Squares and Stitches.

i am the poet e.e. cummings.

I am the Poet,

Emily Dickinson.

I was once Poe, but was prematurely buried.

I am Didion. I am Atwood. I am Walker and Alexie and even Hemingway, when the mood strikes.

I am who I read. I am who I love.

I am so much more.

The more I read, the more I want to write. I have what some people consider to be a “nasty” habit of reading myself into the texts with which I interface. I find a way to connect with the text. What I read/watch/listen to becomes part of me. I’ve been told that this is cheating. I am to find my self and write my own story. The lives and stories of others are not there for me to usurp and wear like a patchwork quilt.

But my life has essentially been about me trying to create this thing that makes sense out of events and ideas and people that don’t fit, don’t connect, don’t match. The only thing that ties them together is me. I am the quilter and the stitching and the stuffing all in one.

I have always found the stories of other people interesting because I am not the only person in the universe who thinks about certain things. I am not the only six-year-old person who is unable to grasp why I can’t be both an astronaut and a prima ballerina before becoming President of the United States. I am not the only ten-year-old person to be bullied for not being “skinny.” I am not the only thirteen-year-old person who thinks that Nickelback is a really good band. I am not the only fifteen-year-old person who falls in love and scoffs when “grown-ups” say that I cannot possibly know what love is. I am not the only eighteen-year-old person to cope with trauma and fear through an increase in religious activity. I am not the only nineteen-year-old person to flunk college classes and never tell their parents. I am not the only twenty-year-old person who finds it ironic that I can enlist in the military but not buy alcohol. I am not the only twenty-one-year-old person who feels so jaded and alone that I write to the internet on the off-chance that someone listens or reads or cares.

I am all of these people, all at once. These people, and so many more.

I am a patchwork quilt. I will conjecture that you are, as well. It may be that we have some of the same patches. It may be that some of our quilt squares are the same fabric, in differing colors. Of course they are not the same. The combination of squares on mine are specific to me. The stitching is one of a kind. But it is ludicrous to say that each quilt is separate from the next when the only way we know how a quilt is to be put together is by looking at other quilts. By watching other quilters.

The more I read, the more I want to write.

This is what trying to figure things out looks like.

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With a Capital “T”.

I like to read. This is the reason I initially considered majoring in English. I entered college as an English/Political Philosophy double-major with a pre-law designation, and will graduate (Sanity and Health permitting) next spring as an English major with a concentration in Literary Studies and a Gender Studies minor. There have been six-or-so serious changes to my major between the beginning phase and the graduation phase of my post-secondary education, part one. Double major in English, Secondary Ed/Social Work. Straight-up Political Science with a Public Policy concentration. Peace and Justice Studies and German hybrid. Peace and Justice Studies and Literature hybrid. Philosophy and Gender Studies hybrid. English, with minors in Languages, Classics, and Gender Studies. Final Stop: current program. Woot. It has been a long, stressful journey, figuring out what to do with my life.

Anyway. I like to read. Most specifically, I like to read personal accounts. Essays. Memoirs. I like to read what other people have to say about their own lives. I’ve never been interested in capital-t-Truth because I think truth is relative, in many respects. But I am very interested in what others have to say about what is true for them. After all, that is what I write. What is true, for me.

Here is a list of things that are true for me, today:

  1. I stay where I am comfortable, even if safety or well-being are compromised for the sake of comfort. Dealing with what I know is easier than adapting to new situations.
  2. Being in a healthy relationship is the scariest thing I have ever done.
  3. My worst fear is being alone.
  4. I sabotage the good things in my life because I’d rather them end because of me, and accept that guilt/shame/responsibility, than for them to end due to circumstances beyond my control and not know how to cope with that.
  5. I cut my PB&J/grilled-cheese sandwiches into four triangles. My mom used to cut my sandwiches like this. I am emotionally attached to the way in which my sandwiches are cut.
  6. I tell people I stopped wearing makeup and doing my hair because I liked using those extra fifteen minutes for sleeping purposes. I just don’t know how to reconcile learning to love who I am with changing my appearance on a daily basis. So, I only do my makeup/hair on “special” occasions.
  7. This is going to be the summer I learn to wear shorts.
  8. I keep eating compulsively because I’m losing weight and I just bought fat pants.
  9. I’m putting off going to visit my dear friend and her new baby. I don’t plan on ever having children. Visiting Am and Miss B may result in me freaking out about never having kids. But I feel guilty for not visiting, especially because I love Am so dearly.
  10. This is the summer I learn to be domestic. Cook good meals (something¬†other than pasta…I am really good at pasta), bottle, make jams, make breads, become inventive. And do so in shorts ūüôā perhaps an apron.

