Recently I was asked to come up with a personal mantra. This was supposed to be a phrase that would bring me comfort and renewed focus if, as often happens in life, all was not going according to my business plan. Living in a ‘woke’ society these days, positive affirmations are a dime a dozen. A quick Google search for personal mantras will give you more positive affirmations than you can shake a mala at.
Most of the sayings I was finding didn’t carry any weight with me. As a Gen X-er, they just felt too fluffy for my taste. I grew up during the era of posters with cute kittens slipping off a branch bearing the words, “Hang in there.” We were the kids who grew up on tough love. Personal mantra? My mother’s was, “Because I said so, that’s why.”
While I thought the exercise was a little goofy, I wanted to put in the work and find something that actually had meaning to me. When I’m having a lean month, I need a mantra with a little more depth and personal meaning than, “I dare to be different” or “Give your stress wings and let it fly away.” Looking over at my desk, that’s when it came to me, I already had my personal mantra.
Here’s the thing about wisdom, it often shows up in the most surprising places. A few years ago I was visiting my friend who lives in Pittsburgh. She took me to this fabulously irreverent brewpub for dinner. The Church Brew Works is, as the name implies, located in a beautiful old church. (If you are ever in Pittsburgh I highly recommend it, but that’s a post for another day.) While we were perusing the menu, my friend expressed concern over the size of the pizza to our waitress, she wondered if these were personal size pizzas or if they were a typical pizza to split among the table. Without skipping a beat the sage taking our order smiled and said, “Every pizza is a personal pizza if you truly believe in yourself.”
Bam! Talk about enlightenment. I came home from that weekend and wrote those brilliant words on a notecard which has hung above my desk ever since. Because let’s face it, that little slice of wisdom is all you need to get you through the scalding hot cheese of life.
What’s your personal mantra that gets you through those tough spots, dear reader?
I drank flat beer, and listened to him expel
his grandiose plans into the reggae laden air
I carried the empty promise
of my future in my pocket. Heavy, it pulled
me down. Bitter like hops I sipped
at the great nothing and wondered
what it felt like to be wanted
by a man
by an employer
Heavy, flat Sunday
How do I empty my pockets of all of this nothingness
I haven’t been writing much lately and I hate it. Today I had to sit down and give myself a firm reminder that talking about writing and planning writing and posting about writing isn’t writing. Things have been pretty crazy between work and school and it’s left me completely worn out when I get home in the evenings. My list of things I need to do around the house is piling up. Still…
Make the time.
Butt in the chair.
Pound the keys.
Remember your joy.
Be a writer.
I am back in school working on a Digital Journalism and Media degree. Sometimes the material gets to be a bit dry. Sometimes my peers take this whole college thing too seriously. I consider it my business to make the most of this wild ride. As part of my degree, I have to take three semesters of a language. I’m currently starting my second semester of Italian.
For our first partner practice of the semester, we had to pick one of three stock ‘family photos’ to describe to our partner, pretending the people in them were our family. We were practicing family vocabulary, prepositions concerning location (next to my mother is my uncle, etc.) and possessive adjectives. I picked the photo with the most people, more material to work with. This was my description. Run it through Google Translate and let me know what you think.
Questa e una foto della mia famiglia. La mia famiglia e molto interessante. Nel mezzo della foto ce mia mamma e mio papa. Loro sono in pensione. Le due giovani ragazze a destra di miei genitori, sono le mie nipoti. La loro madre e mia sorella sono a destra di loro. Mia sorella lavora come allevatrice professionista di criceto. Dietro mia sorella, e la mia sorella piu piccola a suo marito. Di recente si sono iscritio al mafia, e come il loro lavori. A sinistra di loro che sono due donne che erano sulla spiaggia. Non il conosciamo, ma volevano essere nella foto.
A sinistra di mio papa ce mio zio Martin. Zio Martin vende scarpe da clown per lavoro. Sua moglie e davanti a lui. Zia Margaret produce la migliore pizza surgelata che tu abbia mai assaggiato. A sinistra di zia Margaret ce il donna portalettere. L’abbiamo rapita l’anno scorso. Lei non e ancora sfuggita! Che sono io accanto a lei con la mia seconda testa. Lo chiamo arachide.
I’m hoping for top marks.
Our tiny blue rock has made another revolution around the sun.
What an odd thing to celebrate when you stop and think about it. Does it matter? I’m of the mind lately that none of it matters. I was accused yesterday of being filled with ‘goofy nihilism’. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
As I am not one to make new year resolutions I won’t leave you with a list of good intentions that I will most likely abandon in the next few weeks. However, I would love to hear about yours, dear readers. What are you looking to change or accomplish in this current trip around the sun?
– the goofy nihilist
Tonight when the lights go out
I will do like the sun and slip below
my feet will not kick any longer
nor my arms writhe in the sea
I will not gulp air to keep me
up out of the water
I will stop the noisy Thrashing of my struggle
the Furious churning of my trying
the waves will close over my head
my skin will harden and I will curl tightly in on myself
harder and harder I will become
lighter and smaller as I descend slowly
I will land, softly without a sound
a stone in the sand
I will rest where the current does not play
I will sleep while the moon reaches down
through the waves far above me
and traces the top of my head with silver fingers
No ears to Hear
No mouth to Sigh
No eyes to Cry
No mind to Think
down where no one will find me
This piece was inspired by a recent ride on my motorcycle and a fateful collision. It’s been through several edits already and I am still working out the wording as well as the way it lays on the page. For your reading pleasure, I give you…
There was no gas
in the tank. It was my anger
compressed by the piston
into the cylinder head,
exploding, powering me forward.
I flew down the road on
the motorcycle, bowing into each
curve. A butterfly
lurched drunkenly across my path and
we collided. I felt the tiny body
pelt the Kevlar chest of my
jacket, I glanced down at
the twitching, shattered legs and
crumpled wings, a grotesque sort of corsage,
impaled upon my breast. I looked up to see
the road again, thinking of
the tiny creature’s struggle
to gain freedom from its chrysalis only
to stray into my path. And I felt
no pity, as I rolled the throttle, trapped
within my own cocoon.
A man once asked me,
“How could you want him,
when you know you can have me.”
He spoke through a Spin Doctor
of quasars and Irish mafia
and earned himself a permanent seat
at the table of my love.
The cicadas and katydids call to each other outside my window each night and sleep becomes a dream from cooler seasons. Like politicians yelling across the aisles at each other, they drone on and on until morning. I pull myself from the bed and put on my linen shirt, crisp and bright in May, now wrinkled and limp in August. I slide my feet into sandals which will harbor tiny pebbles to bite at my heels every few steps. I open the door and step out into air heavy and sticky as marshmallow fluff. In my silent car, a hand on the key in the ignition the other blindly groping for the seatbelt, I bow my head, resting it on the top of the steering wheel. Behind my closed eyes, tiny white wisps of crystal sift from a milk-white sky and disappear into the blanket of snow on the ground. Sighing, I start the car and open my eyes to the garish hues of high summer.
I would like to share a piece that originally started here and over the last few months has undergone several edits. If you will recall the post, Grave Call. I submitted a version of this piece for a creative writing class last spring where it was well received. I went back to it this past weekend, after not having touched it since the end of April and reworked it. Funny, I had thought it was finished when it was really in repose. I’m still not sure if it’s done.
It is the fall of 2011
and we are building a chicken coop
for the noisy tenants of the kiddie pool
in our basement
I am sitting
inside this wooden box sweating
the rough plywood floor biting
into my thighs, shiny pink cell phone
holds my mother’s voice and
it is strange to me
I have colon cancer, she says
her voice sounds from far away
Don’t worry, she says,
farther away still,
I’m going to fight it
In the sweltering September heat
my sweat mingles with the
tears on my chin and I look down
at the phone in my leather gloved hand
knowing that she is already gone
It was her ghost
calling from 2014
to tell me so