3 big things

Moto views in Pittsburgh // photo by Meghan Tutolo

Had my younger self caught wind of all the big things going on in my life right now, she never would have believed it.

My preteen self would be awfully disappointed about the way things shook out. I am not a famous Broadway star. I have not had any plastic surgery. I do not own a swimming pool with a huge deep-end nor an Icee machine of just red and blue. Most years, I miss out on going to Kennywood (even though I now live within a few miles of the joint). I have not tried to find out where any of my celebrity idols live and casually run into them at local bars and restaurants. What a waste of adulthood!

Really, though, I’m not talking about this self. She was a baby and kind of out-of-touch with reality, no? I’m talking about the younger adult me… even who I was 7 years ago wouldn’t have fallen for this shit.

Every once in a while, I have these moments where I can see myself so clearly—objectively almost—as an outsider would. More aptly explained: it’s like I am the observer seeing someone else entirely. I’m not sure if this is common or normal or anything, but it isn’t something I do on purpose. It’s like my brain is thrust just out of frame. (Dissociate, much?) As weird as it can be, it’s been a useful tool, like superhero-strength awareness.

Anyway, this happened the other day after I parked my wheels, as I was taking in the events of the day, taking inventory of the worries and thoughts circling upstairs.

Holy shit. Who am I? None of these things sound like the me I knew.

I have to admit I got a little panicky. I mean, if this isn’t who I thought I’d be and what I thought I’d be doing… is this actually what I want? As I write this here, I’m realizing just how melodramatic this all sounds. Ha! But you have to understand, I live my life at a pretty fast pace. At the beginning of our relationship, A used to laugh astonished at “how many days we had” that day. She caught her first glimpses of how much goes on in a day when you spend it with me.

Because I live this way, it seems more likely that I might wake up one day like “OMG, WHERE AM I? HOW DID I GET HERE?” That shit is terrifying.

Exhibit A. Motorcycle

Black Suzuki TU250x 2019 // Photo by Meghan Tutolo

Yeah, you heard it here, folks. The “chicken” is rolling around on two wheels. As of recently, I have graduated from the scooter—which was already a mind fuck, to be honest—to a motorcycle. I never ever ever ever wanted to ride on one, let alone own one. I thought it foolish and frightening. I mean, why would anyone put themselves in danger like that? And unnecessarily so? I know now.

Exhibit B. Stained Glass

Round panel stained glass creation in the studio // photo by Meghan Tutolo of 1flychicken creations

It’s not that stained glass isn’t beautiful. I’ve always found it fascinating. I got a taste for it in 11th or 12th grade, when I went with the Art Club to a local stained glass studio to learn how and to make a suncatcher.

But let’s be real: I can barely wash the dishes without cutting myself. Glass? Lead? A 600˚F soldering iron? Get out of town.

I know there are more dangerous arts and crafts, but this one is certainly up there for the likes of me. Besides it being risky to the digits, creating stained glass takes some serious time, practice, money, attention span, etc. But here I am and I’m loving it. I started producing it for 1flychicken creations and selling my suncatchers at art events and online.

And the coolest part about it is that people seem to be digging it as much as I dig making it. I am so excited about it. It’s bananas.

Exhibit C. House?

Instant film, new home in Pittsburgh // photo by Meghan Tutolo

No way. I still can’t believe it. I have flat-out told people—even just months ago—that I would never buy a house. I don’t even watch HGTV. Nope. Hell no. And don’t you even try to talk me into it.

Why was I never into the idea of buying a house? BECAUSE. I. CANNOT. BE. FEELIN. TRAPPED. IN. ANY. WAY. More debt? Unforeseen issues I may have to shell out for? There are so many reasons to be absolutely terrified of owning a home. I am not rich. How do people do this?

But would you look at the damn thing? It’s incredible. We fell in love instantly. It’s just as charming on the inside, if not moreso. It’s perfect in so many ways, not just because it’s so quirky and fun looking… but I’ll stop here, because this could easily become a tribute to my new digs.

So listen. Besides the threat of losing the house in some way or having to sink a ton of money into it, my worst fear is becoming on of those people, the middle-aged, handy home-improvement types. You know who they are. They always have a project going on, always in the home improvement stores and aisles, always wanting to talk about what they’re doing to their house like anyone cares.

