Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Americans Have Liberated The Camps


On Thanksgiving Day, I watched a documentary called Thin about a famous eating disorder treatment facility. As I stuffed a few stray chocolates into my mouth, I watched a young woman cry because she had to eat a cupcake for her birthday in an attempt to "normalize" her behavior. The girls and women who were there ranged from death camp movie extra to average-sized. Of course, you couldn't tell by the body who was the sickest -- that became clear over the time as I heard one perfectly normal-looking thirty year old say, If I have to die to be thin, then so be it. It's been my only goal in life. She had two lovely children, a decent career, and was willing to give it all away to the gods of perfection. As a former gymnast, I understood all too well the horrors of that line of thinking and can remember my mother looking at pictures of me from that time and saying to my father, Look, Don. The Americans have liberated the camps.

After doing every exercise regime under the sun, I started practicing yoga four years ago because my mother made me promise to "do something about your stress." I tried assuring her that I didn't feel particularly stressed, but the fact was I inhaled it, nursed it, loved it as if it were my very best friend and the thought of all that turmoil going bye-bye was almost more than I could stand. Who was I if not somebody who was always running around, biting off more than a person four times my size could chew, and never having a spare moment to think? It was one of her only requests before she died and as reluctant as I was about doing anything physical that didn't promise to drop weight immediately, I gave it a try. The stress proved to be a formidable enemy -- my nature is not a relaxed one. But as my yoga teacher says, one must challenge oneself without judgment, and I do. I try. As for liberation, well, that's a tough one when the camp is one of your own making and you have lived there for a very long time.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"I'm never going to accomplish anything; that's perfectly clear to me. I'm never going to be famous. My name will never be writ large on the roster of Those Who Do Things. I don't do anything. Not one single thing. I used to bite my nails, but I don't even do that any more." Dorothy Parker

Cocktail Hour

Drinking movie suggestion: Mrs. Parker and The Vicious Circle

Benedictions and Maledictions

Happy Thursday! In answer to Jon's question, it is a cigarette lighter burn. The tractor had one in case one felt compelled to smoke and farm at the same time!

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good advice from your mother. I've suggested it to Miss B, but she can't sit still long enough right now. She'd rather run it off. Happy Thursday!

Jayne Mansfield said...

Dorothy Parker's "Big Blonde" is one of my favorite short stories.

Anonymous said...

I know what you mean about thriving on stress. It becomes a way of life. But I know it's taken a big toll on me. For one, I can only stop grinding my teeth with a conscious effort, and then the moment I stop thinking about it the grind continues. At night I try to sleep with the tip of my tongue between my teeth to keep from grinding them, but sometimes I awake with a sore tongue. Coming down from a Type A high is hard work.

Anonymous said...

Love that dress, Michelle. And your piece, the bit about biting off more than one four times your size could chew...sigh...yeah. I'm right there with you. Thanks for your transparency. And for the comment. You're the beautiful one, babe! -Jill

Anonymous said...

Boy have you cast a spell on me--I love your blog! And all of the Dorothy Parker stuff today...yum!

Anonymous said...

Which comes first the liberation or the relaxation? Do you change behavior or liberate yourself from it. I fall into the liberation arena. One of the wisest people I know said "Mark, stop writing for awhile, you've already written more than most authors do in a lifetime."
I said to this person I was pysically, mentally and, spiritually exhausted and ready to go.

This was a point in my life that I was stressed and clinically depressed about everything,rejection slip after rejection slip, all of the injuries, the forced retirement, my income going nowhere further than the 1/2 I had been making, living off government stipends with a wife that loved me but couldn't find consistant work for months at a time and when she did find work it was much less than her abilities called for. And she was always treated like shit when she did find a job.

All of this coming off of 18 hour days, two jobs for 11 years, managing a 60 bay shop, 35 people, all surly as hell as well s dealing with sales people and customers and that was the part time job, taking forty minutes to go to the next job and dealing with dumbass foremen who couldn't fix lunch much less a car and I thrived on it all. The smoothing irate customers to making the foremen Irate as hell just for fun. And every night hitting that Jim Beam for a fifth or so , sleeping three to four hours and getting up and doing it again. I Loved the stress of it, I averaged the concientious repair of 2500 cars a year, when the motherfucker was repaired it was done right.

So someone put a prompt in front of me one day, my first day in any college environment at all and said write on this subject and I'll be back in a few minutes. I can still hear her "Ok just a few more Minutes...Does anyone want to read what they wrote." no hands and for the first time in my life i sat and read my ...MY words to an audience of strangers and every class day after that, sharing my heart and soul.

Liberating me from what I had been to what I was about to in the, well past middle of my life, change to. I was free from the stress of worrying about other peoples safety from a repair I had made or taught someone else to make. I was free, liberated of the anxiety of the workcamp I had made for myself.

Her words and teaching me a different way to be; allowed me to see a way to the gate which I used my words like an acetalyn torch to cut the lock off of and walk away free.

Then the intensity of the new life began to build, a different stress, I quit visiting Jim after 18 years, I started taking the insulin like I should and worried about what people would think of me because i look like I can work but 5 doctors told me I can't.

I worried about what effect my writing would have on people and on me and the stress of producing more and more because this person lit a fire in my belly and I had only this, this new craft and I found myself back in a different camp I made for myself, walls instead of chain and barbed wire but a prison none the less.

I couldn't exercise my way out, I couldn't at that point in life even think of a way out I just kept walking around the walls writing and performing it at open mics now and hosting a successful open mic myself that consumed me, it was my all, my life was all about the writing mine and working other youngsters writing with them. But it was a lovely stress, lining up the feature poet of the week thinking of new and different ways to present poetry every week not in just the main venue of mine but in three others as well where I simply read.

Then it was all taken away through meaness and deciete and i was stress free again, broken hearted but stress free and the walls came tumbling down and i walked away free again but not content until I went to my mentor who did nothing but listen to me. There was nothing she could do for me we didn't share great amounts of time together but found a way to make each moment a life time and in that I walked away and came to a few conclusions that will never change.

1) I walk with God without the burden of any religion.

2) That because of that what have i need of? Nothing, nothing to fear or worry about, nothing to be anxious over.

3) Next to God and my Old Lady I love this person with ever fiber of my being.

And I KNOW that one day I will hear her talk slow, move slow and the rush that fed her for so long will be a memory that she will say to herself, "my God that was an interesting part of the journey, thanks for running through it with me." And God who always loves a good joke will say "I always thought your mental and physical rushing was pretty funny and if you forget for a moment the sad times you and I can sit for a spell and talk about what comes next and have a laugh at that part of your road, gone by. Glad you finally came to be at peace with yourself, I waited a long time...and oh yeah the candles...they were good for light and smell for you but they were just more flame to me."

Peace Michelle
as ever

TWM

paul said...

Cajun Q you are such Foxy Lady D
BeFree
Shazammmmmm
R2 C2!

A mighty wind said...

The walking putz blows hot air with every fiber of his being.

John Ricci said...

Dear Michelle such a lovely post and view as always, always. I hope you are enjoying some stray chocolate with champagne and strawberries right now. Bravo to you!

JR's Thumbprints said...

That's all I ever hear about--"Why don't you try yoga?" I'm also aware of the damage running can cause to a person's body. Only problem, that's what I've always done to relieve stress. What I have changed is my drinking habits: Less beer, more whiskey.

Anonymous said...

"A mighty wind said...
The walking putz blows hot air with every fiber of his being."

Oh please; if that's your best shot...take your head out of your ass and let some air blow through your ears. That way at least the emptiness in it will be filled with a breeze.

TWM

Short bus and Special said...

It wasn't us, walking man. We enjoy your Whitmanesque prose.

Anonymous said...

You know I tried, I mean really tried to keep things short. But once the first few words are out I can't stop the Niagra of them until someone further up the stream dams the river.

I have to keep going until whatever it is that is being written actually tells me it's finished. I have two unpublished mss both over 85,000 words because that's how long it took to complete the story and others all unpublished of varying lengths.

Are they great works of fiction, I doubt it but I had to write them to completion.

I took an advanced creative writing class where the instructor said to each individual in the class what are you here for, my response was to get better at the writing of poetry.

I made it through the class in '05 and since then have accumalated over 300 pieces. Are they great? I don't know it's not for me to judge, I just write them. A friend got one or two published for me and now that I know the feeling of what that's like I don't care if anything I write gets published because i'd rather get the immediate feedback from the audience, hence the open mic venues which if you are in the wayne state area tonight at about eight there is an open mic at a small coffee shop called the Java Exchange. (1/12)

Most of the performers there are in serious competition for making it to the slam finals to represent Detroit in the nationals and are of a far different quality and caliber of poet than I, but they let me read because everyone deserves a voice. And I know mine can get wordy as hell but there really is a reason for what I write wherever I write it at.

Even though a lot of it is about I...the hope is that in some way that I can become the you, the reader and relate to it.

I don't consider it a failure to not reach someone but rather just a need for a different combination of words.

Things said to me by people like "a mighty wind" don't get my ire up but it shows me that i have not reached at least a part of a group of readers, hell maybe 99% of the readers but that causes me to learn, new ways to put the words together and for that I appreciate his/her comment. But being a Detroiter born and raised and growing up under the leadership of the Honorable Coleman A. Young I suffer no insult lightly.

Hell Young and Brooks Patterson kept that pissing match going right up until the day of Youngs death when Patterson said something to the affect of "Now Detroit has a chance."

And now here i have done it again wrote much more than i started off with the idea of writing; which was basically even if in sarcasm Short Bus and Special all I started out to say was Thank You for the compliment, maybe i should actually read that Book of Whitman's collected works i bought one day and haven't opened since.

Michelle will tell me when I have said enough and she will do it succinctly and on this forum.

peace always peace first

TWM

Short bus and Special said...

We're sincere, Walking Man. Just be careful how you use "pussy." This can be a sensitive area with peoples.

Anonymous said...

Dear short bus and special thank you.

I did stop for a minute before i used the word and it is not in my usual lexicon of writing but in that instance where i used it, it fit. It was the way my father who remember had his PhD.thought of me and a word he probably did use when talking about me to my brothers about me not not wanting to be a brick wall to protect a quarterback I would have liked to have seen hurt myself at the time. Because i'd rather spend the time writing.

My father has been separated for almost a quarter century but the one saying of his that i most remember him when talking to us kids when we got overly excited about something was "rethefucklax," so in using the word i believe it fit and gave a clearer picture of the way he thought and spoke. i sure as hell learned to talk like a sailor a long time before I ever went into the navy lol.

Peace and thanks again.