Tomorrow, I publish the first three volumes of my collected writings. For 28 years, I've devoted my life to writing: blood, sweat, tears, heart & soul on the pages consistently - coming to it with love, fear, passion, sorrow, despair, rage, and transcendent joy - and I continue doing so still. I realize the work ahead of me. This is only the beginning. And I realize I'm not doing this for money or recognition or to be an entrepreneur or a personality or to coerce anyone to do anything. I write and now I have books for sale and to keep my head on straight about it, I liken it to making hotcakes.
I want to remove all the give and take, all the bargaining, all the rules. I keep writing books and now I'm selling them. If I made and sold hotcakes, I'd want people to buy and eat my hotcakes. They could gorge themselves on them or eat them slowly or throw them on the ground after one bite. That's up to them. They could eat them alone or share them with their friends or family or do whatever they want. But I'm going to keep making hotcakes and offering them. Have some. Buy them. Take them for free. Whatever you want. I'm going to keep making hotcakes because it's all I know to do. So have some hotcakes. I'll be here my whole life makin' hotcakes. There's no right or wrong or good or bad. Just me making hotcakes and maybe you wanting them. And maybe sometimes it's hotcakes season and maybe sometimes it isn't. But I'll be making hotcakes regardless and by hotcakes I mean books and when it comes down to it, it's no big deal. It's just me making books and everyone living their own lives and doing what they do and sometimes wanting certain kinds of books or hotcakes.
You can find out more about my hotcakes here:
Minor: Volume One The Journals of Meghan McDonnell
Novice: Volume Two The Journals of Meghan McDonnell
Limbo: Volume Three The Journals of Meghan McDonnell
Thursday, December 17, 2015
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
Looking back on my high school years, I feel like I was always filled with this mild existential angst and I could never locate its source. I wouldn't go back to that era if someone paid me. It's so challenging to be an adolescent; not a kid anymore but not an adult. A multi-year limbo of confusion and hormones and ennui; unsatisfying, not cathartic at all, practically voiceless. And for me it happened in the mid to late 90s. I feel overwhelming gratitude that I didn't experience cell phones, Facebook, Instagram, texting, FaceTime, and on and on as a youth. Kids have it far harder now than I did.
The following passage is me weeks before my 17th birthday, on my way to summer camp in Northern California. I was thinking of Brian, a boy I'd met in Alabama and had a crush on. I was also thinking of Matt, a guy I'd known for years but whom I'd never thought to consciously look at in a romantic or sexual way though it had always been in the back of my mind. At this stage of my life, I had never been in love. I couldn't wait to be. I couldn't wait for passion and desire and for places to channel and fulfill them.
Saturday, June 29, 1996
I’m on the plane to Sacramento. Five minutes ago, I stood at my gate and the sun was shining in the windows. Looking out on all those planes felt like it did when I was leaving Alabama. Brian and I have a link and I will see him again. He called me on Thursday night and we had the best talks. He said, “We have to keep in touch,” and I hope we do. (“I still believe she was my twin” - Bob Dylan).
I picked Emma up and we went to her house with Elizabeth. We talked and played guitar all night while I thought about Brian. I wrote Emma a letter and left it by her bed. Yesterday, I picked Margo up from Cat’s Eye Café. We went to Lincoln Park and had an awesome talk about guys, our “guy style,” and got smoky.
I drove to Oliver’s last night but he wasn’t home. I stopped by Mason’s and seeing him made me realize that I have changed and I need to be with a guy who is solid. I don’t want to live how I used to live. Not that it was so bad when I was with him, but I could have done without it.
I came home and Oliver called so I packed for my trip before driving back over there and drank a brew and chatted with him, Elise, and Matt. Some others came over and we went outside to look at the moon. Matt and I wound up sitting in the living room. He told me he was very attracted to me and said that he was seeing me in a different light. We talked about how we’ve known each other for so long but we don’t know each other. I told him I was attracted to him, too. I asked if I could write to him and he gave me his address. He walked me outside and we stood there hugging and we kissed and now I’m thinking about him and it feels good to know one back home will be thinking of me while I’m gone. We talked about how things were different the night I came to Oliver’s to hear them play a while back. All the sudden we took a look at each other.
I have no idea what awaits me for the next two weeks. I want to marry someone in Alabama and I want Matt fucking Warner. How do these things happen? After all this time, it’s safe to say I want him. I’ll write you in Cali.
