Diary

Killing the Pirate: The Cutting Pain of Editing a Character from a Novel

This evening, I discovered the ending to the novel I’ve been working on for the past nine years. Glorious. It all makes sense now.

Of course, I also realize that I must now cut a good 20,000 words from the end of the manuscript as they really have nothing to do with the story I am trying to tell.

A beloved character will be lost completely with this dramatic, yet necessary cut. Editing this character out of my novel is like killing a love. He was a love of mine, reimagined for the pages, but real nonetheless. I never see him anymore, and likely won’t ever again. The novel gave me a way to meet him, to spend a little more time in our friendship. To feel again the way he made me feel.

Perhaps I will write him a poem instead. Or simply remember him.

Or perhaps, very sneaky, I will hide his pages somewhere on my website, like right here.

 

 

fail_at_being_a_writer

How to Fail at Being a Writer

fail_at_being_a_writerWould you like to know how to fail at being a writer? Follow these steps exactly and failure may be yours!

First, begin with doubt. Doubt your talent, your brain, your skills, your spelling. Doubt the quality of your ideas and the worth of your stories. Doubt that you even like writing. Doubt your sincerity, doubt your ability.

Once you have a thick, sticky baseline of doubt spread wide over your mind, you are ready to begin failing at being a writer.

Next, sit at your computer and check your social media sites. Click through to Jezebel and Daily Beast. Sign an online petition about health care access for sick kids. Feel a little outrage. Think, I should write about this.

Open your preferred writing software. Sigh deeply. Go refill your coffee cup. Return to your desk. Recheck all your social media sites for new posts and interactions.

Open a file of old writing. Even through you have edited this piece at least ten times, edit it again. Tell yourself editing is writing. Sigh deeply.

Check your social media sites for new posts and interactions. Spend a minimum of thirty minutes reading celebrity gossip. Shudder with self-disgust.

Go pet the dog. Take a walk around the block to clear your mind. Notice how it’s almost noon already and panic that you are wasting your chance to get writing done. Doubt that you even like writing. Doubt your sincerity, doubt your ability.

Sit in front of the computer. Decide to blog instead of working on your novel. Scan through your post ideas and reject all those you deem frivolous, likely not to appeal to a wide audience, too personal, too impersonal, too overdone, too hard to match with a catchy title. Draft a list of the top ten websites where authors can post pictures of their cats. Sigh deeply. Go refill your coffee cup.

Sit in front of the computer. Tell yourself, butt in chair. Read inspirational quotes about how writing is really all hard work. Nod in agreement. Recheck all your social media sites for new posts and interactions.

Jump when the phone rings. Realize you were so absorbed in that online article about trends in book cover designs from the seventies that you missed your daughter’s pick-up time. Run out of the house, late, no real work accomplished.

Congratulations! If you made it this far, you have succeeded at failing to be a writer.

However, take this warning, this failure is not permanent. Tomorrow you wake up again. You must not give into temptation or inspiration to open that file with your novel. Failure requires commitment. You can not become complacent. Stay vigilant. Once again, you’ll wake up tomorrow with every chance of success.

mortality

My Daughter’s First Glimpse of Mortality: The Death of Ichi, Ni, San and Toto

My daughter was four-years-old when I wrote this essay. As I had very little experience with death in my own life, guiding her through her first glimpse of mortality proved challenging for me. I wasn’t ready. Parenting proves to lean towards “making it up as I go” side of things.

mortalityDaughter wins four fish on the day we celebrate hanami on the banks of the Shukugawa. She names them Ichi, Ni, San and Toto. They do not last long.

Ichi dies at night, just after Daughter goes to bed. I consider flushing him right then, but decide I better wait until morning so that Daughter is not startled to hear of his demise and disposal after the fact. I scoop him out of the bowl and leave him to float all night in the little pink teacup on top of the TV. Daughter wakes up late. The babysitter is already standing at our door and I have just a couple minutes before I need to rush out to work. I give Daughter the bad news and show her the fish.

She cries.

“Why did my fish die? I don’t want it to die forever!”

