Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Writer's Notes

Threads that must be tied off before the book is finished:

- The Christmas dilemma must be resolved.
- The issue of the Paris Poster
- Buying a house
- Migraines

And of course there is the matter of the many story lines - the question of how to divide it: By person, by time, by theme?

And the way that, writing memoir, most of the story is over, has come to some sort of resolution before you ever mail the manuscript to the moon.

When it feels stale to me, I wonder. Is it really worth repeating.
And then there is the way that each time I come back to the pile of pages, open the lid on this story, I am sucked back into it.

Funny how that happens.

Voiceover (several voices, whispering):
Voice 1: Where is she going to start?
Voice 2: Oh, for heaven sake, it makes no difference at all.
Voice 3: She can’t just start anywhere!
Voice 2: Of course, she can. It’s… Stop pushing, there’s room for everyone. Stand over here. Good, now everyone can see…

Friday, August 27, 2010

Two Fish

A post about kids going off to college, 2012 and a small miracle that happened to me today - Click here to read it

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Disclaimer

It is incredibly hard to write memoir. First there is that business with factuality - and the risk that, these days, an author could find herself sitting happily on Oprah's couch and the next minute be torn into a million little pieces.

Then, there’s the way that life keeps coming at you, doesn’t come neatly - beginning, middle and end - all organized by chapter. It’s chaotic and messy.

You have to figure it out: What order should I put the chaos into? Which chapter comes first? And all of that is craft and all of that is challenging but it isn’t the hard part. What makes writing a memoir like ripping your cuticles out with your teeth is this: Every time you sit down to write it, there’s your life, staring at you from the page.All of your mistakes, your avoidance, your incongruence, your lies, your posturing - to relive and all, if it's properly written, in vivid detail.

The thing is, by the time you’ve written it down, ironed out the awkward phrasing and inelegant prose, life has moved on - and you with it. And now, returning to the memoir for one more round of editing, you can see how very full of crap you were; and you fear that if you put this book out there, your life may just show you that you still are, but in a bigger and more public way.

Memoirs should come with a disclaimer, right on the cover, embossed in bright yellow or solid gold ink: This was once true for me but I have learned a lot while writing it and I know now that it’s all more self-indulgent nonsense.

Which leads us to the biggest challenge of all: The still and quiet place that arrives after the sorting and considering and re-drafting and shredding of your masterpiece - the place where suddenly, the helium of the task dissolves and you are left, deflated and pathetic on the end of a string of something that was once so promising.

It sneaks up - a deep peace that is somehow coupled with a desperate ennui, leaving you completely fulfilled and also, strangely empty. Depleted, arms heavy, you wake up from the dream you've been dreaming for a year or two or five and find yourself sitting before a stack of 400 pages of almost-finished copy - and have to decide: Can I go on?

Can I abandon the soul-drenching, thrilling journey of writing this and begin to sell it? Can I, after stacking themes and plot lines into place, when I feel so full of wisdom, set down this fascination with my own life and family and enter the world of agents, publishers and author's platforms?

- and THAT, oh, best beloved, THAT is what separates the author from the non-author, the dreamer from the doer, the wheat from the chaff. At least I think it is... as I find myself there.

Today, as I return to this work - and imagine wrestling it into a 'book proposal' - this priceless thing that I made, line by line, brushstroke by painful brushstroke. Can it ever be fit back into the box? Can this universe of joys and sorrows be brought down to concise chapter summaries? And can I, when I feel now so wide and special and 'solved" be the one to do it?

I don't know. But after two years (maybe three) I trust the process. I trust that I will figure it out - and maybe, I'll even enjoy it.

I trust that some day soon, I will wake up writing like my hair is on fire and my belly bursting to express the pure joy streaming from every cell of my body onto the page again.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The possibility...

The possibility that the universe might be just a little bit in love with you, too.

New post on my website: Click here to read (and to watch my first video - Yikes!)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Write. Pray. Hope.

This post is my tribute to Elizabeth Gilbert (after a dark night of envy and despair over her success)
I moved it to my new website where I hope you will visit it by clicking on this link: Write, Pray, Hope.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Last night: 3:00 a.m.

Since I was awake, I thought I'd just go check my email... and Twitter... and Facebook. And there, I found a link about Crop Circles.

And that led me down the rabbit hole, as such middle-of-the-night words often do, when we are open to the dream world, and the imagery that seems to flow more easily in darkness.

Down I went...
Crop Circles
Symbols
Sacred Geometry
Archetypes
Joseph Campbell
The Golden Ratio
Leonardo
Chartres

I crawled back up into the dark night and had a dream... of course.

I was preparing for a new endeavor - all the plans had been made, I had only to submit to two medical screenings. I passed the first test. All I needed now was the blood typing. The nurse attempted to stick my finger, a huge needle came out and I pulled my hand away. "I will do it myself," I offered, chewing at the pad of my forefinger. I drew a little blood, but not enough. She handed me a lancet - in it's little sterile envelope. I opened it and was about to cut when...

"Excuse me," a little voice said. I turned and found, standing behind me, six children. The oldest, a little girl with great big eyes, who looked to be about 7, spoke. "Can you tell us how to find 29-I?" she asked.

"Is that your room?" I asked - we were in a huge resort center (the dream now informed me) and the blood test was being conducted in its pharmacy.

The girl - and her little brother, the second oldest, nodded solemnly. "I'll take you there," I said. I led them to the hallway and told them to wait. I'd be right back. Just wanted to get Max.

But I couldn't find him. Leaving the children, trying not to forget them, I started searching. I came into the stands of a huge outdoor stadium - ancient and crumbling, the levels were made of concrete. People were sitting around, waiting for something. One of Max's teachers intercepted me. "We told Max that his father is dying," he told me. "Just thought you should know that he knows."

"His father is dying?" I asked. "I didn't know... "
"Heat stroke," the teacher explained. "He fell asleep in the car and the heat shield didn't work."

I turned, ran up the stairs, searching. Where is Max? Where is Katie?

I found Katie snuggled into my husband's arms. "Here you are," I said. "Have you heard?" He nodded. Katie's face was tear-stained. She pressed her cheek to Matthew's chest.

I was so glad he was there to comfort us. I tried to take it in. The children's father was dying. My heart began to ache and burn. Where was Max?

Then, "I have to take the children to their room," I remembered."Will you come with me?" Matthew nodded, transferring Katie to my arms, he walked behind us.

We found Max by cell phone. He was weeping. At the pharmacy, the children were huddled against the wall. Waiting. Max arrived. We began to lead the children to their room. I still hadn't done my blood test, I realized.

The children followed behind us. I carried Katie. Max, age 10, walked solemnly beside me, Matthew held his arm around me. I rested my head on his shoulder.

"I miss him so," I began to cry, turning into Matthew's arms.

As I woke up, I realized: How can Matthew be here, comforting me? He is in the hospital, dying.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Saturday, July 24, 2010

This is for you...

I am so moved that I cannot speak; Say Yes - A Spoken Word Poem from Andrea Gibson:



If you loved it, you can hear more by clicking on the lower right corner of the image - going to YouTube and finding more of this artist's extraordinary gifts to the world.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Your life gesture

I didn't mean to neglect you!

I've been working so hard - posting over at my new website, learning to build web pages and do a bit of HTML. I've set up bookstore (and please stop by!) and learning SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

(Doesn't THAT sound impressive?)

Anyway, here's the link to my latest post: Your Life Gesture In keeping with my new, more frequent blogging commitment - it's short and to the point. So I'd love to read your comments on the post - or the change in style.

I'm taking up the "if you're a real blogger" challenge of posting something several times a week - and of posting it quickly, without making a big fuss about every little detail. Which is giving my perfectionist a run for her money!

Thanks for hanging in with me through this incredible transition as I launch into the next part of my life.

Blessings!

Amy

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Moon

Also found in the box in my office...

"The moon is following us," four-year-old Katie giggles.
"It is not, Katie!" Max, 6, corrects her. "It follows everyone."
"How does it do that?" I ask.
"Everyone has their own family moon," he explains.
"What if I go this way and you go that way," I ask. (A true scientist must suffer many doubters.)
"Then it breaks in half and you have a half moon and so do I," he says.
"Oh, of course!" I laugh. "And then it grows into a full moon."
'Yes," he says. "Everyone starts with a little piece of moon and it grows up."

The next morning at the bus stop, Max elaborated, "I think it starts as a neighborhood moon. Then as each person wakes up and goes out, their little piece of moon follows them."
"Does it all go back together in the night?" I ask.
"No, you get to keep your piece."

Max is 22 now. Katie is 19. The moon's still following them - and me.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A letter to my daughter and my son

I was clearing out my office this week when I came across a box I hadn't opened in a while. It was filled with the kinds of things writers save: Pages torn from a notebook, magazine clippings, a brown paper lunch sack with a scribbled grocery list on one side and notes for the novel I never quite finished on the other.

In the box, I found that novel - with its paper-clipped sections, it's marginalia in blue, red, purple and green ink. There was also, perhaps the most precious, a note, written to my daughter when she was three.

