Ghosts and Monsters: A Portrait of My Father

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This is a re-post from October 2011, but I thought I would put it out there for Father’s Day.

When he was alive, he let me know I belonged. He let me know, really know, that I was loved. He understood me in a way that only the person you are most like in the world can. He encouraged me to find my dreams and live them. He did that for other people I love too. He taught me how to laugh, and how important that is. He taught me how to cry, and how important that is. He taught me to be still and listen. He taught me to care and not just to act like it. He taught me to be honest, especially with myself.

I think of him when I hear a tale that moves me to tears. I think of him when I laugh so hard I cry. I think of him in the quiet moments of the morning when stillness abounds. His love for me is so deeply embedded that I can feel it still. I think of him when I reach for new goals and plan new adventures. I especially think of him when I try to encourage others to do the same. I think of him when I take a moment to appreciate how often being honest with myself, and then with those I care about, has brought love closer to me.

When he was alive, he made me feel alone. He disallowed the emotions of those that wanted peace. He shattered my well-being in the way only the person you are most like in the world can. He undermined the tiny successes on the road to living my dreams. He did that to the people I love too. He throttled any exuberance in which he wasn’t the engineer. He taught me how to cry alone, and how important it can be to wait until you’re alone. He taught me to obey his wish for me to be silent and not think. He taught me to act like I didn’t care. He taught me how difficult it is to be honest, especially with myself.

I think of him when I see children not allowed to be children. I think of him when I see people threatened by the success of others. I think of him when life introduces chaos and stunts the emotions of those in its grip. My fear of his destructive understanding is so embedded that I can feel it still. I think of him when I reach for new goals and plan new adventures. I especially think of him when I encourage others to do the same. I think of him when I take a moment to really be honest with myself and those I care about. Oh, how often that has let me know that I am loved.

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On Hiatus

Just a quick post to let everyone know that I’ve decided to let the blog take a hiatus for the month of December. December is simply too full of living life to reflect upon it in any measured way.

Of course I’ll be writing this month, but not with the aim of polishing to post. I should have lots of things to say in 2012. I’ll see you all then.

Marvelous

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I marvel that I came from her

 

Her eyes twinkle

Sometimes with mischief, other times with merriment

They really twinkle

 

She bounces out of bed in the morning

Sometimes with purpose, or maybe just to meet the day

She actually bounces

 

Her smile is always at the ready

The lines on her face tell the story

Her smile is never far away

 

I marvel that I came from her

 

She’s sees the ugliness in the world, and her eyes twinkle.

She’s knows the challenges of the days in front of her, and she bounces to meet the day

She’s carried sadness in her heart, yet she smiles

 

I marvel that I came from her

 

Morning Tradition

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This year there is no feast to prepare

This year there are just he and me

This year is a break from the usual

 

And yet I’m awake before the dawn

This is how I always give thanks

Some traditions insist on being met

 

I watch out the windows as the world turns

Too early for the sing-song of birds

Too dim for intrusion of human edifice

 

I watch until the dark becomes light

Until the deer notice a house in their midst

Until the outlines of individual trees emerge

 

On other mornings, these hours contain the cares of my world

On Thanksgiving, I look out and see

No care weighing on deer, or birds, or squirrels, or trees

 

I look and look

As I look, I breathe and breathe

I am alive with the world and give thanks

 

I watch long enough to see the world turn

I awake to take notice of being alive

Some traditions insist on being met

Can I Get Angry?

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In the last month, I’ve started writing narratives. I’ve learned something about how to construct them. I’m on the edge of learning the first things about what works and what doesn’t work. I already knew the journey down this road would be long, so I’m aware that there is much more to learn than I have learned.

In reading what I’ve written over the past several weeks, it becomes clear that I am more comfortable writing about emotions that I feel are safe. I’m comfortable writing about the same things I’m comfortable talking about. I need to move beyond that in my life and my writing.

If I want to communicate my passions, I need to learn to effectively communicate uncomfortable emotions. Very, very early in life, I was taught not to acknowledge or express anger, disappointment, or fear. In fact, I was encouraged to dampen all of my emotional responses. I learned my lessons well, and I still struggle to express or, indeed, acknowledge strong emotions.

Last week, I tried to write about anger. In the end, I feel that, just as in real life, I pulled my punches. Part of the problem is that the best of my writing so far is straight from my life. In trying to express anger in writing, I don’t have any good real-life examples. I still don’t openly express anger. I still don’t even identify with anger.

So how do I get through to my passions? Because many of the things I care about stir up feelings of anger. I absolutely get angry when I encounter abuse. Particularly the abuse manifested as benign neglect of children by those charged with their care. I get angry when I see any person exert whatever power they may possess to degrade or deny the humanity or dignity of another. And yet, I absolutely believe in a basic decency that exists in us all. I want to appeal to that decency in my writing, but I also want to champion it. I don’t want to write with an agenda. I don’t want to write narratives that are overtly cause driven or have a moral in mind. I do want to write stories that are authentically human. I can’t run from expressing the emotions that make me passionate if I’m to do the writing I want to do.

