Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Skirts, Sweatshirts, Power

I spend a lot of my time in sweatshirts (coffee-stained), comfy jeans (torn at the knees), with my hair pulled back in a sloppy bun, wearing no makeup.

Of course, most days, no one sees me. I'm safe behind my computer, visible only through my words. No one can judge me and my ratty old sweatshirt - I'm text-only, untouchable.

When I go out - dinner, drinks, on a date - I layer on my vegan concealer and powder, my dark blue eyeliner, and clothe myself in what I've begun to call my "battle gear." Going through therapy, a doctor suggested to the women in the group that dressing nicely, putting on makeup, would make us feel better and stronger, more able to face the world with confidence. For me, I think this is true - I feel good, really good, when I go out in a nice dress, high heels, decked out in chandelier earrings and Urban Decay glitter. And after a rough day in group, when I felt naked and exposed and ugly in crying, I returned the next day in knee high boots, an embroidered dress, and makeup, ready to fight - hence the label, "battle gear."

I owned my appearance and felt strong. That said, the doctor had only encouraged the women to attempt attractiveness. No suggestions to the men in group. None.

When we go out, I always dress more formally than my husband does - I feel like I have a certain standard for myself, even if we're just going to the cinema, whereas G puts comfort far above style. That's fine - in fact, I think it's pretty great. My husband, with his rarely worn khakis and button downs, is free and happy to wear (mostly) what he wants, when he wants. Sure, he's got a tux, and a couple of suits, a bow tie, cuff links - but he's most at ease in his sandals and worn in jeans.

What a privilege!

I was recently party to a conversation concerning (the fantastic role model) Hillary Clinton - and not about her work, not her politics or her continuing efforts in government, but in her sartorial choices. A friend stated that as a public figure, she wouldn't get far without dressing more attractively. Appearance, it seemed, would be as much a part of her future career as her values and long history in politics.

My stepfather stated, what a terrible condemnation of the state of America. I wanted to cheer him on, as a woman and as an American.

Of course, both statements, whether I like it or not, are correct.

I think Clinton's work speaks for itself, and I am overjoyed that a woman can be so powerful, so commanding in her words and presence alone. As another friend suggested, Clinton seems to have transcended the horrible demand that physical appearance can make of female public figures. But still, is it true that the average American will see her as nothing more than an unattractive woman, and therefore an unappealing politician? Maybe.


As for me, I don't think about Clinton's style - her pantsuits, her haircut - at all. I don't care, other than my pride of having her represent me as a woman who is truly herself. But I may be alone in this - perhaps she is seen by others first as a woman, unpleasant to look at, defying the rule that women must be pretty. I'd like to think that this can't possibly be true, but I have to face the facts - we live in a society of facades, of attractiveness as the measure of a woman's worth, of gender-neutral clothing being an aberration instead of a laudable effort to even the playing field.

Or, you know, none of anyone else's business.

I understand, I really do, that what people look like is a huge part of how they are perceived by others. Of course I understand - I'm the one who is planning a trip to Vegas and willingly committing to wearing sky-high heels and itchy dresses just so I am properly attired for clubbing. And, more ridiculously, I feel like I have to look good, because I am meeting new people (a gaggle of girlfriends, a gang of groomsmen, and even more stressful, bouncers and male dancers and bartenders) and want to fit in. I've looked up nightclub dress codes, and for women, the rule seems to be, "look nice." And I've been to bars - just regular places on a Saturday night - where I've had to fight through a sea of short skirts and cleavage just so I (thinking I "looked nice") could get a martini.

Do men have to do that? Do men have "battle gear," and worry about their haircuts and face, every day, the knowledge that what they say and do is less important than how they look? Does anybody care about President Obama's neatly cropped locks? Can a man get good, attentive service, in jeans and a polo?

Politicians are public figures, and yes, they need to look professional in order to be taken seriously. It's when it crosses the line - when women don't just need to look professional, but need to look attractive - that privilege rears its ugly head. Women need to appear feminine, striking, powerful, appealing, sexy, prudish, approachable. It's as if we need to look like your mom, the girl next door, the head cheerleader, and the ideal wife, all at once, and all the time.

And here I am in my jeans and my fuzzy sweatshirt, and I am so comfortable, and when I go out for a dinner date on Friday, I know I will be trying to look like all of the above. It's a habit, a social norm, and it is a part of me - the knowledge that high heels even out my calf muscles, that control-top tights make me look "better" when I sit down, that makeup covers my freckles and gives me bright, glowing skin.

My battle gear makes me feel like other people see less, about me, to judge.

My battle gear makes me feel that when I talk, people will listen.

G's at work now, in his ever-present sandals, comfortable jeans, and polo. What he does, and how well he does it, are more important than how he dresses. And it's incredible luck that he's able to do this - I know there are some offices which require business casual for women and men - but it doesn't change the fact that G is valuable for his hard work and dedication, his problem-solving, his professionalism, and not for how he looks like your dad, the boy next door, the jock, and the ideal husband.

Can't we extend that respect and courtesy to women in the public eye, especially since women like Clinton do dress professionally, and do work hard? Can't I, and other women like me, be respected for who we are, and not what we wear?

I don't know. I wish those things were possible. I wish I could get a cocktail without looking sexy, and I wish I could look nice to myself without worrying if I look nice to others. Still, I will put on my battle gear. I will do what society has trained me to do. It makes me feel good, sometimes, and it makes me worry that my appearance is all that I am.

But I will keep doing it until there is an alternative, until amazing women like Hillary Clinton make it known that women are more than just haircuts and skirts.

Monday, January 28, 2013


I think a lot. I think about serious topics, like politics, feminism, religion, healthcare. I write about serious topics, seriously. My mind buzzes with alliteration and double meanings. I think, think, think.

Sometimes. And other times, I don't.

Today is a non-thinking day, with items on my list such as, "laundry, wash and sort," "dishes, load and unload," "crafting, costume renderings and jewelry," and, "tea, as much as possible." I've got a lot on my mind, as always, but I've begun to enjoy the days when I do nothing more than the necessary steps, tidying and fiddling with wire and figuring out what I'll wear when G and I go to Las Vegas in March.

For so long I thought that my current work would be like giving in, a blow to the face of my feminist identity, a regression, a 1950s approach to what women should do - what I could do. And I thought that being a writer would be financially disastrous, self-indulgent, a little girl with big dreams - admirable, but essentially impotent. I was scared; I rejected any realization of my goals, and I worried that being a housewife would be the end of my power as a woman.

