Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A few more moments--taking my Little Sister to play "tennis" this last Sunday--if you use the word in the loosest possible context, which I do. It was chilly out and no one else was foolish enough to come to the city courts by the lake. Just as well. After declaring that she was a great player (that's my girl, trash-talking is integral to sport,) she swung her racket around wildly, missing everything that came near.

I kept trying to soft-pitch her the ball so that it would hit right in the middle of her racket but then she'd holler at me, "Why you throwin to me like I'm a baby! I ain't no baby!" so I gave up.

We ended up playing some kind of invented lacrosse-golf-soccer thing with tennis rackets, but at any rate we were chasing the ball around and having fun, our noses running from the cold. The truth of the matter is we are both goofballs, and that is all we have in common, and it's enough. She's not a culture vulture like I am, she probably won't share my addiction/passion for books and art and theatre, I won't get the ego-gratification from mentoring someone who is like a younger version of me, and that's fine. She's a hurt kid with a whole backpack of experiences I am only beginning to learn about, and she needs to play a lot.

Moments with children are so fragile and hard to articulate, because it's an eyelash, it's a furtive smile, it's a leaning of weight against your own lap when you're sitting down. Nothing concrete, rarely verbal. A child is not going to turn to you and say, "You know, I trust you more than I used to, I feel like I can rely on you." She will never say that.

But she expects me now on Sunday afternoons; she knows I am coming. I feel like we turned a corner the week before, when we went up into the woods. Like we've dropped into a new level of being relaxed with each other. She has even said some nice things. When I backed up the car to get back on the freeway after stopping off at a quikmart she even murmured with a hint of surprise, "Hey, you're pretty good at that." Okay, being complimented on my driving skills by a seven year old may be grasping at straws, but over here at ADD central, we take what we can get.

She has given me a nickname--Ali-Al--which sounds a bit like I work for Hamas, but that's okay. When I dropped her off Sunday evening the house was warm and her grandmother had bought one of those fake logs at Walgreen's that make it seem as if you have a real working fireplace even if you don't. Her grandmother and her big sister were watching a video on the couch and I joined them, all four of us cuddled up in the warmth on a dark cold night.

I've also been over to Carla's old place a few times helping pack it up, and to her new place, unloading. The new apartment is so spacious, and the bathroom is huge and awesome! I love the colors: teal, lavendar, butternut. And I liked working with the other women; Kaila, Edith, Kathy, Christina, and with Allen.

I feel like C and I are turning a corner as well--a difficult corner for me to negotiate. I think this is the point in relationship where we start focusing on our own needs and wants and paths again. It's not as sweet as the initial bonding-nesting cozy romantic stuff. He's no longer just so moved and impressed by the fact that I write poetry. He knows it's part of my job.

He's moving on into his wider interests, music, math, building--and I need to make sure I keep growing too. You can't stay staring blssfully into each other's eyes for ever, even though a part of me would like to. (As Susan from Wing It! says "I'm a recovering barnacle." What a great way to put it--takes the shame off.) It makes me feel a little lonely, but a little bit good, too, to be thrust back into independence--and here's my life waiting, with all its same old quirky issues--principally the work-writing balance.

In short: I want a job. I wrote that this morning in my morning pages. Then spent some time this morning scanning the offerings at Cal State Hayward in of all places the Criminal Justice Department. I'm really interested in this new concept that's being pioneered that's called Restorative Justice. (Hell, it's probably been around since Biblical times, but it's new right now.) It seems so hopeful--offenders get to make restitution through working in the communities they damaged rather than just rot in jail.

I research this stuff and then I go, "Whoa! Not so fast! You agreed with your agent that you would have a manuscript ready for her by March 1st, you're in the middle of a new play you've committed to finish, and you've just written a mess of new poems. Are you going to be a writer or a worker out in the world?"

This question has been at the heart of my work issues for the last thirty years. I want both, I need both. One of my fondest memories is the time I spent working at SF General Hospital in the 90s. I loved the beehive atmosphere of a busy hospital, and having my own small part to play in it. I loved the mystery and excitement of encountering new patients all the time--their stories. And I can't write full-time anyway--I go in spurts. When I'm really on to something--an essay, a play--and I can scent the whole shape of the thing, I'm like a bloodhound and I can go long hours. But I can't do that day after day--it's crazy-making.

So how can I get organized and simple enough and efficient enough to do both?

I got a heartbreakingly positive rejection letter about Shame Circus in the mail a few days ago. The director said he "adored" the second aria. Not that he "liked" it, not that he "enjoyed" it, but he adored it. You can't get better than that.

The next paragraph started "Unfortunately, it is not quite right for X theatre at this time."

I hate that. It's like starting to date someone and having them tell you that you're beautiful, you're kind, funny and smart--but. "It's not you it's me." What is it then? What???

I wrote him back thanking him for his letter and asking the usual professional questions: are there any changes I could make, where else could I send this, what exactly would feel right for your theatre, etc. And now I'm back at my desk with The Recruiter. I have a Vietnam vet who agreed to read it for me and evaluate the descriptions of post-traumatic stress.

No comments: