to abandon my Online Legacy—countless times I have found myself blessing Past Me for documenting what I thought was quotidian and boring nonsense—but at the same time, I do want to clean it up, transform it, get it focused and launched on the road that I want it to be on.

Maybe it means going back to basics—going back to where it all started.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Wine and Books

Another week passes, with the usual failures: no gym time, too much wine, not enough tasks accomplished. Another week of unseasonably warm weather. Another week of uncertainty, but hey--that's actually nothing new.

In my life, the only things that are certain are death, taxes, wine, and books. Guess which one I am focusing on today?

After a slow reading month in January, I am finally starting to pick up some speed with my books. Here's what's been on my radar this last week...from the top:

The Fever, by Meg Abbott: One of the great things about this book is that it's versatile--teens and adults both can read this. It touches on a lot of the usual teen issues of sex and drugs and cliques and crushes, but the reader sees things through the point of view of adults, too. It explores the story of several teenage girls who, one by one, begin exhibiting mysterious symptoms of an illness that no one can diagnose. Is it the icky murky lake on the outskirts of town, emitting toxic sludge? A reaction to the mass HPV vaccine? Or something witchy and sinister? It took me a little while to get into this, but once I did, it was a page-turner and a fascinating glimpse into current teen culture. 

Now, A. This was just fun, and B. I think it might qualify as fanfic. 

Texts from Circe and Agamemnon had me guffawing, but here's one of my personal favorites, from Little Women:

Beth: amy?
Amy: yes?
Beth: amy im dying tonight
Amy: oh beth
Amy: no
Beth: yes im definitely dying
Beth: oh its terrible how much im dying just now
Amy: but
Amy: what exactly are you dying of
Beth: this sewing's so very heavy
Amy: well
Amy: put it down
Beth: the window
Beth: it's so
Beth: so bright
Amy: the window is killing you?
Beth: it's so terribly full of glass
Amy: I see
Beth: theres just glass all over it
Beth: i just don't know how you stand it

Yes Please, by Amy Poehler
This book...It's been on my radar for a while now. And I'm trying to get a head start on some of Paper and Glam's book club selections. And these two things melded together in a happy coincidence, and so I am reading this. I haven't gotten too far into it, so can only say this: yes, Ms. Poehler has achieved (literally) fame and fortune, so what has she got to complain about? Well, guess what? She's Amy Poehler before she is AMY POEHLER, which means she struggles with the same things (divorce, not having done enough, fear of failure) that we do, but on a different level and with maybe more to lose. I know I am gonna like this book.

Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace
No progress. Enough said.

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder
This ain't yo mama's Laura Ingalls Wilder. Nonetheless, I've been on the waitlist for this book for months! It's the original memoir upon which the (much more fictionalized) Little House series is based. I'm sure it's not a surprise that many of the details of Ingalls Wilder's life were left out, and that a lot of the stuff in the books is "fiction based on fact." Still, the raw memoirs make for wonderful, cozy, inspiring reading, and are a celebration of the American spirit, the history of our country, and hearth and home. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

What I'm Reading Now...

Happy Hump Day! While it seems like most of the sane parts of the USA are enduring winter storms or at the least, chilly weather, I'm a little preoccupied with the insanely warm temps we're enduring here in Southern California. The high this week got up to about 87 degrees! I don't even want to THINK about what July and August are going to be like.

Heat not withstanding, I've had a reasonably productive week, and decided to give myself a night off--I scheduled a date with a bottle of wine and the Internet. Does that mean that technically, I am on a date with millions of people? Ugh.

Moving along to the good stuff...It's time to do a quick rundown on the books I'm currently working on...

