Louie. My mother. She is full-blooded Bohemian (as in, yes, there was a country now in East Czechoslovakia called Bohemia and my grandparents were from there). What does that mean? That means that she is obstinate. It means that she has her way and nobody else’s way of doing things. It means that she has a great sense of humor, a firm sense of self, and a silent temper. Silence is a really bad thing. Silence indicates, as with small children, that either something is being plotted on you or that my mother is so angry that she could spit. Fortunately, my mother does not spit. Unfortunately, that icy silence can go on for eons when mere seconds would do to get the point across. If she does speak, you had better be behind something substantial, because my mother hardly ever yells. When she does, it hits your heart like a hurricane-force wind and a tsunami of emotion rips through your soul like a hot knife through butter. Louie is not one to mess with. “Louie” is not my mother’s real name, by the way. That is a private joke between her and me. I call her “Louie” as a result, and she calls me “Stomper” (another inside joke).
I am having a rough day and I do not even know why. Does that ever happen to anybody else? People find things to blame a bad day on, but mine is mainly just a rough day for the sake of roughness. I do have a lot on my mind, though. I am going to apply for the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Degree Program at Southern New Hampshire University. It has been made to sound like a tough program to get into, but I was not worried about it until I was made to worry about it — like there is some expectation that I get into this program. I want to take the classes in this program and I like what the program could potentially open up for me in terms of a future endeavor, but the pressure is coming from inside me. The pressure is coming from myself! What if I do not get in the first time? Well, I already have a backup plan. I will take the first three courses in the Master of Arts in English and Creative Writing Degree Program that will transfer to the MFA Program and then try again. Do I even want to be a writer, though? Do I want to teach online classes? Am I capable of any of that? I do not even know! I do know that I like to climb more than anything, and the next best thing to climbing is writing about it. I do not know how to manage the divided attention, though. I am trying to get in shape to be able to climb better, while at the same time trying to get into the hardest writing program (and most practical) I can find. I want to climb. Did I climb today? No. I am writing today, though. I write every day, whether I climb or not. I write about many things, but I could climb so many things, too! Why am I writing instead of climbing right now? FEAR. There is a pandemic going on. A worldwide pandemic is nothing to scoff at, even in Montana. After having been sick with pneumonia for two months and weakened severely by it, I do not feel that exposing myself to the climbing gym environment is a safe thing to do yet. YET. I will go back to climbing. I will get to where I am climbing daily again. It is a long road back, though. I can feel that. Writing, however, has gotten easier because I have been practicing doing it. I do not know if I say anything that is of any consequence to anyone, but it is the time that I am deliberately practicing that counts. That same principle applies to climbing. I must say that I am frustrated with the ground and progress I have to make up in that regard. This pandemic cut me off from the one activity in my life that can put PTSD in its place. Writing has been my go-to action in climbing’s stead for the time being. I rather enjoy writing. Will that enjoyment be pushed to the side when it becomes an assignment, though?
I am reading a book called Grit written by Angela Duckworth, © 2016, and it is a fascinating page-turner about the psychology of grit. First, grit must be defined, and then the research takes on a life of its own from there. I am really enjoying this book — at least I was until today. Nothing seems enjoyable today. I did not even get an enjoyable nap in because it was, like most naps, fraught with interruptions. Most of the time, I just go back to sleep and enjoy another “section” of my nap, but today, I just decided to get up because I was having a bad time of it. I guess I am just not “gritty” enough. Everybody has bad days, though. I would like my days to be filled with satisfying and challenging climbing and the occasional brilliant line of prose in my writing. Mostly climbing, though. I did not even climb today because I am afraid. That makes me angry, and PTSD magnifies that anger into rage that seethes beneath the surface. I want the world to be okay again. Not like it was, maybe. There are a lot of things that we need to change, but there was a feeling of some kind of control before this pandemic hit that is gone now. There is no control. The only “control” we have is to self-isolate…from everyone and everything, inside structures that are familiar to us and that contain our stuff — the places that we call homes. I miss climbing. I have not had the faith that everything is going to be okay for decades, now. I miss that, too. There was a time when I had that faith.