Tuesday, November 16, 2010

revisiting poetry

So I've been reading poetry again. And working on a little bit, too.
I scratched this out in bed before falling asleep last night. I like it. But it's certainly still rough.


i thought it would be harder
i thought it would be work
until it wasn't

it was a softening--

just water lapping
and you said, "there's no better sound
than a dog drinking"

water lapping, up and against

but so calmly, kindly
calmly, kindly
i wasn't expecting that part.

Friday, August 13, 2010


Forgive me for this, but my years at Guilford College evoke the overly cited words of Charles Dickens: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

I haven't had another period in my life that fits in the "best worst" category. I have had the worst. I know exactly when that was. I like to think the best is yet to come. I also like to think that my cell phone works because of magic.

But I think, very often, that the best is often peppered with the worst. (I mean, have you seen Troll 2?) The two contrast each other into significance. Things are only good, because things are also bad. And vice versa.
And if the seven years I spent in and out of college, living with friends from college in Greensboro, NC, were anything, they were significant. Not in THE grand scheme of things, but in my grand scheme of things.

Then I made a break from college. At the end of the Spring semester in 2008, I allowed myself to fail all my classes and walk away. I never checked to see if I did fail all my classes, but I assume I did. However, very often, teachers who had every reason to fail me, chose not to. But I think I had so little to give at that point that my charm wasn't getting me the sympathy "C's" it used to. This was a pretty rough time. There was a boy. There was the fairly insane overcommitment of my time and energy. There was a crystallization of cognitive dissonance that very nearly grew arms and legs and walked around the room.
That might be an unclear and obnoxious way to say that my give-a-damn busted. It could not be ignored. I remember sitting in my room that day, which also happened to be the boy's graduation day. I didn't go to the graduation but I lied and said I did. Another boy came over, a prospective friend and maybe more (as I was not in a real relationship with the boy), and we smoked weed and flirted. He played bestworst songs on the guitar like Alabama's "Dixieland Delight," and I think he was the first person I told about giving up on school. And he said, "Well, I guess this is your graduation day, too, isn't it?" And we smoked more weed. I very much wanted to embrace that perspective.
In reality, I was just a hot mess.

So now, over two years, another dog and another state later, I'm going back to school. It's only one class at first, a hard class but only one. And it's been so hard to just take this one class at community college that I basically had to will it to happen. I had to really want it. And in the process of really wanting it, doubt began to creep. Will I fuck this up? Can I ever be good at this?

One of the funny things about my shitshow of a time with formal education, is that I was almost always very disconnected with the guilt, shame, etc. that accrued with all the excuses, bad grades, decrease of potential candidates to author letters of recommendation, etc. It didn't feel good, but I cut myself a break every time. I frustrated the hell out of perfectly nice people. (Most of) my professors thought I was smart, funny and a great writer. They couldn't believe that I was actually this bad at school and really tried to push every possible limit in order to help me.
But success at pushing limits was the last thing I needed. I could give you a laundry list of all the shit I got away with. I mean, I did go to a Quaker private, liberal arts school. I had a teacher who thought deadlines were violent. I had a teacher who liked my short story so he gave me an A in the class despite the fact that I hadn't turned 3 of the 4 major papers in. Some deadlines have been extended into the following semester. And I still didn't finish. I just didn't take any of it seriously. And all the while, I had wonderful friendships and a ridiculously fun life. I wasn't just sitting alone in a room filled with dread. I was surrounded by the most wonderful, interesting, smart and accepting people and we had dance parties, talked all night, laughed all day, got high on the front porch, had radio shows, went to shows, ran around in the woods. Life was so easy. Nobody worked. And most of my friends did very well in school.
Did I mention that one of the classes I think I failed that last semester was, "The Science of Wine"? In this class, we made wine. We drank wine. It was a geology class.
I'm not saying classes at Guilford were easy. I'm saying classes at Guilford were ridiculous.

And that last semester wasn't in the glory days of college that I described. Those were freshman-junior years. Then I left for almost three years. I moved around a little but came right back. During the second go round at Guilford, 2007-2008, I worked and so did my friends. For some of that I lived with 9 of my friends in a giant house. Most of them were out of school at that point and we were all just so invested in this group of friends. We had lots of parties and lively conversations. The real world was at bay, but life was less easy.

So now all that guilt, etc. I distanced myself from is coming for me. I feel so mad at myself. I didn't realize how easy things were and how things would never be that easy again. Someone asked me what my goals were when I came to Guilford and then they pointed out that, though I gave a nuanced response, I never mentioned graduating. What's wrong with me? I'm 40k in debt with no diploma. For the first time, I'm really angry, instead of just really amazed, by my actions in school. I'm a good person. I try to do a good job. I'm fairly smart. But I just totally blew it.