(Starting from the bottom)

Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace
This is my single, true reading goal for the year. If I read nothing else, but finish this, I will be satisfied. Right now, I'm more or less on track--I'm on page 129. Because this is so huge, I think the plot(s?) are fairly dense, so it takes a while for things to happen. Either that, or it's like a more erudite, book-version of Seinfeld, "about nothing." And somehow, I don't think that's the case. A summary of what I know is going on: there's some sort of Canadian conspiracy. Some dude really wants to score some weed. A lot of stuff--but really, at the same time, not a lot--unfolds at the Tennis Academy. Quote that has stuck with me so far: "What you wish to sing of as a tragic love is an attachment not carefully chosen."
The Mime Order, by Samantha Shannon
The older I get, the more I have to acknowledge: series books--particularly sci-fi/fantasy, which usually involve world-building and a host of characters--are difficult for me to read, simply because a year at the least and usually much more lapse between the books. The Bone Season, Shannon's first in this series, was decent enough for me to check out The Mime Order, but so far, I'm A. Not riveted and B. A little forgetful of the characters and some of the more arcane details. And if you've forgotten the characters and their relationships that you are supposed to care about...well. Anyway, I'll give this 50 more pages before I give up.

#Girlboss, by Sophie Amoruso
So I'm a little behind with this was Paper and Glam's January Book Club choice, and I just didn't get "aroundtoit" until now. I'm reading it on my iPhone, and while it's relatively interesting, I don't find it particularly profound or substantive thus far. Definitely not Lean In caliber. I think it's probably geared more for ladies in their 20s, still trying to figure shit out.

Home Again: Essays and Memoirs From Indiana, edited by Tom Watson and Jim McGarrah 
As part of my promise to myself to read through my "Midwestern Library," I'm savoring this collection. And boy howdy, do I mean savoring it. Despite what one would be forgiven for thinking, I'm not TORTURING myself when I read these words, which celebrate Indiana and also honestly reveal her flaws. Rather, I am validating myself: most folks out here don't get what I love about Indiana, and so many times, I have found myself dangerously close to dismissing my love as idealized, focused on a dead past, quixotic...out here in the land of film star sightings and genuine Mexican food and perpetually sunny weather, it's easy to dismiss my love as at worst, a mental instability, or at best, the pathetic yearnings of a confused woman. But when I read things like... "Indiana is America hidden in plain sight. What we need to ask ourselves is why we are so inclined to look at a landscape with soil so rich and harvests so abundant and find it boring [...] there are rewards for those willing to take the time to stop and look, to pay attention rather than to demand sensation. The place requires a sort of Midwestern zen. The changing seasons, the quality of the light in late afternoon, the presence of wildflowers blooming impetuously in city yards--such pleasures we have in abundance" (David Hoppe) I know I'm not crazy, or ungrateful, or even pathetic. I'm just me. A Hoosier at heart and by history, if not by birth. And I'm not the only one of my kind.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Peering through the cracks...

Tonight, when making dinner, I had an intense moment of déjà vu.

Tired after my gym workout, and freshly showered, and more than a little hungry, I meandered into the kitchen, with the intent of frying up an egg and making a fruit smoothie. And before I could go about whipping up this sustenance, I was transported back to the last time I came from the gym and made such a meal.

Silently, contemplatively, I cracked an egg on the edge of the frying pan. Then I moved to the blender, and tossed in some fruit, some yogurt--before I could pour in some juice,  Mr. Melissa came up behind me and kissed my neck. 

Resentfully I shrugged him off.

"Don't you love me anymore?" he asked, as he sometimes did. Before, I would feel guilty. But not anymore. 

His words cracked my facade as easily as I had just cracked the egg now sizzling in the pan.
"You know what?" I said quietly, realizing, as I did, that I was Over It. Over Everything. " know what, Mr. Melissa? I know that you and _____ are having a thing. So don't try that 'don't you love me anymore' crap."

With those words, I cracked through the crust of civility, of half-truths and whole-lies and diplomatic acceptance and avoidance that has formed over my marriage in the last three years. I drilled through that crust and got to the truth, which was maybe a lot less ugly than I feared, and definitely more freeing.

I never got around to eating my egg that night.

