I just finished reading Stephanie LaCava’s book, An Extraordinary Theory of Objects. This is a strange, yet fascinating book. I enjoyed it because I am also strange. The author is a year younger than me and we grew up during the same time period (the 90s) so I could relate to much of the story, mainly her interior struggles, lack of friends, and her experiences with mean teenage girls in her high school.
An Extraordinary Theory of Objects is highly entertaining, intelligent, and fun to read. I’ve read through it twice already, because it’s nice not feeling like you are the only outcast on earth, even after adolescence has passed.
And it’s fun to learn lots of random information about the past, and how certain things we find/use/discover relate to it. I’m looking forward to reading some of the books she lists in the bibliography.
I’m encouraged by the fact that despite her admitted weirdness, LaCava is a successful writer, has an attractive husband, and has written an interesting memoir that is so unique and beautifully real.
Favorite Quotes from An Extraordinary Theory of Objects:
Spoke by her dad:
“You can’t have these preconceived ideas in your mind about life should be. Don’t think so much. Do things you enjoy with people you love. Everything is always changing. What you can’t control frustrates the hell out of you, no?”
Spoken by her mom:
“People aren’t going to understand your eagerness. It’s okay to be alone and patient. You have to trust.”
Written by Stephanie:
“Self-critical, introspective women court tragedy. They don’t care about making friends.”
Written by Stephanie:
“I had always hated loudness. It was loud enough inside my head.”
Written by Stephanie:
“What saved me, in the end, was my fear of change transforming into raw wonder and wanderlust.”
Spoken by a former boyfriend of hers, on a trip:
“You don’t have to find all these random objects or read all these books to distract yourself from what’s happening in your life. How many did you bring this time?”
The dedication at the beginning of the book reads:
“To those who unwittingly taught me about wonder in the world, to not be afraid of the dark, and to talk to strangers.”
(Entry below was written on 11/9/08. Some things on it are no longer relevant, I should make a new list. I think this prompt came from the book Journal to the Self by Kathleen Adams. I highly recommend it. Gratitude is an excellent practice that puts you in a great mood)
Prompt: List 100 things you are grateful for
1. My family
2. Privacy of my apartment
3. Having tea to drink
4. Having enough money for bills
5. Being able to read and write
6. The freedom to meditate
7. The uplifting effects of music
8. Having my period (because it means I’m not pregnant)
9. The chance to escape reality through TV and books
10. Memories of childhood
11. Alice in Wonderland
12. Moments when I feel truly relaxed and calm
14. Having clear skin
15. Having long hair
16. Having clean clothes
17. The new quilt my mom gave me (reminds me of living at home)
18. All the food I have available to eat
19. Having enough money to shop if I want to
20. The feeling after meditation
21. Watching movies about photograpy/photographers
22. Reading inspirational things online
23. The new coffee shop that opened around the corner of my apartment
24. My Ipod
25. That I don’t need much make up
26. The smell of the ink in the pen I’m writing with (sweetly scented)
27. The ability to create a blog online
28. The way that writing anything changes my mood and brings me back to myself
29. The feeling that anything is possible
30. Knowing that I can go from one state of mind into another
31. Feeling rooted, grounded, happy, and grateful
32. Having more than enough clothes to dress myself
33. The ability to express myself in my choices
34. Not having that week-long tension headache anymore
36. Looking forward to watching (my favorite TV show of that time) tonight
37. Having the freedom to think about what I want, to stay up late and pretend I don’t have to work in the morning
38. The fact that it’s not very cold outside yet
39. The fact that I’m not 30 yet
40. Having a job to distract me from negative thoughts
41. Knowing that my mom is OK with my not getting married anytime soon
42. The ability to pray in any way that I want to (silently or through writing) at any time of the day that I choose
43. Having a boyfriend to ease my loneliness and give me support
44. Entertaining the possibility that I could do more with my life
45. Watching Ryan (my nephew-2 years old at the time) do anything
46. Living close enough to my parents so that they can drive me home if I go to visit (no longer applies)
47. Knowing that there is more than just one possibility in my life, and that once I have been in my current job for a while, I have the option of looking for
48. The freedom to look at fashion magazines and consider my own new look
49. The freedom to skip making and eating dinner to do something more fun
50. Knowing that there are only 8 hours in a day for a job to hold me hostage, and possibly less, if I learn how to make my schedule flexible
51. Being able to turn my focus back on all the beautiful things in life
52. The possibility of being the subject of a painting
53. Being with someone who has ambition and a plan for his life- is inspirational to me
54. The fun of the act of writing
55. The multitude of websites about creativity, writing, and positive things
56. Having the internet home to access any time I wish
57. The ability to download almost any song online and carry it with me everywhere
58. Making a conscious decision to choose the mood I want to be in
59. Recognizing when my body needs a rest- and taking it
60. Having control over my thoughts
61. Having a hot shower or a warm bath
62. Having a job that allows me to have my own apartment
63. Having free time to do with whatever I wish
64. Remembering moments of serenity and happiness from the past
65. When I remember to live in the present moment
66. When God blesses me and takes all my worries away
67. Finding something in a picture in a magazine, or a book, or a band, or a song that resonates deeply with my spirit***
68. When everything in my apartment is in order
69. Knowing that I will be off from work on the last week of the year
70. Feeling at home in my body, in my own skin
71. Realizing that I understand myself, even if nobody else does
72. Getting exited about payday or the end of a workday
73. Getting to do a writing exercise that I had been putting off
74. Anticipating the bonus I will be getting in January
75. When I remember to actually slow down and take my time in life and do things one step at a time
76. Having enough money to buy gifts for others
77. Having enough money/credit to possibility straighten my hair for a few months (I don’t advise this!)
78. Changing my handwriting or clothing or make-up to suit my mood
79. Having other people respond to what I have written
80. Being able to spend more time with my parents
81. Thinking back to the good old days of childhood when I had no stress and was happy most of the time
82. Remembering going out with my parents when I was little, and always feeling safe and happy and calm
83. Sneaking in writing at odd times of the day
84. Feeling good about getting out of bed and facing a new day
85. Having a bookshelf full of writing books with exercises and a bunch of other books that never fail to capture my interest
86. Trusting that God and the universe will lovingly take care of me
87. Having the choice of filling my mind with positive images
88. When the urge to write comes along
89. Knowing I still have my freedom because I don’t have kids
90. Having the new red purse my mom gave me
91. Always leaving my mom’s house with a bunch of new things that I need, and extra gifts
92. Having my health
93. The shoulder tension reliever with aromatherapy that my mom gave me from Avon
94. When my parents or boyfriend offer to take me grocery shopping
95. The taste of chocolate and strawberry milk
96. The fact that Ryan (nephew) now knows my name
97. Knowing my dad cured himself of his depression, because it reminds me that I can also cure myself of anything
98. The fact that I am so blessed and have so many things to be grateful for
99. The freedom to visualize the very best outcome
100. Knowing that I can feel renewed by the choices I decide to make each day
(Entry below was handwritten on 9/17/2002, but certain themes are re-emerging for me now)
To be alone. Strong and alone. That’s what it’s really all about. Whether or not we’re ok when left to ourselves, when everyone else is gone. Can we be self-sufficient and have enough strength to know we can endure with only our own company? Depending only on ourselves can be liberating and enlightening. No need to search for happiness somewhere else because we already hold the ultimate contentment.
I don’t feel like I am fully OK with myself, not even close. I come very near to hating myself most of the time, for no real, good reason. It’s just a discomfort that ultimately leads me to not have much confidence. A sense of self, that’s what I’m missing. But I think, realistically, in a world of 9 to 5 jobs and familial interference, and even social interference from friends and dates, there is so little (if any) time left for any meaningful self-exploration. How can you possibly get to know yourself when you are constantly being battered with outside distractions demanding your attention?
I read an interview with Debbie Harry (of Blondie), where she said she felt better as she got older because when she was younger, she was missing half of herself. She was not whole like she is now. Maybe I need more time and experience in the world before I can realize myself as ‘good’ in it. Maybe finding my real place takes time, a lot more time than I have lived so far. I don’t know the other half of myself.
I sometimes get sharp or vague flashes of who I really am deep down and who I’m meant to be, but there is a lot of fear and self-doubt sitting on top of my dreams. And it may just take me a few years to cut through all those layers. I want to dance and laugh and talk and live loudly, at least every now and then. To really have fun. Who I really am is buried down so deep that it’s like I can’t find my way out, out from under all my self-criticism, doubt, and a painful, awkward social past.
I want to run and scream, invite and leave myself open to being noticed- instead of running and hiding away in fear like I normally do.
“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
Prompt: What is cool?
My response (hand written on 6/19/2002):
Cool is remembering the name of everyone you meet. Cool is the ability to sing to thousands. Cool is walking into a crowded room and scanning it, looking everyone in the eye. Cool is knowing you are beautiful, no matter what you look like.
