I have been writing and posting pictures on this site for a year. I started it in April, 2005 - the 10th of the month to be exact. Since it'll be April for another hour, I thought perhaps I should commemorate this in some fashion, although I'm likely the only one who cares. And this is appropriate in this world of navel-gazing, I suppose.
In many ways, this site was the best possible gift I could have given myself last year, which just sucked for me, in a bottom line sort of way. It was just not good. There were little glimmers of happiness (mostly the Arizona trip, which was amazing, and Vegas too), but overall it was some tough terrain. Doors closed. I moved. I lost friends. Love ended. I worked really hard and felt like I wasn't getting anywhere I wanted to go. Projects tanked. Necessary transitions occurred, but I didn't want them and I clung to those closing doors like Dorothy in the Kansas tornado, because dammit, if there's anything I was in charge of, while everything around me was shape-shifting at a ridiculous clip, it was my own misery. And really, that was true. I'd been walking around in its rooms for so long that I knew it like the back of my hand (which I don't really know as well as I know other things. I love cliches. ; ) ) It was so comfortable - such familiar pain - and without it I found that I really didn't have much of a center. Even my concept of love had been rooted in a sense of loss and fear for so long that I thought that was normal, and I really, really didn't want it to stop, because that meant I would lose something essential and never get it back. Never mind that I hadn't thought for a while about whether or not it was something that really worked for me. That was kind of secondary.
Anyway, that didn't work so well. Duh. Stuff was ending and changing because it was time for it to, and it really didn't much matter how I felt about it. No one consulted me. It was just mine to swallow. That was my amateur-Zen conclusion. So I did what I could do. I cried a lot. I cried more than I thought it was possible for me to still cry after years of dealing with some of the same painful things that I'd cried about before. Old news, right? On one particularly hellish and empty day, I left work, got in my car, and felt this weird sense of being in a bottomless pit that I would never ever get out of. I honestly don't believe that I'm capable of suicide in an unaltered state, but I felt a feeling of despair that nearly equals what I imagine must be experienced by people who end their lives. The parking lot was empty, and so was my heart. The only person who I thought could possibly make me feel better was unavailable. I started crying so hard that by the time I got on the highway my eyes needed tiny little windshield wipers, and I almost wrecked my car. I couldn't stop. Those sobs came welling up from this evil, pathetic place, and just when I thought I'd felt as bad as a chubby little lady could feel, I'd feel worse. Usually if I look at myself in the mirror when I'm crying I see how stupid I look and it makes me stop. Sometimes it even makes me laugh, I look so stupid. This time it just made me cry more. It was for real.
And then one day, my eyes exploded and I had to pop them back in, so I stopped crying for a while. This was good - it got me through June. Then I started crying again in July when some other bad and unfortunate thing happened that wrecked me with a whole mess of other emotional pain, and there went the rest of the summer. Goddamn, I must have really needed to cry. And it should be noted, based on suggestions that were made and unsolicited, if well-meaning, advice given, that I really did try not to feel this bad. Many days, I adopted a simple little prayer when I woke up or went to sleep, that amounted to "Help. Make it stop. Please get me past this." If an individual could truly decide to "get over" something, that would have been me, because I got sick of myself after while, and sick of several other people and situations in the process. But some things just have to work themselves out, regardless of what you or someone else or some stupid Web site or self-help tome tells you. Suggestions or comments about how you shouldn't feel so bad, or how it wasn't such a big deal, or he's just not that into you, or how anti-depressants would help, or online dating, or hypnotherapy, or whatever, should be taken with my preferred grain of cinnamon, since salt causes massive water retention. None of it really matters, and generally doesn't help. Only time - which I've come once again to see is the best and most effective healer going (along with awesome friends, music, and red wine...in varying doses) - does that. Frustrating, but true.
That said, in September, always a pretty good time for me because I'm an eternal student and the first day of school is kind of like New Year's it's so rife with empty notebooks and awesome possibilities, I pulled my shit together a little bit. Moving home with my parents in August was horrible. No offense to them, but my independence matters a lot to me and this was a concession of a major degree. Most days we all barely tolerate it. My sister has my cute little dining room set, and my pictures are in boxes. I have no idea where half of my books are, and I rarely cook in this kitchen. My life just doesn't flow the same, but of course this is temporary, and I really don't think about it so much right now. It's just the current state of affairs.
Last September, though, it made me feel like I really had to do something, because I was tired of having my head and my heart so focused on what I wasn't doing, and the fabulous things that someone else was or might be or could have given the chance. I also needed to get out of the damned house. I was bored - bored of thinking obsessively about and whining about things I couldn't change. Bored of pondering a writing "career" that wasn't working, I think because I really didn't care at the time whether it did or not. Bored of refreshing my e-mail for magical messages that weren't coming. Boredboredbored to tears, on a cellular level. I wanted something so, so different. I wanted something that I didn't already assume I could do with my eyes closed. I wanted to have some fun - a novel concept.
