Swimming, Drowning

Swimming through the past. An ocean of negative feelings and tremendous waves of guilt, doubt, hurt and resentment pound you against the sand of time.

I swam in several oceans. Just this morning.

If you can read this, it’s because I trust you.

No.

It’s not.

Well, sort of.

It’s because I’m willing to give you one chance before I don’t. So I trust you. For now.

It’s funny because I trust this online group of fellow writers more than I do my own flesh and blood. I trust you more because you and I are the same.

You understand the tiny intricacies and intimacies of out-loud emotion. Sensitivity to environment and relationships. You observe life and tell it again. Live it again. An editor said to Susan Weidener, “Writing is living twice.”

Writers are brave enough to live, even the bad parts, twice. Suck the marrow.


“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms…”  Henry David Thoreau


YOU (Reader/Writer)=Preservationist. Historian. Testifier. Guardian. Lover of words, people, experiences, life.

I understand. Mad respect.

This morning, I crushed a tiny flying insect between my index finger and thumb. Without thought. It continued to fly around my face and it was extremely annoying. S/he landed on my shirt and I took my chance.

Somehow, now and again, I feel just like that bug. Crushed without thought by some annoyed acquaintance.

I’ve mainly felt that way around certain creative types who have enormous ego and too little time to care for another. Improv actors. Improv actors are good at one thing. Thinking up jokes on the spot. Otherwise, adulting is just too hard.

The trouble is impulse control. They have none. I should know. I married an improviser. Ironic, I know.

The same impulse that tells them to say something funny or true on stage? That’s the same impulse in life that gets you socked in the gob by a gnarly stranger. Most of us learn to control that impulse to blurt out something ridiculous. Improvisers are rewarded for such behavior with laughter, slaps on the back and applause.

My husband’s improv friends for the most part were a tightly-loomed clique of quick-witted attention whores who constantly tried to one-up each other. If you couldn’t hang, you were just a hanger-on.

I’m damn funny. But not an improviser. I’ve tried. I’m not an improv-er mainly because I have strict impulse guidelines and fear rejection. Plus, my brain just does not work that fast. My judgment slows my reaction. I can improv. Just not at the same level as my husband.

For years I tried to fit in, be supportive, hang on. But it is wholly unsatisfying to be surrounded by adult toddlers most of the time. It’s exhausting.

No one ever seemed to be able to hold more than a five-minute conversation. Never about anything real either. It was usually a 5-minute joke-off/caffeine/smoke break. And they certainly didn’t care about your personal details unless it benefited them in some way. Exhausting.

Most successful improv-ers IMO have compartmentalized lives. Improv is over here. Family, life, job is waaaay over there. And that’s just not me. I want to be fully integrated. Real. Whole. And I want my husband to be, too. He’s working on it. Doing really good. But we haven’t seen that whole improv crowd for years.

I mainly swam around in regret for a few minutes this morning because I just finally deleted most of those people from my LinkedIn page. Seeing all those faces again just made me sad and mad all over again. The rejection of my true self, the rejection of my ability, the rejection of my offer of genuine friendship. Tears came fast and hard without warning, without rationale.

But, I’ve written about it and I feel okay now. Plus, I am too busy to tire myself in this choppy ocean of feelings. I’m sure you understand. 🙂

 

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Rich with Lovers

Katharine Clifton (played by Kristin Scott Thomas, from The English Patient):
My darling. I’m waiting for you. How long is the day in the dark? Or a week? The fire is gone, and I’m horribly cold. I really should drag myself outside but then there’d be the sun. I’m afraid I waste the light on the paintings, not writing these words. We die. We die rich with lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we’ve entered and swum up like rivers. Fears we’ve hidden in-like this wretched cave. I want all this marked on my body. Where the real countries are. Not boundaries drawn on maps with the names of powerful men. I know you’ll come carry me out to the Palace of Winds. That’s what I’ve wanted: to walk in such a place with you. With friends, on an earth without maps. The lamp has gone out and I’m writing in the darkness.


