Watercolor

Tell us all about your best confidence outfit. Don’t leave out the shoes or the perfect accessories.

9298e6cbe7e32ed17435ba2c3a15886dWe’ve got to figure out where we’re going in this outfit first, don’t we? Do we need confidence for a job interview, a TV appearance, a book reading, a date? If I could choose (and I will, because the only other ‘person’ here to help is Izzy, who’s fast asleep with her nose tucked into the crook of my knee), I would suggest we’re all meeting for the first time at a party. Summertime twinkle lights, beautiful food and flowers and champagne, maybe a little reggae music under the stars…

I have this washed silk tunic in my closet. It’s blue and green, vibrant shades that seep into one another like watercolors, with a scattering of sequins on the bodice. I love the way the fabric feels on my skin. It makes me happy, and happy means confident. I’d magic a dress out of that fabric for our pretend party, and I’d wear some strappy silver sandals with a heel and a pair of silver earrings long enough to peep through my hair. Or maybe I’d wear my hair up…I can’t decide. I do know I’m wearing Hearts & Daggers perfume and ruby red polish on my toes. And a toe ring, while we’re at it, cause I’m crazy like that.

Who’s dancing with me?

Monster

Have you ever become obsessed with something? Tell us about something that captivates your attention like nothing else.

I am only ever obsessed, unless I’m completely disinterested. I’m in or out. Hot or cold. Balls to the wall or yawning at the sideline. I don’t know how to pace myself or how to handle more than one obsession at a time. Someone asked me recently whether I am still a photographer. I used to be so into it, what happened? All I could think to reply was no. I’m writing now. There’s only room upstairs for one obnoxious guest and at the moment it’s occupied by this gnarly writing monster that has taken over my life and every cranny of available headspace.

The further truth is that I’m terrified to look at other possibilities for how I might spend my time. I want to obsess about writing. I like the monster in the attic. My obsessions make me feel the potential of life and particularly of achievement. I tell myself that I might really get somewhere if I keep after it, if I really try to learn, if I Hoover up mountains of information on the topic and plunder my friends for advice, and scribble on every flat surface and buy writerly glasses and master the plot, the sentence, the rhythm, the scene, and if I eavesdrop and dissect and think long and hard during afternoon walks like Stephen King does, and if I really really really devote myself to the effort, I might actually get somewhere. Whether it’s true or not is beside the point. Obsession is passion and passion is life.

And you have to fill the hours with something, right?

Algorithm

Have you dreamt of becoming famous? What would your claim to fame be? Comedy? Acting? Writing? Race car driving? Go!

I’ve been sitting here trying to answer this honestly, but I keep coming back to the fact that I’m not entirely sure what we mean by fame anymore. Everyone is a little bit famous, right? The kids with their likes, the unsigned stars on YouTube, all us writers with our books and blogs and essays and interviews. It isn’t hard to talk yourself into the illusion of fame. The numbers are everywhere, you can add them up and conclude the sum of your worth at any given time by working out the like-to-fame algorithm as it exists in your head, and achieve the same little glow a Kardashian might feel when she sees herself trending under the buzz of the next ill-fated nuptial. Does that mean you’re as famous as Kim? Maybe not. But if you think you are, what’s the difference?

Photo by Juergen Teller

Photo by Juergen Teller

So I suppose my answer is no. I didn’t dream of becoming famous even when fame meant something and could only be attained through talent or a more finicky zeitgeist than the one that exists today. Frankly, the topic bores me. The lives I find interesting are the ones from the fringe, their small stories of hope and deception and the art that comes out of it. That’s where the good stuff is, the lasting stuff, the frailty and power of humanity. I want to build a body of work that celebrates those people and includes me as one of them. What that looks like is pretty clear in my mind and does not involve the paparazzi. I fucking hate flashbulbs, anyway. So there’s that.

 

Boards

After a long day at work or school, what are your favorite ways to wind down and decompress?

