Tag Archives: growth

Stephen King’s Prompt

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I haven’t been writing because I’ve been reading lots of books including Stephen King’s On Writing, Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir and Lit and The Liar’s Club, Anne Patchett’s The Getaway Car, Anne Lammott’s Bird by Bird.

I’ve also read some great contemporary fiction A Little Life (which is a large book accompanied by an equally large pull) and The Girl on the Train, which was entertaining, but nothing terribly deep. I’m going to read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic soon too. I’m in the middle of Colleen Seidman Yee’s Yoga for Life. I’ve also read a lot of other things: magazines, newspapers, yoga and meditation content, blogs, short stories, and the like. It’s winter.

Wow. That’s a lot of words written by other people.

I’ve also been doing jigsaw puzzles.

I’ve also been doodling. And coloring.

I’ve been doing everything but writing.

I’m not a fan of King’s writing; I’m not against it, it’s just not my jam. I believe some of his books, the less violent ones, would appeal to me. On Writing is wonderful and he gives some very good advice; he also shares some personal history of his experiences with ear infections, when doctors lie, his adventures and tenacity as a very young writer, and about the origins of Carrie and how that book changed his life forever. He speaks admiringly and lovingly of his wife. It was she who ferreted the manuscript from the trash and told him to keep it up, that he “really had something” there. He shared in careful detail his memory and recovery of the accident that almost ended his life. I believe it is that experience that fueled his desire to passionately spur on and encourage all creative people to keep going.

King said of himself that he tries to take breaks from writing, but he realizes that when he does, he’s not quite himself. He gets twitchy and irritable. He said that the writing stabilized him.

I know why I’ve been avoiding it. I can blame it on yoga and lots of planning (I’m teaching 4 kids classes and three adult classes a week now) but no, that’s not it.

I’ve been distracted by the political freak show in my country, as I’m am legitimately concerned for how things are turning, but I have hope that something will change toward the end. Maybe Luke Skywalker will come and save the day.

I can blame it on external forces. The truth is, I’ve been fearful. Fearful of what will come out once I open the gates to the words pressing to get out.

A friend of mine I care for deeply said to me, “You can write it, get it out. You don’t have to share it.” The ego inside me says, “What’s the fun of that? Where’s the recognition?” King said, at the end of his book, that if we write or create for recognition, we are doing it for all the wrong reasons and that the recognition and “fame” becomes the draw, rather than the love of creating. King says, write for the sheer love of the craft.

And he’s right.

So in On Writing, he gives only one prompt. The book is 15 years old, so he’s no longer accepting submissions. The prompt is fantastic, and in true King form, it has a twist. I can’t share it here, because I fear I’d risk unauthorized reproduction of his work, so I’ll sum it up:

Dick and Jane fall in love but the love grows weary. Fights and envy ensue. Lots of dysfunction, passive aggressive, violence, traps, and threats fill the air. (King gives some really great details on how to make it all take shape.) The twist: it’s the woman tormenting the man. Sort of how Misery rolled out.

It’s a fascinating proposal and I’m going to jump all over it. You might not hear from me for awhile, but I assure you that this time, it’s because I’m busy writing, not busy avoiding writing.

Thank you.

ps — if you’d like the actual prompt, here’s the link.

It’s Not About the Body, Oprah

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Dear Oprah,

I want to york.

I think I’m late to the session.

I just saw a Weight Watchers ad where you made some random, unsolicited confession that you’re not looking to get into a pair of jeans or you don’t have a red-carpet dress to fit into. You lost me at “honey chil’.”

You blathered on about how ‘you’ve been there,’ and how it’s important to “do this together.”

And that you want to “make 2016 the year of your best body.”

I’m so done with you.

You’re so lost. And people look

Up

To

You. 

It’s about accepting the body you’re in. It’s about the spirit. It’s about starting from there … But this approach — making it all about the body, is really what is going to keep people failing and coming back and making you richer. If you examine the root of all these issues, and keep the needle on the health & spirit instead of the body, then people would get better and likely stay that way… but now that you’re a Weight Watchers stakeholder… maybe that’s not so lucrative. Keep the people coming back. Again and again… right? Because nothing says healthy liver and kidney and thoracic system like yo-yo dieting and depression from not achieving.

The reason why you are still dealing with a weight issue is because you’ve made this all about the physical.

Since forever, you’ve made your weight ‘situation’ all about the exterior.

You’ve completely missed the point.

You’re setting the wrong stage.

