A Little Wisdom


Not many of you know, but I’ve been working on a memoir (novel style) for the past year, and since I’ve unfortunately taken a bit of a hiatus from working on it (no one to blame but myself) I seem to have forgotten what I saved it as on my computer. While searching for it using every keyword I can think of, I came across this gem, and thought about not sharing it because when I wrote it seven years ago, I think I meant it to be private, but decided that it’s worth sharing.

My 12th grade English teacher gave our class a pretty cliche assignment – write a letter to yourself. As you’ll see, I wasn’t too excited about the assignment, because I saved it for the last moment. But what I wrote was relevant then and is still relevant now, and it was exactly what I needed to read today.

May 16, 2007

Dear Carly,

That was weird.  I mean, its weird writing to myself, and starting a letter to myself is a strange thing to do at eight o’clock when I know that I should be working on my term paper before it ends up being fifteen pages.  Even though it will be fifteen pages, whether I do it tonight or not.  Okay, now I need to stop rambling.

I’m going to try.  I don’t know why I waited until the last minute to start this letter.  Whenever I get an assignment like this, I always wait until the very last minute because I guess I’m afraid of the future.  I’m afraid of what is going to happen four years from now and I’m afraid that I wont remember any of the people that I’m going to mention or I will remember then but I wont talk to them anymore.  I really try hard not to be afraid of change but it’s so hard because everything happens so fast and most of the time there’s nothing I can do about it.

Like this year.  It has been such an up and down year and I have felt so many things and I have been so afraid of not being able to make it and then finally I have been so happy to be alive.  Before this year I cannot ever remember crying tears of joy but I did it, and I looked like an idiot, crying tears of joy in my car.

I hope that four years from now I still read as much as I do now.  I hope that I never lose the wonder of diving into a book and not coming out for days and days.  But mostly, I hope that I still write.  Right now, I find such wonder in words and letters and sentences so much that the feeling of a pen or a pencil in my hand is like home.  I don’t know what I would do with my life if I didn’t have my poetry.  College will give me many opportunities to make my performance skills better too, and I hope that I still talk to Mr. Simmons enough to invite him to my performances and have him feel less awkward about coming.

I have to keep in touch with Mr. Simmons.  Not just because he is the poetry club person, but because he gave me the motivation to keep my pen in my hand even when I thought that I couldn’t do it anymore.  And sometimes, it made me really really really mad.  But I did it anyway because writing is like a drug and without it you can seriously injure yourself.  But with it you can save yourself from more things than just yourself.

I really hope that in four years I still know who my friends are: I mean like my real friends, not just the ones that I ask for help on homework or gossip with.

I must mention Jonathan.  Its kind of funny, because at this time last year Jonathan and I had just been together for a month, and now looking back so much seems to have changed, when really, nothing did at all.  Jonathan and I went from never talking to each other outside of school to being practically attached at the hip, and now I feel stronger for him than I ever thought I’d be able to feel about a person.  The bond that we have is a special one, and I cannot imagine a day without telling him everything that happened or sharing a laugh.  He talks about forever, about spending one hundred years together, and as much as I’d like to believe him, I hope that I don’t let him get in the way of my dreams.  I want to experience everything, I want to see the world, and I want to share it with him.  And then, when I’m ready to settle down, if it’s with him, then that will be good.  But if its not, well, that will be good too.  I’ve never been the kind of person to plan my life around a guy, and I don’t plan to be that person anytime soon.  But I know that I love Jonathan more than I knew a person was capable to love.  And I am lucky to have experienced that love.  To be experiencing that love.  And as much as I would like to be sitting next to him reading him this letter in four years, I will not say that it is definite.  I might be, but like I said, if its not, that will be okay also.

I’m not going to lie and pretend that I am thrilled to be leaving high school.  I mean, I’m proud that I did it, and I’m relieved that I don’t have any more work to do, but I’m going to miss the structure and seeing everyone every day.  Mostly, I’m going to miss lunches with Mr. Simmons and Mrs. Corlies’ seamless transitions from one point to another (hopefully I will learn that skill myself!) and sitting in the grass and reading poetry with Mac and just sharing moments that seemed so meaningless but were so full of sustenance with so many people that I care about more than I will ever admit.

I’ve never been very good at the whole run-on sentence thing.  I mean, I write them like its my job.  It’s the one thing that anyone would find in reading any of my papers from however old we were when we started writing to now.  Run-on sentences are my thing.  It’s because I just write the way that my brain tells me to and sometimes that results in a run-on sentence.  or a fragment.  But I’m rambling again.

I could try to search my mind for a last word of wisdom, but the only thing that I would find is a pun or a joke that no one but me will think is funny.  That tends to happen a lot.  Not that I mind or anything.  I love every second of it.

