Musings

Internal Editor

Where do I even begin with what needs to be said? Fingers pressed to my forehead, I contemplate all the words I know are inside of me and try to figure out how to edit them before they make their way onto the page. Or once they do make it onto the page I hit the “delete” key until what is left is nothing like what needs to be said.

Here’s the thing: I want to be a writer. Here’s the problem: My internal editor says I’m crap. And I believe her.

From stream-of-consciousness to word association, I’ve tried all the ways to turn my brain off and turn the writing on, but it’s never just… easy. Listen – I know writing isn’t easy. It takes time to hone your craft. It takes getting told “no” ninety-nine times before you’re told “yes”. It takes finding honest readers who will tell you your writing is crap and then give you suggestions on how to fix it. However, it would be nice to even get words on the page, to begin with, to get to those stages. Even now as I write this, I’m thinking of all the things I need to do before bedtime rolls around and I have to get ready to go to work tomorrow. Therein lies part of my problem.

I make a living as an English teacher. I spend most of my day teaching others how to write and how to read. As glamorous as that might sound, I get little time to further teach myself how to write and how to read, not the least of which do any of that for fun. And before you start in about “weekends” and “holidays” and “summers”, let me just straight up tell you: All that “time off” I spend thinking about YOUR kids and how I’m going to be a better teacher for YOUR kids. Lest this digresses into a rant, I’ll move on.

Prior to, oh, ten minutes ago, when I edited myself to write “I make a living as an English teacher”, I would claim “I am a teacher”. It may not seem like it, but there is a big difference in the way these two sentences are worded. The first implies my occupation is a temporary one, a stop on the way to something more. While the second implies that my identity is formed by being a teacher. Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching, but I think it’s high-time I am seen as something more by myself, by my students, by my administrators, and by society.

In a “take a left at the light, go down two blocks, cross the bridge, and take the first right at the mailbox shaped like a duck” way, that’s really what I’m trying to get at. My internal editor both keeps me from being a writer and keeps me locked into a job where I am finding less-and-less reasons to stay. This started out as musings on how we inhibit our ability to actualize what we want in life (e.g..: be a writer) and ended up something on the way to realizing what part of the problem may be (i.e.: the unhealthy and impossible tasks placed on being a teacher in the 21st-century).

It’s nothing profound, according to my internal editor, but at least it’s a start.

Featured Image by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash

Poetry, Unbound

Pariah

Low caste by birth –
right side of the tracks
but wrong side of the dollar.
It didn’t seem to bother
anyone else in my family,
but for me,
it was my scarlet letter.

Instead of an A for Adultery
(though I could have worn plenty of them
for all the desperate giving up of myself
to boys I let convince me it was
the only way I would be worth something),
I wore a shabby P:
P for precocious
P for promiscuous
P for plebian

Words were exquisite tools of torture
used to flay my insides
while leaving my outside unmarred.
And so I learned how to wield them
as finely as any assassin
with a rapier tongue.

It makes sense then,
that a childhood
full of portentous naiveté,
would lead to an adulthood spent
in self-flagellation and
pouring of salt in wounds
because as much as I still gave up of myself
to people I wanted to wholeheartedly love me,
(regardless of the various letters I wore
emblazoned and branded into my skin)
I could not stop my acid tongue from
dissolving those ties that bind:
charitable vitriol spewed and
consumed until any relationship
was sundered.

But we can’t change the past.
I can’t erase the crimson lines of
having experienced and seen too much
boil my marrow until I was hollow.
Admittedly, I invited that pain.
I believed in it.
I wallowed in it.
I relished the pristine torture,
the incineration of the gut,
that would set me aflame
with acrimonious retribution.

And now,
that I’ve been
excavated of all I thought I was,
I’ve finally realized
I can accept
your judgements and
not believe them.
I can accept your scorn
and not let it burn
another letter into my identity.

Low caste by choice –
right side of experience;
right side of acceptance.
I am the pariah
who no longer fears
the roll of the die.
And you should be afraid.

Featured Image: Unsplash – “Temps de Flors” by Biel Morro (CC0 Public Domain) 

Poetry, Unbound

Let Me Be Myself

This was the result of a creative writing exercise I did while attending a conference in Amsterdam this April.  It all points to identity and the things we desire if we could just drop the social pretense and requirements and be ourselves.

Let me
wear jeans for professional dress.
Don’t teachers teach better in jeans?
I heard that was true,
and if not, it should be.

Let me
just sit down and cry,
release the expectation that I have
all the answers even though I sometimes
don’t even know what I want.

Let me
etch “Carrie was here”
into the glass ceiling
and shatter it
as I dot the i in my name.

Let me
forget the shame
of bad decisions past
and prevent them
from haunting my quiet moments.

Let me
speak my mind
even if I lose my eloquence
and revert back to the girl on the ranch
doing a man’s work.

