Friday, June 01, 2007

Screams in the night

For about a week now there have been screams, but they don't sound as though they come from a human throat, unless the human throat could contort in such a way to give this soul wrenching howl of torture. In some ways it reminds me of peacocks but there are no peafowl anywhere nearby. Foxes bark and crows and ravens have a raucous throat rending caw, but this is different. I've heard parrots squawk and birds of all kinds give their melodious and strange cries, but never anything like this. The screams haunt my waking hours and intrude into my dreams, leaving a sense of other worldliness that borders on the fantastic, and not in a good way. For some reason, I recognize the screams but can put neither name nor face to them and yet they stir something I thought long dead and asleep within that wakes and reaches from the bleak darkness toward the light, wanting to be reborn to enliven horrors left dormant and silent within.

The screams have finally stopped, but the effect lingers like the the slime trail of a subterranean slug, glittering and shimmering foully whenever light illuminates the path, except there is no stench, no scent, no effluvia but mental chaos.

I'm going to go back to sleep and when I wake maybe the screams, like the wakening darkness, will be gone, just a fever dream or nightmare from too much chastity or too little . . . something.

That is all. Disperse.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Cycles and worry stones

Most people have a cycle of behavior, a sort of emotional journey that brings them back to the same point over and over as long as there are unresolved issues. Sometimes they talk about the issues but they never really settle anything, constantly hashing and rehashing the same old territory as though telling their beads, working them through their fingers over and over until the stones or wood is worn and shiny from constant use.

A long time ago one of my aunts gave me a worry stone. It was flat and polished and had a depression in the center about the size of the pad of my thumb. She told me I should keep it close to hand and whenever anything bothered me to rub my thumb in the depression, give my worries and anxieties to the stone. "You'll run out of worries before you wear down the stone," she said. She was wrong. I wore a hole through the center of the worry stone and wore it on a thong around my neck for a long time and I still had worries and anxieties. That was in the days before I became confrontational. Don't get me wrong; I still have worries and anxieties from time to time, but instead of wearing down a stone I face the problem head-on and deal with it. Took me a very long time to get there because I spent most of my life being a doormat and apologizing for things that weren't my fault just to put an end to any conflict or disagreement, pleading guilty and taking the bitter medicine of injustice with a spoonful of sugary smiles. I don't do that any more, but back then I had my cycle, too.

Someone would hurt me (usually someone I knew really well) and I would get angry and cry through the pain, endure the silence as long as I could (usually less than a week and most times less than a day), swallow my pride, hang my head, and, with tail tucked firmly between my legs, apologize and accept the blame just so the person would talk to me again, recognize me, accept me back into the fold so they could ignore me and use me and hurt me whenever they felt the need. It's a cycle I repeated endlessly into my thirties. Then a man I was seeing stole my car and all my possessions and stranded me in New Orleans without money or friends or help. I learned that in order to survive I'd either have to grovel and beg for help or I could face my mistakes and make the best of it. I didn't grovel and I didn't beg--ever again. I found out I could survive without help and I learned to do things that previously I would have thought beneath me. No, I didn't become a prostitute; I became a strong survivor who was no longer afraid to let go of whatever didn't work and whoever couldn't see this tree for the forest. For the first time in my life I began to see my own value.

I stumbled along the way and fell briefly into old habits--they do take a lot of killing--but I picked myself up and moved on. What doesn't work, what doesn't make me happy, whoever thinks my welcome smile is an invitation to wipe their feet on me because they have mistaken me for a doormat ends up finding out what my tail lights look like from a growing distance. I refuse to suffer fools lightly or at all.

In some ways, this attitude has isolated me but it has also freed me and given me the strength to walk away from toxic situations and people. It isn't about holding a grudge or not being able to get over the past, but about not repeating the past. It was a hard lesson and one I've tried to teach by example, but it's a lesson that takes study and practice, practice, practice. People think I'm uncompromising and hard, and maybe in some ways they are right, but I'm not; I'm vulnerable; I choose not to let it show. Life is too short to spend it making holes in worry stones and wasting the body's water in in the desert of despair. It's better to confront the situation and simply walk away.

Sunday, May 27, 2007


I am not a fan of frustration. Who is? Yesterday I was very frustrated. I know the deadline is arbitrary and only exists because I chose it, but it's all part of being a more productive writer. The deadline was for a book on divorce.

