2019-07-13 MFA Res Day 0 – Stepping into the Familiar

Yesterday was a scramble to wrap up preparations and mid-afternoon I made the quick trip from my home-sweet-home to Nebraska City. Unlike a lot of the people in the program I live relatively close and don’t have far to go. Most traveling by car had a rough go because of all the flooding in the area. Those flying, well, had that nonsense to deal with of course. In truth, the drive was one of the best parts of my day. I would not have minded a detour that took me two hours off a regular route (as long as it was expected). I covet the time I’m the car to think about life.

My thoughts largely rotated around my expectations for the next ten days. I’ve got a week and a half of immersion in all things writing related and Lied Lodge Living. It’s an experience that truely does not compare to any other in my life. I can expect to laugh, and cry, and be filled with anxiety, doubt, confidence, and satisfaction. Sometimes all at the same time.

On my drive I was thinking about my first Res and how one of the people in the “upper class” said something about crying. At the time I’m sure the look in my face was screwed up with disbelief. What on earth is there to cry about? She just said “you’ll see”. Now that I’ve been here twice before, I know exactly what she’s talking about and was thinking about that in the car.

What will it be? How does one spiral into that frantic state. Is it the total immersion? The people? The overwhelming amount of thought my brain goes through? Probably a combination of all of it and the only other question will be “when”. Then again, life always has a way of surprising us so maybe something about this time will be different. So far though, that has not been the case.

Day 0 and I’ve already gone through the familiar first steps of coming together with the group, feeling awkward like I don’t belong, worrying about where to sit (there were not very many open seats when I came in the room and none next to any familiar faces), and then sitting alone in the front row.

Time slowed down to a snails pace and the next 15 minutes in that seat felt like 5 painful years creeping by. Why the hell would they say to be there at 6:15 if they were not going to start the welcome presentation until 6:30? Good grief.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, the dinner to follow was equally awkward. I went into the dining room with a friend from my weekly writing group and we selected a table and made a straight line for the buffet. When I returned I found someone else’s plate at my space at the table which left no open seat for me to sit and eat. My choices? Sitting at the adjacent table alone which would make me a stark center of attention, or sitting with people I didn’t know, or squeezing in – making that 4-top into a 5-top. I choose the latter. It was super awkward.

I fucking hate the dining room. Hate it.

Anyway, after a dinner of salad and chocolate cake I lingered a bit because Margret was telling a story and then i left at the same time as she did. I went to my room to recover. It sounds like no freaking big deal, any normal person would not batt an eyelash. But not yours truly. I wish I could get over myself. Good grief! 🤦🏼‍♀️

After that I went for a walk and that felt great. The sun was nearing the horizon and I knew I had about 45 minutes to go out and come back to the back patio of the lodge to watch it dip below the tree line. That’s exactly what I did. The walk was peaceful albeit not exactly refreshing as I could not relax my mind. I got a few nice snaps in of a tiny lake area that I had not visited before. Then, returning to my starting point, found a lovely inconspicuous spot on the patio.

The sunset was so-so. I’m sure there will be better ones in the future because I’ve seen it.

After the sunset I lingered again and a first year student came out solo for a view or a bit of fresh air. That’s when I did a thing I almost never do, which is approach and introduce myself. We chatted about the program for about a half an hour and it was good. A highlight of the night really. One on one is much more my speed.

When that conversation exhausted itself, I excused myself and went to the “bookstore” to help a few of my friends do inventory. That was it for my night. What would follow is the familiar return to the room for a night of tossing and turning and trouble falling asleep.

Fitbit says I got 6 hours, but it certainly does not feel like it.

Right about now I’m 54 minutes into a sesh with the treadmill in the exercise room at the lodge. Another familiar space, and a welcoming one. I only have a few more minutes before I need to scoot my booty to get dressed for the day, eat breakfast (sans dining room), and get to student orientation which starts at 8:30 (or will it be 8:45? 😉).

I’ve gotten some steps and now it’s time to dive in!

Peace,

~Miss SugarCookie

2018-11-05 The Missing Cat Was a Lie

Yesterday I experienced high anxiety which I attributed to multiple factors including the fact that my cat was missing. She always paces by the back door to be let out and even stretches up and puts her paw on the door handle and pulls down. Most of my doors don’t have round knobs, They have the lever kind that you pull down on and the pull the door open. If that door wasn’t so heavy, I swear she’d be able to open it. She’s smarter than any dog I’ve ever met. If she wants my attention, she’ll follow me and nip at the back of my heels to let me know. If I turn and let her know she’s got my attention, she’ll start walking in the direction she wants me to go, which is usually either the location of her food pantry or the back door.

