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Browsing Tag

Being Present

Only

You are the only one– always.

Not in sadness or despair, but in strength.

In proof of living.

In the next step and the next.

There is no one else but you, here in the center of things.

Every ripple outward creates worlds.

Sing your song, hold your silence, put your feet on the earth.

This life– all of it– is here for– because of– you.

The Day’s Delight: Intention

I said, “I want to clear out the old tangles. I want to know what we each have to work with. Clean, clear, spacious; this is me turning off the tap whose drip drip drip doesn’t seem like much but drains the well.”

I said it all to myself, and then, sorting pots and pans and furniture into mine and yours, that’s what I did.

River

I wanted to believe I’d be married forever, for my whole life, for all the lifetimes to come– because that made it feel like God exists: here is a perfect thing, blemished, yes, but a perfect match.

I thought marriage meant an understanding that fit together like two pieces of a puzzle, carved just so, our edges matching each other’s with uncanny precision that felt like being held.

But it is a too-small idea of the Divine as One Thing Forever.

In art and creation and dreaming, the first idea is the doorway. And the next is another doorway, and the next is the next. It doesn’t stop. There is always transformation, movement, the changing of shape and the shedding of skin.

Why tell a story that we failed because we no longer fit together? Why not, instead, see the beautiful way each of us were worn smooth by the friction of the other?

Because we were never two die-cut pieces. We were close, as rocks from a common, ancient source, or two trees growing so near they shape themselves in constant accomodation.

I want to know who I am in full sunlight, in spacious soil, but it would be repeating the old prayer to believe there won’t be grit in the seams, that the boards won’t warp, that the wind won’t shape me, shave me into my next rendition of the truth.

All the curling tendrils of wood, the dusting of sand, the ash in the wind– I– we– this– changed and changed and changed over time. I felt it, I knew it, but now I am standing at a distance, watching from a height: I thought I had one shape, an old remembering of myself and my dreams, and now it is irrevocable: I am a different animal, I am never fitting back into that old nook, which has not even existed as I have pictured it in years and years, any more than a river is the same for more than a second.

What, then, is love? What is partnership? It seems to be the bravest thing: I solemnly swear to be honest, to show myself in every shape, to the whole world, including you. To swear and to know that the truth brings both joy and tragedy, new life as well as death.

I would like to be honest. To say, yes, this will hurt, but it will hurt no matter what, eyes closed or open. And I like to see the look of recognition on your face as you feel what it is to be yourself.

It feels like standing in a river, the water pushing at my knees, intent on nothing but movement, union. It feels like keeping my footing, staying upright, to not build a dam, to not say, love me just like this and let us never, never change.

Here is the river, and here am I. If I let it, it will carry all my heavy longings downstream and away.

When You’re Overwhelmed

The reason you get overwhelmed is because you’re looking ahead. You’re looking to the future and feeling inadequate; you know you don’t know how to handle all those problems.

And you don’t.

photo: David Prasad

It’s a long way up.                             photo: David Prasad

 

But you aren’t there yet. You aren’t supposed to be tackling those issues right now. Right now you are supposed to be in the present.

 

This kid is in the moment. photo: Mahalie Stackpole

This kid is in the moment.

photo: Mahalie Stackpole

When my son was a baby, I agonized over what would happen once he could walk. (My niece was a 6-month crawler and 9-month walker… and that was just around the corner!)

What I didn’t realize was that, besides him being a much later walker (he was a chunky baby), there was the scooting stage, the crawling stage, the toddling-while-holding-onto-furniture stage.

By the time we actually got to the walking stage, I was ready for it. My life didn’t fall apart. My house didn’t look like vandals had broken in. It was a slow process.

Sure, some things hit you faster than you expect, but our brains jump ahead so easily that we often don’t notice we’re thinking three steps into the future.

When you feel tempted to curl into the fetal position, chuck the manuscript, or vow to never, never, never ask another probing, door-opening question of your characters again, stop. Look around you. Where are you now?

Just do what you need to do for now.

The rest will take care of itself when it comes.

by Maria Ly

If you stay in the present, you can relax almost anywhere.                                    phot: Maria Ly

What To Do When You Want To Do it All

I want to do it all. Always.

This is the feeling that precedes doing none of it.

Going on social media and scrolling.

Eating ice cream (not that ice cream is inherently bad; it’s a beautiful thing).

Feeling bad about myself.

