A List of Ten Things I Saw or Did Over The Last Week: An Exercise and Invitation

The List

  1. Visited my aunt at the hospital, but she was asleep.
  2. Drove to the wrong hospital.
  3. Cried at work.
  4. Sincerely considered if I was about to get mugged at an out-of-town Starbucks parking lot – I didn’t.
  5. I read over fifty pages and half of them were Plato & Aristotle.
  6. Went to Target with my boyfriend to buy chocolate milk.
  7. Moved into my sister’s bedroom.
  8. Watched way too much Bachelor in Paradise.
  9. Discovered a new true crime podcast.
  10. Watched a movie about Ted Kennedy with my dad.

 


The Exercise

My creative writing professor had us do this exercise a few days ago. Writing the list was strangely cathartic? After I read it over I had this feeling of compassion and a gentle little love for my piece of humanity in this world.

After writing our list we had to take on an objective, detached perspective and write a few lines about what kind of person would write such a list. This was a lot harder than I expected. But here’s what I came up with (revised because I’m finding my in-class work sometimes lacks a bit of personality? I don’t know.):

This may be a person who seems to value family and relationship. A person who is a little on the broke side. A bit of a homebody, spending their time reading and watching trashy tv.


The Invitation

This exercise worked on so many different levels. For one, that kind of list-type journaling is very therapeutic. Two, it showed us how things (or people) can be interpreted in so many different ways if enough context is not given. (Some of our lists made us sound like terrible people! But we’re not terrible people! I mean, my classmates don’t seem like terrible people!)

If you’re still here, I want to invite you to try the exercise. Reading my list made me wonder about other people’s lists. It made me wonder about my friends’ lists. What would they put on their list? My mom – what would make her ten? And then I started wondering about strangers. The barista at Starbucks that was a little snappy today. My student the other day who took the time to make eye contact and ask me how I was doing. What would her list look like?

Because when I talk to my friends and family I tend to give the highlights – the things that I have deemed actually significant. But what about the rest of it? The little things that make up the day-to-day? Because, in the end, aren’t those the things that make up the stuff of life?

So. I want to see your list, if you’ll share it with me. Wherever you are – whether we know each other in person or not. Take out a pen and paper or open up your notes on your phone and then hit the comment button above or email me at ak.chapa@gmail.com.

And then maybe sometime later we can try the second part of the exercise. For now, let’s just take some time to slow down and give space to the little things, however insignificant, or even terrible they might feel. This is the meaty life-stuff, my friends. I want to learn to love it.

Introductions.

It’s been a while, and I’ve gotten rusty, and I feel guilty about neglecting this little space so I felt it was time for some re-introductions!

So, hello! My name is Ana. I teach English Literature at the most magical little high school in Texas (that’s a fact). It’s the best. I have always loved stories and writing and have dreamed for a long time of becoming a published author. I have an undergraduate degree in business management (which is a long story), and in just a few days I will fulfill a long-time dream as I begin my graduate career in Creative Writing! I’m nervous, of course. While I’ve been writing stories pretty much since I could write, I’ve never taken a creative writing course in my life, and up until that university acceptance letter (which doesn’t really feel like it counts, honestly), I had never gotten any formal feedback for my work. Still, words can’t describe how happy I am to be starting this journey. Six-year-old Ana is heaving a big sigh of relief. Finally, she says, We’re doing the thing.

And, of course, the thing is writing. Writing for fun, writing because it thrills my heart, writing because it helps me make sense of the world I live in. But this feels like the inciting incident in my journey to becoming a legit author. You know?

I also love school. I always have and I think I always will. I love new notebooks and well-crafted pens. I love textbooks and reading and note-taking. I love listening to professors – listening to their stories, their experienced perspectives, and their take on their content matter. I loved it as an undergrad studying business. I can’t imagine how great it will be studying literature and writing. If I could, I’d do like Buster and just go to school forever (Arrested Development reference, my apologies). But alas, ain’t nobody got the time (read: funds) for that.

I’ll be turning twenty-six in just over a week. Typically, I love birthdays. They are a sense of grace to me, always a time of reflection, starting over, and feeling very, very alive for a few weeks. I’m feeling a bit unenthusiastic about this next birthday, however, because for some reason I’ve spent the last year thinking I was already twenty-six. I feel like I missed twenty-five and now twenty-six is here for real – which, really, is not true at all. Twenty-five very much happened and it was a deep and magical and rough and wild year. It was good. “A rose by any other name…”, right? Yeah, twenty-five happened, and maybe I called it twenty-six a whole bunch of times, but it happened and I was there for it, and it was good.

I am the oldest of five daughters and my sisters to me are the most precious, most interesting, most beautiful humans to have ever walked the planet. I love my parents more than anything. My relationship with them is probably the one I’ve worked on the longest and hardest and I am terrified of the day they’re no longer here.

