The God Question

ChairsIn anticipation of the question of whether I believe in God, I came to a realisation. It intrigued and satisfied me, because I was never quite sure what I did believe. When I was a kid my mother studied classics, and I was an avid reader of fairy tales and mythologies from around the world. I liked the idea of a pantheon. Why not a goddess of wisdom and warfare, another of love? I don’t think the fact that my name comes from a fairly obscure goddess had anything to do with it.

Anyway. This epiphany came about because this fellow I’ve never met (he’s in my phone as ‘Javier who was looking for his phone.’ That pretty much explains how we met – he called my number, thinking it was that of his lost phone. We talked a while, and so on) asked how my day was. I explained my busy schedule, how starting tomorrow I’ll be working six days a week, and even Sunday’s not a free day because I have a workshop.

‘You going to the Church? he texted back.

‘No. I’m not religious. It’s a writers group.’

Washing a pile of dishes as I waited for water to boil for tea, I anticipated him asking ‘Do you believe in God?’

I thought about it. My response was going to be ‘I don’t know. Maybe not.’

But then it occurred to me that the real answer is ‘I don’t care.’

I don’t care if God exists in some form, because His (following the presumption laid out in the Bible) presence in my life would not, and should not, make any difference to how i live my life.

I respect the lives of others more than many religious and annoyingly pious types. After all, I refuse to participate in the torture and abuse of the animals we are meant to care for, all for my own sensual satisfaction. They deserve respect and decent lives. True, my dog might be seen in the occasional Facebook photo wearing a tutu or tea cosy, but I love her and take responsibility for her health and well-being, I don’t want her to be unhappy. I wouldn’t eat her. I hate the thought of animals confined in crowded cages, forced to breed and their babies taken away, their lives ended abruptly and painfully, just so I can have a glass of milk, or eat a juicy steak.

I should not need Him overseeing my actions to make me behave correctly. I try to be nice to people because I feel horrible if I don’t help when I can and I believe just because a man lives on the street he deserves enough respect from me that I will look at him and listen when he speaks to me and respond with courtesy. He’d have to be rude for me to do otherwise.

I believe in being honest and true to myself, and sometimes that may look like selfishness to others. That means I need to keep following my dream to write novels, even if at some point I have to say ‘I can’t help you out, X, because I only have a few hours a day to relax and work on my novel, and that is what I need to do.’ If my friends and family care about me, they will try to understand and accept it, even if they aren’t seeing any payback. It is something that matters to me. But I have a difficult time saying that, so today I spent hours on the phone with various people who needed my time.

There are those who would say that it is what God wants me to do, too. After all, if I have a talent (and I once did, though I have allowed it to get creaky and stiff with not enough working out), it was given by God, right? God doesn’t approve of you wasting His gifts.

It’s difficult for me to say no to my friends, and sometimes I let the fatigue bury me and squander what time and energy I have watching TV. That’s a whole other story of fear, I think. Fear of trying and failing. Laziness.

So God or not, I should chase after that dream and keep going. If He’s out there, he would approve my decision to make some painful sacrifices in my personal life so I can keep up the pursuit. Maybe that’s how I should explain it to the people I know who are religious, when I don’t want to spend hours texting, or on long ambling phone calls, when I finally decide I can’t spend my free morning helping them on their projects. For the rest, maybe I should just tell them the Deep South has finally gotten her claws into me, and I don’t think God would want me to waste my time.

Which reminds me, I need to go and work on this new idea I got for my story.

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I Love a New Challenge

I just needed to get some words down here, whether or not anyone actually reads them. It’s kind of that fear of the white page, I think. I actually started a new post after a planning meeting with this semester’s co-teacher. I realised it would need to be broken into a couple separate ones if it stays nearly as long and rambly as it is.

But then I lost it, mid-write, while I was in a flow. I eventually found a saved copy in the recesses of my MacBook’s brain, but the flow kind of died and I never got back to it. But I want to, and I will.

