Monday, December 31, 2012


Well if it isn't obvious, I'm a last minute gal. In response to a good friend's challenge to complete 24 posts in 2012, I'm sliding into home base at just about the final hour. I don't love this about myself, but my productivity is usually driven more by deadlines than anything else. I think I'll try to repeat this goal for next year, but add the 2 posts-per-month rule, to avoid another December 31st writing marathon... and with that, a quick note to this past year:

Dear 2012,

I hate you in many ways, but am nonetheless thankful for the changes you've delivered. You brought me loss in ways I never knew before, you ushered in loneliness, you taught me bravery. You made me exceedingly uncomfortable, but made me grow. You made me face boredom to see how I'd respond, and made me confront some of the innermost caves of my being. When I stood appalled, you gave me time to learn and respond. You showed me vast ups and downs, and extraordinary companionship when it mattered most.

We've had an interesting run, but I'm so grateful for the distance I've come since you arrived 364 days ago. With that I say good ridens! ..and tell your sister 2013 to be a bit gentler please :)


The weighty and the worthless

I've a dichotomous relationship with words, spoken ones at least. At times I feel I should tip-toe around them because they hold such weight, such gravity of impact. Thoreau describes words departing from the mouth as works of art "...carved out of the breath of life itself." These carved creations are weighted with the fierce power to express the heart, or to break it. 

In this way, respecting the power of words demands great discernment and deliberation when speaking. It's as though all the language at my disposal is labeled with a "CAUTION! HANDLE WITH CARE!" sign.

But on the other hand-

Words are meaningless! What are words but the mere descriptors of thoughts and events? Words alone do not make life happen, they just describe it. I'm sure we've all heard a zillion quotes or proverbs about the value of action over words.... "walk the walk, don't just talk the talk," right?

I wonder all the time about how to hold these opposing perspectives simultaneously; how can they be so insignificant, and so supremely significant all at once? How do I treat words with such care and grace, while remembering their relative hollowness? I know there's some truth to both perspectives, but I just wonder about this often..

A dear friend sent this to me recently, and because I think as many people as possible should be exposed to the remarkable Neruda, here you go...

He who becomes the slave of habit,
who follows the same routes every day,
who never changes pace,
who does not risk and change the color of his clothes,
who does not speak and does not experience,
dies slowly.

He or she who shuns passion,
who prefers black on white,
dotting ones "it’s" rather than a bundle of emotions, the kind that make your eyes glimmer,
that turn a yawn into a smile,
that make the heart pound in the face of mistakes and feelings,
dies slowly.

He or she who does not turn things topsy-turvy,
who is unhappy at work,
who does not risk certainty for uncertainty,
to thus follow a dream,
those who do not forego sound advice at least once in their lives,
die slowly.

He who does not travel, who does not read,
who does not listen to music,
who does not find grace in himself,
she who does not find grace in herself,
dies slowly.

He who slowly destroys his own self-esteem,
who does not allow himself to be helped,
who spends days on end complaining about his own bad luck, about the rain that never stops,
dies slowly.

He or she who abandon a project before starting it, who fail to ask questions on subjects he doesn't know, he or she who don't reply when they are asked something they do know,
die slowly.

Let's try and avoid death in small doses,
reminding oneself that being alive requires an effort far greater than the simple fact of breathing.

Only a burning patience will lead
to the attainment of a splendid happiness.

-Pablo Neruda

Pep talk

This is somewhat of a pep-talk I have to give myself often, perhaps you could use it to?....

Please don't let greatness make you feel small. When others produce stunning works of truth through their medium of choice, rather than feeling useless and talent-less, let it saturate you with encouragement that there is always something new to be created, and some new way to give voice to what matters.

" man who bothers about originality will ever be original; whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it." -C.S. Lewis

Just because somebody did or made something great does not mean that the world has finished, all creativity has dried up, and there's nothing left for you to do. If you don't feel you have something entirely novel to bring to the table, it's alright. Speak up for what you believe, with your words or your art or your behavior or whatever, even if it seems ordinary; if it's truth to you, then it's worth being represented. It is worth it. Say what you mean and back it with action, and without regard for how much 'better' you think others may have said it before, because ultimately- truth trumps novelty.

When I think of giving voice to something I think of advocating for those that cannot speak on their own behalf.. like children. I think that our beliefs and passions need advocacy too though. They do not speak for themselves, we must give them voice.. giving physical presence to what is intangible weights them with relevance and visibility in the real world. Our beliefs must be spoken for, or they live sadly mute inside our minds and hearts.

When others are able to take what is inside of them and make it known, make it real! when someone makes a work of art that they can stand by proudly and declare it's the truth as they know it, be thankful that people are out there producing and pressing forward. That people are pursuing what matters to them is not meant to drive you further into your bed, hiding from your own talent. Do not retreat at the gifts and talents of others, but be emboldened to use your own.

Because until the Good Lord says we're through here, there is always more to be done, more to seek, more to learn, and more to tell.. so uplift your neighbors in what they do well, pull yourself together, roll up your own sleeves and get working.


There's a reason that everyone says you must be disciplined if you ever hope to be a good writer. Because taking extensive vacations away from your pen and expecting to return to the craft with instantaneous brilliance is just about as absurd as being a couch potato for seven years and expecting to wake up one morning and run a marathon.

Discipline and continual productivity is what builds your voice and your ability to deliver good ideas and stories in a compelling way. I think of discipline as a preventative medicine. It keeps you fresh, and ensures you'll be present and prepared when that brilliance decides to pay a visit.. but if you neglect your medicine, you begin to lose your voice, little by little. It's not necessarily irretrievable, but perhaps more like the bronchitis of the art of writing. Trying to form sentences slows to a hacking cough.. spitting up fragmented bits, it feels forced, uncomfortable, leaves a sour taste in your mouth. I used to speak through the written word so fluidly, but now it's feeling hoarse and scattered..

Ideas stack up in my mind and, without giving them proper release, they become trapped pressure and my head begins to swell. Now I've got bronchitis of writing and a sinus infection of ideas. Fantastic.

I wish there was a magic pill to cure what ails my stuffed up, congested writing, but it turns out the only way to reverse the condition is to sit down and commit to the process, over and over again. Because to regain your voice as a writer, you simply need to use it more often..

Sunday, December 30, 2012

“Understanding, as well as truth, comes not only from the intellect, but also from the body. When we begin to listen to our bodies, we begin to listen to reality through our own experiences; we begin to trust our intuition, our hearts. The truth is also in the 'earth' of our own bodies. So it is a question of moving from theories we have learned, to listening to the reality that is in and around us.” 
-Jean Vanier-

A paper I wrote for my philosophy of movement class this past semester incited a great deal of thought about my understanding of, and relationship with, my physical body. To come up with my position on the topic of aesthetics and identity in movement experiences, I confronted questions like "what constitutes perceptible beauty?" "what can our bodies teach us?" and "how do our bodies reflect our identities?" ..some complex questions with unclear answers..

Without having come to any conclusions, I became much more attuned to the value of the body, and the profound relationship I ought to have with it. The body is not just a limiting container we've been forced to occupy, it is the very medium of self-expression, the means of showing others who we are, visibly reinforcing or refuting our spoken claims about ourselves. 

As our bodies carry us through every lived moment, we too carry the body- proudly, shamefully, aggressively, meekly... we are given these shells and then elect to wrap, shape, color, and manipulate  them in myriad ways. How we perceive ourselves influences how we care for and represent ourselves, and what contexts we place ourselves in, but the reverse is also true; what we do with and to our bodies impacts our self-perception. 

I have a tendency to view my body as an opponent. It looks different than I wish, and we are often at odds because of this. But the older I get, and the more in tune I become with this physical shell I'm bound to for better or for worse, the more I understand what a sacred space it really is. The body is a home, and amidst all the changing cities and houses I pass through, this is the constant home I travel in. And though I still struggle to accept all aspects and limitations of my physical self, I'm trying daily to acknowledge the extraordinary abilities of the human body and to be thankful for the function it affords me. Though it binds us and limits us, the body also gives life to what is inside and unseen.. and for this, we ought to respond with deep respect and care. 

J. Sarano says it beautifully in his piece "The Meaning, or Dimension, of the Body"...

It is in and through our bodies [that] we ultimately witness to that which we are 
and that which we want in our most profound verity. 
It is in and through my body that I bear witness. 
It is in and through the body that one sees the man.