Tag Archives: lisa o’neill

mad·cap

1-bonnie-and-clyde-faye-dunaway-1967-everett

 

Day 28 of the 30 days, 30 words challenge:

 

mad·cap  (mad cap)  adj.  1.  wildly impulsive; reckless; rash; a madcap scheme  —n.  2.  a madcap person, esp. a girl [MAD + CAP1]

 

 

Character Sketch of Madcap Gal:

 

 

1. Character Functions:

The Madcap Gal is audacious. She is not afraid of women or men. She is manipulative but without others recognizing her manipulation. Her charm makes those around her want to be part of her crazy adventures, even against their better judgment. She is a (sometimes antagonistic) protagonist, love interest, a best friend (the one with more control in the relationship), a catalyst but never comic relief.

 

2. Character Emotions

Sometimes, the audience sympathizes with Madcap Gal (in the way that cops sometimes let crying women off for violating traffic laws). At best, the audience empathizes with Madcap Gal, because they see parts of themselves—the more wounded, hidden parts—in her. At worst (especially true for fuddy duddies), they view her as reckless, irresponsible, and they rejoice in her fall.

 

3. Character Components

a)     Interior – Madcap Gal was raised in home environment where she didn’t get much attention. With aloof parents, she did everything possible to command attention: acting up, acting out. When that didn’t work, she decided to take her efforts elsewhere, moving out at sixteen and traveling the country. She never stays in a place for too long. She gives the illusion of being completely open and transparent without ever actually being open and transparent. When we are introduced to her in the opening scene, she has already been in Town A for six months, as long as she’s stayed anywhere. And she is torn because for the first time in her life, she feels compelled to stay.

b)   Exterior – She dresses flashily. In loud plaids, in menswear, in tight pencil skirts. Her hair is styled in a tight bob, but she often wears wigs. Most times when we see her, she is wearing a hat. Her favorite is a beret, situated to appear tossed on when it has really been arranged just so. She imagines herself a modern day Bonnie without the Clyde. She walks rapidly, as if she is always late to the next thing (which is often true). Her small apartment is decorated with art she finds on the street. Her rooms are painted bright colors: turquoise, mustard seed, tomato. There is a sort of clutter about the shelves of knick-knacks—old skeleton keys, figurines, glasses—on the living room walls and the pans hanging in the kitchen. But every time she moves, she drags most of these possessions on the curb, taking only her white Samsonite suitcase. Over the course of the first thirty minutes, we see her working three different jobs: at a thrift store, at a coffeeshop, at a fortune cookie factory. We find out she has also worked at a rollerrink, at a record store, at a grocery store, among others. In a flashback, we see her arriving at Town A by riding the rails.

 

4. Character Background

a) Where is the character from (background)?

The audience doesn’t know precisely where Madcap Girl is from, because she has a different story for each person she encounters. She is from a nondescript town in the middle of the country. She invents new places to be from because the reality of her hometown is too boring for the image she creates for herself.

 

b)     What was she doing just before this scene?

Just before the opening scene, she was sleeping.

 

c)      What does the writer say about this character?

Writer says she is running from herself. That her antics are a kind of disguise she wears for having no sense of who she really is or what she really wants.

 

d)     What do others say about this character?

Madcap Girl is either the source of admiration or of scorn. It is impossible to feel neutral about her.

 

e)      What does the character say about herself?

She doesn’t say much about herself. She is a woman of action.

 

5. Character Objectives

These are the main needs and wants of a character (what people want out of life)

 

a)  SUPER OBJECTIVE: “To Be Perceived as Madcap Gal”
What is the primal motivation of the character?  To be perceived by others as spontaneous, adventurous, the life of the party.
What are the main needs of the character? To keep moving, to distract herself, to keep her truer needs ands desires invisible to everyone, especially herself.

 

b) OBJECTIVES
What does the character want (motives)? Attention, excitement, constant movement. And, though she wouldn’t admit it, love.
What are the active choices to achieve the Super Objective? Constantly switching in and out of identities and jobs and relationships, avoiding like the plague anything that could be perceived as practical.

 

c) MAIN ACTIONS

What the character DOES…initiates schemes, stays up all night, recruits followers to be a part of adventures
to get what she WANTS…attention (feeling of worthiness)
to fulfill her NEEDS…to be hidden (to be seen)

 

6. Character Dialogue: excerpts

“A man with a record!”

“You think you’re free? I’m free! You don’t know what freedom is! I’m free. I can breathe. And you… will choke on your average fuckin’ mediocre life!”

“Forget regret.”

“I may have made a mistake but that is no reason to patronize me. It is dismaying that your expectations are based on the performance of a lesser primate, and also revelatory of a managerial style which is sadly lacking. Is it any wonder then that I’ve chosen not to learn the intricacies of an antiquated and idiotic system?”

“Hate is a very exciting emotion. Haven’t you noticed? Very exciting.”

“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.”

“I have many skills.”

“He’s dull as powder”

“You’re never gonna jump, are you?”

“Do you think I may one day escape?”

“I’ve been living my life, okay? I’ve been in good relationships and I’ve been in shitty ones… and I’ve moved alot… and I’ve been happy, and I’ve been sad… and I’ve been lonely… and that is what I’ve been doing. Which is a lot more then I can say for some freak, who thinks he’s gonna get the Ebola virus from a bowl of mixed nuts.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

*sketch format based off of formula suggested by Peter D. Marshall

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under 30 days 30 words

as·pen

robertholmangoldenaspens

 

Day 27 of the 30 days, 30 words challenge

 

as·pen  n. \ˈas-pən\

: a kind of tree whose leaves move easily when the wind blows

:  any of several poplars (especially Populus tremula of Europe and P. tremuloides and P. grandidentata of North America) with leaves that flutter in the lightest wind because of their flattened petioles

 

I want to tell you about aspens but I don’t know anything about aspens. Not more than you do, I’m sure. That they have gray trunks. That they are tall trees, spindly. They look like a game of pick-up sticks falling, except with leaves. That their leaves have points and thick veins. That these leaves change colors—from green in summer, to yellow and orange and red in fall. That these leaves fall dramatically, one at a time and in clumps in winter, leaving the trunks completely bare. That in spring, naked aspens grow new leaves, after the snow has begun to melt. I can tell you these things about aspens but I don’t know these things in the way you know the palm of your mother’s hand or how to drive to the drugstore in your hometown or how your love likes his or her eggs. I didn’t grow up with aspens. Aspens like cool climates with cool summers. They like high altitudes. They live on mountains. They enjoy the way the winds tussles their leaves. I grew up in Louisiana, where the air is full with hotness and humidity. Still, the landscape is made of trees. Oak trees arch themselves over long thoroughfares. Cypress trees rise out of swampy water, their knees and torsos rising up from the muck. Sweet olive trees cascade their small white flowers, covering sidewalks and yards. Magnolia trees produce waxy dark green leaves and then brown buds that will eventually open into bright white petals. But I don’t want to tell you about oaks, or cypresses, or sweet olives, or magnolias. I came here to tell you about aspens. How when wind hits them, their leaves begin to spin without falling. How these leaves appear to shimmer, as they spin, in the sunlight. How, when you look out on a forest of them, it seems as if a painter has just applied one long stroke of cadmium yellow. How, incredibly, those tall trunks lean, pitch, bend so far to the side, without falling, without breaking. I don’t know about aspens but I do know about moving easily when the wind blows. I know what it means to sway. I know that when a strong wind moves me, I find it impossible to stand still, to quiet myself, to keep myself from fluttering. I know that when the gale hits, I quake from the impact. I wonder if I will withstand the feeling of pressure and of cold. I move. I am moved. I am moving. And even as I bend, even as I swing, even as I undulate and oscillate and stagger,  even as I wobble and lurch and reel and roll, I can feel my roots extending down and down, fixed tightly in the earth, I can feel the sturdiness of my trunk as it extends up and down and I know that through this storm, I will hold.

 

 

8 Comments

Filed under 30 days 30 words

re·gret

Regrets-590x399

 

Day 25 of the 30 day, 30 word challenge

 

re·gret  (ri-ˈgret),  v.  –gret·ted, –gret·ting, –grets.  –tr.  1.  To feel sorry, disappointed, or distressed about.  2.  To remember with a feeling of loss or sorrow; mourn.  3.  regrets. A courteous expression of regret, esp. at having to decline an invitation.  [ME regretten, to lament < OFr. Regreter : re-, re- + greter, to weep (perh. Of Gmc. Orig.)  –re·gret·ter n. 

 

Cartoon by Laure Porché

Cartoon by Laure Porché

 

The origins of the word regret mean “to lament” or “to weep.” There is a bitter taste that permeates regret. We want things to be other than they are. We feel loss. We wish we had behaved differently or tried harder or let go sooner. People often hand out the trite saying: you’ll regret the things you didn’t do in life more than the things you did. But I think there is plenty of room in Regretsville for them both. I also think, in this privileged land of choices, we spend too much time regretting or anticipating regretting the wrong things.

 

Some regrets mark a culture in which we are too scared to even be in touch with our deeper desires and regrets. Teenagers and young adults say FML when they have a challenging day, when they don’t get precisely what they want. Microsoft boss Steve Balmer said “his biggest regret” was missing out on the smartphone boom (This was incidentally, the first result when I searched for “my biggest regret” is). Saying one’s biggest regret is not getting in on an industry to make more money seems pretty silly in the grand scheme of things. But I think it is a helpful canary for a culture that is driven by accumulation of more and more wealth.

 

Regret can also signify our desire for constant control of every aspect of our lives and our inability to recognized our own humanity. My mindfulness teacher once told me not to be too hard on myself about my actions in the past. “If you could have done something differently, something more skillfully, you would have,” he said. “That was the best you were capable of at the time. Regret as fuel for change and for acting better in the future seems productive. What doesn’t seem productive is using regret as a weapon against ourselves. Our today self decides that there was something that our years-ago self could have done so that we wouldn’t have regret. But our years-ago self wasn’t capable of more mature or wise action; that self hadn’t yet learned the lessons.

 

Palliative nurse Bronnie Ware spent years assisting people who had gone home to die. She spent time listening to them and asked them what they would have done differently. Did they have any regrets? The most common regrets were:

 

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

 

Ultimately, what they seem to boil down to is one word: connection. Connection with ourselves and connection with others. Connection with ourselves allows room for us to become aware of how we want to use our gifts and our lives and to trust that over the feedback we get from socialization and expectations of others. Connection with others allows us to value relationships over work and to reach out and make ourselves vulnerable with the support of those we care about. Realizing our connection to everyone and everything allows us to get out of our selfish spin cycles of thought and into the world that we belong to.

 

The Dalai Lama said, “The pain of regret didn’t go away. But I don’t let it pull me back and drag me down.”  I don’t think it is possible to be human and not have regret. We will inevitably mess up. We will do things we wish we hadn’t done. We won’t do things we wish we had. But I think there is a healthy way to acknowledge our regrets without getting mired in them. Miring ourselves in regret is a trick. So long as we fixate ourselves on the past, we don’t have to be present right now. And right now is when we actually have some choice.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 30 days 30 words

Ko·mo·do drag·on

Komodo dragon/ Adam Riley

Komodo dragon/ Adam Riley

 

Day 22 of the 30 days, 30 words challenge:

 

Ko·mo·do drag·on  (kə-ˈmō-dō-)  a monitor lizard, Varanus komodoensis, of Komodo and adjacent Indonesian Islands that grows to a length of 10 feet: the largest lizard in the world. Also called  dragon lizard, giant lizard, Komoˈdo lizˈard.

