Oct 24 2013

Roommates and Writers

My roommate has been writing a lot.

Jeff and I first connected through Ultimate, when I guilted him into helping me coach the team at the middle school where we were both English teachers.  We became friends when we decided to critique each others’ writing.  We grew closer still when we went through simultaneous divorces, and our friendship was fully realized by a serendipitous lease in Austin’s Zilker neighborhood.

As I begrudgingly weeded our front yard the other night, Jeff made his way to the coffee shop down the street, laptop tucked under his arm.  He finished his latest work-in-progress this summer, and he’s been hard at work revising and marketing the first manuscript that he shared with me several years ago.

I wake at 6:00am every day to the smell of Jeff’s coffee brewing on the stove, and I know that when I take my dog out he’ll be cuddled up under a blanket, his face illuminated by the comforting glow of his computer screen.  He spent the better part of these last two summers pouring over his WIPs in our tiny kitchen, poised next to our driveway’s shaded window.

I admire Jeff’s talent; his diligence; his work ethic and discipline.  I respect (and sometimes envy) his whole-hearted commitment and naked desire.

Sometimes I feel guilty; mildly dwarfed by his determination; ashamed of my own writerly neglect.  I feel inclined to justify my scattered mind and my busy schedule.

And so it is that I’m forced to consider what I want.  I mean…What I really want.

It wasn’t so long ago that I resigned from my teaching job specifically to write full-time, only to step right back into a new position at a new school.  I was self-conscious then, too.  A bit reluctant to take what felt like a step backward – like I’d chickened out; copped out; failed before I’d even really tried.

I’m surrounded by die-hard, all-out, whatever-it-takes artists, and I’m awed by their loyalty their craft.  But I’m realizing that’s not who I am.  The cold, hard truth is that I don’t have the stomach or the discipline for constant struggle.  I’d make a crummy starving artist.  I don’t have extravagant tastes, but I do like the routine of a steady job and the reliability of a paycheck.  I use – and appreciate – health benefits and collegial community.

And perhaps most importantly, I’ve realized that writing is just one of the many puzzle pieces that I carefully fit into place in my life.  It fills a very significant need in me.  Would I love to get published?  Has that always been a dream of mine?  Of course.  But I don’t need that bullet on my resume to feel like a writer.  Every time someone tells me that they read my blog, I’m struck by surprise and joy.  Because I write for myself, and I forget that it’s public.  For better or for worse, I write for the love.  And for me it isn’t about how many people I reach, it’s about reaching anyone at all.

So while I’m inspired by Jeff’s surge in productivity, and I’m happy for him that he’s found such a palpable groove, he and I are different people.  We’re different writers.

And for me, right now, THIS is enough.

Oct 3 2013

Guest Post: The Boysaw’s Double Rainbow

I’m guest blogging (“Glogging”? “Gulogging”?) on my girl Colleen’s website because I have discovered a truth about her so groundbreaking that I felt the need to share it with the world with a particular nod to those who have known and loved her best throughout her life and perhaps those in her future she has yet to meet. Colleen validated my hunch that this discovery was, indeed, revelatory enough to merit a “glog” by me (her boyfriend) with the mere speed and ease with which she agreed to let me write about it! So to her mother and father, her brothers, her friends and teammates, her counselor and co-workers and even her ex-boyfriends thru the years, I want to tell you:

I have discovered the instantaneous, fool-proof formula for breaking CoCo out of a bad mood (and even an extended funk)!

… (take a second to digest this information; the knowledge that such a remedy does exist). . .

It happened last Friday, September 27th. Colleen may not have blogged about it much, but she has been in a pretty extended era of emotional uncertainty and imbalance. A good amount of high, but also a lot of lows and neither one with much staying power. It’s been the kind of lows that don’t seem to have a certain cause or solution yet are ever present close under the skin, ready to pull a good mood down the spiral. I know it’s been a frustrating few months as a result for her and I am likely a contributing factor to the slump (hey… cut us both some slack ye reader of this glog!  Life is hard! We’ve both been traveling a ton, the school season started, there’s been some illness in the family, stuff that everyone deals with but is still tough!).

