Sunday, February 11, 2018

I have been in Oaxaca for about two weeks now and must admit, I've become a bad tourist. There is much to see and do and eat here but I've found myself forgetting to explore, mainly writing, reading and wandering off when I need food. To be fair, I came here to write so there should be no guilt there but of course, in my mind guilt and anxiety always find their way in. 

Which leads me, I guess, to a fun story: a few days before I left, I had a scare that my arm was at risk for paralysis. It was my last week of work and I was frantically tying up loose ends, finishing up every project I could while also ignoring the fact that I was about to solo travel down to Mexico in a few days, and all of sudden my arm went numb. Fully numb.

My initial diagnosis was that it was due to the fact that I had cut my wrist while doing dishes a few days earlier. A ceramic plate broke in my hand while I was washing it, and I was worried that the plate had dug in, hitting a vital nerve. But after a trip to the doctor's, I realized that no, it was just too much computer use and most likely, anxiety. In all of my years, I've seen my fair share of ways in which anxiety can manifest itself but that was definitely a new one for me.

Now that I'm here, I'm trying to be anxiety-less. Honestly, it's almost absurd to have any anxiety, being that I'm able to spend a month writing in 80 degree weather. But talking to other writers here, I see it everywhere. The anxiety that you're not writing enough. The anxiety that you're not enjoying yourself enough. 

An interview with Chicago author, poet and sociologist Dr. Eve Ewing stumbled into my inbox this week and summed it up so well. Her motto? "I always forgive myself for what I'm not doing."

"This is really dramatic," Ewing later says, "but when I finished my dissertation at two in the morning in my house in Boston, the very first thing I thought about was Harriet Tubman and slavery. I burst into tears. And I was like, 'I just finished my dissertation, and my ancestors were enslaved and if they tried to read people would punish or murder them! And they were ripped apart!' That was straight to where my mind went. I also was extremely sleep deprived. But you know, when you get that perspective, it's like, 'Uh, yeah, I got it pretty good.'"

So as of right now, I'm channeling Ewing, forgiving myself for whatever I'm not doing, being as easy as I can on myself, acknowledging that I've got it good. I've picked an achievable daily writing goal and every day, I do it. I am here, I am fine, I am writing! It is sometimes torture but it is also sometimes pure bliss.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

I suppose these are a bit late but I wanted to write down my resolutions for next year mainly as a way to remind myself to keep coming back to them, even if I let myself slip a few months in. They are realistic resolutions (my favorite kind); small in scope, do-able and yet somehow they'll still take a bit of dedication to keep up with. So without further ado, 2018 will be the year I ...
1) Finish my book (My motto for this year: I don't care if it's any good, just that it's done.) 
2) Join a writing group 
3) Read at least 24 books (and one in Spanish)
4) Continue rock climbing / salsa dancing
5) Keep up with this space here 
6) Call senators / representatives once a week (failing at this now but will keep trying to make it a habit) 
7) Floss every day 
8) Save what I can 
9) Join a CSA 
10) Bring a resusable water bottle everywhere I go (currently on a very slow journey to being less wasteful)
I would love to have a buy nothing year next year and just work at an aggressive savings goal but with a move coming up (details soon!) I know that it's not realistic for 2018. Regardless, for now there's lots to do, lots to look forward to, especially being that in three days I will be heading to Mexico for a month-long writing residency to work as hard as I can on goal number one. 

Of course there will also be plenty of moments this next month where I'm working less hard, drinking fresh squeezed papaya juice in the Oaxacan sun, which I am also very much looking forward to. Hasta pronto, friends.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Okay, one last reading list because I can't help myself...

I enjoyed all of the books I read last year but I think I'm at the point where no matter what, I find most of the writing I pick up if not good, at least interesting. It's like blogger Kara Norman wrote in her recent post:
"The point of making things - songs or books or cookies or blog posts, I would say - is not necessarily to arrive at an aesthetically-pristine product, but for the artist to go through the process of making it and the audience to go through the process of receiving it. It's perhaps why, at this point in my life, I'm not sorry when I read a bad book by a favorite author. It's exciting to watch someone I respect keep trying, whether they sometimes miss the bar or not."
Only once I started creating (actually creating) did I stop looking for, as Kara says, an aesthetically-pristine product. Still of the books I read, there were some that stood out and so here they are, in no particular order:

* The Interior Circuit: a Mexican City Chronicle by Francisco Goldman: Like I said in a previous post, this was my favorite book of the year. It had a perfect mix of the personal, the political and some travel writing as well. Goldman's ode to his favorite city and his complicated love for it knocked it out of the park for me.

* Maud Martha by Gwendolyn Brooks: Brooks chronicles her narrator's every day, the small tragedies, the beauty in the somewhat mundane and all of the little moments that equate to a life. It's a classic and deservedly so.
Working Hard, Drinking Hard by Adrienne Pine: An anthropological study on Honduras, this might not be everyone's cup of tea but it was incredibly eye-opening for me and also, somewhat applicable to life in the states. It mainly looked at the violence in Honduras and those who are seen as perpetrating the violence and how they are victims themselves of even greater violence by the state. So, you know, a fun read.

* Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri: Not a word missplaced or a story line that falls flat. I'm mesmerized every time I return to her work.