Rich with lovers. I love that line. It is so full in one’s mouth and mind. It plays on the tongue and exercises all manner of lip movement and physical speech. I hope you have tried to say it. Out loud. You pretend kiss when forming the word rich. And the word with. It is a line for all time.

Rich with lovers. I think we all die rich with lovers. You may have only known your husband or wife, intimately. But we have all fashion of lovers. My family loves me. My friends love me. Strangers love me. And we love many. Sexually or not.

I have never been closer to another human being as I have been to my husband. I am so thankful for that. He knows everything about me and still loves me unconditionally. Even when he’s mad at me. He may not admit it. Or realize it. But if pressed, he loves me still. That–is nothing short of a miracle and nothing to take for granted.

My husband with all his faults and flaws is the most generous, kind and passionate lover I have ever known. And I have had my share. But I would trade my share for this one love. I count myself lucky to have found the one person who could fulfill my every desire and do it so well. He is smart, funny and oh-so lavish in his physical love for me. Some might look at my husband and wonder what I see in him, but he is a world-class lover. He’s Italian. Whatta ya gonna do? You can’t fight city hall.

I say all this, not to boast, but to demonstrate. Even with a rich, lavish love life? A love life beyond earthly compare? It cannot come close to my growing addiction to Christ.

If my love life with my husband was compared to the Earth-to-Moon distance (I love you to the moon and back), then my relationship with Christ would be the distance from the Earth to the Sun (Son). I love my husband with everything I have. And I truly believe after 17 years of marriage, he loves me the same way. But it doesn’t even touch how Christ and God feel for me. Not even my relationship with my daughter can come close to how God feels for me.

The Bible compares our relationship to Christ as a marriage and sometimes our relationship to God as parent and child. And those are wonderful examples of how He loves. But I don’t think we can perceive with our small minds how big God’s love is.

I hear people often scoff. (Scofften? LOL) Why would God create the universe, as vast as it is, for just our world? Why would a great God in heaven care about me? Why would God create man and play this simulation of Love?

Quite simply, God is love.

Not that He simply loves, but that He is the Love-being. We are built in His image. He is relationship. We are love as well. Love is not just a word or an act. It is a continuous chosen action, verb, noun, state of mind. Sacrifice.

He built us for love. To have relationship and fellowship with Him. We do life with the intention of being loved. We are born with a burning desire to be seen, to be loved, to be lavished. I see it in my daughter. I see her burning desire to be noticed and praised. But she has never known a day without love. We have heaped praise and love on her head and she still yearns to be known so intimately. She raises her voice, speaking her opinions into existence and wants so much to be heard. I pray that she learns at some point, God is listening. And if we listen back? He will reveal such profound love and understanding. If we can just quiet our minds enough to know, we are being loved so completely. So lavishly. So richly. So permanently.

The question in my mind is this: if God did create the universe and we do not acknowledge him in this, how can he feel loved? Even God wants praise for all that He has given, created, sacrificed. And he deserves it. What has Man ever done to compare with what God has done? Aren’t we born wanting praise?

I have chased all forms of pleasure my entire life. Food, love, sex, comfort, pain-relief. And it does not satisfy. It does not sustain. It does not last. In a moment, the satisfying fullness of achievement is lost in the pulses of light from the universe. No fullness lasts when relying on worldly things. But when I achieve some level of understanding or testament of love, or ability to withstand temptation, or fulfillment of biblical beatitude, it lasts. It is a taste rich with loving. A meal that brings wholeness, fullness.

All of my life’s true happiness and peace has come from obedience. Understanding and accepting those gifts that are set aside just for me. We must embrace what we are given, not envy what we can never have.

Country Roads, Don’t Take Me Home

I spent my youth
Away from Home.
Wishing my friends
Were sisters of my own.