The point of the matter is that the most important thing that I learned this year is that it’s okay to make mistakes and admit it.  It’s okay to write the occasional run-on sentence and it’s okay to realize that I’m alive after sleepwalking for so long.  Have fun with life.  It’s a good thing.

Good luck,

Carly

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Taking Time


Loss is difficult. Anyone who has experienced it can tell you that. How difficult depends on the situation, on the person, on the circumstances.

Loss is transient. One minute, it doesn’t feel like anything is missing; the next, the whole world can come crashing down in one second. A memory sneaks up from behind and puts it’s arms around your eyes and yells: “GUESS WHO!?”; circumstance brings up feelings that are too raw for you to know exactly where to put them.

For my whole life, I think I’ve always felt that if I could “conquer” one thing at a time, the large things would never make me sweat. They would never challenge me in ways that I didn’t think I could ‘handle.’ I could ‘handle’ being sick; I could ‘handle’ a bad teacher, a bad grade, a fight with a friend. As long as it was one thing at a time, I could figure out a way to put one step in front of the other.

These days, I feel like ‘stepping’ is all I can do. Some mornings, it feels like I am carrying the weight of the whole world, and then I remember: Pop Pop is gone. I get bad news. I look at our bank statement. And it takes every ounce of my being to put one foot in front of the other.

Control has always been my biggest issue. I want to control everything, which I joke is why I cannot ever decide to become a surgeon, but really, it affects every aspect of my life. Because when something happens that’s beyond my control, or when something doesn’t seem “fair” or “the way things are supposed to be,” it seems like everything begins to spiral out of control. Sometimes, I feel like I should have done something differently. That on some cosmic level, I have to be paying for something. Other times, I just don’t know what to do because it feels like everything is spiraling out of control and I simply don’t know where to begin. How to get back on my feet. How to walk in a straight line again.

Recently, I’ve been handed a series of challenges that are so intricately connected and complex that I feel like I have no choice but to face them all head on at once. I don’t have the option of trading scrabble tiles for better or more useful ones, and I certainly cannot fold this hand of cards. Suddenly, I’m forced to deal with challenges that I thought I’d ‘handled’ long ago, and experiencing feelings and dealing with issues that I never thought would be on my radar screen, let alone forcing me to have tunnel vision. My coping mechanism? I retreat. Onto a sofa, into a book, TV show, or gallon of ice cream. These days, ice-cream’s off the table, which means a lot of time on the sofa or in bed.

I recently started taking a class on Wednesday nights with a group of my girlfriends, and the introduction to the book that we are using talks about the concept of patience. Patience, or in Hebrew, “Sooflanut”, has a very different concept in Judaism than it does in the secular world. Sooflanut doesn’t mean to “roll with the punches,” or to ignore feelings such as anger and resentment when something doesn’t go your way. Instead, it means to have those feelings, and to channel them to a place that makes you better, to say, “This sucks right now, but I have no choice but to keep moving, and it’s up to You to give me strength,” or “This really sucks right now, so I’m just going to focus on putting one step in front of the other until I can handle a little bit of a heavier load.” That sometimes, we don’t have to necessarily learn from our challenges, experiencing and living with them can be enough. We don’t have to “conquer” everything at once; instead, we just need to focus on getting from point A to point B to C and D without any (or many) physical or emotional casualties along the way.

The key to this? Time. Time, like loss, is also transient. Some days, it’s easy for me to get out of bed and notice things like the reflection the rays of sunlight make on the window panes, or to appreciate the pounding rain as it washes away the pollen from our unwashed windows. Other days, I just want to retreat under the covers with a cup of tea and a novel, retreating away from my emotions and from my soul until I feel strong enough to deal with everything once more. And that’s okay. I’m allowed to take time. I’m allowed to have these feelings, to feel like everything sucks until suddenly, it doesn’t anymore, and I’m in the kitchen mixing spices, herbs, and ingredients to feed my husband’s and my soul.

The healing process isn’t easy, and on days like today — impossible. It feels like I took five steps forward only to take ten steps back. But I just have to keep telling myself — it’s okay to feel this way, it’s okay for things to suck.

And tomorrow? Tomorrow will be better, and if it’s not, that’s okay too, as long as I never give up, focusing on putting one foot in front of the other, telling myself that I’m getting to a place of “okay” with every step along the way.

The Pen is Mightier than My Stomach


I feel like I owe you an apology. I haven’t been completely honest with you, and my flowery, melancholy posts about how stuck I feel in my skin may have been alarming. I’m deciding to make some changes. This post is to help you understand why.

For as long as I can remember, I have had health problems. They were so integral to my identity, that for a long time, when I would meet someone, I would introduce myself by saying, “Hi my name is Carly and I have a disease.” Which I do.