Just like that time you were wearing your new jeans and you hauled a red wagon full of red meat on to stage, you’re still sending the message that the body is what matters most.

You don’t even talk about it being a “temple.”

Where are the affirmations? Where?!

By the way, what does “Join for free — Purchase Required” mean?

Gah. It all makes me want to scream.

Dearest darling, confused, frustrated, distracted and wanting everyone-to-love-you Oprah:

It’s not about the body. It’s about the health. It’s about the spirit

If you believe half the things you spew, the body dies, the spirit lives on. It’s about what’s inside… How many times have you preached that?! 

It’s not about the hips, it’s about the heart.

It’s not about the belly, it’s about the insulin.

It’s not about the bust line, it’s about the pulmonary system.

It’s not about “the points,” it’s about the diastolic and systolic readings.

It’s not about the body, it’s about the life.

Because you talk about “Super Soul Sunday”… I’ll stick with the invisible: the blood pressure, the stress reduction, the diabetes, the insomnia, the heart palpitations, the kidneys, the fears, the inadequacy, the bullying, the abuse, the anxiety, and more which  manifests as our stuffing food / clothes / drugs / booze / risk — whatever the hook — which slowly kills the soul. I think you know what I’m talking about.

When you address the health, when you start talking about drinking more water and eating –anything!– with awareness, and putting your hand over your heart to honor its work, and practicing gratitude, and looking for lessons in life, and transforming stumbling blocks into stepping stones, the health will happen.

It’s NOT ABOUT THE BODY.

When will you wake up and realize that this has teens and mothers and men starving themselves –and dying– for a perfect “body”?

When will you use your powers for good and not to cater to one of the seven deadly sins?

If all we are after is steeped in vanity, we will never succeed.

YOU, of all people, should get that — with the brain trust of philosophical and self-help and spirituality avatars and personalities you have on speed dial — Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, Pema Chodron, Bréne Brown… these people have spouted consistently that it’s not on the outside what matters but what’s on the inside, that the body is a shell, a container of the soul… and here you go, talking about The Best Body.

I gave up watching you years before you stopped your show. I saw through it all and I couldn’t take it anymore.

Now that you own 10% of Weight Watchers, the jig is up. The stock jumped when you announced your purchase, but it has since dropped 24% — it’s now lower than it was almost a month before you bought. Its price jumped like a yoyo. Similar to the numbers on a scale of someone who isn’t clear or is confused about the reason and the goal of anything worth doing, including weight loss, the direction is lost.

If you want to know how to run this campaign, ask a child of a parent who’s struggling with health.

If you had kids, you’d know: all they care about is having a healthy and present parent. The kids don’t care if Mom looks like a runway model (and a lot of them are super unhealthy) or Jack Sprat’s wife (what was her name?). Kids just want a healthy parent. They want Dad to play catch or to give piggy-back rides. That health is far-reaching: emotional, mental, spiritual, physical — once that is addressed, things will start to dovetail.

It’s not about the body. It never was. It’s always been about the health. Don’t lose sight of that. Stay focused. It’s not about the body. Never was. That’s why people still struggle. It’s about the spirit. 

Thank you.

 

Dear Auto Insurance, 

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Dear Auto Insurance, 
I’m writing to let you know we’ve given up. We’ve prolonged this as much as we could, but today it happened. 

Our oldest son, Thing 1 (the moniker of which I have assigned to keep him off search engines and college inquiries because his mother –me– has a big mouth and flying typing hands) is all-but officially licensed to drive. I mean, he has completed his courses and he can drive alone and whatnot, but he still has to go before a judge (not because of his mother, me, but because the Commonwealth requires it) to get it all official like. I dig that stand-before-the-judge thing. 

So he can run errands now. And drive himself to guitar lessons. And take his brothers to soccer practice (when that begins again). And pick up take-out, but not Chipotle because of e. coli. And drive to school. And he’s tall enough now to peel his mother, me, off the ceiling from worry about his whereabouts and safety! Isn’t that great? 

And then in eight short months he will be pushing off to college. 
  
Auto Insurance, can you slow things down a little? Maybe just make each day last 36 hours instead of 24?  Here we are, attempting to slow time. 
  
   
   

His first time driving Nigel. 

 When the driving began, when he was ready, last summer. 

 He was so little he fit (and resisted smiling) for the tote bag photo.   

    
I love my son. So very much. I know it’s not your job, Auto Insurance, to protect him, but I just thought I’d put out the request and the energy. The SUV will do its job. 
Now for the big quandary: how to let him go…. 
Thank you. 
    

