Saturday, May 24, 2014

For Reasons Unknown

Sometimes, when I encounter something I can't explain, or something that just downright freaks me out, I get a song stuck in my head. The chorus from "For Reasons Unknown" by The Killers starts rolling around in my brain. I used to listen to that song a lot, in my car, back during the worst year of my life. I don't listen to that album much anymore for that very reason.

I got that song stuck in my head today.

When my husband left for work at about 3 o'clock I decided to take a nap. I had to work this morning, and we only got about 6 hours of sleep, so I curled up in bed with the dog and planned on sleeping for about an hour. It took me a while to fall asleep--it always does. I was thinking (and hemming and hawing) about the train ride I have to take next week to southern Illinois to see my best friend. I'm a little stressed about it, a little excited, but I do have to travel alone. The point is, I couldn't quiet my mind. I tossed and turned frequently and slept for brief periods, and when I rolled over to see the clock's green number saying '4:12' I was still exhausted. So I went back to sleep. I didn't wake up again until after 6. 

Somewhere during that extra two hours I didn't plan, I had a nerve-wracking dream. I was on a big boat, probably a ferry. All of the passengers were familiar, people from various points in my life, fellow students from college and old women I used to work with. I was wearing a brand new pair of Converse Chuck Taylor's, and a green sweater which I wore during my last trip on a train. It became clear to me that somehow I was responsible for the happiness of every passenger, and yet none of them were speaking to me. I was also distinctly aware of the lack of my husband's presence. Even my dog is on the ferry, but not my husband. I was traveling alone on a ferry with practically every person I'd ever known and suddenly.... the boat started to rock.

The interesting thing here is that the ferryboat was not in the ocean (I'm from the west coast, so yes, I will automatically think ferries belong on the ocean) or a lake or a river. In fact, we were in a lake. It was small, about the size a baseball field. Physics would likely tell you a ferryboat can't fit in a baseball field, but this is my dream, gosh darn it! 

So we're in this itty-bitty lake and the ferryboat is rocking and it's almost like a giant hand has started swishing the boat from one shore to the other. I started running back and forth around the edge of the ferry, being chased by my dog, trying to get people's attention, all the while distracted by how uncomfortable my brand new shoes are. I started to hyperventilate, and then that thing happened--you know, when you're dreaming and you want to scream, and no sound comes out? It was like that. 

I woke up not long after that, and my throat was all dry and my body was rushing with adrenaline. My dog was also essentially sleeping on my face. I waited, settled down, and then "For Reasons Unknown" popped into my head.

You know, the first lines of that song are "I packed my case, I checked my face." I didn't realize it until today but the song really is about travel, or about change. In my head, when I'm listening to the song, I see a man staring at his reflection in the mirror and noticing that he looks older, that he's a different person. He has traveled years, if not physical distances, and recognizes that his heart doesn't beat the same way, even. He doesn't see the person he used to be. 

This trip I'm taking is a big deal. I've been focusing a lot on the clothes I want to bring and the books I'll try to read while I'm there, and all the fun I'll have with my best friend, whom I haven't seen in over a year. But this song has reminded me that there are other forces at work here, other notions of importance that I could be mulling over. 

I am a much different person now--when I compare myself to the last time I traveled, to the last time I saw my best friend, to the last time I went on adventure alone. It was 4 years ago the last time I got on a train, in that green sweater, and I rode all the way back to Washington. I wasn't married, or graduated, or really all that sure of myself. And yet, I had the confidence to ride the train alone. I hugged a drunk man and gave trail mix to a hippie who sang me songs. I read the manuscript for my friend Danny's novel. I watched every sunrise, every sunset. It was three intrepid days of sitting and thinking and growing.

This trip I'm taking on Wednesday is only about 6 six hours. So I'm not sure why I'm this stressed and out of balance. I guess the reasons are unknown. I guess I'll just have to pay attention. 

Friday, May 23, 2014


I was twelve the first time I found a delightful satisfaction in rearranging my bedroom. Being the only girl, I had my own room. I also had bunk beds, which were usually in an "L" shape, with my bed on the floor and the cool top bunk was saved for stuffed animals and sleepover friends. At some point during sixth grade I decided, probably while being forced to clean my room, that I wanted the bed under the window because that's how bedrooms looked in all the American Girl books. It looked so awesome, my room was clean forever for like a whole week, almost.

And thus began the wonderment of rearranging. I didn't mention it before, but it's an important piece of information: I did all of this by myself. Yes, I moved my bed without any help. And as I grew up I continued to do it by myself, even when my bunk beds were replaced with a metal-framed futon and my parents gave me a huge corner desk from Ikea. Sometimes I did it in the middle of the night. Somehow this not only didn't bother my parents, but it often seemed like they didn't even notice. Or maybe my new designs looked stupid and they just didn't say anything?

When I get bored with my space, or I feel restless, I rearrange. At least, I used to.

