Sunday, September 7, 2014

The "I" list

62 people have contributed to this "I" list, creating a word mosaic where one person's reality melts into someone else's. You can can consider this list a glimpse into a collective consciousness that exists only in this place, at this time, illustrating some of the ways people chose to describe their lives and experiences. The line breaks are random, to make it easier to read. Start at the beginning and go all the way through to the end; or dip in and out. You might find points of familiarity and similarity; you might discover the unexpected.

I am here. I love writing "I" at the beginning of each sentence. I am so happy to be writing again. I adore my husband but I'd love him even more if he could dance. I need to do everything on my bucket list in this decade between 70 and 80. I spent four days on Cape Cod with my three young grandchildren and it took a week to recover. I watched an adult cicada fall out of its chrysalis and plop on the hot sidewalk where it  fanned its wings. I was woken at 4 a.m. by the cat throwing up a fur ball and I thought, I don't care, and went back to sleep. I have to water one of the tomato plants everyday, even if it rains. I made a scrapbook for my mother's 90th birthday; on one page I superimposed a photograph of her face onto the bodies of Rockettes, because she always wanted to be one. I feel that my body is finally healing after a summer of recovery from surgery. I am reassured when some things stay the same. I believe shoes say a lot about a person. I would like to travel to outer space if it looks like the Italian countryside. I love to crochet scarves, thin ones, thick ones, long ones, short ones, bulky yarn, fine sock yarn, it all gets magically transformed in a few hours. I am just beginning to see myself as a person who deserves love. I think sometimes that I am more a bird than a person. I finished the summer by dancing in the streets. I understand what is not quite said. I remember what I tried so hard to forget. I am too old to live in the past. I wear bright red lipstick, just like my mother did all through my childhood.

I seem to laugh at myself with greater ease, now that I'm retired from my day job. I like to take on fake, unintelligible accents whenever I get unsolicited calls offering me deals I have no interest in, until the caller gets so frustrated that he or she finally hangs up on me. I don't know why, but odd numbers have always seemed more interesting to me than even ones. I am never restless or bored as long as I have a New York Times crossword puzzle, and a pen, in my pants pocket. I like to try to communicate with babies I've never met before by using only eye contact and spontaneous sign language. I am secretly hoping to begin again with a new identity. I am filled with compassion when I remember my father. I crave the timeless place of pulling at images and paint. I am a butterfly whisperer. I have a guardian angel. I tremble in the dark matter of my mind. I hunger for adventure. I  am grateful for my secret garden behind the gate. I woke this morning in a little hut by a pond and happily stepped out into the dewy grass to greet the sun. I watched leaves fluttering to the ground today and was secretly happy to think of fall coming. I love the wide open night sky. I dream of riding a rickety roller coaster that twists and drops deeply, taking its adventurous thrill-seekers backwards in time. I wake up with aching hip pain that dissolves away with every stretch, step, and smile. I wonder if worms get cold at night. I love to create something from nothing. I live alone and sometimes I feel lonely. I wish I could have more friends. I am loved. I look forward to news telling me, and the rest of us in The Netherlands, that we will not be at war with Russia in any foreseeable future. I am waiting as my husband dilly-dallies about taking our evening walk, a habit which I think we should cultivate. I am too small for my ego. I am enough for myself. I love to be by the water, any water: stream, pond, lake, ocean, or even just a swimming pool. I have only recently discovered how much I enjoy reading classic novels by female writers.

I am quite impressive. I have decided to grow old gracefully. I have learned that it is better to ask and be told no, than to never ask and wonder. I recall being overwhelmed with a passion for jazz when I was sixteen, and it has never left. I am partial to most warm colors in varying shades of peach, terracotta, apricot, turmeric. I plan to make autumn bookmarks soon, from leaves collected in Central Park. I was a child who often hid under my parents' grand piano which, early on, became my special, private place. I am almost seventy-three years old and arise for work at 5:30 a.m. every morning. I keep on waiting for friends to call. I think I have more in common with trees than people. I am awake to the beauty of flowers. I wish to walk away but I can’t. I collect rocks and have a room full of them where I write about my trips amid crystals in a rainbow of colors. I once drove across country, over 8,000 miles, alone — just to camp and pick up rocks. I grew up in Japan in the 1950s as a wile child spending most summer days outdoors from dawn to dark. I have a push-pull temper; I get mad and then I feel ashamed for having a bad temper. I need a lot of down time for an American; most Americans need very little, but I need a lot. I was introduced to new friends, by an old friend who knows me well, and he introduced me as a poet. I found out yesterday that my biological father had passed away on June 23, 2008. I am moving on, from "healing" to "living with gusto."

