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Mundane Moments Brought to Life

One of the writing avenues I’ve been traversing upon lately, involves working on my second book, for which the subtitle will help you glean its premise: Short Stories of Alleged Humor & Insight – my plan being to include non-fiction stories by which I can insert both elements. I use the word alleged because one of my greatest and ongoing hopes is that my own brand of whit and wisdom has the capacity to travel outside of my own use. While I routinely find myself extremely delightful and funny, the question always remains: Will anyone else? And so, as a writer, it is my sincere hope that my words are  translatable.

Something worth mentioning: I’m not a skilled storyteller. While you wouldn’t know it, based on how much I write here on my blog, I am a less-is-more sort of gal, in terms of verbal dialog and social interactions. My idea of a face-to-face response to the question: How did you meet your husband? would be something like: Through some mutual friends. I would then just stop talking, considering that answer good enough. My husband, on the other hand, would tell the whole lovely and winding tale, consisting of all the kismet qualities that bring it to life and create interest for those hearing our story for the first time. And I am quite aware that his version is far more engaging than mine.

So, given that I’ve decided to craft a book in which I’m really not qualified to write, I’ve taken to composing stories about mundane or otherwise seemingly uneventful moments, which on the surface seem not to posses much of anything in the intrigue-department, in order to actively practice honing the art required for the book I’m writing: the art of storytelling. I’m happy to report that the practice is going well. And, since I need all the practice I can get, here’s another hopeful attempt:

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Posted by on November 5, 2017 in Creative Writing

 

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Digging the Well

On Wednesday night, I attended a banquet dinner on campus with visiting guest speaker Ann Holmes Redding, as part of DiverseU, entitled: A Piece of the Peace. Ann is a former Episcopal priest, who was defrocked in April 2009 for having become a Muslim in March 2006. She is a faith leader, an author, a public speaker, and a teacher, who identifies with being both of Christian and Islamic faith.

Among many other things I greatly appreciated in her talk, she shared this parable:

“The truth was a mirror in the hands of God. It fell, and broke into pieces. Everybody took a piece of it, and they looked at it and thought they had the truth.”

― Jalaluddin Rumi

One of the things I most enjoy, is attending evenings such as this. Opportunities that allow me to practice breaking down what Thich Nhat Hanh calls our illusion of separateness.

In a stroke of good timing, I felt attending this particular evening paired well with another topic that has been circulating for me recently, centered around our local Festival of the Dead (FOD) celebration – which took place last night – and the concerning matter of appropriation. I’ve been a part of FOD for a number of years, as a performer with Unity Dance & Drum, a local dance troupe. This year, the social outcry about the issue of appropriation, in regards to our Missoulaified FOD, reached a record high, to the point of causing enough ruckus as to greatly deflate the participation and attendance at the parade procession down Higgins Avenue last night.

In the interest of trying to further find my way around this confusing topic, I wrote this in my journal early this morning:

Appropriation: something (as money) set aside by formal action for a specific use. (Merriam-Webster, circa 1997) Apparently, this is one of those words commandeered by the masses and then sent to drift on an ice flow far away from its origination. So long, old chum! Safe sailing on the seas and swells of change! Because as I understand it, appropriation is a dirty, no good, rotten word with negative connotations – but I’m not getting that vibe from Webster’s definition.

In the same kind of funny way that femme fatale follows feminism in our household dictionary, it seems we’ve re-calibrated the word appropriation to match our western culture’s sometimes over-correcting tendency to be offended on behalf of a people who are not offended enough, by the actions of blundering white people, or BWP.

Please understand, I include myself in the BWP demographic and admit readily and upfront my ignorance when it comes to all things white privilege related – it’s also likely that I’m more of a femme fatale than a feminist, so there’s that to consider, too.

