Riding the Feedback Loop.

Last night I took a big step into the realm of listening hard.

I signed up for a writing workshop, something I have attempted in the past and have failed miserably. Failure meaning, getting upset, taking critique personally, crying, feeling unworthy, getting depressed and eventually giving up. But I always give it a go every few years.

Unlike other workshop formats, in The Writer’s Studio we are asked to write original work based on a weekly reading from a published author. This allows us to challenge ourselves and experiment with different tools. But the most interesting part of the class, for me at least, is that another student reads your piece aloud and then everyone critiques it based on how well the assignment was met. The author is not allowed to speak during this time. In other words I have to listen. Take it all in and listen, quietly. With my mouth shut.

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I was worried and a bit anxious before class started. But I was also excited to share my story. I wrote my piece as a male narrator, something I had never done before. I was having trouble getting out of my head as I wrote, so I had to trick myself a bit. It worked and for me the exercise of creating a character that was not myself felt like a huge accomplishment. Well, that and listening quietly.

Everyone was very gracious, at some points there was even some laughter, which was good because I was trying to make the piece a bit sarcastic. Some of the feedback helped me see that the character sounded way more angry than I had intended. All of the talk about my piece kept me thinking of ways I could improve it and as I was taking notes, new ideas were popping into my head.

And this is the point that I learned something new. Feedback is important, without it we cannot hone our craft. We will never grow as budding artists.

Of course, I have heard about the virtue of critique before, but I never truly understood its use until last night. I need an audience so my work can have a life. If what I intended did not come through than the story was not effective. It obviously needs some more work. And this is all part of the process. Nobody nails it right out of the gate. Even Mark Twain would read his work out-loud to his family, just to gauge their reactions. He was a populist and if his work did not resonate with regular people, he was not on track.

Last night I connected the idea that I had created fear of feedback just as another block to progress. I do have a lot of work ahead. Instead of feeling daunted, I am invigorated by the challenge. It brings out my healthy competitive spirit.

I did feel some intense insecurities last night. As other pieces were read aloud, I started to judge my own work as inferior. Truthfully, there was some amazing writing last night, mine was not at the top. I can see where I need to put more effort in building more imagery, mood, tone and poetry.

I was starting to listen to the “You’re not good enough voice,” when I caught myself. I remembered that I have read countless times that many authors never feel satisfied with their work and are always self-critical. I thought of one of Zadie Smith’s 10 Rules to Writing;

Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never ­being satisfied.

It may sound depressing, but its just a sadness. At least you are not blocking yourself from trying. I was simply feeling that my work could be improved. If I apply the same lesson I JUST learned from feedback of others, to self-criticism, I should merely take note and apply the appropriate edits. So, I may need to work on some skills. I just started revisiting my passion to write. And like so many artistic endeavors, it take practice and hard work. Art can be deceptively simple to see, read, hear, eat or touch.  That simplicity is always borne out of dedication and commitment.

I learned and felt a lot last night. I am going to remain proud that I showed up to class with a completed piece. I have 9 more weeks to go, to try on new techniques, push myself and most of all have fun. The group of authors in the room were warm and inviting. I really have nothing to fear. Success for me will be to stick with it and not be defeated by old habits.

A Dorky Girl’s Trouble with College-A Cautionary Tale

I have got to let go. I have many decisions to make and I can’t hold onto the past. My angst this morning stems from the fact that I want to change colleges and degree, again. I am a perpetual student and at the same time I hate school. Let me explain.

As far back as I can remember I have idolized the thought of going to a university. In my adolescent mind college was a warmly tinted movie, with golden and brown hues like a scene from “The Dead Poets Society.”

The Dead Poets Society On the first day of school, my teacher would throw the recommended course curriculum out the window and we would erupt into a spontaneous cheer! Hurrah! He would teach in the fashion of Aristotle, our small group would sit semi-circle around our beloved professor. He would answer each and every inquiring question, goading us to dig deeper with kindness and humor. We would “Seize the Day!” Carpe Diem our motto for life.

