Regular People Answering Hard Questions

Great blog prompt today from Andrea at angiecat. She interviewed Stacy Morrison, talented writer and penner of responses — with a series of “hard questions for regular people.”

The blog post made me consider my own answers, and want to sit right down and craft them. So here they are.

 

YOU, IN THREE WORDS?

funny, tender, impatient

 

WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU DIDN’T KNOW?

How deeply and brutally my parents hurt each other throughout their marriage, and during the process of their divorce. The stark unveiling of such truths confirmed quiet, dark feelings that I viscerally knew as a child. I don’t know if that was better or worse for me — the knowing. They separated and divorced after thirty-five years of marriage, and the process was unnerving and shattering and unimaginably painful for all three of us. I felt raw — skinless, really — for several years afterwards. There aren’t many books in the self-help section for adult children of divorce. There should be.

 

WHAT HAS THE LITTLE VOICE IN YOUR HEAD BEEN SAYING LATELY?

“Why don’t you just do it already?” I’d like to write a book, and a screenplay. I’ve gotten into better shape, in recent years, but I haven’t reached my physical fitness goals yet. The truest part of me knows exactly what I want, and wonders why I’m blocking myself from achieving those goals. Why do I disallow myself from knowing those experiences? I’m working on that. I’ve joined several writers’ groups, and am enrolled in a nonfiction workshop in the fall. I workout often — and challenge my muscles and my mind and my lungs and my heart. Getting towards gams and guns. I’m also hearing “You’re meant to do this” — both inside my head, and from the mouths of other people — which helps.

 

WHAT IS WORSE THAN DEATH?

Not really living or being self-aware, spending fifty or sixty or eighty years on autopilot. What if we died before expressing what our souls yearn to say? Not using our gifts. That, to me, is a fate far worse than death.

 

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN OTHER PEOPLE DON’T LIKE YOU?

My husband always quotes the bit from Seinfeld that Jerry’s mother famously uttered in one episode: “‘Who doesn’t like Jerry?’ Who doesn’t like Kathleen,” he says. Dear God. Lots and lots of people, honey. But thanks. You say this because I wash your underwear. I used to worry about that a great deal. Who didn’t like me, and why. I was raised to be a people-pleaser, as most girls of a certain age were. I don’t worry about it so much anymore. I don’t go changin’ to try and please you. Nor should you do that for me. Sometimes, I’m mature enough to look inward and see if there’s a flaw, deep within, that could use extraction. But for the most part — I realize that my openness and vulnerability and New Yawk accent and occasional bravado and just let-it-all-hang-out-ed-ness is scary for some people. It doesn’t make them feel good — especially if they’re not in touch with their own innards and beautiful weirdness. It’s certainly not my intent to make them feel uncomfortable, but I can’t change who I am. It’s okay. Let’s just nod and wave to each other, and keep walking on our different paths.

 

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LIVING & EXISTING:

Self-awareness. That gift allows you to feel emotions so deeply, to be moved and changed by people and art and films and culinary sauces, to demand the most out of your life, to wring your soul with full force and squeeze every drop of life and passion and creativity and freedom out of it. Stagnation is existing. Robotic, mindless routine is existing.The rut, the sameness, the fear of straying from the norm — all existence. But not living. What is living for me, personally? Freely admitting that I don’t know something. I was too afraid to say “I don’t know,” when I was younger. Risking, especially in my writing. Trying something new — a food or a city or a book or person in bed (ok, not that, since I’m happily married and plan to stay that way) or a hat or a fruit. I tried kohlrabi from our garden last week. Delicious. I feel the fuck out of my life, damnit. I feel all of it. I’m no longer afraid to.

 

IF TODAY WERE THE LAST DAY OF YOUR LIFE, WOULD YOU WANT TO DO WHAT YOU’RE ABOUT TO TODAY?

I’m cleaning out my office so I have a more creative writing space in my home, so no — I don’t think I’d be doing that if it were my last day on earth. I’d probably spend a lot of time telling people how much I love them, and thanking them for loving me. I’d be out in the sunshine, listening to music, holding my children and telling them how much I love who they’re becoming, kissing my husband’s face, holding him to me, staring into his eyes and letting him know. In theory, I’d say that I’d go to New York City and let myself be swirled into the chaotic, beautiful energy of my hometown — but the native New Yorker in me knows that I’d spend a great deal of the last day of my life stuck in traffic, so fuhgeddaboudit.

 

WHAT WORRIES YOU MOST ABOUT THE FUTURE?

Not living long enough to see it. Being sick or incapacitated and missing out on my own future. We’re not guaranteed anything, in this life, but another forty or fifty years in moderately good health? Oh, I’d love to experience that. I also worry sometimes that, as a society, we’re not headed in the right direction. But we learn so much in hindsight — if X didn’t happen, then Y wouldn’t have resulted — so who am I to block the timeline of life? A friend recently told me that she worries that humans will morph into speechless beings with uber-strong, webbed thumbs. They’ll no longer need voiceboxes, because they’ll solely communicate on their smartphone devices. I don’t think I’d want to live long enough to see that.

 

LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO TOLERATE…

Other people’s chronic negativity, especially when they choose to stay in that repetitive cycle, day after day, week after week, year after year. You need to back away with love. Or they’ll drain you. Like vampires with really sharp fangs.

