Thursday, September 29, 2005

Is it Thursday already? I've been working at the store all week, hours here and there; and yesterday I started clearing the office at home in preparation to paint, filing papers, moving the larger pieces of furniture and filling holes in the wall, but there is one large tear that requires joining tape. Sigh. Have to go to the hardware store this morning before work at store this afternoon. Nothing is easy but I have been complaining about this room for years (yes, years) and it's time to take action.

This morning, Kate wrote: "My self-confidence and self-doubt could work as a wonderful team. If they didn't take turns over-powering each other." Kate's journal

Yesterday, self-doubt, despair almost, filled me as I filled the holes with polyfilla. Wish it were as easy to repair myself. All day I was on the verge of tears and was still there when I arrived at Marlene's door early evening and even a bowl of her hearty lentil soup didn't restore my humour. Two thoughts come to mind. One holds Rich's quote: "There comes a time, perhaps this is one of them, when you have to take yourself seriously or die." And the other is Woodman's idea of the abandoned child within, who has to be allowed a voice, who has to be embraced, loved even, before she/I can be brought to "maturity and health."

Sometimes I think I'm going crazy. How can I, a woman of 56 years, a wife, a mother, be so juvenile? I am usually so capable. I usually love my life. How can I regress to childhood, feel like a little girl who wants to find a corner in which to hide and cry? And if I understand Woodman, I am supposed to respect this part of myself? My natural inclination is to deride it, beat myself up. I am more compassionate with others who are having a "bad day". It is hard to admit that I am human. Why, I wonder. I think it links back to women feeling stupid when they tell something that is not rational, that has an air of whimsy, that erupts from the body, not the mind.

So last night, Marlene made clear another couple of chapters of Woodman's "Conscious Femininity" and, as several women, noted, it is good to have Woodman's ideas clarified and discussed as she is not an easy read. Several women chose to write about play, something our society does not take seriously enough. This subject, though I did not write about it last night, sits close to my heart as I wrote a piece about play years ago and am still trying to get it right (oh yes, I dabble still.) Woodman discusses the importance of play, in one section, for relationship: "People get so depressed about responsibilities and duties of marriage that when they see somebody out there with whom they can play they are fatally attracted." We need to play, to use our imaginations creatively, together and singularly otherwise "we just die."

Hmmm... playing with others, playing with ourselves. My mind slips into the gutter. I am becoming lighter. Oh why not?

Friday, September 23, 2005

Okay, back to the little things. I keep thinking of that damn cliche "the straw that broke the camel's back." (Rob noted that I do not have a "comment" feature on my blog. I said that if he wants to respond to yesterday's blog, I will publish it.) I wonder if he is lucky or unlucky to be married to a woman who publicly tells the "little things" of the marriage. I remember once when I was writing about my mother, he criticized me, said that I was being cruel. "But it actually happened," I said. "If we keep all the little things, the meat of the situation, to ourselves and everyone else does too, we would never say anything important, we would live in a world of platitudes." One of the most honest and bravest writers of relationship I have read, who tells the personal details of her marriage, is Nancy Mairs. (I have just pulled "Voice Lessons" from my book shelf and as I skim through it to find a passage, that must be in another book, I see that it is time to read this book again.)

I see too that anyone can talk about marriage, love, lust, in generalities but when a writer tells of holding her husband's soft penis in her hand, of the pain that steals her breath when he tells her of his affair, as Mairs does, I am all ears and I love her for confirming that life, relationship, is not a fairytale, that I am not alone...

I wander. In "Conscious Femininity" Woodman writes about a competent woman, "very professional, highly respected" who wants to bring her a muffin in her analytic hour but thinks it foolish and then finds herself in such a state that she goes and buys the muffin and eventually gives it to Woodman who receives it, breaks it in half and they both enjoy it. Woodman explains that the muffin emotion stems from the woman's childhood and her state from her fear of rejection. And Woodman tells this "simple story" to illustrate that little things can have greater ramifications. And, in my mind, she gives us permission to do or talk about the things that may appear, at first, irrational, especially those that evoke strong emotion - like having someone close a window - because it eases a past injury and fulfills some need.

