Friday, December 30, 2011

Ego, art, and why do you create?

Why do you create?  Is it because what you create is your passion and you couldn’t imagine yourself doing otherwise?  Do you create because you believe that the world needs to hear or see what you have to say? Would you still create if you there was no audience for your work? 

As a writer I think the answer is a mix of both.  Writing is a form of communicating.  One could argue that all art is a form of communication of course but I think every writer has an audience in mind when they set pen to page and begin to create even if that audience is one’s self or if it is purely imaginary.  As a blogger putting my work out to the world on a regular basis it is obvious that I want people to read what I write.

However, with writing it is nearly impossible for me to separate my voice from the work whether I am writing in my journal, for my blog or an academic paper for school.  Though my audience is different in each case, and thus the style may vary, my voice is always there.  I think the struggle for me is with other forms of art, in particular with dance or performance art.  I have found it is very easy to start to create solely based on what I think an audience may want to see and thus run the risk that the final creation will be lacking in spirit.   

Perhaps it is because when I produce a show there are far more material factors thrown into the mix, like ticket sales and making sure that I am able to pay performers and cover other expenses so I often feel I have no choice but to keep the audience in mind.  As a solo performer, the response from the audience is so immediate and their approval and applause can be very addicting.  I think every performer who has experienced that high that comes with a great performance, one that not only feels good to the artist, but that the audience enthusiastically responds to and obviously loves, has the desire to recreate that feeling.   

James Kaelan talks about the ego and art in this video from What's Your Calling.  It has certainly given me food for thought, especially with the creative struggles I’ve been having of late.  
So I’m curious, why do you create?  

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Terpsichore's Whisper

Terpsichore - [turp-sik-uh-ree] the muse of the dance, Gk. Terpsikhore, lit. “enjoyment of dance,” from terpein “to delight” + khoros “dance, chorus”

If I think back over the past year or so I’m not sure I could pinpoint the moment that I first acknowledged what was happening.  There had been signs along the way of course.  I’d begun to use a bit less care than usual in putting on stage make up because the excitement of the transformation that usually accompanied it simply wasn’t there. I remember beginning to work on a new piece and the idea of making an entirely new costume just seemed like too much of a bother.  And there were the times when after hours of listening to song after song I finally just settled for a bit of music because I’d committed to performing at a show and I had to pick something to dance to even if it didn’t speak to me the way music used to.

And finally there was that moment, actually there were many of these moments, when after all of the planning and the practice that leads up to a performance, I found myself standing backstage waiting for the lights to come up so I could make my entrance and instead of the expected excitement and usual nervous jitters I felt nothing…and all I could think of was that I couldn’t wait for the show to be over.  And when, after it finally was, people congratulated me on a job well done or they told me that they loved a particular performance I resisted the urge to walk away because though I said the words of thanks, and told them how I was happy that they’d enjoyed the show, inside I felt like a bit of a fraud.

Looking at that statement it might seem that I am being a bit melodramatic; after all I’m not someone who is well known outside of the local dance community.  I’m not a full-time performer who makes her living on the stage.  If I disappeared forever no one is going to make a documentary about the great legacy that was lost because I’d not had the forethought to pass my ideas and talents on to some young protégé (How’s THAT for melodramatic?).  But however small or great my contributions to the dance world might be, I’d always felt that what I brought to the stage was something that came from a place of honest inspiration. 

Every piece I’d done whether it was something silly about the feeling one gets as a child when seeing the first snow fall of winter or a more serious piece about struggling with the darkness of depression or just something fun, like belly dancing to a bluegrass song just to see if I could, my heart was fully in it.  Even in the darker pieces there was a joy that I felt in being on that stage and in sharing the story that I was there to tell through dance.  The experience filled me to the point of overflowing and I felt that what spilled over was a gift that I willingly gave to the audience. 

So, while it might sound melodramatic, it is true that lately I have I felt like what audiences had seen was not my best work, not because I’d had a bad performance or I’d worked any less hard physically in creating the show.  In fact during this entire time I worked harder than I ever had before, thinking that if I just practiced more, challenged myself more, and pushed myself more that I’d regain what it was that I had lost.   I didn’t feel like a sham because I’d not put in the hours prior to performing, but because I’d stepped on that stage to present a piece that was not filled with that same spirit.

I am a firm believer in the idea that the show must go on.  I’ve no illusions about every performance being one that is perfect or that the every audience will love.  There will always be times that getting on that stage will be a struggle; the previous performance I may have tripped on my costume, or the DJ presses play and the music that comes out of the speakers isn’t the version I expected, or I have a cold that I’m fighting off, or I’m just too damn tired, or I just had my heart broken, but I always manage to get on that stage anyway and, until recently, most of the time once I am there all of that falls away.   I will always do what I have committed to doing which is why, even when my heart has not been in it, I’ve managed to somehow get myself up on that stage anyway, but, with a few exceptions, unlike those other times when I might just be overtired or hungry or sick, the feeling doesn’t pass and I feel a bit like I’m a puppet pulling my own strings, going through the motions of the performance.

This is where I find myself today.  And this is why I’ve not posted to the blog in over a week.  Most of my writing over the past several days has been centered on this issue because writing has always been one of the ways that I work things out.   The loss of connection to inspiration can be a very personal and sometimes painful experience and it is often one that is worked out in solitude.

My thoughts have gone from one extreme (ceasing performing all together until I figure this out) to another (dropping all other creative pursuits except for dance until I figure this thing out) and I’ve not yet found an answer.  I do know I don’t want to stop dancing.  I also know that I have experienced fallow times in other creative pursuits, including writing, and that with time even the most barren of creative times have always had an end.

So I guess  the closest thing to a conclusion that I have come to is that this isn’t something I can bring to an end solely through the force of my own will.   I perhaps have a bit of soul searching to do, taking the time to seek out and reconnect with the reasons that I began performing in the first place, but in the end, I must to be patient and willing to wait this out.  I hope that it will not be too long before I once again hear Terpsichore’s whisper. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Spinster New Year

They’re here.  I’ve seen a new one every few days over the last couple of weeks.  There was the one about women who buy themselvesfake engagement rings to wear home on Thanksgiving to avoid prying questions about why they aren’t yet hitched.  About a week later there was the story of two women posting ads on Craigslist for temporary holiday boyfriends so that they could have someone to bring along to office parties, family holidays and to kiss at midnight on New Year’s Eve.   And of course the ever popular how to hold your head high if you can’t get a date for New Year’s Eve.  Yes folks, it’s the time of year for all of those articles about how much the holidays suck if you are single.

First let me say that for various reasons I am not a big fan of Christmas.  In fact, last year I rented a cabin in the woods and sat out the holiday altogether.  This year it is my one day off with no plans and so I’m thinking a day on the couch, with some good movies, a bottle of wine and some expensive cheese are the way to go.  So whether or not I am single on Christmas has never been a real issue since my preference leans much more towards the quiet of a solstice morning sunrise.  New Year's Eve however is a totally different story.

I love celebrating New Year’s Eve.  One, it is a secular holiday that anyone can celebrate without stepping on toes or inadvertently misappropriating someone else’s cultural traditions.  You can wish practically anyone a Happy New Year and they will have no reason to be offended.  Two, New Year’s Eve is a holiday for adults. Why?  Because New Year’s Eve does what no other holiday does, it is the big annual reset button.   It is our chance to acknowledge that another year has passed, to reflect on everything good or bad that happened in our lives, to toast our accomplishments and to wipe away our failures and disappointments.  It is the night that we say, “I’m going to do better in the next year.”

In other words, we get a redo. 

