Men + Myself + God

Tag: books

Everything means something (lorem ipsum).

by P. Braithwaite

Everything means something. I believe this.

Those of you who are even moderately familiar with layout and design, have probably seen filler text. It’s basically text that graphic designers plug into their designs in an effort to make the layout appear realistic. This text almost always starts with the phrase: Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet…

Well, for some ungodly reason, as I was toiling with my WordPress layout, I decided to find out what the Lorem Ipsum text actually means.

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Get over it: do you really want what you’re longing for?

by P. Braithwaite

Once upon a time (4 years ago), when I was just a little baby writer preparing to start my MFA, I fell in love with Flannery O’Connor. For those of you who don’t know, Flannery O’Connor is this bad ass American lady fiction writer. She’s known best for these like laser sharp portrayals of unlikeable country ass folks. She’s raw and her prose is just….sharp. My journalism background pushes me toward writers who say what they mean. I’m not one for sprawling descriptions and flowery prose.
I like a chick that gets the point.

Anyway, for those reasons and more, I fell hard for Flannery O’Connor. I purchased her complete collection, I researched every little bit about her, I stared lovingly at her pictures and really, for a little while, thought I was her. [Update: I’ll never be Flannery O’Connor or James Baldwin for that matter.]

In the height of my delusion, I discovered a book of Flannery’s personal letters called The Habit of Being. I couldn’t find the book at The Strand. I couldn’t find the book on Amazon (believe it or not). And it certainly wasn’t in my local Barnes and Noble. And so, because I hate being denied the things that I want, I developed a three year pseudo-obsession with finding this book. One time, I saw it on a used book table, but I didn’t have five dollars cash (why God why!?). Another time, I saw it on Amazon but when I went back it wasn’t there (or maybe I forgot to go back and look).

For years, I’d stop in old bookstores, and I’d accost sidewalk vendors. I even looked for it in the Brooklyn Public Library.

No one had this book.

Year after year, I babbled about this book whenever I got the chance (or every few months when I remembered). And then, one day on the Upper West Side, I stumbled into a rare bookstore because it was cold out and I cannot resist a warm store full of old books.

And there it was: Flannery’s book of letters.

I was triumphant! I could’ve kissed the old wrinkled store clerk on the mouth! I paid my 22 dollars and, when I stepped back into the sobering tundra that was Amsterdam Avenue, I realized….

I don’t really give a f*ck about Flannery O’Connor’s letters anymore.

Sometimes we get so caught up in the indulgent, painful, obnoxious activity of longing that we forget why we’re fighting so hard. We can carry around these longings like scars, whipping them out at parties or when we’re alone and bored. We get stuck on ideas, on people, on the past. We miss a person so deeply, or lament over a period of our lives, but when we pause for a moment we don’t even know what we’re so attached to. We get so busy being victims and aggressors, that the objects our obsession lose value.

Half the shit we pine for is better off unrequited.

And so, while I probably won’t read Flannery’s letters for another five years or so, her bound letters are a decorative reminder to keep obsessing over dead white American writers always bring awareness to my longing and my pursuits.

Where is your awareness? Do you really want what you’re longing for?

Writing, Living and Shit That Blocks It

by P. Braithwaite

I’m having trouble writing lately. It’s as if a critic has crawled into my head and reads my posts with scrutiny and judgment.

It started when I shared a blog on facebook — it wasn’t my blog, but I thought the entry was cute so I put it up. Coincidentally, I overheard some coworkers making jokes and bashing what I posted. While it was funny at the time, the thought that I was being judged for posting it AND the blogger was being judged for writing it stuck with me.

I wonder if anyone reads my work and bashes me like this, was my thought.

Believe it or not, up until that point, I’d been somewhat free of that thought. I tend to blog like only people who love or understand me will read. It allows me to feel safe putting my business on front street.

That moment with my coworker made me realize that folks may judge unkindly. I have an irrational fear that people are laughing behind my back. A holdover from childhood, I’m sure…

Anyway, the critic that crawled into my head is a real asshole. That inner voice laughs at my vulnerability and makes fun of my feelings. Your gonna say that Out loud? You sound crazy and pathetic…

It’s really hard to write when you’re self conscious. It’s really hard to LIVE when you are hyper aware of what others might think…

While I’m not ready to just say “eff it” and share some of the inner feelings that are dying to come out, I will stay present to these feelings, stay compassionate to my own humanity (and occasional shame), and keep writing…even if I’m not ready to share what I’ve written just yet.

And maybe that’s the secret, to keep alive what is in your heart — even if you feel the need to protect it.

Stay well my friends. 🙂