Into the Waves

Still need to fix my phone so as to provide readers with my own photos.

Do you know how annoying it is to have an intermittent “h” on one’s keyboard? I start typing like I have a Cockney accent!

Both bulbs finally burnt out in my office light fixture.

Complete household meltdown on the weekend, followed by a reprise Monday night.

Medical things. Dental things. Money things.

And on, and on…

Yes, these are the little irritations that plague even the most dedicated writers.

I think the trick is to set your prow into the waves and keep writing anyway.

Walloped

So apparently getting “let go” had more ramifications than expected. Witness the total lack of blog posts since about November! (And stock photo for this post!).

In all fairness, Christmas happened in that time frame (and oh what a joy THAT was!). Also the health issue took a turn for the worst, but has stabilized yet again. (Feel like a yoyo!)

On the up side, the second novel is now clocking in at 632 pages (first draft) and I got to experience my first ever full on writer’s block. It was fascinating. But thanks to the coaching of several more experienced novelists, I recognized the symptoms of fear and took the time to break down my experience to get to the root of it.

Turns out I have a weighty fear of breaking this complex monstrosity as well as a dread of being “done” with theses characters. (I have carted these folks around for better part of 20 years. What happens to them when the book is done?!)

After sorting that out and facing off against my desk for three days running with little to show for it, I finally had to resort to allowing myself to be a beginner and be okay with the result. As they say, one can fix it in the rewrite.

So a mammoth 80 page section was the hard won end result, and now I get to face off against another jag of “how do I put all these pieces together and make sense?!”

Wish me luck!

Church

So, after a door-slamming row with the spousal unit last night, I got up this morning and decided to do something I had been considering for some time: walk up to the church on the corner for the early morning service.

Why?

It is true that I believe if one is so inclined, one can “meet God” anywhere. But if one wishes to meet people, one has to show up places.

This was really an act of following my heart.

And what a day for it! Pink graced the sunrise beyond the snow-laden evergreens. Hardly a soul was to be seen at this hour.

Blessed silence.

I have a long and colourful history with faith-based institutions, not all of it is pretty.

I could have gone in, elbows out, in my punky finest, but that didn’t suit me today. These are good people trying to do good things. I felt I should go in gently. It would be kinder to them.

But I didn’t want to put on an “acceptable suit.” I still wanted to be my authentic self. So, yes I wore my mismatched earrings with the Bajoran-esque ear cuff and chain, my rib cage and gem heart necklace, and my winter cloak. (Yes, Winter is Here, never mind Coming).

I chatted with one old chap in the parking lot as I arrived. Friendly enough, though I got the sense that talking to someone in a winter cloak was a bit of an adventure for him. He braved it well.

Synergy ensued.

I have been considering where to move next on the employment journey and it occurred to me that I could do some meaningful volunteering if nothing else.

Who was the guest speaker this morning? The director of a charity known as “Inn From the Cold” that helps shelter homeless families!

I have always been one who loves things of a restorative nature, be it books, houses, furniture or lives. Inn From The Cold’s aim is to help stop homelessness before it happens, but also to be there with all the tools when it does.

This seemed a good fit. I am actually excited about the prospect. But I am one who gets excited about many things, so I opened up to God to hear what He’d like me to say, if I spoke to this speaker person.

Two key words came to mind in the form of a question: “Can use a writer, or maybe a volunteer?” It was kind of freeing to speak it. Writer is what I am. Volunteering is what I am willing to do, what I can do. I don’t need to reconstruct a new self to be of value somewhere. She invited me to have tea, take the tour, and talk more.

This church is of the more formal variety, with ministers in robes, and candles on the altar table. The liturgy (the script, if you will) was printed in a little pamphlet and had all the bits from the various books identified by page number and book colour. I though this was very thoughtful of them.

I still managed to muff the stage directions for the Communion ceremony as in this church everyone walks up to the front and kneels for it. The row filled up and I had no spot to go to, but the usher (in her Hogwarts jacket!) was quietly helpful.

When I entered, I noticed they had Kleenex boxes situated at various locations on the benches. I had no particular inclination to tears this morning, in spite of last night’s row, but chose a spot nearby one, just in case.

I was treated to a flow of beautiful words, both contemporary and historical, a favourite “chorus” or short song, (“They Will Know We are Christians by Our Love”) from my childhood, and an old time hymn, which I loved. Touch after touch seemed to say, “This is your place.”

The sense of tranquility in that place was welcome, though the prayer of Confession (not as horrible as it sounds) did make me cry, not for any scourging properties, but for the words in it that were all my words, stunningly specific to my life.

