"You are normal, Donna," John said to me through the phone, as I steadied myself on the arm of my couch so I wouldn't pull the cord out of the receiver by sitting comfortably, just a little too far away. "Them's fightin' words!" was my first thought. I was truly taken aback. I was offended! I tried to actually defend myself by saying, "Well, honestly, I have never heard THAT before! Maybe we need to talk a little more. I'm not sure why you think I'm so normal," my facial expression reflecting how seriously crazy he might be for thinking I'm normal. He said, "No, Donna, you are normal, as in not crazy."
I still didn't get it, which is pretty funny in light of the fact that it had not yet dawned on me that speaking to someone who goes back to where he lives in CT to something called a "halfway house" attached to a hospital might imply "not normal." He seemed normal enough, and yet... I was missing the signs. The big bold bright red signs that were muted by my rose-tinted kaleidoscope eyes. My artist heart was so enthralled by the uniqueness and passion that can inhabit spoken word artists that I had masked the possibilities feeding that art form. Signs that this world, this culture, is too hard to live in, not in the same way that I find it hard to live in but literally TOO HARSH to live in, too hard to maintain an appearance of "mainstream life," as it were. Sensitive souls' minds turned by this harshness, not fit to live on their own, to take care of their needs, like hygiene, like making a living, like living within the parameters of daily life, even if they could create amazing art and have the guts to perform it.
I met him in the spring, 1995 I think, at the Nuyorican Poets Café on a Wednesday night, the night of the regular Poetry Slam each week. I had brought something new to read but when I came in, I saw him performing his work, poetry in the language of my namesake's most challenging book, Finnegans Wake. I was stunned, smitten and I just had to meet him.
And when I met him, and he asked my name, he was just as stunned and smitten, spontaneously turning my name into the language he understood and which made my mind lick it's lips-- Donna stands for woman in Italian + Joyce = I am the Female (James) Joyce, feminine soul of the man whose spirit filled his mind, daily. We exchanged numbers in a hopeful gaze. I know I brushed off an irksome feeling as he excused himself to get to Grand Central Station to catch the last train back to the halfway house instead of hanging out and talking. Shut-up Shelly tried to warn me but I was in deep. I had no clue how normal I was, but sadly, I soon would, within the month. It wasn't comforting, and I still think about how fragile creative souls are and how a halfway house is not an oasis from a harsh daily life.
Donna Joyce is the feisty, funny, extroverted introvert parent, partner, child, sibling, friend, individual who is perpetually on her mindful path to find and build supportive inclusive community for herself, her family, her friends and anyone who seeks the same.
She has known since she was young that she was meant to write and is now in the process of allowing her writer soul to take over her being and create a more authentic and inviting host environment in order to get it all down and OUT! To getting it down and out!