life, all over again.

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Writing is a lot like unpacking a suitcase after vacation.

A few wrinkled bits here. Maybe a half used bottle of this or that.

Smells of some place you ate stained into your clothing and maybe a souvenir or two.

Then begins the process of putting things back where they belong, and tossing what you don’t need anymore.
I don’t know why this part is so hard for me. Perhaps there’s some rebellion involved.

As with cooking, writing has the ability to create and clear chaos in my brain.
Before service, you want all your pieces in order. The fancy term is mise en place.

I’ve used that phrase here several times.

Gathering and preparing your ‘meez’ — that is cooking for the most part. Preparing yourself mentally and physically for what the night might throw at you. To be honest, you can never be prepared for everything, but you can sure as hell get close.

Preparation. I start to get that itch. That something is coming.

I have this idea in my head and I suppose most people call them writing prompts. They lead to one thought after another.

In the same way I prepare a dish, I am thinking of the next prompt. To be honest, cooking is mostly about prompts. There is a process, where one tiny thing is added to create one bigger thing. The parallel could go on for days, but I will choose to stop there.

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When I get to write, I get to prepare myself for something. I get to lay something down, examine it, put it away or give it away. When you write for the public, you are giving. I would say most people write for themselves. I think when you write for yourself, you’re being honest and people will know. Giving this away is hard sometimes. When I publish, there’s a big part of me that hopes it will go under the radar.

All of this has become such second nature to me, that I often forget people read. And when confronted, I am surprised and get shy and shrug a bit.

I could say the same for my other love.

I am so humbled when I get a response. Any response, I am usually bracing myself for impact. But as always, I love the good ones, and take seriously the bad. Or, “constructive”.

That’s the best thing about voice.

It’s so powerful and it’s so yours!

It is your wonderful and unique story and it’s how you tell it. Some people won’t respond, but the ones who do, you will know there is some soul sharing involved.

Sort of like when I read Anne Lamott, I have an odd fantasy of being around her the last days of my life. Making me laugh and cry and cuss in the same ten minutes. I like those people. Not that I know her, but I love that she makes me feel that way– connected deeply to her story. If anyone has brought me screaming and kicking back to God and my own spirituality, I would most likely thank her for doing the dragging. She’s a writer who helps me connect deeply to my own story.

It’s all just a process.

Creating. Failing. Celebrating.

Dish doing.

Floor mopping.

All over again. 

Unpacking.

Washing.

Remembering.

indulging in this sweet sorrowful beautiful magical resilient thing,

we call life.

belly feelin’

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I’ve been thinking a lot about attachment, and how my brain connects to certain things.

Partly, because I’m reading this book of meditations and it’s wrecking me. It’s rich. Hard to swallow at times. I can only take it in small pieces, but those pieces are just substantial.

A lot of it revolves around our happiness.

What is real happiness?

What does attachment have to do with happiness?

Well, it seems…everything.

I’ve been struggling with a lot of things. I have an idea of what it may be, but I’m not putting any pressure on myself to figure it out. I’m swerving in and out of it constantly, like traffic cones to a sixteen year old trying to get their license.

I believe that happiness is indescribable. It is relative from one person to another. But I don’t think we’ll ever be able to agree, only to affirm and live in those moments when we get them. Like little gifts, ya know?

Going back to the book, the part I struggle with so deeply is the attachment to people. Things, I can understand. We will never ever be truly happy with all of our pretty things. We know this to be true.

But what about people? Your partner or parents or siblings? Yes, we love them deeply. In moments, they can make us happy and feel loved.

And then what about yourself? What if they were to leave you?

There is a lot in that. Anger. Sadness. Regret. Abandonment.

Lord knows I’ve felt more of that this past year than I ever have.

We make it, though. Time chips away at the stone we build around our hearts. I’m sure it could go the other way, but I’ve found it quite the opposite. I think that says a lot.

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Time has made me softer. Time has allowed me to fit into my bones. It’s allowed me to listen to people and most importantly, to connect. I think growing up as a kid is super duper hard. We’re rarely taught how to hold loosely nor do I think we even had the tools to understand any of this.

I think affirming other people is hard work. Putting them at peace to explore one another’s depths. That can be hard. We can really turn things onto ourselves easily. It’s easy to make life about me. Hell, I do it all the time. Blogging is about me. It’s also about me in the bigger scope of things, too.

So how do I not make people my reason to be happy?

The writer talks about deprogramming the things we learned as kids. That maybe, if we deprogram our brains to not think of people as things to make us happy.

I know. That’s kind of icky.

I’m probably a little more gung-ho about this because a person I relied on for my happiness and contentment decided on a different path. There are also some sad feelings of being a kid of a divorce, too. You always have a right to feel sad about sad things. Don’t let anyone tell you any different.

But also, I think of myself as a human being all of my own doing. I recognize my heart and that it is good. I strive to do good things. I don’t always do good things, but my mind works for it. Sometimes it is able to reach my heart and I have an abundance of clarity for a short time.