* Homing Instincts by Sarah Menkedick: I've been following Menkedick's journalism for a while but in her first book, she shifts gears a little, writing about motherhood while she adjusts to life stateside in Ohio. There were some really poignant moments in this book that have lingered on after reading. 

* Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi: What a masterpiece of a book. It's meticulously researched and such a creative feat, telling the story of seven generations, starting in Ghana and weaving it's way through most of American history. I can't recommend it enough.

* Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown: A bit dated but I think that's why I liked it. The novel also serves as a slice of history, telling the story of a woman navigating life as a lesbian in the eighties.

* Scratch: Writers, Money and the Art of Making a Living by Manjula Martin: This one was right up my alley, as a group of writers discussed how they came to make a semblance of a living off their writing. Each essay describes a different journey, which served as a nice reminder that there is no one way, it seems.

* Woman Hollering Creek by Sandra Cisneros: Like Lahiri, I love everything by Cisneros. The title story was phenomenal (I read it twice because I was so in love).

So alas, there are my reads for 2017. What about you? Any recommendations for 2018?

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 in a nutshell: I learned how to just get through when it came to work; I woke up before the sun came up and read, surpassing my goal of reading 24 books in one year (!); I wrote very rough drafts of three chapters of my novel; put away some money (though not as much as I would have liked); went to therapy for the first time; traveled, protested, called my senators, donated time, donated money; and planned for a cross country move, making compromises/decisions along the way.

But enough about me, what I really want to share is the writing that I stumbled upon online this year which fed me. If you have the time, I recommend making yourself some ginger tea and reading through word for word. For whatever reason, these essays and articles (and one podcast and one piece of fiction) took hold of me and have been stored away in the back of my mind ever since. Hope you enjoy.

Home is a cup of tea  /  The gap between memory, desire and (ugh) reality  /   The work you do, the person you are  /  How homeownership became the engine of American inequality  /  The ungrateful refugee  /  Let's talk about babies  /  Failing at important things  /  Under the apple tree

Lastly, I can't end this post without mentioning SZA's Ctrl, which I listened to more times than I can count (also fell in love with Juana Molina's Halo, which is great if you ever need background music while working). Played at full volume, it can make you forget about this world we live in; a wonderful escape, if only for a moment.

And with that, onto another year, which means more writing and more art that gets us through and more working to make things better and hopefully in many ways, more of the same. Hoping you're well!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

It's been a while since I've written here. In the past months, I put on an event for work to a rough degree of success, I struggled some days for many reasons (personal, professional, political), and I put down the pen for a little bit only to get really excited about coming back here.

Things are looking on the up and up these days, which makes me feel ridiculous that I felt like such a mess just a few months ago, but hey emotions, they are what they are.

In other news, did you know that Las Vegas is incredibly beautiful? I didn't, until I went there this past weekend to chase the sun and go on a climbing trip with my boyfriend for his December birthday. I don't want to speak too soon but after climbing with my boyfriend for the past year and a half, often times begrudgingly, I think I have finally caught the climbing bug. Those rocks above did it; and also maybe the realization that I can do things that I think I can't.

While my writing practice has waned these past few months, I have kept up reading as much as ever, and devoured Francisco Goldman's "The Interior Circuit: A Mexico City Chronicle" a few weeks back, deciding that it was my favorite book of the year. The book blends travelogue, memoir, and the political into one, which I think is a wonderful, perfect mix. The way he describes the country-wide grief in Mexico and how it simultaneously informs his own personal grief after tragically losing his wife is stunning.

A few years ago, I read Goldman's novel "Say Her Name," which chronicled losing his wife due to a swimming accident off the Pacific coast, and while it was beautiful, it was almost too heartbreaking to ever want to read it again. But as Goldman continues on processing his grief, his latest writing is a bit easier to digest (although the subject matter in "The Interior Circuit" is often just as dark). Some particularly gorgeous passages:

"Concentration and hours to write come more easily to me in the DF than anywhere else, especially when it rains. Time in Mexico City, at least to me, seems somehow slowed down, so that days feel twice as long as they do in New York. A mysterious energy seems to silently thrum from the ground, from restless volcanic earth, but it is also produced, I like to think by the pavement-pounding footsteps of the millions upon millions who labor every day in the city, by their collective breathing and all that mental scheming, life here for most being a steadfastly confronted and often brutal daily challenge, mined with potential treachery, but also in the best cases, opportunity, one sometimes hiding inside the other as in a shell game; also by love, desire, and not so secret sexual secretiveness, the air seems to silently jangle with all that, it's like you breathe it in and feel suddenly enamored or just horny; so much energy that in the late afternoon, I don't even need coffee."

"Though I will never be able to comprehend Aura's death, I do think I live with it now with less resistance, less corrosively, with less inner panic than before. Aura has her place inside me now, I told Nelly, though I hate that phrase and its false impression of gardened cemetery, neatness. What is Aura's place? Death and memory, never neat or orderly, always a forest and an ocean."

I mean, how perfect are those words?

In a few months, I will be off to Mexico myself for a month-long writing residency. I've been planning a trip to Mexico for a while now and am that glad it's working out, though there are many anxieties surrounding it (money for one, and also the fact that I'll be alone every day with my thoughts and a blank page. Fun!). Still, I'm excited for change and a new year and a few posts heading your way with more of my favorite writing of 2017.

Glad to be back.