What triggered these thoughts is the question I wrote to Wednesday evening "What do I know about my "individual standpoint?" I can not assume a person (Rob, in the instance I gave) understands my standpoint. He was not raised by Irish immigrants nor was he the second daughter of six children and so on and so on, nor did he have a tyrannical father. If I do not communicate my thoughts, I leave him at a disadvantage and I betray myself. I am learning, and it's hard going, to speak my mind.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

I said I would blog on Thursday and so I will though I have little time this morning as I slept late but Kate reminded me yesterday of my intention to write weekly and I love Kate, love her honesty and earnestness and writing; and love that she wants to read me. And there are several other friends (all women) who tell me that they are disappointed when they check my blog site and find nothing. And though I can count my readers with the fingers on one hand, they are all extraordinary women and, at the risk of sounding corny, I will say that I am grateful and pleased, in my heart and soul, that they tell me that my meandering thoughts are worth reading.

So what have I been up to? I am still trying to move slow and easy and not put pressure on myself though it is difficult. I want to do everything well. Is this Addiction to Perfection or is it simply taking time to enjoy process? Perhaps a bit of both but I am enjoying my life more. And I'm finding that the little things hold the most meaning.

For instance: Rob and I went to the Fringe Festival last weekend to see "Broad Comedy", a series of short skits, by five women from Montana, that poked fun at everything from shaving (especially pubic hair) to virginity. We left the house early and moved towards the car. Rob climbed into the driver's seat. I had driven last and when he turned the key, my country station on the radio blared out. He changed the station to one that appealed to him. I put down my window. He used the master control, to the left of the driver's seat, to put it up. I felt my body shrink as if I were a little girl and the man who held the power was behind the wheel. (Does it sound like I'm making a mountain of a mole hill?) I turned to Rob and said, "If this was our first date would you change the radio station and close the window, without asking?" He said he found the lyrics of the song playing offensive. I repeated my question. He lowered my window and said, "Probably not." I told Rob that I was going to tell him when things bother me. (I don't want to misrepresent Rob. He is a kind man and most often we are harmonious and agreeable to the other and, unlike the man of power of my childhood, he listens and is fair.)

But as I wrote about this last night at Marlene's Jungian Circle (and didn't read because I want to think things through and again, didn't want to misrepresent Rob or sound like I was making excuses for him) I see that I betray myself too often because I think the situation too small to become all hot and bothered about...

(I really have to dress and get to work as I'm opening the store but will return later (I promise) and continue.)

Oh, I wish I could think more clearly but the end of the day is my worst. I went to work and a mother and daughter came in to look at blouses. The mother had one of the sweetest faces I've ever seen. She proudly told me she was ninety. She didn't buy anything but the two were a pleasure to talk to. And then another woman flew in and tried on a few items but didn't buy either. But she gave me a hot tip on a film: "See Women in Lavender," she said. I completed a ton of paperwork and then Helen arrived with a egg salad sandwich and a fresh peach sliced in a plastic bag, a fork and a napkin so I wouldn't go hungry. My friends know that I don't eat often enough unless I am served. Now how sweet is this?

It was a morning of sweetness and then we, Helen and I, took off for the Fashion Exchange in Vancouver to try to find accessories for winter. I hate to say it but Vancouver market is boring (or have I said this before?) The only two reps who had anything worth buying had already sold to retailers in West Vancouver. I returned to the store.

Sigh. Now I am home and too tired to talk about the "little things' and what they signify. I will try to blog tomorrow.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

I have decided to blog once a week, unless something surprising happens. So Thursdays I will post my thoughts, unless I don't feel like it. I'm being self-indulgent. I am feeling lighter than I have for some time.

What have I been up to? I have been working a lot, reading cheap novels ("guilty pleasures" as Kate calls them).