I feel centrally isolated; I miss my loved ones who live far away. I love to sit on the back porch and watch the birds at the feeder. I am on a journey of self-discovery. I'd really rather just bake something delicious. I long to have a quiet, peaceful mind. I laugh when I hear a rooster crow. I fear and welcome the future, in the same moment. I like the excitement of the unknown when traveling in foreign lands. I love August peaches on my cereal. I find myself losing things these days. I have been single for over 30 years. I have fallen in love with myself recently. I could have been a professional modern dancer. I work with dying people and it is sacred to me. I sometimes sing to my cat. I like long, hot, steaming baths with lavender bubbles. I ate a spinach salad yesterday, with apples, raisins, almonds, and cottage cheese. I am, and sometimes that is enough. I notice the tightness in my jaw, the heaviness of each breath. I don't always want to be public. I am a wit, I think, and I love to laugh, especially at my own jokes. I am an Aquarian, through and through. I used to be a barfly. I have always been very hard on myself and very critical. I raced triathlons for a decade. I cry in the shower. I know your footstep. I like the word Weltschmerz, a simple way to say “it’s a spectacular view through the black flies.” I met a new friend, we picked kale in the rain and ate breakfast in wet shoes. I sometimes pause and consider this is just a story, I can meet new characters or change the ending, life is funny like that. I got my motorcycle license this summer (because I am a really hot chic) and now I buzz around town on my orange scooter. I go down to the waterfront to visit with the great blue heron, to be with the ducks, and to watch the sun set. I once packed everything I needed into a backpack and  just walked away.

I am worried, wondering, hungry, hopeful. I fear being old. I could, perhaps; I can't be sure. I am thinking of her, and her, and her. I had a hamster when I was younger, who repeatedly escaped its cage, and one day it never returned. I feel disembodied sometimes, like a chicken without a head. I am tired of being tired. I must eat tomatoes every day, just to keep up with the garden. I celebrated my birthday last week, eating lobster with my wife and our friends. I am having difficulty finishing the detective story I started writing last month. I am a twin, a Gemini. I count dragonflies in the last days of summer, already wishing for next spring. I aim my camera to illustrate my dreams. I eat mango smothered in lime juice and chili powder then, soon, crave more. I expect nothing so I am never disappointed. I wish I could knit like my Grandma Jennie. I wonder how long it would take me to use a passport once I got one. I wonder how many good friends are left for me to make. I always wish for the mildest winter possible. I love the movies and although I'm not a film critic I do have opinions. I am a filmmaker with an about-to-be-completed documentary. I am always trying to "figure it out" even though I see the futility in that. I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about food. I am taking a leap of faith and coming into my own. I have two antique typewriters that I don't know what to do with but I refuse to get rid of them. 

I always told the truth, but nobody listened until I added lies. I have driven every car I’ve ever owned to the top speed indicated on the speedometer. I remember my hair slicked back into a DA, a pack of Lucky Strikes rolled up in my T-shirt sleeve, while singing bass with a Doo-wop group under a street lamp on a summer evening. I love the smell of fresh cut grass even when it makes me sneeze. I am disgustingly pooped. I tend wayward words and phrases back to the flock. I am an extrovert with a shy streak. I thrive behind a microphone. I am a recovering addict and it's a continuing process. I love rhythm and blues. I watch infomercials. I am packing my most precious possessions into three large rolling suitcases and moving to Cape Town, South Africa. I practice artificial patience. I get my support from female friends. I have a bad knee. I get most of my happiness from very small things. I feel like I'm not where I'm supposed to be; I really don't know what to do with my life. I hated my dad when I was teenager, but I love him unconditionally now that I'm an adult. I'm still in love with my gay ex-husband. I often think that I move like my mother and today, in my khaki cropped pants, I did. I still dream about waiting tables at the restaurant I worked at over 20 years ago. I wish I could run away and live in London under a pseudonym. 

