Archive for February, 2011

The Little Pecker

Okay…I admit I wrote this when I was hurting worse than I thought. It’s really cranky. Sorry–please skip it. I’d delete it except that I have that No Delete On The Blog policy.

One of my least favourite poemishes is Emily Dickenson’s “Hope is a thing with feathers that perches in the soul.”

So many people love it–I guess because they like the idea of Hope as something that can fly or help you fly.

I personally think that it means Hope is a thing that poops inside you, molts and pecks your finger painfully if you get too close. Because so often that’s what Hope does to people.

Hope is my least favourite of the ideas of mankind because it is so abused. I know of so many people who think that “hoping” is the same as “taking action” when they are indeed exact opposites. Folks confuse Hope with Optimism, and think that if they do not Hope then they are not optimistic. Not so. Hope is sitting still and dreaming about a day when things might be better–and it usually involves hinging itself on the perch of someone else’s devising.

If the government fixes the economy…

If only he would stop drinking…

If things got better at my job…

One of my submottoes for life is “Don’t Hope. Do.” Because the government will never fix the economy and the drunks won’t stop drinking and a bad job is a bad job. So work hard to earn what you need. Become content in yourself. Stop harbouring a squawking bird and start taking actions toward change.

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So This Is Now

We’re planning our 20th Anniversary trip, heading to Disney World for another bite at the Mouse.

I first went the year it opened, and I was two. From that point on we went every other year until I left home at 18. Then I went back a few times after I was married, so I’ve been there plenty.

This is the first time I’ll be going with a wheelchair. And part of me doesn’t want to go. I don’t want special lines and special attention, and I don’t want to be the burden that my husband spends all day pushing. Most of all I don’t want to admit that at forty years of age I cannot walk more than a few dozen yards without crippling pain, exhaustion and nausea. I don’t want to be this person.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot, though. Through the lens of Disney my life always gets a focused perspective. It’s as though Walt Disney World is the place I go to find myself, to get back in touch with who I am. And I was remembering the countless other trips I’ve made there and how every time there was something I wished was different.

There were times I wished I was there with a best friend/lover/spouse. I loved my family but the entire time I was growing up I felt like something was missing. It was such an odd sense, like knowing part of your body just isn’t there. When I met my husband everything fell into place, and I realised he was the thing that I’d been missing.

There were times I wished I was there staying On Property. You can either stay in one of the hotels that fringe the resort and are inevitably cheaper, or you can stay in a Disney-owned hotel within the boundaries of the resort. Both are fine options with a lot to recommend them, and I’ve have great times both places. But when I’d be off-property I’d always stare at that greener grass and covet.

And of course there were the times I wished I was there with more money. So I could eat at this restaurant or buy that souveneir.

Every single one of those times I’ve been able to walk–and thought nothing of it. It never occurred to me to be thankful that I could see and hear and breath and walk and carry my own travel bag. I was so busy wanting the next thing to make me happy that I forgot to be happy with what I had.

So now I’m going with plenty of money and staying On Property with my other half–but I’m not walking. I’ve been fretting over that but as I think about it I’ve decided that I need to seize my joy in the circumstances I’ve been given. I’ll rejoice in the mere fact that I’m getting to go on a marvelous trip with a marvelous man, and not get hung up on the mechanics of the thing. After all, I’m still breathing and I’m still loved and those are the two greatest gifts this side of Home.

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I feel like I’m standing in the churchyard at Wittenburg, watching a disgruntled, fat little monk nail papers to the door.

I feel like I’m standing on the Latin Bridge in Sarajevo on a hot summer day, letting the breeze off the water cool me as I watch a man run toward the Archduke’s motorcade.

We’re here at the turn of the page of an era and it’s in parts exciting and dangerous and frightening.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. First, when Betsy decided to self-publish and again now that every move I make over at Amazon is deluged with self-publishers promoting their 99cent Kindle books. I often wonder if I should just self-publish and try to gain a foothold in the new marketplace. That is, after all, how Benjamin Franklin and Charles Dickens did it. Kind of.

I’ve held back because I think there’s a certain romance to having a publisher publish your work and part of me would really enjoy that experience. But now I’m starting to re-rethink myself, in large part due to a mainstream author I’ve been following for a couple of years now.

A few years ago I discovered this writer by accidentally grabbing one of their works at the library. (The cover was non-genre standard and I didn’t realise that it was a book in a genre I didn’t normally read.) I loved the book and immediately sought out others by that writer. Soon I was devouring what was quite a sizable body of work, all of which was great fun. And since this was a mainstream author with a large following there was a book every six months, like clockwork.