It’s usually after 7pm by the time I get home from work, and I’ve only got a couple of good hours left in me. Just enough time for dinner, a book…and Pinterest.

Don’t laugh. It’s a silly hobby, I guess, but I have always loved photography and Pinterest is a great place to collect it. You can have a board for every mood, or for every color, or for recipes, quotes, or dreamy destinations—whatever butters your biscuit. I love portraits, so I’ve got boards devoted to those. I have an inspiration board for Blackbird and another to feed my Airstream obsession, and I’ve got book covers, forests, romance and noir. My current favorite collection is called Hello Happiness, which I’ve been filling with pictures of flowers and sunshine and quirky images of the soul-feeding variety. Are you rolling your eyes yet? Hey, whatever. It doesn’t need to make sense to anyone but me.

Which leads me to the best part of pinning: No words necessary. After a day of sentence-wrangling, it’s exactly what I need.

 

Photo by Elizabeth Messina

Photo by Elizabeth Messina

The Man

Tell us about a time when you fought authority and took a stand against “the man.” Did you win?

“The man,” huh? I’m not sure what that means in 2014 America. The man is just us, collectively, asserting a framework of societal mores to which an individual can attach, support, or restrain herself according to her disposition. I suppose there are pockets of resistance over specific issues, but to me it seems that authority has become this amorphous mass that seeps in everywhere and can only be overcome by acts of subversion.

Enter the artists. Same as it ever was. My contribution is Alice, a subversive little chick with no respect for authority who has to deal with the consequences of living outside the law. I won’t bore you with the details of my worldview and how her story reflects it, except to say that “the man” is fairly literal in her case, and she does continually fight him. Whether or not she wins in the end is open to debate.

Anyone reading or writing something subversive?

House of Cards

Do you find it easy to make new friends? Tell us how you’ve mastered the art of befriending a new person.

Um, no. Anything that involves 3D, real-time social interaction is difficult for me. I have better luck with men than women. A guy is usually looking for an audience rather than an interaction (present company excepted, of course), so a couple of questions will get him rolling. I’ve got a little Scarlett in me that way. I let men imagine they’re teaching me or changing my mind, it’s good for their self-esteem.

Women are trickier. You have to really participate in those conversations, so there are more opportunities for me to make an ass of myself by revealing too much, too soon, or by revealing nothing at all which upsets the balance. I tend to freeze up when we start to get into topics of mothering, religion, sexuality, etc, because there I have immutable and unpopular opinions that preclude an honest exchange of ideas. The women at work, for example, are always talking about how they pray and when they pray and what they pray for, all these conversations with god, and I’m just nodding silently, wondering how long I will last in the circle once my heathen heart is revealed. Actually, that’s not true. I don’t wonder. Friendships amongst women are sophisticated, fragile constructions which I am too awkward and opinionated to build. I can’t get that house of cards past the second floor before it all falls down.

It seems I’ve wandered from the point again. The question was about new friendships, which I take to mean acquaintance. Those are my specialty. I can wring a good two minutes out of weather-chat alone.

Repeat

Tell us your tried and true techniques for focusing when that deadline looms and you need to get work done. In other words, how do you avoid wasted days and wasted nights?

There is no technique. You just have to decide that the work is more important than finding the perfect picture of a clapping seal for your Pinterest board, or uncovering Ellen’s secret shame, or plucking the dog-hair tumbleweeds off the living room floor, or concocting the perfect chana masala when your tried-and-true recipe will work just fine. Sometimes the other thing is more important and the deadline slides away—or, in creative endeavors, you may simply need to stop and fill the bucket so you’ve got something to draw from.

But generally speaking, work is work and you just have to get after it. You eliminate as many distractions as possible and you show up and really try. What that looks like for me is a beat-up notebook and a busy, comfortable place full of people I don’t want to meet. To avoid eye contact, I stick my nose in my pages and write like hell, and I feel all smug and self-consciously antisocial for a while, what with my artsy disarray and tortoiseshell glasses: Look at me, being a writer! If only I had a cigarette, I would seem so authentic. The ribbons of smoke, the disdainful tapping of ash…what a shame we all gave up smoking for good health…the aesthetics were practically worth it… On and on this way, an imposter amongst the intellectuals. But eventually I get around myself. The story exerts its pull, and I am far away in someone else’s head, or hovering at a corner of the room reporting on the events as they unfold. I stay with it long enough to get some words on the page that vaguely resemble what I saw. Then it’s back to the computer. Transcribe, revise, recaffeinate, repeat.

That last step is the kicker. So maybe there is a technique to it after all.

Roll

If you’re feeling blah, what is the one thing you do that you can count on to put a smile on your face?

This prompt feels like it’s coming from that smarmy friend who asks you the same question five minutes after you’ve answered it because he wasn’t listening the first time around.

Fuck it. I’m going back to my pages and imaginary soundtrack. If Blackbird were a movie, this song would be playing during the closing credits:

Theme songs, anyone? For your book, for your life?

Warming

Theoretically, summer will return to the polar-vortex-battered Northern Hemisphere. What are you looking forward to doing this summer? If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, what are your fondest memories of Summer past?

I’ve been sitting here daydreaming about farmers markets and day trips to the beach, and lunches outdoors during lazy afternoons in Portland and Seattle. Blue skies, sandals, sundresses that tickle in a rummaging breeze. Icy drinks jeweled and dripping with condensation, those slow squiggled tracks down the sides of the glass. And everything blooming. All the trees with their hands open to catch the sun, and the winding paths beneath them. Summer is blissful in this part of the world. I can’t wait to be in it.

But honestly, what I’m looking forward to most is my next writing project. Blackbird will be finished in June, and I will spend my summer in that blissful what’ll-I-write-next state of mind, which entails long, lazy mornings at the cafe, scribbled notes over every horizontal surface, and stacks of previously neglected books for inspiration. I’ll be under no obligation to write a particular story. Nobody’s waiting anymore. This book can be anything, and the best part of that is the bargain I have made for its writing: no one has to see it, ever, at all, unless it seems like a good idea when I get there. Until then, I’m going to write exactly what I want with no reader to please but myself, and revel in the freedom of making mistakes in the privacy of my head. I’m going to throw down a gauntlet of opinion without worry that anyone will pick it up. I’m going all in. Writing a fuck-it book.

Ever written one of those?

Aces

We all get jealous from time to time — what wakes the green-eyed monster for you?

Big writing talent. Though it’s inspiring to read a powerful book or beautifully crafted passage, part of what’s inspired is jealousy. I sit there staring at the words lined up so sweetly, thinking “read ‘em and weep,” like we’re in a card game and the other writer has just laid down the aces. I slump over my own cards and think, I could never have laid those down, they aren’t even in my hand. Someone else was dealt those beauties and all I can do is sit here with my jacks and try to bluff my way to a win.

Photo by Ellen Von Unwerth

Photo by Ellen Von Unwerth

Someone

Look out your back window or door — describe what you see, as if you were trying to convey the scene to someone from another country or planet.

We live on a biggish piece of land at a bend in the road, in a ranch house built in the 70s. The patio is mossy and crumbling a bit, and a mole has been hard at work at the edge of the concrete—a fact which is driving my dog slowly insane. We have a raggedy lawn surrounded by overgrown rhododendrons, an apple tree, and several unidentified shrubs. Two of these are flowering at the moment, you can see them from the kitchen window. Red and white. A lone daffodil has sprung up as well, nodding in the rain.

To the right of the lawn is a detached garage. Someone broke in there soon after we moved in, but could find apparently nothing to steal. (Have you ever noticed the way Someone registers in your mind as a proper name at times like these? You can vaguely see the shadowy Someone opening the door, turning on the light, rummaging around. What are you doing, Someone? What did you hope to find?)

