My Life So Far http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/ Your personal essays and memoirs-in-progress. en-us Copyright 2014 Smithmag.net Larry Smith RSS 2.0 generation class http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/tech/rss My Life So Far by Scott.Muska http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=429350
What’s rare for me, however, is when the flash bang attraction is reciprocated by the other party. With Allison, this seemed to be the case. I confirmed this later that night when I grazed her hand underneath a table, she grazed back, and we linked digits. I celebrated my positive interaction with a female by watching an episode of X-FILES and eating 20 chicken wings at 4 a.m.

We met on New Year’s Eve Eve, and little more than 24 hours later we rung in 2012 with our first kiss.

This was by and far the best start to a courtship I’d experienced in years. I admittedly did not set the bar very high, though – I’d started talking to the last pseudo-girlfriend I’d had after I drunkenly poked her on Facebook. Not, like, reached out to through a message or wall post or anything. I poked her. I’m not proud of it, but it happened. (The previous sentence is a recurring motif in my life.)

When Allison and I began seeing each other, I wanted to ensure that the dates were great. I was going for entertaining, fun and attentive without reaching the creepy levels I had a tendency of achieving at the outset of things.

In short: I didn’t want to fuck up. When you’re not dating often, you can get in the habit of trying way too hard too early on, because you want to win approval or attraction or love or whatever the fuck. This scares some girls away, and leads others to believe that you feel more strongly for them than you really do at that point. Both scenarios have their negatives, and, for me, both had led to awkward dates where many words and actions were construed to mean much more than they really did.

Eventually, you realize you’ve been trying too hard, and you overcompensate in the other direction. You don’t try hard enough.

Dating is hard, especially if all you do is worry about how your date is going to go while you are physically on the date.

With Allison, everything went splendidly. I was happy to be in her presence, which is significant for me because I am often happiest when I am alone, clutching a Bota box of wine and reading shit.

It was winter in a resort community in Maryland, so there wasn’t much to do except go to movies and drink with friends, so that's generally what we did.

Since I was so rusty on the dating front, I was more comfortable when we were doing things in groups, and I lost sight of the fact that sometimes people who are in the infancy of a potential relationship should spend some time alone. Allison wouldn’t complain about this, but would occasionally drop hints that she would enjoy it if we were engaging one-on-one more often.

But our friends still wanted to see us. So when we were out somewhere with them, I tried to make sure Allison knew I was always paying attention to her.
About a month after we’d begun seeing each other, Allison and me were out to dinner with a bunch of friends. We were drinking wine, which was a nice way to build upon the buzz I’d begun by drinking scotch during the requisite pre-date shower.

I pulled my concentration momentarily from the cheese plate to consider what I should do to show Allison I was happy to be with her, that in a room full of people the one I was looking at and thinking of the most was her. (Specifically, that I wanted to eat some fancy cheese off of her naked body. Because I love cheese and the naked bodies of women and applying the concept of a mash-up to nonmusical things.)

A small gesture would put us on a higher romantic level, in her eyes, than the other couples we were with. This is generally a good thing, because romance turns women on. (That’s a pro tip, fellas, free of charge.)

Now, this is going to sound weird, because it totally is. (One of the things I’ll always miss about Allison is how completely weird we were with each other. I’m glad that when after my own doing crumbled things months later, she eventually decided to allow me to stay on in her life as a platonic friend.) We shared an adoration of Boyz II Men, and so I would often speak to her in my Michael McCrary voice, which Allison would tell you is ON POINT. McCrary is no longer with the group. The two entities came to the end of the road. But you probably remember him as the guy who never really sang, and would instead just speak all kinds of seductive lines and monologues in the middle of songs. Sometimes I would text ridiculous things to Allison, and she would know based on the verbiage that I was channeling my inner Michael M.

I slid my phone out of my pocket and clandestinely began typing a message to Allison, looking down as little as possible. I didn’t want somebody to notice I was texting during dinner, when the only woman I was likely to be texting was sitting across the table from me. I’d get one of those “HEY SCOTT, WHO YA TEXTING?” comments, like my goddamn Grandma was there. (Love you, Grandma Lil!)

“Oh, hey girl, you look so beautiful tonight,” I typed. “When the moon is high and the stars are shining, I’ma get you naked and lay you downnnn.”

I sent it without pausing to reflect on how it is I have ever had a date with anybody.

Then I waited for a reaction.

Nothing happened.

I was hoping she would reach for her phone, but the rest of the meal passed without her touching it. Maybe she was being polite. I kept drinking and eventually forgot about it, because as odd as it is to say, texting lewd comments to a woman and pretending I have a very monotone voice was more or less par for the course for me at the time. And something I could forget about easily, especially if I was binge drinking.

The rest of the night passed without mention. I woke up the next morning, Allison beside me, to a text message that read:

“Hahahahaha. Wrong Allison, Scooter.”

I’d sent a dirty text message to the other Allison in my life: my Aunt Allison.

Getting buzzed up in my apartment the evening before, I had decided I should text Aunt Allison to tell her I was going on a date with a woman also named Allison, because HOLY FUCK AMIRITE?!

In my effort to be inconspicuous at dinner, I had hastily scrolled through my text messages and chosen the wrong recipient. I had told my aunt I was going to get her naked and lay her down.

I had conjured a gesture borne of affection or love or something like it, and unwittingly sent it the way of someone who should not have received it.

It was not the first time this has happened to me. And it probably won't be the last. (First and last time a relative will be involved, though. I hope.)

And that’s OK. Because when I do finally get the correct message to the right person, it will be a great story. Maybe one I'll tell to kids someday or something.

And that will be worth experiencing all of the ridiculous stories that precede it. ]]>
Scott.Muska http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=429350 SMITH
My Life So Far by Sara917 http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=426731

It knocked me to the ground with the force of a big, ripe coconut falling from a palm tree.

Oh no, wait. It was a massive coconut that fell dozens of meters and smashed into the back of my head.

In that first moment though, I had no idea what it was. The pain cut deep through the top of my skull and spread every which way, until it all went blurry and dark. My legs gave way and I fell to the ground grasping my head, unsure of where the hit had come from and whether it was the first of more.

Then I saw it: A smiling coconut, silently rolling away.

As I started to put pain plus coconut together, two women ran up behind me, their pink and turquoise cotton saris sweeping the dirt road. Their muttering in Malayalam seemed to be miles away, and I continued to grip my head as tears poured down my face and I gasped for breath. I felt someone’s hands tugging at my arms, and opened my eyes to see a couple of men pointing up at the culpable cluster of palm trees and motioning me to move out of the way.

Then a rickshaw driver slammed to a stop in front of me, and one of the women whispered in English: “We take you to the hospital.”

Finally, the blur began to clear. “No, no,” I mumbled, pulling out my iPhone. I dialed Babu and tried to get the words out through sobs. “I, I… I’ve been hit…” I passed the phone to one of the men, trusting him to take it from there. After a frenzied conversation in Malayalam, he handed back the phone and rushed off on his motorbike. I lay my head on the woman’s lap, overcome again by the thumping at the back of my skull.

The next few steps are hazy. The motorcycle returned, this time with Babu’s car behind it. The group of petite Indians practically lifted my 5’9’’ frame into the passenger seat, and we rushed to the hospital. If had had the clarity of mind, I might have feared the prospect of an Indian hospital. But I didn’t and, as I later learned, I didn’t need to.

My memory of the waiting room is of high ceilings and shiny, cream marble floors. But I was led straight past the rows of seats and into the neurologist’s office. He ran his hands along my scalp, smiling and bobbing his head as if calming a child. “Don’t worry! It’s only a hematoma – it happens all the time in Kerala.”

Next thing I knew, I was lying in a CT scanner, my mind racing. The word hematoma frightened the shit out of me, and I questioned the doctor’s calm. Was my brain bleeding? I thought of Natasha Richardson, and began to shake. It was only a few weeks earlier that I had read of the actress’s death – of how she refused medical treatment twice after hitting her head in a skiing accident because she felt fine. I was sure the word hematoma was used when describing how she died just a few hours later. I scrutinized the nurses’ faces for a hint of alarm.

