Sometimes I feel like a square peg without even a round hole. So I keep on carving my own. Sometimes it feels pioneering, liberating, and very, very brave. But other times? The loneliness inside rears its head, and makes me feel like I'm free falling, without a safe harbor in sight. And then I remember that I'll always choose to risk falling—over risking not learning to fly.
Viewing: Who's Joanie? - View all posts
Wishing you all the happiest, most beautiful Mother's Day, and early Father's Day, full of new experiences and sweet memories past, present, and future. So many of us who have lost our parents say the same words—that we think of them every day—they'll always be a part of us—and we wish they were physically with us now.
There are shelves of books devoted to parent-child relationships because even the best ones have rocky times. Still, some say that we choose our parents before we're born. If that's true, then I unequivocally made the right choice. And would choose mine all over again.
Last night, I dreamed that a group of people looked at me with total disdain, and nodded in agreement as one woman sneered, "You didn't even cook—you made instant potatoes out of a box. And now the whole house smells terrible, and everyone will know."
"But you don't understand!" I answered, as I tried to keep my rising hysteria down. "I'd rather write a chapter!"
When I was growing up, I felt like frosting without the cake—and not great frosting at that. I knew I was pretty because I saw it in the mirror sometimes. (Although I felt that the image stayed right there every time I walked away.) And I knew that I wasn't stupid.
But I also knew that I was different than most of the other kids, and never really fit in. Most of them saw it, too. How could they not when, even as a four year old, I looked pulled together and sophisticated while everyone else looked cute and adorable? And when they knew how to play, while I was more comfortable around adults?
I never told anyone, but I was sure there was something wrong with me. I just didn't know what. So I went to writing, painting, music—all of the arts—to find out, and to make whatever it was better. In the meantime, I tried to wear my insecurities on the inside where, hopefully, no one could see them. And hung onto my privacy like a life raft until some day when, finally, I would emerge fully and perfectly formed.
Seeing that my most heinous act was stealing rhubarb from a neighbor's garden when I was five years old, I've gradually moved away from caring too much about what others think of me. And to moving into who I am.
I'm still moving in. And always will. But now? I'm also taking time to play.
If you asked me to describe myself in a sound bite, I'd tell you, "My soul is my bottom line—and I'm not even joking."
Have you ever felt like you could be the Poster Girl, or Guy, for Mercury Retrograde? If so, you'll know how my day feels. And you'll understand when I say, "@!!#@?!#%#??!!!" LOL
Truth be known, I'm really not joking. But just receiving all of this would be too easy, right? So I'm going to have to free myself. And since I have to work to do it? I'm going to do so from an artistic point of view.
Which is why I've decided to become—ta-da!—an Architect of White Light! Is there such a category? If there wasn't before, there is now. Because my imagination just ran away with my pen. And do you know what they built? A Sanctuary to White Light. A tunnel where the purest of rock crystal encrusts walls that arch from floor to ceiling and down again—and whose White Light rivals the light of the sun.
Someday I'll take you there with me. But right now, I need to go inside to lose myself, to find myself, and to come out the other side.
Every time I find a bulletin from the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators in my mailbox, the little girl inside me lights up. The little girl who waited by my front door with a mixture of anticipation and awe for the mailman to bring My Weekly Reader. The one who carried it proudly...reverently...then read it and reread it until it practically shredded in my hands; and the only thing that saved it was the arrival of a new copy the following week.
My Weekly Reader "understood" that I wasn't just a child. I was a writer who was going to be published someday. It believed in who I was, and what I felt, even when I was searching to find out. It always nurtured me and mentored me, just by being itself.
And the SCBWI bulletin? It's a reminder of what was, what is...and what can be.
The first time I went to the Chicago Merchandise Mart—shortly before becoming an interior design consultant—I was so mesmerized by the brilliance of the showrooms on my left, that I didn't pay attention to what was on my right. And gracefully walked into a wall—with my face.
Okay. You know that it was quicksand. But when I was about ten years old, no one else knew. I only found out because I was walking across the lot behind my home—and suddenly began to sink into the ground. I can still see myself slipping off my favorite penny loafers, seconds before they disappeared from sight. And can still feel myself tiptoeing across the "mud" to the gloriously green grass beside it.
I remember thanking G-d that my parents took me seriously when I told them I'd walked across quicksand; and how they verified it, and told our neighbors-to-be who were just about to break that very ground for their new home. The couple who had to have their land filled with logs first, instead.
Oh, and my penny loafers? The ones I adored so much that I picked them out of the trash every time my mother tried to throw them away? Like historical mementos in a time capsule, they are planted below the foundation of that house.
