Thursday, February 23, 2012

Will the Real Me Kindly Stand Up? (Pose sideways?)

Lately, my mind has been swirling with the big, hard (mid-life, help-I've-fallen-into-a-deep-black-hole crisis) questions like,

Who am I, really?

What is my point here? and;

How am I going to make this one life (that I can be sure of) matter?

Perhaps it's comically apropos, then, that my private facebook page seems to be mocking me with those very same questions:

Thanks to my friend David Stanley for capturing this screen shot of
 the many faces of me that may now be located on facebook.
Which Gae is the real Gae?

And, why should we care?

What does it really matter?

As those of you who know me well know, my facebook world is important to me.

My private page is a racy, silly, funny, sometimes profane, always supportive, and often ridiculous outlet -- a real (if mostly virtual) community where I connect primarily with my writer-friends around the country, but also with long-lost (and happily-found) friends from my past: high school, college, work, and childhood days.

My page is certainly not for everyone, but it is for me, and I have spent countless hours there, high only on the type of witty banter that has often escalated to literally hundreds of posts in a few short minutes to one thread.

I have shared my life there on my page in thoughts, photos and videos. I have abated Sunday blues by playing there, and smoothed Monday angst, with the same. I have celebrated and cried there with people who I may not have met in the flesh, but I truly believe I now know.

The truth is, my facebook page matters to me.

So, it is with huge frustration that my second facebook page (my first one froze, to no avail, ages ago) began experiencing glitches last week.

I've held out hope that Mark Zuckerberg might care and respond, but alas, he's too busy with his courtside seats at the Knicks.

So, then, it seems this second permutation of facebook me is done --gone the way of the first, into virtual facebook heaven.

So be it. It's just a page on a screen in the endless white void of the universe.

My new page is here. I hope some of you will follow.*

Meanwhile, stupid as it may seem, I am mourning the loss of "old, second, facebook Gae."



Okay, definitely.

But, all the same, still true.

- gae

*please note that you must be over the age of 19 and appreciate a racy, sometimes stupid, sense of humor to participate there.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

How to Live Less and Live More

I'm hyperventilating this morning... experiencing the kind of frantic, angsty, jumble of longings in the pit of my soul, in the depths of my heart and mind, that I believe only a person over (close to?)40 can truly understand.

It's a sensation, a voice, that screams from a place deeper than I can pinpoint,

"I want more! I want to be more! I want to do more! I want to matter more!"

I sit here, listening,

because I have no choice. I am unable to block it out.

And, honestly, I don't want to block it out, because it motivates me.

And yet,

it paralyzes me, too.

Because, the truth is, I don't know how to do that. How to be more. Or, even, for me, what that more is.

The world is filled with people who do extraordinary things. Some of those things are huge -- like inventing the iPod (iPhone, iPad), like completing an Ironman triathalon, like trying to swim from Cuba to Florida, non-stop, at age 60+, without a shark cage, over and over again...

Like inventing cures for illnesses,

travelling to war zones,

or leaving a body of brilliant work behind.

And, some of those things are quieter, more personal in their nature or impact.

Like donating an organ,

rising above a disability,

or helping a person in need.

All over the world, as I sit here and type, people are doing extraordinary things,

and I can't help but wonder how to contribute.

To make my life less ordinary.

Don't get me wrong: I feel blessed. I feel downright lucky. And I have problems I rise above, and ways that I push myself, and try to contribute to the world. Just like we all do.

But, none of it feels, what? Big enough? Important enough? Like it matters?

I have this overall feeling that I'm wasting time.

That I'm just not making the most of it.

That, the ride is spinning by, and I'm missing the big brass ring.

Part of me knows I need to learn to be okay with this.

To accept a life more ordinary.

But I feel like there's this treacherous balance, too -- to accept life for what it is and grow old gracefully (haven't got a clue how to do this yet, mind you), while not becoming complacent.

As some of you know, Diana Nyad is a personal hero of mine. At the end of that video above (shared with me by my friend, Christopher Tasava, thank you!) she poses the question, paraphrased from the poet Mary Oliver*,

"So, what is it you're doing with this wild and precious life of yours?"

I want so badly to be able to answer that.

To shout from the rooftops that I'm making it count.

That I'm contributing.

That I'm giving it all I can.

More than anything, I want that.

I want to be more.

And, I want to matter.

