It all depends…

I love my job, but it can be equal parts creatively inspiring and creatively taxing.

I spend a lot of time every day reading about, learning about, seeking to understand and appreciate art and artists so I can spend the rest of my day writing about, talking about and prosylytizing their craft and what it brings to our community.

This is a worthy endeavor, I feel and I feel lucky to be able to do it.

But, sometimes, I feel like there isn’t enough left for me at the end of the day. I feel like my yoga practice is what gets me through the day, my asana practice is what helps me wring out the day, but some days, my own artistic practice suffers, especially my personal writing.

If you’ve ever considered yourself to be a writer or aspired to be one, you probably have, like me, read all the books and blogs and advice from your betters who tell you the most important thing to do is to simply write. The most recent thing I read had some advice from someone famous, can’t remember who now, but he said it’s better to start writing, write for a while and then quit before you finish, that it’s much easier to pick up on something that’s still juicy the next day instead of plowing through the night before and exhausting your reserves.

Anyway, these well-meaning advice givers also suggest giving yourself a daily word count, one that’s not too daunting, and see what takes shape.

SO, I’ve decided that I am giving myself at least 200 words a day. And now even as I type that I have already accomplished and exceeded that by 90, now 93 words. Still, to make it even a tiny bit interesting, I’ll go on for a bit with an anecdote from my day.

I stopped at Whole Foods on the way to work this morning, as I was trying to fight off a certain amount of panic, given that I only realized after I woke up that I had left my computer at my boyfriend’s house, and in the computer bag (hopefully) was also the charger for my iPad. Deprived of both of these devices, I’m not able to accomplish this little side gig I have that is helping keep me financially afloat. That coupled with the day and week ahead meant it was time to replenish my portable spa, which of course consists simply of a vial of Lavender oil that I don’t like to ever be without. While standing in line, where I of course succumbed to the purchase of two new lip balms, I flashed on the fact that I had a prescription waiting for me for pick up. I had gotten the text from Rite Aid a couple of days ago and have learned from experience that they will re-file that stuff if you don’t go pick it up in a timely fashion and you’ll have to call and get on a whole new refill cycle.

Anyway, eager to get to work, I almost talked myself out of making one more stop, but a super-convenient parking spot with time left on the meter decided the moment. Doused myself in a bit of lavender oil and headed inside where I found myself third in line for the pharmacist, behind a jovial flu-shot purchaser and a teeny tiny little old lady, who turned back and smiled at me benevolently before taking her spot at the counter.

I knew the minute she did that, that she was going to take forever. And here’s where I know I have grown as a person (or maybe it’s the lavender oil), because I absolutely didn’t care.

A mountain of work and stressful meeting were awaiting me, but I was perfectly content right where I was, just happy to watch this moment unfold however it would. Work will still be there. It will ALWAYS be there, and even if I could have snatched back the extra 10 minutes this tiny little lady was surely about to cost me, it wouldn’t have a profound effect on the progress of what I knew to be ahead.

I watched her as she hauled her little personal shopping cart, which held just one item, an economy-sized package of Depends, up to the counter. It made me smile. I mean, that’s a shitload of Depends. The package was almost as tall as she was. I wondered how long that will last her.

The two pharmacists on hand, one of whom was administering the aforementioned flu shot over in the corner, were both perky and the girl at the counter was exceptionally patient and kind as the lady wheeled up her cart of Depends, propped her purse on the counter and sighed:

“Oh…well

The gal behind the counter listened to her for a bit as the woman described her ailment and prescription, politely and patiently interrupting to ask:

“What’s your last name? That’s how we file the prescription”

The woman told her and off she went to look. But of course, no prescription was to be found in the sea of dangling plastic baggies.

I amused myself by looking at the assortment of pill cases on the endcap next to me, tempted to walk over and peruse the cheap sunglass selection nearby, but reluctant to give up the precious ground I was earning with every passing second, and also painfully aware of the lack of line-purchasing willpower I had already exhibited at my first stop of the morning.

