So, my mid-thirties. We’re here.
I’ve been trying to think of a theme for this year, and I think it might be the Year of the Grown-Ass Woman.
Now, when I turned 30, my friends told me that my 30s were going to be awesome, and on the whole, they have been. But they get better when you get older, because the shit that used to be a big deal just… isn’t anymore. And my friends that are still in their 20s make me shake my head because they still have yet to even touch the shore of 0 Fucks…
I tried to read some books this year. As with every year, you can see them over at Delicious.
Here are some highlights of the Year of the Grown-Ass Woman, in nice bullet form. (Oh, and I have ranty stuff, just you wait.)
- My job: First and foremost, I just celebrated my first year at the end of October, and I’m very happy career-wise. I’m challenged with my work, I have great co-workers who help me be a little more social, and I’m always learning something a little new every so often. That’s not to say that there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t remember that I was broke, working from home, barely able to pay bills, and forced to stay home.
- My attitude: I’ve never really considered myself a pessimist – not really – but I wouldn’t be so quick to call myself an optimist either. I’m kinda in that grey area where I know things are going to work out, but sometimes you just have to take the shit when it comes. Though, like I said, this year was the year I started to realize that what used to be a big deal just isn’t anymore. I noticed this the most on social networks – I’ve unfriended people over all manner of their opinions without feeling like I was losing something. Of course, the short of it is that I know the value of real friends and I have a lot of social media connections that don’t do anything for me.
- My health: For the first time in my life, I took advantage of being insured and got a doctor and a gyno. Earlier in the year, I had some major weight gain, and after some blood work, I went back to the gym and at the end of September got a personal trainer. I’m getting stronger and running farther every week, and have goals to get back to running 5Ks in March and after that… we’ll see about longer distances. It feels good to have an accountability partner who understands that not every workout’s going to be stellar. But taking charge feels good.
- My poetry: I was the Battle Born Grand Slam champion in April, and it made sense after being in slam for 10 years, on the street where I was born. This year’s slam team was the best we’ve ever had – out of 72 teams, we came in 24th, just out of semi-finals, and getting 2 rounds in to the Group Piece finals was something I’ll never forget. What an amazing time we had in Boston! Here are some notes I started taking after returning:
Safe space should be Braver Space – though I’m a Mama Bear here in Vegas, I’m really just a Baby Bear who is saying stupid shit and trying to be a better friend (I know the word “ally” is the typical word, but I feel like it should just go further than that). I know many poets in our scene feel like we have safe space right now, and in a sense, we do. However, the fact remains that we live in a city where dumb shit is said. Always. And there will always be new blood who come in thinking that Battle Born will reflect that. WRONG. A big reason I have stayed on as organizer is because women were being underrepresented in our slam, and guess what? We ended up with 3 women on our team, and the fact that we finished 24th in the nation and 6th in group pieces reflects that. Not that that means I’ll drop the mic and peace out. In fact, that means there’s so much more work to be done.
Which means: Poets. If you’re going to come to Battle Born and expect people to take your racist, sexist, ageist, fat-shaming, homophobic bullshit, you are very much mistaken. Don’t hide under this “I can say whatever I want because ‘Murica” nonsense. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequence. You will get booed, hissed, and possibly approached, in love and healing, for real-time real talk.
That also means that if you’re coming to slams thinking that you’ll be getting Teh Ladiez, just stop. In fact, don’t even bother coming. In fact, read up on some literature and stay home and think about your shit. This slam is about making sure that people of all shapes, sizes, colors, genders, and lifestyles have a place to express themselves. They’re used to being rejected, and we’re offering space (and consensual hugs). Just because you might not get who they are isn’t an excuse. We’re all about learning opportunities. Let’s learn.
I emphasize this at the beginning because we’re going to start doing work at the Center with queer youth, and want to head this off at the pass. If folks of any identification want to come slam, I want to make damn sure they have the space and that they feel welcome. If you want to be involved in workshops we’re going to be doing at the Center, let us know. We’d love to have you.
This is also an invitation to human beings in our scene to come to me if they need space. Let me be clear: I’m not here to “fix.” I cannot talk for you (because I don’t know your background and experience). I cannot be your white savior. But as someone who can offer support and advocacy, I can be someone to talk to if something or someone makes you feel uncomfortable. The biggest takeaway I had at Nationals this year – both from the “Safer Spaces” talk as well as being in a problematic bout – was that conversations should be happening in real time. So if uncomfortable conversations need to happen right away, please come to me so we can engage. Even if that talk is meant to be a seed for future conversation.
If there’s one thing I learned this year, is that change is good. We’ve changed our format, and I think that does well in accommodating people who aren’t big fans of scores being assigned to their work. It’s really hard to get people to understand that slam, as the (now) old adage goes, “Is a game we play with our friends.” We have always emphasized that points are not the point locally, but that’s definitely true nationally as well.
(Unfortunately, we’re still going to have people who will only come slam if it involves money, which makes me very sad. We’re a small community that appreciates good poetry, and in IMNSHO people who only come and slam for money should stop doing slams altogether. If you’re not interested in building community, don’t come. We don’t want your rockstar bullshit.)
On the personal front, it seems like the past couple years I’ve been to Nats have been reminders that I still have stories to tell. I’ve tried to start telling them in fiction, but I think they might be better suited towards performance. I think it might be a matter of just working some stuff out. I saw a lot of great poems that were about poets as well as their friends. I mean, the short version is that “Hey, maybe I should mine my friends for poetic ideas!” and maybe that’s true. But if I’ve grown as a human because of these experiences, so maybe it needs to be expressed. (Or maybe it needs to be expressed and not performed so it’ll be on paper.)
Speaking of still writing, it brings me to whether or not I’m competing this year and the answer is: I don’t know. I was talking about taking time off (again) and coaching next year. At the same time, I don’t want half of my vacation time going towards Nationals again (though it’ll be far cheaper to send a team to Oakland this year as opposed to clear across the country most years). Organizing and featuring locally? Of course. I don’t think I’ll ever stop doing that. If a scene I helped keep alive is growing, I want to be there to see it grow.
Which is all to say: At this point, I can see myself diminishing my role in running slam in Las Vegas. To be honest, I don’t have the energy I used to, and while I absolutely love my slam family all over the country, there was so much fallout over internal strife in the community that I don’t think I can handle doing it every year. And I’m also not writing as much as I used to – that’s mainly been because of work obligations in the past 3 months taking a lot of that energy – and I’d like to work on fiction again. And, really, like I said above, I’d really like to use my vacation time for… well, vacation. And National Poetry Slam is not a vacation for me, especially after using my summer to practice and coach.
TL;DR: I want to go live some life. Yeah, let’s do that.
- My family: I was finally able to get back to Pittsburgh for my cousin’s wedding in June, and it was so fabulous to see them again after being broke for so long. I’ve also been hanging out with my nephews more, and seeing them become young men makes me happy.
- My finances: I paid off a credit card debt in the spring that had been hounding me for years, as well as paying down a big chunk of other debt has lifted a lot of stress off of me. I’ve been able to build up an emergency fund as well as start saving for a new car (possibly this year, but we’ll see). It’s been a completely different experience trying to get to sleep at night without feeling like I’m getting ulcers over bills I can’t pay. And I’ve realized this past holiday season that although I could have bought myself something new and techy, I really didn’t want to. I still have Dad’s mantra of “Don’t show your money” always in the back of my mind.
Which brings us to goals for next year: Send out short stories. Get back to the novel. Lose at least 20 pounds and run at least one 5K. Pay off as much debt as I can. Love as much as I can. Be present. All of the good things.
If you’re reading this, I wish you all of the good things, too. Especially the good things.
Here was some of the music I listened to this year:
So! This year, my writing project is to work on a new novel. But I wanted to go about it a little differently. I wanted to take a little more time. Usually I just have an idea, maybe write a little bit about it, and then I just jump in.
But this time around, I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to take some time on my characters, starting with my main character and writing about them with more depth instead of just hoping they’d take shape during the writing. I wanted to feel like whatever actions they’d take were based on themselves – because character is plot – and have some secret memories that wouldn’t necessarily make it into the book.
