And the Next Day in Boulder

The past hasn’t changed. We all wake up and in those strange waking moments when we bring ourselves back to reality, we remember. We remember what happened in our community. We remember the grief that we might have shielded ourselves from in dreams. We awaken to the pain, to that sinking feeling of what we’ve lost. People. Security. Peace. Illusions.

We get up and make coffee. We get on with our day, with our jobs, with our lives. At the back of our minds, we are tragically aware that there are 10 people who are not doing those things today, and who will never do those things again. That their families are waking up to their new worlds and feeling the devastation that comes from having someone you love ripped out of your life. And in the midst of their pain, they have to do practical things and procedural things. They do those things on autopilot – this I know, from my stepson’s suicide.

Our Boulder world looks the same on the surface. We still go to the grocery store, but now there are police officers in the parking lot. We still buy flowers, but now they are for the memorial and not the bookshelf in our living room. We still pet dogs, but now they are therapy dogs trained to comfort us. We still sit on grassy hillsides, but now we’re restricted by yellow police tape. When we see a police car speed past us with its sirens blaring and its lights flashing, our first thought is “Is it happening again?” When we hear glass breaking, we think “Is that a shooter breaking windows?”

As the reality sinks in, we still don’t care why. Only that. Not why. But we are starting candlelit vigils. We have a memorial that spans two blocks, with flowers and candles and signs and crosses in front of the chain link fence that keeps us away from where the shooting happened. I went there today, and left flowers. Hugged sobbing strangers. Video chatted with K, showing her what I saw, so she didn’t have to feel so alone, distant, and removed in her grief for her town, for her younger self, for her memories.

It will be same tomorrow. I know grief and loss so intimately that I understand how it will play out for me. While it’s different for everyone, there are some constants for all of us. Time is kind enough to help our sorrow nestle into a place in our souls. But it never allows us to forget. 

Daily gratitudes:
Blue skies

Quote of the Day: “She was a genius of sadness, immersing herself in it, separating its numerous strands, appreciating its subtle nuances. She was a prism through which sadness could be divided into its infinite spectrum.” — Jonathan Safran Foer

Champagne Plans, Fireball Reality

I love my planet and my country over any party or politics. That said, I was looking forward to today as the day the electoral college votes were officially counted, clearing yet another hurdle on the track to a new president. I had a half a bottle of champagne that I was planning to consume. And then things happened.

If you haven’t been hiding under a rock (for which I would not blame you) today, you’ve heard and seen what things happened. The current president and his cronies rallied their misguided troops, who then stormed our nation’s capitol, threatened our states’ leadership, and completely disrespected every facet of our government and the constitution that they so strongly claim to support. Our buildings were vandalized. Seditious citizens stole items from offices and chambers. The confederate flag was proudly carried through the Capitol Building. A woman was shot in the chest, her wound captured on a Twitter video. She died this evening. Her eyes in that video showed her surprise and confusion, and reflected her thinking, “I’m fine, I’m fine,” as women so often do when they are anything but fine.

I won’t forget that.

Representatives who, as recently as this morning, spoke words of support for this kind of insurrection, sent out words telling people to act peacefully. But it’s too late to call off the pack, and it’s far too little to absolve themselves of responsibility. They will — and should — reap what they have shown.

I am not jury or judge, but I do know what I see with my own eyes and hear with my own ears. Just as my own Southern ancestors demonstrated, insurrectionists will not win. I’m sorry so many people fell for a pack of lies. In this democratic republic, the truth will win.

The champagne is now back in the fridge for January 20th. And tonight, a little Fireball doesn’t hurt.

A Writer’s Long Block

Every writer has experienced writer’s block. I’ve been walking down the same block for ten years. It’s a hell of a long block. I started my first novel as part of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writer’s Month) during a time in my life when I only had one part-time job, and was anticipating some dramatic and positive change. I loved working on it. I picked a different coffee shop to write in every day, hit my word count before the end of the month, and was immersed in my own head. I even read what I’d written, lying in bed in a hot, dim room on an island in the Caribbean, and was so captivated that I found myself wondering, ‘Who wrote this?’, forgetting that it was me.

At that point, my characters got stuck. They got stuck on a beach, and I couldn’t figure out what happened next. In reality, I, too, got stuck, blindsided, heartbroken, and set adrift. All my plans for positive changes evaporated in an instant, ironically on that same island where my characters were stuck. I’m no longer stuck there. But my characters still are.

I haven’t touched that novel in ten years. Technically, I have, I suppose, because I picked up the purple plastic folio containing those pages recently, and then filed it in an old oak file cabinet. I’ve started other novels – two, in fact – but the inspiration for one took his own life last year. I’m not sure if I want to keep working on it. I can’t tell if it’s disrespectful or something that he would have appreciated. The other pokes into family ties, and that family would definitely not appreciate it. So, I feel as if I’m blocking myself somehow at every turn. I’m reminded of my college lab rat, Dominic, with whom I tried the classic maze experiments, hoping he was incentivized enough to navigate the maze to find the cheese reward at its end. (Dominic fell victim to some kind of rat flu that swept the lab, killing half the lab rats overnight, God rest his little white furry soul).

Have I no cheese? Nothing but the hope of something self-published to motivate me through the maze of my own writer’s block? Is that enough? I’m envious of my friends who have published essays and poetry in online magazines. They take the time to write and have the courage to face rejection – two of my own failings. Envy is one of my greatest faults.

Definitely some things to ponder as I continue to walk down my writer’s block.

Anyone Who Writes Is a Writer.

I am a writer. It’s what I do. It’s what I’ve always done. I recently found journals from when I was 17, helping to prove this statement. And that’s kind of the point — proof — and what writers believe is proof.

When someone asks me what I do, I say, “I’m a writer.” Then that person gets this excited look, and usually says something like, “Really? What do you write? Would I have read anything you’ve written?” Which is quickly followed by the slightly crestfallen look said person tries to hide when I reply, “Well, the writing that pays is for Federal proposals. But I’ve had a blog and have several unfinished novels.”

Of course, that makes me feel like I’m pretending to be a writer, that I’m not really a writer unless I’ve been published by some outside entity as a stamp of approval.

I’m here to tell you that’s just not true. Though as I’m telling you this, I’m also telling myself this. I need to hear it too. So let’s keep saying it to ourselves, over and over, as the words spill out on paper in a Comp Book journal, or on screen in response to Requests for Proposals, or on the back of receipts at a stoplight because you know you’ll lose that melody of words before you get to your destination, or as a note in your phone when you compose a poem driving down a mountain in the dark of summer.

My past blog chronicled simply that — my past. It had a healthy following and was freeform, for the most part, as this one will be. I started it 15 years ago, when blogging was just rising to the forefront of consumer consciousness. It held poetry and prose, and documented life, divorce, betrayals, deaths, and thoughts. I tried to return to it, but it never felt right. So I’m starting fresh, just as I’m now making some fresh starts in my life. Because fresh starts are hard and beautiful and best shared.

I do hope you’ll join me.

P.S. I’m also a photographer, so – bonus – I’ll share some images with you as well.