I am sure you see where this is going. Somewhere dark and ugly.

I loved learning in High School and hung out with some of the dorkiest girls ever. We went to a book reading for fun. Practiced playing the intro to “Stairway to Heaven” on our flutes, of our own accord. When we said we were working late on the school newspaper our parents could actually find us in a classroom at 8 pm. But at the same time, I hated High School. I struggled with the social scene and horrible little humans who played football and flapped pom poms.

Apparently I was the only one who thought I was a good student with any potential. According to school officials, the number 2.76 and the rank of 227/385 indicated a student with average intellect and so-so prospects in life. I was better suited for a community college and maybe a part-time job. Nothing stellar here.

So, I struggled on my own to find a college, the advice I got was to try CSU as I might squeeze in if my SAT scores were high enough. I could get lucky. But I was warned, it wasn’t going to be easy. Of course, at 17 this advice just made me feel like crap and filled with shame. Going to college was going to be a very unlikely possibility and I was probably destined to fail anyhow.

But I did it, I worked hard and got decent enough SAT score to get into CSU, Fullerton. I opted for a practical degree in Journalism, advice I took from my parents and school. There was no need to pursue creative writing, what would anyone do with an English Degree? I relented and when I try to look back, I see a meek little kid with little fight in her. It was a sad time for me, I had dreamed of dorm life and going away to school. But my parents were sure I only wanted to party and “be bad”. Besides, Indian girls don’t live in dorms. My only choice was the nearest commuter school and living at home with my family.

Anyhow, I did get excited to sign up for classes. I loved the school bookstore and bought binders and stickers with the unrecognizable seal of CSUF. A few of my High School friends also chose CSUF so I had buddies, which was great because the campus was huge and the administration was uninviting.

And then it was the first day of school. A good kick in the gut.

I walked into a very impacted Journalism 101 class and the professor announced to a standing room only that students with less than 56 units should drop the class. They did not have space for incoming Freshmen. I am not sure how I was even allowed to register? Anyhow, all I could feel was utter sadness and disbelief.

The day only got worse, I trudged to my next class–Political Science, which was at least an undergraduate requirement so I allowed to take the class. I walked into the largest lecture hall I have ever seen in my life. I found a seat, where I could barely see the professor. I felt small and defeated and every second he droned on made me drift further away into my sadness.

I continued to drift through school. I made it through one semester, if I recall I probably got something like a 2.7 (my GPA for life). My parents were disappointed. I was depressed, probably clinically, but nobody knew (and I felt that nobody cared). I would drive to school and sleep in a warm car just so my parents thought I was at school. The second semester report card was filled with W’s and that was the end of my life at CSUF.

So here I am, 22 years later. I have continued school off and on throughout these years. I have an insane tally of schools and after CSUF I have attended a total of FIVE community colleges slowly trying to finish the Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum (IGETC). I still have a 2.7. I have straight up failed some courses, almost always math and science and I am nowhere near getting a B.A. If I attend school full-time I will graduate in 2 more years. Right now I am attending a degree mill type of business school and feel the same drudgery and sadness as before. I keep telling myself to get that piece of paper, just do it. But its not enough to motivate me past the drifts of melancholy.

This all seems so pathetic to me that I can barely write these words. (Deep breath taken here). I want so badly to erase this past. I hate that it exists in my mind. Yet I have held onto this identity for so long. Why?

Thinking about the decision to change schools, simply brings up doubts and stirs up unresolved issues. I can feel myself contracting, getting smaller, feeling less open and hardening. My body is used to this posture and it quickly begins to recoil. So as I write today, I feel like I am trying to save myself.

