This is going to turn into a R E A L L Y long entry, so grab a drink before sitting down for this one. (No really…I’ll wait!)
Welp, today is the one-year anniversary of trying and doing new things. One year ago at this instant, I was learning how to make a proper mouth-farting noise from some great teachers.
I decided to continue this project after the original 30 days for two reasons. The first is that many people thought it was hilarious and really wanted me to continue. The second is that I needed some way to hold me accountable to make sure that I didn’t fall into a rut again.
My last couple of months before leaving Hawaii were spent doing nothing new. I was a miserable human being; I was bored and anxious, and therefore, a boring and stressful person to be around. After my ensuing 3 1/2 month “black hole” that occurred after moving back, I realized how important it was to change this ridiculously negative part of my life. Not only was I keeping myself in the “hole” that I had dug, but I wasn’t even trying to find a way out. That original project was my first step towards healing, and this year has continued that trend – healing and growing and rebuilding.
Over the past year, I’ve tried or done 309 new things, including my “other notable firsts.” Some of them are realizations or thoughts, others are facing big fears, others are silly projects, and still others are things that push boundaries that make me uncomfortable (helloooo, wearing red lipstick.) Each one on its own may seem small or un-noteworthy, but collectively they allow me to sit here and say that I’ve done 309 more things than I had done last year at this time. This makes me feel like I’m doing things, that I’m a mover-and-a-shaker, that no matter how many steps life forces me to take backwards, I will always push against it to move forward.
“What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step.” (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
To mark this one-year anniversary, I really wanted to push my uncomfortable boundaries. For as long as I can remember, having my picture taken has churned my insides. There are barely any pictures that my family has of me as a teenager – I simply refused to have my picture taken. So many photos from that time period showcase my close friends, smiling happily at a camera that I was holding so that everyone else could be in the picture. When I got to college, I realized that if I act my goofiest while someone was snapping me, I could have a record of the moment without having to worry about “looking good.” This habit continues to this day (although I’ve slowly begun to change this over the past few years). Below is a collection of some of my better photos that follow this trend:
To have a photo shoot revolving solely around myself (trying to not be goofy) was a
T E R R I F Y I N G notion, meaning I had to do it – that’s when life is the scariest but the most gratifying. I’ve learned that I’m slightly petrified of something just about every second of every day. But when you face your fears—all of them, even the little ones—you grow just a little bit more every time. Life never stops having scary moments, but it is possible to learn how to accept this fact and work through the tough parts.
I was lucky enough to have a friend who is a great photographer. Teresa was amazing to work with – I came to her with my visions and ideas and she helped turn them into reality. She gave FANTASTIC advice and had great suggestions for how to make my inner thoughts become visual. She never complained with my nitpicks about the photos, and definitely did more photos than I thought were possible to edit in such a short amount of time. You should all check out her Facebook page if you need her for anything!: http://www.facebook.com/teresastouch
A quick note about the actual act of modeling….IT’S HARD!!!! Anytime you see a model in a “natural” pose, it’s probably not natural at all! My quads were BURNING the day after the shoot from trying to stay in a crouched pose for longer than 15 seconds. SO many things to think about; what your arms are doing, what body part is closest to the camera, if you move your arm one inch to the left, it messes up the angles of the shot, blah blah blah. And as you’re concentrating on ALL OF THESE THINGS, your face has to look like you’re not concentrating on all of these things! At one point, Teresa said “Cait! Look like you’re enjoying the book!” in the middle of the book shot. Apparently I was trying to burn a hole through the pages with my eyeballs.
While I could have simply posed for photos, I decided that I needed some type of a framework. This is where my creativity made a huge comeback. I realized that I used to write, ALL THE TIME, when I was in undergrad and right after. I wanted to take a huge leap of faith and see if any of my [very rusty] creative writing skills could be unburied. To make it a bit more of a challenge, I chose a few forms that I had never worked with before.
