something like a phenomenon

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oh hey there, spring, you're back. 

it's no secret you've been hovering around for awhile, teasing us with your feverish wiles. how you usher in something soft, something that we've missed, a newness and the next. and because i accidentally let my mind wander around your orbit, i began thinking about everything again. there is always so much to consider, can i get a witness? our lives are full of simultaneity, hugeness, and an overwhelming amount of minutia.

and here in the western hemisphere the sun has gently reminded us of the moment in which all that littleness happens. yes, the cherry blossoms have been dressing the streets for weeks, their break neck beauty seducing traffic. yes, there is jasmine growing along the edges of fences and the like. but isn't it how the sky cleared and restored the light back into the day, reminding us that there is less dark, is that what breaks us down and builds us back together the most?

i have written two unsent letters to two very different people in the past week.

the first one was written out of frustration and a need to feel heard, if not understood. my fingers went wild on the keys and then when it came time to send, i froze. i slept on it and woke up the next day with less of a need to outwardly extend those feelings. i decided to just feel them for myself, and let them dissolve on their own.

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the second letter was more complicated, vulnerable, harder to articulate. the message was sincere, absolutely honest, maybe even a little too transparent; sometimes i don't know, maybe i'm doing a little too much thinking...

in any case, i spent a lot of time crafting the message, making sure that there was a purpose to each word, that the t's were crossed and the i's were dotted. in the end it when it was lost it was one part my subconscious cold feet and another fate. when saving it as a draft, i accidentally erased it instead. along with my time, hopes, and efforts, those carefully worded sentiments, vanished.

when it was without a doubt that the letter had gone into the great nowhere, i was relieved. i knew i couldn't rewrite it and ever feel the same sort of satisfaction or certainty that i had originally, not because my feelings had changed, but because that unfettered access to them had been compromised.

those lines had ascended into the ether. an outer hemisphere where things like, what you wished you had said in the moment, and lost socks go, and are never recovered.

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and so my sense of letting go was restored, like i drug that i can't possibly get enough of.

i don't wonder how i will ever say those things again, i only wonder what their worth really ever was in the first place.

i am a writer because i have spring fever.

hematoma galactica

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i didn't realize until i was heading into the shower the next morning that the middling pain i felt was coming from a huge heliotropic bruise in the center of my belly. i stood in the mirror and in the same instant i remembered how my shoulders had been earnestly painted in light blue by a woman in a black afro wig who gave me psychic reassurance about my future. i let my eyes follow the blue toward the white vine-like and sparkling design that spread to my collar bone. my hair was slightly pressed against the side of my head that i had slept on and my lips were still stained pink.  i'll be 35 in a few months and it's been awhile since i had to go around my bedroom collecting clues from the night before, the morning after; nothing important had gone missing. there were other centers of pain. i had a bruise on my knee, one on my shin, and on my left hip, the other hip, on the bone, an unfortunate location; one that reaches outward more than you would think. i could have drawn lines connecting these points, a constellation mapping one of those nights that line up ahead of you, instead of you, before the main event. a perfect little resource, like an alarm clock or a fossil.

a couple of months ago when getting married mostly felt like planning a wedding, someone asked me what i was looking forward to most in the process. without a breath i said that it was spending time with the women in my life that i love most. i had been getting lost in the details, all the facts, and what i couldn't change or dress up around or over. it was getting messy, if only beneath my own hair.

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i use being a poet as an excuse, a lot. i use it to explain how i feel when i'd rather be writing. i say that i am just being, "poety," as an act of diffusion when i can see the reflection of my own emotions getting the better of me on someone else's face. if i really could act, i don't think i would ever have to write.

i sat at the head of a long table this past saturday lined with certain key faces of women that i share my life with. i knew that this would be one of the more fortunate moments i've ever had. i was overcome. every time i tried to address the group i stumbled across my own words. i tried to tell a story about mixing up names and i mixed the names up so that they weren't mixed at all, the point getting lost in my own confusion. i think i feel that way a lot. earlier that day i had been shuttling my thoughts through the maze and was lovingly told by a dear friend to talk less and write more.

so when i tripped over something later that evening and sailed downward in my four inch heels i found myself remembering that moment slowly while so many others were let go. as i hit everything on the way down, i wished that instead of feeling the corner of the chair, the edge of the table and the floor--i could have stayed slowly in those moments that, for whatever science, seem harder to hold onto. how my slipping is bigger than my constant falling and why all those other moments that compete for center stage, can drain each space, flatten the light, and turn rooms into ruins, have ever had even temporary residency at all.

