On Distraction, Resistance, And Doing ANYTHING At All Except Writing

Note the time: 9:30am.

Bake a small loaf of Boule. Slather it with butter. Pretend to share with sister. (Here, have the last slice.)

Promise to stop eating dairy and gluten. For the third time this week.

Initiate a private twitter / Facebook group for fellow writers working on their book proposal. Silently acknowledge the smokescreen effect, while basking in self-congratulatory bliss.

Start a notebook called Accomplishments in order to feel even more productive. Replicate this list there. Use colored Sharpies for flair.

Cover desk planner with affirmations and encouragements. Read them out loud in a flowy, New Age-y kind of voice, without irony.

Burn incense. Tibetan, if possible. To light, use matchbox from Brooklyn restaurant. Feel hip, yet irked at paying $5.25 an oyster.

Pick up a pen and open notebook with book outline. Stare out window. Notice the rear tire on car is flat.

Meditate for 10 minutes to regroup.

When the muse arrives, with probing questions that spark, quickly put the pen down, walk into the living room and engage in conversation with sister. What’s her take on Karl Marx, Mitt Romney, and the plight of the proletariat?

Check the mail to see if the W2 from last summer’s gig with the schooner arrived yet. Calculate the impact that $8/hour will have on Social Security benefits. Wonder why you went to that overpriced Brooklyn restaurant?

Start making the bed for the first time since childhood.

Peruse stack of last year’s magazines with scissors and a glue stick, justifying “craft hour” by creating a visionboard. Cut out picture of Loire Valley Castle and hope someday you’ll have a remarkable story to tell, when you realize the home you’re living in IS EXACTLY THE SAME CASTLE YOU CUT OUT OF WORLD OF INTERIORS TWENTY YEARS AGO. OMG! Somebody call Oprah.

Snap the hell out of it.

Refill cup with decaf, since quitting the caffeine / sugar rollercoaster. Convince yourself that decaf tastes the same as regular and that the square of chocolate in your hand is medicinal.

Decide today would be a great day to begin that Understanding The Brain DVD course ordered after the holidays. Feel smarter for doing so, but less so once the professor starts explaining the principles of neural science. Scrunch up face at the first exercise: Why do you think saltatory conduction in myelinated axons would be faster than conduction in unmyelinated axons?

Turn off DVD and check book proposal group on Facebook for any new messages. Let guilt wash over you.

Pick up the kettlebell and do 50 kettlebell swings. Curse Tim Ferriss when your forehead and palms sweat.

Note the time: 2:15pm.

Thank Tim Ferriss for renewed energy and focus.

Sit down at computer and finally begin writing.

The Defense & Annihilation Of Paula Deen

I believe Paula Deen is scared to death. Not from diabetes. She’s scared to death of her SELF. That public self she launched into a multi-million dollar brand, that grew from passion into the beast that’s overtaken her other self: the private, real-life one.

Faced with a choice – to come clean, take responsibility for her health, to own the role her public self had in creating the disease she now suffers from like, unfortunately, so many Americans – faced with this choice is facing the annihilation of her ego.

And by ego I refer not just to the prideful one, but also the Freudian one, the one that drives us, the one that’s referred to compassionately in Buddhism as Monkey Mind. THAT self is threatened with complete destruction, the self she pieced together over the course of a lifetime, born of family expectations and societal validation and the trappings of money and fame and the kind of insecurity we vainly attempt to balm with status symbols and false paths and idols.

The self that when threatened clings oh, so desperately to the very illusion that’s crumbling beneath. Holding on to the identity she and we, yes – we, perpetuated by watching her show and buying her products – the TV personality, celebrity chef, virtual friend to millions of viewers…Lord knows when we’re threatened we hold on FOR DEAR LIFE.

To look herself in the mirror, indeed, to engage with that small, inner voice, the one that speaks late at night in forlorn moments when we feel alone, confused, helpless against the onslaught of life’s injustices, the one who says, “I KNOW what I really am,” is to risk losing everything, to begin the process of watching her entire construct crash to the ground.

That risk seems too great for her. It seems too great for many of us when we’re in the grip of denial, so instead she’s sandbagging against the flood, trying like hell to hold on.

We feel betrayed, duped! We are indignant and outraged! And rightly so, for with power comes responsibility and although we dole out our reprimands unevenly, we want accountability from our heros, dammit.

After our outrage – at her choices and their implications to those who look to her for guidance and leadership (because as superficial as celebrity is, we still revere our basketball players, movie stars, and top chefs as great leaders to be emulated) – after our outrage subsides, let’s take a moment and contemplate the denial we ourselves have participated in – when our marriage failed and we weren’t ready to admit it yet, when a loved one passed away too soon, when we were fired from a job because we couldn’t recognize it was time to move on, or…just like Paula, when illness struck and we turned a blind eye to our own culpability.