I recently found my old red journal from when I was in my teens, with the following note tucked inside it:
"Friday, Nov. 22, 1963 - President Kennedy was assassinated this afternoon. I'll enclose some articles later with the details. I know I'll never forget this as long as I live. I've never even imagined what it'd be like if....
"Now I know, sadly enough. I know what it means to have a good President who is no more. I'll think twice before I laugh at any of the President jokes again. (I was in study hall in 9th grade at Sudlow Jr. High when it happened.)
"Yesterday I had so many problems which seem like nothing now. When I came into homeroom today...English...I said to my friend, Nancy, 'Well, all's right with the world', and told her how all my problems were clearing up.
Oh, G-d. I didn't realize that I would be contradicted only hours later."
(Joanie, age 14)
Okay. I'd had a car for most of my life. So how did I feel when I sold my last one, before moving to New York? Euphoric that I'd never have to own, sell, or drive a car ever again! Then, after more than six and a half years of not needing one? I moved to the Left Coast, where a car isn't just a car. It's your baby. Unless you're like me. When people asked what kind I wanted, I joked that I was considering a tank.
Now, after living in Los Angeles for nine months, I finally decided not to get a car. I've weighed...and even rationalized...the pros and cons, up one side and down the other. But the bottom line is...driving bores me beyond beyond.
While I truly appreciate the aesthetics of a gorgeous car, my favorite part of my last one was the trunk. In fact, I pay so little attention to them that even when I drove Mercedes, I walked up to someone else's car instead of my own, more than once—as long as it was the same color as mine. And just a few weeks ago, when one of my daughters came to pick me up? I laughed, and told her, "It's lucky that I recognize you, 'cause I never recognize your car."
Anyway, you're probably wondering how I get around an area that's as huge as Los Angeles.
1) I walk as much as possible. Because I process, and write chunks of chapters along the way. Which keeps me sane and grounded. (Although, at this point, you're probably wondering about the, "sane and grounded".)
2) I've always had family and friends who love driving...or don't mind it...or have motion sickness if they're not behind the wheel. Which works for all of us because I make a great passenger. I'm not good at navigating, but I'm great at talking a lot.
3) I'm also good at calling for taxis, which is an acquired skill as opposed to the intuitive one of hailing a taxi like when I lived in NYC. (The difference is a blog post in itself.)
4) Sometimes, I take a train.
5) And there's another option. After I've lived here longer, I can rationalize this...again. But I certainly hope that I don't.
I was cooking an omelette just now, and suddenly burst out laughing when I realized it's the first time in my eight months in LA that I've used my stove for anything besides boiling water for tea! Today the burner, tomorrow the oven.
One of the first things I learned as a writer is that characters—whether fictitious or real—have to live and breathe. Otherwise, why should the reader care about them, or what they have to say? That being said, I am the character who is writing to you in my blog. So who am I, and why would you want to hear my thoughts?
My definition of myself is, "With me, what you see is what you get. Whether or not you like me is up to you. But this is what there is."
Another definition came from a buddy who told me I was, "...like a puzzle—and every day you get a different piece".
So...for better or for worse...here are some stream of consciousness pieces of the puzzle that is me:
I've always said that my home is my castle; that it can be as big as my hand (like my studio apartment when I lived in NYC), but it is my castle. So how is it that in the last twenty-four years I have moved from: my house in Iowa to highrises in Chicago for 13+ years, to a 4th floor walkup in New York for 6 1/2+ years, and now to a sun-filled apartment in Los Angeles, for 7+ months? My daughter said maybe I have a lot of castles.
I used to joke that I was footloose and fancy free. I still joke about it. But sometimes, I feel like a square peg without even a round hole. So I keep on carving my own. Sometimes it feels pioneering, liberating, and very, very brave. But other times? The loneliness inside rears its head, and makes me feel like I’m free falling, without a safe harbor in sight. And then, I remember that I’ll always choose to risk falling—over risking not learning to fly.
Call me irreverent, but when I love a book I jot down my thoughts on the pages...highlight words, and sometimes paragraphs, and do it again, and again every time that I read it. Until it resembles a well-worn, rainbow-like journal. I bought two books by Louise Nevelson that I'd been searching for since forever ago. I hesitated for a few moments before reading them. And then...I started highlighting. I'm sure she would have understood.
If I could go back in time, I would have danced more. Literally and figuratively. In junior high, there wasn't room in my schedule to continue taking the art classes that transported me into a magical world. In high school, I finally had room in my schedule, but thought it was too late because everyone would be so much better than I. I wish that I could have given that sixteen-year-old girl a big hug, and told her what I know now...that she was safe taking the art classes. Because creativity lives inside us...all we have to do is set it free.