Category Archives: Living

New Year Reflections

Every single year I write a New Year letter outlining my goals and desires for the coming year. You can be sure that this year, I have them. I have become adept over the years at setting and achieving goals. Life is about the digging in, the uncovering, and the reshaping of our selves. I do not want to write about those things this year. I will try to do them all. I will keep running, and writing, and trying to be a better parent and teacher. I will do and be all that I can, because those things bring me joy and are part of who I am.
So what will I write about then?
I will write about love, because this is the thing that I want more than anything, really, and that I’d like to cultivate more of in my life. The novel I’m writing now is about a young man who is rather inhabited with the idea of love and who finds it where he didn’t expect or want to.
Some months ago, my husband and I split, a rather drawn out break-up. However unhappy I was in the last years of our marriage, and I was desperately unhappy, I have not been able to shake this gaping whole left in his absence, that I used to fill with love songs: when you’re lost and look, you will find me…you do something to me…whatever words I say…we had a love, a love, a love you can’t find every day…and you give yourself way, and you give yourself away.
I do want to cultivate the love relationships I have in my life: many beautiful friendships, a wonderfully mouthy teenage son, family that is always, always there when I need them, and gratitude [perhaps the greatest love of all? (allusion to Whitney intended, tongue-in-cheek)] for life and all that is life. I do absolutely want THAT love too, the one you can’t find every day. However, I do not need it. This is, I think, what I need to cultivate. It’s a paradox, I know. To cultivate not needed the thing you most want. But life is a paradox in so many ways—does it surprise you?
We live in a culture of instant everything. Browsing the ads on CraigsList, I’d say we want that in love too. The result is we lie to ourselves to make it happen, we persist when we should recover ourselves. There are lots of possibilities for all of us out there in love, and to unravel oneself entirely for one—however radiant and certain it seems—is foolishness. Not surprisingly, we confuse sex with love. Sex can be quite wonderful without love and love defined mostly through sex is likely to be a love in which one partner is submerged, enslaved. You should give yourself away when the love fits the vision you’ve cultivated.
This empty space in my life has left me remarkably off-kilter. In one moment, I’m soaring, riding a long lost freedom to think and be that I’d forgotten were even there. In another, I’m frightened, alone, balling at the intensity of the loneliness I feel.
In this New Year, I want to cultivate patience and vision, because I know precisely what I want in love. The intention of that has got to be strong enough to carry me through the wonderfully human feelings of impulsivity and desire. I want to jump into to life, not retreat from it for fear of losing my vision, my patience. I want to act with impulse and desire, remembering always the sacredness of that vision.

I want more of all of these things too:
–margins of good books to write in
–kisses
–arguments for the sake of argument (thanks Winston for fulfilling this for me lately)
–words written
–coffee conversations
–lunch-time walks
–great movies
–laughter
–more laughter 😉
–Illuminated moments—ah-ha!
–walks/runs with the dog
–random encounters with new people including spontaneous conversations (like with the guy in the sauna the other day)

I will state one specific goal for the New Year: I want to be able to perform the advanced yoga flow sequence I’ve been working on. That will be a feat indeed!

Happy New Year to all! May you do and be your vision for 2009.

 

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Diet, exercise, and writing

The idea that food and activity level effect our writing is not new. I recently read Julia Cameron’s The Writing Diet, which addresses how to eat well and feed our cravings with words, not foods that trigger binging, lethargy, and self-doubt. Joyce Carol Oates, in The Faith of A Writer wrote at some length about the impressive history of writers who find inspiration when on long reflective walks or heart-stirring runs.
My experience has crystallized this idea into what looks to me now like obvious truth. I am most inspired and productive when I adhere to the aryuvedic principles that I’ve found work for me, when my yoga practice is regular and engaged, and when I’m walking or running most days.
Food can be an immense comfort for a stuck writer, a source of celebration for a job well done. We crave the same richness in our diet that we crave in our words. We want the thing that appeals to the senses to such a degree that it engages us entirely.
The trouble is, traditional “rich” foods have a short lasting satisfaction, make us too tired to keep writing and are usually not so good for our overall health. This is where the ayurvedic principles of diversity and intention come in.
Eating foods that span the range of the six qualities and six tastes of food and that are chosen for your personal energy needs leads to long lasting satisfaction and greater creative stamina. This flies in the face of the idea that a person should avoid certain “trigger foods” and argues that a craving for chips or chocolate or ice cream is indicative of a greater sensory deprivation that can be addressed by adding spices to your diet and eating so called trigger foods in small, wisely chosen amounts daily, such as a square of dark chocolate, a couple of slices of candied ginger, and the right amounts of good fats throughout the day. These cravings are also indicative of a larger kind of deprivation in which in the course of our busy lives, we often eat food that is bland and nutrient-deficient, which will eventually make us ravenous even when it’s not calories that we lack.
Poor personal food choices and lack of exercise scatter and stall my creative energies more than anything else. Building good habits around this and forgiving my shortcomings in this is something that I’ve been actively working on for some years now. The thing I find most difficult is not multi-tasking while eating. I know that the experience of the food, the texture, the flavor, and all the subtly is part of the nourishment we crave. Yet, I have trouble slowing down to do just this one thing.
I’ll keep refining these habits for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is that when I eat better and exercise, I write more and more often. I’ll begin by forcing myself to sit down at the table to eat dinner tonight and then again breakfast tomorrow morning, which I usually eat while putting on my shoes for work. ☺