 

 

When the dragons came, they came all at once and they were everywhere. Dragons on the sidewalks, dragons in swimming pools, dragons at the grocery. We couldn’t tell where they had come from—they simply weren’t there and then they were. It can be alarming to find oneself surrounded, suddenly, by dragons. We tried to make the best of it. We gingerly walked around them as we went down the street. We swerved to avoid hitting them while driving. We wondered what they ate and if we fed them whether they might find other things more attractive than, say, us. We found they were fans of kale but not carrots and Cheetos but not Doritos. We noticed there were less stray cats around. We began to take provisions, snacks for us and for them, when we left the house and they began to wait for us. Once we fed them, they became accustomed to it and their appetites grew insatiable. The waddled up close with their scaly short legs and licked at ankles, nibbled on calves until they were given food. Soon, there were more incidents: thick cuts and bites, infections, loss of blood. More and more people were going to the emergency room. Something had to be done. So the human that all the humans trusted went to talk to the dragon that all the dragons trusted. The trusted human said, “When you arrived, we didn’t know where you came from. We tried to be generous with you. We fed you and now you won’t leave us alone. What is your problem?” “Well, that’s the thing,” said the trusted dragon, “before you fed us, we didn’t know to be hungry.”

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under 30 days 30 words

time

clock-hands-tn

 

 

 

Day 21 of the 30 days, 30 words challenge

 

The word time obviously has many meanings and a super long definition so I have chosen the specific section my finger landed on in the entry.

 

time  (tīm)  n.  6.  Often, times.  a.  a period in the history of the world or contemporary with the life or activities of a notable person: prehistoric times: in Lincoln’s time.  b.  the period or era now or previously present: a sign of the times; How times have changed!  c.  a period considered with reference to its events or prevailing contradictions, tendencies, ideas, etc.: hard times; a time of war.

 

 

 

This time, time is on my side, yes it is. It’s only a change of time, love, time, love, time, love, it’s only a change of time. Feels like the very first time. Ain’t got time. Ain’t wasting time no more. All of the time. All of the time in the world. All things in time. All this time: time in a bottle, nick of time, the hands of time, shades of time, sea of time, sand of time, sleepy time time, precious time, pony time, party time, pillow time, quality time, quittin’ time, crying time, closing time. Old time. Only time. One moment in time. Time after time. I can’t believe in time. Time won’t let me. Time to get away. Good time tonight. Let the good times roll. Good times never seemed so good. The best of times. Big time. Spending time, spend more time. Space and time, some other time, out of time. On borrowed time. There are bad times just around the corner. The last time I saw Richard. The last time. Hard times come again no more. Time was. Time waits for no one. Time is: a joker, runnin’, tight. Time loves a hero. If I could turn back time. Do you remember the time? One kiss at a time, one love at a time. Love takes time. Love gets me every time. I kissed you my last time, the last time I kiss you. Right on time. River of time. Some other day, some other time. Where have all the good times gone? Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care (about time)? Wasting time, wasted time. Tomorrow is a long time. Long, long time. Long time gone. Time was. Time waits for no one. It’s been a long time comin’ but I know. It’s going to take some time. A question of time. Time will tell. Time will call your name. Time passes slowly. Time stands still. Time and a half.  Time out of mind. Hard times ain’t gonna rule my mind no more. Time heals. Time for livin’. Time for a miracle. Til the end of a time. Next time. Next time you see her. The times they are a changin’. The time of my life. The time is high. Take your time. Nothin’ but time. Time marches on. Hit me baby, one more time. There was a time. What time is it?

 

 

 

 

 

Comprised mostly of songs with time in the title and, in some instances, lyrics from songs that contain time.

4 Comments

Filed under 30 days 30 words

tu·ber·ous

Botanical-Root-vegetables-4-694x1024

Day 19 of the 30 days, 30 words challenge:

 

Short piece today about planting. Speaking of which, I recently wrote an article about local Arizona farm, Sleeping Frog Farms. They happen to plant all kinds of tuberous vegetables. You can find the article in Edible Baja Arizona here.

 

 

tu·ber·ous \ˈtü-b(ə-)rəs, ˈtyü-\  adj.  of, resembling, or being a tuber.