Until this week, it's only happened once since I got married almost 3 years ago. Our first September in this apartment (so, you know, about two months after we moved in) we moved the couch 45 degrees. Whoop-di-doo. 

So last month I mentioned to my husband how I wanted to rearrange my office space, move it to the other corner, etc. He seemed uninterested. This week he had 2 days off and so we talked about doing it together, because he would be home, and my metal thrift-store desk is actually much heavier than the one from Ikea. (sigh) We put it off all week, until today, an hour before he had to leave for work. "I've cleaned this up enough to move it," I said, offhand. And he said, "Okay, let me do it." He also told me to go into the bedroom, that I was not allowed to help, and was insanely secretive about it. Basically he just wanted to surprise me but he didn't know how to say that because... clearly he's just a crazy person.

I am now sitting in my new office space. It's cluttered, because he moved everything off the desk and it hasn't been replaced. Also, I have a lot of random things sitting around. Here's a short list of some of the seemingly unconnected items on my desk: box of Ziplock bags, old wallet, empty pickle jar, winter gloves, tiny plastic dinosaur, and eight million bobby pins. (the last item also applies to the entire floorspace of our apartment, plus every flat surface, plus the bottom of my purse, plus under the couch cushions, plus... you get the picture.) Not to mention normal desk items, like pens and a stapler a box of matches. Wait.... you don't keep a box of matches on your desk? Weirdos.

Anyways. It's lovely to be facing a new direction, have more wall space to decorate, and be able to see the clock from here. I've been pondering why it's so enjoyable, though. It's not like the mess really went away. I now have a view of the TV from my desk, which I don't appreciate. There are still papers to be filed, trash to be discarded (somewhere other than on the floor.) I do have a window into the kitchen now, which is pretty cool, but only if I have a butler to deliver cups of coffee through said window periodically. ;)

Within all of this chaos, I'm still extremely pleased. I am not horribly bothered by the clutter that remains. And I think that a new perspective is always beneficial, even if it's not perfect, simply because it's different. I think I like rearranging my physical space because it allows me to rearrange my headspace. My desk is my headspace. This is where I spend most of my time. I probably spend more time working at my desk than sleeping in bed. This is the space where I write poems and edit papers and create paper masterpieces. It's where I sit and think deeply--but look like I'm staring off into empty space. 

This is the place where I find my muchness. And it has been rearranged, reorganized, refreshed.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Another in-between season

I teach kindergarten. I can't remember if I've ever mentioned this before. If I have, I'm sure I also mentioned that it's a whole different world for me. I majored in secondary education and English and so while I typically lean toward literature and poetry (like you didn't know), my most-utilized, most foundational skill is my creativity. If I was not a creative person, the last 4 months would not have been pretty.

But they were. Pretty, that is. Well, they weren't just pretty. They were educational--for me, and for the kids. They were wonderful. Every Monday and Tuesday that I got to teach those little people I felt a whole new sense of vibrancy and color blooming out of me, and out of them. I spent countless hours rifling through Pinterest and coming up with new ideas because it was that exhilaration to teach 4 and 5-year-olds.

I quickly learned how to avoid tantrums, and those crocodile tears. It's not like I haven't made students cry before--I made at least one middle school student cry while I was student teaching, because she was talking during a test. I scared her so badly she burst into panicked tears and ran to the bathroom. I didn't even yell--all I did was say her first and last name and stand at the front of the classroom with my hands on my hips.

But kindergartners cry for reasons far less "terrifying." No, you may not have more stickers than the other kids. No, you may not have purple construction paper because we are all using blue for this project. If you put that pencil in your mouth one more time, you will be in a time out. If you push Susie out of the way one more time, you will be in a time out. If you say "banana" one more time, you will be in a time out.

I also learned how to repeat myself. I also learned how to repeat myself. I can't tell you how many times per day I said, "Sit on your bottom!" because the chairs (suited for college students) have wheels and more than one kiddo fell and bumped their head.

I had to take a fast-track math session for myself. I am not mathematical individual. Even though they were 4 and 5, it still took a little motivation for me to teach math. There were times when "Eye of the Tiger" played in my head on math days, simply because it went off without a hitch, and the kids were happily adding up ladybug legs or the points on a star.

My favorite sessions were during art and music week, the last week of every month. Not every a/m week was fantastic, but every project was thought of with good intentions. And the kids had a great time, even if their rainmakers were more like exploding maracas.

That season of my life is over, until September. For now I will say goodbye to the magic in a child's face when they watch watercolor paints being mixed for the first time. I will say goodbye to the squeals of delight when they discover that the dot-to-dot picture is of a fairy. I will say goodbye to the repeated phrases of, "Sit on your bottom" and "It's okay, you can share" and "Please stop eating your eraser." I will say goodbye to happy giggles when someone wins the game, and dejected blubbers when someone loses. I will say goodbye to tiny picture graphs and measuring with pebbles and making cereal box guitars.

And I will spent all summer planning for next year, just so I can say hello all over again. This is what my life looked like:

And now it looks like this: