That’s how the movie “Jaws 2,” the sequel to the original blockbuster was advertised: Just When You Thought It Was Safe to go Back in the Water.” And that’s how I would describe our weather lately. Let me explain.
After a week of being warm enough at night to sleep without blankets, I finally bit the bullet and opened my bedroom window. Not much—only a couple of inches. Just enough to let in some fresh air into the room. The window had been closed since last October, and I wanted to air it out.
So far, so good. But in the week and a half since I opened it, we have had sunshine, rain, and a little snow. Even now, when it’s 45° outside, I’m wearing a sweater as I write. And for the past 3 nights, I’ve used not one but two blankets at night.
But here’s the thing: I’m not complaining. That’s just the way things are in the springtime here in Rochester. My ex told me that one year she was greeted by snow and an ice-storm on her birthday…which is in the second week in May.
We’ve already had crocuses in the garden, and now the daffodils and tulips are taking their turns. So I think I’m safe in assuming that spring has finally arrived—especially since the ice is all gone from the neighbor’s swimming pool. To be sure, we’re still going to have some cool nights and chilly mornings.
But that’s why God invented tea. And afternoon naps. But mostly tea.
The first movie I walked out of was the original Rocky. After 15 minutes of watching Sylvester Stallone walking down the streets of Philadelphia and only pausing long enough to deliver his famous gem of wisdom—“Yo”—I was bored. So I left. Friends later told me I should have stayed, because it got better.
When I spend my hard-earned money on a movie—especially one that’s highly rated—I expect to be entertained from the beginning. I don’t want to waste 15 or 20 minutes wondering if anything is ever going to happen.
I get bored easily.
But I made myself a promise: I would watch a new movie for at least 20 minutes before deciding if it was worth investing any more time in it.
That was the case with The Fast and The Furious on Netflix. I gave it a full 30 minutes before I decided a more appropriate title would be The Slow and The Boring. I relegated it to the George Lucas Star Wars post-plot driven universe: great special effects, excellent chase scenes, but no apparent plot. Between Lucas and Disney, Star Wars—originally an epic tale of good vs. evil on an intergalactic scale—was reduced to a rather boring saga of one family’s drama. A mega-universe Bonanza, if you will.
Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy did a much better job of staying true to the story. Then again, one would have to really be inept to mess up anything Tolkien wrote. At least Jackson was smart enough to know what to leave in and what could be omitted without ruining the story. Anyone remember Tom Bombadil from the books?
Maybe I’m of the wrong generation. I’m pretty sure I’m outside the demographic that modern movies are aimed at: I’m not young, straight, and male. I’m a 69-year old Transgender lesbian grandmother of 3. Not much of a market there, I’m sure.
Part of the problem is the fact that I grew up on books and plays, things which take conscious thought and effort to follow. The movies I watched whilst growing up had few special effects, and they definitely weren’t of the type designed to make up for lack of plot, character development, or good acting.
Anyway, thanks for reading, and for indulging an old woman in her complaints.
Once, I even tried prayer. Then I realized that it was a waste of time: after all if one set of imaginary friends won’t talk to me, what made me think another set would?
Being blocked is frustrating. When I’m there, I’ll try reading a book. It works, sometimes. Other times — like now — it makes me feel useless: I can never be that good a writer.
So I set the book aside and fire up my laptop. Maybe there’s something good on Netflix that will inspire me. “Oh, cool!” I think; “This one looks interesting.” It’s a martial arts epic in Mandarin, with English subtitles. Am I the only one who wonders why it seems the Mandarin language takes several paragraphs of dialog to deliver a single sentence in English?
Ninety minutes, 2,500 dead bodies, and 175 gallons of fake blood later, I’m all, “Well, that wasn’t it.”
I know! I’ll wash the dishes! Maybe cleaning the kitchen will clean my mind so I can start with a clean slate.
So. The dishes are washed, the kitchen is clean, and now it’s time for a cup of tea. I do my best thinking over a nice cup of tea. I’ll clear my mind and perform the ritual: I measure the tea precisely into the cup. I boil the water. As I pour it into the cup, I use the bamboo whisk to mix it thoroughly before rotating the cup three times and finally raising it to my lips.
Ok, ok, ok…that’s what I do in my mind. In reality, I boil a pot of water and pour it over the two Earl Grey teabags I’ve already put in the cup. While it steeps, I set out the milk and sugar. Hey! A girl can dream, right? And before you write to complain, I know Earl Grey requires lemon, not milk. What can I say? This is how my Irish Nana taught me how to make it, and that’s how I like it best. So screw you, George Orwell.