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and now that the planning has evolved past stressing, i am planted firmly in excitement for this next phase. i can't wait to take these next steps with the man i love. still, there is no shortage of material these days, and it still remains a tricky balance between writing and talking. knowing that i am less apt at the latter and not particularly gifted at holding it in, we'll see what makes it onto the page.

i am a writer because there are volumes and i don't believe in hoarding...

leapt

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there is something inherently poetic about leap year. an entire day that appears only to disappear and go unaccounted for until we've cycled through space again and again. its faithful, distant, and clockwork return reclaims unfortunate and special birthdays, filling back up that empty space on the calendar.  i've always found it hopeful, an add-on, a perk, something that returns to us, making the shortest month breathe for a bit longer until we turn the page, pay our bills again, and go further into the year. how it rests differently into the corner of the second month, and how the second month seems to have more of a crash landing than the first. janauary has shock value while february is quick and to the point. take a breath, but make it fast, while everything still happens and the light tilts toward spring, even if earlier in the week it felt like summer, and today it's cold and raining.

and i know i wasn't the only one to notice that this february had a little more bite to it, if not shark teeth. this made me consumed with finding the place where i could turn away from that feeling. my thoughts were on a loop. i wasn't myself and it was, in addition to becoming claustrophobic, boring.

since i've come up for air, i've been on a mission to do something about my own attitude, perspective, beliefs, and feelings. i've searched and searched for somewhere to hide or a place to pour out what was scratching at me.

and then i remembered leap year. what a perfect nook to tuck anything away.

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sure, there is all kinds of  trouble a phantom day can cause. its ability to fold in and out of routine has a mischievous quality, but what it lacks in continuity it makes up for in surprise.

who doesn't love a little surprise? well, if a surprise isn't your thing, what about change?

i've been searching hi and lo for a change in my bridal attitude, and i found it. i was able to name what was in my way, and now that i have, i've turned the beat around. it was a process and i couldn't have done without a few helpful pushes in the right direction, some of you know who you are...but moreover, it was a conscious choice to identify what was weighing me down, embrace it, and then let it go so as to make room for more productive feelings...dismantling the roadblock was tricky, but there is definitely a little more leap to my step.

there is still time to sign up for an exciting workshop on changing our stories. ariana of simply living coaching and i are co-hosting, there are only four spots left-- sign up here to join us!!

basically, i was my own guinea pig. i am a writer because i like to experiment...

fevercakes

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i'm blogging from bed with a cold/flu. terrible timing and all, since inception, it's only gotten worse. it started while grocery shopping. i was losing it, overwhelmed. i wanted to make soup but i was already hungry. i wanted a cupcake, but it was 10am. i cried on the way home about the largeness of wedding planning. my body was cinching my capacity for dailyness way in. since then i've managed to accomplish a few things in the haze, things i can hide inside my computer while doing. my attitude about being sick has never been healthy. i tend to push myself, or question the validity of my symptoms, usually finding myself shattered, in a rugged and avoidable collection of ailments.

actually, i'm categorically awful at being sick.  i tried to exercise twice yesterday and it took me at least the whole morning to admit to myself that i wasn't going to be able to do any good work until today, maybe. i hadn't planned on this, so it doesn't fit into my schedule.

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but mostly, i've been split by the part of me that needs a respite and the part of me that naturally goes full steam. and already, the cherry blossoms have been winking at me. they bloom two weeks each year, and i have loved them always. i hate to miss a moment of their breezy shine. it's desperate and irrational. their uneven loveliness lining the streets, anywhere, as though it is now spring, just because they've arrived. those twisted branches: dark, knotty, and then that full pink reaching into the sun.  they've always had my heart. i keep thinking the word: glorious. i want a better one. they are goddess like and hopeful, they are complicated, elusive, and slightly untrustworthy. they make everything an atrium, blushing, magical, and bright.

i am off the charts, emotionally. always grateful, but one minute defeated by what i cannot control (a fruitless effort) and another filled with certainty for what is here now and what lies ahead. meanwhile the word perspective and i are in a very fiery relationship. it's reactive, immediate, and pretty passionate. i always thought of myself as an optimistic, upbeat, and dust yourself off and go, type of person. as i hold more, i have sensed a paradigm shift with my attitude. it's heavier and thicker and i have a harder time freeing myself from my brand new go-to negative view.

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it's an act of mindfulness for me to undo. a rewriting of each story that burdens my usual enthusiasm or fearlessness with the anchors of "what if," "i can't," or, "this or that won't work." i am in the salt mines with my own panorama right now, building alternate pathways to my own beliefs. as i write this from bed on a beautiful morning, not sure if my hip is healed, how sick i am, or if my heart broke a little along the way, i am changing my story, rewriting, revisioning, and shifting perspective every moment i can wrangle myself around. i am a writer because i will always try to.

come join ariana of simply living coaching and i on march 4th for a re-writing workshop. we'll be fixing our stories up together!

it's complicated

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because valentines day has a way of excluding those who aren't being wined and dined by someone that gives them butterflies, i've always preferred to see it as a day to spread the love. if it's about anything at all, it should be about disbanding the lonely hearts club and making it about everyone important to you, not just your date.

programming note: i think i have become a temporary wedding blogger...it seems to come into focus each time i sit down to write and i just can't help myself...

and so here goes my broken record spinning: planning a wedding has brought each relationship in my life into a bright white light that hides nothing. i still love all the same people, but in some cases our relationship status is whatever, "it's complicated," is, on 10.

and if my wedding record wasn't completely on repeat already, here it goes winding around and around: i've got daddy issues, and guess what, planning a wedding hasn't solved them. in fact they have officially become the elephant in my brain.

i was never the kind of girl that, "played wedding," when i was little or made drawings of some cream puff fantasy dress or knew what song i'd dance to with my prince charming. my parents split up when i was about 11 and nothing was ever the same again. family and marriage took on a completely different shape. they both became scary, uncertain covenants, and grown-ups seemed a little less all-knowing as a result. from there i became a little more guarded and  less convinced of  fairytale endings despite the fact that in many ways i am living one now.  i always felt a little like an alien next to girlie-girls whose hair was perfect and who knew how to do their makeup just like on 90210.

and in a way, spending a little time early on envisioning my wedding could have saved me some trouble now. up until pretty recently i have been at a complete loss with the whole wedding thing. i have been blindsided by planning and pleasing. i think i can see clearly now, and my fiance and i have managed to patch together a sincere reflection of what's important to us and how we choose to celebrate that...and with each day, we get closer and closer to closest.

about ten years ago i was catering an event in the neighborhood i grew up in. after my parents split there were all kinds of interesting living arrangements.  my father, who chose to stay in the house, didn't move until i was a senior in high school. he remained there, reinventing his life, for what felt like the entire world to see.

i didn't realize until i got to the client's house that the address i has scribbled down was that of a family's that we had known in our past life, quite well, before, during, and after the storm. i braced myself as i parked around the corner. feeling the cracks in the sidewalk was surreal, let alone the familiar stairs beneath my feet as i walked through their front door. the mother of the house had a tendency to gossip and upon seeing me her face lit up. "ali!" she said, "how arrre yooooooouu?!" she searched my appearance, had i survived, she probably wondered. her insincerity was piercing, loud, dangerous. i took a deep breath and said smiling through my teeth, "great, i'm great, thanks for asking."

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i was sweating, terrified. every person i had remembered pumping me for gossip as a girl about my family were all there, lurking in every room. i was completely exposed, vulnerable, and serving them hors d'ouevres. needless to say i was mortified. i was working with a new company and with people who are now my close friends, but at the time i barely knew.

at one point the hostess approached me while standing in a group of familiar ghosts and asked me three of the most inappropriate and insensitive questions about the other three members of my immediate family i've ever been asked. i was in a cold sweat, i had been hit. my tongue was paralyzed, i could barely breathe. my colleague, and now dear friend, terry, was within earshot, completely horrified at the behavior of this woman. i backed my way out of the lion's den and terry convinced me to take a minute to re-collect in the concealed area in their backyard.

i had been called into battle, i wanted to defend my troops despite how we seemed to be fighting on different sides. i ducked into their guesthouse where we had stashed our personal belongings when we arrived to the job. i was covered in light from the glass ceiling, i could see the edges of everything around me. i called my mom and told her where i was and what just happened. she was audibly upset.  she wanted me to leave right away, and she may have even suggested that i break something on my way out. i told her i'd come right over afterwards and hung up the line. i felt a little better so i called my brother. i had to convince him to not drive right over to answer her spiteful questions in person. he was harder to get off the phone, upset and feeling very protective of me, as we said goodbye he said he'd be standing by if i changed my mind. i was starting to see a pattern, so i called my dad. he vacillated from wanting to run into her in a dark alley and then hoping, for her sake, that would never happen. he was the angriest and wanted me to know that i didn't deserve to be treated that way, that i had done nothing wrong.

i felt the light pass through my body where i was sure it was stone. i straightened my apron and held the light in. i realized that since things had fallen apart, that was the first time i had really felt like a family. like a bunch of misfits, we still had each other's backs and beneath that fractured wasteland was still something whole.

my mom is walking me down the aisle. and while i've had many years to accept certain truths about my family, there is still a little girl inside that is a little bit shocked. i realize now that while maybe the other girls were wishing on stars for the perfect dress or groom, i was wishing that things could be a little less chaotic, a little more normal, and that there was a sense of solidarity between my brother, mother, father, and i. as it was, in many ways, it was each man for himself.