I usually find it easy to be on my own but some times this past summer I felt lonely. I am wondering: how do I want to connect with the world? I realize there is joy in my life but I haven't always recognized it as being that. I am invisible. I count down under my breath, always ticking off the seconds. I can be the bad judge in robes when all seems hopeless and everyone culpable. I have forgotten how to spell. I am starting anew; I can feel the forces of life shifting and all becoming right as it should be. I struggle to write short ideas, in fact look at how I just keep adding words to this sentence one after the other because I don't want it to end. I am becoming comfortable with the idea that discomfort and conflict can be useful if I just pay attention. I would like to be retired already but hope it does't show in my work. I need a schedule, otherwise I get lost in time. I love the views in the valley I call home. I listen for the songs of stars. I have a "to read" pile of books that is tipping over. I lose myself in the sound of frogs and crickets. I plant purple carrots, red lettuce, yellow beets, and striped green tomatoes. I am in a long-term love/hate relationship; I enjoy it just a little too much. I brush my teeth in the shower because it just makes sense. I am old on the outside but younger on the inside. I don't mind being short but I hate having to hem nearly every garment. I find it unsettling, and also illuminating, to read my mother's diaries. I am a writer. I am generally happy but when I'm sad I just need to wallow. I remember being naked and joyful in the bathhouse in Tokyo with my women friends. 

I get it. I was bit by a preying mantis. I can't sleep without my cat at my shoulder. I keep learning that I don't know anything. I have gone months without being  here. I don't know who my mother was. I would like to sob and sob. I love going to the movies by myself, sitting in the back row so no one is behind me, and laughing or crying or hiding my eyes whenever I want. I am absolutely certain if I lost 20 pounds I would also write the great American novel, be able to make a perfect triple layer cake, learn to speak Spanish of maybe Arabic in less than a week, and my husband would surprise me with a gaudy diamond and ruby necklace I would never wear in Ithaca. I am scared of moths; I love seagulls. I enjoy a bowl of Lucky Charms on occasion. I am, sadly, my mother's daughter. I was no more than 7 years old, but I still remember moments of almost magical feelings in childhood's cave with a sharp smell of lilac inside. I wrote my name in every one of her books; this winter will not come again and no other will be like it. I still remember the gentle fall of acorns in the shadow, when I was playing in dew-laden grass with my dolls. I am a quiet believer of extraterrestrial life. I sometimes start reading aloud randomly mid-book; very, very softly if I'm in public. I love wearing buttons, but I hate buttoning them. I doubt I'll ever have enough flannel or oversized sweaters. I feel younger now than ever before. I like to make my mother laugh. I intended to grow a braid this summer but then I discovered that intention is not enough. I received posies and still-warm cherry tomatoes, picked from my friend's garden and left on my back steps, all through August. I am trying to cultivate the art of listening. I am not finished yet. 

Thank you to all these wonderful contributors:

Annie Wexler
Antonia Matthew
Barbara Brazill
Barbara Cartwright
Barbara Kane Lewis
Barbara Tate
Blue Waters
Carole Johnston
Carrie Stearns
Cora Yao
Donna DiCostanzo
Duke Ashdown
Ella Wagemakers
Ernesto P. Santiago
Gabrielle Vehar
Janet Klock
Joan Corr
Joan McNerney
Joann Grisetti
June Wolfman
Katherine May
Laura Rosenfeld
Lee Wagner
Linda Keeler
Lisa Schwartz
Liz Burns
Marcy Little
Margaret Dennis
Mary Hohlman
Maureen Sudlow
Melissa Hamilton
Meryl Young
Michael Schaff
Moira Lang
Molly Sutton
Pamela Goddard
Pat Geyer
Patrick Robbins
Paula Culver
Paula Peters Marra
Priscilla Walker
Rainbow Crow
Rob Sullivan
Rukmini Miller
Sara Robbins
Sharon K. Yntema
Sherron Brown
Siouxsie Easter
Sophia Krasnoff
Stacey Murphy
Sue Crowley
Sue Heavenrich
Sue Norvell
Sue Perlgut
Summer Killian
Susan Lesser
Susan Lytle
Sylvia Jennie Bailey
Tara Kane
Vibeke Laier
Yiwei Luo
Zee Zahava