The Stories We Tell

20150421_193254I have so many things I want to write about, including spring cleaning. I am stubbornly waiting until the weather actually turns spring-like so that I can open the windows and actually call it spring cleaning. Today we are due to get some hail, (yes, hail!)so I continue to walk across my sticky kitchen floor and watch the dust balls grow.

I also want to write about the time I wrote an article on assignment for a magazine. It was about a vision quest in suburbia. Talk about an oxymoron. I remembered the assignment while driving home from writing group last week, after discussing freelance writing. Oh, and there was that, I thought. I’d forgotten about it. And now I want to write about it because it was so bizarre that I have to dust it off and churn the experience into a new story.

And I want to write about writer’s block and how Julia Cameron, author of the Artist’s Way, rescues many writers from this misery. She reminds us, when words become as elusive as water in the dessert, to not call it laziness. Call it fear.

Thank you, Julia Cameron, for reminding us of this when we are blocked. We are not losers! she is telling us.  We are cowards. Believe it or not, this really does help.

I want to write about these things and more, and I will, but I am currently preoccupied with the Moth open mic story telling. I first wrote about my Moth Story Slam adventure in an earlier post here:

Happily, I sold my winning Moth story to an online magazine and am now working on lengthening it a bit, at the editor’s request. They will own exclusive rights for six months, and after that  I can do what I want with it-submit to other publications, blog, etc.

I am still waiting on the date for the Moth Grand Slam where I will compete with ten other story tellers. I think it will be over the summer and I can hardly wait!

In the meantime, I plan to perform again this week at another story slam just for practice, so I am preparing for that, right down to picking out my mothfit

A mothfit is what I now call the outfit I wear to these things.  A small detail, I know, but I reason that it requires at least a little thought.  It should be authentic, and not pretentious. Comfortable, but not frumpy.  Chic, but not shabby.

So after this week, with the story revisions and the Moth Story Slam behind me , I will be free to focus on other writing again.

And it would be great if this coincided with spring making her grand entrance.  Because for me, bogged down by winter’s layers- of clothing, cold, and grime- are dichotomous with writing freely and moving forward, lightly.

Here in New England, we are going to appreciate spring like a blocked writer appreciates fresh words.

When that time comes, I will throw open my windows. I will wipe away any dirt and excess, and clear the way for the sunshine and the muse to come through, light and warming. Because this simplifying thing, it really does work.

Minus the mind clutter, we are brilliant

businessman-clear-junk-his-head-31524952I think to some extent, we are all addicted to thinking. It’s such an acceptable affliction. Excessive thinking is so common. Most of us are doing it, and no one’s likely to come at us with an intervention. We are free to think our lives away.

Thoughts are magnetic, and can act like thieves, pulling our consciousness away, taking us further and further out of the present moment. Overthinking can cause anxiety, stress, and judgement. clear-your-mind-black-female-profile-silhouette-woman-cleaning-cobweb-black-vector-silhouette-no-white-48536244

But here’s the most enticing reason to quiet the mind clutter:



I love this word.

I love the concept of it. Bisociation is the best thing ever.


Here is Webster’s definition of BISOCIATION:  the simultaneous mental association of an idea or object with two fields ordinarily not regarded as related.

The pun is the simplest form of bisociation. Puns are fun. I love them. But bisociation is so much more than that.

Bisociation leads to serendipitous discoveries in science (think Newton’s theory of gravitation that was inspired by the falling apple), engineering, art, and literature. Literature! How novel! (did you catch that pun?)

Bisociation can also solve an ordinary problem or spark a novel idea in any area of life, even the most ordinary. It allows us access to ideas and answers to problems and inspirations that just aren’t available to our rigid, overthinking brains.

Ideas become available when we toss the mind clutter, and get mindful, and still. After struggling with something, if we completely disengage from what we are trying to solve, we stand a better chance of solving it.

In other words, when our conscious mind just shuts the heck up, we may finally hear the whisper or the jolt of an idea from the subconscious mind. And that is brilliant. Because we are brilliant. Or at least we have access to brilliance.

Ironic, isn’t it? When we finally stop trying to figure something out, we get our answer.

Bisociation seems to happen out of the blue, often triggered by something unrelated to the issue we are solving. So it is in our own best interest to let go, and do something that brings us into the present moment, whatever that is for us.

The subconscious mind has so much more to draw on than our rigid, chattering, conscious minds. So how do we access it? How do we access mindfulness? How do you?


Young children are naturally mindful all the time. They live in the moment. But as we get older, at least for me, it takes more concerted effort to be mindful. Often it’s when we’re engaged in a favorite pastime. Meditation, yoga, journaling, jogging, walking, dancing and other forms of exercise can induce mindfulness. So can knitting, gardening, or any repetitive task that engages the mind just barely. A window opens to the subconscious and there’s no telling what bright idea might come through.

Any form of self-care, the more the better, will clear the way for this inspiration. De-cluttering your environment helps clear the head as well. If you don’t believe me, just go clean out a closet and see what happens.