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there aren't any violins playing the background, this is no sob-story, it's just my story, one that i am in the process of rewriting. despite how gravity lets these feelings sink into us, there is always a choice. i am a writer because i believe in changing your story.

i try over and over again to convince my brain to tell my heart to feel something else, to hold onto less, and to behave more. but the heart is complicated. the best i can do is take these stories and spin them. where they are scary or sad, find the beauty and safety. own each moment for what it is and be grateful to experience the full range. finding the strength, light, or laughter despite the let downs is worth all the heavy lifting.  so i'll keep pushing those shadows until they bend and disperse, back into the sun.

恭喜发财 enter the dragon

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1986 was the year of the tiger. i was nine and still remember a lot from third grade. i was desperate for my brother's breakdancing hand-me-down's and i took a big yellow school bus to and from school everyday that i caught in front of my best friend's house. i was charlie chaplin for halloween and i lived for now and laters, playing outside until it was dark, and the muppet show.

i grew up in berkeley which meant that i got to celebrate every holiday from many of the 400 races attending berkeley unified that could also be found in any given classroom. my brother, four years older than me, had the same teacher when he was in third grade, which made her stock go up considerably.

third grade was the year our entire class pulled our tiny chairs around a tv in the late morning to watch a spaceship take off another coast toward the moon.  it burst into flames while still racing through the earth's atmosphere. the ocean swallowed the debris, burying it deep into the very planet we read fairytales at night on. it was the year i grated my finger while demonstrating how to make potato latkes, and when i first remember celebrating a whole new year twice in one month.

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"gong hei fat choi!" we said to each other while making banners to stretch across the classroom in bright red paper. we used gold pens to decorate them, and took smaller pieces of red paper and folded fake money into their crease. we dutifully passed them out with wishes for good fortune and happiness in the new year.

i have chinese characters tattooed on my neck and one on my shoulder. at some point i fell in love with the beauty of the language and its storytelling.  like a house, each character contains so much. i lived in costa rica after high school on and off until i was twenty. i was back home at one point and it was raining. i emptied out my checking account, quit my job cooking at the cafe, went to the student travel agency before dropping out of school, bought a ticket back to costa rica, took the bus to telegraph ave., and had the chinese characters for, love, strength, and luck, inked into the space on my body between my mind and heart, like an oil drill.

i realize now what i may have loved most, while i have been hovering around the theme of new beginnings, start-overs and the like, it is the duality and ability to press reset so quickly on such a big machine. here we are, knee-deep in january, the year already shaping itself in its predictable and unpredictable ways, and then, just like that, enter the dragon, and we can start all over again. i am a writer because i was born the year of the snake.

hipcheck

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i would love to say that 2012, the year i am marrying the love of my life, that my business took a huge step forward, and when i met each resolution with enthusiasm and triumph, started on a high note, but i can't. the holidays nearly ate me alive, the end of 2011 got so chaotic that i found myself teetering into a place of no control, which is my kryptonite. i still managed to convince myself that i felt great about everything in theory, but i was staring down the barrel of a big and complicated push.

we went on a hike the afternoon of the 31st, our tradition, to discuss what we are excited about for the year to come and what we'd like to work on. a convergence of events had us unusually stressed, our conversation seemed less hopeful and more testy. we still rounded it off with a mutual acknowledgment of the excitement for the year ahead, and a gust of solidarity and the notion that we make our own luck, something we have decided to believe.

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on january first my fiancé and i had a lazy morning. my gut has always done a lot of the thinking for me, and i can't say that a funny feeling didn't lead me down the hallway toward the front door. he saw it first and froze. a little finch laid there at our feet in the center of our welcome mat, small and lifeless. we avoided staring into our mirroring gaze. before exchanging knowing looks, we each took a respective moment to summon a weak dismissal of what was surely a sinking feeling to us both. we share many things in common, one of which is a strong sense of superstition. what did it mean? i could see this random act burrowing a portal between us, connecting our thoughts of bad luck and the like. we never said anything.

by the 6th, his 35th birthday, it was apparent that the little bird at our door was right, this year was not going to be all fun and games. the first week had engulfed us in a series of events that turned us on our sides. heartbroken at best at the way the new year was shaping up, a pain in my right hip had crept in that i was prepared to ignore until it piqued into a body-shattering halt. something had to give.

it was as though my body was telling me to stop trying to climb this year already. that starting a whole new year wasn't as simple as replacing a calendar. we went to the doctor and they asked me if i needed a note for work; i should be resting, or the injury could get more serious. my doctor had very understanding eyes, i think we were similar in age, so i figured she understood when i told her that a note to me is what i really needed. that i could in fact really use a note written by someone else to tell me to slow down, to heal, to breathe, that the first week, day, minute, whatever, of a new year is just like any other week, day, or minute...she laughed like she knew what i meant and i took a few days off to focus on healing.

