Conversations on Death

When the subject comes up and I tell people my mom died in the recent past, I watch them, watching me. They always look uncomfortable, like I’m about to burden them with some embarrassing display of emotion they won’t know how to respond to. The assumption seems to be that I’m sad, even though I’ve said nothing about being sad. They act like we’ve stumbled on an awkward subject that I don’t want to talk about, but nothing could be further from the truth.

conversations on deathOur vocabulary for grief and our experiences around death and dying is dismally limited. Losing my mom when she was 60 was/is a big deal, but I’m not “sad,” exactly, and I’m continually frustrated that I can’t have more meaningful conversations about my experiences around my mother’s death.

Most of my exchanges on the subject are like having an iPod that came with one song on it, and not being able to download more. I put on that same fucking song whenever I feel like music, but that song almost never matches the mood I’m in. I get up and dance to it anyway, because I want to dance and I don’t know what else to do. It’s pointless, boring, unsatisfying.  Continue reading

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First Friday Freewrite #66: “My favorite mistake…”

Welcome to the First Friday Freewrite! 

If you’re a newcomer, here’s the deal: I’m a writer, and I’ve found that I desperately need accountability.  Regular writing exercises help me keep my writing fresh, keep me honest and – most importantly – keep my pen moving.  Join me, and post your response to this month’s writing prompt in the comments.  It’ll be fun!  See below for details…

Here’s how it works: I post a “JUMP LINE,” a short phrase that will serve as a writing prompt, each first Friday of the month.first-friday-freewrite-square

YOU put pen to paper and write. (I’ll do it, too, of course.)  Don’t think.  Don’t cross out.  (That is wise advice borrowed from Natalie Goldberg in Wild Mind.)  Just start with the prompt and see where it takes you.

Then POST YOUR RESPONSE as a comment.  (Just click the comment bubble  to the right of the Friday Freewrite post title above to leave a reply.)

Today’s jump line:  “My favorite mistake…”

Happy Writing!

First Friday Freewrite #65: “In the light…”

Welcome to the First Friday Freewrite! 

If you’re a newcomer, here’s the deal: I’m a writer, and I’ve found that I desperately need accountability.  Regular writing exercises help me keep my writing fresh, keep me honest and – most importantly – keep my pen moving.  Join me, and post your response to this month’s writing prompt in the comments.  It’ll be fun!  See below for details…

Here’s how it works: I post a “JUMP LINE,” a short phrase that will serve as a writing prompt, each first Friday of the month.first-friday-freewrite-square

YOU put pen to paper and write. (I’ll do it, too, of course.)  Don’t think.  Don’t cross out.  (That is wise advice borrowed from Natalie Goldberg in Wild Mind.)  Just start with the prompt and see where it takes you.

Then POST YOUR RESPONSE as a comment.  (Just click the comment bubble  to the right of the Friday Freewrite post title above to leave a reply.)

Today’s jump line:  “In the light…”

Happy Writing!

First Friday Freewrite #64: “When it’s over…”

Welcome to the First Friday Freewrite! 

If you’re a newcomer, here’s the deal: I’m a writer, and I’ve found that I desperately need accountability.  Regular writing exercises help me keep my writing fresh, keep me honest and – most importantly – keep my pen moving.  Join me, and post your response to this month’s writing prompt in the comments.  It’ll be fun!  See below for details…

Here’s how it works: I post a “JUMP LINE,” a short phrase that will serve as a writing prompt, each first Friday of the month.first-friday-freewrite-square

YOU put pen to paper and write. (I’ll do it, too, of course.)  Don’t think.  Don’t cross out.  (That is wise advice borrowed from Natalie Goldberg in Wild Mind.)  Just start with the prompt and see where it takes you.

Then POST YOUR RESPONSE as a comment.  (Just click the comment bubble  to the right of the Friday Freewrite post title above to leave a reply.)

Today’s jump line:  “When it’s over…”

Happy Writing!

Missed-It Monday Freewrite…Or, First Friday Freewrite #63: “Thirst…”

Alrighty then!  As one of my more vigilant and devoted Freewriters gently pointed out, I completely forgot to post a freewrite on this past “first Friday.”  So, better late than never, here it is…

Welcome to the First Friday Freewrite! 

If you’re a newcomer, here’s the deal: I’m a writer, and I’ve found that I desperately need accountability.  Regular writing exercises help me keep my writing fresh, keep me honest and – most importantly – keep my pen moving.  Join me, and post your response to this month’s writing prompt in the comments.  It’ll be fun!  See below for details…

Here’s how it works: I post a “JUMP LINE,” a short phrase that will serve as a writingFriday-Freewrite-Image prompt, each first Friday of the month.

YOU put pen to paper and write. (I’ll do it, too, of course.)  Don’t think.  Don’t cross out.  (That is wise advice borrowed from Natalie Goldberg in Wild Mind.)  Just start with the prompt and see where it takes you.

Then POST YOUR RESPONSE as a comment.  (Just click the comment bubble  to the right of the Friday Freewrite post title above to leave a reply.)

Today’s jump line:  “Thirst…”

Happy Writing!

First Friday Freewrite #62: “Going without…”

Welcome to the First Friday Freewrite! 