There was also the traditional Lord’s Prayer. This was the thing that really started the tears because the last time I heard it was at work, in my former job, in our little circle of four.

One of the things the abrupt ending of my employment caused was the tearing away of my one circle of fellowship. I don’t grok with traditional religious institutions very well, so my only time to be with those of like mind in spiritual matters was at work. We would meet every Wednesday and talk about life, work, and say the Lord’s Prayer at the end.

The one who led it was the one who fired me. Laid me off. Whatever.

To hear that prayer again stabbed, a fresh sense of loss.

It is what it is. I try not to let pain make me hate.

After, I met a gal by the name of Jen, an empty-nester who likes to volunteer a lot here and there, and we chatted over tea and cake. I learned that her family hails from Norway, one of the travel destinations on my “to see” list, the other being England.

The tea server was a fun lady by the name of Anse (“Just ask a question, and you will get the Anse!”) who also has a passion for travel and England (!) I met their spouses (Cam and Daniel, respectively).

Then some lady with gorgeous blue shell earrings came up and asked me if I was “Lisa.” (The door usher had asked me if I was “Louise” the guest speaker, when I entered. The day of mistaken identity, I guess!) I said no. She complimented my necklace and ended up taking a pic to show her son, who makes jewelry.

Everyone in the circle laughed at this oddity, pretending this was their standard practice to photograph new attendees. Made me smile.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable time, with no pretense on my part. And that in and of itself was a relief.

I might do Advent with these folks.

Painting With Light

We gifted the small one with a Wacom drawing tablet last month to foster her art. She invited me to draw with her today.

We took turns.

It was nothing at all to do with career or writing or habit building or anything at all.

And it was completely delightful.

Stickers

Back in the early eighties, kids would gather in school stairwells over lunch and recess and trade stickers.   Kids still do the sticker thing now, but then, it was new, the stickers amazing. It was an obsession, “a thing.”

There were popular Smurf “Puffies” and glittering “Shinies” and “Glitteries” in every colour of the rainbow. In fact, anything with a rainbow was prized. It didn’t mean then what it has come to mean now. Back then, it was just a riot of glorious colour. Fantasy, I think, was just starting its modern rise.

Unicorns, Pegasi, stars, moons, all these graced the stick-down photo album pages of serious collectors. Trading was a big factor in this game. Two Scratch-and-sniffs for a Shiny. A Shiny beat out a Glittery, but it better still have the backing.   A shiny could also garner a Puffie. “Flats” or those Sunday School lick-and-sticks nobody wanted. Garfield anything was prime.

In this transition phase of my life, I have chosen to put rushing around off to the sidelines for a bit. Yes, I may need external income soon (as opposed to creatively generated income). Yes, my resume needs updating. Yes, there are the transition agency courses, the medical insurance shifting, the home, the bills and blah.

It can wait.

At least a week. Maybe two.

Maybe more. Who knows?

I’m in transition.

I don’t’ know what I will become next.

But this time, I am taking my time. I have been listening to what brings me joy, and believe it or not, I found my old sticker albums, and some unplaced sheets of stickers.

Curled into my favourite wingback chair while sipping tea and catching up with spousal unit, I took sharp scissors an cut the outlines of a dozen or so unicorn Shinies and placed them round a sticky page in an eye-pleasing pattern.

I had forgotten what a meditative activity this could be. Cutting, placing, shifting around until I liked what I saw. No money involved. No productivity happening. Just fun.

I wonder what else I have forgotten I liked to do?

I keep seeing rainbows everywhere. Today it was a set of sun dogs in a second order of refraction, just in one break in the clouds.

I find when I let myself just be, the world goes from rat race to full of promise. Full of rainbows. Full of Shinies.

Cog Run

Sun blazes bright on what remains of the Fall leaves.

It takes me two tries to get dressed.

The weekend was somewhat restful. Sufficient hours of sack time, though one night held the surprise bomb of an Orwellian nightmare wherein I was charged with something I couldn’t remember doing. My home was invaded for the trial and my citizenship threatened until I confessed.

I then ended up herding a friend’s cat(s) into said house, due to severe weather, uncertain as to which of the white half-feral darlings were hers. Waking did not clear the memory fog or the raw anxiety for some time.

I check the mirror and choose the off-beat dangly earing with stud combo, just to remind myself that, though I wear the business jacket, I am not a cog. I finger through the necklaces…hourglass, cat eye, Steampunk hand…and finally settle on the Galafreyan pendant, a geometric design in blues.

Only my tribe would know.

I board the train, just as I have for the last six years, though it is later in the day, and so feels a little holiday-wildish.

