Ten Minutes More

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June 28, 2016

I breathed into this one a great deal yesterday: Tomorrow will be a day full of challenges small and large, the largest being the lack of time to think. A day full of so much activity (appointments, work, work and work) without any time to ponder the condition of the day–and me–for a small yet centered bit of time used to be every day. And that was just fine. I rather preferred not thinking and just doing. It warded off the demons I was keeping down inside me, in that deep, deep place no one—not even I—can locate. The busier I was, the less time I had to reflect about how my life was going or not going. It suited me just fine and then, of course, delayed the inevitable revolt of the repressed, those wild demonic fears and dissatisfactions named “where am I going and where have I been?”

But today’s busy-ness did not arrive with relish. In fact, the scheduled activities brought nothing more than the challenges of practicing what I know I must do but find difficult to do: appreciate everything more. Yet there’s no question in my mind (first mistaken location to start the day) that I do not appreciate taking my father to his doctor appointment down south 30 minutes in weekday traffic, abiding his ever stream of mad rant. “Why are we going to more doctors? They don’t know anything and just want to take my money and make me miserable. I’d like to give them some of their own medicine. Why do they allow trucks on the freeway? In New York, they only allow trucks on the expressway so the shmucks don’t slow down traffic. Look at that asshole driving so slow, holding up traffic.” This is the running monologue I expect and too often get before he asks me what we’re going to eat when we get out of the good-for-shit doctor’s office.

Today’s Ten-Minute Write

I don’t know what I think until I write it down—Joan Didion

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In my web journeys today, I discovered a site called Life in 10 Minutes that collects and features ten-minute life writes. Much to my delight, this site celebrates what I do most days anyhow, write for ten minutes to a timer just to get a little heat to my brain and fingers, a warm-up if you will. After the free-write, I am ready to take on larger writing endeavors, like an essay or poem or whatever else that needs writing.

Though I have never thought of publishing these exercises in their entirety, taking only bits and pieces to flesh out into something grander, I might tinker with this idea of setting them out here as-is for a while to see what they bear.

I hope you enjoy today’s ten minutes of life.

June 27, 2016

Today feels like yesterday, except less fatigued and more awakened. My muscles after a half hour of yoga to start the day feel thick and rubbery like those industrial size rubber bands that bind a ream of paper’s worth of words—a manuscript, for example–together with firmness yet flexibility. My strut is glide-easy balanced between the push and pull of gravity.

And though the heat is slightly oppressive and my father is calling me on my cell phone once again from just inside the other side of the house, disrupting my writing—yet again, to ask me one of several questions he asks daily: “Are you hungry? What are we eating? Do you need anything from Sam’s? The answers to which are all 90 % of the time “No, I don’t know and no,” I sit in good-willed contentment and compassion. It is how he communicates, after all, how he crafts the world—plot, character and theme all food.

So today, with soft-hardness under the pads of my feet and surrounding the gooey gray matter inside my hard head, I have promised us both not to take it personally, not to react like night to day, inevitable and expected, even as nothing is ever guaranteed. I let the word “Dad” that flashes on my Samsung phone screen evoke a nanosecond of knee-jerk irritation before I exhale with the word ‘calm’ unformed but sunk-in performed. We will have this day of little perturbation, only small speed bumps that we will drive over slowly, braking down, deliberately pressing the gas pedal with a long whispered inhale and even longer exhale.

Health? No Care

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Stitching quilted time surgical square by square, a hodgepodge of olive drabs and polluted sky blues in pattern--patient in, patient out--
a nurse-maid wends her way through plastic bags plump and warm with piss
and blood-stained pillow cases where patients puke spittle in their sleep.

A helper of the sick, a cold hand but a hand nevertheless, she pricks fingers and asses, plugs up spills poured in gut-twisting fiery pain with a pat and a clean sheet, plight of the sick, wedged between death and dying her daily duties.

Goddess in green, she performs impeccably clean, masked, gowned and gloved, hairless and germ-free--safety's illusory garments for germ workers, spreading disease and then getting paid for treating the infected in the circle of death cheats.

A man who survived contracting a deadly, antibiotic-resistant bacteria from what they inserted inside his body, contaminated just by existing behind the sterilized hospital walls, lost his will to live, a potential suicide by health care.