And then this morning I was inspired by someone else’s blog to attempt to build a decent bike from a $25 craigslist purchase (presuming the frame will fit my short self). I don’t know anything about doing it, or about which parts are decent. But then, I knew nothing about bike touring, nor was I even capable of reading a map properly when I went, but I did it anyway. What the hell, why not try this, too? And I can afford this crap Thruster now, as opposed to the better bikes that I really want. I scour craigslist anyway for an affordable bike, why not for decent affordable parts, and learn something in the process?

I still don’t have a job (which reminds me, I need to phone back the woman at the sex toys/lingerie/gag gift place that called me for an interview. No word from McDonald’s, but at least this place thinks I might be a reasonable employee choice), but maybe once I have some money I’ll want to buy something better.

For now? I love a challenge!

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Tuesday, 26 February 2013 · 11:48 am

Faith Deliverance, at West and Exley

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Baby, it’s been so long…

I’ve been meaning to write here for ages. There may not be anyone reading, bit it was a commitment I made to myself, since I never did make that zine.

Faith Deliverance at West and Exley

I think about posts I might make as I’m walking the dog. As soon as I get home, I think, I’m going to write about:

… How Savannah is different from Toronto (so many things, some small, some not so).

… How Savannah, or maybe it’s just being in a new place, has changed me remarkably (oh, the things I am planning to do! And am excited about. This is not the me that planned the trip down here, though she kind of wanted to do all the things I have in mind).

… My great students, the fun I am having teaching this class, how having it saved me because I would have gone home when my father gave me the eviction and offered me the money to go. I would have if I hadn’t found Deep, and if it wasn’t something I have wanted to do for a long time, and if I hate to let other people down and put them in a difficult position – what if they hadn’t been able to find someone to take my place? Sure, one of the coordinators could take over, and she might be better at it, but then she also is losing out on doing her job.

… This year’s NaNo plan. Of course, I’ve since realised that the added plot is going to make it impossible to do in a month, because it requires research I haven’t yet done. If I want to keep it the story I have in mind, not just the boring original story, I may be able to fake it for a month. Ach, how difficult can that be? I’ll just need to fake a few historical periods, no problem.

The original plan was to fictionalise this journey, so far, make up new and interesting things to happen to my character, and show her changing. But then this song came up on my iPod one night while walking the dog (so much happens when I walk the dog, including people praying over me, but that’s another story. Or should I say, it’s a poem for another day. I think it might even be a good one… Oh, where was I again?). Yes, so this song came on, and I listened to the words as I always do, and thought, as I always do, what in intriguing story she is telling, then it came to me that love and death and how we appreciate the people in our lives were part of what the song is about, and that is kind of what my NaNo this year is about (maybe what they are usually about in different ways), and how the combination of the original story and the one in the song could make for a NaNo right (write) up my alley.

… I could have posted my new poems, written one night while walking the dog. I didn’t have a pen with me, so I used the cell phone my father loaned me ,and tapped away into the tiny notes section, with its limited number of characters, which gave me some class exercise ideas. These are the poems I may read at my first open mic. Yeah, that was a surprise to me, too, that I would think of doing it without peeing myself in fear at the simple thought. But there is more, so much, and once I find a place, I need to focus on the other stuff. It’s all part of the new me.. Or maybe it’s the old me, uncovered. The SheDevil, Unplugged. Fears and inhibitions stripped away, just the basic Me.

… If nothing else, I could have taken a few minutes and written about how I couldn’t think of anything, just like we tell our students during freewrite, then add a few questions to get things going. But there was always something to say. So much more than above, so why wasn’t I here?

Yeah, some kind of fear followed me from back home. It must be bigger than any other fears, because I have no fear at night of the many people I meet, or the streets I walk, I have no fear of exposing myself on stage to ridicule and mockery (though I know it won’t be like that, not at the place where I want to make my debut in both stand up and poetry reading). So what is this fear, where’d it come from?I don’t even feel it as fear, it must be that ingrained. But I can tackle, I will.

