Writing Prompt Wednesday 08/29/13

The view from my room.

I’ve been away. Last week, I was in Daytona Beach, Florida, and the week before, I was preparing for my week in Daytona Beach. I was a bit too tired to really write anything, and I feel a little guilty about that. Tonight, though, after work, I remembered “Oh, it’s Wednesday. That means ‘Writing Prompt Wednesday.'” Then I realized my life was just a little sadder than I thought.

I still have quite a few pictures to edit from that trip, and some left from a wedding I shot the weekend before. Helped shoot. As a favor to a friend. It was fun, and if I ever do it again and need a second, I’m inviting her. We seemed to see the same things, or the things we’d see if we were in the same position. Very important to have someone with the same vision. Now if I can just remember to set my camera to “auto” and leave it… Seriously, for an event like a wedding, it might be better to let the camera decide. For the portraits, I go back to manual, because I have control of that situation, whereas I don’t have any of the ceremony.

But I digress.

Prompt 69 – “It was Erica Jong who said ‘If you don’t risk anything, you risk more.’ Write about what this means to you.”

2013-08-11 Bryan and Theresa Tudor 045b
Marriage is a huge risk with an equally-huge possible reward – or penalty.

My thoughts on this have changed over the years, as I’m sure many others’ have. I’m not the same person I was five years ago, and not even close to the same person I was twenty years ago. My life was very different, then. I wasn’t really on my own; I was trying to break out and be my own person. It’s a very difficult thing to do, and some believe that’s also why as kids become teens, they have more and more fights with their parents, so it’s easier to let them go when it’s time. I don’t know, maybe that’s just some hypothesis. True, perhaps, but hypothesis. Besides, it doesn’t explain thirteen. Actually, that one has another reason, as well as two and twenty-one. Right about then, there’s some major self-awareness shift, and a desire to become more independent. At two, you want to walk by yourself, eat by yourself, answer questions yourself, get your own toys, own clothes, make up your own mind on what you want to do. At thirteen, you want to leave the house by yourself, allowed to be home by yourself (if you haven’t already), be responsible for your own decisions, have your own voice. And around twenty-one, or college age, you want to leave the house altogether, have bills in  your own name, take care of yourself, be able to buy your own food, your own clothes, choose your friends without parents’ approvals. Generalizations, of course, everyone responds differently at different times. But those periods seem to be fairly similar in demeanor for human beings.

At this point in my life – in my journey if I feel like getting all crunchy and granola – I have a better idea of risk than I ever have. I don’t necessarily have more to risk; there aren’t people who will be horribly, traumatically, affected by my decisions for my own life, and after a number of years unemployed, I no longer own my own home. I understand a little better what is at risk. Twenty years ago, I might have disagreed with this statement altogether. I could risk losing my lease, my relationships, my job, my education, and all with a carelessly-handled decision. Not taking a risk was the smart thing to do if I wanted to get out from under the thumb of my family. S’funny, really, since I took a pretty big risk at that time – I got married. Nice guy, kind, thoughtful, smart, just wrong for me. Wrong at that time in my life – although anyone would have been at that time, to be fair – and probably wrong now, because I’m so much more familiar with myself. The risk I took didn’t seem to pay off; it seemed to cause more trouble than it resolved. It wasn’t worth the risk. Now, I see it a little differently. I think if I didn’t marry, it wouldn’t have been so bad. I wouldn’t have made his life miserable for our time together. But I also wouldn’t have been exposed to computers again after a long absence. That’s right, I’m old; I remember when disks were 5.25″ and truly floppy. Heck, I remember the punch-card computers, although I was very small. Practically embryonic. That’s my answer, and I’m sticking with it.

Faked Tilt-Shift
Tried something new in editing. This could have ended in tears.

I won’t try to figure out exactly how I’d have answered this back then, or even five years ago. I’m not the same person I was then. The core, perhaps, but how many people are familiar with their cores at 15, 20, 30, even 40? There was some peeling happening, and it wasn’t always pretty. My marriage ended, and it ended without children. At that point, I was grateful, even though I’d actually tried while we were married, so I could “get it over-with before I change my mind.” I said the same thing about marrying him, too. At this end of it, this far removed, I see all sorts of signs that this wasn’t going to last, and that it might be best to quit while we were ahead.

What would have happened if I didn’t marry him, though? Would I have gotten involved with the early internet? Would I have learned basic html coding, and creating my own websites? Would I have discovered this world of people who speak different languages or dialects, who have different cultures – even between Ohio and Colorado, say – and different ideas, thoughts, experiences? Or would I have come to it late, once it was established, as so many of my generation did? We were right in the middle. Those who came after grew up with computers, and those before grew up without television, mostly. I like learning things. I like finding new things. I like seeing different things. If I hadn’t married, he wouldn’t have requested a computer – instead of the desperately-needed cash – from his parents. If I hadn’t married, I wouldn’t have discovered MUDs and challenging other people, I wouldn’t have had a form of escapism, I wouldn’t have discovered I have a weensy problem with that particular game format, and I should probably avoid the descendants of the MUD, with their shiny graphics and flashy quests.

