architect

I want to write.

I’m terrified.

Even my sister, who’s never read a word, told me that I need to get over my fears and do it, edit, send it off to people.

I’ve sent it off to people.

Every time I look at my novel I feel both better and worse. I touch up a few things, take out a word here, add a word there, make a few more connections from here to there. It’s like weaving a hammock, and every little knot makes it more structurally sound.

And now that I can lay in it, I’ve taken to weaving in flowers. Dying the rope. Making it pretty, not just serviceable. And I’m happy.

And I’m locked.

My stomach has been churning at top speed. My fingernails have been bitten away to shards. I’m breaking out in welts.

I need to get this book out.

It’s not ready.

That’s the thing, it’s not ready. It’s not good enough. I’ve been writing since I was in second grade and I’ve been writing books since I was twelve and this is my tenth year writing novels, my eighth novel, and it’s not good enough, not yet. But what can I do to improve?

I know it’s good. But it’s not great. It’s ignorable, and I don’t want that. This is something I have been putting every ounce of my being into, every drop of my soul.

I have agonized over every paragraph, and yet it’s not good enough.

I know it will never be perfect in my mind, but my heart won’t agree.

I must be a designer, not just an architect.

Pseudonym

Ginny Brattle isn’t my real name, and I don’t even like it.

How am I supposed to pick a pen name?

Why is this even on the top of my mind?

I hate my real name, too, to be fair.

Ingrid, Ingrid Peterson? I.P. Introvert Playground. Intellectual Property.

I.P. I pee. Nope. Or yep.  Whatever.

Ginny Brattle, bah. Reeks of youth.

I want my author persona to be one of mystery and age, like red wine and balconies, not one of a whining teenaged poet.

Brattle. After the Brattle Book Store, which I’ve gone to a handful of times.

Creating a Persona. A Star is Born. If everyone knows I’m fabricated, does it mean I’m even fabricated? Judy Garland (born Frances Ethel Gumm). Ginny Brattle (born Ingrid Peterson).

What is your mother’s maiden name?

Answer: I don’t know.

And why a pen name, you ask? Because my book is bathed in controversy before it even hits paper. It’ll be judged and hanged before it’s even read. Mothers and teachers and “the man” will condemn it.

That is, if anyone even hears of it.

Am I damned to be a nobody? Will no one even know my pen name, never mind my “maiden name?”

My worst fear is not never being published, it is being published and selling 43 copies, mainly to family and friends.

catch me if i fall

i feel as if i am a woman of polar opposites. i am fiercely strong, yet unendingly weak. i am a woman at peace,a woman at war. i am a person of introversion, a person of strength an inner depth…but i am so dependent.

i need others. i need someone to catch me when i fall. i depend so heavily on family and friends. i can’t feel alone. i go crazy if i feel alone.

obviously, i enjoy solitude. i like being physically alone. i mean mentally. i need to know i have a safety net, a web of friends. i need people who support me by kicking me with their heels to get me into a run. i need people who comfort me and life my hands in theirs and patter me with kisses and hold me like a cracked ornament.

i need people, i do. truly. does that make me a bad introvert? 🙂

i couldn’t survive alone. i dump my problems on those around me. without my friends, without this blog, without you, my problems would not get dumped, and they would sit in my head like a steaming pile of garbage, stinking and rotting and driving me out with their stench.

i am selfish.

i try to support. i try to hold others up, but my arms aren’t as strong as i want them to be, as they need them to be. i feel useless to others.

My joints are stiff with baseless anxiety.

i have overwhelmed myself again

and so i prep for a job i am under qualified for, using not enough time to do something too far out of reach.

i edit the novel months away from completion, i read the book a hundred pages from the end, i lounge to the sound of birds and coyotes, dozing to dreams of unfinished stories half watched or half imagined.

i listen to music halfheartedly, the hour-long compilations set to a mood, the pleading piano and weeping violin, my face wet and swollen, my hands clammy and too big for their weak wrists.

i am out of my wits.

i feel again as if i am walking down the plank, hot summer air whipping my clothes with the force of icy sea mist. i am voluntary. i am sacrifice. i am martyr for the cause of myself.

the greater good.

i leave things lowercase here. i leave my ring finger blank. it’s easier to think in grammerless terms when my mind, too, is riddled with run-on sentences. nothing in my head is in capital letters except my own voice.

i build a fortress out of phone books. i cry ink onto pages made of skin. i sit alone in a room painted green and feel locked in. i smell chlorine. it reminds me not of summer pools but of formaldehyde.

freckles and wrinkles

They hate their imperfections, those which I have always wanted. i wanted my normal brown hair, a bushy sheet like untamed wool, to curl, to frizz, to turn burnt orange or a pithy black.

i wanted my face to look like spilled paprika. i wanted my shoulders to pucker and pink in the sun. i wanted my eyes to be twinkling peridots, ringed with lines like cracked mud, crinkling up like a shriveling leaf with every laugh.

i like that smiles, too, scar you. i’ve always liked scars. i’ve always liked asking where they came from. oh, these cracks by my eyes? i smiled too hard, too long, too often.

i want my face to look lived in. i am tired of looking young, which may be naive to say, but it is how i feel. i wish to look old. i wish to look like an adult. i want people to see how much i smile but looking at my temples. i want to be scarred by joy, a monument of laughter.

blackheads pepper my nose where my freckles should be. wrinkles choose to appear between my eyebrows and across my forehead instead of at the corners of my eyes. i become a memorial of sadness.

reading what i’ve written

blogging is funny

this blog always gets so meta

i can’t go back in time

i can’t go back and read what i wrote here

not a year ago, not a day ago

it reeks of naiveté

it reeks of my former selves

lined up like dominoes in a cute light blue bow

talking about travel and stress and friends and whatever else

here i am early morning because i can’t sleep

and that’s nothing new, but maybe one day it will be old

like how the posts on this blog are all laughable to me, now

all so silly and ingenuous

i feel like a chemist

passing mercury and blood between test tubes

mouth open, eyes shielded

testing one thing and another

trying to make happiness pour out in a stream of flaxen yellow

maybe a teaspoon of this, maybe a pinch of that

maybe now it will work, and i will be happy

i’ve only found temporary cures, over the years

you have seen

metaphorical you

and metaphorical me

and plain old me

i still have those peace-sign earrings my oldest friends tease me about

from middle school

they matched my pants, and my bag. i was obsessed with peace

and still am, i suppose, but while back then it was a childish philosophy–

why can’t we all be kind to one another?

now it’s a plea for survival

an act of desperation

cutting off my arm to escape the boulder

peace, i beg

of course peace is not something that can be hunted down

it does not lurk behind tree trunks for one to capture

it hides in the leaves of a garden for you to find, suddenly, curled around your fingers

it hides between the covers of old, tattered books

it hides in the wells of my stomach and can only be drawn out by tea and meditation

and flower petals and kisses

and silence and music

and writing, and writing, and writing.

so no i can’t look back at this blog

it hurts to see when i was happy

it hurts to see when i was sad

i can’t look back. i must only go forward

and search for peace not in the past, but where i know it can be found

 

things i never told you

Basically, here’s a little tip about blogging–we don’t do it every day.

Haha, right?

I used to, back in the golden days, but now I write ten blog posts at once and schedule them a month in advance. I’m writing this on June 22 and it goes up July 15.

I don’t know why I’m breaking the glass for you like this. I have learned that sometimes it is best not to see the man behind the curtain. Sometimes it is best to not research clouds and flowers. Some things are better left a mystery.

Whatever.

By the time you read this, I have come home from Ireland, a trip I haven’t written about here at all, and have started teaching summer school, something else I haven’t written about. I’m a summer school teacher now. I’m home from Ireland, now.

What will things be like when this gets published, in 23 days? My life, once again, will have completely changed. It does that a lot, nowadays. Perhaps, though, I am due for some consistency. I have been offered a job: to long-term substitute an English class while a teacher is on maternity leave.

I’m so excited. I’m so terrified.

Before I have time to be scared of that, though, I have to be scared of teaching summer school…but, by the time you read this, I will have already taught half a week, so. Maybe it’s not so bad after all. I mean, I’ve already done it.