Beyond the lawn is a scrap of forest. Tall pines, ferns, and foresty hazards like poison oak and the hornets’ nest my son stumbled over last summer. Two paths wind through the trees to a small grassy clearing, which sounds inviting but is too close to the road (and hornets) to be restful. If you battled past the pine trees and shrubs, you’d come to a wooden fence. Someone has ripped a person-sized hole in it, which appeared after the break-in and keeps widening even after my husband repairs it. (If only hornets could be trained. Someone would be toast!)

We don’t use the yard at all and the house is a rental which we will likely vacate as soon as the lease is up, so other than mowing and a big clear-up last summer, we have done nothing to improve it. This is not our home, you see. It’s just a house where we’re living. After we’re gone, I will be the Someone who left a flower basket hanging by the window and a family of moles prospering happily under the lawn.

Wonderland

Which subject in school did you find impossible to master? Did math give you hives? Did English make you scream? Do tell!

Yeah, math. The reason it frustrated me so badly was because it seemed like it should be easy. Just plug the numbers into the formula and follow the rules, and everything will come out okay. Only it never did! As carefully as I worked my equations, the result always seemed to be wrong. I remember sitting in front of my notebook once, sobbing my heart out because the numbers would not add (divide, multiply) up. I just did not understand.

In spite of the complete absence of aptitude on my part, I was and remain entranced by mathematics. I love the idea of math as a language, that people can discover deep truths about the universe by talking with numbers. The lonely physicist is a romantic figure in my mind, sitting amongst his books, staring up at the stars. Writing. He revises his equations the way we revise words. Trying to find order and logic in the world, trying to make it make sense. We all do that in our small way, but I admire the scope of the physicist’s mind and his ability to bring it down to earth, to cover the pages with numbers while his projected self is rocketing along the event horizon, sucked to the singularity, a universe away in another creature’s cosmos where all we know is lost and even the math on the page would be gibberish.

It must be a wonderland, inside a brain like that. I wish I could see it.

Zin

If you could return to the past to relive a part of your life, either to experience the wonderful bits again, or to do something over, which part of your life would you return to? Why?

This is one of those Monkey’s Paw questions that makes me wary. Every life is marred by unhappy events that change the course of things, and the temptation is to get behind them and avoid. I had one of those yesterday, when my husband fell out of his rig and broke his arm. I’d warn him if I could: Don’t jump backward, baby, you’ll catch the heel of your boot!

But that might be a mistake. After all, hindsight is not completely unhelpful. He’s unlikely to exit the rig that way again, which could save him breaking his skull or his neck in a worse fall down the line. Of course this is a simple scenario, and if I’d lost a child or a husband, it wouldn’t sway me. I’d want that person back.

Still, I think it’s safer to relive a moment as it was than to try to make revisions. I’d go back to the early days with my husband. Our first date, maybe, or the first time he invited me over to his house and made dinner—which no one had ever done before, for me, and which scored him a bucketload of goodwill and a trip around the bases. I’d get back into my younger skin and feel his hands on me, knowing every time he kissed me that a claim was being made, that we would have years and years together, that I’d take his name and give him a little boy with eyes exactly the color that were looking into mine, and I’d hug myself around the secret knowledge that we were both in for some sweet nights and laughter and the friendship of a lifetime, and to think it all started with some shish kabob and a bottle of zin.

(Macy Gray sex tunes on the stereo. The boy had moves!)

Groove

It makes me crazy when people wear their shoes in my house. What habit/act drives you crazy? How do you prevent it from happening?

This question reminds me of a label we used to have in the bathroom at work: PLEASE HANG TOILET PAPER IN THE WATERFALL POSITION. My coworker and I would roll our eyes at that. OCD much? But the sign isn’t there anymore. On her last day of work, my cohort peeled off the label and stuck it under my keyboard, and we tittered like children at her boldness.

I am not driven crazy by housewifely things. Hang the paper any way you want. Hell, leave it on the back of the tank if it’s all you can manage. I am solidly in the middle where neatness is concerned and I have zero interest in squabbles over the organization of my spice cabinet.

