Life in Longform (featuring me, playing myself)

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Well, of course I’d be myself.

Who could possibly play me? Nobody.

It would be insulting to see a woman on a screen with her back covered in a black “tattoo” that was painted on with some sort of airbrush.

That tattoo took seven years to finish and the man who started it is dead.

Besides, nobody would have nor be able to master the smaller details that make me who I am. They would not have, no matter how hard they tried, quite the same far away look in their eye or a smile quite so quietly wry.

Their voice would not be able to shift from South Georgia to neutral-commentator-from-nowhere to ghost hand, because those are my voices.

There is no way to make a scar like the scar on my arm, where I cut right through the tattoo of blue roses, look real unless it is real.

Nobody can play me, but me.

I have finally achieved inimitable status in my own mind,

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This Longform Life

In the last 24 hours, I have become a ruthless killer of yellowjackets, decided to let go of my dream and then opted to continue living my dream after all.

Here’s what happened:

My oldest child’s birthday was this week. My younger child’s birthday was last week, as was noted in the small mention of a stuffed animal surprise party in a previous post. However, I didn’t explicitly say it was my youngest child’s birthday.

My fairness-o-Mometer is suggesting that perhaps I ought to make some statement about how I love both children equally and find both their birthdays worthy of commemoration in the form of a non-linear blogpost on an unpublicized personal forum.

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However, this isn’t a post about my oldest child’s birthday.

I don’t often post about my children, or share detailed anecdotes about their lives or my time with them.

I’m just not that kind of blogger.

I don’t know what kind of blogger I am – or if I am even a blogger in any real sense of the word given that I don’t really write around a fixed topic (other than what it’s like to be a lady from Georgia who grew up in the woods and went on to lose her mind and prove God with clouds, a lady who is currently keepin’ on with keepin’ on). I don’t write for readers, nor do I necessarily even have any readers (save for a few very special people who happen to have some time on their hands and who managed to find the golden thread here), nor do I really read or comment on other people’s blogs regularly.

I am subscribed to a few blogs by email and I typically read what shows up on my phone. Sometimes, it’s really wonderful. This post yesterday @ http://eavesdroppingonconversations.wordpress.com/2013/08/27/epic/,  a blog which I randomly subscribe to, was a lovely thing to read in a parking lot while considering whether or not I still secretly want to be famous and, if so, why?

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I don’t typically comment much, because my phone is not so smart and not so fast and the letters are just very, very tiny in the comment boxes and then I try to erase something and my phone gets confused and 1/2 the time it turns into a nerve-wracking experience that wastes a lot of time.

So, as I was saying, it’s obvious that I’m not like some super-popular mommy blogger that writes about my kids’ birthdays every year…

I try to respect my kids’ privacy.

I can say whatever I want about their crazy mother, but I do try to leave their personal business out of this. It’s tough, because my business is their business…I’m their mother, after all.

Mothers are a big deal.

However, this is not a blogpost about that.

This is a blogpost – among other things – about how I went from a sentimental person who does not like to kill insects to a steel-eyed woman double-fisting cans of poison, plotting with plastic sheeting and duct-tape who reveled in the thought of the August afternoon highs and small black and yellow bodies caught in the heat.

Disgusting.

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How did I go from wishy-washy lady who didn’t really want to kill the yellowjackets even after they hurt my arm and made me feel sick for two days to the person who crushed a yellowjacket struggling under plastic with her heel and didn’t think or feel too much of it at all?

Admittedly, I did feel a little bad…or, rather, it crossed my mind that I might feel bad. I called it a mercy killing. It was struggling, bound to die. I wanted that insect to die, so I killed it quicker.

This afternoon, when my youngest child asked me if they were gone and remarked that the area of the back steps that is covered in plastic and rocks sure seemed to “be serious,” I told her that I had “gotten them this time” and explained how it occurred to me that the best way to kill them was to make sure they couldn’t leave the poisoned colony.

“It’s kind of sad though…” I said to her, “Think about it…having your house fill up with poison and then not being able to leave. Awful stuff.”

She appeared to be listening and so I told her a story about how I had heard about two horses that had been swarmed so thoroughly by yellowjackets that they had died.

Horses!

Can you imagine how many yellowjackets it’d take to kill a horse?