To this day, I have never felt more alone than I did lying in that CT tunnel thinking about Natasha Richardson. Technically, I wasn’t alone. I was on an organized gap year-style programmed in Kerala, living with two Indian coordinators, Babu and Suja, and a cook, another Babu. Kerala, incidentally, is known as “Land of the Palms”, and when you fly into the state, the runway emerges like a waxed strip in a forest of lush green palms. But I was halfway through the fourth week of a five-week stay, and my initial acceptance of mixed translations and curious stares, touches and questions had already morphed into impatience, frustration and – essentially – a longing to simply feel normal and understood.

I had, in fact, woken that day determined to break out from under Suja’s constant watch. I decided to start with a long walk on my own. For most of my stay, Suja had insisted on coming with me wherever I went, worried that I would get lost or robbed or pestered. But this day, I stunted her protests while promising not to stray too far. “I just want to go out for some sun a bit of exercise,” I said, knowing she preferred to stay out of the midday sun and travel by rickshaw or bus. “I’ll be back in a bit!”

Fifteen minutes into the walk, a coconut fell on my head.

After the scan, I was led to a bed. A nurse explained in broken English that she would be giving me a couple of shots – one to keep me from getting nauseous, the other I didn’t understand and didn’t ask about. After the injections, the nurse patted my shoulder – still trembling – and then tapped my thoroughly freckled forearm.

“What happened, m’am?”

I had been through this conversation enough times to know what she meant. “It’s just the color of my skin, I was born with them.” She looked at me dubiously. “It’s not a skin disease,” I added firmly.

***

Less than an hour after arriving, I was back in the car with Babu, X-rays and painkillers in hand. In total, the visit had cost less than $15.

It was another few hours, and several unanswered calls, before I finally got the news out. My mom was at a lunch; my dad and sister were at work. By the time they called back, I was calm and detached, almost recounting the story as if it had happened to someone else.

My mom called back a second time, sounding more worried. “I was actually sitting next to a doctor at the lunch, and when I went back to the table I told him what happened. You know that really could have killed you?! He said thank God it was at the back of the head, because at the front it could have been really bad.”

A quick Google search suggests that this doctor was right. Coconuts are deadly. Apparently, about 150 people worldwide die every year from a coconut-inflicted injury – more than die from shark attacks. Sure, it comes from questionable sources on Google, so take it with a several proverbial grains of salt. But just imagine – a rock-hard coconut weighing two to six pounds, tumbling some 20 to 30 meters from the sky.

The Indians certainly didn’t take that risk when Barack Obama visited the following year – a presidential trip that happened to coincide with my own return visit. 'Coconuts removed in India ahead of Obama visit', the BBC announced. 'Keeping coconuts off Obama', the Wall Street Journal reported.

But a blogger at AllVoices.com put it more bluntly: 'India cuts coconut trees to keep Obama alive'.

Wise move India, I thought.


END. ]]>
Sara917 http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=426731 SMITH
My Life So Far by Scott.Muska http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=424779
Mom told me I was allowed to bring one person, and I chose Amanda, my first ever "girlfriend.” I was only in fifth grade, but I felt like it was time for Amanda and I to get out on the dating scene. At the time, “dating” meant to me that you were doing something together outside of our elementary school. I didn't know much about dating or girlfriends other than I wanted to go on one and I wanted to have one. Mostly because my older brother did, and he got to kiss her at middle school dances while they played that Aerosmith song from "Armageddon," which seemed pretty fucking groovy to me.

I wrote Amanda a note asking if she'd like to go on a date with me. She accepted on the assumption parental permission would be granted, a shoe-in since my mom and dad would be chaperoning.

Count it: that’s a first date, even if my mom was driving and most of the planning was executed by our parents.

Most of the planning, but not all.

Amanda and I had decided at a backstop recess rendezvous days prior that, sometime during our date, we would sneak away to one of those bright red plastic tubes. At the time, it was the only way we could think of to get a moment alone.

And in this tube we would take our relationship to the next level.

I was gunning for at least a kiss on the cheek, but Amanda was prudish and only willing to get marginally wild, so we compromised: we would hold hands.

We clasped hands for about 10 seconds, glancing awkwardly at and then away from each other. It was pretty much the only time I had touched a girl in any way that could be construed as romantic, and it gave me an erection. (I still get boners sometimes from handholding. I get wood easily – sometimes it happens for no reason at all. I'm lucky that way, unless my secret suspicion turns out to be true that you have a finite amount of boners you're granted in life and I'm unwittingly using all mine up before I turn 30.)

I'd had erections before, I'm sure, but had paid them no mind. It wasn't on my radar as much when one occurred because my jeans had been rubbing me the wrong (or right) way.

Shortly thereafter, we ran out of the playground and back to the party room while I was still pitching the tiniest of tents.

I was unknowingly letting my freak flag fly, and my older brother saw it. He halted the conversation he was having with his friend about JNCO jeans or Marvelous 3 or whatever, and began laughing maniacally. But that was as far as he took it. He could've made a public spectacle of me, but passed on the opportunity.

It'd be months before he explained to me what implications came with the weird hardening of one's "dinger,” and even longer until I'd discover you could disguise your rocket by tucking it into your boxer waistband. (It’s an uncomfortable but effective maneuver until you develop a nickel allergy and the button from your jeans makes a rash on your tip that sends you into a panic because you think you have herpes – but that’s a story for another time.)

“Why didn't you explain to me what was going on right then?" I asked.

"Well, there was no reason to at the time," he said. "If I had explained it to you in front of that girl, it would have been hilarious, yeah, but that would have been really bad for you. Like, you may have never recovered. And mom would've been fucking pissed at me."

In the 15 years since I produced a boner at an indoor playground (which, for the record, has not happened since and will not happen again), I've had many moments with the opposite sex that have been amazing and life-altering. But I've had many others that can be viewed as either mortifying or hilarious, depending on how you choose to remember them.

I tend to choose the latter.

And I've always fully recovered. I think. ]]>
Scott.Muska http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=424779 SMITH
My Life So Far by RobertoIs http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=417596
For the first decade of my life, I lived with my immigrant grandparents in their triple-decker in South Providence, Rhode Island where Yiddish and Russian were the primary languages spoken in the home, synagogue and in the neighborhood. Very early on I learned how to mimic and later translate the coarse words and phrases I heard into English. I also learned some hard lessons about the economics of piecework.

In those days, in Providence in particular, either you worked by the piece with schmates (cloth garments), or you worked by the piece in jewelry shops. When my father, the late Maj. Harold N. Israel, who served in India and Burma during World War II, returned stateside, he found work selling pieces: Fuller brushes, door-to-door, and later, on the road and for thirty years, automotive parts.

When it came time for me to find employment after college, I drew on this economic model and applied it to writing. As it turns out, many other writers work this way, too.

When I discovered F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Ledger in the library, published posthumously in an oversized, facsimile edition, I found it to be a useful resource. In each column of this ruled notebook, Fitzgerald chronicled how much money he made each year and for each piece, which of the popular magazines of his day he placed these pieces in, and how much he was advanced for treatments, books or other writing projects. He not only wrote his pieces, he lobbied for their placement. In 1929, for example, Saturday Evening Post paid him $3,600 for a short story, far more than he earned for his novels. While the amount seems lucrative, even by today’s standards, his Ledger reveals, in his final tallies, that he barely got by. As biographical evidence establishes, he emulated the lifestyle of his fictional Jazz Age characters, overdrawing from his less-than-ample purse.

With Fitzgerald’s Ledger as a model, when I returned from Japan, where I had been awarded a 10-week fellowship to report on the lives of atomic bomb survivors, or hibakusha, I telephoned scores of editors, to peddle my pieces. Many said no outright, complaining of shrinking news holes, and asking me why they should squander their miniscule budgets to pay for my stories when they could fetch a similar one free off the wires. But a handful said yes, and my pieces, tailored to fit the respective publications, were published.