Yesterday I let her out mid morning as I was working my way through the house doing a bit of packing and organizing. By late morning I went to let her in and she didn’t come when I called. She normally comes running right away. Sometimes she gets out of the back yard and so I went to the front door and expected her to run up on the porch right away to come in. This time, that didn’t happen. I didn’t think anything about it at first except for how strange that was. I kept working my way through different rooms of my house.

About every half hour I went back to both doors to call her in and each time I was greeted by a burst of cool fall air and no cat. By mid afternoon my mind was wandering and worrying. If you ever had a pet go missing you know that feeling. A sick feeling in the stomach and a vision of the animal being trapped somewhere or worse, run over by a car.

I tried to go to the gym to take my mind off of it but that worked in the opposite direction. My mind was too free to think about everything and my anxiety started to climb higher. When I was writing then, I eluded to the fact that I had a lot of things contributing to that feeling.. the job, school, money, all my stuff. One of the things I had in the back of my mind was this stupid drug test I have to take for my new contract. It’s not stupid, really. If I was an employer I would want my employees to submit to a test, but damn it’s terrible timing.

Today is day 7 after arriving back home from my Co trip. I’ve written about how I don’t like MJ and would never do that again, but when I was in the mountains, I shrugged and figured I’d give it another shot. I was disappointed again and really actually hated the experience and so this drug test coming up now is like icing on a shit cake. Anyway, I had actually forgotten about it for a hot minute with everything else on my mind.

For the record, i have it from several sources that since I’m not a regular user, it should be out of my system, but as of last Friday I was still weeing dirty on some home test I acquired. Thanks Obama. Jim told me not to worry, just wait till Monday and also said the test probably also includes benzodiazepines, whatever that is, but that I should not take any Xanax. Ok no problem.

When he told me that I didn’t think anything about it because I’ve only ever taken it to help me sleep and haven’t had any for over a month, maybe two. I haven’t needed it. Then yesterday hit and I was seriously feeling terrible. My mind was wrecking havoc and I just wanted relief. Like I said, I’ve never taken it for anything but sleep but I figured I would take just a half a pill to see if that would help. In about a half hour I could feel it working and it was like magic.

I made dinner and didn’t get upset when my daughter complained for the gazillionth time that she didn’t like it. I didn’t care. I continued to clean and organize and pack and just felt so much better. I actually sat down in my office and was able to open a book and read and get inspired to write. It was as if all that anxiety just melted away. Yeah, total magic.

It was like that for about an hour and a half until I tipped over the edge feeling sleepy. Yeah, when you’re tired and take a pill that normally is a sleep aid, that’s bound to happen. According to my FitBit, I fell asleep at 7:19 pm. Wow! 😯

And then woke up (actually Z woke me up) at 9:38PM. That was the most amazing 2 hour nap I’ve ever had. I felt great!

Then I remembered the test and was like, oh crap! Now I’m gonna have 2 potential hits on this thing. Cheeses! It’s like the Universe doesn’t want me to take this new job. Honestly I don’t want to take the job, so in this case the Universe and I are in agreement.

At least I have an RX for the Xanax and can bring that with me. I’m going to hold off to tomorrow anyway.

Despite having that 2 hour nap I still slept a full 7 hours and woke up feeling pretty damn good. I think I just needed a little extra recovery sleep. My anxiety is now back to normal, no thanks to my kitten. 🐱

Oh yeah, as it turns out, in all my rushing around the house in the morning I apparently had let her back in the house and didn’t realize it. She was sleeping in the basement the entire time!! Good grief!!! 🤦🏼‍♀️ Stupid cat (stupid owner). When my son brought it to my attention I felt relieved but also incredibly dumb. I also realized that it did nothing to alleviate my overall worry so I guess I can’t blame that after all.

The missing cat was a lie and that means the truth is that it was caused by something else. The test now is to remove the other sources until I find the one that really matters. How do I do that? Well, one problem at a time I guess. If it’s work, I’m screwed (for now anyway). There are a few other things I’ll be able to eliminate this week though so that’s going to be good.

Yesterday I kept reminding myself that I’m just one human being doing the best she can do with life. It’s a good thing for everyone to keep in mind. As I roll into this week, I’m going to be thankful that my cat is safe and warm inside the house and no matter what happens with this work crap, it’s all going to be just fine. Time now to get the party started.

