Where the F did the last few months go? You feel me?
It's the start of a new month so I'm doing this poem-a-day thing as part of Tupelo Press's 30/30 project to raise money for indie publishing. It's a good cause, and a great way to generate some new work.
I just finished up teaching two online summer classes and also just spent two separate weeks in July with two separate groups of amazing high schoolers from the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop, a program I've been teaching in for the past 15 years! (Thank you, Nancy Zafris, for the gig. Thank you, David Lynn, for the gig.) It's my favorite thing -- sitting with a bunch of teenagers reading stories and essays and poems and talking about stories and essays and poems and then writing stories and essays and poems. In this sizzling Los Angeles July it's definitely how I get my 'bounce' back.
For all the naysayers who say poetry is dead, reading is dead, and "kids today, they just don't. . ." I say NOPE NOPE NOPE today's teens are dope! They write with such authenticity and vulnerability and urgency, and I remember that feeling myself, as a teenager (way back in the dark ages of the 80's) feeling like poetry and writing were saving my life. They did save my life. No matter how tough things got, I had my notebook, I had my pen.
I grew up in some tough times and was lucky enough to have my Creative Writing teachers and theater teachers who told me to get out there and let my voice be heard. (Thank you Mr. C, Katherine Harer, Peggy Shumaker, Rich Yurman, Lesley Wade, Jack Bedell, Femi Euba for believing in me and kicking my ass out to the streets to rumble with words!) And good friends who said "send that shit right out! Don't give up!" (Thank you Nabila Lovelace, Samantha Simpson, Andrew Grace, Richie Hoffman, Jimmy Baca, Adam Clay, Jake Adam York and more).
See? When you think about it, you have a whole tribe around you cheering you on! You have to have people around you who believe in you, believe in your work, and believe that writing has the power to change the world. And if you don't have anyone, I'll be that person for you. GO WRITE, RIGHT NOW.
And after 25 years of teaching, I am so grateful for my students. I love you. Drop me a note. Let me know how your writing is going.
Wanna write some poems with me this month? Head over to the Super Secret Writing Squad facebook page or pop on here and I'll try my hardest to roll out a few prompts that might inspire you. My mantra this month is ONE GIRL REVOLUTION. What will your revolution be this month?
Let's do the damn thing.
It's Saturday, March 13, 2021 and it's officially a full year since I, personally, have been on lockdown due to Covid. Everyone has their own March start date, I'm sure.
Today I've been deep diving into The Smiths, my beloved band that seemed to understand the power of a misfit's heart. (Yes, let's skip the racist, sexist, prick that Morrissey has turned in to and remember The Smiths in their youth and mine).
It all started with a Facebook post this last week. A friend from school posted something on her FB page about how Boomers and Gen Xers aren't vulnerable and sharers like Millenials . . . long story -- anyway, I've repasted my Facebook Post below that responded to hers. And I just got to thinking about me and all my fellow Gen Xers.
I'm turning 50 this year.
My entire 40's I've kind of hidden my exact age and danced around it but yes, I'm 49 and in 7 months I'm turning 50.
Well, yeah, so listening to all my favorite Smiths albums (all of them) reminds me of that sweet, tender girl in the 80's with Doc Marten duck shoes and thick tights and wrinkled mini skirts and big dreams.
I guess as you get older you just kind of make peace with the person you thought you'd become and the person you actually are.
My creative writing professor from community college died in January -- I just found out from his partner on Facebook. He was a mentor and a kind of doting uncle since he knew my parents weren't around and I was pretty much on my own renting a room above a hair salon and trying not to die.
Those years working two jobs and taking classes and riding the bus and hoofing it home at 2am -- I didn't know what the fuck I was going to do with my life . . . I had music, I had poetry, I had hairspray, I had friends who loved music and poetry and hairspray too, and we were a tribe.
Thank God for them. And the Smiths. And my teacher.They saved me. And -- I saved myself.
I was just enjoying my sweetheart sharing on our big screen TV photos he'd taken with his phone. Many were of our beautiful, adorable cats sunning themselves in beautiful light. And then several photos popped up of me and all I saw was a fat lady with thinning hair and yellowing buck teeth.
