Six weeks in, you know, it’s still hard to write when I sit down to do so. And yes, believe me, you are not the only one who hates to write.
“Nailing down the bitch mistress known as the muse is always an interesting writing experience.” – @HexingThoughts
I mean, I love it. I do, really. The fact that I can pick up that pencil or this pen or – oh, the luxury – that paintbrush and use the 26 years of muscle memory my hands have acquired to flick the instrument this way and swoosh it that way – and out come words. Real appreciable words that say what I have decided they will say.
The power trip that gives is not unlike cocaine, when I manage to produce something I really love. The taste might not be altogether sweet, but fuck, if I’m not the smartest, prettiest, sexiest thing out there for at least a few delicious moments.
So yes, of course, it does feel amazing to write, to self-identify, to put pen to paper, to waggle your digits above the keys and tickle out something grand.
But we all know everything we write is not so splendid. You’ve got to produce enough sludge to whittle it down into beauty – or at least into “good enough.”
There is a plethora of turns of phrase to explain it, from finding the diamond in the rough to the ugliest of oysters producing the shiniest of pearls.
God, those clichés get old. Except, of course, when I use them. And then they are pithy and quaint. Right? Right.
But sometimes that’s the only thing I can see, the well-worn idiom sparkling above me, taunting me with its classic agelessness. Why haven’t I written a saying so grand and timeless?
At which point, thank whomever, my ego checks its coat at the door and settles in for the evening.
And so I sit here at my desk, letting the front edge push into my right knee, reddening in that familiar way it does. My forearms rest against the front edge, hovering over the keyboard, while the grain of the wood presses against that soft, vulnerable spot just below my elbow.
I sip the lemoniest of waters, hunch forward in a way I know will ache tomorrow and roll my eyes over the ever-overfilled inbox, the piles of unkempt papers, the bird stamp my heart has clasped as its own, the empty prescription bottles, the wrinkled desk calendar, the paint bucket full of pens and pencils.
At which point, I begin to beg for ideas. I start in my head, asking memories or god or whomever. I ask the dogs, in a way that scares me only now as I write it for others to see. I ask my wonderful team of keepers, those I retain with sweet and savory morsels, who try to keep me from falling down my stairs and on track to post each night.
And I beg and I plead – I’m very good at both – and then @fetfet50 takes pity on me and says the magic word: “meta.”
I have bricks of furniture and walls.
Mortar mixed of paint and fabric.
I have foundations of nostalgia and desire.
Plumbing made of photographs and journals.
I’ve got wiring strung of taut muscles and dripping sweat.
Windows paned in age and eyelashes.
I have fancy hats and rolling pins.
Acres of books and whiskey.
There are more baskets than picnics we’ll ever take.
But at least one hanger per memory.
I have pens and pencils and markers to spare.
With lightness and being to float.
I’ve got spare rooms and bedrooms and enough room for you.
But Ms. Scarlett did it in the Conservatory.
With the rope.
I have baggage and sadness and sweetness to boot.
And boots and sandals and tears.
I have light down from fixtures of crystals and love.
Skeletons in closets of papier mâche.
The blades of my fans flex in the shrug of my shoulders.
With wind made of kisses and sugar and fear.
And then there’s my bed.
When I was eight and my parents divorced, both my mother and I saw a woman named Camilla, whose occupation, as a therapist, was something it’d take me years to realize. I simply saw her, weekly, as Camilla.
She was beautiful, always in flowy dresses or skirts, with dangly jewelry – but not jangly, never jangly – all soft edges and sweet smiles in my memory.
Camilla’s office was in a home with great windows throughout and a claw-foot tub in the bathroom. Everything had a pattern or some sort of decorative touch, from beads to feathers to flowers. Everything had a texture, a feel, and I was forever fascinated.
Despite my shoddy memory and the haze I see over most of my childhood, I have a few distinct memories of Camilla that are as clear to me as the paint on my nails. One such memory, in fact, speaks, I think, to my deepest, strongest desire: to build and create my home.
I’ve had a love affair with Crayola my entire life. From my first pack of 16 to the 64 pack with built-in sharpener, I have swooned with waxy love. The day they retired Raw Umber, I bowed my head in grief.
In this memory, Camilla brought out a healthy stack of bright white paper and a full 120-count set of crayons, complete with the Multicultural and Color Wonder sets.
(Of course I fucking know the names of the crayon debuts. ‘Love affair,’ remember?)
My home had recently been ripped asunder, with an angry, almost-teenager sister and a crying little brother. With Daddy in a little apartment with a neighbor named Pebbles. With Mama sad, but head held forcefully high.
Camilla handed me those treasured jewels at the same time she asked how my Barbie Dream House was faring in these troubled times.
