Wednesday, November 8, 2017

This is a writer's brain. . . it's exhausting.


I want to write a book. Like actually complete a book. I doubt I can, but I want to try.

*writes book that takes years. quickly discounts accomplishment*

I just want to get an agent. If I could only get an agent . . .

*after years of rejection gets agent*

I just want to sell this manuscript.

*after years of revision and rejection sells manuscript*

I just want decent critical reviews and a handful of readers.

*gets those. quickly discounts same.*

I just want more readers and to sell another book.

*does so. quickly discounts same. lather, rinse, repeat. Often multiple times.*

I just want a starred review.

(*fuck off. still waiting*)

I just want to win an award.

*gets a few. quickly discounts same.*

I just want to win a "real" award. The kind that comes with a sticker on the book.

(*again, fuck off. Who asked you? And see what I mean about discounting same. . . ?*)

I just want to write a book that matters.

*What does that even mean? And anyway, hard to tell. But let's just, for argument's sake, say that a handful of readers' notes could make one believe that maybe possibly they have done so. quickly discounts same.*

I just want to write the kind of book that's unique, that's different, that's never been done, that takes someone's breath away. . .

* . . . *

(I just needed to write that out so I could actually plow forward and write what I'm working on now. . . )

- gae

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Recurrrent dream


Last night, you appeared again
like you do
every so often
your eyes, lifted slightly,
begging for return.

I resisted
knowing
           -- knowing --
(knowing)
but somehow
succumbed,
fell back into rhythm,
into promise,
into line.

Into long-languished
desperation.

Last night, you appeared again,
guilted me,
wilted me,
gutted me,
opened me up, swallowed me whole. I thought i could
stay away
be better
be done.


Last night,

our waking encounters -- so constant these days --
                           (polite enough, yes,
the familiar hug shared between old friends)

took hold,
shook me like a dog shakes a ragged toy
    clutched
               in his jaws.

Broke my neck,
broke my spirit,
left me limp,
helpless,
heaving.

Loosed my desire,

shaking it free,
like so many skittering marbles,
rolling
everywhere.


Last night you appeared again,
and this morning I awoke,
confused,
breathless,
tangled in sheets,
in the gray light between waking and sleep,

            only the dizzy buzzing of my phone,
propelling me forward
to coffee,
to home,
to brushing my teeth,

feet planted
almost firmly upon
                              cool tile floor.

This morning, like so many others before it,
I drove the dawn-draped roads,
grateful for rising light

(damn the dormant longing
now stirred in my bones).

As others suited up,
            pulled neoprene sleeves tightly over them,
against the
almost-October
chill,

I,
in only a serviceable swimsuit,
(one that can no longer hide
how the years have paunched my belly
and loosened my skin)
waded in,
and let the shock of cold,
(the silken motion)
envelop me
and

replace
you.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Relinquish, Renew, Resolve . . . 2016 into 2017


I know many aren't, but I'm a fan of the New Year's Resolution.  Sure, time is a construct and all that, but I still like the whole "tabula rasa" vibe of it all.

January 1 = blank page. Clean slate.

A chance to start over again.

Okay, well, make that January 2, because there are too many good leftovers in this house the day after New Year's Eve.

Still, I admit it is hard. This year more than ever before.

Those who read me regularly in any forum know how I feel about our world and country right now: It is hard to feel hopeful and renewed in any sense, hard to feel creative or to plan. Hard to feel anything other than panic and despair.

No mincing words. If you are a democrat, a liberal and/or a progressive, if you are a person who truly cares about our earth, other people, and our world, if you try to live by the motto, "first do no harm," 2016 was a motherfucking assclown, and 2017 is poised to make last year look tame.

So, at first, I was thinking, "Fuck it. I make no promises. I just need to get through."

But I quickly rethought that, because if I'm going to get through, I'm going to need to commit to some things to help get me through. Because, quite frankly, the message running through my brain for the past several weeks: "Eat all the crap! Sleep late! What does it matter, we're all going to die in a nuclear wasteland?!?!" isn't going to help me help my kids. It isn't going to preserve our planet for their kids. It is no frame of mind for the resistance.