So January was all about writing the backstory of main character. It was a great way to get to know her before just starting to write stuff down and make it up was I went along.
February was a weird month. I went on a business trip and lost almost a week of writing time, and had some other stuff going on during the rest of the month. It actually turned out for the best because I wrote up on one of my secondary characters, and I have a little more idea of where to take things.
March, hopefully, will be more about fleshing out the rest of the characters – even if it’s a few surface aspects. Maybe I might just start outlining! (I know, so exciting.)
And welcome to year 5 of my yearly round up! I’m not really sure who reads this anymore, but for me, it’s a good way to get my head around my year, take a little stock of where my life’s at, and try and remember what happens in my life the older I get. Being that this blog is an archive of my old past lives, it makes sense to take a minute to look back at the end of each year – for me, at least. So even if a few people catch this on Facebook, you might go “Hey, she’s got a blog that she enters stuff in, like, 3 times a year!”
Last month I was in Charlotte, North Carolina for the 2012 National Poetry Slam. This was my 5th Nationals and my 4th being there on the Las Vegas Slam Team, and I was not disappointed by it. The poetry was breathtaking, the people were super nice, and I met so many new poet friends and connected with some old ones. It was probably my second-favorite Nats (after ’05 in Albuquerque, AKA “Half-A-Cookie”).
Dad was the one who found you on the floor.
Who knew how long you’d been dead,
but the hemorrhage
already stained the canary yellow carpet.
Mom, I swear
I heard your blood vessel break
as I tossed and turned
one state over,
miles away from your sadness.
the night you died
was the first time I had insomnia.
My college roommates must have hated me
for trying to chase your ghost
from one edge of the bed to the other.
you were never one to go loudly into any good night
or bad argument,
so I’m sure
a whisper from whatever god you’d chosen
must have been a curious invitation.
you must have died
in a dream so glorious
you knew I couldn’t write a poem about it.
Mom, you were always
just a human being, but with your death,
you became a goddess on my altar,
a terrible reminder
that I was a 19 year-old mortal
who’s never known the cold wind
from a hole in her heart.
We walked my childhood together
not quite friends and never close to enemies,
but I find
that the further away I get
from the sound of your voice
the more I remember
falling asleep on your lap,
giving me hugs,
or painting your tiny toenails.
I wear your nail polish now –
Cherries In The Snow,
so far away from our skeletons
bleached by the Las Vegas summers.
Mom, you goddess,
your ashes remind me
that my heart is a golem
made of your memory,
a terrible beast decorated
with the double-helix scars of your DNA,
caged in love and unending life lines
from parallel universes.
you did not die
just to leave a stain on the carpet.
Your blood only dried to darkness
to mark where you finally had
that flying dream,
that your spirit finally had enough
of this world you’d occupied.
I hope you never whisper in my ear.
I do not want to know your secrets.
You have taught me to fear insomnia
more than the darkness it inhabits,
that I shall not fear dust
because we’ve both eaten from the earth
while on our knees
and in love with smell of blood.
I never called you mother
because you taught me
that you have to earn your growth
and the earth wanted you
before the seed was planted in me,
they say hell is the absence of god
but when you lose god
hell is a broken blood vessel
spilling and seeping into the canary yellow carpet.
When you’re reminded
that your goddess is gone
you are on your knees,
so close to the clay,
the smell of memory all over your hands,
urging you to hold hearts
and stop chasing ghosts
from one poem to the other.
you are in these words,
it is not your fault
I have made my heart
into this terrible beast,
caged so closely
you would only know it by the beats at my wrist.
did you stand over your body
before you decided to fly?
Tell me what freedom feels like
because I have never been without scars.
Insomnia is my inheritance now,
your voice is the kick that rarely hits
and I wonder
if you spirit
rushed into outer space
like a wave of dust,
diffusing light among the familiar faces
of the stars,
miles away from my sadness.
some nights I am still chasing your ghost
from one side of the bed to the other,
trying to force the atoms
back into your shape,
and these dreams are as blank
as the space between stars.
did not go loudly.
But I’m going to try.