To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

I’ve never been a good sleeper. The norm for me is four or five wake-ups a night, sometimes to pee, other times just to listen and make sure All is Well. Growing up in an alcoholic home, I got into this habit very early on. As a child, my hearing and intuition were always on high alert, just in case I needed to be ready for…whatever. Always on guard.

In Macbeth, Shakespeare writes some of the best metaphors for sleep. It’s a favorite play of mine.

Sleep, that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care,

The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,

Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,

Chief nourisher in life’s feast.

Isn’t that beautiful? The death of each day’s life. No matter how we try to save time, work non-stop – days die and we must sleep. Now that I am a woman of a certain age, hormones play into my pas de deux of insomnia, coupled with my already fitful light sleep. I am a MESS.

I cannot remember the last time I got through the night without waking up. I’ve tried many things – exercise; not drinking coffee past noon; turning the TV off an hour before bed; not using my iPad to read (the light is a subliminal signal to stay awake); not drinking ANYTHING past 8 p.m.; meditation; sleep apps, with all their varied background sounds (I’m partial to rain, thunder, and trains). It’s exhausting.

I want to try an old-fashioned mantel clock – one that peals out the hours every hour on the hour. My husband and I just returned from vacation in Boston, where we stayed in Rockport MA for two nights out of the trip. The B&B was close to the town church, and its steeple with a clock. Maybe it was the bed, or the ocean air, but I can vaguely remember, through my dreaming state, counting the chimes and relaxing when I knew it was only four a.m. and I could still drift off; I didn’t need to get up yet.

My doctor wants to give me something; non-habit forming and light, just to see if it could bring about a normal sleep pattern. I’m hesitant – no – resistant to that. I think that if you force sleep to come on, it’s not as restful as a cycle brought on by your own normal circadian rhythms. So, you’re going to be worse than when you started!

What’s the solution? I don’t know. Maybe I’m metamorphosing into something else. I’m a terrific napper. Sunday afternoons are my favorite – right after lunch, on the couch with a blankie and the kitties, I’m good for ninety minutes. I feel great when I wake up, but then invariably end up alert till one or two in the morning. 5:30 a.m. comes pretty quickly after that.

Even now, it’s four p.m. and I’m ready to close my eyes, even for fifteen minutes, but I’ve got another three and a half hours of places to go and people to see before I call it a night.

There’s something to be said for being reincarnated as a spoiled house-cat with comfy beds and hideaway spots, where I could sleep my twenty hours a day in peace.

Maybe in my next life.

Fat-Bottomed Girls…

We really DO make the rockin’ world go ’round. Yeah.

In anticipation of Seeing “Bohemian Rhapsody” on Sunday, I’ve been listening to my old Queen albums. I’ll never forget hearing “The Game” in my friend Andrea’s bedroom. It was 1980, we were in Grade 7, and I was still pretty much into a lot of my sisters’ music – The Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, Neil Diamond, Peter Frampton.

The first single, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” was a favorite because to me it sounded a lot like an Elvis/50s rocker mashup and in addition to me liking it, my parents did as well. I loved that my mum would dance and swing me around to the big guitar strums.

I will admit, I’m still into more lyrical, dare I say even “folksy” artists – Joni Mitchell being the be-all end-all. I guess I am such a wordwhore that the poetry and ballad-like stanzas that could stand on their own is what captivates me.

Then, I heard “Another One Bites the Dust” and my head exploded. Lights, camera, action. That bass line, the way Freddie slinked all over the melody, velvety and sexy, then blew my ears off on the bridge – my world opened, I exited the log cabin and began to see in Technicolor, and I was off to see the Wizard.

Rami Malek looks like he channeled Freddie. I hope the premise of the movie is about ALL of the singer’s life, and not just his voice and songwriting. He was multi-faceted, and even though there are plenty of parts of him that most people don’t want to know, or deal with, it’s important to see that at that time in history, he was just who he was, and he didn’t care who knew it.

