fenceless.jpgMy mind is filled with fences, varied in style, wrought iron and picket and hedge, standing resolute.  But these are only ever in my dreams.  In life I have no boundaries.  Bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses.  Ask me anything, for I wear my heart and my faith on my sleeve.  I used to believe that it was better to be outright about everything.  After all, I was born with one of those innocent faces.  Strangers tell me their secrets.  Friends hand me their woes.  It's nice to be needed.  But in reality, when I realize that the fairy tale I wanted to keep propped up as an example for the life I am building is, in fact, insubstantial at best... I wish I hadn't worked so hard to believe it.  I wish I had allowed myself some cynicism.  I wish that every once in a while, I'd lied.  Maybe if I had lied or cheated or stolen or killed or participated in some malicious behavior at the expense of someone I'd loved, maybe then the smallest infraction near me wouldn't feel like a betrayal.  Maybe I'd be called "level-headed" rather than "naively enthusiastic."  Is it too late to begin riding fence on the range of my mind?  And once the posts are pounded into the sod and the barbed wire is unrolled and pinned to the stakes, will I experience side effects in the rest of my life... as it happens with any true cure?  Drowsiness, nausea, mood swings, a lack of intensity in my laugh, a decreased sparkle in my eye.  Would that be worth it?  Or is it better to fling myself, optimistically, off life's cliff, smiling into the wind and expecting clouds to cushion my fall?  In dreams I can do that.  And friendship and love are magnified by such blatant, passionate acts of blind faith.  I cannot curb my desire to be the best friend, the best daughter, the best sister, the best wife I can be.  So, for the time being, I'll just suck it up, tend to the wounds of those around me, and prepare for my next frenzy of fencelessness.

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It ranks as one of my favorite places in the world.  Palo Alto's Stanford Theater has just unveiled its first program for 2008, and it's 10 weeks of Hitchcock!  One of the most recognized directors in the history of film making, Hitchcock set the gold standard for the industry, mastering the thriller/horror genre.  Each of his films comes with  his patented cameo appearance and the occasional MacGuffin.  Now, since everyone loves a little Hitch, and in keeping with my perpetual plugging of the golden age of Hollywood, I thought I'd throw a few more recommendations on the table:

h Notorious.jpgNotorious - Ingrid Bergman sizzles as a woman conflicted. After she is approached by her government and asked to spy on her Nazi friends for the good of mankind, Bergman must weigh her loyalty to her loved ones against her patriotism and, ultimately, her interest in her handler, the dark and dashing Cary Grant. Claude Rains (probably best known as Police Commissioner Louis in Casablanca) is the objective and he commands the audience in each of his scenes. (Tom's Cruise's Mission Impossible: 2 includes scenes which are very similar to those in Notorious, especially the scene at the racetrack.)

    Cameo: At the party in Claude Rains' mansion, drinking chapagne.

    MacGuffin: The Uranium which is being gathered to be transported.
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There is something about school children running through dead leaves, weaving circles between trees and each other.  So much growing and so much leaving things behind.  They have no idea how quickly it will be gone, this rush of every minute being new.  They are not tired.  They do not know how to look back.  The do not feel the necessity of clinging to these beautiful, extra-long seconds.  I want to tell them.

Listen up, I would say in my most authoritative tone.  Soon you will have choices to make.  Soon your hearts will be vulnerable to rejection.  Soon you will allow your dreams to be nudged and molded by the expectations of others.  So for the moment, stop!  Stop and glimpse your own unique perfection.  Memorize the sting of a scratch on your knee, the excitement of pain, when you think that's the most you'll ever possibly hurt.  Enjoy the pulsating hollow in your chest after you careen down a grassy hill and hang, wheezing over a bench at the bottom.  Stretch.  Splash.  Scream.  But never let a sound or an emotion escape you without first cupping its flawless face in your hands and planting a kiss on its forehead.  All of this splendor cannot last, and the worst part will be forsaking it.

They would stop their spinning long enough to look me in the face, pondering what this odd, tall creature, this adult, could possibly know about life.  But then someone would snort and someone would laugh and someone else would kick the first one in the shin.  Then the noise level would escalate and the undertow of curiosity and all that is carefree would suck them back out to that airy place, that heaven of simplicity which is all they know.

