Saturday, November 28, 2015

the other side of NEVER

4 years ago i sat on the kitchen floor and twisted black yarn around my crochet hook.  black, then blue, then black again.  slowly the word NEVER took shape within the twists and i flipped the piece on to the floor.  it fell upside-down, presenting the word NEVER backward to me.  i looked at it and thought that this is the veiw from the inside of the mirror.  this is the view of the fairy godmother.  this is the view, maybe, of god...  the other side of NEVER: a place where all the things one never thought would happen, did.  a place where all the so-called impossibilities of reality converge.  a place very much resembling my life.

i thought of all the things i'd been told i would never do:

i'd never get out of my home town.
i'd never be an artist.
i'd never graduate from college.
i'd never go to new york.
i'd never go to europe.
i'd never actually lead the life i spent so much time dreaming about.

at that point, i hadn't succeeded in crossing two things off the above list.

i thought of all the things i never thought would happen and all the things i never feared happening:

i never for one moment fantasized about my mother's death.  of all the potential deaths that might befall any number of family members or friends, hers was the one i never considered.  impossible.  mothers are immortal. you're supposed to have them forever.  or at least until you're an old lady in a rocking chair, staring death in the face as well.

i never thought i'd endure the horror of growing away from a lover.  i never thought i'd end up despising a trusted friend.  i never thought someone i loved would ever attempt to use my sensibilities against me.  i never thought certain people would hurt me. i never thought i'd hurt certain people.  i never thought i'd lie about the important things.  i never thought i'd allow myself to be a hypocrite.  i never thought i'd learn german.  i never thought i'd ever sing in public. i never thought i'd ever regret being "right".  i never thought about there being a place beyond right and wrong.

i thought about women and how often we're told that we can't do certain things.  i thought about how many women i know and am friends with who hear the word NEVER and do it anyway. who don't allow their spirit, let alone their stride, to be broken.  i thought how lovely it would be to take all those NEVERS and twist them in to bows for all these girls and women to wear.  i thought how lovely it would be to take degradation and rearrange it, turn it in to a decoration.

it was late january and cold.  i thought that i should make scarves rather than bows.  i wanted to make a whole series of scarves so that i and all my female friends could stomp around, dressed up in all the nevers of the world, all the things we were told we would never do, all the things we believed would never happen to us but did.  and the more i thought about all the NEVERS, i started feeling the call to ammend my life.  i needed to move deeper in to the other side of NEVER.  i needed to see it from a more distant vantage.  i needed to roll around in those itchy weeds.  i needed to know just how far in to the landscape of "oh, that'll never happen" one could actually go.  i already knew that life itself will push a person quite far into that territory: disease, death, divorce, abandonment.  all these things have touched every single person i know in one form or another.  and also the unbelievable good fortunes which then suddenly grace us, unexpected and unearned. a new friend.  a new love.  a new adventure.

5 years later, i am sitting in bed in new york.  it is late november and the weather has turned cold.  i have made the scarf i envisioned all those years ago and will proudly wear it as i twist through the rainy streets this evening on my way to work.

2015 has proven to be a year of NEVERS for so many people.  so many of us have witnessed and endured things we never saw coming.  we have accomplished things we never thought we would.  we have suffered.  we have succeeded.  let us stand tall in this last month of the year as we survey a landscape we never thought we'd traverse: the other side of NEVER.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

if there is any point at all


i twist off the cap of a bottle of Blue Moon and look at my lover. he is fully dressed, as am i, under the covers next to me, asleep.  i wonder if the sound of the clicking keys bothers him, but he goes on snoring without any notice at all.

i wasn't going to write tonight but i told myself i had to.  i wasn't going to write tonight because i don't have a focused outlook.  i don't have a singular premise.  i don't have this beautiful, polished pearl to present.  i wanted to just shove my laptop off the edge of the bed and listen to it crash against the hardwood floor and ignore the waiting world.  after all, no one is really waiting on me. no one is waiting on my words.  why reach for these keys?  especially when all i want to do in curl deeper below the blankets, finish reading 'M Train' and crochet a beanie for myself in time for the coming winter.

