Category Archives: Self-Image

Back and Forth

Back and Forth

If I should find a time machine, I might or might not buy it.
And even once I bought it, I might or might not try it.
To think about the future always makes me sweat,
for I am trepidatious about how bad it might get.
I foresee live-in bubbles for one or two or three
who merely turn on YouTube for whomever else they see.
Pollution would be too advanced to venture far outside—
the world turned way too violent for most folks to abide.

If I visited the future, chances are I’d see
the death of friends and loved ones—perhaps the death of me!
See our country crumble due to earthquakes or to slaughter.
See Monsanto poison food crops after ruining our water.
Our seasons turned to drought, tornado, hurricane and flood—
by turn made dry or spinning or blown away or mud.
I know there are alternatives, but I can’t help but doubt
that current politicians will let it all work out.

But if I went into the past, perhaps I’d also rue it.
I might just be happier if I chose to eschew it
I might see as a toddler that I was just a brat—
a little squirming dervish—graceless, spoiled and fat.
I might hear that my singing voice was just a bit off-key
and see the looks the others gave as they were hearing me.
If I encountered me, we might just end up in a fight
like ones I had with sisters—and discover they were right!

Yet, this probably won’t happen and perhaps it might be fun
to have another look at what I’ve seen and what I’ve done.
And though to relive some things would leave me feeling queasier,
I know that it would certainly make memoir-writing easier.
What fun to relive Christmases from year to year to year,
To see my mom and dad again, what’s more, to get to hear
all the stories of my dad and this time to record them—
to spend time with my sisters and to show how I adored them.

What fun to watch me with my friends— Rita, Lynn and Billy—
to see when we were children if we were just as silly
as little kids I see today who just seem to be reeling
with energy and foolishness and excesses of feeling.
I’d drive on roads with fewer cars to spots no longer there.
Go roller skating in Draper gym. Fall on my derriére!
I’d have a Coke in Mack’s Café and then I’d shop at Gambles.
Buy love comics at Mowell’s Drug and then expand my rambles

down to the playground monkey bars, where I would do a flip.
Then to the Frosty Freeze where I would have another sip
of orange slush and then I’d have to buy a barbecue.
(I fear that in my tiny town, that’s all there was to do!)
I’d skip ahead, then, many years, to 1971,
and fly off to Australia for adventures in the sun.
Then Singapore and Bali, Ceylon and Africa.
See everything as it once was, when it was new and raw.

Regrets? Of course. I’m human, and so I’ve had a few,
but over precognition, I prefer déjà vu.

The Prompt: One-Way Street—Congrats! You’re the owner of a new time machine. The catch? It comes in two models, each traveling one way only: the past OR the future. Which do you choose, and why?

Epitaph of a Fulfilled Poet

The Prompt: Quickly list five things you’d like to change in your life.  Now, write a post about a day in your life once all five have been crossed off your to-do list:

Find an agent/publisher
Get all children’s books published
Write a line of adult picture books
Lose weight
Find someone to dance with

“Epitaph of a Fulfilled Poet”

Fulfilling all these book orders just seems to keep me hopping.
Without the time to cook or shop, my weight just keeps on dropping.
My clothes just hang around me, from my body they keep flopping.
I’d buy some smaller ones if I just had the time for shopping!

Five children’s books are published and my agents want some more.
My grief book they can’t keep in stock—It flies right out the door.
Libraries and bookstores just keep clamoring for more,
and still my weight keeps dropping till it’s really quite a bore.

Now that I am skinny—lithe and trim and toned,
no one has to make excuses that I’m just big-boned.
And I must wrap this up soon for a suitor has just phoned
who wants to take me dancing—so perhaps I should be cloned.

Then one of me can write that line of adult storybooks,
while the other stays at home and plans my meals and cooks.
The third has time to shop for clothes and tend to things like “looks,”
and the other goes out dancing with a brand new beau named “Snooks.”

