Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Full nakedness ! All joys are due to thee . . .

Don’t worry, I’m not about to start posting naked pictures of myself on here. That. Would. Be. Bad. This will be an entry about exercise. It’s a leap, I know.

I’m trying to love and accept myself as I am, really. I’m struggling with the idea of that, though, because I don’t much like my body right now. I think liking your body too much when every chart on earth says you are a fatso is not such a healthy self-esteem thing. Personally, I think it’s better to acknowledge that the old bod is not so great anymore than it is to be in denial. Denial is not your friend. I’m on the outs with denial, remember. Denial and I are no longer chatting on the phone every morning and deciding to wear matching outfits.

I was flipping through my stack of diet books (a post for another day) and came across this really interesting quote in a Jorge Cruise book.

Exercise is a form of body praise.

Hmmm. I like that much better than my old form of body praise, which went something like this:

I don’t care if you have rolls and you require lycra and a good bra to get into clothing – damn it, I still love you.

I don’t hate my body, exactly, I’m just in a little tiff with it. I’d like to get back to praising my body, but I need to find another method besides my Frenemy, Denial.

You know what you get when you search for Praise for your Body? You get Donne – To His Mistress Going To Bed – a poem in which Donne is smoothly talking the pants right off some chick who’d rather be having sex in the dark with her linen nightie pulled up a chaste amount. That’s some pretty nice praise in that poem, but it’s sort of meant to result in him getting lucky. I’m sure it worked – what girl doesn’t want to be the subject of a poem? In case you missed this one in English Lit, you can read it here:

So, I also came across the Gâyatrî Mantra in my search. In case you missed your Islamic Mysticism class one day, here it is:

We meditate on the glory of the Creator;
Who has created the Universe;
Who is worthy of Worship;
Who is the embodiment of Knowledge and Light;
Who is the remover of all Sin and Ignorance;
May He enlighten our Intellect.

But that one is about the brain, not the body. So we have the extremes here: Wooo Hooo Go Naked and then Remove Sin and Enlighten Intellect. Sigh. I do love the search engine Google, but sometimes you get the gamut.

So, I think I need a new mantra to praise my body and I just realized how simple it is, really.

To My Legs Before Going To The Gym

Get thee up, thou full-fleshed and lazy limbs;
Work out hard – for that’s what the Creator intends.
Treadmill, stair-stepper or just a long walk,
Off your lazy ass; waste less time on talk.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Poetry Monday - Autumn Migration

Autumn Migration

Throw up your dinner at the break.
Beside all the gawking starlings
in the bathroom, you’re a macaw,
fuchsia stripes and ruby slashes,
but under the stadium lights
you look healthy. Rub Vaseline
on your teeth so your painted lips
slip into smiles. On the field
the minutes march away until
the band cranks up Louie Louie
as the players depart to pray.
and you count into position
one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight . . .
When you feel the base’s hands grip
your hips, you stop hearing music,
the crowd rumbles away. You bend,
his fingers pinch your waist until
he raises you up in the air
like a falconer. Your feet rest
in his hands for a four count, then
you stick it, right foot in your palm
and left foot gripped hard in his hands.
You squeeze your cheeks until your thigh
becomes a rod of hardened steel
pinch a penny, pinch a penny, pinch a penny
Even from this distance you look
in the eyes of parents, stoners
and old graduates in the bleachers
and see them bound to the earth,
their bulk absolute and leaden.
Out of the corner of your eye
you see the other flyer tossed
like a released homing pigeon.
She comes out of her tuck, touches
her pointed toes, then swan dives down.
Later, she will tell you about
seeing, over the crowd and past
the bleachers, the long line of cars
on University. Eight counts
left, but his hands begin to shake.
One count early you feel him bend
his knees, propelling you airborne.
You twist into a perfect V
and ride down into the cradle.
Pop out of his arms, wave in time
with the waning beats of the song.
Only some have bones light enough to fly.

Notes on Autumn Migration
One of my favorite aspects of being a modern poet is the ability to play with that almighty ruler of poetry - Form. Just as poets in the 18th and 19th century took to and used hymn meter because that was the rhythm they heard in their daily life, modern poets can take whatever beat they want. We're not as constrained by the notion that there is one right way to apply form.