 

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Musing On Love

~~~
Orange sunset reflected on the very edge of wet sand. There is a darkness here that she recognizes–but it’s that glow on the horizon that she can’t get enough of, and the two sand birds dancing their way down the beach. She chooses this though she is aware and in awe of the truth waves crashing again and again and the various ways we lie–we all lie–to get what we want.
~~~
Tadasana at ocean edge. Water receding, my navel glows like sunset. This slipping away isn’t slipping away at all and so I don’t resist.
~~~
Thank god I’m made of more than heart because seeming strong sinew contains nerves that over-fire or can’t think to fire at all when the signal for your philosopher’s brow, poet’s lips, warrior’s shoulders, legs, rump flash where feeling originates–the brain.
I’m only watching, not cowering and I am in awe of not you, but me. Because it is my body this is happening in. This is what I am capable of when inspired. Hallelujah! It’s not envy, greed, fear, or pain that rule me, you happy reminder of why I am in this silly body after all–to love with a wild wide heart. Your imperfections only provide the novelty my brain, of course, desires. Simply: I love–yes, you–but more importantly, I love.

 

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The Equinox, Sun Salutations, and Freedom

Tomorrow is the autumn equinox, which means that the day and night will be approximately equal. It is tradition in yoga to perform a mala of 108 sun salutations on this day. I’m leading a mala at the gym where I teach today. When I woke up this morning, groggy and still sore from overdoing things on Friday, I thought good god, how will I do this? I thought I might have trouble maintaining enthusiasm or that the whole thing might bore me to death. I even began to think that I somehow didn’t deserve to lead such an event, that I was unqualified, a fraud. This conversation with myself is a familiar one. I ran a bubble bath and soaked for a long while, all the while watching my mind move and expand on that initial insecurity so that suddenly I was unloved and unloving, boring and blind, desperate and damaged. I recognized this pattern of tracing my own limitations with my mind. I stumbled out of the bath, woozy from the heat and on a whim–a new thought interjected at just the right moment–I reset my alarm and crawled back into the cool softness of pima cotton sheets. I dozed back off, spooning with epiphany.
I woke one half-hour later inspired, jotting down notes on modifications and visualizations for the practice. But larger than that, I was reeling with the implications of this realization, thinking, yes, living with intention, this is what it’s all about, taking full responsibility for your thoughts and actions and in doing so, taking control. Does this mean that I’ll never again feel boring, damaged, or unloved? No. I certainly will. But, thinking doesn’t make it so.
What’s important is that we rise above our own monkey-minds and be the people we desire to be every day. You don’t realize this and then cruise on through the rest of your life. It’s like yoga, a practice in which your ability to focus improves over time, but you’ve got to keep practicing to stay balanced, flexible and strong.
I believe this whole process of thinking started yesterday while I was shopping. Not once, but three times I merely passed by someone (consequently, all women), and once I actually reached over her head, but each time, the women created physical distance, a shift of the cart, a side-step, and eyes averted, muttered an I’m sorry. I couldn’t figure out what the hell they were sorry for. For breathing my same air? How does this relate to the rest? I’m not entirely sure if I can articulate that, but I will try…
I want to go brush up against people in the bulk isle, the produce section, whispering little did you knows every time I go shopping. I want to lead a global mala today and then come home and write about this guy named Travis (main character in my novel) who suffers for love. I want to write every day whatever I feel like writing. I want to pick the best advice from all the advice on wrting and living and throw all the rest away. I want to be who I imagine myself to be, because we are reinventing ourselves every single day. It doesn’t matter what you said or did yesterday or for that matter what you’ve said and done all your life. All that matters is that you love the imperfect you and commit yourself to that fabulous person you are.
Be fabulous! Be free!

 

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Katherine Mansfield On Criticism

“I wonder if you happened to see a review of my book in Time and Tide. It was written by a very fierce lady indeed. Beating in the face was nothing to it. It frightened me when I read it. I shall never dare to come to England. I am sure she would have my blood like the fish in Cock Robin. But why is she so dreadfully violent? One would think I was a wife beater, at least, or that I wrote all my stories with a carving knife. It is a great mystery.”

 

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Writing in times of upheaval

How do you keep writing at times when your life is in upheaval? When your emotions are raw and exposed? Death of a loved one. Illness. Loss of employment. Break-up. There are many situations where it seems that just putting one foot on the floor each morning, then the other, and walking to take a pee is more creative energy than you thought you had.