It's handwritten in the loose, barely legible style I employ when my thoughts are moving faster than my pen. As I read it now, I am filled with mother love - for, though much has changed, my little girl is 19 now, the advice and the feeling remains the same.

It could also have been written, with few adjustments for gender, to her brother, Max. He's 22 now - and everything I wrote then - and copied, word for word, here, goes for him, too.

----

Dear Katie (and Max),

Now that you are three (and 5), there are some things you should know.

1) Your body is your own. No one, not even me or Daddy, has the right to touch you in a way that you don't want to be touched. Though at three you may find it hard to understand or enforce this rule - as you grow you will gain confidence and you will get taller and stronger and learn to push people away.

2) No hitting. Unless someone hits you. Then, hit back (and make it count) or leave. Immediately.

3) When you see something you don't like, speak up. Firmly, but with love. Don't worry if someone doesn't like what you've said. Say it anyway.

4) Spend time thinking about God. Spend time thinking about time. Spend time looking at the sky.

5) Nothing is as good as it looks on TV - especially life.

6) You can do anything you want. Anything. Make sure to do something you like.

7) Be prepared to meet what life brings to you. As my mother taught me, always wear clean underwear.

8) You will attract what you expect. Expect to be happy, healthy and successful.

9) Your brother (sister) loves you. Even though he's more interested in his friends right now, you are his sister, his first best friend. That will always come first.

10) Other girls are not the enemy. (This will mean more later.)

11) Neither are boys. (Boys are shy and scared sometimes, just like girls. If you want a boy to like you, be nice to him. Help him to feel comfortable about himself.)

12) There's so much more to the world than the mall. Make sure that you travel. Even if Daddy and I don't manage to take you to see it all, see as much of the world as you can.

13) Do the best you can. That's all anyone should ask of you.

14) Be nice. But not too nice.

15) Your body can heal itself. Avoid drugs. Sleep is usually the best medicine. Tea with honey is good medicine, too.

Finally,

- When you sleep at a friend's house, if you have to get up in the middle of the night, make sure the seat is down so you don't fall in. And don't forget to flush.

- I love you and I will always be interested in what you have to show me, to tell me. Even if I seem distracted, I'm here for you.

With all my heart,

Mommy

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A dream I had

This morning I woke up sobbing. I’d dreamt that a dark line of blood had begun to collect under the skin of two of the fingers on my right hand. At first, it was just a kind of outline of the veins. But it started to spread – and deepen.

The blood was bright purple, the color of concord grape juice - and the pressure had built up enough that the blood had burst a small hole in the skin and was trickling out – this hurt a lot but relieved the pressure enough that I was able to use my fingers again. But the hole sealed up and the blood began to collect there again.

It’s only two fingers, I told myself. It will sort itself out. As the condition worsened, it also spread – and now you could see the blood pooling under the skin of my palm – like a deep pool that I could look into and see things.

It will stop, I reassured myself. But when I got dizzy. I told my sisters, who’d miraculously appeared in the dream, “I have to go to the hospital.” Of course you do, they nodded, exchanging a glance that said. CLEARLY SHE DOES! But being kind and calm with me – the way people are with a crazy but ill person.

Beth led me toward a bench and told me to sit down. Jenny ran for our mother – who, as it turned out, was unable to help, having just had open-heart surgery. Oh, that’s right, we realized together. Right now, we are helping her.

Beth called my husband who poofed into the scene with us.

"Can you put some pressure on it?” he asked.

“She has to go to the hospital,” Beth insisted.
“I can see that,” my husband said as he ran away, calling over his shoulder. “I will do what I can.” Halfway up the block, he dissolved.

Beth led me to the hospital, which, as it turned out, was right next door. Dreams can be so convenient – or, as it turned out, inconvenient.

The nurse behind the reception counter (who looked suspiciously like the woman at the DMV where my daughter and I went to renew her learner’s permit last week) nodded when I showed her my hand. “That does look serious,” she said. “Take a seat.”

There were already a lot of people waiting in the long row of blue plastic chairs. The chairs were all connected to each other so you couldn’t drag your chair over to a corner if you needed a little privacy (which I did, which is why I noticed this.)

The thing is: I really didn't want anyone to see the mess I was making -

... or could make at any moment if the blood, which was really building up again, decided to burst through.

And the chairs had those stupid metal armrests that were never intended to support soft, fleshy human arms; but were designed to keep people from spreading out across more than one chair and sleeping. So you had to just sit in these rows with your feet splayed out in front of you.

You know, like in a real hospital.


For the next few hours – or days (You know how dreams (and hospitals) can be) doctors came flapping through doors at one end of the room and exiting out through flapping doors at the opposite end. They looked very busy in their white coats and blue paper surgical caps. But no one looked at me. No one was looking at any of us patients. It was weird.

Maybe I’ll just leave, I thought.


I stood up. I got dizzy. I sat down. The dizziness reminded me of the blood. I looked down. Uh-oh. It was going to spring a leak at any moment.

And I really didn't want to make a mess

I walked to the exit doors. I was having trouble thinking. But I’m still standing, I reasoned (not a good thing to do when you are having trouble thinking) and so pushed open the exit doors and …

“Wait a minute!” a young doctor in blue scrubs grabbed my hand and looked at it. “You’re not going anywhere, Missy.” Walking me backwards, I let him push me back to the blue chairs; then, he left.

ANd my hand started to bleed.


I showed the receptionist. (Funny how there was no line but we were waiting so long.) Anyway, she said, Wow, that really is worse and pushed a clipboard toward me. “Here,” she said. “Fill this out honey.”

I pushed the form back toward her. “The thing is,” I said. “I don’t have health insurance this month.” (I have learned to say it that way. Makes me sound, at least I think so, less indigent. More, you know, respectable. Like a real person.)

“You don’t have health insurance,” she whispered, backing away from me.

“It’s just recently…” I stammered. “My husband lost his job…”

“What are you doing here?” she spit.

“If I could just talk with the doctor,” I said, and with everyone looking at me because they could hear the blood in my whole body pulsing like a drum.

(Or maybe they were looking at me because, you know, I don’t LOOK like the kind of person who doesn’t have health insurance. I look so normal, so successful. I have these nice clothes and a steady freelance job that pays pretty well (though not well enough to pay for health insurance, of course. Not when I’ve got two kids in college and a self-employed husband whose home architecture practice was ABSOLUTELY DEAD for about a year after the housing and financial meltdown.)(And all of that passed through my mind in a glimmer – in that way that thoughts can do that. Like this great download of excuses mixed with shame mixed with grief mixed with no idea what to do or to say anymore…)

“WE CAN’T TOUCH YOU!” The nurse was shrieking at me now.

“Wait!” I pleaded. “Just tell me where you send people who don’t have health insurance.”

“We don’t send them anywhere!” She said. “That’s not our responsibility.” She backed into a group of nurses and other receptionists, and raising her arm, she pointed at me, saying, “Get this woman out of here.”

I ran. Through the swinging doors, clutching my hand: I have to remain calm. I just have to get home. I have to keep walking. I can’t fall down.

Of course, with all of that stress, my blood pressure was WAY up and the purple stains on my palm began to leak and then to spurt. I took off my shirt – the white button down I’d just purchased at the thrift store that I was going to wear on stage when I became a famous author. I

I will never get this stain out, I sighed and my heart broke. No, I mean, it actually broke - splitting neatly in half like a coconut.


And everyone was staring at me. One woman called out, "Honey, you should go to the hospital, you’re bleeding!".

I didn’t answer her. I just kept running. Until…

From out of nowhere, a tall and beautiful black man materialized, moving quickly from behind and caught me around the waist. Pulling me backwards against his chest in a warm, firm hug he whispered, I’ve got you,

His voice was musical and cool, like water - and cleansing. I’ve got you, he repeated, catching each half of my heart in one of his hands and just letting them rest there.

Then, another man, stepped behind that man and wrapped his arms around us both.

“Yo tengo…” he said,

... and I understood him perfectly though I don’t speak Spanish, even when I’m awake. But I thought it meant, “I’ve got you.” And he held me too. They held me together.

And I sobbed. I just leaned back in their arms and let the tears come and let the blood pulse through my arms and out of the torn seams in my fingers until I was completely covered in purple blood. And there was no one there but me - and these two gentle men, holding me.

” You are the first person to hold me since this whole thing began," I wept.


And then I woke up – and I sobbed some more.

--

I invite you to help me understand this dream. A few notes to consider when taking this dream apart, should you wish to do so:

1) Think symbolically
2) Think archetypally
3) In this kind of dream, the structure of the story also matters.
4) Think about my actual life and my spiritual life
5) This kind of dream is not a prophecy

What does purple blood symbolize?
What mess might I be trying to conceal?
What is the white shirt?
What about the blue chairs?

Who are the two black men?
Who was the nurse? (symbolically)
Who was the doctor who pressed me back into the chair? (symbolically)

Let's play!