Wednesday, December 9, 2015
When I was a junior and senior in high school, I used to visit my sister, Elizabeth, at college on the weekends:
Sunday, June 2, 1996
I had SATs yesterday and I went shopping with my Mom. I went down to the Greyhound station and right before I boarded, I saw a beautiful guy load his bags and get on the bus. I walked on and every aisle was taken so he moved his stuff for me to sit down. I met Jude and we talked our way to Bellingham. He told me about where he’s lived (Peru, Prince Edward Island, and Kentucky). He was on his way home to his girlfriend from San Luis Obispo. We told stories about high and low times and he affected me in a good way. We exchanged numbers and I wonder if I’ll ever see him again. He wondered what he’ll be doing next year on June 1st and promised to remember me. He was beautiful and that sucks because it wasn’t like that. His shit came from the inside out. It came through in his eyes (brown “light” eyes that have seen places and things). I don’t know why I get attached to and affected by people.
Elizabeth and Martin gave him a ride home from the station. He invited us in for a bowl. His girlfriend called and sounded pissed but he was sweet to her. I said goodbye and that’s one more person to add to my memory.
Elizabeth and I went to a party and sat on the porch. I told her how soft, peaceful, and beautiful Evelyn Blackburn is now. Having cancer has changed her. I told Elizabeth I was thinking about Jude and that I feel a connection to people. She told me I realize that all human beings are part of the same huge cell. When one of us is hurt or distraught, it affects everyone.
I told Jude that I wanted to remember his face and he said, “You’ll remember,” with his silhouette against the window and the trees, like something out of On the Road. I hope I remember. After we got back from the party, I went to the lounge and chilled with Hannah and her friends. Everyone left and it was just me and Paul. He’s a cutie. I have this feeling that I need to go home and talk to Emma.
Monday, December 7, 2015
The following entry is a decent summation of my summer between sophomore and junior years in high school. Does every 16-year-old read On the Road? Is it mandatory reading for American youth?
Tuesday, August 22, 1995
I’m not mentally ready for school. I’m reading On the Road. Even when I don’t feel like it, I must write: thoughts, songs, phrases, memories, stories, poems. Tilda was supposed to come home today. She’s been gone for almost a month.
I went downtown with Tula and Emma. I saw Bradley playing at the market but we didn’t talk.
I can’t relate to who I was before this summer, from my birth to the end of spring this year. It scares me that I remember so little about wonderful (and shitty) times I’ve had. This summer was the first time that I lived in the present and dreamed about the future without looking back into the past. I feel detached from it even though I usually dwell on the past.
I was whole and peaceful this summer. That made it easy for me to meet people and experience life especially since I wasn’t letting my past bog me down. But I met Bradley and let my mind get carried away with thoughts of him.
It seems that you start out whole and full and good - and you give your mind and heart to someone and in doing so you lose those to them and become a “shell of a person.” Sometimes you think you’re giving your soul away but that is the one thing that is free and can break away from anything that makes you crazy or sad or that makes you lose your sense of self.
I want to sing and play music. There’s something awesome about playing out thoughts and emotions through an instrument. I once asked Emma and Bradley if they thought about how awesome it is that a guitar can make such beautiful sounds and that you can hear someone’s whole being in a song. They gave me weird looks and said, “No.”
I hate it when you try to say something and people don’t hear you and make you feel like a spaz. It’s funny when you write or think something bizarre and your facial expression is calm and neutral. I’m being random but I think this journal should be for my real thoughts, not just “Oh, I went to a keg and it’s December 6th and I ate an apple.”
Friday, December 4, 2015
Four years ago during this season, my marriage fell apart. I expedited it with bad decisions and impulsive behavior. Every time this part of the year rolls around, I think of Christmases past. You can't hide from Christmas. Every year, it finds us and indifferently insists we go through its graces and stresses: family, finances, memories, gift-buying, guilt. Today, I'm sharing reflections of where I was 4 years ago, the worst time in my life. Carson was my husband. Jim was my mistake:
I felt myself on a wild, soulful adventure like men who rock climb and summit mountains. I considered who I was to Carson, to my family, and I felt there was not room in those realms for my womanliness, my passion, my power. As I became lost and gone in Jim, Carson was lost and gone in his own place. He didn't know my landscape and I didn't know his.
The problems with secrecy in budding affairs are that it's harmful and hurtful to those who should be in the know (the spouse) and it's a binding agent for the would-be lovers. Being bound together in secrecy and something "special" fuels it. You talk yourself into believing you're like Tristan and Isolde or Romeo and Juliet- your love (and its secret) adds romance and an erotic charge. And it never works out and it certainly never lasts.
Truth felt like a messy, obscured business and I felt like most of us aren't great at discerning it, let alone telling it. Like Emily Dickinson's "Tell all the truth but tell it slant." We cower in the face of truth but we carry it in ourselves. We hold it within, aware it can't be expressed even though we feel it in every fiber of ourselves.