Eventually, tiredly, I tossed it into the garbage, too wrung-out to even feel the slightest bit of hunger anymore. I hadn't planned to confront Mr. Melissa that night, but pretending and keeping quiet have never been strong points of mine, and it was twisting me up inside. But what was also keeping me up at night was a truth I hadn't expected to uncover: in accepting that my marriage would eventually end, I realized that I will be free to return home. And the thought of that elated me--it still does--beyond belief. That truth--or at least the possibility of it--left me weeping with joy more than a few times. In a few years, I am going to have the chance to move home, to Indiana or at least the Midwest.

It's sad to know that my marriage has failed. It's sad to know that this marriage--begun hastily, but with hope and love--is for the next one or three or five years being kept alive on the life support of kindness and friendship and history and cooperation and acceptance. But I've been around the block enough times to know that the fact that I am not more sad, or at all jealous or enraged or vengeful, indicates a lot about my own feelings, and the role that I have played in steering our marriage to this place.

All of this is sad. And the old born-again Christian me would be appalled by my blase attitude toward the institution of marriage, and the 29-year-old desperate not to be an old maid me would be appalled that I am eventually walking away from what I once couldn't wait to have. It's twelve kinds of fucked-up. This world that I built up--I cracked open almost impulsively last month.

But through the cracks shine some rays of hope.


Friday, January 16, 2015

Living Out Loud: January 15th Edition

  • It's almost midnight, and I am drinking vodka.
  • I am seriously contemplating divorce.
  • I'm not sure those two aren't related.
  • But then, I'm not sure that they are, either.
  • I don't feel as bad or ashamed about any of this as I should.
  • What I DO feel ashamed about: I've got a lot of reactionary instincts about all the terrorist things that have happened over the last two weeks. I know that outlawing Islam or bombing a region ISN'T the answer, but since I don't know what IS the answer, I don't speak up.
  • So far, my main goal this month has been "don't have a nervous breakdown." So far, so good, especially considering the divorce thing, and the Really Big Event at the Library this month.
  • At work this week, someone told me my desk looked like an episode of "Hoarders." I've never watched that show, but I'm pretty sure that's not a good thing.
  • Deeply discounted Yankee candles and Hello Kitty aviator hats are the bomb-diggety.

Monday, January 5, 2015

As per usual, I had a ton of things that I wanted to blog about over the last month. Christmas, of course, and our attempts here at Casa de Cricket to celebrate. My favorite songs-books-memories of 2014. My goals for 2015. Quite a few more, too. And there's a lot I'd like to be blogging about, right now. But tonight, as I sip some tea and listen to my beloved "dirge music", I just want to take a moment and imagine a few things that maybe aren't as beyond my grasp as I once thought them to be.
  • Icy cold winters, in which the denim of my always-too-tight jeans is inadequate protection against the frigid air. Worrying about the icy streets. Nights spent watching the streetlights reflecting against a cloudy sky as a winter storm approaches. February days spent wondering if the winter will ever end.
  • The magic of the first warm day of the year, with the breeze still just a little too cool, but no matter, because the sun is shining and it's totally worth taking a stroll to see the first bits of green peeping into the land
  •  The vivacity of spring when it really bursts forth in an intense, eyeball-ache-inducing variety of greens.
  •  Hazy summer dusks, shrouded in an almost mystical golden light
  •  The cloying humidity of a late-August night as a thunderstorm approaches, and the atmosphere becomes electrified, and a few fireflies silently glow, utterly indifferent to the potential havoc
  •  The relief of autumn, and the reminder of balance in nature. The gathering of days, the piles of leaves, the ability to actually wear sweaters during sweater weather.
  • A land filled with fields and forests and farmhouses and bungalows and miles upon miles of tract housing, and yes, a fair amount of urban blight
  •   A place in which people don't assume it's totally fine and normal to bring their gosh-darned dogs to every restaurant, department store, and public building in the state.
  • Living so much closer to my most favorite people in the world.
Nothing has changed in my life, externally, and nothing will change for a good long time yet. And there's the possibility that it won't ever change.

But internally, everything is shifting. And the most important change comes from within.