Likewise—and these folks fall into the same category as the people whose lives are dictated by their dogs’ bathroom routines (sorry!)—I just refuse to spend so much time on the house that I never leave to have a life/socialize. You know the type? If you’re not sure, just ask them what they’re up to this weekend. These hermits are likely to respond in one of the following ways:

“Welp, I’ve got to stain the deck this weekend.”

“I’m probably going to re-grout the tile in the bathroom.”

“I’ve got some plans to sand, stain and refinish the kitchen cabinets.”

Nooooo! That sounds awful and boring and isolating. I don’t want to miss out on life because I’m too busy working on my house. That’s exactly what I don’t want to do. But I know me. I know that I take care of things, that I like to learn new practical skills, that when I put my guts into something, I go all the way… please don’t let me become a home improvement hermit? I’m counting on you.

Are you a home improvement hermit? How do you manage your time? Do you hire out for your maintenance work?

Gulp.

Painting feature in The Ekphrastic Review

Purple Night City by Meghan Tutolo

So pumped to hear my mixed media painting, “Purple Night City,” has landed in The Ekphrastic Review alongside this dope poem by Mark Ward: “College Roommate”

I’m always looking for ways to combine my words and art, so this was inspiring. And honor!

I always refer to my cities as other worlds and they do feel that way to me… perhaps I just haven’t tapped into the words part of that yet. (:

Have you ever written anything inspired by art? It’s a great exercise… I’m thinking about hitting up a museum soon to get some inspiration.

mt

2019, the year of the blog

376 W - Wilkinsburg Exit Meghan Tutolo

Ok, I doubt it. Let’s be real here… I’m always saying I’ll blog more. But what if I really did?

I have this website with my name, an active calendar, a bio in need of an update… and this years-long confessional dating back to when I was still complaining about post-grad life—as if! Why wouldn’t I blog more? Hell, if you know me on social media, you know I’m about as likely to overshare as a Gushers fruit snack—let’s just say I’m an open book. Long-term, I have always wished for a way to tie my writing world into my art world more seamlessly.

I am totally at a spot where I need to decide what my next direction is. Since I love lists, let’s make a damn list about why I’m hesitant to incorporate more of my blog into my art life (or vice versa):

1. I’m not a billboard. The last thing I want to happen is for y’all to think I’m just trying to sell my shit. What if you don’t take me seriously anymore? Of course it’s a way to talk about all the creative things I’m getting into, but I don’t want to become some slick-talking car salesperson.

2. Can I still be a human? I doubt it’s in good taste to be REAL TALK in a space where I’m also linking to my sticker collection on Etsy, you know? I just don’t play phony. How can I be real and be a brand or a business? The truth is I don’t have time to be me and then be some brand. I am my brand. But somehow, I know this will only make things more difficult for me and probably halt progress on the business front. I mean, not everyone who is interested in Pittsburgh souvenirs is going to care about my seasonal depression.

3. What the hell is she, anyway? I do too many things. I’m active in the art community and the writing community. I started the REWIND Reading Series, which I’m super pumped about. I like to take photos with my old instant cameras. Scooting/motorcycling is one of my favorite pastimes. I’m trying to learn stained glass work here soon. I’m obsessed with my smooshy faced cats. And you know, I don’t like to censor my politics, brainstorming about how to do more with art as activism. A blog can either bring all these things together in one spot or confuse the f out of someone.

What do you think? Has anyone else gone through something similar? How do you move through stuck times? Pray? Flip a coin? Pull petals off a flower?

Halp!

All going but gone

Cheswick, PA (2018) - © Meghan Tutolo

There aren’t too many things in this world that last.

See: high school friendships, fashion trends (though they are bound to cycle back), ska music, your favorite cologne, all seasons of The Office available on Netflix. No matter how much you love something, no matter how tightly you squeeze to it… longevity is an illusion.

But we know this, don’t we?

In fact, transience is a truth that is smacked into us from the moment we can want, need, desire things. Days end. Snacks are eaten up. Markers run dry. Toys break. The sun sets and you must go inside. The End couldn’t be a surprise, shouldn’t be. Yet, the anticipation of an end never made it any less devastating. When we were small, we would cry and whine and stomp… and hell, those were socially acceptable things as a kid. Besides, if we were convincing enough in our pout, the tides could turn. Our parents—those minor gods—could grant us more time and more things to prolong these ends.

Still, we came back for more. It didn’t stop us from going back outside or hoping or wishing, getting excited about every last thing we could do. Hope. Possibility. I don’t know what changes, why we can’t live there forever. Was it just that we just needed to accumulate more losses? Or maybe we were more buoyant then.

I write a lot about loss. I can’t help it. It’s the truth that defines me most. The why is another post, really, but the short of it is that I can’t compute. My brain cycles over it… over and over. It’s like that mechanism in me is broken. Move on. Let go. What? And up until recently, I mostly scoffed at the tender fears of others, that empty ache to remain guarded. I couldn’t understand ones need to shut people out, to shut down the world, hide in stuffy apartments without the lights on. You could count on me for handing out the advice TicTacs:

“What are you afraid of, anyhow?”

“What’s the worst that can happen? You’re alone now.”

“Rejection? We’ve all been there.”

“You’re just jaded. I mean, how will you ever be happy if you can’t take the risk?”

It was less judge-y and more “I don’t understand.” Because I didn’t. (I don’t?) I’ve been wounded, waded in chaos, really, but I still willed myself into the day and into people the way a hungry cat might smash itself into your leg, purring: half-hungry, half-doting. It didn’t mean I wasn’t sad or self-loathing, but that I was unhappy with my situation (a.k.a. The Never Enoughs) and so I needed more. I needed (need) more to toss into my bottomless pit. Of course, now I realize that this isn’t how everyone processes unhappiness and grief. Likewise, this can’t go on forever, right?

Admittedly, I’ve been struggling with reconnecting. It feels almost beyond my control.

My question is, though, what if the only way to process loss effectively is to avoid it altogether? And what if this style of coping isn’t a choice, but a mechanism, physiologically speaking? What if, over the years, our body learns without us?

It makes sense that, at some point, the body would take over. It does that, the body—it acts and reacts to its own tune, at times, reminding us we are not in control. For instance, maybe you don’t think you’re nervous, but then your hands shake, your breath quickens, your heart knocks in your ears like a marching band drum line. Likewise, the body has been known to do things in its best interest, to protect itself from common stressors and provocateurs. Hello, survival. But who says it must inform its host—for lack of a better term—on a conscious level?

At some point our body is all: “F you, dude. If you can’t take care of me, I’ll take care of me.”

You know the body—that cocoon we abuse endlessly with chemicals and gluttony and sleeplessness and… need I go on?

No wonder we’re 30 with budding armor: afraid to take risks, afraid to connect, afraid to love. And maybe those protective brain juices have convinced us subconsciously that we don’t want these things, that we’re fine. Why try? You know the hurt that follows. The body doesn’t let us.

Raise your hand if you’ve been the hapless victim of some half-assed solace like this:

“The only constant in life is change itself.”

Ugh. Gross. (Besides, Heraclitus of Ephesus was kind of an asshole.)

But the point is… shit doesn’t work. We know this. We’ve known it. But it still cuts. And you can cry or stomp or sing or whiskey it away, but it’s there, loss—as big as an anvil swinging above from a clothesline.

This thought comes to me, because yesterday, as I sat in my car at a red light, my eyes tried to leak on me. Perfect. A cry triggered by some trite line in a song that I hear often—nonsense, really. But it reminded me of someone I lost, a pain I should be immune to by now. And so I realize again (and again and again) that grief might be the thing that goes on forever.

How cruel is the world when everything leaves, but the pain of what is gone.

What to do when you can’t do

Rando typewriter flow

 

You write about not being able to do.

I just spent the last hour trying to find a medium for this rabid, though undeveloped and unsettling outrage. First, I got out a pencil and paper. Then, I opened a Word doc and began a new poem. Frustrated and unable to write that way, I decided to look at one I’d written the other day. No dice. I moved to another folder entitled “Non-fiction,” and opened a few documents to edit.