Featured Image: Pixabay – “Ranch” by skeeze (CC0 Public Domain)
Musings, Unbound

Shipwrecked

These words were actually written a month ago. Not a lot has changed, but at least I’m writing again.

Each day I do in exercise in self-loathing.  I turn on the shower as hot as I can stand it.  I disrobe and step into the billowing steam.  The water flushes my skin scarlet with anger, humiliation, confusion, and remorse.  I lay my head against the tiles and I close my eyes.  As a literature teacher, I know water is supposed to be a symbolic cleansing.  As a human being, I know this is just a figure of speech.  There is nothing that can expunge shame.

It’s been a long time since I did this – poured myself out onto a page and shared out for the world to see.  These past few months have seen irrevocable change, and things are much darker than they ever have been.  It’s as if the light optimism of my youth reeked like the dead and was buried in secret haste.  Only something foul clawed its way out.

Once upon a time I knew who I was or at least had solidly clung to its semblance has to have that perception.  I am still amazed at how that concept is so fluid and temporary, how the winds of fortune or misfortune can shift the sail of the H.M.S. Identity.

I don’t expect understanding.  I don’t expect sentiment and encouragement.  I don’t expect any words I put down to make any sense to anyone let alone myself.  Without a rudder, I am aimless, and these words I’m stringing together do not provide the relief I so desperately seek.

In response to Daily Prompt: Bury
Featured Image: Pixabay – “Shipwreck” by tpsdave (CC0 Public Domain)
Poetry, Unbound

I am

the taste of vanilla
melting into a concoction
of pecans and bliss
on Thanksgiving
when the warmth
of family is rising
like homemade bread.

The laughter plumes into the air,
and I smell the stale cigarettes
on my Mother’s hands
as she kneads the dough  –
their strength molding my world.
A twinkle of teeth flash
through open mouths
as a symphony of guitars
crescendo in a sense of urgency.

These are the moments I remember
while I lie in bed wrapped
in the warm embrace
of my mother’s cashmere blanket.
Salty tears catch at the corner of my mouth
and the bitterness
of these life moments irrevocably lost
stings like the wooly worms
I stepped on as a child.

“Baby girl, you need to stop worrying.
Dry your tears.  It’ll sting like hell today,
but in the morning it’ll feel better.”
If I close my eyes tight enough,
I can still smell her hair, freshly washed,
as she bent down to kiss
my seven year old foot.

In this moment I can taste
the bittersweet mix of
3 Musketeers, Dr. Pepper, pain medication,
and the release of a final labored breath.
In this moment I remember
she is
and I am.

Featured Image: Pixabay – “Heart” by castleguard (CC0 Public Domain)
Poetry, Unbound

Star Stuff

This is a notion I’ve heard many times before but which didn’t fully realize until I shared the room with individuals from all over the world: Hungary, Croatia, the Netherlands, and Italy. The full gravity of it hit me when a Syrian refugee and educator shared stories of how she would play music for her students to drown out the sound of airplanes and bombs. Carl Sagan says we are all made of stars. Instead of trying to dim them because of their differences, I think it’s time we celebrate the things that make our fellow stars shine.

We all are made of
oxygen
hydrogen
nitrogen
calcium
and phosphorus.

We all feel
anger
fear
love
loss
and happiness.

There are a million things that we aren’t.
There are a million and one things that we are.
When we look at comparisons,
holding ourselves up to
a mirror
or someone we think should be our mirror,
we always look at the one thing that makes us different.

By doing so, we either
negate the other person
because we believe our difference is more important,
or we negate ourselves
because we believe our difference makes us somehow deficient.

In reality,
we should be looking
at the one thing that makes each of us unique
and celebrating the miracle of improbability
that created it.

It’s all in the connotation of things.
The way we see things in either:
lightness or darkness.
love or hate.
lament or celebration.

We all try to dim
our fellow stars,
but it doesn’t have to be this way.

This post initially appear on Miss Ross’s Blog via my school district.
Featured Image: Pixabay – “Stars” by skeeze (CC0 Public Domain)
Poetry, Unbound

Vanishing Point

There is a vanishing point well off in the distance
that signifies the end of the world as we know it.
The fallibility of the human eye cannot see beyond it,
but as sure as we know the Earth is round,
we know there must be something there reaching out to us.

Vanishing points don’t just exist on the horizon.
They exist in the human soul.
What lies beyond this precipice of our humanity?
Could it be we are each born with a black hole at our center
ever consuming the light within us?

But vanishing points don’t just diminish the light
as it tends towards evening twilight and darkness.
They also herald the coming sunrise,
meeting it head on and erupting the sky into
sprays of warm golds and brilliant blues.

This is the moment where there is either
life or death, love or loss, light or darkness.
This is the moment where we meet –
The vanishing point between
who I was,
who I am,
who I want to be.

In response to Daily Prompt: Vanish
Featured Image: Pixabay – “Horizon” by diego_torres (CC0 Public Domain)