oh yeah...  i did that yesterday...

yesterday, i hid below the covers, bra-less and unkempt, all day long.  my body aching from working a double shift at the restaurant, especially my ankles.  climbing out of bed just seemed to be asking a bit too much.

and also because Paris was struck so brutally. 

and then, hours and hours later, i learned of the bombings in Beirut.

i don't really know what to say about any of this except the obvious:  i am horrified.  horrified and utterly repulsed.  what else can i say?  what else can i feel?  it's normal to feel disgusted, yes...  yet for two day now i have dragged my body through existence wondering what the fuck is wrong with us - as a species - that these horrors persist.  it's nothing new.  "since the dawn of time", they say...  but what can anyone really say to that?  since the dawn of time???  really???  that's fucking unacceptable.  seriously!

and this is why i pulled away from the keys tonight.  this is why i didn't what to write:  i have nothing eloquent to say.  i have no answers, nothing to offer.  nothing at all.  i sit here and i feel so thankful and so guilty and so horribly disgusted.  i feel thankful that i don't have any children. i don't have any little humans looking up at me and asking me to explain shit like this.  and, more thankfully, i don't have to send off those little humans tomorrow morning to school yards and concert venues that obviously can't be trusted to return them to me in one piece.  i can't even imagine being a parent...  the level of fear one must feel when their child is finally of age to walk to the bus stop by them self...  especially lately.   fuck that.

and i know that can't be the response: to squelch, to suffocate, to smoother.  i, myself, do not feel afraid to leave my apartment, to smile at strangers, to walk through crowded streets, to look up at the sky and feel the sun on my cheeks.   the answer is not to deny another being access to these freedoms and pleasures.  hopefully, it never will be.

as i said, i didn't wait to write tonight because i have no clue what i think.  i have no clue what to say.  i'm sad - that's the truth - and so my fingers just want to move across the keys.  it feels like ACTION in a moment when we're all confronting our total impotence.

if there's anything i really want to say, it is this:  if a bomb falls on my house tomorrow, know that i love you and that none of my words or actions were ever meant to be malicious.  know that every stitch and every scratch of the pencil is born of such a devout, unshakable love.  know that all i am, as frail and flawed as this carriage of skin and soul may be, aspire to attain the requisite intelligence and talent with which to say at least ONE THING that might help you. ONE THING that might make you feel less alone.  everyday, that is my desire.  everyday.  my limitless need to wrap my arms around you and to feel your arms around me.  everyday.  my limitless thirst for your song in my ear, even just a breath, all that you are, captured in a short shudder of aching longing...  or even just the clearing of your throat when you step forward in line toward the cashier at the coffee shop. 

if there's anything i want to say, it's this:  i love you beyond measure.  if you got a minute, please love me back.  out time is short.  too short. 

tonight, i didn't want to regret not taking the opportunity to say so. 



Monday, November 9, 2015

vicky wore white

the fan buzzes at the foot of the bed.  my closed copy of M Train rests to my left.  i listen to the floor squeak as Brian paces in the studio working out a melody.  i should be sleeping, i think to my self but why?  to be a more responsible adult, i answer myself quickly.  whatever that means.

the week was overrun with memories and i felt heavy because of them.  it was an irregularly laborious effort to climb the stairs up from the subway at Broadway-Lafayette on my way to work.  work itself was an uphill battle.  sometimes the charge to talk to strangers, to smile wide and care for their every whim is burdensome.  sometimes i want to just stay home, curled in my warm bed, and investigate my memories for some sort of clue as to what to do next; as to how i can save myself from spending the rest of my life smiling at strangers in restaurants.

walking to the canal street station after midnight a few days ago after a long nine hours spent racing around the restaurant, i remembered Vicky.  i hadn't thought of her in so long.  we weren't particularly friends but i was intrigued by her and her tall, lithe beauty.