Yet, for me, writing during these times is more important than any other time, because writing is how I process my thoughts and emotions. And walking.
So, I advise you to keep writing during these times. Even if it’s just a line here and there. Even if the line is banal. Write during these times first and foremost for you. Write honestly. Lock up your notebook if you’re worried someone might find out what you’ve really got in there. Don’t worry about the “project” you’re working on. Go wherever your heart compels you.
And read lots and lots of poetry. Let poems settle in your lap and nap there. Take poems into the shower with you. Copy poems in your own hand (or with your own keyboard) and read what you’ve copied over again. Send poems to friends.

 

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Daily Life

I’m out of practice in this thing called life. While at the RWW residency, I lost track of place and time. When my sister picked me up (I was only a thirty minute drive from home), she said she hadn’t realized I was so close, that it’d felt like I was clear across the continent. I’d felt that way too. At times this was inspiring and uplifting, at times I felt too vulnerable and exposed. I’m home now, slowly shuffling around the house, placing things where I had expected them to be when I returned, taking the things from my suitcase and placing them where I think they belong. I’m settling in to write, though I’m a bit wary of where to begin. I guess I began this morning, shuffling about the house musing over the various reasons why it is I persist in writing.
Here’s the first paragraph of James Salton’s essay “Some for the Glory, Some for the Praise”:
“To write! What a marvelous thing! When he was old and forgotten, living in a rundown house in the dreary suburbs of Paris, Léautaud wrote these lines. He was unmarried, childless, alone. The world of the theater in which he had worked as a critic for years was now dark for him, but from the ruins of his life these words rose. To write!”
Why do you write?

 

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Balancing Act

Balancing the kind of work to devote time to as a writer is not such a delicate business.
Asanas that require good balance, require focus and attention to the the subtleties of body and mind to hold them steadily for several breaths. If you let your attention drift, or you forget about a limb or part, you’re likely to topple over. Finding balance in writing isn’t that challenging.
A couple of hours ago, I nearly worked myself into a panic, thinking OMG! I’ve hardly written anything new since school let out for summer. I mean, this is supposed to be the time when I write and all I’ve been doing is editing and organizing. I nearly toppled over, until I realized that I still had both feet on the ground.
It’s true, I’ve written hardly anything new for a couple months. However, here’s what I have done:
–organized poems into chapbooks for chapbook project
–finished 4th draft of novel
–wrote synopsis and query for novel
–finished compiling first draft of short story collection
–printed first draft of YA novel for edits
–made some improvements and updates to blog
–read material for Rainier Writer’s Workshop
–set up an online submissions tracker
–submitted some stories and sent out queries to agents for At The Pump

You see, I haven’t written anything new; however, I’m now poised at the starting line, ready to roll. Knowing that I would be starting on my MFA at the beginning of August, bumped getting organized to the top of my priority list. Now, I feel ready for school and ready to move onto the next project with the wonderful freedom of having cleared the path there.

 

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What will be, will be.

I just printed an entire binder of material I’m supposed to read before the Rainier Writer’s Workshop (begins August 2). I think I’ll spend today getting a handle on that. Also, I came up with this idea (while running) the other morning of something that I can make and donate to the silent auction held during the RWW Residency. A “creative block”. Rather than try to explain…I ‘ll just post a photo when it’s done, but just know it’s going to be awesome!

I just got one of those calls where an automated message tries to put you on hold when you answer the phone. Whatever! It doesn’t get much ruder than that.

It’s the weekend, so if the writing happens, it happens. For the moment, I’m going to play WOW—just a little. Really. Kalikah is almost level 70.

 

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Goals and distractions

No one else is up yet. It’s just me and the dog. I have a fresh up of coffee and I’m sitting here ready to write. Hmm. Nothing but resistance. I think I’ll start with a free write to warm up, then see what I can do before this peace is interrupted. Winston’s friend is visiting from California and though they ignore me, I have a hard time not getting pulled out of whatever it is I’m doing to tune into them. Today, I’ll probably be driving them around Olympia anyway. At some point, maybe later this evening, I think I’ll sneak away to a cafe to write.
Writing goals for today:
1. Supposed last edits to At The Pump.
2. Finish getting poetry organized into chapbooks.
3. Research agents.

 

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