Advice From a Friend

Awww, just get over yourself.

Yep, that’s what he said, nicely, but to the point. Steve Watkins, author and yoga teacher happens to live in my town. I met him a few months ago at a reading/musical event, and I asked if he’d be willing to teach a class at my studio.

Yes, he said. And–wow, we’re doing it.

Steve is not only a great writer (I’ve read his book of short stories –My Chaos Theory- and I’m falling in love with Dewey right now). he’s also a down-to-earth really nice guy. As we chatted about the class, relationships, and writing, he urged me to send some of my poetry to a local literary journal.

I hesitated, saying I wasn’t sure I wanted to be so public and on display (which is kind of stupid since I write here so often). And that’s when he said, smiling: Get over yourself.

I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

Seth Godin talks about not only getting to do the good parts of anything:

You don’t get to just do the good parts. Of course. In fact, you probably wouldn’t have chosen this path if it was guaranteed to work every time.

The implication of this might surprise you, though: when the tough parts come along, the rejection and the slog and the unfair bad breaks, it makes sense to welcome them. Instead of cursing or fearing the down moments, understand that they mean you’ve chosen reality, not some unsustainable fantasy. It means that you’re doing worthwhile, difficult work, not merely amusing yourself.

Facing comments about my writing, feeling the sting of rejection, these aren’t the parts of writing I look forward to. I don’t write to become well known. I do write because I love telling stories with words. So I can either keep them all contained in my new MacBook Pro, or I can send them out to the world and hope they find, as I’ve said before, “an audience of one.”

Steve offered to take a look at three of my recent poems, and he sent back solid suggestions and ways for me to rethink them. What a gift.

The very thing you’re seeking only exists because of the whole. We can’t deny the difficult parts, we have no choice but to embrace them.~Seth Godin


“Writing is not like dancing or modeling; it’s not something where, if you missed it by age 19, you’re finished. It’s never too late. Your writing will only get better as you get older and wiser. If you write something beautiful and important, and the right person somehow discovers it, they will clear room for you on the bookshelves of the world—at any age. At least try.”
-Elizabeth Gilbert

via Scribbled Revisions

On the Green

We climbed out of the car, dad leaning on the side as he adjusted his legs. His unsteadiness had worsened, but I didn’t want to hover.

The putting green was in name only. It had turned in late August to a field of dry stalks, bare splotches, hardly a place I’d imagined to share an afternoon with him.

I’d asked  him earlier if he would teach me to hit a golf ball, a game he played regularly before. Before the cancer. Before the strokes.

“Do you know why we’re here?” I asked.

He shook his head. “Not really.”

I tried to decide which hurt more, losing dad minute by minute or knowing eventually he’d be gone.

Fifteen years earlier, the doom and gloom doctors had given him a three-percent chance of survival. He’d made it 15 years, though not without lots of intervention, many hospital visits, and my mother–a woman who would not let him die.

“Come on, I’ll try,” I said, reaching for a 20-year old golf putter. Not that I cared about golf. It had seemed, in the moment, a way to connect to an easier time with him.

As I hit ball after ball, he’d watch and then say, “good job,” as the ball veered off to the woods or I’d miss it completely.

Twenty minutes later, his already wobbly legs began to curve outward even more. Arthritis had made a space for a basketball between his knees, and I knew he was tired.

Later, he rested in the yard, staring at familiar plantings his mother had grown years before.

“So, what did you and Susie do?” Mom asked, bringing him a cup of coffee.


“Susie,” he said, his eyes betraying him. “What did we do?”

We shared a moment, dad. We shared a moment.

Uh, hmmmm, mmmmm…..

I pull the noodles from the cabinet, realizing I have forgotten to buy the sauce. I pass a friend on the street I haven’t seen for two or three years, her name lost. I repeat an anecdote I’ve used before-perhaps twice.

This slow creeping of forgetfulness terrifies me, almost more than coming down with a serious illness. After all, what can you do but forget?

Often, my mother’s memory issues make me even more anxious about mine. I see my future. Yet, she handles this loss so gracefully.

“Oh you know I forget things these days,” she says. I, on the other hand, beat myself up as if it’s a personal flaw, and to make things worse, anxiety contributes to memory loss, too.

Our brains are funny things, aren’t they? We remember our favorite childhood book, forget where we put the keys to the car, and ruminate over issues over which we have no control. Environment, trauma, and mood all contribute to how much we remember and how we process information.

One interesting fact-much of what we attribute to memory loss is really a lack of paying attention. As we age, multi-tasking and/or over stimulus means much of this flows in and out, never really embedding itself.

Advice? I plan to continue relaxation techniques, reading, and trying to sleep well. Also, keeping a daily journal helps. Giving up social media and spending more time outside are on my list.  And, hey, there’s always this:

“The advantage of a bad memory is that one enjoys several times the same good things for the first time.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

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