And so New Year’s Eve is a night that I want to be surrounded by a hundred people all toasting away their regrets and looking onward to the future.  I don’t want to spend it with some date that I’ve scrambled to find at the last minute in order to be assured of a midnight kiss.  I want to have my dearest friends around me.  I want to be with those who I celebrated my ups with and those who caught me when I was tumbling on a down.  These are the folks who I want to clink champagne glasses with.  These are the people I want to kiss when the number hits zero and the ball drops.

In fact as far as the kissing goes, being single on New Year’s Eve is pretty much the bomb.  After all we single folks get the fun of free range lips.   There is no agonizing moment of searching the bar or club to find our date at five minutes to midnight, only do be disappointed that they chose that moment to go break the seal and wind up missing the kiss altogether.  I happen to be a HUGE fan of kissing so midnight is a moment I do not want to miss.

Finally, I do count myself lucky when I say that I’ve never had a family that cared about what my relationship status is.  I have never had to endure the pestering and prying questions that some of my single friends have had to endure.  My family has always been more concerned about whether or not I’m actually happy with my life.  Maybe some folks do feel so much pressure that they go buy fake engagement rings to avoid the questions.  Personally I think an appropriate response to why someone isn’t yet married would be, “If you really want to see a ring on my finger, then why don’t you buy me one? After all Christmas is just around the corner.”

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


It is the time of year to think about gifts and gift is also the theme of this month's NaBloPoMo.  Tonight I am in receipt of the gift of time, because I finished my last final exam of the semester.  I have one paper to make some final edits to before turning it in and then, for the next four weeks, I will find myself with  an extra 18 hours a week of unscheduled time.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Giving or Receiving?

It's time for another NaBloPoMo blog prompt post about gifts.

Which to you enjoy more giving or receiving?

I love receiving presents.  Really I think anyone who says that they don’t is not being honest.  Okay, I know we’ve all had bad gift receiving experiences where you wonder if the person giving the gift might actually be trying to tell you how much they really don’t like you, but for the most part being on the receiving end of a gift is a pretty good thing.  It’s especially wonderful when you open the package and it is obvious that a lot of thought and care went into the choosing of the gift because what you find is something so perfectly you.

Which is why, though I love to be on the receiving end of a gift exchange, I enjoy giving presents far more than I do receiving.  Knowing what it is like to receive that perfectly chosen gift, creates within me a desire to bring that feeling to those I care about.  There is something wonderful about finding or making the perfect present for someone you love, and knowing that what you are giving them will bring a smile to their face.    Making someone else feel good, makes me feel good in whatever form that takes, a hug, an ear in a time of need or a thoughtfully chosen and given gift.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Spinster Nesting: The Great Sorting

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful” – William Morris

One my New Year’s resolutions is to make the spinster nest more livable and that is going to mean getting rid of stuff.  Over the past two years of being in this apartment I’ve tried to convince myself that all that was needed was for me to simply be better organized, that all I really had to do was to find just the right bookshelf or the magical number of storage bins and my home would be orderly and clean.  It’s time for me to face the fact that the clutter and disarray that is my living space has a lot more to do with the quantity of stuff I own, and very little to do with the quality of my organizational skills.

Just to be clear, I’m not what you’d call a hoarder.  I don’t have years upon years of newspapers, magazines, tin cans or mail piled around my house.  What I do have is a sizable yarn stash, years of collected costuming, books upon books upon books and basically a two bedroom apartment’s worth of stuff that I am trying to cram into a very small one bedroom apartment and an overflowing storage space in the basement.  When I think back I realize that I really didn’t do a very good job of sorting things when I moved in, and since then I’ve only added to what I’ve already have. 

My home doesn’t feel like home…it feels like I live in a rented storage unit.  I want this to once again be my space, not my stuff’s space.  So I’m going to do something about it. 

I don’t plan to wait for January 1st to begin what I see as The Great Sorting.  This week I have final exams for school, including a four page paper that needs writing, which will pretty much fill every moment of free time that I have over the next four days, but once that time is complete I’ve no excuse to delay beginning.  And truthfully, I don’t want to delay, the state of my apartment has been driving me crazy for months. 

I have given some thought to what criteria to use to rid myself of the objects that clutter my space.  I know if I let myself I will always find some reason to keep something because I might use it in the future.  Then I came across the quote above by WilliamMorris, a nineteenth century artist and writer.  I thought what better standard to use for deciding what to keep and what to pass on, throw out or donate? 

I honestly don’t remember half of what is in the boxes currently packed away in storage, and if I don’t recall what’s in them, and if in the past two years I haven’t felt compelled to dig them out and open them, how useful can their contents be?  In addition, from my seat here at the table as I let my gaze wander around my living room, I can count five objects that I like but which I’m certainly not in love with. On top of that I can think of several people in my life who would find those objects beautiful or useful; which means that I don’t really have a reason for keeping them, other than just to have them.

As with nearly everything else that goes on my life, once this process begins I will quite likely be blogging about it.  This sorting of things is going along with my sorting out other priorities in my life and as with any sort of change or transition I expect that both with bring up quite a few interesting things to write about.  So stay tuned…

Sunday, December 11, 2011, wait you said a whole month of blogging?

You may have noticed that my month of blogging has hit a bit of a bump.  I’ve not posted the past two days.  Now, I could say that I actually wrote during that time but that the words that traveled from my brain to the screen were simply not worthy of being shared, but I’d be making that up. I could say that while I really wanted to write, I’ve been far too busy and too tired which would be much closer to the truth.

Unlike when I was blogging in October however, I’m not going to give up on the idea.  Yes, I missed two days but I’ve got 20 more days to go and if in the end I get 29 out 31 days, I’d say I’m not really doing all that poorly. 

So onward then!  This next week will be  more than a bit crazy for me with two final exams and a final paper due, so I’ll likely be overtired and thinking too much about the quadratic formula,  macroeconomics and the nature of evil, but I’ll muddle through.

After all, isn’t that what caffeine and blog prompts are for?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Favorite Gift

This month’s NaBloPoMo theme is gifts.   I’ve not yet discussed the topic and I’m in need of a bit of inspiration this evening so I am making use of today’s prompt.  Which is….

What was your favorite thing you received below the age of 10?

I lived in a small New England town until the age of nine, when we moved to an even smaller New England town. It was in that first town, when I was about six years old that I got the idea that I wanted to be a dancer.  I wasn't quite sure what kind of dancer, but I was pretty positive I would grow up to be either a ballerina or a Rockette.  So I started taking dance lessons.

My instructor’s name was Mrs. Richardson and she lived alone in a small house on a hill across town.  She had a fluffy white cat that was at least twice my age and she grew the sweetest cherry tomatoes I ever remember eating.  Her dance studio was small, even to my child sized eyes, but it was sunny and it had the requisite barre and walls lined with mirrors.  There was small record player and a piano. Dressed in our pink tights and black leotards we danced to the music of both.  She was forever telling me to stand up straighter and to quicken my tap steps. 

I remember her as thin, and light on her feet.   Watching her demonstrate ballet positions I thought she was the most graceful women and dancer I’d ever seen.  And when she showed us tap steps in her high heeled tap shoes I was sure she must have been sisters with Ginger Rogers.  I didn’t know much about her and so I invented a story in my mind about what might have brought her to this town where she taught us. I imagined she must have been a famous dancer who traveled the world until her career was brought to an end due to heartbreak or tragedy.  I’m not sure I actually knew what heartbreak or tragedy was then but they used those words a lot in the movies, and it sounded romantic.

I loved dancing, and though I may not have been the most attentive student (I had habit of moving as the music moved me, and not always in the steps she was trying to teach us), she was patient and seemed have a knack for bringing my attention back to where it needed to be.  I took lessons from her for three and a half years until my father took a job further north and it made sense to move closer to his work.  

