1,825 Days of Writing.

I started this plan to write everyday using Jerry Seinfeld’s don’t-break-the-chain method back in 2016.

We are now in 2021 and even after the hardest year of my life, I did not break the chain. 

Not when the pandemic hit.

Not when our yoga studio has had to temporarily close.

Not when my husband was furloughed for six months.

Not when he took an earlier retirement than we had planned.

Not when we had to scramble and pay for own health insurance.

Not even when my BFF of 40 years died unexpectedly.

After 5 years of daily writing, it has become an integral part of my day. An integral part of who I am.

It’s how I know who I am, who I was, who I am becoming.

It’s how I process life.

It’s a practice. I write with the intention of just showing up. Of being present to this moment.

Writing daily keeps me tethered to something larger than myself, especially when I have felt so untethered this year.

Writing daily takes the decision out of writing. I don’t have to decide whether to write or not. I just write. 

Even though I haven’t written on my fiction as much as I want to, writing daily improves my craft. It improves my discipline. It connects me to my voice. 

When I made those first red “x’s” in all 365 squares I thought I could maybe continue it by filling in each triangle the “x” made. If I did that I will have written for 1,825 in a row. It was an admirable goal but I never ever thought I would actually follow through and do it.

But I did.

There’s the board. Completely filled.

I did it.

And now writing every day is as natural as breathing.

Why We Share our Words.

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I want to share something that happened while teaching my Poses, Pens and Inner Peace class recently. It’s a class that combines writing, yoga, meditation and sharing. We don’t have to share, but it is always an option.

There was a brave new heart in our circle this particular week. She shared and I always feel such gratitude and admiration when new people share their words with us. It is a lesson in being vulnerable.

The last prompt led me down a kind of dark path about my grief. I found myself hesitating and trying to stop the words from coming. But then I just told myself that I didn’t have to share them. I just had to write them.

So, I continued writing and it felt awkward and all over the place.

The timer beeped. We all took a minute to finish and decide what, if anything, we wanted to share.

When it was my turn I decided to go ahead and share anyway. I told them that I told myself I wasn’t going to. That the writing felt off but then I remembered that this isn’t a class about writing, it’s about exploring and uncovering and becoming through writing. I told them I felt bad bout dumping my grief on them especially with a new person in the group. Then I said that I decided I couldn’t expect them to share and be vulnerable if I wasn’t willing to do the same.

So I read it and they held space for me, for my words. 

Then, the new person said that she hadn’t shared a part of her writing but hearing mine gave her the courage to share it.

This is a lesson in why we share our words: they let us know as the writer and the reader that we are not alone.

Writing as a Safe Place to Land.

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I choose, almost daily, to fill three pages with the breathings of my heart.

You can call them Morning Pages though I don’t always write them in the morning.

I call them my touchstone. My true north as I navigate these strange, unsettling days of grief and grieving during a pandemic. Of being thrust once again into structureless days as we partially close down businesses in our state again and I am left teaching only one class a week online.

The pages provide a kind of structure. As Annie Dillard says, they have become a net for catching days. Days that can slip through my fingers so effortlessly as we wait, wait, wait for things to change, to become safe, to become stable. But what happens in the meantime. I can’t spend my days waiting.

So, I write. The pages don’t have to be deep or inspiring. They just have to be real. No hiding or lying to myself here. Whining is allowed. Anger is allowed. Despair is allowed. Confusion is allowed. Doubt is allowed.

But joy is also welcome. And hope. And grace. So much grace.

These pages are designed to hold and reveal and explore the multitudes of me. They are a safe place to land when the ground feels unstable beneath me. These pages, this practice are a cornerstone of stability for me. A tool I turn to over and over and over again. They never ever lead me astray. They always guide me to land exactly where I am. I am grateful I found and committed myself to this practice over three decades ago.

It would be easy to let it go in times of stress but that is when I need them the most.

The pages don’t care how long it’s been since I last wrote. They only care that I have shown up. They don’t judge the quality or the quantity or the consistency. They just welcome me with open arms each time I put pen to page,

It is the most functional relationship I have. No drama, no conflict. Because there are zero expectations of me.

The whole of me is accepted no matter what mood or emotion or energy I bring with me. The pages look at me ands say, “Okay, I see you. Lay your burden down within these pages.”

And that is what I do, what I have done, what I will continue to do.