No one is free from the reach of denial…and denial is just a way to duck the sting of regret…

When we had a chance to say I love you but stewed in resentment instead. When we could’ve maintained an exercise program, but gave it up because it was too inconvenient. When we chose french fries over salad, for the third time this week.

Have your feelings about Paula Deen. Be mad. Feel disappointed.

And let it go.

Then allow compassion to rise up and replace blame. Forgive her and ourselves for not doing the best we could. For sometimes choosing to hold on to the illusion because letting go of who we think we are scares the bejesus out of us.

Who would we be without the illusion? Without the identity we cling so tightly to?

But that’s the very thing we should do. Forgive and let go, because it’s never too late to start over and discover who we really are. Not at any age or any stage.

Remember, the harder the attack, the stronger the grip. So, let go and let healing begin. Not just for her, but for all the ways we halt our life force from flowing. Forgive ourselves for what we did to cause harm to ourselves and others and…

Let love heal us.

Cultivating True Security in a Post-9/11 World

There are only 2 kinds of actions to take in life: a reactive one, or a proactive one, and if you want to know which corner you’re in, just climb down your basement stairs and see how much is floating. Drenched as we’ve been lately on the east coast, all ‘state of emergency’ and ‘the sky is falling’ factions have conspired to either congratulate you on your preparedness or illuminate your lack of it.

I ponder my placement on this why-axis as I pull on my rubber boots to survey the damage from yet another weather frenzy. Glad as I am in this moment to be a nomad instead of a nester, I’m even happier that the house I’m temporarily calling home has been tended to: toolboxes on shelves, washer + dryer raised on pallets, no flotsam and jetsam to reel in. Phew. No soup for FEMA today.

Flashing back to 1999, I recall sitting in front of the loan officer at the bank I’d been affiliated with my whole life. I was applying for a mortgage for my first house, and it was proving tricky. Apparently my occupation at the time – waiter – wasn’t what he liked to call traditional. Gratuity-based income didn’t seem to please his rather narrow bankerly mentality, and despite years of consecutive, steady income, tips tripped up his ability to ascertain my cash flow.

“You just can’t count on them,” he said.

“I’ve been counting on them for years,” I replied. “It’s no different from your salary. Look at my taxes – they’re the same year after year. They’re as real as this desk.”

No matter the black and white numbers on the official forms before him, he just couldn’t see it. He was using the wrong mechanism. Security, financial or otherwise, is not something you measure with a calculator or even calipers. Indeed, all we do to protect ourselves out in the big, bad world merely proves it to be an illusion. Don’t be fooled by the necktie. It’s just an expensive, strangling accessory anyway.

I got the mortgage eventually (of course, at a higher percentage rate to compensate for my “unusual” situation), painted the library, unpacked cartons of books, and settled into my new home. It was in this room one morning, in fact, listening to the radio I heard the unfolding news that rocked our cushioned world. Confusion, horror, overwhelming sadness…we all felt it – our sense of safety crashing all around us. From mighty steel…to dust.

In the aftermath, I searched for wisdom and meaning. My philosophizing called into question words like security and patriotism, like my nephew as he learns to speak his world, asking incessantly, what’s this, Aunt Kellie? What’s that called? Why?

In the ten years since, what I’ve come to realize is that security is not collateral to be measured concretely like a regular paycheck or the automobile industry or our ranking in the world or all the crap we stuff into our buildings. It’s nothing we can lay our hands on and say: this technology, this law, this bomb will protect me.

What gives us staying power, the ability to keep calm and carry on is how we proactively position ourselves – the resources we build well, within: Our constitution in the face of great force, whether flood or famine. Our emotional athleticism – being limber enough to feel beyond our own periphery. Our intellectual agility – informing ourselves with multiple perspectives to counteract propaganda (especially from authorities we tend to trust). Our ability to pause – for when the shit hits the fan, we need to move intentionally. And, overall, our lovingkindness – because an open heart always trumps envelopes and embraces fear.

The best place to find shelter…is inside. It’s the strongest, most resilient structure you can create. Just make sure to keep the base(ment) clean, because if you don’t do it now, it’ll be that much harder when you’re forced to.

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“If I could only turn back the clock to when God and her were born.
“Come in,” she said
“I’ll give you shelter from the storm”.

~ Bob Dylan

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Why Should You Remember August 26?

My name, Kellie, means “Warrior Princess,” which is apt because I’ve been a fighter my whole life. I’ve fought against authority, against containment, against ignorance, against hate, against those I think are wrong. I guess I took my cue from all the fighting my formal education was based upon – names, dates, and places of our history – which is to say the history of war.

I know too many dates like 1066, December 7, 1944 and September 11, 2001. Names like Genghis Khan and Vlad the Impaler or battles like Iwo Jima, and Wounded Knee Massacre. It’s all just so horrid what gets lodged in our brains. I don’t like having it there.