If you’re a newcomer, here’s the deal: I’m a writer, and I’ve found that I desperately need accountability.  Regular writing exercises help me keep my writing fresh, keep me honest and – most importantly – keep my pen moving.  Join me, and post your response to this month’s writing prompt in the comments.  It’ll be fun!  See below for details…

Here’s how it works: I post a “JUMP LINE,” a short phrase that will serve as a writingFriday-Freewrite-Image prompt, each first Friday of the month.

YOU put pen to paper and write. (I’ll do it, too, of course.)  Don’t think.  Don’t cross out.  (That is wise advice borrowed from Natalie Goldberg in Wild Mind.)  Just start with the prompt and see where it takes you.

Then POST YOUR RESPONSE as a comment.  (Just click the comment bubble  to the right of the Friday Freewrite post title above to leave a reply.)

Today’s jump line:  “Going without…”

Happy Writing!

CASH GIFTING AND BARBECUE SAUCE: On becoming a “real” writer

A wise friend once told me that I can discover what I want in life by paying attention to what I envy in others. So, when I ordered the Great American Poetry 2005 anthology from Amazon and felt a pang of resentment upon reading what I considered to be an inferior poem, I realized an important truth about myself: I secretly wanted to write and publish. Perhaps I wouldn’t be so jealous of these supposedly paltry poets if I were sharing my own writing with people.

getting paid to writeMy first attempt at becoming a “real writer” was clumsy and misdirected. I responded to a Craigslist ad offering money for SEO (search engine optimization) Internet articles, which needed to conform to strict guidelines (2% keyword enriched, 400 to 600 words long, and 60% original with the keyword in the title). I treated the articles as writing exercises and made each 100% original. I googled statistics and vetted sources. Although I relished my newfound status as a “professional” writer, the novelty of the articles quickly wore off, and churning out 20 pieces on a single keyword became tedious at best. After being assigned the keyword “barbecue sauce,” and then later “cash gifting,” I decided that perhaps I needed to expand my horizons. (The prospect of writing ten articles about a popular condiment and a notorious scam can do that to a person.)  Continue reading

First Friday Freewrite #61: “In dreams…”

Welcome to the First Friday Freewrite! 

If you’re a newcomer, here’s the deal: I’m a writer, and I’ve found that I desperately need accountability.  Regular writing exercises help me keep my writing fresh, keep me honest and – most importantly – keep my pen moving.  Join me, and post your response to this month’s writing prompt in the comments.  It’ll be fun!  See below for details…

Here’s how it works: I post a “JUMP LINE,” a short phrase that will serve aFirst-Friday-Freewrites a writing prompt, each first Friday of the month.

YOU put pen to paper and write. (I’ll do it, too, of course.)  Don’t think.  Don’t cross out.  (That is wise advice borrowed from Natalie Goldberg in Wild Mind.)  Just start with the prompt and see where it takes you.

Then POST YOUR RESPONSE as a comment.  (Just click the comment bubble  to the right of the Friday Freewrite post title above to leave a reply.)

Today’s jump line:  “In dreams…”

Happy Writing!

Acknowledging the Darkness

In the wake of multiple losses, I haven’t had a choice. The darkness clings to me like a fog, like vapor. The shadow is that space between what I thought I wanted – between the life I would design, were I the intentional architect of my own destiny – and what is.

trees in fogDisappointment is the result of expectations. We all have them; our minds work overtime devising the best possible future for ourselves. We will find fulfillment in our careers and our relationships, we tell ourselves. We will live to a ripe old age and die peacefully in our sleep, hands clasped, a faint smile playing about our lips. Those we love will enjoy similar longevity. They certainly will not suffer, and neither will I.

Then something happens that clashes with this optimism. Our rose-colored glasses are rudely torn from our faces, and we squint, disbelieving, in the glare of reality. Someone gets sick. Someone gets hurt. A job, even an entire career, evaporates. We throw up our hands and rage at the heavens. “Why me?” we demand. “I don’t deserve this.”

Maybe not, but the universe doesn’t operate on some moral balance sheet, doling out challenges and tragedies only to those who are deserving or feel able to “handle it” at the moment. These things that help us grow – that make us resilient, compassionate, and deep – they hurt like hell and we’d never sign on for them willingly. We are much more content to doze in the back row of the classroom of life.

Ben Franklin said, “No pain, no gain.” To that I reply, “No shit.” Experience tells me he was absolutely right.

Happiness is Overrated?

What if it’s true? What if happiness is overrated?  No, I mean it.  Think about it.  We think we want to “be happy,” spend a lot of time, energy, and money trying to get happy. But does it work?  What is happiness, really? An elusive moment, wafting by like smoke. We might be in it for a moment, but we certainly can’t hold on to it.

sunlight and shadeWhat if we were happy all the time, like we think we want to be? It might turn out to be incredibly boring. What would we talk about, each of us wandering around in a blissful daze?  There would be few opportunities to grow. We cut our teeth on the sharp edges of things. Without those edges, life would be…well…dull.

Maybe we should get used to the idea that we walk in the shadows as well as in the sunshine, should stop trying to be so happy and appreciate each moment for what it is: part of the acute, often uncomfortable, sometimes painful, and fleetingly pleasurable act of living.