Tag Archives: writer

You'll want Normal back like that pair of sneakers you gave to Goodwill last summer.

I never thought being “normal” would have its setbacks.

Actually, I probably always thought the idea of normal existed out there, floating around in space like a satellite you can’t quite pin down as it circles you. But that’s what it’s become in this world.

norĀ·mal – the common, the mundane, the ideal

Since when do we strive to be normal? Since when do we sit down in front of a television set and pray we might see ourselves reflecting back on that screen?

It’s easy, isn’t it?

Hoping, wishing, praying you’ll see some small part of your little sister in that sitcom you watch every Thursday night at 8 p.m.

Isn’t that why you watch? To think that some part of your life, albeit small, is right here in this world for the rest of society to giggle at on their own sofas, wrapped up tight under blankets?

I’m afraid, deathly afraid, that it is.

See, I’m a writer. And my life’s always fallen on the bad side of normal. The boring side of normal.

I’d have to invent a whole life out of thin air if I ever wanted to write a memoir of my childhood.

Some kids sat in closets where the sun couldn’t scald their too-pale skin. They hid from ruthless parents and step-parents in cupboards beneath basement staircases. They holed up inside their rooms with the video game soundtrack turned up loud enough to block out a screaming match in the kitchen.

But for me, there was no screaming match, no basement hideaway, no video game console at all. There was just a little girl, too messy to fit into the gender role the world cut out for her, walking a tightrope between Absolutely Normal and Utterly Bizarre.

And oh how I wanted to fall on the latter side of that line.

I’d write introspective comments in my diary when I was thirteen, trying to understand the harshness of the world. I’d look back on being bullied in fourth grade and pray it might shape me into someone worth loving for all her flaws.

Please, dear God, anything to write about when I’m old and gray. Give me some ailments. A bad back, a troubled childhood, a spellbinding experience in the forest behind my house.

I wish someone would shake me and tell me this: there will be plenty of moments, when you’re older, when you’ll pray so hard your head hurts. You’ll want Normal back like that pair of sneakers you gave to Goodwill last summer. You’ll want it back like the last bite of the ice cream cone you threw in the trash can.

There will be so many moments for you to feel real and to hurt and to scribble down in that journal of yours. So many raw experiences to tear through that healthy human heart and make it beat twice as fast on any given Sunday morning when you’re dressed up for a funeral.

Don’t you dare, little girl, think you’ve got nothing to write about. It’ll come.

Oh, it’ll come in floods some day.

Defending my love for my mother on the therapist's couch.

me, my mom, my sister (thanksgiving 2009)

I should probably start apologizing to my mother often and always. In four years, I have written two novels and more than a dozen short stories. And always always always, the mother is not so nice.

An alcoholic who steals from her daughter. A complacent wife who turns a blind eye to her daughter’s abuse. A mom who just wants her daughter to stop, please for the love of God, acting like a boy. Killed in a drunk driving accident.

I’ve painted a canvas of nasty and unlikeable attributes surrounding mothers with every new word on the page.

But it is fiction. Pure fiction.

That doesn’t convince many people. When someone reads a book or a story or a piece of flash fiction, the first thing they want to know is where the idea sprouted up. Did it grow like a seed inside the soles of my feet, up through my legs and my stomach and my neck and pop right out through my head? Did I carry it around for a while, harboring it like a piece of hard candy nested deep inside my cheek? Or did I know, before I even started, that I wasn’t a fan of mothers?

“Where did this ire start?” they’ll ask me on radio talk shows and on Oprah’s couch. “Did you and your mother always have a bad relationship?”

She’ll try to psychoanalyze me because it’s easier than believing we, as human beings, are capable of constructing stories in our heads. That we can start on one page and end up on another one, without having to constantly pull a skeleton out of the closet to lean on our shoulders while we type away on a park bench. Or let our fingers clutch the hard, yellow wood until the tips turn white with blood loss.

Sometimes we do. We peek inside the closet and find a skeleton that looks attractive and we nod at it. Give it a quick smile. And we shut the door, the image of that skeleton flashing in front of our eyes as they adjust in the hallway.

From dark to light. Light to dark.

