December 31, 2009

Explosions off in the distance.

Today a fog rolled in fast, filling the windows and world with an off-grey nothing. The house came unmoored and I was floating, anchored to no land at all. Or it felt like it. I am alone this new years eve, which is better probably. I always try on new years to do something, to recreate something I've absorbed from movies or television. All black dresses, champagne glasses, and a kiss at midnight. It has never really worked out that way. Last year was close, I guess. It always feels like adult-pretend-day, sort of. I should know by now that the significant life events rarely happen on national holidays.

I've been on a film-kick lately. New. I couldn't really stand to watch movies for a long while there. They end, and I could never stand it. Even the films I'd loved before. So I watched some films that I know I love. The Piano. I know I love(d?) that film. Still love it, I found. I can see why I went through that weird phase freshman year where I was watching at least a segment of it every day. For months. I can also see why I was a little unhinged freshman year, though probably not entirely because of that. It is a beautiful film, aching. Unapologetic. I remember suddenly why I wanted to make films, or help anyway. I think I don't think about that much because it reminds me of what my life could maybe look like now, and doesn't, and why. AFI seems like a distant, made-up memory now.

It is okay, though. Because that didn't happen right then, and other things did, and now I am here, learning how to be a balanced sort of lady. I don't make resolutions at midnight. It's a thing asking to be broken, I think. If you have to wait for a national holiday to decide something it probably means you are not apt to hold onto your decision. I guess I try to not make resolutions, period. I tend toward extremities, and resolutions can be a dangerous thing. I have learned this the hard way. Maybe a family trait.

December 21, 2009

Memory Books

I am almost finished with a journal, the first I've ever consistently kept or filled. The first entry is dated December 15, 2005. The first sentence is, I want to write a story about disbelief, youth, and magic. After Laura died we read her journals, just to hear her, to visit her again. It didn't feel wrong. My father probably read everything she had written, every sad, crazy word. Laura could be terse, almost mute. But her writing, oh, when you read her writing it was like standing on your tiptoes to peer through a tiny, tiny crack in the curtains of an immense, impenetrable house. Her journals chronicled years of pain and isolation, of guilt and occasionally, every so often, beauty. My journal is several hundred pages long, double sided, and hand written in a varyingly precise script. Since October 3, 2008 I have written in it only four times. But I want to finish it, this chronicle of change.

I began writing in a journal after leaving Fremont for Santa Cruz, when I realized that I couldn't recall myself in high school. I could look at photographs and read essays and the occasional melodramatic livejournal entry, but I had no sense of recognition--of self. I couldn't remember what I thought about my life or myself or being sick. I could remember anger, how I felt about those who tried to take care of me. Nothing reflective. It was alienating, and alarming. Like I had lost years somehow; an era of internal life erased, or simply forgotten. And I told myself that if I was going to try and stay healthy, to try and hold onto some semblance of my newfound balance, I was going to have to try and not forget anything. So I started writing it all down. I rarely catalogued events, or even used the names of people I referred to. It serves only as a memory bank, a diagram of my mindscape between December 15, 2005 and now. It also serves as a flow chart, a grim account of Laura's descent into illness and my fraying mental state. This may all sound awfully awful, or boring, or just unappetizing. But I am so grateful to have it, to be able to revisit a time when she was alive. How little I wrote about her when she was well. How little I've written about her since her death.

I will need a new journal, and to think of that makes me somehow so hopeful. It is a sign, maybe, that time is moving along. And how I wonder what will fill it, what names I'll omit and events I'll neglect to include. What I will think of myself, how my handwriting will change. I hope that it will take account of happier things than the one that came before.

December 15, 2009

On Marriage

I love to sing. I am not very good at it. I don't think it's so much that I am physically incapable, but that I just don't know how to sing versus warbling along with the lyrics of a song. Sometimes if I really forget what I am doing I find myself actually singing, usually when I am in the car or alone. And as soon as I realize it I forget how to do it. One of my secret dreams is to be a wonderful singer. It is probably never going to happen. I would also like to know how to play the piano. And how to make sculptures out of wood. And how to kick box. It's odd that if we don't begin things as children we often assume it is never going to happen. But then you always hear stories about people starting over completely and suddenly taking up mountain climbing or whatever at age fifty two. It'd probably be advantageous not to wait so long.

My grandmother has a bucket list. She'll be 85 next September. The things on her list are comparatively small when held up against the massive accomplishments she's managed during her life. Trip to Maine with the entire family. Set foot inside of the house of her Aunt and surrogate mother, Sissy. How strange to know that your time is limited. Limited by something that will happen in the immediate future, rather than this vast unimaginable finish line somewhere out there, beyond all of the other unimaginable signposts of your future. When I was a very little girl I asked Grandmother if she would come to my wedding. I guess that at that single-digit age marriage was the next signpost, or the next significant signpost. She told me that she did not know, because that was a long ways off. She brings it up every year. A few years ago she told me that she might just make it, but a lot of that was up to me. She also predicted Laura would be married first. I was a teenager at the time, drinking my first real glass of wine at a restaurant called, Trick Dog. I believed her.