(tu·ber: a short fleshy usu underground stem (as of a potato plant) bearing minute scalelike leaves each with a bud at its base)

 

 

 

They waited to plant until snow had almost melted off the mountain. They shoveled and hoed, digging straight, shallow trenches and planting cut potatoes inside. They planted and planned other crops and flipped through seed catalogs and ordered and  waited. When the green sprouts from the earth were eight inches high, they hilled. They raised soil up around the vines on each side. They were careful not to disturb the roots. They made sure soil was loose and the mulch had space to breathe. When the plants began to flower, they knew they could soon harvest. A few weeks after the plants flowered, they dug into the loose soil around. They pulled the tubers, red and yellow and brown from the ground. In the kitchen, sweet potato pie and potato leek soup and mashed potatoes. They roasted potatoes with butter and rosemary. They sprinkled potatoes with olive oil and salt. They worked and planned for when it was time to plant again.

Leave a comment

Filed under 30 days 30 words

rasp

insidemouthoffice

 

Day 18 of the 30 days, 30 words challenge:


rasp1    \rasp\  vb.  1 :  to rub with or as if with a rough file  2 :  to grate harshly on (as one’s nerves)  3 :  to speak in a grating tone

rasp2  :  a course file with cutting points instead of ridges.

 

 

Miss Mae, the eighty-year-old bar owner who’s smoked two packs a day since she was sixteen, the one who tells you in no uncertain terms to “Get off my stool,” the stool you didn’t know was hers. Your voice when you are on the cusp of losing it, but before you’ve lost it completely and before you sound like a boy going through puberty. Tom Waits, singing with his throat full of gravel. The car engine trying to turn over and then trying to turn over again. Frogs. Red foxes. That episode of Friends where Phoebe has a cold and her voice lowers and sexies itself for her gig at the coffeehouse, and then she tries to get sick again so that rasp will return. Bea Arthur as Dorothy saying to Estelle Getty over and over again in each episode: “Ma!” James Earl Jones saying, If you build it, they will come. Lauren Bacall asking, You know how to whistle, don’t you? Stevie Nicks. Rod Stewart. Bonnie Tyler. Macy Gray. Brian Adams. Louis Armstrong singing, Stars shining bright above you. Kim Carnes singing, She’s got Bette Davis eyes. Bette Davis. Linda Ronstadt has Parkinson’s and can no longer sing (she said, If there was something I could work on, I’d work on it till I could get it back. If there was a drug I could take to get it back, I would take the drug. I’d take napalm. But I’m never going to sing again). When I heard the news on the radio, I was close to crying. I knew a girl in high school, a soprano, who always refused to drink after other people, terrified of getting a cold and losing her voice.  Someone on a ventilator. Someone with a voicebox. Someone with a virus. Riff Raff. Gollum. Carface. She also wouldn’t talk on the days we had performances scheduled. She wouldn’t even whisper. Unrasping: with rest, honey, rest, apple cider, cayenne, lemon, ginger, zinc, eucalyptus, humming, using a humidifier, inhaling steam, gargling salt water, drinking tea, stopping speaking, stopping singing, quitting smoking, quitting caffeine, water, sleep.  She went to a conservatory for college, I think. Now she has four kids and lives somewhere in the South. I’m not sure if she still sings.

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under 30 days 30 words

cap

Navy Hat MO 8350jpg

 

Day 17 of the 30 days, 30 words challenge:

 

