wordjunkies

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On My Mind June 6, 2012

Filed under: State of Mind,Writing/Words — Annie Maier @ 3:29 pm
Tags: , , , ,

June 6, 2012 

 

 Neurosis

 noun

  • a relatively mild mental illness that is not caused by organic disease, involving  symptoms of stress (depression, anxiety, obsessive behavior,   hypochondria) but not a radical loss of touch with   reality. Compare with psychosis;  (in nontechnical use) excessive and irrational anxiety or obsession.

 

I don’t like round tables. Especially really small round tables. I prefer squares. I discovered this as I caught myself looking longingly at the square, handicap person’s table in Starbucks. I covet that table, as I bang out words in my cramped circle. As long as I’m renting space from Starbucks for the ridiculously low sum of a grande soy latte, I want to work with all of my writerly, editorly, accoutrements around me—notebooks, calendar, books, coffee, ice, computer, pens, pencil, eraser, paper, trash, Brad’s manuscript, my manuscript. Everything I need to be ready… ready for what? Whatever. Any, EVERY, eventuality that may or may not occur, thus preventing me from functioning at full capacity.

I watch this table, so often empty, and fantasize about dragging it over to my usual spot by the window, taking up the entire space without fear of bumping someone, or inadvertently catching someone’s eye, or knocking the whole damn lot to the floor. Without fear of someone coming along, reaching over my head and lowering the shade, because that shade is the only thing that stands between me and freezing my ass off.

This table, I realize, is a buffer. Holding the world at bay while I try to function.

Starbucks understands. They don’t outright forbid me to sit there. Rather they post a tiny, square note that reminds me that this table is designed for people with needs I can’t imagine. I can sit there, but I have to move on in the event that a person with a handicap shows up. Which is fine. I don’t begrudge anyone this table. In fact, I’m really glad it’s available. Life is hard enough without trying to fit your wheelchair or crutches or non-bendable knees under a little round table. Still, I want it. I want my name engraved on it, a little square sign reading: Please offer this table to our customers with spatial issues.  Instead of a wheelchair, my picture could accompany the words.

That way, I could sit there without guilt. I could be grateful I’m not in a wheelchair, or on crutches, or that all of my joints bend as they were meant to, while occupying a space large enough to accommodate such issues if they did exist. As it is, whenever I am forced to sit there, usually by a large mid-day crowd, I do so with the awareness that I’m a usurper. This isn’t really my table. I’m only borrowing it.

Image

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Earthly Ghosts May 18, 2012

May 18, 2012

So, it turns out I’m haunted

(adj)

  1. (of a place) frequented by a ghost
  2. having or showing signs of mental anguish or torment

The “place,” in this case, being my head. The “signs” including but not limited to cuticle biting, eye twitching, intermittent spells of spasticity and lassitude, anxiety (more or less constant), nightmares, night sweats, night terrors, and a fascination with death.

Far from being alarmed by said haunting, I am in fact quite relieved; I’ve known since pre-language toddlerhood that there was something other inhabiting the soft tissue encased in the slowly fusing bone mass that would become my skull. How nice, after all these years, to be able to address this suddenly concrete and thus assailable entity.

An aside: wouldn’t it be cool to find out that somewhere within the recesses of your body, perhaps buried deep within your liver or your spleen, there lurked a twin? I first heard of such a possibility on CSI, which was a decent series back before they killed off Gary Dourdan and William Peterson left the show. TV drama politics aside, the victim, who was really the perpetrator, did not take the news of his slightly unorthodox cohabitation well. (I can’t remember though if it got him arrested or got him off.) But really, think of the benefits! Live twins are said to be one of the closest, most perfect relations we can have, but even they, after all, have limitations. A micro-twin, on the other hand, would have all the benefits of a true mini-me without the obvious drawbacks. (Really, do I want another Annie Maier in my life? No. And you probably don’t either!) You could, for instance, call on your twin anytime of day or night without having to worry that he/she might not pick up the phone, or worse, that your brother/sister-in-law might pick up instead—because, clearly, if light-hearted banter was something you were good at, you probably wouldn’t be fantasizing about having a hairy bone mass lodged in your organs with whom you could have a conversation. You could visit without your twin without calling, take him/her out to dinner without a care as to who would pay the bill, and wear their clothes with complete impunity!