I don’t remember a time before I got sick. I remember the onset of symptoms, of the confusion and disbelief that comes from watching and experiencing your body not behave the way that it was trained to. The way that it’s supposed to. I remember the doctors, and I remember crying in the car on the way home from the diagnosis (Ulcerative Colitis). I was five years old, and I needed to start taking medicine every day, medicine I’d be on for the rest of my life.

But I don’t remember ever really feeling like I was sick. Sure, I had some bad days; some really bad days, and I missed a lot of my childhood. I missed a lot of birthday parties, a lot of school, and a lot of sleepovers. But I still felt like a kid, for the most part.

The normalcy of my childhood is 100% completely and ultimately accredited to my parents. They gave me independence; allowed me to make my own decisions, to control how and when I wanted to take my medication, but they also did not let my disease define who I was or what I thought that I could do. They sent me to overnight camp with my bottles of pills, sent me to Israel when I was a little older, let me have relationships and let me explain on my own terms how and why I wasn’t always functioning on the same level as everyone around me. And I coped. I made a name for the “little man in my intestines,” who I creatively called Colin and determined each day whether he was in a good or bad mood. I took my medicine every day, talked to my doctors about switching from 4 pills 3 times a day to 12 pills once a day, and when I was in eighth grade and decided that it was all in my head, I even stopped taking my medicine for a while to prove it.

Obviously, I was wrong, and I still have the same condition today that I was diagnosed with when I was five. Plus one-or-two more, newer diagnoses (I was upgraded to Crohn’s Disease) that have resulted in my feeling a little bit disconnected from my body in the past few weeks. Just feeling like I’m really trapped in a machine that doesn’t know how to work, or keeps malfunctioning and I have no way of getting out.

I’m tired of feeling that way; I want to feel like I belong in this body, and while I know that there are certain things that I will never be able to change, I want to take control over the things that I can do. Primarily, I want to get rid of the extra weight that I’ve been lugging around; I want to be able to walk up two flights of stairs without getting winded, and I want to be able to shop in any store that I want to and find any article of clothing in my size that I’d like to buy.

To do that, I need to take better care of myself. I need to get some sunlight, eat healthier, eat less, and exercise more. Thanks to some inspiration from an old friend from camp and my determination to write a book about what going to weight-loss camp taught me, I’m really going to take better care of myself, once and for all.

As I explained in The Dreaded First Post, I’ve always failed at diary-keeping of any kind. Personal diaries, “dear diaries,” and even agenda-keeping. I think one of the main reasons for this is my inability to face commitment: once something is written down, it is real; so if I don’t write about something that is particularly challenging, I don’t have to revisit it. I can ignore it, and it will pass. But I am trying diary-keeping again, in a different forum. I started a new blog, called Journey to Half of Me. I don’t necessarily want to cut myself in half (there would be hardly anything left!) but I do want to become whole. And the only way that I can do that is to fill the gap between my soul and my body, to treat myself like I care about myself and to remember, every single day, that there is something inside of me that is divine.

To remember that I am NOT my body; it’s just something that I move around in. There is a silver thread running through my veins that contains the most fundamental and precious parts of me; and in order to maintain it’s value, I have to take care of the skin it’s in.

Computer Blues


My lack of blogging for the past few days can partially be blamed on the weekend (hey, who says writing isn’t work!), a headache that I can’t seem to shake, and lots and lots of sleep (I never said that my excuses would be good ones!).

In reality, I’ve been doing a lot of introspection, including writing 8 pages of what I hope will be the beginning of a childhood memoir. Not about all of my childhood — who would want to read that! A memoir of the five summers I spent at camp, which I picture as something much more like a series of short stories interspersed with some rambling. Or that’s what it looks like it will be to me.

Hey, write what you know – right?

Anyways, I can’t see straight from looking at the computer all day, so I’m going to keep this short.

But I just wanted to check in to say hi. how are you?

The Heart of the Matter


I have started to write two substantial blog entries and deleted them both. On purpose. Everything I try to write is coming out wrong today.

I spent a long time last night working on my manuscript – taking out entire lines of poetry, throwing entire poems into the trash. I have some more to add; things that were written after I compiled everything — but the truth is I’m not sure there’s a market for poetry anymore. I’m not sure that people want to learn or read or do poetry the way that they did before.

All the greats are gone – Vonnegut was the last of them, and the last to go. I’d like to picture him at a great table, somewhere with Hemingway, and Orwell, and Shakespeare, and Hunter S. Thomas, drinking mead and wine and doing shots of tequila, laughing at the nuances and language of today. Shakespeare, who penned so many of the words  we use today, created them just from their sounds — hearing people say things like, “LOL” and “GTG” – can you imagine? He’s probably thrilled he’s not here to see it – but laughing uncontrollably nonetheless. Waiting to see who will come up with the “next great idea.”

