It seems I was mistaken when I chose to name this blog “Stephanie Brown Writes.” Maybe I should have used some dollar store reverse psychology and called the thing “Stephanie Brown Thinks about Writing, But Doesn’t.”
Instead of generating ideas for posts, my brain generates reasons not to post. If I’m passionate about a topic, then it’s too controversial. If it’s inoffensive, then it’s too boring. Etc., etc. And another day passes without a post.
When I was young and didn’t know much, I lacked discretion and spoke my mind. Now that I am older, it seems better to keep my thoughts to myself, especially now that technology has provided more platforms for noise than I could have possibly imagined as a kid. It’s a shame that I clammed up after I grew wiser.
Apartment hunting is yet another experience that can make a single person long to cleave to another, any other, so long as he or she has a good credit score, or even better, a cousin who can cut us a deal on a sweet place to live.
Whether your single by choice or by accident, there’s no denying the economy of partnered living. But if you’re not the world’s best roommate (after the age of 35, who wants to be?) and you don’t live out on the Great Plains, you must either cough up the big bucks or accept a home that’s not exactly a showplace.
I still find this hard to take since my ideas about single living were largely based on fictional characters from the 1970s who lived in the Midwest. Now that we’re in the 2010s, could Mary Richards find a charming apartment by the lakes? How many television producers still have staff jobs? Even Mary got laid off back in the day. So forget about living alone in a building with character. Today’s Mary had better share a basement flat with Laverne and Shirley (who have hopefully made the transition to artisanal micro-brewing) and save her money for the lean times between assignments.
Because the only compatible roommate I ever had returned to the People’s Republic of China, I tried to bury my dream of gracious single living. I moved into a small place that could hold no more than three guests at a time. But that dream keeps creeping up on me like a zombie hostess, her apron smeared with the brains of the frugal. “More guests…dinner parties…pets…an office/craft room…” she moans.
Because I failed to kill the hostess zombie, I am now searching for a better apartment where I can at least keep a pet humanely. Will the hostess zombie be appeased by my new place? Or will I have to blow her away with a shotgun again and again until I’m ready to buy a home? (Cue screeching violins.)
I went dormant last fall, but it’s time to crawl out of the hole and blog again.
Going forward, things will flow better if I spend less time worrying about what’s appropriate to say here and more time saying things. Even so, at this moment, I don’t have much to write. Hopefully, that will change soon.
I’ve been moody lately. And for the first time I can remember, I feel no obligation to suppress this state. These days, trying to level my shifting emotions makes as much sense as meddling with the tides. Perhaps I’ve reached a point where I might actually enjoy being moody. Perhaps those “feelings” songs I learned in my childhood weren’t all a bunch of warmed over hippy nonsense.
Today I was in the mood for many unproductive and negative activities. I chose not to act on the worst of these impulses, although I did indulge in a side order of tortilla chips at lunch. This unhealthy snack was the only mood-driven thing certain to have any lasting effect, and even its consequences are negligible. Which makes me wonder why I ever bothered to feel guilty for all my other moody days.
This past weekend, to my surprise, I began to cry while watching a simple music video. Part of me wondered how something so artificial brought me to tears when photojournalism and history could not. But, since there was nothing in my sentimental crying that diminished my concern for real people, what harm did it do? And what good would be done if I could re-channel my tears to the victims of true tragedies?
I was salty this morning. And as my anger rose up, it revealed that some things actually are wrong. I wanted to fight, but there was no one worth striking. No one around me was actually being hurtful, stupid, or unjust. The only thing left to do with my feist was laugh.
I realized that one thing I enjoyed about a past relationship was the arguments. I relished the challenge. I even enjoyed certain aspects of losing, if I thought I had lost fairly, because it strengthened my admiration for my opponent. Our intellectual conflicts satisfied my desire to test my ideas and flex my mind.
So, this evening, I missed someone, but I felt very little regret over this lost connection.
My new appreciation of bad moods will not lead me to seek out dramas for their own sake. If anything, I suspect it will make my bad moods shorter.
Many of us yearn for something different when we reach middle age, but embracing change is hard when you’re pinching pennies. Just because you’re frugal doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in midlife crisis thrills or experience renewal. Here are some typical midlife activities followed by quick, low-cost alternatives, so you can get your groove back without breaking the bank.
Madcap affair and costly divorce
Magic Mike on Netflix
Get a beautiful, bold tattoo.
Doodle on hand during meeting
Hire a personal trainer.
Wear spanx under so-called yoga pants.
Triathlon Entry Fee
Escape to the south of France.
Hop the Greyhound to Atlantic City.
Ride a motorcycle.
Stick your hand out of bus window.
Go on a wilderness adventure.
Ignore weeds in your yard.
Run away to a spa.
Buy the name brand lotion next time your at the drug store.
Volunteer to teach in the developing world.
Leave note of advice in a coffee shop tip jar.
Go on a spiritual retreat.
Lock yourself in the bathroom and burn incense left over from student days.
Master a musical instrument (again).
Finally figure out how to program your mp3 player.
“Take this job and shove it!”
Keep your job and goof off.
“Don’t give away the goods too soon, is what she might have told me.”–Suzanne Vega
I just wrapped up a “how to pitch” course for writers. Ironically, that’s one reason why I haven’t written much lately for my blog. The course raised a sticky internet age question, when should a writer give it away?
I’m sure I’ll come up with some rule of thumb to guide me in this matter, but it’s not a no-brainer. If I write a brilliant essay or article, perhaps I should save it for a paying outlet or one with a larger audience than my blog. If I wait for someone else to publish my work, then no one may see it. By the time I am certain that no one else is interested in one of my ideas, that idea could spoil before I share it. It will be wasted.
In spite of my concern about such waste, I confess that I think ideas are pretty cheap. After all, I have a lot of them. There like zucchini in the summer. I am almost sick of the dang things. But writing is not simply offering up ideas like so many extra squash. Writing, even for my little blog, is shaping those ideas or at the very least presenting them so that other people can use them. An idea or a piece of information may have great value, but it often needs a framework to set it off, just as a raw vegetable might need a little preparation before it can be served. (Raw food people, do you honestly enjoy eating raw zucchini?)
So, maybe this blog will be the place where I palm off extra produce from the garden of my mind.
Everyone from thirtysomething grad students to regular West Philly folks stops to look at my neighbor’s wondrous peach tree. The other fruit trees nearby don’t draw as much attention. Sometimes people gaze at the tree with an “ah ha” expression, as if seeing it helped them to finally understand where peaches come from. The come from south of Baltimore Avenue.