To Do Lists and Extroverted Introversion

I recently read a Refinery29 article about a girl who finds it hard to say “no” to invitations and requests and therefore decided to conduct an experiment about staying home for seven days, and I thought, “I wish I had the time to do that” because that sounds exactly like something I would love. Spring Break is coming up, which would be the perfect opportunity, except this year I’m traveling to Mississippi with my Honors class to immerse myself in the history and culture of the Delta and emerge with a creative final project that I have yet to figure out…

I know we often say we don’t have the time when we actually do, but I think in this case it’s truthful to say that I don’t have an entire week to dedicate to this kind of experiment—though I definitely have a To Do list long enough to keep me busy for a whole week and after! I think a defining characteristic of adulthood is that your To Do list never really gets any shorter…

My birthday did sneak up on me this year like I figured it probably would, amidst all else going on: my parents returned from Saudi Arabia early so my dad could have surgery done on his shoulder here in the U.S., trips to our place in Centerville, Valentine’s Day, my best friend’s bridal shower, everyday errands, work, classes, and there’s probably more I’m missing… And it came, and then it went, and then it was Valentine’s Day, and today my parents are leaving on a jet plane again while I look at my calendar and try desperately to figure out where my month went, all the while knowing the rest will disappear in much the same fashion.

I get a lot of satisfaction out of productivity. Mom and I went for pedicures Monday, and I was telling her how I could check that and “buy nude shoes for Bailey’s wedding” off my To Do list now, and she laughed, “You get a lot of satisfaction out of checking things off that list, don’t you!?” She knows me well. But, every week, if I can stay in for just one day, I also get a lot of satisfaction out of that, and I think it’s healthy because it gives me time to be alone with my “extroverted introvert” self and recharge. Maybe it doesn’t often happen anymore…this week will be the third, I think, without this kind of day…but such seems to be the nature of my life nowadays. Gotta change that.

After work today, I’m off to read the next fifty pages of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying for my Honors class tomorrow and finish my short story for my Creative Writing class exercise, which I have titled, “One Cup of Coffee, Black.” Then I have two upcoming French exams to study for. Somewhere in there I’d like to fit pleasure reading, home manicure, and perhaps also shaving my legs and walking my dog. Wish me luck.

❤︎

Inspiration Citations

“I Create Myself.”

For Christmas, Nonnie gave me the subscription to Bella Grace magazine that I’ve wanted for months. The winter issue is sitting on my nightstand, waiting to be turned over in my hands and enjoyed. And it’s easy to want my life to line up like those presented in the pages, in the words and pictures that different women submit for publication. The same with the different people introduced and interviewed in episodes of the Tranquility du Jour podcast. It’s easy to want to be like those people, in all the ways they are similar and the ways they are different, what they take from the world and what they give back. But if I were, would that really be me, or would that be more me just being like everyone else?

What about who I am versus who I want to be? Can I fully become the person I want to be?

I wondered if I’d touched on this before, and I don’t think I really have, so I’ll play with it now. When I think about the person I want to be, I’m not really sure what I see.

I walked into the Cougar Grounds coffee shop on campus a few weeks ago, and I caught my reflection in the window, and I remember thinking, “looking for all the world like a basic white chick” because I was wearing white skinny jeans tucked into a pair of expensive “premium” rain boots, a Hollister chambray button-down with silver fabric paint and costume gems sewn on the collar, carrying an umbrella and a Vera Bradley backpack. Yes, basic white chick. Something I’ve known for a while, and first I was okay with it, and then it kind of bothered me, and now I’m okay with it again. I took a quiz recently, actually, and the result was that I have basic white girl tendencies, which makes more sense because I hate Starbucks coffee (though their food and Frappuccinos are delicious) and I don’t own a single pair of UGG boots. But more than that, I realized, I feel pretty comfortable this way.

Another thing I realized recently, I should stop saying “I want to be a writer” because I am one. No matter whether I write every day, or not for six months, that does not change the fact that inherently I am one. I will always want to write. I will always want to create. I will always find journaling therapeutic, and I will always be engaged in a love affair with words and caffeine.

That doesn’t mean that where I am right now is enough. I think it’s still a journey: toward more tranquility, toward more maturity, more worldliness, more independence. More mysteriousness—by which I mean simply being a more private person. Keeping things closer to the vest, the way I used to, the way my junior-high Social Studies teacher commented on when I was in sixth or seventh grade. I liked how it sounded then, and I like how it sounds now, and that is what I want. But even through all of this, who I already am does not disappear, and does not have to be lost in translation. Something to be aware of as I go along.

If you drop a pebble into a pond, it creates a ripple effect. Chaos Theory says that if a butterfly takes flight in Tokyo, eventually, the air current caused by the wings can lead to a hurricane in Florida. Maybe exactly that is hard to believe, but consider that your choices continue to affect your life and to shape you long after they are made. You make those choices; you create the long-term effect. I do, too, and I think in this way, I create myself. I create who I am, and I have the potential to create who I want to be, through my choices, my attitudes, my perspectives, every day.

Who will you be today? Tomorrow?

2.2.2017, 8:47 a.m. : Nostalgia Remembers

I’m thinking alot* about OLQP now because my last exercise for ENGL 4350: Short Story Writing was to write about, describe, a place, from place to people, and that’s what I picked. I renamed it as Shiloh Christian, of course. I get the feeling we’d still be in Prayer and announcements now, but no, I think we’d be in class now. I don’t know which class, depending on which year, and I think of eighth and sixth grades, when we were all together in one class. At that time, the biggest single class the school had ever seen, at about 25. Maybe mostly eighth, when it was for the last time. And the more I think about it, the more I want to remember. The details. The day in and day out, the familial ties, the crushes, the friendships, all overlapping in familiar, innocent, insecure instances of the best of the youthful years flying by faster than anything. When we were all inevitably tied together like the ponytails my girl friends and I wore practically every day, and when it was weird to run into any of them, by chance, out in town, but at least we knew each other, but now, an awkward strangers’ silence where we might smile uncomfortably, or comfortably in recognition at first before hurrying on and the moment is lost, if we even recognized each other at all.

And everybody knew everything about each other, and the teachers knew the rest, and every day was like a comfortable routine, and…I wasn’t unhappy, even as I worried about fitting in with the “popular” girls who weren’t really, and everybody sat together at lunch anyway because that’s the way it worked, and oh!—for when that was all I really had to worry about. When my friends would ask me where we had to go next during the school day because I was always the first or so to memorize our class schedule each year, and I was the only one who could or maybe would scale the side of the wood porch outside the trailer rooms where our main classes were, to retrieve something someone had accidentally dropped into the muck below, and that one time I had to hold onto a post to lean out over the mud and Van had to pry my hand off of it because I couldn’t reach the pen but didn’t trust him not to drop me, and I in my khaki uniform skirt that day, and we must have looked a pair, some weird sort of physics experiment, maybe, with our classmates gathered round. None of the teachers liked to see those antics, but I was never written up for it. Nor for technically being “out of uniform” that day at the end of the year when Jenna shook a bottle of purple paint and the top wasn’t all the way on and it splattered everywhere, all over our graduation poster and a library book and my skirt? I begged Mrs. Raiff not to make me change clothes, and she didn’t. It was afternoon, anyway, maybe around 1:00 or 2:00 or 3:00. It wasn’t all day.

The iron black fence wasn’t always there, and neither was the inner gate just beyond that same porch. Not until after the front field was converted to a busy highway. But I suppose nobody had really played in that field for years, anyway. That playset, two stories, narrow, used to be a bright, bright blue with a yellow slide, but I think it was repainted, moved to the back yard. The color wasn’t right, I remember thinking, it was darker… The top of the jungle gym next to it was for “royalty.” The playground, red and grey and dark blue with a bright blue slide “eight feet” tall, was everything when we played “the game” with no rules, no specifications, but we understood it anyway, and the back field, smaller, gated, next to the pavilion, was everything else.

“Because when you’re young and on top of the world, you can love anything.”

And when you’re not as young, as I’m about to be 23 next week, not 14 again, and not as on top of the world but now with the world at your feet… Sometimes now I look back on who I used to be, how I used to feel, as I sat in those classrooms, with those friends, and I remember…and nostalgia colors those memories rose.

*Alot because I always knew it should have been written as a lot and Mrs. Haffelder would mark it wrong on all of my papers, but I would write so fast, and I only did it to save time, and I do it here for memory’s sake.

Emmaline

I promised earlier a snippet of “Emmaline,” one of my short stories, and invited you, dear reader, to see if you could pull out the line from which came my muse. Yes, it’s in the story, so no, you don’t need to pull anything from thin air. The answer lies before your eyes.

“Emmaline”is my own piece, written as part of my portfolio application to the University of Houston’s undergraduate Creative Writing program, and is excerpted below. (I’m very pleased to share that I was accepted.)

I welcome thoughts and feedback, so please, don’t be shy.

Your task now is to guess the line in this excerpt in which the muse for this story is hidden. Good luck!

Emmaline

“Emmaline.”

Slowly, the girl raises her head and lifts her paintbrush from the canvas. Blue paint drips to the dark wood floor, and the matron standing tall in the doorway purses her lips in disapproval. “Emmaline, it is past time for tea. As soon as you have made yourself presentable, you may join your father and mother in the sun parlor.”

The woman swishes away in a swirl of dark blue taffeta, the door left open behind her so that she may hear whether the brushstrokes resume, and Emmaline rests the paintbrush on the canvas stand and eases herself down from the stool. In the bathroom, over the porcelain basin, she washes the paint from her hands, and the blue swirls down in ribbons like the blue blood that would bleed from her veins. Reflected in the mirror, her ivory skin and pale blonde hair resemble exactly that of her mother and father, the incestuous twins. And that of their mother and father, the first cousins. She adjusts the black velvet ribbon that ties back her silky strands. Such blue blood should have rendered her imperfect, but she is perfect.

The witch nurse saw to that.

Finished in the bathroom, Emmaline returns to her bedroom and moves the canvas from the easel to her window cushion so the paint may dry in the dusky light.

The voice returns, commanding obedience: “Emmaline.”

“No, Nurse.”

This time, Nurse closes the door behind her, and Emmaline is not displeased to hear a key turn in the lock. Solitude serves her best.

Next to the antique four-poster bed is an antique vanity, and inside the drawer hides a small journal, bound in the same black velvet from which her hair ribbon is cut. Emmaline lowers herself onto the vanity’s stool, and dips a pen into an ink pot.