What central story is at the core of you, and how do you share it with the world? (Bonus: Consider your reflections from this month. Look through them to discover a thread you may not have noticed until today.) (Author: Molly O’Neill)
What central story is at the core of you, and how do you share it with the world? (Bonus: Consider your reflections from this month. Look through them to discover a thread you may not have noticed until today.) (Author: Molly O’Neill)
This month, gifts and gift-giving can seem inescapable. What’s the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year? (Author: Holly Root)
As the car gets parked, I’m agitated. Antsy. Anxious. I’m thinking of the walk that always takes too long. I’m silently willing anyone with me to be quick about getting their things together so we can GET THERE NOW. I am visualizing the stopping point, breathing through my nose to calm the excitement that’s jittering around my stomach. My soul is already out there and I’m not listening to anything going on around me. Precious minutes are lost with a final inventory and impatience breaks out in force all over my face. I point my chest forward and set the pace, always faster than anyone else would have chosen.
It roars at me as I approach; a percussive din stirring in my chest a feeling so deep
that I think I might cry. With harried anticipation, I speed up, barely careful not to stub my toes on the uneven and sun-bleached boards. In a supreme test of will, I manage, only barely, to resist the siren song tempting me to drop everything and run, flat-out, ahead. Just as my heart is about to burst through my ribcage, the weathered esplanade gives way to sand and my objective is reached. I am at the beach.
Here, I stop to take off my shoes. I bury my feet momentarily and incline my face toward the sun, allowing those tears to sting and leak through the closed line of my eyelids. On this spot, I breathe my soul back in, reuniting it with the body it had skipped ahead of the second this idea became possible. It is all autopilot now as we find The Spot, and I hastily lay my things down and strip to my two piece, running with abandon for the waterline.
After my first plunge in, the frenetic joy slows down and mellows into sun-baked delectation. I pop open a Sam Summer, ease my body back onto my towel and delight in the feel of the sand settling underneath my weight. As if on a battery charger, my skin absorbs the suns rays, browning in contentment, the tiny hairs on my arms slowly bleaching out as the minutes tick past. The knife-fight of my thoughts slows and stops, soothed by the supreme white noise of the waves.
The beach DOES THINGS to me. It calms me, tranquilizes me, centers me; it opens its arms and welcomes me, washing me clean and cauterizing my traumas. It’s immensity and age strike me dumb and it is the only place where I feel connected and unbroken. As grains of sand scratch over each other and move in the breeze and the gulls call overhead, time slows for me and I breathe out all the bitter and the poisonous. Cancerous doubts and misgivings seep away and leave only my quieted mind. My life and all its days are AWAY. The beach, the seaspray, the salt in the air, they are HOME; every minute, every experience, every chore leading up to the moment that I can walk in that front door and be where I belong once more.
This year wasn’t really much for largesse. I feel like much more was taken out of than given to me. The one gift that stands out, however, is the one that I gave myself, and that is the large amount of time I was able to spend on any one of a number of beaches this summer. With no job to worry about returning to, an uncertainty of the road ahead and a breaking point having been reached, the beach was even more Divine than usual, it’s effects like a white-wash for my soul.
Sitting here now, rocking in my chair by the window, I can close my eyes and feel the sun’s rays on my face, and almost trick myself into believing that the sounds from the highway are waves crashing 10 yards from my toes. The illusion is broken though by the base of the TV of the tenants below me and the turkey in the refridgerator waiting to be dressed and the looming deadline of getting this piece posted…..It’s only an apparition, a mirage. Like my Burt’s Bees Lip Balm, only the real deal will do.
Describe a defining moment or series of events that has affected your life this year. (Author: Kathryn Fitzmaurice)
OH! I so wanted to rail at this prompt. I wanted to throw a wordtrum and slam my laptop shut to prove my point. I was, in fact, just about to, when a few things danced through my brain, wondering: “what about us?”
1. It’s a challenge. Of course it’s going to stretch my limits and patience, else, what is the point? I’ve accepted, and to back out now, well, it’s just not in my nature. (This does NOT stop me from TOTALLY agreeing with Stereo. I had really been hoping for some firecrackers to close this challenge out with.)
