Tag Archives: learning

“And Now: The End Is Near.”

Blog post number 351:  Bam!

Every day, after I hesitantly press the coded “PUBLISH” button on my WordPress’ dashboard, I wait for the website’s quirky exclamations to appear on my screen:

Right on!  Bonanza! 

Bingo!  Superb!  Fab!

At least half a year ago, I stopped noting each post’s number; and as of recently, I’ve also lost my addiction to the stats columns.  It’s not that I’m indifferent toward my readership, in any way:  No sir!  I just don’t have any time in the day to check my numbers as religiously as the newbie-blogger me used to do, a mere year ago.   So:  I just collect the praises.

Besides, even if I have checked the stats, wake me up in the morn’ — and I won’t remember a thing about them.  Instead, I could tell you plenty about the remote neighborhoods of LA-LA for whose visit I’ve had to borrow Superman’s cape, so that I would beat the traffic and be on time, along with all the other pros.  For a while, in the hours of the next day, I can recall the hustle of the previous one:  the projects that I’ve pursued, the people who have delighted me; the coffee shops at which I published in between my commitments; the anxieties, the victories; the tiny defeats and inspirations.  But by the end of the week, the memory gives way to the nearest ones — of mostly yesterday.

Awesome!

Truth be told, I don’t even recall what I’ve written just two days ago.  Therein must lie the cathartic charm of art:  For once the written word leaves my laptop and leaps into the mysterious vortex of the internet, I have already lived it out completely.  I’ve let it go, you see, with more grace than I’ve ever practiced in any of my relationships.

And in the entire 351-day history of my blogging, I’ve returned to stories — to rewrite their endings or to keep telling them — in all of five times.  I just don’t do that, I guess:  Once I hit “PUBLISH”, the story gains a life of its own; and I allow for its destiny to determine where in the world it flies and whom in the world it reaches:

Magical!

Looking back on the year of daily blogging, I myself must admit that I had absolutely no idea as to what this writing adventure would turn out to be.  First, there would be the technical challenges of course:  Learning the sites, studying the patterns and manners of other bloggers, upgrading my own computer, and eventually narrowing down my art’s topic — while in the process of doing it.

But those, I immediately saw as the perfect excuses to learn:  To step out of the fearful pattern of my mind and to submit myself — to change.  In the end, as even back then I already knew, it would be rewarding.  And I was right:  It has been.  And it deserves praise.

The personal challenges that came with my now spoken — better yet, written — desire to have a public persona, I could NOT have foreseen.  When at first, the opinions of readers and friends began flooding in, I was thrilled.  But it wouldn’t be too long before I began hearing criticisms and watching how my friendships started redefining themselves.  At first, I geared-up with my anti-hating campaigns and googled other artists opinions on the matter.  But then, eventually, the angst ran out.

And it hasn’t been a surprising discovery that I have never complained about having to publish on any given day.  What I’ve been practicing — is a privilege to live in art; and the discipline of its pursuit has never gotten in my way.

And speaking of discipline:  This year, I have discovered it to be THE grace of all other working artists.  Those who succeed the most, work the most (and, therefore, fail the most, too).

And actually, no matter the hustles of each day, discipline indeed turns out to be my saving grace:  It gives me a reason to be, despite the failures.

Marvelous!

So, it’s been one challenging year, because its every day I’ve spent creating.  And after all that shedding — the mourning, the flailing, the pleading, the lashing out; the learning, the changing; the growth; the acceptance — I am proud to find myself in a place of surrender.  Because no matter all other circumstances, I do this — because I must.  Because to do anything else — would be dishonest.

And so I allow for the world to happen, while I continue to happen — to it.

And also, I allow for its praise:

Magnificent!

“‘Cause I Ain’t No Hollaback Girl!”

“Any woman who counts on her face is a fool.”

Zadie Smith, On Beauty

Not the first time I’ve heard a beautiful woman call herself “a nerd”!

As a matter of fact, I think it must be some sort of an insider saying of my clan — my half of the species capable of dusting off a compliment either due to its insincerity or whatever insecurity it has activated.

“Oh, you mean:  this old thing?”

But she would say, “Yeah, I’m a nerd,” — and she would pout, do that thing with her eyelashes; flip her hair, shoot down your heart from behind its cascade; and thrust forward one of her magical hips.  She would take a stand:  “You have no idea!  A complete.  And total.  Nerd.

