Tag Archives: writing

The Imposter

20161231_134413After an awkward start and stutters and apologies of interruptions of. “No, what were you going to say?” “Oh, sorry, what was that?” my dad finally said to me as we were talking on the phone, “I have so much to say to you when I’m not on the phone with you.”

“What do we talk about?” I asked.

“Oh everything. I talk to you when I’m working or cooking dinner.” The lack of easy conversation may have been due to an intense emotional confrontation on my part just the week before (perhaps a future essay topic) but the point I’m making here is that I get it. I feel the same way about writing. This morning on my run I was so excited about everything I as going to put down on the page [that I wasn’t mentally censoring]. When I made coffee this morning I thought about everything I was going to publish and lamented that I didn’t have my notebook and pen in front of me.

And then, at the designated time, as I was getting myself ready to write I thought,.”Well, maybe I should just do this later.”

And then, with the notebook finally in front of me…”Damn. Why do I always know what I want to say when I’m not about to write it down?” like so many thoughts are crowding the the tips of my fingers, shouting, “don’t forget to tell them about…” but fingers are skinny and with so many letters and words just dying to pour out they clog the veins so that the pen hovers just above the page in anticipation ready with that first pen stroke. What if it’s a bad one?

It’s not that I haven’t written. I have this blog.  But it’s inconsistent and it’s inconsistent well because, I have to tell you something: I am an imposter. Not a real writer. I am a true wanna be writer and even worse: in need of permission to write and to publish and even need permission to not give a fuck what you think.

A friend, David, was in town visiting from Mexico this past week. We did nothing but gab and walk and shop and eat….and gab and walk and shop and…eat.   As we were walking on Fillmore approaching yet another steep San Francisco hill  my mind moaning.  “I don’t wanna walk up anymore god damn hills!”  David started in with a twinkle in his eye. “Oye, Sarah.” he said. “If you join a triathlon team [a goal of 2017] you should get to know the people on the team and then write poems about them.” He said all this jokingly and continued, “I mean you’re a writer.”

I stopped. “DAVID!” I said.

Thinking he had offended me hearing the unintentional  aggressiveness of my tone, he started to stammer, “No…no…what I meant was…”

I put my hand on his arm. “It doesn’t matter what you say for  the rest of this trip.You just called me a writer.”

“Well, you are.” he insisted.

Last evening, after he had boarded the plane, I  opened my facebook feed and saw that a good friend and mentor Susan Ito had published a post about her #fiveminutefreewrite (you can read about that here)and invited others to join her for the month of January. She also linked Vanessa Martir’s challenge of 52 essays in a year [that’s one a week]! and invited her followers to join along in that as well.

I don’t know if I know how to write an essay or not. But to not write, to not publish, to not be known, as selfish, ego-maniacal, and amateur as it may be, is to try to squash an elephant. So here we go. Starting 2017 off with Susan Ito’s# 5minutefreewrite a day and 52 essays….oh, and another round of Solo Performance with Martha Rynberg. Well, it should be a busy first couple of months this 2017.

A View From the Cottage

These hillsphoto 2

light  breeze ,  sunshineunnamed

And some blank pages

11947941_10207264353148893_7395904178799942234_o

Nothing more needs doing

Bad Mice and Flying Giants

There are giants in the sky.There are big tall terrible giants in the sky…sings Jack from the play Into the Woods, a  musical that combines all the fairy tales into three acts. The first act all the fairy tales end happily ever after, and in the second…well, explores what would happen if the Giant’s wife came and got revenge.

I was playing this song for my four year old charge. We were at a nearby campus because Dad was working for home and the little girl (who I will call Lisa) requested that we spend time there instead of a nearby playground. The campus was  not at all kid friendly. There were no slides or swings, or even big fields of grass.

The song came about because as we sat down to have a picnic (trail mix and bananas), it came into my head and out of my mouth. “What’s that?” asked Lisa. “Oh, it’s one of my favorite songs.” I told her. “Here, I’ll play it for you,” taking out my phone not half hour after dad had said to me, “No media, please.”

Funny enough the previous day I confessed to a friend, “I have to admit; I’m addicted to my phone.” Not as bad as some perhaps, but I do pull it out when I am on the bus, walking down the street, and even at work.. Of course, when I catch myself mindlessly whittling the way the hours on the screen, I feel more tired and  disengaged from the people and the world around me. I also think sometimes that having constant and instant entertainment, leaves less motivation for creativity. If we have instant entertainment than there’s no sense of boredom and then no reason to make anything up!