I find it hard to imagine that she'll be at my wedding now. With no real intention of being married anytime soon, or even a significant other to pin the intention on, it makes me sad to think that in some way I have gotten in the way of a little girl's wishes. It makes me sad--not that I am not on the fast track to matrimony, but that at age six it was my grandmother's attendance I was concerned about.

December 12, 2009

Personal Statement

I am trying to write my personal statement for my graduate school applications. It is supposed to be brief, and addressing all kinds of things: career goals, personal history, writing aspirations, writing proclivities etc. I have no idea how to go about writing this. I wrote a personal statement almost two years ago, when I last applied to graduate school (that time for film, as opposed to creative writing) and my statement was not very good. It was technically apt, and vaguely creative, but it was squishy and loose and reminded me of something I would have written in high school. It got me into AFI, so I suppose I shouldn't be too hard on it. But now I have even less of an idea how to write this. How do you write about writing? It seems ridiculous, particularly when they make it clear that your writing in the statement will be taken as an example of your writing ability. I am mailing a writing sample as an example of my writing ability, so this seems sort of implosive. I tried to start once already. I sat down and put on "Divenire" by Ludovico Einaudi and opened a bottle of Pinot. I sat and sat and finally pounded out one sentence.

I write about blood.

I am not sure this will work in a personal statement, let alone the first line of a personal statement. I know that it is true. I write about blood. Not gore, or innards type blood. Thicker than water type blood, and all that comes with that. But I am afraid there is no way to get that across without sounding like a product of the gothic imagination, or just heavy handed. It is even more true now that I am here, where my family has been since the 1600s. The headstones of relatives casually stud people's lawns. That, in of itself, is pretty heavy handed imagery, even if it is essentially the truth. They ask why you write, what motivates you. The only answer I really have: remembrance. I am tempted to write something completely off the wall, totally without the bells and whistles of a traditional personal statement. Maybe I will just do that. It is hard when I am afraid to state fact, visit reality.

My sister died in October of 2009 and I wrote the eulogy, and it was the last thing I wrote for a full year. I want to go to graduate school so that you can teach me how to write about something other than sisters. I want to go to graduate school so you will give me a deadline, so I can learn how to do this again. I just need to do something, you see, that feels like something normal people do. Normal people go to graduate school and go to class and have assignments and grow up, and I need you to accept me so that I can try to do those things, if only to prove that I still can. I can't give you a good personal statement because that requires an ability to write accurately and broadly about myself as a person, and you see, I think I have been a few too many people in the last two decades to know where to begin with that. I write so that I can remember who I was before this happened and that happened and you happened and this, again, happened.

December 5, 2009

Slack Tide

It is snowing elsewhere today. Relatives called, excited, wanting to hear about the snow or share tales of their own snow but it is not snowing here. It is raining and rotten. "Cold and miserable" as my mother would say. I don't find it cold or miserable--like airports, rain-days please me. I used to mentally beg it to rain every Christmas because the disjunct between the sunny California day and the indoor tree covered in wintery ornaments aalways seemed depressing, and artificial. I hoped at least for gloomy stratus. This wish was only satisfied once in almost two decades of begging and hoping and wishing, but I distinctly remember it as the best Christmas ever. This year, having demanded that the whole family gather in Virginia for Christmas, I hope to be completely satisfied and have a snow-day. I am setting myself up for disappointment, aren't I?

I am glad to be home. California was alarming and good and strange. As soon as I landed in San Francisco I realized I had no sense of direction because the ocean was on the wrong side. It was like horizontal vertigo. Lateral-igo. My digestive system is still grappling with the immense amount of Chinese, Afghan, Indian, and Mexican food I managed to ingest. Never have I been so pleased to see an avocado tree, or well-behaved drivers on 680, or Miss Hannah Gelb. Santa Cruz seemed weirdly short, I think because I am used to being surrounded by tall Virginia pines. There is too much sky in California, which may seem a ridiculous complaint, but I have thought it since I was a child. Don't even get me started about the Southwest. I went to the Poet & the Patriot and reveled in Guinness and the sight of my favorite bartender (soon to be bar-owner), though my visit was brief because we have all become old people: "My my it's awfully loud in this establishment." We migrated to the Red where we continued being old people: "Man I'm tired. One drink and then to bed!" I am as guilty as the next person in this. It made me yearn for the days of yore, summer '07, when life was all play and almost no work, and the Laurel Houses were the haven of fantastic themed shindigs, spontaneous dance parties, and all the pesto and mashed potatoes you could possibly wish for.

It is different to think of that summer now than it was to mourn it in the year following it, when everyone paired off and grew up and went their separate ways. I now look at it as something that I can't have back, and wouldn't want to relive, knowing what would follow. There was so much that was going to happen, and I didn't know, couldn't know, and I envy and pity that gone-girl for that. I couldn't recreate that summer now--none of us could. We left and now find ourselves too strange and too different to ever go back. There is a moment every day when the tide is neither high nor low, neither coming nor going, and the water swirls around itself and smooths, still as glass stretching out in front of the house. It is called the slack tide. I think that that it was that summer was. A moment of slack tide, when we all found ourselves standing still at the edge of the precipice, and danced there for a while, trying so hard not to see what was coming. I wish I could have held us there, arms around that moment tight. But I could not, and did not, and everything that has happened has happened and all that is left are the photographs and the indelible stains in the carpet of a house none of us live in anymore.