In my own ledger, I jotted down that I received $150.00 for a story that ran, with my own photographs, in the Montreal Gazette. Other papers paid me $50.00 per piece. It was similar to how my grandparents were paid for work in garment shops in Providence: provided only with a bolt of cloth, they made the suit or the dress to order; if there was anything left, a bisel (smidgen), they stitched for you a matching vest. In this manner, they might clear a week’s pay. But often, they never quite made their nut. Their home was foreclosed in the 1930s, and they bought it back from the bank a second time. When they died in their early 60s, my mother and her sisters sold the home for less than my grandparents paid for it both times put together.

**
Piece writing often begins with a notice in the newspaper, a found item, a snippet, the way the late Malvina Reynolds said she went about writing her songs. She said she had read a one-paragraph mention from Reuters about a mouse that disrupted an entire computer system in Buenos Aires by gnawing on a cable; it later became the inspiration for her song, “The Little Mouse.”

And so, an item I found in the International Herald Tribune about a firebombing of an immigrant’s house in Germany became the impetus behind a piece as to why, so many years after World War II, Germans still harbored hatred against minorities. A neighbor’s story about his son who had immigrated to Israel and who was being drafted into the Israeli Army led me to contact him, and others like him, who had made similar journeys. A former student, calling me one night to tell me he was a doing just fine as a drug pusher and inviting me to tag along while he pushed crack cocaine, brought me face to face with the drug underworld in Boston. And my father’s descriptions about the years he spent as a quartermaster at a U.S. Army post in Calcutta, India, inspired me to travel there to experience for myself just what had fascinated him about that strange and beguiling land.

But sometimes items that are not in the newspaper spur me on. When an elderly survivor of the Nagasaki atomic bomb delivered a lecture in Providence, I was the only reporter to show up. This led me to apply to Japan to interview other hibakusha, whose stories still haunt me.

A visual metaphor for what I do as a piece writer appeared before my eyes one evening in a crowded Cantonese restaurant in Nagasaki, Japan. A wondrous dish, champon, an intricate layering of fried noodles, baked fishes, sautéed meats, egg yolks, sauces and rice was placed before me and a half-dozen voracious dinner guests. We were seated in one of those ornate private dining rooms on the fourth floor overlooking the crowded Chinese district. I could see the busy harbor where container vessels were docked near the sprawling Mitsubishi plant. The torpedoes used in the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor were manufactured there, our guide informed us. I was wondering how I would capture all these details when I was admonished to put my pen down and pick up chopsticks. The champon was being divvied up and heaved onto steaming platters. I admired it for its handiwork. It resembled a beehive and had aromas wafting out of cross-hatchings. I half-expected a blackbird to emerge from it, like in the nursery rhyme of my youth.

And so it is with piece writing: like champon, a good piece has many pungent layers and surprises within, and a story emerges that is worth telling, and worth reading.

**
While publications popular during Fitzgerald’s time, like the Saturday Evening Post, have since gone the way of the wooly mammoth, many new on-line publications have emerged, attracting new readers. I write for two of these paying publications, each of them established a few years ago, and I am always scouting out others.

What hasn’t improved is the pay, which remains lowly, or the irksome editors who relish rubbing a writer’s face in it all, despite the unspoken rule about not voicing who is exploiting whom. Piece writers must either grow a thick hide or be prepared to bleed.

If one elects to toil in this vineyard, one soon learns to distinguish between the sweet versus the sour grapes, to avoid imbibing swill, and to raise one’s glass in triumph when one’s piece has been published and one has been paid, all the while making ready to place the next one, and the one after that. Playwright John Guare once told me that he always has another script “in the typewriter,” a lesson he learned after “Bosoms and Neglect,” which featured onstage violence that shocked the sensibilities of audiences, opened and closed within the week at a major Broadway house.

Piece writing requires learning new areas of expertise and working at it with dedication and aplomb, and putting in hours that one is never compensated for. It helps mightily to have a day job.

**
The late journalist Shiva Naipaul – brother to V.S. Naipaul, the Nobel laureate -- described an encounter in Delhi with a wealthy woman who didn’t understand what he meant when he told her he was collecting materials for articles.

“What kind of materials are you interested in? Cottons? Silks?” she asked.

Naipaul responded that he was collecting cottons. He was half-joking. Never one to cultivate pretense, Naipaul said he preferred cotton over silk because he knew that a good story, like the rag stock it is printed on, is homespun and durable.

Naipaul’s recounting of the incident in Delhi stirred images of South Providence, where I grew up. I remembered a man who made rounds in his pickup truck calling, “Rags! Rags!” as if chanting liturgy. The din of wire factory’s motors, whose workers waited for him on the sidewalk with garments stuffed into paper sacks to sell for pennies, provided a percussive backdrop.

A piece writer hunts and gathers rough materials he uses to create well-stitched stories.Readers notice the craftsmanship when they try it on. It fits just so, ready to wear. ]]>
RobertoIs http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=417596 SMITH
My Life So Far by kathi_wright http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=416627
Rumors are flying at work that our alternative high school is closing. I have been there for 5 years, working as the school secretary, the registrar, the attendance clerk, the payroll and finance clerks, the health assistant, and, until this school year - the cafeteria person. It prevents an old woman from suffering from idle hands, I suppose. I am the only non-certificated employee out of 4 total. Our student population hovers at 28. The District cannot support this school much longer, with so few students and an aging building that is requiring more and more repair.

My engagement is off, or maybe on hold. Long-distance love has proved to be difficult. I was supposed to be there, packed up and moved to Idaho already. But I am unable to leave my daughter and grandson. I feel like such a pathetic loser. I have never been clingy or dependent. I still don't think I am, but my feet have mysteriously become encased in cement. I am here, not there. So early Monday morning, I will take advantage of Spring break, and will drive the 17 hours to see Michael, to talk, to see if we have a relationship to resurrect.

I am sitting on the floor in the living room, contemplating lighting the pellet stove. I can't get warm. My heart feels like a cold, black stone. Head in my hands, I am not feeling sorry for myself, but am despairing. Perhaps I split hairs? The wind shakes my windows, howling, sneaking in through the window frame, through my brain, the howl escaping through my lips. ]]>
kathi_wright http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=416627 SMITH
My Life So Far by kathi_wright http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=415983
We are in the car, on a weekend adventure, and he rattles off one knock-knock joke, then another. Then silence. Soon enough, another joke; 'If you are American in the living room, what are you in the bathroom?' (The answer: European.) Elementary humor, but I am amused.

As we wend our way through the canyon, along the river, I take the curves slower than I would if driving alone. He is prone to carsickness after traveling this winding road. Quietly, he watches the sky, the trees, the steep rocky hillsides, and points out the cows grazing on the hills across the Kern.

'Grandma, do you know what?', he asks from the backseat.

'What, my love?' I cast a quick glance in the rear-view mirror.

'If you have a big mouth, and small teeth, do you know that you would never have to floss?'

'Hmm. Really? How do you figure that, Isaiah?', I dumbly ask. I am not comprehending what he is trying to convey. I am translating 'big mouthed' to mean 'loud mouthed.'

'Well, think about it: A big mouth with small teeth - all that space between your teeth! I mean it, you would never have to floss.'

He may already be disillusioned with daily flossing, likening it to a daily penance. He is learning it is the maintenance required of teeth. This curious child, always thinking, always questioning; determinedly trying to understand the world around him. He is fitting together the pieces of a world-sized puzzle.

Today he contemplates the mysteries of life, tooth-by-pearly-white-tooth. ]]>
kathi_wright http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=415983 SMITH
My Life So Far by SusanOrlins http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=414032
Seven years ago a 200-year-old poplar tree fell on my house, causing damage that took a year to repair. I said to my psychotherapist, “How can I complain, given that we’re safe, while our family friends just lost their son in a car crash?” He replied with the shrink party line, “You’re entitled to your worries.” Entitled? Perhaps. But who can deny that there is a hierarchy of worry-worthiness?

I cannot recall a time that I did not think like a worrywart. As Queen Isabella in the third grade play, the only way I could keep from giggling was to picture my mother dead, something I worried about a lot (she lived to be 92). So when I attended a lecture by positive psychologist and author of Happier, Tal Ben-Shahar, otherwise known as the Harvard Happiness Professor, I asked whether people like me are wired to worry. “Yes,” he answered, with no hint of optimism that my brain can be rewired.