2. The folks at Reverb10 have worked hard to put this together. As I understand, this is only the second year. Can I not forgive growing pains? Further, I remember actually reading something saying that part of the point WAS GOING TO BE to see if we recognized recurrent themes in our answers. Perhaps it’s not the questions that are so much the same, but the way we filter them through our own life lenses.
3. (As a direct result of taking a breath and holding in said tantrum): Wow, I actually DO have an answer to this that is different than anything I’ve said previously.
Haters gon’ hate. Today, I’ll keep my Haterade to myself. Besides, I told you, I have an answer!
I’m having a series of defining moments right now. And it’s kind of exciting.
The Other: I’m beginning to think that I could, maybe, perhaps, possibly, be a writer. *gasp*
My inner monologue: You were an English major, of course you can string a few words together to answer a question. You’ve also read thousands of books, so of course, those strung together words will sound marginally coherent…you’ve had good teachers. But you know and I know you’re faking it at best. All you need to do is go and read the words of some of the people you’ve been introduced to through this challenge to know that you’re in no way good enough.
The Other: But I think I am…I mean, look at…
My Inner Monologue: Look at what? Huh? There’s no way. What would you write about? Where would you begin? What do you have to say? What’s your perspective? Who’s to say that perspective is even interesting? Who’ll want to read? What does that even mean, WRITER?? You can’t lie to save your life. So fiction is out. Are you really talking about articles for papers and magazines? Please. There’s no way. nu-uh. (repeat.)
The Other: But there is something. There IS something, SOMETHING telling me that I’ve got something to say. It’s there. At the bottom. In the back. Under all that other stuff….
Me: When it comes to writing, I’ve never really given a second thought. In school, I’d accept an assignment, sit down, write it, hand it in. My journalling was the same way. At the end of a day, I’d take 15 or 20 minutes, vomit all over the page, and go to sleep.
When I started Reverb10, I was hoping for a way to synthesize and absorb my year. I was looking for something that would take the episode of Hoarders my brain had become, and help me tidy it up and stash it away so that I could move on. Like my school assignments, I just sat down each day and wrote the prompts, absolutely blithe to have something intellectual and absorbing to occupy my time. With the exception of one or two, it was easy, and I was mostly done and free to read everyone else after an hour or so.
Over the course of the month, I’ve received a fair number of messages and responses to my writing. Some from old friends, some from new, many from the Reverb community; but all saying something kind about my voice. I shrugged it all off.
Inner Monolgue: Nothing that comes that easy really matters. If you haven’t tried, have you really done anything? Of course people are commenting. They’re your friends. And those Reverbers? They just want you to read their stuff too.
Me: But yesterday, yesterday something changed. Clicked. Snapped. I sat down to answer the prompt with what I meant to be just a little love letter to my husband. When I was finished, I re-read and then published. I didn’t feel as if I’d been particularly brilliant. As with almost every other time, I was content with what I’d come up with. It said exactly what I was feeling, it painted exactly the images I was seeing and it left nothing out. It was simply, what I wanted to say, period.
(that might strike you as terribly blase, but it’s the truth. I always say what I mean to say, I just never feel as if any of it is terribly profound.)
Fast forward to tens of minutes after I’d posted, and the comments began pouring in. Something I’d written struck a chord, twanged a string with the people who read it. That had been happening throughout the month, but yesterday was different.
Yesterday, I started to believe what people were saying, and here is why: because the majority of the people who commented are people who I’ve been reading throughout this challenge. They are people with enormous amounts of talent, whom I respect, whom I feel, wouldn’t waste their time blowing smoke up my ass. (You wouldn’t, would you?! Because if you would, you’re sitting there right now laughing at my silly, silly idea….) After all, who am I? What could that possibly gain?
What started as a modest, honest, little love letter, has become a seed.
If this stuff comes easily to me (mostly), and I harvest an unquantifiable amount of joy from it, and people are responsive TO it,
Could I be
Should I be
Might I be…
This I shall be exploring in 2011.
What’s the thing you most want to achieve next year? How do you imagine you’ll feel when you get it? Free? Happy? Complete? Blissful? Write that feeling down. Then, brainstorm 10 things you can do, or 10 new thoughts you can think, in order to experience that feeling today. (Author: Tara Sophia Mohr)
An Open Letter to the Old Man:
We’ve had a rough year, you and I. A rough three years if we’re going to be honest with one another–which is what I’ve promised you and am falling all over myself trying to deliver. Words have been spoken and deeds done, hurts inflicted, pain endured; here we find ourselves miles from the alter and stone sober from the sting of life. Your name is written all over everything I want to achieve this year. So, for you, some bad poetry:
If the lights are out and apocalypse strikes, let us be standing side by side.