I think attachment to people and things is a difficult thing to process. I’m not saying I have it figured out. But I can say, that I’ve made it through this process by loving myself and believing that I am worthy of love. I’ve made it through because time has shown me that people will enter in and out of your life and they will make you happy sometimes. Also, what would it be like to take away their power that makes you rely on them for your own happiness? Is it even about that?

I suppose I want to separate this from the idea that we are a beloved community. I believe we need people to get through life. I want that to be clear. Sometimes we need to have babies and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we are nomads and in certain seasons, settle for a time.

In all of this, though, I want to contemplate on how I feel most alive, and I realize it always stems from my belly. The place where I process my world. I can only be responsible for myself. For my own happiness. Lucky for us, we have people that help us get there. They gives us tools, and sometimes obstacles to use those tools.

What I want to say, and what my belly believes to be true, is that my connection to being content with the present, and who I am, stems directly from my understanding that other people and things are not responsible for my happiness. Only I am. I think that the work I’ve been doing over these recent years has allowed me to see that when you can best love and take care of yourself, you are able to give up the idea of needing to be understood all the time. I think feeling safe in that takes a while, but it’s where I feel most like me.

‘What then is happiness? Very few people know and no one can tell you, because happiness cannot be described. Can you describe light to people who have been sitting in darkness all their lives? Can you describe reality to someone in a dream? Understand your darkness and it will vanish; then you will know what light is. Understand your nightmare for what it is and it will stop; then you will wake up to reality. Understand your false beliefs and they will drop; then you will know the taste of happiness. ‘ -Anthony de Mello

more bits on writing

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Lately, I’ve been encouraging people to write.

A lot of this comes out of my experience as a person who writes often, and reaps the benefits of having lovely people like you read whatever it is I have to say. Heavy. Silly. Messy. It’s all out there. I suppose that’s one of the harder parts of writing; being vulnerable.

I love to empower people. I love getting the opportunity to share heart things, because most likely, it’s close to yours. That’s not easy.

It’s not easy telling people you are just divorced and terrified to date again or what it would be like to have another first kiss… Or that I try not to be seen by a person, regardless of how well I know them. These are a few of my not so favorite things.

As I sit on my bed, I have a notepad with a bunch of recipes and random crap that I might be working through. Right now, there is a packing list for my move further down South. There are also two books on writing and a few coins that must have fallen out of my pants as I lunge upon the bed every so often, laying my head down on the cool sheets.

Writing has always been to me, part soul-searching, part labor. It takes time to sit down and organize some sort of structure. Sometimes it’s easier when you set yourself up to write. Saying, “Oh, it’s Monday evening which means I’d like to publish something Tuesday morning..” Your body starts to itch with words. My tongue gets heavy. I get quiet and take a lot of deep breaths. It’s never easy to be vulnerable, or to put yourself out there and most likely not really get a response back.

Some things are also just duds. I have a list of them. Some are too scary. Some are just plain bad.

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But that’s okay. Because you’re writing and that’s important.

You are sitting your ass down and you are placing one word after the next onto a blank white space.

You’re not going to be great at first, and it might take you ten years to find your voice. But your voice is the most important thing you can have. Experiences are prompts. As are trees and the bozo that flipped you off in traffic today. Having a rugged life doesn’t necessarily give you a free card to being a good writer.

I can’t listen to music and write. At least the kind with words. It jumbles me up and I start going astray and saying stuff I don’t mean. I think people can tell when this happens, or at least it’s obvious when I do.

I am my own worst enemy with this stuff.

I don’t often write in complete sentences, because that is my voice. That is my headspace.

I pass by books all the time that people have written, and that we have forgotten. Only a rare few go down in history. Timing, mostly. But all these people tried at the very beginning. That’s all they were doing. Writing about bull fighting in Spain or the green light that taunted Gatsby.

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I realize I am getting ahead of myself here. I have not been published. I have written a lot for other people. I am not an authority, but as it is something I’m learning to do myself, I find it helpful when people share their process. I also love talking about writing with other people who write. Like anyone you share a craft with, it’s important to challenge each other.

Like starting out with something really, terribly raw. And then picking at it, and putting flesh on it. I like to cannonball into it, if you will. It helps me break down the things in my head. Humor is always helpful. So are pictures and keeping your word count to about 500. Honestly, unless you really know the person, most folks aren’t reading past 300 words. Big paragraphs are hard for us with short attention spans. (Or should I say folks of my generation with six-second attention spans)

Keep it clean. Your blog layout, that is. Cuss however you want. I cuss a lot in my head. Kitchen life has given me a decent vocabulary, for sure. Use it when appropriate. Sometimes, a properly placed cuss word can bring the house down.

Keep it close to you. Write to maybe one or two people. Otherwise, trying to impress a lot of people, like life, you will find yourself being stretched too thin. Keep it tight and start by exploring your own soul, because there’s so much in there.

It is endless.

I want to end this with Fitzgerald’s last paragraph in the Great Gatsby, because it gives me chills. It has such a wonderful rhythm and is just so hauntingly beautiful. I want to imagine what he felt like after he wrote it, just knowing he nailed the ending to one of this century’s most beloved works.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — to-morrow we will run faster, stretch our arms out farther…And one fine morning —

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.