That moment when you’re eating a crappy salad in the Las Vegas airport after yet another weekend of feeling sorry for yourself because you’re convinced you are never going to find love again and then as you take a mouthful of overcooked chicken and way too much lettuce, your ear catches a sound that is familiar and after a second of slowly rolling the salad around your mouth, you realize the restaurant is playing music, in fact, the song you’re hearing is one of your favorite songs ever by your favorite band and suddenly you know you that you’re going to be okay, even better than okay, you are going to be fucking fantastic and you will fall in love again and sing this song to him, or better yet, you will sing it to each other.
I read this post about “the Deadly Sin that makes life awesome.” Spoiler: It’s Pride. But not Hubristic Pride, when you think you’re better than other people. The author describes the benefit of Authentic Pride, where you are proud of the work you’ve done.
One of the recommendations the author makes is to ask yourself, “Who do I want to be” rather than “What do I want?” or “What will impress other people?”
I love that approach.
So, who do I want to be?
A mom with a great relationship with her kids.
A partner to someone I love and respect.
A great friend.
Day 16: Write an ode to something ordinary.
Ode to Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil
I didn’t realize your sublime utility
Until the first time I happened to tear a piece of you that fit over my baking sheet
And realized the thickness of your foil meant complete protection,
Saving me from having to clean one more pan and therefore
Offering me the oh-so precious gift
Of more time to spend with my family.
My dear aluminum foil, you are here to serve.
Whether I’m roasting vegetables, or making cookies, or submitting you to the greasy orgy of baking bacon,
You stay strong, and whole, and never complain.
Sometimes, like when I enlist you to cover a pan for pizza, your duty is extended
And after the kids have eaten half of the pie, you swaddle yourself around the leftovers
And keep them safe and contained for their school lunch the next day.
Usually, though, I crumple you up when the dish is done
And send you to your resting place in the recycling bin
So someday you can serve again.
Day 17: Something overheard. I was supposed to eavesdrop on a conversation and use it as a writing prompt, but since I write first thing in the morning, usually around 5:30-6am, I passed on this one.
Day 18: Inspiration: Ernest Hemingway’s Hills like White Elephants
Write a scene in which two characters want different things, letting their desires come across through dialogue.
“It’s good to see you,” he said, placing his hands on the table, close enough where he could reach out and touch her, but not doing so.
“Yes,” she said. “It’s been a while. I like the color of that shirt on you.”
“Oh, thanks,” he said, looking down at the mauve pullover. He looked back up and smiled. “How are things with Kevin?”
“Good. I like him a lot. It’s funny to be with him; he talks a lot. He helps to get me out of my shell.”
The waiter placed two glasses of water in front of them and paused slightly in case they were ready to order, but they didn’t look at him.
“So does this thing with Kevin have legs?”
“It’s too soon to know. I’m not sure.”
She glanced at the menu. “Do you want to split something?”
“I’m really hungry. Let’s order a few different rolls. Anything you want?”
“Ah, I’m good with almost anything, just nothing too chewy. I had a filling put in today. So, how are you?”
“Great! I just closed on the house. It was a crazy hassle to finalize the loan but it pulled through at the last minute.”
“That’s wonderful. Congratulations.”
“Thanks. It’s so peaceful there. And so much space! Plenty of room for you and your kids. I have a dream of you living there with me one day.”
“It looks beautiful,” she said, glancing at the photo on his iPad of trees and open spaces and brick walkways. The waiter stopped and took their order of two Rainbow rolls, one salmon roll, one spicy tuna roll and two orders of unagi.
She picked up a pod of edamame and popped the end into her mouth, squeezed the soy bean out and gently chewed it then swallowed.
“And what about you? Are you dating anyone?”
“Yes. Three women.”
“I think it’s good for me to help me really know what I want.”
“I’m surprised to hear that. I thought that what you want was…me.”
Day 19: Write a story backwards. Lead with the thing that happens. Use “Before that” to launch every paragraph as you write your way back to the story’s natural beginning.