I picked photography. I thought it'd be an interesting diversion, and I'd always been into pictures. Tuition was free (little did I know that all of my disposable income would go for "supplies". Hmm...) It was convenient. It was new. And I thought it would be fun.
The best thing was that it was mandatory that I stop crying in order to participate in this activity. It's hard to cry when you're composing a shot. It's even harder to cry when you have to
suffer through group work work with people to get projects done, and you'd like it if they don't think you're completely nuts. I worked my ass off in my first class, and interestingly enough, I started to get good feedback from my teacher and my peers. I drove everywhere to take pictures, like LaJimmy Olson, cub reporter. I started noticing the light, how it changed and impacted shots depending on the time of day or the season. I scared my mother by wandering the streets of Baltimore alone, totally oblivious to everything but the way the lights hit the buildings and the water. I learned how to process film in the darkroom and the first time I put photo paper in the developer and an image popped out, I was floored. "It's like magic!" I said, and my professor said, "See, that's what I want to hear." And I really think that if I hadn't been done in at that point, that that would have clinched it. I liked the dim silence of the darkroom, and the fact that my friend Aya could work alongside me with her iPod on and we could develop a weird sort of sign language that told her when I needed her input on a print and when she needed to move her stuff from one step to the next.
It really helped me. I started to refocus, with the lens and without it. It got me through the holidays, and a milestone birthday that bummed me out more than I thought it would. It was a little bit like people who go to AA and because they can't drink, they smoke or drink coffee. I didn't have any of my old stuff - the space, the boy, the couch, even. I had my car, and a camera, and a computer - enough tools to be completely dangerous and keep plugging along. And as the year turned, my job did change, and that was excellent too. I won't write about it here, for fear of being dooced, but I wish I could. I wish I could write, most of all, about the people who make me smile there - colleagues and students. I'd also tell you about how even the things that jerk my chain are okay, because overall I'm blessed to be in the space I'm in, and I find myself quite often to be in some kind of flow here, where I lose track of time, and that's a good thing. Just, anyway...it's a good change.
NOT that everything is all sunshine and cherry shaved ice. Far from it. I still come with my built-in special feature of occasional emotional ups and downs. I still get disappointed and aggravated on occasion, and have to deal with stuff that I'd rather not. Last weekend, someone I trust hurt my feelings, very very badly. I have a ton of work to do and can barely keep up. I can't get my sonnet and my villanelle written. I still worry about the living space issue, and have been subject to several unsolicited comments lately about babies and motherhood that have left me in an occasional weird headspace about that.
In fact, I cried the other day. I listened to this Patty Griffin song called, no kidding, "Nobody's Crying," and it caught me off-guard. The whole 1,000 Kisses record, in fact, is a wonderful choice for days when you have that pressure in your head that means you need to cry, but don't realize it until something stupid and random trips the cord and the tears come. This song (and "Makin' Pies". Wow. What a song.) kind of summed up some stuff for me and for some other people who I care about. It sort of punched me in the head and by the time I got to the parking lot at work, my makeup was a disaster and my eyes were red. But it was good - I had a sense of release for the rest of the day, felt what I felt and moved on. Life is challenging. There are things about it that don't make sense, that resonate with fear, that leave me wondering what all the fuss is about, and whether things will start to make better sense in some of the categories of my life at some point. But overall, in spite of all of this stuff, I'm good. I'm lucky. I'm singing more, surrounding myself with music, trying new things, and enjoying every minute of hanging out with some very wonderful people. And I'm still taking pictures, and this semester my class has been really cool. I love the people I've met because of this, and we have a good time. I haven't done as much shooting outdoors as I did last year, but the spring is showing things to me in literally a different light than fall did. I'm headed to a few different destinations between now and the summer, and everywhere I go, I take my cameras, and record what I see differently than I did when I was just into tourist shots.
I hope to keep writing about it all, either here or in other places, because for me that seems to keep things a little bit straighter. It keeps me honest, it really makes me feel better, and sometimes it even makes me laugh at myself. In my first post, I said,
"I'm hoping to collect some thoughts and things I love here, and maybe someone will stumble upon them and be none the worse for wear after clicking away."
I know that the first part has been the case, and I hope the second part has been too. I am really grateful to have had a place to store the history of the past year. (If you're new, read June. : ) It was particularly fun to write.)
I'll sign off with the lyric of that song from the other day, because it is nice, although parts of it are sad. It kind of sums up where the past twelve months of writing and praying and taking pictures and putting one foot in front of the other each day have brought me, and where I hope the next twelve will bring you too.
"May you dream you are dreaming, in a warm soft bed
And may the voices inside you that fill you with dread
make the sound of thousands of angels instead,
tonight where you might be laying your head.
But darling, I wish you well
on your way to the wishing well,
swinging off of those gates of hell
but I can tell how hard you're trying.
Just have that secret hope -
sometimes all we do is cope
Somewhere on the steepest slope
there'll be an endless rope
and nobody crying."