Leaning Into Consistency.

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Since my BFF died in July, I have not really worked on my fiction. I have written daily, but it has been in my journal, trying to process what seems impossible to process.

It’s not only that I haven’t written on my either of my works-in-progress, it’s that I have had absolutely zero desire to do do. And that has been sad. I imagine it feels like a new mother who looks at her newborn, and due to hormones wreaking havoc with her brain chemistry, feels nothing at all. I have put so much time and energy into my fiction and to feel no connection to it has been so hard.

As with everything I am experiencing in grief, I allowed it. Trusting that it must be part of my particular grieving process.

Last week I read a newsletter from Jami Attenberg. (If you don’t subscribe, you need to!) I think it was about revision. And for the first time I felt this flicker of an ember of desire for my fiction writing. I was so relieved. It’s still there. It’s not gone forever.

Now, old me would’ve jumped onto this ember, smothering it with good yet completely unrealistic expectations. I would’ve set myself a goal of writing at least 1000 words a day, every day.

Then the beauty of synchronicity stepped in and I listened to “Unpublished” a podcast by Ami McNee. In it she talked about leaning into consistency. She talked about how she had writers who wanted to write 3000 words on Saturday because that was the day they had off. She gently suggested that instead, they go for a lower quantity but every day, like 100 words a day.

Huh. I could do that. Like, I could actually do that, even in the midst of grief and anxiety and the election and pandemic and our dog being diagnosed with cancer.

So, that’s what I did. I set this small but doable goal of 100 words every day on my novel. And guess what? It has worked.

I did the same thing with walking. Old me would refuse to walk if I couldn’t get a good 45-60 minutes in. Now, I am walking when I can for as long as I can. It may be only 20 minutes or it may be a full hour. The point is, I am moving. I am breathing fresh air. I am getting some sunshine.

Setting tiny, doable goals is my gift to myself. And being able to meet these goals, builds trust in myself and it ripples out into my life. Writing everyday leads to walking leads to an IG challenge for this month leads to trying to post on this blog every day in November.

Movement begets movement. It can be the tiniest of movements but it still builds that momentum.

Instead of throwing myself into consistent habits, I am leaning into them and it has made all the difference.

In This living Moment.

(Written from a prompt in the Poses, Pens and Inner Peace class I teach. We are currently working with the book “Deep Listening” by Jillian Pransky. By the way, that class is being taught online for the time being so if you are curious, join us via Google Meet. You can sign up through myspiritrising.net and I will email you the link the day before.)

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In this living moment I’m aware of the sound of my  pen gliding across the page. I see the faded, pale yellow ribbon dripping from the spine of this journal down toward my leg. I’m aware of the corner of the book nudging into my rib.

I hear the sounds of others writing with me over the computer and am grateful for the communal experience of writing together. It is often so lonely. Just me and the page, me and the screen, my and my messy mind.

I’m aware of my breath sliding down my throat into my belly. I’m aware of the shadow of my silhouette to the right of me, spilling onto the honey-colored wood floor.

I’m aware of an ease that has eluded me all day and for that I am grateful. This gentle practice of breathing, of writing, brings me back home to my body, to this space, to this living moment where everything is okay. Where I am okay. All I have to do is remember to bring myself back from the edge of worry, the abyss of anxiety over and over as often as needed, day after day, moment after moment.

With each breath, with each word I come home to myself.

(Give me your moment. Just breathe and notice what is happening around you, within you. Prompt: In this living moment…go.)

Letting my Writing Lead Me.

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Yesterday marked the end of the 1000 Words of Summer challenge hosted by Jamie Attenberg. For 14 days I wrote at least 1000 words every day.

Now,  I had some high expectations when I started this, cuz, have you met me? I thought for sure that I would finish the draft of my novel and that I would then move on to one of my other projects. Either my YA trilogy or memoir about yoga and writing. 

Well.

I didn’t finish my novel.

But over 14,000 words written is better than 14,000 words not written. 

What I did do was write in my notebook.  A lot. About 8-10 pages a day.

At first I was disappointed in myself. Because of course I was.

Most of the writing that fills this particular notebook came from prompts from Desiree Adaway for a program called Sister Summer. It’s a month of writing and reflection where we “do the hard complex work needed to get free together.”

All writing, no matter what it is, helps me become the writer, woman and human being I want to be.

It’s been a rough couple of months, hasn’t it? But amidst the protests and the pandemic and being unemployed I managed to write 1000 motherfucking words every single day. That is something. That is huge. 

I’m going to own it because even though the challenge didn’t take me where I intended, it still took me somewhere fantastic and unexpected.

I want to keep this momentum going. The momentum of writing 1000 words a day and the momentum of educating myself to be actively anti-racist and an ally. 

I need to remember that both are marathons, not sprints. 

Both are practices for a lifetime not merely a moment and especially not for an Instagram moment.

Both require me to dig deep and be honest about what I see, about what I find.

Both require me to be strong. To use my voice—especially when it is uncomfortable.

I don’t think it was an accident that this challenge coincided with this moment in history. One did not distract from the other. They nourished each other. They acted as mirrors, reflecting back to me where I was stuck, where I’ve been racist, where I clung to my white privilege, where I have failed and where I can do and be better.

I can’t think of a better result for writing those 14,000 words.

What a Prayer Can Be.

(Inspired by the  27 Wildest Days writing challenge by Laurie Wagner, which is inspired by this poem from Brad Modlin.)

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Peeling potatoes can be a form of prayer. The slices of brown or rose or yellow skin shaved into a bowl nestled in the sink, revealing a white bulb of flesh that fits into the palm of a hand.

Washing dishes can be a form of prayer. Bowls clanking, scraping remnants into the trash, putting forks tines down in the basket, setting the cups in a neat row up top, lining the plates up on the bottom as if standing at attention.

If I sewed, I imagine it would be a form of prayer. Stitching together what has been torn, creating garments to clothe this body of flesh.

Walking can be a form of prayer. I remember when my back went out and it hurt to walk down the stairs in our home. I remember when my best friend had open heart surgery a year ago and how she could barely walk to our neighbor’s mailbox when she came to our home to recover. Walking is such a simple act that moves us from place to place, activity to activity.  I remember walking the streets of Lisbon, Rome, Naples, Mykonos, and Amsterdam with my daughters last year. Walking was one of our main modes of transportation. It was our way of exploring, seeing and connecting with the world which is a form of prayer.

Writing is a form of prayer, for me anyway. I come to the page everyday with the intention of connecting, of diving deeper in to my life, into the moment. it is one of my practices along with yoga and meditation. Anything I practice regularly with intention is a form of prayer. These words spilling onto the page in purple ink, not knowing what comes next but trusting the process is a form of prayer.

Trust is a form of prayer. I am learning that now more than ever. Trust without knowing. Trust without certainty. Trust without guarantees.

Soaking in our hot tub can be a form of prayer. I never bring my phone with me. If I’m alone I just sink into the water, sink into my body, arms floating, letting the water cradle me, being acutely aware of the silky warmth enveloping me, the jets pulsing against my low back or kidneys or that tender spot on the side of the left foot. If I am with family or friends, I am present. We sit it silence or we talk and it feels like communion.

For a girl who wasn’t raised in any religion, I find prayer everywhere. Prayer isn’t asking for things like I believed as a child. Imagining God as Santa only living in Heaven instead of the North Pole.

Prayer is listening.

Prayer is paying exquisite attention to every detail of life from peeling potatoes to resting in a hot tub to writing these words.

Anything can be a form of prayer.

Everything can be.

If only we let it.

A Life in Books.

(Inspired by the  27 Wildest Days writing challenge by Laurie Wagner, which is inspired by “I Remember” by Joe Brainard.)

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I remember getting a set of children’s encyclopedias for Christmas one year from my aunt and uncle and being in awe of all the information that was now at my fingertips.

I remember learning the Dewey Decimal system in school then going home and numbering all of my books, creating my own little library.

I remember seeing how much my cousin Kelly read and looking to her to see what books I could look forward to reading: Agatha Christie, Taylor Caldwell.

I remember checking out “Little Women” in third grade from the school library. I was more impressed with the weight and heft of it than actually reading it at that age.

I remember how the library down the hill from us used to be a church and that felt right to me because books are sacred, reading a temple.

I remember packing to leave for art school and finding a library copy of “the Great Gatsby” that I had never returned.

I remember reading a book required for a high school english class about a girl who was sexually assaulted while babysitting and I was afraid to babysit after that.

I remember the first time I bought more than one book at a time. My husband and I were at the mall. We went into a B. Dalton I think and I found several books that I wanted so I bought them all. This snowballed over the years, never allowing me to catch up with my TBR pile.