On my last day of class, when the lesson was complete, she asked me to stay for just a moment.  I waited in the studio and soon she came in with a small box which she opened and tipped forward so I could see the contents.  I peered in and inside I saw the tiny delicate figure of a ballerina in arabesque that had, until now, been standing on top of the studio piano since I’d first started taking classes.

Mrs. Richardson removed her from the box and handed her to me.  The dancer was small, maybe six inches tall, and long limbed; she had dark hair and her costume was a burgundy velvet bodice with a black and cream lace tutu.  There was a wire stand attached to keep her upright and if it was positioned properly, she would appear to be balanced on the tip of one of her black toe shoes. She had hand painted rosy cheeks, red lips and a red flower perched over her left ear.  She was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen and I was in disbelief that my teacher was giving her to me.

“Stand up straight,” she said as she placed the miniature dancer into my hands, “remember to practice and keep dancing.”

She returned the dancer to the box, which she handed to me.  The she gave me a hug and I left.

I never saw Mrs. Richardson again after that, but I kept the doll for years, through several more moves and once across country and back again.  At some point a cat of mine chewed on her foot and my brother accidentally stepped on her making her head permanently crooked.  In the end she was finally lost to the waters of a flooded basement along with some beloved children’s books and several journals.

It’s been nearly 20 years since I last saw that tiny ballerina, and while she was beautiful and I remember her fondly, she isn’t the gift I am writing about.  The real gift that I was given that day was the words that Mrs. Richardson spoke to me, “Stand up straight, remember to practice, and keep dancing.”

I never did become a star ballerina (too tall) or a Rockette (tall enough but just never had the courage to really go for it) but, I continued to study dance. And though I gave up formal study for several years, I did continue to practice when I could.  If there was music I moved to it since, really, I’ve never been able to stop myself from doing so.  About six years ago I began to study a very different style of dance, belly dance.

So while I may not have been perfect in my practice, and yes even now my teachers still must remind me to stand up straight, I have never stopped dancing. 

Thank you Mrs. Richardson, for this gift given to a nine year old girl at about this time of year 30 years ago.  It was certainly never forgotten, and it will always be one of my favorites. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I'm tired...but grateful

Today has been a very, very long day and so I'm only up for writing a very, very short post.  Under normal circumstances I'd not write at all, BUT I am totally committed to completing this month's NaBloPoMo, so while it might not be long it is at least...well, at least it's a blog post.

Today I spent too much time on my feet, too much time walking in the rain and barely survived a personal caffeine shortage.  However, despite the fact that I'm exhausted, overall it wasn't a bad day.

It began with an unexpected early morning visit from a friend who always manages to brighten even the gloomiest of cold, rainy days.  Later, another friend who discovered that I'd left my wallet at home bought me a coffee at my favorite local coffee shop.  The afternoon was much improved when I was invited to meet up with a different friend for dinner and though I could not join him, I very much appreciated being asked.

I've said before that I am grateful for the wonderful people in my life.  Today, which could have just been one more uneventful, dreary and wet day, was much improved by their existence. So thank you to all of you...I hope I can return the favor and bring a bit of cheer to you when you need it.

Good night!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My Pre-New Year's Resolution

Today I set the alarm for 6:30 because I needed to get to the grocery store early enough to do my shopping and make it home by 9:00 to start work.  I had some essentials that I had to pick up (toilet paper, kitty litter and, well, food) and if I didn’t take care of it this morning my next possible free bit of time would not be until Thursday evening after 7:30.  The litter box and my need for toilet paper were not going to hold out that long.

I managed to get to the store, purchase all of the necessary supplies, catch the bus just in time to make it home at 8:50, put the groceries away and started working promptly at 9:00.  Working at home does have the benefit of my office being less than ten feet from my kitchen, which makes for a very short commute.  I worked until 1:00.

1:00 until 2:00 was spent doing some much needed household chores (dishes, taking the garbage out, cleaning the toilet, mopping up old coffee spills from the kitchen floor).  After this I went to meet a friend to discuss a possible documentary project and then home again to pick up my books for school.  I arrived back at the spinster nest about 20 minutes ago.

For the past few months this has been my life.  Always on the move, always on the go, never really getting to the point of resting because even when I sit still, my mind is thinking about the next thing I will be doing. It isn't that I'm not getting things done, it's that I'm spending ALL of my time getting things done.  

Thankfully the semester ends next week.  After finals are over I will have more time to myself and while I think that I’ve planned my class schedule much more wisely for the next semester, I do know that I need to figure out exactly what my priorities are because I can’t keep this up for an extended period of time.  I love all of the things that I do, but while I might be a super spinster, I’m not Super Woman and at this rate I will eventually burn out.

So let’s call it my pre New Year’s resolution.  Over the remaining weeks of December I will come up with a plan to not spread myself quite so thin in 2012.  My New Year's resolution will be to actually stick to it.

Now, I wonder if I can get in a load or two of laundry done before bedtime…

Monday, December 5, 2011

Folks, we need options...

“I’ve met this really wonderful person, who I really, really like…but I’m just not sure I want to be somebody’s boyfriend.”

The above was expressed by a friend of mine who recently started dating someone new after an extended period of being single.  While he very much seems to be enjoying the process of getting to know this person and spending time with them, he also has concerns about giving up the things that he has come to value during the period he has spent alone.   There is a lot of freedom that goes along with being by yourself; your life and your time are yours to do with as you see fit and that is something many of us give up when we start to feel that familiar tickle of falling in love.  

Of course we are told that this is what is supposed to happen.  You are supposed to meet someone, fall head over heels, move in together and perhaps even finally take the walk down the aisle where the two become one and live happily ever after.  Even if a couple never takes the step of formal vows, there is still more often than not the expectation that the ‘we’ is now more important that the ‘I’ and The Relationship becomes the guide for nearly all future action.  We are no longer two individuals, but half of a pair and somehow this is supposed to make us feel like complete people. 

And perhaps that is the problem.  We aren’t ever really given any other options, we are either single or not.  While I have no plans to ever live with someone or to marry, I do date and I do like to have, you know, companionship.  I also believe it is possible to love someone and to have a shared experience without having to merge every part of your life with theirs.  In fact for me, keeping my life separate is very likely going to be what would allow me to have a more fulfilling long term romantic relationship than if I live with someone.

You see one of the best things about spending all of this time alone is that I have come to know myself in a way that was never possible before.  Not only have I had the time and space to get to know myself inside and out, but I have also found ways to meet all of my needs on my own.  Everything from buying groceries to figuring out what to do with my time on the weekends has been thought about and decided upon by me.  And one thing that I have come to learn is that I don’t need another person in my life 24 hours a day to meet my needs or make me happy.   

What does this mean in terms of relationships?  It means that anyone who may be in my life is there because I want them to be there.  It means that I can spend time with them without any unattainable Prince or Princess Charming ideal hanging about in the back of my mind.  They don’t have to be anyone other than who they are because whatever they bring into my life is a bonus and a gift.  In addition, I am also more able to give freely of myself because I can give without expectation.

Most of us do this already with our friendships.  While there is an exchange of affection and love in a friendship, we don’t have the expectation that any of our friends will be the piece of our personal puzzle that makes us feel like a whole human being. 

So maybe we need to find a new ideal.   Perhaps what we should be doing is learning to be whole individuals first because the fact is that no one can do that for us, not a friend or a lover.  Whether we live alone, as part of a couple, forever dating or as frequently visiting neighbors across the hall, the only person who  can make any of us feel complete is us, and if we attain that first we might find  we are better equipped to give of ourselves without giving our self up.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A quote...

It is nearly 11:30 and I’ve not finished the blog post I wanted to share today.  I started working on the post too late and the idea turned out to be larger than what would fit into a few quick paragraphs. So I have set it aside to be finished at a later time, hopefully tomorrow. 