So the solution, however, came as the spiral was continuing to spin lower. I had asked if she wanted to meet after school Friday to kick off the weekend with a little workout together at the park followed by dinner and whatever else. She agreed immediately… I’d bike to her house, we’d bike to the park, I’d lead us thru the workout because, well, who isn’t lacking motivation and direction after teaching middle kids for a full week?

When we got to the park and started the workout, however, we both felt testy and aggravated. Phase one of the workout – some body weight stuff – was twinging her sore calf muscles and so she wasn’t following the routine, which of course bummed me out so I suggested she just do her own exercises. That didn’t go over well. The point was to work out TOGETHER. My bad. So we moved on to the next phase even as we could see a rain storm approaching. We were at Butler Park here in Austin and there’s a short, steep hill in the middle (“Doug Sahm Hill”) and we’d run up to top and back down in a zig-zag pattern touching all the light poles that ring the hill until we were back to the start. She, of course, protested that “we’re not running together, are we?” which, of course, was my plan. I would run a little slower and she’d have to run a little faster – a good workout for both of us! But alas, she also doesn’t like pity (who does) and hates not being as fast. I try to point out that she is the former D-1 all-conference athlete, not me, but oh well. Slightly deeper spiral. I wanted to work-out out TOGETHER! So I forced her to run with me, hoping it might pull her out of the funk.

We made it about ¾ of the way thru the hill and it was NOT going well. She had that straight-lipped, makes-her-mouth-as-small-as-it-can-be look that she gets when her brain equation is “over-tired + overworked + racing mind + nagging boyfriend =  super pissed!” I felt equally frustrated. My mental equation was “confused + searching for a solution + borderline angry = testy boyfriend.” We were headed for a breakdown right there on the hill.

Then the sun came out blazing just as rain started pouring down. I mean POURING. Half-way up the hill we stopped and I put my arm around her sagging, sopping wet shoulders and pointed. To our left, drenched kids kicked and danced in the splash fountains below their feet as the warm rain showered them from above thru the sunshine. I pointed to the odd girl in ‘80’s get up who was dancing “Sixteen Candles” style (pink hair and leotard, even!) under the oak tree (it is Austin weird, after all). Turning our gaze to the right as we moved to the top of the hill was the kicker. A massive, complete rainbow that seemingly started right in front of us (if I was looking for the pot of gold it would have DEFINITELY been under the port-a-potty in front of us) and arched over the entire skyline of Austin, finishing somewhere off in the distance to our right. Sun glistened off the windows of the buildings in the horizontal evening light as the rainbow got sharper and brighter with each second. I looked at her then, hair dripping, eye shadow running, still tight-lipped and, in a semi-raised voice said:

“Come ON Coco! What more do you need?! Look at those kids playing in the fountain! And that odd 80’s chic headbanging! And all these other healthy people enjoying the afternoon! And this insane rain sun shower! And that GIANT FUCKING RAINBOW over the city?! Come on it’s just life CoCo, can’t we just enjoy each other and this beautiful place?!”

And then she took one more second to look around and then cracked the biggest, brightest, exhausted and wet, glowing and happy smile!

“Actually, it’s a double rainbow… look.”

Sure enough, it was a double rainbow.

And that’s it. The rain stopped almost immediately. The rainbow vanished. The humidity exploded as the sun intensified. Time had stopped there for a second as everything else was happening, and as everything stopped and time started again, CoCo was different. I was different. The tension was gone and we were both happy. We finished the workout and biked home. We ate a wonderful dinner. We enjoyed a relaxing evening.

So there you go. Here’s the formula. I didn’t say the ingredients were easy to gather, but if you can get them, this formula WILL get CoCo out of a bad mood:

Frolicking children in a fountain + sun shower + workout + double-rainbow-over-the-skyline + dancing 80’s chic + a hug from me (I hope that’s an ingredient and not just circumstantial) = happy CoCo!

Austin Double Rainbow

Bonesaw did manage to capture a picture before the rainbows dissolved. They aren’t quite as bright here as when we first spotted them, but it’s a pretty fabulous image nonetheless.

(Rarer than a unicorn, but at least we know that the prescription exists!)

For my next mission I will try something a little easier. . . fountain of youth or viable renewable energy perhaps?!