This poem is about cheerleading, of course, but not any cheerleading - the basis is the gravity-defying aspects of doing stunts. Throwing another body into the air - or being the body thrown in the air - requires a certain mental toughness and a deep belief in your partner. It's hubris in a short skirt. The manner in which I tweaked form for this poem is in the line count - each line is 8 beats - which is the count in cheerleading. Every motion is dictated by that magic 8 - so I wanted this poem to fall within that hard and fast rule. When you can get the form and the subject matter to marry so closely - well, that's pretty satisfying. The last line is not 8 counts because the stunt has ended.

Oh, and a little inside tidbit. The cheeks in the poem are butt cheeks. Every flyer is taught the mantra that they repeat in their head - and sometimes outloud - Pinch a penny. They have to squeeze their butt cheeks as if there's a penny in there and their life depends on keeping it in place. In order to defy gravity the flyer has to keep their body within a single plane - if they move any body part out of that plane then the base can't hold them and they fall. Watch ESPN cheer competitions some time and you can catch a few of the flyers mumbling up there in the air.
Pinchapenny pinchapenny pinchapenny.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Poetry Monday

Pacing at 2 am with Telia

The neighbor’s house is nothing but black geometry
as I walk the floors with my infant daughter —
lost in half sleep, in the desire to dream.
She reaches, grasping at my hair,
and anchors herself as a moonflower vine
grows small spikes to find purchase on a wall.

Of all the strange fancies
my grandmother keeps in boxes
what she wants the most is her mother’s hair,
arm-length, chestnut and tightly braided.
A marvel to hold when I was a child.
The trophy none of my friends could top.
I find it on a high shelf in her bedroom,
muslin wrapped, looped with silk lily-of-the-valley,
plastic case clouded, label smeared.
Seventy-five years it has lived with her.
Fierce desire for this one thing
has been triggered by a recurring dream –
she’s sixteen and come home from school
to find her mother on the edge of death
her knee length hair gone by order of the doctor.
That long braid, turned gray by age, sickness,
was buried with her body,
but the switch, culled from a hairbrush
and used to make elaborate coiffures before the sickness,
haunts my grandmother,
makes her reach out to hold
the brittle strands in her trembling fingers.

I'm posting this as my first poem because it's about my grandma. I stopped blogging last year so abruptly because my grandmother fell and hurt herself. She was 94 and the fall she took ended her life after three painful and hard weeks. I just sort of, well, entered a mourning period. So, I thought it fitting to "publish" this one about her as my first foray into getting my writing out in the world.
Because I'm a teacher I have to give some explanatory notes for each poem. Were I giving a reading I would do the same thing for the audience to introduce the poem. Here's the deal with poetry - it's mostly meant to be an interaction between the audience and the poet. It's okay to say what a poem is ABOUT. To me, poems where you have to delve deeply to figure out WTF is going on are just an excuse to not pay for therapy for the poet. Some of what I write is autobiographical and some is fiction - the switch in the poem is real and a pretty cool object when you think about how long ago my great-grandmother died.
The style of this one is a pretty modern construct my favorite professor, David Bottoms, is the master of. The first stanza is an in-the-moment riff, then there is a break, and then the second stanza reveals the meaning and the theme. The two sometimes look like there's a big leap in logic or a breaking of the space-time continuum, but if the poet has done their job the two halves form a circle that reveals something powerful without coming out and saying it or hitting you over the head with it. It's sort of tied to the stream-of-consciousness movement in fiction, but there's a more formal aspect to this technique in poetry.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Who Is This Will and Why Does He Have All the Power?

My family had bacon for dinner last night. Crispy bacon. And scrambled eggs – cooked in bacon grease. My family is skinny, through some miracle, so they can eat things like that once in a while and be totally not as fat as I am. I’m not even going to ask what’s up with that because it’s pointless. Oddly enough – I ate my salad and my Nutrisystem Mac n Cheese and was perfectly and totally happy. I did not even snitch a little corner of crispy bacon. And I was the one frying it!

It occurred to me today while I was huffing it on the stair climber at the gym that the Greeks may have had it right after all with the whole Muse thing. And yogurt – you have to give them that. Muses and yogurt. Brilliant people those Greeks. However, I think the Muses need a refreshening. Kind of like in Europe where the buildings are all 1 million years old and very beautiful and patinaed (see, I was a designer since you have to have a license to use a word like “patina”), but when you go inside everything is very au courant and clean-lined with this Bauhaus sensibility and all these bright colors. So, the Muses need the same kind of treatment.