Last night I returned to Marlene's writing circle to hear her explain "Conscious Femininity". I could sit and listen to her all night. In my mind, she's a/the Woodman authority. (Who else has read "The Pregnant Virgin" at least twenty times and explained its meanings to dozens of women?) Marlene told of when she taught a bodysoul intensive in Santa Barbara with Marion (and Ursula) and how she lead the group in a proprioceptive writing exercise, and how pleased (?), delighted (?), enchanted (? - I can't remember the word she used - Marion was with the writing and reading, inspired by her text.

As we always do the first evening, Marlene had us introduce ourselves and explain why we were there. I always feel shy, find it difficult to talk, to listen to my own voice, in a group situation, whether I know the people or not. I said something to the effect that there is no where else I'd like to be. Where else can you gather, after school is long gone, and study books, ideas, in depth; and discuss interpretations with others who are as enamoured with the subject matter as you are?

One of the best parts of the evening, besides Marlene's talk and the stretch of concentrated writing time, is listening to other women's writing, hearing their stories. One of the most difficult parts for me is reading my writing. I always expose more of myself than I'd like strangers to know even though I know that this is good for me as a writer (oops I don't want to give myself that title.) I read because I want to become more and more comfortable with my "wayward" thoughts. I am not polite. I do not use nice language. There is an imp in me who wants a voice. I censor her less and less often these days. And yet I worry that she will go too far.

I worry too much. As I write this entry, I wonder if I sound stupid but apparently I am not alone. In "Conscious Femininity", Woodman, in an interview, says: "Generally speaking, the feminine is thought of as irrational and stupid. Women will come out with a feminine statement and then say, 'Oh that was stupid to say that.' It's the circuitous way the feminine moves. She moves like a snake, back and forth and around and deep and around."

Last night my writing, much to my surprise, moved in a circle and returned to my summer theme of the abandoned child taken from another sentence in a Woodman book - "In living the abandoned child within herself, the woman becomes pregnant with herself." I can't quite grasp its meaning or relevance for me but I trust myself enough to know that it is important and that I must write it out.

And so I wrote about the skinny little girl I once was and her joy of being naked, escaping her parents' house, running to the neighbours, and for this she was chastised, punished, molded into a socially acceptable being. In recent years, my mother admits that she raised her children to the old maxim "children should be seen and not heard." (But not naked.)

Don't read me wrong here. I love my mother's spark and fire. I am not criticizing, bashing her. She was younger than Gill when she had her first child and, as Gill has learned recently, children aren't easy and must learn to be socially acceptable, to respect others' boundaries. Interesting that I can see my child from both sides now. But, when a child, the constant admonitions to be quiet and not disturb the adults were read by me, in my writing last night, to mean "be a mouse, pretend you don't exist."

There is a leap in thought in my writing here. I question why I am afraid of others' anger, demands, harsh voices, or simply firm voices. I become frightened, speechless. I fear fierceness even when I see another person is being unreasonable. The other day, for instance, a woman brought a three piece outfit back to the store because the cami had lost its scalloped edge when she washed and pressed it. In fact, none of the pieces looked as good, to her eyes, after being washed. She wanted her money back for all three pieces. I examined the outfit. The woman was a lousy ironer but there was nothing wrong with the merchandise. I told her so. She became angry, disagreed with me. Finally I lied and told her that I didn't have the authority to return her money and would speak to the manufacturer and owner. (The next day, after discussing the situation with another sales person in the store, I decided to give her her money back on the cami and let her keep it rather than risk losing her as a customer and having her bad mouth the store. She was happy)

My writing meandered, at this point, from my house and my need to clean, unclutter, so I can find what I want when I need it, to my small office/writing house in the yard where I want to be still, naked or clothed, and write and read. "I don't want to do something because it is good for me. I want to do what I want cause I want. No fancy words. No pretensions. Straight forward. I want to wander on the page until I can write nonsense and not puke, so I can fill myself with crude, noisy words from the gut, from the cunt, from somewhere that doesn't shy away from anything, that doesn't judge, that flows, finds passion, makes love figuratively speaking but how nice to be literal too. I sense a playfulness starting to happen here - that's it, I'm back to the imp, the nymph who hopped and skipped, smiled and laughed... back to the abandoned child who, in the beginning wasn't abandoned. I know her and see that she does come out to play."

