Apr 082010
 

(This was last month’s story for the writer’s meeting. The topic got to be “beer, glass and fear” one of these peculiar group efforts. The story still doesn’t have a real title. There’s something about this story that my writer buddies liked very much, I’m not so sure about, and my husband finds too simple and strained. Tell me what you think about it, please. And I’m still in search of a title. Also, I might want to stop starting stories with “A woman walked into a bar.”)

Nice girls like me don’t go in a bar like this, I thought while sitting down on a bar stool in that dingy little place, and ordering a beer. But then, since I was neither a girl anymore nor particularly nice that was okay. I did fake nice for my job, though, nice and patient and warm and caring. Fuck.

The place was dark, and full of smoke. I didn’t know that was still legal. There were a couple of people in here, looking like regulars at their own table way in the back. The bartender was placing drinks before them, a glass of white wine in front of a blonde woman holding a cigarette. She was standing too close to one of the men, wearing a tight white top, and low rise jeans on her narrow frame. I would have thought her to be around fifty if it weren’t for her voice, loud and harsh, sounding like she was a chain smoker. She was probably quite a bit younger than she looked, alcohol and nicotine having marinated her beyond her years.

I didn’t quite know why I had had the urge to come here this evening. I had passed this little hole of a bar often on my way home from work. The bead curtain at the entrance, the small cluster of regulars standing right in front of the door day and night, and never had I thought to go in here. But tonight I just couldn’t stand the thought of going home, of business as usual, and so I had come here.

My beer took too long to arrive. The bartender served everybody else before me. The two men standing to my right between the bar and the slot machine were looking at me. Sideways glance not meant to be seen.

I don’t know why I keep on doing this. I can’t do this work any longer, it’s killing me. Always nice, always smiling, always presentable. Sometimes I think I should give it all up and get a job as a cleaning woman. At least that’s honorable work. Work that needs to be done.

I should have gone home. Drink my own beer in front of my own TV, not in a bar watching sports with the sound turned off. Or better yet, I should have gone to the gym, work out, meet some friends and be civilized. Fuck.

At first I thought this was a good job. I had become a nurse to help people, to ease their pain. Then, after working in the emergency room for a couple of years, I couldn’t stand it anymore, and I looked for something easier with regular working hours. And so I had ended up in that place, a place for people with money, a place that had nothing to do with healing. And now I had the feeling that it was wrong to help these patients, our clients I was supposed to call them, I had the feeling that they all deserved it, that they should just give up trying. Maybe I should go somewhere else, even a hospice would be better than that.

I didn’t like it in here, and I didn’t want to talk to anybody. The guy sitting next to me tried to make eye contact, and started inching closer. I put a few coins on the bar, put down my half-empty bottle and left again. It had been a mistake, coming here, what had I been thinking.

It had been better for a while when I met Johnny. I had someone to come home to, we sat in front of the TV together, and then he made plans about marrying and family and kids. I don’t think I want kids, I had said, and he was totally mad at me. Not that he really liked kids or was a family guy or something, just, that’s not something you’re supposed to say, especialy if you’re a woman. Fuck.

I’ll just go for a walk. That will be better. Down the canal, away from the people. It was cold already this time of year. Throughout the day one could fool oneself, it still felt like summer, almost, but now in the evening, it got chilly. I had to close my jacket. My beloved leather jacket. Johnny hadn’t liked it, that old thing, he had said. He wanted me to look like a lady. Or sexy. Or both. He didn’t like my flannel shirts, and jeans and boots, and the oversized brown suede jacket with the big buttons on the front. I pulled the hood of my sweatshirt up, the sweatshirt I wore underneath the jacket. Nice and warm. I can take care of myself, I don’t need anybody to look after me.

Not like these nice damsels at the clinic, all of them falling in love with the doctors. All of them came with their nice little husbands, husbands who were secretely ashamed, who knew they weren’t real men. The women came like they wanted the doctors to fill in for their husbands. Of course, often it wasn’t because of the men. But mostly it felt like it were.

At work I was just a decorative and practical shadow. A nice, starched white shadow, smiling, leaning a hand, helping, carrying things, guiding people, a nice little white shadow, a servant, almost a ghost, and part of the furniture. Of course, at the clinic’s Christmas party Doctor Whiteheart always said how grateful he was for his staff, and that he couldn’t do it without us. Fuck.

Maybe a cigarette would make me feel better. I already smelled like it anyway.

The condom broke. It wasn’t my fault. Johnny had already broken up with me twice. Because he wanted to have a family. And because I didn’t want to he couldn’t take me home to meet his parents. Of course he couldn’t. He wanted a real woman, someone nice, and caring, someone who would fold his socks, and clean his apartment and cook for him. Not someone who liked going out and drinking beer, and playing computer games. He hadn’t minded in the beginning. When we met he said I was refreshing, and that my boldness made me sexy. And then he wanted a nice little wife, and I can’t be that.

I tried. Really. I even tried to cook, and have dinner ready on time but for some reason I never could do it right. It was always too late, or too early, or the wrong thing to make, or too salty, or whatever.