However, I digress.

My ghostly friend is neither dead nor encased safely in my spleen. And while I cannot reveal his/her identity, for fear of endangering the innocent (that is, me), I can say that he/she is someone with whom I am both intimately and irrevocably connected. I am not unique; we all  sanction the presence in our lives of at least one person who wants nothing more than to possess us. As is the case with my possessor, said people are often

Manifestation(s)
noun

  1. display, exhibition, presentation
  2. sign,indication, evidence, token, symptom, proof, substantiation, reflection, example, instance.
  3. outward or perceptible indication; materialization
  4. the state of being manifested, (that is) a conscious feeling, idea, and/or impulse that contains repressed psychic material

As such, my apparition at least must also, in addition to ruthless, insatiable and often cruel, be fairly labeled innocent. A fiend perhaps, but a reluctant fiend.

What, you may be wondering, if you are still here to wonder, in the hell has this to do with ANYTHING? It has to do with hesitation. With indecision. It has to do with goal setting, goal reaching, and self-constructed barriers. It has to do not with writing but with allowing what it is we have written to escape from our souls, our pens and and computer screens to a concrete existence in the greater, larger, infinitely more entertaining world. It has to do with my book. And maybe yours.

To be continued

(thank you to Liz Wong, illustrator)

 

Reality -vs- Fantasy (=wall) April 29, 2012

Part 2; April 29, 2012

Previously on wordjunkies: Stubbornly rooted in the fantasy of an anxiety-free, socially well-adjusted existence, Annie Maier prepared for an appointment with a client. Dressed and ready to go, she climbs into her car only to see:

There in my lap, south of my naval, northeast of my thigh… a bright swirl of white and red. But wait! What was this curlicue of color doing in a place that should, according to all calculations, contain only black? As my perfect world doesn’t include someone to remind me to zip my fly, and so I often don’t, I hastily patted my nether regions, all the while assuring myself there was NO PROBLEM. A quick tug and I’d be all set. Except there wasn’t anything to tug. Jumping from the car, I bent double to get a better view… of my underwear.

Rent:

Noun

  • rip, tear, split, hole,slash, slit.
  • gorge, chasm,fault, rift, fissure, crevasse

Damn damn and damn. I sprinted back into the house and up the stairs to my closet. Like many women, I have several pairs of black pants. Unfortunately one was on my body with a gaping hole where there should be none, one was downstairs waiting to be ironed, and one was dirty. That left only one other pair, bought at Macy’s 15 years ago. I remember because I lived in Arizona at the time and I’ve forgotten nothing about that period in my life. (Unlike the years spent in Connecticut, details of which I’ve spent a fortune on drugs and therapy trying to forget.)

Balancing on the side of the tub to get a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I realized that age wasn’t the only problem facing my geriatric drawers. They were also gray, not black, and of an indeterminate material reminiscent of polyester. Vowing to start a new Goodwill bag, I ripped them from my body, praying for a miracle as I ran back to the closet. But no miracle awaited. Spinning about in a swirl of indecision—different pants meant a different shirt. what shirt? maybe the white one? what about a skirt? too cold. brown pants? okay but what shoes? sandals? no boots. then what about socks, are the good ones clean? undies? they’d have to go, can’t wear red with brown. earrings, oh no I’d have to change the black earrings and then the bracelet, that would have to go too. could I wear black jeans? I’ll call bill, he’ll know. didn’t the website say “business attire” only? Sydnor wouldn’t care, but everyone else might. what if they refuse to seat me? they might—my bubble finally, irrevocably burst. Ten days of anxiety and 40 odd years of dueling states of existence crashed around me in an audible burst. It was 11:55. I had exactly 35 minutes to get dressed and get uptown. Pulling the tacky gray pants back on, cursing the entire time, I ran back out to the car, this time grabbing only a towel to wipe my sweating forehead. It might be 60 outside, but inside my head it was about 107.