One thing I didn’t like about the yellowjackets, aside from the fact that they stung me and caused fist-sized welts under my skin that made my joints aches and caused severe itching and soreness for days, was that when they’d leave the colony from their access route in the space between the railroad tie steps that lead to my backporch they left like bombers taking off from an airship, like they were launching. I also didn’t like the way they’d hover as if patrolling the area, waiting to strike.

Yellowjackets are very military in their behavior.

Here’s what happened:

They attacked my little dog on my kid’s birthday.

It was bad enough that he (the young biped) had to go to school on his birthday and that he had a headache when I picked him up in the afternoon.  We planned a “relaxing” afternoon. Having celebrated the day before with 3 and 1/2 hours of ziplining down into a gorge, there was no pressure to have a big to-do on the day of his birth, this year a Monday.

So we were just going to relax, but instead had to drive out to my parent’s house because my mother believed that my father was stuck at an oral surgeon’s appointment and asked us if we could pick her up and then drive her to the medical complex so that she could bring my father home. The kids weren’t happy to be in the car again and we talked about how we weren’t going out to my folks house because it’d be fun for us, but because that’s what family does for one another – provides transportation to and from medical appointments.

It turned out that my father was able to drive himself home and so we just spent a couple hours out in the county and the time away from town was good.

One of my kids is very sensitive to the sound of cars. If too many are going past our house, which is something that happens a lot because we live on a city street, the sound can become an antagonist, with each pass-and-fade whir creating a scowling bitterness over having to live in where other humans live and drive cars.

I somewhat understand. Comparably speaking, however, our street is pretty pleasant, with grass and trees.

I am personally bothered by lawn-mowing and leaf blowers and the morning had been full of them, so I was glad to be able to go to a house at the edge of a forest, where there are no cars and nobody was mowing the yard. It is nice to have some place to go that is quiet.

We came home in the early evening with plans to continue our efforts to “relax” until the kids returned to their father’s house for the night and after pulling into the driveway, we began to pile out of the car as usual, with little Underdog leading the way.

Time slowed down in that way that it does when something terrible is happening as I saw Under begin to roll around on the porch. As he ran back up the steps into the driveway, I saw that he was covered with yellowjackets, that they had swarmed him.

I have to admit that I panicked for a minute. “Get back in the car!” I yelled at the kids. “Stay in the car!”

My little dog-friend was speckled with a heavy smattering of yellow abdomens caught in his fur and he was trying to cower and roll. Not really sure what else to do, I took off my sweater and tossed it over him, began pulling at the insect bodies that were tangled in his fur like burrs. I ended up tossing the sweater aside and grabbed at them bare-fisted, crushing their bodies between my fingers and feeling sort of numb as I realized what was happening and wondering if it is possible for a small dog to die from yellowjacket stings. By the time I got them all off, he was totally still and stunned, unable to move, his tongue pale and poking out as he laid in my arms. I had been stung 4 times and I just looked straight ahead, a little in shock myself and my children burst out of the car, crying.

“Is he alllllriiiiiight!!!?” My daughter was despairing while my son stomped through the grass, “I’ll kill them! I’ll kill every single one of them! I hate those yellowjackets! I hate them!”

I told the children to try to calm down, so that the little dog didn’t get more scared, because he couldn’t understand why they were upset and he gets scared when they are upset.

We took the wounded dog inside and set him on the couch. He looked dazed, his cataract eyes fully dilated and looking like old mirrors. I pried open his mouth and pushed half a benadryl tablet down to the back of his throat, held his jaw closed and rubbed his neck, forcing him to swallow. I squeezed water from a washcloth onto his dry, pale tongue and for a long time, we just held him beside us while we discussed how we might finally kill the yellowjackets once and for all and hoped the dog wouldn’t die.

Soon, Under was able to leap from the sofa to the floor without any trace of keeling, stumbling, or otherwise being about to die.

Later that evening, he was able to go out for his walk and everything was mostly okay as I pulled on the plastic gloves and put my boots on to walk out on the darkened porch, showing my son who watched from the kitchen, that I intended to use both cans of poison, one streaming and one foaming to decimate the colony. He smiled and I sprayed, a little horrified when I saw an earthworm fall twitching out onto the steps from the toxin-soaked crack between ties.

My daughter, the next day, as I was telling her about how unfortunate that I thought it must be to be drowning in poison and unable to escape, said, “Well, it had to be done.”

I agreed. We listed the reasons. “They stung Under.”