Wow. It always amazes me where my writing takes me (though of course I'm not writing at the moment.)

Friday, September 09, 2005

After an extravagant evening last night with friends - for Gill's benefit, I will mention that we feasted on salmon and chicken; many salads including bean and feta, exotic tomato, Greek potato, lentil; French cheeses, cake and chocolate, and yes, yes, wine and sparkling water - I slept well and slipped down to the water this morning with a coffee. A few yards away, a man in hip-waders was fishing - the only other person on the shore at seven.

I haven't been writing and have hardly given it a second thought until a woman came in the store yesterday and ask what I was working on. "I've quit writing," I answered. She paused and said, "you'll always be a writer to me."

At the moment, I want to collect my thoughts and get my domestic life in order. Our house is falling apart. When a carpenter friend came to repair the deck the other day, he told us that it was beyond repair. Now he is rebuilding it to the tune of eight thousand dollars. As we have two large pots in the front hall to catch rain water, we must also repair the roof - another ten grand, at least. We had intended to replace a truly ugly bathroom but that will now have to wait for next year.

To help with cost, I have been working in the store every day. I will continue not writing unless I can't help myself but, as Kate has been nudging me to send stories out, or rather send old ones to new places, I will do so. (I cleaned my filing cabinet the other day and am quite proud of the thickness of my rejection-notice file. Long ago, I swore that once I had gathered 150 rejections I would quit writing. I have a way to go.)

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Vancouver market: sweaters made in Viet Nam

The past week I've been concentrating on store business. Tuesday morning, Sherry (a woman from store) and I went to the Vancouver market to look at sweaters, handknit in a village in Viet Nam, for spring. They didn't excite me (note picture) but they are reasonably priced and do sell. While we were in the showroom, one sales representative showed us a new line of belts, big wide leather belts, that are the hot item for spring. She tried one on to show us how they look and mentioned her fat belly.

Big Belt

I looked at her in amazement, then anger, and surprised myself, by lambasting her. "What stomach? How can you talk about your body like that?" She rolled her eyes. "Fuck, women make mad when they put down their own flesh." (Sherry grinned. Later she told me that this is what she loves about me, that I speak my mind.)

I used to think that working in a clothing store was unintelligent, that women and men who spend too much time preening don't have a lot going on upstairs. Such arrogance. Working with Leslie, working in the store, has taught me as much about women and their relationship to their bodies (and their partners) as about buying and merchandising. (I have grown to love sensuous fabric, design, colour. I think clothing should be sexy, fun.) I also see that clothing reflects self image. There are more women that complain about their size and shape - breasts too big or small, hips likewise, no bottom or too much padding, too long-waisted or short - than women who stride in and smile at their reflection. These women - and most are not classically beautiful - have shown me that looking good, even gorgeous, has nothing to do with size or shape and everything to do with spirit and liking oneself.

Oh dear, do I sound like I'm lecturing? My thoughts are drifting. I am thinking about a time in my past, perhaps fifteen years ago, when I felt dead, when I hated my body, thought it was repulsive. And then a man pointed out to me that I was always caressing the rounded bellies of sculptures. He wondered how I could take such delight in these and not in my own that spoke of my history, of the children I had born. And I am thinking also of Woodman who in her book "Bone" lovingly holds her stomach and, if I am remembering correctly, apologizes to it for her sabotage over many years.

And speaking of sabotage, in the store, I am constantly surprised by women who hide things from their husbands (I thought this trait belonged to my mother's generation.) Some ask to have the price tag removed. Others split the cost between their visa and debit cards. One woman told several of us behind the counter that, because she has no private income and her husband is cheap, she gets extra cash every time she uses her debit card in the grocery store (he doesn't mind money spent on food) and tucks it away for personal items.

So I am lying low, not doing much more than working in store. At times, I think myself boring, but I am not bored. Yet.