Thursday, January 28, 2010

What do I win at the end of it?

Ordinarily, I am a fan of Judith Butler:

JUDITH BUTLER is influenced by Lacanian psychoanalysis, phenomenology (Edmund Husserl, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, George Herbert Mead, etc.), structural anthropologists (Claude Levì-Strauss, Victor Turner, Clifford Geertz, etc.) and speech-act theory (particularly the work of John Searle) in her understanding of the "performativity" of our identities. All of these theories explore the ways that social reality is not a given but is continually created as an illusion "through language, gesture, and all manner of symbolic social sign" ("Performative" 270). 
Generally speaking, I am a fan of creating my own reality. I like the idea that observation and performance are both informative and and persuasive. Most distinctly, I like the idea that even if I am not happy, I can sort of perform or fake my way into it.

I'm having a bit of a problem with that this winter. And I think that is okay. Several years ago, a friend was disturbed by the fact that I am pretty cheerful by nature. So, when she knew for an absolute fact that things were shitty in my life, and yet I persisted in being cheerful, one day she barked, "You don't always have to put on a happy face for me."

Like 1) I was doing it for her and
        2) I was doing it disingenuously.

I immediately apologized because she had barked at me, but since that time, I have come to recognize that my default setting is: generally a little depressed, but also generally cheerful. Yes, both at the same time. I get angry, sure, but it's usually short lived.

However, this January has been particularly oppressive (why blame January? Why not blame life? During the past few weeks, which are just coincidentally laid in January, things have been particularly oppressive).

I'm tired. I'm too tired to mend fences or engage in angry and heated debates that may ultimately result in stronger relationships. I know that I have pissed people off because their desire to engage with me has not coincided with my decision to engage back. It's just easier to ignore a lot of things right now and go watch House. Even though, I tend to feel distinctly guilty when I watch television these days, and that kind of sucks. Last night, I made myself do it anyway, and three hours later, I was feeling better.

During my work days, I continually put out little work fires, working on this deadline and that. I haven't run since... Sunday? Was it Sunday? Probably. What the hell did I do Monday? Did I run? I don't remember, but maybe. Or maybe I didn't. I don't think so-- when I run alone, I take music, and I am pretty sure my last run was with Carol, and we did a shorty and there was no music.

The cold and my schedule with the kids this week have both been oppressive with regard to running. Instead of having a chunk of time in the afternoon both to accomplish a work project and then to run, I have been squeezing in work in between my own personal taxi service. It happens.

Today, I could go running. Got one work project done already, and the kids are with their dad until Monday. However, this morning when I took the kids to school, it went from 8 degrees F to 7. It's probably warmer now. It's sunny. I could use the Vitamin D. But my knee hurts for some reason I can't identify (I certainly haven't taxed it this week), and rather than feeling empowered by the idea of running, I feel overwhelmed and cold. I can run when I am angry. I cannot run when I am on the verge of tears-- honestly, it fucks with my breathing more than any cigarettes I could smoke.

It's not just the cold. It's also just a pervasive sense of weariness this week. I am not sure that running would energize me at this point so much as break me down. I feel like I have to save every little scrap of energy just to get through each day. Yesterday, I had a headache, so I went to lie down before dinner. I asked the kids to get me up by 6pm. Tommy came in and told me to wake up, and I saw that it was 6:07, but my brain interpreted it as a.m. instead. I patted the bed next to me and said, "Where's Dereck?"

Tommy said, "I don't know," and I thought, "What do you mean you don't know? Isn't he in the house?"

No, he wasn't. He was at class, but again, I thought it was morning. I realized something was up at about two steps out of bed because I was wearing clothing. However, instead of cluing me in, it just confused me further. I made it all the way to the kitchen before I realized that I had simply taken a nap rather than sleeping for an entire night.

I really wanted to crawl back into bed and sleep the entire night, but I did not.

How do we get through these days? Ultimately, no matter what is going on, the days have the same size and shape. There are 24 hours. There is a waking period and a sleeping period. I drink coffee. I sit with my computer. I talk with my kids, I laugh, I adore them, I pet and feed my animals. I go to the grocery store. The oldest boy has contact lenses. The youngest is almost my height. Time is passing, and I mark it with these instances and occasions. I am in the final, home stretch of parenting children. Calling them children is mostly for my benefit, as they are surely, now, all young men. They are thinking and talking about what they want to be when they grow up, and I can see what they will be like, who they will become. I couldn't see these young men in my babies-- I couldn't fathom it. But I can still look at these gigantic, loping young creatures who sprout acne and facial hair and deep voices and see the babies clearly. Like it was yesterday that I held them in my arms all day, gazing and gazing at them. I memorized them. Now, they move a little too quickly for that, but they still stop for hugs and kisses, a hair ruffling (them ruffling mine as often as not), a kind word. There is lots and lots of love.

