Monday, January 31, 2011

Goaway Getaway

Michael and I have a flirty little love affair with Philadelphia, and it's become our go-to city for escaping. It seems almost silly, doesn't it, what with New York City being just a short train ride away? But last time I checked, New York City is still in my state, too close to my own hometown for comfort. When we go away, we like to GO. AWAY. Meaning we don't want our Spidey senses tingling like they do when we suspect we're about to bump into someone we know, or worse yet, someone we don't like. Like pretty much anytime we walk through the automatic doors of Target. So at least once a year, when things get dicey with the routine, we head to Philadelphia for a change of scenery. More on that in a bit.

It's been an interesting month for me. At the beginning of the year, I kind of got sick of myself. I got tired of my own excuses, my own weaknesses, my own self-imposed stupidity and limitations. The gory details of this discovery are not for public consumption, at least, not today, but suffice it to say, I spent January 2011 replacing bad things with good things, cleaning out the cupboards of my soul and steam cleaning the shag carpeting of my heart while Windexing the black scum off the window of my brain after scraping the black mold off of the baseboards of my existence and what have you.

Because 2010 kind of sucked, right? It was a really bad year for a lot of people, and although it was less bad for me than others, I still got to stand back and watch while people I liked or at least respected got their asses handed to them by a massive economic collapse. People lost jobs, lost houses or were simply forced to accept the fact that because they can't go anywhere else, they will continue to stagnate and rot at jobs they hate indefinitely, everyday a soul-shattering reminder of choices poorly made, or decisions based on not having the luxury of "choices".

Personally, my year sucked in other ways. Michael toured extensively last year, and it put a strain on our lives both logistically and otherwise. During the summer was particularly difficult, given that he was essentially gone from the first week of May until the 1st of August (he got a few days off between tour legs here and there, but that seemed to add to his travel fatigue). When he returned and was home for the rest of the year, it was a difficult shift from the constant movement of touring to the less constant activity of taking care of the homefront. Both are difficult, but they are so differently difficult that being thrust from one to the other is shocking to the system.

As for the other things that made 2010 suck, well, I'll just say that I let some things in my life get out of hand and leave it at that. And some of those things carried over into the beginning of this year despite my most sincere and heartfelt efforts to keep that from happening. But hey, what can you do? Self-improvement isn't a light switch. It's more like attempting to light a series torches set up all over a desert island that has no electricity and is pitch dark and raining 24 hours a day: Before you can even think about lighting them, you have to come up with a way to keep them lit.

Or whatever. I don't know. In other words, KANDY DO GOOD STUFF, BUT GOOD STUFF SO HARD DO!

Which brings us to Philadelphia.

I will be the first to admit to my personal limitations, and sometimes I can only fight the good fight for so long until I need to retreat into a cave. It doesn't happen very often. Usually all I need is to go into my bedroom, close the door, and unleash a torrent hot, salty tears into my pillow, followed by the realization that eventually, 9pm will come without fail and then I can lose myself in TV or sleep's dark embrace before starting all over again fresh the next day. But thanks to a number of things that happened last week that were distinctly Not Part of the Plan, Michael and I decided it wasn't a situation where we wanted to get away. It was a situation where we absolutely needed to for the sake of both our relationship and the ones we have with those around us. Luckily, it was Madeline's weekend to be in Brooklyn with her dad, so the timing couldn't have been better.

It was a fabulous little vacation. We explored quirky shops and comic book stores and one art museum which was inexplicably empty given how good the work was inside. We ate our way across 10 blocks and indulged our love of a good Indian dinner buffet (Michael beat his record with 9 samosas). We fell asleep early and woke up early but well-rested after soaking in an almost intolerably hot jacuzzi tub and then slipping into a coma on the most insanely comfortable mattress I've ever slept on the night before. We didn't take enough pictures, but we bought excellent gifts for the girls. We held hands the entire time. Michael bought me flowers for no other reason except that they were there and so was I. We walked constantly. We stopped in New Hope on the way home because it's a cute town, and we walked some more, despite our tired legs and sore knees. We forgot about the stupid, meaningless annoyances that seem so large and insurmountable when constantly addressed, but so small when confronted when faced with how much we love each other and how mighty we are together.