A slightly shocking dichotomy – after all, Ken didn’t leave the Dream House, and Barbie wasn’t sad.
But she certainly caught my attention, shared though it was with those shiny, waxy riches.
And so picture it I did, with its many floors, rooms, backdrops, furniture and elevator – which was obviously the height of luxury.
She asked me to imagine – one of my favorite eight-year-old activities – if I could build my own dream house, to fit me, what it look like? What would those details be? How would I feel in this room or that?
My first question, of course, was whether or not I could have a Barbie Dream House in the Meredith Dream House. I’ve always been concerned with practicalities.
My young mind was opened in a new way when she said I could have – and feel – anything I wanted.
I’m sure I had some wonderfully complex little-girly desires, from princess beds for the dogs to a dungeon in which I might punish my torturous sister. No doubt everything sparkled, glowed or tinkled a pretty tune.
But what I remember from this exercise is, I hope, exactly what Camilla intended for me to hold – in every room, I was happy.
We drew pages upon pages of rooms, taping the sheets together, adding haphazard staircases and ladders, even a fireman’s pole, though I was far too terrified to try one.
There was a freedom in that day, that exercise, that I’m not sure I’ve felt since.
I know I’m not alone in the uncertainty I’ve felt thus far into my adult life, and I know it isn’t leaving any time soon.
I know, too, I have an opportunity, an outlet, in which to build that home again.
Granted, without drywall or rebar, windows or joists, but no less real than those drawings were, 20 years ago.
And oh so real they were – indeed, I think I’ve decorated as I drew those rooms in each place I’ve lived – from the yellow sheets in my dorm room to the red cabinets in my old kitchen, from the pink, gold and maroon curtains in that living room to the green and pewter great room I want now.
But now I have this chance – one of many, no doubt – to write my home. To build with words this place in which I am happy, safe and, frankly, in control.
Adjectives are my building blocks, verbs my mortar.
And you, filling the hearth with fire, the frames with pictures, the table with laughter.
Welcome, you, to this dream house. I’m so very glad you’re here.
It’s such a strange place to be, free of the indignance (which so is a word, WordPress, you asshole) and irreverence of my every day. I spend so much time being bemusedly outraged or in bimbo-like frustration, simply to entertain myself.
And fuck, I never woulda thunk it’d be so hard to be snarky, when you sit down to try to be.
I’m very good at judging, people. I do judgmental very well.
But it’s the new year, and there are crazy things abrewin’, family coming to town, others celebrating freedom, living in limbo with plans just out of reach.
Apparently the forming of the matzah balls brings a girl some nostalgia.
I made my soup the goishe way; I didn’t start yesterday.
Tossed some chicken thighs into a pan to start the sear.
Chopped carrots, onions, celery and parsnip.
Picked out just the right bay leaf.
Snipped parsley fresh from the garden.
I’ve been in a fight with God for years. After a lifetime of questioning and belief, spurred, actually, within myself and not from family or other pressures, it became too hard to believe.
With this new year come new opportunities, new chances to fuck up, new reasons to be kind or cruel, new people to meet, new men to fuck, new books to read, new words to write.
The temperature cools, and despite my best efforts, I talk to God. I try to think of praise or questions, to avoid those pleas within me. After all, I can’t ask if I won’t believe, right?
But of course I ask. What else is God for?
Of course, as well, it will always be easy for my hands to knead dough, to chop vegetables, to unconsciously mutter prayers.
And I’ve been mostly successful in ignoring it all, just giving up practice.
Yet now I’ve got this lens on, ever seeking that moment I’ll write about, imbue with meaning or recraft, hiiiilariously, in prose.
Which, frankly, makes avoiding introspection a huge pain in the ass.
I believe in people, just as I believe in the power of butter.
I believe in love, as I know cream & flour join to start the best sausage gravy.
I know I’ll see holiness in the actions of others, the way orange juice makes balsamic so sweet.
I trust there’s evil, just as I know, once out of every 10 or so times, I’ll overblanch the potatoes.
And I believe so strongly in these things, from toes to eyebrows to elbows to those little lines that have just recently appeared around my mouth.
I know, I know, I’m just boozily describing my naivete in florid detail. You’re welcome.
What’s really striking to me, though, is how much I believe in you, this community, with usually made-up names and craftily cropped avatars.
We present so much artifice, so many masks, and yet for some, are more honest in this life than in the ones where we actually see other people.
And fuck, I’m earnest, but I’m so glad for you.
Today, interestingly, I ask that this status quo continue. No matter how frustrating nor how angsty we all know I am. No matter how impatient I find myself, unable to write anything but the sincere. and, well, boozy.
Happy new year, my friends.
I need another drink.