Coming Home to Writing Practice.

writing practice

I entered this writing path through the writing practice Natalie Goldberg teaches. Practicing writing the same way an athlete practices her sport, the same way a pianist practices scales. Showing up to the page, grabbing a prompt and just writing for ten minutes without stopping, without crossing anything out.

The end product didn’t matter. The process of showing up and writing and connecting with the wilderness of my own heart and mind is what mattered.

Then I decided I needed to be more disciplined. I needed to produce more. More stories, blog posts, novels. And I let writing practice slip away, not counting it as “real” writing.

This summer I joined an on-line writing class hosted by the luminous Bryonie Wise called “Human is What We Are.” Honestly, I was hesitant. I have committed time and money to so many on-line classes over the years and I rarely finish them. My enthusiasm wanes then my connection to the group fades and I’m off on my own again.

This time has been different. First, I am intimately familiar with writing practice. Slipping back into it has been soothing and inspiring. It has been reconnecting with an old friend who really knows me, who sees all of me.

Second, Bryonie makes is all so accessible: writing, creativity, life. She gives us permission to meet ourselves where we are. She assures us that there is no wrong way to do this. That there is no such thing as being behind. We are where we are.

Third, summer has been the perfect time for this kind of loose but supportive structure. Ten minutes a day for ten days then we have a break to let everything germinate, let it settle and find its way into our bones.

My own notebook is more than half-filled. I have three separate pages filled with prompts that will draw me back to the page long after our third and final session ends. Coming back to writing practice has illuminated my creative process, allowing me to find inspiration everywhere.

It has reminded me of why I write at all: to come back home to myself which allows me to connect more deeply with the world around me.

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Happy National Book Lovers Day!

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“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I don’t remember the first book I ever read.

I can’t remember that moment when the strange black marks on a page turned into words, which turned into images which turned into stories I could see in my mind.

I do remember that Library Day was my favorite day of the week in elementary school. I checked out the same series of books over and over about three Swedish sisters named Flicka, Ricka and Dicka.

At some point I gravitated to “Gone with the Winds’ but the librarian steered me away, deeming me too young to read it.

I remember receiving Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden books for Christmas and being so happy we had the 4-hour drive up north so that I could lose myself in them.

I went through an Agatha Christie phase and a Taylor Caldwell phase spurred on my older cousin who was also a bookworm. I went through a phase of devouring romance novels in a single sitting.

I now have six bookshelves bulging with books, both read and to-be-read. The ratio is getting to be about 50/50. Don’t judge. There are worse habits I could have than loving books and having way more than I can possibly read in this lifetime.

I try to read widely and diversely: different genres, authors of varying ages, ethnicities, gender.

Not surprisingly, before I was a writer, I was a reader. A huge, avid reader. Every single report card mentions my love of words.

As a writer, I am even more of a reader, if that is even possible. I still read for the reasons I used to: to escape, to immerse myself in other lives, other cultures, other worlds. To see life through the lens of another. But I also read with this other layer of attention, of curiosity, of wonder. How did they structure the book, the story? Why did they choose to use that point of view? How did they write such a beautiful sentence that took my breath away?

I may not remember exactly when I learned to read or what my first book was. I definitely don’t remember all of the books I’ve consumed over the years, and “consume’ is the perfect word. Each book is absorbed into who I am, helping to mold me into who I am becoming.

As Emerson so eloquently states, they have made me.

Happy National Book Lovers Day!! What are some of your favorite books? Book memories? Writers? Please feel free to share in the comments.

Saying Yes.

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While I am not a huge fan of most reality TV, I have on occasion watched it, including “Say Yes to the Dress.” I understand the sentiment of wanting to find the so-called perfect dress for your so-called perfect day. But something about the show just rubs me the wrong way. It’s the way it emphasizes the importance of having a wedding over the work of being married.  That one day is just a tiny pebble in a huge mountain terrain.

Today my husband and I are celebrating our thirtieth wedding anniversary.

Thirty. Years.

I often can’t even believe it. I was only 21 when we met. Married at 23. I was so young. So naive about what being married meant. At 14, I had watched my parents’ marriage end, seemingly out of nowhere. Obviously, it wasn’t out of nowhere, but they had kept the unraveling away from us and I was a typical self-absorbed teen so my radar was mostly focused on my own little world of friends and school. 