And doesn’t it make you want to die at her feet, like a sacrificial slave at the pyre compiled in her name?  You goddess!  You perfection.

Celebrities say that, and all the pretty actresses.  Some stunners have testified to their once-upon-a-time addiction to knowledge as well.  And I get it, but still I find myself doubting them ever so slightly.

But of course, of course!  Brain and beauty — is one powerful combination, and I am a lifetime fan.  (Just ask my girls.  Or, just look at them, really.)

But by its very definition, it seems, beauty cannot be isolated.  It shouldn’t be isolated because we all want a piece of it, so much.  Oh, but it consoles us!  It fools, even if just for the duration of being in its company.  For just a little while, it disorients against the ugliness of our griefs.  And somehow life begins seeming quite alright.  And we all seem so much more deserving.

So, it would be so unfair, so odd, or mismatched when a beautiful thing claims to have been burdened by so much knowledge it makes her socially inept.  Because theoretically, a beautiful person should be better equipped than the rest of us:  Attracting attention with one’s mortal coil must come with a life-long skill, right?  An advantage.  A leg-up.  An in.  Otherwise:  What’s the fucking point?

But last night — or at a painfully early hour of this morning — I heard myself say to a comrade, in my low-registered half-mumble half-whisper for which I blame the native tongue of my people:

“Sorry!  I’m such a nerd.  A complete.  And total.  Nerd.”

And then, I flipped my hair.  Oh, you mean:  this old thing?

Knowledge has been an addiction of mine for — what’s the expression? — “longer than I can remember”.  Back in my childhood, I was a loner, perpetually hiding behind the book covers of all the heavy Russian dogs.  Because while peaking from behind Nabokov’s spine, life seemed mellowed out by melancholy.  And with Bulgakov — it was just a fucking trip!  A joke!  A comedy of the absurd.  Leo Tolstoy intimidated right off the bat, even my own people; while Yesenin attracted conversations:

“Did you know he fucked around with Isadora Duncan?”

Scandalous!

“They killed him in bar fight, with a knife.  Like a dog!”

And Akhmatova:  She always demanded for me to lower her stanzas, even if because I couldn’t take her any more, with all that sobering truth.  And she ordered me to take in life, instead.

Adolescence would be spent behind the spines of other dogs, more foreign, more worldly; and much less in love with the Motha’land.  But then came a day, on a bus ride to my father’s town, when I lowered a tome to catch a breath and found a pretty thing distorted in the window’s reflection, with nighttime behind it.  From behind the cascade of my hair, I examined her; did that thing with my eyelashes — and then, I went back to reading.

Because it wouldn’t change a thing:  I would still chase the big dogs and dust off the clumsy compliments from young boys and the drooling older gentlemen either due to their insincerity or whatever insecurity they would activate in me.  And I would chase my dogs far enough to the edge of the continent.  And when the big dogs jumped — I jumped right after them and swam to the other coast.

Years later, I still find myself addicted to my books.  But more than that, I have perfected the addiction to fit more life into it:  I am now addicted to learning.  Any learning!  All the life’s new things:  show me, tell me, guide the way!  And often pro bono, I grant my life the immediate curiosity so easily available from behind the spines of all the big dogs; and it, most of the time, pays it back –tenfold.

So, last night — or at a painfully early hour of this morning — I heard myself say to a comrade, in my low-registered half-mumble half-whisper for which I blame the native tongue of my people:

“Sorry!  I’m such a nerd.”

I have been pacing my apartment — with all the big dogs lining-up its walls with their spines — and I have been sweating my ear against the phone while trying to explain the new curiosities of this year.  The poor comrade could not have known that I’ve been laboring over my work for eleven hours already:  that I had written for five and researched my media for the rest.  That I have already played with a few other bloggers — other nerdy and, as I imagined, very beautiful girls taking a peak at life from behind the cascades of their hair and from behind the spines of their laptops in their own apartments, illuminated by nothing more than the light of the blogosphere.  That I’ve had a day full of life already — and full of curiosities paid back to me tenfold; but after the town shut down, I still wanted more life.  And I would find it — behind the spine of my laptop.

“Yeah.  A complete.  And total.  Nerd,” I giggled.  Or maybe I didn’t.

But I do remember flipping my hair and thinking how light it was — and how easy! — to grant my life the immediate curiosities so easily available from behind the spine of my laptop.  And even though most of the hours of my learning have been spent in solitude — in isolation so typical for a nerd — everything seemed so much fuller:

Of life.