Which brings me back to my blog. During my plump years of young motherhood, I wrote a diet tips article (never published) and in the process lost 12 pounds. Now, by examining the imagined fearsome scenarios that pop into my head, maybe I can shed some worry weight, as well as provide commiseration for fellow worrywarts. Others who read my posts may be inspired to give thanks for being non-worrywarts.

Susan Orlins is an award-winning journalist and author of a new memoir, Confessions of a Worrywart: Husbands, Lovers, Mothers, and Others. The divorced mother of three daughters, she lives in Washington, D.C. with her beagle, where she leads a writing workshop for the homeless. ]]>
SusanOrlins http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=414032 SMITH
My Life So Far by shay40 http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=413073
The babysitter was our neighbor and my mother's friend. I can close my eyes now and remember exactly what she looked like. She was dark skinned and short and sort of round. She had small pointy breasts. I don't think she wore a bra. She had short, black hair and wore black framed round glasses and a silver ring on her toe. A fragrance that I now know to be patchouli and stale cigarette smoke clung to her always. I even remember the car she drove, a navy VW Bug with a hard top. I remember it because when I was in the back seat it was so tight that I felt like I couldn't breathe. I don't remember her name. My mother didn't work, but she got a sitter for me every now and then to do whatever parents do that little kids don't know about. On this particular day, my mother talked with her as she took off my coat and hat. She stayed for tea and a cigarette. I watched Zoom and Sesame Street while they talked. When My mother was getting ready to leave my babysitter knelt down in front of me to say she had planned some fun for us. My mother left.

The fun thing, was that we would make Jello. She let me pour the powder into a bowl. Cherry smelling dust went up my nose and made me cough. She laughed. So did I. She explained that it would be some time before we could eat the Jello, it needed to set in the fridge. That was disappointing. Who has the patience for that? while I waited she talked on the phone and smoked cigarettes. I checked to see if the jello was hardening many,many times. What kind of fun was this? We made warm red water, what can you do with that? I had brought a doll so I played quietly, waiting for my mother to come get me back. I was listening to the wailing snowstorm outside when my babysitter said, "Shay we should check the Jello." I had forgotten all about it. We opened the fridge together, she touched the top. Her finger sunk in but the red stuff jiggled a little.

"It's not really quite there yet, but it's good enough I can't wait any longer." "Want to try?" she asked me.
She got us two spoons and we tried to taste it. It was too drippy and it fell off our spoons before we could get it into our mouths. It fell onto us and onto the floor. We laughed and giggled at the silliness. She told me she had an idea. She didn't want us to make a mess.
"You're mother will kill me if you get red stains all over your clothes." She said, "Come here and sit down, take off your pretty dress"
I took it off and sat on the kitchen floor. She tried to feed it to me, but it fell on my white undershirt. She laughed but I didn't. She told me to take my shirt off too. I did it. She tried to put it in my mouth with her fingers, but I made my lips tight. The red mess fell on my chest. She looked at me and smiled. She licked it off my chest and laughed. But I didn't laugh. She was breathing in my face and she smelled like my mother's ashtrays. I felt sick to my stomach. She told me to lie down. My back was cold, my spine bones dug into the linoleum floor. She put the Jello all over me. She pulled off my tights and my panties. I was lying very still with my eyes closed. I could hear her breathing. I could hear the wind blowing. My chest was so tight, my heart was beating, my blood rushing in my ears mashed up with the sound of the wind moaning and screaming. she laughed and whispered like we were playing a secret game while she did it to me. She didn't hurt me. I numbed myself, listened to my heartbeat, the storm, the television in the background, I remember hearing the word Nixon. Children's television programming was over now. I tried not to remember the sounds and words she made. I tried to fall asleep. I thought about my tea set at home. I wondered where my mother was.

She finished and I lay still. I opened my eyes, just enough to peak through my lashes. The thing I first saw as she stood over me was hair between her legs. She had taken her pants off too. I knew it wasn't because she was worried about red stains on her jeans. She didn't seem to notice or care that her face was stained red. Her mouth looked like a clown's mouth, the red was all around her lips. I squeezed my eyes shut tightly and did not move. When I heard her walk away I closed my legs and put my arms around my narrow, little girl's chest. My legs were shaking. I couldn't make them stop shaking no matter how hard I concentrated. I heard water running. When she asked, "Why are you lying there like that?" I tightened my small fists.
"I've run you a warm bath honey." Her voice was smooth like honey.
She lit a cigarette, grabbed me by the elbow and picked me up from the floor. The bath was hot, too hot. I was glad it was, the sticky red spots on my skin began to disappear as my skin became red from the slightly scalding water. She smoked her cigarette and looked at me for a minute. She left the room and left me alone. I took the bar of soap, lathered and washed and rinsed myself as best I could until she came back with my clothes. I did not feel clean. Her soap was strong and smelled bad. It dried and chapped my skin raw. I was still sticky from sitting in the bathtub of red, horrible sugar.

She returned with my clothes and held out a towel. She wrapped me in it and dried my raw body. She slid my panties up my hot legs.
"See now your clothes are still clean and your mother won't get mad about us playing together.", "In fact she won't even know." She said this to me while she wiped at the red stain on my undershirt. Being dressed again was so very different and faraway from being dressed by my mother that morning. That dark, peaceful moment with my mom seemed like it had only been a dream. When the babysitter pulled the t-shirt over my head, I looked down and saw the small pink stain on my chest. I worried that my mother would know that I had 'played'. Once I was dressed she sat me at the table, she stacked some records on the stereo and played them loud. I could hear her singing in the kitchen. I stared out the window and the falling snow looked blurry, my eyes were wet. She brought me cocoa and a cookie. She sat with me and lit her cigarette. The smoke blew into my face. I coughed. She laughed. I didn't. I'm not sure if I laughed again for some time. She asked me if I liked The Beatles. I nodded. She got up and lay down on the couch. She fell asleep despite the loud music I could hear her snoring. She sounded like my dad when he napped on the couch. I wondered where my father was on this snowy day. Why wasn't he home shoveling the driveway for us? Why wasn't I helping him with my small shovel? Why weren't we laughing and making a snowman together? Where was my mother? ]]>
shay40 http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=413073 SMITH
My Life So Far by shay40 http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=412605
It is not easy to be the black sheep in a family. That which I have always been. Especially if your sibling is 'The Golden Child'. I never, ever blamed my brother for his divine status within my family. I did blame my parents, mostly my mother because she was the propagator of his mythology. Liam is my younger brother. Younger by quite a bit. When he entered into our lives, my six year old self was overjoyed. Finally an ally in this mess. I made it my mission to protect him from our difficult family dynamics. Despite the fact that I was so young I knew things in our house were very wrong. Having a baby to love was so great. I received his unconditional love in return. Having that kind of love in my life was lifesaving. I had three people who unselfishly loved me, did not use me as an emotional pawn, did not hurt me and bottom line: saved my life. My grandmother, my grandfather and my brother. Far into our adult lives I have done anything I could to protect and love Liam.

The virulent hatred directed toward me by my mother did not reach it's apex until upon constant urging from my therapist and a realization within myself regarding the toxicity of our relationship, I began to gently set up boundaries between her and myself. That was when the shit really hit the fan. Anyone who understands a borderline personality would understand that trying to do that with my mother would create a crisis for her. However my own crisis as an adult became more important than what her reaction would be. By boundaries I am not talking about anything drastic. I started by trying to explain to her that my life is full and busy and she cannot call me 12 times a day, expecting to talk on the phone for hours. I asked her in as gentle a manner as possible not to discipline my children. I asked her not to include me in her familial shit-stirring and negative outlook towards everything, using the most well chosen and positive words I could muster. All of this was done over a six month period of time. I put some time between each request so she had time to digest my needs within our relationship. It did not go well. ]]>
shay40 http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=412605 SMITH
My Life So Far by kathi_wright http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=411088
This has become routine on Saturday mornings: He is an earlier riser than I - at least on weekends... I sleep in but he is ready to talk and is up for adventure.

The man cub is not an obsessed stalker, not a jealous husband.... no, not either of those. He is eight, and he is my grandson.

