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The End of an Era

OH!REVISEDART2

Once upon a time, when dinosaurs and flip phones ruled the land, I was known to blog on occasion. Then I got lazy about it. Then I started writing a book. Turns out while I was writing that book (by which I mean procrastinating and crying and eating waffles), blogging became passé and now everyone wants a more up close and personal experience. Who knew? For what it’s worth, I totally missed Tumblr, SnapChat, and I’m sure a million other methods of communicating I don’t even know about, because I’m old, yo.

Listen, I never pretended to be an early adopter.

So, this is the end of the blog. Yet I can’t bear to take it down, even though it’s mostly just a bunch of whining about how much people bug me, and god knows I don’t need a permanent record of that. So it will live here in purgatory, behind the last tab on my website, until I finally read that book about organizing your life and then I will douse it in gasoline and light it on fire, or whatever she says to do to the things that take up unnecessary space.

This leaves the occasional hole in my universe that can’t be plugged with long-lead essays or Twitter posts, so if you’re interested in getting the occasional letter from me in that vein, or possibly some other ranty thing that’s bugging me (but definitely NOT about appearances or publicity, unless it’s just an afterthought to some real content), sign up on my website here. No spammy spam, I promise. And I won’t share your info with anyone. That’s gross.

See you soon? You never know.

xoS

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Construction Zone

construction zone

I need to completely rework my blog page in order to incorporate it into my new website. (If you landed here from http://www.shannamahin.com, you’ve probably already noticed that it sticks out like Will Smith’s ears. What? You’ve never noticed? Here.)

My blog can’t just transfer to my website. I’m not even sure what I have to do to make it happen, but there are a dozen other things that are taking precedence over figuring it out. And, to complicate matters further, a lot of the links below to things I’ve written in other places have become obsolete. It’s basically just a big old cobwebby ghost town up in here that doesn’t really match the feel of the fancy new other thing I have going on, so a big part of me wants to just scrap it and start fresh.

I have a tendency to do that a lot in my life, often to my detriment, so instead of acting on this impulse, I’m just going to let it stay here for a while and we’ll see. Some of the best things I’ve accomplished–my new book; a 15-year marriage that’s still going strong; a faithful, old dog who is living his golden years in bliss–have come from not scrapping it and starting fresh, so we’ll see.

Although I will say this page is kind of reminding me of the beginning of 5th grade, when I switched from one Catholic school to another and I wore a different color uniform from everyone else for the first two months. Hopefully you’ll be nicer than those 5th-graders were. Assholes. Anyway, bear with this sad little page. It will get better.

Edited to add: When I went to publish this post, my first in forever and ever, I got a notification from WordPress that, just to add insult to injury, there will now be ads on my site because I don’t have a premium WordPress account. So … enjoy the cobwebby, antiquated content AND the ads while I figure this shit out. You’re welcome.

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vonnegut quote

I’m not very good at belonging. There are a million neurotic reasons for that, which we certainly don’t have to get into here. I can’t afford to pay all seven of you who read this blog to be my therapists, even if we could work out a sliding scale and a payment plan.

My yoga teacher makes endless fun of me for my perverse insistence that I don’t like people. Then he always gently reminds me that it’s really hard and also really important to stay honest and vulnerable in the world. There’s something else I want to say about that, but I keep losing my train of thought because I’m too busy being horrified that I just started a sentence with “My yoga teacher…”

He’s right, of course.

I’m currently in a town of just over 2000 people, which, think about that for a second. There are probably 2000 people between wherever you’re sitting right now and your favorite Thai restaurant, the one you call when you just want something delicious and you don’t want to change out of your stretched-out sweatpants. A town of 2000 people is intimate.

That said, even though this is my second extended trip, I don’t know anyone here, save for the small-talk acquaintanceship with the men and women who sell me books, beverages, and some of the best falafel I’ve ever eaten. That’s okay. It’s how it should be. I am, after all, here to escape my reality and get some work done. But it’s impossible to exist in this town without hearing about the various goings-on of its more storied individuals, specifically the famous writer couple who divide their time between here and Brooklyn and the unofficial mayor who split from his partnership in one of the town’s 2.5 bars, only to open an Airstream-trailer-turned-taco-truck in the adjacent empty lot.

Wait, I’m lying. God damn it.

It’s not impossible to exist here without hearing about it, it’s that I’ve tuned my radar to that exact frequency. Ugh, and here’s the thing I don’t want to admit: the reason I’ve done so is because I had brief encounters with both of them on my first trip here a couple of years ago that were…well, they were marginally polite, but definitely distant. There was a definite vibe of “hey, nice to meet you, now go away.” Which, for what it’s worth, I totally get. It’s probably how 87% of the people I’ve ever met would describe my part of our initial conversations. And I’m not big on pithy, catch-all aphorisms that preach unknowable universal theories, but there’s a Kurt Vonnegut quote I love that veers dangerously into bumper sticker territory and it feels apt here:

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.”