Needless to say, I was late. Made later by getting lost not once but three times. And by driving the wrong way in the parking garage, which understandably upset the attendant.

At 12:45, I panted my way up to the lobby, finally found Sydnor, made my apologies, and then set about the business of enjoying lunch.

All of this is to say, I hit a wall. Not suddenly, but in slow motion. I saw it coming toward me, like a barricade at the end of a crumbling, blacktopped street. Getting larger and more solid with each step I took, until there it was at my nose, and I was suddenly bleeding.

(to be continued)

 


 

Reality April 23, 2012


I live in a perfect world, where clocks never stop, traffic never snarls, and pants never, ever get holes in them. I wake up to a neat house each morning, eat my Kashi in a clean bowl, read the newspaper, complete sudoku without cheating, and let my kitty in and out only once. The washing machine never jams, the dryer never stops spinning and there is always hot water. My car starts every time I place the key in the ignition, my phone only rings when it’s convenient and no one comes to the door unexpected. Even if they did, that would be fine because my hair is always in order and I never smell funny, not even when I tumble, eyes half-shut and jammies still warm, from bed. Neighbors stop to say hello, but only when I have the time, and inclination, to talk. Clients arrive on schedule, as do I, and doctors see me within 10 minutes of my scheduled consultation, during which time I am not at all disgusted by climbing onto and off of the enormous, porcelain-white scale with numbers so large Mr. Magoo could read them from 15 feet.

Hang on, I think something just exploded in my head. Do you hear that ringing? And what’s that cloud of blue dust? Let me check my manual…

Yes, it’s just as I thought; I exceeded my brain’s capacity for delusion. That last bit about the scale must have put me over my daily limit. Way over. Because, as you may have guessed, I don’t actually live in a perfect world. I live in an average world. Things are not tidy and clear. They are sticky and snarly and surprising. I just act like I live in that other place. I do indeed wake up each morning. And I do eat my Kashi in a clean bowl with the newspaper spread before me. That, however, is where the resemblance ends. Because, there’s

Fantasy:
Noun

  1. the faculty or activity of imagining things, esp. things that are impossible or improbable
  2. the product of this faculty or activity
  3. a fanciful mental image, typically one on which a person dwells at length or repeatedly and which reflects their conscious or unconscious wishes (my personal favorite!)

and then there’s

Reality:

Noun

  1. the state or quality of having existence or substance
  2. a thing that is actually experienced or seen, esp. when this is grim or problematic (hahaha!)
  3. the world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them

I’m a big fan of both words/worlds, as each has it’s own charm. Fantasy (mine, I obviously can’t speak for yours) is exciting, dangerous without being threatening, and, often, colorful. Reality (also mine), on the other hand, is solid, finite, and, often, reassuring. As number 2 above would suggest, however, reality has its downsides. I mean, existence is all well and good, but toss “grim and problematic” into the mix and it’s suddenly not so rosy. Maybe that’s why I tend to prefer Neil Gaimen to Stephen Hawking (though Hawking is way cool, too.)

Still, I’m not a total dreamer. I do surface from my subconscious (read: delusional place of cute puppies and a nest of chickadees in every tree) from time to time–mostly to see what’s for dinner, but occasionally to make an attempt at writing (living) from/in a state that remotely approaches nonfiction. This isn’t really a problem, as I’ve lived my entire life on this earth flopping between various states of being, not all of them as clear cut as fantasy and reality. The fun starts when I am not allowed to surface on my own but am instead jerked, hastily and unceremoniously, from that lovely, warm refuge where everything runs and goes and happens on schedule and with comforting regularity and then tossed into the slightly more foreboding, infinitely cooler pit of chaotic happenstance.