And then he came back, and after a few days everything was all right again. There was someone to come home to and to spend the evening with. And then the condom broke. And then he left and he didn’t call. He said, he had work to do. On the weekend. Johnny never works on weekends, never. But he said, this time was special, and that his boss had made him do it. And then I knew that he had broken up with me again. And I thought, this is it, this is the end. And a part of me was relieved. It is over. Forever over.

But then I started to feel weird. I thought I had caught a virus. I didn’t want to eat anything, and I felt nauseous all the time. And then I tried to remember my last period. And I couldn’t. And then one day at work I just took one of the pregnancy tests for myself.

I thought Johnny would be happy. That was what he had wanted, wasn’t it? But he just slammed the door in my face and screamed something about me not getting any money out of him, and that I was a hysterical bitch, never to come near him again, ever.

Fuck.

Apr 072010
 

Style is a weird thing, especially in writing. I’m looking at a friend’s manuscript and there’s the sentence: “The September fields were still lush but strangely empty.” It caught my eyes as I was printing out the last pages of my current story and something she wants me to read. I looked at the page, saw that sentence and thought, “This is not my story.” I would never write this sentence, and not because I don’t know the words or because I never do description (well, I don’t do description much but sometimes), no, it’s because somehow that is not a Susanne sentence.

I have always taken personal style for granted. I read a book, the writer has a distinctive voice, end of story. There were styles that I liked and styles that I didn’t like, and that was it. Then I started meeting with these other writers, all of them amateurs like me, every one quite good, and exceptionally personal.

In the writing group we give ourselves assignments. Every month we are supposed to write a story around a certain topic. This month’s topic is “houses”, last month’s was “glass, beer, and fear”. Not everybody writes a story every month, and often we come to the meetings with stories that are only half-finished, or that are about something entirely different, all of that doesn’t matter much; still, every month we come to the meeting and read something for the others.

When a group of writers take the same topic the matter of personal style jumps out at you. All of us start with the same topic, and yet the stories are vastly different. We all marvel at each other’s ability to do certain things. For example the writer who puts his stories to abctales under the name of John Shade has this dense and intense prose, he’s always going deep, deep, and I marvel at his descriptions and use of adjectives that I’m only vaguely familiar with. He works on his stories for a long time, changing words here and there.

I’m in awe of that because my method of writing is to set myself an arbitrary deadline, set a timer and just go. I have become a bit better at this so more often than not I come to the meeting with a story that’s somewhat finished, and I don’t write on the train to the meeting anymore. Still, my writing style is loose and conversational, much like this blog, I don’t edit much, I just go. Both me and my husband have the vague feeling that this kind of writing is not really artsy or good. It reads fast, it’s mildly entertaining, and that’s it. But that writer made me realize that not everyone can do that kind of conversationial, la-de-da style. It’s not only something I can’t do, it’s also something I can do. It’s personal style.

If you want to get a feeling for the differences you might want to look at the place where three of us put their stories prompted by the topic “food“. Isn’t that interesting? And the writer who posts his stories on abctales under the name of nametaken is also a member of the group.

Our writing styles are also totally different from each other. I start late, scribble something into my computer but usually manage to tidy it up somewhat and print it out before the meeting. The other German in the group usually arrives with half a story in a lined moleskine notebook. Then we have two Americans who bring a chapter of a finished manuscript every month. Though we might have lured on of them into writing something new. I can’t wait to hear that.

So differences all around. But still, I never know when something I do is my endearing personal style, and when it’s an annoying inability to write properly. But then you can’t really say, can’t you?

Mar 102010
 

Diving into the night as a floating wind came by to grip me, cars on the highway passing by. The moon staring at us while we were heading for the shoreline; the green fish staring at you while we wove our way through the algae, downwards into the deep blue cool, threading deeper and onwards. The caves nearby whispering to us while we floated between the corals, creatures like jewels asleep in the liquid dark.

Out to the open, the ocean, the blue, the dark, the cool, the wet, outwards, and downwards, into the depth. Our eyes blind from the cold, the pressure, the lack of light, only illuminated by smallish animals, wearing lanterns, and luminescence. Down through the sand to the point where there’s rock, always rock underneath.

Resting there for a while, pausing the race, not moving, letting the cold streams run over us, resting, but not for long, onwards, and upwards, outwards, through the deep, the blue, the cold, through where the water is calm always, up, and through, through the waves, the white crust of frothing waves, going up and down, right and left, never still, never at peace, drifting on. And on, always moving, riding the wind, the water, the dark.

Erin and Heidi at the mall, carrying their totes, their make-up, walking slowly because of their shoes. Very pretty shoes, there had been a sale, and so they had spent the last of their paychecks on these, sexy shoes with high spiky heels that made their ankles look pretty and slim. They looked very much alike from afar, their hair done into a puffy mass of curls framing their pretty faces. They liked make-up, those two, their eyes all heavy eyeliner, smoky shadows, and fluttering lashes, their mouths rose-colored glittering pouts.

Floating on the water, being rocked by the waves’ motion, waiting until the annoying moon starts to pale above us. More blue, more light, more warmth, rushing in, meeting the morning. Still, beneath us the dark, the cool, the deep, unchanged by light’s arrival. Onwards again, taking hold of the wind, merging, waving in and out, the air, the light, colors getting brighter, shiny. The water, sparkling with light, reflecting warmth, deflecting hearts.