I started reading the author’s blog and started to see that Real Life was taking precedence. It was obvious that work wasn’t first on their mind anymore, as other plans were taking shape. But the writer is a working writer yoked to a publisher’s timetable. So regardless of whether or not they had a story to tell, the writer delivered a book every six months. Like clockwork.

The last three are lousy. You can sense the writer’s distaste for their occupation on every page. Even worse, you can sense their distaste for their customers. Instead of coming up with fun, escapist passages, the pages are full of lectures about how folks should watch their weight and get outside to enjoy life more. It started to feel like a slap in the face.

And that’s what’s wrong with the way mainstream publishing works. Books don’t come out now just because they’re good. They come out because they are a viable product. If you happen to be the maker of a viable product, you are stuck. No matter what. Like a bee it’s your job to crap honey.

Part of me thinks more and more that it’d be great to write AND publish on my own terms.

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Over on Facebook an old high-school friend chastened me for being down on Valentine’s day, because she says that we should be using it to focus on how Love is the greatest aspect and gift of the I AM.

That would actually be part of why I so very much DON’T like Valentine’s day. Because it takes that sacred aspect and humans it up so terribly. Pink and lavender hearts like faded bloodstains and bruises, fat baby angel archers shooting people wantonly and popular cartoon characters are what we have decided to use as symbols of LOVE. We talk about candy and jewelry and restaurant dinners as the way to celebrate love.

None of it feels like actual LOVE, per se. It all feels like shopping and irony. It feels like a holiday made for the Twilight crowd–those who love sparkly men at arms’ length and dream of being fought over like an object.

I’ve been with the love of my life now for longer than I lived without him. It often feels like I’ve never lived without him; in recounting a childhood memory I now have to stop and think whether or not he was there and am surprised when I realise he wasn’t. I don’t hate Valentine’s day because I can’t get a man. I hate it because I have had the best man for so long and I know how painful and wrongly aimed the holiday is. There were years we had no money and I felt as if I didn’t properly love him if I weren’t buying him a watch and that he didn’t proprerly love me if there was no diamond tennis bracelet. Nevermind that he was working the night shift in a mental hospital, strapping down child rapists and baby killers for minimum wage–just to pay our bills. Never mind that I gave up my family and home and all that was familiar to follow him to a strange city.

There’s no way that one day or one card or one candy can really express true love. You can’t say, for one moment in time, that this is about you giving everything you have and are for the person you love. There’s no way these plastic things can say “I lay down my life for you”. That is what the I AM did for us, and that is what we do for those we truly love.

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My mother has a friend whom I’ll call Delores. Since she has on rare occasion read this blog, I think it’s safer to stick with a psuedonym. Although in truth I kind of wish I could confront her about all this.

Because Delores is a Mean Girl. Here she is, over 70, and she’s still cruel, gossipy and bullying.

My parents were here over the weekend on their way to Florida and Mom mentioned something Delores had said and done–another anecdote about how a septugenarian housewife made other people in her social circle feel small and unwanted–and I confessed that I thought she was mean.

I found the whole thing discouraging because I realised then and there that we never do grow out of all those petty games. That no matter how old I get there will always be another woman my age who is the Queen Bee with the sharp stinger.

It doesn’t affect me that much, because years of living at the wrong end of those people has given me pretty thick callouses that make dealing with their shenanigans mostly painless. But the idea that these games never change is still discouraging.

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There’s a new book dropping next Tuesday that’s getting really good reviews and seems like a fun read. So I thought I might go ahead and grab it.

I just came here from Amazon, where I see the book priced at $14.99.

I will not buy it.

Listen, I know all your arguments, Publishing Industry, about how the real cost of the book is not in the paper and ink and shipping but in the vetting and marketing and whathaveyou. I write books after a fashion and I know they are someone’s hard work.

But I simply cannot reconcile paying $15 for something that seems so ephemeral. I know the story is the thing. But I can’t help feeling as though the $15 comes with an awful lot of padding. And I’ll tell you this thing I’ve learned after years of living and working and buying and selling.

A thing is only worth what people will ultimately pay for it. We’re talking business terms, here. I know that people’s time and creative energy is priceless, irreplacable, etc. But when you get right down to it, a book is only worth $15 if your customers feel that is a fair price. And as hot as the Kindle is right now, with as many people like me who are buying books hand over fist, there is a difference between a digital file and a hardbound, embossed, smythe-sewn book with a four-colour dust jacket. It’s the same psychological effect that makes a quarter seem worth more than a dime and three nickles. Some things just seem like they should cost more.

And some things seem like they should cost less.

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