Like homework sent home from school, he was delivered home to nurse himself, take back his own health with needles to prep and pop, blood to digitally track and communicate, which was too much to do for his weakened old self, so he opted out.

A list of twenty ten-step perilous operations to complete for his own mending, too soon after his near-death visit to the sleepless halls of buzz button calls and electronic beeps of monitors ironically measuring life's slippage.

Too weak to stand, he gathered his will, lost his way, awash in the maze of pop-in nurse-teachers, marching in step to medical time, protocols and measures, without care, dispassionately immune to measure more than mortal drops of human blood.

The Heart of Empathy Speaks


I fell in love with foreign languages from before I could speak,

From Mother Goose nursery rhymes chanted to childhood,

Singing me through my days in silly lilting jibberish tolling tales–

Mesmerizing wispy wild figures sticking thumbs in plum pies

Or eating mystical morsels named curds and whey on a tuffet.

Then in college, I pined for the secret to unlock the hearts of 

Spanish, French and Russian poets, painters and culture magicians.

I cracked the code to some, forming strained lipped sounds,

Writing winsome words in chipped or open gullet accents  or

Symbols to sounds unmade, unimagined and click ticklish

until I could not remember my own tongue.

But after college, language tore at me, ripped me up

And left me dull, licit and languishing in legal triangles,

Endless geometry of angles, degrees and lines.

The law sandpapered language across imagination’s landscape,

Smoothed my edges in deeper, rounder archetypal paths, pregnancy, 

Until I lost Octavio Paz’s meter sanded out in childrearing recipes

Swapped with Guatemalan nannies.

Pellucid sentences peeled off like shredded wallpaper skin,

Their luster gone with a youthful jaunt, hop, gleam and trigger,

Flashed in skipping stones, falling in love and hopping fences

Round speedways, parks and wood clearings where music moved 

Us, loins and feet to primal noun-less, soundless speech, 

Just to see,  get a glimpse at lip-sung words beyond the barriers, 

Risking liberty and future, impelled by lusty mischief and rush.

Back then, I had to hear them sung in tune-ful missives keyed only to me.

And now, the remaining hash of come and gone, bright and dark, transforms

Acidic intestinal stew to sorcerer’s clairvoyant elixir: my gut tells me.

Among the clamorous hate-filled speeches and cautious creeds non-offending,

Blasted in soldiered lies and political stomps, and on uncivil, anti-social media,

The gurgle steels me listen to us, be your pain, own my heated core as if it were 

The world’s sole lingual ignition; the ravenous merging urge to swallow me up,

The kind you write in erotic type and imagery possessing, owning my pulse–

These are mere smoke signals, the wink-less language of I know you as I am.  

In the aftermath of lived language, word dross, let us, you and me, tutor empathy,

The Esperanza of human kindness,  re-remembered swish and slosh in thickish silent

 womb–connected to another’s rhymes and rhythms, as the song. 

 

Why the Word ‘Should’ is a Lot Like ‘Stupid’

  
In today’s The Mindful Word appears this personal essay about guilt, obligation and giving, something I started to think about over the week and completed to publication.
 
When are we merely “giving to get something” as Joni Mitchell sings in “People’s Party”?
 
At 55, those delightful yoga sessions that instantly feel delicious deep down in the sinews and muscles, triggering pleasure sensors in the brain, are farther and fewer in between, even in a daily practice. Most days that great good feeling opens up only after slow beginnings, working steadily into full-throttle fluidity and warmth. I treasure those moments of recognizing deep physiological release and mental liberation. My mind soars with my body’s surrender to more, deeper, and longer stretches, everything opening, including …

Read the rest here.

Considerate giving as gift

But at 55, the should’s should not be gripping me as they do in tortuous roads to re-realization that giving to get something is not giving, and thoughtful consideration of my intentions—a mere pause or micro-meditation–relieves me and everyone I touch of unfulfilled obligations and responsibilities to me and those who depend on me.

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Giving with expectation, without right to give away what belongs to another–time, energy, and money–is not proper giving. It is merely exchange or thievery.