Part of the reason that I started this blog was to relinquish my attachment to past mistakes. I know I don’t need to share any of this with anyone, but I am finding that the simple act of opening up and being blunt about the truth gives me a distance from myself that is less painful. The less pain I have, the less attached I become to the little nugget of shame that I grasp so tightly. I also admit, that I share because I feel that we are all connected–so that maybe the act of healing will transfer to others. As I continue on this journey, I keep hearing good things from the voice inside and others around me. This is what is keeping me going. After all, my new journey is about listening.

I was reminded, that there is a sad little 17 year old girl still stuck inside. A girl that was not heard. Well, I am listening. Today I am listening hard. So hard, I feel like crying. If I listen she will take me on a different path, a smaller school perhaps, with a few people that could care about her well-being. A school that has focus on liberal arts. Someplace that is a haven for her to heal.

If I listen, my grip will soften

and what could happen?

Will I see a young girl

float safely away?

 

I can has no more cheezburgers!

I have some useless addictions that have cropped up over time, probably to fill the holes of past addictions. I am on the cusp of some bad behaviors taking hold of me and I need to share. I keep gobbling up horrible 24-hour cable news and starting today I am stepping away from the TV. I turn it on because its a kind of annoying form of white noise. But, I often catch myself popping up every few minutes, like a gulping whack-a-mole. Then I get annoyed, with unanswered questions and loop-de-loop answers and go back to my work. Of course this gives me good cause to berate myself, because I am also addicted to guilt and shame. Honestly, I am aware that this is a game of diminishing returns. This is why I am admitting my faults!

The other day, I heard a newscaster announce in a halting tone that raised in pitch with each word, reaching a crescendo of hyperbole that is so typical it has lost its effect. “You. Won’t. Believe. This. Next. Story. AND. IT. MAY. NOT. EVEN. BE. LEGAAALLLL!” But I still popped up to listen, this is crazy, it can’t be legal! Then, I was tricked into a calming nano-second of a moment by an official, someone with title and expertise, so he said and the broadcaster confirmed. Oh good, he will tell us this is dreadful, it should never be committed against the finest citizens of the world. The newscaster was frothing at the bit, asking leading questions loaded with innuendo. But the expert stayed on point, even acted responsibly and simply confirmed that it was all perfectly legal and constitutional as proven by the courts and in fact a very good thing. A pretty far cry from the screeching accusations of foul play. He was rushed off the air with more halting thank yous and fake platitudes. I felt so let down and completely annoyed that I had fallen for the trick–yet again. But the TV stayed on and I went back to my task, letting the blaring voices swirl around me providing a very artificial comfort.

This when I realized I had a problem.

I remembered reading “A Prayer for Owen Meany,” by John Irving. It’s funny, I do recall the story in bits and pieces but the strongest memory I have is finishing the books in tears, sad that the story was over and I had to say farewell to characters I had grown to adore.

Owen Meany was the star of course. But the narrator of the novel, John Wheelwright drove the story. One of his many obsessions was reading the news, particularly following the events of the Vietnam War. He ranted and raved about the coverage throughout the novel, keeping track of casualties and battles. I know I would have done the same thing and still find myself wanting to dig into accounts of our current wars, although the information is buried knee-deep in horse shit these days. Probably thanks to some of the more revealing coverage of the Vietnam War.

Anyhow, in Irving’s illustrious novel,  John Wheelwright said it best;

“Newspapers are a bad habit, the reading equivalent of junk food. What happens to me is that I seize upon an issue in the news—the issue is the moral/philosophical, political/intellectual equivalent of a cheeseburger with everything on it; but for the duration of my interest in it, all my other interests are consumed by it, and whatever appetites and capacities I may have had for detachment and reflection are suddenly subordinate to this cheeseburger in my life! I offer this as self-criticism; but what it means to be “political” is that you welcome these obsessions with cheeseburgers—at great cost to the rest of your life.”