He is unparalleled vocally. There will never be another Freddie. I am so glad for that early summer day in 1980 when the doors of all types of music (not just the AM radio singles) opened up to me.

Rest in peace, Freddie. We sure could use your words and your voice right now.

Inspiration or Desperation?

I heard at the Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Conference 2018 that “Inspiration is for Amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work.”

What a quote. I love it. Because it’s true – like the man who wouldn’t buy a ticket after praying to God to win the lottery, you can’t expect the fruits without doing the work. The simple act of creating something, whatever it may be – a grocery list, a post-it to your partner saying “I love you,” or your to-do – all of these help loosen the grip of Writer’s Block.

Today, it’s Hallowe’en. I know, nobody puts the apostrophe in anymore. But I like it. I didn’t dress up this year for work, didn’t buy candy because we live on such a busy street with traffic that kids and parents shun it like the plague. I can’t get myself into it. I have tried. Grateful I’m not a parent where I have to not continually disappoint my offspring with how lame I am.

I’m truly struggling with keeping good thoughts in my head. There is so much noise! So many distractions. Trying to look on the bright side of that, maybe I just want to be part of everything. Like, I’m so enamored with all of it that I can’t bear to miss a second of any of it!

I hope that is the case. I hope I’m not fracturing off into an inability to focus for more than a few minutes on whatever is in front of me. I’ve always prided myself on being able to read for hours, or draw, and sometimes, write for that long as well.

Does this distraction happen with age? Is it only going to get worse? Christ, I hope not.

Promises, Promises

I made a deal with myself that I would post to my writing blog every day. I used to post fairly often. Now, trying to get back into it feels like trying to run a marathon after being in a coma for years. Let’s just do a little sprint then, shall we? Build up some endurance.

Struggling to put my butt in the seat is an ongoing task. Before November 2016, it was always about not having time, trying to be perfect, wanting to wait until “inspiration” struck me. I’d be waiting a long time.

Now, my mind is so fractured, what with rallies to go to, campaigns to give to, email after email coming about “Vote!” and being horrified, shocked, not shocked, despondent, and filled with ennui, on a daily basis. There is so much noise from everywhere, including my own head, that it’s difficult to quiet my conscious self enough to string coherent sentences together.

Morning pages, as instructed, three of them – seem to have the same array of “FUCK!” and “I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO WRITE!” at the top of the first page as my mind screams to sort through the pond scum that the night before’s dreams have congealed into, like a horrible green jello salad brought to a fancy potluck.

Just write. Write. Don’t see it as an empty page, something that has to make sense or have unity, but maybe more like letting air out of an overfilled balloon – the latex stretched taut, and you’re afraid to touch it lest it squeak and blow. Let the pressure out on to the page – who cares what it says – at least it’s out of your bean and not bouncing around your cranium anymore.

I know that daily life is better when I do the things that make it so: eat well, sleep well, take some exercise, laugh a lot, cry a little. Writing has to be part of that, for a well-rounded personality. It’s not only the physical things we must do to take care of ourselves, it’s the mental and spiritual too.

And just like that, Day 2 of everyday blog writing, is done.

 

 

 

 

The Rabbit Hole

I took a fantastic seminar this weekend at the Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Conference in Pasadena. It was worth it to see the genre of Historical Fiction get some spotlight time. It’s a love-hate for me – I love reading it, and I hate writing it. Most of the time.

For someone who is as easily distracted as me (oooo…look! SHINY!), research is often the rabbit hole I fall into, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and emerging many, many hours later, with circles under my eyes, and a desperate need for caffeine to make it through the rest of the day.

This does not happen only with my book research. My latest is ancestry.com, where I go off on tangents and lines that are only remotely related, but it’s still so much fun digging back in the past, I plow on.