For my subscribers: If you have any questions or comments on this one, I'd love it if (instead of emailing me) you'd click through to the blog and post them where everyone can read along, in the comments section following the post.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Come see! Come see!

I've been working on my new website all month. Today, I'm ready for the big reveal.
it's not perfect, of course - and I've finally learned that that's not required.

What matters is that we begin...

Hope you'll stop by when you get the chance and leave a comment!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Today is a day about love

The following post is copied directly from my Twitter stream. If you have never been on Twitter, let me explain a few things. If you're familiar with Twitter, just skip ahead...

Twitter
Each line of this post is a single 'tweet.' A tweet is a one line message, limited to 140-characters, sent out into the Twitterverse one at a time. There are codes and abbreviations to help tweeters maximize the limited space.

-Each person on Twitter has a Twitter name. That name is preceded by '@' (So my Twitter name is #amyoscar)
-'RT' means 'retweeted from" and indicates that I copied something another tweeter wrote into my stream so that my own followers could read it.
- 'IRL' means "In real life"
- As in other social media - texting, facebook - 'LOL' means 'laughing out loud'

Hashtags
On Twitter, the hashtag or "#" is used in many ways. I use it to punch up my copy; to drive a point home, as you'll see below. Many people use it to group tweets into categories. (Examples: #Poetry #Quote #BreakingNews)

Some people use hashtags as a search tool, allowing them to easily find the tweets they're searching for. This is particularly helpful for people who're following a news story. And some examples of this from today's headlines would be: #OilSpill #Haiti #Israel #GoldenGirls

Finally, there are hashtags that help people 'meet' on Twitter for group conversations. An example of this would be: #amwriting which, theoretically, could be searched to locate other writers who're hard at work. (Of course, it you really think about it, people who claim #amwriting are really #NotWriting because they are on Twitter!)

Anyway, that should help

The following tweets are in reverse order: in other words, the last one I wrote appears at the top of the list, the first one at the bottom.

I could have gone through and rearranged them but I like it this way. It still works.

---------

Tweets


Clearly I am #NotWriting

This is what Fire Yoga does to me #Apparently #ILikeIt

RT @RayBeckerman: RT @ksquared3 Bamboo is remarkably soft, more so than cashmere, like old worn silk.

RT @jenlouden: Marketing idea for today: read some Hafiz, study the sky, sip some tea: connect with yourself and your desires to serve first

@ace5950 :) Thanks

@IrishArtsCenter And HERE is someone that I love IRL!!!

@ladieswholaunch Hi Beth. Following you now. Nice to find you here on Twitter.

@jenlouden :) xxoo

:) Thanks for being a space where I could do that. @SquarePegKaren

Feel around for it. Find the love that is there, waiting patiently for your invitation.

Where are you blocking the flow of love that comes, that lives right beside you because it is so wide, so vast, so REAL?

So here is Q for you: Where are you withholding love from yourself?

#love

Love that I have not been able to flow; love that frightens me with its intensity. Love. And as it burned thru me, I let it scour my heart.

And all of this feeling, all of this missing, all of this sadness was pure joy, bursting through me - all of this sorrow was also LOVE.

I felt my husband, working so hard to take care of us all, so hard. And I missed him, even tho he is here - because all that work takes him

I felt my son, working four hours away this summer, at a beach resort, and I missed him, too - and I let myself feel that

I felt my mother, recovering from open heart surgery, slowly drawing toward the end of her life, and I missed her - with all my heart.

I lay on my mat in shabasana, tears streaming into my ears and I FELT MY LIFE.

Today in yoga, we did fire breath - and eventually, my heart cracked open and I let myself cry.

YES! RT @shaboom: RT @AmyOscar: Today is a day about love << Let's celebrate!

What if we ALWAYS followed the guidance that came to us? What then?

So full, so full. So rich and bright.

@adamslisa Headache healing angels speeding to COnnecticut.

And we are love too

All of these gifts - freely given - are MADE OF the Divine's precious love for us; they ARE love; just as the Divine, too, IS love.

When we examine this love, we see that it is the same love that we find in sunshine, in rain, in the air we breathe, the water we drink.

@pattidigh ahem... I can spell #congratulations

@pattidigh I will have champagne after MY book edits are sent back to editor! (Then we will celebrate!) #COngratualtions

Eyes open, heart open - meeting what comes with a clear mind, focused on love.

Well, thank you - and so are you! RT @elissastein: @AmyOscar You are truly sunshine today.

However.... even as we are dropping into the endless pool of love, we must stay awake. This is the challenge of our time.

When I invite love to live through me - to express love's-self through my voice, hands and heart - I, too, am love. And so are you.

When we peel away all the things that WE add onto love - fear, longing, misunderstanding, competition, terror, doubt - there is love.

Love, love, love - love in all of its forms.

Today is a day about love

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

June - A note to myself

This June, I will be participating in Dian Reid's blogger challenge.

Dian writes: I’m engaging my community (that’s you!) because these thirteen topics can change the world. They can change the world, but not just if I write about them; only if we write about them.

This makes sense to me. And so, because I have been working in my own life with putting my action where my mouth/thoughts are, I will be writing about each of the following topics at some point. Feel free to drop me a line and share your own story - and I might share it on the blog.

Compassion
Intention
Self-Awareness
Courage
Love
Fairness
Laughter
Optimism
Truth
Vision
Wilderness
Wisdom
Authenticity

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The next book

Now what?

That is the question I've been asking for the past two weeks since I set down my pen and said: Done.

Now what?

I have several projects printed up; half-written manuscripts for books that I never got around to finishing. I've been carrying ALL of them around with me, waiting for one to light up and signal, 'Me!'

That's not working.


In fact, as I read through them - hundreds of typewritten pages - each has some fatal flaw - a premise too trite, overworked, ambitious; a question that (I now realize) is outside the realm of my experience or, frankly, my interest. Two of the unborn books feel half-hearted; two feel too big for me; two feel, oh, I don't know... weird.

I keep looking through them, hoping that I will catch fire the way I did with Sea of Miracles, but instead, I get only a few pages through before setting them aside with a full-body SIGH.

Maybe I am asking too much of myself.
Maybe I have only one real book in me.
Maybe a writer needs a resting period, a pause between mountain climbs.

Maybe it's time to return to the memoir I set aside 'for a little while' when Sea of Miracles came charging through me.

The thing is. . .

that first book didn't just move through me, it moved me. shifting my whole life ever so slightly, but ever so profoundly, onto my true course. I have never been so solidly myself; never been so certain of what I want to do, to teach, to say.

And from this new place, those other books feel kinda stale.


So, today, in the time when I 'should be' writing, I am going to go through each one - one more time - and decide: Are we complete here? Have you brought me all you were meant to bring?

If so, I will let it go and move on to and into the new work that waits, just inside my awareness, to be born.

I can feel it there

the way one senses the presence of an important encounter just before engagement; the way that I sensed the arrival of each of my children just before conception; the way that I feel my angels' standing behind me now, reminding me: You have crossed a threshold of the self; from now on, you will always be an author. And the books that you are meant to write will come.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

See if you can stop watching!

Today, I stumbled across the most amazing link.

Hummingbirds

I am speechless.

Enjoy.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Finishing

All of my life, I have almost finished almost everything. I almost finished college (more than once); almost finished a novel (twice); almost finished six non-fiction books. In fact, I can't think of a project that I carried through all the way from beginning to end - ever.

From the quilt that I made for Katie - square patches, appliqued with hearts and then, almost completely quilted by hand to the living room that I almost finished painting, my life has been a series of enthusiasms that have carried me along, almost long enough to have just the kind of life I knew was waiting for me, just around a corner of myself.

I could almost touch it.

Almost.

Now, after three years of daily writing practice - three years of showing up at the page from early morning (often 5 a.m.) to midday, usually 2 p.m., no matter what, every single day - I have finished a book.

I had no idea that it would take this kind of commitment. I had no idea what commitment was. If you had asked me, five years ago, if I was capable of doing it, I'd have waved you away with a dreamy, sure... some day.

That woman had no idea what writing a book was: That I would write when I didn't feel well, when I had nothing to say, when some entertainment lured me away - that I would write, even when my mother was in the hospital recovering from open-heart surgery; and that writing no matter what would make all of that bearable, would make all of it begin to fall into a kind of personal order, a deep pattern of "sense."

Writing every day changed my life.

No workshop or self-help book could have done this - though the wisest, most effective teachers have always suggested daily practice - and stressed the importance of setting intention.

Now I understand what they meant.

I also understand, now, what it means to be called by a purpose larger than myself. I understand that what called to me was not God - nor the angels - for no outside force can or will compel us to this kind of commitment. What called to me was me: A vision of myself that floated down one day, me as a writer; me as a person who finishes things, me as a person who walks her talk. You know, me - the one that all that not-finishing was almost letting out of the box.

I understand, also, why I didn't finish - a combination of self-doubt; laziness and misunderstanding - and why I did finish, this time.

