Saturday, April 30, 2011

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 5

A time you thought about ending your own life.

I don't think I ever have. Not seriously, anyway.

That's not to say that I haven't felt like complete and total shit--and for extended periods of time, to boot. But I've been very lucky to have good things/people in my life to help balance that out.

I also doubt I'd ever kill myself because a few loved ones of mine have done that. And it hurt. Even the attempted suicide of a friend upset me to the point of having to take a day off to pull myself together.

As one of my favorite musicians, Chantal Kreviazuk, said in her song, "Surrounded":

I was there, come on tell me I wasn't worth
stickin' it out for.

Well, I was there. And I know I was worth it,
'cause if I wasn't worth it that makes me worse off than you are.

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 4

Your views on religion.

My take on religion was actually the topic of my very first blog post back in July of 2009. But it's been a while since I've written (or even thought about) it. So. Take two:

From _Let Me Stand Alone: The Journals of Rachel Corrie_:

"I thought we were Christian because we were white people who weren't Jewish. Those were the only options I was aware of...When I was a little older I asked [my mom] if we were atheists. I think it made her sad that I thought we were atheists" (191).

I once asked my mom that very question. And she reacted the same way.

I was raised without the influence of religion. The only thing I regret about it is that my lack of Biblical knowledge makes me a terrible English major. I miss a lot of imagery/symbolism that many fellow literature enthusiasts find very basic/obvious. It's kind of embarrassing, actually. I really ought to fix that.

Somehow though, both my sister and I wound up baptized Catholic. My paternal grandparents were Catholic, and my dad was raised that way (although he gave it up once he reached adulthood). I was born with some pretty serious medical problems, and wasn't expected to live more than a few days. So my grandparents insisted I be baptized, because they were afraid that if I died, I wouldn't be able to be buried in "holy ground."

My sister's baptism, like mine, was done on the fly. She had surgery on her kidneys when she was eight, and just as they did with me, my grandparents stepped in and voiced their concern. What if something went wrong? What if she died on the operating table? So Paige, like me, was baptized.

But that's literally the extent of my exposure to religion as a kid. We celebrated the big Christian holidays: Christmas and Easter, mainly. But that just meant that we got together a couple of times per year, ate a nice meal, and exchanged gifts.

To this day, that's what my family does. Sometimes I partake, and sometimes I run off to spend time with other people I love, even if we're not related by blood. In 2007, I spent Thanksgiving with my friend Sarah and her family in West Branch. And two years later, in 2009, I flew to Durango, CO to visit my friend Victoria for Christmas/New Year's.

I'm an atheist. Spent some time exploring religion as a teenager, and decided that organized religion definitely wasn't for me. Tried to be spiritual. Had to admit--to myself and to others--that I'm just not.

And that's okay. A friend's mom put me in an awkward position a couple of years ago when she asked me if I considered myself a "good Christian." I didn't want to lie, but I also didn't want to sound like a huge dick.

So I told her, "No. But I'm a good person."

And I am, or try my best to be.

Friday, April 29, 2011

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 3

No, really, I'm not slacking off already. But Blogger was in a bad mood yesterday and ate what I wrote, so I had to redo it today. Mregh.

Your views on drugs and alcohol.

I spent my high school years hanging out with people who smoked a lot of pot. And yesterday my dad told me that he thinks I drink too much.

But it's a lot more complicated than it looks, because I've also sort of been on this lifelong health food kick. So that definitely has an effect on the substances I put into (or don't put into) my body.

Caffeine is, apparently, a drug. I'm drinking coffee right now. I consume anywhere from two cups to two pots of the stuff daily and think nothing of it. It's delicious and keeps me awake. I openly admit that I caffeinate myself to excess and have no plans to cut back.

Coffee goes nicely with cigarettes. But I don't smoke cigarettes. I'm the only member of my immediate family who doesn't, actually.

My reasons for not smoking usually surprise people. Smoking is terrible for you, so everyone assumes that I, of all people, would jump on that and cite it as my main reason for not smoking. But no.

I love smoking. And given that I've spent my entire life around second-hand smoke, I'm fairly certain that my lungs are fucked whether or not I choose to take up the habit.

But I don't because it's just really inconvenient to be a smoker. There's a smoking ban in Michigan. And it snows here. I've ventured into the cold to keep my friends company while they smoke a cigarette. And in say, February, it's not fun. If I could be a seasonal smoker, I would. But unfortunately there's this problem of a nicotine addiction. So I just don't bother.

Also, cigarettes are pricey. I'd rather spend my money on books and cans of chick peas.

Now, pot. I've recently come to the conclusion that I don't like it all that much. Either that, or a bad experience I had with a pan of particularly strong "special brownies" back in December left me lacking the desire to go anywhere near the stuff again.

But I get that it does a lot of good for a lot of people. I just happen to not be one of those people. So, you do your thang, grrl.

As for booze: When my dad told me that I drink too much, I think he really meant that I drink too often. (I need a beer a day to stay sane, man.) But I do I have a history of alcoholism in my family; I've seen it do some pretty terrible shit to people I love. So because of that there are certain drinks I just won't touch (whiskey's a big one).

Based on the experiences I've shared, I think you can figure out what my views on it are. I have my reasons (however weird) for doing what I do. You have yours. Just please don't hurt anyone.

Let's be friends?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 2

Where you'd like to be in 10 years.

Oh, that's tricky, mostly because I believe it's about the journey more so than the destination.

(Or that's just my way of making myself feel better about not knowing what the hell I want to do with my life.)

Really though, I don't want to say something like, "By the time I'm however old, I'd like to have achieved x, y, and z." Because I've done that, and was incredibly disappointed when it didn't work out. I didn't do it in the conventional sense (i.e. I want to finish college, get married, and have babies), but I did it nonetheless: I want to get a degree in creative writing, then go on to get an MFA in poetry, teach creative writing, and live happily ever after.

I scared the shit out of myself when real life caused me to deviate from that path. So. No more of that. Because, as John Lennon says, "Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans."

That's not to say that I'm entirely without ambition, however. Here's a list of a few of the things I'd like to do within the next several years:

Graduate from college
None of my family members--on either side--ever have.

Move somewhere other than Michigan
Another state, another country? I'm Canadian, after all.

Live in commune
This one always surprises people/turns them off, but I'm not sure why. I had a conversation with a friend once about polyamory. Neither of us understands the line between friendship and more, but we agreed that for us at least, it isn't sex. She told me that rather than be in a monogamous relationship with someone, she'd like to take eight or so people she really loves and have them all move into a house together and take care of each other.

I really liked that idea and think it's something that would work for me. I also think that it may explain why I've been in so few relationships but have really close bonds with quite a few friends. But I hadn't even thought about it until she mentioned it to me. Living arrangements like that--probably because this is a capitalist society--aren't exactly looked upon kindly. But I think the idea behind them is really beautiful, and I'd love to experience something like that.


I've mentioned before that as a teenager, I spent a week each summer at the Controlled Burn Seminar for Young Writers. I was in a poetry workshop with Mary Ann Samyn. And one year, she gave each of her students an individual assignment. I don't actually remember what mine was. But my friend Liz was asked to write a letter to herself, ten years in the future. Her poem was titled, "Oh, Lady. Don't Be Forlorn."

That's really all I want. For everyone.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 1

Your current relationship. If single, explain how single life is.

As Kate Nash put it in her song, "Merry Happy,"

I can be alone, yeah.
I can watch the sunset on my own.

I'm single. Sometimes I think that I'd like to be in a relationship. But I've never been the type of person who feels as though she "needs" to be in a relationship in order to feel whole. One, after all, is a whole number.

That doesn't mean that I'm not open to the idea, though. And actually, I do happen to have a giant, ridiculous crush on someone. ;) But I moved in with my parents about a year ago. And I automatically assume that no one wants to date someone who's living in suburbia with Mom and Dad. Maybe I'm wrong and not very brave?

My friend Rose gave me some really great advice recently. We were talking about friendship, but I think this applies to all relationships, so I'll share it here. We were talking about the times we've been let down or hurt by people who were very close to us. Rose pointed out that our instinct, then, is to protect ourselves from getting hurt again by refusing to trust anyone.

But because she knows that she has already experienced the worst that can happen, she figures she can handle it, and that it's worth it. So, she told me, "If I find someone beautiful, I just go for it."

I like that. I might even like that enough to act on it.

Summer plans and other random things

Hi, Internet.

I haven't blogged too much this month. And if I may be perfectly honest, t's not because I've been busy with end-of-semester stuff. It's because I've been really down about a lot of things, and everything I wrote sounded whiny. So I just didn't post much.

The political climate in this country is really, really upsetting me. Earlier this month, governor of Michigan Rick Snyder declared the city of Benton Harbor to be in a state of crisis and appointed an "Emergency Financial Manager," who stripped all elected officials in BH of their duties.

Giant democracy fail, I know.

Furthermore, the Detroit Public School System sent layoff notices to every single one of its teachers. We can blame Rick Snyder's budget plan for that, too.

My mom is Canadian. She was born in Sudbury, Ontario, and moved to Detroit when she married my dad (24 years ago yesterday). So I have a lot of relatives in Canada. And one of them--my mom's older sister Kerrie, who lives in the Yukon--offered to let me come live with her for the summer.

I thought it was a pretty neat idea. And not surprisingly, I've been fantasizing about getting out of the US for a while. So Kerrie talked to a friend of hers about getting me a job. I didn't tell too many people about it, because I wasn't sure whether it was going to work out.

And in the end, it didn't work out. I'm oddly not too bummed about that though, because a fear of mine is that a summer in the Yukon would make me lonelier than I already am here in Grosse Pointe.

So, my summer looks like this:
  • classes at Wayne State
  • babysitting/searching for another job
  • the release of Bonnie Jo Campbell's novel _Once Upon a River_ at Kalamazoo's Bell's Brewery in July
  • my friend Rose having a baby
  • Lollapalooza in Chicago with my friend Toni
That last one is sort of a big deal. The day tickets went on sale, Toni wrote on my FB Wall, telling me that I should come with her. As much as I liked the idea, I did not at first intend to say yes. Shit's expensive. Gotta plan a purchase like that in advance.

But then she followed up with a lengthy FB message, detailing how much it would cost. I appreciated the gesture and really like Toni. Besides, I wanted to go.

So I told autonomous adulthood to suck it, asked my mom to loan me some money, and bought a 3-day pass to Lollapalooza.

I just paid it off a couple of days ago, and will spend the next few months being a huge tightwad in order to be able to afford to spend three days in Chicago. But it will be a fabulous end to the summer. :)

Also: Summer would not be summer without summer reading. Recommendations? Here's a(n unrealistically ambitious) list of books that I'm thinking of reading (in no particular order):
  • _Sexing the Cherry_ by Jeanette Winterson
  • _The Golden Notebook_ by Doris Lessing
  • _Midnight's Children_ by Salman Rushdie
  • _Breeding a Nation: Reproductive Slavery, the Thirteenth Amendment, and the Pursuit of Freedom_ by Pamela D. Bridgewater
  • _Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and For Those who Want to Write Them_ by Francine Prose
  • _The Way We Lived_ by Audrey Jacobs
  • _When We Were Saints_ by Han Nolan
And speaking of books (especially that last one): My inner 13-year-old is jumping up and down, turning blue, and squealing over and over, "AMELIA, TELL THEM YOUR NEWS!" So: I learned today that HAN NOLAN WILL BE RELEASING A NEW BOOK IN THE FALL. I love her books so much: reading her work has made me a better person. I've blogged before about how much I love her.

Anyway. This post has been all over the place. I apologize. They'll soon go back to being more focused. I've decided to participate in a 30-day blog challenge. Let's see how closely I can stick to it.

I'll leave you with a really great NYT article I read last night, which I think sums up everything that matters to me. Virginia Woolf once wrote about what it would have been like if Shakespeare had had a sister. Well, Benjamin Franklin did have a sister. Her name was Jane Mecom. And she didn't do so well.

And this is relevant today because, as the article states:

"Tea Partiers dressed as Benjamin Franklin call for an end to social services for the poor; and the 'Path to Prosperity' urges a return to 'America’s founding ideals of liberty, limited government and equality under the rule of law.' But the story of Jane Mecom is a reminder that, especially for women, escaping poverty has always depended on the opportunity for an education and the ability to control the size of their families."

Saturday, April 23, 2011

On vulnerability

I've been listening to Adele's new album, 21.

Her voice is the most gorgeous thing I have ever heard.

I love Adele. She's young, ambitious, and (I'll say it again) has an incredible voice. Also, she recently told Rolling Stone, "I don't make music for eyes. I make music for ears."

So much win in those words.

Until recently though, I took issue with most of her lyrics. It bothered me that someone as strong and beautiful as Adele was on her knees in so many songs, most of which, she has told the public, were inspired by a bad breakup.

But then I started thinking about my own writing habits. And I came across a note I made to myself in January of 2009:

I don't know why I'm so opposed to sounding vulnerable in a poem when I know that I'm the narrator. Like, if I take on the voice of someone else, I have no problem with sounding vulnerable. But when I know it's me narrating, I can't. I have to be a super strong feminist allthefreakingtime. So. My new goal is to write a poem in which I, as narrator, expose my vulnerability.

I never wrote it.

Last night I was out at a bar with a friend from high school. And I ran into someone I met at SVSU, of all places. This particular person was once a very close friend of mine, but we aren't really in touch anymore for a lot of complicated reasons. There is a lot of pain connected to my friendship with her. So it hurt to see her again, and brought to the surface a lot of emotions I didn't exactly want to deal with.

