Monday, December 27, 2010

The Untethered Soul

I was planning to write about something else today then lunch with a friend derailed that plan and led me back to The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer.

This book is among my favorites (indeed, I may head right back into another read of it once I finish the work that has piled up on my afternoon).

The essential message is that in life we build up defenses which rear up at any sign of danger. Better than letting them do so is consciously staying open instead. We don’t disregard the potential risks but rather accept that they might exist without assuming that they do.

Earlier, I was at lunch, with a girlfriend, discussing relationships/men. Hers, but once you start that conversation it’s yours as well (even if unstated). And relationships with men don’t just include “relationships” but also fathers, sons, brothers and friends. I’ll maintain that men operate slightly differently (and think differently) forever; and I also work in a male dominated industry so I spend a lot of time with men. Anyone want to disagree?

I told her to read the book. Don’t shut down, pre-suppose, try to control, second guess, assume, etc. And the beauty of the book is that it is about life, not men. We should stick to those rules when we can (and it can be so hard!) in all aspects of our worlds.

And then I started talking about the universal themes. How certain narratives, characteristics, fears and situations repeat. We can’t fight life. So, so hard for me (a control freak) to admit. Yet much as I try to predict and script my life in advance, as a novelist, I still turn back to The Untethered Soul and try to just stay open to whatever may happen. I’m never disappointed because my control usually loses to the unpredictability of life and of people. God bless.

Picture from Ken Rutkowski

Saturday, December 18, 2010


As we come to the end of a year I turn philosophical. New Years is my favorite holiday. For me, it symbolizes a time to reflect on what you’ve done and learned over the past year. Each year my resolution is the same: to do slightly better (I don’t seem capable of large change; like many individuals incremental change is a more realistic goal).

What I’ve been reflecting on this morning is how hard some of push ourselves. Yet no one can ever reach that stage of being flawless or perfect.

In writing a novel a flawless or perfect character would be boring and readers would have a difficult time connecting. Flawlessness, ultimately, is boring. Unapproachable, and unsympathetic. Rather, when learning to write you are instructed to provide small, quirky and distinguishing characteristics …. and flaws. At its worst, this direction reads artificial. We’ve all gotten lost in writing class novels; so full of cute details that a narrative never gels. Vladimir Nabokov, more masterful than most of us, is able to distinguish Pnin, a seemingly undistinguished man. Nabokov subtly builds a world around this professor who initially seems so uninteresting and sadly comical. I read the book over twenty years ago yet it sticks with me, as does the touching character who becomes more (with less) as the novel unfolds. Indeed, even Nabokov’s more famous Humbert Humbert is drawn more by his obsession than his character. The flaws stick with us.

My point? Subtly; not overkill. Accepting imperfection; no, rather embracing it. Each flaw can endear someone as flawless, in its coldness and unapproachably, never can. Why do so many of us thus still aim for perfection (and in our worst manifestation punish ourselves for not achieving it).

I pushed myself too hard this year. When I do that some things – important or not – fall by the weigh side. Perhaps this year my resolution will not be to do slightly better but rather to accept when I don’t do better. To truly accept myself.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Running errands today I almost got into two accidents in about a minute. In the first, a woman driver apparently decided that she couldn't wait for a break in traffic to pull out of her spot and had to exit immediately into traffic. I almost hit her (but needed a spot and I got that).

As I was reversing in to the spot a man walked by my car, then between my car and his, which was right behind me. I saw him jump (rear view mirror) when he realized that I was still reversing in. Who steps behind a car as it's already backing up and MOVING?

I'm writing about these two close calls because they play on a theme I've been pondering and one that many authors explore. We, in certain parts of this mostly stable country, expect things to work for us. We've been relatively safe, most of the time. How do people handle it when things don't work out; as sometimes they can't?

Where did we get this idea that life is safe such that we can explore - in literature - that it isn't? Is it a purely American in this day and age concept?

So I'll return to a book recommended by a dear friend ... Point Of No Return. Published first in 1947 it pulls us back into the world that preceded our own. The narrator works hard to create a better life then that of, as it turns out, his peers. He makes conscience choices, not expecting an end result, then returns to his home town (inadvertently) to contrast his own fate with those he knew. His is better.

And this narrative really is my chosen universal story, even more so than that of life surprising us. How much do we control our own fate and can we understand it even with the distance of time passing?

Both themes recur which is why authors like them so much. In our own lives, as opposed to the world of a book, we are left with the haunting repercussions.

I've started revisiting Captive's sequel again. I'd wanted to write something else first but was persuaded otherwise. Want to bet you might see one or both of these familiar narratives when I'm done?

I added the tree for the holidays. Slick pictures you can buy on your own.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The burdens we don’t own but still carry

Last night someone read me the Buddhist story about two monks crossing a river. One, the older one, carries a nasty woman across to save her dress. Hours later, the younger one asks why the other monk did so when she was so mean and unappreciative. The answer? “I put her down hours ago why are you still carrying her?”

This week I let down a burden that I’d been trying to shoulder but didn’t belong to me. You can’t carry other people’s burdens. Most often, they are far from appreciative when you try (even if you can miraculously help). Sometimes I need to stand back and let someone else jump off a cliff (they may have a parachute).

A finally self admitted control freak (sort of) I don’t like to admit that I can’t do or fix something. And I’m learning (slowly) to let go of that concept. The truth is that every one of us has limitations.

So this week I’ve let go of a burden that wasn’t my own. I feel so much lighter; my body had been tightening up and I wasn’t sleeping. Both symptoms (of stress) lifted as I yielded to failure (on this issue). I’m so much happier!

I keep trying to be a better person. Once and a while I succeed. On this one I’m proud. I could exlore the issue further but think I've done enough introspection for today (I only handle it in bits and pieces).

And, the pie? I made it!

Sunday, December 5, 2010


I always have so much to say/write sometimes I don't know what to say/write.

Today I resolved the last barrier to writing the Captive sequel. Odd, in that I already have about a hundred pages written. But that draft was forced (an external deadline that killed the draft) and I've been trying to unriddle it ever since.

A walk on the beach with a neighbor I met a week or so ago (we run into each other on morning jogs). An email exchange with a friend of a friend that read the book.

Commitment has never been my strong point; I can sometimes do it. I do commit. But doing so isn't a natural leap. And, the crux of the conversation came down to owning your life and choices; accepting that there is no way out and that you've made mistakes. Self acceptance is the central point in that if you can't accept your own role in the life you create you can't fully commit to what's around you.

Why are we our own out? Because we want to be.

So, I now need to decide who commits to what in the sequel. And only by committing can you fully engage (the rest is escape). Did my characters commit in Captive? What held them prisoner? Obligation or a true commitment? Can you escape those ties?

My biggest commitment is to my children and they bring me the greatest joy I've known in life. I committed to this book; what a lot of work - but I believe in it.

What to do? I'll have to write it all out.

The tree? A surprise for my kids. One commitment I made this weekend; to their happiness and pleasure.

Happy Sunday.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Today passed as if in a dream

My life has been such a hodgepodge lately. Good, bad, busy, always busy. I keep learning...often more than I want to learn.

Thoughts for the evening?

1. My son has a job, at sevem, getting payed to plow fields online
2. People surprise you; on the upside and the down
3. I like a lot of what I do; I don't like this economy
4. December is shaping up to be another interesting month
5. Maha keeps me sane and balanced
6. Apple (computer) really is a better company
7. No, I haven't seen enough movies lately
8. I do have a book recommendation every few days or so

So that is my mood of the moment