“We all need someone to look at us.
We can be divided into four categories according to the kind of look we wish to live under.
The first category longs for the look of an infinite number of anonymous eyes, in other words, for the look of the public.
The second category is made up of people who have a vital need to be looked at by many known eyes. They are the tireless hosts of cocktail parties and dinners. They are happier than the people in the first category, who, when they lose their public, have the feeling that the lights have gone out in the room of their lives. This happens to nearly all of them sooner or later. People in the second category, on the other hand, can always come up with the eyes they need.
Then there is the third category, the category of people who need to be constantly before the eyes of the person they love. Their situation is as dangerous as the situation of people in the first category. One day the eyes of their beloved will close, and the room will go dark.
And finally there is the fourth category, the rarest, the category of people who live in the imaginary eyes of those who are not present.
They are the dreamers.”
— from “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Milan Kundera
It’s very difficult to forget books that move and change us. They seep through our pores, travel under our skin, live in the different fissures and crevices of our consciousness, and never leave. They reside in the sacred corners,the flaps and folds, and hidden spaces of our memories, our identities. They find their way into who we are, right at the very core of what matters most. The most complex of characters become our best friends, and their experiences and emotions become so palpable, so real, the thought of turning the very last page feels like a heart-wrenching goodbye.
I read Kundera’s seminal work, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being,” at a very young, impressionable age. I will never forget Tereza’s neurosis and heavy desperation; Tomas’ lightness and inherent bastard tendencies; and who can forget Sabina’s strength, sensuality, ambivalence, detachment and kitsch. I hung out with these characters for years and being around them molded so many of the warped ideas I have about love, relationships; what it means to be a woman, as a young woman.
The idea of having an audience to perform for, to have look at you so that you could feel and know love, to be visible, to be seen — that’s what I am remembering now. How those lines up there struck a chord when I read them for the very first time. That no matter where I went, I felt eyes on my every move; and I found comfort in this. Even if I was exhausted, at least I was not invisible. I totally understood what Kundera was talking about when he outlined the “categories according to the kind of look we wish to live under,” and for a long time, I was in the third category. I moved, breathed, performed and did everything that I did to be seen by a beloved. Break up upon break up, I remember wondering what Ry or Ge or A or Do or Ga or Ke would think about this accomplishment or that mistake way after we said our goodbyes. If after I achieved this or let go of that, they’d approve and like a piece of great literature, come back and never leave. It was a very difficult way to live. In the end, I ceased to be me and could only identify with the performance. I no longer knew where I began and where the performance ended. It was only when I re-met G and started hanging out with Him that all of that changed. Even if all the tickets have been sold, the show isn’t going on. He simply told me that being with Him meant I never have to perform for anyone ever again. That His wonderful gaze was enough. In many ways, both literally and figuratively, G saved me.
Even the very idea of the kind of audience we write for, and it was Joey Tandem who eloquently pointed this out to me, evolves. I used to write in a way that alienated my audience because I didn’t want the secrets of this secret place to be exposed. I didn’t want to be accessible because doing that was the gateway drug to my veins. I wanted to write and publish, not risk anything, and use language in a beautiful but incomprehensible way. That brought the ante down a notch. I figured if people didn’t understand me, then they couldn’t hurt or bet against me. It was the same way being cryptic and vague allowed me to write and “put it out there” but still be able to somehow “take it all back” if I needed to.
But that was then, this is now.
Today, it is a totally different narrative, different perspective, different reason for making ideas traverse from thought to paper. Today, I write because I can; because it is a gift I have no right or arrogance to waste and because I believe I’ve found my story.
I want my/these story/ies to be clear, to be heard, to be out there with conviction because that’s the only way it’ll count. To go all the way and not be half assed about it. That despite the fear of falling, today, I want to clearly, coherently and uniquely utter the verse, articulate what’s painful and humbly document what’s sublime and inspiring. Because right now, for me, that’s what it means to be alive, to be an authentic part of humanity, to be free, to be a dreamer.
grateful slice: Books we can’t and won’t forget and G’s fixed gaze on me
Anyone whose goal is ‘something higher’ must expect someday to suffer vertigo.What is vertigo? Fear of falling? No, Vertigo is something other than fear of falling. It is the voice of the emptiness below us which tempts and lures us; it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves.”