John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany

See my point! I am eating way too many cheeseburgers! Shoot, I am even super-sizing the meal and ordering extra fries and apple pie. Even John Wheelwright wouldn’t be able to remain political, not without clogging his arteries. I pay for this junk food with my logic and tranquility. I can feel the empty calories rattling around in my brain, raising my blood pressure with angst. My temper flaring at injustice and the obvious omission of detail, leading me down an endless pipeline searching for facts that more closely resemble the truth. Sometimes I find more muck than I can handle and other times the search is futile. I will always remain political and will have to live with the costs, because I am certain that the obstacles are put in our way to divert our attention. But I have to get better at avoiding the junk food and find more organic sources of news. I know, I know, I can listen to jazz or classical music for a higher standard of white noise. And I also know, turning off cable news is the first step to clarity.

Are you there Judy Blume?

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“I’m a part of the women’s movement, even if nobody knew it but me.”-Judy Blume

As a girl, I learned so much from Judy. I learned about periods from reading her books. You know menstruation not grammatical. Seriously, I thought she meant the period at the end. One of the girls on my block with an older sister had to tell me about the bloody kind. Of course, I was horrified and somewhat intrigued. I never asked my mother, instead I read every Judy Blume book I could. I even hid away and read “Forever” with the girls on our block and at age 8 or 9 and that book reaaaally freaked me out. But this was sex education in the 80’s. Our mothers were busy with work, raising a family and probably even trying to discover themselves as well. I know my mother did not come from a family that discussed anything remotely sexual. It was definitely not a topic that my mother ever tried to broach with her daughters.

Why am I even thinking about all of this? The other night, I finally watched Makers: Women Who Made America, a documentary about the Women’s Movement, covering the last half century. Judy Blume was one of the women highlighted and her quote is from this show. I have to say I was riveted and I definitely got sucked into the emotional tie of the movement. For a minute, I felt bad I didn’t support Hillary Clinton’s bid for presidency. But I know there will be a woman in The Oval Office in my lifetime.

I was a young girl in 80’s and many of the events are still memorable. I can clearly recall Anita Hill’s testimony and protesters burning abortion clinics. But those events were merely in the background, for me life at home meant being a latch-key kid, with two parents who worked their butts off. My mom was always proud she made her own money. Self-sufficiency is a big deal for my mom, it was and is still a message she often repeats. I know her biggest fear was that we would be stuck, beholden to a man, without our own power or money. In a way, we did listen to this advice.

But where are we now as women? Where is the “movement”? Do we not care as women? Why are we not out in the streets? A few women in the show answered for us and projected the idea that maybe our generation feels that there is nothing left to fight for and we are taking feminism for granted. Maybe we even feel entitled. Obviously this is far from the truth. Every time this question came up in the show, I just wanted to shout..MAYBE WE ARE TOO BUSY AND TIRED to march in the streets! Plus I don’t want to protest, I want to change things without too much shouting.

I loved that the show featured Abigail Pogrem, the daughter of  Letty Pogrem one of the founding editors of Ms. Magazine. Abigail quit her job as a high-powered TV producer to spend more time raising her family and admits that her decision to stay home and slow down was concerning to her feminist mother. Abigail described the “ambivalence of motherhood” as the state all of us reach when we hit a wall and wonder “How are we supposed to do ALL of this?” For me this is the unanswered question and legacy of the feminist movement and we should not spend our time wondering why we are not marching in the street and screaming about injustice toward fellow women. We need to go deeper and start providing tools and guidance for all women, mothers and non-mothers, that allow us to be flexible, authentic and to form our own unique brand of feminism. There should be no war or judgment.

I’ve come across many brands of feminism and recognize and cherish the message. But sometimes, I do find it confusing and hard to figure out how to process all of the choices. The paths are not so clear cut any longer. There are so many flavors of feminism and I feel worried that these ideas are not simply honored as different facets of the same movement. Instead the dissent gets labeled as cat fights and wars. What good does do for all of us? We are are struggling in the trenches trying to make ends meet, trying to do our best.