What if I pivoted 180 degrees and created a new language, a new framework for understanding the world? What if we all did? What if we stopped fighting against poverty, racism, or to be first in line? What if we stopped declaring war on terror or childhood hunger or especially, each other?

Imagine if we started standing ‘for’ our values and became advocates for peace, for food security, for equality instead.

Starting now I’m changing my mind, literally. I’m changing my vocabulary and my perspective.  I am for justice and liberation and the rights of all humans to live out the highest expression of the lives we’re given.

So, let’s celebrate today, August 26, and not just because today is my birthday. (Although if you raise a glass in my direction, I’ll certainly revel with you). Let’s celebrate those Americans who gave this day true meaning – women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. Lydia Taft and Ernestine Rose. Susan B. Anthony and Lucy Burns. They fought for what they knew was right, for what they believed in.

Because on this day, in 1920, women gained the right to vote in the United States. And that was something worth fighting for.

The Thunderous Clap Of The Full Moon

Kayaking Megunticook River, Maine SunsetYou are what you surround yourself with.

Lately, I can’t be still long enough to eat breakfast, write a post, a chapter in my book, or do the dishes without flitting around like a nervous hummingbird. Normally playing inside is some radio broadcast like Democracy Now or Morning Maine on WERU, or a dance-to-it Pandora or Genius playlist. I like a stimulating aural environment, yet since moving recently, I’ve been disinclined towards manufactured sound in my new space. What wafts in from the surrounding wooded hillside provides plenty of ambient chirp and chatter. When I listen closely, the rustling branches, whose sways hypnotize through wide skylights, whisper to me to turn off the computer, the Netflix, the modern technological impositions to concentration and creativity. Skittish as a dragonfly, I’m regretfully honing to a steel glint an attention span more suitable for a fourteen year old with ADHD.

Completely at odds with my meditation practice, eh?

Seems I’ve got my feet on the brake and the gas simultaneously and if I remember from Ms. Ewanciw’s ninth grade math class correctly, [ + times – equals -], which means I’m a poor conductor of electricity – that creative spark every writer needs for propulsion. What good are rituals and discipline if I’m training my mind right out of focus?

Kayaking Megunticook River, Maine Island Sunset

So last night I go low, low enough to be eye level with the water – that surefire conductor, and paddle up the hyalescent Megunticook River. My savage beast is quietly tamed by rhythmic paddling and harmonic birdsong. That one music turns off while another turns on is the Rx for all that insanely eddys and ails. Outside of time, I ponder lily pads and heron flight and the splashes of just-missed fish feeding on the bugs of dusk.

So sublime. Ahhhhhh…

The boil thus reduced to a simmer, inspiration glides near, throwing golden coins into the water around me like I’m the fountain, a wellspring, the bestower of wishes. Seduced by the setting of these rippling sunstreaks and mesmerized by the coquettish moon peaking behind a wash of clouds, my relaxed and fertile mind receives the planting of a new seed.

Kayaking Megunticook River in July, Maine Island Full Thunder Moon

I drift back to the sandy shore, pull my kayak out of the water, and pause before heading home. The discovery of such a lovely spot minutes away feels like being baptized; I am submerged in deep appreciation. How have I let the falsely urgent crowd out the important? This natural beauty taken for granted! Such foolishness…

Back under darkened skylights, in centered calmness, I sit and write. And write and write and write – outlining chapters and anecdotes, developing theme and tone – any and all jumbles merely sequences and friendly tangents that will illustrate and illuminate this freshly waterborne idea. Only a few days ago I was distraught over my riches: having so many good projects…how could I ever choose which to cultivate? Too many sometimes is just that: too many. What I longed for was THE ONE. The one that would propel me out of creative logjam and launch me, like Tigger, into joyful action.

Yes! Clarity emerges. Focus and Direction hold hands, winking slyly at me.

To refine this new germination, I consult the I Ching, an ancient Chinese method of divination and guidance. I throw 3 coins, resulting in 54, Changing, and my changing lines lead to 51, Shock / Thunder. Curious, as tomorrow is the full moon (in July often referred to as the Full Thunder Moon), I put the burgeoning project into the reading’s context:

    “The shock of continuing thunder brings fear and trembling. The superior man is always filled with reverence at the manifestation of god; he sets his life in order and searches his heart, lest it harbor any secret opposition to the will of god. Thus reverence is the foundation of true culture.” (~from the 1950 Wilhelm translation of the I Ching)

Anew, I surround myself with fluidity, with natural rhythms, with less 21st century madness. I bring reverence to the well, not to the chariot of technology, so when the thunder comes, I will not be deterred.

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Want more? Here’s a post I wrote on the I Ching: a poem of engagement.
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xo Kellie
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