Keep That Hunger


Eleven years ago today, I got off of Route 40 in Flagstaff, took I17 south, and headed home to a place I had never lived.

One night, a few weeks later, while sitting alone in my apartment, I said to myself, “I can’t visualize my life, going forward; but also- I can’t imagine going back.”

A few days later, I met Craig.

~

A year ago, I walked out on a profession I had spent 15 years building. 

With no plan.

I sat with the uncertainty. I faced all the fears. I melted into the sadness. And then one night, I said, “I’m a writer.”

I called a grant writer I happened to know and I said- I need you to help me get to where you are.

This led to a second opportunity. This time I busted through the door for the interview, placed my hand on my heart, and said, “Writing is my art.” 

A week later she called me and said- Come back here and help us do this thing.

Late Wednesday afternoon, a VP I didn’t know looked at me during the middle of a meeting, and said, “So. I’ve heard you’re a writer.”

I swallowed the excess saliva that had overcome my mouth, sat up in my chair, and said, “Yes. What do you need done.” 

Don’t give up on your journey just because you keep falling off the train and your shoelaces are caught on the track.

Follow the trail of bread crumbs home.

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How to Write Short 


How to Write Short

This is the title of a book I read recently, (by the brilliant Roy Peters), that I can’t stop thinking about. Which words to omit, and which sentences to pare down? Where to play the darling word games, and where to cut to the chase?

Can we talk about commas? Do I even have a single-handed, Vaseline-tight grip on this? How many of the punctuation rules learned in grammar school am I using correctly, and how many of them have I bent and twisted as I’ve aged?

“Just go write!” my husband says, “get out of your head!” But where is excessive, heart-aching self-expression worth it, and where does it become utter and complete self-indulgence and redundancy?

Speaking of redundancy, have I ever spelled this word with any kind of confidence? Truth be told, there are a slew of words in the English language that I write on a daily basis that I can say- I DO NOT KNOW HOW TO SPELL. “Strength.” And “length.” and “exacerbate.” (See also: redundancy).

Which brings me to the point; does this matter?

It matters to me. It doesn’t have to matter to you. You know things I don’t know. In fact, it’s one of life’s greatest serendipities that we don’t all know the same things. So it matters to me, and it may not matter to you; and that’s- beautiful, actually. It means you’re holding up some other end of the fort that I would have a leg and a clump of my hair stuck in.

I’ll keep sharpening my pencil and you keep counting the numbers, teaching the kids, painting the art, and holding the space.

 

The Story of Who I Am (now).

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The words. All the words. And the sentences they belong in. I need to find the matches.

But they’re all over the floor.

They’re piling up against the wall, falling over on top of me even while I sleep. I don’t have the time to sort through them so I keep shoving them and stacking them back up; desperately holding out a disciplinary hand and asking them to “just stop! Stop!” moving. They glance at me quickly, with the sass of an undisciplined child that I know too well, and hop on their word-tushes and slide down the stack at an angle just precise enough to smack me right in the face.

The words, they have a story to tell. And I’m sorry to say, the story isn’t for you.

It’s for me. 

And before I share it, let me just also say; I don’t know what the story is yet. I want to be clear about this because it’s a little secret I’ve known my whole life but only just discovered; I don’t know what I’m going to say until I read it. And I’m pretty sure that’s true for you too, maybe you just haven’t realized it yet either. And this is important, because writing is as much about the reader going on the adventure as it is the writer leading the way.

So I’ve got the words in my bag (I had to grab a trash bag because they wouldn’t all fit into a purse with any kind of dignity). Here we go.

I asked my eighty-year old self if it had anything to say to me this afternoon. Okay no, this is what really happened. The kiddos were napping and I was reading/writing, while keeping close tabs on their restless but settling little legs banging against their cots, their need to feel a hand on the small of their back just one more time before drifting off to sleep, and surveying the scene to see if anyone needed to be stared at uselessly by me while they coughed. So once they settled, this is what I wrote-

Dear Lisa, from 80 year old you.