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when i lived in sf i worked as a cocktail waitress in a very busy and popular live music venue for several years. on sold out nights i was a a fighter. i pushed and shoved my way through the crowd, i used every part of my body i could to create pathways through the wall of people drinking and dancing. often times when i was carrying a full tray above my head, an apron full of beer bottles and a six pack of beer in my other hand, i did a lot of hip-checking to get people out of my way. i had relied on my hips for years, and this time, my hip checked me.

so when we finally got to a place where we were laughing a little bit about the first week of 2012, i told a friend of ours about the bird. i was hesitant because i just couldn't bear any folklore about dead birds and new years day or anything else my imagination could conjure up. she listened as i poured out the dramatization of opening the door to a bad sign and just waited for her to respond with her interpretation like a bullet. she sat back for a moment and casually said, "oh, it was probably just that feral cat in your yard bringing you a gift." and just like that, the clouds parted and 2012 hasn't been looking so bad after all...i am writer because there is always more than one version of the story...

check engine

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it's hard to believe that the holidays are five minutes away. the lights are up, the music is drifting through, sparkles, twinkles, toys, gifts, lists, cookies, calls, cards, plans, parties, cocktails, calories, resolutions, promises, parking, payments, and my check engine light is on. no, seriously, the check engine light in my car is on. well, actually, it's been on for awhile. but, sometimes it turns off for a day or two.

i love those days... on those days i am so together, better organized, "closing deals," appropriate, relevant, coordinated, and always a few minutes early to everything. i like to think that my dashboard is giving me a break, as though my car and i have an understanding...life is just too busy this time of year for car trouble and well, my car wouldn't want to impose. or that it's just my idiot lights way of telling me to take a deep breath, that everything is going to be alright...note: i am taking cues from "idiot lights." i know, i have to know better.

and then the light comes back on.

and i think, is this some kind of metaphor? and if so, i get it, but i'd rather put it off.  so let's just say it's that blaring metaphor, and this is the universe's way of telling me to slow down and check in. i would say yes, that sounds about right, but that seems too obvious, too heavy breathery... so, what's the message?

well, lately i find myself measuring things in very realistic terms. i am spread thin these days so there is inherently less of me to pick up slack. when i am firing on all cylindars my engine is like a v-12; i am hardwired to be more efficient the busier i am, if not slightly hysterical, and all kinds of manic. so i'm all revved up now, but there is a faint whirring sound as though i'm on the stretch before the screeching hault.

i suppose that's just it, things are wrapping up for the year--and just like everyone else i am seeing if i can't squeeze a few more things in, pre-resolution, pre-holiday meltdown, or pre-flu.

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but as we tick away toward midnight i can't help but feel like i haven't done enough, given enough, learned enough, shared enough, grown enough and on and on. at best i have written this post (even if i started it last week) and told you thank you for reading this year, and i can't wait to get back in touch in 2012...

so i guess, today, i am a writer because i look at the dashboard of my car and see the words, "check engine," and that signals a million stories about speeding, working parts, mechanics, fixing, and breaking, and then getting fixed again.

and so you ask: why won't i take my car in? well, that's another story, maybe one for next year...

speakeasy: a tale of passwords

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well past the days of prohibition, we are still mired in passwords. i have them for almost everything--of course it would have been nice as i was setting them up if i had made them all the same, alas...i have come to learn that i don't usually do things the easy way...

i am confronted with that most charming part of myself, often, and recently in a guest post i wrote that was featured on the Simply Solo (read it here) blog, i revisited a time in my life where i felt like i was met with doing things the easy way in a dark alley. i made it out unscathed, living to tell the story, but the one thing is: the story is hard to tell. there is a happy ending and all, but that's not why it's hard to tell. it's complicated, personal, not everyone wins, not everything goes drifting off into the sunset, and it wraps around so many lives that it's overwhelming to organize in any truly satisfying way. but it is cathartic to be brave and write it anyway, despite the audience, despite my own fears, and  despite the heavy lifting. writing can be a full disclosure practice. not every word is easy on your fingers. we are afraid of revealing, afraid of what our/the audience will think, what will they say? will i be understood, is it ok to write this or that?