Real tears. My heart races as panic sets in.

“Well, we need to decide what to do. We can bury it in the park, or we can flush it so… it can go out to the ocean… to fishie heaven.”

More and more tears. Third degree breakdown. I glance again at the clock in the wall. Obviously, the funeral is not going to go smoothly in the final minute I have left before I need to leave. I wrap the teacup in plastic and place it in the refrigerator, between the daikon radish and mini-yogurt drinks.

“Sweetheart,” my voice low and calm, “when you are at school, think about how you want to say good-bye. We’ll take care of Ichi when I get home.”

After teaching my last class of the day, I skip out on my usual hour of loitering in the teacher’s lounge trying to catch a moment in the same room as crush and head straight to pick up Daughter. I wait anxiously in the entryway to see her, wondering if she’ll be tear-stained and red-faced. She looks fine.

We are standing around with all the other moms helping their kids put on shoes and sweaters when Daughter shouts, “My fish died! We’re going to flush it down the toilet!” She bounces up and down in her stocking feet.

Uh, yes, that’s right. We’ll be going now. Have a nice evening everyone.

On the walk home, Daughter starts moaning again. She is obviously sad, but also experimenting with grief. Her voice goes up and down in concentrated scales. She cries for a second, then stops mid-sigh when a thought occurs to her.

“Where does the fish go when we flush it down the toilet?” Her voice is crystal and lilting.

“I think it goes out to the ocean. To fishie heaven. She’ll be so happy there. It will be beautiful, just like in the Nemo movie.”

I want to smack myself. Did I really just compare the afterlife with a Disney movie? And I don’t even think there is a fish heaven. I promise myself not to lie to my daughter about death again. I say it twice in my head. Don’t lie about death. Don’t lie about death. Daughter resumes her dramatic murmurings.

We get home, take the fish out of the fridge and stand in front of the toilet.

“Good-bye Ichi,” I say. “You were a good fish.”

Daughter really starts to cry now, fifth degree, and I’m a little surprised by how deeply upset she seems.

She moans, “Don’t die forever!

I drop the fish into the toilet bowl and gently ask, “Do you want to be the one to flush it?”

Daughter’s crying stops in a heart beat.

She springs forward like a leopard. “Yeah!”

Whooosh, around and down Ichi goes. Daughter enthralled, hangs over the toilet with her mouth open and her eyes wide.

“He’s all gone now,” she says to me, then skips away top play with her toys.

The other fish last a few more weeks. The one black one, Toto, dies next. His funeral is a much quicker affair. Then a few days later, Ni goes bottoms up. Daughter scoops him out herself and does the flushing honors. This morning, our last survivor, San, finally gives up the good fight.

Daughter wants to get a turtle next.

Oh little turtle that we bring home, I apologize in advance.

Author note: We never did get a turtle, but we have been through a variety of small, completely un-lovable mammals. She has a cat now. We love the cat. It survived.

proper_introductions

Proper Introductions: The Evolution of a Wallflower

proper_introductionsMy twelve-year old daughter and I stood at the edge of the wedding pre-party. The crowd of barely knowns and complete unknowns jumped and seethed with motion and noise. Happy. Dancing. Talking. My daughter’s eyes grew wide watching the crowd. She pulled herself straight and leaned back away from the room as though reeling from a sour scent.

“Mom, can I go run outside?”

“Uh huh,” I said.

One blink of the eye and she vanished, racing around the giant estate my husband’s family had rented for his sister’s wedding.

Damn, I thought, there goes my plus one.

Today, my husbands beautiful sister marries. This marriage brings together a Persian family and Indian family. Both the bride and groom are of the first generation born in America. Both are doctors. The celebrations started months ago, on the east coast, where the Indian contingent threw a lavish party complete with bright costumes and choreographed dance routines.

Last night we experienced the rehearsal dinner, hosted by the Persian side. Today begins with a Catholic ceremony at a church, followed by a Persian ceremony at a waterside resort, followed by an after-party that from all rumors will likely surpass that of the grammys.