I remember getting several Nancy Drew books for Christmas one year and I packed them for our trip up-north, grateful to have almost four hours to lose myself in them.

I remember reading Judy Blume and feeling truly seen and heard for the first time.

I remember reading “The New Diary” and how it got me writing.

I remember reading “Writing Down the Bones” on the train out of Philadelphia, unable to put it own, knowing that I was being changed forever.

I remember reading a book at work one day during lunch and my boss commented that I’d run out  of books to read soon and would have to start writing my own.

I remember a high school english teacher writing in my yearbook: “keep up that wonderfully sensitive writing.”

I remember walking into my favorite bookstore in Arizona and one of the booksellers had a book he set aside for me that he thought I’d like.

I remember looking for story collection written by men because I only read women. He gave me a book by Tobias Wolff and opened it to “Bullet in the Brain” and told me to sit down and read it right there. I did. I had no idea what a short  story could be.

I don’t remember learning to read.

I don’t remember that moment when all those random marks and squiggles suddenly made sense, creating  a whole world on a flat page.

I wish I did.

I bet it was magic.

 

What is Essential.

This came out of a prompt I offered in my Poses, Pens + Inner Peace class this past Thursday night: This is what is essential.

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Image found via Pinterest.

This is what is essential. This space to connect on the page, connect with each other. To excavate our voices and share them in our circle. Lifting our voices up so they can reverberate out into the world.

Excavating those truths that have been buried deep beneath all the shoulds and expectations, letting them see the light of day and sharing these truths, claiming them and in doing so, we claim ourselves.

This is what is essential. Claiming ourselves. Out truth. Our voice. Our power

The world needs that now more than ever. How can we share what we don’t  see? It is essential to see all the pieces of ourselves we have shoved into the shadows. The pieces that we were were told were too much. The thing is, the truth is that the world needs our “too-muchness.”

It doesn’t need our endless apologies.

It doesn’t need our whispers.

It doesn’t need our masks.

Or our lies. The ones we tell each other and the ones we tell ourselves.

The world needs us to stand up.

To speak the truth. Your truth. My truth. Our truth. Loud and clear.

It needs us to stand in our power.

It is essential for the healing and transformation of the world that we all do this.

Now, more than ever.

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Image found via Pinterest.

 

Why Write Now?

(This is from a prompt on the 27 Wildest Days writing challenge by Laurie Wagner which is from a beautiful new poem by Jane Hirshfield.)

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Today when I could do nothing what do I do? I reach for my pen and journal. I breathe deep, put pen to paper, heart to hand and I write. Not for something or someone. It’s not a record of what it’s like for me to live in this time. At least, that is not why I do it. It may be that, but it is not my intention.

So, when I could do nothing, why do I still write?

Why write when a pandemic is sweeping across the globe, gathering bodies and souls in its wake?

Why write when our financial future and security have been pulled out from under us?

Why write when I can’t see my students in person and can only connect occasionally through screens and technology?

When I can’t hug my friends but only see a grid of their beautiful faces on my computer?

When I send my husband out for groceries in gloves and a mask, praying that he doesn’t bring that invisible bug into our home.

When I could do anything or nothing, I still choose to write because it it is who I am. It is how I know who I am. How I discover who I am, who I was and who I want to be. And in times like this, it is essential that we have clarity around that vision of ourselves.

I write through this crisis and into it because I know of no other way to understand or connect with myself and that which is beyond myself. Moving deeply into my Self and far beyond my Self feels essential right now.

So I write.

I write in my journal.

I write from prompts and fragments of poems.

I write scenes for my YA fantasy that drops me into another world.

I write about and into the boredom.

The monotony.

The confusion.

The clarity.

The anxiety.

The calm.

The losses.

The gifts.

The grief.

The gratitude.

I write about and into all of it.

Today when I could do nothing, when I could do anything, one of the things I choose to do is write. You see, writing is essential to me. It is what nourishes me and during this time of great challenge it’s essential that we nourish ourselves.

Today when I could do nothing I make a cup of hot chai, drape myself in a cozy blanket and curl up in front of the fire with my journal open. All that white space waiting for me. No expectations. No judgments. Just space for me to be exactly who I am in this moment.

And this is why I choose to write today when I could do nothing, when I could do anything.