Of light and lightness.

And of purpose whose source of enlightenment was not only knowledge — but gratitude itself, paid back to me, tenfold.

“Hush, Hush, Darlin’! Hush, Hush, Darlin’!”

This morning, he wrote:

“I was just giving you room to…”

Yes, I’m often in the mood to dot-dot-dot.  So…

I often wonder about silence:  the way it sits on other people.

I personally wear it like the lavender-colored pashmina of cashmere and silk that I keep in the backseat of my car, at all times.  Sometimes, I loop it around my arm while walking.  Too warm for it right now, I think; but then, you never know:  I might need it later.  Other times, I show up all wrapped in it, and I walk by my lover’s side peaceful, perfectly sufficient, but separate.  It’s my second skin:  within his reach — for whatever exploratory touch he may have the habit for — but then again, it’s a barrier.  A nature’s boundary.  It makes up — me.  It contains me:  My silence.  And no matter the power of empathy, no matter the reach of compassion, there is no way I would give it up, for good.

There are times when I let my companions wrap themselves in the other side of my silence, but only if they have the capacity to share my step and to adopt my pace, for a while.  Most of the time, it is best shared with those that have seen me grow up.  Sure, many loves have seen me change, learn, transform (because once I make up my mind to be with them — I go all in).  But only the selected few — the sacred handful — have kept tabs on me for years.  Many such silent walks we have shared by now, all so specifically perfect because they haven’t demanded a description.  And the accumulation of these shared silences — is what makes up our intimacy.

I watch some get unnerved by my comfortable tendency for silence; and when I tell them I was born as decidedly the only child my parents planned to have, they say:

“Oh, but of course!  Your silence makes total sense!”

I prefer to refrain from saying:

“But what do you mean?!”

Instead, I let them cradle their opinions, projecting their discomfort and their sadly absurd need to be right.  Because a “What do you mean?!” always leaves an aftertaste of despair in my mouth.  (And I am never really too desperate to name everything by its title; even it that title seems to be most truthful in the moment but only turns out to be best deserved, in the end.  So, I would rather stick to metaphors.  Or, I would rather leave it — to silence; leave it — in the mood to dot-dot-dot.)

But it does mesmerize me to watch others, in their silence.  Most of the time, they aren’t my beloveds, but utter strangers incapable of handling solitude at all.  I study their fiddling away with their radios for the best-suited background track.  They click away at the buttons of their phones — their mobilized egos that promise to grant them a life — for some distracting stories in which they can tangle themselves up; as I tangle myself up — in silence.  So discombobulated they are with their aloneness, so unsettled by the sudden lack of diversions from the truth, they reach, they grapple, they grasp.

There are others, much lovelier in my eyes; and in their silence, they are still curious.  Surely, they must be loved, by someone, I always assume.  They must be waited for, by others, at home.  But in the moment of their solitude, they seem to possess the talent for temporary surrender.  They sit in silence with an open mind, a ready fascination; as if the most unexpected gives them the biggest thrill.  And it does make me wonder if their esteem — this comfortable wearing of their skin — comes from being so loved; comes from being waited for.

Because having a home to come back to — gives them a firmer ground to stand on.  Because homecoming is always a deserving point of reference.

And then, there are the very few that dwell in silence permanently.  It may not be because they are best equipped to deal with life’s ambiguity.  But in the acceptance of their solitude, I find a grace so powerful, so contagious, it makes me want to interrupt it and say:

“But how do you do that?”

And I used to think that such ability for being had to have come from a healthy life and a kind past; from parents that wait for their children at Christmas with their favorite meals, loving anecdotes, and with boardgames in front of going fireplaces; with their childhood bedrooms still intact and photographs lining up into chronologies of their lives on hallway walls.

But not until I myself have learned to wear my silence without any secret desire to surrender it have I realized that it also sometimes comes from having lost too much to want to hold onto it.  Because it gets too heavy, with time:  all that loss and all that seeming injustice. So, I have learned let go of it, so I would never bring it into my new loves (because how can a love not fail with all that baggage in tow?).

Instead, these days, I wrap myself in silence as if it were the lavender-colored pashmina of cashmere and silk that I keep in the backseat of my car — within my reach — at all times.  And I walk — alone.