The pharmacist came back and pleasantly told the woman that her RX had been called into and filled at the Beverly Hills location. She glanced over at me with an apologetic smile.

The elderly lady barely had time to get flustered before the pharmacist offered to look and see if this location had it in stock and she could try and fill it immediately.

“Oh that would be wonderful,” the tiny elder said “Ten grams. Remember, Ten Grams”

“Yes, yes” replied the pharmacist as she walked away to look.

At this, the little old lady turned to look at me and said:

“Oh no, now I am holding up this young lady”

To which I demurred and said “Oh no, you’re just fine” (If she’d thrown in “pretty” I probably would have offered to pay for her transaction).

A few minutes later, the pharmacist returned with the small bottle, pointing out how she had replaced the child-proof cap to one more easily removed.

Our little friend tested it out and proclaimed herself delighted.

Then came time to pay and such. If I overlistened correctly, she marked her birthdate at 1931, which hell yeah little gal! You go with your Depend-gathering, independent pharmacy pickup, you almost even made it to the right location, just a few miles off!

There was some confusion. She was all excited to sign the release for the prescription, grasping the little pen. The pharmacist had to explain several times that that part came after the payment part.

She gave a delightful little laugh at herself about her confusion.

The payment part was its own little dance of the lady, who paid with cash. In exact change. But couldn’t remember the amount of the change part. That took three tries to get right.

Anyway, she finished up, walked by me with a nod and a sweetly satisfied smile, pushing her cartful of Depends. I swooped in and got my own package and was on my way.

And I chuckled all the way to work about it. Being that old kind of seems like being on drugs all the time.

Like, you have a great sense of the framework of what should be happening and when and how, but the details are blurry and out of sequence. You can’t hear that well and you might be miles from where you intended to go.

And, finalizing a simple transaction can give you an amazing sense of accomplishment for the day.

Then, you get to pee in your pants.

I can dig it.

(200 words for me Day One: Tuesday Oct. 8)

Perpetuating Poetry

I love writing what I call “spontaneous poems.” Meaning, I love to write a little poem in a moment or for or about a person. I don’t edit them much, or at all, just kind of let them live however they come out. They might be OK, they might be crap. They might even be quite lovely. It doesn’t matter much, just that they are.

PoetryStickers

You can see a couple of old examples on an earlier post in this blog. I remember one night a few years ago hanging out with some girlfriends, writing a few little ditties on the spot for each of them.  It was fun. One Valentine’s Day I wrote a Haiku for everyone in my family and sent them a little card.

Basically, I’m not a serious poet, but it’s fun and I’d like to do some more of it this summer, but could use a little help/inspiration!

We’ve been doing this poetry thing at work all year. Poetry contests, events with poets (more on erasure after I finally finish the book I am working on), we created a crowdsourced Tumblr all about poetry.

For our final spoken word event of the season, David Sedaris, we had a live “poetry bureau on site.” A dozen student writers banged out spontaneous poetry based on a few simple prompts that the perfect strangers filled out.

It was a lot of fun. Granted, I know that some people wouldn’t put the words “fun” and “poetry writing” or “poetry reading” in the same sentence. But, if you’re reading this, you’re in my world baby….and that shit’s fun to me.

The student writers were very clever and seemed to be having a blast. The writees eagerly awaited their personal poem to come hot off the old-school typewriter press.  (They seriously used typewriters, it looked cool).

Anyway, I’d like to volunteer to be a poet in YOUR life and institute my own little virtual poetry bureau.

Send me an email: jessicaelizabethwolf  (at) gmail (dot) com. (Or fill them out into the contact form here)

Include answers to the following questions.

  • Favorite Color:
  • Favorite Word:
  • I wish:
  • I’m hungry for:
  • I love:

At some point (I won’t promise absolute immediacy, but I WILL get to it) you’ll get a lovely little poetic surprise in your inbox from yours truly.

