The Work of Being Dormant

Before January, I had been absent from my own work for a little over a year. I bowed out of my poetry group for most of 2019. I rarely went into my office. I wrote very little. Why? Because I didn’t feel like it. Why not? Many, many, many reasons. Distractions of every variety, good and bad. I could write for days on the distractions; maybe I will at some point.

As it says in 2 Corinthians 9:7 (that’s second Corinthians, not “two Corinthians” as anyone who has spent any amount of time in church very well knows, but we’re all supposed to turn a blind eye to THAT too — welcome to my lengthy parenthetical wherein I allude to the biggest and ugliest distraction of them all), God loves a cheerful giver. The blank page is like God that way. It doesn’t require a cheerful giver, thank heavens, so much as a willing one. I wasn’t willing for a long time. We’re talking about good old-fashioned honest to goodness “writer’s block.” It is my opinion that the phrase “writer’s block” is used too frequently and very often incorrectly, but I believe I’m using it correctly here. I can’t say I enjoyed it very much, but I can say I learned a great deal. And I did a great deal of work without even knowing it.

I am a person who has said of herself, “I can’t ‘not write’.” So, in not writing, I became less and less myself in a very fundamental way. I could see it happening. I could feel it. I was troubled, so I would think about what was happening to me and what I could do about it, or whether I even wanted to do something about it. Turns out I did. I’ve long held that the best solution to any problem is doing what you’re called to do. If everyone would follow their calling, I’m convinced we’d all be better off. Some people, for instance, are not called to public service. If you abhor parts of the public that aren’t just like you, and you’re bigger on self-serving than serving others, you probably aren’t going to be a very good public servant. The title should have clued you in. Anyway, I also suffered from the fact that I didn’t want to be one of those people with her head in the sand. Somebody has to pay attention when the train is about to jump the track, but all my attention-paying didn’t seem to be having much effect. Slowly, I was teaching myself to compartmentalize, and coming to realize that, not only could I pay attention to my distractions, I could also heed my calling to write. It wasn’t an either/or deal, and why had I started to behave as if it were? Not only could I heed my calling, but I should heed it. And you should heed yours too.

Once I realized I was trapped in some kind of maze of inertia, I couldn’t get away from the question, “How is this helping?” When “this” is continuing to stare at the train jumping the tracks, knowing it’s about to wreck, how indeed is “this” helping? It isn’t. I figured out that almost all my distractions not only required my attention, but they required my action. Political, social, or cultural distraction? March, speak up, call my representatives, write letters, help get out the vote, vote, demand better — hell, demand “competent.” Personal distraction? Identify what’s needed and do what I can. Whether it’s grief or my health or dealing with family issues, identify what’s needed. Then do what I can. I realized once those actions are taken, there’s no need for me to stand around staring anymore. My attention can return to my calling. I can get on with being myself in this world. And myself can’t not write. I’m happy to say I will cheerfully rejoin my poetry group this month and I’ll be bringing new stuff.

Thanks for reading.

"Habits change into character." – Ovid

Beginning a couple of years ago, I have tried to start every day the same way. On waking, before I even sit up, I set an intention for myself (be calm, be kind, be productive, be present, be funny, etc.). Then I either meditate on that intention or I pray. The prayer is always the same. I ask for help in meeting my daily intention. I ask for healing for a list of people whom I know are dealing with illness. I ask for continued blessings and protection of all my families. I ask for comfort and blessings on all those whom I know are grieving some loss or another.

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Hindsight is 2020, Right?

Happy New Year, y’all. Yes, I’m still here. But I’ve been elsewhere and otherwise occupied for a longer while than I intended. I’ve been on a kind of sabbatical, I guess. We’ll call it “a sabbatical” because that sounds official, although I don’t know that I garnered much rest, and the only new skill I might have acquired for purposes of writing was fostering a deeper, more seething method of creative fermentation. Well, one hopes it will prove to be creative. Too much seething can make for a bitter brew. Time will tell. Check back in a couple of weeks and we’ll see if I am creating or sitting on the couch ruining the touchscreen TV remote with Dorito dust-stained fingers. But I digress. Naturally. Those of you who know me personally know how I like to remark that my life is just one long interruption of itself. But before I go too far astray … Continue reading “Hindsight is 2020, Right?”

Doing Something, Even If It Is Wrong? Not This Time

My grandmother used to say, “Well, I’m gonna do somethin’ even if it IS wrong.” That’s a philosophy I’ve tried to live sometimes. I think it’s a good motivator if you’re letting fear hold you back. It’s a way to verbally shrug off fear. But doing something wrong because fear actually is pushing you into it? No. Continue reading “Doing Something, Even If It Is Wrong? Not This Time”

Wherein I almost (almost) quit writing poetry forever. Or, alternatively, “Thank you, Arthur Chu.”