The girls are speaking, endlessly, giggling, and gossiping, talking, never listening. Just an endless stream of syllables put forth with a meaningless smile. Both of them connected to the ether by invisible strings, their cell phones humming; shiny, sleek, bluetooth connectors at their ears and lips. Connected not with the world around them, with the people they see before them, with smells, and sounds, and sights right there but only with other people hanging from the same strings, never being where they are.

They walk slowly, taking care with every step; the sexy shoes demand attention, their totes getting heavier, the mall a whir of color and movement.

Onward and upward again, the air, the wind, the light, gliding, soaring. You and I, me and you, moving, sensing, now the sun is up in the sky, a one-eyed giantess bringing life and scorn, making the world bright, shiny, and slightly harsher. We know that the staring moon is still there but now he can’t see us anymore. Nosy he is but now he’s pale and in the presence of his big warm mistress he’s too far away to catch us. So we seize the moment, go on and on, rounding the globe, moving in, and out, up and down. Fear of falling isn’t hindering us. Going down deep we meet rock again, and again, going up there’s air and light, dust and sparkles, creatures big and small. Moving, moving, always moving. We wave in and out of the streams, the rivulets going down, the vapor going up, playing like dolphins.

The girls decide to have lunch, they are tired and thirsty. They stand in line, teetering on their heels, ordering tall styrofoam cups full of hot, bitter coffee with frothing milk and chocolate sprinkles. For once they sit down on hard chairs made from the blood of the earth, for once they are quiet, sipping their hot flavored water, and watching the people.

Come on, my love, don’t rest for long, let’s make use of what time we have left. Let’s bathe in the warmth of that yellow star that’s staring us down with her one yellow eye, seeing it all, making light, making warmth without mercy.

Onwards again, out and up and far away, floating, you and me, then us, merging and drifting apart. Warmer this time over the sea, the water green and blue and dark and cold, and quiet, and then sound again, waves and motion and onwards and up.

With the pale brown brew they drink, the girls’ strength returns, borrowed determination and energy. So they get up, whispering into their mouthpieces again, counting their bags. Each step something to think about, laden with goods they go out into the sun again on the street where cars pass by like animals herded into their pens. Erin and Heidi stand at the curb, all pink and curly and shiny on their nice shoes that make their ankles look pretty.

Come on, hurry up, there it is, one for me, one for you, so young, so dumb like corals and shiny, sleek fish. Come on, my love, here it is, now the sand, now the green, now the gray, dusty concrete jungle, human-made. Along their lines, speed and stink, moving beneath us, floating on the current of their exhaust, hot and ugly, but there it is, one for you, one for me. Nourishment, a sip of their souls, young and green, tasting like peppermint candy, all white and pink stripes.

The girls get into the car, tired and aching. The day feels gray, the spark gone.

Come on, my love, let’s go up and out and down again, to the water, to the rock, let’s rest and play, and hide from moon’s cold judging eye.

(I should stop calling these “story of the month” since it’s more like “story of the year” but I’m forever optimist. I started this in January 2009 as a homework assignment for my writer’s group. The assignment was “surreal”. I decided to write it mostly stream of consciousness-like as an experiment, and also I didn’t have much time. I never liked the ending, and was slightly dissatisfied until last month when I pulled it out again and finished it.)

Nov 192009
 

And here’s another quick post to let you know that I still “aten’t dead”. (Well, unless I missed something terribly important.) I’m still firmly in the fangs of NaNoWriMo, something I might have to explain because people have been asking. NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. Of course it’s totally International by now, and so I’m able to participate even though I’m not American. Every year in November aspiring procrastinating writers gather round their computers and write 50,000 words on a novel. Each one gets to write his or her own novel, and the rules are that you have to start something new, that all of the 50,000 words have to be written in November, and I don’t remember any other rules right now. Nobody is going to read your novel, or publish it, it’s just that you write and write and write. For the 50,000 words to happen you need to write 1,667 words a day though I always tell people it’s better to aim for 2,000 because there will be days when you can’t write for some reason.

This year feels particularly hard to me but maybe it just feels that way now that I’m slogging through the words, was behind. I should be well over 30,000 by now and I only managed to crank my word count up to 28,429 today because I chained myself to the computer and didn’t let myself loose before having written for something like 2 1/2 hours (with additional breaks). The story is gathering momentum though so it doesn’t feel like I’m writing uphill all the time now. I remember that from years past, week 2 is always the hardest.

People always ask me why I do it. (To be fair, people ask me a lot of things, for example why I’m not skiing, so I’m used to this.) Well, it is a bit insane but there’s nothing but the feeling you get when you reach the finishing line with your 50,000 word first draft of an original novel written by you and can show off your winner’s certificate. To see how that looks go to this old blog post of mine.

The next thing people ask me is what I then do with the resulting novel. Ahem. So far I have had two of these sitting in a nice little drawer. Then last year I pulled them out again and read through them. Well, at least one of them. The first was so bad that I just couldn’t stand reading it again. The second one has potential. I’m thinking about editing it maybe when it’s National Editing Month. (There is such a thing but I don’t know how it’s called and where to find it.)

