The Narratives We Tell Ourselves: “I’ve Been Too Busy”

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a blog post. As a matter of fact, it’s been a while since I’ve really written anything that wasn’t class- or work-related in some way. I’ve been too busy.

Or have I?

It feels like I have, and, honestly, I have been busy. I always have a lot on my plate at one time. I’m a full-time college student, and I have to commute an hour to and from campus each Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I have a part-time job. I have a relationship, and I have a pet.

It doesn’t sound like that much, does it? Well, let me tell you: it feels like “that much.”

So it’s very easy to just not do. Not read, not write, not blog. If I’m being completely honest, I’ve also reached the point of not doing my homework, either. Just shove it to the side along with everything else and say “I’ll get to it later” because I have so much to do that I feel too overwhelmed to do any of it. It took three or four days to write an eight-page paper, where normally it might have taken two, because I kept having to walk away from and get back to it because I have so much else to do, too. How many weeks have I been staring at the same To Do list, which has “blog post” scribbled on it?

I didn’t think it mattered all that much, just figured I’d get to it whenever things started to slow down (when—I may as well face it—I know they’re not going to). But I was on the phone with Nonnie on Saturday, calling to tell her I would come by sometime that afternoon to pick up the dishes that will go Dylan’s apartment, which I am about to move in to, and just before we hung up, she said she had something to tell me. I probably tensed, because usually when somebody says that, I automatically think it’s going to be a) bad news, or 2) something I don’t particularly want to hear, but then she said, “Now I’m not trying to get into your business, but, we really miss your blog.” She went on to say that the last one she and Papa had gotten from me was something about Dylan, and the last one I wrote about him must have been for his birthday in August, but when I was thinking about it on the phone I thought it was the one I wrote for his graduation in May—five months ago, and five months is an exceedingly long time to go, for a blog. Or even just for a writer in general.

So here I am. I am busy, yes, but to say that becomes nothing more than a flimsy excuse. A slightly more viable excuse might be “writer’s block” but I wonder if maybe Mr. Rozelle was right all those years at Brazoswood High School when he would say, “Writer’s block is a myth. Dentists don’t have ‘dentist’s block.’” I always came back with, “But Mr. Rozelle, dentists don’t have to be creative!” and while I still stand by that, the truth is, writers aren’t always creative, either:

Inspiration is a fickle friend, but discipline is not.

It’s not the lack of inspiration to blame for this very late blog post, or for the writing projects that patiently wait for me to revisit them. It’s the fact that I haven’t been working on them. Just that. Nobody and nothing to blame but myself.

So here I am.

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Where are you?

In the Wake of the Storm

“After the rain, the sun will reappear. … After the pain, the joy will still be here.”

– Walt Disney Company

The last time I visited, I wrote about rain. A normal rainy day, that was, and this past week has been both the same and different, as Hurricane Harvey dumped so much rainfall over my home that every highway in Houston, the fourth-largest city in America, had to be shut down. Fortunately I don’t live within the city but an hour south—though I drive to Houston three to four days a week for work/college classes, so it is home, too—and, even though I live closer to the coast, Harvey didn’t affect me nearly as much as it did my friends north of me, and while my heart aches for all that they’ve had to go through, each one is safe and that’s all that really matters.

Here in Lake Jackson, Tropical Storm Harvey rained and whipped winds around for days, with intermittent periods without rain. My street—or, I should say, Dylan’s parents’ street—doesn’t really flood at all, so we were fortunate to not be trapped in the house—seven people and six dogs—though there wasn’t much of anywhere to go, anyway. We fared well, and I made a quick trip to my house in Angleton yesterday to find it just as I left it (albeit with an excessive amount of lovebugs in my bathroom, and I still have no idea how they got in, but, you know, not exactly a problem).

But today is the first day in a week that I’ve woken up to blue skies and sunshine, and it is a beautiful and very welcome change. The upside to all the rain, too, is that it ushered in cooler weather, and the humidity is down, and a breeze waves the tree branches at me as if in greeting. The air is full of birdsong and cicadas, so it actually feels like the transition from summer to fall, and the dogs can lay out and soak up the sunshine again.