I thought of six songs that have made strange reappearances throughout this past year, and picked one line from each of them to sort of meditate on and explore further in my writings. Each line has helped guide me and taught me something new throughout the year. Both the songs and the writings formed a basis from which to create a photographic composition that would tie all three forms of art —- writing, photography, and music — together. The photos all depict some aspect of the writings, either literal or a bit more imaginative.
Each song lyric should be taken for what it is (out of context of the entire song’s meaning). I normally don’t like to do this, but these lines popped out for a reason and I really wanted to explore each line in depth. The entries are ordered according to the level of comfort I felt with using the writing genre. I feel very comfortable writing in prose, not so comfortable with stream-of-consciousness. (A bit odd, considering how my brain works!)
So, without further ado (and a shaky right hand controlling a shaky mouse), here are my summer musings and contemplations and photos that I would like to share with you:
This is not the sound of a new man or a crispy realization. It’s the sound of the unlocking and the lift away.
(style of writing: prose)
Crisp is a word that feels like it sounds and tastes what it means. The crrrrr rolls off my tongue, hisses through the sssss, and ends in a snappy puhhh. It is simultaneously a delicious word that describes the clean sound of that first bite into a juicy, firm, red apple and a well defined term that exists somehow, somewhere between a soft white cluster of consonants and a harsh black “pop” of a letter.
As far as realizations, crispy ones may occur as instantaneous blurts of clarity exploding into our brains, showing us “the answer” to a given problem or situation. But life isn’t black and white — it’s four-million-and-one shades of gray. The black and white realizations, by themselves, won’t change your life: one has to act on them. It’s the smearing of them—the gentle smudging and careful shadings and the graying of the lines that make those crispy awarenesses so tangible to us. Those are the sounds of the unlockings and the lift aways: the beautiful, weightless, unsettled gray moments that exist when the black and white layers peel away and peel away and peel away, leaving the simplest, nondescript version of yourself– staring you in the face, burdens gone.
What I am is what I am.
(style of writing: cooking/humor)
[ R e c i p e ] for a Cait D.
– 1 lb daydreams
– 1 cup pragmatism
– 2 cups unfettered giving [cannot add in ‘receiving’ just yet – future recipes may contain this “I’m-working-on-it” ingredient]
– 1/4 cup too-high expectations/control issues [this amount has decreased since earlier recipes]
– 4 tblspns useless trivia knowledge [find this in old books, train stations, and sixth grade supplementary reading materials]
– 1/2 cup serious life contemplativeness from a 95-year-old cancer patient on her deathbed [can also add in her arthritic hips and knees]
– 14 earworms (song snippets that get stuck in your head) – [must add all 14 to the mixing bowl at the same time, at top volume]
– 1 box unwavering, incurable, full-blown-awkward uncertainty [at times celebrated, at others crippling]
– 1 can nervous giggling [it’s the only way she knows how to flirt]
– 1 thin line that is supposed to separate careful analysis from robust over-thinking [OK if the thin line doesn’t work like it’s supposed to]
– 1/2 lb effort [make sure to NOT use the 1/2-assed brand name. Effort costs more, but it’s worth the price]
– 1 bottle attention span [buy the multipack: comes in goldfish, gnat, worker ant, or laser-like Buddha-style Zen meditation. Pick the bottle that best accompanies the task for which you are creating your Cait D.]
– 2 parts courage for every 1 part fear [the courage helps to balance fear’s pungent aroma. Can substitute determination, gumption, chutzpah, or spunk. Cannot substitute for fear – must be met head on, full speed (after painstaking over-analysis)]
– equal pinches of dirty grimy hippie, beer-loving tomboy, and LOFT professional model
– a dash of energy from a 7-year-old A.D.D. boy on crack [use sparingly – this stuff can be potently annoying]
Add all ingredients into a mixing bowl, cover, and shake viciously until a ridiculous hot-mess-of-a-human-being yells “MEHHHH!” from under the cover. Mixer should stand back; newly formed Cait D. will spring out from the bowl in a fully-fledged “Superstar!” position.