i was 22 years old and working semi-secretly as a cocktail waitress in the strip club that had popped up to angry groans of disdain and judgement in the center of my hometown.  the surrounding community was largely horrified.  the good christian morals of our small town were offended.  the mayor publicly attacked the presence of this venue in our quaint little town.  my jaw-dropped the night he came slithering through the backdoor to the strip club with a group of suits in tow to laugh and drink and ogle.

i drove a bright yellow Volkswagen super beetle and parked at the rear of the building where it would be hidden from view, a bright yellow flag announcing my wayward sinfulness.  i knew how it looked.  i had no illusions about that.  i knew how i would be perceived and i was largely correct.  it didn't matter that 3 months after having moved out of my parent's home and in with my boyfriend he came home to announce one evening that he didn't "like bills" and had decided to move back in with his mother.  it didn't matter that i had a southern step-father who, to be quite clear, was not a friendly man and didn't want my mother's children around.  not ever.  he was ruthlessly mean to my sister and i.  i couldn't stomach the idea of begging him to let me move back home.  when some loophole in the law allowed such a business to take up residence in our lily-white town, i knew where i could go to get a job where fast money to pay rent on my own was possible.  i spent my last $40 on a cheap tight dress and heels and filled out the application for cocktail waitress.

Vicky was about to turn 30 and had never done anything but dance.  though beautiful, tall and blonde, she was well aware of her aging status in this particular sphere of life and knew her days as a stripper were numbered. she wanted out anyway but what could she do?  i encouraged her to lie on job applications to get whatever job she could but how does one go from stripping to working at Home Depot?  she hadn't developed the skills to work in an office and she had a young son to take care of.  what job was a possibility?  relegated to the day shift, we spent many afternoons brainstorming a way for her to get out of the industry,our conversation interrupted by the entrance of a lone male customer walking in to the joint on his lunch hour to take advantage of no cover and a free burger or club sandwich and fries with the purchase of any alcoholic beverage.

it is, in fact, painful to watch a woman take stage and strip for an awkward audience of 1.

on just such an occasion, Vicky, dressed in white, took the stage and swung her long, elegant legs in concentric circles as she writhed prettily on the floor to a song i had never heard before. the chorus grabbed my heart hard and painfully and my eyes misted with stinging tears as i watched a girl strut and spread and crawl as the words "i'm walking away from the troubles in my life.  i'm walking away to find a better day..." boomed melodiously from the PA.

rent needs to be paid.

sometimes that is the only story.

sometimes that is a really, really hard truth.

i stuck in my earbuds and pulled up spotify as i rounded the corner from west broadway to broome street.  i found the song and played it loud on repeat until my train came to whisk me away.  as i listened, i wondered if it is even possible for Vicky to know what an achingly beautiful, though painful, moment that was.  a poem.  i wondered if there is any way for her to know that 13 years later a waitress whose name she can't remember remembers the song and how poignant it all was, regardless of the free lunch, or maybe because of it; your long legs spinning.

Thursday, November 5, 2015


i thought i was done with the sweater project but, happily, i guess i'm not. the project's focus has simply changed. 

the previous collection was nic-named the "sweaters of death" because they all dealt directly with the wages of my mother's death and the theraputic element of the project was two-fold:  first, it kept my hands and mind busy.  i could only struggle so long in individual tidal waves of pain if i was counting stitches.  the repetition of the act itself is so meditative.  i focused on my breathing, the movement of the crochet hook in my hand, the number of spaces in between letters, and most importantly, the message i was embedding across the frontispiece of the sweater.  the chosen text for each sweater is wrestled with long and hard before being settled upon and ends up becoming a mantra or meditation in and of itself during the creation of the entire piece.  the phrase becomes physical.  i literally turn the sentence over and over again in my hands, deal with it, struggle with it, consider its multiple meanings and readings.  and then i wear it.  and that is the second bit of theraputic value this project has:  a type of exorcism.  a type of confrontation.  there are things i felt i needed to say but couldn't.  there wasn't a space where i could just stand and scream... but i needed one. i used the site of my own body as a billboard to say the things that i couldn't bear to say out-loud, that i couldn't say with out crying.