Instead I am going to share with you the following quote.  It was my mother who introduced me to Olive Schreiner’s writing many years ago.  These words are pertinent to the post I started working on today and the story has been a favorite of mine for a very long probably isn't too difficult to figure out why.  

“I saw a woman sleeping. In her sleep, she dreamt life stood before her and held in each hand a gift -  in the one hand love, in the other freedom - and she said to the woman, ‘Choose.’ And the woman waited long: and she said, ‘Freedom.’ And life said, ‘Thou hast well chosen, if thou hadst said 'love’ I would have given thee that thou didst ask for; and I would have gone from thee, and returned to thee no more. Now, the day will come when I shall return. On that day I shall bear both gifts in one hand.’ I heard the woman laugh in her sleep.” -- Olive Schreiner, 1901

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Snakeskin Picnic

“The most important thing to remember is this: To be ready at any moment to give up what you are for what you might become.”  - W. E. B. Du Bois

I took a walk through some local woods with a friend today.  We paused in a sunny spot near an abandoned quarry to have a picnic snack when he noticed the dried snakeskin lying across the pebbles next to us.  The skin was small, only about a centimeter in width and perhaps twenty centimeters long.  I could imagine that a few weeks previous to our arrival a small garter snake made its way across the same sun warmed gravel, using the sharp edges of the rocks to aid in the removal of its old skin.

A snake can be nearly blind until it sheds its outgrown skin and so the process is vital to its survival.*  Seeing the skin reminded me that as human beings our vision can become fogged by hanging onto parts of the past that we have outgrown leaving us blind to the possibilities that lay ahead of us.  It also brought to mind how sometimes the bumpy and rough spots in my life have been helpful to my own growth, for it is often the darker times that have allowed me to see that which I needed to shed and it has been in the struggle of letting go that I have found the strength to move forward.  

*Snakes have a transparent "scale", called a brille, that covers the eye.  The brille is a part of the skin and becomes clouded as the snake nears its time to moult.  The brille will be shed along with the remainder of the skin allowing the snake to once again see clearly.    

Friday, December 2, 2011

Revoking My Invitation to the Pity Party

No one can bring me down like I can.  I’m truly my own worst enemy when it comes to my own imperfections.  I can spot one tiny personality flaw, focus on it with eagle eye precision and then zoom in until what was the size of a pebble is now a looming mountain and I am sitting glumly in its shadow.  And once I am there, I begin to tell myself that if I really was the together person I profess to be, I wouldn’t be sitting there wallowing in unhappiness over being less than perfect, which of course only serves to underline the point that I am horribly, horribly flawed.

Being the prepared person that I am have a bag of tricks that I rely upon to pull myself out of such slumps but sometimes no matter how many gratitude lists I make, or long walks I take, or how supportive the friends I call upon are, my mind simply won’t turn around and before I know it I’m sitting on the couch, two cups into a bottle of red wine, weeping over episode upon episode of a BBC period drama. 

Before you ask, there isn’t any major problem going on in my life right now.  Last night’s boo hoo fest was 100% self inflicted, likely brought on by being too tired (why don't I take care of myself better?  I suck.) and worrying too much about how to accomplish my ever lengthening to do list (why don't I plan better?  I suck).  This is good and bad.  Good because if I talked myself into it, I can likely talk myself out of it.  Bad because I was able to bring myself there in the first place.

So yes, that woman who was sniffling on my futon while watching Masterpiece Theater on Neflix?  Yes, the one who was only one kitty cuddle and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s away from being a spinster stereotype? Last night, that woman was me.

Thankfully today is a new day and I have managed to pull myself out of my mini-wallow. Really, it doesn’t count as a full on wallow unless it includes one 24 hour period of not leaving the house.  Tonight I will be venturing out to listen to a friend’s band, perhaps dance a bit and uninviting myself to any more of my own pity parties.

Here’s hoping Friday night treats all of us well. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

NaBloPoMo (Take Two)

In October I signed up to participate in NaBloPoMo and made a commitment to blogging everyday for one month.   In the end I decided I simply had too much going on to complete the task and I abandoned the attempt.  I did say that I would take up the challenge at a later date with the hope that November would prove to be a better month for doing so.  It wasn’t.  Now it is December and I’m choosing to once again take up the challenge of trying to write some sort of blog post daily for this month’s 31 days. 

Life has slowed at least a bit since I’ve taken the remainder of the year off from performing and my time will become even more mine with the end of the semester in two weeks.  While I do plan to make sure that some of this time is spent in relaxation, I also want to use some of it for focusing on creative pursuits that I’ve not had the time to give special attention.  Writing is very high up on the list of things I’d like to focus on.

So here we go again.  Thirty-one days of blogging.  Wish me luck!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Wanted: Party Planner (um...maybe)

In just over two months I will be celebrating my 40th birthday.  We humans like to mark time and perhaps because we have ten digits to count with, we like to do it in decades.   Since on average we can expect to be on this earth for about eight of full counts of these digits, forty marks the midpoint for most of us.   It is one of those ages where people look at their lives and ask if themselves, “Am I in the place I want to be?”

I have to confess to the fact that I have never really had any sort of plan.  Way back when I was preparing to graduate from high school and everyone else around me seemed to have at least a bit of a clue as to what they wanted to do, I sat down to give my future some thought and…I came up completely blank.  I truly had no idea what I might want to do or who I wanted to be.   My senior yearbook quite accurately lists my future ambition as “none.”  Since most of the adults in my life weren’t freaking out about this, I decided that panicking wasn’t necessary and stepped blindly off into the world of adulthood. 

In the intervening 32 years of experiencing the world I certainly learned a few lessons, had my share of wins and losses, found some direction and now at nearly 40 I can say I’m pretty much okay with where I am.  I am still in the process of figuring out who I am and I’m thinking it’s going to take at least another four decades to even come close to saying I’ve found myself.

Now, despite the preceding three paragraphs, this post isn’t about whether or not I am happy with my life on the edge of 40.  What this post is actually about is how I should mark my arrival at this particular milestone.  I did have a plan, a BIG plan; one that involved hot tubs in the middle of February, a photo booth and a bonfire.   However, the funds for said ambitious plan went towards emergency surgery for one of my spinster mascots.  While there is no way that I would change that and I am happy that I have many more years of kitty cuddles ahead of me, it did pretty much pull the financial legs from beneath my birthday extravaganza. 

In addition to this I also find myself busier than I have ever been at any previous point in my life.  Even if I had the funds to celebrate in the manner that I’d planned, I’m not sure I’d have the time to actually coordinate the event.  I’d be quite happy with a gathering of friends with a potluck dinner and a large assortment of cupcakes but, I’d be lucky if I managed a facebook invite a week before the party was due to be held. 

I suppose if I had a significant other it would, by default, be their job to handle the planning but since I quite happily don’t (and certainly any past beau’s I’ve had would not have been up to the task…sorry guys, but I generally was the more organized one), what I am wondering is if it is okay to ask someone, like a friend, to help with planning my 40th birthday party?

I admit to feeling a bit strange asking for assistance with this.  I would be asking someone to help out with an event that is, after all, all about me.  Then again if I were planning any other milestone event, a wedding, graduation, birth of a child, etc., I’d probably not feel at all weird about asking for help and so maybe my hesitance in asking for assistance with this is because it is all about me and I’m worried about appearing self-centered or selfish.  Yep apparently even proud spinsters have hang-ups.

So I’m asking for your thoughts on this readers and friends.  Is it okay to ask for help in planning this event that will mark my four decades of existence on this earth?  What are your thoughts?  

Thank you…

Saturday, November 19, 2011

New Additions and Exciting Changes at Spinster Jane!!