Although, really, I think the Muse of Erotic Poetry is doing just fine modernizing herself. Anyhoo, I think we need to add a Muse to the list for our modern sensibilities and needs.

I hereby nominate the new Muse – Will.

He’s the only male Muse and he is in charge of inspiring us to not be obese forty-year olds with bad capris and saggy boobs. I’m having a hard time figuring out what Will-the-Muse looks like, however. Is he like Frosty the Snowman with two cherry tomato eyes, a carrot nose, and a jaunty leaf of Bibb lettuce for a hat? Is he a really buff dude who speaks with a slight German accent and says “drop and give me fifty!” every time you call upon him? He might even look like Johnny Depp. If anyone should be a Greek it’s Johnny Depp with his yacht and his island.

All I know is that I have Will-the-Muse to thank for the fact that I happily ate Salad and did not partake of Bacon.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Picture is Worth 1200 Calories a Day

It’s such a damn cliché, but pictures reveal so much more than we are willing to see. Take, for instance, my weight loss “before” picture taken by my indulgent friend Stacy just last week. I’m posting it because this is me being brave and trying to move forward without my silly illusions. I know most of you actually know what I look like in person. Sadly, I’m not sure I know what I look like in person anymore.

I am fond of my silly illusions. Like the one I have where what I actually look like I do in this picture to the left - taken my first year of college when I was 19.

See, in my head I still look like I did when I was 30, 19, 17 . . . . In my head I’m still hot, still worth a second look. My after picture? Who is that woman in her silly capris and her raggedy bangs with her saggy boobs? I just simply do not know her.

Which is how you end up needing to lose 48.5 (now down to 44!) pounds. You do not look at pictures of yourself. You simply look in the mirror and magically superimpose your own favorable fantasy over what you see. You cannot do that with a picture.
Did I want to share my before picture with the world? Hell no! I’m doing it so I can stop this nonsense of imagining that I do not actually resemble my current picture. It’s all part of the process of trying to quit the fooling of myself I’ve been doing on every front of my life.
I’m a lumpy mess. And that’s the first really important step to becoming a not-as-lumpy and hot-enough-for-42 kind of a girl. Like the one in my head.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Three Business Suits of Eve

I’m obviously not done exploring the whys and wherefores of my seemingly disjointed professional history. But today, kids, we get to learn what I’m going to do about fixing this whole mess of a life I sent to the landfill in the Herbie Curbie. The picture? Me as a high school teacher and cheerleading coach. Can't believe I left that one off my post yesterday.

I’ve been in a bitter mood all summer. Bitter, nihilistic, hard-bitten, overwhelmed, stretched. You get the picture. I make a great small-business-woman for about six months before I get really peeved that I can’t write because I’m hitting deadlines left and right and pleasing my clients to no end. And, no, I’m not in the skin trade. I please my clients by being a strategic thinker and delivering more than I promise. Which makes me bitter, yada yada. Writing manuals is grinding work. In the end I often know more about my client’s business than they do. Perfect for my tendency to be a know-it-all to begin with.

I read this great article about Johnny Depp at the gym today (hang for a second, you know I’ll bring this point back around home in some crazy way). The article focused on how he manages to detangle himself from his rather deep character portrayals. The answer?

154 foot yacht and a private island.

So, I’m not getting my own private island any time soon. But I can imagine how great it would be to go to the island and just SHED the worry about why one client does not have good exhaust system guidelines and why another refuses to explain the Day Dot system to their franchisees. I could escape the worry I feel when I just know they are missing critical things like how to operate their Ansul System. I could drop out of society and not be there to take the phone call from the client who is still using operational guidelines from five years ago and has to call fired employees to find the originals of their kitchen recipes.

You can see why I’m bitter, right? So, here’s what happens when you inhabit your client's skin and succeed at becoming a successful small business person. You gain 10 pounds in three months.

Which is actually about 1/3 of the weight of the detritus I threw away when I cleaned out the studio. I’d have liked to chuck my big fat ass in that bin.

So, I’m not happy when I’m not writing and I’m fat, even if I am being successful at whatever crazy thing I am putting my hand to this year and I have jeans I like.

That’s my elevator speech.