cap  (kap),  n. v.  capped, capping.  –n.  1.  a covering for the head, esp. one fitting loosely, made of softer material than a hat and usually having little or no brim.  2.  a covering of lace or similar material for a woman’s head, usually worn indoors.  3.  a headdress denoting rank, occupation, or the like:  a nurse’s cap.  4.  mortarboard (def. 2).  5.  anything resembling or suggestive of a a covering for the head in shape, use, or position: a cap on a bottle.  6.  summit; top; acme.  7.  Bot. the milieus of a mushroom.  8.  Also called cap piece, lid  Mining. A short, horizontal piece at the top of a prop for supporting part of a roof.  9.  a percussion cap.  10.  a noisemaking device for toy pistols, made of a small quantity of explosive wrapped in paper or other thin material.  11.  Naut. a. a fitting of metal placed over the head of a spar, as a mast or bowsprit, and having a collar for securing a further spar, as an upper mast or jib boom, at some distance above its lower end.  b.  a metal hand at the end of a spar.  c.  a cover of leather or tarred canvas for the end of a rope.  12.  a new tread applied to a worm pneumatic tire.  13.  Archit. a capital.  14.  Carpentry. a metal plate placed over the iron of a plane to break the shavings as they rise.  15.  Naut.  a wooden or metal place at the head of a mast, for supporting and steadying an upper mast, as a topmast or topgallant mast.  16.  Fox Hunting. See capping fee.  17.  cap in hand, humbly; in supplication: He went to his father cap in hand and begged his forgiveness. 18.  set one’s cap for, to attempt to catch as a husband: Several girls in the class were setting their caps for the new young biology instructor.  v.t.  19.  to provide or cover with or as with a cap.  20.  to complete.  21.  to surpass; follow up with something as good or better: to cap one joke with another.  22.  to serve as a cap, covering, or top to: overlie.  –v.i.   23.  Fox Hunting, to hunt with a hunting club of which one is not a member, on payment of a capping fee.  24.  cap the climax, to surpass what has been considered the limit; exceed expectations: This latest prank really caps the climax.  [ME cappe, OE cappe  <  LL capp(a) hooded cloak, cap; akin to L caput head] –capless, adj.

 

 

The skipper placed the cap on his head and pulled it down snug. It had been given to him years ago by a woman. In an old black and white photograph tucked at the bottom of a drawer, the two of them sat at a picnic: him—bearded and rough around the edges, even then—and her—pretty and pinafored, with her ruffled dress and white laced bonnet. She’d given him the cap that day and he’d taken off his military issued one, replacing it with the soft fabric, a relief to his forehead. He was on leave. They spread out a blanket by the river and then went for a walk on a trail in the nearby woods. He plucked berries off bushes, showing her which were poisonous and which were safe for eating; they harvested mushrooms, tucking the chanterelles and scarlet cups into cloth napkins. He told her he was done with the sounds of guns firing, the quick sparks. He would work commercial now, directing men on ships he commandeered. The sailors under him staying the sails, securing the caps. But the sailing meant leaving, still and always. She wanted a life on the land. The tires hit every loose rock on the road as he drove her home that day, and the jarring ride felt fitting as he listened to her. She stared out the front window telling him why her answer was no, why it couldn’t be him. He stopped the car at her house and turned, handing her his naval cap but she shook her head. She didn’t turn to look at him, not once, as she got of out the car and walked to the front door. The barriers he had taken down erected themselves quickly. He steadied himself with assurances. He couldn’t give up one love, even for another. Walking on deck, the salty air stung his eyes and he shook off the memory. He didn’t know then that storms are not meant to be borne alone. He didn’t know then that chances are as ephemeral as waves.

 

 

*In this piece, I tried to use every meaning of the word cap in the definition above. The ones I couldn’t manage to sneak in was the capping fee for fox hunting, or capital, or mortarboard. For the most part, the definitions appear in chronological order.

2 Comments

Filed under 30 days 30 words

Men·she·vik

sms-2125

 

Men·she·vik  (men(t)-shə-ˌvik, -ˌvēk),  n. pl.  viks, -vik·I,  (in Russia) a member of the Social Democratic party in opposition to the Bolsheviks and advocating gradual development of full socialism through parlimentary government and cooperation with bourgeois parties: absorbed into the Communist party formed in 1918.

 

So here we were, going along all smooth and easy with our 30 days, 30 words challenge until today, Day 16: Menshevik. I knew after so many amazing words to work with, I was going to bibliomance a tricky one sooner or later. But the rule is no do-overs. The word picked is the word picked and you have to do something with it. I’ve held myself to that since Day 1 of the dictionary project.

