Let's be hypothetical: The Power of the Editor

I am currently writing a 100% hypothetical, non-autobiographical, fictional scenario in which a protagonist deals with an ex-boyfriend. In this scenario, the protagonist sees some pictures which she really didn't care to see to confirm a truth that she knew to be so, intuitively, but didn't really care to think about. Pictures paired with the holiday memories of a year past make for a great birthday present. Thrilled with the findings, the protagonist struggles with the best way to process through the past.

In this completely hypothetical story, the protagonist is named Nancy. Nancy can be a bit impulsive and has a tongue to cut like a knife, so rather than take frustrations out on small animals or complete strangers, Nancy decides to go straight to the source. Letters, presents and pictures are brought together in a box of waned happiness. The plan is delivery on the doorstep of the offender, with a note to cut to the soul, and perhaps a car covered in dog feces. As an editor to this scenario, I persuade Nancy against the feces idea with the reasoning that the task of collection alone would prove a shitty process. Nancy reluctantly agrees and moves on to the soul cutting note.

Carried away with emotion, Nancy can not be trusted and I step in as the writer and editor of this situation to guide her words. She shows me draft #1:

"Have a great f*cking life, B*tch! I hope you choke and die."

I give Nancy props on her ability to capturing blatant precision in such a moving statement. However, if I were to give a note in this situation, I might be a little less forthcoming with emotion. That way, the recipient couldn't immediately write our dear protagonist off as being crazy and embittered. Nancy assures me that she is not crazy and embittered, just very angry. I tell her to keep thinking and writing.

The next morning, the sun is bright and the sky meets Seattle around the edges in a flurry of pink and purple. Nancy comes to me early in the morning, hopeful with draft #2. It reads as follows:

"There are so many things I would like to say to you that I am actively choosing against voicing. I could say things to shred you down to a raw and empty soul. But quite frankly, there is no point and I know any tears you shed will not be sorrow at hurting another person but horror at being found out. So I will leave it at this: I am done praying for you, but I sincerely hope that one day you find something to make you a better person- someone with honesty and integrity.

Take this box of lies- I am done with it. I don't need it to hold me back from where I am going. Perhaps you will find something in the refuse worth recycling.

Thank you for so thoroughly dismantling and cutting me free of the false hope that Christian boys are at all worth the skin they inhabit. While you wallow in the filth of what you are, I will be flying with the stars."

Nancy seems happy, like she has said everything she wanted while still remaining as civil as the situation would allow. I take her note with me and ponder it throughout the day, agreeing to meet that evening. It is better than the first draft, for sure, but something doesn't seem right. As her editor, I'm determined to identify the problem and discuss it with her. Then it hits me, this note is filled with "I" statements. For a situation needing this level of sensitivity and caution, I would opt out of writing myself into the note. After all, why put yourself out there to be counter-attacked when you are already the one hurt in the first place? This will not do, and I tell Nancy so.

She is crushed, but she agrees to try again. Several days pass and she returns, reluctant and confident. Draft #third-time's-the-charm:

"You didn't get away with anything; you are still a liar and a fake. Maybe someday you will see the value in honesty and integrity. For the sake of those around you, one can only hope.

"I'm returning these lies. Maybe somewhere in the refuse you will find something worth recycling. Just make sure to mean it this time around."

With this note, as her editor, I believe she has finally said what she had hoped while maintaining her own integrity. Will she still follow through with her original plan and give the note and box to her offender? As the writer of this fiction, I still haven't decided. After our work together, I am more concerned about the development of my character Nancy than the ultimate outcome and feelings of a worthless boy. I have the power as writer and editor to decide. What will I do with it?



I was only gone to Mexico for two weeks. I shouldn't be experiencing the level of culture shock that I am. However, now that I am back, I can't decide which reality is less real: the lure of warm and relaxed Mexico or the busy, cold-shouldered running about of Seattle. Right now, Mexico stays stubborn in my mind and I try to fight off the illusions of missed priorities so screamingly present in the States.

Mexico won over my heart in record time. Part of me is happy to be in Washington, home for the holidays and gasping awe at the snow covered mountains. An equally big part wants to make good on new friends' promises of travel companionship and lodging- buying and boarding the next plane ride out of town and saying hello to the life of a gypsy. I am still in shock at how simple and fulfilling life can be. With the scrambling and working and keeping the nose to the grindstone of the American work ethic, we still haven't found the things that make happiness a lifestyled reality. I have laughed more in the past two weeks than an entire year.

