Saturday, September 21, 2013

Reticula wrote a blog post ...

Note: I didn't post yesterday. Time Warner is a temperamental bitch, so when I got home too late from a party, I couldn't get online. I will be lucky to get this post through tonight. I did send a notification last night to the Reticulated Writer Facebook page from my phone, which you will have seen if you have liked that page. If not, what the fuck? Like the Facebook page already!

As anyone who knows me can tell you, I am hard on myself. My mom has always called it "thinking too much." Maybe, if such a thing is possible. But the truth is, I’m just hard on myself. LtColEx once told me he rarely got mad at me, rarely fought with me, because I was so hard on myself there was no point in his getting mad at me too. (It wasn’t true. He did get mad at me. He had other ways of showing it.)

Even my kids say I’m too hard on myself. I expect too much or I disappoint myself too easily. You might say I carry around a bit of perfectionism.

Most of the time though, I disagree with them. To me it’s just being honest, authentic, seeing things like they really are. And yet, it’s not a very effective strategy for changing behavior I don’t like. I’m still overweight. I still haven’t made the call to that lawyer that I should have made months ago. I don’t write enough, and I don’t write deeply enough. I’ve never published a book. (I say published because I wrote a book and had a contract and everything, and then the publisher fucked me over, so I have at least written one book.) I don’t do yoga or ride my bike often enough. I watch too much TV. I’m never a good enough friend. I don’t play my guitar or the piano often enough. My house is a mess. I need a better job. I don’t volunteer enough. I cry too easily. I forget birthdays sometimes ….. You realize I could continue this list for hours, right?

I’ve been thinking about how to rephrase or re-conceptualize the way I think about all of these failures of character and behavior. I need a new strategy, because the nagging bitch of a voice in my head is so ineffective, I seem to do the opposite of what it tells me.

Otherwise, it would have nothing to nag about, I suppose. I wonder what that would feel like.

I decided I need to think of my life as a story. A story I’m writing. And I need to think about how I want to write my story and what I want to happen ….  And then I need to intentionally live the story I want to live.

Of course, I can’t control everything in my story. Life has a way of throwing rocks in the path. Even in the theatre where we’ve got a script and blocking and hours of rehearsal in the bag, something unexpected always happens. But the same thing happens when a writer tells any story. It has a life of its own in addition to the life the storyteller breathes into it. That’s what keeps that shit interesting.

So instead of verbally abusing myself, I’m going to summon a new voice by asking, “What should happen next in the story?”

It’s certainly worth trying, because the constant criticism in my head doesn’t solve the problem. I can look at myself in the mirror and see that I’m overweight and berate myself about it, but here’s a fact: Doing that just makes me want to comfort myself with dark chocolate, a glass of chilled Chardonnay and an episode of Breaking Bad. I’m tempted to do that right now.

That’s not what I want to happen in my story though. Yes, I do. No, I don’t. Yes, I really do! No, keep writing. That’s what comes next …. more writing.

In my story, I don’t want to comfort my pathetic self with those things that only encourage my inner critic. I want my protagonist to do something that gets her high. I want her to put on my shoes and go for a brisk walk. (She needs to get another dog into my life too. Anybody know of a black standard poodle who needs a good home?) I want her to hop on my bike and ride 20 miles. I want her to turn on a yoga video and find my balance in those stretches. That’s the story I want my body to tell. A story that feels good and shuts up the critic.

I am a writer to my bones. I write in my head for hours every day. And then sometimes – not often enough, obviously -- I get my fingers into it and actually write words on a monitor or a piece of paper.

What if I got my critical voice together with my writing voice and somehow persuaded them to work together? What if every time my critical voice sniped at me about something, my writer voice took control and wrote a healthy response into the story of my life that I could manifest? Is that possible, do you think? Is it possible to change my life by writing my life as it happens?

I’m going to try it and see. I hope I don’t start talking about myself in the third person. Reticula wrote, “I hope I don’t start talking about myself in the third person …”

... on toilet paper.
In a novel this could go totally awry. I could find myself writing my story all over my house and leaving the scraps of it everywhere: on squares of toilet paper in the bathroom: Reticula brushed her teeth and decided to skip flossing until bedtime. In the kitchen on brown paper bags: Reticula put the chocolate chips back into the freezer and drank a glass of water instead. In the bedroom: Reticula went to bed at 1:00 instead of writing until 3:00, and woke up feeling like a human for once.

I can imagine my house littered with the story of a writer’s life, a literary hoarder’s nightmare: words on the walls and my arms and skittering down the sidewalk toward the neighbor’s house.

I’m inviting and making big changes in my life this year. I’m going to write more about that in the next couple of days.

And I’ve already started writing a new story about my life by forcing aside the need for control and expectations and just going along with an adventure. When Moxie asked Reticula if she wanted to go to Chicago on September 7, Reticula didn’t even ask why. She just said yes, she would get someone to cover for her at the theater and go. She could not have known how far she would stretch in just 3 days. It was like a yoga marathon of living …..

I will go on more adventures like that.

Enough about me. What is the next thing you would write into the story of your life? What will the hero in your story do next?

My hero is going to bed now. Reticula published a blog post and then went to bed. She flossed her teeth. She did not read the latest Margaret Atwood novel until 4:00 am, because she decided instead to get to church on time.


  1. What an amazing concept. I love this. Wow. I'm going to follow your wise advice and live the story as I want it to be written. Did I mention I love this? Hail to the heroes of our stories. Hail to you for this beautiful idea. Hail to us and our futures.

    1. Hail. Hail. Hail. (And thank you.)

      I'm not sure yet if it's wise though. It's possible it's one more layer that makes life difficult. But I have to admit, I've always liked the idea. I'm just going to be more intentional now.

  2. My ex once told me that I will never be happy because I think too much. Of course, I had to think about that. Lisa Simpson said, "As intelligence goes up, happiness often goes down." I've often wished I had an on/off switch for my left brain. There are times I'd like to take my head off, leave it on the bookshelf where it will be very busy digging up cool facts and information, and just go out and be happy in some random right-brained experiential fashion without having to critically THINK all over it. All to say, I hear you, I'm there with you, and I like your idea very much.

    1. I love your idea too: being able to turn off the analytical mind and just experience life. But, yeah, that's not going to happen.

      If I made a list of all the things my ex said to me ..... I'd just get pissed off. ;-)

  3. Thank you for this. I love this idea. Let me know how it goes for you...I'm a couple miles behind you on this journey, but this is a path I could hope to follow. <3

    1. You're welcome, but I don't think you're as far behind as you think. It was your post that you were going to delete last night that made me think about finally writing about this idea that's been bopping around in my brain for quite a while. Thanks for leaving it up.

  4. brava.

    (also, tell me you've seen Stranger Than Fiction...if not, get thee to Netflix)

    1. Thank you, and get over here to sit on my porch before it gets cold!

      I might have watched Stranger than Fiction back when it came out, but I'm not a Will Farrell fan. Have you seen this Ted Talk about an amazing schizophrenic woman talking about the voices in her head?

  5. Thank you for your comments, my friends. So many people leave comments on Facebook, this comment section usually looks like a ghost town. :-)