Epic. Excellent. Extraordinary. But back to my problem. Me, bewildered, at the edge of crowd of barely-knowns.

Through the glass on the expansive front doors, I could see my daughter scaling the neighbor’s fence to drop down and disappear into a field thick with scotch broom. Lucky kid.

While my husband and I have been together over six years, it was just recently that we decided to tie the matrimonial knot. Even more recently came his family’s acceptance of my place in his life. Ours is a second marriage. Divorce does not play well with families from the old country. The beginning of our relationship a nano second after his first marriage ended did not start us off on a good foot with his parents. Rule breakers may be fed to the exclusion dogs.

Standing there, watching grandmas and aunts and uncles merge and separate and mingle and mix, I took deep breaths.

These are good people, I told myself. Give them the chance they never gave you. My husband locked eyes with me, sending me a helpless, sympathetic smile from his position at the sound board where he had been roped on arrival into playing DJ. Whatever happened, I was going to have to face it alone.

And then it began, the first pulling on my hand.

“Oh hello! You must be Ali’s wife. I am his mother’s best friend from Texas. I heard so much about you.”

Another gentle pull, “Oo la la, look at Ali’s wife. So beautiful! Would you like wine, my dear?”

Directed by a bevy of manicured hands, I made my rounds and introductions. Relatives flown in from California, from Texas, from Iran, from New York, from India. I dined on a plate loaded half with ghormeh sabzi and half with curry. I danced with the ladies in pastel suits, flicking wrists and twisting hips. I even sat for a few minutes with my husband’s father, on the balcony, trying not to push too hard in a friendly argument that raced from immigration, to Iran, to privilege, to gay rights, to my husband’s exercise habits.

By the end of the night, even my wild daughter had worked herself into the crowd. Her party clothes hung damp from her dashes through the landscaping sprinklers. Small sticks and organic bits and pieces stuck her hair. She laughed with the ladies, eating the endless stream of treats pushed into her hands. She enchanted two younger girls who followed her around as though her adoring minions. Only after exhaustion caught up with her did she pull out her book and settle into a forgotten nook.

By the time pans of pie and baklava replaced the platters of meat and rice, and the music evolved from bouncy, upbeat Persian pop to even bouncier, louder, more upbeat Persian pop, I could mangle at least eight new names with ease and work my shoulders on the dance floor as though I’d been doing it since I was knee-high. Best yet, I learned I could confidently interject myself into any family cluster with the utterance of the one phrase sure to win me favor.

“Hello. I’m Ali’s wife.”

I figure it will only be a matter of time before I may simply introduce myself as Kelsye.

bookshelf_porn

Bookshelf Porn: Three Books That Ruined My Ability to Hold A “Real” Job

bookshelf_pornYou may read thousands of books in your lifetime, but there will always be those few special ones that impact your mortal trajectory in major ways. Books inspire us, show us glimpses of the kind of lives we want to live, of the kind of people we want to be. For those of us who discover the nature of our souls vary greatly from the people that surround us in real life, books can show us understanding, give us a familiar home.

Three books in particular influenced my awareness of myself as an artist and thinker in the world. Without these books, I may possibly have believed the story I was told as a child. The story about how a life of purpose means a life of work at a desk, preferably on computers, 8-5, government-based all the better.

photo 1Enter Frederick by Leo Lionni. The particular copy you see in the picture hiding behind my Royal I picked up in Japan. However, I first read this book when I was very young.

This slim children’s book tells the story of a little mouse with an artistic soul. While the other mice labor for winter stores, they deride Frederick for sitting and daydreaming. Frederick does not budge. He states his purpose, he is collecting colors, sensations. When winter comes, he freely eats of the food the other mice collected. What a lout!

But then the food runs out, and winter’s coldest nights fall over the mice. Now Frederick’s work may be appreciated. He tells the suffering mice stories of summer, of plenty, of warmth and sunshine. The little mice feel comforted. They gain peace, joy even, and the strength and perseverance to survive to springtime.

Collecting food is valuable work. Building computer programs is valuable work, so is teaching and business and labor. So also is art, and writing. The way that I work may look very different from the way much of the modern world works, but it is still work.