It’s Saturday morning and I awoke with wholehearted intentions to make coffee and then sit down to write for a solid hour.  I was successful on the coffee front.  The writing however was delayed due the talent that the authors of the blogs on my blogroll have for writing well about interesting things.  I’m now looking at the clock thinking that I have somewhere to be in an hour and though I am now well caffeinated, I am still sitting here in my jammies. 

I do think I have just enough time to share some ideas I have for changes I plan to make to the blog.  Spinster Jane, while it does have a lot of personal flavor, is about women living single.  I want it to not only be entertaining but also useful.  I’ll still be writing posts about my cats and my battles with the dirty laundry pile, but over the next couple of months you can also expect the following:

More Spinster in the Kitchen posts!  Cooking for one can at times be a royal pain in the spinster ass.  Most recipes make servings for four or more, and they not always easily dividable.  Just how do you calculate one fourth of an egg?  Frozen dinners are not only expensive and depressing but also generally terribly bad for you.  I’ll be upping the number of Spinster in the Kitchen posts to two a month, and will also start to include some guest posts from other fabulous single living cooks I know.

Spinster Spotlight!  I’m not the only woman in the world who is happily living the spinster life.  I am acquainted with many women who, due to choice or circumstance, have found themselves embracing solo living.  While you can read about my single living stories here any time you like, I want to share the perspectives of others.  I’ll be doing Spinster Spotlight interviews with single living women and bringing  their stories to you.  The plan is to bring you the first of these in January, 2012 so we can all start the new year with a bit of inspiration.

Spinster Nesting!  Beginning in December I’ll be including a monthly feature on living alone in a small space.  Living alone not only often means compromising on square footage, it can also mean finding creative ways to save money so you can actually afford to keep your nest for one.  I plan to share my ideas and experience with small space living including how to keep organized, how to decorate on a budget, how to entertain in a tiny space and more.

I’m very excited about all of these upcoming additions to the blog.  I hope you will be too…

Now, it’s time to put on pants. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I've Done This 100 Times!!! (Okay, really 101)

Today my friend G from MyAmercianHouse happily informed me that today she posted her 100th blog post (Yaaaaaaaay!!!!).  I just as happily congratulated her and then of course proceeded to pull my phone from my pocket so that I could log into Blogger and see how close I was to my 100th post. 

I squealed.   Okay maybe I danced a little.  Aaaaand then perhaps I hopped up and down saying, “G!!  G!!! You aren’t going to believe this buuuuuut….”

Last night’s Spinster in the Kitchen recipe post was my 100th Spinster Jane blog post!!!

I guess I should have been paying more attention so that when the moment I arrived I’d have had a properly commemorative post prepared but alas, I guess I was just too busy writing, and working, and going to school, and dancing and living so I didn’t, and since I have to be in math class in a very short time this is it.

So in honor of today’s (well, really last night’s momentous occasion) I give you the following.  A link to the most viewed post of all of the 100 Spinster Jane blog posts:

The Great Big Sex Post (are you surprised really?)

And a picture of my cat Miss Pickles just because she is cute.  

Congratulations to me and to G on reaching a blogging milestone!!  Hopefully I’ll be better prepared by post 200.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Spinster in the Kitchen: Pizza - sometimes size matters

I love pizza.  If I had to pick a perfect food I think pizza comes pretty close.  It comes in an infinite variety of flavors, it can be paired with nearly any adult beverage, for the cost of a tip, it will be delivered to your door nearly any time of day or night and it is completely acceptable to answer the door in your pajamas! What isn’t there to like about pizza?

The fact is that sometimes, there is such a thing as too big.  Even a 12 inch pizza can leave me facing the prospect of eating pepperoni pie for more than two breakfasts, and while I do let my spinster flag fly high, eating cold pizza after three days brings me just that much closer to changing the name of this blog to Jane the Dude, My Transformation from Spinster to Maiden-Bachelor.

So where does this leave a solo living pizza loving woman?  You could buy those pizzas for one in the grocery store with their skimpy amounts of cheese and pea sized bits of vegetables or you can be a self sufficient super spinster and make your own. 

Breathe now.  Really homemade pizza is not difficult.  The only thing you are making from scratch is the crust and not only that but you won’t just be making one pizza crust, you will be making enough dough for FOUR spinster sized pizzas.  And better yet, you get to top them with whatever you like....pepperoni, hot peppers, extra-extra cheese, artichoke hearts, cat food (just making sure you are paying attention). So get ready!

This recipe is my favorite pizza dough recipe.  I have been using it for years and it is loosely based on a recipe originally meant to make two twelve inch crusts.  You will be quartering the dough, likely cooking one pizza right away and saving the rest for later.  It will result in four 8 – 9 inch pizzas. To store the dough in the freezer you will need quart size and/or gallon sized zipper storage bags depending upon if you will be freezing the dough or preparing and freezing mini-pizzas.

Optional: Cyndi Lauper’s “12 Deadly Cyns…and Then Some,” a bottle of your favorite wine and an approximately 90 minute spinster appropriate flick (i.e. lots of things get blown up or it’s black and white and stars Humphrey Bogart).

Spinster Jane’s Favorite Pizza Dough

Mix together:

2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/3 cup warm milk
1 tablespoon honey

Allow this mixture to sit until the yeast is dissolved.  Depending up on the temperature of the milk and your kitchen this will be about 5 – 10 minutes.


2 tablespoons olive oil
3 ½ cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sea salt

(If you’d like to make an herbed crust you can add 1 tablespoon of your preferred dried herb – oregano, garlic powder or basil all make great additions)

Mix by hand until the ingredients are blended.  If the dough is too wet you can add a bit more flour (about ¼ cup).  The dough should be well blended after just a few minutes.  When the dough becomes smooth and elastic turn it out of the bowl onto a floured surface. 

With floured hands knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes (this is the about as long as the first three songs of Cyndi Lauper’s “12 Deadly Cyns…and Then Some”). 

When the kneading (and kitchen booty shaking) is done, find a large bowl and pour in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  Plop in your beautiful ball of dough, flip it once to make sure it is well coated with olive oil, cover the bowl with a towel and then leave for about 1 ½ hours.  That’s about enough time for your average action movie so pour a glass of wine and relax. 

By the time the end credits begin to roll across the screen the dough should be about doubled in size.  Remove the towel covering the bowl, make a fist and punch the dough down a few times.  Turn it back out onto a floured surface and give a bit of kneading love.  Then with a sharp knife cut the dough into four equal pieces.

At this point you have the following options. 

A) After all of this dough making, the glass of wine and the adrenaline rush from my favorite explosion filled, aliens attacking action film, I’m generally in need of food so I roll out one quarter of the dough into about an 8 – 9 inch approximation of a circle, top it with my favorite pizza toppings and bake it in 425 degree oven for about 12 – 15 minutes until the crust is golden brown. 

B) Now as for the remainder of the dough I usually take at least one of the quarters, shape it into a ball, spray the inside of a zipper storage baggie with a bit of olive oil and freeze it as is.  When I want pizza I take it out, let it thaw and proceed with option A.

C) The rest I roll out into 8-9 inch pizza crusts which I then carefully slide them into a one gallon zipper baggie.  While in the baggie I top it with sauce, cheese and whatever else I might like on a future pizza (yes, you will have plenty of room to do this in the bag).  Then I zip it shut and place it on a plate (this helps it keep its shape in the freezer), put it in the freezer and wait an hour or so after which I remove the plate.  When, on some night after a day of classes or a Saturday morning when I’m just too tired to cook, I put my frozen pizza delight on a cookie sheet, put it into a cold oven, turn the temp to 425 and cook for about 15 – 20 minutes until the crust is golden brown.  The crust will rise while cooking. 