(Pause. Hesitation. Brain freeze. Uncertainty about everything I’ve ever done and said in my life… and then finally-)

“You were afraid, weren’t you; that I wasn’t here. That the truth would come out that it actually all made no sense in the end. Because that’s the real threat, isn’t it. That it all wouldn’t just be a series of twists and turns in a life of purpose, but rather; a straight up loss. Straight up mistakes, straight up failure, and straight up shame. You were afraid I wasn’t here watching, but I am.”

And, that was it. Like a visit from a long-lost loved one in a dream, she was gone. Just like that.

But something weird happened right after this. I turned to a blank page in the back of the book I was reading, and I added this-

I have always been a compilation of who I’ve been. Nothing changes that. The story belongs to me.

I have something to learn, wherever I am today. And if I don’t see it, it’s because I’m afraid to.

I used to think the hardest thing was to take a step back. To bow out for a while from the story you’ve been telling yourself about who you are. But here’s the secret that hides beneath that; every time I step back I have a choice to make. Do I fight against this, with all my might. Do I yell and kick and scream that this doesn’t fit The Story of Who I’ve Always Been. Or do I sit my ass down, take a look around, and listen. The hardest part isn’t when you disappoint yourself. The hardest part is when you realize you have been the one building the walls that surround you.

Why is this brick here?! Who’s been mixing cement?! Who’s in charge here? Hello? Can I speak to the owner of this establishment please? There are bricks all around me! And they keep getting higher. Yes. I know. It’s perplexing to me too. Would you look at that, now there’s cement on my hands, I demand to know what’s going on at once! There is a wall growing higher around me, I’ve got cement all over my hands, on my clothes, in my hair, and all I was doing was standing here. Telling everyone about how smart I was. And how seasoned. And experienced. And accomplished. Someone needs to remove this wall immediately. This is unacceptable!

I look around.

I’m alone.

Everyone has gone home for the night. I’m the one standing in hardening cement, by myself, throwing an ego-laced tantrum.

When you’ve got the chance to let yourself down, do it. Then wipe the crap off your hands, the egg off your face, and clear the page for a new chapter; The Story of Who I Am Now.

 

 

 

Finding Peace with Judaism and Christianity in December

I grew up in a Jewish household. With a Jewish extended family, and Jewish holidays and traditions and grandparents who would crackalack me on the head about my love for Christmas. 

First- to be clear, I loved my upbringing. I loved the snuggly family and the laughter and the sinister plots to call one another out on hilarious things. I loved the traditions and the celebrations and the reflections on what matters most. That boiled down, turns out, to THREE things;

Children. Family. And Education.

We were the center of every family function, we ran circles around every adult, and they took our cute cheeks in their hands and kissed us on the noggins before we bolted off to chase each other again. They told stories, they taught lessons, they made us everything we are today. And I stand proud of that. And I bow my head to thank them for it. 

But I had a secret. I did. I had a secret little love affair, with Christmas. The lights, and the magic, and the sleigh bells and the trees. And the snow. And the glitter and the tinsel and the, well, the love.

It’s the love. It’s always been about love. My first three paragraphs taught love. And the fourth gave love this infinitely magical tangible feel. 

It wasn’t a competition. Okay, DAD. I haven’t left. I’ll never leave. Yes, DAD, my front yard is heaven on earth right now with inflatable Mickey Mouses and Peanuts characters. The walkway is paved with candy lights. Okay. And my tree, my tree is glowing with history, with red and gold glitter, with ornaments Craig made as a kid. I have a Christmas village complete with a beautiful temple that, for the record, stands the highest of them all. And it brings me joy. And it takes me to a place I can’t quite describe. And that place isn’t incompatible, DAD, with the history-filled lessons of my upbringing. It’s all just love. And family. And here’s why. 

 

 

   
Children, family, education, and love. 

It’s what the world needs now, and we know it.