You know, I did find a life of purpose at a desk, on a computer. My mom was right about that.

photo 3Next is Irving Stone’s imagined biography of Vincent Van Gogh, Lust for Life. Van Gogh was one of my early obsessions. The Starry Night, Irises, Cafe  Terrace at Night, The Yellow House… I can go on and on. I studied these paintings for hours, captivated by the color, by the audacity of the thick strokes of paint.

Many people have told me this biography is far from fact, and there are better ones about Van Gogh out there, but this is the one that I read when I was thirteen. This book revealed to me that an artist I considered a master actually toiled his entire life to build his craft. It wasn’t as if he picked up a brush and BAMN a masterpiece happened.

Van Gogh lived unapologetically off the support for his brother, doing the work that made him happy. Ultimately, his work impacted millions of people, but he never knew that. He just knew that painting called to him, so paint he did. Van Gogh was poor. He received almost no external validation. My own art is certainly no better than Van Gogh’s, so how may I be discouraged if money and recognition do not come easy to me?

photo 2And finally I offer you Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. Despite the great teachings of the books above, I often find myself caught in corporate clutches, or confused about the importance of things like money and titles. When I find myself stressed to the point of nightly glasses of wine, or when the greatest anxiety I have in my day revolves around A-Thing-That-I-Want-Really-Bad-But-Can’t-Actually-Afford, it’s time to reread Siddhartha.

I discovered Siddhartha in my twenties, when I was living in Japan. The sweeping view of a life spent began in anxious unease, but ended in sublime peace pours a calm into my spirit that lasts for weeks. Of course, it also entirely kills my productivity for a few weeks, so I must be careful of when I choose to read it. I’m the girl who gets things done. A little anxiety helps me along.

These books have properly ruined my ability to hold a “regular” job or find satisfaction in a daily grind. For that, I am eternally grateful.

book_launch_checklist

Book Launch Checklist

book_launch_checklistAuthors and publishers must keep track of a great many details when launching a new book. Here is a checklist to help guide you through the process, from the book inception all the way through the first month of publication.

TIP: This checklist goes along with my recorded webinar: How to plan a book launch

TIP: You can download a printable, pdf version of this checklist here.


 

Book launch checklist

From the moment you first have your book idea, start the first section of tasks.

Build your author platform

  • Create an author website
  • Start a blog
  • Build your social media
  • Start an opt-in email list

Build connections

  • Join writing groups
  • Attend writing conferences
  • Join professional organizations

Research

  • Competitive research in genre
  • Look for agents, editors
  • Identify contests / awards
  • Notice what other authors are doing.

 

Four months before launch:

  • Create a marketing plan. Include:
  • Target market
  • Media channels
  • Platform building
  • Special offers / promos
  • Events
  • Metrics and goals

Three months before launch:

  • Invite beta readers
  • Order a Kirkus review
  • Become active on Goodreads
  • Plan party / launch event
  • Blogger outreach
  • Submit to contests
  • Set up book signings
  • Set up blog tour
  • Set up a Google alert for your name and your book title

Two months before launch:

  • Cover design input
  • Ask for influencer endorsements
  • Brainstorm media possibilities
  • Polish BCC (back cover copy) and book pitch
  • Post a teaser on your website
  • Make sure you website has up to date info

One month before launch:

  • Write press release
  • Reach out to media contacts
  • Join Google+ groups
  • Join Facebook groups
  • Announcements
  • Post a teaser on Wattpad
  • Double post blogs on Goodreads
  • Guest post on other blogs
  • Create a media kit

One Week before launch:

  • Send reminder to Beta Readers
  • Social Karma – Comment and share
  • Upload media kit
  • Create draft of announcement email
  • Post beta reader reviews to website
  • Create Amazon Associate account

Day of launch (I recommend Tuesday):

  • Holy posting, Batman!
  • Update Website
  • Post on all social accounts
  • Post in all groups
  • Post on Pinterest
  • Post on K Boards
  • Message Beta Readers
  • Message friends and family with pre-written posts
  • Send announcement email to list
  • Update Author Central
  • Update Goodreads
  • Update Shelfari
  • Week of launch:
  • Book launch event
  • Reminder to Beta
  • Social postings

Month of launch

  • Post a steady flow of content and promos (3 to 1)
  • Blog tour
  • Interviews
  • Guest posts on blogs
  • Send a reminder email with event and launch info
  • ASK friends and family for reviews
  • Promos
  • Goodreads Giveaway
  • Bookbub
  • Free KDP days
  • Rafflecopter / Instafreebie

And keep on going!

IMPORTANT:

  1. This checklist goes along with my recorded webinar: How to plan a book launch
  2. You can download a printable, pdf version of this checklist here.

How to Self Publish Your First BookReady to self-publish your first book? I’m leading a course called How to Self-Publish You First Book on Gutsy Creatives. Click here to register.

Best of luck on your publishing journey!

how to get revenge on your father

How to Get Revenge on Your Father

Live story telling: Revenge

You might think your dad was embarrassing growing up. No. Your dad likely ranked mildly annoying on my personal scale of  PIH (Parental Induced Humiliation). My dad, however, claims the title King of Adolescent Mortification. But don’t feel sorry for me. I got my revenge. Watch the video above to hear me tell the story live at an event in Seattle.

running

The Alchemy of Running

runningI blame my stepfather for my running habit. He got me started early, perfectly timed to a life stage change so I forever associate running with growth and transition.

In fifth grade, every other day, we would run 2.54 miles together. The loop ended with a killer hill whose every incline I can still recall stride by stride. We didn’t talk, just huffed along. He’d run whatever pace I set, but strictly forbade walking. When judged ready, he entered me in a 5 mile fun run. Though twice the distance my young legs had ever carried me, I never walked on that course. I bounced along at a slow pace, my stepdad keeping silent step next to me.

I finished the race, rapture overcoming exhaustion as I passed under the finish line arch. The race organizers told me that at 11-years-old, I was the youngest person to finish. On the walk backed to the car, I puked in the bushes by the bank. I felt like a champion.

Running taught me: Your mind lies to you. You have strength you don’t even know about.

Those first runs propelled me through the transition from child to sentient adolescent. I have will. I exert my will in the world. I get myself from A to B.

My running habit comes back to be strong in times of transition. When I was assaulted just a few weeks after my 21st birthday, my emotional recovery came in the form 13 mile runs I took every other day down a straight, endless road in the middle of Missouri farmland, the cows cooing encouragement.

IMG_5929Every heartache or breakup may be connected to an intense period of running. Every move finds me learning my new surroundings on pounding feet. When I start a company, I run more for clarity. When I end a company, I run more for clarity. You’ll survive this. You have strength you don’t even know about. Recently divorced? Get running. Run until you’re so tired your brain can only focus on breathing, on stable contact with the ground. Recently married? Celebrate by running, transforming soft into firm and worn into new.

I have lost running many times. I stopped running my freshman year in high school, when my fast legs propelled me to state championships in the mile. My coach took this as a sign that it was his mission to work me as his prize. Expectations and requirements I never agreed to squeezed all the peace and joy out of my runs. The only control I could exercise was to quit, so I did. I have will. I exert my will in the world.

Later in life, happily running again, the doctors that be decided surgery was the best way to rid my body of wayward tissues. I learned the hard way that surgery begets surgery begets surgery. What started as a minor procedure to remove a tiny ball of benign cells built into true crisis, culminating in the removal of my abdominal muscles on my right side. That took me out of the running game for awhile.

Winter can throw me off, so can plantar fasciitis or moody depressions. It’s too cold. I have no energy. I’m too fat. My shoes are ugly. I’m ugly.

The blow to the ego when I lose one of my defining traits presents a formidable challenge to overcome. Beginning again is always difficult. I start those first few runs sneering at my pace, the distance I can manage. Champion? More like chump. It’s not as though once I go on that first run, the drought is broken and it becomes easy again. No, I must drag myself bodily out on each and every run.

IMG_5861I do things to trick myself into running, like getting on my running clothes but telling myself it’s only because they’re comfortable and I’m working from home today. I lace up my running shoes and go outside, but only to walk to the coffee shop. Oh, we made it to the sidewalk in all our running gear. Hey, how about trying out a couple strides. Oh look, running is happening!

Experience has taught me that if I can force myself through those first two weeks of acclimation runs, momentum takes over. The inverse effect occurs where if I don’t run, I start to get antsy and cranky. I’m a runner again.

I’m a runner right now. Something will come along eventually to knock me out of it, I’m certain. That’s okay. I’ll start all over again, building those first steps into first miles. 14-minute-per-mile slogs will whittle down to 7-minute-mile sprints. For now, I slow down my days by going fast. I suck air into stretched lungs. My muscles burn and purr. My mantra repeating in my mind. I have will. I assert my will in this world.

Problem_with_poetry

The Problem with Poetry

Problem_with_poetryPoets gets me in trouble.

First, it was all because of Poe. At thirteen, I obsessed over his gorgeous, grand lines. Safely ensconced in my playhouse with the door firmly closed against eavesdropping sisters, I recited his poems aloud over and over again. The imprint of some of these remain forever etched on my soul,trapped behind my teeth for instant recital.

I dwelt alone in a world of moan and my soul was a stagnant tide.

How deep! How dark! How profound!

Determined to be as great a writer as Poe, I labored to add such depth to my adolescent writings. When my language arts teacher projected an image of a girl looking out her bedroom window at a crow and told us to write about the picture, I felt the gods had smiled upon me. I knew exactly what to do. I was prepared. I was going to deliver the most profound piece that would win my teacher’s adoring awe.

Instead, I won myself a trip to the school counselor’s office. I remember I wrote something about how the crow was all there was, and all else in the universe was dingy, depressed death. (Oh, alliteration, how I love thee!)

My trouble deepened in college, when we would sit in seminar dissecting some famed poet’s piece on gender identity, or privilege, or patriarchal pandering. Twenty students in the circle, twenty interpretations, yet one professor with the “truth” of the meaning. I read too many bad poems. I heard too much theorizing complex meaning out of trite sentiment. I didn’t understand.

I scribbled a trite poem capitalizing on all the clichés I’d heard all quarter and received highest praise for my work. Screw that. Poetry is a sham. I’m done.

How grateful I am for the poets that brought me back to the light, or the darkness, depending on the piece. How grateful I am for Kay Kinghammer.

Kay Kinghammer writes with me every Friday morning at my Daylight Writers group. She started showing up a year ago, a friendly grandmother type with tight white curls and appliqué sweaters. Sweet enough, but easily dismissed, like so many poems of my past.

Oh, but Kay could write! When she chose to read her work at group, I would snap to attention. Here were lines that purred, that prowled, that crept up my spine, that occasionally rhymed! Here were lines I wanted to say again, with my own voice.

Down by the river in the dark,

I drifted with the water’s soft splashes,

I quivered with the rustling of bushes.

Hidden in the warm summer night

All the uncles, kids, and cousins,

Like so many peas in a pod.

Kay began her writer’s journey late in life, the part where she put the words down on paper anyway. She was busy, go-go dancing, falling in love with questionable men, attempting a Gypsy life of travel, raising a son. Years pass so quickly. Now she lives in Seattle with her Grandson. She takes the bus wherever she wants to go. She doesn’t own a laptop. She wears silly sweaters and comes to writing groups in coffee shops where she reads lines pulled from her past and captivates a room of caffeinated strangers.

Kay needs our help.

She was invited to debut her book of poetry (The Wenatchee River Anthology) at the Fermoy International Poetry Festival in Ireland. You may imagine, this is a very big deal for an emerging poet from Wenatchee. Living on a fixed income, there is no possible way Kay can afford a plane ticket to Ireland. This is where we come in.

Writers are wonderful people. I have received a great deal of support from my community. Now I ask that we direct some of that support in monetary fashion towards Kay. I’ve helped her launch a Kickstarter to raise the funds she needs to publish her book and get to Ireland. Please become a backer now.

I think of the dreams I have, how deep inside me some creature calls out her aching desires, how I would fly if that creature were freed. I think of your dreams. I think how incredible it is that we can have so much impact on one another’s lives.

We can make this happen for Kay. Please join me as a backer of The Wenatchee River Anthology.

Become a backer now.

 

ama

Do You Dwell in Your Mind or in Your Body?

The theme of the week for me seems to be touch.

Do you “live in your head?” Are you one of those who are rarely present in the moment, but instead drifting off on a swiftly flowing current of thought? I am. While I love the robust riches of my mind, the years have shown me that I miss much when I can not anchor myself in the physical world, in even my physical self.

Inspired by a post on Brain Pickings, I recently purchased and read Eve Ensler’s new memoir, In the Body of the World. The book begins with this beautiful passage.

“A mother’s body against a child’s body makes a place. It says you are here. Without this body against your body there is no place. I envy people who miss their mother. Or miss a place or know something called home. The absence of a body against my body created a gap, a hole, a hunger. This hunger determined my life. … The absence of a body against my body made attachment abstract. Made my own body dislocated and unable to rest or settle. A body pressed against your body is the beginning of nest. I grew up not in a home but in a kind of free fall of anger and violence that led to a life of constant movement, of leaving and falling. It is why at one point I couldn’t stop drinking and fucking. Why I needed people to touch me all the time. It had less to do with sex than location. When you press against me, or put yourself inside me. When you hold me down or lift me up, when you lie on top of me and I can feel your weight, I exist. I am here.”[white_space]
― Eve Ensler, In the Body of the World: A Memoir

Eve well-illustrates a familiar ache. Human touch asserts a certainty. Proof. Evidence. Connection. For those of us that dwell chiefly in our minds, the hunger for this confirmation of our existence in the physical world may grow until we binge in corporeal experiences. I penned such episodes in my novel, which focuses not just on the separation of body and mind, but also the division of self.

We sit on the bed in my minuscule room, glasses of sickly sweet plum wine in our hands. He looks at me with a sadness so deep that I worry it might take me down with him. He sets his glass on my nightstand and places his hand on my thigh. A breathe I’ve been holding releases from me, long and slow.[white_space]

First touch brings great release. The frenzied anticipation fades, smooth relief flows through my limbs. Even from a stranger, a gentle touch feels like love. It is the realization that you can reach someone, can make a connection, even if you barely share a common language. He touches to feel my stockings and the curve of my thigh, but also to feel the heat and calm that comes when you are close to another person.[white_space]

– Kelsye Nelson, The Secret Life of Sensei Shi

Eve’s book talks largely of trauma, of physical violence, of illness. These horrible actions came with a gift of mindfulness, of clarity, of immediacy. How lucky we are that our experiences needn’t swing to such extremes in order for us to achieve presence of being. Here are the things that I do to root my mind to moment:

  • Run
  • Get outside for a little bit every day
  • Sleep well
  • Indulge in a steady, constant stream of light physical affection
  • Walk by any large body of water
  • Pet my dogs
  • Work outside doing something that requires the labor of my entire body
  • Breathe deep
  • Travel or put myself in uncomfortable environments
  • Walk in the woods
  • Swim

I love my brain, and the ethereal journeys it takes me on. Some of my favorite activities, such as writing or reading or dreaming regularly lift me from the concrete world. The trick, per usual, is balance. I have a natural inclination towards happiness. If for some reason I decide I must hold on to anger or resentment, I must actively work on it. (Which, like a fool, I sometimes do.) It’s the same in this situation. My natural inclination is towards the mind. While a trauma or violence may rip me out of thought and into the present, in normal days I must make vigilant efforts to wake from my dreams. It’s work. Thankfully, pleasure accompanies the process.

And you? Where do you stand? Do you live mostly in mind or in body? What do you do to anchor yourself to passing moments?

Also, go read Eve’s book. It’s incredible.