Oprah will tell me that that cannot be true. She’ll deny me the pleasure of being creative twice over before she cracks a smile, maybe, and lets
out a small laugh.

“Well, alright,” she’ll say. “Maybe your childhood wasn’t so traumatic.”

I think for about two-thirds of my life I wanted to believe I’d done a very good job hating my mother for everything she’d done to me. Not for me. To me.

And so the fiction, which is, for the record, so much worse than any mother who ever birthed me, fed me, clothed me, provided for me, will continue to be some testament that some people cannot understand.

A testament to the ability to invent a life: a girl with a mother who drinks away her troubles, for instance.

“I’m just a writer,” I’ll tell them. And for years and years I’ll have to explain. “No, I really do love my mother.”

By then I’ll be on the sofa, lying on my back counting tiles on the ceiling. I’ll leave and dial the phone number I know so well, holding my breath until the voice comes through on the other end of the line.

“How’d it go?” she’ll ask me.

“You’ve got to call them, please,” I’ll say. “They just don’t understand that I love you.”

She’ll laugh and tell me it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because she knows. Even if they don’t.

Tell me I'm not insane. I'm just a writer.

Growing up, I always found a way to be different.

can't tell in this one, but I have on boys sweatpants

Nine and squirming at the back of the line on picture day, the shortest kid in the class.

Thirteen and stick thin, coming home from 3-hour-long gymnastics practices to sit in front of the television and watch ER. Bowl of ice cream in one hand. Spoon in the other.

Always and forever unable to sit still in itchy tights or pantyhose that ran the moment I reached to adjust them.

another hat one

Fifteen in sweatpants and crumpled t-shirts, my straightened hair awkwardly juxtaposing this.

And yet I forgot for a time that there’s a beauty in being different. Being weird.

Writers always say they’ve been writing since they could spell out the alphabet. I didn’t leech onto writing like that. My room was cluttered with ribbons, medals and trophies. My eclectic stack of diaries were pushed to the bottom of my desk drawer, buried under stacks of computer paper and old homework assignments.

But now, twice a week, I free myself from all expectations of reality for 75 minutes at a time and allow myself to be whoever I want to be.

There’s a beauty in that. I cannot even begin to justify it to the non-writers, the naysayers.

Anyone who can fill out a job application by themselves can write. They can sit down with a fresh sheet of loose-leaf paper and let the words bleed together incoherently on the page until what once was clean has become dirty. What was once a tree becomes a work of calligraphy. An artist’s canvas. What once was pure has been tarnished with our broken thoughts, unspoken worries and grandiose dreams.

It took me twenty years to become a writer. But I was one all along. I wrote for my intermediate school newspaper in fifth grade. Swore that off for about eight years.

And at barely seventeen, in a sleep-deprived and delusional state, I made the ridiculous decision to write a 50,000-word novel in a single summer.

Normal kids worked and goofed off. Wasted three months trying to turn six shades of orange. I did that too. Had a foolproof method for that, actually.

Turn on iPod. Bake in sun until I couldn’t stand it any longer. Jump into pool. Climb back out. Grab earphones. Repeat.

Rita's uniform, music, writing (?)

I worked nights at Rita’s sitting on the freezer and relishing in all-you-can-eat free water ice. After my shift, my stick red lips stained, I’d come home to write until 2 a.m. Often forgetting I still had that red polo on. Just clacking away at a keyboard in my room, the whole house quiet while I hashed out details of a romance I’d only dreamed about. The kind of guy I wanted to fall in love with me. My best friend kept me writing. “I want him to be real,” she once said.

I hadn’t met him yet, but I knew everything about him.

There are bloggers and there are writers. And then, there are writers (like me) who blog.

I’m compelled to figure out why some guy is complaining about a blind woman who lives in the apartment above him playing classical music. Why does anyone hear entirely fabricated conversations in their head? Please, please oh please, tell me I am not insane. I’m just a writer.

That is all I ask of you, my fellow writers and bloggers. I ask you to believe that writing is uncontrollable. That I cannot put up an invisible fence and expect myself to not run into it and get electrocuted.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m running in circles, but in the end, I always return to the person I was meant to be. A little bit weird. A lot bit crazy. A writer.