As you can see, my rhyming prowess now is wearing thin.
The last word of that last stanza I admit is just a sin.
Frazzled and with much to do, I’ve broken out the gin,
fell off my pool ladder and badly bruised my shin!

Okay, I’m really hard up for more sentences that rhyme,
so I think that I’ll stop now and just write another time.
Perhaps tomorrow I can write of something more sublime.
But for now, I think my drink could use a squeeze of lime.

Our goals just keep us going—they propel us through this life
and keep attention focused through the problems and the strife.
I’ve always kept on working as both single girl and wife,
slicing through my problems with my words used as a knife

to trim the boredom from my life and go wherever I please,
to make my living with my wit instead of on my knees.
Taking care to always mind my q’s as well as p’s.
and extract all the fun from life that I have found to seize.

Now that my life is near its end and I’ve time to reflect,
I do not choose to pray about it or to genuflect.
I don’t crave meditation or to join a church or sect.
I‘ll find my own atonement and a way to resurrect.

I’ll do it through my writing, for I’ve found that is the key
to figuring my pathway while remaining true to me.
I’m just as I have written. I’m exactly as you see.
My words have all been written, and I’m finished—“a” to “z.”

Mirror Fearer

The Prompt: The Mirror Crack’d—You wake up one morning to a world without mirrors. How does your life — from your everyday routines to your perception of yourself — change?

 
Mirror Fearer

Every time I walk past it, I look into the glass
and notice how my hair looks and then survey my ass.
I cannot help but look at it, every time I pass—
criticizing how I look, both fuzziness and mass.
And in my deepest feelings, despite my brains and sass,
I can’t avoid this feeling that men must find me crass.
And so I guess I really feel that it would be a gas
if you took away the mirrors from this self-critiquing lass!

Money Optional

The Prompt: Work? Optional!—If money were out of the equation, would you still work? If yes, why, and how much? If not, what would you do with your free time?

Since I am already retired and spend most of my day making art and writing, I guess my answer is yes. I do it because I feel it is my reason for living and without that work, life seems to lose its importance. I do it because it forces me to look closer and to think more deeply. I do it pretty much every minute I’m not sleeping. Really, I always did what I wanted to do without taking into consideration what would sell and that still seems to be the case since I’m not getting wealthy on what I do, but I swore when I retired that I would stop doing all those parts of making art that I hated: the applying for shows, the promotion, the pictures, the resumes, the mailing lists. Now I just enjoy the creation and if I am sending them out to an unaccepting universe, nonetheless, I’m having the experience of creating, which any serious writer or artist will tell you is  the most important part and why we really do what we do.

Today is my 221st post, and since it is a short one, please scroll back and read an earlier post you haven’t read before and if you have the time, please comment. 

For instance, if you’d like to know why I ended up in Mexico, read this: Foreign Tongues or, if you want a love story with a happy ending, read this: The Ballad of Poor Molly.

Thank you for reading my blog.  Although yes, I do it for myself, I can’t help but feel gratified when others find what I write to be of consequence or enjoyable.  Judy

“Adult”ery

 

JudycurlsJudycurls - Version 2

Unfortunate hairstyles of the past

 

“Adult”ery

I don’t remember, as a child, ever really thinking about what it would be like to be an adult in terms of where I would live or what I would choose as a profession. I do remember, however, two things I worried about.

First of all, I worried about what instrument I would play in the school band. I had two sisters, one eleven years older and the other four years older, who both played saxophone. As a matter of fact, there being 7 years difference in their ages, they both played the same saxophone! When I entered the sixth grade and was old enough to play in the starter band, I knew two things. #1: I had to play in the band because both of them had done so. #2: I had to find a way to be unique in doing exactly what they had done, and so I had to find a different instrument. This resolve was strengthened by the fact that my sister Patti was still using the “family saxophone.” As long as I was being different, I decided to stretch my uniqueness as far as it would go. No one in either the starter or the regular band had ever played a flute. It was exotic and not very heavy to carry. I would play a flute!!! Or rather, I would attempt to play a flute.