What's that old motto? I can tell you what it's not: It's not when the going gets tough, the tough sleep in and eat all the cookies."

And anyway, it isn't how I want to spend my last days if they are those anyway. So if it takes a construct that I'm used to, so be it. I liked who I was becoming before that bloated, gloating, orange carnival barker ransacked the landscape of our country. Time to plow forward with new resolve.



1. Relinquishing & Resolving:

Boyz to men: 
It's time to LET GO. 


Story one: November 8th at around 9:30 pm, the quickly-escalating texts from boys, who were both away at school, began to roll in:

"Are you worried?"

The younger one is taller. . . 
"What's going on. . .?"

"Are you scared?"

"What's going to happen if he wins. . .???"

I did my best to steady myself.

"It's still early. . . " I responded. "No way our country will elect him."

"Yeah, a little. . ."

As the night wore on, texts wouldn't suffice. I found my breath -- barely -- and made the calls to them.

"Yes, it's awful. No, I can't believe it. But, we'll be alright. We've weathered bad periods in history before. . ."

My voice shook as I lied. I didn't believe my own words.

How could I let this happen in their world. . . ? 

In the days since the election, my boys have made more peace with our country's politics than I have. Maybe it's youth. Maybe it's willful distraction and putting aside. One thing is for sure. They know the biggest truth of all, now: I cannot protect them from the evils of the world.

The fact of this truth is excruciating. But they are practically grown men. The only thing I can do is let go.

***

Story two: Last week, as I began to type this post, my younger son was on the road from LI to PA, making a drive he had never made before. To those who don't live in NY or Chicago, or LA, I imagine a kid's first big drive from home to anywhere is different than if you live here. But for those of us who live on Long Island and have tried to get from LI to anywhere else, skirting the city to get on to the GW Bridge or Throgsneck, or other such similar maneuverings, is its own kind of dangerous hell on earth. It looks like this, but in motion: The trucks. The aggressive driving. The confusing, last minute, lane changes.


Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore. . . 

Before our older so made such a drive, he did it WITH us multiple times, so we could instruct him and be another set of more experienced eyes. But with our younger son, the opportunity kept alluding us, and the one time we did have him try, I was too nervous in the backseat and made my husband pull over and switch drivers.

Suffice it to say, as I worked on this post and watched the clock tick, it was an excruciating exercise in working to let go -- but a fantastic opportunity to practice. Every time, I panicked, I whispered to myself, "He is smart. He is capable. Let go."

In a few hours, he had arrived safely, in good time, and did the ride home a few days later, no problem, as well.

*** 


Story-ish three: My older son has been engaged in a really wonderful form of therapy called DBT therapy which has a huge mindfulness component to it, and once a week, he, my husband, and I participate in a large group session with him. As such, we get to learn the units and components of DBT. There's a piece called "Radical Acceptance," and, as part of it, we work to get rid of the word "should." 

Spend a day doing that alone -- subbing out the word should -- and you'll see how much our brains are constantly focused on what we think should be rather than what is.

So, this is my biggest resolution for 2017: Let go. LET GO. Get rid of the word should.



2. Renew and Resolve 

1. Go back to healthy eating. Hello again, Whole 30. Already under way.

I've got my "don't grab my pussy"-cat hat
and I'm ready to march on 1/21. 
2. Commit to Political Action. Before my forties, I was never very politically involved. Though I was a vocal Bill Clinton fan, Obama's first election was probably the first one I felt incredibly strongly about, enough to feel deeply, deeply invested on election night. The truth is, I never have had huge confidence in my political "smarts," in that fact that I know enough from an in-depth perspective, to fairly have an opinion worthy of sharing  with others.

Well, guess what 2017? You elected the wrong guy, a bad guy, one who stirred the worst underbelly of our society, so I'm done worrying about all that.