The novel that I’m working on now, Hunger’s Echo, requires details that are well-researched, and sourced. The Great Hunger in Ireland was a terrible genocide that we will probably never know the scope of, as records are not always reliable from that time.

This is where I find myself searching and striving to get it right. Not just for myself, but for the countless, graveless, faceless, nameless others who were the victims.

I’m grateful that I received some tools on how to “Delve into the Past.” Setting time limits for myself, and being firm about what I really need to research can prevent rabbit-holing.

Care to make a wager on when I’ll resurface today?

There’s Power in Aging Ungracefully

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I get Miley Cyrus, in some ways.  I truly do.  Discovering the power of your sexuality, and trying that out, not caring about the consequences – we’ve all been there.  Women are powerful, and not just sexually, at all ages, but unfortunately it’s been stamped on and shamed on and controlled for so long that we have no clue how to just… be, most times.  Unless we make ourselves attractive and have a powerful man standing beside us we feel naked, incomplete, irrelevant.  Unless we act the way that society says women should, the way that men say we should, we are labeled – feminists, ballbusters, lesbians, bitches.  I understand, I truly do, why youth is so appealing, why we celebrate it, worship it and try to hold on to it as much as we can – younger spouses, cosmetic surgery, staying current on trends.  But where does that leave the rest of us?  I’m not in my 20s or 30s anymore, and I feel a bit like I’ve been cast aside, that my opinion and my person no longer matter.  And most especially, now that my uterus is no longer fertile and I don’t want to spend endless hours preening and slaving to fashion and makeup, I feel… dead, sexually. Undesirable, in every definition of the word.

I drove home the short way a few weeks ago, which I rarely, if ever do, because of situations like I’m going to recount.  It was a lovely Southern California day, the windows were down, and the sun was going down, angling low across the sky, making it a backlit canopy.  On the two-lane stretch of Woodbury where I was driving, the speed limit was 40 mph.  People were going slower than that, and it did annoy me, only because I had to be somewhere, but I wasn’t driving like a jerk.  Trust me; I know when I’m driving like a jerk.  I’ve done it for a long time and I am UBER-aware of myself tailgating, getting frustrated…this was not one of those times. (I have tried to curb my aggressive driving tendencies, and I think for the most part, I have succeeded.  LA is a difficult town to practice Zen driving in, believe me.)

I changed lanes to the far left and fell in behind an old, red Honda.  He was a couple of miles below the speed limit, and I crossed over Washington behind him, as he zigged into the right lane, I followed, and had to stifle a chuckle when he passed a fire truck on his left and stuck his hand out the window to wave and give a solid “thumbs-up” to the riders. The fireman on the passenger side raised his hand slightly and gave him the smallest, briefest of waves.  The red Honda then pulled ahead into the left lane, and I followed.  At the next light, he slowed to get into the far left turn lane. And I mean, really slowed. Trying to piss me off slowed. The light was still green and I braked, turned my wheel hard to the right to get around him, and then hard again to the left to straighten out, but missed the light.  He crawled up beside me to my left, rolled down his window and tossed the opening salvo – “You’d better be careful there, girl, tailgating like that!”

Where do I even begin. Do I feel flattered that thinks I’m a “girl,” not a woman? (He was under 60, therefore not old enough to play the age card) Do I mention the tortoise-like (read: controlling) maneuver of his that precipitated the event? Do I laugh it off and ignore him, turning my music louder?  Well, unfortunately, the answer is d) none of the above.  I was so annoyed with him a) being distracted and waving at a fire truck like a 5 year old, b) purposely slowing down and trying to control others (namely, me), but mostly… mostly, I was hot that he had called me, “girl.”