The state of things (things that I haven’t gotten a chance to dive into all the way yet)—but when should I? Now at 3 A.M.?

These days, I haven’t figured out yet how to balance day-to-day living, productivity and sanity with the research and discussion needed to know to stay on top of politics.

This is why when there are moments of goodness, I grab onto them. Even if it’s just the crisp colors of sunset over the Mon. Even if it’s just my cat waking me up with his purr and whisker-tickle technique. I don’t know. I’m hanging on. Because, like it has felt all along since the beginning of this presidency, it isn’t about me. It’s bigger. How does one exist and not exist at the same time?

“Buy Some Happiness” – Sweet Pittsburgh Sticker Feature in City Paper

laptopweb.jpg

 

Two days ago late, late at night (like morning, of course), I happened to be on the internet Googling and doing a little research on my products. As I Googled, I came up with this City Paper article for back to school season, pimping out my PGH Fun sticker! Get out of town! More than my Pittsburgh vinyl sticker and a shoutout to my shop,  the article The City Paper curated stickers from a bunch of dope local Pittsburgh artists and makers. How cool is that?

Emily McGaughey’s Pierogi Dude, Yeah Yehlsa’s Go Away Heart, Zenspire’s Zentangle Pizza and Commonwealth Press’s Parking Chair... and more.

If you haven’t been tempted by the links above (already), please go back and hit them up. These cool Pittsburgh-based businesses/artists and those like them are what make this city tick. So make sure you add them to your bookmarks for the upcoming holiday season. They make excellent stocking stuffers and sweet surprises in your holiday greeting cards.

Cool Pittsburgh Sticker "PGH" Design by 1flychicken creations

JUST WHAT does one do with so many cool stickers, anyhow? Vinyl, weatherproof decals are perfect for laptops, water bottles, helmets, car bumpers, guitar cases, notebooks… just about anything you can stick ’em too.

I just ordered a boat load of new stickers and the beginning of a new project, so watch out for those. And thank you to Lisa Cunningham of Pittsburgh City Paper for the feature.

!!!

mt

Sweet-and-sassy Mother’s Day Cards

Funny, floral printable Mother's Day cards // by 1flychicken creations

Save the sweetness for dessert and give mom something better… laughter!

If you know me at all, you know I’m super obsessed with making cards. Besides painting, it sort of all started with card making. I love shopping for the perfect gift (and sometimes making the perfect gift), but I LOVE sending mail. I used to almost always make every one of my cards by hand. Just ask my pen pals! I still make them, but these days, I’m really focused on growing my collection of 1flychicken creations printable greeting cards so that everyone can pass on the fun!

This week, I’ve added three new printable Mother’s Day cards to the shop. They are super sassy and all with their own unique flower illustration. Inspired by fun and funky retro colors and a modern color block style, I drew these flower designs to be a pretty contrast to the jokes on the front. Sass comes naturally for me… especially when I grew up watching a lot of Golden Girls, you know?

Hope you love these as much as I loved making them.

Local in Pittsburgh? Hit me up for a printed version and stop by my 1FLY YART SALE this weekend!

CLICK on each to visit its Etsy listing:

Card #1: Thanks, mom.
Card #2: Not Shady Pines, ma.
Card #3: A little sibling rivalry never hurt anyone…

Funny, floral printable Mother's Day card // by 1flychicken creations
Funny, floral printable Mother's Day card // by 1flychicken creations
Funny, floral printable Mother's Day card // by 1flychicken creations

My first AWP at 12,000 writers deep

I can’t believe I’m here.

During my years of undergrad and graduate school, AWP—Association of Writers & Writing Programs—was the definition of cool, was the thing the cool students did. Yes, even in grad and undergrad there is cool. It’s not a concept reserved solely for the untouchables at the middle-school lunch table or the hunky highschool football team. On the other hand, the very lack of cool is a disease, uncool. It follows you. It’s on you. You wear it like a bad style. In adulthood, cool exists with a different name: elitist, bougie, yuppie, pretentious, hipster, etc.