I didn’t like family.
Dangerous love.
Beat up and tortured,
Push comes to shove.

We lived in the country,
Away from town.
If there are no neighbors,
Does abuse make a sound?

My heart goes back
To that scary place.
And my throat gets tight
At memories I chase.

It wasn’t all bad.
I remember some good.
Days spent hiding,
Deep in the woods.

Green creek banks
And rich, black dirt.
Flowers and water
To wash away the hurt.

But no amount
Of River or Plain
Can wash away
That mountain of Pain.

So many nights
Unable to dream.
Flashbacks fire
And tears begin to stream.

Scars that shine
In the cracked moonlight.
Open them again
Without a fight.

In my mind, I walk
With shoe-less feet
To my childhood house,
Down that lonely street.

I reach the drive.
Kick the stones.
Look at the mess.
Hate my bones.

Turn around, get out.
Don’t look back.
This is your chance
To bury the black.

Run! Run down
To the end of the road.
Stop. Take a breath.
There’s time to go slow.

I walk through the night
Away from the past.
I can see the dawn
Coming up at last.

This isn’t a race.
There’s no finish line.
Each step is important.
This path is mine.

Courage is Required

An excerpt from Volume 2 of my book, Present Tense. I haven’t published Vol. 2 yet, but here’s a taste. Find Volume 1 here this week for free!


We move into a small, cold, temporary house just in time to celebrate my Christmas #5. Christmas includes new nightgowns, an Easy Bake Oven for my sister and a “courage” (carriage/baby buggy) for me.

I can’t say carriage. I also can’t say commercial or spaghetti. Mah-ker-shull and pa-sketti.

This is the house my mother wallpapered for my grandmother. This is house where I pooped on the floor. This is the house of smoke and blood. This is the house of clawfoot-tub swimming.

There are Tarzan cartoons, Peanuts TV Specials, Hee-haw overalls, jingling reindeer hooves on the roof, cold winter mornings, mattresses on the living room floor. There is laughing/choking at late-night dinners. There are ABC-TV special presentation family movie nights of Deliverance, urine-stained pillows that I fall asleep on, cradling parents who tuck children who fall asleep on wet pillows in bed. And there is falling out of the top bunk at night.


At some point, my grandmother bought this home as a second, third or fourth property to build her empire of real estate. She buys many properties and rents or sells them for profit. She also runs a coin-operated laundry mat and washes people’s clothes for money. She is a woman who works hard and seldom rests. She does not tolerate humor or fuss. She is a force of will.

Grandma’s hair is yellowish white, faded from stress, time and negativity. She keeps it tight in a bun and hairnet. Her face is just as faded. Her beauty quickly spent on marriage, children and hard times. She always wears a dress. Not a fancy frock, but a well-worn print. The only days she didn’t wear a dress, were those spent in a factory during the war.

She has a large, round nose and large, droopy Buddha-like lobes. Those earlobes were made for clip earrings, but she never wears them.

Hard, metallic eyes that saw her father’s mistreatment of her mother. Grandma saw his fortune taken away as well. She saw her comfortable childhood home revoked and replaced by a dirt-floor shed.

She marries, only to quickly lose her husband’s farm to the tax collector. She rears 3 children through the depression, Dust Bowl and WWII. She raises and kills chickens, she milks cows, she sews, she cleans (not well), she cooks.

She hardens; she resolves. She is determined to forbid fate from having its destructive way again.

She works hard because she doesn’t know anything else. She works hard because she learned that you can’t rely on anyone except God and yourself.  She works hard because that is her pathway to happiness.

If I stop moving, I’ll die.

These are her lonely, driven thoughts. She is an ever-swimming, scarred-up shark who’s tired of the frenzy and bloodbath.


Grandma lets us live in the house on 15th Street while we wait to move to the country.  Our home near the lake has sold and the new house is not ready yet.