That is my capital-t-Truth. For today. ūüôā

Passion.

I am sitting in the hallway, just outside my classroom. I am nervous as all broken-loose hell, because I have a presentation to give today. On Joan Didion.

I love Didion.

This is my problem: in all my academic endeavors, I choose to write and present on topics that are close to my heart. I read myself into the readings I am assigned. I would stop it if I could–actually, it is what makes me so passionate about my work. Which is a good trait to have. Passion.

It also makes me nervous about everything I hand in. I never just hand in some random rant on something that doesn’t have any pertinence to my life. I cannot compose things that I cannot connect to my own life in some way. That is just the mode in which my brain functions.

So. I am nervous. Because I am passionate about things. About school. About writing. About composing my own story. About Joan Didion and how she has composed her own story.

*taking deep breaths*

Wish me luck.

Read Some Books.

I used to love to read. So much so, in fact, that I majored in reading things. I mean, c’mon. Literary Studies. Fancy words for “reading really cool stuff.” And it isn’t that I don’t love reading, anymore. It is just a different sort of love. Sort of a compulsion to break ideas down into their basest components, examine them, put them all back together, and see what new ideas have been created in that process. I no longer read for the sake of enjoyment, if enjoyment is not to include masochism.

But I often think about what I read when I liked reading. And what I read that brought me to love reading. And how I love the things I’ve read because of what they’ve shown me about living in this complicated world of ours.

So, I’ve compiled a list, or two, of books that brought me to where I am now. (It is Spring Break. I am making to-do lists every ten minutes, so the brain is in listing-mode. My apologies. But then, no apologies, because I like lists.)

Stories I read when I was little that made me love reading:

  1. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. I think my dreams of travelling the globe began with¬†Madeline. She wasn’t scared of anything, and I thought that was so cool. Plus, she lived in an old house covered in vines. What isn’t to love about old houses covered in vines?
  2. Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. I didn’t realize how much I loved this story until I went to Boston. In the public garden, they have statues of the mother and the ducklings from this story. I cried when I saw them.
  3. What Was I Scared Of?¬†by Dr. Seuss. My FAVORITE Dr. Seuss story. Which is saying something, because I love Dr. Seuss. Aside from learning to love rhyme and the ability to create new words and phrases, I loved how each conflict ended in reconciliation. Someone vowed to take care of the truffula seed. The Sneetches with or without stars upon thars became friends. And people decided that it didn’t matter if you ate your bread butter-side up or butter-side down. But this story was my favorite. I’ve always been easy to scare; a worrier; a paranoid. But this story reassured me that sometimes we just need to get to know the things we are afraid of, in order to realize how irrational our fear is.
  4. King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub by Audrey Wood. Sometimes, you have to join in the crazy. Embrace people in all their eccentricities. Like King Bidgood. Other times, you have to be the one to sneakily pull the plug–because it’s time for bed. Also, I love most everything by Audrey and Don Wood.
  5. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. I still cite this story when I’m having an especially awful day. My desire to flee the country when things get tough probably came from reading this book. But it puts into perspective how everyone has tough days. Even in Australia.
  6. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. I have yet to see this movie, because I am worried it will ruin the book for me. But Max taught me that no matter where I go, it is always nice to come home again.
  7. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. I have this need to “sign off” when the day is over. I have to say goodnight to people. Oftentimes Jennifer is said people. But, it helps me to calm down. To end my day by wishing someone well for the night. This book is to blame for that.
  8. The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper. The power of positive thinking. I don’t buy into it as much anymore, but I still find myself saying “I know I can” when things have been really rough and I need that extra push to get over the hill.
  9. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault. This is how I learned the alphabet. Well. This and¬†Barney and Friends.¬†He’s a dinosaur sensation. Don’t judge me. Anywho. Alphabet.
  10. Corduroy by Don Freeman. Even if you’re missing a button, you deserve love.

