On Clutter

Last Tuesday, I put the endless stacks of sheets into the closet. Finally. I’m resisting editing that sentence, even though I know it’s a bad beginning. It’s really a bad sentence in general. But I’m resisting. I want to try writing this piece all at once, badly, just to get something out.

In November I did my one-blog-post-a-day challenge, and it was so fucking hard but it was so fruitful! By the end of the month, there were thirty pieces, all about different things, all written at varying levels of honesty. Almost all of them had something good hidden in them, a little gem, that I will use later. So that challenge was a success. But the problem with challenges is that when they’re over, you can let yourself off the hook. You can say “alright cool beans. I’m tired now. I’m gonna watch Netflix at night instead of forcing myself to pump out yet another blog post. Yay! Celebration! Sigh of relief!” And then you can lie to yourself and say “I’ll write one blog post a week, instead of once a day…but after I take a little break.”

So five months later, here I am! Back at it. Not doing a daily challenge this time, just writing regularly and putting stuff out there.

Just for the record – and fyi, “the record” is pretty much just my overactive need for approval and recognition, things that I mostly need from myself, that I almost never give myself, yay for therapy – I have been writing almost daily in my journal. The first evidence of journaling I have is from 2001 (I was six). My family went to visit my 20-something aunt in California. I remember feeling a strong urge to write in this sparkly purple journal she gifted me. It was so beautiful, so empty. It was waiting. At least I felt like it was. I wrote about seeing the elephant seals sunning themselves on the rocks by the ocean, my handwriting was big and loopy, and I felt this weird satisfaction from being able to write something down in a little book all my own. I liked that nobody but me would ever see it, so I could write whatever I wanted.

I wrote a year later in that journal that I thought my best friend’s father, Les, was “brainwashing my dad.” I think I had never seen my dad agree with anyone before, and the fact that he was nodding along to what Les was saying was shocking to me. I was genuinely angry and afraid for my dad, and I wrote about those feelings in my journal. A “boiling hot feeling” spread through my body. I thought my dad would lose himself completely if he acknowledged any more of Les’ opinions. It wasn’t that Les’ opinions were scary or wrong. It was that I was terrified seeing my dad accept anyone else’s perspective as valid. It wasn’t normal.

To be fair, I had also just watched the Scooby Doo live action movie where everyone gets possessed and lose control of their bodies, so the fear of being brainwashed was pretty present in my mind.

Then there was my fourth grade teacher. Mr. Baker saw the writer in me immediately, and made it his mission to nurture that identity. He was a writer, and actually encouraged all of his fourth grade students to keep their own journals, and read pieces to the class. Pretty much all I remember of fourth grade was writing writing writing. Every single day, my best friend Sophia and I would be the last to leave the classroom. We were either the most disorganized, or the least concerned about getting out, or the most chatty, or a combination of all three, and Mr. Baker would ALWAYS send us off with a hearty “don’t forget to write!” Every singled afternoon. It stuck. I’ve kept a consistent journal since fourth grade, without fail. So. Much. Material. So. Many. Ridiculous. Stories. So. Much. Processing. I fucking love it.

And since this was originally supposed to be about clutter, I’ll just quickly describe the clutter around me in my office. I did finally put the linens away in my closet. About 8 months ago, I took them out of the closet to organize them into piles – this piles is the towels, this pile is the winter sheets, this pile is the summer sheets, etc. Very exciting. The problem was, once I organized them, I didn’t have shelves to put them on. There are not shelves in the closet, because my partner and I just haven’t had time yet to build them. So I just put the individual piles on this big white IKEA chair that we got from my parents, and left it at that. It was easy to find each thing, at least, but it was terrible because my office was basically one big linen closet all winter.

Last week I decided enough was enough. I was putting the linens back in the closet, organized, shelves or no shelves.

There’s still clutter, though. In the right corner I have all of our house documents, including our deed and other important things, in a folder waiting to be filed, along with piles of music books, a broom for cleaning the upstairs bathroom, CDs that Chris and I have no intention of listening to, paintbrushes, paints, empty photo albums, empty binders, empty journals, and a collection of old calendars from my middle school years.

In the left corner of my office sits a desk that I found on the side of the road in Vermont and toted back to Rochester. Chris and I painted it this awesome eggplant color, and now it’s covered with art magazines that are “weighing down” a collage I made a couple years ago that got a bit curled from our move. There’s also a huge prickly pear cactus that we repotted recently, thinking it would do it some good to have space, only to find that repotting it was a huge mistake. So now it’s in rehab on the purple desk. Then there’s my little blue paper organizer that holds folders of receipts and checks. It’s kind of teetering on a pile of art magazines, just barely staying up. Then there’s piles of envelopes and stamps, also perched on top of the art magazines, that I use to send poetry to my patrons. Then there’s a pile of paper of various thicknesses and colors that I use for art and poetry. And to top it all off, I have a pile of piano teaching materials sitting on top of the art paper pile.

It’s all very overwhelming once I start writing it down. But the thing is, I’m doing the best I can. I actually keep our house pretty well organized. I actually look around me with a fond amusement. I think it’s delightful how messy and in-use my office is. Eventually I’ll create zones and more shelves and blah blah blah. But for now, this is what it is. This is where I’m at. And that’s okay.

The most important shelf in my office is my journal shelf. I have all of my journals, from 2001 to the present, lined up on that shelf. My history, my healing, my process, my trauma, my experiences, my family, my friends, my pain and joys, my core and my wanderings, everything is in those journals. Most of them look different. Most of them I received as gifts. All of them I love and cherish.

On Desire (revisited)

In honor of the last day of my daily writing challenge, I am reconnecting with the same topic I wrote about on the first day: desire. Here’s the original post. That day, I asked an important question. Can desire be trusted?