And if ever walking with another love wrapped in the other side of it, through the shared silence, I tell him:

“I was just giving you room to…”

So…

Single White She-Male

Ladies!

Let this wild cat on her eighth life tell you how it is:  A successful relationship is the hardest thing you’ll ever do. Take my word for it.  For most of us, our lives haven’t been ravaged by war or incurable disease or poverty.  We aren’t oppressed on the daily basis into a category of borderline servants in a male-dominated culture.  We are free to choose the cities of our residence, the degrees on our diplomas and the length of our hair.  So, if you happened to live in the First World Country — such as this ever-so-fascinating experiment of the U.S. of A. — that allows for enough leisure time to entertain the concept of CHOICE, you’ve got yourself a complicated task on your hands.

CHOICE. My favorite word.  Ever!  Maybe it’s because in the country of my origin — my badass Motha’ Russia — I wasn’t granted too many of choices.  Or perhaps, the hellholes of my previous six lives have prevented me from making “love” my favorite word.  But to me, a choice is the highest privilege a free man and woman can have; and if it’s been granted to you by birth — well, then:  You’re one lucky mother fucker!  No, wait.  I spoke too soon.  Now that I’ve finally advanced my station in life beyond survival of a mere immigrant, I am starting to understand that one’s right to choose comes with a responsibility.

The very purpose of my humble existence, I believe, is too collect the stories of humanity — and then, retell them; and my favorite subjects — are the magnificent creatures of my own gender.  So, as one of those coolest Amazons I’ve adopted for a sister has once told me:

“It is our responsibility — to live a good life.”

She herself was born into a culture in which women better fit into a category of things.  Having been thrown around enough by her family, she got her wits together at a criminally young age (for, I believe, NO child should inherit the suffering of his or her parents!) — and she fled.  On the coast of her new and democratic country, she spent decades molding herself into an independent, powerful woman with an income that beats most men’s, allows her to explore the world and grants her access to every possible opportunity that arouses her curiosity.  Bare-handedly, she wrangled with her — ah, here’s that word again! — choices of partners, and to this day, has refused to settle for (drumroll, ladies!) less than what she deserves.

Say, you’ve finally found “The One.”  (I cringe here a little, my lovely ladies, because I would be so very, very, very careful with granting that title to anyone other than your self.  There is no more crucial relationship in life than THE one you have — with YOU! And if you haven’t invested in that honest and intimate and most important love of your life, then you will neither be a happy partner nor make a partner happy.)

So, back to “The One.”  You’ve done the legwork and the self-examination.  You’ve explored your choices.  You’ve suffered enough in bad match-ups to live up to your better expectations; and here you are:  coupled up with a partner that suits you best.  You’re done!  You’re on the threshold of your Happily Ever After.  Hallelujah!  Right?

Nyet!

I must break it to you, ladies, but the tale of your Happily Ever After will demand continuous commitment and work.  Here is my beef with fairytales:  After an epic search for love by their heroines, these tales we’ve lapped up as little girls cut-off abruptly once the match-up finally happens.  No one tells us about how Cinderella deals with moving into the Prince Charming’s bachelor pad and handles his messy living habits.  Or whether or not the Pea Princess welcomes all the other hard things her man presents in bed due to his insatiable sexual appetite.  Does Snow White agree to her in-laws’ demands to change her last name; and is her Prince chill with her having a multitude of male friends?  When Rapunzel pops out her babies, gets a job and decides to cut off her hair, how does that sit with her lover; and how do they get past the negotiation?  See what I mean, ladies?  The questions, the work, the communication and the diplomacy required for a successful relationship — are never-ending.

So, I wish you courage in pursuit of your fairytales, the gorgeous sisters of my gender; because courage is exactly what it takes to remain in love with yourself, another person, or this whole living deal. May you stay curious, continue changing and may your partner have the balls to keep up.  But here is my most crucial spiel:  Pah-lease, remain authentic to yourself in your own story writing. Don’t follow other women’s choices, especially if those choices haven’t been examined, but predetermined by fear, laziness or the majority’s dogma.  If you are lucky enough to have choices — don’t take them for granted. You are free to write your own fucking fairytales, my Amazons; and besides that being a privilege — it is your bloody responsibility to do so.


“If You Feelin’ Like a Pimp — Go ‘n’ Brush Your Shoulders Off!”

Good morning, you courageous creations of Nature!  You Herculeses of fate!  You wander-lusty Amazons of the world!