In the end, I remember the sacrifices that were made by my mother and many strong women around the world. My mom woke up at 430 am every morning to drive an hour each away, working a very rough and tumble job at Airborne Express, where I know she endured sexism and racism. I am pretty sure she got about 5 hours of sleep almost every night and often chose to work an extra shift on Saturdays. She made this choice, so she could be home early enough to pick us up from school or at least shorten time with babysitters. Eventually, she retired from this job after nearly 30 years, with a good Union pension. Meanwhile, my father got us girls ready every morning, waking us up to brush our long curly hair and tied into two neat ponytails. He drove us to school, blaring KNX 1070 AM news, that is still seared into my brain. So my parent’s tried, they both worked hard to raise us and give us more than perhaps a young girl in India would ever have at our age.

For me, I still struggle with the legacy of American-style feminism. I watched Makers and was inspired but also noted the glaring omission of storylines from immigrant mothers, low-income families, women without degrees and single mothers. I noticed that a conservative viewpoint was also looked upon with slight disdain, as if women could not have a choice to stay true to their Christian upbringing. I feel as women, we need to set an example and break the division ourselves. An Indian family is a great example where both conservatism and liberalism collide. In most families, women still play a very feminine role that is still a prevalent identity. Most Indian women strive to create a strong family, provide home-cooked meals and may even have some conservative ideals. Yet there is a liberalism to the way Indian women look at their role, although it may not seem that they are the “head” of the household, many women take pride in running the house and know they are engine of success for the family and have a silent power that the world is a better place precisely due to their mothering ways. Yes, not very progressive but this sentiment is strong with with Indian women. But a modern Indian woman can still strive to be smart, outgoing, feisty, loud-mouthed, highly educated and a progressive career women and still make an Indian feast for the in-laws, without feeling guilty. I am not downplaying inequalities, just describing the Indian women I see in my own family here and abroad. Basically, don’t mess with an Indian mother.

This is the mash-up of feminism that I desire and I hope for it to be neither conservative or liberal. I feel so deeply rooted in my role as a mother and this shouldn’t be judged as selling out. Cooking a meal and keeping a tidy house does make me feel accomplished for the day. But I am also ambitious and independent and strive for more. I do not create an obstacle for my husband to be involved, clean and do chores. I don’t make him feel like he can’t do things as well as I can. We are both partners in this household. When we had our daughter, I made sure not hog her away and or put up any barriers. He held her and would try to soothe her. I remember training myself not to run to the rescue when I felt the urge or worried she was crying for too long. Eventually, he did calm her down and still has a special way with her that is irreplaceable and different than my approach. For me this is the feminist blend that I hope to strengthen and is how I “march” in the streets. We are still trying to learn so much about our role as women and I know that the movement is not over. I want it to progress so that more viewpoints are included. That the ambivalence slowly begins to fade. I am raising a daughter, so I feel ever connected to the feminist cause. We certainly don’t feel entitled, especially when we see that women still struggle for equality all around the world. And if it takes some marching, we  will make time for that too, with our kids in tow of course.

Hello there, you furry little demon.

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I get excited when I am onto something and it gets validated shortly after, this is the gift of taking time to listen. You can hear the whispers before they are glaringly loud, screaming in your face, keeping you up at night. Recently I cracked open and started yet another journal.  I use it as a place to write down the cruddier thoughts that are not blog worthy and this process really works well for me lately. I have a beautiful moleskine, that is asking me to treat it like a sketchbook, so I have been.

Turns out this is actually a good technique.  I am sure I read about this at one point or another, but this time I just started doing it and am still staying committed. Yeah yeah, its still early on, I am still motivated. But I remember last week, I almost gave all of this up and was trolling LinkedIn, Staffing Agencies and non-profit sites for a job?