So I look at Adele, who confronts her pain, and I have to admire that. It takes strength to admit that you've been betrayed, because in doing so, you admit that you trusted someone you perhaps should not have.

That's something I struggle with because if you admit all of that to yourself, you then have to acknowledge the fact that some people do some pretty hurtful shit. And it's hard to accept that if your entire philosophy is built around loving everyone.

I own a copy of Ani DiFranco's album Canon. And between two uncharacteristically sad songs, she says:

And so now like, it's so funny like, all the righteous babes--well, not all of 'em, just a few who have got their panties on a little too tight--they're all up in a twitch because they're like, "Oh, well, you fucking wench, just writing about like, love n' shit. What happened to your politics? What are you just gonna sell out? Is this a conscious move away from overly political songwriting?" And I'm like, "No man. It's just. I got kind of... distracted."

Distraction then, is good. And necessary. You can't be strong if you merely bury your weaknesses/vulnerabilities. Because then they will inevitably turn up out of the blue and join you for a drink right before final exams.

Much as I've been trying to deny it all this time, the truth is that (as Adele puts it), "Sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes it hurts instead."

Guess I'm off to write some poems about the times when "it hurt instead."

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


I am really intense about food.

That's something I say often, and yet people always seem surprised to find out just how true that statement is. I'm not even sure what it means to be "really intense about food." But anyone who has ever seen me eat knows that I sure as hell am.

I have always been fortunate to live with people who love to cook. Even my roommates in college didn't mind feeding me, because I so thoroughly enjoyed whatever they made. It's impossible to turn me away, apparently. I'm too joyous and grateful (I've even been known to charm servers in restaurants who clearly hate their jobs).

What's weird is that my taste in food isn't even remotely consistent with my upbringing. I'm Polish, and thus, was raised on Polish cuisine. (This means that sour cream goes on everything. Twice.) But I weigh in at just 97 pounds, and don't eat red meat. So, no kielbasa for me. (Sorry, Grandma.)

I want to say that my avoidance of red meat stemmed from things I've learned by watching documentaries and reading books. But no. As a child, I couldn't pronounce "roast beef." Instead, I called it "gross beef." And I guess the idea just stuck. In one of my favorite photos of myself (above), I'm sitting at the kitchen table, pouting over a hot dog (doused in ketchup to disguise the taste). According to my mother, I sat there stubbornly for hours. I was four. That was the last time my mother tried to make me eat red meat.

At eighteen, I moved to Saginaw. My roommate Tracy loved to cook, and every Thursday night, would make dinner for everyone who lived with us. Luckily for me, she'd also invite her sister Tricia, a vegetarian, to join us. So even as a poor college student, I ate like a champion.

I was in Saginaw for three years, and in those three years, my parents got used to my absence. They stopped keeping veggie burgers in the freezer, etc.

So now I'm living with them again, and am on my own a lot for dinner. And I've been inching closer and closer to vegetarianism. The kids I babysit are being raised as vegetarians, and one of my favorite things to do is snoop through their fridge/cupboards for ideas. I've taken to sampling what I find, and then going to the store with a list of what I like.

Furthermore, their mom works at a health food store and has about a zillion books on health/fitness. Compulsive reader that I am, I've looked through those, too. And they're fascinating.

I figure that since I'm on my own a lot grocery-wise, I may as well have fun with it and learn stuff. I'm in college and it's expensive to eat healthy food all the time. But my body demands that I eat healthy food, so I do. It punishes me if I don't. (I forgot to mention that I brought a great deal of shame upon the people of Poland the first time I ever ate a paczki. I threw up every half an hour for an entire night. My little seven-year-old body was just like, "That shit is gross. I'm going to get rid of it.")

And it's weird. Because I don't believe in counting calories. Math really isn't my thing, for one, so counting calories just sucks the enjoyment out of the experience for me. I freaking love food. Watch me eat, and you'll understand.

So for me, being healthy it isn't about limiting myself, or taking away things that give me pleasure. It's about giving my body what it wants. And my body is a selfish, greedy, demanding little fucker much of the time. I don't care that it's snowing. Take me for a bike ride. Right now. And I'm hungry. I'd like some salmon. The free-range kind. No, I don't care that your wallet doesn't support my lifestyle. If I'm not around to support your lifestyle, then what the hell are you gonna do? That's right. I win.

There are very few things that bring me joy lately. (Living in suburbia will do that to you.) I've been lonely, sad, and overwhelmed by a lot of things. So if I can be selfish and healthy at the same time, then that's what I'm going to do.