update for the curious

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I’m sitting on the south-facing terraza of my apartment, coffee at my side, legs propped on the laundry rack. The plaza is morning calm, the 60-ft. Italian cypress only betraying a slight breath of wind at its height.  Magpies with glints of green and blue in their glossy wings stalk the piles of white petals in the corners of the streets and rooftops, searching for scraps. Just a moment ago, something bright green and yellow and clutching a long leafy thing veered in and out of sight. I smell rice, garlic, fresh bread.

This is a typical start to the day here in Puerta del Ángel. Spring came early, like mid-February, and most of my classes don’t start until sometime mid-afternoon, a routine I fully embrace.

It sounds idyllic. The truth is it’s been difficult.

Before I get into that, a full admission that there are several problems inherent with keeping a blog. 1) I know they’re somewhat early 2000s and on the way out. Podcasts are taking over in popularity. I’ve never been good with keeping up with the trends. 2) I obsess way too much over saying the right thing, not oversharing but not speaking in riddles. By the time I make up my mind to post anything at all, hours or even days have gone by. 3) Who even is reading this? (To clarify: if you are, I’m glad you’re here. I just have no idea who you are.)

Anyway, so that’s why everything here is posted at random intervals. The first few months of being here, I didn’t post because I was immersed in taking everything in. I wrote—a lot—and it was a good time of introspection. To quote Rilke (and more on him later):

“Ultimately, and precisely in the deepest and most important matters, we are unspeakably alone. . . . What is necessary, after all, is only this: solitude, vast inner solitude. To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours—that is what you must be able to attain.”

The last few months, I’ve been wrestling with profound inner darkness, the kind that does not admit to speaking or writing easily and freely. Now that it is lifting—in part thanks to a generous dose of Vitamin D—I still have decisions to make. I hope to come back in the fall, but that depends on a visa and many other things that are currently obscure. Which is fine, I’m not stressing.

I’ve also been keeping busy with projects (starting up a design business, teaching voice classes, rehearsing with She Rose), chewing on Anna Karenina and Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet (refresher for this weary, befuddled mind), and last weekend, traipsing down south for a few days on an island. Juggling is fun!

Two weeks from Friday, I’ll be flying back to Chicago. It’s an exciting time in the family, and I love Chicago. If you’re a Chi-town type, look me up. If not, I’ll be in the Cities off-and-on as well as, like, North Carolina and whatnot. Maybe even Texas (looking at you, Busta Rhymes Baltzer).

I don’t miss America, but I do miss all the lovely people who make up its better pockets. Your love has proved to be “a strength and a blessing so large that I have been able to travel far without having to step outside of it” (Rilke, paraphrased).

We’ll see each other in the soon-times.

All my love and all hope—Jess

 

Lilith

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from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lady-Lilith.jpg

Under the guise of night I crept
into your bed and left handfuls
of the only flower I ever grew.
And I was night.
I have ever been night
slightly cracked at the edges. I pushed
you to the limits of reason
and it was purple and dusk there.

 
Remember our trip to Callisto
and the black water lapped silt.
Your vanishing hand on iron rails, the ivy
choking and I never loved my affairs.
Later I picked every last jasmine from the beach
despite the lights,
the pinpricks from our Lord Sun, the specks of light
beneath each petal dying flat—
puffs of ash.

 

You never touched me again.

It was your last chance to sing over this kind of death,

your last chance for when the world awakened again,
ravens to Earth.
Ravens under your nails and in our bed.
Spades of ravens.
The glass in which the galaxy reflects itself and you never knew.
Silhouette of your face, you slept
and I raised an army.

the misfit’s myth

“I’d teach myself how to want things, how to stand up, how to ask for them. And I’d say you—yeah, you—you belong in the room, too. The radiance falls on all of us, and we are nothing without each other.”

—Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Chronology of Water and The Small Backs of Children

What, when you combine a birthday Bundt cake, a dog that’s dead from last May to eternity, a perpetual sense of levity, a moment of clarity at a gay bar, a TED talk on failure, a fistful of goodbyes? What, when moving through and learning extraordinary things feels like nothing more than a sort of awful taupe colour? What, when I can’t stop hoping for better things in spite of every pragmatic notion?

What then?

I can’t tell you.

This is not meant to be pointlessly opaque. This is to say, here’s my twenty-something life as it comes: an odd bunch of moments that sting a bit, warm me up sometimes, feel like the far past as soon as they happen.

The motivation is that nothing has felt important for a long time, maybe two years, maybe longer. The means is that I was offered a job. I’m taking a hiatus, and it’s right, as far as I can tell.

I’ve told a few people at this point, but the short version is that I’m heading back to a little town just outside of Madrid for a year to teach.

Not everything hurts. Not everything thrills.

What does hurt is my sister chasing my dad around the house, and there being no bark of a doggy who protected her family, even from each other. Instead, there is a hedge growing on a small mound of dirt in the yard and silence in the house. And neither my sister nor I had to put it into words because we both felt that silence.

What hurts is constantly listening, redefining self, seeing and forgiving, trying to explain this whole twisted journey without letting it weigh me down. What thrills is the same. Call it crisis, but maybe you’ve felt the same way.

I saw past this muddle in hearing Lidia Yuknavitch’s idea of the “misfit’s myth.” She describes it like this: “Even at the moment of your failure, right then you are beautiful. You don’t know it yet, but you have the ability to reinvent yourself endlessly. That’s your beauty.”

I plan on feeling confused for a while, the residue that poet Ada Limón experienced as a fish out of New York City (check her out, if you’ve not yet encountered her stunning work). I plan to pitch certain amounts of shit I’ve been toting around. Other than that, there is no plan and that, at the risk of sounding selfish, is what I want.

So this idea of reinvention. Maybe this is you, maybe not. I see it as a reinvention toward, especially toward the people in my life. I would love to hear if you have also gone through a reinvention of some kind, whether in person, by FB message, or at least by comment here. This process can be the most isolating thing, but I, the champ of filling my life to the point of chaos and utter loneliness, am telling you, it can be beautiful.

So You’re Set to Die, Bobby

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This morning, I read that today, March 1, marks 35 years since Bobby Sands embarked on his hunger strike in Northern Ireland. He lasted 66 days without food or water, protesting his status as a criminal, rather than as a political prisoner. And then he died. Though the ethics or effect of his actions are worthy (and controversial) topics, what stuck with me after watching Steve McQueen’s 2008 film Hunger was how his motive was portrayed as a strong, even the strongest, thing.

In all honesty, I don’t know what’s worth fighting, or dying for. Sometimes I think there are good things, noble ideals, truths. But with one life to live, the fence often looks like the best vantage point in search of survival. I watched this film a few years back, but a strength and conviction like Bobby may have had is of an electrifying, devastating kind.

My life means everything to me. Freedom means everything…. This is wise times and we’ve come to a pause. It’s a time to keep your beliefs pure. I believe that a united Ireland is right and just. Maybe it’s impossible for a man like you to understand. But having a respect for my life, a desire for freedom, an unyielding love for that belief, means I can see past any doubts I may have. Putting my life on the line is not just the only thing I can do, Dom. It’s the right thing.

Watch the full scene here.

Coping with Anonymity: an Anti-DIY

I don’t think I’ve ever said anything worth listening to. This thought struck me today, keenly. And it bugs the shit out of me. I’m angry about this reality.

And my mind is not so kind as to stop with this one thought. It keeps asking, What do I have to do to say something worth hearing?  Could I ever say something that isn’t just an echo of something already said, better than I could say it? If I am not worth listening to, what does that say about my overall self-worth? Can I change? Do I want to, badly enough?

The answers to these questions I fear most: Everything, no, I’m nothing, no, no.

If I am not worth listening to, it must be my fault, right? Somewhere along the way, I failed to figure out the right platform. Or I failed to stop caring so much what people think that I could actually focus for a decent chunk of time on something other than my problems and flaws. I failed to follow up on my dreams and say arse barns to the naysayers, and now I am paying for it.

Yet here I am, still writing in the face of my own inadequacy. That’s part of why I write in the first place—to shut my mouth up, to shrink from the unscripted. I feel like a coward, like I must be retarded in some way to be incapable of saying the right thing loud enough to be heard.

The world is not kind to those who feel, to the ones who take its weight on their own shoulders. There is no publisher, no organization, no business, no government, no club that truly wants you to be here. To be, as you are, and to be in this present moment, no strings, no conditions. They want the shell of you: your money, your time, your endorsement, your skills, your testimony. You’re absurdly replaceable as a statistic.

But you have a family, don’t you? Where are your children? Who is your neighbour? Is there at least one person in your life to whom you mean everything?  Then, as you, you are enough.

I need to know this. I don’t always believe it. Most of my people have come and gone and I’ve let them, believing I have no right to ask them to stay, believing it is all my fault. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. But I do know without some kind of community, some kind of context, we are all just disembodied voices on the wind, echoless.

I don’t know what (or if, or when) you think of me. I might not care anymore.

But I will shut up, for now.

 

A newsletter, if you will.

So I write stuff, see. Of late it has been my best hope for these last dark months. It is a simple practice.

But I’m having a thought here, Barbossa. (Brain completes thoughts with quotes.) There was this crazy dream I had a few weeks ago, and it involves a yacht, and a dark figure inspired by The Angel’s Game (didn’t love, honestly) crossed with Tom Waits, or more specifically Tom Waits in this movie, and a long chain weaving through a city.

I know there is something serious about this guy. It was a cold-sweat-sudden-waking kind of dream, and once there’s enough distance where I can see what he means clearly, this writing of him will go somewhere.

He’s there, he’s there, he’s there.

 

Here’s Where You Should Live Based On Your Myers-Briggs Personality Type

Thought Catalog

Sue ClarkSue Clark

ISFJ – Zurich, Switzerland

If there’s anything an ISFJ likes it’s a clean, well-ordered environment where everyone gets along nicely and everything works the way it should. In the pristine city of Zurich, ISFJs will find themselves perfectly at home. Reserved but polite, the citizens of Switzerland don’t like to raise much of a fuss unless they have to. They go about their days, get business done as they should and then retire to their well-maintained homes with their close-knit families. Ever-neutral Switzerland is the ideal spot for the peace-seeking ISFJ. No fuss, no muss, no hefty disagreements.

ENTP – Hong Kong

Hong Kong offers a diverse fusion of the Eastern and Western worlds, with enough food, entertainment, languages, religions, diversity and opportunity to keep the ENTP intellectually stimulated until the end of time. This type loves exploring new avenues of thought and new methods of experiencing life…

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