embracing the sharp points

I've been re-reading Pema Chodron's good book, When Things Fall Apart. One has time to do such things when illness falls and not much else can be done but lie abed and dream about the day, three weeks hence, when the body and mind come together enough to work well again.

I last read this book ten years ago, when my publishing career was just beginning, and my 23-year marriage was ending. My meditation teacher gave it to me. It was too dense for me then, but today it resonates, especially the advice to "lean into the sharp points," to name them with tenderness and loving-kindness. Then, to embrace the not-knowing; to give up control altogether and let concepts and ideals fall apart.
For the past ten years, I have been busy working toward the way a publishing career "ought to be," telling myself that "as soon as I'm home long enough, I can write," and "if I were home more, I'd write more and better," and "I'm really not a teacher; I'm a writer," and generally railing against the travel and time away from home, without fully appreciating the many gifts it has given me.
What has it given me? Well,  for starters: A way to make a living. Good friends. Excellent teaching and speaking practice. It has honed my skills. It has taught me that I am not alone. It has given me stories to tell. It has given me great happiness, yes it has. I can see this when I don't concentrate on the deadlines for the books ahead, therefore what's not working, instead of concentrating on all that does work, and work well. 
 I have worked hard and I am a teacher. I do meaningful, useful work in the world -- it's right livelihood. I have made a difference in my own life, doing this teaching and traveling and speaking. I have given myself the gift of a rich, full life of such interesting stories, a wealth of intensely interesting people and places, and amazing teaching experiences. 

 So instead of having that absolute discipline or those strict rules about traveling and home time, or waiting for those days when I am home to pick up my professional writing career, or even denying that I am a teacher, I am going to lean into the sharp points. They have much to teach me.
 Travel is hard, the road can be grueling, sometimes there are problems, just like there are with any job. I'm going to embrace my good fortune in being able to do the work I do, even when it means I'm not writing the next book.
 I've wanted more balance in my life. This is one way to get it. To give up rigid control and the push for "ought to be like this." To embrace what IS, which is a full calendar for spring 2011.  I embrace it fully and completely, and with joy. It's exciting! I've revamped my speaking/teaching page to reflect that joy. I'm a good teacher, and I have good work to do.
 YES, the new novel needs to be finished. YES, the next novel is waiting in the wings. And YES, there are other writing projects asking for my attention. They will be finished. They will be good books. And I will do good work along the way, in schools, at conferences, learning and teaching as I go.  Am I a teacher who writes, or a writer who teaches? I am both. And I am more than that, as are we all.
Pema Chodron writes: "We carry around an image of ourselves, an image we hold in our minds. One way to describe this is 'small mind.'" She goes on to say that once we get a glimpse of our true selves, our spaciousness, we begin to expand. We don't hang on to labels and limits. We take advantage of the beauty around us. We dissolve our resistance to life. We meet it face-to-face and realize that whatever occurs, it is not the beginning or the end. It is just part of being human. We can live in the present moment, wonderful moment.

I hereby enter into an experiment: I let go of needing to control just how it all works and comes together. It IS working. It IS coming together, and it has, year after year.
The writing is going to take care of itself. It is. I'm compelled to write - it's how I figure out the world and my life. But you know... and here's the bigger epiphany: if I had had all those travel days at home over the past ten years, would I have written more?

Truth? Probably not. Likely what I would have done is more gardening, cooking, sewing, knitting, puttering, redecorating and renovating, dreaming and singing and banjo playing, time with family and friends and... yes, there would have been writing. There has been writing, all along. There will always be the writing. It's part of who I am.

I realize this is not the kind of disciplined approach one might usually take toward creating a book a year or a considered career in the arts. But you know what?  I'm awfully tired of trying to force myself into that ultra-disciplined approach. It has been slowly killing me.

I'm a slow writer. It takes me time to figure out a story, to get to know my characters, to love them and serve them well. I have to do a lot of other things along the way, to give my mind and body some space, so my undermind can work on a story.

I have beat myself to death to write faster, and it doesn't work. Every atom in me rebels.

 And here's the thing: if I quit beating myself up about my writing pace, trying to satisfy someone else's calendar and schedule, quit moping about not being home more to write, quit pushing myself beyond my endurance with the writing... I will write more, and better. If I practice loving-kindness toward myself and my way of living my life, I will realize that my life is just about perfect, as-is. It really is. I am lucky. And this makes me happy.

So I'm going to be good to myself. I'm going to chronicle what that means, right here. See you on the road this spring. See you at the desk, or from the pink chair, writing. See you in the garden. See you in the kitchen. See you with two sticks and some yarn, with a sewing machine and a pattern. See you in gatherings with family and friends.
 See you right here, meeting whatever arises with a great curiosity, as much good humor as I can muster, and a whole lot of letting go... letting go of the "ought to be" storyline, and bobbing along in the great sea of the gentle universe at play.


  1. Sweet Deb, this post did my heart good! xxoo

  2. Like Susan, this is just what I needed today. Thank you.Deb

  3. What an inspiring post. It seems like this is the sort of wisdom that can only come with a certain amount of experience.

  4. This is an inspiring, beautiful post. Thank you, Deborah!

  5. I know this feeling: "I have beat myself to death to write faster, and it doesn't work. Every atom in me rebels."

    And I so agree about this: "If I practice loving-kindness toward myself and my way of living my life, I will realize that my life is just about perfect, as-is. It really is. I am lucky."

    Loved this post.

    Love you.


  6. Hey, y'all. Thanks so much. It's good to find kindred spirits! Let's remind one another when we forget about what's important.... you inspire ME. xoxo

  7. I'm all teary over here. But I'm also cheering you in my heart of hearts. It's good to make a proclamation of WHO WE ARE, not who we should be. Rock on, Deb.

    P.S. I love all those joyous kid faces in the photos. How can you not want to revel in that?

  8. Your words and pictures cheer me...and remind me to let go when I feel grumpy and fractured, too. Hope to see you on the road this spring at SCBWI in Redmond.

  9. Hey, Sara. You know, I think we're all trying to be who we are instead of what a job/society/culture/parents/family/neighbors think we should be. It's hard!

    Let us all cheer one another in our heart of hearts! Thank you. And you are right about those shining faces. They make my heart sing. xo

  10. Thanks for expressing yourself as you have here. Lovely, and much food for thought.

  11. Thank you beyond words for sharing this part of the journey. Reading this post was as good as a session with my integrative health coach!

  12. wowee, y'all. I don't even know if you'll get my reply at this point, but I've just found some of these comments in my blogger spam folder (which I didn't even know I had). I'm restructuring the look of the blog, and voila -- there you are. Cool. Still embracing the sharp points, still keeping the faith. I hope you are, too.

  13. Thank you for this, Debbie! I went through a similar epiphany this year, trying not to beat myself up. Wishing you happiness and peace as well.

  14. Thank you for this, Debbie! I went through a similar epiphany this year, trying not to beat myself up. Wishing you happiness and peace as well.


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