Orlando: Thoughts on Fear

I feel as though I should say something about Orlando.  It seems like the right thing to do as a writer, a lesbian, a person.  It is tempting to show you how angry I am, but I won’t.  There isn’t a point to showing aggression in the face of hatred, at least not for me.

What I do want to say is that this tragedy is not mine.  I don’t own the right to it just because I am an LGBTQ person.  Please don’t misunderstand me:  I care.  The sadness of what has happened affects me.  However, it is important to me to be respectful.  I cannot lay my life and experiences over these events and use it as a template to understand their lives.  We are all intersections of race, religion, socio-economics and so much more.  The people who fall into the labels of LGBTQ are individuals, not one flamboyant stereotype to add some rainbow to your heterosexual khaki.

I don’t go to very many clubs.  I like bars that are more pub-style.  I like beer gardens where I can sit in the sunshine and read a book.  For me, clubs are not a safe space because they feel too chaotic.  I don’t relate to that emotion, but I know many who would.  It is a personality thing, no doubt.

My safe spaces tend to be other people.  My safe space is often myself.

That said, I do not walk around this world in fear.  I refuse.  I will go where I please and do as I please.  Is it safe?  No.  But I will not be hemmed in by hatred.  I will not be contained.  This is my world too.  Deal with it.

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What a Road Trip Teaches

I took a nice long road trip last week.  I went alone and I did what I wanted, when I wanted.  This trip was for me.  That’s a powerful thing.

I could rattle off cliches about how we could all use a break or about why we ought to make a bit of time for ourselves, but I think it can go a lot deeper than that.  I think taking time away from everything that is familiar and asking yourself what you want, following those desires moment by moment, can be transformative.

I drove out to Boulder, Colorado and challenged myself to enter those beautiful Rockies with my somewhat uncertain Taurus.  I slowed down, got scared, said “fuck off” to a million more able drivers…and I did it.  I saw the Rockies.  I listened to what I wanted.  When I first saw them looming in the distance, I started to cry a little.  I was overtired and they were so lovely.

And sometimes there was genuine sadness.  Driving down lonesome roads in Nebraska, I found myself sobbing as I listened to Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt,” a song so honest it cuts me down to my soul.

Other times, I felt myself so full of joy.  I hugged a bulldog that followed me around and felt like this was everything.  At least for a moment.

I saw the places I belonged and the ones where I didn’t.  I was greeted by uncomfortable stares from men in Kansas every time I stopped for gas, food, etc.  Their eyes looked harshly at my tattoos, my piercing, my lack of fucks given.  They tried to burn me with the obscene gaze of lust and hate.  I ignored them, unafraid.  This, I thought, is who I am.  This is always who I am.  Forever.  And I won’t give you my fear.  I don’t have any to give.

I can tell you that I saw things there that jolted sharp memories of other parts of my life, moments when I texted friends things that they likely didn’t want to hear.  I can tell you that I was alive to my truths, both lovely and ugly.

My current life is so small.  It could be different.  It still may be.  I looked into those mountains and I felt at home.  There were tourists from South Carolina staying a door or two down.  They asked for ideas, itineraries, a sort of pure breed of tourism.  But I sank in.  I absorbed.  I touched flowers in neighborhood gardens, chatted with random people about their lives.  I drank coffee and sat around.

Ultimately, everything I do is what I have chosen to do.  Even in work, I could so easily just walk away if I chose to leave.  No one tells me what to do.  Only myself.  It was only ever me.

I am just learning that this is true.

Mother’s Day and the Art of Presence

I decided to sneak into my parents’ house for Mother’s Day and surprise them, but when I arrived no one was home.  I set out the card and gift I had brought and sat down.  I spent a lot of years living in this house with them, but now it feels unseemly to open the fridge or muss a blanket on their sofa.  It is so silent, so unlike the banging and yelling chaos of my neighboring apartments.  Their cat is indifferent to my presence.  I would not know where to look for extra floss or toothpaste.

I am a distinct and separate unit.  I have been for a while.

I try to imagine them  out, probably to dinner or for a walk.  But I like to imagine they become entirely different when I am gone, reckless and carefree.  What if they stayed out all night dancing and getting trashed?

A magazine I was published in sits on a coffee table.  My photo of a birthday is on the entertainment center.  There are reminders of me here and there.  It makes me think of the ghosts we carry of the people we love when they are not present.  I’m not talking about death, or at least not exclusively about death, but more about how we hold our beloved ones before us always, imagining them in places they are not.

This is what you would say, I say.  And then I make guesses.  This is what you would do, I decide.  And I make more guesses.

I look at the photo of me, clueless as to that former self.  What would she say?  What was she thinking?  The younger me, forever blowing out candles.  She sits in front of me and I cannot animate her.

New Publications!

I have been lucky enough to have four new stories published in three magazines over the past few weeks!  If you are interested, please consider checking them out.

Granola ran “Mother’s Day” and “The Ugly Us.”  The former is a story about a woman who continuously gets pregnant with twins.  Mayhem ensues.  “The Ugly Us” features a couple who runs into their dopplegangers…with unsettling results.

The Pine Hills Review published “Titanic Built for Two,” a piece about recovery from a breakup.  It mingles humor and sadness in an effort to convey ongoing love in the face of absence.

And lastly, Thrice just released “Everything is Always Now, Everything is Always Gone,” a story about a lonesome woman who finds that her childhood toys can come alive.

If you have been busy at work writing too or have a piece you’d like others to read, consider leaving it in the comments!

Thanks for taking the time to read and support my work.  We all need ways to connect with the world around us.

Night Poetry

Most of my nights are spent on my couch, drinking a beer or two and devouring poetry books whole.  I linger over the same lines, trying to burn them into me.  I circle and star and underline.  I contemplate tattooing the words into my skin and then worry that I do not have skin enough for all the words I long to contain.

I drink in every passage about longing, absence, solitude, and loneliness.  Every broken-hearted misery is a reminder, a kinship.

I spend my nights with Nick Flynn, Sylvia Path, Rumi, and Gibran.  I listen to Patricia Smith slam down hard poetry on my tiny phone, rattling all of me.  Ginsberg and Ferlinghetti consume me like a wildfire.

I listen and listen, alive and wild.  They say to be a good writer it is necessary to be a good reader.  While that is likely true, I am not sure how one functions without these necessary words.

After days of havoc, this is my shelter.

 

Uncontested Winners

Contests, contests, contests!

They are everywhere.  I rarely enter because losing seems like an inevitability when so many are clamoring for a single prize or two.  However, each year I try to enter one literary contest and each year when I do, there is a moment right after submitting that is a huge high.  I fucking did it!  I sent it out and my work could win!

It’s not impossible.  I was a finalist in a Glimmer Train competition once.  That’s pretty prestigious.  That’s why I am telling you.  It is my way of proving to you that the work that I do has some kind of worth.  I was a finalist.  Therefore, I do not suck.  I should continue to enter contests.  I could win.  Need further proof?  I refer you to my previously published page.

That said, I do not think that I will win.  If I actually thought that I would win, then this would lead me to feel like a pretentious, arrogant, dick.  So here’s to the thrill of not having lost yet!

Of course, the next thing we need to mention here is that even the best judges are still making a choice that is not perfect.  It’s not math.  You don’t just select the “right” one.  So that is a part of it too.  Whether I win or lose could be dependent on who makes the choice.  Maybe another good judge would make a different decision.  Maybe the same judge would make a different decision if asked again a year later, or after a big breakfast.  Who knows?

But for right now, I have the high of not having lost yet.  It is sort of like the high of realizing that one day you will be dead, but not today.  Today, you made it!

And to you, the contest that shall remain nameless, I will name you if I win.  And I will say to all the nay-sayers, I do not suck.

 

 

 

Lit Gaps: Don’t Put Me on the Half Shelf

So I have the same conversation about books all the time, just with different people.  I look at the publishing industry and for all of amazing, brilliant work that I love dearly, I rarely find books that do LGBTQ stuff in a way that satisfies me.

A few things:

  1.  There is really not much out there…at least comparatively
  2.  Lots of authors who do LGBTQ characters are telling a “coming out” story. I don’t  want that.  I might have as a teen.  Not now.  But hey, at least it is something.
  3.  The premise of the book is that someone is gay.  So what?