And I entered a career which was challenging, important, demanding. A career which I loved, but which was killing me.

I don't know why I was incapable of continuing on in such a noble and beautiful job, a job where I was surrounded by dedicated educators and good friends, a job where what I did made a difference. Sometimes I wonder why I suddenly realized my unhappiness - a weakness of my will and of my heart - and called a (much-needed) end to a career to which I was inherently unsuited.

It's hard, my doctor said, to make the right choice. Just because it's the right choice doesn't mean it won't hurt.

Now, I'm adjusted to a different life - less intense, less painful, more truthful, more free. I take care of the house. I try new things, making jewelry, writing posts and working on my novel, playing through Ravel's Sonatine. Some days, I think about the important stuff; some days, I focus on bleaching the counters and tofu marinara and separating lights and darks, hots and colds.

I have nightmares that I'm back at school, and the children need me, and I can't escape.

I wake up. I make coffee. I realize that now, I can't quite remember where I would have been at 10:00 in the school day. My novels sits, waiting for me to type out a few more chapters. I make wire loops with blue crystals and clear beads. I put away the laundry.

I am profoundly happy.

It doesn't matter that the label, housewife, has so many negative connotations, and it doesn't matter that my career, writer, is a creative and not necessarily lucrative one. I'm a woman who knows who she is - who is that woman, other than a feminist? And who, really, is out there, the imaginary judge of my life and my choices? And why, for so long, did I believe that I was responsible for other people's happiness, for their opinions of me, while my happiness and my opinion of myself were lost?

Today is one of those meandering days, and honestly, I meant to post in more detail the actual humdrum life I live - the homey smell of Tide detergent, all the housework before I watch Jean and Lionel at 2:30 on PBS, the way I haven't quite figured out those last three pages of Ravel, my chocolate and peppermint tea. I meant to write about how I found $211 of clothing for $50 at Forever 21, and how I'm sketching out my outfits for three days in Vegas. You know, the boring stuff.

The boring stuff is so good, though, because I've figured out that elusive joy of living. I'm so lucky, because at 26, I'm able to be healthy and whole. I'm eternally grateful to the people who have helped me get this far - my husband, my family, my doctors, and yes, my former coworkers and the children. All of those people have made me realize who I am.

I'm a housewife. I'm a writer. My life is blissfully boring.

Time to do the laundry.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Mom and I are driving through the rain.

It's just after ten, and the sun is setting in that glorious burn which only happens over the city skyline - rain is falling, unnaturally heavy rain, and it's me and Mom in a car, trying to get home. We've just had Christmas dinner; it was a rich meal, too filling, and the heat from the fireplace shimmered in ice and crystal, tinsel on the tree.

Everyone had been there - my three grandparents, all four parents, my sister, Auntie Glo - everyone but my husband, who didn't exist. Hugs all around, hugs like the low blue flame over firewood, hugs of happiness and holding on to the past and remembering how good it used to be, before I grew up and could see.

Outside there was an Englishman with a beard and a cigarette, waiting to audition for some play, the long history of my life, the Shakespeare of the every day - I wanted to say hello. He didn't see me.

In the car, I explain to my mother how the sun stays up, well into the night, and how life doesn't start until ten o'clock, when raucous music bursts out into the streets, wild and unfettered. We pass a church, and I consider stopping the car right there and kneeling in the rain, outside the doors, until God lets me in again.

I say, "If I could, I would live here every day of my life."

My mother, driving in the rain, says, "I know."

It's a longing like hunger in me - so much so that once I week, in my sleep, I return there and try to find all the places I remember: a gold and chestnut restaurant on the river, a mountain where the fairies live; a bar filled with students on trad night, a market of fresh eggs and meticulously butchered meat. When I sleep I try, panicked, to get back there - I'm in an airplane looking over the impossibly green patchwork of grass, or I'm walking down the hill and past the river to Patrick Street, or I'm in a play of prophetic poetry and I can't remember my lines.

There's a part of me, a part I miss like a phantom heartbeat, which is always there.

Yeats wrote many well-known poems, and the following is one of the most famous, perhaps for its pureness, a simplicity, an image with which we can all identify, a longing for solitude and home. The poem, "The Lake Isle of Innisfree," was beautiful when I first heard it, but now it holds a double meaning for me, a beauty and a truth. It's that hunger, the gnawing of a belly half-full, the meter of the tide, the thrumming of bees, the purple and bright midnight.

Dreams say so much, in myriad of frightening and confusing ways, and what my brain does when my body switches off is as much a part of my reality as my waking hours. Along with my enduring love and longing for Ireland, I know that there is fear in me - a fear that, even if my husband and I manage to get there, it won't be the same.

Yesterday I wrote about hanging on to the past, and how destructive it can be. That's good advice, and true - but no, I will never give up, I will never release, I will never come to terms with that part of my soul which is there with red flowers and sunset, with music and dancing, with magic and God and that feeling of explosions of faith and identity so ripe that I can taste it.

Don't leave me, don't leave - in my dreams I seek and seek, and I'm there, but I can't find myself. And sometimes when I'm awake I feel that way too, as memories of childhood resurface and then fade, empty.

Missing Ireland is the way I miss being little - a time and a place where I didn't understand the bad things and could put them in a box of ignorance, a box of, I'll open you later. Missing Ireland is the bronze cast of the afternoon sun on the hardwood of my parents' apartment - something warm, delicious, and sad.

It's Christmas dinner without my Grandpere, but with his shadow in the corner, untouchable. It's a stage where I've forgotten how to act. It's driving through the too-heavy downpour and realizing that my heart spans an ocean.

So much loss in love.

My mother and I are driving through the rain, and it turns to snow. Home is waiting - my sister, still small; my stepfather, patient and understanding; a family of parents and grandparents and icicles on the tree.

It's snowing. I'm not there, yet.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Ready, Set -

My sister is, and always has been, a delight.

She's growing into herself, right now, just on the edge between childhood and the beautiful, mysterious future of growing up, and she's discovering so many things with a kind of freshness and joy - seeing the world for the first time. Sure, there are hardships involved, like understanding shifting relationships at school, saying farewell to the children's menu, developing distance and aloofness and trying not to depend on adults. But the closing of her past is what enables her to seek out the shining moments of self, of being new, of a growing perspective and maturity.

And I, I want to make the world a better place for her, so that when she goes out - with friends, in her first car, without us - she can find a world of music, of earth-shattering films and plays, of a community of art.