For instance, last Friday I had an appointment with my best client, a man with whom I’ve worked for the past six years on various projects. He is an angel. A LOM with about 8 hairs on his head and eyebrows that spring in 13 directions. He’s also amazingly well-spoken, Oxford educated, and professionally/politically/socially successful. All of which render me damn near speechless every time we get together. To say I need to be on my toes for our meetings is a vast and unfortunate understatement. Usually, I start stressing about a week in advance. Last week was no different. At least not until he left a message suggesting we meet uptown at the City Club. Two things: I hate driving uptown, and I’ve never stepped foot in any place that ended in “Club.” Stress doesn’t come close to describing what went  on in my head as I dialed his number and heard myself say, “Perfect! I’ll see you then.”

Friday morning came. I set my alarm for 8:30 for a 12:30 appointment. Pretending I wasn’t nervous about driving uptown and didn’t feel like throwing up at the idea of having to act ladylike and professional, I relished the crunch of my oaty ohs, read the paper from inky cover to inky cover, worked the puzzle without cheating, and called my daughter, all with due diligence. (I also let the cat in and out about a hundred times, but we won’t go there.) So steeped was I in the fantasy of not being anxious, I decided I had time to clean the not-so-neat kitchen, which led to scrubbing the also not-so-neat bathroom, and straightening my seasonally confused closet. Then, remembering I hadn’t printed directions to the Club, I sat down at my computer, checked facebook and email and only then googled places where people not me eat lunch. At 11:15, I noticed the time. 11:15! RUNNING up the steps, I jumped in the shower, scrubbed, shaved and rinsed all the important parts, jumped back out and dried my hair.

Now, this is the point where I often slip from my reverie. I can, on any given day, spend upwards of 15 minutes trying to decide which of my unsuitable garments to place upon my equally unsuitable frame. But Friday, the reverie held. My favorite gray sweater was clean, my red shell had just arrived from the hotel in Chicago (where I had inadvertently left it behind), and my black pants–the ones I hadn’t worn in about 5 months–still fit. I pulled my shoes on, poked earrings into my lobes and headed out the door, grabbing keys, purse, and directions in one swipe.

Climbing into the car, I checked the time. 11:45. Perfect. I had 45 minutes to get uptown, get lost, call my husband, get more directions, get found, and find Sydnor. Phew. I pushed the key into the ignition, took a few deep breaths to center myself, and reached for the seatbelt.

That’s when I saw it. There, in my lap, south of my naval, northeast of my thigh…

to be continued. 

 

Expectation, Unreasonable or Otherwise April 6, 2012

Filed under: Philosophy,State of Mind,Writing/Words — Annie Maier @ 1:22 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Part 3; April 6, 2012

Previously on wordjunkies: Distressed at having been dissed by a quasi-friend and collaborator, Annie Maier took her disappointment and anger to the keyboard, hoping in the process to 1) catch and release said emotions (slippery little devils that they are), and 2) determine her role in the wake of said dissing. We now rejoin Annie, who sits sipping a now cooled coffee and reflecting upon the smoldering embers of her previous relationship.

Cool and warm: I need heat. I need movement and expression and closure. Except that I don’t. At least not the last part. An amazing thing has happened over the past few days. I’ve let it all go. I’m not angry. I’m not disappointed. I’m not concerned about my role in what I saw, six short days ago, as a disaster. Shit happens. I mean honestly. Everyday people step on one another and love one another and ignore one another, and life goes on. We move through the good and the bad with varying degrees of “success” (whatever that looks like). Hmmm. Maybe that’s my word for the day. Success. A new direction in the rant turned exploration turned musing turned miniature apex in my existence.

Success:

(noun)

  • the accomplishment of an aim or purpose
  • the attainment of popularity or profit
  • a person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains prosperity

Let’s ignore number 2 for now, as popularity remains, to a geek like me, a completely unknown entity, and profit, well, profit and I have never, ever seen eye to eye. And, because I don’t believe people can be measured by nouns, let’s skip number 3 as well.

So number 1: What did I hope to accomplish in the penning of “Expectation”? The easiest answer is that I sought to vent what was quickly becoming a miasma of emotion. But the deeper, more honest answer is that I wanted to determine if there is a difference between anger and ill will. Between stating your mind and aiming to hurt someone.

