Friday, December 02, 2011


Ah, I've missed you, my global fan base!  It's been quite some time, hasn't it?  Let me briefly update you on the goings-on in my life.

I'm still working at Foodhole and very happy there. It's a fantastic fit for me and my kooky personality! Twice as many hours than I got at Squish, $1.50 more per hour, better management, don't have to find a parking spot at the mall, much closer to home - it's a total win. They appreciate the work that I do, and the things that I am naturally good at (such as witty banter and talking about yummy food) are the things that are important there. The only thing that's been tough for me is that the days are longer. At Squish my longest shift was only 5 hours. At Foodhole, it's an 8-hour day. That's been hard to get used to. Working all summer and leaving the kids at home made me feel like a jerk of a mom. The kids didn't complain, though. They walked up to the neighborhood pool most days, and on the days that I was off, we hung out and did goofy stuff when they felt like it, but a lot of the time they just wanted to play video games in their pajamas, which was just fine with me.

In other news, I made an appearance (sorta) in a recent episode of the web comedy series BlackBookBerry. I'm ridiculously proud of a ten-second bit. Check out the show! I've also been collaborating with one of the series' creators on another project that is still in the early scribbling-out-characters-and-a-story stage, but I've had an unprecedented amount of fun working on it and I can't wait to unleash it on the world when the time comes. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy writing for an audience.

Speaking of writing, if you follow me on Facebook, you probably know that I spent the month of November attempting NaNoWriMo. If you're not familiar, it's a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. I thought I'd give it a try, y'know, since I've got all this time on my hands. I enjoy writing. And I'm actually pretty good at writing witty dialogue. I like to think I have a snappy Kevin Smith style of writing. So, I thought, what the hell, I'll write a 50,000 word novel in a month. I'd never had a deadline or a goal before, other than the ones I imposed on myself (Wookin Pa Nub Wednesdays, for example), but I write my blog just like I'm talking to someone sitting across from me and it would probably take me, what, maybe an hour to say 50,000 words? How hard could it possibly be?

I started out National Novel Writing Month enthusiastic and confident, and after the first week I got so far behind I couldn't get back on pace and I ended up missing the goal by an abysmal 30,000 words. Ugh. Why did I think I could do this? I should have known that writing a novel is not at all like updating my blog (which I only did four times all of last year). In my blog, I just tell you what happened in my life today. It doesn't have to make sense, and, usually, it doesn't. Most of you know enough of my personal backstory that I don't have to go back and fill in many (if any) blanks. I don't have to create characters on my blog. The Aldis are totally, unbeliveably, real, and I couldn't create a villain like FIL if I tried. I don't have to build a plot on a blog. The Swamp Thing Chronicles wrote itself.

P.S., I STILL can't believe that ill-mannered bitch showed up at my front door.

Anyway, I was extremely disappointed that I didn't make the 50K word goal. I know it's not a big deal, I know it doesn't matter to anyone but me, I know nobody thinks I suck at writing because I didn't make it, I know I should be using semicolons now instead of commas, and I know I should be proud of the 20,000 words I wrote. I just hate it when I don't achieve what I so desperately wanted - and fully expected - to achieve, you know? I wrote, without fail, every single day - even when I was bitter and pissed off and couldn't think of a single word to write. And I wasn't even close. I cut the goal in half, thinking it was more realistic for me, and I was still 5000 words away from the halfway point. And at the end of the month, I looked over what I had done, and there were huge chunks of it that I didn't remember writing. That was kinda surreal. Sometimes it was cool because there were funny bits of dialogue that I kinda felt I was reading for the first time. But mostly I felt like I have some sort of personality disorder or that I took too much Lunesta and was doing crazy shit in my sleep.

Why can't I put this whole stupid thing behind me? Why have I internalized it - a full month later - as a complete fail? Why have I been so deeply affected? I think a lot of it was timing. The month of November included two trips to Chez Inlaw in less that one week. And what makes me feel more totally ineffective and worthless as a human being than an afternoon with FIL?

The first trip out to Chez Inlaw that went reasonably well up until the last two minutes. You may recall that every single time I go out there, I draw some sort of criticism which never comes to me directly - it always goes through R. I personally think FIL is afraid of me because he doesn't know what I'll do. He knows what everyone else will do. Everyone else has endured a lifetime under his oppressive rule; I've only had fifteen years. Having grown up in a loving, encouraging, supportive home, I know that there are other, more effective ways for a patriarch to lead (not govern, not rule) his family - the people he's supposed to love. FIL has taught everyone, through relentless emotional bullying and manipulation, that he's the boss of the world and that the best way to get along with him is to do everything in your power to keep him happy. What has he done to make me (or anyone else) happy recently? I loathe celebrating every single holiday now, solely because of my fear of upsetting him. I make myself sick and crazy trying to anticipate which shortcoming of mine he'll decide to exploit. He has singlehandedly managed to suck the joy out of every otherwise supposed-to-be joyous occasion he is a part of, and I deeply, deeply resent it. I did not sign up for this.

It's more than just the regular stress of family events that a lot of people feel. What I feel is a nauseating, full-on dread that has very real physical manifestations. It's an all-day panic attack. Oh, but if I turn to Xanax for relief, I might get supertired and not have the energy to concentrate while he's delivering a lecture from the vast variety of topics ranging from Obamabashing to Power Tools to Diabetes. Not once in fifteen years has he ever asked me about me. Oh, wait, I take that back. He did ask me how I voted in the last presidential election (even though I am absolutely positive that he already knew the answer to the question and was only seeking to make me defend my choice by picking it apart and making me feel stupid), and I responded by telling him that I do not discuss politics. Ever. Because it's true. I don't. Political debates piss me off. Because really, what good comes of it? If we agree, we agree. If we don't, it's extremely unlikely that you'll convince me to change my mind and if you try to make me feel like I'm an ignorant jackass for having the opinion that I have, I'm probably going to punch you in the face. Why go there?

The name of the game is to figure out which previous criticism you are going to make a ridiculously overt, visible attempt to reconcile. Usually I do this by mentally scrolling through the last several trips out and trying to remember what I did wrong the last time. And whatever you try to fix, he will not acknowledge. Instead, he will zero in on something else that you allowed to slip past you while you were fully focused on making the concerted effort to not repeat the last regretful transgression he bitched about. This time, I was trying to avoid the criticism that I never offer to help clean up, because that was the most recent one I could remember.

It was in every way a typical visit. My kids know how they're expected to behave when we're out there. They're too big to be entertained by crayons and coloring books. They literally just sit silently at the table while FIL talks. For HOURS. Bless their little ape hearts. They were perfect angels. I was so proud and grateful.

So when it finally got to be time to leave, I was straightening up and gathering the kids' things. R said "I think we're going to go ahead and go now..." to which FIL said "And Sarah..." but I didn't quite hear what he said after my name because I was on the other side of the kitchen. Part of me wanted to say "And Sarah WHAT?" But for whatever reason, I didn't. I waited until we got in the car to ask R what FIL had said about me.

He'd said "...and Sarah is getting restless." 

RESTLESS?  I'd been spot-on perfect the entire day. The kids had been perfect. I'd cleaned, I'd attempted to engage in conversation (as much as anyone can, with him). I was on my absolute best behavior. But this man is somehow able to keep a watchful eye on everyone in the room even while delivering a lecture. I suppose it would be a quite remarkable gift, were he to use it for good and not to single me out as being disrespectful or rude. Excuse the FUCK outta me for cleaning instead of sitting and staring at you blankly while you rattled on and on about something I don't know or care about. We all know that if I'd chosen to sit and feign interest, he'd have found some other failing of mine to point out.

After sobbing the entire hour-long ride home, I got into bed, fired up the laptop, and saw that I had somehow lost about 1200 words of my story.  I shouldn't even say "somehow", like it was a mystery, it was really that I wrote several paragraphs and pasted the same set of 1200 words in two different places because I couldn't decide where it fit better into the story. I just about threw up when I made that discovery.

Plus, the knitters will relate to this - you know when you've been working on a project, followed the pattern to the letter (perhaps after a few mistakes and re-starts) and put a considerable number of hours into it, motivated solely by the thought of triumphantly removing it from the needles and debuting it to the world, imagining the countless compliments you'll receive and practicing how to humbly accept them - only to finish the project and have it turn out considerably shittier than you'd envisioned? Are ya feelin' me, knitterz? Yeah.

The project I'd started as my distraction for the times when I wanted to keep my mental agility but didn't feel like writing - the thing that the stupid dog got a hold of, ripped apart and I nursed back to health only to realize I had fixed it wrong and added several unnecessary and preventable hours to the project - turned out really, profoundly not even remotely close to what I thought it would look like. Everything I've knit in the last month has come out hideous. I feel so inept.

Now, the thing I'm struggling with is this - I can't decide if it NANOWRIMO was a good experience. I suppose any experience that you learn from is a good experience, but I can't silence the part of me that wishes I hadn't tried. Because if I hadn't tried, I'd still have the confidence that I could do it, instead of being consumed by the feeling that I've just proven to the world that I can't.

So let's review what I learned. I suck at writing FICTION. I can't make shit up. The reality of my life is far more entertaining than anything my imagination can conjecture. Pretty sure the word Conjecture can be used as a verb.

But, more importantly, I learned that I can find time to write every day if I commit myself to it. I'm not going to promise that I'll write every day, but I feel reasonably certain that I can keep a promise to blog more in 2012 than I did in 2011.


Jo said...

Boo on asshat relatives. Yay on hearing from you again :)

Anonymous said...

So glad you are back! Your relatives might suck, but your random public adores you!

Skye said...

I certainly hope so! I missed you! :)