Archives for posts with tag: writing

Woman Writing a Letter

If you want to put a neat little twist on the whole end-of-the-year resolution deal, Kelly McGonigal – one of my favorite teachers and author of Yoga for Pain Relief and The Willpower Instinct suggests we try this ideas: (click HERE)

I’d tell you more, but I have to do this: (click HERE)

IMG_1616I’m aching to have a piece accepted into my favorite peer-reviewed journal.  But I had a bit of an ego knock today when my submission was returned.

Five years ago a rejection meant stomping feet, pulled hair, flying word bombs and falling tears.  In other words – a full-on hissy-fit tantrum.

But that was then, this is now.

I’ll admit there was a pity party and pout – but it was momentary.  Because instead of washing my hands of the entire idea I re-read the editor’s email and found a glimmer of hope. And so I refused to accept defeat. Reading in between the lines I sensed the editor was rooting for me. When I re-read my submission I realized her criticism was spot-on (of course it was – she’s the editor!). Yes, the story needed fleshing out. What I’d written was good, but anecdotal. I needed evidence to support my story.

But I had to ask myself: if I swallowed my pride and crawled back to the drawing board, would the second round of effort be worth it?

I didn’t ask myself twice. The answer was a no-brainer.

I contacted the editor, told her what my plans were to improve the article and asked if I could re-submit for the summer issue.

She said “yes.”

So I’ve learned what a writer does. She doesn’t feel sorry for herself when she’s rejected. She keeps an

open mind and takes an objective look at her work and the criticism it has received. And then she makes it right.

Re-submitting the work does not guarantee acceptance. But it demonstrates (to me at least) that I’m not one for giving up on the first try. Not anymore.

281 Word/20 minutes/a bit of fiddling

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake

As a holiday gift one of my students presented me with a home-baked coffee cake. Possibly one of the best coffee cakes I’ve tasted. I knew I was in trouble from the first slice and so I did the only reasonable thing: I cut the cake in half, wrapped one half in foil to share with a friend and put the remaining half in the freezer. My intention was to reward myself from time to time with a sliver of its walnut and buttery goodness.

Yeah. That kinda didn’t happen.

Because this is that weird week. That odd week at the end of each year that we don’t really know what to do with. We’re sort of finished with the gluttonous food frenzy that began at Thanksgiving, and yet we still have New Years to contend with. For the self-employed yoga teacher it’s that week when not all classes are in full swing. Private clients are off skiing or basking in Hawaiian sun. In other words – I have a bit of time on my hands. Sure, I could put this time to good use like cleaning my kitchen floor or organizing my storage space. But didn’t I just get done making a resolution to be kind to myself? I think I did (you can read about it here).

And so I had no choice. I had to eat the coffee cake.

Now before you picture me a twitching, glassy-eyed madwoman with brown sugar crumble smeared on my face and trailing down the front of my sweatshirt – I didn’t say I ate ALL the coffee cake. In fact, I backed away from the coffee cake after the second sliver (ok…third sliver). Yep. I burped that Tupperware baby and slipped that bad boy right back in the freezer where it belonged.

Because half the fun of luscious coffee cake is the anticipation of enjoying that last slice on Sunday morning, warmed gently, with a mug of steaming fresh pressed coffee.

Besides, like I said, I resolved to be kind to myself. And to me that means taking a middle path. Showing a bit of moderation. Even when the best coffee cake in the world is begging to be enjoyed.

Is it Sunday yet?

ps…Yes, I’ll try to get the recipe… 

376 words/20 minutes with 10 minutes of fussing

 

I nestled it in my palm and gave it a small squeeze. It was soft all the way around. Not mushy. Just soft. I knew it was a gamble but I didn’t have much to lose. I carved a neat circle with the point of my paring knife, took hold of the dried foliage and pulled. Inside, near the skin, the orange crimson flesh was soft – almost gelatinous. But it was the firm core that troubled me. Had I done it again? Had I given in too soon?

One gorgeous, beautiful, ripe persimmon.  Worth waiting for.

One gorgeous, beautiful, ripe persimmon. Worth waiting for.

Maybe all this meditation is paying off, because the persimmon was just a few hours shy of being perfect. My spoon slipped into the melted flesh. The cool fruit had the perfect amount of sweetness balanced with a tang that reminded me of ripe passion fruit.

If you crave instant gratification you’re better off grabbing a banana. But if you want to enjoy the most delicate, complex flavor (and practice mindful patience at the same time) keep the company of five persimmons for six weeks and then, when they’re almost mushy, one-by-one chop their cut little tops off and scoop spoonfuls of Mother Nature’s Instant Pudding down your gob.

Speaking of patience, being mindful, meditation and compassion: Santa Claus brought my upstairs neighbors a television. I couldn’t be more thrilled. Really.

They fell asleep in front of it last night. Or at least I think they did because when I pulled out one earplug at 2:00 AM I couldn’t hear his booming bass voice but I could hear the booms from the war drama they had been watching.

No, I didn’t hear him until 4:00 AM. He wakes up at 4:00 AM and although their apartment is the exact size and floor plan as mine (about 200 square feet) he’s worried he won’t heard with all the racket of pre-dawn going on outside in our little patch of suburbia.

Sigh.

No, I don’t enjoy complaining but neither do I enjoy confrontation. Moving is not an option, but these are:

  1. Stop complaining because, quite frankly, I sound like a cranky old lady.  And I am not a cranky old lady.
  2. Begin a gratitude practice: I’m grateful for the roof over my head. I’m grateful for the sounds of life and happiness that surround me. I’m grateful for earplugs. And valerian. And red wine.
  3. Be grateful for those moments when I am in “the flow” and whatever is happening around me (or above me) melts into the ether and I don’t hear a thing. Like now, for instance.
  4. Extend the hand of friendship. I should introduce myself. Perhaps with a holiday card welcoming them to the neighborhood and a basket of almost ripe persimmons. (NO! They’re NOT getting the persimmons!)
  5. Accept the things that I cannot change: I cannot move. I cannot build a sound barrier between their floor and my ceiling. I cannot become a raging lunatic pounding with a broom handle and shouting at them to “Turn down the damn TV!!”  That is SO not an option.
  6. Embrace the things I CAN change: like my attitude. My practice. If I can wait weeks while persimmons ripen I can adapt to the cacophony of noisy neighbors, creaky floors, bombs falling and couples in love.

Yes. I can.

554 words/about 30 minutes with a bit of revision

Beltany Stone Circle, from its west side, sout...

Beltony, up the road from where I lived outside of Raphoe, and where I enjoyed walking my dogs Inca and Honey.

I remember my first holiday in Nebraska. I was expecting something out of The Waltons: snowy fields, blustery cold and a roaring fire. What I got was dry corn stubble poking out of dirt that hadn’t seen snow in weeks and unseasonably warm temperatures. It was so warm, in fact, that I walked the fields thirteen miles outside McCook in shirt sleeves. I didn’t know that Mother Nature would more than make up for that first snowless disappointment. Over the next four years – while I attended Doane College in Crete (just south of Lincoln) – we experienced more than our fair share of blizzards and frozen mornings. To keep warm I stole an arctic Army coat marked “Kiln Crew” from the art department and trudged through knee-deep whiteness to campus.

I had a fair chance of a white Christmas in Donegal, Ireland. Although more often than not the snow mixed with rain and then froze. If that happened I wouldn’t dare drive my car the two miles downhill into Raphoe. We were lucky if a truck came by with grit and even luckier if it was plowed. I’d walk and slide to Raphoe if need be but mostly I’d cancel my yoga classes, tell my bodywork clients to curl up with a good book and then I would do that, too, for as long as the ice lasted. During my last winter in Raphoe we had a few days of freezing fog. On the first day I could see Raphoe from my hilltop. As the fog developed (it didn’t ‘roll in’ like it does through the Golden Gate – the fog in Raphoe seemed to simply manifest itself) the town was wrapped in a white cloud that slowly spread and weightlessly lumbered up my road until everything around me was seen through a veil of drifting ice crystals tumbling on air. It was as if we had all turned to ghosts – the horses, the trees, the fields and the sheep – all ghosts. And I was a ghost, too. One of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

I prefer my winters and my holidays with a bit of grey. I still feel a tickle of anticipation when the weather forecast promises a dusting of snow on the Santa Cruz Mountains. It won’t snow where I am but that’s a fair trade for the perfect summer days we experience pretty much from April through October.

But I don’t want a perfect summer day today. I want a day that tells me its winter. A day that reminds me of the mountains of plowed sidewalk snow I’ve seen in Nebraska, of the crawling frozen fog in Donegal. I want a day that gives me permission to stay in my pyjamas. And that’s the day I’ve been given.

On this Sunday morning in Northern California the rain is pouring and the skies are dark grey. There’s a fair wind – not too strong but just strong enough. It’s the type of morning that begs for a second cup of coffee with cream and honey. It’s the type of day that calls for warm toast with melted butter and jam. It’s a curling up day.

And that’s what I’m going to do.

550 words (more or less)/about 30 minutes with ten minutes for noodling

Pyramid Lake, Nevada

Pyramid Lake, Nevada

As it happened, the flossing lecture was delivered at the same moment that my lovely hygienist decided to run the motor that powered the grinder that was scaling eight months of debris from my less than pearly whites. So I never heard it.

I didn’t need to. After the final polish and rinse she told me a few other things about the state of my gums that made me hang up my attitude. And since I don’t want to be known as ‘Mimm the Toothless Yoga Teacher’ I decided ’tis the season to take action.

So this year, in negotiation with the Big Man in a Red Suit, I received my presents early: a new Sonicare Toothbrush, a Waterpic Flosser and a 12-pack of extra-soft toilet roll (what can I say – I was at Target and it was on sale.)

I’ll let you know in June if my diligence pays off.

Moving on to other things.

Five years ago I was in an unfortunate living situation. After dating a man for a few months and then choosing friendship over romance, we decided to help one another out by moving in together. My instincts told me it was a bad idea but I did not listen. A person’s instincts aren’t always right, are they? Besides, I wanted to help out a friend.

We moved into one of those beautiful but hermetically sealed apartment buildings. The kind where you never see nor hear your neighbors unless you happen to check mail at the same time. Even then, your eyes won’t meet and a mumbled “hello” is all you might get.

The problem with this situation was that the man – my new roommate – was a troubled bully. He used words, mostly.  He thought it was funny to say, “When you write your ‘to-do’ list don’t forget to put ‘be stupid’ at the top.”  Sometimes he threw things.  Once and only once – as the situation was moving toward a resolution – he threw me. 

Within a few weeks it was clear I’d made a horrible mistake. According to him I was now an ugly, fat c*nt. I would amount to nothing. I would never write. I would never paint. I didn’t have what it took. I was a failure.

Why didn’t I leave? Why don’t we leave? Part of me thought I could fix him or convince him that nothing he said was true. Part of me wanted to win him over. And part of me was terrified. I began to believe everything he said. Still, after two years, somehow I found the strength and resilience to understand that if I wanted to live I had to go. I began to make my plans.

I didn’t tell him I had found a new apartment because I knew something bad would happen. I was right. For the next few weeks, until I received the call that told me my studio was ready, I stayed at work or in my room. As soon as I could, I was gone.

Since 2009 I’ve created the new and improved ‘Mimm.2’. My heart no longer pounds a panic alarm when I see him (we live in the same town). While I have no intention of interacting with him ever again, I feel sorry for his situation – for the darkness that prevents his heart from seeing any light in the world.

But I am not to blame. I was never to blame. He was an angry soul long before our paths crossed.

Where I failed was not listening to the voice inside that told me to walk away the moment we met. I didn’t listen to the voice telling me “you deserve more than this.”

I’m guilty of not taking better care of myself. My whole self.

And so – in 2013 I resolve to take better care of my teeth. And my heart.

ps…Sheesh!  This was NOT what I intended to write as part of my Daily Twenty Minutes or Two Hundred Words Holiday Challenge…it was GOING to be about the lack of sound in a hermetically sealed 28-unit apartment complex compared to the tiny, six-unit building where I live now. I have a new upstairs neighbor with a heavy foot fall, a loud voice and an even louder girlfriend….thank goodness they don’t have cable!

40 minutes/685 words/about 20 minutes of revision

Dental floss 日本語: フロス使用例

I’m having my teeth cleaned today. I’ve only just woken and haven’t checked news reports but last I heard Australia was unscathed. So I figure I might as well enter the holidays with clean teeth.

While I like having clean, shiny teeth, I don’t enjoy visiting the dentist. Who does? They mean well – dentists – but the anticipation of learning how I’ll atone for my toothly sins gives me nervous stomach. One look in my mouth and my dentist knows every bit of mischief my teeth and gums have been up to since my last cleaning in April. She just knows. Every cup of coffee, every glass of red wine. Every cube of ice I’ve cracked with my molars, every pistachio shell broken with my canines. Every hair pin pried opened with my incisors.

She’ll know, of course, that my flossing is on the more random side. At the last visit she even knew that in the rare moment that I did floss I was using wimpy waxed flossing tape designed for the flossing challenged and not a brawny, blood drawing, gum tenderizing cable of rope thick enough to moor a small dinghy.

Big deal. So I don’t like to floss. I’m also not a fan of the lecture about flossing the hygienist will deliver when I’m at my most vulnerable: trapped in a chair with a bright light aimed directly toward my gaping mouth which at that moment is so filled with cold metal tools and warm wiggling fingers that I’m unable to say, “Please don’t give me the lecture about flossing. I know. I don’t floss regularly. I know. Consider it a lifestyle choice.”

I’ll leave the office forty-five minutes later with a new toothbrush – soft to protect my delicate gums and with a petite bristle head as to not crowd what my dentist said was a small mouth. I have a small frame (with a hefty amount of flesh supporting it). Small frame – small jaw. Small jaw – small mouth. Who knew?

On the way out the hygienist will slip me a cute little sample sized box of dental floss. Mint flavored. I’ll even promise to use it. Because despite my reluctance I understand the importance of flossing. Really. I do.

When I arrive home I’ll admire my pearly whites in the mirror and consider sipping red wine through a straw. I’ll tuck the new toothbrush into the overnight bag I use when I’m house sitting and set the dental floss on the table by my bed.

“Every night.” I promise myself. I promise.

405 words/20 minutes and maybe another ten minutes of quick revision

Sloth in the Amazon

“You have no discipline.”

I laughed at the suggestion. Me? No discipline? Say what??

I was visiting the same friend with whom I’ve shared meals with over the past few months. It was an offhanded comment, tossed out to me as I bundled up for the drive home.

But it sat with me, the comment. Right there in the passenger seat. It noodled its way into my brain, burrowed through my grey matter, interrupted a few dreams and is now, here it is again:

My Morning Vexation.

Seriously. Me? Undisciplined?

Our intention was to follow Benjamin Franklin’s sage advice: “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man (or in this case – little ol’ me) healthy, wealthy and wise.”

But I always have been an early riser. I love mornings. I’m one of those people lucky enough to be able to jump out of bed ready to start the day. For the past year, on most days, I’ve been waking between 6:30 and 7:00 AM. When I was working on the manuscript gathering dust in my storage locker I made it to the desk by 5:00 AM. So what if want to hit the snooze button a time or two? I’ve paid my dues.

Nope. My friend insists the day should begin at 6:00 AM, seven days a week. I, on the other hand, believe there ought to be allowances for days when our work schedules keep us busy until the early evening. For me, that’s today.

So when I seemed non-committal about rolling out of bed in time to put the Rice n’ Shine on before sunrise I became an undisciplined sloth. He was teasing (and for the record, never called me a sloth – that’s my doing), but clearly I must believe there’s some truth in his pronouncement or else it wouldn’t be nagging me so.

After all, where’s the meditation practice I promised myself? Why is my manuscript in a storage locker instead of Amazon’s bestseller charts and climbing? What about those ten pounds I’ve allowed to settle around my bottom half over the past two years? The pounds I lovingly call “writer’s ass” but are more likely a consequence of mid-life hormones running amok because I don’t have the self-control to say “no” to the occasional salted caramel (or evening bowl of ice cream). Finally – what about the medals for all the marathons I’ve run? Where are they? Well – there would be a few if the marathons I ran weren’t all in my head.

(Excuse me while I grab an ice pack. Do I know how to beat myself up for a fantasy life unlived or what?)

The truth is this: I do the best I can. There are days I shine. There are days I could live better. There are days I fail. We dream, we set goals, we make resolutions. And sometimes we have to set the dreams aside for a while, change the goals, abandon the resolutions. It’s not because we lack discipline or focus or drive or ambition. It’s because life happens. Sometimes life lifts us and we scale great heights with ease. And sometimes it grabs us by the…well – it grabs us by the you know what.

But here is another truth: Impermanence.  Moments pass.  Circumstances change. Happiness will turn to sadness just as surely as sorrow will turn to joy.

So maybe it’s not about demonstrating exemplary discipline after all. Maybe life is about living. Sleeping when you need to sleep, dancing when the mood strikes, eating with good health in mind but never forgetting to eat a few bowls of ice cream and some salted caramels along the way.

 617 words, 25 minutes and a few minutes of revision.

Rice n' Shine with goat milk, toasted coconut flakes and banana...yummy!

Rice n’ Shine with goat milk, toasted coconut flakes and banana…yummy!

Over the past few months I discovered the joy of having sit down meals shared with a friend. Let’s face it. Meals taken in a cramped studio apartment aren’t ideal. Until I found two TV tables at a garage sale “Dinner at Mimm’s” meant one of us at my desk and the other with a plate of food balanced on their lap.

But I digress.

On our road to attempted good health (gluten free, organic, limited GMOs) my friend and I began to shop for our groceries together. Rather than split the bounty we kept everything at his house. His was the bigger kitchen – it even had counter space AND space for a table and four chairs.

And that’s why my alarm has been pulling me away from dreamland at 5:30 AM. If I want breakfast I need to make the three-mile journey down the road and up the hill to his house. Crazy? Maybe. I’ll confess: at first it was torture. But when I decided that I could sleep in sweats and a tee-shirt rather than my Nick & Nora Monkey Pajamas rolling out of bed and behind the wheel of my CRV became much easier.

Add a dollop of yogurt, a drizzle of honey and a few blueberries....

Add a dollop of yogurt, a drizzle of honey and a few blueberries….

Lunch and dinner meant coordinating strange schedules. But we managed. It was worth it. Preparing food, sharing meals and even sharing clean up with an open heart and mindful attitude is lovely. It temporarily changes the pace of life and offers us a chance to savor each moment and each morsel.

IMG_1667

Fresh pressed juice featuring beet root, carrot and ginger. A ruby glass of goodness!

My friend and I don’t always get along. We’re like family that way. But sitting down and slowing down to share home-cooked meals has been one of the highlights of this year. I kid you not.

And that’s why I better get my rear in gear. It’s ten minutes past six. If I don’t face this frosty morning soon I’m going to miss breakfast!

310 words, 14 minutes this morning and a bit of evening revision

 

DSC_0025 (2)_2This time of year I have some spare hours on my hands. Moments that I usually squander. Minutes that I typically spend sitting in my fat green chair pondering what great works I can accomplish. And then, before I know it, the next year has begun and it’s back to work.

I agree. It’s nice to simply be still. Stillness has plenty going for it. But to be frank, I have plenty of stillness in my life. I mean – I’m a yoga teacher. I spend a good part of each and every day sitting in stillness. Practicing stillness. Encouraging others to find stillness.

I don’t need stillness. I need action.

So maybe this year I won’t squander these days between Thanksgiving and the New Year. The days when clients visit family and quarterly classes take a break. Starting now.

At the beginning of the year I stopped writing. The same way I stopped creating visual art. “It’s all right,” I told myself. “I don’t need to write for others – writing for myself is enough.” And, in truth, it should be enough. Spilled words falling from the heart with truth and courage should be all any one writer might hope for. It should satisfy.

Except I had plans. Ideas. Intentions.

And instead of allowing the words I needed to write fall from my heart, I allowed my intentions to fall by the wayside.

But it seems the universe has other plans.

I was resigned to the situation. Reasonably content. Who was I to think I had any talent? And at this time in my life isn’t ambition as tacky as me trying to pull off a leather mini-skirt?

But in the past month I’ve been approached twice by two different and disparate organizations and asked to write 1,000 words. Asked to spill.

Initially I didn’t believe I had it in me anymore. Until I sat down and tried.

Those moments that don’t just gently nudge a dozing spirit but smack it in the face with a wet trout are pretty powerful. I remembered what I had planned to do four years ago. I gave myself five years.

I have twelve months left.

But I need to get back into shape. I need to work a part of my brain that, quite frankly, I’ve allowed to atrophy.

So, in these spacious weeks the universe gifts me this time of year I’m going exercise. Twenty minutes or two hundred words – which ever comes first – each morning before anything else. It’s a Julia Cameron-esque attempt at waking up my writing muscle. Tuning in to that faint creative buzz that I know I have buried somewhere deep in my cerebral cortex.

Wish me luck.

 453 words written in fourteen minutes. I used the remaining six minutes for revision.