My problem is that I succeed in whatever I can do, no matter how ill-suited to my own hopes, dreams and talents because I throw my whole entire self into it. I’m Johnny Depp. (as an aside, my Myers-Briggs test on Facebook actually listed me as an ENFJ – and guess what Johnny Depp is! Yup. We’re twins. Except only one of us has a yacht. And an island.)

Here’s where I tie this all in. I have to find a way to be more me and less the me of the moment and the me of the making a buck. In order to do this I have to do the following: Lose the weight I’ve been letting hide the real me, let some of my damn poetry see the light of day, write my own work (which does not have anything to do with the 100 degrees of doom, Day Dots, or spreadsheets detailing labor costs of any kind).

I’m going to admit this at the end because the only people still reading are my friends and hopefully love me. I’m on Nutrisystem. There, I said it. Finished my first week. Lost the first two of 48 pounds. So, I’m going to blog about that. And I’m going to start putting a poem up every Monday. Because if even one person reads my words, even if it’s someone who knows and loves me, well, that makes me a writer now doesn’t it. It makes me ME.

Monday, August 10, 2009

It Don't Matter to Me . . .

It don’t matter to me if you really feel that you need some time to be free, time to go out searching for yourself, hoping to find, time to come to find. It don’t matter to me if you take up with someone who’s better than me, cause your happiness is all I want for you to find. Your piece of mind.

I think Bread was a pussy and completely sublimating his feelings in that song. But I’d kinda like to become schizophrenic for a moment and feel that way about myself instead of my lover. (honey, if you are reading this you may NOT go out and find yourself, please leave that to me, the expert)

I didn’t know this year was going to be transformative when it started. Yet, here it is three quarters gone and things are shifting like a stack of dishes at a tag sale. This summer my old computer died – as in blue-screen-of-death and no –recovery-available-death. My new computer took three weeks to come (and DO NOT tell me to get a Mac – not an option for oh so many reasons). While I waited and fretted and wandered aimlessly through my work days on borrowed computers, I decided to do a “quick” remodel of my studio.

I wish I had pictures. Let’s just say my favorite carpenter, Kevy Duty, ended up here more days than he’d planned. He relies on people like me who have “ideas” and practice the Whim Method of project planning. In order to put in new cabinets and build a spot for a new sewing table I had to clear some things out. An entire Herbie Curbie of things. An emotional landscape that was some kind of treasure map to my true self I have not yet pieced together and daily now struggle with. Thanks a lot Kevy Duty!

I’ve lived many lifetimes already. Just a few of the occupations I’ve had:

  • Construction Office Manager
  • High School English Teacher
  • MFA Student/Research Assistant
  • College English Teacher
  • Literary Magazine Editor
  • Interior Designer
  • Technical Writer
  • Business Owner
  • Poet (published, no less)
  • Writer

You get the idea. And it’s not like any of those were short stints. The least amount of time I spent doing anything is a tie at the three years I was an office manager and edited a literary magazine.

In my little narrow studio were the remnants and dregs of all those lives. I threw things away with abandon. What am I ever going to do with Construction Detailing and Dimensions for Designers? I do not need teacher instruction manuals on assertive discipline – anyone who has seen me quell children with just a look knows I no longer need a how-to guide. I had kept every poem ever workshopped in my MFA program – just in case anyone I was in the program with became the next Sylvia Plath. I could just see some big university get all excited over my 9 million drafts of the really terrible early poems of So and So. Out they went. Along with my hand-drawn electrical plans for houses that are now totally out of warranty they were built so many years ago. I threw out catalogs for very hard to find architectural elements. I threw out my film-processing equipment from my minor in Photography. I pitched the beat-up parrot that used to hang in my very first classroom at Redlands High School in California. Out went all the research files for the website I did about the impact of the Civil War on the poetry of Emily Dickinson (far more interesting than it sounds!) I threw away the twenty copies of the lit mag I'd hoarded so I could prove I actually was an editor.

And somehow all that throwing away of the bits and pieces of who I have been set off a chain reaction in my psyche. I’ve been all these really concrete occupations – and experienced success in each of them to some extent.

But then I moved on.

Every job I quit, every career that became too much for me to handle, I left under the idea that I needed more time for writing. Yet, here I am today at the age of 42 with this really strange history of jobs and I’m not much closer to being published than I was ten years ago. I have managed to fail so far at the one thing I’ve really wanted to do all along.

How’s that for a mind-bender.