Because it felt like their divorce came out nowhere, I entered my own marriage with this nagging belief tugging at me: that my marriage would inevitably end at some point. Finally, (about 14 years into my own marriage) during a session, my therapist said something to this effect: “I don’t know how you did it, but you managed to find the right person for you at a very young age. That’s not why you’re here.”

I felt such a huge relief wash through me. I knew that she was not a psychic and I knew her observation didn’t guarantee marital stability but having a professional give me permission to let that nagging worry go was freeing.

Many friends look at our marriage and marvel at how we do it. Like we have a secret that we won’t share. I honestly don’t know exactly how and why we work.

I do know that he has always supported me in anything I have wanted to do whether it was insisting that I use the bonus he had just received to go to a writing retreat while he stayed home for a week with our two young daughters or encouraging me to become a yoga teacher, reassuring me that we could indeed afford it. 

I do know that we both encourage each other to have lives of our own, understanding that we can’t be everything to each other. We’ve taken separate vacations so he can do car stuff and I can go with girlfriends or attend writing and yoga retreats.

I do know that he always has my back. That the welfare of me and our daughters is always his priority.

I do know that he lets SO many things just roll off his back like when I am cranky or afraid and take it out on him.

I do know that I try to show him that same support and acceptance that he shows me.

I do know that he makes me want to be a better version of myself.

I do know that instead of saying yes to an extravagant dress, we said yes to our marriage.

And we continue to say yes to our marriage, to our family and to each other every single day.

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We Belong to Each Other.

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Image found via Pinterest.

Sacred celebration* is essential, especially amidst the ruins.

Yes, there is pain.

Yes, there is grief.

Yes, there is rage and despair.

But look around. Who is there with you? Who is helping you keep your head above water? Who is treading water next to you, far from the safety of shore, out in the deep end of life?

The deep end is where life gets juicy. The shallow end is known. It is comfortable. But when you push off and wade or dive or plunge into the deep end, that’s when you grow. That’s when you become who you are meant to be.

And when you look around, eyes wide open you’ll see that you belong to everyone and everyone belongs to you.

We belong to each other.

We belong to the earth.

We belong to our ancestors.

We belong.

We are each other.

Our hearts belong to each other.

So, the sacred celebration happens each time we recognize this essential truth.

I hold you in my heart.

You hold me in yours.

And I am grateful.

* Inspired by the prayer written by Thomas Banyacya Sr.

The Practice of Curiosity.

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I wonder…

Those two small yet powerful words help me to break through creative blocks, fear and stagnation.

I often forget them when I am in the midst any of those those three things or some combination of them.

But when I remember, they are the key that sets me free.

When faced with an impending empty nest I found myself thinking, ” I wonder if I should take Yoga Teacher Training.”

My class, “Poses, Pens + Inner Peace” came into being when I wondered how writing and yoga intersected and wondered how they could nourish each other.

When I hit a block in my work-in-progress, any “I wonder’ will get the pen moving. What is written may not stay in but that is not the point of curiosity. The point is to generate some movement.

Fear equals stagnation.

Stagnation begets stagnation.

Curiosity is light. It doesn’t come in hot demanding that I change and DO something, fix it, fix everything now.

No, curiosity invites me to sit down and play.

No pressure to fix something.

No pressure to fix everything with my next action.

It just asks me to wonder.

To ask what if.

And that gentle invitation is all I need to step out of fear, out of stagnation and back into the cycle of creative energy.

Curiosity only does one thing

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A Letter from Risk.

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I am not here to take over your life.

I am not here to destroy our life.

I am here  to dance with you into the deep heart of your life.

Each risk you take is a success, no matter the end result.

Each risk expands your heart, expands your mind, expands your life.

Dance with me rather than standing at odds.

Dancing is fluid. It is playful. It invites curiosity and wonder.

Don’t bring such a heaviness to me. 

Let me be light.

Let me light your path.

A path of possibilities.

Let my light bring clarity .

Let that clarity be your light, the light that you shine out into the world.

 

Tools of Illumination.

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I heard Dani Shapiro on a podcast this morning and she said that writing is a tool for illumination.

Yes.

Exactly.

And so is yoga which is why they work so well together. One illuminates the other.

Yoga shines a light into the dark, heavy corners of my body where I’ve stored rage and shame and grief. I move and breathe and unlock those old emotions, those old stories, releasing them.

Writing shines a light into my heart, into my psyche. I write my way into what matters, into what I am thinking or feeling on any given day at any given moment.

Through yoga and writing my path forward is illuminated.

