It’s 6:58am. The sky is turning a lighter shade of gray. My coffee is drained. I’ve made a few trips to my Facebook Comment App page (still haven’t figured out how to properly integrate it). Despite a LinkedIn update being the most interesting thing in my inbox, I’ve checked my email a few times. I’ve stared at my computer screen for an hour. I’ve written almost nothing.
Why can’t this be easier? Didn’t I read my previous posts? There is no time but now. Start living. Share yourself. Inspire people into action. Write.
Then I ask, “What if it’s okay that it’s not easy?” What if the struggle–the blank looks at an empty page, the seeming desert of inspiration, the useless byways to far-flung websites, the accusations that my hyper-affectionate cats are preventing my literary greatness–were, if not essential, not abnormal. What would be possible if resistance wasn’t a problem?
Most of spend our lives looking for the easy way–for the path of no resistance. Perhaps this path exists. I’ve waited 35 years looking for it…maybe 36 will be the easy year. Or maybe if I spent a thousandth of the time acting with resistance as I did looking for ways around it, I’d get done what needed to get done. Maybe working with resistance is the easy way.
I am at the library, finishing a paper on my laptop when a routine Windows Update pops onto my screen. I am hungry, so I decided to load the update, let it install and reboot while I grab something to eat. I get lunch and when I return the screen is blue–known by many as the “blue screen of death.” Everything was gone: my photos, my paper, my music.
The most devastating thing lost was my creative writing. There was some pretty hot shit on that hard-drive: short stories, personal essays and poems that were very well received on the university workshop circuit. I would submit them one day. Maybe a literary journal would publish them. Collectors would find these early works and see them as the harbingers of literary genius that they were.
But they were never submitted. They were never read outside a classroom. They died a quiet death that day, only the embers of my professors’ praise to indicate their existence.
Some things survived the crash. I had published some stuff for the school’s literary journal and some freelancing jobs. These were the lone records that I had ever written anything. All of my someday-fantasies of being published in the Paris Review were contrasted with the reality of articles published in Exhibit City News, a rag for the trade show industry that my mom had set me up with. It wasn’t glamorous, but it was something.
I learned several lessons out of this incident:
Back up. Duh.
There is no right time or opportunity to put yourself out there. Many of the things I wanted to submit were waiting for me to revise or make them just right. They were ready. I was just scared that no one outside the workshop table would like them. I regret not sharing. Also, while Exhibit City News an the Columbia Observer aren’t the New Yorker, they were something. They were what was available at the time and they were fine. If I had taken more such opportunities, perhaps my writing would have developed faster and been read more widely. Sometimes we forsake many small opportunities laid at our feet for big ones that never comes.
If something is precious, we must give it away. The only things I wrote that survived were the things that were published. The only surviving photos were the ones I gave to others. Giving things away extends their lives. Holding onto things results in atrophy and decay.
Have you ever been sitting alone in a public space letting off stinky farts? On the one hand, we might feel comforted by the fact that we are alone. Somehow smelling our own farts doesn’t bother us as much as smelling other peoples. Personally, I am strangely curious about my farts’ particular flavor profiles. Sometimes they’re highly sulfuric, sometimes they have a rotting vegetable thing going on. They have a certain compelling dissonance, like Schoenberg or a Michael Haneke film—you want to cover your ears or look away, but something draws you in.
On the other hand, our solitary comfort is an uneasy one. Since it’s a public space, we don’t want anyone to enter our orbit until the smell goes away. We do quick, dog-like sniffs, monitoring the rate of dissipation, hoping that when someone does inevitably come by, the fart’s intensity will have mellowed. But what if they come at the peak of its intensity? We fear what people will think of us, when they know we are capable of such odoriferous atrocities. We fear being scorned. Maybe they’ll walk away and avoid us in the future, affixing a scarlet F to our blousons. Maybe no one will like us when they know our acrid insides.
Self-expression can be a bit like farting in a public space. We feel compelled to emit something, to share our unique funk, but we are afraid of what will happen when other people are exposed to it. What will they think of us when they smell, see, hear, touch or taste the things that lurk inside of us?
Here are some questions to ponder today:
What is the fart you are trying to conceal from the world? What are you holding back, hoping no one knows about you?
Are you content to worry in isolation about your fart being smelled?
Or are you willing to invite people into your Dutch Oven? Are you willing to be known inside and out, giving people the opportunity to appreciate your particular funk?
The first time I dressed in drag for halloween was in the fifth grade. My mom, exercising the good judgment befitting someone in an alcoholic free-fall, helped me put together my outfit. She lent me a frizzy pink wig, a black halter top, some high heels, pantyhose and to finish the outfit, she sewed me a black vinyl miniskirt. Thinking back on it, my choice of costume might have been ill-advised.
The previous year, my quasi-stepdad Dave died of a heart attack. When it happened, we were living in a large house with an in-ground pool in a nice, white Chicago suburb called Flossmoor. We had moved there two years before as part of a great white migration from the town I was born in, University Park. After Dave’s death, my mom could no longer afford to live in the house with the pool, and because she never sold the University Park place, her and I moved back.
It was 1986 and gangs were becoming more prevalent. The year before, in the fourth grade, much to the dismay of my teachers, I had my ear pierced. Their displeasure was nothing compared to the daily beatings I received at my new school in University Park, the victim of mistaken gang-affiliation.
It was not a good year. I felt pretty alienated being one of four white kids in my fifth grade class. My sensitive nature and stylish wardrobe didn’t help either. Getting my ass kicked daily for the most arbitrary reasons sucked too.
And things were not much better at home. My mom reaching the nadir of her alcoholism in the wake of Dave’s death. Beside her more quotidian debauches, I had to call the ambulance twice that year to pick mom up from alcoholic catatonia.
And yet, somewhere in the din of this social isolation, violence and domestic chaos, I had the idea, “Why don’t I dress up as a hooker for Halloween?” Continue reading “Halloween Special”