Listen, I’ve had a great fucking life so far. I really do not have anything I can complain about that I wouldn’t feel ashamed complaining about.  I did what I wanted to do, for the most part, and made a life for myself in another country, even while being illegal there; I was gorgeous in my young womanhood, and I knew it.  I drank and smoked and cursed and fucked with the best of them, and men loved it (well, most men anyway, the kind of men I liked back then). It’s looked on a lot more favorably when you are 25 than when you are 45 (and quite a few pounds heavier than you were then as well). I know now that some of my affections, and my actions, may have been misplaced, but I really do believe that particular truth is given to us at a time when we are most open to receiving it.

So, in that bohemian, independent spirit of my youth, I laughed under my breath, turned to face ahead of me again, and muttered, “Fuck off.”  To which he looked taken aback, and said, “What did you say?!?!”  God, will this light never turn green???? Is what was going through my head, but, not turning to him, I responded, without malice, or intonation at all, “you heard me.”  There was silence, except for Def Leppard vaguely playing in the background.  Then, after a few moments, came the kicker.  The retort that comes only when you can’t think of anything else to say and are pissed off enough to want to hurt.

“You’re a fat pig… aren’t you!?”  The last bastion of the witless.  Although it’s probably true to some extent, I’m heavier than I’ve been in a long time and certainly not the looker I once was, but how does someone even know that, seeing you from the shoulder up?  Are my jowls really giving me away? (I’ve got to look into that Lifestyle Lift.)  And really, there were so many adjectives that flew into my head to counter with (balding, ginger, pockmarked, to name a few), it could have gotten much uglier.

The light finally, FINALLY turned green, and I stuck my long, manicured hand out the window and flipped him off hard, like Jennifer Aniston showing her boss her “flair” in Office Space.  I gently pressed the accelerator in my Prius and silently headed home.  Oh, it hurt.  Believe me, it hurt.  I’m no longer as adept as I once was at sloughing off the slings and arrows sent my way, back when I was gorgeous and didn’t care, about authority or much else.

But what gives him the right to say that to me? I’m a big fan of men, I love them, have always been around them; I feel their plight as they head into this brave new world of metrosexuality, 24/7 porn, and women fucking like men, and can understand their bafflement. I see that they too feel irrelevant, out of touch, unnecessary. But I also know the surest way for a man to control a woman is to make a dig about her appearance.  This jackass is one in a long line of social fuckwads that has said something blatantly ridiculous to me in the hopes of hurting and showing his power and control over me. Now that I’m older, I see them as sad, pathetic, lacking in confidence, no self-esteem – and I can have some compassion.

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The only good news that came from this encounter was that I’ve started taking the long way home again, even though it adds 5 minutes to my already ridiculously short 15-minute commute.  I didn’t fall into depression and hate the world for being so mean, as I would have years ago.  I didn’t carry it with me, because even though I may have been unwise to “poke the badger with a spoon” and tell him to “fuck off,” his response was completely irrational and uncalled for.  And one of these days, I’m going to really be able to say that I don’t care about what people think of me.  And I will believe it.  And the fucking roar that will issue forth from my mouth upon that happening… well, that will be something, won’t it?

Expansion Paige Bradley

(Expansion by Paige Bradley)

Hut! Hut! Life’s Little Lessons…Experienced Through Football.

I love football.  I just wanted to put that out there before I said anything more about it.  I’ve loved it since my Dad and I watched the Edmonton Eskimos from the “new” Commonwealth Stadium, in the late 70s.  He got season’s tickets and we would huff and puff up those cement stairs, to our seats, on the aisle, about three rows from the top.

“Geez, Dad, how come we can’t get tickets a little further down?” As I’d collapse into the seat (and take off my oxygen mask and crampons).

(Google Earth snapshot of the stadium, and where our seats were)

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He’d just smile, light up a cigarette (you could do that in the open air stadiums back then), and say, “No, hen, then you couldn’t see the PLAYS develop.  Up here you can see all of what’s going on.  I don’t need to see their faces, I’m interested in the big picture.”

So there it was. I learned to watch the Offensive Line shifts, the audibles, the shotgun, the fantastic way the CFL is that the Wide Receivers can be in motion towards the line of scrimmage before the play starts, and the intertwining of routes making their way down the field. It became more about the team, and their progress, than individual efforts.