I am illuminated and able to shine my light out into the world.

Restaurants: Please Offer more than Salad and Fries for Vegans.

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Dear Restaurants,

How hard is it to put at least one vegan option on your menu?

But it can’t be the sad, vegan, last option of a salad and fries.

Or a salmon salad without the salmon and you still charge me the same price.

I mean, you all jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon when only one percent of our population has legit celiac disease.

The are 3.2 percent of Americans who are vegan. There’s a need there.

There’s a market share to be had.

There are restaurants I no longer frequent because there are no options for me.

You don’t have to go as far as Ale Mary’s and provide an entire vegan option menu but, wow, that’d be great! I’m happy that the martini bar I love to go to in the summer to sit on their patio now offers a Beyond Burger.

All I’m asking is that you be a tad more inclusive.

It’s good for our health.

It’s good for the environment.

It’ll be good for your business.

 

Embrace your Fury.

I woke up to this video shared by my sister this morning.

I watched, nodding the whole time. I also felt this sensation rising up my spine, snaking its way through my belly.

Tracee Ellis Ross named it for me. It was fury.

This seemingly innocuous incident of a friend of hers being physically moved out of the way by a complete stranger sparked the talk. I read some of the comments, many from men mansplaining how we, as women, shouldn’t be offended by this. That if he was physically moved by another guy he’d just suck it up and move on.

I am furious at men who think they have the right to literally move a woman out of their way rather than saying, “excuse me.”

I am furious that he treated her like she was merely an inconvenient object in his way.

I am furious that we hear stories over and over and over again through #metoo and #timesup of men putting their hands on women like its their right, for assaulting, molesting and raping women.

I am furious that we have a president who proudly declared he grabbed women by the pussy.

I am furious that yet another school shooting has occurred and the young, entitled white male targeted a girl who rejected him.

I am furious at the men who try to humiliate and shut down women who dare to raise their voices in real life and and on-line.

This seemingly innocuous anecdote of Ross’s friend being moved is at the heart of my fury. That so many (please note: I am not saying ALL) men feel it is their right to keep women “in place.”

In a place where we are not in the way.

In a place where we don’t cause any ripples.

In a place that is convenient for men.

In a place where we stay quiet and smile.

That place doesn’t exist. Not anymore. We are tearing it down by sharing our stories, naming the men who assaulted us, claiming our power.

Like Ross says,

“…the innocuous makes space for the horrific.”

Let’s continue to dismantle that place women have been boxed into for so long.

Dismantle it each time we speak up.

Each time we stand in our truth.

Each time we don’t swallow our fury and smile.

Each time we embrace the wisdom of that fury that courses through us.

Let the fury awaken us.

when women wake mountains move

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There’s Power in Love.

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When I watched the royal wedding of Princess Di and Prince Charles, I was 16 and in the throes of my own first love.

I watched it through those rosy colored glasses as if it was a real life fairy tale though a part of me stepped back, arms crossed and thought it seemed too good to be true.

Of course, it was.

She was only three years older than me at the time. At sixteen, being in love meant it was all about me. How it made me feel. How often I thought of him. How many times could I fit our initials on the cover of my notebook so everyone would know I had a boyfriend?Everyone would know I was in love.

More importantly, everyone would know that I was lovable.

Now that I am almost 53 and will be married (not to my high school sweetheart) 30 years this summer, I know love is not about me. It is about us.

How can we lift each other up? And thus lift up those around us?

How can we be there for each other?

What do we need from each other?

How can we be that safe place to land at the end of each day for each other?

I watched the royal wedding this morning and it felt different. Not only because I was older with thirty years of marriage under my belt but because Meghan Markle is different. She is 36, divorced, biracial, a feminist. She has a voice, a point of view and is not afraid to use both. And it seems that these are just two of the many things that Prince Harry loves about her.

It was a joy to watch the wedding this morning because it didn’t reinforce stereotypes of a woman being saved by her prince and it felt reassuring to see two people standing side by side ready to face the world together.

As Bishop Michael Curry said:

“We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world, for love is the only way. There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even over-sentimentalise it. There’s power, power in love.

Today’s royal wedding reminded me of the power of real, strong, mature love, the kind of love I grew into from the weak, selfish, rosy-colored love of my teens.

As I watched, it felt like a balm to the wounded soul of the world.

It felt like a reminder that we are in dire need of these days.

A reminder to believe in the redemptive power of love.