A New Year, A New Path

It’s February, a little late for a year in review but here it goes.  You ready for a long one? A big year for this kid, it began halfway through 2009 in July.  I don’t know what sparked this change, but it’s been one hell of a great ride.  I decided it was time to give writing a go, see where it would take me.  From there everything else fell into unexpected but interesting places that then pulled me down a new path of understanding and growth.  Regardless of where this will all lead I know this to be true: no regrets.  The adventure is far more valuable than any achieved goal. Without hesitation or regard for personal pride, I dove in head first knowing I would make mistakes and embarrass myself from time to time.  What is life without losing a little face now and again?  I’d much rather try and fail, face plant in the muck, than do nothing.  Temper this with what a wise guy in a red snowlflaked sweater (said to make him look like Charlie Brown) recently said.  He commented that we shouldn’t fling ourselves to the ground for the mere purpose of obtaining the self-gratification found in picking ourselves up again.  Fall when you must, but don’t trip yourself. So here is what I spent the last half of my 2009 doing… Enrolled in a three-part creative non-fiction workshop and submitted my work without apology or qualification.  It sounds easy enough, but it takes some mental filtering to generate writing outside of your training/area of expertise without saying, “Well this piece is still really rough” or “I usually write analytical stuff but here’s a creative piece.”  If it’s crap, tell me so.  If it’s good, tell me so.  Pull no punches and I’ll give you no excuses.Made a decent go of the first draft.  I’m not there yet but I am

435 pages of their multi-colored records on top of the two years of mine

beginning to see the edges form around it.  Importantly, I got my hands on all the records I needed, two years worth in 435 pages.  Yes, all the complaining of bureaucracy is behind me and in the end?  An unexpected modicum of closure.Single-handedly rolled myself into the madness of LitQuake, without friend or guide, and had an absolute blast.  It was ten days of ping-ponging between San Francisco and the Peninsula, BARTing at all hours and finding my way between venues.  Just a tip, when getting off in the Mission at night, alone, make sure you head in the right direction…towards the lights and people.  Do not head down a street with severely neglected streetlamps just because you are determined to be right about which way the Roxie is.  Determination does not actually affect geography.  My favorite event and perhaps the most difficult to get to in the pummeling rain?  I navigated through the river formerly known as  I-880 to see Mary Roach, who got my dendrites crackling about scientific writing.Went to every reading I found even remotely interesting or related to my project.  Many thanks to Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park for memorable experiences and for stocking every book I might ever want to read.  Also, took a long drive to see another author which was well worth the experience and laughter even if I did make a moronic comment.  Yes, that is mud on my face, I wear it proudly.Went to my first poetry slam.  A poet I am not, though new experiences and entertainment I do seek.  This is where the dominos start to line up.  LitQuake screened “Drums Inside Your Chest” featuring a number of utterly enthralling contemporary poets.  This led me to Santa Cruz to see one of them, Buddy Wakefield, which will then lead to the next item.Applied for and will soon attend Vipassana, soon as in less than 72 hours.  After reading “Live for a Living,” I decided I had to see what this was all about.  Ten days of mediation observed in noble silence, sans: cell phone, computer, books, writing materials and nearly everything else you can imagine that contributes to the Total Noise we exist in.  Me shut my mouth for ten days?  If you’ve read the aforementioned book, you’ll understand that it will be quite a feat to quell the laughter in my head if they serve vegetarian tacos on one of those days.  Noble silence, indeed.Applied for a new position.  While I can’t imagine leaving the job I love so much, the lab in which there isn’t a single person I don’t respect and enjoy working with, I’m finding it necessary to think long-term.  I don’t precisely fit into this new position, but I’ve been told that given other strengths, it just might work.  We’ll see.Began taking an interest in the delicate balance of my life.  Make no mistake, there is enormous power in making small behavioral adjustments that ripple through and effect great change on your life experience.  It has brought immense joy into my life to find my own way through struggles and responsibilities without the things I once leaned upon.  This is not to say that I have achieved that perfect balance.  However, the falls I’ve taken to either side have kept me perched upon that high wire that much longer the next time I climb atop it.  Did that meandering make sense to anyone? So that’s what I’ve done, now for what I have planned… Wrap this project.  Others are floating about in my skull nagging to be worked on.  Stubbornly, I am refusing to divide my attention until this one is more developed.  I’m at that murky place where you find yourself at war with scope and themes and what belongs.  At some point you just have to keep writing knowing that the majority of it will (as it should) succumb to the slash and burn of editing.  You have to continue pushing outwards until you find yourself with a beginning and an end that makes sense with the middle.Complete Vipassana.  If I don’t complete it the first time, I’m going back until I do.  Stubbornness again? The advice I received from an “old student” was simple: STAY.  That’s what I intend to do unless, say, I have a psychotic break.  Then I might just have to try again.Submit more, post more.  I think this one is on all of our lists.Do more, give more.  I waste far too many of these opportunities, the crush of everyday life is no excuse for not doing my part.Gesticulate less (tired of all those ‘mores’) when barreling through the tollgate, over the bridge and down the freeway.  What can I say? Bay Area driving.  Thank God we don’t have bullhorns attached to our hoods. That’s about all the wide-eyed optimism I’m going to spout for now.  Mindfully and fearlessly, that’s how I plan to attack this.  Best laid plans and all of that aside, it will be what I make of it. Cheers, Melissa

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