Anyways, everything is going fine, I was only wondering why I feel so tired all the time and then I remembered: a) I haven’t slept enough again, and b) I have been doing a lot of writing on top of my regular life, duh, that’s like, you know, work. And this year November has been a bit crazy with things I have to do and places I have to go, and then I haven’t even dusted for weeks. (I have great plans of cleaning today, and even going grocery shopping. Wow.)

As you know I’m also attempting to knit a sweater in the month of November, a sweater that I started five days late and then had to frog after the beginning but – it’s coming along nicely. While I have fallen a bit behind because there were three days in a row that I didn’t feel lucid enough to start the sleeves, and while I’ve been knitting on the sleeve cap for three days now (something I would have imagined to take about two hours or so) the sweater is two-thirds finished by now.

I think there will be another crisis on the weekend since I plan to go on a yarn excursion complete with meeting an online friend from Stuttgart on Saturday and there’s spinner’s meeting on Sunday, and I know from experience that while I always think I can write my quota in the morning I rarely do, and then get all cranky. But then, who knows, this is also the first year of NaNoWriMo that I haven’t written everything late at night. Mostly because I’m so tired in the evenings that all I can manage to do is stare blankly into space and maybe knit stockinette stitch in the round.

Okay, off to clean, my son will be coming home from school in twenty minutes or so. See ya.

Feb 132009
 

This month’s topic for my writing group was “paranoia”. Again, not something I would have chosen on my own, though quite interesting. Again, I have the feeling that there should be some more of this story, only I don’t quite know where to take it next. On the subject of my last post about all my family having the flu: we’re feeling much, much better now. Not exactly healthy but not sick anymore either. We’ll spend tomorrow out of town, and I hope to be back next week with some real blog content for a change. Here’s the story:

It’s only paranoia if it isn’t real, isn’t it?

It’s only paranoia if it isn’t real, isn’t it?

So, what’s better then, being crazy, or it being real? Huh? What’s better? Is it paranoia? You know, when you know, well, you know that basically everyone is out for you? Or is that realism?

Is that guy over there really interested in that shop’s window, or is he only pretending to be interested so that I won’t see his face? And then, when I look away, will he be walking after me, will he follow me, and then there will be another one, and then another one, and then, that guy over there? Or that girl? Or that one? Haven’t I seen them all before? Or have I just seen them because they all live in this neighborhood, and it’s perfectly natural to see them, or do I only think they look familiar because these days all people look alike? Except for that guy over there, I haven’t seen him before, not anywhere, I’m sure. Maybe they brought him in so that I wouldn’t be suspicious. Someone new.

But then, these day and age, who’d spend that kind of money on people observing me? There are other means, other means, tools, they could have cameras. There can be cameras everywhere, tiny little cameras, no bigger than buttons, than coins, sewn into my clothes, looking from windows, looking out of shops, cameras inside shops, everyone knows there are cameras, surveillance cameras everywhere.

They wouldn’t even have to use their own cameras, or people, they could just hack into everbody’s computers and follow me through those. Everybody has a computer nowadays, mean little robot machines. With cameras. And microphones. They fool you, mean little robotic computers, alien intelligence, these days they don’t even look like computers anymore. There was a time, when every computer looked like a big fat electric typewriter; nowadays, these days, they have tiny little computers, looking like cigarette boxes, like miniature telephones, nasty people with their nasty little headphones, so tiny you can barely see them, plugged into their ears. Cameras inside telephones, computers everywhere. There are people carrying robots, robot computers all around me, plugging into each others machines, taking pictures with these tiny little cameras, recording everything with there tiny little microphones, and sending it off to each other, to some other robot, computer, sitting on the other side of the globe.

Every day now you’d meet someone, someone who’d seem mad because talking to himself, a sure sign of madness, that, talking to yourself, not good, you shouldn’t do that, only old fools, crazy people do that, you see; you see all these people, young people, fat, wealthy looking people, they all run around in the streets, talking to themselves, and then, and then it turns out, they aren’t talking to themselves, they are talking on the phone. Only, you can’t see the phone, it’s so tiny. They can plug it into their ears or something, a tiny telephone, sitting there in their ears. Next to the tiny camera, I bet. Cameras everywhere these days.

Numbers and barcodes and everything.

I bet they could track me by the chip in my library card. There are chips in everything, or so they say but I wonder, what are they doing with potatoes in all these computers?

Well, I figure the robots must have something to eat too? Don’t they? So maybe they put chips in everything, even the washing machines, the janitor told me so, there’s a chip in the washing machine, a computer even, which means, of course, that there is a robot living in the basement of my own house. He’s probably counting my socks, and reports how often I wash them. But I tricked him! Ha! I have been going to the laundromat. Ha! What do they think? Counting my underwear? No, sir, I won’t have that.

So, all these cameras, and robots, eating chips in everything. The phone, the washing machine, the shops, the bank, the library even. It’s a shame, I used to like the library. It’s warm and cozy there, with all the books, and not noisy, it’s quiet and cozy and calm, and there are no young people there, almost no people in fact, no noise, nothing of what they call music nowadays, and then I could take a nice bit of reading home to sit by the fire in the evenings.

Can’t do that anymore, of course, there’s a chip in my library card, and so they could track it, every bit of it, track me, better put the library card into the waste bin, right here, so, that’s better. Only there will be no more books for free, it’s a pity but there you are, can’t have this sort of thing, robots eating chips in my library card, nasty buggers.