And he is absolutely my favorite kid in the universe. Without him, my life would be lacking half of its comic relief and my heart would top off at half full.

For this text, which two days later is still making me laugh, was brief and perfectly spelled, all written in caps:

I'M A WORM FARMER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

He peppered the text with an uncounted, yet substantial, number of exclamation points. So unexpected, it came out of the wild blue yonder, without any prior talk from him of fashioning a worm bin or of wanting to farm squirmy wormy things...

He is a boy child, and wondrously, magnetically attracted to soldiers and battles and Legos and adventure books. But he has never spoken of this subject before.

And, as the story ends, there is no worm farm, no worm composting bin....no, just a cup of worms from the bait section of the local market, gently placed onto the family compost heap with the hopes that they will bury into and turn and aerate that decaying pile....

It was, simply, pure and unadulterated silliness from my favorite man cub, in a land where the wild things are... ]]>
kathi_wright http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=411088 SMITH
My Life So Far by shay40 http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=408088 I wrote until I eventually passed out on the floor. When I woke later and painfully got up, I grabbed what I had written, stuffed it somewhere and tentatively began a new day. Later I read over what I had written and Through the mostly incomprehensible crap a sort of theme emerged. Why? Why? What has happened to me? Is there anyone else that feels the way I do? Can I get better? Does anyone enter this black cave of sorrow and emerge on the other side back into the light?
I have so much to be happy about. A beautiful husband, who is loving, funny, my trusted best friend and he's a fantastic dad. Amazing children who are bright, caring and a true joy. Dear and Wonderful friends. I have been able to put together a peaceful life, so different from the life I knew as a child. Yet I have become a scared, anxious, panic and guilt ridden sad shadow of my former self. What has happened? I have moments of joy, moments of intense love, hope, warmth and security. And sometimes I laugh so hard my face hurts. At times, I'm a movie star in my own mind. Despite this profound, unremitting, earth-shattering sadness I can parade around like the happy-go-lucky center of the universe. I'm the funniest, craziest, (crazy like, "That bitch will do anything!") prettiest, best mom, fulfilled artist....and I think to myself, "Get your shit together girl! There's nothing wrong with you!" But it is becoming extremely clear that something is very, very wrong. It's getting harder to hide. Also the use of an alarming assortment of pharmacology, both prescribed by a doctor and self prescribed is not helping.
When I read through what I had written in the basement that terrible night my first thought was to rip it all up and burn it. As I did with a lifetime of journals, dark poems and maudlin short stories. This is different now. I'm sane enough to know there's an enormous rift between the confident 'movie star' I imagined myself to be (and had been for so long), and the depressed, drugged woman I have become. I'm going to figure this out somehow and I'm going to write about my journey. I know it's important. Important for myself to work through, Important for my family and it might be important for anybody who is out there experiencing this too. ]]>
shay40 http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=408088 SMITH
My Life So Far by matokeah http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=404454 I'll share my first attempt (1 year ago).
I followed the instructions thoroughly, agonizingly starting over after every twitch of the leg. I actually cheated and took sleeping pills an hour before my attempts. Then I did what is called "Paradoxical Sleeping" and that’s when half of you is awake, and half of you is asleep. You can open your eyes, speak, think, but your whole body is paralyzed. Pretty cool, huh? I never experienced any hallucinating creatures though, but I do remember seeing my thoughts. I think of it like this:
you know when you close your eyes, and you look at the back of your eye lids and its not just BLACK. If you really observe, there are morphing particles flowing in different colors, accompanied by bulbs of light and tiny specks moving rapidly, similar to a broken television screen.
I would open my eyes, and my thoughts were projected into the air.
Not in words of course, but in the steady pace in which they were being thought. Like two gears moving faster and slower in unison. When I would think vast thoughts, those gears would grow colossal. When I thought simple thoughts, the gears would wane.
After that, I fell asleep and didn’t lucid dream.
I tried a few weeks later after researching new ways to achieve my goal. One of the recommendations was to always be aware of your consciousness. So when I was awake, I would repeat in my mind "I'm awake","I'm awake","I'm awake", and when I'd lay down for sleep I would repeat "I'm asleep","I'm asleep","i'm asleep" and so forth.
It hit me like a wave and rushed over my whole body. My pores started vibrating and I didn't know what to do. I knew I was sleeping, but I KNEW I WAS SLEEPING.
Where should I go, what should I do, who should I be with? So many possibilities.
Something began compressing my heart.
I panicked and lost my progress. Another failed attempt, but I was close!
After a few weeks of unsuccessful attempts, I finally succeeded. I woke up, or rather, entered my dream in school with my English teacher in a very pronounced fish eye yelling at me, and telling me to use the bathroom. Obeying her, I vapidly walked to the restroom, sat down, and my conscious thoughts began to transpire. "Where would you like to go Annie?" said myself.
"A forest." I replied.
Why a forest? I'm not really sure.
Your inner yearnings that aren't even apparent when awake, and visuals that you see but dismiss,
are so easily reached through lucid dreaming.
It was bliss. I never wanted to leave and I never wanted anyone else to protrude. I sewed my mouth shut and lived there.
I spent hours focusing on diminutive things like the anatomy of plants, the veins in my wrist, and the wrinkles in bark. I had the time to. What was really only an hour felt like six in a lucid dream. I was completely alone and it was a subconscious oasis. This world was complete and utter solitude. I could enter in and out at will and control everything that happened to me. After this initial "forest" experience, I began to traveled to different places each dream. I had conversations with my subconscious and solved mysteries about my psyche that today I credit in making me a more peaceful person than I would have been otherwise.
I spent every night lucid dreaming, for months. My body was dependent on sleeping pills and I had completely lost touch with reality. Nothing compared to that fabricated life of infallible bliss, but it was a terribly place to be. My preferred life was hiding ever so tantalizingly in bed, or on the floor, or on the couch. I forced myself to quit, for the better of my own good. Though occasionally, I reflect on my experience with lucid dreaming. It made me happy during a time where nothing, nor no one could. I would even wake up happy, remembering how everything was alright and did satisfied my desires. It wasn't until I physically moved that reality struck me in the face with the heavy brick of truth. ]]>
matokeah http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=404454 SMITH
My Life So Far by HannahSloane http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=403807
A friend turned up the music to ignore the creeping reality of a Monday morning fast approaching and that’s when I first heard the song. My ears strained at the opening chords; the lonely piano solo, the sad lyrics dedicated to someone far away, the references to classic romantic poets I’d studied at school:

“Who is this?” I asked the man who would leave my life within two months. We both knew this and it hung over our relationship, one we’d chosen not to define.

“Home Thoughts From Abroad by Clifford T. Ward,” he responded, surprised I’d never heard it before.

A friend sitting behind us murmured: “It’s such a gorgeous song.”

****

We met at the beginning of the summer on St. Mark’s Place. It was a Friday night and I arrived late, breathlessly apologizing to the group only half of whom I knew. I didn’t have time to register everyone because we were loading bags, deciding who would take the car and who the Jitney. But I noticed him later that evening. I liked his thick wavy hair, his dark blue eyes, the angular shape of his nose, the lilt of his accent, the dryness of his humor. The next day on the beach we flirted tentatively and that evening, fuelled with alcohol, more convincingly. And from that night onwards we were together, except with the knowledge it would never last.

We were standing outside Epstein’s, that soulless bar on the corner of Allen and Stanton, when he explained his company had sent him to New York for nine months. In early September he’d return to Ireland. He was waiting for my reaction, trying to gauge whether I was about to lose interest -- September was ten weeks away, why bother? -- but I shrugged casually and said all I wanted was a fun summer. This was true, although deep down I registered a glimmer of disappointment. And I didn’t stay over that night.