Isn't that terrible?
As soon as I saw them I begged him to delete them from his phone. Here we were laughing and enjoying the photos, and then when I saw the photos, I asked them to be deleted, and I could see the disappointment on his face, but he promised and deleted them. All I could do was give him a string of reasons for why -- then I started thinking about going to the dentist and getting all my teeth capped, and I thought about the weight and everything else and it began to CREEP.
Do you know what I mean?
It began to CREEP into my like "see? This is why you havent. . ." "This is why you never. . . " "This is why you
can't. . . " All of these terrible, negative thoughts stopping me from enjoying my body, my life, my sweetheart, my cats, and our memories.
Where do those stories come from? Who told me to think that way about myself? Certainly I didn't. Someone else put those ideas in my head.
Those are bad stories.
The best way to address those is to rewrite them -- affirm the experience of the body, the teeth, the head, and also to develop gratitude for the love and the memories that are connected to these memento photos. And of course, another item is to reflect on bigger issues like health rather than aesthetics.
Something to push through with -- I'm sure I'm not alone.
Right now there's a helicopter whirling outside my neighborhood looking for someone on the loose who dumped their car in the Walgreens parking lot and ran. I just finished 3 weeks on the Sakara Life vegan eats program. I did it imperfectly, and that's ok.
For the first week, I followed it, had boosts of energy, felt great, and lost 14 pounds. Yes. In one week.
On the weekend (when they don't deliver food) I "indulged" in all the favorites, and I think that made it all the harder to "get back on the wagon" in Weeks 2 and 3, which found my cravings had returned (especially for salty crunchie things like Popcorn, my nemesis!)
After I finished the 3-week program, I paid for another 3 weeks, and here I am at the end of the "4th" week and again, am imperfect.
Last night, after a whirlwind of rage-texts from my sister, I couldn't sleep. I stayed up late, slept poorly, and woke feeling terrible. Reviewing the text messages back and forth, I saw the words of someone full of FEAR (me).
I'm sharing this because - well - it's my birthday next week. I'm turning . . . 49. I was talking to my sweetheart and sharing all of this with him and said, "none of my dreams have come true. I'm not directing plays or films, I'm not working at a theater, I haven't published a book yet." Yes, I have so many other accomplishments -- a PhD, a good job, good friends, a family, a big heart -- and yet the thing that is the chains around my body is -- ME. Me stopping me. Me sabotaging me.
Why do we self-sabotage? When do we tell ourselves to let go of our dreams (or better yet, when do we just stop working on them? I don't know. But somewhere there in my 30's when everyone in my family was getting cancer and dying, I sort of lost touch with the dreams and through myself into problem-solving and over-working in order to fulfill some sort of perfection complex.
Last night I had an a-ha moment that no matter how much I accomplish, no matter how hard I work, there will always be haters in the world -- and sometimes those haters include my own family.
So will my respond be to just slip into another 15 years of living in reaction mode, or will I choose to step into this last year before a new "decade" and make a change?
And yet, even as I say that, the voice in my head says "oh, KO, how much time you've wasted. You're too old to do anything about all of that now."
But there is a voice -- a tiny whisper of a voice that lives just a little bit deeper inside me that says "Fuck that. You can do whatever you set your mind to. Hard work. Stop whining. Do it now."
I think we live in a culture that asks people to give up instead of persist when things get hard and tough. When I was listening to N. tell me all the excuses for why she couldn't change her life, I was like "WHAT IS WRONG WITH HER?! SO SAD" and yet, here I have been doing the same thing -- settling for "good enough." I don't want to do that anymore.
Today I got up at 6am and worked on a couple of email blasts and my website, and now I'm writing tis missive out into the world. It is totally possible for me to do what I want to do. The questions are: 1 - what do I want to do? and 2 - what am I willing to do to get there?
If those were easy to answer, we'd all be blissfully happy living our best most authentic lives and not caring a shit about what others think.
As Mary Oliver says,
"What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"
And as David Goggins says: