Tag: writing

Twenty-twenty vision…

Livermore Cemetery, PA // 2020 Copyright Meghan Tutolo

2020, you’re dumped.

If this were middle school and I were 11 again, that’s exactly what I’d say to this year thus far. Here we are. Even with the naive hope that this year might be good, make up for the roller coaster of last year, I can say officially that 2020 is en route to Blowstown. Something like Death, in fact.

No, no… I’m not trying to Emily Dickinson y’all by personifying death, the concept; I’m talking about the tarot card. Number 13 of the major arcana. That Death.

Death is depicted most classically as a skeleton riding a white horse. Often there’s a person or people under that horse with distressed faces—pleading, maybe? It can be interpreted as something like “death comes for all.” It’s more than that, though. While it seems grim and morbid, there’s more depth to the Death card than that.

Rider Waite Tarot - Major Arcana Death XIII

 

I’m not going to lie, though. When I draw this card for myself or others, it’s pretty unnerving. I mean, who wants “Death” to pop up in their spread? The image itself is creepy. But just remember: the Death card is about change, typically an abrupt and sudden change that leads to something new. A transformation of sorts? A death of something? Maybe you didn’t initiate it or plan for it, but sometimes a forced switch of the gears is necessary.

Grim reaper dude here gets a bad rep, for sure, but Death can be a positive card. While change is scary, it’s mostly necessary for growth. So you know, sometimes you have to play the long game? Look at the big picture, as they say.

So… I’m not sure what the Death card means for me personally, but I’ve never been good at dealing with change. Most transformations feel traumatic. The letting go of things is hard—even when what I’m holding to is toxic. I don’t always see it that way. I too often embrace the difficult, the challenging, the things that make me question my own worth. WHAT THE HELL IS THAT? Change is something I often have to dare myself into. But here we are, 2020, and already I can say the year has been difficult… eye-opening.

Ok, so I get it. Life is a chaotic culmination of wins and losses. I’ve got all these damn feelings, and so I’m the type that straps in for it for real, ups and downs (for better or worse). It’s not the usual for me, but I got pretty low recently, more than I’d been in a long time. I guess what’s so scary about it was that I forgot how fucking hard it is to get out and up again.

Snowballing. It started with an injury that had me limping and kept me from the gym. Without that physical outlet and the restraints of literally hobbling around, I caved in on myself. The shit piles that appeared were harder to navigate. Sometimes it’s just the timing and quantity of bad things (no matter how small) that can sink you. At some point there, I found it hard to get out of bed, to find the reasons, you know? This is not my typically sads, but it seemed like everywhere I turned, I hit a wall or a rejection or a silence.

Not to be dramatic, but it’s devastating to learn how very alone you are. It’s like that Dorianne Laux poem I like to reference, “After Twelve Days of Rain.” Nothing is really yours. You are no one’s. None of that matters. This realization can be either liberating or ruinous. I thought I knew this truth. had felt it even. But this latest valley made me realize how easy it is to lose—especially when you don’t have a family—and how important genuine human connection is. (And no, I don’t mean Facebook comments or text messages, but the kind of connection that exists without the white screen.)

God, even the word “need” makes me cringe. I mean, who wants to need anyone? My stepmom used to say, “Your dad wouldn’t ask for a bite of a sandwich if he was starving.” I relate. Too much so. And as you can see, this cycle of needing and then shaming oneself for needing is kind of dangerous. Particularly so when you’re at the bottom… when you need a sandwich.

Maybe this was my abrupt and sudden change? My Death card is a wakeup call?

I’m here rambling to try to figure it all out. That’s part of why I write in general: things get too abstract and tangled upstairs. But also, sharing these things feel important too, because someone out there might need to hear it and know they aren’t the only alien floating around in outer space. Before this, I thought I had my people, but you know, maybe not. And that’s okay. It has to be okay. (I’m telling myself this as much as I am telling you.) Our people are out there. We can throw a pity party for eternity and block out all the good and trust no one… or we can hold our hearts hopeful. We’ll only be extra alone if we don’t stay open. We’ll only become “get-off-my-lawn” old and miserable. Can you dig it?