In Jim's stories about his past, a pattern emerged: he was only attracted to married women. Considering his parents' (failed) marriage was predicated on infidelity, I came to see it as coded in his DNA, a genetic predisposition (read: malfunction) to equate love with betrayal. Like nothing is worth having unless it has to be wrested from someone else. Jim would relate a story and end it with, "I didn't do anything wrong." He was telling me, "I'm not a man who takes responsibility." With most other guys, I would have seen him as a walking basket of psycho-emotional fucked-up-ness. Why does that endear me to some people and repel me from others? Ordinarily, I'd have been disgusted and turned off by such blatant shucking of responsibility. But when you're transgressing (and I was), other transgressions feel more at-home. Jim's lack of character and moral footing felt fitting. He never asked if what we were doing was okay. We both knew it wasn't. He needed me to be his mother-goddess-nurse-supplicant. I could fulfill exactly none of these needs.
I have a habit I developed in high school of looking at photos of myself when I was younger, in a dress or bathing suit, and marveling at how beautiful I was; always looking back and wondering why, at all stages of my life, I was tied in knots of insecurity about my body - my internal self at war with my physicality. At age 30, I'd look at a picture of myself at, say, 24 and think "What was I worried about? I was beautiful." At each stage, I'd felt ugly and imperfect in the moment. Looking back, I saw how wrong that was. When I struck up with Jim, I realized that more than youth and beauty, I wanted instead to stop worrying and stop feeling insecure, to take a present-day awareness of how beautiful I was and place it upon now.
Before I destroyed my marriage, I felt I could say anything to Jim; not do - just say. A word here on words: they matter. Words matter. They can be just as powerful as actions. What we say can do more than what we do. This is true. We were brought up with the idea that words can never hurt us. That simply isn’t true. Words hurt. Words heal. Words move things along. Words take us from one place to another. Words create change. Words forward the story. Words lead us to new places. Words matter. Think of getting a diagnosis or receiving bad news. Think of what words do. When we need directions, we use words to ask and get pointed on our way. I'm not talking about self-help seminars or affirmations or all the words vs. action propaganda drilled into us (though I kind of am). I'm not talking about saying you'll do something and failing to follow through (though I kind of am). Think of what words do. In conversation, confession, revelation. Who can deny the power of words?
Affairs usually mean sex but they require verbal cues. The road to an affair is paved with words. I crossed a threshold with Jim and I shouldn't have. I was stuck between a husband who couldn't hear me and a potential lover who wanted to hear me because it brought him closer to my sex. I met a woman at a bar one night during all this and she said, "Love only comes when it's needed." Okay. When don't we need love? When are we fine and dandy without it? "Family Portrait" by Rachel's haunted me during this era and comes unbidden into my mind to this day. I was trying to work out some deep-rooted shit in myself regarding childhood, family, and who-I-am. I was uncovering years-old, buried feelings. Instead of staying the course and facing it, I found Jim so I didn’t have to look at the mess inside me. I wanted to know what in the hell I was doing in a small town in eastern Washington, behaving like an an aberrant hussy. On the inside, I wanted to know why I wasn't a mother, raising children with my husband in Seattle. That's what my parents did. If your 20s are about discovering who you are and what you want, your 30s are devoted to a walloping cognitive dissonance.
It wasn't that I needed to do what my parents had done. But I think we all have several parallel lives we're leading at once: our actual lives (that we pretend are a wee bit different than they are) and then several choose-your-own-adventure style possibilities. Like "What if I'd married that person? What if I'd been a camp counselor in high school? What if I'd chosen this career instead?" and so on. In one version, we're stuck on the lives our parents lived and somehow we feel like our adult lives aren't really our real lives until we've mimicked what our parents did. I don't know about you but I'll never feel like the adults my parents were and are. They and their friends had a mystique while I was growing up that inspired awe, reverence, confusion, jealousy - an adultness I'll never manage no matter how old I become. Like the older kids above you in high school - they'll forever remain cooler, more mature, and mysterious; just as the kids two years behind your year in school stay the age they were when you graduated forever in your mind so that when you run into them years later at a restaurant, you think, "Mary Collins! That can't be you! You're 16 in my memory. You can't be drinking wine, let alone married with kids."
So I ladened Jim with all this shit when I just wanted to understand who I am, what I want, how to live. These large existential questions. And I asked myself with pecking insistence if the answers could come equipped with qualities that would be acceptable to my family and friends. Why did I always feel that I couldn't be honest about who I am and the way I live? I'm not a deceptive person. Maybe mercurial and quixotic but not deceptive. There's an invisible rubric I'm always trying to live up to. And its companion is an addiction to anxiety - the constant gnawing feeling, being used to things feeling off somehow but I can never put my finger on exactly what it is. All the anxiety led to was a busted up marriage, an unfulfilling dalliance, and rejection from the people I love but whom I feared judged me before I'd ever done anything to warrant their judgment.This is what I'm thinking and reflecting on as we slide through holiday madness and merriment. This is why the holidays get to me, turning me into a maudlin sap, drowning in scotch and covered in tinsel.