Toodles, Poetry! And Humankind?

Some weeks ago, it occurred to me that I have no place in the world of poetry anymore.

I have spent much of the last year devoted to finishing a first draft of a lengthy historical novel. I have continued to interact with my beloved poetry group, but I cannot say I truly was interacting with my own poetry. When the question “Should you still be writing poetry?” arose from the depths of my subconscious, my first instinct was to tamp it down, and hard, but it just wouldn’t go away.

I’ve taken extended vacations away from “poetry world” before and I’ve also been frustrated at times with all aspects of what we call “poetry,” from writing to revising to submitting to publishing, etc., but this time felt different.  So I decided to look that persistent little query in the eye and, behold, I watched as it morphed into, “WHY should you (or ANYONE) continue to write poetry?” Wait. What? Me or ANYONE? Oh, no, I thought. So it’s not, “I have no place in the world of poetry,” it’s “poetry has no place in the world.” Hang it up, Natasha Tretheway. As brilliant and brutally beautiful as your work is, it’s no use. Have I really started to buy into the “Poetry is dead” tripe? Ugh, I thought. Am I nihilist? Has Game of Thrones done this to me? Of course poetry is dead! EVERYone’s dead except the assholes! Damn you, George R.R. Martin!

Continue reading “Wherein I almost (almost) quit writing poetry forever. Or, alternatively, “Thank you, Arthur Chu.””

If You Are My Friend, And You Are a Man, You’ll Read This

The confluence of the death of Maya Angelou, a strong woman with a strong voice, just the kind of woman we need now, and the Elliot Rodger rampage brought on by his hatred of women (yes, as well as his mental illness), has prompted me to take an afternoon and write this out to you, my male friends.  Because this tragedy could give us opportunities to talk about so many important things, like reasonable gun control, the state of mental health care in this country, and/or the disgusting epidemic of celebrating infamy in our culture (the Kardashianization of America, if you will), I encourage you to think about those things, and discuss them amongst yourselves.  However, let me be clear:  I’m going to use this space to talk about the way women are treated in this culture.  Before you go all “Not ALL men” on me, or make fun of the social media phenomenon of #YESAllWomen, just go read some of these “manosphere ideas” *  and tell me whether you’d feel comfortable being thought of and discussed this way.  I’m thought of this way, as is my daughter, and my mother, and all the women I know, by men just like those quoted in that last linked article, and those sites that Rodger frequented.  Now tell me you don’t know any men who think of women that way.  If you say you don’t, you’re either very lucky or very lying.  I’ve known some men who think like Elliot Rodger thought.  Plenty, in fact.  Now let me tell you a story.

The first time I visited New York City, I was 22 years old.  I went with some friends from law school.  We were at a bar early one evening before dinner.  One of my friends and I went to the restroom, and walking back through the crowded bar to rejoin our friends, someone behind me grabbed my hair, and jerked me back hard, at the same time, demanding loudly, “Where the f**k have you been?” Continue reading “If You Are My Friend, And You Are a Man, You’ll Read This”

Sign My Petition! (And Other Insanity)

If my friend Laura were still with us, and she could’ve spent her birthday today following someone around just to get material for her next comedic essay, she might’ve picked me.  How might she describe this mess of a thing I laughingly called a schedule today?  I wish she were here to write it, but I’m going to try and tell it like I think she might have told it.

Before I launch into all that, because I’m as likely as not to forget it if I don’t ask now even though I did put it in the title:  would y’all sign my petition?  I want to change the name of “work out” to “work in” because, if I manage to get any exercise on any given day, it’s just because I worked it in.  And usually that results in my schedule not really working out.

Onward!

As with many a splendored thing, this new schedule I’ve put together for 2014 looks great on paper.   My first priority is writing, and I have rededicated myself to one project in particular (some of y’all who know me are thinking, She means re-rededicated).  It seems like everybody and her brother has a “strategic plan” these days,  so I came up with one of those to help me accomplish my 2014 goals.  You should know I have certain personal challenges which are relevant to this discussion: I am not a morning person and even when I wake up early, I cannot be sure I am a fully functioning human until about 10:00 a.m.; I do not multi-task, and I tell myself that multi-tasking is the work of the devil so I can feel better about not doing it; I am a slave to lists, so much so that if I veer from the day’s list, I will make another list just so I can catalog and check off the things I actually did do – some people call that a diary, but, whatever.   I’m also one of those people who gets more things done the more things I have to do. 

So.  Because of that last thing I mentioned up there, I thought concocting a daily schedule with “extra” things To Do built into it would be a great help to me!  Let that simmer for a minute… . Continue reading “Sign My Petition! (And Other Insanity)”