I see the way an idea that began as a glimmer developed into a shimmer that shifted as I wrote, into a liquid and poured into a pattern that was forming as I lay it down, word by careful word. I see how it became, as I opened to it - a book.

I understand now what athletes must feel as they work the same muscles, the same way, week after week; I understand the need for practice - the musical scales the piano student must repeat; the intense commitment of the law student, memorizing precedent; the medical student, studying bones and organ systems.

I feel more grounded, more centered, more true to who I am than I have ever felt in my life. But it isn't the book that gave this gift to me. It was me - and the process - the weaving and refining, the whittling and re-imagining, the willingness to keep at it, to keep working.

Simply put: What changed my life was showing up.

I printed out a copy of a manuscript that I was proud of, that felt drenched with truth, with light and with "ME". Two days later, as the book arrives by Fed Ex Ground on my editor's desk, I've already started finishing the next project: One of those six non-fiction projects.

Today, I am an athlete, a musician, a medical student, too. I am a scholar of my own work; I am a person who finishes things.

Friday, April 16, 2010

How Will I Meet This? (Part 2 of 2)

Wilderness

In the book, Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why, Laurence Gonzales tells the story of a firefighter who winds up lost on a mountain. For two days, he thrashes about, grown more and more panicked. In his disoriented state, he keeps believing he is just around the corner from his destination -a fresh water lake that should be right over the next crest if he's where he thinks he is.

But of course, he's not where he thinks he is. He's misread the map - several times - and wandered into deep wilderness. Now, his frantic searching only takes him farther from his goal.

Finally, at the end of the second day, exhausted, depleted, seriously dehydrated, with the beginning signs of hypothermia, he makes a choice that will, ultimately save his life: He stops moving. He builds a fire, constructs a makeshift shelter out of a rain poncho and a pile of sticks and hunkers down. He rests, regains his strength, looks around. He stops trying to escape his situation - and turns to meet it.

By doing this - accepting his situation and asking: How will I meet this? - he was able to adapt to an unfamiliar situation and live until a few days later, when he was rescued.

Though few of us will ever face that kind of wilderness, each of us will face our own. We will, inevitably, lose someone we love; some of us will suffer grave illness; some will face financial losses and the loss of identity, community and self-esteem that brings. Alzheimers, broken bones, allergic reactions, fire, floods. I don't mean to depress you - but this is how it is. It's just life, all messy and tossed together.

Sooner or later, we will be thrust into the wilderness - and we will have to decide how to meet it.

As I write this, my daughter is meeting a different kind of wilderness. A freshman film student, Katie shot 15 rolls of film for her final assignment only to discover, during the editing process, that she'd forgotten to get any closeups - and that the script she'd been shooting from simply wasn't holding together. And she had 14 days to fix it. And she didn't have any money. And the teachers said: If you don't hand something in, you're out of the program.

Given what I'd learned from Gonzales's book, I knew Katie would be fine. Her resilience will allow her to adapt, adjust, and learn the new terrain of her situation. She'll build a fire and make a shelter out of whatever materials she has. She'll throw out the old script and write a new one, a better one. What I mean is, she won't wait for rescue: She'll rescue herself.

But given what I've learned about my daughter these past 19 years, I also know that Katie may have to spend a little time sobbing first. It's one of the ways that she meets things. Always has.

She gets that from me. We emote. We let stuff build up - and then we let it out. And that's fine. In fact, it's important.

Feel your feelings.

My friend's therapist told her that the best way to meet suffering is often, “Turn around and sit down inside of it.” I love that image. Turn around and sit down inside of it. Stop running. Don’t push it away. Let it come toward you and when it does, turn around and meet it. Sit down inside of it.

In other words, cry if you feel like crying; pour your heart out to God, if that's your thing; let all the black tar of the thing loosen and shift, and if there's a geyser of icky junk that needs to spill forth, let it spill.

Acceptance

The other day in yoga class, our teacher read us a poem, from the Sufi poet, Rumi. In it, there were these lines:

Learn the alchemy of what true human beings know
The moment you accept what troubles you’ve been given
The door will open.


I've had my doubts about this principle in the past and today, I lay on my yoga mat at the end of class and I thought about it. What does it mean to "accept what troubles you've been given"? And then, as so often happens when I am holding a question open in my heart, life answers me.

I was walking to my car when a friend, whose teenage son is struggling with a serious illness, caught up with me. With tears in her eyes, she said, “Everyone says, 'Accept it. Accept it.' I don’t want to accept this. I want to run a million miles away from here. I feel like my head is going to explode.”

And then I understood...

What acceptance isn't”

Acceptance or “embracing what comes,” does not mean we should talk ourselves into being happy that we have this pain, this cancer, this headache, this divorce, this sick baby, this death in the family. It doesn’t mean we are throwing a party, pretending to be happy, denying what has been dropped on our doorstep.

Conversely, acceptance isn’t giving up. It’s not saying, “Oh well, okay. I guess I will let this thing drop a bomb on my life and I will just lie here and let it roll over me.”

Acceptance means turning to meet what comes. It means feeling your feelings - crying when you’re sad; shouting when you’re angry; wailing when you’re in despair. It means including the bad stuff into the wholeness of our lives - not pushing against it, not denying or burying or disowning the problem (or the person who presents it to us.) Embracing says to the problem: Okay, here you are. Let’s see what you’ve brought to me.

And then, if we are into this kind of thing, we can call upon the forces of the universe. Dear God, we can pray. Please, help!

The angels won’t just swoop in and fix everything that isn’t working in our lives. More often, they let us know: We are here; supporting you, and this reassurance may be enough.

Or it may not.

We may need more time in the wilderness - more tears. But sooner or later we will get to the bottom of this thing, sooner or later we will sigh and shrug our shoulders and say, "Okay, here I am. What is there to learn here?" We will build a fire and put up a shelter using the materials at hand: Our curiosity, our determination to feel better, the support of our own particular kind of angels.

Human beings are remarkably resilient.

Ultimately, as the 14th century mystic, Dame Julian of Norwich once wrote, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” And all will be well. After you’ve been through hell and are still here, after you’ve endured the storm, you may just find, as all of the women I interviewed did, that you’re stronger, more determined and more in love with life than ever before.

You will find that under the icky black glop, there's a clear spring of hope and even, joy. You will. I promise.

This is the gift of difficult experience – every locked door becomes a potential opening onto a new room of experience; every dead end, every barrier, is an invitation to draw a new map.

How Will I Meet This? (Part 1 of 2)

A man I know sits beside me, lights a cigarette. “Three weeks ago, my wife confessed that she’s been cheating on me for years,” he says.

A 20-year-old girl/woman crosses the room at a party. “I was in the hospital two days ago. My heart was racing really fast. I thought I was going to die." She tries to look impassive, as if she doesn’t care. But I can see how terrified she is.

A friend writes, “My mother told me that once she hits 75, she is done."

Each time I visit my father at the nursing home, he tells me, “Every day, I lose a little more function." He can't use one arm at all. Soon, the other will curl up as well. "I can't feed myself. I can't walk. I can't turn the pages in a book," he says.

How will I meet this?

In my 15 years as a magazine editor and writer, I’ve interviewed women (and men) who’ve been through horrific personal experiences, true dark nights of the soul. They experienced profound loss, battled devastating injuries and life-threatening illness and yet… every single one of them told me, “This experience changed my life for the better.”

Having cancer, they told me, had given them a new lease on life and health, losing a loved one had made them appreciate and hold closer their families and friends. Working through the challenge of rehabilitation – overcoming blindness, loss of a limb, third degree burns, brain tumors, heart attack – had made them stronger, more focused, more alive.

When I say this - or write it - people often ask me, What do you mean? They are often outraged, demanding, Are you saying that my cancer is a good thing?

No. That is not what I’m saying – at all. Your catastrophe is not a good thing; nor is it a gift. It sucks. It blows. It hurts.

But I am saying that, if you get through it and manage to come out on the other side, the experience will change you - for the better.

We misunderstand struggle - especially we in the so-called "spiritual" community. We have somehow twisted a spiritual principle into a kind of talisman against suffering - including our own squirmy discomfort with meeting the suffering of another.

Here's the truth:

Everyone struggles. Everyone suffers. The first noble truth of Buddhism is, "Life is suffering." But some people, like those that I interviewed, somehow manage to transform suffering into strength, to move from fear into courage. Some, in the face of the suffering of another are able to transform their resistance – and their need to solve or eradicate the suffering – into compassion, into witnessing, into presence.

How?

When I started exploring this question, I had no answer.

But I kept asking and out of that asking, a new question emerged: How will I meet this? (It's important to say here, in case you don't know this about me: When I say that I am asking, I am talking to God. It's not required. You can ask the same question and get the same helpful response without believing in any kind of higher power. I just thought it was important, here, to say that.)

So anyway, with my heart open, I asked my question. These are the things I learned.

1) Suffering is not a test – but it does test us. We push against suffering as if we were under attack. But we're not.
2) Our problems are not punishments. They are not imposed on us by the gods nor are they assigned to us “because we can handle them.” Trouble isn’t a judgment against us.
3) What I mean is, our suffering is not our fault.
4) Everyone suffers.
5) That said: Hardship, illness and personal struggle wake us up. They draw a sharp and clear line around what matters. When you are writhing in pain, your priorities line up pretty quickly.
6) Still, our suffering doesn't earn us extra points in Heaven; just because we had diabetes on Earth doesn't mean we will have a special seat at the Haagen Dasz counter in Heaven.

The truth, when we really look, is this: Struggle is our response to what comes. Struggle is a choice.
And no, I did not say that PAIN is a choice. Pain is pain. It hurts. We want it to stop

I know. When I lie on the sofa watching one of my migraines come toward me, I am terrified.
But here's the thing: When I ask: How will I meet this? I get a choice.

I can cry and feel victimized and carry on about how unfair life can be; how much time I’ve lost; how afflicted I feel. (And believe me I have tried each of these options several times.) But I could try something else: I could get really curious about the headache. I could meet it with interest – with fascination. I could rise above the situation and observe myself having a headache.

I've tried this - and it helps. I investigate the thoughts that roll by; the feelings that bubble up. I surrender to the pain – and all the other related crap that comes with a headache – and meet the headache the way I want to meet everything that comes, as an engaged, curious person in love with life--even when life hurts.

Struggle is a choice.

From a spiritual perspective our problems are our best teachers, even, our best friends - but not because we're enrolled in some kind of spiritual university of pain. Bad things happen to everyone. But not everyone meets what happens in the same way.

That’s why two people, handed the same circumstances can have two completely different outcomes. It’s why one person, diagnosed with breast cancer will take to bed and another will take up mountain climbing. It’s why my father, confined to a wheelchair, wakes up every morning at the nursing home looking for something or someone to engage his interest – and finds it!

So, though we may feel we are the victim of a system that is stacked against us; a bad economy; a bad marriage; a weak or broken body – none of that is true until we meet it as if it is true. When we act as if these ideas are true, we reinforce them, creating the same outcome. Then, we point to the outcome as “evidence”, throwing up our hands and sighing, “See, I knew it!”

But when we meet what comes with interest and courage, we may just get a different outcome.

---

Here's another perspective on a similar subject. In the synchronicity that is friendship, my friend and fellow blogger, Lisa Adams posted it today.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The importance of Story

This morning, super blogger Chris Brogan challenged: What is the importance of story in your life?

I could write a book about this - and I am - which is why I have absolutely no time to respond. It is also why I cannot resist this challenge. So today, here is a bit of that book in response to Chris's question:

--

You probably learned about metaphor—one thing representing another—in high school English class. I learned it from Mrs. Levy, a slim, hauntingly beautiful divorcee who sometimes cried when she read us poetry.

I learned that the pearl, in John Steinbeck’s The Pearl, represented the way that the layers of time and experience form over us (as a pearl forms inside of an oyster, layer by layer). I learned that, the precious pearl was also a symbol of the price that we pay -in suffering, loss of life and injury to the divers-for our greed.

Who could have guessed that story - the gift I'd cherished since my mother read to me from her battered copy of Winnie The Pooh, contained such delights hidden between the pages? I spent hours re-discovering books I'd read before, and searching new volumes for symbol, metaphor and meaning.

From Mrs. Levy, I also learned about real stories. I learned that Simon and Garfunkel's song, "The Dangling Conversation" was about the disintegration of a marriage; and on the day that Mrs. Levy played it for us, i began to understand that teachers were whole people with lives that sometimes didn't work, that they had relationships that troubled them, and that sometimes, that trouble spilled over into their teaching. What I mean is, while the song was playing, she ran from the room, sobbing.

In college, I took a film class where I learned that rain or near-drowning (any sudden plunge into water) represents transformation. When I studied the tarot, I learned that water symbolized the fluid realms of the unconscious.

Later, in a workshop on the Divine Feminine, I learned that Holy Grail in Arthurian legend, symbolized the sacred container of Christ energy (as does the chalice used to celebrate mass in every Christian church in the world; I learned that said "sacred container" may actually have been a womb (that of Mary Magdalene), and that it just may have "contained" the living child of Jesus the man.

How cool was THAT? I thought - a whole culture, hidden between the cracks of this one.

Life had so many layers - so many meanings. Like the Steinbeck symbol that had first revealed the mystery of symbolic imagery to me, the world seemed a priceless, endlessly layered pearl. Because it wasn't just in books, sacred texts or movies. Everywhere I looked, these symbols of myth and fairy tale were woven into our lives—the same symbols that our subconscious mind draws upon to create meaningful dreams.

I began to have what I now call "Illuminated Experiences," waking events that unfolded as if they were dreams. Often, these experiences included dreams, which foreshadowed events or meaningful objects I'd see when awake.

The best example I can think of happened when my son was about to go to college.

I was very sad -and filled with dread about the empty hole he'd leave in our home, and our lives. One night, I dreamed I was driving behind him as he drove to school. In the dream, a great hunger overtook me and i had to pull over to get something to eat. He drove on. My hunger compelled me to walk toward one of those brick "Hot Shoppes" along the highway. On the way, a black cat began to walk along beside me - as it did, another black cat appeared at my other side.

Without words, they greeted me, saying: Hello, we are the books you are now going to write. We will fill your life and your heart now.

Great dream, right?

There's more. The next day, I was browsing the stacks at Barnes and Noble when my attention was drawn to a corner of the store I'd never visited before where they sell greeting cards and pens and other book related items. I always follow such guidance and headed over there. As I rounded the corner of a display, my breath caught. There, perched on the shelf were two black cat bookends.

Laughing out loud (Yes, right in the middle of the store) I knew I'd just received a confirmation that the dream was real, that I would indeed write books now and that, when my son left home, I'd be okay.

Carl Jung called this way of perceiving the world, the Symbolic Life - and he thought all of us should experience the sheer delight, and wonder it brings. Without it, he warned, "We cease to partake in the life of the gods (the divine and universal processes that are the very ground of existence), and so we miss celebrating the divine sacrament of a daily life lived with meaning.”

Why is story important to me? Because it is life itself. In a world alive with meaning, story is everywhere, in all things - it's not just a part of our lives; story is the very structure and pattern of our lives.

--

Here's the link to Chris Brogan's challenge if you want to respond, too.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Elevator Speech


In my quest to master social media - and build my author platform - I'm told that I must blog to my key words and keep my posts to about 500 words. But I have trouble with boundaries, and formulas, and being told what to do.

You Can't Make Me

The minute I get started talking about one thing, some idea butterfly zips by, leading me way off the path - and by path, I mean - the step-by-step journey from here to making that boatload of money I talked about in my last post.

I like the parts of the world that are off the path, too. Often, I like them better than the path - and I really don't want to give them up. Cuz I suspect that maybe, down under all the posturing and mask-making and branding, my authentic path is... you know, off the path.

But I digress

As usual. Which, come to think of it, could be one of my key words: I digress.

This polymorphous* quality makes for a fascinating and unpredictable journey. It also makes it near impossible to brand myself. And by brand myself I mean, to come up with one concise "elevator speech" to deliver if I should ever be asked (in an elevator?), "So, what do you do anyway?" or, asked, at a party, "Tell me about yourself?"

You know, a little speech I could deliver when my brother in law asks (again): How's the book coming along?

... instead of biting him

It should start with: "Thanks for asking," and end with, "You?" Which seems simple enough but every Thursday night at the top of our radio show when my co-host says, "I'm Janet and I'm an Angel Therapist and an Integrated Energy Therapist. And this is my co-host, Amy," I go...

hummana hummana hummana.


Which is, I think, another key word.

It happens when I meet someone important, when Im writing a resume; when I'm handed a 12 page diner menu; when Im asked to select a college major, winter coat or ice cream flavor.

Because I know who I am - a person who kinda likes everything - and every time I try a brand on for size, this little voice whispers: You are SO much more than that.

I am so much more than that

My friend Jill and I tossed the question around at the writing cafe the other day. She didn't like the title I've been using: Story Alchemist "It's too hard-edged. Too mental," she said. "You are softer, graceful, very maternal and welcoming." (Which my own Spiritual Advisor also told me, though she put it this way: You are like one of those African earth mother goddesses - a great big lap."

Which did wonders for that body image issue I had.


Jill suggested Soul Whisperer, which when I looked it up, really fit what I do as a counselor... but it leaves out what I do as a writer and community organizer.

A Twitter friend, @RayBeckerman once suggested: YOU are your brand.

And that worked for me.

It's very flexible - stretching like a Force Flex bag to accomodate all that I am - counselor, earth mother, wife, raw foodie, daughter, high priestess, friend, employee, big shot editor, soccer mom, entrepreneur, dancer, blogger, teacher, author, book reviewer, yogini, (not much of a) housekeeper, friend to the angels and, according to my husband, a heckuva good kisser.

And though I keep thinking I need some fancy name like: Lion Tamer or Cosmic Belly Dancer or Queen of Plants, the simple brand Amy Oscar, kinda works.