Cool is driving fast while playing your favorite song. Cool is sitting on the bus in the morning with a latte in your hand and big sunglasses shading your eyes. Cool is wearing clothes that don’t match and walking confidently, knowing it’s a style all your own.
Cool is walking down the street sashaying your hips. Cool is writing a poem in a café and glaring at people on cell phones. Cool is sitting in bar in Soho, sipping a martini. Cool is being sure of yourself in any situation. Cool is wearing big jewelry in moderation. Cool is knowing when to wear nail polish and lipstick, and when not to.
Cool is getting attention without even trying. Cool is a musician walking down the street with a guitar strapped to his back. Cool is listening to a song someone wrote themselves. Cool is someone who likes to read books. Cool is intelligent, deep conversation.
Cool is two different cultures, eating at the same table and talking. Cool is the ability to buy yourself some gifts. Cool is being able to look at your life objectively, and taking action to change it. Cool is not paying attention to fashion trends.
Prompt: Write about a stranger.
My Response: (hand written sometime in 2002, entry is undated)
I am strangely fascinated by this man I see on the bus every day. He started riding a few weeks after I started my job. At first, he had a beard and long brown hair, and my first thought (when I spotted him through the window at the bus stop) was that he looked exactly like Jesus. He would get on the bus and immediately pull out this palm pilot and start tapping away. I find myself crazy with curiosity about him.
Recently, he has shaved his beard and his hair seems a little shorter, while still shaggy. His face is very smooth now and today I noticed his mouth has a lot of character and personality all to itself. It reminds me of a celebrity’s mouth, but I can’t remember which celebrity. This man strikes me as a warm person, he has a kind of softness to his eyes and mannerisms, almost like he makes his living putting people at ease.
He’s very thin, but still looks like someone who holds a world of comfort in his arms. He looks like someone who would feel good to hug. It’s strange to think you can assume so much about a stranger. These assumptions make me hope to someday talk with him, or have a friend like him- someone gentle and quiet as I am. I dislike brash, loud people. He is slight and reverent and for some reason I wish I knew him.
(Entry below was hand written on 1/30/2002. I think I was reading The Bell Jar at the time of this writing, shortly after the events of 9/11/2001)
The things that book makes me notice. Like the weird way the subway escalator makes noises. It sounds like a bunch of people running up the stairs all at once. Only once I reach the stairs, there’s no one around.
So when I’m going down the escalator, there’s this weird feeling that thousands of ghosts are running up to me, toward me, but I can’t see them. I’m afraid I’ll run smack into one of them.
I realize that now, especially now more than ever, there are ghosts in New York. Ghosts, people with hidden agendas, and people leading secret double lives, like I am. It’s easy to be invisible here. The ghosts just add to the mad frenzy. They are no less frantic than the living. Everybody’s restless.
“Truth is such a rare thing, it is delightful to tell it.”
(Entry below was handwritten on 2/5/2002 except for the last paragraph, which I just added today)
I forgot where I read this, but Emily Dickenson used to write a word down, or even just a letter down on a page, and just look at it. She would admire its beauty and shape. I wish I had that kind of fascination with letters and words.
I mean, I love language but I’ve never really admire it aesthetically. I actually forced my handwriting. The way I write is not instinctive. I kind of trained my hand to write this way- upright and kind of bubbly, or at least it used to be. Now it just looks awkward and strange.
I remember being scolded in seventh grade for changing my handwriting from one day to the next on a spelling test. My teacher wrote that I “couldn’t do that.” I thought: why not? I was able to, wasn’t I?
I don’t even remember the shape my handwriting used to take, but I never thought writing slanted was right. In high school I had a poet friend who only wrote in print. It was like part of her personality. She avoided script altogether and I really admired that. It made her writing so distinctive. Everyone knew it was her writing right away.
I wonder what my handwriting would look like if I didn’t force it. But now it’s hard to get out of the habit and write another way. When I look at the back of a page of my handwriting, it looks slanted and organized, the way I would imagine it’s supposed to look from the front.
I read once in a journaling book, that it was OK to match your handwriting to your mood, like write tight and small and constrained when you’re feeling stressed, or big and loopy when you’re feeling happy and joyful. Your handwriting can reflect your feelings. Oddly, I tend to write straighter and more neatly the deeper I am into writing and the more I feel myself getting into a flow. Everything with me is the opposite of the norm.