My sister has always lived in Columbia. I, who moved here at twelve, have been slowly (and sometimes, reluctantly) adjusting to life in the suburbs. I know that I fell prey to the concept that Columbia was not a real place - I was stubborn, unwilling to adapt, and even now reject some suburban notions, such as the constantly irritating lack of sidewalks. My sister has none of that; this is her home. She is safe here, walking to school, sledding in the back yard - and she is happy here, with theatre camp and band practice, with friends she made in elementary school. All of that is a part of her, important, and I do not begrudge Columbia for the gifts of my sister's childhood.

But for me, big sister, former Baltimorean, lover of city parks and changing landscapes - I think we deserve more.

As my mother said, Columbia is a verb. Let's get moving.

Mentioning Symphony Woods can bring mixed - and emotionally charged - reactions. I am not unsympathetic when some deny change to a place they love, in fear that it might never be the same as it was in their youth, in their memories. Attachment to memory is a part of all of us, and it forms, sometimes, the basis of who we are and how we identify ourselves. It stems from love, I'm sure, but it can lead to something else - a stagnant and still refusal to see reality, a grove of trees disused but for two times a year.

We can't make time stop, or reverse, or forever preserve the things we love. We can't let our memories stop us from committing to a wider future of new possibilities and yes, change.

Seeing the plans for Symphony Woods, I had a strong reaction. I began to hope. I began to see the seeds of a city, a broader presence in Maryland, an inspiration for growth. Creating a space for more culture, more art, more music and theatre and playfulness - that is an amazing endeavor, a chance to say yes to a Columbia which can be a part of the world, can be a center for ingenuity, can be more than just memory.

And in holding on to our past, don't we deny my sister her memories of a Symphony Woods filled with song and sweetness? Of sculpture and performance? Can we reject - the way I rejected Columbia, at twelve years old - a future which might change and evolve and make us better, a future of concerts and plays, restaurants, of light and sound filtering through trees and giving a voice to us, all of us, the Columbia which will not fade?

My sister is learning that growing up is hard, sometimes. I'm learning that growing up means finding change, in myself, in giving up my limitations. And we are all growing up, all the time, from moments of love and birth to the sadness of saying goodbye - moments of seeing something new.

We all change, every day, every moment, and where we live and how we find delight should change with us - and is changing, whether we choose to see it or not. Columbia is more than our memories. Columbia is living.

So let's live, here, in our home of birth and memory and songs sung to the trees.

Let's go.

Friday, January 18, 2013

A Thank You


I have to admit that even during writing my blog post last night, I was worried about the reaction it would bring. To say I was pleasantly surprised is a massive understatement - I was so lucky to receive messages of love and support from my family, from friends new and old, and even from my wedding photographer!

I feel very hopeful about this. I think it is necessary to get the message out there that mental illness isn't shameful, a secret to be hidden, a death sentence. When I was diagnosed it was a relief to me, because my troubles suddenly had a name and, more importantly, a treatment plan.

But that isn't the way it is for everyone. I know that bipolar disorder, along with other conditions, is a label which can imbue a life with fear. Mental illnesses, left untreated, can be terrifying to both individuals and their families. I know that when I was diagnosed, despite the great aha of relief, there was an undercurrent of dread - how can she live a normal life? Will she go in and out of hospitalizations? Will this end any concept of who she is, without her illness?

I'm very lucky, again, in that I'm a success story. Despite - and maybe a little bit, because of - my medical issues, I have a joyous life of self-reflection, bolstered by a supportive family, a loving husband, and an emerging career as a writer. I have access to healthcare. I have doctors who understand me.

If only we could make that true for everyone! Meeting so many people in group who had long histories of hospitals and mistreatment, of family abandonment and abuse, of struggles with self medication, made me realize even more that healthcare in this country isn't what it should be. Fortunately, therapeutic programs do exist. But what can a person with a mental illness do without health insurance or the money to pay for fair, accurate treatment?

I see so many comments online in response to health care articles and blog posts, asserting that other people's health issues are their issues, and those people should deal with them (if only we could get rid of this "bootstraps" nonsense!). I think, what a sad world it is, where we are bad neighbors, where we keep our heads down, afraid to look people in the eye, living in a place of otherness. And why, why should we fight against fair treatment for all? Why should we reject health care solutions just because we think they don't apply to us?

If I didn't have health insurance - if I hadn't been covered by my parents until the age of twenty six - my medication would have set me back by thousands of dollars a month.

This is the world we live in. We should make it a better place - a place where everyone can have the loving support which I am so lucky to enjoy, where health care is available to everyone. I hate to mention the obvious and the incredibly painful, but maybe, if we as a country were more aware of mental illness and appropriate, accessible care, we wouldn't let young men storm into school buildings. We could prevent death - death by suicide, death by overdose, death by a mother's irresponsibly stored collection of firearms.

Mental illness doesn't equal violence. But mental illness, left untreated because of poor access to health care, can destroy a life. Can destroy others' lives.

In the end, I know that I have so much to be thankful for. I am thankful for a health care bill which provided me with the insurance to pay for therapeutic and pharmaceutical treatment. I am thankful for my mother and stepfather, who figured out that I needed help and found it for me. I am thankful for my husband, who knew me before I was diagnosed and still loved me, still loves me. I am thankful for my group of friends - coworkers, former teachers, people I barely know, who took the time to read my post and give me their support. I am thankful for a group of women and men who taught me how not to be ashamed.

Thank you. And now, let's give everyone the same support system.

Let's be better neighbors.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


There's a certain inescapable madness to black eyeliner and pearls.

If I haven't already made it clear - my Vincent and the Doctor post certainly hinted at it - I have a problem. No, not a problem - not an issue, not a peculiarity, not a even just a diagnosis; not the eccentricity of tonics and potions at bedtime, of regulated eating patterns, of social avoidance; not a thing which makes me brilliant or a thing which makes me laugh wildly like the edge of a broken mirror.

I have a mental illness.

I am mentally ill.

You might wonder how the hell I think it's a good idea to put this out on the Internet, especially following my previous post, in which I described how a life lived publicly is a life judged. You might wonder if some future employer will stumble across this blog, or if some grandma or great-aunt somewhere will wish I had kept my mouth shut, or even if I, tomorrow morning, will delete this post. All of those worst case scenarios could come true.

But I think it's time to speak honestly about mental illness - don't you?