I have been reading a lot of advice about writing. On said advice, I’ve been reading quite a lot. This isn’t really a change, but I’ve been reading with a different purpose. I’ve been trying to read the sort of writing I would like to write. Since most of my best stories come from my life, I’ve been trying to be more present and open in my life in the belief that if I live more stories, I will have more stories to write. I still feel blocked from some of the things I feel, but I will keep writing.

Any advice as to what to read or how to proceed from here?

Pushing Ropes

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She lets out a little yelp as she trips. Those damn sheets are falling off her side of the bed again.  She steals a look to see if he’s wearing it. At least she thought she stole the look. He must have caught her. Or maybe he just heard the involuntary sigh that escaped when she saw that he had been wearing the offending robe in bed.

He casts it off and throws it on his stack of clothes in the chair. He’s all smiles this morning. As he heads toward the bathroom, he calls out over his shoulder, “You can’t push a rope!”

She doesn’t want to have this argument again on this morning. She can practically recite it, and she is still tripping on sheets that she thinks might seriously injure her one day. This morning, she just wants to get through her morning ablutions without killing herself and get on with her day. That’s all she has energy for.

She’s tired of trying to make her point. The point that is doesn’t matter whether he thinks he’s directly responsible for the sheets becoming her enemy or not. The point that the only facts she can point to are that when he wears that robe to bed, the sheets collect on her side of the bed waiting to trip her, and when does not wear that particular robe to bed, the sheets stay on top of the bed. The point that she is genuinely concerned for her physical safety and genuinely hurt that he is only concerned with winning his argument. Also, she’s tired of reminding him that sheets are not a rope.

She’s not going to have this pointless argument this morning, because she will have to have too many pointless arguments through the day. Or she will have to listen to pointless arguments. They seem to be all the rage at the moment. She can’t even turn on the evening news without hearing of at least three or four very public pointless arguments. She is completely worn out from these sorts of arguments. Arguments that rest on valid, but irrelevant facts. Arguments that are more about winning than about listening to the other parties concerns. Arguments that are so concerned with denying direct responsibility that they seem to lack any compassion for the other parties’ circumstances.

She is too tired. Today, she is tired of being tired. She’s decided to change the dialogue if she can. She’s not going to argue. She would like to change at least one circumstance for the better. She’s finally remembered that it’s far easier to change what she can control instead of trying to change what she can’t control.

When he comes out of the shower, he’s whistling. She goes to him and gives him a kiss. “I love you. I don’t care if you can’t push a rope. I don’t want to talk about the sheets. I just don’t want to break my neck. I don’t care if you wear that robe or not. I know you like it. But I’m not getting into a bed with that robe. And I’d really like to continue sleeping with you.”

“But you can’t push a rope.” He’s having trouble changing with her. He likes where the old argument ends things.

She looks him directly in the eye. “I love you. I am not getting in a bed with that robe. I can sleep very comfortably in any bed in this house, but I would prefer to snuggle with you. Those are the only relevant things you need to hear. I’ve decided that if I can’t push a rope, then I must draw a line.”

He hugs her tight and gives her a kiss. “I love you too. What do you want for breakfast?” He’s whistling again.

By way of introduction

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On November 1, 2011, Imaginary WordPress Journalist (IWPJ) interviewed blogger Sylvie Fuller (SF). The purpose of the interview was to congratulate SF on following through on her post-a-day commitment for the month of October as well as to get to know her and find out what her plans are now.

IWPJ: Sylvie, thanks for joining me today. I wanted to start things off by congratulating you on following through on your post-a-day commitment for the month of October. How do you feel about things at this end of the challenge?

SF: Thanks so much for having me. Thanks also for acknowledging my progress. I didn’t completely make the post-a-day challenge. I posted 29 of the 31 days in October, but I’m counting that as success. It’s an interesting thing to do. Just holding myself to the idea of writing and posting each day, and not letting the goal get any bigger than that, I found my writing going in directions I had no idea they wanted to go. It’s been a worthwhile exercise for me.

IWPJ: Yes, I can see a change in style as you move through the month. A lot of your more recent writing seems very personal. Are these stories from your life?

SF: Well, they sort of happened to me. Really most of them are stories from the life of my alter ego. Of course I took some liberties here and there to simplify the narrative or to better communicate the idea or evoke the mood that I wanted.

IWPJ: Your alter ego? What do you mean?

SF: Sorry. I guess I should explain. I started out as a way for her to write without worrying about protecting the people in her life that might not want to have their stories told publicly. I actually came fully to life when she realized that through me she could begin to shed her inhibitions and just write. She’s me, but with a different name, and she prefers to keep the specifics private.

IWPJ: Wait, so who’s the real person? Sylvie or her alter ego? I’m not sure I understand? What are the differences? Can you share any of the details with us?