I sit in my usual spot, shoulders hunched forward, shades on, arms aching a little, and I realize I am scared. Scared to commit to a new course of action, not having taken my stand on the wrong done here. Scared of committing and blowing away resources I desperately need. Scared of leaving money on the table. Scared I don’t deserve it, no matter what I need.

Spousal Unit is of no help, alas. Decisions elude him like fruit flies in the dark.

No, I have to build my own destiny from here, as usual, make my calls, suffer the consequences. Will I learn?

Have I ever?

Cement tunnel walls clack by. I see my own reflection, the shades that hide my eyes, giving me a svelte, detached appearance. Cool.

I can work with this.

I stop at a new station, and walk south three blocks. I see all sorts. Men in suits. Women in heels. A courier. A woman on crutches with the road rash down the centre of her face, looking like she came off her skateboard, or maybe got beat up. She asks me for change. I have nothing for her, I say. How much more do I have than she does? Doesn’t matter. I’m in hoarding mode.

Is that how it should be?

I buy a tea, hoping to buy sharp-mindedness. I am on my way to the orientation interview with the transition agency. The server gets my order wrong, but I am already in the office on the 11th floor before I know it.

It’s a cutting edge office. Very clean, very slick. Art and screens are in evidence, mostly white, like a science fiction lab, but with tasteful accents of colour.

I feel corporate squashing me. My pants are wrong, my necklace cheap.

Relax. This is just a ritual. Chin up, shoulders back, as Capaldi would say.

The receptionist is turned out to perfection. Her make-up and hair are stunning, but there is something strange about her eyes.

I couldn’t get a decent haircut on a bet. And I tried that twice too.

I wait until I am called, noting personnel shorts on the giant wall monitor, upper end newspapers on the side table. Very polished. Very…packaged.

I don’t package very well. Or at least, not very easily.

I look down at my designer rebel shoes. (Ain’t that a contradiction!) Very proud of those shoes. There are skulls on the sides. Christian Audigier, not Christian Louboutin. Got them for half retail. They ground me, help me remember what I like about being me.

The agent and I meet. I am walked through the modules, the books, the web portal. All the while I can feel her probing, with her looks, her questions. She is savvy enough to know I am playing it close to my chest.

Zero trust here. I know who hired you.

But I have questions. And I will take all the resources I can stuff under my coat before booking for the exit.

What do you think about that, she asks, again and again.

I don’t know what I think. I am not really thinking yet. I wrote myself a schedule and I am attempting to follow it like a script, so I don’t get stuck and miss my chances. I follow it when I forget what I am supposed to be doing.

That happens when someone sledgehammers your glass routine.

I realize I am hostile, but I also realize I am getting a peek into another strata of life. I am robot-arming my way through this, sitting far back behind my eyes, giving nothing away, spying on everything, a beggar at the banquet.

But do I have to be a beggar? Am I less than? Do I really need designer shoes to rate?

I ask her how she came to work for the company. I sound like I am interviewing her. She is surprised, but answers. I am not sure why I do it. But it feels better. It is a question among equals. Another window.

The web portal is slick and full of juicy labels. I throw out a theatre company name for her to use as an example. The tech gives her issues, but then comes through. The results are sketchy. I have the vague notion that I have shown up a weakness in their polished operations.

Score one for creatives.

Corporate just doesn’t get creatives. It uses them, though. I am told that pictures in resumes are out, and colour is pretty much out, but I can add a little bit of something creative if I want, if I am approaching creative companies.

Woohoo. I have her permission.

I ask her if there is anything else we needed to cover, as I f I am running the meeting, and coming up to the closure part. She says no. I thank her and gather my things.

I mention having left my tea in the reception area. She says I should have told her, so I could have retrieved it. I tell her it doesn’t matter. They got it wrong. I mention that I will see if I can’t get them to replace it. This seems important. I’m taking a stand for quality. I am not being run over by tea minions. I might be a good prospect. Somewhere.

I am relieved to be out of there, a fresh tea in hand. I enter a fish café that I passed on the way to the office tower. I decide to have lunch there because it has a real porthole in the door and promises a quirky coziness. Unpackaged.

I am not wrong. There are signatures up the white window frames, and static-screened tvs in the corner, circa 1960-something. There is a real painting on the wall behind me. An older business woman in a definitely unpackaged short skirt in a riot of colours commends the salmon burger to me.

She’s not wrong either. It’s delicious.