No matter what, I think I will always carry around this burden of “unlovable.” It’s a chain around my neck, the lack of unconditional love, a family, growing up. I now know that’s what my dad felt and what he has passed onto me. My heart breaks for him. Though I didn’t realize this when he was alive, I think some part of healing myself might just heal him too. Is that crazy?

So here I am. Back to the gym (finally), trying to believe, trying to hope, trying to give myself everything I hoped to get from people who loved me. I don’t know how I will feel tomorrow, but this is how I feel today. It’s okay. I’m telling myself this as much as I am telling you.

mt

 

 

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?

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

30, basically

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There’s always something terribly sad to think about. Terribly terrible. And sometimes when you haven’t tricked your brain quite right, it skips to that terribly sad thing without your allowing it.

And the longer you live, the more terribly sad things you acquire. So you have to learn how to trick your brain better. But then you might become “jaded” or “hard” or “avoidant,” and maybe then even the good things have a way of not being the brightest.

It’s a fine line between feeling and hard, carrying and letting go. And I call that line 30.

I posted this at about 3 a.m. on Facebook the other day. There’s something about that social medium, being hit with the lives of so many at once, that prompts me to think more wholly, more big picture stuff. On days where I feel inspired by the people around me, I create anthems. Mostly in my head. Just small truths that I can hold onto, that can connect me to others. I’m always relating and empathizing and hoping people get it.
But maybe it’s just loneliness? And not the OMGIMSINGLEANDNEEDSAVED loneliness, but the kind that’s always just there like another skin. Maybe I’m still that 6th grader still writing in her journal about how she just doesn’t fit, how other girls are pretty and popular and have nice hair and cool clothes and I’m too scared to be anything but a clown.

I don’t know that much has changed. But everything.

Moleskine musing

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I’ve slept on floors, on pull-out sofa beds, on ash-sprinkled backseats, my body tucked in on itself, conserving space and dreaming. I grew up and into shapes, edging  corners and rounding curves—an eye on my imposition: how much of me could fill the room, how much of me could remain invisible.

Now, the world makes me, turns me over in its sweaty palm like an imperfect marble, weak planet, dwarf star. I’m dense, punctured, changed without my permission. Alien. It’s true: what we endure creates who we are. Even then, experience has only made me feel lonelier. Is that the emo kid speaking? On a Weebl toon the other day called “Late Night Shopping 2,” I caught a tiny detail in the cartoon, a box with some scribble on it. I had to rewind to see:

“Emo Cakes: The cakes that eat themselves.”

That sounds about right. Hah. Is that what I’m doing?

Anyhow, where once was the vastness of blue-blanket sky, the hope of impossible highway miles, the canvas of unpaved lots, the wings of folded and refolded maps in my car’s door pocket… I have come to this, book-ended.

Everything keeps getting smaller but what’s in me.

What’s with that?

 

mt

 

Repeating remainder

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Damn.

Maybe it was after Robin Williams’s death that this truth really smacked me. More likely his death was a reprisal of some other thing. I’m sure the initial feeling announced itself one of the many times D was praising my art or my writing that I came to this epiphany. Prior to her, praise was in the form of penned stars, circled descriptions and meetings with professors and advisors. I mean, a few close friends of mine(who were into such things) definitely enjoyed my work on occasion. But they were friends, they were writers or painters… it was in their realm of understanding. Besides, I dated a science major who “hated poetry”—or so she told me one night after a reading. Clearly that didn’t work out.

So I guess this truth unraveled itself when I was near someone who didn’t have that much stake in me. A visitor into my world, my worlds, whatever realms those art people live in. I never knew that a compliment could hurt.

Let me explain before things get silly. Some of the deepest pain I’ve felt came during those years… 2012-13. The end of the world. I was discovering all of these parts of myself, bleeding inside a lot. I was pretty messy. Anyhow, this was also a tremendously prolific time in my world as far as writing and art went. And so every time she grinned at my paintings or poked around in my poetry, it felt like she had an eye on my insides.

“It’s like excrement, though,” I told her.

“What?”

I explained that the process was pain, that it was like a black hole at my center. And maybe the stuff that came out was pretty. (Quasar talk again.) But what went into it wasn’t.

“I don’t care. I still like it,” she’d say.

She didn’t get it, of course. Or maybe she didn’t want to. It would ruin the thing—words or acrylic—and who would want to tarnish something so visual, tangible, aesthetically pleasing?

It’s just been on my mind. Sometimes it’s hard to see my work, have people praise it—especially writing. Because what went into creating it was hard and almost (I wonder) not worth it? At the same time, someone praising you, believing in you, supporting you… that makes it worth it, makes you keep going. It’s like some strange kind of solace and they don’t even know it’s happening. I don’t know what kind of monster that makes me.

Artists and their repeating remainders: what doesn’t fit neatly, all these pieces and parts of ourselves… we keep going, keep creating. That’s how we hold it together.

mt

Hung up on holidays and poetry scribbling

Besides re-watching the episode where House and Cuddy finally get together and downloading the Sims 3 Seasons Expansion Pack, I might say tonight was uneventful. Hah! God, I’m lame. I also excitedly ordered the 2014 AP Stylebook, dined and gabbed with my wonderful aunt and aimlessly walked around Target staring shiny-eyed at the Christmas decor.

Before we go into Christmas… Halloween went swimmingly. Our Red Neck/White Trash Bash was a blast. I slipped seamlessly into that character, the hillbilly grandpa, and nearly didn’t come out of it. I’m pretty sure my roommate and I were annoying the shit out of everyone with our banter.

“Eh, Jeb, whyonchu hand me that there fancy beer (a Yuengling) and put somethin’ on the tube.”

You’ll have to check out my Instagram for some snaps of that.

In other news, I am once more attempting November’s Poem-A-Day from Writer’s Digest. It’s not easy. This time around, I’m allowing myself to produce small bits, to produce anything without hacking it away then and there. I’ve been feeling awfully inspired, poetically speaking. I’ve been reading more, which helps. What are you reading? Does what you read ever change the shape of your day, your thoughts? It’s powerful to get into a book too deeply. You might live there for awhile.

3 Books of the Moment

Along with these three, A and I have been reading Margaret Atwood’s trilogy beginning with Oryx and Crake. I have read two of the three long ago, so it’s a refresh for me. Even now, years after I first fell in love with them, they (and her writing) blow me the hell away. She really is my hero.

Ok, and here’s the riot-inducing exclamation of the eve: I had to stop myself from bringing up my little two-foot Christmas tree from the basement. I don’t know what’s wrong with me anymore. Ever since D, I just… I want it to be winter/Christmas all year long. Prior to this, I didn’t hate Christmas, but it felt like a cold stranger. It was sad mostly, nostalgic. In fact, I think I just made a lot of grumpy grumbles about it and everyone around me agreed.

And yes, I did listen to that damned Rosie Thomas song, “Christmas Don’t Be Late,” already. It’s the saddest song I’ve ever heard, Christmas or otherwise. I don’t know how it could be, as it’s a Alvin and The Chipmunks tune. As one friend put it, “Don’t listen to that alone!” My plan is to master it on the uke this season. We’ll see.

“If anyone of us could write the saddest song ever, it’d be you,” I’ve been told. Hmmm.

Little As Living

Visit the shop and see what’s up >>

Guess what?

My new (and very first) chapbook is up for sale. I’m super stoked and can’t wait to share my poems with the world. I even did the cover, which I’m pretty ok with… but what pressure! And let’s be honest, I’m kind of scared about my words traveling around in foreign hands: honored, excited, vulnerable, and terrified.

I think all of us have experienced a thing (a someone or a something) that has made us question everything, that has made us explore ourselves again—as if for the first time. That is what this book is. Realization (and the process of getting to it). Both of the self and of the tiny universe we breathe in: the mundane; the sleepy routine; the waking-up-getting-a-shower-going-to-work-eating-dinner orbit we spin daily. Finding the meaning in that.

I hope you all will check it out. It’s only $7! Dancing Girl Press made this happen and to them I am forever grateful. Thanks to everyone, to those that believed I could do it even when I didn’t. I’m so lucky to have you on my team.

Best,
mt

 

Ain’t nobody got time for pain

This is what I do know:

It’s nearly 5:00 p.m. on Friday, payday Friday, that is.

Binging on Halloween treats makes me feel like a trash bag.
My life feels a lot like Tetris.
It’s November. Bring it on, November. Can you believe that?

The only super exciting thing about November, besides the true death of everything colorful outside (I kid), is the November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2013. If you don’t know, it’s a little poetry challenge. You’re given a prompt every day for a poem. SO YOU WRITE ONE POEM A DAY FOR A WHOLE MONTH. You can do it; I dare you.

It’s inspired by the more well-known, NaNoWriMo. This challenge is actually where you attempt to write a WHOLE NOVEL in a month, since November is apparently National Novel Writing Month. (Get the acronym-ish title now?) But I don’t know about writing 50,000 words in a month—unless I was suffering from verbal Dysentery.

Anyway.

Ain’t nobody got time for that [pain].

I had this very serious post in mind. It was about pain. The kinds of pain, reaction/action… etc. I sat in my car before class on Tuesday, before I even went to the hospital to see my mom, writing about it. “Pain is subjective.” “No pain, no gain!” “You’re a pain in the ass!”  “I haven’t got time for the pain…”

Wait. That last one is a Carly Simon song.

I guess what I’m getting at, or what I was attempting to get at, is that we accumulate pain, maybe, like scratches on a wall. But it’s not just one type of pain; there are so many shapes that pain can take. Some are more triangular, some round and heavy like an oversized marble. And each pain, then, elicits both a reaction and an action. The reaction being more of the “involuntary” sort—auto-spat. The action seemingly becomes a way to cope.

Example:

John’s dog dies.

Reaction: He cries and loses his appetite.

Action: He doesn’t tell anyone, and he never gets another pet.

See what I mean? For me, this helps me to look at my pain. It’s good to find the source, of course, but also define it in my terms—the “subjective” part. I like to examine what has changed because of it. Perhaps, I am doing this because so much of me has changed—not just my living sitch, my relationships, my creative endeavors, but my core. For the better, I hope. In ways. It’s just been a dynamic (geez, that’s being kind) two years. YES, TWO. It’s like an obstacle course. Maybe, just maybe, making it to the other side is what has changed me and not the events specifically. Maybe this will show me that, not matter what, I can do obstacle courses.

Except for rope climb activities. I suck at that.

Happy Friday/Weekend/November, everyone!
Oh, and don’t forget to write your poem!

mt

Feeling lightning

You ever just look at something, a scene or an object, or maybe just the colors of light crawling through your window and get a feeling? A big feeling?

I can’t really explain it, but in an attempt to capture what it is I’m feeling, I write poetry. Sometimes poetry doesn’t make sense, people may think. It’s “obscure,” or “cryptic,” or “hard to follow.” For me, though, poetry is a way to conjure a feeling in me and in others… And sometimes those feelings are neither logical nor linear.

A good part of my academic writing career was spent trying to untangle it all, to make phrases and terms more everyday, to put a story or narrative to it (the feelings), but what I have allowed myself (post-college) is to just… write. I have silenced the committee, somewhat, and learned to trust what I write. But this isn’t just poems.

A couple years ago, a barista friend of mine from Starbucks asked to use my friend and I as her thesis project. She came over, made us doodle or color or paint, all the while allowing us to just be, just emote. Before that moment, I had rarely given myself the chance to draw or paint from me—instead I copied and mimicked the world around me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have loads of respect for those who can paint as detailed and realistic as a photograph, but this is the very thing that kept me from painting and doodling more. I wasn’t pressured to create an exact replica, but permitted to explore my own creativity. Wow!

I can only assume this is what happened with my writing. Once I was able to transcend the lines of reality (along with my own version of it) words became completely unfettered for me. It seemed boundless.

Today as I left my office, that 8 to 5 home-away-from-home, I caught a feeling. It was something in the way the sun, lower than usual, hit the glass door, the golden-orange of it. I don’t know how to explain the feeling. A cup of nostalgia. It took me somewhere. It reminded me that the world isn’t so linear, isn’t so black and white.

I can trace the world around me with a sharp pencil, memorize inches and hues, or I can take all that lightning in my chest and use it to shake the world, make it my own.

I hope you do too. I hope you wrangle your own storms and stop trying to chase everyone else’s.

mt