I have a boyfriend named Aaron who is the kindest, good-est person I’ve met in my entire life. I used to hear people say things like that and always thought it was so sweet but I think I’ve met the one who really is all the good things. He really is.

I am a romantic who has for seasons preferred to live inside the beautiful epics and dramas of her imagination rather than look reality in the face and do the work to make it beautiful. But I am learning to love both – to not neglect one or the other. I am learning to care for and nurture my mind that can dream up so many wonderful things. And I am learning to be brave and live with my eyes wide open, and to coax my little hands to do the work to make dreamt-up beauty a reality.

I am excited about this new season. After all, it really does feel, in the words of Mr. Fitzgerald, as if “life starts over again” in the fall. And I can’t wait to write it all down.

If you read this far, thank you. I really can’t say how grateful I am. Also, will you tell me a little bit about you? You can write me in the comments or to ana@awilderwhim.co.

With love,

Ana

 

Hasty Propositions (Nonduplicity)

Crack me open and look inside.

I give you permission.

But do it quick, please, before I change my mind.

Don’t say you’ll wait for me – that I can do it when I’m ready.

For who could ever break a bone, still attached,

when it well protects all the soft and tender flesh

from the shame and thrill of being known?

So crack me open and look inside.

I’ll close my eyes and you can even touch.

But do it quick, please, before I change my mind.

an artist is born.

The artist finds her voice in creating. So I will create. I don’t know what my “point-of-view” is yet. I’ve tried to blend in for a long time. Point-of-view is dangerous when you’re trying to blend in.

But no more. The artist finds her voice in creating, and so I will create.

And also, I will call myself an artist. No kind-ofs, sort-ofs, maybes. From this moment forward, in the mirror, an artist stares at me unblinking, square in the face.

January

The thunder and the breeze mix with the smell of someone barbecuing a couple of houses over and my eyes begin to sting a little. The sky is groaning, turning an angrier and angrier gray, with a little patch of blue peeking out in the distance. It looks like a summer thunderstorm. My favorite. At least I think it is my favorite, but who knows – ask me again in the summer when travel plans are ruined because of sudden rains and I might have changed my mind. Still, the point is that it isn’t summer. It is winter. And it has been the longest one yet (again, ask me this time next year, who knows). But today, right now the air is warm and thick with balmy summer rain. Warm and thick with cook-out meats.

But the point is, the point is it is still January and I feel like it will be January forever, and this brief moment of summer is serving as a painful reminder of all the idyllic pleasures that we’re missing thanks to this winter’s seeming endlessness.

Right now, the thunder sounds like hours and hours of solitude and rest. It brings back memories of lying in bed with my head resting on the windowsill, my cheek pressed against the cool glass, and the hours and hours that could pass with nothing much to do but read a book or watch the rain. The air smells like freedom and childhood and sadness that you know will eventually fade, like sadness that fits like a blanket and not like a straightjacket.

Because there’s a difference, right? There is a sadness you can bear because it will eventually fade. And then there’s the kind of sadness that sticks around a little too long and you start to wonder if it’s been January for 52 days instead of 27. You begin to wonder whether you’ll ever get to wear shorts and tank tops and feel the sun against your calves and see a sprinkling of freckles on your shoulders again, or if your wardrobe will now and forever be comprised of layers upon layers of stiffness and warmth and calculating every task by how cold you’ll have to be to complete it.

Today right now it feels like summer but I know it isn’t but just please, please, please – don’t let January last forever.

dec. 2, ’17

the day is cool and clear, mostly all sun with a little bit of rain as you drive through some spots of town. the breeze blows kind and eager, pushing the tattered flag back and forth back and forth. it’s a strange side of town to see the striped flag flying old and beat in a private backyard. then again, maybe its location explains while it’s still flying in such a beat-up shape instead of having been retired long ago according to the proper protocol.

dragonflies whiz by, adding a bit of enchantment to the scene as my eyes wander down the alleyway behind the coffee shop i frequent on saturday mornings – but so do flies.

balance.

there are things to do today, tedious tasks that i do not want to face. tedious tasks feel daunting on a day like this. on a day like this, i want to wander down that alleyway and see where it takes me.

like a child, i want to walk down unknown roads, forgotten by this world, and discover new ones.

there are things to do today, daunting tedious tasks that do not fit in such a cool-and-clear, mostly-all-sun-with-a-little-bit-of-rain kind of day.

but that’s not true, is it?

any kind of task can fit in any kind of day if i can make it so.

i can still see the dragonflies going deeper and deeper into the alleyway, but with a silly little ache in my chest, i turn away.

i have some daunting tedious tasks to face.