But sometimes, it's paralyzing.

Because, I'm not sure I even know how.


*The Summer Day, by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

Monday, February 13, 2012

And, (I think) the Award Goes to...

Trying to Stay Afloat in a Sea of Words.

*thunderous applause erupts as she rises from her seat in her wetsuit and goggles, and makes her way through the drunken Globe crowd to the stage* <---- Yes, that is, too, what happened.

Okay, fine. Maybe not. But it is kinda cool to get my first blogger award ever (thank you, Katia!), although, as is fitting, it created the need for me to drop everything and write another blog post, too. *sigh*

Do any of you who don't blog know how much time it takes to write a decent blog post? The answer is, anywhere from fifteen minutes to two hours. At least for me. And I maintain two.

My "YA" or Young Adult writer blog, That Wee Bit Heap (where I will cross post sometimes, including today) and where I mostly talk about things writing and book related, and this one Trying to Stay Afloat in a Sea of Words, more a women's fiction blog which is not always wholly appropriate for kids and teens. Here, as those who follow me know, I talk about more gorey things like love, parenting, aging and marriage, as well as provide a sort of chronicle of my life through open water swimming.

Staying Afloat is a much more personal blog.

In choosing my blog as one of her favorites, Katia described it, saying:

"This very versatile blog is run by one of my favorite authors: Gae Polisner, who wrote “The Pull of Gravity,” one of those YA books that turn me into a gushing, stuttering fan. Gae is fun and honest when she talks about her various moods, her publishing ups and downs, her strange habit of swimming in the cold ocean off of Long Island, her love of board games and many other fun things."

which leads me to believe that she may have actually been describing a little bit of each of my blogs and, as such, it takes both to live up to the award. Okay by me, as they are both a part of me.

Indeed, it's funny to me to think that I do put so much of my private life out there. If you told me ten years ago I would, I couldn't have imagined it then.

I ran across this cartoon the other day on my friend and writer Lena Roy's page, and it seems so true:

I think, despite the glut of blogs out there in the world, they still find readers because they offer up glimpses of ordinary, private lives to us, and allow us to feel less alone.

At any rate, I'm honored that Katia included my blog(s) and now I must do the oh-so-stressful winner duty of passing on the Versatile Blogger award. Hard to do when so many of my friends are writers and run magnificent blogs.

Seriously, I could now sweat this task for hours, but do not have the luxury as I am steeped in revisions that must get back to my agent... so what you get is a sort of Monday morning free association, the first 6 of many amazing blogs that come to me this morning.

By the way, you heard me. I said 6. I was planning to do 15, but am breaking the rules (I wonder if they will send me to blogger jail for this <--- *seriously, now sweats this*) and only listing six blogs because this has already taken me nearly an hour and a half... you will see in the rules that we are supposed to pick 15, so may the blogger gods and award-bestowers please forgive me.

So, without further ado, here we go! In no particular order, I hereby bestow the Versatile Blogger Award on the following blogs:

When you receive the award, the rules are – a) you blog about it and you include this lovely badge:

b) you share some cool tidbits about your life with your readers and c) you nominate another 15 blogs for versatile awesomeness.

1. Okay, this one is easy peasy, because it is my one must-go-to blog.
The Middle Ages ("two friends, different ages, different husbands, different opinions") where Barb and Deb make me laugh or cry (or both) on almost a daily basis;

2. Conscious Creativity ("an exploration and manifestation of creativity and consciousness"), where Lori shares ideas on art, life, meditation, yoga, and creativity, and, if you're uber lucky, will share a dream poem or piece of her art;

3. Confessions of a Watery Tart ("a digressionary journey of a writer") because -- come on! -- Hart had me from the title, and her blog is funny, prolific, poignant and unbelievably reliable, to boot;

4. The Green Bathtub ("writing instead of housework"), Not only because Amy is lovely and adorable and interesting, but because that little tagline alone describes my life;

5. Christa Writes (funny, poignant stuff about life and writing) <--- my lame tagline, not hers, because I couldn't find one); because, well, because she blogs funny, poignant stuff about life and writing, and, btw, the link is to an older blogpost of hers which was particularly funny...; and

6. Lena's Lit Life ("Léna (me): Lit, as in literature, Lit, as in light, Lit, as in a little kooky: Life.") <--- raw, honest musings on a writer's life, including feeling the wings and shadows of a famous grandmother.

What are some of your "award-winning blogs?

p.s. want to shout out to a few extra blogs (or, in the case of Megan Bostic, her vlog):

Megan Bostic is a dear friend and fellow YA-writer, but she's also just an adorable pile of charisma, funny, and awesomesauce (did that sound like a compliment? It was supposed to). Just watch a few of her Middle Aged Angst (or Chronicles of an Aspiring Writer) vlogs HERE to see what I mean;

Geoff Herbach is a Mess, (at least that's what his blog used to be called), but he's the best kind of mess, funny, talented and one of my favorite writers on earth; and

Weekly Adventures. Ordinary Girl ("Life. Writing. Yoga. Food. Music. Bliss.") and not just because I want a dress made out of Aryn's stunning background. . . her blog is chockfull of beautiful musings of an adventurous girl seizing life by the . . . writing and yoga mat. :)

- gae

Monday, February 6, 2012

Swimming to Euphoria (Just another Manic Monday)

I used to be such an even-keeled person.

Oh, not when I was a teen, maybe, but as an adult. I was generally one of those people that didn't have wild mood swings or bouts of depression. Sure, if something particularly difficult or unhappy was going on, my mood would go with it, but as a general proposition, I was steady and rolled with the punches.

Then, a few years ago (oh, you bastard 2007-2008, you know who you are), my life went through a minor bumpy period.

I was struggling with a difficult child, struggling to get my writing sold, and struggling with the feeling I wasn't digging my husband all that much anymore (no worries, readers, turns out he had no love lost for me either at that point ;)).

Still, everything went reeling.

Oh, you wouldn't have known it to look at me. I continued to show up at school committees, to enjoy my paid mediation work, and to get the kids to their various activities and attend social functions here and there. In fact if any of my friends are reading, most of them (though not all) might be slightly shocked to read this.

But there you have it. I had a period in my life where everything went reeling.

For a year or two, I swirled at the edge of some precipice.

It wasn't pleasant, but it gave me an empathy I never had before for those who battle anxiety or depression. I understood now what it meant to not be able to just snap yourself out of it.

During that period, the only things that felt like they were saving me were my kids, my sense of humor, and, mostly, my ability to plunge myself daily into some water.

Then three things happened. I got a book deal, I found open water swimming, and my hubby and I miraculously liked each other again.

See, here we are in NYC last spring, still liking each other
(Ok, fine, that last part was less than miraculous, and actually took a lot of work, but, hey, sometimes you have to put the time in.)

Everything got better again.

Life resumed.

My more difficult kid began to mature.

And there was even some excitement with the new writing career.

La di da di da.

Except it was never exactly quite the same.

I don't know if a part of me is just more jaded now, or less trusting, or if this is just something that happens with age. And, I do tend to think it's the latter. That my cosmic crisis just happened to coincide with dipping my feet ankle deep into my forties. And, of course, I'm now in them up to my waist.

Still, I wake up so often feeling angsty, dissatisfied, and melancholy. Some days I can shake it. Other days, not so much. I suppose a lot of it depends on how well my writing career is progressing on any given day.

*points to today, coughs, backs away from the precipice.*

Still, I keep pushing myself. Trying not to give in to the quicksand.

Thank goodness, my kids are still here. My hubby is (mostly) a gem, and we now seem to have stretched the open water season well beyond any bounds of reason or good sense. ;)

Yep, I confess, I went again yesterday.

That's me, at the top of the screen. With my friend Annmarie (with the orange safety buoy -- i forgot mine...) who is willing to swim with me at every whim. (How will I ever thank you, Annmarie?) and our friend Carol, of the Water-Blog, who had swum the day before and was, thus, kind enough to stay ashore and film us, instead.

Together, we are kicking away the angst and the blues of middle age. Together, we are swimming to euphoria.

I'm with you and you're with me
And so we're all together.
So we're all together

So we're all together
Swim with me, I'll swim with you
And so we will swim together
As we swim along, oh:
We are swimming to Euphoria, Euphoria, Euphoria
We are swimming to Euphoria, Euphoria today.

I don't know what I'd do without it. I am very, very grateful.

Meanwhile, it's Monday again. And, I'm feeling slightly manic.

In no small part because half of you reading won't even know who the Bangles are. ;)

But, anyway, have a happy one.

Good luck to us all.

- gae