Write now!

I want to get back to writing my book.  Let me qualify that: I need to get back to writing my book.

My book starts as a series of journal entries (both personal and travel) and letters in 1996 and ‘97, long before I know I will write a book.

In 2001, I start writing chapters, by hand.  The chapters flesh out story snippets and descriptions of people and places.  The chapters expound on inner turmoil, extreme loneliness and a budding thirst for a less-ordinary life.

By the end of 2001, I am typing these chapters into a computer, adding more details, more perspective and more poetry to my word count.

I print out what I consider the second draft and edit onto the pages.  Like the cliché that I am, I carry dog-eared pages with me everywhere, reading and re-reading the story of me.  My book, a travel biography, begins to take shape and I move chapters, fool around with format and finally settle on a 3-part tome.

Part One. Narrative. Documenting the end of life as I know it.  My alone-ness.  My fear of drowning.  My knowledge that doing something, anything, is better than doing nothing.  Not knowing what ‘something’ to do.

Part Two. Narrative.  A journey in a wide circle.  Defeat.  Triumph.  Forging relationships.  Learning that I don’t know everything.  Learning that I know a lot.  Drinking in facts and places and more people.

Part Three.  Episodic.  The circles continue, concentric, overlapping, my life a Venn diagram.  Hating myself.  Loving myself.  Losing myself to excess and pretended celebrity.  Stillness.  Silence.  Sleep and a momentum that ultimately forces a new trajectory.

Years pass.

I occasionally dust off a printed copy.  What draft is this?  Eight?  Eleven?  I lose track.

“I am in love with this,” says a friend.  “But it should be a novel.  It should be in the third-person.”  I disagree, and re-write chapter one for the fifty-millionth time.  Each time I re-write it I love it more.

“It’s wonderful, Sweetie,” says my mother.  “She has to say that,” I think.  But she actually does love it.

I feed it in cruel increments to willing and select friends.  I want critics, not sycophants to read it.  Only that will make it better.  I write in sporadic and manic phases.  I accomplish much, then nothing for months, years.

In 2009, I sit in modest, yet well-decorated apartment in a foreign city, and I read chapter one.  “This should be a novel, in the third-person,” I think and I smile.  It has taken me years to get to this point.  I tell my friend, herself a writer, a successful one.  She is pleased.

I dig out the letters and journals from a decade before, all brought from my homeland for this very purpose, and I read.  I remember a girl I once knew, one who loved passionately and had her hopes crippled.  I think of her fondly as I might think of a distant relative I was once close to.  She saddens and angers me, yet I know I will always be protective of her.  She is, after all, me.

I return to the keyboard, and I start at the beginning, a very good place to start.

Chapter one.

I write the story of a young woman called Sarah.  She has a whole life, most of which I have yet to discover and some of which echoes my own life.  I love her, as fiercely as I love the girl in the journals and hand-written lengthy letters collected by loving parents and returned years afterwards.

I feed it to a new friend in meaty chunks.  She wants more.

It flows out of me, like a mother’s milk.  Chapter one.  Two.  Three.  Six.  And then, nothing.

Months later I return to the pages I wrote and do not recognize the words.  “Who wrote this?” I wonder and then remind myself that I did.  These words are mine.  And they are good.

Yes, I need to get back to my book.

Excess packaging

I have a somewhat minor frustration that comes up on a daily basis.  Packaging.

I realized the other day when I was unsuccessfully trying to open a cheese stick, that U.S. manufacturers do not seem to discriminate between things that can poison us if ingested, and actual food.

Trying to extrapolate the highly delicious and somewhat nutritious cheese stick from its extremely excessive packaging (a tough plastic bag that won’t open without scissors, and a shrunk-wrapped plastic ‘easy-to-peel’ tomb) resulted in so much contortion, a co-worker thought I was trying on a girdle.

My eye cream comes in an even more ridiculous array of packaging: inside a jar, inside a plastic shell, inside a box, inside shrunk-wrapped plastic.  By the time I get the eye-cream out of its packaging, I have three more frown lines on which to put it.

My favorite example of excess packaging is anything that comes in a plastic bottle.  From vitamins to ketchup, I must first contend with the shrunk-wrapped hard plastic seal that surrounds the lid.  It has perforations so that I can do this easily, but for some reason (perhaps because they suck), these perforations do nothing.  I have to get out the scissors.

At this point I can twist off the lid, but underneath the lid will be a foil covering stuck so tightly to the neck of the bottle, I have to dig under its edge with a fingernail.  Even the ones with the handy pull tab cannot be pulled off.  I invariably resort again to the scissors, which I wield with an agitated stabbing motion.  I have missed a few times and stabbed myself, but this only provides another reason for expletives to pour from my mouth.

Once the foil lid is removed, I can usually access what is inside the bottle.  If it is vitamins, I have one more gauntlet task: a wad of uncooperative cotton wool.  Imagine the clown car at the circus.  Pulling the wad of cotton wool out of a 5cm vitamin bottle is like watching the clowns get out of the car in a never-ending stream.

When I can finally reach the vitamins, I check the ‘use by” date to ensure that they haven’t expired while I was trying to open the bottle.

All of this may seem exaggerated, and as I tend towards the hyperbole, you will be forgiven for thinking so.  However, long-suffering boyfriend can attest that these exact enactments are real.

This brings me (the very long way) to our giant clean out a few weeks back.

Our home is spacious for a one bedroom apartment, but it does have its spacial limitations and we were not optimizing the space that we do have.

It did not look like this

but it felt like it did.

I felt tightly bound by too much stuff, too much clutter, too much useless junk, too much excess packaging. I was starting to feel claustrophobic in my own home. I was freaking out.

I mentioned in passing to Ben that we should have a big clean out.  He looked a little less than enthused.  I tried talking it up.

“Yeah, it’ll be great.  We’ll go through the whole house and open everything up, pull everything out and then throw away what we don’t need.  Then we can organize all the cupboards and drawers!”  The Virgo that rose in my Taurean chart when I was born was rising to the challenge.  The Scorpio I live with was not.

I tried a different tack.  “I hate my closet!  I hate it.  I hate that I can’t find anything and everything falls all over me and I hate it!”  This tantrum went on for another 45 seconds until strong arms went around me, and I calmed down.  I looked up at the owner of the arms (Ben).  “I want to clean out our place and make it feel like home again.”

He responded in the only way a man can when he is faced with big hazel puppy dog eyes, “Okay, Babe.”

And that is how it came to pass that one Saturday we opened every cupboard, drawer and box in our apartment.  We pulled out everything and only put back what we wanted and needed.  The crap was thrown out, recycled, donated and given away.  (It is only crap to those who don’t want it).  I bought tubs and baskets to organize all our stuff.

We took a trip to the tip and visited Goodwill.  We filled 8 bags for the garbage and recycling.  It took 6 hours, including the time to thoroughly clean our apartment.

We stripped bare and reconstructed our home, ridding our selves of all the excess packaging.  At the end of a long day, we sat sipping a much-deserved glass of wine and admired our handiwork.

Devoid of clutter, our apartment felt like home again I no longer felt suffocated.

I still have my daily battle with actual excess packaging, but I am slowly becoming more skilled with my scissors.