Ideally, we’d be so good at being mindful that we wouldn’t need anything to get us there.  I’m not. I can get so lost in my head that I trip over what is right in front of me. I depend on certain things, like yoga, to pull me back into the present. So perhaps I’ve traded an addiction to thinking to an addiction to yoga, but I think it’s a healthy swap so I’m keeping it.

When I’m mindful, my writing flows so much better. And when I’m not, I am just thinking about it too much which makes it harder to do it.

So here’s to all the peaceful and fun things we do that get us back into the present moment. Here’s to letting go of the struggle, and to all the brilliance that is ours when we do.

It takes a village idiot…

stock-illustration-25264645-diversity-tree-hands-illustrationI like that my kids go to a diverse college, one that seems to represent the real world as much as a college can. They may choose to spend a lot of their time with people who are a lot like themselves in values or views or interests, but they also have friends, acquaintances, and every day exposure to those who differ in everything from religion to politics, birth countries,  socioeconomic class, and of course, ideas. They encounter the carefree, the hardworking, the entitled, the entrepreneur, the liberal, conservative and everything in between. There is the genius, the artist, the geek and the environmentalist. Kids who want to change the world and those who don’t know how to change a set of sheets.

There are some brilliant professors and some overworked teaching assistants, some lazy students and driven go- getters. This is a big school and like the real world, whatever you look for, you will likely find.

Including jackasses.

Generally, I don’t like to focus what I don’t like, but sometimes it takes writing it down in order to just let it go.

stock-illustration-26038210-car-accident-at-the-pathway-going-to-farmMy two daughters had the car that they share vandalized. Now technically, this is still my husband’s car since he bought it used, in good condition, put a lot of love and care into it to make it better still, and handed it off to our daughters to use at college. In fact, he had just put four new tires on it, a water pump and battery and did some front end work. It was the car our graduating daughter would be launched into the world with.

Then in the dark of night, on campus, possibly as an April Fools celebration, someone decided it would be amusing to stomp on cars  in the large parking lot, and this particular car was totaled. Large footprints on the rooftop, which is now caved in, multiple scratches and dents all over the car, a damaged hood. It went from being a nice car to a wrangled mess. Totaled.

I assume the perpetrator was not alone (how much fun would be without your buddies laughing along with you?) I am also assuming he was not sober. (I say he based on the size of the footprints; of course I could be wrong, but I’m going to use the male pronoun here).

Let me just say that I do have this in perspective. It’s just a car. No one was hurt. Everyone is alive and well and no one’s life has been altered, not even close.  It was just a senseless, random act of destruction. And if there was other damage that night, those victims-of-vandalism will recover as well. I am looking on the bright side here. We’re talking cars, not people. Vandalism, not assault.

Having said that, I want to indulge in a vent. It peeves me when parents raise delinquents without realizing it. Or they realize it but don’t take action to correct it.

Parenting can be difficult. I get that. I also get that things happen beyond our control. Biology and circumstances and a million other things can conspire to make raising a child very challenging. Many parents are struggling to raise happy and decent kids when the tide is against them. Add to that the fact that we all make mistakes. And our kids make mistakes.

Things can go wrong. I have empathy for this. I really do. I also understand that decent kids can do dumb things in college and still grow up to be good and highly functioning adults.

But when kids blatantly do bad things to other people, you’ve lost me. stock-illustration-8895909-fast-carNow I know deep down this Car- Stomping-Delinquent has lost touch with his worth. He sees himself as someone who destroys others’ property for kicks. And so he is. Or maybe he was so drunk that he doesn’t remember the incident, in which case he sees himself as someone who drinks to oblivion. And so he is that.

Did his parents think shipping him off to college would solve the problem? Or just solve the problem of getting him out of their house? I don’t really think that any amount of academics will correct his character. Or his substance abuse. Or his acting out. Or whatever this is. College is an expensive way to cross your fingers and hope your kid will grow up and out of their dysfunction.

Yes, I know it takes a village to raise a child.  But unless utterly incapable, parents are the first and most consequential part of that village. Yup, that’s right, I’m blaming the parents. They brought a person into the world and it was their job to recognize how things were going. And to correct things along the way if need be. Sure, he’s no longer a minor and ultimately responsible for his own behavior. He’s society’s problem now. Good luck to the village.

My kids were taken aback by the vandalism. It was an unfortunate and unfair event. Sometimes that happens in life. Sure it was inconvenient to stop in the middle of a full day of classes to fill out a police report. And take photos to send their father. Yup, here it is, Dad. This is what your project looks like now, after probably four minutes of someone’s intoxicated fun.

He’s over it now as well. Our insurance will even cover the cost of the damage. But somewhere out there is a lost kid, without a consequence (he wasn’t caught). Perhaps the best hope for him is that he is caught after his next offense, or the next or the next, and the consequence is severe enough to force change. I don’t know.

I think kids generally live up to what is expected of them: decency, effort, play nice with others. Contribute to society or at least do no harm.

The village is trying, it really is. Parents have got to do their part. Let’s all do our part to help kids know their worth and reach their potential, because this crazy, wonderful world we live in needs a lot of things, but another village idiot is not one of them.