But my caution didn’t last. Before I knew it we were inseparable. I was experiencing that gravitational pull, a need to be continually tactile. Hot sticky embraces at bars, or on rooftops, or in the backs of cabs were followed by cool air conditioned sex on repeat. It was better with him; no fumbling or disappointment, no hesitation on my part about whether to fake something that clearly wasn’t going to happen. And without acknowledging it, without meaning to, my first summer in New York became our first summer in New York. We listened to buskers in Central Park, we drank on countless rooftops, we bar-hopped between Ludlow and Orchard, we ran down wide avenues hailing cabs, we hit golf balls towards the Hudson, we spent weekends on the beach in the shimmering heat until our faces grew freckled and our limbs sun-kissed, and we spent long, lazy afternoons in Central Park, or Madison Square Park, or the patches of grass in Union Square sporadically open to the public, reading and listening to music and talking, all the while turning a deeper shade of brown and slowly more inseparable. We did things tourists do and things locals do, we did it all and indelibly I associated everything about New York with him.

And we listened to Home Thoughts from Abroad until its lyrics were tattooed in my mind. We listened to it in the aftermath of long indulgent mornings spent lingering in bed, playing it loudly as we dashed around pulling on clothes and tripping out of the door because always, inevitably, we were late. I’d play it at work, letting the words trickle through my headphones. We learned Clifford wrote the song for his wife while he was abroad and we fell in love with the song a little more. We discussed the first verse obsessively, his obscure yet endearing questions centered on the dull minutiae of domestic life:

Do you still use television to send you fast asleep? Can you last another week?
Does the cistern still leak or have you found a man to mend it?
Oh and by the way how’s your broken heart? Is that mended too?
I miss you.

We imitated his questions in our emails, so many emails as we attempted to break up the boredom of the working day, the slow hours until we’d see each other again. It became our song, which was odd because we weren’t one of those couples. We raised our eyebrows at anything schmaltzy, we joked more often than we gazed into each other’s eyes, we said “schnookums” ironically. When friends asked about us he said with a straight face: "We’re at the foundation–building stage of a lifelong partnership that can weather any storm" and we both cracked up, because that statement was ridiculous. We were twenty-six and this was clearly a fun summer fling.

*****

Clifford T. Ward was born in 1944 in England, one of five children. He met his wife when he was fourteen and they married three years later when she became pregnant. In 1962 he toured France and performed at a U.S. army camp for soldiers waiting to be sent to Vietnam. While there he penned the lyrics to Home Thoughts From Abroad. The sentiment behind the song became a key issue for his career. Ward told Sunday Mercury, a regional paper: “I never played any tours or gigs. I would rather be with Pat. I don’t know what I would do without her, she’s my life.”

April 1973 saw the release of the track single Gaye, the B side of which contained: Home Thoughts From Abroad. The cover shows Ward, his long golden locks hanging from his face like curtains, a signature look he favored all his life. Gaye reached number 8 in the UK and the top five in Brazil. NME remarked it was “possibly the finest ballad since Eleanor Rigby”. The following year Ward entered the charts again at number 37 with Scullery. And that was his final hit. He recorded eleven albums in total, but most weren’t signed by record labels or, if they were, the singles failed to make it into the UK charts.

He avoided publicity which stopped him from enjoying fame internationally. Also, punk began dominating the music scene in the late 1970s and his romantic singer-songwriter ballads were out-of-date by comparison. When he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the eighties his health became a major stumbling block. In 2001 he fell ill from pneumonia and entered hospital and died shortly before Christmas. His death brought obituaries. The Guardian praised his style which “synthesized pop melody and an English poetic sensibility.” The Independent wrote about Home Thoughts From Abroad: “this one alone elevates Ward to the upper circle of 20th-century pop songwriters”.

Clifford told his biographer, Dave Cartwright: “It was always my original intention to be a songwriter rather than a performer, because I don’t think I’ve got the… wherewithal to be a great dynamic performer. Writing is really my first love.” He continued: “I want to write songs that people will still be singing in 50 years’ time, and still be shedding a tear for in 50 years’ time. If I can do that, I shall be delighted.”


*****

That summer slid by in an idyllic haze of picnics, parties and fun. It was perfect and carefree and I knew it would end. I chose not to think about it for the most part. Labor Day was a long distance away, until suddenly it wasn’t. This is a ticking time bomb I said one day, piercing our lighthearted mood. Soon after that we were waiting for the 6 train when a saxophonist standing on the platform launched into Moon River without warning. We studied each other. He took my hand, smiled and asked if I wanted to dance. I shook my head and looked away sadly, unable to embrace the moment.

Labor Day marked the end of the summer and of our relationship. Central Park was gloriously hot and everyone was in high spirits. We didn’t know whether to wallow in the depressing reality of our situation or pretend we’d have plenty more days like this. We opted for something in between, lying by the lake, watching couples rowing boats nearby. I studied them critically, enviously, because they weren’t about to break up.

We reminisced about our first date, also in Central Park, when he’d joked about the sweeping romantic gestures he’d planned: "Where the hell’s that singing quintet I ordered?" We’d been lying in Sheep’s Meadow at the time, limbs tangled like pretzels despite the fact we barely knew each other, cracking up as we took turns asking deliberately obscure questions designed to measure our compatibility.

“I wonder if it would always be this perfect,” I said, playing with his hair as he lay against me. And that was my cowardly way of telling him that I thought he was perfect.

The next morning we clung to our final few moments together, drawing out the inevitable. He rode the subway with me to my work before leaving for the airport. Our final embrace was by Fulton Street station, outside an empty wholesale retail store. Construction workers in hard hats stood nearby hammering into cemented sidewalks, throngs of tourists wandered past clutching Century 21 bags. It was hot, dusty and noisy; a terrible place to say goodbye. I don’t recall what we said, just holding hands, blurred vision, walking away, gulping, blinking as warm tears filled my eyes, not glancing back.

Later that day I listened to a CD he gave me as a parting gift. The first song was Moon River. I imagined him sitting on the plane watching movies, or maybe he was sleeping? And then Home Thoughts from Abroad came on and I listened to those lyrics again, thinking only of my own similar situation:

But now I’ve chosen airplanes and boats to come between us
And a line or two on paper wouldn’t go amiss…

In the weeks that followed we discussed the futility of our situation. He made a good point: "Realistically what can we do? I can’t move back to New York and you’re not going to move to Ireland." I’d lived in New York for less than a year, prior to which there had been interviews, a visa application, a trip to the US Embassy in London, emotional goodbyes to my friends and family. Maybe I’d return to England at some point, but Ireland had never been part of the dream, never even a consideration. I knew it couldn’t work but I wanted a struggle, what we experienced deserved a struggle. I wanted him to ask me to move, so I could waver and debate and throw in a few visits and eventually come to the same decision. If I couldn’t have my perfect ending (which was him moving back) then I wanted a messy break-up, something that ends on a wearily low note after too many long distance phone calls and emails, rather than a perfect summer ending.

We emailed. We detailed funny anecdotes. We asked dull questions that no-one else would find interesting: "Do you still have that weird purple bruise near your foot… hang on, does that sound like a Clifford lyric?" Clifford often crept into conversation. Weeks turned into months. I heard those lyrics and equated them to my own situation: Wondering what you're doing and if you need some help. Do I still occupy your mind? Am I being so unkind? I found myself walking different routes to avoid memories. Do you find it very lonely, or have you found someone to laugh with? In truth, I wasn’t even looking. And I was getting my messy break-up.

As December approached I suggested we meet over Christmas. He said the same thought had occurred to him but he seemed less excited than me. He was wavering and suddenly I needed to know why. That phone call -- the final time we would ever speak -- was devastating. I landed with a distinct thud, faced with no choice but to confront a brutal reality. I learned he’d moved forward with his life, or maybe backwards, by reconnecting with an ex. Regardless he was moving somewhere, while I was still motionless, clinging to an ideal that had died months earlier.

I requested we end contact and focused my energies elsewhere, on important things after a break-up-that’s-been-on-hiatus, like drinking too much and getting high and hooking up with questionable people and saying yes to anything that would distract me and soften my pain and make me feel edgy and interesting and animated. Gradually I found myself edging out of the darkness, breathing differently. My answers to those lyrics changed. I looked back on that summer with a sadness that was detached rather than raw.