The only thing that does work my nerves is when I get into a writing groove and someone wanders in for a conversation. My office has no door so people do tend to come and go, which normally is fine. I’ve learned to work around it. After all, I am part of a family–I like being part of it, I’m happy to be available. But every once in a while, when I’ve got the exact analogy on the tip of my fingers or have worked out the perfect paragraph to describe the sunrise in Timbuktu, and someone walks in and jars it loose? Oh, man, the frustration. It takes so long to get there, that’s the thing. I could write at the periphery for hours before finally settling into a groove. Once I’m there I want to stay awhile.

The trouble is that a writer screwing around and a writer hard at work look exactly the same to the untrained observer. If I really need to crank, I lock myself in the bedroom or take my pages to the coffee shop—which is where I’m headed this morning. I’ve got a few weeks left with Blackbird before I turn it in to my editor for a second round of revisions. The structure works, I hope (dear god, do I ever), but the scenes are pretty tight, so I’m going to sit and recaffeinate and fill my notebook with riffs.

Here’s to it.

Creed

Have you got a code you live by? What are the principles or set of values you actively apply in your life?

Just one, a line from Hamlet. It doesn’t mean for me what it meant to Polonius, so maybe I’ve already bent it out of shape in that special, new-agey way we do when searching for a personal creed. But here it is, for what it’s worth. Truncated and T-shirt ready:

To thine own self be true.

 

 

Cradle

Got a soul-mate and/or a best friend? What is it about that person that you love best? Describe them in great detail — leave no important quality out.

Six feet tall. Sandy brown hair, brown eyes. Tiny charming gap between his front teeth and a voice so deep it barely registers to the human ear. Wide shoulders perfectly level at the collarbone. Nose which has been broken at least once and gives him a profile fit for the head of a coin. Thick forearms. Big strong hands, perfect for opening stubborn jars and fiddly things like bra straps and children’s toys.

He’s good, that’s the main thing. A good man. Every characteristic that phrase evokes in my mind is personified in my husband. He’s the better half of us by far—kind and strong and straightforward, with patience for everything but bullshit. What he sees in me is hard to fathom, though I suspect our marriage satisfies the caretaker in him. I’m a mess and he likes that. He knows how to fix me.

65383a6b09b07693ed7e7bb2fd337231Lately I’ve taken to driving out to see him when his truck is nearby but too far to make it home. We have dinner and talk about things, and we go back to his rig where it’s dark and the music is good and where we can feel like teenagers and really be alone. That’s how I know it’s him, for me. Because I crave the time alone with him more than anything else in the world. People say it’s ridiculous to dream of living in an Airstream trailer, traveling about, that you’d get sick of each other and would want to spread out or at least accumulate a few possessions. But I could happily exist that way with him. When I think of what I want for today and forever, it’s the two of us in a tiny home like a cradle, and the wind at our door rocking us to sleep.

That may be the world’s smallest dream or one too big to ever come true. But I believe in it and I believe in us. After all, in this world of billions, we found each other. What could be luckier than that?

Red Lines

We all feel down from time to time. How do you combat the blues? What’s one tip you can share with others that always helps to lift your spirits?

Gin?

Sorry, low-hanging fruit, but then I’ve never been much of a one for the sort of plucky affirmation that seems to be called for here. I’m more of a wallower. I get quiet, withdraw, and wait it out, and I try not to inflict damage on myself or anyone else during the down time. I don’t attempt to talk myself out of what I’m feeling. Periods of melancholy are part of life and struggling against them is like trying to free yourself from quicksand.

That said, what has always helped me manage depression is work. I can’t write new material when I’m down, but I can edit like a motherfucker. All those ruthless little murders of paragraphs and scenes, all those red, red lines where my writing used to be—my bullshit detector works like a dream when fueled by self-loathing. Over the past two months I have rid my manuscript of every sex scene and a boatload of navel-gazing dialog. I’ve identified a shiny new collection of writerly tics. I’ve metaphored my simales, -ed’d my -ings. I’ve jettisoned some of my more fanciful ideas in favor of a straightforward approach (just tell the story, for fuck’s sake, Averil), and I think the book is stronger for it.