I faked it for two years, blowing energetically into the little hole as we sat in the band loft at games or marched along behind the regular band, practicing for parades or football games; but I never really developed much of a tone and my memory of which note was which was limited. It was really easy, though, to carry that little case about as large as a large pencil case the two blocks to the auditorium where our band practice occurred. My band instructor could not afford to be picky as there were only 200 students in the entire school system—grade school and high school combined—so every warm body available was required to flesh out the physical body of the band. If a few were miming, so be it. As long as they could stay in step for the marching band and didn’t play any really loud false notes, who would ever know?

When my sister left for college, she left the sax behind; and when I headed out for my first band practice as a high school freshman, I left that dread flute behind as I took sax in hand to continue the family tradition. I was not a whole lot better at it, but found something held between the lips and teeth was a lot easier than something held sideways and blown across and although the sax was heavier, it was held in a much more sustainable position than the flute, which was an exercise in arm isometrics as I held it aloft!!

The second worry I had about growing up was how I would wear my hair. I would lie awake nights worrying about what hairstyle I would adopt when I could no longer sport the sausage curls my mother formed around her finger each morning. Shirley Temple, who had already grown to adulthood, needed to be replaced! My hair was too long, however, to duplicate Shirley’s bouncy little curls. It hung in fat tubes down beside my cheeks, offsetting my tight little bangs curled up each night in pink rubber curlers. For some reason, both my mom and I thought this made me look real good, and I am not exaggerating when I admit that there were nights when I’d lie in bed, tears streaming down my cheeks, worrying about what I would do when I grew up and could no longer wear curls!!

So now you know why I dropped the saxophone as soon as I graduated high school and why I had to move to Mexico to escape the shame of all those years when I allowed my mother to shape my esthetic sense of hair. I haven’t owned a curler of any type for 20 years. That saxophone was handed on to the next generation of my family and its mouthpiece, at least, met its demise when it snapped in two as my niece tried to grip it with the fourth pair of teeth in three decades. With a new mouthpiece, it survived four more years—hopefully this time with someone with more talent than I. I know not where it ended up. Probably in some second hand store or donated to some child who couldn’t afford an instrument. I hope it wound up with some talented individual who could restore its pride in itself.

Now that I have been an adult for many many years, I have conquered most of its demands. I have found many hairstyles, only a few of them more ridiculous than sausage curls (see my college picture above as an illustration of this fact) and attempted only one additional instrument, the guitar. Having played only solo or in duet with a college friend who tried to mold me into Joan Baez but failed, I did learn about seven chords and learned to adapt a whole succession of seventies songs to fit into those seven chords. I played for sing-alongs with the kids I counseled at summer camp and for groups of little neighbors around the world, who would come to my house on Saturday mornings to sing silly songs. And I have that guitar to this day. But I haven’t played it for years and harbor no illusions about my prowess. It is there for visiting friends who want to play for me and as a big, cumbersome, hard-to-store reminder that I can choose my own failures as surely as my own successes.

I am an adult like other adults—growing more childish year-by-year, but in my regression toward soft food and adult diapers, I will never sink so low as to repeat some mistakes of my youth. Never ever more sausage curls or flutes held aloft like punishment. And never again will I try to be different just to be different. “The Far Side” has shown that this is nothing that really needs to be aimed for. We all grow odd enough just following the path of nature, thereby furnishing the humor for all the generations that follow us.

The Prompt: As a kid, you must have imagined what it was like to be an adult. Now that you’re a grownup (or becoming one), how far off was your idea of adult life?

P.S. Thirty years after high school, when I was doing an art show in Oregon, a man walked by my display and then did an about-face and came back and said, “You’re Judy Dykstra, aren’t you?”  I admitted the fact and asked him how he knew me.  He said he was 5 years behind me in school in the small South Dakota town where I grew up.  He was a country boy and since we’d never been in school together, I didn’t recognize him but did recognize the family name.