And yes, I did requisition not one but TWO poems from our intrepid typewriting poets.

Here they are below.

XO

poem2 poem1

Words

I’ve been ruminating on a topic since I heard this interview between Michael Silverblatt and Aleksander Hemon last week.

The Bosnian author was talking about his book, The Book of My Lives, which contains a personal and very emotional remembering of the loss of his daughter. In the interview the author talked about how he was confronted by a friend at that time who said: “words fail in these situations.”

No, Hemon said. Being a writer, he has belief in words. Words don’t fail, he said. Platitudes do. Empty phrases that don’t instigate connection or communication fail.

I totally agree. Words are power. Words are what will help us get through any feeling state, any situation, whether they are spoken aloud to ourselves, whether they come to us from others, or whether we sit and write them down.

This hit home to me because I recently watched some of my best friends struggle with the sudden death of another beloved friend, a woman who I did not know well, but who touched many of the lives of people close to me. It’s a horrible time, burying a loved one. I wish I were more naive on the subject, but I grok the shit out of everything they were going through.

I remember those times in my own life and the words that people chose to say. I’m grateful for the good intentions of everyone who tried to say things that they thought would be comforting, but was also bemused at the multitude of platitudes that people fall back on. “Everything happens for a reason.” “She’s in a better place.” He’s at peace now.” All those words are meaningless when strung together like pearls of wisdom and offered up to a person whose heart is breaking in grief. You accept them, absorb them, because you know they come from a good place, not because they have any real value of their own.

Really I think the only thing we can say in those moments is this: “This sucks. It sucks that your mother, brother, sister, friend, lover is gone from this life right now. It sucks that you will have to wake up every day and know that they no longer see the same sky as you, breathe the same air. It’s not OK that they won’t be there for births and weddings and celebrations and drudgery. It’s not OK that you will never hear them laugh again. It’s not OK, because you love them and you will miss them. You will miss them every day. It will suck, and it’s not OK, but you, yourself, will be OK. You will.”

I know there are those who believe we will see our loved one again someday. That’s a lovely thought, but no one, no matter how righteous or how faithful, no one can prove to me that that is the case. And even if they could, it doesn’t exactly take away the pain of the now. Today I live without the loved ones I have lost. And today comes every day.  Until it doesn’t.

And that belief, that beyond death, that at the end of all my todays all will be well, to me, becomes a platitude itself. And platitudes are empty in the moment.

I think the reason platitudes fail is because what we’re really trying to say, what we really want to ask and answer is—why? And that is a fruitless question to ask because the answer is simply—because. Because, we all, some how, some way, some day will die.

There is no why about it. It just is.

But when you’re in pain, when you’re experiencing loss, when you’re trying to console a friend who is in that situation, you don’t want to think that, you don’t want to say that. And yet, you know in your heart that you cannot ask and answer the question “why” so out come the supposedly comforting phrases that are really more about numbing the pain than dealing with it, or healing it.

I really believe that the only way to heal from this kind of pain is to face it with raw honest human emotions and raw, honest words that don’t just serve to anesthetize, but that tell the truth as each one of us knows it, and rip open wide the fears we all have inside. That’s where the connection comes, that’s how the understanding comes, that’s where acceptance will start to creep in. And that’s where healing starts.

This, as in most things in life, can be illustrated by a choice moment from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (I have Buffy on the brain, well, pretty much all the time, but especially this week). A 1,000-year-old demon recently turned human had no platitudes to share as she and her friends were suffering the loss of Buffy’s mom. She only had words.

Oh and later? Anya said to Buffy: “I wish Joyce  didn’t die…because she was nice….and now, we all…hurt.” And it’s really kind of that simple.

We’ve all been there. We all miss someone who would probably rather be here, enjoying fruit punch, sneezing, watching her children grow up, getting excited about the new Superman movies. Or at least, WE would rather they were here doing those things with us.

And it’s not OK that they’re not.

But we can all be OK. Today. For as many todays as we get, making them as real and true as we can make them.