You think I’m being dramatic, don’t you? Sensitive? Maybe. But it’s there and it’s been instilled in me, drawn-out and awkward as the “growing out” phase of a bad haircut. Cool is now ironic. It’s not for those of us that grew up in an age where sweaters, cat shirts, stretchy pants, thunder thighs and glasses were considered severely uncool. I was never cool, and so I can never be.

“I just never want to be the type to take myself too seriously, you know? I hate that,” I explained to Laura during one of my anti-academic rants.

“You just don’t like pretentiousness,” she clarified.

“Yeah, I guess. I just don’t want to be that movie. The one you hear all the hype about, and then you go to see it, and it sucks.”

Who knows? Maybe the movie wouldn’t suck so bad if expectations weren’t so high. All that hype.

I’ll admit that most of my adulthood accomplishments and sense of self has come from a heavy dose of “fake it ’til you make it”—a (clichéd) mantra I learned early. I mean, let’s face it: self-deprecation is embarrassing and uncomfortable for everyone. We can’t all be Alanis with her $10 words. We can’t all turn our insecurities and hyperawareness into some moody and attractive Canadian twenty-something with a record deal.

Ok, so this appears to have nothing to do with AWP at all… but I swear it does!

Just as I learned in school early on (again and again), doing something cool doesn’t necessarily make one cool. Sure, I wore men’s JNCO Jeans and Airwalks and memorized all the words to Puff Daddy’s album, No Way Out. (Clearly the definition of cool. Ha!) But even this didn’t affect my position on the highschool popularity chart. Likewise, attending AWP didn’t suddenly transform me into some poised, self-assured and impervious academic writer. Instead, it made me feel small and unimportant and squash-able: a feeling I wasn’t ready for, to be honest. But maybe that is the lesson too, a reminder of the lesson.

You can’t just put on the JNCO Jeans. You have to be the kind of person that wears the JNCO Jeans, you know?

Being uncool and remaining uncool kept me at a distance back then. I was overweight, reactive and super insecure. I might as well have worn a sign on my head. And if I am truly the alien that I say I am and I never fit into any community, I don’t have to live up to the expectations and definitions of success defined by that community, right? So maybe I’m just afraid of not achieving those successes. What if I am not more than this? (How many years of trying does it take? Have I even tried? …this could easily turn into the Question Game.)

That is what AWP was for me. Reflective. Figuring out my place. It was a trip away with sun. It was a chance to learn more about writing, about people and life. I got to see and experience so many things and people in just a few days, and yes, this was all very overwhelming at times (see: ugly-crying alone in my hotel room like a lost pup), but it felt worth it and necessary. And while it was hard to connect to anything too much, it was still a time of connections. These moments made an impact, even if they were brief. So thank you for them.

At the end of the day, it’s not really about cool, is it? I’m sure cool would help. I will always be an alien, though—whether I came to it by fear or innately—but I cannot navigate my life or my writing career on those feelings of inadequacy. Maybe that has worked in other aspects of my life, like kicking my ass at the gym, but I cannot allow the shame of Not Enough to stifle me. I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of her—the chubby four-eyed, freckled-faced president of Poetry Club— but maybe that’s ok. I

If I could wrap up that “freedom to be” like a gift, I’d give it to us all.

mt

Feeling feels in a Post-Truth World

"Sweet Submerged" by Meghan Tutolo
 
 

It’s hard to have feelings.

No, really! I’m not sure if this is new or I’m just taking notice, but why is it that everyone is always trying to shut down everyone else’s emotions (and in turn, their own)? Lately, I’ve been feeling mega-frustrated with this—almost more of a heaviness than the original emotion itself. Does anyone else feel as if they are constantly defending their feelings? And no, I don’t mean in a political way or any conspiracy-crazed way. I’m talking personal stuff: friends, family, coworkers, etc.
 
This isn’t to say I haven’t been guilty of it. Hell, we all have. It’s part of this good-intentioned consoling power we think we must have. As if one might be able to wave his or her hands hands, instill some Should Be Grateful or Bright Side or Silver Lining… all better now. You know what I’m talking about. When’s the last time you DIDN’T hear these responses:
 
“It’ll be ok.”
 
“You have nothing to worry about.”
 
“Don’t be so nervous.”
 
“Oh, here’s 19 reasons why you shouldn’t feel this way.”
 
“Calm down.”

“I think you’re overreacting.”
 
“Don’t cry.”
 
“At least, this other dumb or horrible thing isn’t the case.”
 
No wonder we, as a society, have such a hard time with expressing emotions. We are constantly told to, expected to, asked to, shamed into “getting over it” and being grateful. Maybe if we were actually just allowed to have the feelings—to feel them and express them—we could work on our shit and really truly get over it, instead of just running from it. The catch-up or rebound or whatever has been hitting hard these days. There’s no getting over.
 
You know what I’ve learned to do? Shut my mouth. And it isn’t working for me. I feel empty and disconnected… and when the time comes and the world turns a bit more slowly (I’m usually driving or riding), what has been silenced becomes a monster. It feels like an anvil to the gut.
 
When was the last time someone actually just wanted to join you? Like feel your feels with you? And that’s it? Empathy. No policing, no 14 reasons why you’re wrong to feel the way you feel and no forced gratitude. What if we could just be in it with people? No more crossing our arms and deciding when and how much someone should be feeling? Actual empathy. Actual connection.

Yeah, perhaps some people and situations call for objective reasoning, some advice, some friendly ear flicks to wake up the disillusioned… but first, just let them feel. Listen. Listen. Listen, damnit. No one is wrong for having an emotional reaction, even if you think he or she shouldn’t. You can help he or she process it, if needed. But don’t tell your friends they are wrong or lead them to that conclusion. Why? What is that doing for them or you?
 
I’m going to work on this so hard. In my own need to shut off and run, I have imposed the same on those around me. Coward, I am.
 
 
 
 

Living and running

Pittsburgh scootin'

 

This is a year for living.

That’s what I keep telling myself. Every time I walk away from a blank Word doc. Every time I decide to take a ride rather than write a letter. Every time I put off what I should be doing (i.e. scheduling car appointments, doctor appointments, vacuuming, etc.)

If nothing else, this election and resulting presidency (along with all its little heartbreaks and setbacks and mini strokes) has me full speed ahead. Into what? Uncertainty, mostly. But definitely art, definitely risk-taking. I’ve opened my own Etsy shop, got at least one vendor show under my belt and have been riding around in a motor scooter.s

“I’m living,” I say to myself from the inside of my spaceman-like helmet as I cross the Birmingham Bridge one day.

Behind the silvery mirror-like shield over my face, I’m grinning like a wild woman. Admittedly, I’m mostly smiling there. Or gritting my teeth (on like every turn). Or crying. I cry a lot on the scooter. Thankfully I had enough foresight to order that damn mirror-like Bubbleshield that you can’t really see through. I mean, can you just imagine looking over on your commute home to see a red-faced woman crying on her black-and-chrome scooter weaving between potholes and tar snakes on Beechwood Boulevard?

A call the scooter my mindfulness in these hectic times. I can’t do 900 things. I can’t pace or run around or make things. I am focused and alert. And because of it, sometimes the feels come rushing back, as though I’d been running from them all along.

Living or running. Living or keeping myself occupied. Living or wading out the storm, up to my ears in art and art supplies, up until the wee hours of the morning because it is finally quiet and I can chill without feeling like I’m missing something—another headline, another atrocity, another outrage.

But there’s a beauty, a sensory type of travel and place that you don’t experience in a “cage,” as riders call the call. The tears are mostly good tears, or so it seems. I can’t say I’ve had that happen too often, good tears. Those were reserved for moms at weddings, not for childless 30-somethings crossing the Oakmont Bridge at sunset.

As I sit down once more to write, I think about my scooter… about the sun that will drop soon and how I could get in a few more miles, conjure some sort of errand or excuse. And hey, in Pittsburgh, a nice day isn’t one to waste.

I hope you are all living… doing whatever it is that can keep you sane in these turbulent times. Maybe later is for overthinking and processing. For now, maybe it’s time to enjoy what is in front of you. If you spend 1-2 hours reading the news, spend 1-2 hours playing the violin, or whatever it is you people do. Don’t forget taking care of you is a way to resist in itself.

<3

mt