“How in the world did you even know what I looked like, let alone recognize me thirty years later?” I asked.

“Well, a bunch of us used to collect in the the school library and look at old annuals,” he said.  “I recognize you from your high school picture.”  Suddenly, it all came clear.

“You used to look at them to laugh at all the funny hairstyles, didn’t you?”   Sheepishly, he laughed and admitted it.  I had hit the nail (or the girl?) right on the head!!!!

No Fear

No Fear

We know within our hearts that personality
often cancels out what we can clearly see.
We all have known the men who, homely to the eye,
still have personalities sweet as cherry pie,
who win the ladies with their charm and humor that is wry,
causing them to line up for chances with this guy.

And the girl who’s plain until she starts to talk—
her face just so enlivened, you have to stand and gawk.
Made lovely by expression, intelligence and wit,
“beautiful” and “lovely” become the words that fit
when trying to describe this attractive little lass
who simply doesn’t bother with a looking glass.

Both have learned to conquer all their crippling fear—
to find the other side of doubt and kick it in the rear.
To face the world on their own terms and face it unafraid.
To take their rightful placement at the front of the parade.
But though we see what they have done, we do not always take
the road that for another seems to be a piece of cake.

You may find this poem to be most adolescent,
yet the feelings of our past most usually are present
throughout our lifetimes, though we seem to hide what we must feel,
leaving it to novelists and poets to reveal
the truths of all our agonies, the facts of all our fears—
all those things we’ve meant to face but yet hold in arrears.

I long ago discovered that writing must be true.
The only worthwhile topics are the things that bother you.
The lacks you find in others and the lacks within yourself
are what divide the poems in hand from poems on the shelf.
And so I must admit that fear’s my greatest hidden vice.
And since we all could do with taking our own sage advice:

I’ll say that with no fear, I would burn candles at both ends—
be as free with lovers as I am with friends.
I would have burned fingers, but an unbound heart.
All those lovely men, disregarded from the start
because I was too zaftig or not smart enough?
I’d face them nose-to-nose, and then I would call their bluff.

Today’s Prompt: Fearless Fantasies—How would your life be different if you were incapable of feeling fear? Would your life be better or worse than it is now?

Dreaming A Path

Dreaming A Path

Dream, Fri. Oct 18, 2013

We were at a booth in a café. It was a huge room with booths on every side and each booth had a clock, or at least I thought they did. I don’t think I ever looked. Our alarm started going off and there was no way to turn it off. It was by me and I tried and tried but couldn’t get it off. I said I was just going to unplug it, but Patti said perhaps it was timed with all the other clocks at tables and then it wouldn’t match. I said couldn’t they just reset it when we left? Someone agreed, but still we didn’t unplug it and it went on and on and on. Very annoying. Our booth came equipped with a little dog. It was tiny and light with long very curly white hair that was in loose corkscrew very long ringlets. It was so adorable and affectionate. I held it most of the time. It had legs like wires that went straight down..very skinny…and it jumped a lot. When the waitress came, we told her about the alarm and she said yes, she’d noticed that it was going off…but she didn’t do anything about it. We told her how cute the little dog was and she said yes…but then it seemed like it was the little dog who had the alarm that was going off. We ordered and afterwards I was wanting a dessert but thought I shouldn’t order one. Patti was to my right and I suddenly realized she was eating a very rich chocolate dessert—a sort of fudge flan or very moist slippery cake that was hot with a hot fudge sauce over it. She offered me a taste. It was a very small rectangle…not very big…but I tasted it and immediately said I’d have one, too. It was incredible. Still, the alarm went off. It was driving me crazy! Then I woke up and realized it was my own bedside alarm. I reached up with my eyes still closed and tried to turn it off, but couldn’t find the control. Finally I picked it up, opened my eyes and found the control. It was 8:10. The alarm had been going off for 10 minutes!!!!