Should you be so inclined, following me into this next installment will require a completely different bit of knowledge. As briefly as possible: boy met girl. Boy was black and white. Girl was gray. Boy and girl ignored all indications of color blindedness and married… No wait. We don’t need to go that far back! Remember when I said my husband patted me on the shoulder and urged me to wait? (I think that’s in Part 2.) Well, that was fine. It is, after all, in his nature to be cautious. But me? I’m more of a “oh, pretty rattlesnake!” sort of person. Anxiety has enough say in my life, I will not admit caution. Sunday, the day after I wrote the bridge-burning email, I said, aloud, “I hope I didn’t wound (insert person’s name).” Because that is what had concerned me from 3 to 5am as I alternated between counting fluffy miniature sheep and replaying the unfolding events of the weekend in a continual loop of baas and brain-words. And my husband, ever loving, ever supportive, ever practical, answered, “Of course you did. That was your intention when you wrote the email.”

Wound

(noun)

  • an injury to living tissue caused by a cut, blow, or other impact, typically one in which the skin is cut or broken.
  • an injury to a person’s feelings or reputation

(verb)

  • inflict an injury on (someone)
  • injure (a person’s feelings)

I was horrified dear reader. HOR-RI-FIED! 

My mate and I went back and forth for about an hour—him saying wounding was the intent, me saying wounding is NEVER my intent. Him saying wounding was inevitable, me saying wounding involves taking aim. Him saying wounding is a consequence of anger, me saying wounding is not a byproduct. Then, because I was damned if I was going to get pissed at him for something he hadn’t even been involved in, I threw my hands up (quite literally) and shouted that I just did not GET IT! I was incapable of processing his inability to see a distinction between speech and attack.

But the whole thing did make me wonder: Is there a difference?

That’s what the last three posts have been all about. And the answer? Well yes, dammit. There is a difference. While I did speak, I did not take aim. I had no intention of hurting the former quasi-friend and collaborator, only of saying to him/her “This SUCKS,” as clearly as I possibly could. I believe I did that. And I believe that, in writing this blog, I’ve come to accept that arson is sometimes necessary to integrity. Burned bridges be damned.

 

Onward! or Life After Graduation January 27, 2012

Filed under: Naropa University,State of Mind — Annie Maier @ 10:44 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

A month and a half ago I was fretting over my thesis, wondering not if I’d get it done on time, as it was already completed, but if I could pinch and twist it to perfection in the time I had remaining.  I couldn’t of course; there is no perfection. But I did manage to get it into a condition I, with all my myriad OCD tendencies and accompanying anxieties, could submit without vomiting. Or at least one I could manage not to put my head in the oven over. (I know, suicide is not funny. It’s not a joke and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Having more than once fought the temptation to become one with natural gas, however, I feel I have the right to employ it, at least metaphorically speaking.)

After four months of frenzied research, weeks’ long writing binges followed by even longer editing purges, and countless refusals to go to dinner, take a walk, meet for coffee, or even on occasion to bathe, I took one last breath and clicked send. It was done, two years’ culmination of studies out of my hands and into those of my reader. (A shout here to the inestimable Lisa Birman, writer, instructor and reader extraordinaire! Look her up here: http://lisabirman.org/)

Along with an overwhelming sense of relief and even, briefly, something approaching pride, I was overcome by… inertia. Not physical inertia, it was the holidays after all and my daughter was coming home, and there were cards to make, presents to send, facebook statuses to post and check, but emotional, no SPIRITUAL, inertia. The kind that reaches in, grabs you by the liver and squeezes so tight you immediately resign yourself to not ever being able to think walk breathe straight again. Much less actually find the stamina or excitement or faith to produce another coherent word, written or otherwise. Because, more than anything, what I felt had come to an end was not my graduate school career, but my brief, shining moment of inclusion. That magical time period when I had gone to sleep connected to words and writers, woken up connected to words and writers and thought about words and writers nearly every moment in between. How, I wondered, would I ever be able to recapture the absolute joy that was my two years at Naropa?