It’s The Weather
Spring is here, and with it comes pollen. With pollen, come allergies. And boy, do I have allergies! Mine call for “[t]he nighttime, sniffling, sneezing, aching, coughing, stuffy-head, fever, so you can rest medicine.” And that’s in the daytime!
In fact, the pollen is so bad in our neighborhood that the meth heads are converting their crystal meth back into Sudafed!
It Isn’t Writer’s Block, it’s Blocked Sinuses
And I feel like dog doo-doo. It’s quite simple, really: I don’t want to write. Or do anything, for that matter. All I really want to do is to take some acetaminophen, some Benadryl, and go to bed until next Thursday or whenever I feel better, whichever comes latest.
April is officially National Poetry Month. Unofficially, it’s also National Poetry Writing Month, or NaPoWriMo. It’s modeled on—sorta—NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, but with a big difference: rather than having to write an average of 1,667 words each and every day for the entire month, all you have to do is write a poem a day.
A poem. A day. Short, long, medium, it doesn’t matter. Everything counts, from a simple 3-line haiku to an epic poem like The Four Quartets. Simple, really.
And nobody’s going to hold you to it, either. You pass or fail on your own, in secret. Unless you choose to share your poems with everyone else, nobody’s going to criticize you of you fail. Because we won’t even know if you’re participating or not, unless you tell us.
So if you need some pressure on you to make you write, you can join us and tell everyone.
Can’t write under pressure, like me? No worries—just don’t tell anyone you’re participating. Of course, you’re always free to announce success or failure at the end of the month. That’s the way I’m doing it.
So if you’re looking for a motivation to start or continue writing, you could do a lot worse than writing a poem a day.
And Does Privilege Really Mean What I Think it Means?
Merriam-Webster defines privilege as “a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor.” It’s a neutral word, in that it can be a good thing, a bad thing, or something completely indifferent.
Lately, however, it seems to have become an epithet, something to use to attack other people, in many cases, I will admit, justifiably.
But right now I’m having trouble deciding if thoughts I’ve had lately are genuine examples of privilege or mere sour grapes on my part.
I’m talking about writer’s workshops and the like: sitting in Starbucks all day long whilst working on the next Great American Novel, or sitting on a park bench as you compose the next Pulitzer prize-winning play — which, considering I had to look up the spelling of “Pulitzer” probably means I don’t have to worry about winning one anyway.
I Would Love to Attend a Writer’s Workshop
Or be able to sit in a coffee shop all day as I labor over my magnum opus. There’s just one eensy-weensy little problem that keeps me from doing so: I don’t have a car, and the public transit system where I live sucks rubber donkey lungs. (I’ve been waiting nearly 50 years to use that phrase in something I’ve written.)
But recently I’ve read a couple of stories on Medium that seem to imply that if you don’t go to workshops or set up your laptop in a public space, you’re not a real writer. We had an expression for that kind of idea when I was back in uni: we called it intellectual bullshit.
Given the bus schedule where I live, and the number of transfers I’d have to make, it would take me two hours to get to the nearest coffee shop and back. And that’s two hours I could spend at home writing. On top of which, I wouldn’t have to spend $20 on a couple of cups of overpriced coffee. Besides, I consider Starbucks to be the McDonald’s of coffee.
On top of which I’m an agoraphobic introvert, and really don’t like being out in large crowds.
My Lonely Writer’s Garett
So I’m more than content to sit in my bedroom, pecking away at my laptop, and occasionally heading down to the kitchen to brew another cup of tea. Besides, if I was at Starbucks or anywhere else, I wouldn’t be able to have my cat curled up between my feet, or the dog quietly snoring on my bed.
And those two things are what I truly call privilege!
Reminiscing on the Third Anniversary of My Father’s Death
Some of the most unpleasant people I’ve know had over-achievers as parents. I was fortunate enough not to have had that additional problem in my life, but I did have one that’s just as toxic as it is well-intentioned.
My parents had dreams for me.
I’m sure you know the kind of dreams I mean: a college degree, a house in the suburbs surrounded by a white picket fence, a two-car garage, a successful career, and 2.5 children.
Honestly, did that dream ever exist anywhere but on Leave It To Beaver, The Donna Reed Show, or even Bonanza?
And the dreams were only implied, not explicitly stated. My whole life was guided by them. In school, I didn’t even realize that there were art and music classes beyond second grade. In junior and senior high school I wasn’t allowed to take shop classes, because “those classes are for the dummies. You’re too smart for that — you’re going to COLLEGE!” (Cue the angelic trumpets.)