While there’s part of me that wants to generate more of an understanding about the culturally important topic of appropriation, another part of me wants to relegate it to those who are better equipped to serve directly in its deconstruction and called to guide its direction. Cuz we can’t all dig appropriately sizes wells when it comes to all subjects in need of attention and transformation. There’s only so much digging one person can do. And we pick our 1, 2 or 3 spots and dig there, alongside others who are digging there, too. And occasionally we lift our heads up, look around, and take solace in the fact that there are a multitude of others digging simultaneously in a myriad of different places.

For example, I gravitate towards hospice work and matters concerning aging and death and dying – do you? If your answer is no, I bet you’re glad to know I’m digging the well here in this particular spot, even if you have no interest in joining me.

We cannot do the work of a million hearts with the one life we’ve been so richly given.

And this truth does not have to be deflating.

Do not allow the fact that you can’t do it all keep you from doing all you can.

Pick up your shovel and dig where you’re called.

(and do so with gladness and joy)

 

 

 

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To Read or Not To Read, That is the Question

So enthralled was I with A Million Little Pieces by James Frey, that I hopped online to purchase its sequel My Friend Leonard, as soon as I finished the book. Part of me believes in the potential merits of Ignorance is Bliss as a working life philosophy – and it’s this part of me that wishes I’d not stumbled upon the controversy encircling these books and their author.

I picked up A Million Little Pieces from one of those quaint little free libraries situated by the side of the road. And Oprah’s circular book club sticker adhering itself to the cover was almost enough of a deterrent to sway me away from taking it. While I realize, of course, that Oprah’s rubber stamp of approval would serve to inspire many people to pick it up – and in fact was what launched this particular book to stardom – it had the opposite effect on me, as Oprah’s massive branding of herself has always rubbed me the wrong way. Though, truth be told, I also sort of admire her for it, too.

After getting a few chapters in, I started to question as to whether I had the ability to finish the book. It was a gut-twisting, heart-rendering read. I felt as though I were being put through an emotional wood-chipper with every page. But I stuck with it, figuring since he had the wherewithal to tell his story of addiction and nefarious behaviors in such a raw and honest way, the least I could do was tag along and bear witness.

Once I figured out how to roll my eyes over his clunky and stylistic approach to the book, and compute with a growing semblance of understanding what is was he was trying to convey, I was able to immerse myself into his world and started thoroughly enjoying the read. I became invested in the people and plot line he was writing so starkly about. I looked forward to reading a new chapter each morning and was over-joyed when I discovered there was a sequel.

Mention of the controversy popped up as soon as I typed My Friend Leonard into the search bar on my laptop. Turns out, both books, while touted as memoirs, are not entirely true and accurate accounts of the author’s life. Artistic license was taken. Parts were fabricated. Big parts. And Oprah, needless to say, was not happy.

At first, the dude tried denying the accusations, brought forth by the investigative website The Smoking Gun. He even went so far as to say that his publisher had diligently fact-checked his book, which turned out not to be the case. Eventually the dude fessed up. He even went back on Oprah to be interviewed about the whole messy ordeal.

My Friend Leonard was gliding through the mail on its way to my doorstep as news of this controversy sifted into my consciousness. Knowing full well that I would not have given the first book a second glance, had I known it was either based or inspired by a true story, verses being a purely non-fiction read, I was off-put in light of this new information.

Does it really matter? I asked myself. I mean, you really liked the book.
Yeah, but I really liked it because I was under the assumption it was
his story – his true story. I countered.
Hmmm. Well, maybe
most of it is true. Would that help? I asked myself.

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Posted by on November 1, 2017 in Creative Writing

 

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I Love People

Original spoken word piece (fresh off the mental press):

People are complicated, in more ways than one,
they are heart-felt and hollow – dirty and rancid,
they are magnificent and astoundingly talented and profoundly lost without direction,
they shine bright as a Vegas marquee and lack luster like flat brown earth in winter,

and I love every single drop of it

the taste of humanity’s vast spectrum coats and hangs and lingers on my senses
the same way watching a sun set or rise reminds us that there’s something….more –
more to connect with than securing our morning coffee,
more that getting transfixed with misplaced angst on social media,
more than our stone tower of impatience stacking ever-higher day by day,
more than the petty and over-dramatic utterances we think and hear and say,
more than being bound in the self-conscious prison we hold our own selves hostage,
more than constantly trying to assess who’s right and who’s…not