 

I want Ireland to change me like Norway did. Norway healed me in ways I didn’t know I could be healed. I want Ireland to not just help me heal, but help me thrive. I want to be able to fill my lungs with Irish air and fill my stomach with Irish beer and feel a sense of comfort and adventure and peace.

Why is it when I most want peace, I throw myself into a maelstrom?

Anna Peefer–a short story

This story has been in my “drafts” for over two years now. I’ve not got the energy to edit it over, but I’ll publish it here.

 

Anna Peefer went to Funland Extremepark every Saturday in June and July. She brought her nieces twice, but the other weeks she went alone, riding the nine roller coasters two or three times each and nothing else. She never got sick, or sick of riding. She’d buy a bag of kettle corn worth its weight in gold, munching on and off all day. She often jumped half the line, when attendants searched around for a single rider. No one at the park knew who she was. It was amazing. She was free.

Anna Peefer always went with her wild curls tied back as well as she could. She liked her hair in box braids but on the roller coasters they thrashed about and she was afraid of them getting caught in something, so in the summer she kept her hair loose and frizzy, tied back and out of her face. She liked to see the sky take up her whole vision as the cart tilted backward, all the blood rushing to the back of her head, her heels sliding against the metallic floors, her fingers tighter on the shoulder restraints than the restraints themselves were on her.

Then a swishing in her stomach, and the trees and Ferris wheel would come into view, bit by bit. Anna Peefer, on top of the world.

And then the fall.

She screamed at each fall, louder than is ever necessary, stretching her voice past its limits. She kept her eyes open, her hands tight, her feet clamped around her purse and the bag of popcorn, both threatening to fall out. After the fall, after the g-forces at the bottom of the dip make her feel heavy with relief and she took the first inhale in about ten seconds, the car erupting with laughs and quick shouts, giggling girls and boys pretending to almost fall out of the cart.

Anna Peefer’s mind, at this point in the ride, was already on which coaster she’ll get in line for next. After the big drop, the rest of the coaster was never really worth it.

The thrill of the climb, the fear of the fall. This is why her favorite coaster, the park’s most famous, was the Pink Panther. 150 feet tall and bubblegum pink, the coaster was a torturously slow climb, a steep drop, and a small loop around the area to slow down momentum. She waited in line, munching the popcorn, and was set for the second-next coaster (she was terrific at cart-math by now) when she almost bailed the ride completely.

The attendees at Funland Extremepark have a simple yellow polo as a uniform, meant to be worn with blue jeans and peppered throughout with pins, stickers, and Sharpie drawings to add character. The attendee checking everyone’s shoulder restraints had an elaborate Crusade Warrior design ironed on across his back, and there, right by Markallia Erqus and her warfairy was Anna Peefer’s signature.

She couldn’t for the life of her remember signing a bright yellow Funland Extremepark shirt—she signed about a thousand every convention she went to—but regardless of how little she remembered the shirt, the guy wearing it would remember her.

She fiddled with the twist tie on her popcorn. She’d been in line for quite awhile, and this was her favorite coaster. He probably wouldn’t make a scene. Besides, she thought, the wind making her loose hair tickle her back, he probably won’t recognize me. She couldn’t believe this had happened. She practically knew all of the attendants by sight, and now the first new employee all summer is a fan of Crusade Wars.

She got in the coaster about five minutes later. The guy checked each restraint, down the line. He seemed to falter on Anna Peefer’s, but she didn’t dare look up at him until the cart was beginning to move.

When she met his eye, his furrowed brow shot upward, disappearing behind his bangs. He grabbed a coworker by the elbow and whispered in his ear, making subdued hand motions down at his side, trying to keep from making a fuss. The coworker began scanning the coaster. Anna Peefer stared at the back of the seat in front of her.

“The game designer,” one of them whispered loud enough, and Anna Peefer closed her eyes.

“Please keep your hands and arms inside the vehicle at all times,” said the girl at the podium. She was also watching the two attendants.

