Archive for December, 2010|Monthly archive page

The Words

Hiding somewhere in this fluff is the thing I want.
Somewhere in this pile of not-quite-right and
Almost and nearly-had-it-there
Is what I’m looking for.
I just haven’t found it yet.

Mushy words, breezy words,
Slanty-wise, wordy-word words,
Words of confusion, searching,
Wrong turns, blind alleys
(Overused cliches)
And all the crowds of everyday,
Every-man, every-woman,
Ordinary, unassuming,
Obstinate and utterly unhelpful words
Are obscuring the thing I want:
The Words.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against
All of the words lying around here;
I’ve used a lot of ’em before and will again.
But today they’re making me dig,
Making me work, making me feel my way
Inch by inch, syllable by syllable
Toward the thing
The thing that the right words will lift into life.

What is the thing?
I don’t know yet.
I will know it when my words
Strike the right sound, when
The thing that feels like truth
Reverberates to the bottom of me.
I must keep honing these words,
Cutting away the false,
Because the right words
In the right time
And the right way, to me
Are joy.

Dance party

Today’s story has an old and familiar beginning for me; I’ve been feeling tense and anxious about my performance in various areas, something which as usual has crept up on me over a period of time, and which I have difficulty controlling or shrugging off once it sets in.  I’ve got my ideas about why it’s here, but those will keep for another day.

One of the things I’ve been hard on myself about lately is my faltering practice of taiji, I have not been spending time working on my forms or movements outside of class, which is pretty much essential to develop the skills.  Two hours a week of practice isn’t going to go very far toward mastery, if that’s my goal, and I’m not even sure yet if it is (yeah, unclarity about goals is one of the things that makes it difficult to practice — something else I’m setting aside for now).  I was reminded the other day about something I heard in my early days of taiji but had forgotten: the Chinese expression for practicing or performing taiji isn’t actually “practice” or “perform,” but “play.”  They will “play taiji.”  I got stuck on that idea, because “play” doesn’t come into my usual mindset about learning this physical art.  It used to be more fun; now it’s become rather tense-making, because I have this feeling (like so many other things) that it’s about getting good and proving myself through performance, and that brings in a corollary uncertainty about whether or not I can even manage to do that.  No wonder I haven’t been practicing.

This morning I was musing about this, and then thought about my nephew, who is not quite two years old and is the sweetest, smileyest smiley boy I know.  One of the institutions which has developed at my brother’s house is that Smiley Boy will ask for his parents to put on some music, and then will dance with crazy, joyous abandon, singing if he feels like it and it’s a song that he knows (and he very definitely has his favorite songs, both little-people songs and big-people songs that his mom and dad listen to).  He is great fun to watch, but if you are ever privileged to be a guest in my brother and sister-in-law’s home when Smiley Boy decides to have a dance party, you will not be permitted to be a wallflower:  Smiley Boy will make sure you dance too.  The last time I visited Smiley Boy’s family for an evening, he fetched a stuffed Tigger out of his playroom, handed him to me, and went on dancing.  If I stopped moving, Smiley Boy would pause and give me a “what do you think you’re doing?” look; if I put Tigger down, I’d get the same look until I picked Tigger back up again.  Everybody dances when Smiley Boy dances, and in spite of themselves, everyone has fun.

So I thought about Smiley Boy this morning, and I remembered my iPod had stopped last night at a very appropriate song when I reached my apartment and got out of my car, and so I plugged in my speakers and had my own very small dance party, in Smiley Boy’s honor and because I need to loosen up sometimes, I need to do silly things before serious things strangle the life out of me, and I forget that.  I am often too serious, and life can’t be all seriousness.  So I danced.  I missed Smiley Boy’s company (and can he ever cut a rug, let me tell you), but even on her own, Aunt Crispy needs to learn to dance.

Inside job

I’ve been avoiding writing for a good while. Partly because I lost the habit, but mostly because I have been unsure how to say the thing that needs saying. Maybe even a little bit sheepish, now and then, that it is the thing that needs saying.

When last I was writing, I was starting to think big ideas about change and moving forward and how everything was going to be different and better. I was going to start moving in new directions, doing new work, going to start becoming someone — a new me, different me, better me. I thought, for a while, that I had things figured out, how the next patch of my life needed to go. I was going to go to school, become a for-real writer, aim for a new career, all kinds of stuff.

And then I got stuck, and then I fell into a really terrible depressive patch, and then crawled out of it, and then walked on. All of my fervor for what I thought I was going to do, gone and done. Mainly forgotten, except as a stumbling block for my writing-self, because I felt like I needed to explain the dramatic-looking change of heart.

The thing is, I’m realizing that the brand-new-me that I was hoping for, was really me trying to run from the hard parts of the same-old-me, the hurtful bits of the situations I’m in now, and to a large extent that I create myself. If I went running now toward a brand-new-life, I’d just be carrying the same-old-baggage along. I was looking for change by situational means, when what I really need is internal change, fundamental change, if I want to have a brand-new-me. No way to get there fast or easily. And no time like the present to start.

I read an article recently that, among other things, said people often want to bail out of hard situations fast, whereas only by sticking with them can we draw out their lessons and grow. The impulse to run is understandable; of course no one wants to sit in the midst of pain and learn from it. But it’s also undeniable that the painful and hard parts of life are the ones that change us most, or carry the most potential for change. Comfort isn’t really a good teacher, much as we want to have it.

It’s not time for me to make big external changes. What I want to do most now, having spent a lot of hard time in thought and prayer, is to work on the inside things, my own damaged places, the parts of my own heart and spirit that hold me back from what I want in life and from the good that I may do for other people. Primarily, I want to learn a greater regard and kindness toward my own self, to be able to leave behind the crippling self-doubt and judgement that I have carried around for my entire life, as long as I can remember. I am so quick to look for ways to offer other people the benefit of the doubt, but so fast to judge myself harshly and condemn perceived faults, even the smallest ones. I’m tired of it; I’m tired of wasting so much energy on hating myself, rather than enjoying life and doing good for other people. I want to learn how to be kind to myself, dare I say even to love myself, and so to have more to offer the world, and to be able to offer it.

So the story I’ve got to tell over the next year is going to be a different one than I was expecting, and I don’t know what I’ll have to write about, or how much of it will be seen. But it’s what I want to do and what I need: a self-declared Year of Kindness, toward me and other people both, but especially toward me, as selfish as that looks to write. That’s the thing I want most to change by this time next year, no matter what the external circumstances look like.