(Entry below was handwritten on 9/15/2004)
I know I’ve already been to London, but I haven’t really been there. I want to go on my own and explore the stylish town at night. I want to walk in that park with the view of Big Ben, where the London Eye stands by the moonlight and daydream and breathe in the night wind. I want to sit in a café and write about the mysterious strangers around me.
I want to go out to a London bar one warm night and let people wonder who I am. I want to explore the London night without a plan, without a guardian, wearing stylish designer clothes and feeling like someone else- like I’m totally in control and sure of myself.
I want to know what it’s like to really be free. I want to go to London again and spend time in Stratford-on-Avon, where Shakespeare was born and raised. I want to sit in a London restaurant and listen to the melodies of the British accents surrounding me. I want to discover who I can be while in an unfamiliar place, away from the trappings of my life. I want to imagine that I am the woman I always desired to be.
I want to eat, wear, drink what I want and go any where I feel like going, with no input or judgment from others, no standards to meet but my own. I want to go to London and live life at my own pace, on my own terms.
(Entry below was hand written on 5/20/2002)
Saturday night I went to go see an off-Broadway production ofAnna Christie, a play by Eugene O’Neill. The acting was sort of lacking, but the main character looked like someone who lives for the stage. She was ghostly white and her face appeared so taut and gaunt, with poorly applied blush in lines on her cheeks. Her big blue eyes seemed accustomed to staring out blankly, to create the illusion of a scene freezing in time, or of looking and pondering something visible only in the distance.
The play had to do with Anna going to visit her estranged father, after many years of living on a farm and working like a dog. The father thought that that life was preferable to Anna living at sea with him. He was a sailor. The most convincing actor in the play was the father, and second would have to be Anna’s love interest, Matt. The actress playing Anna sounded (at times) as if she were merely rereading her lines. I found it hard to feel anything for her.
The father and Matt assumed that Anna was chaste and innocent to the ways of the world and men, but she drops a bombshell and tells them that she was living as a prostitute. The old man curses the sea for her ‘dirty tricks’ and for bringing a shipwrecked sailor on board for Anna to fall in love with. It ends sort of happily, with Anna and Matt deciding to marry and the old man still accusing the sea as an all-knowing mischievous demon with a menacing purpose.
There were a couple of models in the audience who (as my friend, J, pointed out) must have had some connection to the lead actress playing ‘Anna’ because they appeared in the film Zoolander with a bunch of other models. One of them ran up on stage at the end, to hug the lead actress and give her roses. The reason I got to see the play was because a former coworker of mine (while I was interning at a free NYC weekly paper) played a very small role (a bartender) in the beginning of the play.
(Entry below was hand written on 1/26/2003)
Today I went to an “outsider art fair” with J (a friend) which was held in the Puck building by Houston and Lafayette. It was very interesting and turned out to be really cool and fun. Lots of village, artsy types and people sitting at desks in front of each mini gallery. One of these girls had a really cute, short plaid dress on (dark red and other colors) and it had long sleeves.
A lot of the art was very amateurish but a lot of it was also really professional looking. “Outsider Art” by definition is art done by people who have never had any formal art training but have felt the drive to create anyway. A lot of the pieces were moving and disturbing, or light and celebratory.
My favorite piece was one that I think was called “evening recollection” or “evening reflection.” It was a painting of two women (one with her back to you) who were wading in a lake at night. It was a light, mystical picture full of soft shades of blue and minimal light. There seemed to be little golden sparks of light surrounding the women. They reminded me of the little fairies in Sleeping Beauty. It was a lovely, tranquil, serene print and I wanted to buy it but I think it was going for like $2,700.
There was an artist who died in 1973 whose work was on display, and J said that all his work was found after his death- a bunch of very disturbing paintings of angelic blonde children (mostly girls) being choked by men in what looked like battle scenes. Some scenes were just drawings of young girls, but in others they’d be setting fire to tall grass in order to hide from some oncoming threat.
After the fair we went for some mozzarella sticks while a light snow shower was falling. I mentioned I’d wanted to go to this stationary story J had told me about called ‘Kate’s Paperie.’ We were only a few blocks away it turned out, so we decided to go before it closed at six.
We went and looked around a while and I found a pack of 52 cards which described “52 Adventures in New York” so I bought that for $6.95. The store was full of all kinds of stamps, pens, bookmarks, magents, books, journals, etc. It was a really cute place and it was great to finally see it.