Here are a few things I’ve learned about desire this month:
1) Desire is not the same as disintegration. I can fully desire something while keeping my values, self, and identity intact. In fact, I can use desire to live life with more integrity.

2) I trust myself.

3) I can’t control most things, and desire is just one of many things I can’t control. That’s okay.

4) Desire is not an action. Desire is a guidepost. To desire something is not an automatic decision to pursue that thing. The decision stands in the way of action. Desire can be heeded, and it can be brushed aside.

5) BEING OUT OF CONTROL IS NOT DANGEROUS. BEING OUT OF CONTROL WITHOUT A SUPPORT SYSTEM IS DANGEROUS.

6) Yes. A line can be drawn between joyful attraction and dangerous obsession. And there are so many different kinds of love, that this binary doesn’t really exist anyway.

I wrote last month that “I might be running away from my own stubborn refusal to allow my desire to take up space.” That was true. I don’t want to tell some false transformation story here. I’m not much better, a month later, at letting my desire run free and do its thing. I’m still scared of it. I’m still scared to laugh a full belly laugh because someone might take advantage of my joy. I still feel cautious about showing too much interest in strangers, out of fear they will rope me into some complex plot to drain me of all my money and energy. But something has shifted. I wouldn’t have been able to write that list a month ago, and I owe that to my daily writing. Sometimes it was hard as fuck to force myself to write, but I combed through my values, behaviors, and experiences in a really unique way. I wouldn’t have been able to do this in any other format. For that, I’m grateful.

Thanks for following along this month. If you want to get to know me on other platforms, please consider following me on Instagram, joining me on Patreon, or subscribing to my YouTube channel. I’m gonna switch back to poetry now. At least for a bit.

On Honesty

I’m gonna be honest, I’m looking forward to this daily writing challenge being over. I’m tired of prose. I miss poetry. I miss not making any sense, but making the most sense at the same time. I don’t wanna write coherent sentences anymore. But I must. I’m sticking to the challenge. I almost switched into poetry tonight, but then I stopped myself. Siena, I thought, you gotta finish what you started. There’s a reason you wanted to write prose every day, right? A reason, even if you can’t remember it right now. You can’t just give up.

Except the thought was much more like: you’re being lazy. Just write about how you don’t wanna write. You have to write anyway, so might as well be honest.

And that’s not even how it went. It was really more like: what the fuck am I doing here on earth. Why did I open my computer again? What is the meaning of all this bullshit?

Alright, it’s time for some truth-telling. There were reasons I started this challenge, and I do remember them, and here they are:
1) I was moving from Rochester, NY to live in Big Coppitt Key, Florida for the month. It seemed like a good opportunity to challenge myself, since I was placing myself in a new environment. It’s sometimes hard to start a new habit when you’re surrounded by the same stuff.

2) I wanted something I said on here to be true enough to enough people, that the post would go viral and I wouldn’t have to work anymore to have a platform for my voice. I wanted the chance to be completely myself without constantly trying to tell people why they should follow me, come to my shows, or give me money. I was tired of using my “Story” as a marketing tactic, like I feel forced to do in my music business.

3) I think I’m a really good writer, and I want to become a great one. And, I want other people to think I’m a great writer. This one pains me to write here. I don’t think anyone should be motivated by wanting other people to think they’re good, so I try to keep this as secret as possible.

4) I seem to be more into words than music. This is another difficult one for me to write down, because music is my “career,” whatever the hell that means in 2021. Music is what I center my identity on, at the moment. I guess that’s a more 2021 way to say it. So, saying that I connect more with words than I do with music is a bit sacrilege. It’s a bit squirmy. Do I need to choose between them? No. But do I need to parse out this balance between words and music, and understand the relationship between them better? Yes. And I started this challenge hoping that the true shape of my desire, for music and/or words, would start to emerge.

5) I’m going to publish a book. I don’t know when, and I don’t know what will be in it, but it’s out there. Well, it’s in here. It’s out there and in here simultaneously, and the book will get written at some point. I saw this as the practice round.

6) I love language. And I missed writing language that was public. I missed the thrill of knowing someone would read your words, that you were sharing something of yourself. Turns out I love performing even when it’s not musical.

7) I like the communal idea of a blog. I wanted to see people’s comments, to see their reactions to my stories. You get to converse with people without actually having to sit down with them and sip coffee for two hours.

8) I took the month off social media, and this seemed like a cleaner, more truthful (less influenced by the algorithm) way to share myself with the world. I still felt connected to other people, but didn’t have to pander to the unspoken rules of Instagram and Facebook.

9) I had a lot of questions. Not a lot of things made sense to me, including my own reactions to my home and my partner. I needed to figure some shit out, and this seemed like a chance for me to do that. Maybe once I was away from my familiar backdrop of domestic partnership, home, and performing grind, something would reveal itself. And if it did, I would catch it. I’d write it down.

So why didn’t I want to write tonight? I told you already, I’m tired of prose. I kind of got more into it once I started, and it was nice remembering all the reasons I decided to do this challenge in the first place, but I still feel this heavy sense of purposelessness. Also, I’m tired of myself. This whole month I’ve been writing about my own experiences, my thoughts, my inner world. It’s almost blasphemous how self-centered the blog format is. Ignoring the community. I thought I was writing for “the community” (whatever that is) but I might just be blowing hot air.

How do people spend 80 years doing this shit? Living with all the questions all the time? We’re all just wandering around trying to make something out of ourselves, trying to figure out what it is we really want, trying to figure out how to love and be loved. It’s all complete bullshit, but it’s so beautiful too. The heady realization that we can keep learning, every single day, makes me feel alive and a little less tired. I do think writing these posts every day has made me feel more alive. Maybe.