I’ve been having a lot of issues lately with the faith I was raised in, and I’m not going to go into that, but I do think of the story of Noah’s ark now, and how at the end of the flood that covered the world, there was a rainbow. I don’t see any rainbows out now, though admittedly I haven’t stepped out of the shade far enough to look for one, but this beautiful day is more than enough to make me believe that—Biblical connotations aside—after every storm in every life, there will come a new day.

A friend in Houston has even told me that “Everything is great over here! The sun is even shining!!” so, while I know that everything is not perfect there and probably won’t be for a long time to come, I want to be cautiously hopeful. I’ve seen so many reports of Houstonians, and others from all over the country, banding together in the wake of this natural disaster, and that’s even more beautiful than this day. I hope they can be cautiously hopeful and optimistic, too. Because today is a new day, and another is on its way.

Of a rainy, golden afternoon…

It’s not raining anymore.

I wasn’t actually aware that it rained at all this afternoon, because over the sounds of the TV I was watching in Dylan’s room and the family I could hear in the front room, I couldn’t have heard the rain unless I stepped outside to greet it.

But right now, on the back patio after the dogs have eaten, it’s like a tranquil afterglow. The sun hasn’t set yet but bathes the neighborhood in a soft golden light, caught in the beads of water that cling to the porch screen. It’s so quiet that I can hear where the water drips to the concrete, and I welcome it as a sound of companionship. The rain has made it muggy, humid—or maybe that’s just south Texas in the summer—but a refreshingly cool breeze carries the leftover scent of rain and of earth, two elements, wrapped in a third, that we can’t live without.

I used to dislike whenever it rained. I’m not quite sure when that changed—maybe whenever I read a quote somewhere about rain being the writer’s lullaby. Now, more often than not, I wish for days I might be able to spend in my bedroom, warmly lit by the lamp next to my bed, writing, with a cup of coffee at hand and rain thundering down outside my window.

On days when I do have to leave the house, which is also more often than not, and commute an hour to Houston, rain is not quite as welcome, and when I checked the weather earlier this week it was supposed to be rainy all week long. I don’t think it rained at all yesterday, and today, it didn’t look like it was going to. But it did.

I’m kind of glad for it.

8.3.2017

My dear Dylan,

To some extent, I don’t even know what to say. I actually have a post written for you already, but it doesn’t feel like it’s right anymore. I improvised this morning with breakfast, so I guess I’m going to improvise now, too, and see what happens. That’s all life really is, anyway, isn’t it? Merely a day to day improvisation…🤔 (Insert here a comment from you about me being philosophical and existential again…)

I’m glad that we got to have breakfast together today, and that you were able to relax a little before going to work. It is your birthday, after all, it’s your special day!

I don’t need to tell you I love you for you to know, but I will anyway. (I kind of just did.) I don’t need to tell you that I’m proud of you, because you know that, but sometimes you just need to hear it, and I know you have had a lot on your mind lately. Which is understandable…a lot has happened in the past year. Let’s look…

Definitely the biggest and most ongoing change is the one with pretty brown eyes, four legs, and a tail…and she’s…I’d like to say she’s stretched out at my feet while I’m in your chair, but the truth is she was here and now I have no idea when she snuck out or where exactly she went (though I’d put money on the backyard). Typical. I know we adopted her closer to the end of July last year than the beginning of August, but it still counts, and you and I both know that no matter what, you wouldn’t give her up for anything. Nor would she you, honestly.

After that, everything else doesn’t seem as detailed or…there doesn’t seem to be as much to it, because your (our) emotions are wrapped up in her, and I can just simply list everything else and then step away from it, more detached. (Does that make sense to you? I’m not sure if it’s one of those things that makes more sense in my head than it does out of it… I’m sorry. I’m feeling a little out of it, and I had a cup of coffee, but I don’t think it’s enough to make me feel 100% better today.) Still…

You…

  • earned and walked for your Bachelor’s degree
  • sold one car (finally)
  • bought another car that’s fully paid for
  • landed a full-time job, with benefits

…and I know that you’re still not completely where you probably need to be, definitely where you would like to be, in your life, but you have come quite a ways. And I’m just going to leave that at that—though I do hope you can stop thinking about everything else just long enough to enjoy the rest of your birthday. Even though you’re at work now, it’s still your day.

I hope I was able to make this morning special for you. I wasn’t sure about improvising, and I think you know that I probably never am. Because I always want it to be perfect for you, but maybe the perfection lives in the effort and not in the result. In the day to day effort (struggle) of everything.

Together.

❤︎ Happy birthday, honey. ❤︎

Of Mom and Me, Another Year

“A daughter is a mother’s gender partner, her closest ally in the family confederacy, an extension of her self. And mothers are their daughters’ role model, their biological and emotional road map, the arbiter of all their relationships.”

— Victoria Secunda

She’s noticed it, too—the older I get, the more the dynamic between us changes. The less we have to be parent and child, and the more we can be mother and daughter—friends. Except, today, I’m not the one getting older, Mom—you are.

Happy birthday, Mom.

You don’t look like you’re 48 today…and since you’re likely to comment about how you’d rather I not comment on your age this way, I’ll just slip in a subtle comment about how Dad is TWO YEARS OLDER than you and his birthday is in NOVEMBER. There, how’s that? 😉

Really, though. Every tabloid I read has quotes from multiple women who state that the older they get, the better they feel, the more confident, the more beautiful, the less they care that they’re aging, blah blah… Of course, even the more trustworthy tabloids (kind of an oxymoron, I know) are still tabloids, and those women are more often than not celebrities, and…celebrities age differently. The entire world watches, but they typically have thousands of dollars and “people for that” so it’s…different. See, we ordinary people don’t have that. You don’t have that. And frankly, I think Botox is stupid, so I’m glad you don’t have that—and, just like the makeup you complain about having to put on anytime I want to go anywhere, I don’t believe you need it. (Although if putting on makeup makes you feel more beautiful, then, fine. I get it, because I actually do feel kind of different with a French manicure and a pair of wedge heels…)

So, anyway, how do you feel today? I don’t see the point of asking whether or not you feel any older, because I still remember everybody asking me that on my birthday growing up, as is a common question for kids, and the answer was always no. No, I don’t think it’s ever your birthday that makes you feel older—it’s the day-to-day living. The wrangling of a child. The constant stream of laundry. The bills that pile up on the counter, demanding attention, as you reach for the coffeepot each morning. The airports and airplanes that accompany international travel—the exhausting, unglamorous part of travel that nobody thinks about when they think about jet-setting around the world. (No, you’re not actually “jet-setting.” But I like the term, so I’ll use it.)

You know, I think that if there’s anything in the world that makes you feel old, it’s probably…me. I turned 23 this year. I’m your only child; you’ve spent years raising me, teaching me, disciplining me, loving me, annoying me… (Remember when I finally called you annoying, and every time thereafter you would say, “Thank you! I’m annoying!” with that grin on your face like you were so proud of it…? Oy.) See, I’ve been your entire life.

I appreciate that, you know.

I appreciate even more how we’re both getting older and what that’s meant for the dynamic of our relationship. How we can spend a day in Pearland or drive to the outlet malls on a whim. Have lunch, gang up on Dad. How it becomes easier for me, the older I get and the closer we are, to talk to you about problems of all kinds, or, if I need it, to just vent. Though the older I get, too, the more often I catch myself saying something, and immediately have to follow it up with, “My god, I sound like my mother.” 😳 But I bet you get a kick out of that!

Happy birthday, Mom. I love you.

P. S…

Just for good measure. 😉

How Many Lives Does A Writer Live?

When you apply to the undergraduate Creative Writing program at UH, you have to submit with your portfolio a one-page statement of intent. What in the world is a statement of intent, I wondered the first time I applied. I don’t remember what I wrote for my first application, but suffice it to say that I know the one I submitted with my second application was much better—written from the heart rather than from the mind. Every once in a while when I’m on my computer, writing and even when not writing, I’ll click over to that statement of intent to reread it. Today, I want to share it with you.

When my first application to the University of Houston’s competitive undergraduate Creative Writing concentration was not accepted, I spent the next year and a half wondering if it would even be worth trying again. I did not reapply immediately because I felt I needed time to practice my writing—and really practice, because an attorney told me once that one “practices” writing just like one “practices” law—it is always practiced and never perfected. I have spent my entire life, then, practicing creative writing, and while my work has greatly improved over these years, I can see that I still have a long way to go. This is why I decided to reapply: for the chance to continue practicing writing under the instruction of people who are as successful in it as I dream of being, and who will care about and want to facilitate my success. Professors who can see my potential and encourage me to become better, to reach higher, and not to let rejection discourage me from trying again.

My ultimate goal in creative writing has always been to write a fiction novel and then have it published, and then to write another. That will always be what I will work toward, but in the undergraduate concentration, I will work toward the Creative Writing degree I want. I will try to complete some shorter stories that may be sent to literary magazines, and therefore hone my ability to employ the techniques of storytelling in a smaller number of pages. I will try as much as I can to return to the imaginative freedom that thinking creatively gives me, which I feel has been lost to me in all these years of school and analytical essays. Above all, I will continue to practice writing. The feedback I requested after not being accepted before stated that more unpredictability was desired from my writing, and while I have been working on that, I feel that it could still greatly benefit from more professional instruction. I hope you will afford me that chance.

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,” wrote George R.R. Martin.

How many lives does a writer live?

;

“Last but not least, I would say you should have big dreams, full dreams, not half dreams. You know, it’s very simple. You can’t put a large box in a small box. Well, you cannot put a full life in a small dream box.”

—Elias Zerhouni

Graduation speeches are usually pretty cliché. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s speech to the University of Houston Spring 2017 graduating class—I can’t say whether it was cliché or not, because I skipped the Commencement ceremony and still haven’t watched the video on Facebook, but, you know, maybe it wasn’t. In any case, Dylan said he liked it, and as he is the graduate, his opinion is the one that matters.

A little backstory: we met through a mutual friend at Brazosport College, both pursuing an Associate of Arts degree. I was fresh out of high school, and since he’s three years older than me, he’d already been at BC for a little while. He graduated the summer before I did, I think, and neither of us walked; BC is less organized than Brazoswood High School, yet more organized than the University of Houston, and still, I’m not sure that we knew we were supposed to walk. I didn’t, anyway; I went to what was supposed to be my graduation, to watch my friend Nabeel graduate, and when I walked inside, Sarah—one of my now-former coworkers in the Student Life office—pointed at me and said, “You’re supposed to be walking today.” I looked back at her. “I am?” So, that happened. Maybe I’ll walk for UH—I haven’t decided yet, and fortunately I have a year to figure that out.

I transferred to the University of Houston in the spring of 2014, and Dylan followed a semester after. We both enrolled for English degrees, no surprise there, though his concentration always was Literature, and mine is now and always was intended to be Creative Writing. He finished his English major quickly and decided to minor in Communications with a concentration in Public Relations, and he finished that quickly, too. He’s done so well this past semesters, and I’m so proud of him. He’s come so far.

It was not easy. I think it’s okay for me to speak for him when I say that. The work could come easily, but the day to day did not always, and I know from my own experience that college life is not always as easy as it looks. Especially when he must commute an hour each way, several times a week, and often had to get up before dawn because I had early morning classes and we carpooled, even when he was unable to sleep at night.

I picked up his laptop yesterday from where it sat in his room, and had to brush the dust off the top of it; he told me he hasn’t used it since he turned in his last paper for class. It must be somewhat of a relief to no longer need it for academia—moreover, to have his classes behind him. I say “somewhat” because now it will be back to the real world, a job, bills, etc. and the real world is often scary and unforgiving. But I have faith in him, because I’ve seen him do it before. I don’t think even he knows what he’s capable of, but I do. He’ll be okay.

The quote is for you, Dylan. I understand as best I can where you are right now. You struggle, of course, and you’re only human so you must. But please… Dream of impossibilities, and live your life to create them. I won’t say that now that you’ve graduated college, your life can begin, because I know you’d say that’s bullshit—so I will say this: you have the whole rest of your life ahead of you, every day, and when I said yesterday that we will travel, I meant it. We will. We’ll do everything that you want to do, and that I want to do, and that we want to do, and we have the same bright future ahead of us that we always have. I’m writing this now and starting to tear up, because you don’t know how proud I am of you, and how much I know you have so much more in front of you. Yes, it has started to sink in a little more now that you’ve finished, and that when I go back to school in the fall, you won’t be going with me. But that’s okay, because I am so proud of how you’ve finished. How far you’ve come. Of the person that you are, inside of you—every part of you, even the messy parts. The person that makes me want to be a better me.

Sure. It’s a cliché; but it’s a beautiful one.