The Annual Thankful Post

I’m thankful for:

Family and Adopted Family. Like my brother who’s man enough to leave his videogames, put on an apron and make some killer homemade rolls. And like Michelle with the best hugs ever and Brad who’s willing to talk with me for lengths of time about foreign countries.

Friends. Especially ones who go on adventures to Barcelona or Cornwall, read my manuscript to me in a pirate accent, get me hooked on Canadian shows or go over lists to plan out our days.

A Great Semester. I have loved all my classes, and I can tell this is going to be one of those times the last day of class is a sad affair.

Blessings. Even the heartbreakingly hard ones. I’ve found those are often the ones that change my life.

William Jenkyn Thomas, who taught in Wales, realized that the Welsh oral tradition was dying away and no one was writing down the stories. So he set about to write a children’s book, The Welsh Fairy Book. When I was about fourteen, I found the book in my local library and snatched it off the walls. If I hadn’t, I’d probably be a boring person writing about things like “real life” or the “modern era.” Thank you, Will.

The Mirror

“If you do not like the image in the mirror, do not break the mirror, break your face.” – Persian poem

I am increasingly convinced that I will not be happy if my life is about the American dream. To be honest, the thought of a white picket fence and a steady job is somewhat terrifying (not to mention a husband and kids with no desire to move beyond their city, much less their country, which is something that seems inevitably attached to the West’s perception of a stable, wealthy life). I knew this a bit before I studied abroad, but since I came back I’m struck again and again with the feeling that this is a haven, a stop, and I really belong somewhere else.

I’m terrified that the monotony, the obsession with one’s self that pervades American culture, the lukewarm contentment and deep dissatisfaction will lull over me. I’m terrified that one day I’ll look in the mirror and see someone who doesn’t care enough to even be aware of another’s suffering.

I started crying today when reading about children in Afghanistan. I longed to coax a smile out of just one child again, to tease that old look out of their eyes and make them grin.

I want to be the sort of person who brings God’s love and healing to hard places even if she has to break her face to do it.

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Drafts are Your Friends

One thing I’ve learned since I started writing at age twelve is that first drafts aren’t fairytales. It might be love at first sight. In fact, I commonly suffer from a first draft honeymoon stage of about 24 hours. But then I return to the scene and shriek, “Sweet baby Jesus, what monster have I created?” (ala Frankenstein).

That’s when I flee to the marital counselors of writing (the Erec and Enides, if you will). I strap on my armor and go to war. Though it may hurt me to cut out this over the top detail or that wayward comma, I press on knowing that someday, someday I’ll have a scene I need not wince over.

To prove this point, I submit a scene I’ve been working on all semester. It includes a dagger, a baddie, mythology and twue wove. You know you want to read on.

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The Origins of Fiction and Poetry

The other night, I asked fellow English major Erika for some help with a comma. This conversation devolved in a unique and amusing direction, presented below for your pleasure:

Alyssa: I love punctuation.
Erika: I very much perscribe to the idea of logical punctuation, unless I’m writing poetry… then I might make exceptions.
Alyssa: Poetry is a fun rule breaker, like fiction’s younger sibling always getting into the drugs. Except… I think poetry might be older than fiction.
Erika: Yes, perhaps.
Alyssa: I guess it depends on if legends=fiction? But even then I’m not sure.
Erika: Who knows?
Alyssa: Dr. Tenger.
Erika: It’s probably a chicken/egg thing–haahaha. Oral traditions, yessshhh! But couldn’t epic poetry also be considered fiction though?
Alyssa: Yeah… I’m not sure. Maybe? It’s a very blurry line. Now I want to know the answer to this…
Erika: They were conjoined twins and then literacy came along and KNIFED THEM UP.
Alyssa: Oh literacy and its butchering tendencies. … Then fiction became regulated and proper and drove people to drink and poetry became rebellious and out there and sometimes they get along but normally they sort of just eye each other from opposite corners of the room
Erika: That is exactly what happened.
Alyssa: Oh, definitely.

Alyssa vs. Rheum., Round 756

Today I was walking to the library, which is about five minutes from my townhouse, and I couldn’t make it. I had to stop and rest.

After about ten steps from my townhouse, that autoimmune fatigue started settling over me like a boulder. The best way I can describe this sort of fatigue is that I can feel every heartbeat sluggish and heavy. I have to concentrate on taking deep breaths, and every one is like breathing through a straw. If I close my eyes, I become dizzy. The pressure on the back of my head makes a migraine buzz behind my eyes.

I think I feel it today because I have the leisure to feel it. All week I’ve been exhausted, wearing out faster than I used to, needing more sleep than normal but waking up unrefreshed. On Wednesday I was waiting for the elevator, and I closed my eyes and let myself fall against the wall just to get the weight off me for a second. I was playing my Afghan flute yesterday, and had to stop after about fifteen minutes because it hurt my fingers so badly. It’s like my tolerance for everything has plummeted.

I don’t know if this is what it’s going to be like off steroids. I hope it’s just a phase–just me getting used to living without that cushion. But I don’t know.

In some ways, I’m glad I stopped at that bench. Last year, I would have screwed up my face and forced myself to make it. I would have arrived in the library aching, exhausted, likely having injured my ankles or shoulders with my stubbornness, and probably almost crying with frustration. Today I fixed my eyes on the bench and allowed myself to admit a small defeat. Today it was okay to stop.

(It’s funny that I still think of this as a battle. Maybe that’s not the healthiest way to see things–me vs. it. But I think it helps me feel a small measure of control, at least.)