We lose our cat during the move. We drive for the last time from the lake to town with all our things. Grandma is holding the cat in the station wagon. Shark holding a lion. We arrive at the new place: the car door opens, cat scratches, takes off for parts unknown.

Never seen again. Tiger is gone.

Lucky cat.

What Hurts

Lots of things hurt.
Or I wouldn’t be a writer.

Have you met many writers?

But lots of things don’t hurt.
I am easily overwhelmed or amazed.

You like sunsets.
That sunset is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I love sunsets. Where’s my camera??!

You like writing.
I can’t stop writing because I’ve never had a voice and this is the only chance I have to say all the things I’m feeling before I die. And if I write every day that I have left, I still won’t have said all I need to say to the world.

You had a bad day.
I had the worst day in my entire life and I have to find the will to continue.

You have issues.
I have mental illness coupled with anxiety from complex PTSD that makes good days rare and bad days merely survivable.

I feel things deeply. Maybe too much. But thank God for deep feelings. Or I wouldn’t be a writer, artist, actor, designer, photographer, caretaker, sunset-lover. Thank God for my sensitivity. Or I would be just: average. I’d rather feel too much than nothing at all.

Oh good.
You get me.
Thanks.
This isn’t a competition.
Sorry.
And if you think I’m too hard on myself?
Some people aren’t hard enough.
The truth is out there.
We just have to be willing to say it.

Present Tense (Excerpt 3)

Work-Around (Chapter 1)

This is the house of my first through fourth Christmases, shark-jumping Fonzie, corn-eating contests, black vinyl swivel chair spinning, lipstick wall drawings, measles and melee.  This is the house where I ironed my fingers, melting the baby flesh from my tiny knuckles, forever scarring my left hand.  This is the house that leaves many wounds and scars.  This is the house where I came into being, came to my conscious mind, came to the realization that I was in danger from the people who loved me.

I like to hide.  I hide in an accordion trunk.  I hide in the dryer.  I hide in a closet.  I hide in a hole in the yard by the basement window, dug by my mother.  Because it’s there.  I hide inside a plate of food and I eat all my peas because it makes their voices stop.

If I eat enough, deep down inside, I can’t hear their voices anymore.  I feel peaceful.  It’s quiet.  I’m happy.  The pathway to perceived happiness gets laid by the chemicals in my brain and I am helpless to stop it.  I’m not even aware of the biological processes that are creating a life-long addiction.  It has formed and that path will be worn over and over and over again.  Food equals love.  To survive this chaos, I have found my work-around.  I will survive this.  But just barely.


Read the rest of the book here. If you’re a member of Kindle Unlimited it’s free! It is free for everyone from time to time, I’ll let you know when it is. Or if you’re an impoverished author like me, email me at martha.maggio@sbcglobal.net for your free copy. But you have to share your story with me as payment. 😉

Birthday

Guest post by: Guy C. Maggio


Yesterday was my birthday and my husband wrote a poem for me. Best gift ever.
Plus, two dozen roses! I feel so lucky. I wanted to share because he is just as talented at writing, if not more so, than I am. I just have more time to be creative.


Today is her birthday.
She didn’t ask for much-
Just some flowers and nice words.

She never asks for much-
Just the hardest things for me give:
Patience
Kindness
Compassion
Tenderness.

Simple gifts that cost nothing
But my ego and pride
Which I, shamefully,
Have treasured more than gold.

For forty and four sun-cycles
She has lived;
I’ve known her for nineteen of them
And lived with her
Longer than any other-
Even my own family.

She is
A writer, poet, teacher, and mother
My closest family and confidant.

She has
Loved, honored, and stayed with me
Even when I have not been
Loving, honorable, or companionable.

Today is her birthday.
She doesn’t ask for much-
Just some flowers
And nice words

And the hardest gift for me to find:
To be a better man.

She deserves the best.


Thanks, Guy. I love my presents. Our vacation was present enough, but you constantly amaze me. I know we frustrate one another, but the good times are better than anything.