Of course, the Canadian playing field is 10 yards longer and almost 12 yards wider.  It really does avail a more wide-open game.  And just 3 downs to get the job done?  Difficult.  Really difficult. 1st down, you get a few yards, 2nd down, you don’t quite make it, you’re a yard or two short? That’s it, you gotta punt or try for a field goal.  Your offense has to be a little more effective and on the ball (pardon the pun).  Even my husband has been brought over to the CFL side and marveled at its expansive, fast-paced beauty. (That is, when our provider actually decides to show the games on its Canadian affiliate).

And don’t hit the goal posts! They are positioned at the front of the end zone (which is 20 yards deep instead of the NFL 10).

Commonwealth Stadium is also where my Dad taught me about sportsmanship.  Like any eleven or twelve-year old, I had developed deep loyalty (read: crushes) on many of the players on the football team and would defend them to anyone.  One year, during the Labour Day (and yes, it IS spelled with a “u”, thank you) series between the Esks and bitter provincial rivals the Calgary Stampeders, on a glorious, prairie Fall Sunday afternoon, with a huge bright blue sky above, I nearly had smoke coming out of my ears at one of the more vociferous, and quite drunk, Stampeder supporters.

He must have been, maybe, eighteen (at least, because he was drinking a stadium beer and the legal age is eighteen), lithe, shirtless, hairless (his chest), with the feathered/banged dirty blonde shoulder-length hairdo popular then. He was tanned and had sun crinkle lines on his face that made me think he worked outdoors. His team jersey was tucked in to the back of his jeans, and the red shirt hung past his bum crack and down to his knees.

Any time, and I do mean ANY time, the Stamps made any kind of good play, he would stand up, beer in hand, and turn around to the crowd above him and just gloat, eyes narrowed, mouth set in a “mmm-hmmm!”, while his other hand displayed an index finger jutting skyward in a “#1” motion.

It was about all I could stand.  I wanted to throw my pop at him (pop being my Coke, in a big plastic cup).  My Dad saw the steam coming out of my ears and said, “What’s wrong?”  I answered, “That dumb guy is making me so MAD!  I just want to throw this at him and show him how WRONG he is!”

My Dad’s eyes softened and he made that funny little noise he made when he was amused, that wasn’t quite a laugh, but a hard outward snort through the nose (I’m pretty sure it’s a distinctive Scottish trait, but I could be wrong), and said to me, “No, wee Neecy, he paid his money just like everyone else for his ticket, and he’s allowed to cheer for whoever he wants to. You’ve got to respect that, and don’t let it get to you.  Just enjoy the game, even if your team isn’t winning.”

I was a little too young to grasp the gratitude he was expressing for, again, the big picture.  The aforementioned beautiful day, spending time with his daughter, surrounded by people who were (mostly) on the same side cheering.  Glorious.  I was a lucky little girl.

The intent of this particular blog was to talk about how difficult it’s getting to watch American football every week – with the rage, the injuries after practically every play, and the poor sportsmanship shown a lot of times by the players – having to humiliate and subjugate the other player that they’ve tackled, or ended up on top of.  I find it really crude that after a play, the defensive guy will pretty much get up from the feet of the player he’s tackled, and walk OVER him to make sure that the player on the ground sees defensive guy as the Alpha Male, and gets a face-full (or facemask-full) of his obviously superior junk.  Why don’t you just pee on him too? (Would that be a penalty? How many yards?)

But, I will leave that rant for another day… I have too much of a good feeling going on now, thinking about those truly halcyon days of watching football with my Dad, the lessons I learned from him, and from the game, and strolling down memory lane.

To me, that’s what professional sports should do – unite the people of the City and show us how alike we all are, and not focus on the differences we have.  Go ahead, you may say I’m a dreamer.

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