-Milan Kundera (from “The Unbearable Lightness of Being)
Short Story Idea/Character Sketch: (May 8, 2009, 11:30 pm, Apartment)
There’s this girl addicted to MUJI pens and salt&vinegar everything. She likes bookshelves and office supplies and bookstores and office warehouses, and walks around with different colored Post-its. This is in case she stumbles upon an interesting idea and needs to jot it down. She meets a guy who is obsessed with music and who doesn’t ever remove his Skullcandy earphones. She wonders how he bathes. She is convinced she knows him from somewhere and follows him around all day. She, of course, has never seen him in her life but she’s dreamt of him and his earphones. She’s also seen him playing guitar. She writes a song on a lime green Post-it, as he hums a melody in the grocery/department store. She buys salt and vinegar chips, while he looks through the CDs. Her song is about teenage pregnancy. She calls it “Mr. Earphones’ Paternity Test.”
Suddenly, she hears gun shots. Earphones guy gets shot by a mugger in the store and dies instantly. He never hears the song. She weeps as she eats her chips. She thinks she smells smoke and copper. She knows she smells the salt and vinegar. She feels her lips burning, her throat dry. She puts a baby blue Post-it on his forehead and writes: R.I.P., This boy was loved.
She never wrote another song again.
I found this bit while rummaging through my many journals the other day. Seems like I have been writing all my life, looking at just how many diaries/journals/notebooks/scraps of paper I’ve filled up and scribbled on in the last three decades. They hold so many of my secrets, desires, disappointments, loves, stories, joys, beliefs, and well, bad poetry.
I am not sure what I was thinking anymore when I wrote it, what it was meant for, but there it was, just waiting to be judged harshly and hidden forever. It came right after another journal entry on being grateful for small mercies. For being “happy” to be reunited with a great love who I thought I had lost forever. See, prior to that, last I saw him, he was lying face down in a shallow tub of his own depression. He was insisting on drowning himself silly when he could have easily lifted his head to breathe. It seems, upon writing that story idea, it was about the same time I agreed to wade in the dysfunctional tar with him again after he asked me back. It was true love, I thought. To stick by your depressed partner and not give up on him even if you can’t recognize him anymore. It was also the only way I thought he would not die as I propped him up, out of his dark, shallow pool, just like a marionette. And in my sticky, codependent bliss I came up with that sketch. It would be so easy to take this story idea apart and pinpoint which pop-culture reference gave birth to what.
Anyway, I WAS going to lock it up with the rest of my over-analysis and throw away the key when I decided to take it out, read it aloud and write it here. Of course, I laughed aloud for a good minute after re-reading it… and here we are. Exactly where we need to be. Publish.
I write it here today for no other reason than to share it, silly or not. I am sharing it simply to tip the scale. I mean, I demand so much from my young writers all the time and they’ve never seen me do the same. To write even when it hurts; and to write boldly and be read, otherwise, why write?
So, here’s to every single time I asked my kids to write when the stakes were high, when it was not easy, when they were scared, when they couldn’t, when they were vulnerable, when they didn’t want to, when they knew it was risky, when they believed in what they wrote but terrified nobody else would, when they could not stand a word that spilled from their pens;here’s to when they felt all these things but wrote anyway; here’s to my stepping off the cliff, to succumb to my desire to fall because it’s only fair.
Here’s to me taking my own risk as I feel faint from vomit and vertigo.
Sigh. The things we do, must do, don’t do and should have done a long time ago…
grateful slice: old story ideas and writing them down for people to read even if you’re afraid (oh and being out of that dark pool forever). Win.
Pinch me, will you, so that I wake up from this quasi-Lewis Carroll/Roald Dahl moment. Am I in Alice’s Wonderland or Charlie’s Chocolate Factory? Whichever place, this day has been feeling out of this world and into a pool of pure milk chocolate or a surreal mad hatter’s tea party.
pull the string holding me up like a balloon in the air because am definitely on a freshly pressed high. It’s been real nice up here but I think I am getting a nose bleed from all the height and joy.
Because from the bottom of the best parts of my big, fat heart, thank you for this, @worpress.com and Ms. Erica Johnson. For thinking this was worth promoting. For this special unexpected surprise. For making blogging accessible, easy and life affirming. This has given me a lot of reasons to say thank you over and over again.
Thank you too, to everyone who commented, pressed ‘Like’ and subscribed to my “secret” space to possibly share images and celebrate text. I am humbled by the time you invested to write a note and press send. I am thrilled to start a conversation with you. I am grateful beyond infinity right now. I am amazed at how flat and small our world truly is.
