Friday, January 22, 2016

Falling forward through time.

I haven't been able to bring myself to write lately. It just seems like time has been slipping away from me. Work has been busier, which makes a huge difference. I can usually read online and fart around creatively when I'm waiting on work. I've also been pretty tired in the evenings. I've been trying to cook a lot, and cook healthy, fresh foods, so that takes up more of my time. I've also been pretty social, if I plan something on Saturdays and Sundays, it's as if I lose all free time. 

This month has flown by. My birthday is in early January, and it's usually a not-great time for me. I'm trying to learn to celebrate that I'm still alive, and that people care about me, but for years it's always been a disappointment. My birthday is right after the holidays, people are broke and tired. I end up feeling my birthday is an inconvenience and is easily ignored or forgotten.

In roughly two weeks I'll be going out to BC to visit my friend C. Dr. Rishi has recommended I plan something for myself to look forward to, so I am, indeed, looking forward to it. It's be a nice mental break. It'll be good to see C and her new house. It'll be good to take in the sea and the area. I scheduled a small tattoo for myself of one of my illustrations (already paid for). Most importantly of all, I paid for the ticket with air miles. I don't have a grand to spend on a ticket. Not when I'm trying to save up to buy something.

So I'm going to BC. It might be nice to be somewhere else. To walk around. To breathe different air. To see a friend. To chat. To cuddle a dog. It's also warmer there, significantly. She's on Vancouver Island, so there's some kind of magical micro-climate there. For example it's 10°C where she lives right now and it's -6°C here.

I'm reading The Visiting Privilege by Joy Williams right now and there's this short story that moves through time and it's just beautiful and stirring. It took me a while to warm up to her book, some of the stories are very removed and are written with distance. But some, like The Excursion really fascinated me. The New York Times describes her as "one of the greatest chroniclers of humanity’s insignificance." Reading that clicked her work into place for me.
In Williams’s precise, unsparing, surprising prose, her characters reach for the sublime but often fall miserably to earth: ‘‘Sam and Elizabeth met as people usually meet. Suddenly, there was a deceptive light in the darkness. A light that blackly reminded the lonely of the darkness.’’ She has a gift for sentences whose unsettling turns — ‘‘While she was thinking of something perfectly balanced and amusing to say, the baby was born’’ — force readers to grapple, just as her characters grapple, with the way life will do what it wants with you.
Her work is so removed, so unsentimental.
Joy Williams likes a good road trip, so let’s take one through a Joy Williams story. The road is familiar — you recognize the religious undertones; the dark humor; the animals flapping overhead and squashed on the pavement. You smile at Williams’s disarming manner of juxtaposing words, pressing unsettling meanings out of them: ‘‘The two women sat in the living room surrounded by wooden ducks. The ducks, exquisite and oppressive, nested on every surface.’’ You think you know the route you’re taking, but after a few detours and hairpin turns you may have lost track of how you’re ever supposed to get to where you’re meant to go. The ride might end with the squeal of brakes and shattering of glass. It might also be beautiful: 
The car flipped over twice, miraculously righted itself and skidded back onto the road, the roof and fenders crushed. ... None of them were injured and at first they denied that anything unusual had happened at all. May said, ‘‘I thought it was just a dream, so I kept on going.’
This is it. This type of removed way she writes about brutal, daily life, and how the absurd and the routine are lined up against that brutality and how narrative moves through them both so effortlessly. There is no real relationship to the characters. Her stories are intentionally alienating, which is something I haven't experienced before.

Her work really presents my own disassociation to me. Moving through memory and present time, through wants and dreams and should's and have to's.

I'm asking myself a lot of questions lately, but I'm also attempting to swallow my need for patience. I need to make decisions. To prepare. To choose one option over another, and reading Williams' makes it all seem less important. Less permanent.

That's the mirror she's created. We're impermanent, and at a glance, we're often absurd and hard to understand. In some moments, we're genius. At other times, we're the worst. And when sweetness presents itself, it's a glorious treat.

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