The hardest thing is never to repent for someone else. It’s letting people in.
(style of writing: 3rd person vignette)
She let the tears roll down her puffy cheeks, which were splotchy and stretched thin, exhausted from supporting the hours of moisture leaking from her rosy-red eyes. Each drop navigated the rim of a ridged pore, only to hover, perched on her upper lip, for a last breath of fresh air before plunging onto her numb tongue. Her lower jaw hung open, originally to allow oxygen-rich globules to fill her lungs, but now just a pathetic excuse for a broken garage door to her insides. No longer sobbing, she was simply paralyzed; her tears were the only things that moved among her frozen limbs.
It wasn’t necessarily the thought that their love had not worked out that made it impossible to move, nor was it the heavy cross she’d have to bear from how it had ended. Rather, it was the thought that she had chosen him (because one never needs anyone) to let inside the deepest nether regions of her heart and mind, and the bridge she had never let anybody cross to her secluded pulse had been tossed asunder like it was just a pebble lodged in the bottom of his shoe instead of her very essence.
And – one day – she would have to let another boy into her heart, and she might possibly feel this way, all over again.
We can drive it home with one headlight.
(style of writing: Drabble – a short story with exactly 100 words)
Just as her back wheel fell off, Plain Jane cried to Normal Norman, “We’re so close!” The house was within sight. He saw she was about to cry, so he put her on his handlebars. Her right hand extended out, holding her bike upside down so the wheel glided smoothly on the ground alongside them as he pedaled the two of them on his bike. Her hair streamed backwards, covering his eyes. They smiled. “See?” Norman asked as they turned into their driveway. “Not all parts need to work all the time; you can discover new ways to keep going.”
Can’t forget, you only get what you give.
(style of writing: [m o d i f i e d] haikus)
[I w a n t]
kindness [a n d] compassion
[t o] grow from my fruitful insides,
free for all to pick.
We were too young, love,
to [b e] anything but [w h a t] we were.
Forgiveness [i s] wretchedly [s w e e t].
Humility reached [o u t],
gently tickling my nose pink.
Watch out! She’ll get you, [t o o].
Reflected-[b a c k] passion
explodes firecracker loudly,
[e y e s] shining so brightly.
Accepting your quirks
might possibly [b e] lovelier
than you accepting mine.
Sometimes life is [s o] cold.
Love should be served up warmly,
sprinkled [w i t h] cinnamon.
Get over your hill and see what you find there, with grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.
(style of writing: stream-of-consciousness)
i walk wanting to be gracefully full of grace nimbly having one toe lightly touch the ground only buoying up after to float above everything that makes life so heavy and grace in my heart means birds singing sweetly so as to remind me that i can even hear their songs at all and to know that after all my fuckups and twists and trespasses and unfulfilled longings and yearnings and self-hating and questionings and no-confidence-because-they-told-me-i-couldn’t-so-i-believed-them and after all of these things i still believe in the beauty of blooming flowers and that no matter how many times i may be ungraceful and clumsy and covered in bruises and trip over my left foot because my gracefulness has become encumbered with the lack of life’s lightness that i still hold grace in my heart and think that if i simply quiet life’s loudness and listen to those sweet birds sing me those lovely songs written only for me that i can forget how ungraceful life actually is and just be full of grace for it.
Other notable firsts:
* I had never interned at an elementary school. Holy Cheddar Cheese, Batman!!! A whole new world from middle school! Lots of new lessons to be learned.
* I had never gotten a tour of Groton before. Dante gave me a great tour on Monday that included Mystic, Groton city, Groton town, Noank, and Groton Long Point. It reminded me of Windsor a lot.
* I had never been to a happy hour at Margaritas. I ended up going to two. In three days.
* I had never known that the Colorado River flows east-west (west-east?)
* I had never known that the Beatles’ song, “Something,” was actually named that.
* I had never been to the UConn Avery Point campus.