Experience molds us. For writers it shapes what we create. It’s only by drawing on the highly personal, often dark encounters that we can write a piece others connect with. Clifford understood this; the beauty of his songs is in their refreshing honesty. He wanted to make songs people cried over in fifty years’ time and it’s a goal every artist yearns for: to produce something that has a profound effect on others. Surely to evoke an emotion in those we don’t know is the ultimate validation of our work? And it’s also a chance at redemption, a way to turn our ugliest moments into our most beautiful. ]]>
HannahSloane http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=403807 SMITH
My Life So Far by honeybooboo91 http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=403719 honeybooboo91 http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=403719 SMITH My Life So Far by FrancisHall http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=402558
The shadow of the spider on my wall will haunt my dreams tonight and as long as it shows itself to me, I will not be able to sleep peacefully. I will not have a peaceful dream where I would know what serenity feels like, serenity in the form of calm and tranquility in a dream state, an alternate world in my sub-conscience, where I once used to dream of love and endless days of joy.
And now I’m stuck here at the bottom of my courage, at the end of my rope and no longer can I and no longer will I ever again try to make sense of this madness that I call home and which you call insanity, but what I perceive as normality and what you perceive as abnormality. It has all become a standstill in the bottomless pit of my longing for love heart. What is standing still is the world, the world that we call home or what we think is home, it's what we call our place in life because it's comfortable, because it's “normal”.
Oh this world. You’re crazier than the person next to you if you honestly believe that this is it. You think I’m losing my mind when you look into my eyes and you get no response back, a response to your question of the nonsensical, meaningless and utterly repulsive question of, “Is everything okay?” Don't worry if I’m okay but worry about the dreams that you can't escape from, the dreams that haunt you, the dreams that keep you from full filling your greatest desires, like making it through the day without being laughed at, or without being judged.
The cob webs forming on my ceiling above my head remind me that I will not be sleeping in harmony tonight and as I continue to look behind me for apparitions confused by the sounds of my neighbor, I glance into my glass which is half empty, but retains a trace of a pinkish clear color to it only because of the added dosage. Vodka and Merlot.
I have begun to realize that I’m not here. I am not here with the rest of you that look at me like I’ve lost it. But am I sane? And have you lost it? Or are you indeed the judges of my life and have I gone completely mad, or am I completely aware of the vulnerability and nature of our weak minds while keeping control in my own reality. Or am I trapped inside my false pretend world trying to make sense of what can never be and what can never be is not having complete control and feeling happy and content in my own world, in my own mind.
What is this all? I do not know. And on that note, sleep well tonight, tell yourself that everything will be okay, and it will if you believe it, but if you let go and peek outside your window into the world that you cannot function in, the world that controls you, it will all fall apart again. Do not let the others out there make you feel any different than you do. Go out there! Go out there and blend in with the ones who you view as a wall flower on the brick wall apartment down your street, a fixation of the world that you walk around in so carelessly, just pretending that it's not really happening. Keep telling yourself that this is just a bad dream that you'll one day wake up from. Keep hiding behind your mistakes lying to yourself and others that you've learned from your past and now you’re ready for your big debut, but you won't show up because you are too afraid to look into the mirror because you can't stand the sight of admitted failure, but you tell yourself that it's okay because tomorrow when you wake up you'll start all over again.
Keep pretending that you’re okay, keeping telling yourself that you'll be fine in the morning after you lied to yourself in the mirror the night before and don’t forget to walk ever so carefully while you cross the street thinking about the person you just hurt to make your world seem just a little more perfect and when you're on your way back home buy a few more things that you don't need and when you finally make it back home, back to your cave, tell yourself as your lying in your bed buried under the covers hiding from your problems that this time everything will be okay, that this time everything will just vanish away when you come from underneath the covers, that the world and all its misery will not be there waiting for you.
I have become so complacent within my fears, for this is all I now know. My anxiety causes fear, and fear keeps me alive. So is it worth going back, going back to “normality”?
I think I’ll choose insanity instead. It separates me from the rest. It separates me from the ones who could possibly hurt me. From the ones who I cannot see coming. And at this point in my life, my life that’s lost and twisted inside twenty seven years of abuse and fear, anyone can hurt me.
I choose to remain alone. I choose myself, my thoughts and my vodka and merlot. Sitting here quietly in perfect harmony, but also in utter and massive confusion, I am causing great harm to myself. The pain I keep eats me alive and slowly as I deteriorate, I hate myself even more for not being able to move on with life. But I gave up on myself a long time ago. So in a sense, at least from my point of view, it’s okay that I’m rotting away inside my mind.
Because the way I see it, I’m not hurting anyone else but myself, and I don’t exist to myself. So really, I’m not hurting anyone. ]]>
FrancisHall http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=402558 SMITH
My Life So Far by DustinRenwick http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=400432
“Hope you have a happy, healthy new year,” we say, weak with thoughts of champagne and midnight kisses and new outlooks.

Yet endings show up for the brave and courageous, too, and endings arrive without happies and healthies or warm fuzzies.

Superman proved this to me, with the help of his wife.

She was my Sunday school teacher one year, but I just remember the Gushers she brought for snacks. Now I’m too old for a godmother, and I’m maxed out on fun aunts, so maybe she’ll settle for Wonder Woman.

Superman had survived blood clots, immunity to chemo, misdiagnoses and a host of other medical unpleasantries. He even kept his tongue, but only after his wife intervened in the case of surgical confusion. Facing the prospect of having one healthy part removed from your otherwise dysfunctional body seems a best case for identity theft if there were one.

Through everything, Wonder Woman stayed and fought for her Superman.

She laughed. She cried.

She shared their joys and jokes on Facebook because Superman retains super humor despite the prospect of mortality.

This woman worked full days and spent nights at the hospital or long-term care facility. Wherever Superman landed, she followed.

A good day meant her husband was granted a few hours to eat a Thanksgiving lunch at his home, but he had to take his cake back to the hospital. Not-so-good days yielded Facebook status updates with medical jargon such as “hemoglobin levels” and “septic” that Wonder Woman translated into more meaningful words: “very bad,” “kryptonite.”

And so this brave, knowledgeable woman met the inner circle of seasonal cheer with the understanding that happy and healthy wouldn’t qualify as apt descriptions for this closure.

As proteins accumulated in Superman’s body, it shut down like a mower clogged with grass that slowly spins to a stop. He couldn’t use his arms or legs in the final months. When his organs failed, that was it, and it happened a few days before Christmas.

The incredible burden Wonder Woman deftly handled has shown me – and, I suspect, many of the nurses, friends, and family – one of life’s truths.

The Wizard of Oz said that only unbreakable hearts are practical. Magician Penn Jillette wrote that love, like eating fire, is stupid, and he defined stupid as a scenario when “if you do everything right, you still get hurt.”

They of the mystical and illusionary impart to us, the normal people, that a thing as undefined and intangible as a bond between souls can’t be real, shouldn’t be trusted.

Makes sense to me, me being a mid-twenties male who identifies as a sarcastic, independent, hopeless romantic with the intelligence to stay a cynic in the matters of handing his heart to anyone.

But a wonderful woman taught me that love wins – ordinary, there-everyday, non-super love wins.

My parents have demonstrated it.

My friends have found it.

Superman and Wonder Woman made me believe it. ]]>
DustinRenwick http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=400432 SMITH
My Life So Far by raerie http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=394853
Ask anyone in my family what my "gift" is, and they'll each tell you the same thing: "She's a writer." They'd all be mistaken, but even that won't get me off the hook. In truth, and to a certain degree, I understand their confusion. Yes, I have an intrinsic knack for writing. I have a pretty substantial vocabulary and a sturdy command of the English language. I can cut you down to the height of a pushpin with no more than six words, all without a single expletive. Catch me in a brighter mood, and my proclivity for words will build you up until the Empire State Building, the Space Needle, the Eiffel Tower, and every other national landmark imaginable cowers in the shadows below you. In person, I'm undoubtedly one of the most inarticulate, awkward and self-conscious speakers you'll ever encounter, even in a one-on-one conversation. On paper, I'm a wordsmith. There are a couple good reasons for this, but to innumerate and describe each one would require several lifetimes. For now, let's suffice it to say that I attribute my proficiency with the written word more to my cerebral nature than the existence of any unused natural talents.