we are never perfect. that's hard to swallow, even as ridiculous as it is to think we could be, we aren't, ever. or perhaps i should speak for myself. i am so not perfect. at a lunch meeting last week i got out of my chair as we were saying goodbye. i had hung my oversized bag that carries too much on the back and as i got up from the table, the sudden shift of weight flung my chair backwards into another patron. he grimaced and said he wouldn't sue--i thanked him for his kindness, and then dropped my huge scarf on the ground and bumped into someone else as i was picking it up. let's just say if it were a scene in a movie it may have been sort of cute or functioned in a less obtuse way. it wasn't, it was my real life. i was meeting a new client, discussing plans for some immediate and future projects. i was friendly, professional, and articulate all the way up until that moment where i would have loved an invisible cloak or some magic glasses that could have made me disappear. basically, after the chair fiasco, i looked like a lunatic who might live out of her bag.

i guess what i am trying to say is, our behavior is always relative to someone or something else, or subject to interpretation or maybe even gravity. the way we look, how we cook, create, write, speak, think, laugh, everything has another version that may or may not be slightly better, but never perfect. and then of course, there is good old fashioned slapstick, where slamming your head into something is the perfect way to tell a joke.

and as we go careening toward the holidays things inevitably get crowded and pushy, and behavior gets even more desperate. on my way home last night i saw four car accidents, one looked serious, someone was definitely, very hurt. i can't stop thinking to myself how out of control we get this time of year. me, personally, my emotions have gone completely richter. as i grow a small business, plan a wedding, and confront the big ideas of my future, i would rather be napping. it may seem lightweight to you, but there is so much more i am not saying. and that's the thing, we speak in code, saving our passwords just for our own privacy, never revealing what our real feelings are. instead, we avoid hurting others, showing too much, saying the wrong thing, and on and on. we like to appear together, all buttoned up, "nothing to see here," that sort of thing. and while it may be more convenient, and certainly polite, is all that smoke and mirrors necessary?

meanwhile you turn on the news and the world is at war, there is tremendous suffering, and the human condition has gone digital.

but this is the thing, while never completely perfect, everything is always moving along. last week i couldn't get my mind un(Occupy-d), and still there, things keep moving despite the rate at which we must face our own dailyness, without any naps.

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i am still worried about polar bears and pakistan, i am not immune to the obsession i have with doing things right, or the fact that three of my dearest friends have moved pretty far away, how i have my own business now that needs more attention than i sometimes have to give, or the fact that i'm getting married in eight months and i've got some broken family stuff that needs fixing and i don't know where to begin. i am extremely grateful for it all. in this time of thanking, i am humbled by how fortunate i am to have all that i do, to know and love who i do, to feel as much as i do, and to have the opportunity to share all of it when i can.

going full poet

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i've got a major case of the novembers. it's not a bad thing. i am already in love with daylight savings and feel like i finally got that hour back i waited all year for. i have decided that while october could sink ships and win wars, november is like home.

full disclosure: i have a nasty habit of reading gossip magazines and watching reality TV. i blame it on my mind. that sounds like an obvious excuse but it started in graduate school. creative writing school. i was like a poetry machine. the world was just a series of fragmented thoughts, emotions, memories, observations, and theories. i don't remember being able to shut that off. i do, however, remember an US Weekly creeping in and being bright and shiny and with the similar sentence structure of no subject/verb agreement as my internal monologue, i was easily hooked. pop-culture had lent itself unto me a little balance, a long-term addiction, and some welcome distraction.

november has been colder. i like colder, or at least i like how colder makes me feel. there are traces of holidays rising into the air, i feel that in a nice and haunted way. i swear i smell cinnamon everywhere. i feel a  sense of closeness as we all seem to agree that the end of the year is coming, so much has happened, as we all look toward 2012. while we share in thoughts about what has already changed and what we hope for in the next. i am excited to see lights everywhere. i am ready to wear something sparkly. i feel like baking.

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but going full poet means that i think about polar bears and how they move like old, lonely men between sheets of ice. how there isn't enough food for them and they often are so tired that they die hungry and  alone. as much as i'd like to think about how justin beiber may have gotten a fan pregnant or beyonce having a girl, those thoughts merely go into the fold. in the middle of my dance class the other day i thought i was going to cry. it was so beautiful. there we were, all women, all different sizes, ages, and types, dancing. and for a moment--we lined that room like a poem. we were smiling and were right there and nowhere else. i have been waking up in the middle of the night and taking notes. my car stereo has a lot of interference lately. i was listening to NPR the other morning and the sound of a pakistani man who was a club owner in the 70's in karachi filled my car. i swear his name was tony toofail. he lost everything in 1977, the year i was born. his voice was cracked even without the static of my radio. he did not measure his own loss, of which he lost everything, but only of the collective loss of his country at the time. he used to drink in those days, he said. i thought i was going to have to pull my car over.