And there you have it folks.  Pizza, the perfect spinster food.  Yes, I know it comes minus the possibility of flirting with the cute pizza delivery driver while wearing your best flannel PJs, but hey, with this you don't even need to wear pants!!


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Spinsters spinning

I am working on this month's Spinster in the Kitchen recipe.  In fact right now my oven is preheating and very shortly the final step of the recipe will be complete and I will be putting my taste buds to work making sure that the recipe is ready to share.  However, in the meantime, I wanted to share an experience I recently had regarding the word spinster.

A few days ago I when I was out and about town I ran into some friends and we fell into a conversation about writing.  Mostly we chatted about maintaining a regular writing practice.  I mentioned that writing this blog had done wonders for my writing discipline as I had made a commitment to myself to post at least twice a week.   Shortly after this a woman approached us and said, “I’m sorry to interrupt but did you say Spinster Jane?  Are you Spinster Jane? I read your blog.”

Now I do get approached by friends and acquaintances who share their opinions of Spinster Jane and I also of course have a fairly steady online readership that will on occasion share their thoughts as well, but this was the first time that a complete stranger had approached me about the blog in person.  This was a very exciting occurrence on its own, but it was the conversation that followed that was the real treat.

This woman shared her story with me of being single after a relationship of three decades and how it took her sometime to adjust to being alone but that she eventually realized that she was quite happy living her life this way.   We then began discussing the word spinster and its history.  I of course talked about how spinning came to be a way for women to keep themselves independent at a time when they had few options for income, and that I was seeking to reclaim the word in the in spirit of those women but then she put a new twist on things.

She said to me that one of the things she loved about the word spinster was the image it evoked of weaving and spinning one’s own life.   I know, this should be obvious right?  Spinsters spin, the metaphor really isn’t that much of a stretch.  Well for whatever reason I’d never thought of it this way and though our conversation ended shortly thereafter, the image of spinning has not left my mind and in fact it has grown and expanded.

I imagine our life experiences as the raw wool, full of brambles, sticks, leaves, mud and whatever other bits of flotsam might be collected in the sheep’s wandering through life.  At first it is dirty and unrefined but we bring it home to be washed and carded until it is fluffy and clean, ready to be spun.   Our hands take up the wool and begin the process of spinning.  The wheel turns over and over and our fingers keep up a steady feed of wool until in the end we are left something completely new; something that will eventually be further transformed yet again into a garment or fabric.

Life presents each of us with numerous gifts and challenges; many of these events are beyond our control, but how we respond to these experiences, the lessons we take away from them and how we are shaped by them, is up to each of us. It is a wonderful image to think of myself spinning the yarn of my life out of the raw wool of my own experience.   I  have been through the process of cleaning and carding many times and each time, when I sit ready to spin, I am the one who will decide how thick or light to make the yarn, what color to dye the wool and what I would like to weave out of it after it is complete. 

I really would like to thank this woman, this fellow spinster, for sharing this idea with me.  In the excitement of the conversation I forgot to ask her name.  I do hope to run into her again but incase I don’t…

Thank you for wandering by and saying hello and for sharing your spinning image with me.  I do hope your life yields a fine, strong and colorful yarn!  

Monday, November 7, 2011

Oh to be brave...

I’m eating ramen noodles for breakfast.  Yes, the kind that cost about ten cents a package and deliver 33% of my RDA of sodium.  I could, and probably should, take the time to thaw out and toast an English muffin, poach an egg, slice up a bit of cheese and top it all with some fresh from the bag spinach, but I’m free to do as I please and this morning it pleases me to be lazy so beef flavored ramen it is.  

Why am I telling you about, and defending, my Monday morning breakfast choice?  The truth is that I am having more than a bit of trouble writing today’s blog post.  It isn’t that I don’t know what I want to write about, it’s that every time I start out writing it I begin to sound a little preachy and that simply is not the voice that I want to use.

My last blog post was about five things to not say to your spinster friends (i.e. those who have made the choice to remain happily single).  While all of these things, and more, have been said to me there is another phrase that I hear quite often.  It is a statement that I hear in one form or another with nearly the same amount of frequency and I am never quite sure how to respond to it in the moment when it is said.

“I love reading your blog and I wish I could be as brave as you.”

My immediate response is usually to express some sort of gratitude.  I write because I love to write, but I also love to have people actually read what I write.  It feels good to know that Spinster Jane is not only read but enjoyed.  Generally I can leave it at that, but lately I’ve wanted to follow up with asking just what it is that I am doing that they find so brave and why they can’t find that same thing within themselves.

Considering the topic of Spinster Jane, I can safely make the assumption that what most people find so brave is my decision to remain single and live alone.  While some of the people who are saying how brave they think I am are those who are wistfully remembering their carefree and single days before they happily paired themselves off (and I have had more than a few of the unhappily coupled mention it but that is a different blog post), what is confusing about the statement is that the majority of the women who are telling me how much they wish they could do what I do are predominantly single. 

When my coupled readers have expressed the sentiment about being brave enough, it is a bit easier to make sense of it.  One of my favorite singles bloggers, Bella de Paulo, Ph. D., recently wrote in her Single at Heart blog on Psych Central about how despite the negative stereotypes that many folks have about the single at heart, there is one thing that the non-singles find very appealing about the single life, and that is the freedom to live your life as you choose and I’m certainly not going to argue with this perception.  The fact is I do have the freedom to do what I want when I want (case in point…ramen for breakfast).  As with de Paulo I too can stay up late and allow myself to get lost in a creative project.    I like that I am free to choose when or if I want to spend time with those that I love.  I am certainly more free to assist a friend or family member in need should something arise and I am capable of helping.  There is a lot of freedom that I have because I have chosen to claim the title of spinster. 

However when it comes to the single ladies, what I think the issue becomes is that I am choosing to remain single, to live alone and to be HAPPY about it.  And yes, I can understand this too.  Everything in our culture pushes us to find one person, pair off and live happily ever after.  And yes, even with all of the progress we’ve made in women’s issues, if a woman is not paired off by a certain time then there must be something wrong with her.  She is unattractive or has too much baggage or she is too needy or she is frigid or she’s too picky, etc.   And finally, if a woman is not partnered off by an acceptable time then she should at the very least be unhappy about her state and be doing whatever it is she can to remedy it because to be single and seeking is more acceptable than to be single, not looking and be quite okay or even happy about it.

To those women who call me brave I have this to say.  If I have learned anything in my somewhat more than three decades of life, it is that there is one, and only one, thing that I have any control over in this world and that is me.   I can’t change in any way how the rest of the world perceives me.   There will likely always be people who think that my ‘problem’ is not having met the right person, or that I don’t laid enough, or I’m too driven in pursuing my goals and thus will miss out on the bliss that is marriage.  I can try my best to explain why these things are not true, and maybe I will change a mind or two which is a good thing,  but  in the end what really and truly matters is what I think of myself.  I simply will not allow my perception of myself and my life to be dictated by what others think I should be doing.  I’ve already passed what will be the half way point for most of us and life is too short to be spent trying to be something I’m not.

So, if being happy with my life the way it is and being unapologetic about it makes me brave then call me brave, and if sometime soon, maybe after reading this blog post, you find that upon taking a closer look that you too are living the life you want to lead and that you are happy about it, then you are certainly no less brave than I.   

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What Not to Say to Your Spinster Friends...

Today Charlotte at MyPixieBlog, who I follow with almost groupie like adoration which I enjoy reading regularly, shared a post about What Not to Say to Your Single Friends Ever.   While I know that most folks come from a place of good intentions, it never ceases to amaze me how many people don’t think about the words that come out of their mouths.  Words that at best might one day be looked back upon and laughed about and at worst, be unintentionally very hurtful.