“They stung me.”

“They stung us.”

“They were dangerous.”

“Yeah,” I said, “but, they were just doing what yellowjackets do.”

( As I am writing this and thinking about how it would be nearly impossible to write out everything that occurred on Tuesday, the day that I gave up my dream and the reclaimed it all in the span of two hours, I am also considering the fact that the U.S. is probably going to attack Syria, where there are chemical assaults and drone warfare.

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I am thinking about me and the yellowjackets and the way we want to kill the things that hurt us or scare us, how we do not want them to exist anymore.

I have to say that had the yellowjackets been willing to be persuaded to stop stinging us and to possibly move elsewhere if they were not able to stop stinging us then I would have had no problem with them being alive. I would have even been willing to be their friend. They could have sat on my hand and posed for pictures for me. I would have found out what they like to eat and piled it at the entrances of their colony. I might have recorded the sound that is made right before their wings hit the open air, when they are still revving at the edge of the wood. When they all would die with the first hard freeze, I’d have had a funeral for them.

Maybe I’ll have a funeral for them anyway, though I was the one who killed them.

There is something very sick in not honoring the lives we take, in acting as if they were not worth mourning.

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After I went to work on Tuesday and talked about yellowjackets during my check-in at the beginning of Creative Writing class, I was driving home and thinking about how – on facebook – there are all these little messages posted about how we should follow our dreams and pursue our passions and I wondered if some people might not be well-served by more messaging about letting go. There are a lot of these little sayings, too…but, it’s like, “Let go…and live your dream!”

What about letting go and being okay with not living your dream, accepting that you just might not have what it takes or scrapping your dream in favor of a more simple life?

(Note: Some people’s dream is to live a simple life.)

I guess it all loops back to the fact that maybe it is just a matter of finding out what your dream really is…and letting go of the things that keep you from living it.

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On Tuesday afternoon, sitting outside of the Wall Street Coffeehouse, I thought to myself, “I really should just be an artist of some sort. Why do I want to be some well-known academic or writer? I don’t really want to be that and, besides, I don’t think I even could be that.”

The thought made me feel lighter. The sensation of clarity is a good one. It feels like cool water in my head, a tangled knot ungnarled and smoothed.

I just started my last semester of coursework toward my MA and I hadn’t even looked at the classes online. I had the textbooks stacked on the table and knew the names of the classes and their instructors, but I hadn’t read anything yet.

I have long thought that I “do not know how to be a good student” and that “school is hard for me.” Last night, I logged into my classes and was immediately deeply enthused by what this term will hold for me. This is not the first time that I have wondered how it is possible that my school is such a good fit for me, with everything dovetailing almost perfectly with what I am interested in and what I am doing.

As much as I know that advanced degrees are a privilege and that there are many ways to learn and to be knowledgeable, I have valued higher education for a very long time, since I was young.

I think I have always respected people who appear to be intelligent and capable. Of course, there are numerous ways to be intelligent and capable and credentialing is largely a tool of an industry of expertise that I find – in many ways – to be oppressive, exclusionary and manipulative. Nonetheless, in this culture, I was taught that one is not legitimately of an impressive intelligent character unless they were able to attain an advanced degree.

That is such bullshit. Still, I have always wanted an advanced degree and, by golly, I’m going to get one. I think – more than anything – I like the pursuit and I like the practice of study and learning. The structure of formal education (so long as it is received in the setting of a somewhat flexible program that basically allows me to do what I want and appreciates my unique ways of approaching knowledge) works for me.

I am not – at this point – an exceptionally skilled auto-didact. I learn readily and eagerly from whatever the world tosses toward me and am an active participant in those processes of challenges, inquiry, and learning, but I am not inclined to teach myself the periodic table of elements or to become an expert in this or that out of my own self-structured curriculum.

I tend to be a bit less formal and organized in my approach.

It is possible, however, that I may be able to teach myself, with the help of others, exactly what I need to know in order to be me and to be me well.

I can try to do whatever I want, in my own ways.

Sometimes it will work and sometimes it won’t.

It will usually feel strange, but that’s because everything usually feels strange to me – fittingly enough like a dream.

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2 thoughts on “Life in Longform (featuring me, playing myself)

  1. Pingback: Daily Prompt: Ready for Your Close-up | My Atheist Blog

  2. Pingback: Daily Prompt: Ready for your Close-Up | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss

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