Ready or Not,

~Miss SugarCookie

2018-10-01 High Anxiety Monday

How is it that, despite everything in my life right now being awesome, I still suffer from anxiety? It’s worse this week I think because I’m PMSing and I would love to reason with my brain that its fears are unfounded, but it’s not hearing my logic.

I said, “Brain, we’ve done all sorts of job interviews before and this is really no different. Plus, you have a coaching session beforehand and so that will help you sail right through.” Still, I’m nervous. Almost to the point of feeling sick and it’s not even until tomorrow.

I said, “Brain, I know the furnace is broken and needs replaced but it will get done this week and the temps are not freezing yet outside so it will be fine. Remember 1996 when we were out of power for a week because of a blizzard? This is nothing compared to that.” Yet I worry about the possibility that it can’t get fixed this week and also about how much it’s going to cost. “It’s only money and we have extra in savings for just such emergencies”. But my brain doesn’t care, it keeps me from sleeping anyway.

I said, “For the love of the Universe Brain, the Fall Out Boy concert Friday is supposed to be for fun!! Why the hell are you nervous about going to that?”. It’s in a different city? You’re going with a friend you don’t see often? You’d rather hang out with the kids? Not sure what the problem is!! Sometimes the brain doesn’t make much sense.

In the last 24 hours I’ve had flairs of irritation about work and I recognize my emotions are on high alert. My FitBit tells me that my period is a mere 4 days away and so I’m heading directly into the danger zone this week. I don’t want to do this interview. I don’t want to take on this contract. It will be another blemish on my reputation if I turn it down and I don’t do well with that (or saying no). I have to recognize that last week I was swinging in the direction of being excited about it. Nothing about it has changed, just the time of the month and the fact that I hate job interviews. Why do they have to interview the team anyway. Ick!

It’s the start of a new week and the start of a new month and I want to be excited but I’m kinda just not feeling it. I need to snap out of this. The thought of finishing my workout and going home to work in a cold house is not helping. Brrrrr, gross!!

Can I Get a September Do-Over?

~Miss SugarCookie

2017-12-31 MFA Residency Day 3 – Space and Time Matter

I broke away from the pack about 2:30 and took my leave of this building with a dual purpose in mind. I wanted to relieve myself of the claustrophobia of being hold-up in a somewhat confined space surrounded by freezing temperatures outside and I also needed to get tights or leggings for my outfit tomorrow. I’m not a snob so Wal-Mart works just fine for finding what I was looking for and just the act of getting in my car and driving there was enough to fix the uncomfortable feeling I was starting to have about being here.

After that I wanted to take advantage of the additional free time to try to write, but there was a lot of bargaining going on in my head (much like Kate talked about this morning), and a fair bit of distraction.. everywhere I went.

It’s a lodge, so there’s lots of cool places to sit. Comfy chairs by fires and windows and nooks and kranneys. But it’s like zero degrees out and so all the chairs by windows are cold. The chairs near the fire are out because as soon as I sat down, the smoke smell started to cause a headache. As for nooks, well, there were some, but not a lot that were free from the distractions of people coming and going so the best nook I could find was my own room. That is where I landed.

***

Two hours later and I’ve been out among the peeps and now I’m back in my room again. There was a graduating student that read a story that was really great followed by another meal in the dining room. I think that a person should be allowed to get food and take it back to their room. It’s all buffet so far which is ok, but doesn’t work great if you’re alone. It seems a little awkward no matter what happens.

1. If you try to eat alone, people want you to join them. Very nice of them. I’m grateful, though it makes me acutely aware of my inadaquicies in making small talk.

2. If you walk into the dining room and nobody you know is there (and let’s face it, it’s day 3 and you don’t really know anybody yet), you either have to force yourself to sit with strangers, or sit alone and we’re back to #1.

3. Depending on the timing, you could see someone you have talked with before, but they could be almost done eating, and you don’t want to prolong their time if they were getting ready to leave. So you either make it awkward for them or you revert back to #2, which probably leads back to #1.

I figure it will take all 9 days to get to know folks well enough to have it not feel weird anymore, and then it will be time for everyone to go home. I’m sure next semester will be different. I hope it will anyway.

There’s a faculty reading at 8PM, and after that, I’m going to have to do just a little prep for tomorrow. I would also like to get more steps in. I know my average will go down after this week, but I have to grant myself a pass for that. This schedule is pretty packed.