I’ve had my own run-ins with well intentioned friends and acquaintances that have a lack of understanding about what “this whole spinster things means” and who often impart unsolicited advice or share their observations regarding what my motivation must be.   So in the spirit of Charlotte’s post, here is Spinster Jane’s list of What Not to Say to Your Spinster Friends.

1.  You must have been really hurt to give up on love.

While I have had my share of unhappy love affairs, my decision to remain single has nothing to do with a broken heart and I’ve certainly not given up on love.   What I have done is made a conscious choice to not seek permanent romantic attachment.  Really what this breaks down to is that I don’t want to be married and I don’t want to live with anyone.    Aside from the fact that I'm not really all that sure that human beings are designed for living in a state of perpetual monogamy, I’m a happier person living my life with myself and on my own terms.

2.  Oh…you just haven’t met the right person yet.  When you do, you’ll change your mind…you’ll see.

Somewhere in this world is this perfect person, wrapped up all pretty with a big bow on their head and a tag addressed to me.  One day I’m going to meet this Mr. or Ms. Wonderful and we are going to fall madly, deeply in love and forsake all others until the end of time.   Right.

Just in case the response to statement number one was not clear, some of us just don’t want to be married or committed in the traditional sense.  This doesn’t mean we might not have long term love interests.  In fact, some of us might even have more than one love interest at a time (and before you all hop on that particular gossip wagon, this spinster is far too busy to keep track of much more than herself at the moment).  

Basically my point here is that relationships come in all sorts of forms.   Though most of the world operates on the idea that there are two states of being relationship wise, attached and blissfully happy or single and seeking, it simply isn’t true.  There is a broad romantic spectrum that includes those who are single with no interest at all in romantic relationships, the single and dating, those in unmarried but monogamous relationships,  couples who underwent legal marriage, those who are in polyamorous committed relationships and everything in between.   You may not understand them, you may not even like them, but the fact is that all of those options are out there and each is a valid choice. 

3.  So I get it…you have something against marriage.

While I could go into the history of marriage and how its origins are based much more in property and inheritance rights than in love, I won’t because really I don’t have a darn thing against marriage.  In fact, yep I’m going to say it, some of my best friends are married.  I have even performed wedding ceremonies for friends who have requested it and I have done so happily.  Marriage does work for some people, and for those friends of mine who have made the decision to tie the knot I will toast their shared happiness because I love them and I respect the choices they make for themselves.

4. Um…so hey, if you are so unattached, you wanna (wink, wink…nudge, nudge), ya know, hook up sometime?

Why sure!  I’m just sitting around at home counting the minutes to the next hook up because if I’m not looking to get hitched, then I must be looking to sleep around.  In fact I keep a special drawer in my dresser packed full of a wide variety of condoms, sex toys and lingerie just to make sure I’m always prepared for the next time the hump fairy decides to send something my way.

(Yes friends, that was sarcasm)  

As I said in The Great Big Sex Post, with far less sarcasm, choosing to redefine or reclaim the word spinster has a lot to do with having choices.  And while I do choose to have sex, it does not mean I’m going to choose to have sex with you. 

5. But you’ll grow old alone!!!!!

I’m going to take a moment to point out that statistically most woman in the United States do end up outliving their male partners.  Retirement and assisted living homes are full of predominantly female residents.  So I guess this makes the guys the lucky ones as they actually do get to grow old and die with the one they love, while the females grow old with each other which means (big revelation here) technically, in the long run, my choice won’t really leave me in any different state than any other female in our culture.  Actually, growing old with my female friends both old and new doesn’t sound like a half bad proposition.

However, I am making plans for my future as anyone, married, single or otherwise, should.  I am saving for retirement and while I expect that as I age I will slow a bit I do plan to remain active.  I will continue to make friends and have a life filled with all of the people, activities and things that I love.   

You see not being perpetually paired up does not mean being alone or lonely now or 30 years in the future.  It isn’t in response to some offense against my heart and it does not mean that my life is devoid of love.  It is simply a choice, just as any other and it is one that more and more women are making.  

After all, some of your best friends might be spinsters…

Monday, October 31, 2011

Wanted: Neat Freak Psycho-bait

Yesterday was my first real day off since the end of August.  I was not scheduled to work either of my two jobs, I didn’t have a class and I was not working on an upcoming show.  I had no appointments I had to keep and so the day was my own to do with as I wished. 

I spent the majority of it restoring some sense of order to the Spinster Nest.  It had fallen into quite the state over the past couple of weeks while I prepared for exams and last week’s run of shows.  The Nest is not a large space.  In fact it is so small that one dirty plate left out and a tissue on the floor is enough to make me start using words like untidy and cluttered. 

When my life becomes as busy as it has been over the past few months, my home can cease to be the haven away from the chaos that it should be and instead becomes little more than a hotel room for my transient self to rest her head for a few hours before dashing off to the next appointment.  Of course, it does not have the one big advantage that a hotel has, maid service, and so as of Saturday night messy would have been the kindest adjective one could use to describe the condition of my home.

There were piles of costuming and props to be put away, stacks of mail to be sorted, two week’s worth of laundry to be done and dishes in need of washing.  The bathroom desperately needed a good cleaning and the litter box was a day past due changing.  While I didn’t expect I could possibly get all of this done in one day, I knew I could at least take care of most of the clutter and give the place a livable feel again.  I did manage to accomplish that at least. 

While bemoaning the state of my apartment one afternoon last week a friend asked me if times like this ever made me wish for someone to share a space with; someone who could pick up the slack when I was too busy with the assumption that I would do the same for them should they find themselves in a similar place.  I very quickly replied that no, I am still quite content to live on my own even if it is in the midst of temporary extreme untidiness.  Whatever state my apartment is in, the mess is my own and while there might be a bit of a delay at times, it does eventually get cleaned up and home becomes home again.   

Truthfully the only times I ever wish that I lived with another person is when I find myself rising from my bed in the middle of the night to investigate some creepy sound and I think that it would be awfully nice to have another body to shove in front of me to distract the serial killer who is likely hiding behind the shower curtain so that I can have a few moments to make my getaway out the back door while keeping my fingers crossed that the killer doesn’t leave behind too much of a mess.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Year of Susan

When I was in junior high there was this girl, I’m going to call her Susan.  She had perfect hair that never seemed out of place.  Her clothes looked as though she went shopping with a list from Seventeen magazine in hand and a magic fairy with a magic wallet big enough to buy whatever she wanted.  She had a seemingly unending supply of friends who followed her down the hall chatting and giggling about what happened over the weekend.   She was on nearly every sports team at school, basket ball, field hockey, track…and she was, of course, great at all of them.

The teachers loved Susan too since she was also smart and always had the right answer.  When we had a class that required an oral report she would stand before us full of confidence.  She came equipped with just the right props for her subject and people always clapped after she was done.  When asked to do a report on someone she admired she chose Madonna and on the day the report was given she came to class dressed as the pop singer.  She stood before us, a perfect head to toe, twelve year old replica of the material girl. 

I on the other hand, was the shy, quiet, broody girl who had moved to town in the middle of seventh grade.  An extrovert who carried the curse of shyness, I sat in the back of the class scribbling down poems and story ideas in a notebook.  I didn’t giggle with friends about my weekend.  Though I had a few somewhat-more-than-acquaintances I spent time with, my weekends were mostly spent alone in libraries browsing among the stacks, or in the woods with a bagged lunch and my sketch book.  The only sport I took part in was cross country running because I didn’t actually have to interact with the other team members.   I did well in school, but any sort of presentation that I did was pretty much directed at the floor instead of my fellow students. 

In short, we couldn’t have been more opposite.  If Susan was a bonfire, I was just a spark that fell onto the pavement, igniting nothing.   She moved through the halls of our junior high with a natural ease that I was not even close to possessing.  In looking back I know that my twelve year insecure self was putting Susan up on an unreachable pedestal, but at that time I was simply in awe of her.  