Construction over destruction, that’s what I’m trying to learn. Use what you have and get on with it.

And if that doesn’t work, there’s always gin.

Zig-Zag

Do you believe in fate or do you believe you can control your own destiny?

This question seems to imply that one or the other of these is true. I suppose an argument could be made for certain theories of time that suggest past, present, and future exist in some cosmic location already, and only consciousness is fluid. Maybe everything happens for a reason and the reason is that the future requires it. A scientist might be able to apply a theory of space-time to a life philosophy in a way that makes sense to her.

I am not a scientist. I’m an atheist, a pessimist. I don’t believe I control my destiny and I don’t believe in fate. I think you are one of a billion ping-pong balls bouncing around a crowded room. Your path is never straight, it’s beset by obstacles seen and unseen and sometimes internal. I’m willing to be convinced that the zig-zaggy track already exists and you are simply riding it, but I don’t think it follows that anyone is steering. We are small and unimportant creatures except in our imaginations, which are wider and darker and more mysterious than the cosmos. This seems to be an alarming thought to most of us. We prefer explainable things and the illusion of control. Understandable, but, to me, unsatisfying. I don’t like philosophical constructs cluttering up my head. There’s enough shit in there already without adding a concept like fate to the mix.

This prompt has made me grouchy. Here’s hoping tomorrow’s will be better.

Amber

What are the three most memorable moments — good or bad, happy or sad — in your life? Go!

I’m not sure a life can be distilled to a top three this way. I have three children and I remember each of their births in vivid detail—except for my daughter’s actual delivery, during which I was unconscious. I remember my father’s death. The love in my husband’s face when we took our vows. The main events loom large because of the importance we place on them at the time, and the way we return to them over the years.

But my most persistent memories are of small things. I remember standing on the sidewalk as a young child, looking out at some distant traffic from the busier road at the end of our street. It was the first time I made the connection that those cars were not toys but vehicles belonging to other families, that other people got in them and drove around like we did. This was the first time I experienced a thought of the wider world and had an inkling of our place in it. A tiny moment, but it has become fixed in my mind like an insect trapped in amber.

I remember arriving at my boyfriend’s house after school one day when we were about thirteen. He had a German Shepherd named Zada whom he loved to tease. When we got to the door, he started pounding on it and shouting, laughing, working the poor dog into a frenzy. Finally he opened the door and stepped aside (?!), and that dog shot out of the house and knocked me flat on my back. She bit me hard just above the breast, which was such an awkward and horrible place to attend to that I pretended for the rest of the afternoon that I was fine and hadn’t been bitten at all.

He did say he was sorry afterward. To which I say, Boys!

I have a collection of memories, as most women do, of men doing bizarre and sometimes frightening things in the pursuit of their own brand of happiness. The first of these came around the time of the Zada incident. I was on my way home from a walk-a-thon. I’d been walking all day and felt so pleased with myself that I decided to walk all the way home as well. About halfway down Eastern Avenue, a motorcyclist stopped to ask if I wanted a ride. He was easygoing about it when I refused, but set himself in my path, hidden off the road in a drainage ditch where he made sure I’d see him jerking off as I passed. I remember how slowly my head turned when he called. The reluctant sideways slide of my eyeballs, the gravitational weight of my skull on its axis. And I remember this odd sense of inflation at the fear and panic. Lightness, numbness. I couldn’t feel my legs when I took off running.

Flash forward ten years to the guy who stripped down unbidden in my kitchen. He was so casual, like, I’m going for a beer, TA-DA! The full monty, baby, whaddya think of that?

I think you need to get out of my apartment, freak. I am scarred for life.