So, if you happen to encounter me in an elevator this week, be sure to ask, "Who are you? What do you do? Tell me about yourself."
And when you do, if I remember to, I will say, "Thanks for asking. I'm Amy Oscar." I will tell you about my work and my dreams. And then I will ask, "You?"

----
* pol·y·mor·phous [pol-ee-mawr-fuhs] adjective: having, assuming, or passing through many or various forms, stages, or the like.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Real Money

When we lived in Peekskill, I would take my son Max out in his stroller. We'd walk to the deli on the corner where I'd order a scrambled egg and cheese on a roll which we'd share outside. I'd sit Max on the metal chest where the deli owner stored big plastic sacks of ice. I'd stand, leaning against the wall. We'd watch the trucks go by.

Max loved trucks.

Money was tight then and I often paid in nickels and pennies, counting out little stacks of coins while a line formed behind us. Until, one day, when Max was, oh, four or five, as I was counting out my coins on the counter, I felt a tug on my jacket. "Mommy,” Max said. “Don’t we have any real money?”

I'm reminded of this now, as I work with social media maven, Shelly Kramer, who is helping me build my new website. As we chatted about the things I want to do with the site - Help other writers, Teach self-publishing (when I've learned it myself), Offer a place for people to share their angel stories--Shelly had to remind me: "Wait", she asked. "Don't you want to make money with this?"

"Well, yes," I said. "I do."

Because money is still tight.

That's why I hired Shelly: To teach me the ins and outs of social media - to help me "build a platform" as an author and teacher. To launch what I call my "Second Blooming."

To make, you know, some real money.
--

Because, frankly, I want a boatload of money.
--
There I said it.
--

And then, right after I said it, I felt it: The inner ping that reminds me that saying it is somehow... wrong. It's the ping of self-doubt that says: It's wrong to say that all of this work I do, every single day, is - besides being all about helping and empowering YOU - is also about ME, earning a living. ME, earning money. ME getting paid to do what I know that I do well, what I am called with every cell in my body to do.
--
But this PING - and the feeling that accompanies it, a combination of guilt and shame and shyness - is TOTALLY against the grain of what I teach, what I say, what I KNOW.

And so, right now, using the positive, proactive language they taught me in all those workshops and self-help books, here we go:

I welcome the real money that flows into my bank account

Ping... there it is again.

The money flows into my pockets and purse. It fills my wallet. People come to my website, click on a link and purchase my products, receiving them by email, instantly.

Ping... ping.

It's not that it surprises me. It's just that I really thought I'd rooted this garbage out.

But I haven't. Not yet. Slowly, in the time between my free-spending fully-employed. living in NYC single days and these two-kids-in- college, slow-economy years, I began to systematically deny myself everything

When my kids needed something:
* Summer Arts Program? Sure!
* Trip to Europe? By all means!
* New snowboard? Camera? Laptop? Ipod? Cell phone? How could I deny them?

But when longed to:
* Travel? Forget about it.
* Finish my education? Can't afford it.
* Visit my sister in California? Maybe next year.

New haircut? New outfit for that bar mitzvah, wedding, 50th birthday party? Sorry . Can't . Afford . It.

Seriously, I wore a green prom gown (which I found at the thrift store) to my friend's high-society wedding at a country club in Connecticut. In a sea of white linen and cream silk, I tried to make the best of it. But I'm offering cash to ANYONE who still has a photo of that disaster to destroy it. (THAT, I can afford.)
--
Oh, stop complaining, snaps the Snarky, Scary Voice in my head. What did you expect? You quit your job, leaving behind security and health insurance.

To which, I respond, with just a little bit of whining: But I'm writing every day - for hours!

SSV: And so what? Shouldn't you be finished with at least ONE small book by now?

Me: Well, yes. But what if no one likes my work. Even worse, what if they do and I am swamped with interviews and appearances and.... will I have to give up my freedom? And what will I wear on TV? And...

Cue the other, smaller voice: you're just frightened. Everyone hesitates, facing the unknown...

Me: Frightened? Why, I guess I am! What should I do?

SSV: Take my hand. Breathe. We'll do this one step at a time.

Me (a bit sniffly): Okay

SSV: Ready for that REAL money now?

Me: Gulp. Bring it on.

Note: As coincidence would have it, this seems to be the day for posts about money, real money, earning money in unique ways:

Here's a good one from Jonathan Fields blog: Awake at the Wheel entitled, Can you really make a serious living freelancing?

Dream

This dream is so precious that I am afraid to write it down.
I wait ten days. But I am afraid I will forget it so I talk about it. I roll it around inside of myself.

The dream has left me so profoundly changed that I can no longer find the line between what/who I was and what/who I have become. With one dream, I am severed from my former self like light from darkness, as all the inner work I’ve done has taken hold. I am transformed. A new day.

There are three MEs.
1) A frightened, worried self, indecisive, fraught, wringing her hands and frozen in place with indecision;
2) A confident, wide and loving presence-the higher self, wise, wide, welcoming
3) The observer, watching the other two.

The worried self is struggling to make a choice; the loving/confident self guides her, showing her, through words and actions, “I am always here. You can always call on my wisdom to guide you.” The third self, whom I will refer to as "I," watches as the loving/confident self presses up against the back of the worried self and holds her. Safely encircled in protection, the worried self sighs, easing back, trusting the confident self.

I wake up.


I know that I have witnessed a miracle - a soul integration, a healing.
I am absolutely certain it is real.

Since then, I have, with bafflement (is that a real word?) and awe, noticed these changes, and they keep coming:

FEAR
I am no longer afraid to speak the truth.
I am no longer afraid to see the truth.
I am no longer afraid to BE the truth of who I really am.

I am no longer afraid.
More accurately, when fear comes toward me, I am not afraid of my fear.
I move, in spite of fear, toward revealing what is true is a situation — and then, moving onward, toward light.

CORE SELF
I have seen and experienced that I am, essentially, pure light and kindness - at my deepest core, a good and loving person.

RELATIONSHIPS
I see now that all of the lashing out that I've done (mostly at my husband and my mother) was about protecting my tender, unstruck heart from harm.
This cracks my heart open while, simultaneously, healing it. I forgive myself fully. I move on.
This healing happens instantly.

I no longer need to harm others to protect myself.
I no longer engage in pointless arguments with Matthew. I tell him the truth and honor his.
I laugh when he is funny. (So far, this is my favorite change - being able to see again, my husband's brilliance, his shining self, the bright boy I fell in love with all those years ago.)


At first, in the days immediately following the dream, I thought: It won't last. I kept checking my psyche for fissures, hairline cracks that would, I thought, eventually shatter the effect of whatever had happened to me - bringing me back to my former self.

It's been several months - and I've been through a great deal of turmoil, including the open heart surgery of my mother - and none of it has gone away.

These changes are permanent, solid, real. They have penetrated to the nuclei of my cells. Writing this, I know they are deeper than that - deeper than the mitochondria of the nuclei; deeper than the deepest caves of my heart.

This is what's available, I want to shout - almost all the time.
This is what can happen.
I knew it!

But since the dream, I am letting other people (you, for example) have their own experiences; I no longer need to control what they say, do, think or feel. I know that they (and you) will get where you need to get when you need to get there.

I trust the process.

Somehow, in my clutzy, imperfect way, I have healed something deep, profound and old; and the shift is healing my entire family. In a future post, I will write about this: How one person's shift affects everything and everyone around her.

For now, Here's what I'll say:

There is an aspect of me (and of you) that is beyond fear; an aspect so deep and wise and true that it is beyond all earthly concerns. Through the work I have been doing for the past few years, I've been guided, nudged and gently urged along the path of discovery until my path led me here, where I looked deep into the eyes of my own soul.

In that moment, I made contact with a core of ancient wisdom so pure that it changed everything.
I cannot go back.

Anything can change - and it can change instantly.
I am safe in the world. And so are you.
I AM the world. And so are you.
My life is entirely up to me. And so, bless your soul, is yours.

That was one heckuva dream.

If it feeds, seeds or succeeds, it leads

Challenge to the media:

For one day, one week, one month, I dare you to change your formula. The old one: If it bleeds it leads does nothing to uplift, to teach, to heal or encourage.

And its not even "the truth." I mean, sure there is darkness; but the truth is: There is also light.

I dare you to focus on the light.

I dare you to change the formula for one day, one week, one month to: It only leads if it feeds, seeds or succeeds.

You can still show your stories about people being crappy to each other - about terrorism, violence, car crashes, fires, and all the lurking bad guys we should be afraid of - just put them on later in the program. Put them on when we're getting that second cup of tea - you know, when we're out of the room.

I'm not saying it's your fault the world is in the shape it's in (though we could have a spirited discussion about just that). It’s not your fault – but it IS your responsibility. Knowing what we know about influence, about tribes, about pack mentality, about law of attraction… you need to step up and take action. You need to lead.

Love sells as well as hate; miracles sell as well as disasters.
You can shift the focus of our attention from tragedy, gun violence, death and destruction to building, growing, flourishing.