Anyhow, I’ve been reading “Writing Down to the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg and each page has been a little gift of validation. I keep smiling because I am a step ahead of each chapter. She talks about demons (or as I call them gremlins) too. She describes the process of journaling as composting and says,

When your writing blooms out of the back of this garbage and compost, it is very stable. You are not running from anything. You can have a sense of artistic security. If you are not afraid of the voices inside you, you will not fear the critics outside you. Besides, those voices are merely guardians and demons protecting the real treasure, the first thoughts of your mind.

Yes, exactly, ah—guardians and demons. I always hear them inside. The fight and roar, gnashing teeth and all, they have kept me in fear for a long time. Here is how I composted recently. Ever since I wrote this out, I have felt the floodgates open. The demons and guardians have given me entrance to my vault of riches.

Reason’s I can’t write. 1. I don’t know how to write 2. Nobody will read it 3. Everyone has read it already 4. It’s already been done 5. I won’t make money 6. I will fail 7. It will suck 8. Everyone wants to write 9. Not many succeed 10. I have nothing important to say 11. My story is boring 12. I don’t have time 13. I won’t have time 14. I should have started years ago 15. It’s too late 16. I am too old 17. I have no talent 18. I won’t finish 19. I haven’t started 20. I don’t write enough.

Reason’s I can write. 1. I have a story to tell 2. I want to share my story 3. I feel it calling 4. I can practice everyday 5. It doesn’t have to succeed 6. It doesn’t have to make me rich 7. I can work on my story little by little 8. I carry a rich past 9. I have a strong voice 10. People will like it 11. It will free my soul 12. I can know I tried 13. I will regret not doing it 14. My story should be on paper 15. My story needs to get out of my head 16. My story will be a good adventure 17. My story will be my legacy 18. My story will set me free 19. My story will help me heal 20. My story will help me forgive.

Give your gremlins a hug today.

I’ve  been struggling this past week. It’s to be expected. The gremlins of shame, anxiety and sadness are back. I am scrambling to make them go away. I know how to do this, right? If I just white knuckle it, work hard to dig out from this rut, pull myself up by my bootstraps and be strong everything will be fine. The feelings will pass and I can move on.

But this is what I always do in these times. I am an expert at pulling myself up from a heap. I always focus on ways to get stronger and tougher. But does that work? Once I power through, I can keep the gremlins at bay, sometimes for extended periods of time. But I know they are still living in my soul, ready to pounce at the first given opportunity. If I have anything to gain from this time in my life, I have to break my pattern and old habits. As of today, I have little experience with really trying to feel the feelings, to sink into them and let them be alive. I always try to fight back.

I was reminded to listen to Dr. Brene Brown today, I had listened to her TEDXHouston Talk about vulnerability a few years ago and her words resonated so well. Recently she gave the closing talk at Ted 2012 called “Listening to Shame” and I was struck by her main message:

Vulnerability is not weakness, that myth is profoundly dangerous. To let ourselves be seen and be honest is courageous. Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change. To create is to make something that has never existed before.

The journey I have set before me is scary and some of my ideas seem really far flung and out of reach. But in my core, I know there is more to my life than how I was living. I know that I have to listen more closely to the faint voices squashed in my soul. So far, I have had many failures in my life and I am starting to listen and use their lessons. I am not ashamed to admit I have failed. But the biggest mistake I make each time is to recreate the same scenario over and over again. I have spent very little time trying to understand the message. Even worse, I give into the old cycles thinking that’s what is best. I just push through the noise, fight off the gremlins and pretend to be tough. But I never give anything new a chance to grow. I tell myself not to be creative, or write or make something of my own because I am not worthy. So this time around I know it’s my turn to really sit with my vulnerable self and let her know I am listening and trying to learn. Then maybe I can start to create.

Dear Sheryl Sandberg.

Dear Sheryl,

I hear you have a book coming out soon, something about us women needing to hit the accelerator and “lean in” even more than we are now. Apparently, you feel that we still have way more work to do and are offering advice. Your “movement” is getting a lot of praise and you have caught my attention. But before I read your book or commit more of my valuable time to your Lean In Circles, I am just dying to know a few things.