I talk with the cook, Dominic, and find out that he makes all the sauces himself, fresh every day, and that the business uses a fish broker, like most restaurants, but sources back east, depending on the fish. I ask him about his “ink” that runs up both his arms. No story there, he says. Got them all in North Vancouver years ago. Just like them.

I want to tell him that’s legit. We are allowed to do things just because we like them.

I learn that he played in Death Metal bands, writes poetry and lyrics, and sells Satanic tea, which he admits to cautiously, on the second level of conversation. Just for the shock of it, he says.

I ask for a card.

He disappears into the back and I disappear out the door. This is my kind of place. And my kind of people. The clanging sound of cog-dom falling from my shoulders cheers me. There are places for me.

I may come back and write my name on the window frames.

Donna Noble Has Left the Library…

Drafted my new schedule in Excel yesterday.  So that’s done.

I feel like I’m writing around a hole in my chest. I’m scared it’s burned up all my creativity. I don’t want to write my blog. I don’t feel like doing letters, or logistics.

Lyrics from 21 Pilots keep playing in my head.

Gangsters don’t cry
Therefore, therefore I’m
Mr. Misty-eye, therefore I’m…

Can you save…
Can you save…
Can you save my heavy dirty soul?

The plan thus far is to write a letter, write the blog and look up those Morning Pages instructions and find my resume.

Stay in your lane, boy…lane boy…

We’ll see what I can get done.

Jumpsuit, Jumpsuit, cover me.

Maybe it was too soon for a schedule. Maybe a little more holidaying would have been nice. Binge-watch Dr. Who or read a whole book in one sitting.  Read until the pain goes away.

Sunny outside.  Plus twenty.

Maybe I’ll go for an ice cream and a hair cut.

Except I keep spontaneously bursting into tears.

Its like I know what I’m doing, where I’m going, what the mission is. And then I forget.

The last bout happened when I saw a rainbow on the basement floor in the dark, where I had never seen one before.

I love rainbows. Little blades of burning colour and light. Real magic. And an ancient symbol of promise after storm.

Can I take that?  Can I take it that way? Was it for me?

The in-between makes it hurt.

No.

No magic here.

Just a temp from Chiswick.

Nothing special.

Sudden Frost

A sensation blows in like an icy breath in your face, but under your skin. It collects and rises, seats itself somewhere near the top of your skull and just sets there like pins and needles as you try to take it all in.

Dread plummets somewhere inside you and you realize that, more than suddenly, instantly, everything you thought you’d be doing today, this week this hour, and maybe for the rest of your life, isn’t going to look anything like you thought it would. You try to frame it, gain some sense of why. Was it you? Was it money? You need to know, so you can…what? Judge yourself? Judge them?

A sense of loss. It’s over, without a breath of warning. And your life changes.

Why did it have to be so instant? Six years of patterns, contacts, relationships, yet somehow I deserved no warning, but apparently I deserved the security guy hovering in the background.

It’s policy. That’s how they do it now.

But here? Really? To me? Like they never knew me? Or even liked me? Like they caught me watching porn or gambling on the work computer or something?

Too many Hidden City games? Was that it? Yesterday’s tiff with the finance gal? (We’re always having tiffs. Well…not anymore, small blessing).

They escorted me off the premises like a criminal, but there was no trial, or even a reason given. I was assigned a “transition agent,” grey hair, black coat, felt like a straight-backed Nazi, with about as much right to counsel me in my pain as a taxi driver.

I don’t know you. You don’t know me.

I am offered a cab home, like an obnoxious drunk.

Feels like the bum’s rush, I say.

No, I will walk out of here on my own two feet, thank you.

All the way to the train. In the melting snow. Was the wind blowing? I don’t remember.

I make it to the corner, and realize I didn’t’ even get to say goodbye to my friends. I phone one and say what happened. And suddenly, instantly, the tears come.

“I feel like I’ve been kicked out of my home,” I wail. No need for pretense here.

Suddenly, instantly, my social circle feels UK distant, and the wireless in wartime is the only link.

Nazi coat phones later: How am I doing? Did I read the package?

Absolutely fine, I say, with amazing cheerfulness. Stupid wench.

I may have reached the anger phase of grieving.

Really? she asks, appropriately amazed in her turn. Every pleasantry would be a lie, so I don’t answer. “No” would be the answer, “but you don’t rate enough to know that.”

Package. Cabs. Transition agents. This is how they appease themselves and their dirty consciences, because they know when they have lapsed in kindness, when they are cold, treating a person as less than human, withholding from a human that needs frames and reasons, and respect.

I climb aboard the train that I won’t need to take anymore, and I have nowhere I need to be. Snap. There goes a routine, a comforting ritual, a stabilizing pattern. I cry. I stop crying. I ride all the way to the northeast.

