I Hide My Chocolate

Midlife observations

Tag: Writing

I Write Because

matsya

My Heart Is Full

I write because it is the best way for me to express what I believe, deep in my soul. Talking is too fast. The other person impresses me with their articulate point of view. I can’t find my words quickly enough. If it is a person I care about, my worry about what they think of me gets in the way of being fully honest and centered, grounded in knowing and expressing my point of view. I want to please and be loved. So I sweeten my words, or shift my argument, or become agreeable, nodding in sympathetic understanding. Sometimes I don’t always want to please. Sometimes I want to be funny. Or smart. Or biting. Or right. Yes, I frequently want to be right. But usually, highly conflict-avoidant, I want to please.

When I write, I go inside. The words pour out. The words I do not have the nerve to say. Those are the words I write. It is intense. So intense that I do not, cannot, do it every day. No, in a good month, I post about three essays a month. Reflective and prone to introversion, that is all I can muster without becoming exhausted with the intensity and the emotion of writing from my soul, my truth. Besides, I am busy busy busy with my non-writing life. Working, parenting, cooking, cleaning, commuting, caring, reading, learning, achieving, yogaing, and measuring.  Measuring my spoken words, making sure they are the right words to please, or to impress. Anxious and horrified when they are not.

When I do carve out time for writing, I write about something that has absorbed me. Something in my life or something in the world that I care about that has affected me deeply. Something I ponder at 3 am. Something I think about when I close my eyes for the last 12 minutes of my commute. Something I want to have a conversation about but have not yet solidified my point of view. Something I want to reveal but haven’t had the guts to do so yet. Something that I think others are thinking but don’t have the guts to reveal yet. Or maybe it’s just something funny. Or maybe it’s something that has gotten easier in the last couple of years. Finally. Ease.

Sometimes, I am overwhelmed with all that I want to write that I cannot choose, I cannot focus, I cannot get the words out because there are too many words. Too many somethings that I care about.

June was too full. My heart was too full. Too full to write. I could not choose.

Why are some human beings evil? Nine human beings coming together on a spiritual journey were shot dead by a racist with a gun. I dragged my son to an exhibit of photographs showing portraits of human beings who have lost a loved one to gun violence. It was moving and opened several important conversations with my son. A human being can marry their loved one, whoever that loved one may be. Love wins. I am grateful. I am moved. Father’s Day. Sigh. I was reminded that even after lots of therapy, even after the profound realization that I am who I am because of all that has happened to me and all the choices I have made, I still feel shame and cry. Even though I laugh more and more and more, I still cry and cry and cry. I was reminded, not that I need reminding, of the power of yoga at an event honoring how yoga can prevent suicide. Indeed. Yoga has certainly reduced the suffering in my life, if not saved my life. July has begun with an equally full slate. My son has turned 16, which surely warrants its own essay, but my heart is too full. Love wins. Grateful.

Because I am now writing, finding my voice, more confident, both in writing and speech, I find I am less willing to sweeten my words, to be agreeable, to be swayed by the other person’s articulate and cogent argument. Sometimes, instead of being quiet or swallowing my words, I am provoked to blurt out, “I fucking can’t!” “I fucking won’t!” “I fucking must!” Like overexerting physically, I feel the effect of these outbursts for days. A headache, a nap, a retreat into silence. I do hope I will become more eloquent with my speech, moved by conviction, with less frustration and anger building to a hurtful or impotent outburst. Speaking in a constructive way, with increasing confidence, like my writing.  Is it true, is it necessary, is it beneficial, is it kind? 

In yoga, Matsyasana, or Fish Pose, is a big backbending heart-opener. I can’t do it. Years of self-preservation and self-protection have rolled my shoulders forward. Years of keeping my words inside, hiding, have rolled my shoulders forward. Years of not feeling deserving enough to take up my space have rolled my shoulders forward. I regularly practice a restorative version of the pose, stretching the front of my body and breathing deeply into my chest. But the full pose has eluded me. It requires great flexibility in the upper back, while stretching and exposing the throat, my throat. Exposing the heart, my heart, causing me fear and anxiety at such vulnerability. At the end of June, that full month, when my yoga teacher announced we were doing Fish Pose, I paused. Is it time to try it again? I asked her to help me. She gently came over and supported my back. I gently stretched my heart and my throat, releasing the crown of my head to the floor. I couldn’t see myself and whether I was doing the pose “right.” (Remember, I like to be right.) But I felt like I was doing the pose. It felt beautiful. And that is all that matters.

Full month. Full heart. I write because my heart is open.

Image Credit:  Matsyasana image from http://www.mindofpeace.com

Rejected!

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Resilience (Part 2)

“Fuck You New York Times” was my first reaction.

“I’m not a good writer after all.  I can’t do it.  I quit!”  was my second reaction.

Whoa!  What?  Both reactions require me to be angry, depressed, hiding away licking my wounds in victim-y self-pity.  Swinging between the extreme undemonstrativeness of my father where everything I did got a “fair” assessment and the blind adoration of my mother where I could do no wrong, I am an odd mixture of hubris and anxiety that I am a failure.  Any success I have is dubious, because I am a fraud and have everyone fooled.

The experience of submitting my essay – in actuality – differed from the experience in my mind.  In my mind, the New York Times enthusiastically accepted my submission within 24 hours, eager to publish it immediately.  That Sunday!  I was planning the announcement to my community of friends, family, colleagues, and maybe a few frenemies.  (Hah!  See!  I showed you!)  I was the undiscovered great essayist they’ve been waiting for.  I would become famous and admired for my honest and beautifully written personal remembrances.  I would get a book deal!  True, I would have to confront going public with my stories, most frighteningly to my parents.  But I was ready.  If not now, when?  It was time.  How dare they reject my submission?  I had already planned out my future – all based on their acceptance!  Fuck the New York Times.  I must be a failure and a fraud after all.

That night, my husband was tired of kids’ tennis duty and asked me to pick them up.  I passively aggressively agreed.  This was cutting into my time – it was my night to work late or sneak in a yoga class or just go home and have the house to myself to write.  Besides, I was out of sorts from receiving the rejection email – one month, precisely, from the day I had submitted it, as promised by their precise submission guidelines.  I grumbled out of the house and got into the car and turned on WNYC.  And was transfixed.  The Moth Radio Hour was on.  In my heightened awareness of writing and story-telling, what could have been better?  Josh Axelrad was telling his story of gambling.  His word choice was sophisticated and intricate, his timing and intonation were amazing, his story was riveting.  Wow.  Now that’s how to tell a story!  Fuck the New York Times.  I must be a failure and a fraud after all.

Now what?  Deep breath.  Pause.  Take a day, or a week, or a month, to consider my next steps.  I don’t have to react immediately or impulsively or emotionally.

What now, is that after 50 years of rejections and acceptances I can find a middle ground.   I am a good but new and inexperienced writer.  Maybe the rejection has nothing to do with me and my essay.  Maybe it just didn’t fit the direction they want to go with the column.  Maybe I should submit it somewhere else.  I can do that.  I don’t have to quit.  I can keep writing, keep practicing, honing my skills, getting my 10,000 hours in.

At 17, I was not so patient.  I had been obsessed with ballet.  For all of 2 or 3 years.  Dancing 4 hours a day, 6 days a week, I probably had about 4,000 hours in when I decided to audition for New York City Ballet’s School of American Ballet.  Not a city kid, my mother and I took the train from D.C. to New York, where I was overwhelmed with the monolithic gray busyness of the city.  We took a taxi from Penn Station to Lincoln Center.  We found the dark and cramped administrative corridors in the bowels of Lincoln Center leading to the seemingly enormous mirror-lined dance studios of the school.  I was too nervous to remember much.  My mother had made the appointment, so I had a private audition not a cattle call.  I went into the locker room to change and then they brought me to the studio.  Two older women with Russian sounding accents were there.  Not unkind, they looked me over.  I pliéd and did a glissade.  And that was about it.  Perhaps they had me do a small combination in the center of the grand old studio.  That was enough for them to know that I was not what they were looking for.  I was not tall enough.  I was not ethereal enough.  I was not uniquely talented enough.  I didn’t have my 10,000 hours in.  They suggested that I go to a college with a strong dance program and explore other forms of dance that were not so exacting.  Excellent advice that I could not hear.  I was determined to be a ballet dancer at the most prestigious dance company I was aware of.  That was the future I had imagined in my mind.  They rejected me.  Closed off to other possibilities, I quit ballet.  Later, I quit college to return to ballet – but with similar results.  Bouncing between extremes, I never let myself enjoy being good enough – open to possibilities other than greatness at something ridiculously hard to achieve.

Now what?  What now is that I can practice resilience, mindfully choosing flexibility and optimism.  Rejection is not a tragedy.  It is an opportunity.  Your loss, New York Times.  (sigh, still angry)  I will practice my writing and find other venues to publish and to reach an audience.  Just as there are myriad other profoundly amazing dance companies and dancers (which, regretfully, I was not wise enough at the time to explore – sigh, still sad), so there are other ways to tell stories.

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