With that question, I went about life in December—spending time with my daughter (home from London for a month, Wo-HOO!), reading some of the books I had put on hold since 2010, turning another year older, celebrating my anniversary, travelling to Maryland, Florida and Costa Rica.  Then Lauren left to go back to England, my husband returned to work and I realized, sonsofbitches!, I was on my own. No classes or classmates for inspiration, no deadlines for structure, no reading lists or essays or poems coming to me via the university portal.

Fortunately, I was somewhat prepared. Otherwise, it would have been back to the oven.

 

Day 0 of Naropa University’s 2011 SWP June 11, 2011

Filed under: Naropa University,State of Mind — Annie Maier @ 7:48 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Arrived in Boulder on Tuesday, eager, excited, nervous. My husband and daughter accompanied me on this initial leg of the journey, and we spent the early part of the week eating, hiking, walking, visiting Naropa, occasionally sleeping. In preparation for their departure, we went hiking at Chautauque yesterday so I could put my feet in the water and clear my head. Then we went off for tea at the Dashanbe Tea House (lovely). This morning, we got up, showered, dressed and headed out the door. Now they’re driving to Denver to catch a flight home and I’m here in Boulder wondering why I do this to myself, while at the same time heaving an enormous sigh of relief. Makes no sense, I know… or maybe it does. Maybe someone out there reading this is thinking, “yup, I can see that.” If not, I’ll try to explain.

Being the progressive, college town that it is, Boulder thrives on diversity. There are retirees walking the street in chains and leather, tattooed mamas pushing strollers filled with adorable, barefoot babies and street corners populated by buskers, hustlers and sad little old men in rags. At Naropa, a wonderful school founded on the principles of Buddhist contemplation, Western-education and near universal acceptance, there are students from all paths in life (see previous post). Some are male, some are female, some are gender neutral. Straight, gay, monogamous, single, polyamorous. Writers, dancers, artists, theater and religion majors.

None of this is bad. In fact, except for the proliferation of homelessness, it is all quite wonderful. Except that I’m a bit dull. Nerdy, even. Fond of words and coffee and small, still corners. Despite being independent, stubborn and perhaps a bit too fond of incense, I’m not an obvious rebel. I wear skirts and jeans with white t-shirts. I take my mom to lunch every Wednesday, floss most days and occasionally pay other people to paint my nails. I practice yoga in sweat pants. My hair is mousy brown and correspondingly lifeless and I haven’t a single tattoo. Though I am now largely atheistic, I was raised Catholic; cursed from birth by a strong history of guilt and conformity. And now, I’ve flown 1500 miles to once again plop myself down in the far out land of way cool hipsterdom. Even the anti-hipsters are hip. To the outside eye, the single thing in short supply in Boulder is that bastion of perceived deadly dullness—the traditional family. Did I mention I arrived here with my family? My husband of nearly 30 years and our basically well-adjusted daughter? Yeah. Nowwwww you understand.

I know that there are people out there who will read this in outrage: “What the hell is she complaining about—love, stability, happiness?—who doesn’t long for all three?” And I absolutely agree (b/c I am so grateful for all three), Hence the conflict.

But try to see it another way. In four days, this is what I’ve encountered: a waiter, unable to process the information that I was attending Naropa (he had asked what brought us Boulder), asked my daughter what she was studying. Arriving on campus for a meeting with an unknown classmate, I was confronted by an image of youth and beauty; tall, thick hair pulled carelessly back in a golden weave of tumbling curls, no time or need for make-up. Signing in at Snow Lion, Naropa’s dorm and my domicile for the month, I met a lovely woman—not too tall, pretty but not intimidatingly so, my age. Woohooo, I thought! Two seconds into the conversation, she informed me she was there dropping off her son. Sonsofbitches.

There are MFA programs all over America staying in business on the dimes of middle-aged women seeking a new course in life and I chose the only one slowly sinking beneath the burden of educating free-spirited young men and women arriving straight from college on scholarships. Even here, I am an anomaly.

But what the hell—isn’t that why I chose Naropa in the first place? We are all anomalies.

And I cannot wait for the month to begin.

 

 
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