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spilled pearls patter on the floor
the broken strand which was once whole
trails from between her childish fingers
and the burn of shame crawls up her throat
fans out on her cheeks.

shall she drop on desperate knees
and flail her arms like one desperate and drowning
pulling the opalescent escapees into her lap
corralled to be restrung and hung
around her innocent neck?

or shall she instead
wait for the thrum of rolling beads to cease
kick the final bead or two beneath the couch
then pocket the thread and walk away
in search of something priceless to cherish?

this is circumstance
and choice and free will
dropped into the unwitting hands of a child
who only wants the pretty thing
as long as it is perfect and whole

she knows not her own power
to render that which was priceless
worthless
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sleeping beauty.jpgThe pounding bright, white light of my laptop screen screams at me: "Something! Anything!"

It mocks me: "Just write words. You remember words, right?"

It antagonizes me: "Someone else is out there right now, licking the envelope of their submittal to the publisher. And you're eating string cheese and watching House."

Laundry is piled in my living room, folded and sorted but still in stacks.  Dishes are accumulating in the sink and on the kitchen counters.  I've lost count of the used razors in my shower.

Oh, the shame.

It might be okay to slack off like this if I was actually producing something.  And for a while there at the very nascent part of the year, I was producing.  There was a story.  I'd struck oil, and the fountain was unimaginable.  Finally I had some meat to deal with.  Plot complexity and character profiles and inter-character politics and time lines.  Finally.

But not tonight.  What happened?
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Millet_Gleaners[1].jpgTonight, my grandmother is sleeping in a hospital bed in a retirement complex where she has lived for many years.  She barely knows the names and faces of her children.  Her memories have been scrambled so that she cannot tell yesterday from her wedding day.  And every once in a while she comes up with stories of imagined love affairs and visits from relatives and friends who have long since passed on.

My Grandma Dot is one of the most interesting and intelligent women I will ever know.  Tragically, all of her knowledge, that glittering vocabulary and sharp wit, are wrapped up inside a mind which only intermittently opens to the outside world. 

What if she has more to say?

I wonder where her stories are, now that the outlet is lost.  Or perhaps the outlet is there, but her stories are affected by her juxtaposition with reality, brought on by disease, and cannot be told.  But I know she has stories, thousands of them.  When we played cards or when I painted her toenails, she was always talking.  I knew about her jewelry and her trips to Europe and her childhood friends.  She shared about the way she met and married my grandfather, a man I never had the chance to meet.  She talked about college and Catholicism and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  Often I wondered how any one person could possibly earn the right to be so singularly fascinating.

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quixote.jpgHuman nature is puzzling.  I am no psychologist, though I am intrigued by the plausibility of drawing connections between current behavior and past events.  On occasion, I know that this habit of mine is nothing more than a defense mechanism.  Someone I know and care about screws up, and I can't help but try to explain it.  There must, must, must be a reason. 

Today I stand as an energetic, positive, responsible young adult.  I pull my weight in my marriage, my family and at work.  But there was a time when I was less mature.  More selfish.  More prone to narrow-sighted rage or judgment.  And, while my self-esteem has always been fairly high, there were those dark moments when I stared at my own reflection so long and so hard, I thought I could literally see my skin peeling back and exposing my true, gruesome, flawed self. 

To be fair, I was thirteen.  And one eye was bigger than another.  So, my bouts with the mirror were understandable. 

But how does an adult justify such immature behavior?

A couple of years ago I was wrestling with a question about my future.  I wanted to know that I was making the right decision by sticking with my job, working for my mom's corporate insurance brokerage, rather than pursuing a teaching credential or a masters degree in creative writing.  I stood, arms hanging heavy at my sides, surveying the painfully disjunct fork in my life's road. 

What way should I go?  Which was the road less travelled?  Which was paved with good intentions?  Where were the yellow bricks?

The worry made me sick.  As has happened only a handful of times in my short life, I became physically sick, unable to eat or sleep, losing hair, breaking out in hives.  Even breathing was difficult.  A friend suggested that I speak to a doctor.

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