Hard On You

They say everyone is a critic, and this is true, I suppose, in that everyone formulates an opinion about things, whether these things be food or television or what-have-you. The way these opinions are expressed, however, can make or break not only the person expressing them (as I have learned from past years when I was a media critic for an online magazine), but also the receiving end. And I don’t mean this in a professional way—a few bad reviews or whatever—but in a personal, emotional sense.

They say in the industry (the broad umbrella of “entertainment”) that you must have a thick skin, but these are people used to being on stage or in front of cameras; they know how to fake it. A brave face is easy enough under a spotlight, but it doesn’t mean the slings and arrows don’t hurt. There is soft meat underneath the shell.

I am as guilty as any critic of tossing out a barb now and then. I don’t do it to be hurtful (some critics do), but I fear my being direct has hurt a few feelings. (I’m looking at you, Benedict, and you too, Rob.) I’m hardest on the people I like and care for most—aren’t we always?—the ones I have high expectations of, the ones I know are more than merely capable of the work they do, who are in fact brilliant. In my mind this goes without saying, but perhaps it’s nice to hear it said once in a while anyway.

So consider it said. You are brilliant.

I want you to do better than well because you can and shouldn’t settle for getting by or resting on your laurels. When things get easy, find something more challenging. You can do it. Life is one long learning curve, after all. Once you plateau, you might as well be finished. And so, yes, when I think you’ve slacked a little, I’m liable to point it out.

It is my major failing, I think, to sometimes be tactless, unable to filter my words. I am trying to be better about that. Certainly, as someone who does not always take criticism well either, I can sympathize. And so if you are angry at me for saying anything at all, I can understand that, too. You may say to yourself, “I think I did fine there, and she’s completely off base.” Or you may say, “I know that wasn’t my best, and I don’t need her to point it out.” Either of these are valid responses, the exact kinds of things I would think in such a situation.

Do try though, for my sake, to take it kindly. Maybe tell yourself, “At least someone is paying attention,” and “At least someone cares.” Because there will be days when you find yourself surrounded by people trying to please you, and you will realize you cannot necessarily trust them to tell you the truth. And while it’s nice to have so many people saying how wonderful you are, you’re going to begin to wonder. No one is wonderful all the time. Every artist’s work is a spectrum, and you’re going to want to know where this or that moment falls. A bit blue? Too red? But everyone around you insists you’re golden.

And that will be the moment you’ll want me. Because I don’t want anything out of you but your best and won’t hesitate to tell you when you haven’t delivered. But I promise, from here on out at least, I will try to be gentle. More needles and fewer bullets.

Deal?

La Fete de St. Jean-Baptiste

Today is La Fete de St. Jean-Baptiste, an old French holiday observed now in Quebec and also in swaths of Southern Louisiana (where we French-Creoles settled). It is one of the two days a year that I make gris-gris. I’m not a practicing traiteur (it sounds like “traitor” but means “treater”) like my great-grandmother once was (a good Catholic but also the person you went to for a boost to your prayers), but I honor a few old traditions. This is one.

Alas, I will be on a plane for most of the holiday this year. My “working” will be limited.

Other things: seeing my play performed today at Source Festival was amazing; they did such a fantastic job with it, and it’s always a little surreal to see your words brought to life. I also enjoyed a day out in Washington DC, despite the formidable heat.

And now, certainly, I must pack up and get some rest before the long flight home.

Where I’m From . . .

Sent to me by my mother, probably in an attempt to remind me of my roots. After all, where I’m from the key question is: “But who is his [or her] family?” Hell, where I’m from we cut the hair off dead relatives and weave decorative wreaths adorned with pressed flowers . . . Yeah, it’s macabre. In that Southern Gothic kind of way.

And it also freaks people out when I slip into a “Suthun” accent . . .

Key Southern Cities
typically “dripping with charm”

Chawlstn
S’vannah
N’Awlins
Addlana

Who Counts as a Southern Gentleman

Men in Uniform
Men in Tuxedos
Rhett Butler (though we settle for Clark Gable)

Three Deadly Sins for a Southern Woman

bad hair & nails
bad manners
bad cooking

Things Only True Southerners Know

  1. the difference between a hissy fit and a conniption fit (and that you “pitch” a fit, never “have” one)
  2. how many of anything make up “a mess” or “a passel”
  3. exactly how long a time “directly” [pr. “direckly”] is (i.e., “Gone to town, be back directly.”) Same is true of “by and by”

Just for fun, I’ll add an old Joe Boudreaux joke here. (For those who don’t know, Joe Boudreaux is an Acadian folk hero featured in many jokes.)

Joe Boudreaux was driving to visit a friend who’d moved out past Houma somewhere, and while he was driving he got turned around. He started to think he was driving in circles! Then Joe came to a crossroads, and at that crossroads was a young boy of about age nine or ten. Joe stopped the car, rolled down the window, pointed down the road in front of him and asked the boy, “If I go down this road here, where I be at?”

“I don’t know, me,” the boy said.

Joe Boudreaux pointed down a side road. “Well, if I go down this road here, where I be at?”

But the boy shook his head. “I don’t know, me.”

Joe pointed the other direction. “And if I go down that road there, where I be at?”

“I don’t know, me.”

“You don’t know much, do ya?” snapped a frustrated Joe Boudreaux.

But the boy just stared at him placidly and answered, “Well, I ain’t the one who’s lost.”

Tough as Nails

The kids were working my extremely rusty soccer [“football” to my overseas friends] skills this morning. Glad to say I still have a bit in me. And it helps to have “rock star toes” too:

Yes, I was playing soccer in a sundress and sandals and with sparkly toes. My daughter kept calling me “Princess Aurora, Soccer Star!”