Books and things I have read throughout my life that have made me love reading:

  1. Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. I got the first book for my 8th birthday. It had only been out in the US for 9 months. I fell in love with Hermione, and also somewhat with Harry, and so I hopped on the roller coaster that was the entire series. But this is still one of my favorite literary experiences.
  2. His Dark Materials¬†series by Philip Pullman. This is how I came to love dystopian fiction. It took me ten years to finish the trilogy, but I did it. And I love the way Pullman makes you rethink what we call God’s word, and shows how this line of thinking isn’t toxic…unlike C.S. Lewis and those who don’t fall in line for the cause of Aslan.
  3. The Giver by Lois Lowry. Another dystopian piece. Let us think about memories, and how important it is to remember where we come from.
  4. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. My favorite novel. From Billy Pilgrim’s adventures being unstuck in time to the narrator’s description of the bombing of Dresden…this book changed my life in ways I cannot convey. I think I owe my academic preoccupations to this piece.
  5. The Road by Cormac McCarthy. A dear, dear friend gave this to me, just weeks before I graduated from high school. It is heartwrenching and beautiful.
  6. Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton. I read this on assignment for my Honors English class, junior year of high school. I always believed that literature had prophetic properties, but that belief was reinforced by this novel. Now it is less of a belief in prophecy, and more a profound respect for those who can observe the workings of the structure they have been in and predict accurately where things are headed. Regardless. Paton does some great work in this novel.
  7. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. SO many people interpret dystopian literature as the nay-saying against communism or godlessness. I have always just seen it as arguing against totalitarianism of any sort, or fundamentalism in any regard. But Atwood’s world illustrates a system that is more within our grasp than Huxley’s or Orwell’s, and more sinister in many respects. I hope to someday teach a course on dystopian fiction, and this will definitely be on the syllabus.
  8. The Midnighters series by Scott Westerfeld. The same person who wrote Uglies and its sequels. Major guilty pleasure. I loved the idea of an alternate dimension. People with different powers. Creatures for whom multiples of 13 are kryptonite. I read these while my friends were reading the Twilight series. (To be fair, I read all but the last book in the Twilight series. I just liked The Midnighters better.)
  9. Richard III by William Shakespeare. I was six years old (not exaggerating) when I read my first Shakespeare play.¬†As You Like It. I thought it was boring, but I kept reading the Bard’s works anyway. In second grade, I recited the balcony scene from¬†Romeo and Juliet for show-and-tell. Now you know why I have so few friends. As time went on, I became more involved in theatre. I learned to love Shakespeare by performing his pieces and approaching the text as an actor, rather than a reader. The last Shakespearean piece I performed, as a solo actor and not as part of an ensemble, was a monologue from Queen Margaret in¬†Richard III. I read the play after I had performed my monologue and fell in love with Richard’s lines. Such an eloquent villain. I still have great respect for people who can write villains that I love to hate.
  10. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. I don’t believe in “aha!” moments, but I sometimes have them anyway. I was sitting in my Introduction to Literary Criticism class, part deux. Retaking classes has been a habit of mine, because I have a tendency to break down partway through the semester and then never show up to class again. Anyway. I was sitting in Intro to Lit Crit and I read on the syllabus that we were to read Hemingway. It was a summer class, so there were only 7 weeks in the semester. However, Hemingway was the only non-theoretical text we were reading. “How the hell are we supposed to focus on one novel for 7 weeks?” I thought, and then later asked Jennifer. But I started in on my first Hemingway. I was only two chapters in when I felt this feeling of contentedness settle over me. It was through Hemingway that I found myself committing to English as my primary discipline. He holds a special place in my heart.

And now that I have sufficiently bored you with the listing of things I have loved reading, I am going to return to Supernatural before sorting laundry, and watching Slavery by Another Name. Heavier things.

Now, go away. Read some books.

Ritual.

I’ve found a new favorite thing. Spoken word. I stayed up until 5am on Thursday morning, watching spoken word videos on YouTube.

Jennifer makes fun of me because I’m a dork. I am. So is he, but not for spoken word.

I just find myself captivated, listening and watching other people as they put themselves out there, and they recite and relay their mind and their memories and their pain. I had intended, when I began writing, for my words to bring that same sort of catharsis. They do, in a way, to an extent. But I need to vocalize them. I need to hear the words escape my lips, so I can visualize the hurt and the guilt and the inadequacy leaving my body in the form of sound waves.

People don’t always like to listen when you need to say things like that. Heavy things. I am amazed, some days, at the obstacles Jennifer and I overcame to become such good friends. He doesn’t grapple well with emotion, and emotion is all I am. But, I am too much emotion for one person. So, here I am. Blogging, at 4:39am, trying to get all this debris cleared out of my head so I can sleep…but knowing full well that it will all have found its way back once I’ve woken up.

Do you ever get the feeling that you’re lying to yourself when you say things will turn out a certain way? Things are shifting. My brain is doing some spring cleaning. Some feng shui. Boxes are being rearranged and it is changing the way I feel about things. And people. And ideas. And living.

I know how little sense that makes. But I needed to get it out there. Maybe I’ll talk to Jennifer about it tomorrow, and it will then be gone for good.

In the meantime…sweet dreams.

In Stereo.

Somedays it is all I can do to keep from bursting. I feel…that’s just it. I feel. Everything. So intensely that being conscious is a burden and sleeping is a piss-poor respite. I’m learning things. I love the sound of breathing. Listening to someone inhale, and then exhale, as they sleep. Me, brain moving at mach 5 and hyper-aware of every sound. Car doors slamming. Footsteps. Doors opening and closing. Cursing from neighbors. Rain on the windowpane. Everything in stereo, and I don’t know how to tell it to be quiet without also disturbing the music–inhale, and then exhale. I’m learning that loving and being in love are not the same thing. I don’t know if I believe in being in love. But I believe in loving. And I’m so full of feeling that I might burst. I just want to give and give and give until there’s nothing left…and maybe then I can learn to take some for myself. To ask. To nuance. Maybe then I will be healed, and whole, and I can listen to the breathing, the music, without panicking that it is only a matter of time before it goes away again and I am left alone, in silence.

Titled.

I used to have a blog, different from this one, that I loved because most of the words weren’t mine. The titles of all my posts were derived from the lyrics of songs. The content dealt with ideas that had spent so much time inside boxes, inside my brain, that I couldn’t remember life without them–but they weren’t my words. I found myself feeling uncomfortable in class today because people were discussing their lives. Their words. I hastily redirected the conversation to the text at hand.

I have always had trust issues.

Today, I received feedback on a paper I wrote. I got an A. I panic when instructors hand back papers. I consciously slow my breathing as I read through the comments and see the grade I have…have earned? Have been assigned? I am surprised each time I get an A. I am vastly disappointed each time I don’t.

Jennifer told me that I need to write. I told Mom. She told me, “Duh.”

But it doesn’t feel that way, you know? I spend hours agonizing over the terrible quality of papers I have yet to compose. Each piece I write is the worst thing I have ever written. And I’m no writer. Other people are writers. I am simply…a person who writes. Writing is something I¬†do. It is not who I am.

But it is.

But it isn’t.

I don’t know how. How does one write? How does one go about becoming a writer?

I thought, momentarily, about choosing a Creative Writing emphasis instead of a Literary Studies one. I abandoned the former because, in the latter, the words are not mine.

It is not me who is lying there on the desk, being poked and prodded and dissected and reconstituted. I am the one poking and prodding and dissecting and reconstituting. I am the reactionary.

Maybe someday I will be one of those healthy, anxiety-free people who can take being pared down with a grain of salt. I hear those people exist, but I think it’s a myth. In the meantime, I’ll stay trapped inside my skull, paralyzed with fear at the prospect of spending my life doing this thing I love–and perhaps one day being good at it.

Here goes.

Blogging About Blogging

Once upon a time, there was a Less-Blog-Obsessed Dani. She’s currently on vacation with Sane Dani and Healthy Dani and No Anxiety Dani, somewhere in the Mediterranean. Santorini, is my best guess. I am here, instead, eating hummus on mini-croissants and watching episodes of Grey’s Anatomy.

I was in junior high, when I started my first blog. My background was a picture of London, at night. Everything was dedicated to London, to the idea of getting out of the States and living above a locally-owned book store in what I perceived to be the World’s Greatest City. There wasn’t much writing on my blog. Most of my time was spent reformatting the pages to look just so. Dark, with the text in platinum, as though the words were my light, guiding me toward London and away from the fear I had grown to associate with my locus.

Today, I have seven? active blogs — one for each of my personalities. Joking. If you have Dissociative Identity Disorder, and I have just offended you, I apologize. Seven active blogs. Four, including this one, are public. Two are places for me to vent where no one can come in to my room, look for a pair of socks, and happen upon my pages of inked-in-Sharpie venting sessions. Most spiral-bound notebooks do not come password-protected. The last one is how Jennifer and I keep in touch, when he visits his family in Canada and I am relegated to the status of a socially awkward conspiracy theorist who does sudoku and watches too many crime dramas (from my previous position as the same sort of human person, but with friends…a friend…singular…).

Like the boxes in my brain, I create new blogs as a way to start over, or regroup, or do some in-house mental feng shui. To compartmentalize:

Me: Ooooh! I will create a blog specifically dedicated to my personal crusade against slut-shaming and misogyny.

Brain: Great! And your second post will be about Tumblr and the need for pictures of cute cats.

Me: But I already have a blog dedicated to cute cats. That is why I created a Tumblr account in the first place.

Brain: Your point being…?

And so forth.

Very little balance is restored. And yet, I continue to try.

The more I blog, the more I read blogs. I sometimes dream about being the person whose witty comments make the day of some person I have never met. Whose blog is one of the cute “Most Visited” tiles on Google Chrome’s New Tab page. But, until that day arrives, I will find contentment in reading the witticisms of other lovely bloggers. Bloggers more eloquent than I could ever be.

But I keep trying, nonetheless. I’m like The Little Engine That Could…without coal. Or inclines. I don’t do inclines.

Introductions.

Hi, World. I am terrible at introductions…my apologies. Um. Where to start? Name. I am Dani. I’m a student at an underrated state school, studying literature. Literature, rather. This morning, it deserves to be capitalized. I’m a terrible writer. You’ve probably gleaned that from my usage of “terrible” twice…three times, now…in the same paragraph. And my excessive inclusion of ellipses. Sorry about that.

I apologize a lot. People tell me not to. It’s unattractive. It undermines my purpose, whatever that purpose may be. I apologize for apologizing.

I like boxes. Drawers. Filing cabinets. Tupperware. I like to organize things. A ritualistic cleansing, of sorts. Life is messy, and I am a mess. Everything in its place? I am learning quickly that not every thing has a “place.” Some things have two places. Three. More. My life is composed of things that have nothing to do with one another, all of which are connected. Their place is inside my head, where I spend most of my time.

Yes. I spend most of my time inside my head. And I have spent most of my life trying to compartmentalize things. There are Family things. School things. Music things. Friend things. Unrequited Love things. Unrealized Dreams things. Anxiety And Depression things. Dead People things. Run Away With Me And Travel The World things. Get This Out Of My Head And On To Paper things. A lot of things. But these things do not stay in their boxes. They escape, and run around inside my brain. They free other things from their boxes, joining forces, creating alliances, all in cahoots against my sanity.

It’s a conspiracy.

Regardless, the things come and go from their “places” as they please. They connect. They break up. At times, they are torn apart. Or forced to sit in timeout with one another until they can behave and work together. Whatever goes on in the outside world, life is never boring, in here. Inside my head.

Would you like to come in?