Tracking somone must be an awful lot of work, like in the war, when you were undercover, and nobody was to find you out. But these days they had so many people, probably half the population working for them, otherwise they wouldn’t be bothering with somone like me, I’m not important, no sir, for all they know I’m not important, and they can’t know, I have never told nobody, no sir, never.

Must be going crazy, must I? Only, it’s only paranoia if it isn’t real. And it could be real, couldn’t it? Only I never told nobody, never. I didn’t tell.

Jan 092009
 

(Seems like I’m still not on top of everything yet, but this month I managed to write, um, half of the story for the writer’s group meeting. The prompt was “surreal”. Of course I only started writing at noon, helped my husband cook while typing on the computer, and then had to teach right up to the moment when I ran out of the house to catch the train for the meeting. I really hope to finish this, tie the two strands of the story together, ply them so-to-speak. I wrote it as stream of consciousness as I could.)

Falling

Diving into the night as a floating wind came by to grip me, cars on the highway passing by. The moon staring at us while we were heading for the shoreline; the green fish staring at you while we wove our way through the algae, downwards into the deep blue cool, threading deeper and onwards. The caves nearby whispering to us while we floated between the corals, creatures like jewels asleep in the liquid dark.

Out to the open, the ocean, the blue, the dark, the cool, the wet, outwards, and downwards, into the depth. Our eyes blind from the cold, the pressure, the lack of light, only illuminated by smallish animals, wearing lanterns, and luminecence. Down through the sand to the point where there’s rock, always rock underneath.

Resting there for a while, pausing the race, not moving, letting the cold streams run over us, resting, but not for long, onwards, and upwards, outwards, throught the deep, the blue, the cold, through where the water is calm always, up, and through, through the waves, the white crust of frothing waves, going up and down, right and left, never still, never at peace, drifting on. And on, always moving, riding the wind, the water, the dark.

Erin and Heidi at the mall, carrying their totes, their make-up, walking slowly because of their shoes. Very pretty shoes, there had been a sale, and so they had spent the last of their paychecks on these, sexy shoes with high spiky heels that made their ankles look pretty and slim. They looked very much alike from afar, their hair done into a puffy mass of curls framing their pretty faces. They liked make-up, those two, their eyes all heavy eyeliner, smoky shadows, and fluttering lashes, their mouths rose-colored glittering pouts.

Floating on the water, being rocked by the waves’ motion, waiting until the annoying moon starts to pale above us. More blue, more light, more warmth, rushing in, meeting the morning. Still, beneath us the dark, the cool, the deep, unchanged by light’s arrival. Onwards again, taking hold of the wind, merging, waving in and out, the air, the light, colors getting brighter, shiny. The water, sparkling with light, reflecting warmth, deflecting hearts.

The girls are speaking, endlessly, giggling, and gossiping, talking, never listening. Just an endless stream of syllables put forth with a meaningless smile. Both of them connected to the ether by invisible strings, their cell phones humming; shiny, sleek, bluetooth connectors at their ears and lips. Connected not with the world around them, with the people they see before them, with smells, and sounds, and sights right there but only with other people hanging from the same strings, never being where they are.

They walk slowly, taking care with every step; the sexy shoes demand attention, their totes getting heavier, the mall a whir of color and movement.

Onward and upward again, the air, the wind, the light, gliding, soaring. You and I, me and you, moving, sensing, now the sun is up in the sky, a one-eyed giantess bringing life and scorn, making the world bright, shiny, and slightly harsher. We know that the staring moon is still there but now he can’t see us anymore. Nosy he is but now he’s pale and in the presence of his big warm mistress he’s too far away to catch us. So we seize the moment, go on and on, rounding the globe, moving in, and out, up and down. Fear of falling isn’t hindering us. Going down deep we meet rock again, and again, going up there’s air and light, dust and sparkles, creatures big and small. Moving, moving, always moving. We wave in and out of the streams, the rivulets going down, the vapor going up, playing like dolphins. Come on my love!

Oct 032008
 

(I wrote this story back in August as an assignment for the writing group meeting. The prompt had been “insanity” but somehow I ended up just writing something. I turned out to be so curious about where it went from there that I ended up writing part two and the beginning of part three in September. You’ll have to wait for part 2, though, because I have to make a small alteration to it before posting it here.)

Finally they had gotten the fire going. Not exactly blazing heat but at least a little warmth against the salty, stinging wind coming from the
sea. They huddled close to it, looking into the flames as men had done since the dawn of time, their stomachs growling.

When they had planned to go onto this trip it had sound like fun. Go to an island, live on the beach for a week. Fun. Rub shoulders with nature,
and then go home with stories to tell.

Well, there sure would be stories to tell but then they weren’t as sure anymore how to make it home.

Laura held her hands close to the fire, her front too hot, and her back still exposed to the chilling wind. It felt as if those tiny salt
crystals that were everywhere cut right through to her bones. She never got the appeal of campfires and barbecues, and now she had to rely on
this to keep her even vaguely comfortable. She remembered how it always took too long for the food to get ready, and how everbody had started
eating the salads until no one had wanted all that slightly burned meat. Only there weren’t any salads this time. She longed for the coziness of
central heating and delivered pizza, to say nothing of hot baths and warm beds, while thinking that today she would be lucky to get enough
slightly burned fish to get satisfied. Right there she would have killed for a bit of pepper or a twig of rosemary.