1. Do you have a full-time nanny, housekeeper and cook?

2. When you go home for dinner with your family, what time do you jump back on your computer to answer emails and do more work? How many hours a day do you work and is it more than 40?

3. Do your “handlers” help you through your day? Do you get help or even a little help from a personal assistant, executive assistant, stylist or personal shopper?

4. Do you really think its possible for all women to “lean in?”  What if a woman or has no help, is a single mother, has an un-supportive husband or suffers from a chronic illness?

5. Have you ever been worried about money and making ends meet, or lived paycheck to paycheck?

6. Don’t you think you are simply propelling the paradigm that power can only come from the top and women need to change the world in the same way as men?

7. Have you ever broke-down, hit bottom, felt over-worked and exhausted from all the leaning in and acceleration?

8. Have you ever cried at work? Have you ever hid in the bathroom and cried at home? Have you ever cried in public? Have you ever cried to your friends?

9. Do you think its possible that women can still “run the world” without being CEO’s of big companies?

10. Do you really believe you can lead a social movement, even though you point to our lack of confidence and self-sabotaging ways, which just makes us feel more shame and reminds us that we aren’t keeping up and have more “failures” to add to our ever growing list?

I am just wondering, so I thought I would ask is all. Maybe your book is not meant for me, as I am just a mother of one, with an average-income career, 2/3’s of a college degree, who struggles to keep up with the rush of The Bay Area and can openly admit that all the striving for a high level job that breaks the glass ceiling is not so alluring.

Well anyhow, good luck with your book launch and lean in circles, I can see you are passionate that is always nice to see.

Sincerely,
A Mother Trying to Do the Opposite of Leaning In

Lessons from the tortoise and clumps of wax.

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I was just remarking how slowly February has passed.  Each day has felt like a full 24 hours. When I look at my calendar I think, oh cool there is still a week left of this month. I promise, I am not trying to make you envious. I have lived this month in stark contrast to the years past. Years that went whizzing by, leaving me dizzy and slightly spun. So what’s the big deal? I am not working, of course time has slowed down. I have more time to spare.  In the past, this extra time would caused that itchy, anxious feeling. I would have not  known what to do. Feeling bored, I would have squandered the time (and money) away sitting on a bar stool.  In the past, I would run away from the slow tide of time, rushing to find more to do.

Today, in the present moment, especially this month I relish each day, I am lathering in its minutes and doused in its seconds.  Someone else may have pulled the brakes, but I am happy to get off the speeding rocket and stretch my legs. Take a little stroll, see the sights and take in the air.

At first, I thought I was enjoying the slower pace because it was helping me feel less anxious and over-wrought. This may be true. But it occurred to me that there is something more to this feeling. The whizzing time was making me feel so sad. I felt like I was mourning each day, because each day did not felt lived in, each day felt compressed.  It made me sad to see my daughter grow before my eyes.  I began to feel the rest of my life would be nothing more than a big boulder rolling down a hill picking up speed as it reached the bottom.  It occurred to me it was not my age that made me uncomfortable,  it was the rushing speed of each day. And I now notice this for the first time in my life. I wasn’t sad about turning 40, it is just an age, I was sad to miss life. It felt impending doom. Life was going to whiz by me and it wasn’t going to slow down.

I’ve been learning to listen to the subtle signs, the quiet moments and slower days, as the great poet Ranier Maria Rilke says:

“It seems to me that almost all our sadnesses are moments of tension, which we feel as paralysis because we no longer hear our astonished emotions living. Because we are alone with the unfamiliar presence that has entered us; because everything we trust and are used to is for a moment taken away from us; because we stand in the midst of a transition where we cannot remain standing. That is why the sadness passes: the new presence inside us, the presence that has been added, has entered our heart, has gone into its innermost chamber and is no longer even there, – is already in our bloodstream. And we don’t know what it was. We could easily be made to believe that nothing happened, and yet we have changed, as a house that a guest has entered changes. We can’t say who has come, perhaps we will never know, but many signs indicate that the future enters us in this way in order to be transformed in us, long before it happens. And that is why it is so important to be solitary and attentive when one is sad: because the seemingly uneventful and motionless moment when our future steps into us is so much closer to life than that other loud and accidental point of time when it happens to us as if from outside. The quieter we are, the more patient and open we are in our sadnesses, the more deeply and serenely the new presence can enter us, and the more we can make it our own, the more it becomes our fate.”