the "sweaters of death" project spanned close to three years.  when i showed the collection in its entirety in san francisco just before leaving for new york, i felt that the project was done and that i had, in fact, made peace with my mother's death.  i was no longer mad at her and i no longer felt victimized by her mortality (or the resulting confrontation with my own).  still, the shy child i once was sometimes forces a gag of silence into my mouth and there are things that i am afraid to say out loud. 

the idea of forgiveness and what that actually is has long haunted me.  it's a notion that i feel almost everyone pays lip-service to but doesn't actually seem to extend without a lot of pain and effort when the time for forgiveness actually comes.  especially forgiveness of oneself.  i have a life-long habit of beating myself up, telling myself that i'm not good enough, that i and my ideas are stupid, that i'm ugly, that i need to lose weight, that i delivered a joke poorly and MUST ATONE FOR SUCH A GRIEVOUS TRESPASS FOREVER!!!!'s really not hard for me to say the words "i'm sorry" to other people.  if anything, i say them too often and for things that really need no apology.  the self-forgiveness i'm speaking to is more the deep-seated belief in ones own badness or ineptitude...  the haunt of forever feeling a sort of lack...  of simply not measuring up, of being unlovable.

there were a few eras of youthful boldness in my life when i simply embraced my feeling of being inherently unlovable.  i tried too at least. i tried to be ugly.  i tried to be crass.  i tried to be hardened. it was actually pretty difficult to accomplish without turning into a totally selfish asshole...  and even in moments when i accomplished that, i didn't feel any better.  i was attempting to run from a feeling that most likely finds us all from time to time-  feelings of unworthiness and inadequacy aren't at all rare.  i've noticed, though, that the people who never voice these feelings tend to be those with the biggest chip on their shoulder and who never, ever utter a simple "i'm sorry".

those two words are capable of travelling an enourmous distance and can wipe clean trauma and heartache.  those two words, when said in earnest, sincerely, can heal very wide wounds.  the people in my life who have stayed the longest and with whom i've been able to nurture a deep bond are the people who take responsibility for their fuck ups.  the people who never extend an apology, who never admit to any wrong-doing ever, who are prideful and therefore neglectful are the people who generally get shown the door.  for it follows that when one person asks for forgiveness, the other tends to see that they require forgiveness as well.  the action of forgiveness and the emotional need for forgiveness each establish a pathway that imbues us with a palpable sense of our own humanity.  it is a recognition not only of our imperfections but that perfection isn't even necessary. 

as a child i really did feel that if i messed up at all the whole world would fall apart.  why?  because it did. on several occasions.  or at least that was how my care-givers made it seem.  this feeling of needing to be perfect has followed me around my entire life.  it's awful.  it's such a horrible weight.  i do not trust that i can fuck up and be forgiven.  i trust that if i fuck up - even the smallest misstep - i will be abandoned.   this sweater is trying to speak to that.

forgive me for not being perfect. 

and i am also asking forgiveness from myself for that this time around. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

sometimes there will be whining


it could just be that it's been too many days now that i've been under the weather...

it could just be that i'm tired of waiting tables...

it could just be the regular sweep of my regular melancholy...

whatever it is, today a bit of bitterness bit hard.  it wasn't at all easy to be in the restaurant thinking of my studio, wishing for my notebook and pen, wanting to hover over the expanse of a huge sheet of soft white paper with a brush dripping gouache.  it was hard to be so far from the images i want to make, the images i need to finish, the images that pull at my mind and make me feel so forlornly inadequate when i don't give them adequate attention.

today it was hard to be an artist who has to work.

c'est la vie, right?