I'm a real person. Some of you know me only through this blog, though most others I think are friends and family members. And being a real person, disregarding any online persona, I have to face the every day life of being a young woman with a chemical imbalance which makes me cry like Van Gogh and smile like the Mona Lisa. It makes me play the piano with the wet cough of Chopin; it makes me immobile, sometimes, with perfectionism and fear. These are my mornings and evenings, my afternoon teas, the way I fall asleep and the way I wake up at 7:23 craving a cup of coffee.

And I'm not alone.

Bipolar disorder is the most commonly misdiagnosed. I first entered therapy with a diagnosis of depression - a diagnosis far too common for young people who present as depressed but who have magical periods of wellness and happiness and achievement, mania. I was lucky - two bad semesters at university and I was able to meet with a wonderful psychiatrist, who took one look at the shaky, too thin, glittering me and said, "Yeah, you have bipolar disorder." But let me make it clear that I was nineteen at that time - almost six years after my doctor started to tell me about depression. Six years of anorexia, of bingeing, of not knowing what the hell was wrong with me. Of theatrical debuts in which I skipped pills so I could feel something, anything. Of self medication, so easily dismissed as a part of the teenage experience.

It took six years. And I was lucky.

I recently was admitted to and then exited a group therapy program. It was a wonderful experience for me, because I was able to meet and speak freely with others who had mental illnesses. The age range was wide, and the economic backgrounds varied, and race and religion and other particulars completely unimportant. These were brave, strong, admirable men and women, and I was there amongst them, myself, not lying. When we talked about how to discuss our mental illnesses with others, most said, "I'm not ashamed."

I was the voice of shame in the group. I, who had been diagnosed at a fairly early age and had been living a "normal" life for six years. I, who had never taken the final step of admitting to myself that I needed and deserved care.

I, who was still so angry.

Maybe if we could stop words from having so much power - maybe if we could put an end to labels and definitions and judgements - maybe then I would have felt that being bipolar was something that I could talk to people about. Here I am, now, discussing it openly, and whatever the consequences may be, at least I can say that I am honest with myself.

I remember being at work, and a coworker described a friend as being bipolar, a pejorative term for unreliable and unappealing. I remember going home, restless, and crying in the bathtub.

And I'm not alone.

How much longer do we have to live in a society when mental healthcare is only relevant in response to horrible crimes, mass shootings, murders? How much longer will I have to hear people use my diagnosis as an insult, when the reality is that you might as well be saying, that Alice, she's so blue-eyed? When will my genes stop being a topic of joking and insulting conversation?

When will we address the real healthcare issues in this country, when we know that as mental health facilities have closed, prison populations have increased? When will we accept that it isn't mental illness which makes people truly ill, but a lack of care, and a lack of love?

When will people see the world as I see it as valuable? All through history, in your art textbooks, in the annals of the American presidency, in your sheet music, in your literature class - in those places we are willing to accept the vague idea that people with mental illnesses can affect great change. But here I am, and here are so many others, in that place between your world and the fairy world, in that place of wine bottles and bitter laughter, in that place of medications and therapy, in the moments of makeup and glitter and pearls, in those moments when you can barely breathe with some thickness in your belly between the end of the world and birth -

Here I am, living.

My name is Alice, and I'm a writer. I'm twenty-six. I have four parents, three grandparents, a sister, and a husband. I spend most of my time cleaning, writing genre fiction, and baking cakes without key ingredients. When I do my makeup I use glitter; when I wear jewelry, I wear pearls.

I have bipolar disorder.

I'm not ashamed.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Mad Puck Goat

Every morning, after I've woken up and poured myself an earthenware mug of French press coffee, I do a few things - I check Questionable Content, I check Jezebel, and I read my horoscope.

I think I'm something of a horoscope addict - not that I take it very seriously, but I have to click through Yahoo's daily, career, love, and Chinese astrology posts in order to know what to do with myself. It's probably pretty silly, considering that I'm a big fan of free will and agency, but it's nice, you know, to have a set of guidelines, to get a minuscule piece of advice on an otherwise lonely day. Somehow I feel that I have a connection - to Yahoo, to other readers, to the universe - when I click determinedly on these snippets of what the day might bring.

This week, my horoscope is telling me to write, pretty specifically, on Tuesday and Wednesday.

I do have a novel brewing, and it is somewhat reassuring to pretend that, for two days this week, I'm really going to get stuff done. My horoscope is a catalyst for further exploration, for my creative endeavors, and I love the simple words of confirmation - you can do this.

I don't feel bound by astrology, and whether or not it is accurate or made up or written by someone making five cents a word doesn't particularly matter to me - I think what matters most is that feeling that someone out there is thinking of me, and that I have, however probably false or possibly true or simply invented, a dialogue with someone I can't see. And I feel that I have solidarity with the other Capricorns who wake up and need a little boost to get through the day.

That's the thing about the Internet. More often than not, being online is being a part of a conversation.

Having this blog has opened me up to a lot - I get reblogged by my parents, I have a creative presence on facebook, I get emails from old friends with comments and collects and, most often, support. All of that is wonderful, because sometimes I feel like I'm whistling in the dark, that my private thoughts, made public, come off wrongly, clattering, made ungainly by vocabulary or alliteration or how young I am. And I know that I'm young, and that my opinions are characterized by naïveté and a desire to shout out - like the Whos down in Whoville, I want to say, I am here, I am here!

And sometimes, that's a problem.

My post yesterday was a good example of me stating my opinions and initially not caring one way or the other how they would be received. Fortunately, something in the way I discussed football and second chances appealed to most of my audience. I feel grateful for that. But what I wasn't aware of, at first, was how incendiary my opinions could be.

Last night, after assessing the various responses to my work, I sat on the porch with my husband, holding my head in my hands, regretting my writing and the way I feel and the fact that I opened my heart, in that loose way of Internet conversation, to the possibility of not being liked very much. Over football!

Maybe I read my horoscope not only for the simple reassurances of my talent and ambition. Maybe I read my horoscope because it can't tell me, directly or indirectly, that I'm wrong, and that I shouldn't have woken up and guzzled my gingerbread coffee in the first place. Maybe my horoscope doesn't make me feel like I have to apologize for my opinions.

I guess having an Internet voice is a responsibility. I'm not going to start censoring myself, but I think I need to be aware that what I write can be taken amiss, can be manipulated into something it is not. Let me say it, here and now - my opinions are just my opinions. My beliefs are my beliefs. I never think that what I say is the rubric for other people's lives, because what a boring world that would be, where everyone thought the same things as I do, where it was a universe of Alices, all screaming into the sky, we are here.