My interpretation:

I found this dream in a folder on my computer. I have no memory at all of having dreamed it, and perhaps that distance makes it easier for me to interpret it. In a few weeks, I turn 67. For the past year, I’ve thought repeatedly about death and the fact that if I’m lucky, I probably have only 30 years left. For some reason, that awareness is very stressful. I feel a need to finish everything I’ve started and never completed. Earlier, that consisted of a lot of sorting, construction of storage spaces and weeding out of the contents of my house. That effort is ongoing. What also happened, however, is that I have an incredible drive to get everything published that has been lying around in file cabinets for many many years as well as a need to write new work and somehow disseminate it. My blog is part of that effort, as are my efforts to get all my books on Amazon and Kindle.

Seeing this dream as if for the first time, I clearly see that theme of time running out coupled by a sense of alarm that I need to do something about it. The little dog shows the attractive quality (adorable and affectionate) of finally dealing with all these loose ends—(note all his corkscrew hairs). Those wiry little legs that kept him always active certainly reflect the urgency I’ve been feeling to write write write.

One aspect of this awareness in my real life for a time consisted of my fear that I will stop breathing. This often gets me up gasping at night to run outside to try to breathe. For some reason I haven’t had any of these panic attacks since I started writing every morning. What I interpreted as a growing fear of death and a dread of ceasing to exist was perhaps a fear of not living and creating while I am alive.

I think the interplay between my sister Patti and me in the dream reflects a number of things. One is a difference in our approaches to life. I think in a way, she is more of a rule-follower and since she was my immediate pattern for most of my earlier life, I think a part of me feels this same need, but this is coupled with an equal and stronger need to create my own path in a direction unique from my two older and very competent sisters and to break a few rules to do so. At a very early age, much as I admired and imitated my sisters, I felt the need to prove myself. To find something to know that they didn’t already know. I found this route when I started venturing out at an early age to find new ground where they had not gone before me. It led me first into the homes of friends and strangers where I saw life being acted out in a manner entirely different from my own home. The road led further—to summer camp where I was a stranger to all and vice versa. I loved being the stranger. In choosing a college, I fell back on the reliability and comfort of attending the same school my sister had attended, but in my Jr. year I took my first big leap—a trip around the world on World Campus Afloat. That early adventure in seeing dozens of new and strange cultures set my life path. I’ve been traveling ever since and have been living in Mexico for the past 13 years.

I believe this dream depicts the sense of urgency I’ve had my entire life to “do” something with experience. My art and writing allow me to turn off the alarm for the hours in which I practice them. That small dessert might symbolize the rewards of doing what I need to do to do so.

P.S. An interesting insight I have had just as I started to post this: (And, interestingly enough, wordpress will not accept my blog entry. Perhaps it is insisting I add this P.S. before it does so.) I just got back to Mexico from a visit to the states wherein I visited my oldest sister Betty who is now in the depths of the world of Alzheimer’s. While I was there, she seemed increasingly distressed by the fact that she can no longer communicate, but one day as we were sitting in the living room portion of her small apartment in a managed care Alzheimer’s wing, she motioned to the middle of the floor and said, “Look a that cute little white thing there—that fluffy little white dog!” This was the first incidence that I know of of her actually hallucinating visually, and for some reason it popped into my mind in relation to the little dog in my dream. All of these images—of our dreams as well as our daily life—remind us to live while we can and to do what is most important to us. In my case as well as my sister’s—to communicate. Too late for her, although she continues to try. Not too late for me.

P.S.S.  By the way, the instant I completed the above P.S., the wordpress page that had continued to not allow me to post this blog entry flashed the message:  What do you want to post?  Text? Picture?  I chose text and and you have just read it.

The prompt: Freudian Flips. Do you remember a recent dream you had? Or an older one that stayed vivid in your mind? Today, you’re your own Freud: Tell us the dream, then interpret it for us! Feel free to be as serious or humorous as you see fit, or to invent a dream if you can’t remember a real one.

Note in response to this prompt: (When I think of dreams, I think of Jung, not Freud, and he continues to influence my thoughts and actions much more than Freud ever did.)