Friday, July 31, 2009

The Windmill of My Mind

I snapped this picture of a windmill one day while driving around Newport.  I've always found windmills interesting and kind of poetic.

Evidently, others do too.  Alan and Marilyn Bergman wrote the lyrics to Windmills of Your Mind.  Some of those lyrics are:  "Like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel, never ending or beginning, on an ever-spinning reel, as the images unwind like the circles that you find in the windmills of your mind."

I think writing is a lot like that.  Sometimes I feel like I'm going 'round and 'round, never really getting anywhere.  Writers need to see change and feel a sense of accomplishment and growth. Like those characters in our stories, if there is no growth along the way, our writing will suffer.

I need to stop being a windmill and be more like a rocket.  I want to blast off into the solar system and get somewhere as fast as possible.

But as most of us know, the writing life just isn't like that.

The wheels are turning slowly.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Secret Room

A bare room.  Starting over.  What is the essence of a room without color, carpeting, curtains, and the furniture and possessions that make it personal, make it come alive to the person who dwells within it?

It's like the artist's blank canvas, staring back at her beckoning and begging to come alive.  Which colors will she select?  Which strokes of her brush are the right ones? Which tones will convey the right blend of warmth, creativity and coziness?

Our lives are similar to this empty room, blank canvas.  Sometimes we think the "furniture" can't be rearranged, can't be moved, or we're afraid to lift up a "carpet", fearing what lies beneath.

I used to have this recurring dream where I was back in my former apartment, living on the third floor which contained four rooms.  Only in this dream, I'm walking through the apartment and I discover a fifth room!  A new room, a different room, a room I've never seen before.  I get all excited when I find it, wondering how it came to be and why I'd never known it was there. So what does it mean?

I think the dream is about possibilities.  There is something there waiting to be discovered in our lives, but it's invisible until we're ready to see it.  It's like a secret room, waiting to be furnished in whatever style or fashion we choose.

I know there are some things I still want to do.  It's time to take my paint brush and get busy painting!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

SHHHH! It's a Secret.

Secrets.  We all keep our secrets.  Our do we?

For those of us who do, some are dark and private, the kind that need to stay hidden forever.  For if we were to reveal them to others, what price would we pay?

But then there is the other kind of secret, a smaller and harmless sort we keep for various reasons.  Perhaps we're trying to prevent hurting someone's feelings.  Or maybe we don't want others to know something about ourselves for it's just too embarrassing or shameful to disclose. Whatever the reason, a secret is hatched like an egg and kept hidden away in a nest in the back of our mind.

Years ago I hatched a secret from my girlfriend, Debbie.  We were about thirteen at the time,  in eighth grade, I believe.  Debbie was my best friend and I wanted it to stay that way.  I didn't have many friends because I was shy, unattractive, and unpopular.  Debbie liked me, or seemed to, and that's a precious commodity for a shy, diffident teen trying to survive junior high school. The problem began when Debbie started to get much more popular.  I'm not sure what triggered her newfound popularity, but all of a sudden both boys and girls were talking to her, paying attention to her and wanting to spend time with her.  That left me in a pretty bad situation.  She stopped paying attention to me.

So I panicked.  How do I get Debbie to pay attention to me? The other girls were calling her "Keene", some kind of cool nickname derived from her last name.  But I didn't call her that.  It seemed to be the cool thing to do, but I had never been one who embraces conformity.  So I started noticing how she was dressed, how she wore her hair, what kind of handbag she carried, etc.   I thought perhaps I would have to change if I wanted her to still like me.  But before I could go get my hair cut and buy new clothes, I had to find a way to get her to realize change was coming, without actually revealing what those changes would be.  (the mind of a kid here, you see)  So I said to Debbie, "I'm plotting against you."  In hindsight, this was a really stupid thing to say, but it did peak her curiosity.  All along the way, I'd tell her I was getting closer to my goal of plotting against her.  I updated my hairstyle, bought new, more fashionable clothes, and purchased the same kind of handbag she carried.  I attempted to be more like Debbie just so she would like me.  And, possibly, I thought the other kids who liked Debbie would also like me, if I were more like her.

Well, this foolish plan did not work.  Debbie, who seemed to drink up the compliments and attention from the popular kids, just gravitated more and more to them.  Kathy was left out and abandoned.  All that hard work was for nothing.  I did not gain the friendship of Debbie's admirers nor did I retain hers.  

A few years down the road, Debbie and I restored  our friendship, but my secret was never revealed.  She would never know I hatched up a plan simply to make her like me and want to be my friend.  And if I told her she'd probably laugh and tell me what an idiot I was.

It took me a long time to get it through my head that people have to like you for yourself and if they can't, well so be it.  I spent way too much time trying to imitate others, hoping that would make me likable.

So, now that this minor secret has been revealed to my blogging audience, how about you?  Any secrets in your closet?  Did you ever tell all somewhere down the road?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Some are happy just to have a job

I just finished reading an article in the newspaper about part-time, overqualified workers in my state who are working part-time only because that's all they can find for work.  One man is busing tables at a pancake place because he can't find anything in his field; he's a veteran carpenter and trained diver.  To his credit, he has a very good attitude about the whole thing and is happy just to have the work.

But that got me to thinking about what it would be like if say doctors, lawyers, dentists, college professors, and other professionals could not land jobs in their fields, and so had to take a big cut in pay and hours, along with a demotion to such positions as clerks, cashiers, laundry workers, and burger flippers.

Now even though it would be very unfortunate and unfair to these professionals, I think it would be hilarious to witness.  There are some "bigwigs" I've come across over the years who have a very pompous, self-righteous, "I'm better than you are" type of attitude.  So for such people, having to lower themselves to some of the aforementioned positions would be a nightmare.  But I'd think they'd learn something valuable from the whole experience.  It's humbling to perform a job for low wages and find out what it's like on the other side of the fence.

A few years back, desperate for a part-time job to supplement my writing income, I signed up with a temp agency.  The job they found for me was stuffing envelopes--all day long.  That's all I did all day long was stuff about 3 to 5 letter-sized papers into these big envelopes.  Talk about boring.  There is no possible way to make a job like that fun or interesting.  I knew it was temporary--supposed to last about 2 weeks.  But for a college graduate with a degree in English and concentration in creative writing, doing something so monotonous and brainless for eight hours a day is indeed a challenge.  I made all kinds of deals with myself just to get through the two weeks.  I tried to bring in very tasty lunches to give myself the reward of food--something to look forward to each day.  One day, early on, I heard one of the younger workers (there were about 15 of us working in a big room) talking on her cell phone during a break.  She was speaking with the person who'd signed her up for this temp job.  One of the things she said really cracked me up.  I tried so hard not to laugh out loud.  She said, "I'm really enjoying the job so far!"  Lots of enthusiasm in her voice.  I sat there, mystified, thinking: How the hell can you say you're enjoying stuffing envelopes????

So she was either lying/exaggerating  just to please the recruiter.... OR (amazingly) finds enjoyment in stuffing envelopes.  If it's the latter, well, I don't know what to say about her particular IQ, etc.

But, getting back to my point about overqualified people doing work that's below them, I did learn a few things doing that temp job.  I talked to some of the other workers and got to know them.  A few were older ladies at or near retirement age who just wanted something to do during the day.  They were cheerful and helpful and actually very good workers.  They breezed through their envelope stuffing, laughing at each other's jokes, sharing anecdotes, and commenting on news stories coming over the radio.  The radio stayed on all day long and these happy workers sang along to the oldies, making it a pleasant atmosphere for all.

So one day I sat there and thought:  This ain't so bad.  There are worse ways to earn a living.  And it's only for two weeks.

I can hang on that long.  And I can smile doing it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Real Live Friends vs. Invisible Internetties

I was thinking about friendships the other day and how they can change throughout your life.

I still have one or two friends from childhood, though we rarely see each other.  One close childhood buddy moved to Florida and I haven't seen her in years.  I doubt I'd recognize her if I saw her on the street.  Another friend who attended the same elementary school, high school and college lives about 30 minutes away, but our paths never cross and we only keep in touch for birthdays and Christmas.  One very dear friend from high school died about 20 years ago, probably from AIDS, the cause was never disclosed to those of us who attended his memorial service.  I remember how shocked I was at the time to learn of his death; how could that possibly happen to someone my age, I'd thought.  And in my mind I relived happy moments we'd shared, recalling funny things he said and did.  And I pondered whether I had told him often enough how much I liked him and how good a friend he was.

I have two very good friends these days, women I met at two different jobs I held years ago.  Somehow we've kept in touch over the years even though we don't see each other on a regular basis and don't share the common bond that brought us together.  They're both single which hasn't mattered much even though I'm married with kids.  I guess the fact that we share a love of books, music, movies, dining out--things like that--kept us friends, kept us united.

But lately I've found that even those common bonds haven't been enough.  Sometimes when we talk, the conversation falters, leaving too many silent pauses.  Where it used to be so easy to talk on the phone for hours, now there are awkward moments.  What happened? I wonder.

How do you stay connected with friends in a time when people live such separate, busy lives?  Does friendship really matter to people these days?  And what about virtual friendships?  Do some of us "talk" more to people we've never met (via the Internet) than to flesh and blood, real live human beings?

What are your thoughts on this?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Yesterday and Today

Smile for the camera if you can
or don't 
if your smile reveals some tinsel
better left hidden.
It was a black and white era
of shyness, timid glances
and awakening sexuality,
a time to hide behind glasses,
turtleneck sweaters
or the Christmas tree itself.

Daddy's gone now
and so are his cameras,
and in their place
computer screens
and digital, color, instant pics
that I can access with a click
and send them into cyberspace.

My sisters are no longer
black and white children
but full color women
with beauty parlor hair,
high heels and low-cut,
stylish dresses
as they dance around the seasons.

And now I smile
a camera-ready smile,
polished and rehearsed,
no longer fearful.
Yesterday is just a ghost
of the girl I used to be.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

It's raining, it's pouring--it's making summer boring!

It's July.  And it's raining out.  We've had a lousy summer weather-wise so far.  But sooner or later the sun is bound to come out and stay out.  I've also been under the weather health-wise, so I could use a little sunshine to make me feel better.

So what do you like to do when it's summertime?
a. Cookouts
b. go to the beach and play in the waves
c. sit outside and read a good book
d. concentrate on getting a tan
e. work on the great American novel (or poetry, plays, non-fiction)

Let me know how you like to spend the summer.

Meanwhile, I'll be posting pictures of my rain-soaked bushes outside my front door.