To try to become her friend never crossed my mind.  Aside from the fact that it was quite likely she was unaware of my existence, it really it wasn’t her friendship I wanted.  No, what I wanted was to be like her.  Not a replica of her, but instead to find out what it was that made her seem so alive.  I thought if I could figure that out, then maybe I could do it too.  Then perhaps I’d be a little less shy; a little more brave. 

Through all of eighth grade I watched her.   It was not a difficult thing to do.  Our school was small and the entire eighth grade class was only about 60 students.  I tried reading the books and magazines I saw her carrying in her bag thinking maybe they held the secret.   I remember that after saving a bit of allowance money I bought a baggy, pale yellow, v-neck sweater that was similar to one she wore and for a brief moment after putting it on I did indeed feel more confident, at least until on the way to school a young man said hello to me in passing and I quickly realized that it would take more than a sweater to conquer my shyness.  So I kept watching and hoping, convinced that my powers of observation would help me to discover the secret of Susan.

I wish I could say that at some point during that year I learned her secret and that I breezed through high school and the rest of my adult life with a confidence that sprouted from the seed of Susan’s secret, but that didn’t happen.  Instead eighth grade came and went, and I was not any closer to making my discovery.  When my freshman year began she was not there and I heard she’d been enrolled in some elite boarding school for the smart and wealthy.  I stumbled through another move, the rest of high school and into adulthood as full of insecurity as I ever was.   I managed to overcome my shyness in my early twenties, but it would be several years before I learned that seemingly obvious lesson that my inner fire had to be self ignited.   

Susan was just one of many people I met in life who I thought carried some secret to happiness.  It is in our nature to want easy answers to such things and there is indeed wisdom to be gained from those who shine so brightly.  Yet, however we might admire them and whatever lessons we may learn from them, we should not become so blinded by their lights that we lose sight of the flame that burns inside of ourselves.   This is a light that can burn as bright as any other, but it is up to each of us kindle it and to seek out the fuel that will keep its glow steady and strong.   

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Tiny Quit

I’m beginning to think that giving myself the challenge of blogging everyday for thirty days during the month of October might have been a bad a bad idea or at the least it was a poorly thought out decision.   I am going through what is perhaps the busiest time in my adult life and I’m finding that I simply do not have enough hours in the day to complete every task that needs doing.   

Flash back to a time about 7 years ago.  I was a full time student attending school at night to obtain my associates degree.  I worked a full time job.  I’d just made a return to dance after a 15 year absence.  I served on the board of a very active local non-profit and was due to take on the role of board president.    I was a community organizer, feeding volunteer for a feral cat rescue organization, and also volunteered several times a month at a local soup kitchen.  I tutored ESL students in research and writing at the college I was attending.  I was writing a regular column and blog on the subject of urban wildlife and had a fairly decent following.   Oh…and I was in a relationship and somehow managed to keep up some semblance of a social life.

I kept up this pace for nearly two years and then one day, after I returned from a trip to visit my brother on the west coast, I crashed.  Perhaps a more accurate word would be that I deflated.  I remember looking at the ‘things to do after vacation’ list that I’d written out before I left and I realizing that in my absence it had grown.   My world hadn’t stopped while I was gone.  I had a voicemail box of messages and couple hundred emails, all of which required some sort of action on my part.   I could say that I felt overwhelmed but it was more that I was on the edge of panic.  For a moment I couldn’t even breathe. It was as though the weight of all that I had to do was piled upon my chest pressing upon me.

At that time I did what I now refer to as The Big Quit.  I stayed in school and stayed working of course, but I quit nearly everything else.  I resigned from the board, passed my organizing duties on to others, became a back up volunteer feeder and left the soup kitchen.  I cancelled nearly every social engagement I had in the coming month and took the summer off from dance classes.  I put my writing on hold.   I found a therapist and swore I’d never do this to myself again.

Now here I am.  I’ve returned to full-time school.  I work two part-time jobs.  I am performing on a regular basis, nearly once a week (really…a third part-time job).   I am producing a show that will run for three nights at a local theater in less than two weeks.   I am working to make a success of the variety show troupe that I manage (one could call this part-time job number four).  I’m writing nearly daily to keep up this blog and to just keep my skills fresh.  My days are filled with rehearsals, homework, classes, work, promoting and sometimes I even sleep.  I’ve had two unexpected cat emergencies in the past three weeks.  My social life is basically nonexistent.  I am behind on EVERYTHING.

I don’t want another Big Quit in my life.  I know that in doing what I had to do to take care of myself then left a lot of other folks holding the bag of my undone tasks.  This time I don’t really have someone to pass my tasks on to and to just let them slide would have an impact on other people.  There is another big difference between then and now and that is that much of what is on my plate right now has an end time.  In two weeks the show will be done and I’m scaling back my performing over the winter.  In December the semester will end and I will have better planned my schedule for the spring.   In many ways it is just a matter of managing well until I get through these times.  However, right now I do need to let something go and it is going to be this month’s NaBloPoMo.   It might seem a small thing to an outside observer but I began writing this post at about 10:15 and the time is now 11:30. 

I will make an attempt at NaBloPoMo again, likely sooner than later.  I will still post regularly to the blog but on my own schedule.   Now I have three hours to shower, eat lunch, prep costuming for a show tonight and maybe do a bit of math homework. 

On with the day.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

An Unusual Interaction

I work part time in a local retail establishment.  As far as retail work goes, it is not a bad gig.  Most of the folks who visit the store are pleasant people.  They are there to browse, or to buy gift for a loved one, or something special for themselves and I am there to assist them with their purchase in whatever way I can.  My interactions are generally enjoyable ones and more often than not the customers leave happy, and I’m feeling pretty good about helping someone.  Every once in a while something comes along that is just plain, well, strange.

This evening I was alone in the store and a man came in.   If I had to place his age I would put him in his late 40s or early 50s.  He wandered about the displays in a way that seemed both hurried and unfocused.  I approached him and asked if he needed any help with finding something.  His reply was that he was looking for a gift for his wife for their anniversary.

I asked him if there was anything in particular she liked for jewelry or maybe he knew her favorite color.  His reply was:

“Well, it really doesn’t matter what I give her.  She won’t like it and that’s okay because I don’t particularly like her anyway.”

I was more than a bit taken aback by his response.  I understand that sometimes it is easier to talk to a stranger about certain things, but this man did not seem like he was wanting to talk about his feelings.  He was very matter of fact about what he said.  It wasn’t angry or flippant.  He really seemed to be oddly okay with whatever his situation was.   He seemed so sure of it I couldn’t help but wonder why he was even bothering to go through the motions of buying a gift.

“It’s okay, “ he added, “She doesn’t like me very much either.”

As I stood there thinking that maybe the best gift they could give each other was divorce papers, he decided on a very bland, generic gift.  The kind of thing you would buy for your distant cousin who you don’t know all that well, but who you wanted to thank for house sitting for you while you were on vacation.   

I rang up his purchase and wrapped it up in a box for him, nestling it in a bed of tissue paper to prevent it from being damaged.   I wanted to ask him why they were still together if they really didn’t like each other.   I suppose the reason could be anything:  too financially intertwined, ‘for the kids’, or maybe they felt they’d been together too long and they were too comfortable with discomfort to change.   Of course I didn’t ask.  I simply put his purchase in a bag and wished him a good night. 

Hours later I am unable get this interaction out of my mind. I think perhaps what I can’t seem to understand is how resigned to his situation he seemed, as though next year at this time next year he will likely be walking into another store, in some other town, looking for some other equally nondescript and uninteresting gift.   Going through the motions for yet another year for reasons I or you are never likely to know.