I'm reading trusted, neutral sources. I'm sharing action. I'm marching. I'm speaking out. And as a proud member of ATLI , I plan to fight back any fear, insecurity and lethargy on my part, and get more and more involved.


And, last but not least,

3. Be boldly and confidently creative. I made a silly joke on Facebook the other day that I was going to become an arrogant egomaniac in 2017. But I'm only half-kidding. Put it this way: Four books sold to some of the most reputable publishers in history, and three released into the world to pretty good reviews all around, and I'm ready to believe that I am truly a writer worth reading. I'm ready to write with confidence. I'm ready to believe that my stories are published because they're goddamned worthy of being out there.

Er.

But yeah. Fuck it. I am.

Something like that anyway. And on that front, 2017 has started out strong:


  • In addition to appearing on many year end favorites and best of lists, THE MEMORY OF THINGS just won me my third Nerdy Book Club award (thank you, NBC!!) and comes out in a fancy new paperback incarnation in August 2017. 



  • My IN SIGHT OF STARS revisions were just accepted by incredible editor, Vicki Lame, and 



So amidst all the muck, stay tuned for great writing from a writing badass in 2017.

Happy New Year to all. Feel free to share your relinquishments and resolve in the comments below.

xox gae



Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Empty Nest: raw poem (you can never and completely understand)

In hotel room bed ten feet from me
but well out of reach
the boy sleeps
fitfully
heady with things I know so
well
things I can never
know
pain i have lived
and can't see,
pain
i can
never save him from.

The boy
rolls away
away
his vibrating phone
shaking with the texts
that are ever-present these days

away from where
I sit
sentient
and toward the window
where sunlight filters in.

He yanks at the sheets,
heady with nerves and
sleepy excitement,
with exhaustion and
fear
and the unknown.

I sit in a chair
quiet,
unmoving,
a cup of
lukewarm coffee gripped in my aging hand.

If I don't move maybe I can fool the clock
stop time
hold on just a little more.

After a half-managed breath,
I pick up the laptop
and type
wise to the truth that
I cannot win
I am nothing more than a deer stuck
in
headlights.

I take a sip and type
(what I do, what I do. . . )
trying not to notice my shorts-clad legs jutting from the cold metal,
exposed thighs
bearing skin that betrays me more and more these days.
Time marches
Waits for no one.

The boy sleeps,
but soon he will wake
and I
will
type and type
and
(somehow)
drive away.





Saturday, February 20, 2016

The ennui of mediocrity...

me n' my pink hat after a workout recently

I've had some virus for days. It's had me mostly in bed, which depresses me.

I had already been a slacking version of my newish-old former self -- the self of my mid-life crisis who swam no matter what, did the laps whether sleet or rain or flu tried to interfere. Sure, maybe like a crazy person, but like a doer, a shaker, a person who could not endure the ennui of sitting around.

God, I miss her.

She, of course, was in her 40s. This new me? Bah. What a motherfucker.

I'm feeling in quiet crisis mode. Like I can't get myself to move as fast as the commands in my head are telling me to. To rally to get more done in a day than I am doing. Each day I get up; then it's bed time again.

It's not even Facebook/social media that's to blame, to tell you the truth. I don't know what it is. Caring for a mother-in-law in palliative care, maybe, or having a constant stream of visitors, or owning a dog, or getting stuck in the minutiae of copyedits when what i want to do is write a bold new story. . .or maybe this new digestive condition (see, above, "What a motherfucker") that has made me give up my only goddamned vice: a daily cup of coffee.

All I know is, lately, there aren't enough hours in a day and I can't figure out how to stop wasting them.

And it's making me miss the wild and dramatic energy of my midlife crisis I had a few years ago. Sure I was a mess, somewhat miserable, but, MAN, I got things done. I had things to say. I was funny and fascinating (even a little to me). I got a book deal, then a second. I became an open water swimmer, swam a 5K then a 10K.

I WAS DOING THINGS.

