"If writers possess a common temperament, it's that they tend to be shy egomaniacs; publicity is the spotlight they suffer for the recognition they crave." Gail Caldwell, from her book "Let's Take The Long Way Around"

"To look life in the face, always to look life in the face and to know it for what it is. At last to know it, to love it for what it is, and then, to put it away. . .always the years. Always the love. Always the hours." From the movie "The Hours", based on the book of the same name by Michael Cunningham

"Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly." Baz Luhrman, "Everybody's Free (to wear sunscreen)"

"A writer can do nothing for men more necessary, satisfying, than just simply to reveal to them the infinite possibility of their own souls." Walt Whitman

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant or talented?’ Actually, who are you not to be?” Marianne Williamson

Monday, August 26, 2013

All Is Vanity

As I sit in the Starbucks across the parking lot from my place of work where I have spent the last 10 hours playing what feels like babysitter and referee at various times, I sit here trying to write something, anything.  My computer is on, I'm ready to go, but nothing can compel me to open my Word program, so I decide it's time for old school writing.  I reach into my bag (my beautiful if not rather large Betsey Johnson bag I bought on sale) for my notebook and pen, I can't help but spy my NOOK and think about reading instead of doing any work tonight.  And then I think about Margaret, one of the characters in one of my favorite books ever, "All Is Vanity" by Christina Schwarz.  Margaret wants to write a book; in fact, she has quit her job teaching English to take a year to become a published author.  After all, how hard can it be?  She was a precocious child, it goes on, etc., etc.  What makes me think of Margaret is that more often than not, she finds herself doing anything else during her days but write.  She paints the apartment, talks on the phone, twirls the special pen she's purchased just for writing this book.

I don't want to be Margaret.

I've managed to fill a blog with quite a few entries.  I can be quite eloquent on Facebook at times - in fact, used to spend several minutes composing in my head something witty and intelligent to post.  And when I was 15 I could spend hours at a time, in front of the TV no less, writing out longhand my manuscript that I finished by age 17.  It's not quite the masterpiece I once imagined it to be, but still, it's something.

I tried yesterday to write the story that was ruminating in my head only a few months ago while I was still taking ballet classes at Ballet Arizona.  It was rather a good idea, I think, but after being out of the studio for a few months, it seems not quite as compelling as it once did.  I'm not killing the idea but not sure about following that route right now.

This morning, on the way to work, listening to my iPod, I heard "Better Man" by Pearl Jam.  Now here's a story I have to tell.  I was 24 years old (this would be 1994), living in Sacramento in my first very own apartment on the corner of I and 25th Streets.  I had the third floor studio with a big picture window that looked out onto the street below.  If you've ever been to downtown Sacramento, you'll know it is filled with old Victorian-style buildings converted into apartments with short blocks and lots of trees.  Sacramento has the most number of trees in the world next to Paris.  It's probably the one really good thing it has going for it, being compared to Paris.  When I would lie on my big IKEA bed with the bramble sheet set, I would look out my window and only see leafy tree tops, and I could imagine I was anywhere.

It was generally a quiet building.  I hardly ever saw any of my neighbors, except when I heard them.  The ones who lived below me, that is.  I'm not sure if the apartment below me was inhabited by just the young woman or the young woman and her boyfriend, but I often heard them fighting - arguing.  At times when they would argue, I couldn't help myself, I would get on my hands and knees and put my ear to the wood floor to make out what they were saying.  I guess it goes back to my instinct to eavesdrop on my mom and Direll when they were fighting.

One Saturday or Sunday afternoon, they were going at it, more loudly than usual, and I thought I heard scuffling or maybe it was screaming.  I don't remember what I was doing - maybe listening to music and cleaning or something, but the next thing that happened was I heard a loud crash that could only be the window below me, the one just like mine.  My heartbeat quickened and I froze at the same time, not sure what to do.  I was compelled to run downstairs to check on them and at the same time, my feet wouldn't move.  I know I thought about calling 911.  I think I might have, but I chewed my lip for several minutes at least trying to decide if I should or not.

That's the thing when you grow up surrounded by chaos and violence.  It becomes normal, part of everyday life.  All the times Direll and my mom argued and the times he hit her, only once did I get in his face and challenge him, but never did it occur to me to call the police.  It was my brother, Matt, the one who seemed to disappear whenever these confrontations happened, who snuck the telephone out to the balcony and called 911.  It was only after that that I felt like I could use the police to break up whatever was happening.

If the police came, the boyfriend left before they got there.  Or he left when they got there, but no charges were pressed.  After he was gone, the girlfriend turned on her music and played on a loop "Better Man" over and over again.  I felt so bad for her, and at the same time, I thought she was pathetic.  Yes, she needed a better man and obviously thought so herself, so why didn't she get one?  Maybe by listening to the song over and over again, she was trying to convince herself to break it off.

Come to think of it, I didn't call 911 that day.  I let it go when I heard him leave.  I wish I had.  It seems so apathetic that I didn't.  I remember that I didn't because the next day or so, the apartment manager came to my door to ask if I'd heard what had been going on.  And just like that it was over.

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