Last time I was in San Francisco I saw a beautiful hand-crafted wooden jewelry box that one of those dummies had made: the price tag said $2850.00 — and that was over 25 years ago.
And if my faucet leaks, I have to call another dummy who’ll charge me $75 an hour to fix it.
So who’s the real dummy now?
My Spectacular Failure at Education
After high school, it was taken as a given that I was going to go to college. I had no say in the matter. It was another of my parents’ dream for me.
At the wise old age of 18, I didn’t know if I even wanted to grow up, much less what I wanted to be if it ever happened.
In 1968, college was a place where you studied things to help you decide what you wanted to be doing for the rest of your life.
In 2019, college is a place to go to earn the credentials you need for the job you’ve already chosen.
I say — and neuroscience backs me up on this — the 18-year-old brain has developed sufficiently to be making such life-determining changes.
My education might have been more effective had I gone to a better college, but my grades, our family’s economic situation, and our physical location meant the sole criterion that went into the choice was the fact that as a Lutheran minister, my father could get a discount on my tuition and fees if I went to this particular college. A college I flunked out of at the end of my freshman year.
College, Take 2
I was simply too immature for and too uninterested in going to college. So I put off my plans for a higher education for two decades. Even then, I only went because my wife decided to pursue her degree, and I was worried about being left behind.
It went better this time. I was more motivated, and by then I had learned the fine art of academic philosophy, aka Intellectual Bullshit. I breezed through a semester of Selected Masterpieces of American Literature and got an A on it without once reading anything on the syllabus.
And I took several art classes, discovering that I could draw after all and that I was good at etching and engraving. I even sold some of my silkscreens and linoleum block prints.
But here’s the thing: after getting my AA degree and being one semester from my Bachelor of Arts, I was informed that I would not be allowed to count my 12 semester hours of computer classes towards my degree.
It seems one of the faculty review team said that computers have no bearing on liberal arts. This, after I designed and administered the first-ever study of if and how personal computers — then in their infancy — affected the process of writing.
So the University of Alaska, in its infinite wisdom, decided that I needed another 12 hours — a full semester — of math and natural science — -neither of which have any bearing on the liberal arts.
Had I taken the 12 hours and added 3 more, I would have been able to graduate with both a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science.
Admittedly, the University of Alaska (Southeast) is nowhere as prestigious as its big sister in Fairbanks, but a double major is still a double major. And two degrees for the price of one….
Or three, if you count the Associate of Arts degree.
Livin’ La Vida Loca
So now it’s 2019. It’s been 51 years since I finished high school. I’m retired and living on Social Security. I’m not rich, but I get by — without complaint, thank you very much.
But since 2012, when I retired, I have finally been able to live my dreams. And the biggest lesson I’ve learned — and fulfilled — was to let my daughters dream their own dreams, and to support them in making those dreams come true.
Sometimes my darkest moments give me my greatest ideas. But because the Dementors have taken hold of my spirit, I can’t act on those ideas right away.
So I do the next best thing: I write myself a note with the basic theme of the idea. Later, when the sun returns and dissipates the fog of depression, I can review my notes and decide if any of them are worth exploring further.
This is One of Those Ideas
I’m 68 years old; in 5 months I’ll be 69. It will be time once more for me to write a big fat 0 (zero) after my age. The eternal Footman will be one step closer to holding my coat.
What have I got to show for my life? For what will I be remembered by future generations of my family?
Will I be remembered at all?
Will they remember that I was a loving parent who adored her children and grandchildren? That the loss of a beloved pet some 35 years ago even today haunts me?
Or will they curse my name for the accursed genetic heritage with which I have bequeathed — nay, cursed — them?
For that’s the one constant in my bloodline: chronic depression.
My daughters and my grandsons are my legacy, and my inspiration. I am Transgender, and so is my grandson. It is for them that I continue to live, continue to believe that without them I would have long since yielded to The Big Sleep.
Because there are statistics that tell me that children of suicides are far more likely to kill themselves.
And I will not do that to my girls.
“Thus conscience does make cowards of us all.” Hamlet, Act III, Scene i.
If you’ve never felt the cold winds of Depression (with a capital D) blow over you, then you can’t understand that “[y]ou don’t have one problem or problems you are sad about, there is only sadness.” (Source)
And I’m also comforted by something I read on the internet years ago:
So nanny, nanny, boo-boo! I am Officially Exempt™ from having to grow up. And to celebrate, I might just go out and order a Happy Meal!