When Mom’s the Child

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I’m feeling a little blue at the moment; my youngest and I had a skirmish. He is newly 12. He’s in sixth grade. He runs late every morning… no matter how early I wake him, he never gets downstairs until 8 and then he drags around and we have not been at school on time in weeks.

Today, I packed his lunch bag in his backpack. It was 8:25. We had a chance… we could’ve been out of the house by 8:30. But I discovered he’d pulled it out of that space and was trying to jam it into another compartment.

It wasn’t fitting, and he was snarfing and huffing to get it in. He was also completely bitter that I’d put it in a place where it just went “phoomp” into place. (But we all know he wasn’t mad at me, he was frustrated at his conundrum.)

SOMEHOW WE LOST FIVE MINUTES IN THIS SPACE.

I was putting on my coat and looping my scarf. The clock beamed 8:30. I stepped over to undo his efforts and redo mine: putting the lunch bag back where I had it. He’s snarfing and snarling.

As we were walking down the steps out front, he was still bitching about it. About how it was fitting just fine when he was putting it in. About how the delay was my fault because I put his lunch in “the wrong place.”

But where I put it wasn’t the wrong place. Where he was trying to jam it was the wrong place. The zipper simply wouldn’t zip around it; it wasn’t going to fit in the backpack. Plus the lunch bag was not going to stay in the backpack all day. The moment kids get to school they take it out… I disagreed with his protests.

Step step step.

Huff. Grumble. Step.

Dragon’s breath plumed from our faces in the cold frosty air. Mittened hands flopped and flapped, gesticulating and emphasizing our perspectives. Muffled voices pointedly pressing through the scarves.

We shared twenty more steps in relative embattlement.

So we were about 1/2 way down our pipestem and he was still grumbling about it. “I’m going to be late because of YOU…”

That was it. I was done. I turned to him and said, “Ok. you’re entirely wrong about this. You were late to begin with; this is a daily thing with you. No matter when I wake you, you don’t seem to appear before 8 am. With your shoes missing most of the time. The lunch bag simply wasn’t fitting. It fit the way I put it and where it is now. It might not be where YOU want it, but it works. It’s 8:33, the late bell is in seven minutes. You MIGHT make it if we dash. ”

Then he starts to tell me how wrong I am. He’s 12. I’m 48.

I get it.

I’m arguing with someone one-fourth my age. So what do I do? The mature thing:

“I’m out. Goodbye. Go on.”

He swiftly looked at me with huge eyes: half scared, half stunned. Then a mental shift and a set of his jaw: he got a cocky look on his face and kept going.

I then turned around to go home. I decided right then and there, after nearly 13 years of consistently walking at least one of my children to school every day, to pack it up. We were having a moment. We each needed to be alone.

I let him walk himself to school, hoping he would use the crossing guard. His little body, behooded and scarved kept going.

He didn’t look back.

I didn’t say anything else.

No “I love you.” Or “I love you.” Or even “I love you.”

Now I’m sitting by the phone hopeful it won’t ring with an absentee notice from the school. I’m hopeful he didn’t run into assholic Scary Cretin on the path with his giant shit-dropping dogs.

I’m sure he’s fine and he arrived without a scratch; he’s in 6th grade and younger kids with far sterner parents walk all by themselves from as far as a mile.

But I’ve never done that: I’ve never sent him out on his own because I was fed up. We have had far worse irreconcilable differences and walked all the way to school, usually cuddling halfway there.

So now it’s gnawing at me, because of my filter, from when I was a kid. On days when we were too late waking up and we couldn’t get rides with our neighbors, my mother made us walk to school, probably about a mile and a half away. A brother and me, alone all the time in all sorts of weather through Buffalo’s tougher city streets, crossing big-time, city-express, 4-way traffic intersections where metro buses and 18-wheelers traveled and pounded. I’m sure she drove us a handful of times, but she didn’t get her license until she was in her 40s and her unpredictable sobriety created a challenge for us to get there safely if she was a driver. So I have this huge rut of guilt and shame of making him walk on his own.

He used the crossing guard. I’m sure of it. It’s a vow he’s made. We might be angry at each othe, but he’s not crazy stupid. The rest is all path amongst the trees.

I fought the urge to run after him. I was like a magnet fighting off its polarity, forcing myself to stay in the house and not chase him down like Scarlett running after Rhett.

He’s fine. Right?

Am I?

Thank you.