That whole thing that my yoga teacher makes fun of, my misanthropic disdain for the world around me, is a lacquered veneer that protects me from divulging my squishy truth: that I’m really afraid you’re going to meet me and somehow intuit what I struggle to reject–that I’m damaged and irredeemable, not worth the investment. And then, when I’ve actualized that self-fulfilling prophecy, or quite possibly just projected it onto our encounter, it becomes my life’s work to take you down along with me. It’s an endless laundry cycle that leaves me worn out and limp with shame and self-hatred.

The innate problem with changing locations under the auspices of escaping my reality is that I’ve brought it along with me. Again.

Today I’m going to try not to do that. With heartfelt but possibly unnecessary apologies to the famous writer couple and the unofficial mayor of Marfa, who likely don’t even know I exist.

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Marfa Bound

you are here

marfa3

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[insert witty epitaph here]

One of the eleventy billion things that bugs me about Facebook is the thing that happens when a celebrity (or, y’know, notable person) dies and everyone posts RIP So-and-So on their status. I can’t really articulate why this is  so irritating to me, but it is.

That said, I’m sad about David Rakoff, and I wanted you to see this, if you’re a writer (and even if you’re not):

 

And look at this stream of amazingness, a Tumblr of some of the gifts he gave his friends over the years.

RIP David Rakoff.

 

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This. Just Fucking This.

 

Seriously, can we talk about Fiona Apple for a second? She’s so fucking talented I don’t even know where to start.

I live in a grass-is-always-greener state of mind, so I’m a little sad that she doesn’t write books, because her songs tell stories about the human condition that make me weep, make me laugh, make me curl into a ball on the dirty bathroom rug and murmur her words over and over to the cold, white tile and the toothpaste-stained mirror.

If Fiona Apple wrote books, my copies would be underlined and dogeared and covered in tears and snot and sweat.

How can you not love someone who uses the words rubicon and folderol in the same fucking song?

We have one degree of separation, Fiona and I, and she doesn’t even know it. A million years ago, when I was young and firm-fleshed (and, as a side note, the fact that I am no longer either of those things is currently causing me an embarrassing amount of angst, which, in turn, is making me appreciate her music that much more), my roommate dated one of her brothers. There are so many stories I want to tell here, but they’re not mine to tell. So fucking painful for a memoirist. Maybe I’ll write fiction someday.

Then, a lifetime later, my best friend lived with that same brother for many years. I spent a lot of time at their house. There were barbecues and birthday parties that Fiona attended, family  events with lots of laughter and wine and cigarettes. And yet, aside from casual greetings and random, multi-party conversations, we never spoke to each other. I was intimidated, I’m not gonna lie.

I’m shy. You wouldn’t necessarily make that assessment about me, if you met me at a party. My armor is well-crafted and shiny. But still.

This was a long time ago, before (or around the time of) her amazing album, Extraordinary Machine. And long before her current release, The Idler Wheel… both of which–and especially if you listen to them in their entirety, back to back–are a better memoir than anything I’ll probably ever churn out.

Then, even later (or what I really mean is more recently), I worked for an actress who starred on a primetime network show. I spent a lot of time bringing her–the actress–shots of wheatgrass and the newest Chloe pants on memo from Fred Segal. And, in my down time, I hung out in the trailer alley on set, trying to anticipate her next need. The second second on the show was the former assistant to Fiona’s famous ex-boyfriend,  a lauded indie director with whom she had a long and tumultuous relationship. We shared war stories, he and I, and the general consensus–no matter how much shit we were willing to talk about our current employers–was that Fiona was the real deal, an artist who was–is–bound and determined to tell the truth about herself, and, to a larger degree, the world, by exposing her own raw, ugly, beautiful reality in every line of every song she’s ever written.

I don’t know.

This is the thing I’m trying to say: Fiona Apple makes me feel like I’m not alone in the world.

It’s not the only thing I want from true art, but holy fuck, it’s all I need right now.

Thank you, Fiona.

 

EVERY SINGLE NIGHT

Every single night
I endure the flight
Of little wings of white-flamed
Butterflies in my brain
These ideas of mine
Percolate the mind
Trickle down the spine
Swarm the belly, swelling to a blaze
That’s where the pain comes in
Like a second skeleton
Trying to fit beneath the skin
I can’t fit the feelings in
Every single night’s alight with my brain

What’d I say to her?
Why’d I say it to her?
What does she think of me?
That i’m not what I ought to be
That i’m what I try not to be
It’s got to be somebody else’s fault
I can’t get caught
If what I am is what I am,’ cause I does what I does
Then brother, get back, cause my breast’s gonna bust open
The rib is the shell and the heart is the yolk and
I just made a meal for us both to choke on
Every single night’s a fight with my brain

I just want to feel everything

So i’m gonna try to be still now
Gonna renounce the mill a little while and
If we had a double-king-sized bed
We could move in it and i’d soon forget
That what I am is what I am ’cause I does what I does
And maybe i’d relax, let my breast just bust open
My heart’s made of parts of all that surround me
And that’s why the devil just can’t get around me
Every single night’s all right, every single night’s a fight
And every single fight’s all right with my brain

I just want to feel everything
I just want to feel everything
I just want to feel everything
I just want to feel everything

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Boys!

 

This is making me laugh so fucking hard because: John Patrick Shanley, Jr; it was something I heard during a PBS interview with Ted Kennedy; here’s my resume/that’s just a photo of David Beckham; she is literally the worst.

Also, ironic knit hat/basketball jersey combo, and that soundtrack.

Also, the creator’s Twitter name is @dangermoses, which makes me happy. Just watch it.

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The Kindness of Strangers

 

Without going into unnecessary detail, the past several weeks have been a fucking shitstack. Painful doctor’s appointments (everything’s fine), aforementioned relationship reassessments, an ugly legal situation with a family member. Cake icing: the other day, I thought the frisky mambo my dog was doing in his sleep was just a new and charming quirk. Nope. Fleas. Hundreds of them, blood-swollen and voracious, a plague in my bed. Cue the horror movie soundtrack and smash cut to me, naked in the bathtub scrubbing one profoundly unhappy dog with people shampoo (because that was all we had). One flea pill, one dog bath, three human showers and five loads of laundry later, crisis averted.

If only everything in life was so easily resolved.

In my last post, I had a confessional moment about a bad day I had last week. A couple of close friends, people I truly adore, reached out with words of comfort and wisdom. So valuable. Equally valuable was an ongoing e-mail exchange with a writer I haven’t met yet, who shared a little bit about her own struggles—a moment of intimacy I’m so grateful for.

I clipped my Facebook and Twitter accounts last month, mostly because I was spending entirely too much time worrying about who liked me or what everyone else was doing without me. Social media is a hamster wheel of comparison and envy I just don’t have the constitution for, at least not right now. It’s freed up a lot of brain space, which is great/scary, but the added benefit is that I no longer have access to the fuzzy, distant connection with my friends and acquaintances that keeps me from reaching out to them in a more personal way.

I’ve sent and received more phone calls and emails over the past month than I have in the previous six. And they’re so much more meaningful, so much more direct than reading “Just got back from an idyllic trip to Croatia” or “So, this happened: [insert humblebrag or adorably self-deprecating incident recap here].” Which is fine and all, but there’s something about knowing a tiny bit about what’s going on in someone’s life—through social media, I mean—that creates inertia in me, that ramps up my already sizeable unwillingness to reach out and make a more personal connection. Personal relationships are already fraught and difficult for me. The last thing on the fucking planet I need is something that makes me feel less inclined to be connected.

And, re: connecting, I’m in Santa Barbara right now, finally putting a face to a writer penpal I’ve been conversing with for over a year. It’s weird, and sometimes awkward, and mostly kind of awesome. He and his wife—I’ll call them John Gregory and Joan because they are, indeed, a whip smart and very amusing writer couple—have been remarkably kind and gracious to me, plying me with dinners, cocktails, a comfy townhome to stay in.

I’m still feeling battered, bruised, sad. But today there will be a fried egg sandwich at Renaud’s, a slow walk on the beach under a perfectly overcast sky. Later, I’ll go to their house, pet the soft ears of their adorably liver-nosed Jack Russell, maybe another visit to the bookstore.

Someone asked on another blog recently if it was about the journey or the destination.

Today’s it’s the journey.

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Confessional Blogging 101

 

I can’t stop thinking about Hedy Zimra. I didn’t know her. I’m not even sure what happened to her, but now she’s dead. Hedy wrote beautiful, weird short stories that I bookmarked in online literary journals and read again and again. There was just something that I wanted to keep. Like this and this.

After she died, I read every tweet in her Twitter feed, looking for clues. Where’s the tipping point? I couldn’t parse it.

Her daughter wrote a diary post for Rookie just a couple of days after she died, and it makes me cry every time I read it.

*

Yesterday the doctor who did my preliminary interview at the sleep clinic kept circling back to the psych questions.

“Do you think about harming yourself or others?” he said.

“Yes. Don’t you?”

“How often?” he said.

“Every day.”

He raised an eyebrow.

“Mostly others,” I said. “Does that help?”

“Not really,” he said, without even a hint of a smile. “What about thoughts of suicide?”

“What about them?” I said.

“Do you have them?” he said.

“I thought this was a sleep clinic,” I said. “I have a therapist.”

“I’m a psychiatrist,” he said.

“Really?” I said. “How’d you end up here?”

He didn’t want to answer, muttered something about the brain-sleep connection, looked away.

Fair enough, I thought.

*

There’s a big hole in my heart from scooping things out of it:  my mother’s ashes gone, finally, from the trunk of my car; a five-year friendship I cherished, scattered to the blowing winds of insecurity and judgment; another, longer relationship I should never have called a friendship in the first place. All gone, wrenched from my body with words sharp as an ice pick, with silence loud as a scream. Last night I stood in my bathroom and hit myself in the face until my knuckles hurt worse than the hole. It’s as bad as it gets, and then hopefully it gets better.

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The Truth Will Set Me Free

Because the worst thing about living a lie is just wondering when they’ll find out.

 

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