Lainie scooped up the last mound of vanilla ice cream from the bowl her mother had given her. She let the sweet taste swirl around her mouth and down her throat as she swallowed. Feeling empowered, she asked, “Mommy, can I please have a little more?”
Before that, she rested the heavy white cast on top of the pillow next to her. It smelled sour and the top of it, under her arm, was digging into the soft flesh under her bicep.
Before that, the nice doctor laid the clammy, cold strips on her arm and told her she’d be feeling better soon.
Before that, she lay crumpled and crying on the sidewalk, her wrist tender and painful, and her legs bruised from her tricycle landing on top of her.
Before that, she paused, at the top of a short hill in the neighborhood, to take in the view. “This is what the world must look like to grown-ups,” she thought, as she felt the tricycle starting to move away underneath her.
Before that, her parents were fighting, and she couldn’t bear to hear them being so mean to each other, so she ran out of the house, jumped on her tricycle and pedaled hard, far away from that scary place where people who were supposed to love each other turned into monsters.
Before that, it was a bright morning, and Lainie lay in bed, hugging her teddy bear, wondering if Mommy and Daddy would take her to the park.
Day 20: Walnut, eyelash, curtain, bottle, scab: Write a piece that includes all five of these.
There was always a curtain between us.
You peeked out from it from time to time but then hid again.
I’d reach out and feel the shape of your face through the fabric
But you couldn’t feel the warmth of my caress.
I remember the times I’d watch you sleep
And count the smile lines that frame your eyes
And the eyelashes that would flutter while you dreamed
Translating your beauty into a sum of numbers that in the end added up to nothing.
Our love was so simple at first.
Smooth like the shell of a walnut, hiding the knotty nut underneath that emerged with time
Complicated and fascinating upon closer inspection
Maddening to contemplate how we got to this place.
I can’t continue to bottle up my feelings for you.
You told me I was the love you had always hoped for but had given up on finding.
I wish I could let you go but the connection we had was so intense that it lingers on
But then I remember to consider what you’ve done rather than what you’ve said
The years you made me wait pierced my heart over and over, leaving it raw and skeptical
Friends, family, time, other lovers…they’ve helped me build a protective scab over the wound you made
So my heart could heal and love again
But you keep coming back, with your words, your long gazes
And gently pick the scab away.
I’m taking an online writing course to help me create a daily writing habit. Each day, we read a short poem or piece of writing that is used as an inspirational writing prompt.
Here’s Week One’s output.
Day One: Ten questions, biographical or in character. I chose the main character from a novel I am writing about a girl whose family relocated to Hawaii in the mid-80’s.
1. When I was ten years old, I thought that I’d grow up to be a veterinarian. I loved animals and always wanted a pet, but we move around a lot because my dad is in the Marine Corps, so my parents won’t let me have a dog or cat or any pet, although I usually adopt some local creature as my own whenever I can. During second grade, I went on a camping trip with my scout group and found a huge snail, so I smuggled it home and kept it on my windowsill. I’d steal pieces of lettuce from my dinner plate and feed it. I didn’t think it would move mooch but the next day when I cam home from school, the snail was gone. I like to think it crawled down the wall of our apartment building and I rationalized its absence as that rather than it being plucked from the windowsill by a bird.
2. Instead I grew up to be …well, I’m not quite grown up yet in the sense of graduating college, getting a job and all that grown up kind of stuff. I am working at our local pizza parlor, if that counts, but I’d like to think I will advance beyond food prep work.
3. The worst thing I ever did was in 5th grade when I told one of the girls in my neighborhood about where babies come from. She was only 8 years old at the time but I had just had “the talk” at school and she asked, so I gave it to her straight. I liked feeling like I knew something special and I didn’t want to seem like a snob with my newfound knowledge, so I described the mechanics of the act. The next day, when I cam home from school, I saw The Look on my mother’s face. Apparently my description of sex had completely freaked out the girl and she hadn’t slept most of the night. I had to go over to her house and apologize to her and her mother. I was mortified.