I have a new system, because they seem to last for about a season and then they begin to decompose. (I resist, try to outsmart death by Doing It Righter, panic, enter into denial, and eventually give in and shuffle around waiting for that tap on my shoulder that tells me it’s time to begin again.) In my new structure I’m texting my writing goals to Kelsi on Mondays, and checking in by phone on Fridays. Hallelujah for accountability and friendship!

One item on this week’s list is to research two small publishers based in Minnesota who primarily supply the school market. So I got on the internet this evening… and opened five tabs. I didn’t stop at site number one and start compiling the writing sample and resume they require– I went on a research binge.

This might work well for others, but not for me. When I do too much research I get overwhelmed. And then I start making Big Goals to Do Everything. Now.

It’s scary to do something (note the small ‘s’).

It’s scarier to take a small, real step than a huge imaginary step. (Brene Brown in Daring Greatly comments that she can’t go for a ten minute walk because she’s supposed to go for a four mile run; a run that never happens).

What do I really want?

I want to be a clear channel for art to come into the world.

I want to get out of the way and be filled with creative energy.

I want to connect, to share delight, to reflect the beauty of life.

Goals, systems, publishers are supports for that, not the compass point.

Take a breath.

Ask yourself, what am I here for?

Then do your best and revel in it.

The Tweet-Sized Essay

The Copy Cure (Marie Forleo and Laura Roeder) said you can write a blog post with a tweet– that no one ever opened an email and said, “Man, that was too short!”

When I started thinking about life in facebook posts, (as in, “Oh, I’ll say…”) I felt a little worried.

It’s gross to always be broadcasting.

For a w hile I decided if I wanted to post a status, I actually had enough to say in a blog post– and I did.

Now I’ve been cutting way back on online time again– ‘Living Locally’– and I feel the shift happening again: I want to write.

To people.

But I want to write a letter, pass a note– sign your yearbook– not shout in a megaphone.

It feels beautiful to write out compact thoughts, to explore and give value and time to snippets.

And it’s true:  There’s a whole blog post or poem or letter in a tiny tweet.

Evidence: This one is written on two sides of a recipe card.

Why Creative Blocks are a Good Thing

On Writer’s Block jumped into my box at the Friends of the Library Book Sale.

I was wary– I’ve done The Artist’s Way, this could be old territory.

But Victoria Nelson had me Aha-ing with every chapter.

Primarily, she says that a block can be the sign of creative integrity.

It shows up and halts all activity when the Ego is trying to muscle the Soul/Unconscious into something that isn’t quite right.

We should use blocks as guideposts.

Stop and uncover what is at the cause of it.

What is the resistance?

I know this, but it was powerful and helpful to see it all written out so matter-of-factly.

A block safeguards the work until Ego can handle it.

A block stops you from digging around to see if the seeds are actually growing (an act that would kill the garden).

A block is a sign of creative health, not ever of failure.

Avoiding the Gate: When the Project Feels Slow

I’m publishing my first book and it’s going so slowly.

Not too slowly, but slower than my imagination.

I’m a skittish colt leaping around instead of running straight through the open gate.

But the colt (and I) aren’t wrong.

We’re not lazy or bad or even distracted.

We’re young and there’s a lot of extra energy and it’s spring and everything is new– and, most importantly– there is time.

There is time for leaping and snorting, pawing at the ground, tossing our heads, putting on a show.

This isn’t a term paper, and we don’t have a death sentence.

Sometimes the rhythm and goals of life are urgent, pressing– but all things happen in their right time.

There is no mistake.

It always goes exactly how it must go– but sometimes I had other predictions or step-skipping hopes.

But in the end, I know I will be satisfied and the gate will be beautiful– even my friend.

The Northern Lights Came to my Birthday Party

The Northern Lights came to my birthday party.

It was not yet 10:30, in town, with a nearly-full moon– but when we looked up from our backyard campfire, the sky was dancing in green and purple and white.

We cried out.

We climbed the swing set for a better look.

We ran into the (dark and quiet) street and marveled at this good luck.

Everyone said it was for me– a sign for my 33rd year and how fortuitous it would be.

This is a magical year– I felt it before the sky sent its message.

Art.

Extravagance.

Natural alignment.

Being present.

Living locally (rather than virtually).

We took no pictures, posted no status updates.

Instead we laid down on the still-warm asphalt and watched the sky above us shift, change and glow.

We savored good food, stared at flames, shared five conversations at once.

Here’s to being alive.