This made me a very happy camper today. Thank you.
grateful slice: wordpress.com, bloggers everywhere, and finding refuge in the sun and the sea (which saves us all).
Boy, I can’t wait for all this report card season mayhem to end. So I can hang out in my favorite haunt, take pictures, be silly and have carefree days like these again.
Well, until the next deadline that is.
Which is coming up REAL soon.
grateful slice: the light at the end of the tunnel
“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.
What will your verse be?”
(John Keating from the “Dead Poets Society”)
I was in high school when I first saw this movie. I’ll never forget it. It made me fall in love with language, verse, voice, writing and teaching against the stream. As a young woman, I was inspired by the spirit of Carpe Diem, sucking the marrow of life and not choking on the bone, living deliberately and not being afraid to speak or write or think for myself. I loved watching the boys change from amoeba to men. I ripped pages too, closed my eyes, read poetry aloud and dared to do what I wanted to do when they did.
As a teacher in my thirties, it is Mr. Keating who moves me. His love for those boys, his passion for verse, his commitment to language and refusing to be ordinary — especially in his teaching — these are the things that resonate with me today. It might be a cliche’ to some, showing “Dead Poets Society” to class for my poetry unit, but I really don’t care. Whoever teacher or friend or sibling introduced this movie to me, I thank you today. Because now, like oral tradition, it’s my turn to share my experience with Neil and Todd and Nuwanda and Knox Overstreet and Mr. Keating and Walt Whitman and Thoreau and Robert Frost and Carpe Diem with my 21st century kids. 🙂 Poetry may look and sound different today and that’s fine but the power of the verse and the stuff of epiphanies through the verse (strict or free) remain the same. Thank you, Tom Schulman for writing the screenplay (which was nominated for an Academy Award and which won for Best Writing, (screenplay written directly for the screen) in 1989).
This is my favorite scene. Mr. Keating and terrified Todd Anderson, having a go at reciting Todd’s own piece (which he composed on the spot, inspired by a picture of Walt Whitman) in front of the class. It took everything from me to not tear up in class as we watched this morning.
I close my eyes and this image floats beside me
The sweaty-toothed madman with a stare that pounds my brains
His hands reach out and choke me
And all the time he’s mumbling
Truth, like a blanket that always leaves your feet cold.
You push it, stretch it, it will never be enough
Kick it beat it, it will never cover any of us.
From the moment we enter crying, to the moment we leave dying,
it will just cover your face
as you wail and cry and scream.
grateful slice: inspiration and poetry
p.s. What inspired you today? I’d love to hear about it.
Blame it on my new iPod Touch and its many addicting and extremely accessible apps/games.
From anything with sticky notes and e-books, to Flickitty, Chicktionary, PocketGod to Cooking Dash and Ranch Rush to all the fashion dress up make over apps and every single unscramble-whatever-word game invented, I have been pretty much cooped up in my house downloading applications, music, and games not necessarily in that order.
I am not complaining, though, I love my new toy.
it has brought the meaning of time suckage to a whole new level.
Running (until last Friday) had taken a back seat, reading temporarily shelved (although I have wattpad) and blogging (although I am constantly thinking of potential posts all day) sort of on hold (been almost a month since my last entry).
Being a hermit though, I have decided, has been my recovery from storm despair, deadline fatigue and birthday bittersweetness. I needed to hide and recuperate and recharge. I needed to keep quiet and feel sullen and embrace the melancholy because it’s how I am when I STOP. Everything. I also had to learn to love the fact that I am a year older. (insert: party sounds here.)
My body and spirit is craving balance already though. I am ready to take these on again.
Endorphins. Fiction (another’s) . Image and Text (my own). The Word (His).
(Sweat. Escape. Struggle. Survival. Liberation. Redemption. Self-Control. Discipline. Focus. Structure and Reflection.)
Birthday month came and went. Gone to soon, just 9 days ago. Have to get my act together or I might turn to dust or flubber.
It is, after all, a new year and I am a new creation. 🙂 So far, started running and swimming again. Saying Yes! to new friends’ invites. Volunteered to do That Friday Thing. Joined a fiction writing class which will start this coming Saturday. Hoping to fill my plate with many things that count.
Anyway, more on my birthday stash and stories later…
In the meantime, check out my new tattoo design. Thinking of placing it on my right arm (below my compass). Have not decided whether I will make good ‘ol J do it or the new guys. We shall see…
grateful slice: time, recovery and resilience. and new tattoos.