But sometimes I am not sure how I do manage to get through these days with all of the negative forces compressing me and weighing me down. I feel as though I am sort of sleepwalking through it all, and dammit, I don't have time for this. The children are growing. The children are growing! And I don't want to miss it. So, I have to stay fully engaged and present in my life, and so much of it sucks right now that being engaged and present means leaking a lot from the eyes. Then it gets cold and my face chaps, and well.

"Why do you worry so/when none of us is spared?"-- Jill Bialosky.

I know I'm complaining about it here a lot. But earlier this week, I heard this: "When someone lacerates you, you bleed. It's no different when the lacerations are emotional. These things *should* hurt you. It's a healthy response to being wounded. So, you will bleed. You will bleed until you clot."

So here I am, bleeding all over you.

Tonight, there is a poetry slam to raise money for Haiti. I am going. I adore poetry slams. Especially the ones that Kasey has been running this year. We fully expect it to be packed. Standing room only. I don't have a particular need to perform or compete tonight. I'll bring some poems, but I don't have new slam materials. This slam is for a distinctly good purpose, and it's more important to show up than to produce new work for it. I have new poetry--- but it's not slam poetry. It may be more of an open mic sort of affair anyway. We will see. I am more interested in the cheap margaritas, frankly.

But if I do read, I may read this one. I haven't performed it for this particular crowd yet, and it seems somehow appropriate for what I'm experiencing right now.


Karaoke by Wendy

All of our friends who don’t go
laugh at us

Because we go to karaoke
Every week, with great precision.

Oh, it’s Tuesday night they say
Are you going to karaoke?

My friend Kathy in Minneapolis
Calls it “Ka-row-kee”

And Jamie D’Agostino says
None of us know how to spell it.

K-A-R-A-O-K-E.
Karaoke.

Young man, there's no need to feel down.
I said, young man, pick yourself off the ground.

All kinds of people go to karaoke:
College students, townies, medical students, Truman faculty, alcoholics, drug addicts, cancer patients, criminals
But the people we sit with are the theatre crowd.

I was so nervous around them
For the first three years

That whenever I went up to sing
My left leg shook under my clothes.

This karaoke is real karaoke. This karaoke is good karaoke.
Those theatre people? They really know how to sing.

Strummin my pain with his fingers
Singing my life with his words
Killing me softly with his song
Killing me softly with his song

I started going to the Golden Spike in graduate school,
Tucking my kids into bed, saying hi to the sitter
And high-tailing it to the bar.

Karaoke by Wendy.

Karaoke was packed with people every week
But then it shut down
Due to “lack of business.”

God took his revenge by striking the building with lightning.
It went up in flames like a match striking a house of playing cards.

Oh, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain.
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end.
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I’d see you again.

During the past six years, we have: Left husbands, met new guys, gone to karaoke; gotten divorced; fought for custody, fought in Iraq, gotten cancer, gotten fired, gotten hired, had surgeries, gotten married, quit smoking, had babies, lost parents, lost babies, found love, graduated, started smoking, watched 9-Eleven; bought houses, buried friends, had birthdays, gone to karaoke;
During the past six years, we have laughed and cried; held crying friends in the bathroom; sung and danced; gotten drunk; flirted with college boys; puked our guts out; drunk shots; drunk gallons of cheap beer, smoked cartons of cigarettes, eaten truckloads of popcorn, and we are still singing at karaoke.

“When my soul was in the lost-and-found
You came along to claim it
I didn't know just what was wrong with me
Till your kiss helped me name it
Now I'm no longer doubtful of what I'm living for
And if I make you happy I don't need to do more”

We scour the Internet for new songs. Our karaoke friends are our truest friends because we sit there, week after week, life after life. Karaoke is our church, and our songs are our prayers, our songs are our laments, our songs are our anger and sorrows, our joys and our triumphs. Karaoke teaches us how fine pushing a rock up a hill can be.

Karaoke isn’t something you talk about or think about or muse about. Karaoke isn’t meta, and this poem doesn’t really exist, because in the end, there is only karaoke, the brief moments that you hold the words and music in your mouth, taking your turn on the stage. And somehow karaoke makes us whole, it somehow keeps us from shattering or falling to pieces or staying hunched in bed under piles of blankets that hide our heads.

Thank you for the music
The songs we’re singing

Because no matter what else we are doing, whether we are laughing or crying, holding steady or dying, we pick ourselves up every week and we drag ourselves to the bar, and we sit with our friends and our beer, and we sing.

Sing us a song, you’re the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well, were all in the mood for a melody
And you’ve got us feelin’ alright





The really sad thing is that I haven't been to karaoke for a long, long time. 

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