Many people describe my generation as the “Lost” generation, but the truth is that we should probably be called the “invented” generation. Children of baby-boomers who care about nothing more than money and cars – driving fast, dying young, devaluing the dollar, the law, and life itself.

A reality I live every day at the job I do is about the insane amount of young people who take their lives as a result of the constant tormenting they face every single day at school, on the computer, and at home from their parents. NJ Governor Chris Christie just signed a bill to enforce support groups for young people contemplating suicide, and all I can think about are the kids that were killed because they were hated. The kids that didn’t want to die – and the kids that kill themselves anyway.

I know that there’s so much to blame, but I think a lot of it has to do with the amount of generous stimuli surroudning us 24 hours/day and a lot of it has to do with the lack of imagination young people have today. There’s no need to want anything. Kids don’t need to play with refridgerator boxes anymore — there’s an app for that. Don’t have to build using wood blocks because they can build houses and roofs and community centers on the computer. They can create false realities and identities and actualize them using the computer.

And I can’t even think of characters to put into a damn novel.

I don’t know if I have it in me to write fiction. So much happens in the world surrounding us on a daily basis, and while I love to jump into a novel and escape from the world – I don’t know if I can create my own. I was always told to “write what I know” – but if I’m not sure if I even know anything…where does that leave me? A blank sheet of paper?

Facebooked


my current dilemma

About one month ago, I left facebook. I hit delete, and never looked back. I also hadn’t blogged in all of November or December, and didn’t think about how my lack of facebook-ery would cause my blog’s traffic to deplete to almost nothing. In fact, in the past four months, I have had less blog traffic than I had in one week in August. I blame Facebook.

The first two days after I deleted my account were brutal. Every morning, I’d get to work and open two tabs in explorer – gmail and Facebook. For days, my routine was disrupted as the withdrawal commenced. I’d open gmail, open a new tab, and I swear the keys started to type http://www.faceb– before I’d frantically hit the backspace button. I broke out in a cold sweat when my laptop signed me in and I had to re-delete my account. But I did it; which means I was really serious, right? I didn’t just delete facebook once, I did it twice! I was committed to living life away from the computer screen – from breaking the shackles of stalkery! Over time, it got a little bit easier. Yesterday, I even wrote a personal email to a friend because we’d mainly communicated via facebook messages previously. And it felt good.

Until I looked at my blog stats.

I have had 11 visitors in the past 48 hours, and assuming that 4 of those visitors were the same person (thanks, mom!) I’ve had a pathetic 7 visitors who still care to remember that I’m still here in the blogosphere.

So what do I do? Do I go back and SWEAR not to check, just to let my blog update my status? Do I link to Jonathan’s facebook so that people will still know I’m here? Or do I just keep trucking, and hope that people catch on to my words?

Will my blog be the catalyst that will make me crawl back with my tail between my legs? If I really want to write when I quit my job, I need traffic. So maybe I can buy my own domain, and start to make money from this little experiment. But it’s a double-edged sword! If I’m on facebook, I’ll spend more time stalking my ex-friend’s ex-boyfriend’s cousin’s favorite kind of potato chips than I will on my blog, right?

I’m voting against FBO (Facebook official), because Facebook and I have officially ended things, and I’m determined not to go back! Help my blog get traffic before I get desperate!

Moveable


No sooner did I commit to the pen than it dissapointed me. I have just spent the better part of an hour talking to support people from www.bluehost.com, the domain host I used (and paid for) for over two years to breathe life into my old blog, www.indulgentgirl.com (don’t even try to click on it; it will break your heart just as much as it broke mine.)

It’s all gone. Everything is gone. Remember the old adage that our parents, sorority and fraternity advisors, and employers spew at us? Once it’s on the internet, it’s there to stay? Well, the entire contents of my blog have been wiped from the interface. They are absolutely and completely gone – lost in cyberspace, never to return.

I know I sound dramatic, but I had some really good stuff on that blog. Stuff that I’d really like to read to give myself perspective about my “being a slave to the pen” mindset that I’m trying really hard to give in to. Stuff that may make me want to write. But there’s no going back.

The frummie in me wants to say “Gam Zu Letova” – it’s all for the best – maybe there’s something on that blog SO embarassing I would be humiliated if people had access to it once more – maybe something that would make me sad. I know both are true. My blog annotated the ups and downs of my life, living situation, and relationships. I wrote an entire entry in yinglish (Yiddish-English) just to prove that I could. I published laundry lists, grocery lists, and bucket lists on it. I loved that blog because it helped me commit to write again. It helped me grow personally, professionally, and emotionally. I got fired from google because of it (who knew that just writing “google” ruined my chances of hosting ads!?) But what I had was beautiful. It was a short-lived love affair between me and the computer, and it’s gone without a trace.

CALLING ALL COMPUTER GEEKS! There has to be some way to recover my work, right? If not, calling all writers — any advice?