At least they did get to keep their sleeping bags, the water filters, shovels, knives, and fishing gear. They were very lucky that the boat
that flipped over held no essentials.

On the other hand it would have been really nice to have things like bread, soup, or tents.

Laura tried to be grateful that they had enough to eat, and were reasonably warm but then she would have loved to be at home right now,
snuggling under a blanket watching TV.

The others were getting on her nerves. Stan, their self-proclaimed outdoor expert who had needed five matches to light the fire, Lenny, who
was in charge of cooking, and who already had dropped the fish twice, Samantha who kept whining that her hair was looking terrible, and her
friend Michelle who didn’t say much and seemed to be still in shock after her boat keeled over. Well, it could have been worse, everybody
wore life-vests, and they got by on clams, crabs, and fruit.

She wondered how long it would take until they would be rescued. The others didn’t doubt that there would be a rescue party anytime soon but
she thought that it would be at least three weeks, and then only for the ones who had to go to work.

The thought of spending about three more weeks with these people made her restless. Despite the windchill she got up for a walk on the beach.

“Laura? Whatcha doin'”, Samantha asked, “You can’t go along the beach all alone after dark.”
Of course she could. There was no one here besides them, the island was too small for any predators, and she’d see the fire on her way back.

Stupid, city-dwellers, Laura thought. She shouldn’t have come, and her boyfriend didn’t look as attractive any more, now that he sat there at the fire, pretending to know something about cooking over an open fire.

Laura hadn’t thought much about her time as a girl scout or going camping with her parents until now when she had to find out that the
people she called her friends were completely unprepared for living in the real world. It seemed that taking away their mobile phones,
refridgerators and cars made them totally helpless.

Well, better to learn survival on a tropical island than in Alaska.

Somebody came after her.
“Laura, you can’t go off on your own.”, Stan pleaded.
“Why not?”, she answered.
“It’s dangerous.”
“No, it isn’t. There’s moonlight, there’s the fire, the island is small,
and there are no big animals living here.”
“There could be sharks.”
“I don’t want to go for a swim, I’m just taking a short walk, calm down.”
“Then let me go with you.”

There seemed to be no way out, so she went back to the fire. The fish wasn’t done yet. It looked quite burned, though. Not exactly a gourmet meal.

Maybe she should cook the next fish herself. And while she dreamed of that she also thought about catching the next fish herself. She could
make herself a spear and get some of the bigger fish in the lagoon. She remembered how her mother had showed her to be perfectly still until the
fish forgot her. But if she made herself a spear Stan would know that she had more tools in her backpack than she had let him know. And when
she thought about what he had managed to do to his own innocent leatherman tool she knew she wasn’t ready yet. More crabs in the future.

Aug 052008
 

I have been reading “The Writing Diet: Write Yourself Right-Size” by Julia Cameron. I like the book very much. If you have read this blog for any time at all you know how much “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity” changed my life. And since I love writing the idea to “write myself right-size” holds a lot of appeal for me.

So far I only read the book once, and – I’m sad to tell you – reading the book doesn’t really change much. I will have to change my behavior. Again. But that’s not what I want to write about today. I want to write about one of the first tools that she gives you, right after the Morning Pages and Daily walks, both things I have been doing almost daily for the past nine years. That tool is that you keep a food journal. It is for recording what you eat, and when, and how you feel, and sometimes for writing instead of eating.

I have found myself strangely reluctant to start this food journal despite the fact that I already bought one, and have been carrying it around in my purse for the past week, and despite the fact that I think it’s a great idea, and will help me a lot, and despite the fact that I unearthed food journals that I kept in 2001 and 2003 and found them very interesting to read. Or I might say insightful and a little disturbing. So, despite all this I was reluctant and kept telling myself I’ll start the journal tomorrow, or maybe next week, or maybe in September.

Then I thought about that for a bit because that’s what I do, I sit there and think, and I found that my reluctance partly stemmed from the multitude of journals that I’m keeping. I can scarcely look anywhere without stumbling over a journal of mine, and journaling already consumes quite a bit of my time. This is what I have so far:

  1. Morning Pages journal (That’s three pages written by hand every day)
  2. Practice journal (A notebook where I write down when I play music, what I played, and sometimes how I felt, or ideas for songs)
  3. Quicken (In theory I record every cent earned and spent. In real life I have a high stack of bank statement and receipts sitting on my desk waiting to be recorded. I haven’t done that for about six weeks already.)
  4. A gratitude journal (Every evening I sit down and write down five things I am grateful for.)
  5. A general notebook (Filled with bits and pieces, phone numbers, ideas for blog posts, stories, notes on PTA meetings, everything.)
  6. My “notebook” on ravelry (All the details of everything I have knitted since last summer.)
  7. Flylady control journal (In theory this is where I keep track of housework and such, in real life I haven’t opened it for ages and, instead, transferred all the really important reminders to my PDA’s to-do list.)
  8. And, not the least of them, this here blog.