My beloved quirky dreamers stepping into the spot normally occupied by my Inspiration (for that Amazon wander-lusts a lot on my bohemian ass!).  My gypsy friends with messy heads of curls telegraphing your love via the Northern winds.  You curious hearts refusing to give up on charity or love.  You soldiers willing to rest only in my company while stretching your exhausted thighs underneath my pine table loaded with a homemade feast.

My Angles, my Black Birds; my Peter Pans and Wendys; my Little Princes and their Brave Roses.  My Shivas.  My Bad Asses.  My Hearts.

Where in the frigging fuck are we all running to?

“Gotta do something!  Gotta be somebody!” you tell me.

I bet it is your ambition and your courageous pursuit of your dreams that makes me adore you.  But I have seen some of you slip up — but never crumble — on the way to your conquests; and in those vulnerable seconds I could NOT have loved you more.  Because it is in the way you chuckle when you pick yourself up; the way you rise up again, albeit embarrassed; the way you mend your torn-up clothes — with dignity of kings!; the way you bite your lower lips when I tend to your scratches; and the way you brush off your shoulders from the hail of the words of haters — in all that you teach me the merely invisible line between pride and dignity.  And then you take off again, pushing yourself with your impatience, or your fear of not mattering.

“Gotta get somewhere!  Gotta become something!”

Last night, a beloved woman best compared to my personal Mother Teresa was beating herself up in our phone conversation.  She has experienced motherhood late in life, and instead of living for the sake of her daughter alone — she went back to school.  Astonishing!  Off she went, my kindest LA-LA heart, pulling along a full-time job, a full-time class schedule — and a frigging stroller.

“I’ve got to do this for my daughter!” she flagellated the soft skin of her back with her frustration at the current, undeserving employer and her impatience with the world’s injustices; and the self-imposed pressure to be a better parent.

The last time I’ve encountered that mentioned girl-child, born so smart she conjugates her verbs better than most grown-ups she meets at her play-dates, she wasn’t asking her mother to become better.  Her mother’s time — was all she wanted.  And who could blame her:  In the company of my girlfriend, every person feels fully received, understood and unconditionally accepted.  Oh so many times, my red-headed Mother Teresa had gotten an earful from me about the errors of my underserving men or my own sins against my self-worth.  Yet, she remained nonjudgemental, kind — just the way a mother is supposed to be.  So, the only thing I miss about her these days — is her company.  Her time.  Her very being.  To me, she is perfectly enough; and I bet that little brilliant child of hers feels the same way.

“Well!  I’ve gotta do this, for myself!” my favorite redhead concluded last night, after a couple of my meek objections.

A’right!  NOW we’re talkin’!  The most stubborn advocate of learning, I shall not disagree with this woman’s ambition to better herself — but she better not pull that sacrifice card on me, or on her child.  Do it for yourself, your own high expectations of your humanity.  But in the mean time, please:  Treat yourself with a lil’ bit more kindness, will you?

Now, I wish I would live by my own sermon, my comrades.  Having skipped out on sufficient sleep for a month now, I am tearing through time that passes way too quickly while my dreams seem to move way too slowly, crashing the face of every clock I encounter on my way like a petulant child who’s not fond of hearing “Nyet!”.  With each new wrinkle underneath my exhausted eyes, I’ve been chalking-up the sacrifices committed for the sake of my future, accomplished and seemingly overall better self.

Gotta, gotta, gotta!” I mutter in my lover’s bed; and he — Shiva bless him! — tangles up his callused, manly hand in my hair and whispers me to sleep.

Okay!  I promise:  Tomorrow I shall rest!

…Yet already, my to-day’s heavy schedule is scratching at the front door, like a homeless, scrawny cat I’ve made a poor choice to feed every once in a while.  The sound of everything I’ve “gotta” do is speeding-up my heartbeat and making me slightly nauseous with anxiety.  Just like always, I bet I shall accomplish every one of my “gotta’s” with grace and efficiency; and when I do, I promise to celebrate with a cup of brutally-brewed black Russian tea, with brown honey.  And during my rest stops — my breathing breaks — I shall let my beloveds remind me of my magnificence and demand my time and company; for it is in the shared moments of slowness that I tend to feel most accomplished and merely enough.

But tomorrow, my beautiful dreamers, my curious bystanders and compassionate witnesses — tomorrow, I promise to do this, all friggin’ day: