Eye of the Story

The Evergreen State College

Author: Flora S.S. Tempel

Going on From Here – Flora Tempel 3/11 (Week 10)

Suddenly we’re done and I feel like I only just git settled in and got started. The problem definitely is that the flash of inspiration that I was looking for finally came in the last week. Poor timing, idea, very poor timing.

But throughout the quarter I’ve found so many new questions and ideas and discovered lots of new things to work on. Inspiration is such an odd thing – even when I try to stimulate it, it doesn’t always work and is never predictable.

So now I’m applying all these new ideas and issues to this new structure idea. I’m so excited to keep working now, after being stuck, repeatedly, for so long. I actually feel totally confident about this structure.

That’s a new feeling. Suddenly, I feel unpressed and free because it’s all so clear. I’m hoping to unburden myself next quarter, do my best, but not push past my limits. I don’t want to get overwhelmed by everything again and find myself all blocked up, again.

But I’m hopeful. Most of all, I’m hopeful and very thankful for this class. I’m going to try to take better care of myself now, and move myself toward being the person I want to be. It’s a long road, and this piece of the journey along the way has been incredible. Now, I continue on.

The Supernatural – Flora Tempel 2/29

After seeing The Witch last weekend, I’ve been thinking about using the supernatural in my book. It’s always been there in the fabric of my story, but never really played up as a main concept in the book.

I think one of the most important things we realize in life is how families create family stories and narratives and at some point (I think especially in college) we realize that you keep living those stories out. We’re told that we have free will and the ability to do whatever we want, and that’s true, but we find ourselves doing what our families keep doing.

And we want to have our own agency, but there’s no real way to get out of it, at least not yet, and then we might have fallen down the trap and continue playing it out

Obviously, I’m terrified of being my parents.

So I kind of want to play up this story of how people in this family keep dying, and how Ella’s life is exactly like what Eden’s life would have been like, which is kind of terrifying.

A curse or something like that maybe? I’m not sure, but I’m going to keep playing with it. The Witch is an incredible film and very inspiring and I definitely recommend that everyone see it.

Constellations – Flora Tempel 2/23

It’s way too early in the morning and I’ve left you sleeping in our bed. Yesterday, our anniversary, was lovely and I can’t even find it in me to feel bad about ignoring my work.

Because we walked in the park yesterday. I looked over at you and I couldn’t stop staring.

Did you know I fell in love with your smile first, when I saw you across the coffeeshop, so excited and bright? But the first time we kissed, on that street corner in the rain, it was your eyes that sunk into me, grabbed my heart and refused to let go.

It was your eyes that look like constellations, three layers of color, hazel at the pupil, a wide band of pale green, growing darker until it’s a deep blue at the edge.

If I ever needed proof that we are all made of star stuff, that all the atoms in the universe just keep rearranging to make us, that was it. In your eyes I see the earth and all the stars, I see the stretch and flow of history, so deep and nuanced and complex.

You walked beside me and I stared. You are my rock, the ground I stand on. You are the air I breathe, you are the water that creates and sustains life.

You are an incredible treasure, a miracle, beautiful beyond belief.

Please stay, always. Please don’t ever give up. Our fate was written in the stars.

Maybe, somewhere, in one of those constellations, there’s a different universe where all of this is easier.

But I don’t think there’s a single universe where I’m not in love with you, where the constellations don’t tell our destiny, where your eyes aren’t the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

Breathing at Night – Flora Tempel 2/16

You lay, just out of my eye line. It’s the middle of the night and I can’t fall asleep. I know this is hard. I know we’re trapped and struggling, I know we’re both barely hanging onto our sanity separately.

Shouldn’t we be trying to hang onto some sanity together?

Instead, there’s anger, and stress, and I don’t blame you.

I hear you breathing, so close but so far from me here. I hear your sighs fade and slow and I know you are asleep. I can’t.

I lay, looking at the faint moon light that trickles through the shutters.

I’m sorry, I want to scream.

I’m sorry I’m not better.

I’m sorry I’m not stronger.

I’m sorry I keep failing at everything.

I’m sorry I’m not good enough.

Mostly I’m sorry I’m so terrified of never being enough. I don’t know who to blame for that.

Maybe I can blame my dad, this man whose opened his home to us now. Maybe I can blame him for how he was never home when I was little, how he has no emotional depth, how he can’t express himself for shit. But I can’t blame him for his broken body, his damaged brain, his staggering fear.

Maybe I can blame my mother, the one who is leaving. I don’t blame her though, at least not for leaving. She has been stuck here, sacrificing, giving so much away, taking care of a man who ruined her, working so hard to support us, getting so much abuse at work…

But you know what? I’m still going to blame her for all my insecurities and feelings of failure and inadequacy, cause she’s been setting me up for it my whole life, judging me with every word and look.

So there’s that.

Your breathing changes. I sit up a little, turning to try to see you. It becomes a moan, a small whine, and I know that sound, that sound that makes my heart break into a million shattered pieces, every one of which is yours.

You moan my name on a gasp, and then I’m moving, hand reaching out to you. Another gasp as you startle awake, yours eyes creaking open. Nightmare, you whisper. I know. I wrap my arms around you, pulling you close.

In the middle of the night, we can at last cling to each other and breathe together. We shift, your arms coming around me, spooning tight, and that is what lulls me to sleep, finally, always, your breathing with me at night.

On Point of View – Flora Tempel 2/12

This week has been a rather interesting as far as us of point of view in the narration. Oscar Wao continues to pose questions about who was really the narrator, and how they know what they know. Wat it Yunior, reading diaries and letters and things to tell the story of a family that was not his? Or was it, somehow Oscar’s lost novel?

I don’t know and I kind of love that.

I also have no idea how to interpret the narration, or lack there of, in 35 Shots of Rum. I feel like the most compelling line of narration for me is that of the daughter. She’s strong, yet quiet, and seems to make smart, accurate judgments of the people around her. I think it’s a really interesting option, and yet the father is the main character. But to me he’s something of an enigma. I can’t really figure anything out about him and I also love that.

There’s something really interesting about seeing or reading a piece where the narration is vague or up to the reader to interpret. I think playing with who your narrator might be, what their biases might be, how they know what they know, is a great way to put questions in for your audience. I think it’s important that the best books leave us with more questions than answers, new ideas and thoughts, rather than perfect (boring) understanding and satisfaction.

But of course there has to be somethings resolved, or else the reader gets no satisfaction which begs the question, why are they reading/watching it in the first place? Why have they stuck with it?

So where’s the balance? I’m still trying to figure out how to play with my extremely biased and complex narrator. The narration can be how we step into someone’s head space. This is also what I loved about Sebald, because we walk away with so many questions, unsure of the difference between author and character. I think that I’m going to try to play with that, drop the reader so deeply into the narrative that it’s hard to tell if it’s real or fake.

I think these questions that the works this week raised for me are so interesting and important to creating a compelling work. I’m definitely inspired by them, but still looking for where and how to fit these ideas into my own work.

On Deadlines, and Missing Them – Flora Tempel 2/7

I set myself deadlines, always.

I’ve missed nearly every single one of them for the past eight years.

And I have no memories of anything before then.

I’m working on a deadline now, and I still will be after I finish this, because there’s a whole line of them, and most of them are of the long-standing, “you missed it so long ago it’s just haunting you now” variety.

I meant to have most of this done yesterday. I watched a beautiful movie instead.

On the upside, I love that movie, and always find myself inspired by it.

On the downside, I still don’t want to do anything, feel more hopeless than ever, and the pressure is even higher.

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I’m still working on a big chunk of writing for last quarter, and I’m praying (stupidly, to a god I don’t believe in) that no one’s really noticed. I know they have, I know they’re all politely ignoring me while I fall rapidly in their esteem, and I still don’t want to get it done. The problem with deadlines, see, is that they create all this pressure that makes it almost impossible to get anything done, and especially impossible to get anything done and feel good about it. I haven’t found a workaround to this conundrum yet, but I’m hoping to in the next hour, because I really need to get all this backed up stuff off my chest. I guess the best thing I can do is do the hardest thing first, so everything after that seems like an easy victory. On the other hand, I really need to apply for this job first because that’s really time sensitive. I’ll figure it out in fifteen minutes, after I move the laundry.

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The upside of all of this is that I still feel like I’ll survive, no matter how many of my own deadlines I miss.

I guess it’s something about my personal history that I’ve given up on acting fatalistic.

Everything’s going to be okay, is the thing, as long as you try and you don’t get so down on yourself that life feels awful.

It takes a lot, actually, to completely fuck up on life.

At least, it takes a lot more than they made it sound like when you were seventeen.

Not being perfect, or meeting every goal, right now, isn’t going to kill you, or me, or your mother, as much as mine likes to make it sound like it would.

That’s a different story though.

This weekend I’m trying, I’m setting aside some time, and I don’t feel terrible. I feel like I can do it, at least good enough for right now.

That’s all that matters.

I’m not perfect, and it’s the whole point.

 

What a Feeling – Flora Tempel 1/29

Do you ever get that feeling that you’re looking back at yourself, while in yourself, and you can actually see your life, without all the lies you use to cover up the imperfections?

And then you think, “Who’s life is this?”

And then there’s a snap back and you remember that it’s your life, for a reason.

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I’m on the train, heading home. I’m too giddy, really, to be getting any work done. I’ve only been away from home for something like 40 hours, but it feels like far too long. I text my partner, over and over, lonely, alone, missing him beyond belief, feeling un-grounded. What a feeling to be a queen beside you, somehow.

The problem is not the distance, or the time. It’s something deeper, something that grows out of my stomach, around my hipbones. 

I don’t really know what it is.

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The things I want in life are dreams, big dreams, and I’m always labeled an overachiever.

But sometimes I wonder how much easier it would be to just be an underachiever. I read an article about it the other day, a woman talking about how she always just lives in the moment and doesn’t try to achieve anything remarkable, just to support herself and enjoy her life, and have a happy family.

And then I think, all I want is to live in the moment, enjoy life, and have a happy family. Everybody needs someone around.

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I need to get a bunch of things done this weekend, and I have good plans to do it. Write for my internship, write for class, get some exercise, do dishes, make some food, do something fun, do dishes, do laundry, do dishes…

Mostly, I want to get off this train and see my partner. I stand in the window, watching the train pull into the station, and I see him, standing there against the car, a stress-cigarette burning out in his hand. But you’ve got stars in your eyes. I want to  wrap myself into him, what a feeling to be right here beside you now, holding you in my arms, remember that this is a real life, that everything will work out eventually.

Mostly, I won’t get anything done this weekend.

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Some day in the future, I imagine, I’ll have that normal life I want. I won’t have to thank the universe that the college I wanted to go to was only sixty miles from my home. I won’t have to compromise on how many nights I can spend at home in my own bed, or how often I can eat a normal breakfast at a normal hour with my partner. I won’t feel like I’m just barely struggling to survive, creating a small mountain of mediocre work – some day I’ll actually be living.

The problem here is how much I wish that day was today.

Not because I don’t accept that this is a step my life has to take. I’m grateful to be here.

No, it’s mostly because I have such a clear vision of the life I want. To be able to sleep in my own bed, with my partner, every night. To have a little home that’s actually put together because we’re planning on staying there. To have a small business, something fun and creative for our community. To write books and small things for publication, anything really, just to write in a logical, routine manner. What a feeling to be a queen beside you, now.

That’s all I want.

Small, neat, bright, clean, routine.

A normal life. 

I wish I could be there now.

© 2022 Eye of the Story
The Evergreen State College
Olympia, Washington

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