And don’t get me wrong; having an electronic device has been very helpful and useful to me.  But I haven’t figured quite how to use the amount of media around me in a mindful way.

Anyway, I felt too, like the “no media” was a good six hour detox and challenge for myself. I certainly feel more present and more connected to what is going around me when it is not in front of me.

“Shoot.” I thought remembering ‘no media’ suddenly. How engrained it is in me! Well, music is different I justified. And we won’t watch the phone. We’ll just listen to it. But as all of us are conditioned to do, Lisa came closer to the phone wanting to see what was on the screen. “We’re just going to listen to it,” I said. And I put the phone face down. She respected that and started to listen to some of the lyrics. “Who’s Jack?” she asked and I started to tell her the story of Jack and the Beanstock. “Does he have a green hat? Did he come out of a hole? What does he look like?”

Pulling out the teacher card I said, “Well, what do you think he looks like?”

She sighed and said, “Can’t you just tell me.”So many of us are conditioned to have a right answer. With media at our fingertips we don’t even have to question or think, as we have the answers right in front of us. But it’s not even media per say. As soon as we read a book or watch a movie we suddenly have an idea of what something is like.

I remember reading the Ramona books as a child. I loved the very primitive drawings that it came with…and figured that Ramona was just a creative mess! She certainly looked like that in the book. When the series came out on PBS, I was shocked to see what she “Really” looked like; she and her family were much more of the all-american type than I would have ever imagined from reading the books.

I told Lisa, “The story has been told so many different times that everyone has a different picture of Jack.” She soon became uninterested in what Jack looked like and more interested in listening to the music again, and figuring out what a giant might look like. I found my own imagination activating as I asked Lisa questions. “Do you think a Giant is as big as that tree? Can they fly?” And suddenly we were looking up at the sky looking for giants. “There goes one!” she exclaimed. The theme of giants continued throughout our time outside with the only spurring of imagination being a song that Lisa could barely understand.

We walked back to the apartment (when we knew that Dad had left) for lunch continuing to be on the lookout for giants.

After a lunch of frozen pizza we proceeded to the living room where after building with train tracks and legos, I felt my energy diminish and I moved onto the couch where my body started sinking into the cushions. I felt the urge to just take a quick glance at my phone. Just for a second. A sneak peak. And as four year olds are very in-tune with when the attention is off of them and somewhere else, Lisa said to me, “Now you build. And I’ll watch you.”

My conscious spoke to me. Sarah, it said, When you advertise yourself as a caretaker you promise the parents to egange their children and be engaged in the activities that they enjoy. So start building train tracks and legos.

I said to Lisa, “Let’s do it together.”

Perhaps because it was too quiet or she just got bored, we put the legos and train tracks away. Suddenly,Lisa was a ballerina and  I found myself in a nightmarish version of the Nutcracker where the ballerina could not escape the “bad mice.” We took turns being the ballerina and the “bad mice” (even though it was just one mouse it was still ‘now you be the bad mice”) and then the game turned again. This time Lisa was the ballerina and I was the audience member.  Again,my body felt the comfort of the couch as I started to sink down. “This is not good! Quick entertain yourself!”

I remembered, then, my own living room performances as a four year old. I would take out the garbage bag of tutus and other costumes from previous ballet recitals and make my mom sit on the couch to marvel at my amazing talents. To perhaps engage herself (and me) she would make up voices pretending to be different audience members. On Lisa’s couch sat three stuffed animals. I put them on my lap, and much to Lisa’s and (my own) delight, I made them speak to each other and to me. “Oh my,” I thought. “If anyone walked in at this moment…” and as I found myself getting more into the characters:”It is ridiculous how much fun this is.”

The game ended only after Lisa’s dad walked in the door. “Papa! You have to sit on the couch and then all of the animals want to dance with me!”

As a sometimes aspiring and definitely struggling artist I wonder how to make the imagination jump off the page in a way that is engaging and makes sense. I marvel at fiction writers! And yet in the span of a day, two people banned from screen time, thirty years apart were able to make believe  and allow giants, bad mice, and stuffed animals come to life.

Walking Towards the Sun

Lands End

Lands End

“What would you do if you had nothing?” an ex-boyfriend once asked me. I was in the middle of preparing report cards, and training for a half-ironman. I didn’t have a whole lot of time for him, and he was frustrated. Nonetheless, his question gave me pause. I loved being busy. It’s who I was, and without it? I didn’t know. I never stopped to think about what “nothing” was.