SF: Oh, we’re both real in our own way. “We” are a middle-aged, mid-career married woman living in the Mid-Atlantic region of the US. She would prefer not to get any more specific about age, name, her exact job (although I can tell you it is in research science), or exactly where she resides. I’ve told her I would respect that. In return, she let’s me write whatever I want and take the credit for the stories I see her live everyday.

IWPJ: Okay…do either of you need to seek medical attention? Also, did the squirrel story really happen?

SF: [Laughs] Yes, the squirrel story really happened. And no, neither of us needs to seek medical counsel. I don’t think it’s come to that. She knows that Sylvie is an invention. She thought is was to protect the privacy of her family and friends as well as her own, but she’s found me to be a valuable creative tool. Hey, if it’s good enough for Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll, and George Eliot, well then…”

IWPJ: OK. Well, Sylvie, have you been writing long?

SF: Publicly, about a month. This is it. Like so many people, I wrote quite a bit when I was in school, and I write for work purposes, and I’ve kept journals, off and on, most of my life, but aside from some academic articles, none of my writing has ever been intended for public consumption.

IWPJ: Then why now? What is your purpose?

SF: I think the answer to that is already changing. The answer to the first question is a little easier. At this point in my life, things have evened out a bit, and I was sort of looking for a new challenge. A few good friends and family encouraged me in this direction. Thanks to the wild-and-wooly-web, we live in an age where you can go public with creative pursuits with no or minimal cost. So after a few months of establishing habits and mostly hemming and hawing until I worked up the courage, I decided that the post-a-day challenge was a good way to just dive in.

IWPJ: And the second question? What do you want to accomplish with your blogging? Or is this it for you?

SF: I certainly hope this isn’t it! This last month has proven far too interesting to walk away from. But I’m not exactly sure what I want to accomplish anymore. My original intent was to write well-researched expository pieces that I hoped would help, somehow, that would improve the world through highlighting the things I care about.

But then I started writing the narrative stuff. And that really seems to resonate. Not just with me. I started getting a lot of feedback after I started the narrative stuff. That’s where my energy seems to be taking me so I want to follow it, but I’m not sure where it’s leading anymore.

My “elevator speech” for why I’m writing is that I want to be a force for good in the world. Actually, that’s kind of my mantra in everyday life. I think if I take the time and effort to get better at it, maybe the narrative writing is another way for me to do that. We’ll see.

IWPJ: So what’s next? Are you going to keep doing what you’re doing or make some changes? Do you have a plan?

SF: While writing and posting every day has been a good creative experience for me, I think I’ll make some changes. First I think I’ll take  a bit of break. Just for the rest of the week. The alter ego does work full-time, and this schedule of writing has required her to sacrifice a lot of her personal time to me. The husband has been very supportive and understanding, but the house really needs a cleaning blitz, and the laundry, dishes, etc. need cleaning up. And they really did go apple-picking. I think she wants to bake him a crisp to thank him for being so tolerant this month. But then I’ll get back to it but on a different schedule.

IWPJ: But the blog is called “fuller by the day”. What’s the plan if not to post every day?

SF: I’ll be moving over to my “fuller musings” blog starting next week. I’d originally intended to take “fuller by the day” down at the end of the month, but since this has been such a useful process for me, I think I’ll leave it up. I think I may return to it every six months or so to recharge the creative engine.

I’d like to post twice a week on fuller musings. Right now I’m thinking Mondays and Thursdays. That will give me more time to edit my posts. When I’ve re-read most of the things I posted this month, I’ve wanted to clean them up further. Either lengthen them and develop the story more fully, or shorten them and intensify the meaning. As I’ve said, I don’t really know what I’m doing yet, but I’m trying to learn, and I’m taking it seriously. I’m trying to be more thoughtful.

Posting less often will also allow me to take more time to learn more about WordPress. For instance, I’d like to learn how to properly place links in my text. With all of this concentrating on writing something to post every day, I’ve just put off learning all the technical aspects of blogging.

Next week I’ll cross post to this blog to give anyone who cares to a chance to transition over to the new blog.

IWPJ: Sylvie Fuller, thanks for talking to us today, and good luck with your new blog. Anything else you want to tell our readers?

SF: Yes! I’d like to thank anyone and everyone who’s bothered to stop by and stay a while this month. I’ve had a much bigger response to this exercise than I expected. For the most part, everyone has been incredibly supportive and positive, and I’ve really appreciated it. I know I have tons to learn, and I hope that the community here will be as helpful in nudging me in the right direction as they’ve been so far. As always, comments, corrections and queries are welcome. Truly.

I’d also like to wish good luck to everyone participating in NaNoWriMo. I’ve proven I can handle somewhere between 500 and 1000 words a day on different subjects, but I think I have a lot more practicing to do before I even entertain 50,000 words that actually tell a story in a month. I salute you all.