4. I used to think the Bible was true, but every since my experience at my Catholic high school now I believe it’s just an epic novel.
5. The accomplishment that I am the most proud of is beating Claudia Elden in the 1981 spelling bee. Echinacea. What the hell?
6. If I could have a superpower, it would be the ability to know if someone is lying.
7. In my purse/bag, I always carry a brush. Damn irish genes.
8. One thing I’ve never told anyone about is that last summer, I went on one of those amusement park rides with a dark tunnel and I kissed my cousin. With tongue.
9. I typically express my creativity by decorating my room and drawing. I also really enjoy acting. I get a lot of practice every time my family moves and I have to show up at a new school and make friends.
10. If I were to run away, I would take my Sony walkman and stow away in an airplane and go back to the mainland. But I would never do that.
Day Two: Bullet to the Brain, inspiration from “Bullet In The Brain,” by Tobias Wolff
She didn’t remember the slamming of metal onto metal and how her body was thrown violently against the harness straps of her ejection seat when the jet she flew stopped cold in 60 feet on the aircraft carrier. She didn’t remember the deep feelings of loss when friends were plucked from existence, seen one morning before a mission but never to return. The birthdays, Christmases, Easter baskets, summer BBQs…none came to mind as the bullet pierced her skull. She didn’t recall graduations, First Communion, confirmation, her wedding, the final signing of her divorce papers…no rites of passage in her life which at the time had felt heavy and electric.
She remembered sweat and pressure and pain and the overwhelming desire to push a baby out of her body. She remembered her first: stuck in the canal, hesitant to emerge. She thought he would never come out, and when he finally was suctioned free, she saw his gray pallor and held him for a second before he was whisked away by nurses to be resuscitated. She remembered her second, a girl, who gave her a damnned difficult pregnancy but popped out with three pushes. Her daughter was pink, warm, soft and sweet. She remembered holding her for the first time, and as the bullet completed its path and introduced her to her mortality, she remembered that she had brought life into this world and would never truly leave it.
Day Three: Obsessions/Complusions. Inspiration from A Plague of Tics, by David Sedaris
I can’t buy it anymore. I think that I’ll be able to moderate my consumption, but if there is a jar of Nutella in my house, it will not last more than a day. Despite earnest attempts at willpower, I simply cannot resist. Maybe it’s because it tastes so damn good on just about everything. You can spread it on bland delivery devices like bread or crackers. Dipping something salty like a pretzel yields nirvana. A spoonful on a scoop of vanilla ice cream elevates the dessert to divine. Jamming a spoon into the jar and pulling away a glob works fine, too, until you find yourself with the very last traces, wondering how the creators of this magical creme could design a jar that does not enable you to scrape out the remnants and you are forced to test whether or not your tongue is long enough to lick the sides. I have learned my lesson and accepted that I must refrain from purchasing the jars I see at the grocery store and deny myself the pleasures of Nutella, lest my jeans start straining from the rapid consumption of 2,000 calories. And don’t get me started about those assholes at CostCo, with their 2-pack of 33.5 oz jars of my Kryptonite. They mock my pain.
Day Four: Pillow Book. Inspiration from the The Pillow Book of Lady Sei Shonagon, an observational notebook written over 1,000 years ago.
Being awakened from a deep, comfortable warm sleep by the jagged, blaring bleats of one’s alarm clock.
The reckless driver who speeds through a parking lot of stationary cars and exposed people.
The distracted driver who plods along in the left lane of the highway, drifting sporadically towards the slower lane but never pulling into it.
Sliding the USB cable into a port with the correct side up so it easily engages and you don’t have to flip it over and try again.
The first bite of a warm, sugary malasada…slightly crispy on the outside but doughy and soft on the inside.
The moment when your daughter spots you in the crowd of parantparazzi at the school band concert and knows you made the effort to be there to support her.
When your young children wrap their chubby little arms around your neck and hold on to you like they’ll never let you go.
Day Five: was a long week at work and I punted this assignment.