So, self-improvement is a nice goal but right now I’m not sure if maybe I’m trying a bit too hard. Also who wants to keep a special nice journal just to record things like “Ate a whole bag of potato chips, and two candy bars because I was angry. Afterwards I felt bloated and still angry. Waited for fifteen minutes and ate a whole bag of gummy bears.”

I know there are people who change their behavior in order to not have to write down things like that. I also know that there are people who cheat when keeping a food journal. There also are people who are too lazy to get out the notebook for a handful of almonds and so they don’t eat the almonds. I’m not one of them. In the past I have written down minute detail of everything I ate and why and how I felt afterwards but it never kept me from eating still more even when I wasn’t hungry at all.

On good days I think about all these notebooks and journals as my legacy and hope that some future scholar will gain insight in the everyday life of our times (though that insight might be a bit warped). On bad days I imagine my poor son reading hundreds and hundreds of pages that his parents wrote. Every single day recorded. Poor thing. I better tell him that he can give that all away without ever looking at it.

So. Do you keep journals? Food journals? Do you think it will help?

(And, on a completely unrelated note, please remember to send me posts you read or wrote for the Just Post roundtable until August 7th. If you haven’t heard about that yet, just click on one of the little birds down on the right sidebar.)

Jul 152008
 

It’s not really about food.

“I wish I could eat like you. I’d have no problems losing weight.” Pia says to me at lunch. Then she looks at my tummy. Well, if I always ate like I do at work I’d have no problems losing weight either. I pick at my salad, limp and soggy, drenched in that kind of dressing you only get at restaurants. White and milky with a taste like starch.

The afternoon at work seems to pass backwards. On top of everybody working as if in slow motion I have to sit through one of these meetings which are held solely because my boss likes to hear himself talk. Also, it’s good to make him feel in charge.

I’m hungry. I’m always hungry. In the afternoon Pia brings a big tray of gummi bears. I never eat sweets at work. There’s no point.

Just when I’m about to leave the phone rings, and I have to deal with my boss yet again. Obviously he feels that I’m not enough of a team player. Ugh. It seems that somebody accused me of pushing too hard. Brain-dead snails, the whole lot of them.

Finally, I’m out. Today I’ll take good care of myself. I’ll take a nice bath, steam some dumb vegetables, and go for a walk later. It will make me feel great.

I’m hungry. My feet walk to the grocery store out of their own accord. I’ll just get a bit of chocolate. I had a bad day, I deserve a little treat. Just one or two pieces after dinner. There it is. Chocolate. Mmm. Home.

Finally there. I kick off my heels, get out of the constriction that’s the “power suit”, jacket with shoulder pads, short skirt, blouse that I can’t lift my arms in, pantyhose, underwire bra. Finally able to inhale all the way again.

While dressing in yoga pants, a tee, a hoodie, and two pairs of soft socks, I put the Red Hot Chili Peppers on. Loud. That’s better.

I’m beat. Open the fridge, get a cold beer. Fetch a glass. Unpack the chocolate, potato chips, gummi bears, and licorice. Pour the beer. Put everything on a tray together with my novel. I sit down in bed with my tray, and the remote control. Finally, I can relax.

I open the bag of potato chips first. They smell delicious, I put them in my mouth, and they crackle as I bite down. I’ll only eat a few, and then I’ll put the bag away. Spicy, crunchy, garlicky, hot. Just a few more, just a few. Now a sip of beer. A bit of licorice interspersed with the gummi bears. Chips, beer, gummi bears, licorice.

I start reading. The next time I look up the chips are gone. Oh no. I did it again.
I’m feeling bad. Bloated. Fat. Unworthy. I finish the chocolate. Whatever. I get up and fetch another beer.

It’s not my fault, food is the only thing I have. It’s my security blanket, my comfort. It’s like a cave. I dig myself in, and then I close the door. And I’m safe.

The taste, the texture, the feeling of being full.

It’s my drug of choice. It makes life bearable. It isn’t really important which food it is. It can be anything.

Of course, I’m not stupid. I know that it doesn’t really help. But I do feel better. At least for the moment.

That feeling of the salt rush comes first. The blood races up into my head. Making me a bit breathless. Next comes the sugar high. My heart beating faster. All the while the fat makes me feel safe and warm. The beer like a clear mountain stream going down. It would all be fine if I could stop in time. Just a bit and then close the bags, and put it all away.

I totally lose control around food. There’s this vortex in my middle. It’s always hungry. It sucks me in, and it doesn’t let go.

Afterwards I feel bad. Fat. Bloated. Weak. Sick. But the vortex still isn’t satisfied. I’m still hungry. If I wait a bit I can finish off the second bag of potato chips. Maybe I should take up smoking. At least I wouldn’t get fat.

If only I could stop eating altogether.

This is sick. Why can’t I stop. Nobody’s force-feeding me. I know I can do it. Tomorrow I’ll eat nothing but salad and yoghurt all day.

Jun 202008
 

Of course I thought I would have it all figured out by now. And I do have a job. A job I happen to like. But then, I always seem to get restless after a while. I have already written about how I feel like I’m pulled in several directions at once, how the things I like doing just don’t go together that well.

Which reminds me that I had promised you a post about the things I like. I have been thinking about it for weeks now but all I can come up with is “Raindrops on roses, and warm woolen mittens, …” (and I just found that I misquoted it, I’m horrible at remembering song lyrics) Every time I try to write a list of things I like I end up with something like this, and it feels totally arbitrary.