I should probably also try to call the kids. Nobody will text me back.. frustrating.

***

I had the worst night of sleep yet. I elected to stay awake until almost midnight, by my own choice, and then woke up about 4. It may have been 3:30. I’m not sure because I had taken my Fitbit off.

I woke up because of a dream. I was participating in some sort of hunger games scenario only the bullets being used were like nerf bullets. Effective enough to sting, but not so bad as to leave a string of fatalities behind for facilitators to deal with.

If you haven’t participated in Nerf gun wars recently, you may not be aware how severe it is. If you get shot with a Mega, it’s really painful. It leaves welts like a paintball would. At close range, a shot gone wrong could take a persons eye out. The size and accuracy of the guns has also gotten out of hand. Not to mention that they make battery operated semi-automatics. It’s just one tiny slice of the the big pie we eat everyday living in this country. It gets more and more rotten by the minute.

I hit my target through the bushes on a distance shot and I could see him drop to the ground before I woke up. That image only lingered for a short time before the reality of time and space and circumstance caught up to me.

I laid there trying to force myself back to sleep, which rarely works, and was quite relieved when the clock hit 5:30, so I could get up without feeling bad about it. By 5:45 I was dressed for walking the treadmill and headed to the exercise room.

It’s my third morning here and if I time this morning right, I’ll hit breakfast at 7 am before most people and be done and gone by the main crowd. It’s not like I want to avoid people, it’s that I just want to eat alone sometimes. People exhaust me.

I’m happy to report that the longer I’m here, the better I feel about it. I still have flashes of moments where I know I’m an imposter posing as a poet to get insider info that will aid my plot to take over the world. Then I blink myself back to the task at hand and remind myself that I deserve to be here as much as the person sitting beside me.

I’ve made a few really great connections with mentors and today is the day we turn in our preference sheets with comments. I still need to finish my notes and print that out, but I’m feeling solid about it. As a first year, I wonder if it will even matter.

Actually, it probably will. There are only five poets in the program and eight poet mentors. Chances are better for getting someone from the top of the list. In all honesty, I think they are all great and though the experience will likely be very different from person to person, I doubt they’ll be a negative outcome.

I’m not sure I’m ready for this day, but it’s rolling now and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.

Breathe deep and exhale,

~Miss SugarCookie

2017-12-29 MFA Residency Day 2 – First Impressions

Yesterday went like this…

Get up, treadmill, shower, eat, orientation, workshop, eat, lecture, lecture, lecture, eat, faculty reading, next day prep, go to bed.

It was a lot to soak in. I enjoyed the lecture on short story writing and one proven formula to utilize for success, but my favorite was the one about poetry. It was about the use of flowers in poetry. Moreover, about dispelling the notion you shouldn’t consider anything off limits. Flowers being overeused, or cliche as the prime example. I totally dug that because I agree. I wouldn’t say it’s a grand theme in my poems, but I make mention of flowers in some of my Work.

I also have quite a bit of content that rhymes. That’s just how it seems to work out. He mentioned this a couple of times and the fact that in more recent times, most poets have been urged away from rhyme. Believe me, I’ve noticed. Of the poems submitted for workshop, 80% of mine rhyme and 0% of the other students do.

It was a contributing factor to my feeling inadequate among my peers and somehow not quite worthy of being here. That lecture, besides inspiring me to write a poem about the flowers in my garden, made me feel better about my work.

That fact alone has caused sway in my decision about my mentor. I’ve got a few short days to absorb as much as I can to formulate an opinion on who to put down as my preference for a faculty mentor.

There are eight faculty members and by the morning of December 31, we have to turn in sheets with our priority including comments.

I, of course, approach this methodically with a healthy dose of first impresssion. I have one page of notes for each mentor including where they are from, my initial interaction with them, and something of their teaching style.

Their teaching philosophies can be found on the website of course, so that’s homework I can do on my own time. The rest is fact finding through interactions in workshops, lectures, and at the lodge buffet.

I could do a whole post about the dining room dynamic alone. Besides feeling full of anxiety about going into that room and pacing my room for 10 or 15 minutes each time I go to give myself that pep-talk, it’s great. Ha! I’ll save more about that for later.

So the lecture about flowers left me with a positive impression and I’m sure that will be a factor in my selected priority order. Not that it will make much difference. We’ve also been told that the pairing has less to do with this whole selection process and is really more about what our goals are and which person they think might help us get there more. We could have our top 3, and they could decide that none of those people really fit in the master plan for this term.