Come on, I dare you.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Heart

Today we brought my mother home from the hospital where she has lived since two days after Christmas when an aneurysm, on the left side of the aorta, began to rupture. She's sleeping now. I just tucked her into her own bed for the first time in almost two months.

But first, I served her a slice of buttered toast, with raspberry jam - and a cup of tea in the brown hand-thrown mug made by the daughter of her best friend from college.

First, I made her two organic scrambled eggs in the little saute pan that she always insisted I line with a piece of protective plastic before putting it back in the cabinet.

And we opened the Christmas present that my sister sent to her on December 23rd. A book of short stories - the same book, my mother tells me, she coincidentally, sent to my sister.

Anyway, she's home.

I'm ready to blog about it.

All year, I'd been studying the physical and spiritual anatomy of the heart - the way that oxygen enters the lungs and is circulated through the blood vessels, veins and arteries - the way that it cycles back back back to the heart.

So, when my mother clutched her jaw and then, her chest, I knew.

These are my notes from the hospital:

Beep beep beep. The monitors track my mother's life across a screen in waves. Heart rate is red. Blood pressure is yellow. Oxygen is turquoise.

Anahata is the Sanskrit name for the heart chakra, the emotional center of the body. Anahata means "unstruck."

In the Intensive Care Unit, people stand right outside my mother's door and discuss her case. They stand right over her bed, calling out terrifying words like stroke, cardiac arrest, pneumonia.

Could you take this outside? I ask her best friend, who happens to be a physician.
No, I can't, she snaps, unaware of the things of which I am aware. That thoughts create our world; that my mother is listening and that, out of the pictures that drift in and out of her consciousness, she is creating how all of this will turn out.

It's okay. She is aware of other things of which I have no inkling - blood gasses, dosages, saturations and infiltrations.
And she's terrified.

Two days before the wall of my mother's heart tore open, my son and I had a shouting match in her living room. It was Christmas. It happened that I was bleeding and I needed his help. It happened that his heart was breaking and he needed mine. Neither of us knowing how to ask for what we needed, we shouted at each other.

Two days later, my mother clutched her jaw and screamed, "This is the worst pain I have ever felt in my life."

I'm not saying it's my fault. I'm just reporting what happened.

The day after Mom's surgery, Max developed a stomach virus that lasted three days. Vomiting, fever, chills. I think he felt responsible and that this was his way of dealing with that.

That same night, my daughter, Katie, had a dream. "I am sitting in the middle of a circle of people. I am at the center of their activity but I am not one of them."

"There are two doors," she told me. "One through which things flow, the other opens onto a gate, which opens and closes.
Every now and then someone gives me a bite of a brownie and I drift away, losing my thread."

You dreamed Grandma's surgery, I tell her.
Yes, Katie says. But it's also my life.
Of course, it could have been a coincidence.

Last week in yoga, when I reached for the floor in Triangle pose, Suzi, my yoga teacher, said, "Shine out. Shine out from the heart with full commitment." I thought about something Max asked me once, when he was six and we were driving up a road that winds up around the edge of a mountain overlooking the Hudson River.

The river glinted with light, a rippling sheet of cellophane, flowing fire as the sun, barely risen lifted into the sky like a golden balloon.
From the backseat, Max asked, "Mommy. What's sunlight made of?"
He's 21 now and I still think about this.
The question is a koan, a riddle, a poem.

At the time, I said something about waves and particles, about fire and how hot the sun must be to be able to warm us from so very far away.
And of course, as I was talking, Max yawned. It wasn't what he needed to hear, or wanted to know. It had nothing to do with what he was asking me.
But I didn't know what to say.

In the Intensive Care Unit, my mother opened her eyes and looked at me. "You're such a lovely blue," she cooed. "How did you get so wise?"

A few hours later, there were hundreds of balls of white light floating through the room.
Or so she said.
"Can't you see them?" she smiled. "So pretty."

A few days earlier, I'd called on a million angels as my mother was wheeled into surgery, wearing the blue paper hat she was given by the anesthesiologist.
Now you're one of us, he'd said.
I am, she'd giggled.
So I knew what those balls of light were... even if I, with my unfocused eyes, was unable to "see" them.

"Your mother talks in poetry," the physical therapist said.
"Yes," I said. "She always has."

Sometimes, when I can’t sleep, my eyes dart around the darkened room, and I feel afraid.
When it happens, and I can catch the thoughts that dart around the room, I see that I'm afraid that
some brightness will come - a ball of light, an angel or some truth that would be too bright to bear.

And what would be more terrifying than that? Imagine. An angel suddenly appearing, standing at the foot of the bed. I've heard that they're enormous. I've heard they are ten, twenty feet tall. Those wide, white wings would fill our tiny bedroom from end to end.

I can't imagine.

And yet I call to them, I beg them to help. I ask for signs. Who do I think it is dropping those feathers on my keyboard, those pennies in my path, in my shoes? Who?

Sometimes, when I get too close like this - when it feels as if it might actually happen, I look away - into TV screens and websites and mirrors.

But of course, that never works. At the hospital, I looked in the mirror and could not recognize my own face. Maybe it was the sleep deprivation. I don't know.

"Look!" Mom said, on the third day or was it the fourth? "See the Oriole - glowing there, on the foot of the bed? See it? Looking at me?"

On the ninth day, they moved her upstairs to the (oddly named) Step-Down unit.
On the 11th day, they realized she hadn't been ready and stepped her back up... down to the ICU.

There, blazing with fever, zonked out on drugs, Mom pulled me close. "They put a virus in me," she whispered. "Don't let them put it in you. It hurts."
"There's no virus," i assured her. "You had heart surgery. The doctors are only trying to help you."
"Oh, Amy," she sighed, closing her eyes. "They've got you hoodwinked, too."

The next day, she refused to eat. She told me, "They found out that I'm a saint. They're poisoning my food. Tomorrow, when I am on TV, it will all come out. I am a Saint. And when I am famous and rich, tomorrow, everyone will know..."

And I have to point out that this was from a woman who had, at 29, married a Jewish man in a non-denominational service. This was from a woman who hasn't been to church (if you don't count weddings and funerals) in fifty years.

For 14 days, my mother hovered at the edge of awareness - flickering in and out of sainthood, eight bags of clear liquid dripping into her veins (She called it "My holy water")

For 14 days, as my sisters and I (and our mother's best friend) clustered around her bed, I felt myself go liquid and solid and steam. Holding my mother's hand, I passed through a needle-eye, a wormhole, entering an inside-out world.

"What do you see?" I asked my mother.
"I can't say for sure," she told me. "I'll tell you when it's over."

On the 15th day, Mom opened her eyes.
My sister was sitting beside her bed.
"What's going on?" Mom asked. "Why am I still here? It's been five hours."
"It's been two weeks," my sister said.
"Two weeks! What in the world happened?"
"You had heart surgery."
"Oh, come on!" Mom laughed.

On the 16th day, Mom asked me, "So, what happened to me? Why am I here?"
She asked again on the 17th day, the 18th and 19th.
We had to keep showing her the scar.

On the 21st day, she remembered.

"I had to do this," she told me. "I had to be sick. It was this or some other calamity."
"Mom?" I asked.
"I had to do it," she explained. "I am doing this to heal someone else's heart. Someone who cannot do it himself."
------
I keep coming back to the mirror.
I stand on the mossy bank, slipping and sliding, I hold onto the broken tree.
I inhale, exhale. I watch my mother's vital signs displayed in wavy lines over her bed.

I see my face ripple outward, one circle inside of another, moving out from the center to infinity.

You know how it is,
once you’ve tossed your pebble in that pond
it will always be there, peering up from puddles, frozen in ice or sliding between your breasts,
to drip like rain or sunlight down the front of your shirt,
as if
it wasn’t a mystery fish at all

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Almost Spring



Why is my Facebook friend, Cindy Marten, committing to take a photograph a day for 365 days? Why is my Twitter friend, Susan Powers eating raw for 21 days? Why does Mark Silver, who writes the beautiful blog Heart of Business feel the urge to return to the yoga practice he abandoned when his twins were born?

Why do I feel compelled (almost suddenly) to commit to a combination of all of these things... and more?

I suspect it has something to do with this, found in Tom Hirons' poem, The Wild Breath:

Today, the earth began exhaling.
All Winter, it held its breath,
Kept its fragrance to itself,
Held itself so tight, I could feel its ribs ache.
But, today, the earth began to smell again

... read full poem

This is the energy of The Almost Spring, of the Great Wheel turning. This is our bodies, responding to the clock of the seasons.

The Almost Spring is an edge. A time of waiting. Like seeds germinating under snow, our ideas and plans grow plump, pregnant as we linger in our warm winter cocoons.

In this time of the great wake up call. I feel myself drawn toward doorways; even with a foot of just-fallen snow on the ground, I, too, am pulling open windows to sniff at the air. There's a building, a bursting, an outward leaping, tossing off the blankets sort of energy coming. . .

But it's not here yet.

Though the light is returning; the days are lengthening - and every cell in my body is stirring, I'm still sleepy, dreamy, still craving the fireside, the lingering cup of tea, the stew, long-simmered on the stove.

Soon enough, my new beginnings will break the surface of the soil. Soon enough they will lengthen into hardy stalks and blooms.

In The Almost Spring, pulled by impulses which seem to conflict - to open wide, to curl inward -we manage this restless time with practice.

This is why so many are inventing new practices now - the 365 days of photos, the 21-day shifts in diet. We are drawn to renew our daily yoga, our diet and exercise. This is what draws us to empty the closets and toss out anything we no longer need.

During this time:
1) We sit down and observe ourselves.
2) We forgive ourselves for what we have let slide, left neglected, failed to take care of in this time of rest
3) We feel our way outward, beginning slowly, and allowing ourselves to stop, if it is too soon.
4) When we are ready, we build our practice slowly, one action and one day at a time

Repeated gently, our Almost Spring practice becomes the cornerstone for a bright emergence into the light.

But remember...

If you find yourself pushing too hard, if you feel resistant to the practice you've taken up, allow that it may be too soon - allow yourself the blessed rest of the season. Turn back to the warm bed, the tousled sheets and crawl in.

In this way, when the sun returns and the snow melt begins to sluice down the sides of the world, we will be ready to burst through the back door, into the sun, and grow.

Happy Almost Spring.

PS Here's a glimpse of the season from Marjory Mejia at her beautiful blog Sacred Flow

Monday, February 15, 2010

Fake Shopping

If you follow me on Twitter or on Facebook, you know that today, I attempted to order a chocolate brown sweater with pink cabbage roses from Garnet Hill, an online catalog.

What you don't know, unless you are my daughter, Katie, is that this was a very big deal.

Like so many American families, times at our house are tighter than usual. But even during our best financial times, I find it hard to buy things for myself. And an even worse time buying them retail.

Oh, I get my kids what they need. I make sure my parents have the little treats they need to feel that their lives are still worth living even though, right now, they're both living in a nursing home. I make sure the refrigerator is stocked with healthy food. But when it comes to buying things for myself, I just...

I have a closet full of beautiful things. But unless I get it on sale, for a great price, it just seems... frivolous. So, I satisfy my shopping urge... virtually.

A catalog arrives, I make a cup of tea. I sit down and, carefully consider my choices of color, size and outfit coordination, I fill out the order form. When my choices overflow the form, as they always do, I use another sheet of paper.

I fake order Eileen Fisher tunics and leggings, and cashmere cardigans in colors that actually look good on someone like me (not blonde, not 5'10" or size 0.) I order a pair of soft leather boots and a pair of Gentle Souls shoes. I order a set of Hanro underwear. Once, I even fake-ordered a cashmere bathrobe. I know, crazy, right?

My fantasy bedroom is fake furnished with Washed linen bedding and a puffy white down blanket. The fantasy carpet runnerr between my living room and my husband's office is spangled with flowers. And every morning, I pad down its length in my fantasy pair of Haflinger boiled wool mules with polka dots.

When I've reached the last page, I put my empty tea cup in the sink and place the catalog (and my list and order form) in the recycling bin.

By a wide margin, most of my fake ordering has focused on the Garnet Hill catalog which, though it offers much at my taste level, is kinda pricey. At least, it seems that way to a person like me, used to shopping half price day at the thrift store where, most of the time, I find the items I fake ordered (or a reasonable substitute).

This how visualization exercises like this work. You SEE yourself wearing or using the item you long for and it manifests. That or your mother gives them to you on your birthday.

But I digress...

Today I was going to order something in real life.

I logged on and found the sweater I wanted, which was, to my delight, on sale for only 39 dollars! I selected color, size, shipping option. I filled out my address and entered my debit card number. Finally, I let myself press the Submit Order button.

We're sorry, the screen informed me. That item is no longer in our inventory.

WTF?

Two hours later, I'm still disappointed. That sweater would have looked great on me - would have enhanced my winter coloring and brought out my eyes. I would have worn it to dinner with my husband, and to work. I would have... oh, never mind. I'm going back to fake shopping. It's so much more... effective.

So, if anyone sees this sweater in the Autumn Bloom print at the thrift store, please let me know.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Well, you know, love...

So, it's Valentine's Day this weekend and bloggers everywhere are writing about love.

Sigh.

And I come to the page and I think...

Crap.

What the hell do I know about love?

I have been married to the same man for... Oh, I forget. Honey, how long is it?

34 years. He keeps track.
I have saved every rose he's ever given me.
I keep them in glass mason jars.
We argue... a lot.

Love.

Back when I was 18, 19, 20 - and we were falling in and out of love every week or so, I thought I knew what I was looking for.

To me, love was:

1) A feeling:
I'd be swept off my feet by a blast of lightning; we would talk and talk and talk, so alike that our energy would blend into a perfected whole; we would fall so deeply and completely into the pool of each other that we'd be.. you know, one.

2) A treasure hunt:
The soul-mate thing where "There's someone out there for me" and it's my job (and my destiny) to find him/her

3) A certainty:
He was looking for me as intently as I searched for him. I'd sense his presence the way you can feel the sun on your back with your eyes closed. We would know each other instantly. Our eyes would meet and ... zing... zap... zooey: Love.

Or, as it turned out...
"none of the above."

My husband is not my soul-mate; not in the classic sense of the word. We do not enjoy each other's company all that much; we're lucky if we get through a long conversation without one of us (well, me) sighing and walking out of the room in exasperation.

He is messy. I am, for the most part, neat.
He likes clutter, I like clear surfaces.
He hates TV, I love it.
He is obsessive (my word, he prefers "efficient") about calculating the precise cost of a heating the water to fill the tub; I... well, i like to take a bath.

And yet...

Thirty-four (long) years after my husband and I met, we turn toward each other again. Now that the kids have (for the most part) moved out; now that we have done the whole build-a-nest thing (clumsily, messily... but it's done), we find in each other something unexpected.

I first encountered my husband in a photograph; a snapshot that my college roommate carried around in her wallet (because SHE liked him). Dressed in a red velour sweatshirt, with straight blonde hair to his shoulders and a megawatt smile, I took one look at this 18-year-old boy-man and lost my heart.

Seriously, it leapt right out of my chest - tore through my brand new Huk-a-Poo blouse and landed, flip flop, flip flop on the floor.

I scrambled to retrieve it before my roommate saw it. Quickly gulping it back down without even dusting it off.

Which left a kind of gritty taste in my mouth - a bitter, hard to shake residue - an indigestible: Why not me? that pulsed (Why not me?) from the center of my chest as my (much prettier) roommate ran each day to the mailbox.

When his letter finally came, she opened it. She wrinkled her brow. Then, she handed it to me.
"Can you make ANY sense of this?" she asked.

It was a language of codes and symbols, a cryptographic cry to the universe. It was a work of art.

"Of course," I said. And then I explained my future husband to her.

For the next few weeks...
Well, just think Cyrano de Bergerac – me, hiding, in moonlit shadows, translating his messages into meaning; telling her what to write in reply.

Otherwise, I didn't think about him at all.

Then, on New Year's Eve, when everyone in the world was resolving to be better, thinner, more true - I met him.
And ... zing... zap... zooey: Love.

I still don't understand it.
And finally, after 34 years and an almost finished memoir filled with our wrestling match... I mean, marriage... I have stopped trying.

This is what we do now: I leave in the morning before he wakes up. I go to yoga and then, to work. I write in a café because he works at home and his job, as an architect, requires a lot of shouting into the telephone (which is the opposite of what my work, as a spiritual writer, requires.)

Some time in the early evening, I come home and start cooking. I don’t greet him; he knows I’m home. Eventually, he ambles into the kitchen while I’m making dinner and steals bites from the pan before I’ve served it because often, he’s forgotten to eat lunch.

We don’t kiss or hug all as much as we used to (though there are times... ) We don’t exchange moony romanticisms. We disagree about how to handle our son’s identity crisis; he talks about the bills (again) and bothers me about getting my car serviced. When he tells me about a project he’s working on, he goes on too long and I interrupt, telling him, “Honey, I’m kinda tired. Can you wrap it up?”

Sometimes, this offends him. Other times, he apologizes, asks me about my day.
I tell him about my hormones, my diet or the kink in my shoulder from yoga practice. I tell him about an angel story I’m working on – he tells me about the book he’s been writing about a cosmic superhero named C’zor.

Often, we eat silently catching up on our reading. Last night, we listened to a podcast of Radio Lab, from NPR.

After dinner, I go into the living room and turn on the TV. He clears the table (I cooked) and passing me on his way to his home office, squeezes my shoulder. I look up – he smiles. He still has the most beautiful eyes...

I smile back, put my hand over his.

Within an hour, I’ll have fallen asleep watching television. Knowing this, he checks in, puts a warm blanket over me. Turns off the TV and the lights.

Zip Zap Zooey: Love.