My outlook on daily life will inspire you and make you laugh.
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My husband and I stopped by Markosa Studios for Speaker Training. To fulfill my dream of owning a simple sound system to transport to my readings, Ben had bought me an eight-inch portable loudspeaker. Very cute. The size of a microwave oven and powered by a rechargeable battery. Just what I needed to compliment my (also very cute) headset microphone. Ben proceeded to set it up for Mark, the sound genius, to inspect. Mark said, “Nice. Bluetooth.”Ben asked, “So...
Ben proceeded to set it up for Mark, the sound genius, to inspect.
Mark said, “Nice. Bluetooth.”
Ben asked, “So what’s that mean?”
“You can stream music from your phone through the speaker. You should bring a thumb drive with you, to have mood music before the reading. And your phone. Definitely bring your phone.”
I asked, “Mark, will the speaker work while it’s recharging?”
“How long will it operate on a full charge?”
“Oh, six to eight hours. But you’ll want to bring an extension cord to plug it into the wall, just in case.”
After Ben turned the speaker on, he and Mark gazed lovingly at the blinking lights on the back.
Ben said, “It came with this extra microphone, too.”
“Sweet. A corded hand-held mike. You can crank up the volume as loud as you want, and you won’t get any feedback. Definitely bring this with you to your gigs.”
Gigs, that’s me. Cranking up the volume sounded like the right thing to do. “But I hold my tablet for reading. I’ll need a third hand.”
“Nope. Just buy a cheap little music stand. Perfect for what you do.”
Ben pointed to a dial on the back of the speaker. “What’s this?”
“That’s for mounting it on a pole.”
“Why?” I assumed I’d set it on the floor or a coffee table. My plan was to do readings (I mean gigs) in living rooms.
“You have to set it up high, because only the people who can see the speaker can hear it. Put it on the floor, and only the people in the front row can hear.”
“Okay,” Ben said. “Now that I understand how it works, where can I buy a speaker pole?”
“You can get a good deal online. In the meantime, I’ll loan you one.” Mark left the room through a magic portal and returned with a tripod that could straddle my house.
Ben connected my dainty headset mike to my dainty speaker with a dainty cable the length of a hair ribbon.
Mark shook his head. “You need a longer cable. What you need is an unbalanced guitar cable. They’re usually fifteen to twenty feet long, because a guitar player needs to move around the stage. I think I might have one.”
He disappeared through the magic portal again. At first there was an ominous silence, then I could hear the sound of chains scraping across a cement floor and pipes clanging. Metal doors slammed. Somebody screamed. He limped back into the room, lugging a wad of cables equivalent to the World’s Biggest Ball of Twine.
He said, “Musicians call it spaghetti. There’s a 100-foot guitar cable in here somewhere. And you can have it.” After extracting the cable, he plopped it at Ben's feet.
Ben, waist-deep in spaghetti, grinned like a madman. My husband collects cords and cables the way a sensible person collects shoes. He rubbed his hands together. “Fantastic. Honey, you are totally self-contained now. This is a perfect system for you.”
That’s right, a perfectly simple sound system. Speaker, tripod (or is it a pole?), guitar cable (unbalanced), music stand, phone, thumb drive, microphones (corded and cordless), extension cords, batteries, generators, solar panels, phasers, transporters, lightsabers. And duct tape.
A palm reader deduced, from a labyrinthine line on my palm print, that I overthink things. I weighed my options concerning how to respond to this infomation. Option 1: Jot it down. Option 2: Ask questions. Option 3: Absorb the important parts intuitively. While I was ruminating, she moved on to another topic, rendering Options 1 and 2 irrelevant. I hoped Option 3 had kicked in.Maybe journaling about my habit of overthink would bring clarity. To simplify the process, I grabbed a few sheets...
Maybe journaling about my habit of overthink would bring clarity.
To simplify the process, I grabbed a few sheets of copy paper and stuck them on a clipboard. Voila. A loose-leaf journal. The top right hand corner presented a problem. How should I label this thing? Page numbers seemed an obvious choice, but it was a journal. Therefore, when you wrote it, was as important as the order you wrote it in. I opted for dating the page instead of numbering it.
I then wrote, “I don’t like this pen.” Followed by, “Gel ink will glide more smoothly than ball point.” Followed by a discussion of blue ink versus black, pen versus pencil, followed by musings about the metaphysical implications of pencil, which would fade in time, just as the life it was describing ….
Blue ball point pen won the philosophical argument, because blue was the color of the throat chakra, and wasn't this journaling thing about speaking one’s truth?
At the bottom of the page, a bigger problem replaced the writing instrument problem: what to do with the filled-up piece of paper. Option 1: Turn it over, building a stack of face-down pages on the couch next to me, with page one on the bottom. Benefit: I could watch the stack grow. Option 2: Slide the filled-up sheet of paper face up underneath the stack of not-yet-written-on pages on the clipboard. In the case of Option 2, if and when I used up the blank ones, the first filled-up one would rise to the surface. Drawback: The work disappeared, and the stack remained exactly the same height. Option 3: Build a face-up stack on the couch next to me, slipping face-up pages underneath. Benefit: the stack grew. Drawback. The first page always remained visible, leaving it vulnerable to my obsessive editing. I went with Option 1.
I dated the second blank sheet and added #2 in the top right hand corner. Because I had not anticipated having more than one page, I had to go back to the previous page and add #1. This created an additional dilemma. Stopping to number the pages interrupted the flow. On the other hand, numbering pages in advance was hubris. This problem required further study.
On Journaling Day 3, I discovered I’d assigned the wrong date to the pages written on Journaling Day 2. I had to go back and change all those three pages. Possible reactions. Option 1: I should have chosen pencil instead of pen. Option 2: Run to Office Max for white-out. Option 3: Wow, I wrote three pages on Journaling Day 2! I went with Option 3, crossed out the wrong date, and whipped the pages face-down as fast as possible, so I wouldn’t have to look at the mistake.
On Journaling Day 4, I found the Day 1 pages on the coffee table, Day 2 pages on the dresser, and Day 3 pages on the dryer. I began to detect flaws in my loose-leaf system. To simplify the process, I would go to Office Max and buy a bound journal. Option 1: lined pages. Option 2: unlined pages. Option 3: colored pages.
I found a journal in the kitchen, dated 2001. Titled In Control of Garden and Life, the journal’s spiral bound pages were sectioned into Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. Flipping through them, I vaguely remembered an intention to keep track of what I needed to do in the yard, back when I did anything in the yard. My entries for Spring included: “March—buy 12 bags of mulch.” “Most of April, no blooms in backyard. Try variegated iris or allium.” In...
I found another journal in the bedroom bookcase. A photo of Virginia Woolf graced—or haunted—the cover. The initial few pages were torn out, the remaining sheets as barren as my backyard in April. A gift from my mother, the journal had been abandoned for at least twenty-five years; Mother died in 1994. I’d completed a single entry and then couldn’t get past Virginia Woolf’s downcast gaze, her lids heavy with doubt and hopelessness. A reflection of my own self-doubt, as well as Mother’s. I’d felt burdened by the pristine sheets behind that sad face. Mother had given me the journal, and therefore she must have thought I should journal. Her gift was an obligation. I was obliged to say something. Or at the very least, to live a life worth saying something about. At the time—I was in my twenties then—Mother’s ideal life for me was personified by Mary Tyler Moore tossing her beret into the air. It was a mixed message, considering the woman whose image was supposed to inspire my musings had walked into a river with rocks in her pocket.
Virginia Woolf was Mother’s favorite author.
Mother journaled, filling more volumes than Virginia Woolf ever did. Her life was a Russian novel: betrayal, sacrifice, self righteousness, spiritual longing, unfulfilled artistic vision, poverty, family court, and teenagers. There were waves of teenagers. As soon as one set of children was raised and gone, she’d take in another. She wrote poetry, but not as much as she wanted. The saving of all those children preempted her artistic fulfillment. The family knew this because she invited us to read her poetry, in which we made unflattering appearances. Her death was an extended suicide by self-neglect, measured in doses of morphine administered by hospices nurses. Wanting to control her secrets, she’d insisted Dad burn her diaries as soon as she died. The final scene played out, worthy of pages in her journal, had she been around to write them: Dad, bent sobbing in front of the fireplace as he ripped the pages free and sent them to glory. Sobbing, and of course, reading.
The epilogue to Mother’s journal. Years after she died, I was chatting with one of my sisters. She lowered her voice. “I read it in Mother’s journal. She didn’t want me to see them, but I got one.”
I abandoned half a dozen journals and found them scattered around my house. One of them illustrated with black and white photos of babies. One of them a diary of dreams. The pages—lined, unlined, glossy, matte—told the same story. Dawn, you should …. I gathered them up and tore out the filled-in pages (always six or fewer). With Virginia Woolf on top, I gave the stack to the Salvation Army.
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