Smell Me, I'm One!One year ago today, I wrote the following entry:
I think I've become a much better writer since I jotted out that rather inane dribble in order to see my own words published in my first blue-templated blog. That's only natural... the process of becoming a good writer involves a great deal of writing, and nobody ever became a worse writer for having done a great deal of writing. Practice makes perfect and all that. But what surprises me, one year later, is how much of a better person I've become.
My regular readers (all eight of you, bless your little hearts) will remember that I have been looking for a Seventh Year Change this year. Every seven years, my life has undergone a vast alteration of some sort during the course of the year... at 0-1, I was born, and I learned to talk, to walk, and to pee in the pot; at 6-7 my custody changed from my crazy mother and psychotic stepfather to my vague father and misguided stepmother; at 13-14, I hit puberty (or, rather, it hit me... like a Mack truck) and discovered the joys of masturbation and naked men; at 20-21, I moved away from home (all of a mile and a half away), lived with and broke up with my first and only long-term boyfriend (four months being the longest term to date) and started drinking heavily; 27-28, I quit drinking, transferred to SFSU, and started taking myself seriously as a writer. So now, in my 34-35 slot, I have been keeping my eyes open for the Next Big Change.
Much to my surprise, nothing seemed to change at all. I kept looking for Change, hoping for Change, waiting for Change, even on rare occasions trying to effect Change... but my life today is, on the surface, exactly like it was last year at this time. I have the same job at the same pay, I live in the same place with the same person, I am still single, I am still unpublished, I am still slightly overweight. I have not managed to institute daily meditation rituals, a clean room, an exercise regimen, or a healthier diet. My hair is a little greyer, is all.
Lately, though, I have noticed that I have been, this year, coming to many realizations about myself. I have started to understand how much Fear has controlled me. I have come to understand that I am not as put-together as I like people to think, and yet am not as screwed up as I privately believed. I have admitted to God, Myself, and Another Human Being (in fact, several) the exact nature of my wrongs, my shortcomings, my defects of character... as well as my hopes, my dreams, my history, my ideas, my prejudices, my peeves, my moments of self-hatred.
It was just last week, when I was skimming through my archives looking for a reference to a name that I have forgotten (does anyone remember the name I gave my enameled gold grasshopper with the rhinestone collar and pearl eyes?), I noticed that the first date of my archive was the week of December 16th, and therefore my one-year anniversary on the web was imminent. And it suddenly occurred to me that this, this "Mannersism," was my Seventh Year Change.
I have never been able to keep a diary or journal before this. I could get off to a rousing start, usually in a new book bought or received as a Christmas present, generally relating my New Year's Resolutions and the goings-on of any revels or entertainments I had enjoyed. I might even make entries as late as February or March, usually relating how my New Year's Resolutions had fallen by the wayside. But that would be as far as it ever got. I also kept free-writing- or thought-process-journals for college classes, when such were required, but these would by their very nature be limited to the topics explored in the classroom (though my personal life tended to creep into them, anyway). And as soon as the class was over, the journal would end.
But the classroom journals always outlived the personal diaries... because they had an audience. My whole trouble with writing had, in the past, been a lack of an audience (along with the lack of accessibility and accountability).
See, I have no discipline of any kind within myself, I only have urges; all of the disciplines I have ever followed were instituted from outside, and my routines are the compromise between those outside disciplines and my inner urges.
I sleep at night, rather than any other time that I happen to become sleepy, because I have to go to work during certain hours in the daytime; I eat distinct and timely meals, rather than snacking whenever I'm hungry, because my Grandmother eats meals and insists on my participation in this ritual; I go to my AA meeting every Tuesday because the meeting is there every Tuesday, and it's easier for me to adjust my life around Tuesdays than to find AA meetings when I have time to go to them... which is the same reason I call my sponsor on Mondays at 5, because if I left it to talk to her at some day or time to be determined by my own need to talk, I wouldn't do it at all.
If not for these institutions, this schedule of events in which I participate, my life would be a formless, shapeless progression of urges satisfied or unsatisfied. I would sleep for ten hours after being awake for eighteen hours; I would eat when I was hungry; I would write when I had something important to say. And I wouldn't ever get anything done at all. I have to have some pre-existent structure that I can plug in to, or things merely happen to me.
And since I lacked the discipline to write on my own recognizance, I had to find some pre-existent writing structure that I could simply plug into... some structure where I would feel compelled to write every day (or at least every other day, or three times a week), some place to which I had access in my daily life, in some format that allowed for freedom of expression as well as a certain audience.
Enter the Blog. In September 2001, Rula Planet launched the Galaxy Girls' website. She (or rather, her male counterpart Philo) had been blogging for some time, and felt that this forum would be an interesting outlet for the many ideas and talents of our little drag troupe... and in the meantime would work as a running advertisement of our shows and a public reminder of our existence.
I was hooked immediately. I am, after all, a performer... and the Galaxy Girls Blog was the first time I had ever been able to turn my writing into performance art. Like writing for professors or writing to or for my few friends, blogging gave me an opportunity to assemble sentences, tell stories, and express my personality and ideas to other people through the written word... and better than all of those past audiences, this audience was HUGE. Rather than one professor or one friend reveling in my written words, there were hundreds and hundreds of people visiting our website. And though most website hits don't result in a person actually reading the entire thing, I got enough feedback from enough people to really get a feeling for the scope of readership... it's the difference between a pat on the back and a standing ovation - not a difference in sincerity or support, but a difference in scale.
Eventually, though, I found the format of a group blog slightly restrictive — keeping within my drag persona when I wrote, keeping things light and entertaining, waiting for another of the group to post before I posted again so that I wasn't the dominant blogger in the group... so I decided to have my own blog.
I named it Mannersism in the tradition of Malapropism and Spoonerism, tacking an -ism onto my name so that my words would be a unique expression, not only of my own personality but of similar personalities as well as universal truths for eons to come. It didn't occur to me until later that most people would read it as "mannerisms," which is a real word (in fact, when you do a Google search for Mannersism, you will get a number of completely unrelated articles in which "mannerisms" was misspelled).
In the year since I took that step, I have redesigned this webpage twice, added comments from two different providers, attempted to move it to my own domain (the next logical step) but failed, altered my publishing tag once and instituted the tradition of punctuating with a piece of beefcake or fashion photography (interspersed with occasional drips of the finer arts).
And, since that day, I have grown as a person. I have learned to time my depressions, I have seen patterns in my behaviors, I have plumbed the depths of my own history, and in the process discovered a great deal about myself that had hitherto gone unnoticed or unexamined. I have made my secrets known, to others and to myself. And I have heard back from you, my readers... met people in person and in print, forged acquaintances and friendships that I hope will continue to grow and flourish. I have received positive feedback that bolstered my confidence and invaluable advice on the solutions to my problems. And in the process, I have become smarter, stronger, more expressive, more serene, and all in all simply happier.
So here's to another year of me and my Mannersism, another year of personal growth, of increased writing skills, of new friendships and strengthened ties, and of beefcake. Thank you for taking part in my web existence!