This morning, along with the horoscope and the indie web comic and the feminist commentary on the Golden Globes, I checked my email and found a beautiful poem, written for me by my mother. I won't publish it here - it is her work, and the content is private - but the images that stick with me are first, a snapshot of picking off the insects of the past, and second, the relief of standing up and going out into new life.

I think I need to do both.

The problem with the Internet (as if there were just one!) is that it's so easy to put up your heart and soul, damning the consequences, and then bearing with the criticism, with the doubters, with the offended and indignant and (perhaps) hurt. I'm not going to say that people who disagree with me are bugs to be picked off, and if my writings are unintentionally insulting or hurtful, I don't mean to squash the offended like maggots in breakfast cereal. That's not me. I don't do that.

But I think it's time for me to just let go. My post yesterday was supposed to be about that - not about football, exactly, but about letting go of burdensome negativity and trying something new. Sure, I was super excited about the Ravens win, but what was more exciting was that I wasn't weighed down by the past. I need to live like that more often. I need to rush out, charging, Capricorn horns sharp and strong and unyielding.

I need to stand up.

My horoscope doesn't talk back when I make mistakes. It lets me live up to Tuesdays and Wednesdays when I don't quite make my word count, or when my prose is undeniably awful and I despair of ever becoming an author. The dialogue of the Internet isn't like that. The Internet makes me hold my head in my hands, rubbing my eyes in fatigue, thinking, what did I do wrong?

I start to flick the insects from my skin. I stand up, feet temerous in my worn flip-flops, shoulders tight and aching, the hair on my arms standing up in a battle between fear and exhilaration.

I write. My heart is open. I read my horoscope.

I try again.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Big Win

Now, before I get excited about last night's insane Ravens win, I have to admit -

I used to hate football.

And I didn't stop at hating it, no, but found it a sport to be derided. In fact, I was pretty vehemently anti-sports, having been subjected to too many field hockey and lacrosse lessons, having no innate physical skills, and being an ardent pianist, actress, and writer. I felt that sports took away from other, artistic endeavors (it is rare to see so much jubilance at the symphony, so much rowdy pleasure at Center Stage). And with all of that in mind, I concluded that athletic activities were just plain stupid, and so were the people who followed them, delightedly, on the field or on their televisions.

This is an attitude I grew up with, in a household of musicians and artists, and I think some of it is born of that simple and slithering demon, jealousy. I don't think that my parents or I would ever trade our artistic talents for a great arm or epic yardage, of course - it seems that the jealousy comes in when so many appreciate a talent which we will never have, and that that talent is somehow worth millions of dollars and sponsorships and your face on a Big Gulp. And it was a pretty bitter fight, sometimes, between what we considered valuable and what the world adored. I think we all asked how people with physical skills became so important, with so much more inherent worth, so overshadowing the work and performances of pianists and singers and actors and painters. Why, we asked, does it have to be this way?

So maybe it isn't jealousy - maybe it is a cry to be recognized for all of the invisible Herculean efforts of artistry. And those do, absolutely, deserve to be lauded. Modern artists are the future's gods. But still, when that cry turns into something ugly, we have to wonder.

It is easy to be open-minded when you can decide what to open your mind to, when there are limits. I thought of myself, then, as a very liberal and forward thinking person - as long as that didn't apply to sports, republicanism, and light beer. Though I'm still working on the last two, the moment I decided to throw away my colossal heap of judgement and derision and watch a football game was one of the most eye-opening moments of my life.

Gosh, it was fun.

And all of those people I had chosen to judge because of what they did in their spare time - watching a game - were so wrongly criticized by me, and furthermore I felt a great sense of community, cheering for the same team, sharing stats and quips and shouts, living in moments of silence before a big play or a field goal.

And then I realized that judging football players was equally as ridiculous, and I threw that out too. My negativity will never control how much they are paid. I still think it is somewhat criminal that all of this money goes to athletes as opposed to public schools or city infrastructure or the arts, but my teenage, nasty little voice of condemnation has nothing whatsoever to do with the reality of the situation. And beyond that, there are very real consequences of having an athletic career, such as frequent and repeated injury, and whether or not I'm totally on board with that, one could argue that a footballer's salary is, partially, his hazard pay.

And, at the root of it, who cares? Whining about the reality of unequal and (to some) unmerited pay isn't going to make anyone want to pay me more for being a writer. It just won't happen. And why is it, then, that I ever felt the need to judge others by their skills and what their skills were worth, when I could have actually been sitting down and writing a novel instead of complaining? And why should I ever judge, then, what makes other people happy, especially knowing that as an artist I have to face other people's unwanted criticism?

What gives me a right to judge someone by their career or their pastimes, when I feel that other people wrongly judge me for my career or my passions? In the end, narrow-mindedness is a double edged sword which is better left sheathed and forgotten in the umbrella stand.

Let's get back to last night - a game which went into double overtime and made me so nervous I had to leave the room. We had friends over, and if anyone wants to be negative about watching football from the comfort of your couch I can say without shame that football was an occasion to spend time with friends, and that even if I didn't enjoy football it was a good excuse to see people I love. Not everyone last night was into football - one friend started watching only last week so she could chat about it with coworkers, and her wife cheerfully checked out in the fourth quarter and did some online jewelry shopping. George played football in high school and only started watching when I asked that we could follow the Ravens. And I started watching because, a few Christmases ago, I sat with my in-laws and decided to stop judging and start paying attention.

Change is a good thing, especially when you decide to (forgive the euphemism) remove that stick from your behind. Due to the very welcome influence of G's family, I have changed, and changed for the better. And, what's more, I think I am able to enact change in my own life and in the people I love because I'm just happier. It isn't just watching football, but the willingness to try new things and find new joys which makes me a healthier person, more ready to smile, to gasp in surprise at Smith's gazelle-like legs, to swell with pride as Lewis makes a tackle as smooth and perfect as ink on paper.

My dad got me a Ravens toaster, and he posted on Facebook regarding last night's epic game. I don't know how much my new love for football impacted his decision to watch last night, but I do know the joy of being able to share happiness.

I want to be that joy as much as possible, and it doesn't have to be about football, but it does come with a pretty serious disclaimer: please, stop judging, because it isn't worth it, and it isn't fun. It took me 23 years to start looking at the world in a new way, but the decision to have fresh eyes and wonder can happen in a moment.

Opening your eyes is a big win, and after last night, anything is possible - even if it's just sitting down, listening up, and trying something new.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Drinking Beer and Breaking Bread - a Revolution

Last night, getting ready for bed, I rolled over and asked G what I should write about today. I've written about politics and religion, I said, and the only impolite thing left is sex. 

G replied, you could always write about beer. 

Really, no joke, beer. 

Not a bad idea, I said, but what metaphor could I spin, what links could I connect in a chain of over-writing and simile? How could I make beer into something more?

Not everything has to be a metaphor, said G, who promptly fell asleep and left me pondering how the hell I was going to write a post without some great, dramatic push, without real inspiration, without fever and fervor. 

Waking up this morning, I still had no clue about this silly blog and a daily writing practice. It should come as no surprise, then, that I closed my eyes and willfully fell back asleep. 

So, seeing that it's past noon and and hour and a half past my scheduled writing time, I'm just going to muddle along and see where I go.  That's probably what a daily practice is - most of the time, not knowing what's going to happen. Most of the time, feeling insufficient and insecure. 

Therefore, beer. 

G and I are sometimes homebrewers and always beer nuts, bordering on a snobbery which is made somewhat less by the act of solidly not being wine connoisseurs, preferring instead the careful craft of such people as Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, George Washington, and an army of dudes with glass carboys and a dream. Being a beer snob just doesn't feel like the delicate swirling of tannins and fruit, the perfect deep bowl of a red wine glass, choosing to spit in a silver bucket. Rather, being into beer feels cool and somewhat subversive. 

I often think about the history of beer - namely, the fact that people in the past drank beer all day because water wasn't safe, because they knew that drinking water was an invitation to dysentery and beer, despite the clearly gross act of fermentation, was cleaner. For my part, if I had to drink beer for breakfast I would definitely go back to bed and miss my writing time more often. 

Oh lord, where am I going with this post? Writing is hard! Anyway...

Columbia seems to be growing, lately - with the advent of The Ale House Columbia, we now have quite a number of beer bars, including of course Frisco and VGP. In Howard County, that number grows, with places like The Judge's Bench well-known for their beer selection. And in Maryland, we have an enormous quantity of breweries and bars, older and new, as well as mainstays such as The Brewer's Art. Beer is a thing. 

So what does that mean? 

Columbia is getting bigger. Columbia is becoming more. 

My father used to tell me that civilization came from beer - the fermentation process required, he said, people to settle down and stay a while. I think that might have had a little more to do with an emerging agrarian culture, but I think the message I can take away from that is that anything that forces people to sit down and have a chat can start a revolution. 

Maybe Columbia is going through the same sort of change - and it isn't necessarily about beer, but about the act of coming together, over a drink or a meal, at a concert, in church, in groups and clubs and bands - which is making our city a place of culture. I know that going to The Second Chance for Sunday football is a part of my Columbia experience, not just because of the food and drink, but because it is a place where people say hello. I am familiar with the staff and feel free to start up conversations with other regulars - just the way I felt as a little girl in Baltimore, where men tipped their hats, where the waiters at The Mount Vernon Stable knew us (and sometimes, cheerfully, abused us). When I go The Ale House, despite the constant crowd, the servers are so welcoming and helpful and genuine - it feels like a real place, in real city, in my real home. 

I've talked about the idea of being good neighbors before, and it bears repeating. When discussing the topic previously I asserted that we aren't good neighbors in Columbia because of our blindness to economic and cultural differences which yes, do exist here, and no, aren't being talked about. I think that is still true - I love my fancy beer bars, but not everyone has the money or the time to go, and a lot of the people who make my food and clear my table bear the brunt of the cultural ignorance which is endemic of our stratified society. As I sip my Imperial IPA, I'm a part of a larger landscape of those with resources and those without. 

Beer is civilization, and beer is privilege. And there's your metaphor. 

And no, just because I'm trying to be aware of the great wrongs of social caste and poverty in America doesn't mean that I'm going to stop drinking and enjoying craft beer. Will I partake in liberal guilt with every sip? Probably not. Thinking about what is wrong with Columbia isn't going to fix it, anyway - but it's worth thinking about. Because it really is possible to make progress - to make our city better through a strong community and new places to meet new people - and make no progress at all. 

Going to The Ale House or Frisco or VGP is great, but everybody looks the same - sure, different ethnicities, different careers, different football jerseys, but all able to afford it. All three bars are relatively expensive (read: what the hell made my check so high!?). And I think it is still worth it, still important, to go out and share a beer with friends and strangers, to split a plate of nachos, to dig into a dish of lobster mac and cheese, because a community is made up of little choices to say hello. That's one part of a revolution - taking a seat and having a chat is pretty crucial to social development. 

But let's get the other part sorted. 

Let's make all of our schools able to support students equally. Let's make a better public transportation system for those who can't afford or don't choose to have cars. Let's make sidewalks and crosswalks so we can walk to the grocery. And, while we're at it, let's address the huge housing problems and the derision that goes with them - let's make apartment living easier and less taboo, making sure that whole families don't have to live in one small room while other families (whose children go to better schools with richer booster parents) live in massive mansions. 

Ah, G, you gave me beer, and I've gone rampant. 

But really - let's have a revolution. 

And maybe a beer. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Politics of Childhood

I was born into the lower middle class.

I identify as female. I identify as bisexual. 

I describe myself as Christian, an Anglican. 

I am a democrat. 

I am the dust of a million dying stars. 


When Dad and I went to the grocery store - a sad and dilapidated Super Fresh, surrounded by poverty and the smell of urine - I found such richness in mangoes, in the soft green skin; in boxes of pasta which rattled with a sifting sound, a sigh; in jars of tomato sauce promising sweetness and sausage; in a red and gold foiled pouch of beans and rice, salty, filling, inexpensive. Every face I saw there was a story, men in wheelchairs with hard rubberized curves, fat women in Sunday hats, art students lost in the city. 

When we went, it was a delight. I couldn't wait to go home, for dad to fill a pot with broth and chunks of hard meat, carrots which hadn't quite spoiled, a dash of beer - I could taste, somehow, not flavors but emotions, pride, food on the table. In the grocery store I smelled the five dollar wine and the ritual of Saturday night dinner. And maybe it wasn't just pride, maybe there was a taste of something other, a desperation, a get me out of here, and an, I wish things were better. Things which my eyes were closed to, like the shadow of amputated legs, poverty's reliance on salt and fat and scrap, the inability to work, a need for a liquid panacea to idleness. 