Still, I think teaching style is important. I also think that the frequency of communication is important. I’m a busy person and too much will be .. too much. Too little, of course, will not be good either because I crave the feedback. It’s sort of a Goldilocks thing.

The day today looks very similar to yesterday and my brain is swimming in things it thinks are important… what to wear, how the faculty interviews will go, what I might read for the “student reading”, and of course what might happen the next time I walk into the dining room. Gah!!!

I’m coming up to an hour on the treadmill and need to get going soon.

Magically Delicious,
~Miss SugarCookie

(This poem was inspired by the lecture yesterday).

My Garden

 

That I can simply exist
in the quiet company of my children,
Many of whom I’ve selected and rescued
For no other purpose but to
Prolong their life and save them from
The dreaded bin,
Is comforting.
 

With proper care and feeding
Miraculously they come alive.
They thrive.
They multiply and bloom.
Bringing beauty where once was not.
They silently give back to me
What I have given to them, Tenfold.

In their presence
I too am saved
And can realize my purpose.
Which is just to be alive and thrive.
And bloom.
We have an unspoken understanding
My children and I.

2017-12-23 Christmas Chaos Brain

I was awake at 4am and at Home Depot at 6:30am. Why oh why does my brain make me crazy? It’s just Christmas but in my head it’s chaos. I’m hosting Christmas Eve dinner and will roll right through to Christmas morning with the kids. It should be minimum cleaning, minimum gifts, and minimum cooking yet I’m riddled with anxiety over things I think I need to do or buy. And each time I successfully finish something on my list my brain comes up with something g else. Something is seriously wrong with me.

The trip to Home Depot at 6am was for a gift I’ve been contemplating for some time now and when I finally decided to get it, they were sold out all over town and the soonest delivery via Amazon (and everyplace else I checked) was the 30th.

I checked target and Best Buy and bed bath and beyond and Lowe’s and Walmart. All sold out. So when I woke up at 4AM I decided to look more and found Home Depot had one. Of course it was a location 30 minute drive from my house. I called when they opened at 6AM to verify they really had one and once confirmed, I jumped in my car and went.

It’s just ridiculous though. This was a 30 dollar item and it makes no difference at all if I actually acquired it. I could have done without it and nobody would care. It’s all in my head. Good grief!

It’s now almost 12 hours later and I’m done with shopping (I hope) and done wrapping (I think) and ready for a nap (really). Any cleaning that needs to happen will just have to wait until tomorrow.. if my brain can let it go that long.

As with everything, time marches on and whatever doesn’t get done will really not even matter, in the grand scheme of things. If I can keep repeating that thought instead of the chaos, then maybe I can find some peace and quiet.

And now… it’s nap time.

😴

~Miss SugarCookie

2017-12-18 On Routine and Some Things that Never Change

I’m now pretty set in my morning routine. I’m a serious creature of habit. One of the things I’ve gotten really used to at this point is going to the gym right after dropping the kids off at school. I was previously not looking forward to starting a new job and having to give that up. And now.. I don’t have to! Huzzah!!

The team I joined operates on west coast time. So it’s quite likely that at 8AM when I’m at the gym most of those folks are still in dreamland or just waking up. By the time I’m home and ready to roll, they are just getting online too.

The other side of that, of course, is potential commitments on the flip side.

For example, I’m already on a weekly project call every Monday at 8PM. Yowza!

I’ve actually got three meetings today and am feeling a bit nervous about everything. My brain knows it’s just because it’s all new and unfamiliar, but logic and reason are sometimes no match for feelings. It comes from a place deep inside that is irrational and can’t be explained.

It’s the same thing every time I’m doing something new with People I don’t really know. That mild social anxiety is just a part of who I am. I had it yesterday with the Hogwarts show and I’ll have it when I show up for my MFA residency on the 28th. It’s unavoidable.

The good news is that I’ve learned to conceal my feelings and most people probably don’t even realize that there’s this tight ball of turmoil in my gut. The other good news is that most of the time , once I’m finally in the moment, the feeling fades away. Most of the time.. not always.

I’m hoping that’s the case today. My first meeting is not until 3pm so I’ll just have to endure until then. For now, I’m just going to try and enjoy my QT at the gym and be grateful that that’s one thing that doesn’t have to change.

Ready or Not,

~Miss SugarCookie