well, i'm not feeling especially tolerant of those types of realist platitudes tonight.  sometimes it really sucks to be an artist with a jobby job and i hate it and i need to whine about it.  sometimes i need to cry about it.  sometimes, despite illness (like tonight), i can't help but sacrifice a little more of my health and just go get a shot and a beer and mourn the fact that i don't know how to get this thing off the ground.  sometimes i just want to stew in my bad mood and the dashed hopes that i'd be over whatever fucking dumb-ass Art World hurdle by now...

but there is no known road to take to where i want to go and i realize that.  none other than persistent, dedicated, unwilling-to-give-up WORK.  sitting at the bar tonight with a shot of Fernet waiting to slam against my teeth, i reminded myself of this fact over and over again.  i know i still need to prove myself and will ALWAYS need to prove myself.  there's still so much i need to learn, still so much to process and incorporate.  i know i need to try to be as patient with myself as i am with other people but sometimes that's a fucking tall order.  i am a very impatient girl when it comes to me and my life.  i want to be a good artist NOW.  i want to be a good writer NOW.  and i want to not have to hustle back and forth across a restaurant for the rest of my life.  i don't want to do it for even another 2 years.  i don't want to do it for another 6 months.

but i will.  and i'll do so with grace and gratitude.  it isn't that i hate the gig.  i'm thankful for it.  i truly am.  it's a profession that has allowed me to completely change the terms and conditions of my daily reality.  it has literally taken me across the globe.  because of this industry, i have had the grand luck of being able to chase my dream of seeing the world. i can buy good art supplies.  i can buy nice meals.  i've learned about food and wine and count it as one of the most worthwhile pleasures in existence.  truly!  i have a fun life.  i am beyond lucky and i know it.

some days, i just wish i were a tad further along in chasing the dream...

and it hurts to think of the possibility that i may never reach it.

but i know that bellyaching about it won't result in the realization of the dream either so i restrained myself from ordering another drink and i got on the train and i came home.  i drank a cup of peppermint tea and then a cup of coffee.  i lay upside-down in bed and gazed at the half-finished painting that hangs on the wall above.  i walked through the studio and look at the photographs i taped to the wall, wondering if i've become a photographer yet.  and then i pick up my laptop and log into my blog because even if all i do in this space tonight is complain about how badly i want to be an artist and how much it sucks some nights to be a waiter at least i wrote something.  i didn't just keep sitting at the bar trying to chase my feeling of ineptitude and helplessness away with more shots and more beer.  i came home and wrote and that counts. and maybe there's someone else out there sitting around feeling sad about the same thing who needs a bit of camaraderie.  it's worth casting the line out.  it's worth pushing the message into the bottle and flinging it out into the wide dark.

brian picks the strings of his guitar and sings the sad song he's been working on.  as i listen, it dawns on me that he would've preferred to stay in the studio today and give his time to his craft too.  the good thing about artists living together is that we have the ability (the blessing) to substantiate one another.  we can confide our grievances - no matter how petty or seemingly whiny - and the other person understands.  we can commiserate.  we can build each other up.  for as easily as i can allow myself to become embroiled in my own pain and frustration, it is impossible for me to sit by silently and allow him (or any artist) to do that to himself.  i won't let him drown in doubt.  i won't let him sit alone with all the "what ifs".  i won't leave him to do battle alone with the idea that building a life centered around art or music is lofty and silly.  absolutely not.  not after listening to it all day long out there.  not after confronting it over and over again for so many years and yet still choosing to pick up a pen, pick up a guitar, pick up oneself.  i won't allow him to believe this is all for naught.

or you.

and, in doing so, me.

this struggle is gallant and we all know it.  these words, pounded out in obscurity, are important.  i trust that.  there is no reason not to.  it is how i live.  it is my mode of existing.  of course it breaks my heart to have to set it down and go grunt and sweat at a day job.  of course it does.  but i've also come through enough brick walls and over enough hurdles to know that these struggles inevitably make me better- better at being a human being and better at being an artist.  there is a deep value in figuring out how to keep going.  maybe that's the only real thing we learn in life?  how to keep going.

well look at that!  i just made myself smirk. 

yours truly,

PollyAnnaAngela  ;)