 

THERE ARE NO SECRETS TO LIFE, BUT IF THERE WERE IT WOULD BE…

Be you. Not who your mother wants you to be or who your boyfriend wants you to be or who the PTA wants you to be or who your boss wants you to be. Be who you are meant to be. Live your truest life. It isn’t easy. It hurts, sometimes. But there’s no other way. There really isn’t.

 

ARE YOU HOLDING ONTO SOMETHING YOU NEED TO LET GO? WHAT IS IT AND WHY?

Guilt, shame and anger. The lingering belief that I am less-than, not good enough, and to blame for so many things that, as a child, I had no responsibility for or control over. I feel that less and less, as the years go by. But such feelings still reside within me. And they can rear their ugly heads and weaken me, at times. My family of origin — and theirs before that, and theirs before that — were both loving and terribly dysfunctional. It’s taken me years to undo the damage that was done to me when I was little. There’s a line in Everclear’s “Father of Mine” that always moves me, because it rings so true, when you’re a child of such an upbringing — “I will never be sane, I will never be sane, I will always be weird inside, I will always be lame.”  My father didn’t abandon me, and I certainly didn’t grow up in crack hotels in East LA, but my childhood was scarred by addiction, mental illness and abuse. That never leaves you. It weakens your framework. If you’re lucky, you get help and gain awareness — and you find good, sane people in life to walk beside you. You get better. You heal yourself. But you never erase the past. It’s a heavy load to carry, sometimes. I’ve been told that my survival instincts — noticing, listening, sensing, remembering — are the very things that have formed me as a writer. Our gifts come from unlikely sources, don’t they?

 

IF YOU HAD A FRIEND WHO SPOKE TO YOU IN THE SAME WAY YOU SPOKE TO YOURSELF, HOW LONG WOULD YOU ALLOW THAT PERSON TO BE YOUR FRIEND?

Interesting question. It made me consider how kind and tender and loving I can be with my friends — especially when I write to them — and how often I can be so cruel to myself, up there in my head with my ugly self-talk. I guess I’d say that I’m letting go of both sides of that. Not accepting that behavior from myself, or other people. If it happened every now and then? Sure — everybody has a bad day. Everyone needs to be hard on themselves, sometimes, or they’d never get up from the couch. But every day? Goodness, me. No.

 

WHAT IMPACT DO YOU WANT TO LEAVE ON THE WORLD?

I’d like for people to have been bettered by my existence, as their wife or mother or relative or friend. For them to have felt loved. To read my words and think differently, feel less alone, and be understood. I’d like people to laugh at my funeral. Jesus — she was nuts. But she was so fucking funny. I’d like to leave laughter and love behind, as my tiny, glinting thread to continue onward. It’s really all there is, I think.

 

IN THE HASTE OF OUR DAILY LIVES, WHAT ARE WE NOT SEEING:

How disconnected we’ve become. How little all of this matters. How many missed chances we’ve had at loving and connecting and forgiving and overcoming. That we still have those chances, every day. That overscheduling and overachieving and overorganizing are not lofty goals in this life. That we need to help others more, and forget ourselves in the process.

 

IF YOU LOOKED INTO THE HEART OF YOUR ENEMY, WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU WOULD FIND THAT IS DIFFERENT THAN YOUR OWN?

I don’t think I have any avowed enemies out there, but I did experience swift, sudden cruelty from a friend several years ago, and now, I’d say that I’d see jealousy in that person’s heart. Or, actually, a large hole — that could never seem to be filled, by anyone or anything.

 

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN IT’S TIME TO CONTINUE HOLDING ON OR TIME TO LET GO?

I don’t know. That’s part of my problem. I can hold on too tightly, sometimes, and focus on the grip, instead of the clear signs that it’s time to let go.

 

WHY DO YOU MATTER?

Because I am. Because I can. Because there are things I’m meant to do.

 

HOW MANY OF YOUR FRIENDS WOULD YOU TRUST WITH YOUR LIFE?

Most of them, I think. I hope they feel the same about me.

 

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THE MAJORITY OF YOUR MONEY? (BE HONEST & BE SPECIFIC.)

I’m really affected by my living space — colors, comfort, surroundings. I put a great deal of thought into my family’s coziness and comfort, and in how my friends and guests feel when they come to our home. I want everyone to feel loved, supported, filled, eased. I have soft, fuzzy blankets piled everywhere. Just…everywhere. I hang thick, comfy bathrobes in our guest room. They’re not there for show, people. Use them. Sleep in them. Tie that droopy belt tight around you and be warmed in it. I love to see people wear them. Twice, people have (cough) indulged at our house — and felt kinda yucky afterwards. They don them when they’re feeling crappy — and it’s like a big, warm hug from me until they’re better. I’m such a mommy. I also spend money on food, too. Both in the supermarkets and at restaurants. Again, for me — and for my family and friends. What else? Art. Photographs. Music. Funky costume jewelry. A slight weakness for sexy shoes. Books. Oh, God. Books. Is there anything else in life?

 

WHAT IS ONE BIG LESSON PEOPLE COULD LEARN FROM YOUR LIFE THUS FAR?

Laugh, and you’ll get through it. You’ll overcome it. A sense of humor will save you. It saved me. Find the funny. Make other people laugh. It’s everything.

 

WHAT’S THE #1 THING YOU INTEND TO ACCOMPLISH BEFORE YOU DIE?

To feel that I lived the hell out of this one life I’d been given. That I didn’t waste time. That I used the talents and gifts I’d been given, and didn’t squander them. That I did good. I hope it means writing a book or two, writing a screenplay or performing monologues. But who can say?

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