Coming back to San Francisco this past December, I felt totally lost and lonely. I had entered a huge urban metropolis that I wasn’t used to anymore. And I was confused by that lostness as I had once loved this city so much. I realized over that month that I was holding onto expectations of what this city was for me before, thinking that  I would drop back into the life I had previously and pick up where I left off. Once I started to let go of those expectations I was able to have patience with the ups and downs that come with moving to a new place. But still, I marveled at the busyness of it all. Maybe because I wasn’t part of it. And of course I had just come from living in community where, part of the busy day was consciously stopping to make time for meditation and for conversations at meal time.

So yeah, I was confused…especially because I had been a part of a bigger urban metropolis just 6 months prior. So the fact that it was strange and foreign was strange and foreign. Had I changed that much in just those six months? Was I jealous of all the busyness that I no longer felt that I was a part of? Did I suddenly feel that I had “nothing?”

As it was, my loneliness led me to the Integral Yoga Institute. Having just come from Yogaville, I was rejuvenated with the idea of teaching yoga again and was determined to do so. The Integral Yoga Institute is a center in San Francisco related to the Yogaville Ashram in Virginia. It is situated in an old victorian up on a hill from Dolores Park. At night, when I stand outside on the front steps the sun lights up the sky with different neon colors as it settles over the top of the city.  Since I was there, and desperate for housing in a seemingly very expensive city with a housing crisis I thought I would ask about residency as well. “Yes.” They said.  And so here I am two months later living in a yoga center with housemates and a community that practice meditation and yoga, and embraces peace of mind and transition.

Shortly after I moved in, I came down with a cold. That ate up quite a few expenses as well as had me laying low for almost a month. Almost no work, no going out, and certainly no signing up for the classes that I had hoped. I was, by nature of the cold, forced to stay home, get quiet and meditate. And meditate. And meditate. It was stressful at first. I am active. I am an ironman! And to sit and watch the busy lives of those around me while I had to sit, drained of energy was indeed frustrating. And then, something happened. I relaxed. I stopped worrying. There was no need. There was no use.

I have heard that if you trust in the universe it will provide. I have some tension with this. How is that not lazy? I believe that if I want something to happen then I need to put the energy out there to make it happen. And yet, once that’s done there needs to be a certain amount of trust that the right thing will bounce back.  I think what it comes down to is listening. It doesn’t mean being  lazy.  It means sitting and listening to that voice inside even if it doesn’t make sense. It means, at least in my case, practicing patience.

So in my three weeks in which I couldn’t do much I sat and listened a lot.I did nothing.  I have achieved a certain amount of relaxation that I fear is lethargy, although I am also making sure to keep an eye on that.I am yoga-ing, journaling, involved in a small fun project, discussing,  and my favorite, practicing to be a professional coffee shop dweller, an aspiration of which I had in my early twenties.

Simple Pleasures Cafe

Simple Pleasures Cafe

I was coming back from my favorite coffee shop, Simple Pleasures, late afternoon one day, after a morning in the foggy part of the city. I called my friend to say hi, and left a message. She texted me back and said, “I hope you get this with your phone dying and all, but I love that you ended your message with ‘I’m walking towards the sun.’

The Missig Letter

Drink spilled on keyboardI spilled coffee o my keyboard

ad ow it has the flu

its hard you see to write such words

as ow, & fu, & ew.

To fid a remedy

I traveled far ad wide

ad as to the store ca’t simply be

I had a waderig ride.

The trai dropped me for coffee first

ad iside I did fid

a lovely writer who took the time

to share with me his mid.

“Thak you,” I did say

ad headed for the store.

But dow the street the yoga place

was callig me for more.

So I wadered i

ad ot so shyly said

a yoga teacher here I am

are you lookig to be led?

“Call this umber!”

she did say.

Ad smiled at me big. We chatted for a momet

as I  cotiued o my way.

ow I ca say with glee

The store I foud at last

ad the missig letter you do’t see here

is nothing but the past!

Stuck.

It’s 3 am. I can’t sleep, and I’m in the midst of getting over a cold. It started with a sore throat which some might say is a result of not expressing myself; there must be something I want to say, but don’t know how to say it. I’ll interpret it as a lack of keeping this blog updated for the past six months.

And where have I been? All over and under and in between.

What do I have to say? Thoughts are fleeting. I don’t have a story or an entry that can be neatly tied up with a bow, or something with a clear beginning, middle, and end.

Isn’t that what we’re taught and what I teach about story lines?

Those are all the reasons that it’s taken me so long to publish something. And yet so much has happened! But where to begin? I suppose, at where, I left off before.

Please be so kind as to keep reading.