What interests me are great stories in which somebody happens to be a lesbian or bisexual, whatever.  I don’t want the book to explain the identity to me or to reassure me.  They don’t have to be a brave hero toiling for their rights.  They can be an asshole.  That’s fine.  They just need to be an asshole as part of being a person, not as a result of being gay or trans, etc.

The simplest way to say what I want to read is to say: name your favorite book.  Now make a character queer.  Resume story as usual.  My precious Wuthering Heights could have been Catherine and Heather, as opposed to Heathcliff.

Books about what it is like to be a lesbian or how it feels to be bi are usually written more for the benefit others.  They are most beneficial as a sort of minor epiphany for those who have trouble conceptualizing what it would be like to have a different orientation, etc.

We could certainly be having this conversation about other types of diversity too.  I’m not attempting to ignore the lack of representation for any number of races, ethnicities, religions, etc.  I’m not prizing one fight over another.  The fights all overlap anyway.  I’m not just a lesbian.  I’m also an atheist.  I’m also lower working class.  Oh, and I have a master’s degree.  I’m all kinds of things.

When I write fiction, my characters tend to be lesbians.  I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about “representing” them.  They are just people bumbling through the world and (hopefully) keeping readers reading.  I don’t want to be ghettoized on some half shelf for a niche market.  I don’t want to hunt for representation in a cobwebbed corner.  I want diversity to be mainstream.  And literary.  And in genre.  And in local.  I want diversity to be:  DIVERSE.

Drifting Like Snow in a Bullshit January

Here is what I can tell you:  if you do not have to endure January in Michigan or some other horrifically cold mess, then that is one thing that you have going for you.

When I wake up in the morning, I dread getting out of bed because I am cold.  When I get up and turn up the heat while thinking with anxiety about the bill, I dread going outside.  Then, when I recall how miserable it feels to be inside all of the time, I trudge outside.  At this point, I instantly freeze which instinctively makes me want to cry.  Then, I start driving.  Everything is slippery.  I work and work and every time somebody opens the door, I brace myself for another unpleasant blast of cold air.  Doors open all day.

I try to take my trash out before it gets dark, but it is often dark before I get home from work.  Once it is dark and cold and wet, it has reached a point that causes me so much unhappiness that I want to find a way to shut it all out.  I start counting and recounting the number of weeks until there might be notable warming and increase in sunshine.

This is winter.  This is Michigan.  And here I am.

I don’t think that I should live here, but I do.  I persist because I cannot reasonably figure out a way to escape.  I am here by default.  Too broke to leave.

And, in some awful way, it seems like a metaphor for something larger.

Maybe this all sounds sad to you, and I would be lying if I said that there was no sadness in it.  However, I also assume this is common.  Who is the person who is living the life that feels right or somehow destined?  Who is the person who wakes and feels they are in the right space?  For a time, I felt it.  For a time, it was different.  My instinct is to call it temporary, but let’s call it seasonal.

 

 

 

And Here We Go Again

I think that I am supposed to be reviewing my year.  I’m supposed to consider all the ways in which I fucked it up and then promise via a new year resolution(s) never to do any of that crap again.

But here’s the deal:  I did my best.  Even when I blew it, I was doing my best.

So here’s a resolution as old as the ones about increased veggie consumption and cardio-dedicated living:  fuck it.

I’m not going to promise anything.

Immediacy is beautiful.  The moment is beautiful.  And I am profoundly grateful for my year, even as I feel it all slip away.

I am standing here in front of you, not as a compilation of plans or expectations.  I simply am.  And that is always enough.

 

I Want to Do Something Weird with You. Yes. You.

Sometimes it is almost Thanksgiving and you find yourself listening to a little vintage Snoop Dog and wondering if you are supposed to have a clue what to buy people for Christmas, or you know, Festivus.

And what do I want?  I mean, besides anything that has a space kitty print on it, because that is just damn obvious.

I wish that I could just do a bunch of weird shit with everyone instead of buying them things.  You know?  Maybe spray paint a bunch of poodle prints on the backs on various Republican headquarters with my mother.  Make crank calls with my grandmother to various strip clubs.  Blind fold my best friend and take him on a petting zoo tour while yelling, “stand back, he’s a prophet!  He can find the Antichrist!”

Instead, I will likely purchase some socks with winter animals on them and disperse them amongst loved ones.  And there you have it.  Another year of bland consumerism.  You’re welcome.