i was calling a friend the other day. i wanted to tell him about something that i have been feeling sad about. before he even picked up the line i was choked up. i was in a parking lot. he answered and told me that he had been so busy lately with work and with his swing dance classes. i have never seen him dance. i had no idea that people were still taking swing dance classes. i was laughing. he was laughing too. the world became a place where anything could happen at the exact same time as anything else and that was fine. it was funny and beautiful and complex and it was going to be winter and it will be warm and cold at the same time and the time changed and how everything will always be happening at the speed of feeling it all.

blogging is the new blabbing

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each week i (kind of) tear out my hair over what to write. i ask myself to come up with something relevant, universal to the human condition, or particular to writers. something that imparts meaning or insight into a specific skill having to do with writing or communicating through writing.  i mean, i love to write, so i get excited and nervous and i want to share. like a runner who needs those endorphins; i write for the high of it. i search through my archives hoping to find something important or beautiful or just something/anything that hasn't already been written. i'd like for my pages to act as tiny little accomplishments, providing some kind of informational medium, or at the very least, stand there looking pretty. and as each day passes and my time goes winding out of my grasp, i think how should the blog of a writer/writing coach/copywriter, function? to whom should i direct these words and for what purpose? it can be exhausting inside my head, i can assure you. all kinds of nonsense and curiosity goes folding on top of itself all day long. on more chaotic days i am certain my mind operates similarly to the image over there: messy, colorful, busy, funny, and disorganized. lack of thoughts or ideas is not what i suffer from. to the contrary, i am often challenged with wanting to pour out too much, giving it all away, and hoping that i'll find a way to thread it all back together; despite having unpacked some of what lines my interior world.

if you think about it: we all write, all the time. texting, emailing, messaging, blogging, status updating, etc. we go onto the screen as often as we go into a live conversation. we build little places within which to exchange our thoughts, business, feelings, and the parts of ourselves we can carefully tailor for public view. our words then become the anatomy of our intentions, the vehicle with which we take our message from inception to transfer.

so today, i write this so as to furnish the space in which i have built to talk writing. after all: writing is the new talking....

we who witness from a distance

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saturday night, september 10th, 2011, i sat across from dear friends, p and m, over dinner in another city. unplanned and coincidentally, we had done the same ten years earlier and spent the following morning together too. they had just begun dating and i was close friends and roommates with p, the female of the pair. m, her now husband, reminded us of how time flies and of our shared anniversary. how a decade earlier we had sat marooned in fragmented information and helplessness, the futon in the center of our living room, the only thing containing our bodies.

that old apartment drifting now, like a distant planet in another galaxy.

i thought about everything. how i had dragged that futon around with me for years. originally belonging to my brother, it started with him in oregon and eventually moved with me through apartments and breakups and replacements until finally it was left on the sidewalk in front of the last place i lived in SF. it was a back breaker. it was a thermostat. it was the site of so much, like a diary or a lake.

while the sound of the phone ringing into my pillow that morning with news of a plane going into an iconic skyline still echoes:  it was early, 6:30am. she was on the other line, another old friend whose barometer for chaos and tragedy was always somewhat alarming. she had lost someone she loved only a year earlier in a plane crash.

the phone kept ringing its way out of my dream.

"we are under attack," i was barely awake and didn't understand, couldn't have understood.

p and i had only just become proud owners of a television one month earlier and maybe three channels that were in focus and audible. the news was in sync on all three, reporting in tandem the events that would define a decade, start war(s), take lives, change lives, and hurt in a profound, enduring, and universal way.

frozen in both agony and shock while we all grappled with our individual and collective fears. how the world folded like a peice of paper bringing the edges closer to strangers and family members than ever before.

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i wanted to write. i could not write. i didn't know what to write. was it ok to write

i wanted to do something significant, say something honest or important. each room i was in was breathless with an insurmountable sense of emotion, the kind that is fractured into a kaleidoscope of tiny flecks of light, impossible to distinguish from your own body, or was it just dust rising through a sunlit room. as the world went to ash on a screen over and over again on the edge of another coast, i wasn't sure if i was whispering or screaming, holding on or letting go.

and i still couldn't write.

finding the way into documenting is the responsibility of a writer. sometimes we don't know when to tell, or how, or what, or to whom we can. we see, we feel, we interpret, and at best it's what we can make out of the shadows that brings our words into the light.