I am just beginning to realize that I need and want to slow down. To live a life that is not full of multi-tasking, errands, obligations, time sucking moments and manic ideas that simply pass the days. I want to relax into each day, keep to MY routine, have time for myself so I can be open to the people I love. Realize that solitude is not lonely, being alone will bring me more comfort from those that love me.  For the first time, I see the trickery of a fast-paced life. I am not fulfilled by packing more into my life, by running around doing everything at once.  Waiting till the last minute for the surge of adrenaline may not produce the best results.  Burning the candle at both ends has just left me with a stump of wax. I don’t want a stump of wax. I would like to see some light.  Some warm flickering candlelight, slowly burning and illuminating the way.

Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final

-Ranier Maria Rilke

Emeryville, I’m Listening.

Coffee Gal: So how was your birthday?

Rude Dude: Oh…yeah well Girl tried to kill herself last night. (Snicker Snicker)

Coffee Gal: What?

Rude Dude: Well, yeah it was a cry for help or something. ANYWAY, she took a bunch of penicillin.

Coffee Gal: (Laughs) Ohh god! Whatever!

Rude Dude: (Laughing) Right? I’ve been telling this story all day and I sound like such a jerk. But listen to this, soo Girl and Boy started fighting AGAIN and I was like hell no…I gotta get out of here, I have my dinner to go to. When I try to leave, I find Girl slumped over on the stairwell between my room and the front door. I’m thinking great, now I have to actually engage. So I said…Uh Girl what’s wrong, you okay? She says, yeah I’m sick. I took pills.

Coffee Gal: Oh god how drama can you get!

Rude Dude:  Yeah she like pointed to the shelf in the bathroom and I saw that Boy had some sleeping pills but I don’t think he had that many left, maybe three or something?  But I guess she took a whole bunch of penicillin too. I was just like trying to pat her back and walk over her so I could get out of the house you know? (mimics patting and stepping over a body).

Coffee Gal:  Seriously! (Rolls eyes) Like…there there now go watch some cartoons and feel better (in a fake motherly mocking tone).

Rude Dude: Ahaha. Yeah I know, I was patting and stepping over her at the same time and pretty much out the door, just saying you’re gonna be fine, it’s all okay (in a hurried  tone).

Coffee Gal: But you didn’t just leave her there?

Rude Dude: No no, I called Friend and was like “Umm you might wanna come over, Girl might not be feeling well and nobody is home.”

Coffee Gal: Oh yeah good. So like what is her deal? She needs to find someone that doesn’t make her feel this way or something. Like what a mess.

Rude Dude:  Yeah, I know. Boy doesn’t know what to do, if they break-up she won’t have a place to stay and I guess he feels bad. But the other day Girl tells me she doesn’t know how she feels about him. Later when they were fighting I heard her say “You know I love you.”  Ugh that is when I was like, I HAVE to get out of here!

Coffee Gal:  I guess she should find another “bloke” to use since that is what she is good at doing, right? 

(They both laugh)

Rude Dude: Yeah…ahaha right!  Anyhow, I heard that they called poison control and she is in the hospital on psych watch…or something, I dunno. Like oh god just  get me out of the house, right? I can’t miss my dinner party.

Coffee Gal: Yeah I know it was your birthday, totally you couldn’t be late. Oh my gawd. So crazy…

Rude Dude: Ahah yeah I seriously sound like such a jerk huh, but you know like take care of your shit.

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