If I’m splattered in blood and missing a shoe, let it be your hand I’m holding.
When the wolves have come and gone and collected their pound of flesh, let it be your breath on my face that revives me.
When the din of the laughers and pointers screams about my ears, let it be your voice I hear above all others.
Let us be together, against the world, smiling as it lays us low. Let me have that man
who jumped in the puddle,
who bustled my dress,
who defended my honor,
who dared to say yes.
Let us walk ahead, blindly, and with hope, our faces inclined to the middle. Let me be that girl
who needs a man,
who points at rainbows,
who bites your lips,
who insists you’ll love that show.
In truth, in dreams, in memories,
let you and me be we.
Let we mean us.
Let us BE.
Our most profound joy is often experienced during ordinary moments. What was one of your most joyful ordinary moments this year? (Author: Brené Brown)
There isn’t incense burning or a chorus of angels singing as you walk through the doors. There are no priests or monks or stained glass windows filtering the midday light in dusty shafts through the air. No candles burning, no latin incantations. No robes or divine Scooby Snacks, no vessels of blessed water or baptismal founts…but it IS my church. There ARE commandments (Thou Shalt SHHHHH!, Thou Shalt Use a Bookmark, Thou Shalt Put Thy Fucking Cellphone AWAY…et al. ) And (blasphemy!!!) I DO hold no gods higher than the knowledge contained within.
I speak to you, dear reader, of that Mecca of all things used and bound, that promised land of the written word: Half Price Books (specifically, the HPB located on E John in Capitol Hill, Seattle). This, my friends, is not your grandma’s used bookstore. Put away all notions of creaky floors and musty odors. You’ll not find precarious stacks of unorganized tomes or dimly lit basement caverns paved with moth eaten carpets. Dream instead of an impeccably catalogued and merchandised warehouse of two levels, packed with floor-to-ceiling shelves of books on every topic you could list. Though organized in a similar fashion to that anti-Christ, Barnes and Noble, HPB boasts a larger selection which is, most importantly WAY CHEAPER!
The Old Man and I stumbled upon one of these on our way home from the outlets one weekend as we stopped to grab a bit to eat. I discovered that it was a chain shortly thereafter as I began my new job in Seattle–4+ years ago. It just so happened that my region contained what I’ve found to be the best one. This particular HPB is within spitting distance of Seattle University and Seattle Central CC. The residents of this portion of town are young, educated, and artsy. This, to my delight, means a higher quality of book is being traded in/sold here, and I’ve never made a trip with something in particular in mind and left empty-handed or disappointed.
This store feeds my most basic need: the overwhelming compulsion to READ. I am a reader; an avid inhaler of all things written. I will read the ingredients off of the back of a can of Campbells if there is nothing else around. I dream (literally) of one day owning a house replete with white built-ins in each room, filled to capacity with books. The joy I get from organizing and cataloguing my own limited supply is outrageous, fullfilling, settling, rewarding. I’ll never own a Kindle or a Nook because of my snobbery and tactile need to feel actual paper pages between my fingers. The hardcover’s heft and the portability of a paperback, those are my drugs.
The trouble is, I’m also quite cheap. Miserly actually. I hate spending money. If there is a need for us to buy something high in value–even if I’ve saved for it and started a separate account for the sole purpose of stashing away money for that specific thing–I will leave the store before looking at the final total or seeing the money changing hands. It makes me ill and anxious and I can never quite justify the expense. And books are expensive.
So, when I first discovered this store, this heaven, this children’s candy shoppe for adults, I almost peed myself with joy. I can walk in its doors with $50 and a cloud over my head, and walk out, three hours later with a smile on my face and 14 or 15 new volumes to pour over. HPB is my ordinary joy. Walking up and down it’s stacks–Fiction, History, Biography, Autobiography, Sociology, CounterCulture, Poetry, and then Clearance to see if anything in my hand can be found for $1 instead of $5–I browse away the world outside. No matter what I’m scowling over at that particular juncture, I can find peace in this store. It’s like a gigantic retail hug padded with words and bindings.
Books are my fix. My pleasure. My joy. My guilty indulgence. And Half Price Books is my dealer.
What did you eat this year that you will never forget? What went into your mouth & touched your soul? (Author: Elise Marie Collins)
What: Ricotta filled (I don’t eat the chocolate ones….they’re too sweet and reserved for my dad and husband) mini cannoli from San Remo’s Bakery in Berlin, CT
Why they’re better than your prompt answer: Filled to order for each customer, these hand-rolled and piped cannoli are just the right size to be eaten en masse without guilt. The smooth, semi-sweet ricotta filling is just sugary enough to satisfy the craving without being cloying. You can’t find cannoli like this ANYWHERE ELSE (and believe me, I’ve tried!). They’re little bites of heavenly, dessert perfection, served across glass cases by their family to yours. *kisses all five of her fingers in a pantomime of “De-lish!”*
A Christmas and Easter staple, no trip to my grandparents’ house is complete without a detour to San Remo’s. In the time it takes for them to fill your dozen cannoli, you’ve already decided that you also ABSOLUTELY MUST HAVE a pound of ricciarelli, and maybe some chruscik, and, while you’re at it, a half dozen pizelles for ice cream later.
You’re damn right I made time to stop at San Remo’s while I was visiting family over the summer. There’s something about these tiny pastries that makes you forget everything else with just that first little bit. Stop in, have a small slice of fresh calzone, and finish it off with two or three of these culinary wonders. I can’t think of anything better.
Sift through all the photos of you from the past year. Choose one that best captures you; either who you are, or who you strive to be. Find the shot of you that is worth a thousand words. Share the image, who shot it, where, and what it best reveals about you.
Forgive me, but I’m going to cheat…again. I’ve chosen two pictures, not just one. As it turns out, this prompt was not as easy as I anticipated. I had, literally, thousands of photos to go through from my year. Out of those, there were maybe 50 with me in them. Generally, I’m the one behind the camera. I’m not photogenic in the least, and it’s very hard to find just the right angle in just the right light to get a picture where I don’t look like I have a wall-eye or suffer from Parkinson’s. Anyway. This prompt made me feel like maybe I DO suffer from multiple personalities, each one showing a drastically different side of me. I had it narrowed down to about five, each one depicting pivotal traits in character. At the close, I ended up with these two: the closest I could come to ME, in microcosm.
#1: True Grit
I took this picture myself. It was taken in the passenger seat of my girlfriend K’s Jeep right after she’d picked me up from a salon visit. The aesthetician had just finished MURDERING my eyebrows. (I remember now why I do them myself.) I happen to feel beautiful when I look at this picture. It downplays the size of my nose (which I am INCREDIBLY self-conscious about), shows off my killer tan (the first I’d had in four years!), warns people that they really shouldn’t fuck with me (look at the the jut of my jaw, the easy hang of the just-lit ciggy), and hints at a deeper humor/sadness (my eyes really are my best feature, I think).
#2: The Wanderer
This second photo was taken the day I left for the east coast for two months over the summer. That is the only bag that I took with me, aside from my purse, which you can see partially on the left side of the photo. That’s my pedicured right foot (size 6.5) in there to show scale. I took this photo too. There are a lot of things this picture show about me. Independence, wanderlust, simplicity, excitement, adventure, searching misdirection…. I LIVED out of this bag for those months. It contained everything I needed, and I was even able to discard a few things along the way.
There were other photos that contained me smiling, laughing even, but smiles don’t really come easily for me. Showing those, I’d feel like I’d lied to you, dear reader. I thought about adding photos of sweating beverage glasses on sandy beaches with backdrops of rainbow sunsets, but the sand aside, they wouldn’t have been dirty enough–though Jeebus knows how important my margaritas and vodka are to my existence! There were cutesy, impish images of me winking at the camera, but those were just mugs, and not True.
Anyhoo. No flowery prose for you today. Just two images that have come the closest to catching me as me as I get.