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if you've been paying attention, last month was declared to have been particularly busy, this was on account of a convergence of events.

and then something special happened...

enter exciting news: i got engaged!

bliss, love, order, chaos, commitment, family, future, planning, life, stress, harmony, pressure, transition, fear, balance, romance, finance, only brush up against the constellation of words to describe what represents each moment to moment since.  i'm just being honest, it's a lot. a lot of love, a lot of questions, a lot of thinking about things you never did before and feeling great and then getting scared.

so many things have occurred since i said, "yes." some of which require some strategizing, some preservation, and some acceptance. while the micro and macro events of my life and the world constantly collide with no regard for convenience, i am left with the irony of each incident, feeling, and experience, blending into what i suspect will become a matter of dailyness going forward.

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more than a few things have gone down recently that i have wanted to write about. however, in the face of my pending merger, i find myself taking pause where i would usually barrel ahead. not for fear, but for respect. this reminds me of yet another thing i encourage others to do, but left to my own devices, you'll find me on the bench. i call this wading, not diving.

i've always been pro-diving. i feel it is our unalienable right as writers, artists, musicians, etc. to translate life into art into life into art on our own terms. whenever i've worked with someone who was wrestling their own sense of "right and wrong," in storytelling i have always made it my business to promote being fearless and unapologetic. never ruthless for that sake of it, but always rich, honest, passionate, and confident.

i believe in writing there are a few things you can rely on:

1) you can't please everyone, not even yourself sometimes...

2) a story is a story is a story is a story. it's your version when you are telling it, case closed.

3) memory is tricky, do yourself a favor when you are dipping into that ocean--honor your intentions, do your best to let go of the expectations of others.

4) when you get stuck trying to find the best way to be honest, take a step back and write what you want to write instead.

5) lather, rinse, repeat!

then duck...

don't you take that tone with me...

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the words still echoing from days of hearing that all too familiar phrase in response my teenage antics... nowadays tone is one of those nuances you sometimes need a metal detector for. it's often shadowed by your best intentions or eclipsed by miscommunication, or worse, a wild misinterpretation. well, if tone is such a trouble maker, why do we even bother? is it because tone shows up everywhere, making it an inescapable facet of communication? or is it because tone is the shortest distance between words and actual meaning?  if you said yes to all of the above, you're right! tone is an invaluable tool to writing. to better orient it's value think of it in these terms: tone is to your message what frosting is to cake. much like chocolate frosting on a vanilla cake, tone is the individual personality to all your writing. 

and like all things, it's got a darkside. tone can turn on you if you don't pay it close attention. i hear from clients and students alike about the trials and tribulations of displaced tonage. writing emails, bios, cover letters, personal statements and dating profiles are all examples where tone is heavily relied upon and equally as tricky for some to master.

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take humor for instance: let's say you are exchanging emails with a potential date you have met online. you have been in contact long enough now that the mood has become more familiar and perhaps more casual and you are inclined to crack a joke. you do, you think it's funny and lighthearted, maybe you use italics for emphasis and poke a little fun at your new pen pal. maybe you use lots of punctuation (extra exclamation points and maybe a mix of question marks and ellipses for effect) you are quite pleased with your sassy missive and you press send...you wait, and nothing.

you crossed your t's and dotted your i's but you may have skipped an important step. it's the step less taken at times, but critical nonetheless. the tone check. did your humor come off as sarcastic, or your playful flirtation as snarky? could your best intentions have been met with the unforseable wild card of misinterpretation and worse, documentation? tone is powerful, it has the influence to shape the entire mood of anything in writing, this is as beneficial as it is dangerous.

here are ten tips to giving good tone:

1) as always, and this is no exception: read what you have written outloud. try doing from the perspective of your audience. keep in mind that they will undoubtedly read what you have written from another point of view than your own, it's inevitable.

2) in a professional context: use only professional language. never try and challenge the given dynamic, use clear language, and good grammar (tone can be measured in subtleties like syntactical errors).

3) for your personal pursuits: careful not to overdue it. if you are being funny, be funny, not hysterical. if you are being warm, be thoughtful, not inappropriate.

4) know your words. yes, diversifying your vocabulary is essential to good writing, but not at the risk of saturating your objectives. don't get carried away.

5) mine for misfired meanings. be careful that you did not employ any double agents, your intentions and words should be seamlessly in sync.

6) take yourself seriously and so will everyone else. if you use language such as, "i think," in place of, "i know," or " i believe," you won't be as convincing.

7) find the personality of the specific writing you are doing and stick behind it, consistency is as integral to your message as the message itself.

8) be polite, manners make the world go round.

9) be thorough, leave nothing you want to be read to chance.

10) don't be afraid. write anything you want and then get your tone detector out. be sure to comb through your finished product for tangled up intentions and always be sure to smooth it out before sending it along.