Please, Anna Peefer thought as loudly as she could, glancing at the slits of sky through the ceiling boards. Don’t let the girl know Crusader Wars. Don’t let her be a gamer. Let her think the attendants are crazy. Please don’t let her say—”

“Enjoy the ride,” the podium girl said into the microphone. “And may heaven’s light illuminate your way.”

Anna Peefer snapped her eyes shut again. People in line were laughing, clearly getting the reference. Someone mispronounced her name as Anna Pfeiffer. The cart lurched.

“You can’t go here anymore,” said a tinny voice Anna Peefer thought she left at the entrance gate. She kept her eyes tight shut. “It’s too much, it’s too much. This stupid game follows you everywhere.”

The roller coaster lurched, and the warfairy, six inches tall with the wings of a dragonfly sprouting from her back, dove into the ponytail gathered at the nape of Anna Peefer’s neck. She dug her tiny claws into Anna Peefer’s skin.

“We gotta get off, the restraints are too tight,” the warfairy whined.

Anna Peefer cracked her knuckles one at a time. The coaster ticked its way up the first incline. The fairy screamed all the way up, her feet latched around Anna Peefer’s throat and holding tight. At the top of the peak, the fairy’s grip loosened, and Anna was free to scream. Anna screamed alone, everyone else holding their breath for the fall. She screamed so loud, and so high, for so long it hurt her. She could feel the rawness in her throat as the coaster sped down the hill. She sucked in the cold, biting air, riding the rest of the track in silence.

Calming down is nerve wracking

I’m meant to be meditating, keeping mindful, breathing deep whenever I start to feel overwhelmed or nervous. But meditating only makes it worse.

When I start trying to relax my body, I hit a point where I feel adrenaline start pumping and soon I’m breathing too quickly and then it’s all ruined.

I think it’s because I don’t like feeling vulnerable, and that’s a big part of relaxing to that extent. And yes, I do usually have a bit of tension–I’m always sore in my shoulders, my jaw, my lower back.

Stress is hard to will away. It’s hard to get rid of that thought, “I could be doing something more productive.” And everything seems more productive than listening to wave sounds for ten minutes.

Sometimes it works out. I’m okay at some of the ones that remind me of dance classes, stretching your muscles and all, but when it gets up to relaxing my chest and head it get uncomfortable and I start jittering around.

________________________________________________

All that written above I wrote about 2 years ago. It was sitting in my “drafts” all this time.

I still have trouble meditating alone, with nothing, but I’ve found a few solutions. Music helps, or other white noise. It helps to have something to look at, like burning incense or candles or plants or something else pretty. It also helps to hold something. A crystal, if you’re like me and half insane. A baby blanket, whatever. It helps to imagine it giving you strength by soaking your worries away, like a sponge.

It helps with visualization to have something real.

Just my two cents.

self portrait

I feel like the sort of person who would have gotten much help out of this blog, in the old days. It was so cheery and positive. So helpful. Conversation Starters and Short-Fic Fridays. I’ll let them stay published. I can’t say the same for this 2018 drivel.

I wonder how long I’ll be in this rut. I feel as if I am watching my life from behind stained glass. I can sense things, but vaguely, distant. I hear things as if from a dream. I see things as if through a cloud. I feel things as if under a heavy winter coat. Pressure, no sensation.

I’m exaggerating. I’ve said before, I think, that this blog has become nothing but the glorified diary of a depressed person trying to accept the fact that 22 is a harder year than was promised. I’m exaggerating. I have bad moments and good moments. Both come on like nausea, sudden and unavoidable.

Sometimes I feel bright and rosy. I like watching the teenage lovebirds in class, drawing on each other’s arms in permanent marker, making each other laugh with silly noises and light bops on the nose. I love how they look at each other. At least I still have love.

That’s the thing. My love life is in order, it has been for years. It’s my everything else that’s gone awry. My career and my future, my emotions, my novel, my living situation. Living at home again is like willfully locking myself back in a prison. And then leaving, and then locking myself back up at night. I have freedom, but it’s a privilege, it’s temporary, and the prison hangs over my head, the way Monday taints Sunday night.

I really got to erase all of my name off this blog. It becomes more and more of a diary every day.