 

 

Don’t Know Much About (Certain Parts of) History

 

 

It’s funny because just today I was talking with students in class about history. We were discussing the advantages and disadvantages of showing (or utilizing sensory description) and telling (or exposition) in writing. We were naming different disadvantages of using exposition exclusively, one of which is the danger of being too cut and dry and thus boring. I used history books as an example. “What are most history books made of?” I asked. “Telling,” they responded. I said yes, most history books are comprised of exposition and that is exactly why I thought history was boring as hell in high school. It’s why, I’m sad to admit, I didn’t take a single history class in college. It wasn’t that I didn’t like history, it was that I had never been made to care about history, at least when it was labeled that. I always had a hard time with straight memorization. I had no interest in learning names and dates with no context. One of the stupidest things I had to do for history class was to memorize all the U.S. presidents’ names in the order they served. I would have much preferred to spend time learning a little bit about some of them then to spend all that time putting these random names in order. The people on the pages of my history books were flat characters at best and stereotypes at worst. Why should I invest in situations that happened long ago to people who I knew nothing about?

 

I learned more about history in my other classes, where history was made relevant for me. Like in my high school religion class where we watched Gandhi with Ben Kingsley and Romero with Raul Julia. We learned about the movements these men started, movements rooted in compassion for their fellow human beings. In Mrs. A’s religion class, we talked about real people and the injustices done to them. We talked about the ability of individuals and communities to reach out with compassion and nonviolent resistance and to make a difference. One day, we had a special guest. Mrs. A brought in her son Matthew, who was fourteen, in a wheelchair, and had severe developmental disabilities. She told us that at the orphanage, he was in a crib alone and had begun to curl up in the fetal position. None of the staff there had held him for long periods of time and when the doctor examined him, he said that the little baby boy had begun the process of dying, his organs were beginning to shut down. Infants not only need milk to survive; they cannot survive without human contact. Without touch, they fail to thrive.

 

I learned about history in my English classes where we read The Power and the Glory and Edith Hamilton’s Mythology and Les Miserables and Beowulf. We read Shakespeare and The Color Purple and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Their Eyes Were Watching God. We read about different kinds of people from different places, all of whom were facing struggles in life, all of whom were battling with moral quandaries. We talked about them as if they were real people and we wrote about what their stories meant, why their stories were important. One day, in my English class with Mrs. T., she brought in a small boombox. The night before, a legendary sports figure in New Orleans had killed himself by inserting a tube from the tailpipe of his car into the nearly closed window and letting the car engine run as he sat inside. She played us two Simon and Garfunkel songs: “A Most Peculiar Man” and “I Am A Rock.” Simon and Garfunkel sing, “I have my books/And my poetry to protect me/ I am shielded in my armor/Hiding in my room, safe within my womb/I touch no one and no one touches me/I am a rock, I am an island/And a rock feels no pain/And an island never cries.” After the last song finished, she turned to us, her eyes wet, and asked us, please, to not be rocks or islands onto ourselves. It was clear that other people’s lives mattered to her, that we mattered to her. I’m sure that her class and her teaching is one of the reasons that I bring in current events–the ones that stir us, that remind us of both the beauty and fragility of being human–into the writing classroom for discussion. Because history is happening all around us. Because I want my students’ ideas and feelings to be part of that conversation.

 

I don’t know much about this particular portion of history: the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks. I won’t pretend that I do, or that a quick look at Wikipedia will give me the information I need to write with any authority about it. I am grateful that I came to history on my own over time. I’m grateful that I now have a deep desire to learn about history, because I realize that history is simply the stories of people. People who are trying to live their lives in an imperfect world. People who disagree with one another. People who suffer deeply and sometimes act out from this suffering. People who just want to be able to feed themselves and their families. People who want to create art and language and music. People who want to discover why the planets move the way do or create inventions to make life better for all humans. People who are passionate about so many different things. People who have their own stories to make and their own stories to tell.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 30 days 30 words

con·ceit·ed

Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Lisa O'Neill

Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Lisa O’Neill

 

Day 15 of the 30 words, 30 days challenge. We’re halfway through, y’all!