Prison Phone Calls:  when capitalism incapacitates its most precious capital–people

 
 
She has slept away her first five days here, awakening only to fret, face swallowed up in full furrowed brows, swollen eyes and shrivelled spirit, grieving inconsolably over something lost, something she fears is lost anyways. She cries. Fifty-five years old, weathered, burnished skin adding ten years to her face, she was picked up for drugs or prostitution; I do not remember which. She once told me in between spurts of awakened anguish over her dogs. All I remember is the agonized tears and the dogs…read more

GHOSTING: Passive-aggressive discourtesy can be a lesson in manifesting the self

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A piece I fleshed out from a sketch I posted earlier on this blog, this personal essay on The Mindful Word was published yesterday. I hope you enjoy it.

The act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone the subject is dating, but no longer wishes to date. This is done in hopes that the ghostee will just “get the hint” and leave the subject alone, as opposed to the subject simply telling them he/she is no longer interested. Ghosting is…(read more here)

You Can’t Always Get

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It’s a familiar trap, a pattern many recognize–getting caught between wanting to do the “right” thing for someone else or for the self.

The conflict pits ahimsa, or non-harm in thought or deed, against satya, truthfulness in the Yamas.

Trying today to unwind my thinking, past my feelings, habits and impulses, to identify my needs. I am caught up in the should’s. And I dislike it.

Yes, I grew up with a mother who attended co-dependents anonymous and that may explain why, in the past, I instantly responded to calls for volunteers for the school, sports organizations, non-profits, family and friends whenever I could. I built habits for some need I had to fulfill to help. But what about now?

The balance of helping others and helping myself is the challenge. Getting it right is not always easy, but I am more interested today in examining these knee-jerk reactions and judgments that come with “I should help this guy out” compulsion.

I give a lot of time and attention to a long-time friend who cannot reciprocate, and I am becoming resentful and disinclined to see this friend any more. This would seem like a no-brainer, dump the freeloader, but it is not that simple. I don’t want to (thinking) be beholden to a give to get something or quid pro quo value system. The impulse to give irrespective of gain is in line with my values.

Resentment (feelings) arises for sure in this equation, but the more important question, if I give myself time to respond the next time my friend, who I will call Ash for convenience, calls and asks to go out to lunch to talk (read: monopolize the conversation), is why I feel compelled to be the sympathetic ear, ignoring my own therapeutic need to be heard and share thoughts and feelings.

Mind you, this friend does not always take but often enough where the obligatory “should’s” hit me whenever I see that text or telephone number on my screen. The first reaction is a tiny wince and inaudible sigh. I have known Ash a long time and spent countless hours being a friend. Is it habit?

I wrestle with passive-aggressive responses too–unavailability, calling back much later, too late, and just plain ignoring. That is not a good friend, I chide myself. Feeling guilty is not helpful, either. The spiral of internal chain reactions is exhausting…I shouldn’t ignore…just say what I feel…don’t want to hurt someone for what I perpetuated…time I cannot afford and don’t want to give…others who need it more…giving unconditionally…compassion…

…and on and on.

How to get past the stuff, the gunk (too much thinking or not enough), to the discerned need, my real need in this relationship, occupies my day today. Being truthful.

I know the answer–for me, anyhow. Time. Give myself time to decipher my need–for that moment, any given moment–before saying yes to engaging with Ash. Examining the relationship a bite at a time may lead to the larger answer that I sought today, too overwhelming, as to what I need in this relationship, not want, project, hope or atone for in it.

The Stones got it right: You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need.

Given enough precious time.

credit:  goodreads.com/MickJagger

Pratyahara and Pencils: teaching writing is about seeding awareness in students

  
This was exactly what Professor Yip meant by being detached — not being without emotion or feeling, but being one in whom feeling was not sticky or blocked. Therefore in order to control myself I must first accept myself by going with and not against my nature.

Bruce Lee 

Pratyahara and pencils populate my thoughts today. Back to school, I can smell the freshly sharpened pencils—not that anyone sharpens pencils in my college classes so much. The sensory memory recalls the time of year: fall, school, endings, beginnings and lifelong learning. Cycles that inspire.

Inspiration arises in peculiar places. During a particularly dry creativity spell, I sat through the annual English department meeting last week at school, my employer, and felt a sudden spark. It was midway through a workshop on workshopping (silly sounding but fruitful) when I began to write about…

Continued here