I promised myself I wouldn't go back to school unless I had a career plan and that career had a direct educational path. Before, I had no idea where my education connected to the next step and, for me, it helped me see the whole system as arbitrary. And I finally found occupational therapy and a direct educational path to this attainable, practical job that I think I'll really enjoy. And I find myself balking at the gates. But I'm invested. I want this. And it's a totally different kind of school and I am a different person. And the "best worst" drama has lost a lot of appeal in the last couple years. I mean, I think good and bad is in everything. Life is messy. Feelings are complicated. But consistency of self and consistency in relationships is really nice.

So I'm hoping that the next few years are more like Garfield's "A Tale of Two Kitties," rather than Dicken's "A Tale of Two Cities." Wait, I don't mean that. I'm going to bed.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Thoughts on getting a puppy, part one

At this point, I consider myself an adult--maybe not the most shining example of adulthood, but an adult nonetheless. Months fly by. I work 7 days a week. When people ask me how I've been, I sigh and say, "Busy."
When I was younger, I did not do this.
And I like my life, mainly because it is mine. It's kind of a "because it is bitter and because it is my heart" situation (thank you Stephen Crane). But I always want to change my life--this is not one of the factors that sets me apart, I know. Yet, it was this compulsion that recently brought me into the world of puppy ownership and grander still, the world of a multi-dog household.
Puppy ownership is very different from dog ownership. Where dog ownership is comfortable, puppy ownership is fragile. Dogs are beacons of consistency; puppies are Murphy's Law. With the little guys, you become very familiar with the cold, hard wall that is communication breakdown.
Growing up, there were, on average, 4 dogs in my house at any given point, and I always considered this to be one of the the more agreeable aspects of my homelife. I deeply valued their reliability, a quality that stood out in sharp contrast to the non-canine members of the Woodham house. We loved them. They amused and sometimes even inspired us. We had a black lab named Sam that was particularly magnificent; he really did inspire feeling in a person. It sounds stupid, but I'll never forget it. Many of my friends will never forget Sampson, perhaps not because of his legendary grandeur, but because my Dad kept his balls in a jar.
This dog had such a majesty and my dad had such a drinking problem that when Sam was forced to divest himself of his babymakers (by threat of legal action, I might add), my dad pleaded with our vet to save the ball bits in a jar of preservative. Somehow, despite the predictable disgust and protest, they ended up mixed in with the dusty knickknack clutter on one of my mom's antiques. For years.
In case Bob Barker is reading this, I'd like to clarify that spaying and neutering was always a must in our house, save this very peculiar exception. I will also spare you gentle readers a description of the ball tissue, but I will say that it's nothing worth saving. I personally threw the jar out a few years ago on a visit home. Yet, I digress.
All that was just to nuance my previously stated familiarity with dog ownership. Basically, even though I want to incorporate precious few aspects of that home environment into the life I'm building now, a house doesn't really feel like home to me without a dog. I also have a preference for the big mutts. At one point my sister, Apryl, told me that she always imagined me as the kind of person who would want a purse dog--with outfits. To this day, I take that statement to mean that she thinks I'm horrible.
I'm not saying my big rottweiler/shepherd/chow mix, Herbert, hasn't worn a blazer once or twice in his lifetime, but it's apples and oranges, my friend. (One day I'll learn how to upload photos in this thing for the dual purpose of proof and humor.) All I'm saying is that I appreciate the utilitarian aspects of pet ownership as well as the comforts. With the larger dogs, they can feasibly protect you and scare away cowardly evildoers. I think it's cool that my dog has big teeth yet lets me put a blazer on him from time to time. My tastes run closer to wild animal than stuffed animal, let's say. Okay, maybe Herbert has a pink cupcake collar. Contradictions are interesting. Ah, my savage little cupcake.
Herbert and I have a good thing going. He, in many ways, is my ideal and there's an airtight bond. Then I brought little Roscoe into the picture who is, quite distinctly, not yet a cupcake. Coming to the decision to get a second dog--and a puppy at that--with my non-ideal situation timewise and moneywise, was complicated. I have some interesting reasons. And I'm sure some of them are bullshit. (to be continued)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sunup, Sundown

What can better than inspiration?

Inspiration, in its best form, lifts the spirit from its previous drudgery with every appearance of effortlessness. We get mired in drudgery and hope for something to move us. Best case scenario, we can strategically buttress ourselves from despair in a way that looks effortless. But lo, sometimes we are lifted by forces outside ourselves and it always feels miraculous.
When inspiration really gets to business, it pushes you to work, create, plan, grow a pair, etc. And if inspiration is really having a good run, it stays with you. It lets you hang on to some of it and put your prints on it.

That's what we hope for. That is what I hope for. What could be better?