Even now, as I sit in my back-destroying office chair under soul-destroying fluorescent lights, I haven't really returned. I'm still there, with Michael, stumbling along icy, narrow sidewalks in search of a hot cup of coffee to drink or an interesting building to explore, far from the incessant, niggling drone of my inconsequential weaknesses. They can't touch me, and I feel stronger than ever.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

How Deep is Your Rut?

I am currently in the throes of what is shaping up to be the longest creative dry spell of my life. Honestly, I feel like I've been bathing in local anaesthesia lately; the dizzying highs and wrenching lows seemed to have been replaced by creamy middles.

Are creamy middles the death of creativity? Can one be content and still crank out the goods on a regular basis? Do I have to wallow in misery in order to produce?

Unfortunately, or fortunately, or whatever, obtaining contentedness requires engaging in some level of routine. And engaging in routine means embracing a degree of monotony. Not that there's anything wrong with a little monotony. But I'm kind of an experience-based writer. I'm not so good with the getting-in-touch-with-my-deep, inner-Kandy and am more interested in taking something I went through and attempting to make it funny. When you're waking up at the same time every morning, eating the same thing for breakfast, alternating between the same 5 pairs of office pants every week, driving the same route to work, answering the same email requests that come in every day, coming home at the same time, working out in the same spot in your home, eating dinner sometime between Cash Cab and the Simpsons every night, tucking your child in at 9pm, and then slipping in to a coma in bed while watching the same Family Guy reruns on the bedroom TV, it becomes nearly impossible to come up with fresh and exciting ways to write about this and still make it seem funny and interesting.

Because it's really neither funny nor interesting. It

WHICH IS GREAT. I wouldn't trade my life now for anything resembling the nightmare that was my 20s. So full of ridiculous self-induced drama and stupidity. Yeah, maybe my little anecdotes were better back then, maybe I could spin a helluva yarn based on the 50 retarded things I did every single day, but I was a trainwreck. I wouldn't go back there if you paid me a billion dollars and promised me a back rub.

So what do I write about now? Do I become part of the throng of "Mommy Bloggers" who fill their virtual pages with stories about how awesome their kids are, how awful their kids are, how glad they are that they're mommies, how miserable they are being mommies? Do I start meting out my life in increments of kiddie bowel movements, of what my kid eat and didn't eat, of wacky outfits and hilarious moments of unplanned lack of supervision (a la S*** My Kid Ruined)? Do I post pictures of the brilliant comic books Madeline has been cranking out with shocking consistency? Do I complain about how she still sometimes whines like a 3 year old and how it sends me to a dark and ugly place I'm not ready to talk about yet? Do I talk trash about her classmates' parents, my ex, all other parents in general who are nothing like me and do lots of stupid things that I don't agree with?

Do I rehash the mental disorders of my youth, or my previous struggles with addiction, just to give readers something to chew on?

Do I relate horror stories about my job? Because THAT'S a smart thing to be doing these days if you have a career death wish.

Do I go on and on about how I wish I could go back to school, how I wish I was a better songwriter, how I wish I could play the one instrument I can sorta/kinda play much better than I do now?

Do I give a daily debriefing on how my struggle to lose weight has been going, including the obligatory list of foods consumed, calories counted and minutes exercised?

Do I gush about how much I love my significant other and how I feel like I hit the lottery every single day?

Do I talk about how overwhelmed I am with love and happiness, so much so that I don't know what to do with myself?

Do I discuss how my daily routine feels so much like a hamster wheel that I could cry just thinking about it, and that I would consider a felonious act just for the opportunity to go on vacation?

Do I write about what I want to, with no fear, about any topic I choose, or do I continue to censor myself because of who may read this?

And, most important to me above all else, would anyone read it if I did?

Because if nobody cares, what's the point? No writer writes in a vacuum. If a hack tells you he writes for himself, he's a big fat double-crossing liar. I'm doing it all for you, readers. All 3 of you.

So tell me. What do YOU want to read?