Would I have become so comfortable with the word processor, database, slide show and spreadsheet programs that were becoming increasingly popular in the corporate world, to the point where I would actually create procedures and teach? Would I have become the go-to for tricky software questions? I’m no expert by any stretch; there’s plenty I don’t know. But I have built my own computer a time or two, and I have discovered all sorts of neat little tricks in those popular programs.

When Pigs Fly
Huge risk putting winged piggies in a prominent spot downtown. Attitudes have changed; now we have the Flying Pig Marathon.

If I hadn’t taken that risk, my life would be very different. I could be one of those just barely understanding a computer, not particularly interested because I didn’t really know what it could do for me. I could be learning just now what I’d been missing out on for the last twenty-odd years. I could have missed out on reconnecting with friends from high school and college, and online support groups where I made other friends, some very close even though politically we’re on opposite sides. If I hadn’t taken that risk that didn’t work out, my life could be so much emptier, now.

Taking risks has given me a life in another state, a new hobby I rediscovered and love, a brief stint as a tutor and piano teacher, and random road trips to places within a day’s drive. So many things in my life have come about because of risks; some positive, some very negative. Without those risks, though, I’d have stagnated ages ago. I’d have stopped growing.

“If you don’t risk anything, you risk more.” True.


The Deepest Cuts

Y’know, I had a huge rant all planned, about how we’re (US) going to hell in a hand basket, and corporations are leading the charge, how there are plenty of jobs and plenty of unqualified workers because our schools are being forced to teach children how to take tests instead of how to learn, cutting arts and physical education for more time to learn how to take those tests, how what little teaching educators are allowed to do is getting slanted in a decidedly religious and unscientific way, how a very vocal, very powerful, right-wing contingent has seemingly opened hostilities against women and the poor so they don’t have to focus on the actual issues, how those same people are trying to effect a Theocracy, and making illegal laws allowing only ‘believers‘ to take office. And I did a bit of research to back up my claims, making an effort to avoid the extremist sites, since they tend to find the most slanted sources possible. It got too depressing.

Really freaking depressing.

No, we’re not Egypt; our streets are not erupting in violence.  Yet. How long, though, before people start to rise up and say “enough is enough?” How long before those who claim to be living by so-called Christian values are forced to face their own hypocrisy?

More importantly, though, how long are we going to put up with this divide? Sure, there are still moderates on either side, but their voices are being drowned out by the extremists. Sure, the extremists on the right are the most vocal, since they are in office and getting media attention, but the extremists on the left are surging forward, thanks to the proliferation of online authors.

Basically, instead of working together, we are further dividing. That divide is leading to many more people asking if we are the next Roman Empire, as far as our country’s health is concerned. Divisions between rich and poor, powerful and powerless, white and minority, and even north and south, seem to be getting wider, with no end in sight. The response from either side appears to be “if we shout our message louder, we’ll be heard,” instead of what it ought to be, “if we listen to the other side, maybe we can find a compromise that will keep from collapsing the country.”

It’s very disheartening to see everyone so anxious to prove they’re right, they refuse to acknowledge that anyone else might actually have a valid point.

Even the gibbons are sad.
Cincinnati Zoo

Writing Prompt Wednesday 08/07/13

So I have friends who have blogs, and they’re far more regular writers than I. I’d like to change that. I missed Saturday again, I know, but I’m still not quite used to the idea that anyone besides me is interested in anything I write. It’s weird, y’know? There’s a history with that, and maybe one day I’ll go into it, but it won’t be a fun post.

Prompt 196 – Write from the point-of-view of a freshly-scrubbed floor

2009-12-19 Art Museum 009
Cincinnati Art Museum

A bit damp right now. I felt the layer of grime come off. It was rough, and I swear I lost a little bit of color, but it’s good to be clean. I wonder, though; where will I go now? No one would bother to clean me if they weren’t going to use me. I wasn’t always in this building, you know. Once, I graced the halls of an art museum, visited only by the best…and school children, dragging their dress shoes and rubber-soled gym shoes across my surface, scuffing me, scratching me, staining me. I tried to ignore those. Those moments were dark spots in an otherwise bright life. Sometimes I felt the rumble of hand trucks as they moved around sculptures and paintings, making new exhibits, refreshing old ones, and even loaning out pieces to others. I saw Van Gogh and Monet, Kandinsky and Nick Cave.  There were sculptures that decorated the homes of pharaohs and gods, and I saw them all. Then they remodeled. I was surprised when I was pried up from my secure spot, but I felt the chips in some of the outer tiles; I suppose I understand now, ‘though it was very difficult then.