Sure, I do become inspired now and then, at which times that I'm happy to ride the wave and see where my writing takes me. I've had a go at almost every genre, but my favorite place to dabble is creative writing, particularly poetry and prose fiction. I've also had my share of success with my writing: teacher praise, a stint as a staff writer and department editor on my campus newspaper as an undergrad, even publication in a local periodical on my 18th birthday. But am I a writer? Surely not. I'm no writer; I'm just a dilettante.

Anäis Nin, one of my favorites, was a diarist. She brought attention to the blogging scene decades before the birth of computers and the actual internet. She was brilliant; a visionary, a poet, a philosopher and a master of words. SHE was a writer, and she put it best when she advised in her writing "If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don't write, because our culture has no use for it."

Who am I to question the authority of one of the greats? I don't always “breathe” through my writing, so I don't always write. If I need it, my writing is there to resuscitate me when the weight and burdens in life start to suffocate me, but I don't write fluff. I'll never give Nicholas Sparks or that chick who wrote the TWILIGHT series a run for their money. I'll never be guilty of recycling the same story, passing it off as more than it is by staging it in different settings, disguising the characters with new names, and changing the title. And, as far as I can control, I'll never write anything too clichéd or derivative because I agree with Anäis that it is useless, and why would I waste my time polluting pop culture with any more trash than is already there?

My father's been trying to push me to write for as long as I can remember. When I graduated from high school, he bought me a copy of Dr. Seuss' Oh, The Places You'll Go and inscribed it with the message "Never stop writing! It's your gift." When one of my toughest undergrad professors advised me to publish a research paper I had written because "it's really that good," my father told me he was proud and that I should follow her advice. (I didn't). Lately, however, he's been even more persistent and resolute about it. Most recently, he told me all he wants for Christmas is for me to have one of my pieces published, a simple enough request for someone oblivious to the reality of exactly how difficult that is.

I don't think he's even considered the eventuality and, most likely, actuality that even if I do submit my writing for publication, it won't happen. He doesn’t seem to understand the enormity of the scale on which both statistics and luck are stacked against me. When I asked what I should do when my writing is rejected, he matter-of-factly replied that I'd better wrap up the rejection letters and hope that Christmas doesn't come this year, shaking his head as if I'M the delusional one. It’s on that note I finally arrive at my reason for even riding the wave of inspiration into this piece to begin with:

For me, writing is at once an otherworldly and almost visceral experience. Sometimes I feel like a medium, challenging the inspiration into words. Other times, it’s raw and primal; an instinct I have to fulfill, and not without warring with myself. I had prolific periods, and I have long-running ruts when nothing comes to me for weeks or months. Either way, it can’t be forced, which is why my greatest gift is also my greatest burden, fear, and source of anxiety. ]]>
raerie http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=394853 SMITH
My Life So Far by ctgoods2 http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=394673
The yarn is usually colored in hope or despair as the words that are used to make it are sheared from the soul. Then, while the yarn spinner quietly unravels the knots in his spirit, this lady gets busy with a few tugs at the raw fabric that is dropped. Sometimes the yarn is already drawn and twisted, but she gathers it to her heart anyway to see how she can rework it.

I don’t know what magic she uses to create her beautiful skeins. Maybe it is just her essence. I can only imagine that she possesses a kind of wonderful power – because when she transforms your yarn into your hat, she’s changed your story.

And when you wear one of her hats, you feel as though she has laid her hands upon your head to heal you. ]]>
ctgoods2 http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=394673 SMITH
My Life So Far by MsTwizz http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=391990 I was four hours into my shift at the nursing home where I work. Yet, just a few hours earlier as I walked through the doors at two o’clock, the skies were a pale blue, with white puffy clouds dotting the skies, and brilliant sunshine was caressing my skin. I could smell freshly cut grass and the birds were singing. It was the kind of summer day that I wished I was at the pool, soaking up the sun smelling the chlorine and hearing children’s laughter and splashing.
As my shift continued, it seemed it was a typical day. By six o’clock the residents had eaten and my co-workers and I were settling in the routine of helping them to bed for the night. We were all aware of the impending storm. The smell of rain in the air was a cruel harbinger of what was to come. The winds began to blow and hail pummeled the building, the trees outside, and the flowers the gardener had so carefully planted. Then it happened, and we knew it wasn’t a drill. The shrill of the tornado siren clamored through the air and immediately, I could feel the rush of adrenaline permeate through my body. We gathered all the residents (except those too stubborn to be moved) into the main hall. Those who refused to be moved had blankets and mattresses over them and we placed their beds in the center of their rooms. Then there was a frightening silence, and I waited for the train whistle I’d heard about that accompanied tornadoes.
In an effort to calm the residents, hymnals were given out and the charge nurse began to lead them in song. They were old hymns that evoked memories of my childhood, sitting beside my mother and siblings in church. We continued to hear updates over the news. The latest was that there were five tornadoes in our area which had already touched down. My husband called from home and informed me the sirens were sounding there as well. He told me to be safe and that he loved me. I hung up and felt a lump in my throat and tears welled in my eyes. Would that be the last time I would hear his voice? I left the nurse’s station and went back into the resident crowded hall. Now they were singing “Silent Night…..all is calm, all is bright.” The most fearful feeling worked its way up my spine and left me almost breathless. I went to stand beside Erma, a lady who had quickly worked her way into a special spot in my heart. I was prepared to use my body as a shield for her. What seemed like an eternity of two hours crept at a snail’s pace until finally we received an all clear phone call from the fire department.
My shift ended and as I stepped out onto the rain soaked street and saw the broken tree branches all around me, I was thankful to have survived such a horrendous night. I would see my family and home intact when I arrived.
I will never forget that night. It changed me. From that day on, I would not take the people I love for granted. It taught me to embrace the moments I have and to cherish my life. ]]>
MsTwizz http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=391990 SMITH
My Life So Far by Wench http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=390894 It's a very strange feeling - loving, hating, fearing and longing for someone, the idea of someone, who doesn't exist. To put aside things I'd like to give you and share with you, and to feel a sickness when I think about you really being here. This is selfish. What woman has ever looked forward to labor? I just don't know if I can do it again and I'm sorry. I'm sorry because in my mind, you have existed since the day Constantine was conceived. I've imagined your voice, your eyes, your hair. I've passed by clothes and imagined you wearing them. I have watched Constantine learn to crawl, to say words, try new foods, and imagined you doing the same.
When we talk about it, he always says that I will eventually want another child, so I can't do anything to my body to prevent it. Because it's messing with God's hand. I do want you, Olive. I would love to hold you and watch Constantine give you kisses and be a proud big brother. But I don't know if I will ever be ready to enter into that again.
During labor, I felt like I was going to die. After Constantine was born, I felt overpowering love, but also terrible, sharp, stinging pain. I know it's cowardly, but I don't think that I will ever want a pregnancy more than I fear both the pain of labor and the damage to my body. I feel like I was robbed. I wanted to want you, to be excited about you, to eagerly anticipate you. And now I am afraid to make you exist. I am realizing that I'm not who I thought I'd be. I had a plan and this was not it and now I don't know how to adjust. I imagined Constantine's peaceful birth and my open-arms welcoming of motherhood. But his birth has left me with so many questions and so much fear. The only sure thing is that I love him with my deepest soul.
But I do not always love this. Sometimes, if I'm honest, I just can't stand the thought of those sleepless nights and the utterly unglamorous matted hair, sunken eyes, washing diaper waste off of my arms after yet another leak, wearing only clothes that I can nurse in, and feeling so suddenly immersed in the world of motherhood that I feel like all the world has forgotten that I ever loved anything else. Although no part of me regrets these things, because I have had a son whose smile restores me every time, I'm scared to do it again. I know I would get through the hard parts and that your precious smile would fill my heart with love. But I'm still afraid. And, I guess, I'm selfish, as well. No small part of me looks forward to Constantine's first day of school, when I can start working again. I don't know how to explain this. I love him so much. But I have been missing the other parts of me. If I continue to have children, will I run out of time? Will I disappear?
Even writing this, I know how selfish it sounds. I know that my life is here, now. I'm a mom. And that's a good thing to be. I love being a mom. I've just been mourning the fading other parts of who I am. ]]>
Wench http://www.smithmag.net/mylifesofar/story.php?did=390894 SMITH