I like who I am in Mexico. I laugh and smile constantly. My eyes turn bright and my step seems so light that I must be flying. The unnecessary is stripped away to leave the raw material of life and living. My reality : Ganas de vivir! : Desire to live. This is sketched on an artisan's arm that agrees to teach and force me to speak Spanish. The memories of Mexico are locked like gold in my memory. I pull them out, warm and shining, to illuminate my eyes. Smiling, they see through the illusion -the smoke and mirrors, bustle and burden- of everydaylife.

When asked the reasons for my current high, I answered a friend this: For years beyond years I have been placed in a culture where I feel I don't belong. I have been tossed and blown about dark waves that almost drowned me in the obligations and unmet expectations I felt forced to believe. Thread by thread my soul unraveled to these things, thinking no other option was available aside from painful submission. In Mexico, I experienced a solid ground I have searched my life through and back. My feet planted finally and standing after so much uncertainty felt solid. My full height realized on this ground, my head feels as if my thoughts soar with the clouds and stars.

I don't aim to condemn the past that budded me, but rejoice in the future blooming and pruning I hope my future holds. I'm back and adjusting to the cold, but from inside out Mexico-in-my-heart warms the tips of my being. I am happy; heart, mind and soul happy. My eyes smile and see the beauty in everyone I pass, if only they could see that same beauty. Mexico has made me a better person and the world around me, even in Seattle in the dark winter, glows life inspired.

Mexico, te quiero. Regresaré.


Fuzziness of Language

As of last night, I have been in Mexico for over a week. My body has nearly adjusted to an 80 degree temperature change, I have adapted my wardrobe to accommodate the tastiness of my skin to a myriad of bugs, and I no longer risk giving myself intestinal unrest by almost drinking tap water. This time abroad has convinced me of the human body´s ability to make do in all the different ways we try to break it down and shock it. Go bodies!

A development I was not expecting is the way immersion into a different language takes your mind hostage and blurs its edges so thinking becomes nearly impossible. So many nights I sit with my journal, curled up under the stars, staring at a blank page while the colors and images of Mexico stay stubbornly locked away in my head, unwilling to make themselves into cognitive thoughts. Words thoroughly escape me. Or, at the very best, I am left with a stew of Spanglish splattered together in little better than a first grade reading level.

However, even with language adaptation is possible, if not discouragingly slower than the ways a body adapts. When I first arrived, nothing made sense. I was left smiling the vacant smile of a gringo foreigner, nodding agreement at who knows what propositions were presented to me. I`m sure in the first several days of my stay here, I agreed to buy anything from vendors, said yes to eating animal brains, and agreed to go dancing and make out with random local guys. I did not make good on any of these smile-nod promises and have more than likely supported the impression that Americans are either stupid or dishonest. After my first full Mexican day, my mind felt fuzzy and confused, suddenly unable to comprehend the speech presented.

This started to pass relatively quickly. By day two, I could understand most of the conversations happening between my friend and various venders and locals. I would listen, wide-eyed and fuzzy brained, catching snippets of words I understood. Day three I could let people know that I understood most of what they asked, but couldn´t speak in return. I was surprised the things I didn´t remember from 8th grade Spanish class, and how little those things really mattered in understanding and being understood. I felt adventurous by day four and could order frutas y cervezas from the little tienda. I feel a growing urge to try out language, especially with children and older people who speak a little slower and laugh with you rather than at you.

However, by learning a new language, I seem to be trading the older one out. At one point, I found myself in a loud internet cafe, trying to type out essay questions on childhood development and psychosocial tendencies. My brain was in a funk. I couldn´t remember simple English words or sentence structures. Even typing a simple email to my parents was laborous and nearly impossible. As loud Spanish was exchanged around me, I found myself trying to incorporate Spanish words in place of my forgotten English ones. I walked to the hotel in a daze and took a three hour nap.

I didn´t expect language acquisition to fully capture any form of developed voice and have a new respect for travel writers. I don´t know how they do it. Hopefully, this is just another aspect of adaptation I can encourage my body and mind to accept. I look forward trying.


In Mexico

Five star sunsets...

...every single day.


First Frost

Midnight skies cross the void, causing festive merriment and crusting the grass with one million dancing, singing, laughing stars. This night, first frost inverts the world as the universe crunches beneath my shoes. I'll puff out white clouds of stilled adoration before cold bones and screaming blue fingers blind my sight with apathy.