So. I’m almost 41 now, and I keep thinking about what to do with my life, where it’s headed, and I still don’t know. Music is important, I now know this, because without music I get depressive. Sometimes I also get depressive with music but without it I always do. I know that I want to sing more, and make up songs, and improvise, and that I want to perform again. I only don’t know how or where or when or with whom. And I find that it feels a bit pointless to hum to myself at home, and so I bought myself a new recording thingie that is sitting on my desk and gathers dust. (I actually recorded something and started to write a post about this at the end of, um, April. Well.)

Last year I had this feeling that I should become a tarot reader. I bought tons of books, and three more decks of tarot cards, bought a spiral notebook, and started learning the meaning of two tarot cards each day. For about a week or two. Because while I enjoy pulling cards and doing readings for people with the oracle cards that I have, I never can remember the meanings of the cards. I always have to look them up. And while I feel pretty good about drawing cards for people it then occurred to me that people might want to know about serious life-issues, and I didn’t feel up to the task. Also, learning while I go along might work for the things I usually teach and do but for this I felt that I needed a better foundation. I haven’t abandoned the thought, though, it’s just one of the things that is swirling around in my mind.

Then there’s the knitting. It has become quite important to me again over the past year (which you might have noticed), and so I started thinking along the lines of, “Maybe I should teach knitting classes.” or design knitting patterns again and see where that leads me. That’s my latest spleen, and so I have started drafting a plan for knitting classes, and have run into my old obstacle of not being able to promote myself. I just can’t do it. I have all these plans, and enthusiasm, and I know people would love the classes but when I put it all to paper it becomes stiff and hollow and brittle. My husband has been going over my draft to help me, and now it’s up to me again.

Then, the designing. As I have said before, having ideas is never the problem for me. (And I thank God for that.) As soon as I decided that I wanted to design something there were a few ideas popping up. I even bought yarn, and I have thought about them constantly. Now all I need is a couple of days to really do something. And, most important of all, I need some space in my head for that.

Just in case you’re wondering why I, all of a sudden, think that I can design knitting patterns, well, back in the eighties when I lived in a small town I pretty much made up all my own patterns. Not always successful but then, these days, I actually knit gauge swatches and such, and on top of that I’m totally willing to rip everything back until it looks like I want it to. The only thing I’m a bit nervous about is that in the eighties sweaters were just rectangles, and these days they are supposed to fit a bit more tightly. On the other hand, from what I see these days, baggy sweaters might be back again soon. And designing fitting sweaters only means doing a bit more math. Which, strangely enough, is not a problem, it only takes a bit more time.

I also would like to teach creativity, and work as a coach but I have this feeling that I need to grow a bit before doing that. The other thing I’d like to do is improvised music. So I’m planning to teach circle singing, and waiting for the opportunity to improvise with others.

Then there’s the writing. I like doing it but I still have to read my two NaNoWriMo-novels. (That still sounds weird, my two novels. Lately someone asked me what I had been doing, and when I told her “I have been writing more, there’s the blog, and I have written first drafts of two novels and a screen play.” it sounded really weird to me. But then, it’s true nonetheless. It won’t do me any good, though, until I do something with what I have.)

I know that this is pretty much the recurrent theme of my blog, my lack of focus on just one thing. So, I have decided that I’m unable to do just one thing, and go in all directions at once. Which is fine, only now all these things in my head keep canceling each other out. Where to start? I start each day with a plan to do one of the important things, like, “Today I’ll be working on my concept for knitting classes!” then procrastination happens, or housework, or blog reading, or exercise, or family, and soon it’s “I’ll do it on the weekend when I’ll be having more time.” (That one’s always good for a laugh.), and so the weeks go by one after the other.

So, this, of course, will be the weekend when I will be:

  1. Doing some extra thing with my son like going to the zoo, or riding our bikes.
  2. Sew a dress, and about three bags.
  3. Knit about 250 rows on Mystic Meadows.
  4. Clean the house.
  5. Do all the laundry.
  6. Design and knit a pair of socks and a men’s sweater.
  7. Finish my plan for knitting lessons, write a CV to go with it, take a new picture of myself, write accompanying letter, and mail it off.
  8. Sleep for at least eight hours straight each night.
  9. Cook something not fast food-like.
  10. Read half of “Shadowplay”, “The Mindful Way through Depression”, a third of “Spook Country”, “Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames”, and re-read “Mindful Knitting: Inviting Contemplative Practice to the Craft”. (I sense a theme here with the self-help books.)
  11. Watch two games of soccer because of the European Championship.
  12. Write my monthly story for the writing group.
  13. Mix the improvisation I recorded.
  14. Record some more.
  15. Write one or two blog posts.
  16. Do yard work. (If you knew me in real life this one would be ROFL-worth funny.)

While I’m at it, I could also teach my son how to swim. Or something.

These are not really my plans for the weekend but then I might have taken on a bit more in my life than I can reasonably do. Do you know anybody who hasn’t? Which of the things should I drop? I know, the answer is housework but my husband doesn’t like doing it all alone. And I don’t blame him. So, any advice? I could quit blog-reading of course but that isn’t really an option, isn’t it?