The Ladder

How do you feel about your job? Do you spring out of bed, looking forward to work? Or, is your job a soul-destroying monotony of pure drudgery, or somewhere in between?

First of all, I think we need to give the Daily Prompt a proper name, so that at times like these I can say, Oh, [insert name], how well you know me this fine Monday morning. Are you looking into my soul, [insert name]? Do you feel my pain?

I’m sure something will come to us. Back to the question.

Photo by Ellen Von Unwerth

Photo by Ellen Von Unwerth

I don’t hate my job. My coworkers are nice, and I like our patients—except for one guy, the only patient in the history of patients who requested a printed copy of our 13-page privacy statement and wanted to know what temperature the ice should be when he puts it on his knee. I treat people like that to my patented what-the-fuck stare and make furious notes on post-its as soon as they leave the room: nervous tic, nails bitten to bleeding…suspicious for hairspray…either a jackrabbit lover or the kind who keeps a running checklist in his head and becomes annoyed when at step four she doesn’t respond exactly the same way to exactly the same performance of cunnilingus…it used to work…it used to work, goddammit…

A job means survival and the detritus of the job is fodder. I was cursed by unfocused creativity and a profound unease around institutions of higher learning, none of which is helpful if you’re trying to climb the ladder. So I take what I can get and try not to complain. Life is a series of choices and mine have led me here. And I’m pretty happy, which is the end goal after all, right?

Nightbird

What kind of sleeper are you? Do you drop off like a stone and awaken refreshed, or do you need pitch black and silence to drift off to dream?

I drop off just fine. It’s staying asleep that’s the problem. Last night I woke at 3am after a dream in which I had an incurable cancer and was trying to round up a back-up writer to finish my book in case I couldn’t get it done in time. (All of you were like, Forget it, Averil, you’ll just have to write faster.) It was a sweet dream, in a way. I was being very brave. I remember my mother bringing me a goose-down pillow and complimenting me on my stoicism in the face of certain doom. But then, of course, wide awake hours before dawn, my thoughts turned back to Blackbird and my real-life deadline, and after flopping about on the bed for an hour (always counter-clockwise, round and round like a pig on a spit) I managed to sneak in another few minutes of sleep before waking again at 5:30. Pretty typical nighttime behavior on my side of the bed.

Now I’ve got coffee. A couple of clicks to open my manuscript and I’m back to work. Clearly I’m going to have to finish this fucker all on my own.

Birds

Today is the first day of the rest of my…year. I put my hand in the grab bag, and came up with this:

What are your thoughts on aging? How will you stay young at heart as you get older?

Physically, of course, it’s a bitch. Decades of gradual bloating followed by a slow-motion collapse, until all that’s left is a slip-slidey fabric of skin over swollen bones, white wisps of hair, a querulous voice and a myriad of maladies. It’s what’s in store for all of us if we’re lucky enough to survive to true old age. My grandmother looked like a baby bird at the end, so small in her twin-size bed.

But the physical decline has some payoffs. As a young woman, I felt intensely visible at all times. I could tell on eye contact whether I had achieved some pleasing effect, or hadn’t, had met with approval or scorn, had chosen too high a heel or too low a blouse or had given up trying and was lurching into frump territory—an unforgivable offense. I had a shifty sense of self. I lived as a reflection in other people’s eyes.

As I get older, I feel those reflections fading. They have to, because people really aren’t looking anymore. I’m not saddened by that; in fact, there are times when I find it thrilling to be physically uninteresting. It means I have to rely on my mind, which is where I am most at home. I’m slowly being released from the burdens of sexuality, physicality, attraction. All the energy I used to spend on my face has been diverted to my head, and I fucking love that. My opinions matter to me now, at least as much as anyone else’s. I take judgement with a salt lick and I’m more likely to consider the source before I feel ashamed for having fallen out of favor. I am the authority on my own page. I say what I mean. And I move through the scenery now in a state of translucence, barely visible, light and free in my skin.

My fading, velvety skin.

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