writing to survive
. . . only the retelling counts

The double truth, Ruth

I wish I could write exactly what was on my mind, could give you a piece of it, a chunk, a thin cross-section, just to get these thoughts out of my head. Instead, I spent much of yesterday distracting myself by intellectualizing my anxiety via the slow condensation of a chatty, psychology-themed post into something so tightly-knit it rippled with tension. That post, four hours worth of literary throat-clearing (the guttural trills! the hems and haws!), was here, but now it’s gone, deleted with a bunch of other ephemera, posts both airy and airless, thoughts I once needed to get the hell out of my skull and onto the blog. They were of the moment, items with a short-term shelf life.

There’s just so much damn
stuff here. Six years worth of posts, an average of three a week. It’s relentless. I’m relentless. So I weed them out and weed them out again. I’m sure this one will be in my greasy hands in about six months or so, yanked out of existence, ruthlessly plucked from its electronic life. Read it while you can!

Yes. I am back in school mode. Stress and structure and things to complain about, but nothing I can mention in public.

But I will tell you this: I know now where the danger lies: within me and the distance between us. Get any closer and I’ll burst into flame.
It’s better this way, I tell myself as I sink into the pillow. So much better this way.

And that’s as close as I will get to the truth in words.


I feel like a curmudgeon. Perhaps I am a curmudgeon. A quick search of Google images, however, appears to indicate that a middle-aged woman is an unlikely candidate for curmudgeon. Older man as curmudgeon? Yes. Older woman? To some extent. Cat? Depends on the (sour)puss. But woman at the mid-point in life (if the end point is 88+)? She doesn’t fit the mold.

If the mold is based on a stereotypical idea about judgmental old folks, I don’t want to fit it. Curmudgeon becomes shorthand for bitter elderly (wo)man. It’s not the fact of being older that is the issue, it is the assumptions many people make, that somehow older folks have hardened and brittled over time, are constantly clucking their wizened tongues and making judgments about kids today and how the world has changed while they’ve stood still. This is a mold that deserves to be broken.

In most cases, I avoid fitting neatly into a category. Who wants to be poured into place? My abundance cannot be contained. But sometimes I want a tribe, my people, a group of all ages, not always looking on the bright side, the ones who cultivate their shadow selves, who exist in the dappled light of the forest, where things are not always as they seem, and the rock that might trip you up hides in the shade.

I am fine with this darkness, with this ambiguity. But I weary of being the lone voice, the one who names what is often nameless.

Image from Books by Caroline Miller.

Nothing from nothing

The prompt? Dripping. I’ve got nothing here. Nothing. Do I enter the world of plumbing, or provide the sensual, blurred image of a body emerging from the shower, the droplets gathering on the tile floor, the towel waiting to gently buff the skin? Should I get sarcastic and just let her drip? I am noncommittal. Nothing to see here. The thin layer of tension on the surface keeps me from slipping my big toe into something. I float along on nothing.

I am burned out. Or not particularly inspired. To plunge past my reluctance requires an emotional commitment, and I am saving myself for marriage, for the one that I love, the one who won’t leave me behind. I avoid avoidance, worrying over the equation that somehow works though nothing equals nothing else.

In the fight between being and nothingness, nothingness is definitely winning out here. WWSD?
What would Sartre do? Well, I suppose he would say that in the face of nothingness and our own eventual extinction, we must create meaning or else risk being pulled into the abyss. You can’t live off of nothing. You can’t live in nothing. Surely I’ve got something going on.

Defining myself by my family is derivative. Defining myself by my work is confusing. Is it the writing? Well, that’s paltry. Is it the graduate program? That might be the totally wrong path, though I keep at it. So I’m struggling with it right now. You’ve got my moment as my moment exists. I guess you would call this authenticity. I’ve got
that covered. For now.

So I listen to Billy Preston and forget all this philosophical BS.

From the prompt “Dripping.”

Image from
Pleasure Photo.

The history of things

I bought the rug after my divorce, something to put under one of my marital spoils, an antique British dining table from a shop on 18th Street in Adams Morgan. An Indian man with a pale, puffy wife and a couple of kids owned the shop, the table a find my first husband and I snagged during our initial months in the District after moving back from Ohio. The rug was an Ikea purchase, something bright, but not too so, and relatively cheap. Seventeen years later, frayed and stained, it remains under that table in the room adjacent to the office where I write.

My second husband and I bought an antique French armoire at the same place, shortly after we moved into an apartment a couple of blocks away. The armoire, designed to be broken down for easy storage and shipment, is now in pieces under the guest room bed. I have an urge to set it up, to re-oil its cracked, patterned surface and let it spread its lovely walnut veneer wings and fly again. But the thing is designed for grand spaces. It is out of proportion to our 1914 renovated Berkeley bungalow, much more attuned to the apartment on Wyoming, and the large living room with high ceiling and tiled fireplace. The four-story building was built only a few years before our current house was constructed, but in the idiom of a Washington, DC townhouse, big, wide, and urban.

Three cats have died since I bought those pieces, and a dog, too. A child arrived, and new cats, and a dog that is not so new now and has a heart murmur. The antique shop closed up some time after we moved to Wyoming Avenue. It was open less and less frequently, and when it was, the pale, puffy wife was absent. Phantom children had left their handprints in the dust, their footprints in miniature on the concrete floor. We would stop by, anonymous, forgettable, and as the man from India talked antiques, he would swipe his hand over his hair distractedly, like something was missing, some part of himself incomplete.

From the prompt “The rug.”

Image by me.
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