In 2013, this is not an unfamiliar scenario. And the privilege I had then, being the child of educated, native parents, and being lucky enough to get an education of my own - that privilege is more gleaming than gold. And I don't think, for one moment, that I wasn't lucky. 

People talk and talk about the economy, how it is the hottest issue of the decade, how no politician can succeed without a solid plan - part hope, part funding, part lie - to fix those parts of our country which have fallen between the cracks. We need a better plan, absolutely, to set things right. 

If they were ever right, for everyone. 


That day in June, I wore my tie-dyed halter top, navel and back bared unabashedly, tight blue jeans, far too much glitter, and a grin. 

Baltimore heat makes you think about taking off all of your clothes, letting the shower head spray down on your nakedness, rubbing your wet self on something soft. It has a particular smell to it, part sewage, part sage, part sex. I sat on the curb of Charles street and let my skin soak up the scent of summer and freedom. 

I could claim my identity. 

I was young and foolish and terribly proud. Around me, men and women threw candy and beads, children laughed near-screaming, and I thought about my body and kissing and finally doing something which felt right. I saw shockingly beautiful women and their children, and their friends, and their partners, and I wanted to revel in their effervescence, the incandescent yes, the at last, the self. 

There's a bitterness that comes with too much happiness. The at last is not final. The positive will be negative. And being loved for a weekend in the June of 2005 was not, and is not, being loved for a lifetime in America. Hell, it isn't even being guaranteed basic rights. 

We talk and talk about values, and if we can get past dogmatic discourse, about civil rights. We engage each other in ceaseless debate, we poke holes in what some call religion, we make mockery of love. Politicians make or break their campaigns over this hot issue, and thank God, things have changed. Some things are better. Some things are right. 

If there ever were rights, for everyone. 


My introduction to fiction class had me quaking in my flip-flops, and the thick silver hair of my professor, along with the abundance of sweating undergrads, made me think that I had made a grave mistake. One assignment, a vignette of sorts, and we would discover (or so it seemed) the true writers, the elect, the muse-touched. 

I went home and wrote about church. 

Words started shooting out of me like corks from champagne - the way an Austin organ coughs and groans, the crisp hems in Sunday suits, the chittering Cantonese of the Chinese parishioners, the vodka and vermouth, the pink Tokay and wafers, my father's sweat, the smell of the priest's tobacco-stained mustache. I wrote about holiness and I wrote about sin, and it was all a part of one big picture, one theme, being an Anglican. 

Being Christian in America. 

And I had never thought about that before. And I was merciless. And yet, I believed. 

My piece was well-received, but somehow more than that I remember that I had looked at my faith, straight on, and had found it richer for my questioning. 

Faith is indeed glorious, and it is as gall, and it is haunting. It is confusing, and it mystifies; it is inherent, and it is mystical; it is reviled, and it is there, again,to be picked up and nursed. Faith is our curse, and it is our comfort. 

I find myself talking and talking of faith, as does the country. And it's not just faith - rather, we debate on which flavor of devout we are, which rules to uphold, which God to worship or reject. Politicians, who have faiths of their own, balance the personal with the public, and issues of morality are mixed in with legality. Faith is a pale thing, and yet more relevant than ever. Maybe, the more we talk about it, the more we can accept it all, the more we can learn to accept each other. Maybe talking about faith is going to make this country a better place. Maybe we can come together and all be right, all have faith or non-faith again.

If all of us were right. If any of us had ever found acceptance and love, for everyone. 


Reading comments on online news sites, from CNN to Jezebel, has forced me to realize (as if it weren't quite obvious) how liberal I am. 

It amazes me, still, that there are people out there who don't believe, don't understand, the fundamental truths of my life and of the life of my childhood - the rights given all people to be who we are, to love who we love, to protect our bodies from invasion and cruel, callous ownership. It never occurred to me, not for one moment, to judge how others lived their lives.

And then I look at the world around me, and I know that my naïveté has shifted, and those people who lace their words with hatred become a victim of my judgement. It's as if I've become a one-note character in the novel of now, in the future history of a people divided. As others are spiteful and ignorant and mean, so am I. I refuse to understand other people's viewpoints, when they contradict my own. 

I stand by my beliefs, and I am incredibly proud of them. But when did that pride become a rejection - when did my open-minded, righteous opinions become self-righteous and blind?

I am a democrat. And sometimes, I wonder, how could anyone be anything else?  And that is my basic failure, and America's failure; we are unwilling. We choose not to see. 

Everything I've described above, the silly small details of my life, fall back on the premise that some people are right, and some people are wrong. My childhood experiences molded me into a wild and rampant voice for liberalism and equality - and, you see, that's the way it is for everyone. It would be so simple to manipulate a childhood, to change the smells and the heat and the love, and make someone different. We bear a terrible responsibility - we create life, and we create our world. We have children, and sometimes, we fail them. 

Sometimes we make bitterness out of beauty. 

Watching Congress squabble and struggle over the financial future of our country is like observing how pitifully and how constantly we are divided, and I can't help but feel that some child, many children, will pay the price of right versus wrong, of liberal versus conservative, of narrow thoughts and small-minded adults. And I have the nightmare of those children, grown up, and becoming something that we wish we could fix.  They become us, they have our faults, they are representatives of our negativity. 

Sometimes, that nightmare is realized. Sometimes, we make monsters. 

I wasn't born that way. Were you?


I'd like to end this on a positive, because despite my fears and despite the sadness in the world, there is something so incredibly beautiful about life, about the gift of waking up in the morning, about sun and incense and red wine. Still, as an adult, I remember the seductive smell of beef stew, how the meat simmered in the pot, softening; I remember the shine on my arms of glitter and sweat, and my first strand of purple beads, and the strong, soft hands of cellists and ballerinas; I remember the pinch of Sunday shoes, and the dry, rice-paper body of Christ, and my Grandpere intoning the Epistle. 

And there's more, now, because coming into adulthood has brought so much joy, the taste of red lipstick on my wedding day, the smudge of it on my husband's cheek. I've been given wonder in the form of my sister, more precious each day as she grows into a brilliant beacon of the world getting better. I have family and friends, and I have food, and I have love. 

This, this is how we are born. Our eyes open and feel the light, and we are stardust. 

We should be this way, forever. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Football, Feminism, and Failure

I am watching football. 