Suddenly, a country song pops into my mind, "My D-I-V-O-R-C-E becomes final today. Me and little J-O-E will be going away."

I am divorced. Twice. The first time was harder and I nearly changed my mind and asked my ex if we could try again, not just for the boys but for me. I was scared. I wasn't certain I could shoulder the weight of raising three boys alone and working two jobs or handle all the other weights that would be added just so I could walk away from what I thought I'd wanted seven years before. Ours was not an idyllic marriage and I certainly couldn't write about how I became physically allergic to him and broke out in hives and started itching like my skin was crawling with fire ants; it's not all that uplifting. I even called Beanie to ask her what uplifting and positive story she'd want to read if she was contemplating, going through, or had been divorced. She couldn't think of anything either. The months and years after the divorce were difficult and sometimes I felt like I'd never get through it all intact, but I did. None of it was pretty and, except for the boys, I didn't have a single positive thought that would uplift anyone. I thought I'd have to pass on writing the story, but I didn't want to give up. I had a deadline, arbitrary as it was, and I was going to find something to write about, something true and honest and uplifting and . . . well, you get the idea.

I fretted and worried. That didn't work. I freewrote for a while. That didn't work. Then I thought I'd step away from the problem and give myself a break. I couldn't read more than a few chapters of any of the books I'm reading or pay attention to the movie I decided to watch even though it was good quirky Ed Wood fun. I started the story, hoping and praying that some spark would ignite and I'd have the story I wanted, but it fell short. Still, I had a few hundred words written and it was something. I decided to go to bed.

I read a little more of the book I have to review but couldn't really focus, reading the same passages over and over and not making sense of any of it. It wasn't the book; it was me. I gave up, turned out the light, and went to sleep. At 2 a.m., in the midst of a really great dream about Doctor Who I woke up. It was partly my bursting bladder but mostly because I wanted to finish the story.

Reading over what I had written, I added a little flesh here and some muscle there and got caught up in it. By the time I got to the previous ending, I changed it and wrote a new ending. It was better. I read it over, nipping here, tucking there, adding a bit of something more, and it was soon finished. I had a story I was proud of and that actually was uplifting. I didn't gloss over the hard part or how I sat down to talk with my ex about maybe not getting divorced. It's in there. Mainly, I focused on the boys and the song I sang when I tucked them into bed nearly every night. It's a song I sang for Beanie when she was little. The story is called Lullaby. I sent it off at 4 a.m. this morning and I'm happy with it.

The more I write, the more I find I want to write, even when I have arbitrary deadlines. I have my To Do database and everything is sorted by deadline and publication. I know I'm putting pressure on myself, but I need goals, some kind of finish line, to keep in mind and work toward, a sort of reward for the effort.

Yesterday, I found some new markets that pay fairly well and posted them to one of my writing groups. Then I got busy, studied their guidelines and themes and I checked through what I already had on hand, adding them to my database. I edited and wrote and the end result was four stories being accepted for four themed issues. Not a bad haul, especially when you consider I'm getting paid for all of them. But it's really not about the money. For me, it's about writing the way I used to write with joy and happiness in the process and the satisfaction of having written something of which to be proud. I even managed a little something sensual and erotic and sent it to a friend who said the heat index was just right. She also said if it was even semi-autobiographical she was jealous. It was completely autobiographical. When it is published, I'll provide a link.

At any rate, every day is a journey and I'm learning a lot about myself and my writing by plumbing the depths of my past -- and present -- to write. I wouldn't have it any other way.

I can't say I left my husband to be with my soul mate or that that was even a concern. I can't say divorce was easy or that my children were not marked by the experience; we are all marked by the experiences of living whether such times be good, bad, or indifferent. I do know I did the right thing, finally, when I walked away from my marriage because it wasn't good between us. We were destroying each other and our children bit by bit and word by word, our anger ripping deep wounds that, if we had allowed it to continue, would never have healed and would have hurt our children even more. I do know, despite the difficulties and the sacrifices, that my children still believe in love and happiness and marriage, and that is something positive. They haven't avoided marriage because they didn't want a marriage like their parents had, and I know far too many people like that. I'm one of them.