Okay, I’m not going to do this every day. You won’t have to put up with my 750 rambling words all the time. But every so often, they aren’t bad words, or I write stuff that should go here rather than just live in their little 750 word website space, or that I will put in a story, as I did last night. So…feel free to read or skip. ;-)
I don’t know if I’ve ever stuck to anything this long. Eight whole days (nine now)! Maybe this is a new me.
I was about to say to myself, “That ain’t bad, considering I don’t have any stick-to-it-iveness.” That same tired old tape that my Ex’s mother started playing in my head so long ago, and that I have internalized and kept running for 25 years. Amazing, isn’t it, the mindfucks we play on ourselves? How we damage ourselves, cripple and wound ourselves, over and over, with a will and determination and lack of compassion that we wouldn’t display to any other human being.
I find it hard to even turn that comment around into a confirmation though. As much as I know the psychology behind my negative self-talk, as much as I know how untrue it is…I don’t really believe its opposite. I don’t really believe the untruth of it. I could point to instances where I’ve finished what I started. Where I’ve stuck it out, where I’ve persevered, but even in those instances, even as I am thinking them, I am denying their validity as true examples.
They are the exception that prove the rule.
I still don’t know that this exercise – what I started this 750 words thing to practice for, NaoNoWriMo – will prove anything. Well, it will, if I can actually do it, if I can write for 30 days in a row. But THAT (NaNo) is 1667 words a day, more than twice what this is, and THAT is on a whole novel. Do I even have a whole novel’s worth of cohesive thoughts, a narrative of 50,000, words in me? I’m capable of 3,000, I’ve seen that and shown that. I’m capable of short stories, and apparently more than one or two. But a novel??? I have ideas. But do I actually have an entire novel inside myself. That’s the question. And if I write every day, but it’s not a novel, if I write 50,000 words of short stories, will I then tell myself I have failed, that I didn’t REALLY do it? I don’t know.
Last night I was supposed to have gotten started on another major undertaking, my newest/latest/last(?) tattoo. It’s been a bumpy road getting here…but perhaps not so much. I mean, it’s a large one, from my left shoulder clear down my back and across to my right hip and around to the front, where I have my scar and where my poor bear got cut in half by my surgery and now looks like a lump in the sand. (I teasingly say he’s a bear with his head in the sand.) But every time I look at him I am sad, because he is so reduced, and because living with one’s head in the sand is NOT me, not who I want to be, not what I want for myself. So in a way I feel that having that symbolism on my body is a wrongness that needs to be rectified, and now, finally, I am doing that. He will be reborn as a flower: delicate, beautiful, opening, filled with praise and joy and the promise of growth and life.
Anyway, what I meant by a bumpy road is that I have made my appointment and had to reschedule it several times, due to several factors, mostly me trying to settle on a cohesive idea for the tattoo. That was why I said that it is perhaps not so much a “bumpy road” as exactly the process I should be taking, since it such a major piece of art, and something I will live with for the rest of my life. I think, finally, though, that we have a plan, and that the first part of it – my chopped-off-bear-covering-flower – will be created this afternoon. I’m very excited.
I have three other tattoos, as I have mentioned and as I am sure you have seen in my pictures. Each has its own story and meaning to me, and as I was writing this I realized that my lizard’s story is one that I gloss over in that exact way that I mentioned above: not giving myself credit where credit (is possibly) due.
I got my lizard right after I came back from my first trip to the Grand Canyon. Without ever having hiked that much before, except in a desultory way a few miles here and there, I decided to do a hiking and backpacking trip with a local university group from the South Rim down the Bright Angel to Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon and back up. It was an amazing trip, but grueling, and far more of a challenge than I had anticipated. But beautiful…god the beauty I experienced on that trip was more than I have words to express and sometimes – seriously – still brings tears to my eyes and fills me with an awe that leaves me speechless and my heart pounding. Something changed fundamentally in me that trip, though I am not sure how to describe what it was that had changed. I just felt myself…blossoming. Growing and transforming on the inside in a way that has defined and informed who I am now.
My lizard is a symbol of that transformation.
But something else happened on that trip, and which is the thing that I thought about when I was thinking about stick-to-it-iveness up there. It was the very end of the hike, the fourth grueling, exhausting day. We were heading back up the Bright Angel, and were on the last half mile. Ad was with me (he had taken the trip with me, although we were only friends then, not yet lovers), and we were really struggling. Novices that we were, our packs were 50 lbs each, and I just can’t describe how miserable that last part was.
A few of the leaders of our group, skilled hiker/backpackers all, had reached the top and come back down to assist any stragglers (there was us two and several others, maybe four or five, behind us.) One of the leaders offered to take Ad’s backpack the rest of the way, which he willingly relinquished.
But I would not give mine up. No matter how they implored me (and assured me that it didn’t mean I had failed.) I may have actually growled a response as I hefted that fucker back onto my back, strapped it on, gritted my teeth and put my head down…and then I bulled my way up that fucking trail with a single-minded focus and at a pace that Ad later said he could barely keep up with, without his pack. I don’t think I saw or heard a thing for that last half mile. I just lived in this bubble of determination, of misery and perseverance, that blotted out everything else. In fact when I reached the top, and made that first step onto the rim to the accompaniment of claps and cheers and shouts from those that had watched my progress that last bit, I almost fell on my ass, I was so startled that it was finally over, that I didn’t have to walk anymore.
I had an odd moment of deja-vu in that moment actually, that I haven’t shared with anyone else before. When I was ten years old my Dad and I did the March of Dimes in Berkeley, CA. It was a TWENTY MILE walk. Participants got pledges for a certain amount per mile that they completed. I had pledges for over a hundred dollars, if I walked the full twenty.
No one expected me to. I was ten years old, after all.
I never considered not walking the full twenty. Not because I was so badass, but because I just thought that was what I was supposed to do. I didn’t know I could quit. I remember plodding along beside my father in that last mile or so, misery in every step, the sun going down and the organizers checking up on us and the other stragglers. And I remember stumbling across the finish line, to the cheers of the few people left to see us, and lifting my head in surprise and shock that I was done, in exactly the same way I had that day at the Grand Canyon.
I still don’t think any of this translates to stick-to-ive-ness though. It translates to a weird stubbornness in the moment, perhaps, a transitory ability to simply put my head down and bull my way to the end.
But maybe that will be good enough, this time, for NaNo. I don’t know. I guess we’ll see.