I went to a concert known as "The Rounds," a collection of artists brought together to make a larger whole. I watched dozens of artists celebrate the beauty of the world. Painters painted, poets spoke, and musicians traded songs like playing cards. I was, in every sense of the word, audience to the art created by camaraderie and collaboration. My seat as observer grew increasingly uncomfortable as all my senses stayed tuned to the beauty before me. By encouraging artists to play and collaborate with each other, relational dynamics form and further separate the distance between performer and audience. We observe the budding friendships, secret love affairs and artistic rivalries, understandings and misunderstandings that grow in the stage light but quickly fade and die with the approaching day. Rather than interaction between performer and audience, we sit entranced and slightly voyeuristic at the artist/artist bonds. This left me with a feeling of guilt and shame. Why could I not be with them? What sets me so profoundly in audience- in waiting- while others so joyfully and beautifully arrive?

The stars are set like diamonds in the sky. I know this image and set of words has been placed together before Petrarch and Shakespeare. However, this realization does nothing to take away from the ever growing beauty of this deepening night. Sometimes the best thing to be said remains in a silent acknowledgment- a brief nod from my end of eternity back to the giants of art and expression. I like to think they nod back. That way silent understanding can sit in the space of thousands of years and on the first frost of the season, stars can be diamonds.

Would I- if my arms stretched high enough and my fingers proved as strong- would I pluck those diamonds from their thrones and store their beauty in my pockets? Would I put them in my mouth and suck them down like hard candy in an attempt to infuse inspiration into the fibers of my being? Could I call myself an artist, a writer, at that point or would I need a whole bucket of twinkly, lemony jawbreaker stars to ease this nagging appetite of insecurity? Perhaps I am the force separating myself from the stage and given the chance to make my soul fly, I clip my wings for some unknown and driving fear of rejection.

Fear can make an audience of artist. I attend wonderful performances and enjoy them, but am left feeling unnerved, as if a desire so deep and strong is awakened at the mere suggestion of art. Restlessness drives me to a bar at 12:00am. I sit scribbling to candlelight, drawing inspiration from stars distant through foggy windows and courage from a brimming glass of pinot noir. Here in the deafening noise of pop music and pick-up lines, I can be artist, or writer, or anything at all. The anonymity spurs me on to greatness.

Perhaps the fear of becoming is the yawning, lethargic shadow friend that remains ever looming. The fear of, not becoming something narcissistically outstanding, but distinctly myself. Instead of stepping past the shore and into the waves, I find ways to distract myself. I choose one relationship after the other to define the bounds of my existence but am left bitter when my universe is too small. I open up within another's world where things are safe, predictable, not alone. I give myself completely and wholly over to outstretched and pulling arms for a solid eight months before resenting the embrace I not so long ago thought safe. I shudder and cringe at the weight of limp arms. I stop eating in an attempt to disappear from a reality turned nightmare. I run away, leaving behind an empty, wanting embrace that I once filled. I vomit the cycle like wine from my pores. These aged dreams stink like cheese I've never liked. I am single and unnerved, standing at the brink of the unknown. Greatness? Ruin? Truth? Dare I step beyond this shore and into the dying night?

The waiter announces last call. Is this my last call? Guys struggle to secure the phone numbers and nightcaps cumulative of a night's work. I listen and watch. I am the awkward, quiet girl, sitting in a bar during happy hour- writing. Even here, I am audience, watching people pass and placing myself distinctly outside normal. Perhaps my anxiety comes from balancing one position of audience with another. I listen and watch. I read. I lose myself in the lyrics, lighting and staged laugh of performers. Maybe I need to break the limbo like bread dipped in wine, all in feet first. Maybe I need this last call and one more glass of pinot noir. After all, nothing is more futile or finite than a lack of alcohol.

I stand here, at the brink. Should I remain solidly ashore or ease into the ocean, black with night and filled with crashing waves and sirens' voices? I feel closer to the stars when swimming but danger looms among the rocks. I have been told this truth in stories fresh from my birth. Waiting, waiting, waiting...

I step out of my car and into the lawn, realizing the grass is alive with millions of dancing, singing, laughing stars. Grace has brought the skies to my feet when my arms fell short. Here, in the first frost, can I dance among the universe of dreams and forget the what-ifs and why-nots of cemented and crusty habits. In the sparkle of the sky above I imagine a thousand giants- Shakespeare, Keats, Steinbeck, and Lewis- cheering me on with twinkling eyes and brimming smiles, whispering a lullaby to guide me through the crushing rocks and waves.