What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead? (Author: Kate Inglis)
Oh! to be the girl with the forever smile; to rid myself of the deep wrinkles between my eyebrows and greet the world daily with composure and grace…. Everything, you see, is decidedly NOT okay in my world. My default face is consternation and my stomach? A mass of knots and bile. I’m the first born, an Aries, weighed down in reality and anchored by responsibility. For every third person professing that “things will just work out” there is one of me, toiling behind the scenes, knowing that IT WILL NOT! and pulling the strings to avert disaster.
I KNOW, to my very base fiber, that it is best to expect the worst and to be prepared for the next shower of bullets. I am a naysayer, a doomsday portent, a harbinger of reckoning. For every small beauty, for every sigh of pleasure and each belly laugh, there are scores of needling sorrows raining down to remind of the natural balance. I know this empirically, with the certainty of experience. I have a closet full of the “other shoes” and a face full of contusions from their rapid descent.
“Alright” is a relative term, you see. It’s Above Ground, Still Breathing, Possessed of All My Fingers and Toes. To be any other way would be completely foreign. Foreign, but completely longed for. I am consistently amazed by people who are able to keep to the sunny side: My brother N, who, while paratrooping his way through Afghanistan can maintain that we are all a part of the fabric of time, that the universe has a plan and that plan is right and purposeful. My girlfriend M, who, though mucking her way through a divorce and other painful decisions is devoted to her smile with a buoyancy that’s terribly rare. Even CV, who has recently defriended me, never ceased to amaze me with her ability to remain civil in situations that would have me in jail for assault.
I am simply not that person. I am wed to the Truth (big T) and prefer cold, hard FACT to wishful thinking. I know that the winds will change direction if I get too comfortable. I feel, so heavily, that somehow, my life is a crux on which teeters a scale of good and bad. To feel differently, or to change my attitude, is to tempt fate and laugh at the Furies. Because it is so, I feel more acutely the joys of success and the pains of failure. I am keenly cognizant that good is only so because of its counterpart, bad.
So, you see, I am not acquainted with that sigh of relief, that notion that, wow, things are finally on an upswing. I know only to breathe in those winsome moments, and breathe through the terrifying. All are fleeting, and each makes way for the next.
Let’s meet again, for the first time. If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why? (Author: Becca Wilcot)
Good ahfternoon ladies and gentlemen. Now entering the grand ballroom: Lola Agnese de Terza, crack columnist, heiress to the Louboutin fortune and muse to the white sand beaches absorbing the sun on the southern coast of Spain.
Lola is a lady of fashion, not fad. Attired in mostly skirts and tank tops of black and grey and white, they are her accessories that stand out boldly, proclaiming her brash personality; enormous cocktail rings and gigantic bucket bags, tinkling chandeliearrings and layers upon layers of necklaces, gauzy scarves and vintage bracelets. When not barefoot on the beach, she’s in sky-high heels; always sporting enormous sunglasses and a tan. Miraculously, her skin is impervious to the sun’s harmful effects and her hair is long, dark, straight and shiny, shot through with the beginnings of silver that reflect the twinkle in her dark, dark eyes.
Twice divorced and once widowed, she is now perpetually single and circumnavigating the globe, in love with each new dish/city/culture/affair. Her articles for Italian Vogue and the New Yorker fetch a pretty penny which she donates to small community causes in each of the cities she frequents. A proponent of eating and living locally, she speaks out against large corporations and encourages citizenry to produce what they need in a self-sustaining manner.
Quick to smile AND temper, her emotions show all over her face as she lives for the sake of living; out loud, with a joy and enthusiasm overflowing. She cooks for friends, large, sumptuous and simple meals, ingredients fresh from the market or farm or sea. At these parties, wine is sipped out of fishbowl glasses while everyone laughs and reclines in hammocks or on cushioned chaises covered in the fabrics she’s gathered in her travels.
At night, she sleeps soundly and with ease as the roar of the ocean blows gauzy curtains into her bedroom, casting filmy shadows on the walls by the light of the moon; low-toned chimes playing music for her dreams.
How did you travel in 2010? How and/or where would you like to travel next year? (Author: Tara Hunt)
Oh reader, your faithful narrator just doesn’t have it in her today to tell you about her year’s travels. I feel as if I’ve already kicked that dead horse a couple of times too many for our beloved Reverb10. However, being as yesterday was my BEST DAY YET (!!) for readership, I have a feeling that many of you are new to my corner of the blogosphere. If “Yes! I am!” is your response, then I encourage you to look HERE, and HERE (or even HERE if you like pictures) so you’ll know that I really have already answered and am not just copping out to suit my own needs.
That said, fret not. I shan’t leave you with a metaphorical hard-on or a reader’s equivalent of blue balls. Instead of re-answering today’s prompt, I shall regale you with a tale of my latest runaround with that Testament to Inefficiency: The United States Postal Service.
The scene opens around about the beginning of November, when I was scouring the interwebz for a dress suitable for a semi-formal Holiday party. Dancing with a whim, I got it into my mind that what I really wanted was something with LOTS OF SEQUINS. A couple of days search lead me to the PERFECT DRESS on my favorite website for all things vintage and neat-o: Ebay. My first clue that this particular buying experience was going to go gloriously awry appeared at the outset. Upon viewing my Paypal account, I was dismayed to find that I was charged a significant amount more than I’d bid for this item (a beautiful Tory Birch minidress covered in chocolate colored sequins). It was a split second before I hit “send” on a terse letter to the seller that I realized that the Idiot Award would actually be going to me: I had not realized that I’d been bidding in British pounds and not my own native currency. BLAST! (For the record, pulling the trigger before actually reading the fine print is a classic bit-o-Jen.)
The damage done, I paid my bill and let the seller know that I’d need the item for a Holiday party three and a half weeks into the future. She assured me that she’d have it out the next day. ”Right-o”, she said (no, really, she actually typed “Right-O”) and I began my eager wait. Well, as you may have already guessed, three and a half weeks IS NOT EVEN CLOSE to enough time to allow for the USPS, holiday traffic, the Royal Mail Service and International Customs. The Christmas party came and went (with me relegated, sadly, to a previously worn, assuredly NOT AWESOME and NOT SEQUINED holiday frock) and so did my move to another apartment.
About a week ago, I began an inquiry into its progress. Now please, follow closely, but don’t expect to understand. I certainly don’t:
I tracked the package with the USPS, whose representatives told me that they hadn’t received it yet, please contact the seller. I contacted the seller, who contacted the Royal Mail service whose representative said that the USPS definitely had it, please contact the recipient (that’s me). I followed up with the USPS who told me that they couldn’t give me any information (on MY package!) until the seller opened an “Official Inquiry”. I contacted the seller, who had already done that, who recontacted the Royal mail, whose representative then said that the package had been signed for in the States, but they couldn’t say by who for “Security Purposes.” I recontacted the USPS, who said that yes, the package HAD INDEED arrived, but they couldn’t tell me where, or who signed for it for “Security Purposes”, that the seller would need to open an “Official Inquiry”. Sound familiar yet?
Well, after the second “Official Inquiry” we were told that the package had arrived in a neighboring city. Fast forward to today, when I visited the post office in that city to pick up my package. It took an hour for me to find out the following: Somehow, my package was sent to a very old address in the city we moved from early last spring. From there, the package was forwarded to a PO box that we’d opened pending finding a place to live. When the package arrived at the PO box, it was discovered that we no longer had that PO Box and it was forwarded to the address of the place we moved to. There, the USPS discovered that there were no occupants, so instead of forwarding it to the new (my current) address, they sent it back to the post office where the PO box WAS. The staff there realized that we had a forwarding address, so they started the forwarding process.
The best part about this? All of the above is a GUESS. No one actually KNOWS where my package is at this very moment. We have to “wait and let the process play out.” (?!?!?!?!?!)
Well, “What about those tracking numbers and scans that the post office does for certified, tracked mail?” you ask. ”There must be a central database that uploads a package’s location when it’s scanned.” Yes, that would make sense. But, NO, THERE ISN’T. No central database, no way to contact the carriers, no estimate when there COULD be an answer. Somewhere, floating around in the Postal Ether, travels a lone sequin minidress crying out for an owner, its arms limply crumpled in a useless ball. And here I sit, blogging out my frustration, wondering what the cuss a tracking number is for if not for TRACKING A CUSSING PACKAGE. In the spot-on verbiage of the train wreck that is Amy Winehouse, I’m wondering: Whaaaaaat kind of fuckery is this????
And, Iceland. I think I want to travel to Iceland this coming year.