Of course, at one point while playing I wasn’t watching where I was going and backed into one of the hawthorne plants, winning a couple barbs in my shoulder that I had to pluck out. “Briar Rose” indeed!

A Game of Where’s M?

Spot me in this picture and win a prize.

Just kidding. I’m not actually in this picture.

Kidding again. I am in this picture, but I’m not giving away any prizes.

I’m standing between a guy named Alex and one named Rob, and now I have to wonder whether it’s coincidence, or whether some subconscious tie prompted me to name my two sons Alexander and Robert. Hmm. (Really they were named for a great-grandfather and a great-uncle. Also for Innes clan chieftains. But it’s still kind of weird.)
 
 
 

You can click on the image to make it larger and easier to see.

Difficult

I should be writing. I want to be writing. But we’ve been moving and unpacking and . . . Anyway, everything seems very difficult right now for some reason. Like swimming against a current. I’m tired. Not from the move, just . . . mentally fatigued.

Anyway, Neil visited me again in a dream last night (and if you’re wondering what I’m talking about, go here for some background). And this seemed to have something to do with my not being able to write lately. Except he was a furniture salesman. And though he was wearing a black shirt, he was wearing white pants, and we all know that’s wrong. I’m sure it all means something, but I’m too tired to figure it out.

At any rate, in the dream Neil took me to a round table with a checkerboard painted on it and tried to show me some kind of complicated game, something he said helped him when he couldn’t write. It wasn’t checkers, but it did use little round, carved wooden discs. He called it rummy, but isn’t that a card game? I’m sure if I could remember everything he told me, I’d be smoothly sailing on with my work. Alas, I can’t remember anything he actually said; I only have this mental picture of him distributing these game pieces on the table. And I couldn’t even see what was carved on them.

Well then. We’ve watched the queen this morning, and the alarm installation is supposed to happen shortly, and I have dishes and laundry and more unpacking to do. If I’m not going to write, I should at least be useful.

A Couple (Random) Things

A while back, I did this “Lucky 7” meme but my WIP didn’t have a page 77 yet. Well, now it does, so I’m reposting for this meme. Taken from page 77 of The K-Pro:

“A minute,” David said, though his voice wasn’t loud enough to be heard over the rapping. David pulled open the door to save it from any more abuse and was surprised to find Liz there, though he knew he really shouldn’t be. What surprised David more, however, was the tiny stab of disappointment he felt when he saw his co-star.

Without the elaborate wig and dress, the heavy makeup, and the heeled boots that made her a good three inches taller, David observed there to be something of the “kid sister” in Liz. Her pageboy, freckles, and plimsolls lent her a sporty and almost childish look. But her next move dispelled the notion. As David began to ask what she needed, Liz reached up to draw his face down for a very un-sisterly kiss.

I almost couldn’t have asked for a better seven lines, eh? (I interpreted “lines” as “sentences” as opposed to the physical line breaks on the page.)

In other random news, we’re moving into a new house tomorrow, and not so far from this house (on a road called “Camino Diablo” no less) are these:

Which I think is very cool.

The Ghost of Sundays Past

Tonight I am feeling nostalgic for the time when I was, oh, aged 9 to, say, 13? That was when Sunday nights were about Star Trek: The Next Generation and sitting outside with my dad, listening to music while he grilled for dinner. Sometimes, on nights when my mother wasn’t home, we’d turn up the stereo in the living room and dance around. We’d leave the windows open until after sundown; then the wind would pick up and cut through the house, actually making it a bit chilly, so we’d have to close everything up.

Sometimes friends of mine and I would sit out in front of the house, either on the grass or on the open tailgate of the pickup truck. (Yes, we were that Texas cliché, always having one truck and one Grand Am in the driveway.) We’d watch the stars and talk late into the night, real discussions of the kind that seem okay to have alone in the dark, although of course you’d never mention those things again afterward. But on those nights we were like spies, trading secrets.

I liked being an only child. I liked the unique relationship I had with my parents, and I liked the independence, and I liked the quiet. I liked having space to myself and a reasonable amount of autonomy. (Of course, the flip side of that is not liking being told what to do.) I think being an only child helped me learn to live alone, be myself. I don’t have the need that so many others seem to, to be constantly in contact and connected with others.

I’ve started reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking—only just started reading it, so I’m not very far along, but based on the true/false list provided in the book I guess I fall somewhere between being an introvert and an ambivert. I can take a certain amount of stimulation, have learned to drown out a lot, but I don’t like to have to do it, and I need a safe haven from it.

In those days, those 9-to-13 days, I would go up to my room and turn on the stereo and sit in a rocking chair and listen to music until the early morning (my parents not caring how late I stayed up so long as I didn’t complain about having to get up for school or church). I like to sing but was too shy to try joining the school chorus. I knew I was good at a number of things, but I also knew there was always someone better—maybe a lot of someones who were better—and that always made it seem useless to try. But my room was my safe haven, and I would roll up the blinds and watch the stars wheel and march and the moon slide across the sky. And in there, I was the best at everything.

My parents were not encouragers; they were too laid back for that. Instead, it was more, “Whatever you want to do . . .” And the problem wasn’t that I didn’t know what I wanted to do, it was that I wanted to do so many things and never knew where to start. Which explains why I’m behind the curve a bit now.

But tonight, on a beautiful Sunday evening, I miss all the things that were and used to be. There was no hurry to get anywhere in life, only the mandate to enjoy who and what was there with me at the time. Life really was simpler then, and youth really is wasted on the young. Still, instead of wallowing in the past, I will strive to continue to make my life an oasis, a place of happiness for myself and others. And if I need to go hide once in a while, please bear with me. I will return, refreshed and reinvigorated, once I have recharged.