And yeah, maybe I'm still doing things, but it all feels slower and more like been there-done that mediocrity.

Well, except for the book I have coming out which I'm sort of hoping is the best thing I've written so far, and, yeah, I'm excited for it, but I don't want to JUST be waiting for that. And, besides, even if it is. Then what?

What if everything scintillating becomes mediocrity once it's achieved?

I've got nothing.

- gae


Sunday, December 6, 2015

My Not Quite Annual: Revisit, Renew and Resolve 2015 into 2016 Version

It's been a mostly good year.
This guy is my constant. 


Though I'm a creature of habit, I'm also a fan of "blank slates."

I'm particularly a fan of resolutions made upon a blank slate: A New Year filled with hope and possibility. I try to shed judgment. I try not to be a cynic and believe. . .

I like to believe I keep most my resolutions. Going back to past posts can be a fun *coughs* way to check in and see. So, that's what I've done here, and except for the wholly misguided "do Burpees daily," most years I like to think I've done a good job.

So, let's find out. I think I'll revisit a few posts past and rate myself on a scale of 1- 10:

REVISIT:

In 2010 into 2011 I renewed three long-standing resolutions I have made well in the past:

(i) take the stairs whenever possible (unless it's more than five flights or I am carrying heavy things):
   
10! No seriously, you guys!! I get a 10 on this one.


late November in the open water. And I was in yesterday,
December 5th. Not bad. 
(ii) swim whenever possible:

hmmm. Define "possible."

Okay, fine, I'm giving myself a 9 on this one. A 9. That's not too bad.

(iii) be a good confidante/friend. Don't gossip or tell secrets others share.

Crap. In all honesty, I have to go down a point. I can make excuses . . . whatever. . . but this is the reason I renew this every year. I give myself a solid 8. I've done better. Going back to being a 10 on this next year.

In 2012 into 2013, I renewed a few things too. Let's (not) see how I did.

(i) Less facebook. Shut up. *weeps* Does not rate self. Moves forward (see new fucking resolution below).

Yes, see. that is me yoga'ing in my "piano room."
No, there is no photo of me facebooking. 
(ii) More yoga, less almost going to yoga:

Well, I've been doing yoga from home (I've had two consecutive studios close since that post and decided for now to just take charge on my own. Have a few yoga videos I love on Gaia TV. I'm giving myself a solid 8 on this one too.

(iii) Less talk, more action, and

(iv) More reading, less TV.

If I'm being kind to myself, I'll give myself a 7 - 9 on these. I plan to renew and do better on both in the new year.

* a quick word on this: it's hard to take action, it really is. Some people are better at it than you are (I am). Reach out to those who are and "use" them. Let them guide you. There are organizations that will tell you exactly how. If you are as disturbed about the gun violence in our world as I am, three organizations that will walk (and text!) you through it are Moms Demand Action for Gunsense in America (you do NOT have to be a Mom to join and they have Dad chapters too!), Everytown for Gun Safety, and Women Against Gun Violence. They are all doing the good, hard work for all of us! But they need your support, monetarily and otherwise. Make phone calls, show up at walks, share information. *

2014 into 2015, skirting about more of the same:

(i) Burpees: SHUT UP! But more yoga: not bad;

(ii) Write more in different genres (a/k/a stretch my writing chops?):

Well, first of all, THE MEMORY OF THINGS which (finally) sold midyear and is due out Fall 2016 from the awesome St. Martin's Press (I am crazy excited about this!!!) is told from two perspectives, and one of those is in free verse. Why yes, I have no business writing half a book in free verse, but I have anyway, and after 4,000 revisions, and with the help of my incredible editor, I think it's really good. Like, really, really good.

I've also been trying to write some (so far crappy) short stories (hey, they are hard!!) and even sketched out half a crappy (shut up) picture book the other day about an infamous dive. Not a seedy bar, yo. Off a diving board into the water.

