Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Posting from here today...tonight I'll be posting from my bi-weekly "Shut Up & Write" that just started a second group in the Mission. I figured that since we have two groups in the City, I can take the first night and work on my fiction, and then take the second night and work on the neglected blog.

This is a MIND vacation, a vacation to stretch out and be the me who comes from my parents, the me who loves words and plays with them all day like a baby plays with sunbeams, the me who reads voraciously (two books in six days, baby), the me who sits and watches people pass me by in different ways. I'm here in a virtual library today--Citizen Space is so freakin' quiet that I can't imagine--ahahahaha...a guy just got a phone call so the "peace" is over. Despite the fact that I was accosted by 6 people in less than a block to save the planet in four different ways, I still love downtown. Despite the fact that Stacey's is in its final months, I'm still me here, the girl who loves the canyons of steel and glass, the girl who sees so many bags she wants that won't look good on her but they look good on someone else.

The gentleman with the phone stepped out. Very nice of him.

This vacation has been about getting the mental me back in other ways, too. Firstly, I stopped therapy. It wasn't so much that it wasn't working, it's so much that it finally sunk in. I have a series of goals that I can work toward--it's not important when they happen but more that I am actively working on them. I even had to make a board for the good doctor to let me go, an art project if you will, a message board and a small companion presentation of it so that I didn't have to haul the board on the 43 bus and L train.

Someone in the office is speaking German. How strange to hear in a Spanish city.

Part of the practical application of the therapy is to apply a sense of balance to goals, my hobbies, my job, my person, my health, etc. This is my sole New Year's resolution: BALANCE. I come from a pretty dedicated family and ancestry of addictive personalities. This term "addictive personalities" does not mean that others are addicted to us (ha ha, that would be amusing...;), but more that my family going back has a history of finding something in their lives to grasp, squeeze, and shake the ever-loving shit out of before letting go. My father's side, in his parent's generation, had tobacco. My brother has tobacco. My mother had clutter. And I have whatever is handy. In elementary school I found a fascination with my eyelashes and removed them (lucky me, they came back). The eyelashes were replaced by acne that I could pick at. The acne was replaced by men that I couldn't have. (If you weren't available, I LOVED you.) The men were replaced by sex with men that didn't want me for anything more than sex. And if I couldn't get any of these things I would eat, or not eat, or work all the time, or listen to the same frickin' song on repeat for three days.

But I'm not addicted to tobacco or alcohol, so I guess I'm okay...NOT.

When I started working at my current place of employment I worked hard--I didn't feel I had anything else to do. Writing feels more like a nervous tic than something to develop. Feeling rotten? GET OUT THAT PEN AND PRODUCE PAGES. I don't care what's on them, produce pages. Even my "teacher" didn't care what's on them--Natalie just said write for 10 minutes, even if you're writing SHIT. So I wrote three pages of shit a day and broke my joints and muscles down at work and came home at night to wolf some food and do it all again tomorrow. Occasionally I would get a vacation, but my boss would end up calling with some drama in the midst of it and it wasn't really a vacation, God love it. Then I was transferred to Oakland and ended up working open to close an hour and a half away. Perfect for the addictive personality. Absolutely perfect. Except it made me really angry.

I was working so much last year that I didn't get three quarters of my vacation--they had to pay it out to me. I reacted the same way to this inevitable fact as my father did to mandatory overtime when he worked at General Tire--"I DON'T WANT THE MONEY. I WANT THE TIME." You can't pay me for my health. You can't pay my father back the time that he didn't have with his wife. (My father wasn't big into kids so I won't include my brother and I in the reference.) You can't pay me back for months of 6 hours of sleep and no leisure time, unless you count the train. You can't pay me back for months of literally running to do the job of six people. So I decided to take a vacation as soon as it rolled the New Year.

You can probably give an addictive personality two days of vacation. Give her 12 days and you have a mess, or a cure.

A cure.

Oh, sure, as with any other addiction, I could probably slip at any time. There's a fantastic scene in an episode of "The West Wing" where John Spencer's character Leo McGarry says of his addiction, "Ain't nothin' but a family thing...You think addiction is just a matter of will power? You think it's just a matter of smarts? Do you know how many MENSA candidates belong to AA?" And there it is, the odds against John Nash, and there's a scene somewhere where you know Jennifer Connolly is going to look deep into Russell Crowe's eyes and say, "I need to believe that something extraordinary is possible."

It is.

But it has to come one cursed day at a time. You're gonna slip. What are you going to do when you slip AND no one thinks there's hope for you?


I started out my vacation taking it easy, reading for fulfillment, trying to stay away from podcasts and the television. Reading was something I didn't do well last year--I got a freakin' Kindle and read a total of six books or so the whole blessed 365 days. I deprived myself of bookstores. I followed "Gray's Anatomy" and "Pushing Daisies" religiously only to get angry with one for shoddy writing (turn it off and read a fucking book and you'll have nothing to complain about/no, maybe it will get better), and angry with the other for signing off the air for good (not their fault, but now I have to either wait for the movie or the comic books that are promised). I made sure that all of my podcasts were "caught up" every week...addictive voice in the back of my head says everything must be CLEANED UP, DAMN IT. (Funny story about this from my childhood--I was such a neat freak that my mother had to tell me to play with my toys, and stop alphabetizing them.)

So, I started with:
  • Unsubscribing to all my podcasts
  • Reading more
  • Walking more/climbing Moraga

Pretty open, right? Problem: I have to organize the reading, as though I am back in college and I have to cram in so many books per day. "26 books this year, Jo, one every two weeks!" Let's get two done at once 'cause I'm on vacation and I have the time! Lord knows when I go back I won't have a life again. READ LIKE A FUCKING FIEND!!!

The addictive personality strikes again. I finish both books. I take the walks. I climb Moraga. And I make myself sit and DO NOTHING for a while. One thing a day you can do, Jo. The rest of the day you have to goof off and see where the wind takes you. That is SO HARD TO DO. I could not relax for the longest time. Going to see a movie starts out as "I can have a movie marathon, and see four of the ones I want to see!" What the...? Movies in theatres are like trying on fragrances--by the second one you don't know where you are. The second one. Wasn't that scene in the first one? Why did I try two??? So I watched one movie. Makes for bad storytelling to see one. Everyone sees just one. But it's better for me to see just one.

It's better for me to read for enjoyment, not by page count.

It's better for me to not plan my vacation.

It's better for me not listen to every podcast I ever want to hear.

It's better for me to learn balance.

So the me that takes after my parents' love of words and music and addiction of some stretch stands on the tightrope and tries again.

Happy 2009, all. Here's hopin', one cursed day at a time.

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