… And that same thing holding me back, that is the same thing that has kept me writing my letter to DM Thomas, and I made notes ages ago for a brilliant post about why I haven’t been able to write it. I came to some insight, unexpected insight as I had thought I was just going to write about what I had wanted to say to him for years, my thank you letter for what he gave me, those letters of encouragement. And then I realised something about myself, and possibly why I haven’t been able to put it all into print so he could know what a difference he made to me, even if I never succeed as an author. If any of my students from this workshop, or any I hope to teach in the future, should ever feel I helped influence them (or even that I harmed their writing ambitions), I would wish to know about it.

Okay, but now, now I need to go continue the work of trying to find a home. A home where I can focus on those new aspects of myself and the projects they bring with them. I want to continue this growing, but the security of a home without the stress I have here at my father’s, especially after everything that has happened, that would help. At least a real landlord has to give you some kind of notice if they want to evict you, and it doesn’t hurt as much as when your father serves you with the papers. And I’d feel less helpless, more able and willing to fight back.

I guess that is my fear. One of the few I have been able to find in myself. It amazes me how little fear I feel these days.

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Friday, 7 September 2012 · 2:56 pm

Never say it can’t get any worse. Hells yeah, it can!

Sometimes things go ka-plooey in your face, and you think (foolish, foolish you!) ‘Well, at least it can’t get any worse.’

Even I’ve made that mistake, and I’m not a big fan of positive thinking. I hate, hate, hate when my friends say ‘don’t worry, I’m sure it will all work out.’ Sometimes it just doesn’t. If your expectations are low, then at least you don’t have as far to fall when the next pile of crap hits the fan or heads your way down the creek.

In fact, if something good happens, I’m pretty sure there’s a big pile of more of the stinky stuff just waiting for me to fall into, face first.

Case in point. I stupidly thought I was coming down to Savannah to spend time with the father I never had a chance to get to know while I was growing up. I wanted to do this before it was too late, whether or not it was cancer, whether it looked like he had a good twenty years left, or six months. It was time, and I loved Savannah when I was here before.

What better way to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of my big solo trip to Europe? I don’t have much interest in celebrating those round number birthdays like they are significant stepping stones. I’d rather honour a challenge I gave myself ten years ago, and faced down every step of the way. It was a great growing experience.

I think. I don’t know if I really changed, but I did it, so what the heck? I had been thinking another big bike trip, maybe across Canada, maybe the Mongol Ralley. Something cool.

Then I got the call from my father, there were calls and e-mails back and forth with my half-sister, my father’s ex-girlfriend who had cancelled her vacation to be here when he went into surgery, and the decision was made. This would be an adventure, a real growth experience.

Next time I’m fucking staying home. I won’t go into the bad things that happened on the Europe trip, it’s not something I talk about, but I survived, and I’m glad I did it, but enough is enough. I can have a bad time at home, with my own walls surrounding me, my bed, my books, my friends if I need someone to take me out for a drink and a shoulder to cry on.

But this one has just gone from bad to worse. First it was verbal, with him telling me to go home. I’d tiptoe around him, try to keep out of the way, we’d work it out. But then my father physically attacked me last Saturday. Since then, I’ve been all twisted up internally, nervous that w if I go out, when I get home something bad will have happened, especially if my dog was here alone, since that was what set him off each of the other times.

The worst of it is the shock, though. That someone who is supposed to care about you, love you unconditionally, would do this. Why does it happen? There are no excuses anymore. I made them when it was verbal (he’s frustrated and ill from the treatments, all he wants to do is his art but he can’t), but when someone holds a table over your head and threatens to bash it in, has thrown you around, there is nothing more to say.

There is no way of understanding what is happening, because no matter how much I get in his way, how much he’s used to being on his own, how sick and frustrated he is, there is no understanding how it can happen. And how I couldn’t fight back well enough.

To make it worse, I don’t drive, so even if I wanted to haul us back home, I need someone else to do the major hauling.

But then, this morning while I was waiting for him to be picked up for his treatments, a sheriff’s car pulled up and I was served with a writ of dispossession. Something like that. He is having me evicted. In a week. No job or money. No friends. Me, my dog, my stuff, thrown into the street in a week. Or I can file with the courts to fight it. And how swell would my already crap life here be.

I’m not sure why I am writing this here, to nobody in particular. Who wants to read this? Why am I not turning tail and heading home?

I actually like it here. At home I feel isolated because my friends are in the same city, but I rarely see any of them, they have their own lives, maybe I’m no fun, I probably don’t make enough effort, I know I don’t open up easily. I don’t really know, but my life is not an episode of ‘Friends.’ I am not surrounded by support, and I realise it is as much my own fault, more so, than anyone else’s. Here if I am isolated, it is for a reason. I don’t know anyone. It feels less isolating in a way.

At least, until you really, really need someone in your corner. I’ve never been able to ask for help, even when it got bad, never really sure I could count on it from anyone.

But why am I staying here?

Well, I also got this writing fellow position, and I want to follow through. I don’t back down easily, and maybe I just don’t know when I’m beat and should run.

Back home, this fellow position was exactly what I wanted to do, but I didn’t know if it existed, and figured no-one would choose me to do it if it did. Yes, serious self-confidence issues. And start it, if one didn’t exist? Not a chance. You know the drill, self-confidence, blah, blah, blah. Boring damn song, who wants to hear it once, let alone again and again?

What is the fellowship? It is an after-school program teaching kids creative writing. At the end of the semester, we work with them on the pieces they most want to publish, and put together a book. There is a reading after that. How amazing is that? I would do it for free, anytime. And it is a volunteer position, so no issue there.

How could I run away from that? It is an opportunity that I may only have once. If I make it. If I go through with this, it will give me the confidence and background to either apply for something similar back home if it exists, or try to start my own. It would be a stepping stone to something gratifying.

Something at which I can succeed. I don’t feel that I have given myself the opportunity to succeed at anything much in my life, too afraid, scared of failure and rejection. When the freelance editor from the Toronto Star, for whom I’d written some articles, wanted to meet me, an opportunity to do more work for him, I was too shy. What a loss. When my author mentor wanted to meet me when he came to Toronto, guess what? I was too shy. This was a man who helped me create what was probably the best writing of my life. I could have thanked him in person. But I hid.

I want the opportunity to help these kids love writing as much as I do, let it help them through difficult times, learn to express themselves with joy.

Never mind, here I finally have the chance to try living somewhere else. I have always wanted to do that. try to build a life all over again, start with my own wits and guts. Even when you’re scared, when pressed you can. I wanted to see that I can, too.

There are several other things complicating this, of course. It would never be so simple.

Anyway, I don’t know why I am sending this out there. I have tried to explain to the couple of people who know something about what has happened why I want to stay, and now I send it into the ether. I’m waiting for the next lousy thing to happen to me, but am still hopeful that somehow I can make this work. I am hoping that this writ, on which he said I owed him money (he admitted he couldn’t think of any other reason to put for eviction), is not going to adversely affect my criminal check to work with these kids. It is the only thing I want right now, other than a place where I can feel safe and get down off my poor tiptoes.

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Welcome to Savannah

One of the two roads I take in and out of our part of town has this sign after you cross under the rail bridge.

It has been so long since I’ve added anything here. I keep thinking about posts I wanted to write: about my trip; about why it is so difficult to write a long-overdue letter of thanks, one I keep writing in my head; about the novel editing process; the differences I see between here in West Savannah (not exactly the same as Savannah of the pretty pictures and tourist dreams) and Toronto. So many subjects, but this blog loomed over me like that precious first page in a new notebook, blank, waiting for perfection.

I am finally going to dive in and smudge and sully it, just like I finally did in that book of watercolour paper that my father handed me my first or second day here. I sketched, I played with soft crayons, painted on some masking liquid, and finger painted, scratched at it and dabbed. It turned out some of it was oil paint so it took forever to dry. It looked a mess, but then it kind of took on some kind of form. Nothing great, or even special, but it was my first effort and it showed that book that it wasn’t too special or precious for me.

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