Saturday, December 31, 2011

What are you doing New Year's Eve?

Somewhere in the world, someone is already drinking champagne. Like, in New Jersey.

New Year's is fraught. All the commercials right now are for quitting smoking and losing weight, making more money and finally meeting that special someone. You should be thinner, and richer and younger, and adored. People make ridiculous resolutions and fail to keep them. And they should, because if everything was tempered by a cold dose of reality, then no one would ever try anything.

In middle school, my Italian pen pal, Valentina, told me that in Italy they believe if you do something on the first, you'll do that all year. It's a good idea to do something you love. Be with family. Eat good food. Read. Be in love. Wouldn't you believe anything a girl named Valentina told you? I would.

In my nervous brain I have translated that to whatever I do on New Year's Day I will end up doing all year: arguing? check. Worrying? check. Not writing? check. Being too fat? check. Wrestling a giant pile of laundry? check.

I'm going to make ridiculous resolutions. I'm going to do everything I want on New Year's Day.

I will wrestle a giant pile of language.
I will get married.
I am going to write another novel.
I will sell the other novel.
I will be a rock star.
Better yet, I will marry a rock star. We will both be rock stars.
I'm going to do better in school.
I'm going to have children.
I will lose 30 pounds.
I will quit drinking.
I will start drinking with more purpose and gusto.
Eat more chocolate.
Kiss more people. Really? Let's bring back the social kiss, and replace the stupid handshake.
I'm going to exercise more and go to bed earlier and breathe more and be outside and look at clouds and stars and trees and plant flowers and walk the dog.
I'm going to stay up later and love the darkness and write poems at midnight and sleep til noon.
I will spend less time worrying.
I will worry about the right things.
I'll get a job.
I'll quit my job.
I'll get organized and then learn to love and value chaos, the chaos that is every day no matter who you are. Everyone has it. Everyone's is different, which makes them all the same. You are not a unique snowflake of chaos. You are just human.
Have something to fall back on.
And then burn the bridge to that thing you can fall back on.

In the meantime, I'll worry about every step I take tomorrow, every word I read and write and every sip of wine or bite of chocolate. I'm going to kiss one more person than I did the day before. I will make snowflakes out of people. And catch them on my tongue.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Morpho Peleides

I've decided to sell my china. It's not a complete set, only some pieces, and I feel detached from it now. Years ago, however, after we got married, I was taken by Portmeirion's Botanic Garden pattern. It was English, and included not only butterflies and bees with the plants, but also the Latin names. At the time, I was reading a lot of A. S. Byatt, whose novel Still Life, includes a chapter called "Names of Grasses," listing both the English and Latin names. In many ways, the novel acknowledges the power of naming. Byatt says herself,
I had the idea, when I began this novel, that it would be a novel about naming and accuracy. I wanted to write a novel as Williams said a poem should be -- no ideas but in things (Byatt, Still Life, 323).


That summer Marcus had a vision of the world as a globe marked out not only by flowing stripes of water and huge nets of roots, sliding sands and towering rocks, but by a kind of human love, not grabbing, not consuming, not even humanizing, but simply naming the multidinous things to be seen, for the sake of seeing them more clearly (Byatt, Still Life, 322).

It's hard to step back and simply call things what they are, simply name.  I wasn't a china girl; I was more of a Chinet girl. We eloped. We were not in the category of couples who register and get china, or crystal, or fine silverware. When I look back, it's amazing we made it. Everything was an idea bigger than us. It's hard to enter into that, headstrong, and have the courage to simply name it. Someone might have named it dumb.

The Chapel of Love, Las Vegas
I wasn't raised in a culture of fanfare. Most of my attempts at ceremony, at celebration, at recognition were met firmly with an acknowledgment of my place: last. And in the mid-90s, I wasn't looking for a traditional wedding, in fact, had it been expected, I might have rejected the offer. I would have been happy with the rebellion of scaling back, of marrying outside the church, of wearing something not white.

But that's not who we are. My own parents were married in a courthouse, and truth be told, they probably would have advised me to do the same thing. Somehow, without much forethought, I saved us the uncomfortable You don't really want a wedding, do you? conversation, and eloped before it became much of an issue. I wouldn't trade the elopement. It was perfect. There was only us. It was only $200: pictures, flowers, limo and video included.

My rebellion is often reactionary. I wanted to go to church, and not just go -- but be confirmed, to be official. I wanted at least that recognition. I wanted to the pressure of going to college.  I wanted to rebel by going to college for something I loved, not something that was practical. I wanted someone to know that I loved something, more than anything. I want to use the good china on holidays, and dress up. I want a tree with lots of lights, or two trees, as we've done for the past few years. I wanted ceremonies for my kids. Baptisms and First Communions. So they would know just how much they matter. Because we do matter. As Phil Memmer says in his poem, "You Are Worth Many Sparrows,"

      We matter that much. We matter
      that much, at the least.

They will rebel, of course, against fanfare. want to wear beanies at the table, or eat at TV trays in the living room. (An option not yet presented to them, but boy, if they knew they could.)

It's who they are.

Monday, December 5, 2011

On the Interpretation of Naked Dreams

A few nights ago, I had a naked dream. Naked dreams are common. Usually they represent some vulnerability, something you're afraid of letting everyone see. According Dream Moods, in a naked dream, "You are exposed, and left without any defenses."

I'm listening.
In my naked dream, however, I had decided to become an exotic dancer. I don't remember exactly how this opportunity came to me, but once presented, I decided it was the best course of action. I stood to make a lot of money. And for some reason, Kelsey Grammer was involved.

I get it, right? Yesterday, I drove up to Dolgeville to pick up a puppy that is a Jack Russell Terrier. Like Eddie on Fraser. I get the connection. I also get the whole psychology thing. A voice listening in the dark, on the telephone. Kelsey Grammer was pleasant, helpful, kind of how you'd hope he would be in a dream, and probably not how he actually is in person. And as I was considering the dance proposition, I complained,

But I'm chubby, and I have stretch marks.

Kelsey Grammer replied, They can fix that. Perfect.

Turns out it was less of a pole dancing position than it was a private dancer gig. It was suggested that I wear a corset. In the end, I was ready to bare all, and Kelsey Grammer told me it would all be ok.

Nothing is as naked as writing. I have my fears about it. I am chubby and I do have stretch marks. The body of my work is scarred up with a lot of things. Old surgeries, fights, births, death. You can read the lines of pleasure and heartache right there on the skin. All of it, out there for anyone to see.

And what happens? A kind man tells me it will all be ok. He reassures me even though it's for his benefit. That they can can fix my flaws. He listens.

And I step into dim light wearing only my skin. Just a thin pulsing cover over my heart.