And, yeah, I even revisited my tween/teen/20-something roots and wrote an angsty poem which I bravely (stupidly?) shared here. And the new manuscript I'm working on is definitely pushing me outside my comfort zone in various ways, so, yeah, I'm giving myself a solid 73/4.

(iii) Try something brave and brand new: Well, crap. I meant to. I wanted to. I have three more weeks. *adds it to this year's list*

Okay, so, here we go:

RENEW:

1. Yep, swimming and yoga. Here's the thing: I never ever regret doing either after I have finished. There is your test right there.

2. As always, be a better friend and a confidante.

3. Take the stairs.

RESOLVE. . . and RE-RESOLVE:

4. Don't be lazy about the little things. a/k/a bend down and pick it up. (This is actually a renew that, for whatever reason I never mentioned before... I'll tell you story behind it in a little "*" below . . .

5. Do something Brave and New. Stay tuned, motherfuckers. *smiles sweetly* (I have no clue what it is. . . )

6. Here we go (and this New York Times article is really my impetus to do better): Less facebooking/social media and, yes, this includes taking out my phone. I'll still be there on all those places (!) just with more purpose and control. There are tools to help, if you don't know them, like Freedom or Anti-social. I'm committed to keep trying and to keep renewing along the path as I fall off the wagon.


So that's what I've got solidified for now. I need to think on some of the emotional stuff -- the relinquishing and letting go.

There's big work to be done there: 2016 is an exciting and tumultuous year for me. A new book coming out. . . and, an empty nest. Can't even think about that second one... I've got some time to shore myself up on these things, and, when all else fails, I can swim.

Got any resolutions to renew or share? Love to hear them.

Hope your 2015 has been productive and good. Here's to a new year coming soon!

- gae

**Oh, crap. Edited because I forgot to tell you the don't be lazy story. Basically, there's a woman about my age at my gym where i swim in the winter months. She has MS and is relegated to a walker and very slow movement. In the time it takes me to get out of my street clothes, into my bathing suit, showered and into the pool, she has made it across the locker room and gotten herself situated to get undressed for the same routine. It takes her three times the effort it takes me to get ready; three times the effort to swim. Her name is Debra. She's an inspiration to me... always remind myself that it's so easy for me to do the little things: to pick up a piece of paper from the floor, to go back and turn off a dripping faucet more tightly. One day it might not be. At any rate, she -- that woman -- inspires me. <3 p="">





Friday, November 13, 2015

Sometimes you write a poem


I still dream about you.

As if it were yesterday,
as if
time hasn’t
ravaged
and
mellowed
me.

                                    As if
I haven’t swum a thousand miles

the salt water
detoxing your touch 
from
       my skin.

I still dream about you
            as if I need you,

as if you matter one iota,

as if my words don’t fill pages, 
as if my photo won’t live on between 
closed covers
stacked neatly and
forgotten.

            As if the heart-pounding hadn’t shifted
years ago to
mere flutters,
then a
                                         flick of 
                                                  hand.


I still dream about you.

In it
            we smile uncomfortably across a table
in a diner I’ve never been.

            Longing pulls at
my layers
            as if it can possibly                unfold
                                          who I was
                             back
                                          then.
                       
            As if it would make a difference.

I still dream about you.

                        In the dream, a waitress in a peach dress pours coffee.
            The others at our table chat,
stab at their salads,
sink teeth into 
white-bread sandwiches.
            Our eyes
                fight to
                        dart away.

I still dream about you,
            with all the rage and fury for what you took,
            with all the affection and
                        gratitude for what
                                                you gave.

I still dream about you,
like a puzzle, like a condundrum,
like a zen koan not meant to be solved,
            but that eats at me anyway.

I still dream about you,

awaken confused and drenched,

                   like a corpse descending the depths,

                                   resurfacing,
                                       like a fish 
                               glinting
                                    through
               murky water.
                       

Like a marathoner,
            who never learned how to run,
            but has covered the miles anyway,
gaining distance, 
            yet always looking back,

wondering if you will 
ever 
               go away.

- gae 11/15