I text three key people.

They get to know.

They rate.

I cry again.

Somewhere between the tears and the moving scenery, on the very first leg even, I start to form a list. For my next job. No more than 6 ours a day; more time for the young one and a chance to build the writing career. Benefits, because those are nice. Creative involvement, because I know what I can take and what I can’t, though I tired.

I am so done with corporate. Soulless bastards with protocol and cash their only awareness, their wiring made up of policies and suits.

Yep. Anger stage.

Can they see through my eyes to young one’s face and feel what it will be like to tell her no tuition? No, they have policy-ed themselves to a safe, sanitized distance. They don’t have to feel the dread, the frost, the shock, the tears, knowing they did it.

Anger. Today.

On the train, there was a strange disorienting lightness, and a faint but honest sense that when the sorrow washed through, I was wide open for new possibilities. I started to think how I might spend that “package.”

Not now. Smart enough to know this was not a deciding day. This was an absorb-and-feel day. A “let the snow blow through you” day.

iPhone or iPod. New writing computer that has a functional “h.” Pay off debts all in one breathless chunk. Boom. Hold my head up above the poverty line for at least six months. Hold my head up…Tears. The building crumbles. How will I… How will I…

Was it my fault? Was it money? Without knowing, shame feeds on me. I’m not so perfect as to be without fault. Without blame.

Spiral. I stand winged at the aerial gate, but do I deserve to fly, having failed here?

A friend texts me to remind me of one time when I did do good, for sure. So there’s that.

How do we read the sudden, instant circumstances? How do we scry the unknown future, inquiring of the past?

Did I deserve this?

Do I suck, or does God believe in my writing this much? So much that He knew I needed a boot out of the comfort zone to really get things done?

Are these the real questions?

No.

I ride the train all the way to the northwest, and then all the way south and home.

The real question, when all the chess pieces are flying, when the frost blows in and the train takes you from suddenly to instantly, is: “Father, do you love me?”

T’was Brillig….

Ice fog rolled in yesterday.  It’s a colder fog, seen only in winter, when the snow has melted on a day of respite but the air remains chilly.

I wish I could have gone out and wandered in it.  It has been a week of distractions and I felt in my soul the need for a touch of magic.

Spousal Unit is away on conference.  Young one is in preparation for her great nautical adventure.  I am managing my usual, plus the load Spousal Unit typically handles.  It is grocery week.  There’s a teachers’ meeting tonight.  And like a sensible thing, with all this going on, I elected to participate in Inktober, a drawing-a-day challenge, with my eldest. Insurance issues are still pending as well, and I have errands to run after the meeting.

I feel pulled from this thing to that, never being allowed to settle on anyone item for more than a few minutes.  The writing has been affected, or perhaps I’ve got that backwards: the poor writing is affecting me.  Jumbled grammar, repetitive phrasing, overused words. Little of it sparks.

Is it any wonder I need a touch of mystery amongst the mundane?

To that end, I have taken a break from Handmaid’s Tale, and picked up a random buy called “Mythago Wood,” by Robert Holdstock.  It has the right autumnal mystique to it, but it has drifted into evolution, psychiatry, and something akin to pagan/witchery.  Not sure how well I will like it in the end.  It feels heavy.  Not quite the flavor I was looking for, but undeniably engaging.

I find I need an engaging idea to pull me forward in my own work, something to aim at that I wish to capture, like faerie gleam.  A sparkling bit of juicy flame to call me onward.

Right now, it is scene link, scene link, sentence smooth, and order comb.  Muses said there’d be days like this.

But then what do I expect?  I haven’t been exactly faithful to showing up at the page.  Life keeps getting in the way until the point where I let it, which usually means I’m scared about something.  The usual inner critic stuff.  Unoriginal, repetitive, uninteresting, cheesy.

My mind is engaged in trying to hit all these practical, somewhat mercurial, targets.  There’s no space for mulling, savouring.  I might forget the tactical, to the ruin of all.  And the irony of it all is that I don’t even get a report card to tell me if I made the grade!

I have to remind myself that if writing is my mission, then mulling is as tactical as sleep, something else I neglect too often.  I think there are times wherein my mind just wants to play, and so I stay up doing screen things.  Imagining needs to be fun, to have the whimsy of play, or the gears grind.

I’m all for the discipline that produces our dreams, but if one over-schedules, I think one kills the flow.  “We will now participate in play from precisely 4:37pm to 5:02pm” just doesn’t work any more than “the beatings will continue until morale improves.”

I need to kick through more leaves.

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