The Future

But my life wasn’t over, oh no. I rested in a dark, dusty room in several pieces for a little while, but it wasn’t too long before the sliver of light let someone in, someone with another hand truck, who lifted me in small piles and carried me into the sun. I had a new life to get to, a new role in the world. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was going to be a part of some of the happiest days of people’s lives. There was a hall that was being built. They wanted a floor just like me, but the new ones were too expensive. They had heard about me gathering dust in a storage closet, and they asked if they could have me. I’m sure there was a little money exchanged – even art museums have bills to pay – but I was saved, rescued from obscurity and brought into the world. There were a few paintings and ornate planters here and there, but the art was simple and unimaginative. It wasn’t important. Not when I had my first wedding. I felt silk and tulle brush gracefully across the surface, I heard a soft sigh, and a soft reply. At one point, I thought it was raining, but I realized they were tears of joy; everyone was happy. It was good that it was my first experience. My next was a memorial. There were tears then, too. I saw many lives begin and a few too many after they had ended, although sometimes, those were times of celebration, when the people would remember the good, the joy, the love they were lucky enough to have in their lives.

Late afternoon diner conversation

I had chipped a little more around the edges, though, after all that time. I was fewer at that point when I was pried up again, and went into pieces – not as many as left the art museum – and placed in the dark. It was different this time, though. The dark I was in moved almost immediately. I wasn’t so strong as I once was, but my time hadn’t come just yet. There was another place to go.

I stayed in pieces, used for accents while surrounded by linoleum. Nothing against it, the linoleum around me was quite nice, and it told me so many things I didn’t know, but it was just linoleum. No more art, no more more joy, no more release. Now I would be coated in grease on a regular basis, trod on by muddy work boots and wet flip flops, shoes that never would have dared tread on me at the museum. I can’t tell you how many times I had eggs or salt, syrup and soft drinks spilled all over me. I was scrubbed often, I can’t fault them for that, but I wasn’t polished anymore. I could feel bits and pieces of me crumble into dust, crushed under chairs one too many times. There were moments of joy, sure, but mostly it was just dirty, hard work.

Morning Glow
Garden of the Gods on the western side of the gateway rocks

The linoleum told me of a cousin it had, one it had run into at the place it was stored before going to that restaurant (Restaurant, HA! Greasy spoon, more like). The cousin had spoken of other places with food, but with far less traffic, and less grease. There were places the cousin was right up against carpeting! I couldn’t believe it; I was listening to linoleum talk about other linoleum touching carpet, and I was jealous. Not because of being up against some scratchy colored fibers, but because that linoleum wasn’t abused like I was. They were dark days indeed. I imagined instead what it might be like to be in another place of learning, maybe this time in a park, somewhere out west. I’d heard the west was beautiful. I didn’t realize I was already in it. I overheard a restaurant customer talking about it, about the weather and the mountains, the sun and rain, the hiking trails…it sounded heavenly. If I was to be ground into dust, I wanted to at least be among my brethren, the schist and gneiss, quartz and sandstone. I would even have been happy to be around limestone if it meant I didn’t have to endure one more drop of bacon grease.

2012-12-24 Christmas Eve 021a
It looks like a lot of food, but there are a lot of people to feed.

It was not to be. Eventually what was left of me was pried up yet again, only this time, there was no sense of loss; only relief. I couldn’t imagine a worse fate than that which I had endured. Most of me was chipped then; I was no longer desirable. Once again, I found myself in pieces, in a pile, in the dark. This dark lasted for quite some time. It was rare I saw more than a hint of light from around the door. I tried to strike up a conversation with the oak planks down the way, but they were silent. I’m not sure they were even alive anymore.  So I waited. I sat in the dark, alone with my thoughts, alone with the deceased oak planks, the buckets with crispy mop heads, cans of dried paint. surrounded by the smells of abandonment. I thought I’d had it bad before. Now I would give anything to have a grilled cheese sandwich ground into me with a pointy-toed shoe.

I don’t know how long I was there. Once the door opened and another group of tiles were placed in there, just a couple shelves away. They told me of a future in a house, a future that involved being higher up than the floor. No risk of touching nylon fibers smelling of stale milk. I could be a counter! There was a down side – in order to be a counter, I had to be ground up. Even though I didn’t really have any say in the matter, I thought about it. It would probably be my last position, but it could be a good one. I noticed, when I was in that restaurant, that there were people who were happy to be there. Those times it wasn’t so bad. I remembered in the hall, with the parties and receptions, the people coming together over a meal, sharing grief or happiness, if only for a moment. Being a countertop, well, that wouldn’t be so bad. I could be closer to all the action. I knew I was falling apart, that I had shrunken from several hundred square feet to a couple hundred square inches. Still I dreamed. I didn’t want to go out in this closet, in this dark.

Today, the door opened, and they came for me. I’ve been laid out and patched up, and polished to a shine for the first time in forever. Finally out of the dark, I get one more chance.