Me? I revel in the more –
from the enchanting song of pre-dawn silence to the interplay of colors interloping in the hills,
from the gentle sway of tree tops to the grace of birds in flight –
and I love people,
I love their fascinating awkwardness and amazing proclivities,
I love the way gals smile and guys walk,
I love watching people open up and talk in a way they never knew they could
and I love bearing witness to something new

I love being reminded that Yes we are all different and Yes we are all the same too
and I revel in the person I get to become when I’m around the all encompassing and collective You –
the You who allows the Me to interact more wholeheartedly
without fear of rebuke or ridicule or discontent
simply because you’re living how you’re living and now I get to be better for knowing

Cuz, when we stop listening we stop growing,
when we stop listening we stop loving the wet drops of humanity
falling like nectar in the valley gracing the fertile fields of our understanding,
cuz there is nothing more potent than befriending that in which our inclination
is to apprehend as suspect to our own discomfort

And one of the greatest misfortunes is that we run too easily,
we shut down too quickly when confronted with shaky ground
and we haven’t learned the benefits of sticking around,
even and especially when it’s hard

I love people because they’re messy and unpredictable
and pains in the ass
and full of surprises I did not see coming

I love people because I see my own self reflected
and they show me the work I have to do

I love people because
how can you not,
when the alternative is anything less

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2017 in Creative Writing

 

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A Teaching Moment

It was deceivingly chilly outside the other day, when we went for a walk. Still, I dressed them in a warm-enough outer layer and hats that covered their ears. Half-way down the block, though, the allure of a late-October stroll to the park amid a blue sky and sunny day was masked by whipping winds, which carried winter’s slow approach on its breath. Suddenly, the delight of traipsing through colorful and crispy leaf piles was replaced by great discomfort. Scrunched up faces of disapproval and whining quickly ensued.

“It’s cold, let’s go home!!” said the 4-year-old.

“Eeehaaaaaaoohhh,” said the 2-year-old – or something to that affect.

I did briefly consider their input. I even glanced in the direction of the warm house we could return to, before determining that what we had here before us was an opportunity. This was a teaching moment.

I made some minor adjustments before we proceeded, one of which was to redirect our destination. The others involved putting the 2-year-old in the empty stroller I had carted along and showing both boys how to tuck their frigid fingers up into the sleeves of their sweaters, like turtle heads retreating into their shell. Lastly, and most important, I shook off my own feelings of cold displeasure, buoyed my attitude, and re-calibrated my compass in the direction of adventure. For good measure, I reminded my fellow travel companions that we were heading to the place we intended on going after visiting the park, which would afford them the chance to pick out a treat in which to enjoy after lunch.

The two-year-old was appeased enough to stop his caterwauling, once he was nestled in the stroller. The four-year-old, however, was decidedly unconvinced that anything other than returning home was in his best interest. Since he really didn’t have any other viable options, though, he reluctantly trudged alongside of us. Through his continued pleas to turn back and complaints of how cold it was, I made out-loud observations about the Halloween decorations on display at the houses we passed by and the beauty of the day. It wasn’t that I was trying to dismiss him or tune him out, I just wasn’t adding fuel to his detrimental utterings by listening intently – which, I might add, also helps with not getting personally swept up in the falderal of children’s un-skilled (and fleeting) reactions. After all, young ones are constantly learning from the words and behaviors of the adults that surround them. So, if I were to become as eq!”ually dis-satisfied with the coldness as he was, it would be teaching him to stay in that mode, instead of learning how to transition out of it. It’s worth mentioning that regardless of what’s going on, the level of our happiness depends almost solely on our attitude. We are presented with an active choice in every moment in regards to how we respond to whatever it is that’s happening.

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Can Men & Women Be Friends?

