Thursday, July 25, 2013

I Make a Very Good Cup of Tea, but Nothing Else

I've come to realize, on the late end of forty, that I don't do anything remarkably well. There are many things I enjoy doing, and some I do with some amount of competency, and many more I do like a five year old in kindergarten. The trouble is, I want to be extraordinary at something.

We all want to think we're remarkable in some way; I once thought I was a very lucky person. What great luck I had. Looking back, I was deluded, completely wrong, or perfectly right. I'm not sure I know the difference anymore. And if I was lucky, what sort of skill is that?

At any rate, time goes by quicker and quicker each year, as many of you know. How did it get to be the end of July? How is it that 41 will soon be upon me and I am not extraordinary? I find my greatest joy in actually doing those things that I am less than competent at, but when I am finished with my self-imposed joyous tasks, I frown at the results. It was as if I took great pleasure in building the world's flattest, lumpiest mud pie. And worse, while I was making it, I thought it was a raspberry-lemon creme cake with coconut icing.

It is not entirely true that I'm terrible at everything. I can make a cup of tea that is perfect for me. I cannot buy this cup anywhere, and even my beloved, observant B cannot make me a cup of tea that is just right. (I don't complain, because while I'm often impatient and critical, I do have some grace and thankfulness in me) But if I am tomorrow--or tonight, or in an hour--lying on my bed or on the floor or in the bloody wreckage of a terrible accident, what will I have to think about? "At least I made a good cup of tea for myself."

This comes around, you see, to the fact that I'm not even good at thankfulness, as we all know that in our final moments, we are wracked with guilt or remorse or, for many, consumed with love. And it's that love that is what life means. I should know this. And yet I wave away that love, take it for granted. "Yes, yes, I know, they love me; Yes, I love them too! Of course!" But god damn it, I cannot write a wonderful novel. I cannot, it seems, write a passably tolerable novel. If you asked me right now, I could barely write you a beautiful sentence. Scratch that. All I can think about is unicorns and glitter, and that would be a horrible sentence.

There is a moment each day, after I've been hanging upside down for twenty minutes listening to guided meditation (this is no joke here!), that I do feel the infinite power within me, and within you all. And that power is love. Everything is right there, everything is tangible, reachable, and then it is gone. Brushed away by dogs with their heads in the litter box or mailman at my door with something to sign. But I swear to you, today, again, I will try. Regardless of what I've said before, however anxiety continues to toil within me (it is a jewel-green snake), I will try again.

Here I go.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Free Reads: Everything Scary is Underground

I've been in the midst of writing and reading again, which is a nice change of pace from staring out the window with wibbling chin. Let me say that the sudden resurgence in these two activities stems directly from cutting one day of work per week. I realize not everyone can do this. All I can say is that I went from five days to four, and while I still spend two of my days off doing errands, yard and house work, I have one complete day to myself, in addition to a couple of mornings where I go in late (and work late). I'm glad I did it, and I wonder what might help you free up some time for yourself, time to read, write, draw, arrange stones in lewd patterns on neighbors' lawns while they are otherwise engaged. Build fairy ladders in the trees. That end at fairy porn shops. Whatever your little heart needs, pervert.

I recently got an iPad, and downloaded the Kindle app for it, so I've been finding out what everyone else already knows: e-readers are actually not the devil's work. Oh, you want that book? Click. But what I like best are things I want to read that are FREE.

So here's a couple of recommendations that are free to read if you've got an e-reader:

1. Grim Corps, a literary magazine with a heavily specfic, leaning towards horror, bent. Published biannually, their Feb. 2013 issue is chock full of good stories. "When Momma Comes to Visit" is particularly horrifying. Although I guessed Barker's intent at the beginning, that didn't stop the story from building to a perfectly scary climax.

2. Wool by Hugh Howey: The first novella in a series, it's free to read. How smart of Mr. Howey. Read it, and you'll inevitably end up buying the Omnibus (the collected five novellas), as I did. Wool is set in a near-distant future in which the worst has happened: the world has been destroyed, and the remaining humans live in the Silo. The only home they've ever known, for generations upon generations, the Silo is about 150 levels deep into the ground, with cameras at the surface and screens in the cafe so the Silo's residents can see the wasteland outside--and remain grateful for what they've got inside. It's a boring, mechanical Utopia, with marriages by committee and children by lottery, food and clothing for chits, and everyone in their place. Boring except for the uprisings that occur every so often. No one really understands what might have caused the uprisings in the past, but in the first part of Wool, the secrets of the Silo start to unravel, and as bits and pieces of the puzzle come together across the other novellas, the mystery turns out to be far more than encompassing, more shocking and dangerous, than anyone expected.

Nothing in Wool is black and white; expect to waver as the story grows more and more intense. Solid writing, great world-building; the apocalypse done with fresh creativity.

All right then. Enjoy your day, and if you know of something free to read that I might enjoy, let me know.