 

 

con·ceit·ed (kənˈsētid), adj. 1. having an exaggerated opinion of one’s own abilities, appearance, importance, etc.: Many performers become conceited after only modest success. 2. Archaic a. having an opinion. b. fanciful; whimsical. 3. Obs. intelligent; clever. [CONCEIT + ED2] –con·ceit·ed·ly, adv. –con·ceit·ed·ness, n.

—Syn. 1. vain, proud, eogotistical, self-important, self-satisfied.

 

 

I’m surrounded by so many phenomenal and phenomenally talented women in my life I can hardly believe it. Today alone, I had the opportunity to interact with a handful of them. Among them, a beautiful photographer whose most recent project celebrates the bodies of mothers and attempts to complete the picture of a culture that photoshops out cellulite and stretchmarks and loose skin, not only denying the beauty of women’s bodies but the experiences that changed their bodies in these ways; a yoga teacher and therapist who, through her own way of showing up as beautiful and vulnerable, supports her students and clients in finding their way to a place of vibrant openness and authenticity; and a blogger who gathers women together—both in online and physical spaces—to honor and own the beauty of their bodies exactly as they are, a women who challenges the media’s perpetual fiction that beauty only looks one way.

 

In conversations with my female friends who are following their passions and who, through shining brightly, allow others the permission to do the same, one theme comes up continually. That is the issue of space.

 

When we are children, some of us girls are lucky enough to be given lots of room to adventure and explore; we get to try on many hats and test out all the different things we could be. We could be an astronaut or a scientist or a teacher or a dancer. We could be a brain surgeon or a firefighter or an architect or a chef. But at some age, this expansiveness stops. We are told we need to shrink, to take up less room. We are told either that our vibrancy is unnecessary or that it threatens others. In any case, we are told to small ourselves. The room around us closes in. And many of us spend the rest of our lives negotiating the size of ourselves and trying to regain that space we lost.

 

It’s the boss vs. bitch dilemma that Nicki Minaj articulates so well. There’s a double-edged sword where women have to exude confidence in a particular way in order to be recognized as competent and yet when they do this, they are often labeled as too much. When a woman asserts herself and takes pride in her skill and work, all too often—still—she is viewed as conceited, uppity, egotistical (read: taking up too much room). Women are allowed to be successful, but not too successful (read: taking up too much room). If they become too successful, society says that everything that comes to pass is their fault; they then are solely responsible for any repercussions to their relationships, family life, and public perception. Was their success worth it? Worth this ruin they have brought to their lives?

 

A recent study published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology revealed that while women in relationships with men are not threatened by their partner’s success, men are, overwhelmingly. In the study, heterosexual couples took part in activities and interviews to examine connections between romantic relationships and self-esteem. Lead study author Kate Ratliff writes, “this research found evidence that men automatically interpret a partner’s success as their own failure, even when they are not in direct competition.”

 

This is not the fault of these men. This is the fault of a culture that still regards women as inferior and which confines men to a very slim and stifling definition of success.

 

We have to start somewhere and I believe the place to start is with us and with art. We need more projects that complete the picture that we are only given a portion of. We need storytellers that offer up alternate stories. We need to slowly build a culture where we can celebrate one another’s success without telling the lie that someone else’s beauty diminishes our own.

 

Today, I stood in a room of over a hundred women: each of whom came to have her picture taken, to honor the singular beauty of her body. And in doing so, to give other women the permission to honor their own.

 

One thing I know for sure is this: I know that not one of us should have to crowd into a corner or crouch down to the floor. We should not be made to lessen our spectrum of light because our vibrancy makes others uncomfortable. Smalling ourselves does not make for a more expansive world. We have the space for everyone to rise to his/her/zir unique potential. When we decide we can take up the room we need, it’s amazing how there is more spaciousness than we ever imagined, enough for ourselves, enough for everyone who wants to share it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under 30 days 30 words