At first glance, this post title may seem a bit off-topic in the realm of mindfulness, but upon closer examination of the word ‘mindfulness’, we may come to realize that really anything can be included under this umbrella word when we apply the application of direct and engaged attention, spurred by a desire to come into a deeper relationship of understanding.

This topic has been coming up for me lately. Can heterosexual men and women be friends? Part of me says yes and part of me says no. I think it depends largely on the circumstances involved. Social friendships, where interactions occur mostly in group settings, are different than close one-on-one friendships, where you’re spending more concentrated time together. I think social friendships are much more plausible than one-on-one friendships, in terms of the likelihood of having romantic feelings develop on either or both sides of the fence.

I was interested in boys at an early age. I had my first boyfriend in third grade and stayed in a steady stream of romantic relationships up until I met my husband, at age 19. Growing up, I had mostly guy friends. And I falsely told myself that it was because I just related better with guys. When I encountered SLAA (sex and love addicts anonymous) at age 19, I realized I had developed a lot of patterns of behavior that were detrimental and destructive. I came to understand that a big reason as to why I surrounded myself with guy friends was because I got a certain amount of attention that I really enjoyed, craved, and used to assert my self-worth and feel good about myself. A hard truth to come to terms with, at that time, was realizing that while I may have had no intention of being physically involved with my guy friends, I got a certain high from knowing that it was an option.

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Posted by on October 28, 2017 in Everyday Practice

 

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Allowing Others To Be As They Are

This is me crafting a response to a friend that I thought might prove helpful to post here as well. Recently, a friend approached me inquiring about how I was able to manage the ability to stop trying to control my husband. She had spoken to my husband, Mike, and learned that one of the components in his journey of getting clean and sober 5 years ago, while simultaneously healing from a long bout of depression, involved the work I was doing on myself, centered around, among other things, letting go of being so controlling.

With the crucial support of Alanon (a 12-step group aimed at helping people who have loved ones struggling with addiction), I was able to learn a key element in regards to how to cultivate my own sense of deep-rooted joy and happiness, which was to detach from Mike with love. Detaching with love was an alien concept at first. I was clumsy around it and fumbled with it for a while as I tried to understand what it meant, in a real-life application sort of way. But I slowly started to figure it out, using a slightly adapted version of the Serenity Prayer as a guiding principle along the way (see my own re-worded iteration above).

It is my opinion that most of us do not really and truly know that we are not in the position to change other people. I think we have an intellectual grasp that we cannot change others, but when it comes down to it, we think we’re right and others are wrong on a routine basis. And as long as we think our way of doing things is the right way –  maybe even the ONLY way – then we will continue to try to assert control over others, especially those closest to us, in an effort to get them to change.

5 years ago, the work I was doing on myself could be summed up with this statement: I was learning how to take responsibility for the quality of my own well-being. One of the biggest pieces of doing this work involved coming to see how much I heaped the quality of my well-being onto Mike. How oftentimes my mood depended on his. How I allowed his actions to affect my attitude and outlook. I came to see that as long as my mood, disposition, attitude, and outlook relied on his, I was powerless. If I was needing him to be a certain way in order for me to be a certain way, I was going to be miserable, and stay that way.

I’ll take the issue of cleanliness, as an easy and workable example. I am someone who greatly appreciates, and on some level really needs, a sense of spacial orderliness and cleanliness. However, one look through the window into his truck cab, and you would clearly see that my husband could care less about such things. I spent years and years being the sort of wife who mastered the common and destructive patterns of being passive-aggressive: huffing and puffing my way around him picking up dishes and dirty clothes, stomping around on my way to take out the trash or mow the lawn, and washing dishes or cleaning the house with the manic energy of the Tasmanian Devil. And, of course, no master passive-aggressive would be complete without having their own well-cultivated Tone of Voice, indicating to those that know them best to Watch the F*** Out. I remember my mom’s Tone of Voice while growing up. Like mother like daughter.

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Posted by on October 27, 2017 in Everyday Practice

 

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