My home team, the Ravens, took a loss today - though fortunately we lost when we have already secured our place in the playoffs. My second home team, the Redskins, are currently battling it out with the Cowboys. RG3, Morris, and Garçon are doing what they do, and I'm sitting in bed with a glass of wine and the love of my life, my husband, G. 

Concurrently, G and I have been discussing two books of essays on Joss Whedon's Firefly. We are both fans - I watched the series while it was on TV, G watched it after, and we saw the premier of Serenity, the film, together. 

At the same time, men on television form expert opinions on football, with brief interludes from female reporters on the field. 

And at the same time, a woman in India is mourned. Her death is a terrible and shining point of how things, everywhere, must change. 

Everything we do is so, so gendered. 

I have this game with television - I watch commercials and ask G to switch the genders. Car commercials? Let's have tough women and clueless men. Cleaning products? Obviously, Dad should be there with the Swiffer and paper towels. Power tools and home improvement? Let's see a hardcore mom with sweaty pits and various bits unshaven. It's my small fight with gender, the every day kind, the fight of not really having to feel the effects of gender discrimination and yes, true warfare, because I am so unbelievably privileged. 

Feminism is really, really important. And we need it to do more. 

We need to do more. 

It's really easy to call yourself a feminist when all you do is fight for your own rights. It's simple to play games with the TV. It's simple to point out inequality within semi-nuanced samples of American pop culture. I can rail against Joss Whedon until my face turns blue, and I probably will, and none of that makes a damned difference when we know - we bloody well know - that life being "gendered" means that women are raped and killed. 

Let me say that again. 

Women are being raped and killed. 

First world feminism is awesome. There are gender gaps in pay, in respect, in paid leave, in safety on the streets; there are gaps within our families, in who clears the table, in who is supposed to take care of the baby, in who cooks, in who cleans; there are gaps in how men and women are portrayed in film and literature, in who reports football, in who makes a good TV series. All of these things are so important, and none of them cover the true extent of how damned unequal life really is - not even in other places, now, but just, say, in America, where freedom is supposed to be our creed. 

It would be great to walk down the street without feeling like a potential victim. 

That's not just feminism.  That's human dignity. 

And maybe, sometimes, feminism distracts. 

There needs to be more horror, out there, because women are made victims, are made an easy and excusable target. That horror goes so far beyond the luxuries of independence that allow us to dissent. I am in no way saying that feminism in America is a lost or foolish cause, but I'm saying, in essence, that we still live in privilege.  

I know that rape is a huge problem (problem being a mercilessly paltry word) in the US - I don't need to be told that. I'm saying that perhaps unsayable thing, which is that talking about women's rights, about gender and sex politics, is a hell of a lot different than doing something about it. The fact that we can, in fact, talk about it, is the greatest gift our mostly messed up country can give us. 

Right now people are protesting to be able to discuss the fundamental rights of women. 

And I'm watching football, judging a TV show, and feeling stupid and oh, so lucky to be alive. 

The Skins seem to be doing pretty well, and I see men and women in the stands, full of delight and spit and hellfire. I still wonder what it would be like to live in a world of gender equality, where female commentators give us the scoop on stats and hormones. I still tell my husband that Joss Whedon couldn't write a female character to get him out of a paper bag. 

And women are being raped and killed. 

And that's it, that's the end, because here I am, in my lovely bed with my lovely husband, and I'm a feminist, and I'm not doing a single thing to help. 

I am a woman. I'm a feminist. I am incredibly privileged.  

And I don't know what to do. 

I know I'm not doing enough. 

A New Year, a Second Chance

I've spent a lot of time, over many holiday gatherings with family, friends, and several people I didn't know, reinventing myself.

The holiday season is a long episode of telling other people who you are and, more frequently, what you do. I've heard that it is a typical American thing to define oneself by career - perhaps, in other parts of the world, I wouldn't have faced the inevitable and continually perplexing (and perplexed) questions as to my chosen career path. We seem to know ourselves, from our daily goals to our supposed identity, only by how we earn money. I don't know if that comes with some expectation - a measure of self-worth, of supposed contribution to society, of how fiercely we are judged and praised. In other words, it seems that our jobs aren't just what we do, but who we are, and how valuable we are in the eyes of others.

Anything outside of the norm, then, is met with surprise and bafflement. My husband is someone who has an easily identifiable career, and while few people grasp the complexities of what he does, the words, computer programmer, are met with resounding approval. He has a real job. And what he does from eight to four on weekdays becomes a symbol of not only his identity, but his inherent worth.

This Christmas, I introduced myself as Alice, a writer.

I'm not going to go on to describe the various reactions (ranging from very welcome support to, most often, a series of follow up questions as to the nature of my prose, whether or not I'd been published, and, most remarkably, why?). But I will be honest, here, because I think that the most telling reaction was my own, which consistently hovered between pride, relief, and some pretty significant doubt.

Pride, because I am finally doing what I feel I've been called to do. Pride because I'm not putting my goals away, not folding them neatly in a drawer of regret and adulthood, not denying them because they seem unreasonable or selfish or unsustainable. Pride because I'm not giving in.

Relief, because I have, in the years since my graduation from the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars program, lied to myself and maintained a fallacy of identity a fear of failure. Relief because I'm finally doing what I'm supposed to do. Relief because I'm just now, just when it is inconvenient and stupid and scary, being myself.

And, of course, terrible doubt, because here I am, standing on the edge, being something new.

And oh my goodness, it is terrifying.

My writing teachers were very clear - to be a writer, you must make a friend of failure. You're going to mess up and make shocking mistakes and dreadful dissonance; you're going to be embarrassed, you're going to write stuff that should grind down the sink like the sound of a garbage disposal. Ugh, ugh, there are going to be times when you think you just can't do it, you can't live up to your dreams, you've made an awful error, and calling yourself a writer will be bitter in your mouth.

And that's today. And maybe tomorrow. But to be a writer means that waking up and trying again is like being in love. Work, hard work, and joy.

There are times when being a writer means creating the voice of God. There are times when your words all come together and something good, some undefinable thing, some whisper of making the world a better place, pours out of you like spider silk. And those moments of success make your failure beautiful.

I'm Alice, and I'm a writer.

I don't know if I will write here every day, though I hope to do so more often. But I will write. I will write because, even if my career is confusing, even if I find difficulty in what to tell people, in how to say what I do and why I do it, I know. I found myself.

And my God, it feels good.