February 15, 2011


I had a strange evening. I am going to leave up my last post despite the fact that, in rereading it, I find it almost maddeningly generic. It lacks me. I have found it difficult to write in this context since my arrival in the city because I find that my writerly energy is so wrapped up in the work I am endeavoring to create for my workshops. I think there is also a way in which I am living less in my own interior, and find I have less to say in regards to that interior. My time in Virginia was largely lived out in my own head, and my writing reflected it. Now I find that, given that much more is happening in the exterior of my life, I have less to say about the goings on of my mind. That isn't to imply I've had some kind of personality-death in DC. It's simply a relief, in a way, to have something to do with myself other than think about the ways in which my life has been inalterably twisted about, and the ramifications of that on my thinking and feeling and living.

I bring this up because tonight one of the workshop pieces for my creative nonfiction piece dealt very specifically with some of what twisted my life up in the first place. The workshop descended into a chorus of questions. None of this was directed at me; it wasn't my piece. But, the simple hearing of the questions sent me into a sort of panic state, and I was shaken. How did the sister's illness effect the family? What did our narrator sacrifice for the sake of her sister? Is the narrator judgmental of her own anger regarding her sister's illness, or is she judgmental of the illness itself? What is healthy? Is this story about the narrator or the narrator's sister?

I am handing out a nonfiction piece next week. I haven't completed it as of yet. I am taking up a memoir piece that has lain unfinished for almost four years now. I wrote it as an undergraduate, and it concerns my history of depression and struggles with disordered eating, my close, somewhat twisted relationship with my sister, and my increasing anxiety over my sister's illness. It is saturated in death. I have not touched the piece since my sister died. I was frightened by what I had written, and by how accurately the fears my text detailed were enacted in my living-life in the years following the time when it was written. The piece is feeling increasingly difficult. I have been laboring on it in a surface level--fooling with tense and striking prose. In rereading it now, from this distance, I find my writing indulgent and sloppy. At the same time, I am startled by the immediacy of the emotion the process of editing and adding to the piece is stirring up in me. I am realizing how much I have managed to forget of the two years preceding Laura's death, and I find it unnerving. Difficult too is the revisitation of the times long before Laura was ever ill--our childhoods, the shared time. The time I no longer share with anyone. I find myself wishing I could call her to check the facts of her illness--her hospitalizations and threats and time in treatment--in the same way that the author of today's workshop piece was able to do. I can't. I can ask my parents, but I find I don't want to. It seems unfair to drag them back into the mud with me for the sake of a workshop piece. It is a strange thing to be frightened by what you have written and what you know you need to write and by what you don't remember well enough to write truthfully. The pressure I'm putting on myself over this is doing nothing to improve my outlook. I find the echoes of post trauma deafening me, and old anxiety flooding my system, potent with time.

Pull Yourself Together, Lady

I have found I have been rather at odds with myself of late. I am finding it difficult to summon the energy necessary to try new things and places in these winter months, and as such am feeling stagnant. It is an unpleasant sensation. There is so much to do in DC, and I must admit I've, to some extent, failed to take advantage. At first my excuse was school, and now it appears to be school and weather combined. I swore when I arrived that I would try one new location every week in DC, but that quickly fell to the wayside, the demands of school and intrigues of my brand new social life effectively shelving my initial ambition. I find myself asking, What have I accomplished in DC? It's a stupid kind of question, and one designed to breed discontent. I am intolerant to moping, as those who know me well have likely been rudely informed, and suddenly I find myself a bit guilty of a thing I detest. So, in an attempt to annihilate my own will to mope, the following:

What I have accomplished in DC:
  • The completion of four rough drafts of new fiction, totaling some 56 pages of writing completely unique to my time at AU. This, after a full year of no writing, followed by a year of blogging and unsatisfactory and incomplete dabbling in attempts at fiction, is an accomplishment I can both abstractly recognize and exactly quantify. I have written something, and three of four of the stories are pieces I will undoubtedly return to, and refine. The work also represents a significant improvement than that which I produced in UC Santa Cruz's Concentration, and I am proud of it. "Wolf Trap", "Forest" and "Gravekeeper."
  • The reestablishment and strengthening of a friendship with one Michael Bierne. I am lucky to have an old friend in DC, and my relationship with Mike has proved an absolute pleasure. And he sent me a Valentine in the mail.
  • The creation of a solid group of AU friends, some of whom I met through my first fiction workshop, and some of whom I met through the magic of a true graduate student passion: drinking at the end of the day. I have my core group of often offensive but awkwardly charming man-friends (Steve, Marshal, Chuck) and one female peer in general snark, Kathleen. It may sound ridiculous, but after a year of watching most of my undergraduate friends make new friends while I languished in the senior-populated island of seclusion, making friends absolutely feels like an accomplishment.
  • Nesting. I mean this in both an apartment and neighborhood sense. I have my haunts, and though my comfort in said haunts is something I fear is now enabling my general laziness/stagnation, I am glad to have found my pub, my coffee shop, and my preferred Chinese takeout joint. I have a neighborhood flower shop that I visit on Fridays (they have a new labrador puppy named Gunner), a favored Whole Foods, and a favorite bartender (Chris, possibly the sweetest man I've ever encountered tending bar). My apartment is furnished, and though the walls remain a bit bare, it is comfortable and lived-in, and I am glad to come home to it at the end of the day/night.
I feel better having written these things down, stupidly enough. It's a silly thing, to have to prove to yourself that you are doing an okay job of things, but sometimes life necessitates some silliness. I am left thinking of the many things DC has to offer, and what accomplishments and experiences I hope to incorporate into the next six months. Museum visits, more film watching at E Street Cinema, dining, further neighborhood exploration, neighboring neighborhood exploration, the continued branching out into new nightlife spots, East coast road tripping, visits to my family in Pennsylvania, decoration of my apartment walls, and general living life type of stuff. I find myself eager for Spring and the energy I hope it will enliven in me, though I hope to face the final half (half!) of winter with renewed ambition and a lot less moping. I suppose this is me getting in the swing of the New Year, cliched as it may be. It's supposed to be 68 degrees this Friday, I have a nonfiction piece due next Tuesday, and I am ready to wrestle this general malaise into submission.