An incomplete list of things impossible to understand until you’ve experienced them.

There are things in life that are impossible to understand until you’ve actually experienced them. Here is an incomplete list:

  1. Sex.
  2. Love.
  3. That gray area between sex-and-love and that torturous feeling in the pit of your stomach when you fall for someone that you know is all wrong because he tells you that you’re pretty and you just need that validation right now.
  4. Getting older and the realization that this phenomenon is happening Every. Second. Of. Every. Day. Shit.
  5. Being a mother. I’m still waiting on this one. I like to think that being a fur mama is similar. I also know that I’m probably wrong and that they aren’t anything alike. I hope to find out someday.
  6. The death of a close friend or family member. Nothing prepares you. Nothing heals you. Except maybe time. It just hurts.
  7. Learning to forgive yourself for being a gross human being during that one phase of your life. Being able to move forward with humility instead of self-hate is so difficult. But so necessary if you want to walk through this world without feeling like there’s a stack of bricks on your shoulders.
  8. Coming to grips with the fact that there will come a time in your life when you won’t love rollercoasters anymore. I mean you’ll still like them. You just won’t be able handle more than one or two before feeling unsteady.
  9. Speaking of rollercoasters. Life is one giant neck-jerking one. Get used to it or spend your days being overly dramatic. Both are fair ways of handling it, tbh.
  10. Alone time is a glorious thing. Run errands alone. Go clothes shopping alone (a personal favorite). Eat at a restaurant alone. Laugh or cry at a movie alone. Go into nature alone. Watch Netflix while folding laundry and drinking a vodka soda alone. It’s so good. And so necessary.
  11. A clean house actually IS a happy house. Who knew? I’ve learned to love the small daily tasks that keep my home clean. Including making the bed and doing the dishes. I still hate folding laundry. Which is why it requires a vodka soda (see #10).
  12. That moment when you realize that You. Are. Not. Your. Parents. And how conflicted you feel after the relief flows over you like sinking slowly into a hot steamy bath. Because you love your parents. They’re good people. But you aren’t them.
  13. Even though you are not your parents, you do have pieces of them with you that you can choose to embrace or reject. You are also a product of your upbringing and pieces of them will come out of you in your most loving and your most dark moments.
  14. Laughter is really good for you. I’m still trying to lean on this one a bit more. I have a serious sense of the world that I get from my father (see #12 and #13). But it’s really wonderful when you surround yourself with people who can make you laugh.
  15. Everything doesn’t happen for a reason. Sometimes life is random and dumb and leaves you sitting there with your mouth gaping open and your brow furrowed.
  16. Furrowing your brow (see #15) will give you wrinkles. So try not to do that. But, if you do, make sure to wash your face and moisturize every day.

Letting go of control

My professor told me my poem was too neat. She told me she wanted to take it and shake it loose.

“Do you have control issues?” she asked.
“Most definitely.” I’m nothing if not self-aware.

My entire life has been about gaining and losing control. It’s why I get so much pleasure out of re-alphabetizing my bookshelf (see above). It’s why I’ve lost friends and partners over differing opinions and life choices. It’s why I lay in bed at night spinning at the thought of all the things I didn’t do.

What would it look like? Letting go of control?

  1. Not glaring and feeling my pulse quicken when my boyfriend has (yet again) forgotten to put the toilet seat down.
  2. Feeling content to have a lazy, unplanned day without a single item on my agenda.
  3. Napping without guilt.
  4. Not allowing my expectations of a situation to outweigh living in the moment.
  5. Not talking myself out of following a passion because of my fear of the unknown.
  6. Valuing others’ opinions  and not seeing their varied outlook on life as a put-down.
  7. Embracing the spiritual without skepticism.
  8. Laughing loudly and without shame.
  9. Speaking up without fear of looking or being perceived as silly.
  10. Ending the list with nine things instead of ten.

 

11 things I know for sure.


11 things
The world is small. Sometimes too small. This makes dating hard awkward.

Getting your nails done will make you (momentarily) feel like you’ve got your shit together.

Everyone is innately selfish. Don’t take things personally.

Coffee brings people together more than any religion ever will.

My dog knows me better than anyone else.

Forgiving and forgetting isn’t a part of my genetic makeup.

Burning bridges, however, is a natural gift of mine.

Spending time alone is my reset button.

Some people are going to be assholes, no matter what.

Dating someone kind is more important than dating someone [fill in the blank].

I will always cry when I hear “Your song” by Elton John.

 

Why writing a good poem is really, really hard

 

I’ve taken fiction and creative nonfiction workshops in the past, so I assumed a poetry workshop would be easy in comparison. No word count minimum for workshop pieces? Sweet. Shorter reading assignments and written responses? Sign me up.

Well, guys, I was wrong. Writing a good poem is really, really hard.

When I sat down to finalize my first workshop poem that was due the following evening, I began to feel that all-too-familiar wave of anxiety wash over me. For me, anxiety looks like sweaty palms, shortness of breath, and racing, repetitive thoughts. Thoughts like: You’re not good enough. This isn’t good enough.

This reaction surprised me. One of the things I usually feel the most confident in is my writing. Why was poetry so scary? I didn’t feel this amount of anxiety when writing longer pieces of fiction or nonfiction. Sure, there’s always a slight knot in the pit of my stomach when I write. I call it my Muse. It’s the little voice telling me whether or not an idea is exciting enough to make me feel nauseous. But, I’d never felt flat-out terrified to submit a piece for a workshop.

With great trepidation, I handed out my piece the next night to my classmates. Then I had to wait an entire week before it was read and discussed. That was a long week.

Over all, my workshop went well. Many of my classmates had kind and encouraging words to say. My professor—whom I love by the way—looked at it with a bit more critical eye. Which is what I expected. She told me that I– like many young poets– was hiding behind metaphors and similes instead of describing things truly. She directed me to the following quote by poet Linda Gregg:

“I am astonished in my teaching to find how many poets are nearly blind to the physical world. They have ideas, memories, and feelings, but when they write their poems they often see them as similes. To break this habit, I have my students keep a journal in which they must write, very briefly, six things they have seen each day—not beautiful or remarkable things, just things. […] To write just because the poet wants to write is natural, but to learn to see is a blessing.” (source)

My professor was right, of course.  And that’s why I find poetry so hard and downright scary. In long pieces (fiction or non), there’s space to hide. I have room for errors and meanderings. In poetry, every word holds such weight. I have to be brave and describe things truly.

Maybe I’ll practice describing unremarkable things. Maybe I’ll work on allowing myself to use my own words to describe my own experiences. Regardless, I was humbled by my first poetry writing experience. And, I think I’m going to learn a lot about myself as a poet and a human being by the time this class is finished.

 

Expectations vs. Reality

 

One of my stumbling blocks as a writer/partner/friend/human-on-this-planet is my inability to handle a situation when my expectations don’t match my reality. You know in (500) Days of Summer when Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character) fantasizes about certain situations only to be punched in the gut by reality? Yeah, that’s me. On the daily. I’m constantly creating these expected scenarios in my brain. And, frankly, it’s exhausting. It’s also frequently impossible for people/situations/myself to ever fully meet these expectations.

I think this has held me way back in my writing life. (Don’t get me started on my dating life. Oy.) Because I have these unrealistic expectations for what I should be writing like and how people should be responding to my writing. And then– when those expectations collapse around me– I get discouraged and quit. I think this video by Ira Glass describes the phenomenon well.

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

My favorite line from the video:

[Your] taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have.

So, I’ll keep writing. Even though I know what I am writing isn’t there yet. Even though, in order to get there, I have to accept reality and be patient with myself.