Wrap It Up

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NEW YEARS.  It’s the time we use to mark the passing of the old and the beginning of the new. I don’t go in much for traditional rituals so I do my year-end assessment a little differently. First, I don’t think of a year as being “gone”. I like to think I bring every precious, previous minute into the one I’m living right now. In that way time is never “lost”. Secondly, I don’t make resolutions. I feel that’s a sucker’s game and I try not to set myself up for failure. What I like to do instead is reflect on the best lessons I’ve learned in the past year. I have no doubt that the best lesson I learned in 2013 was disciplined anger.

Last August I wrote about a conversation we had in my church group about anger. We were considering whether as Christians we can ever accept anger as justified. It took place a few days before the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and I admit, I had righteous anger on my mind. I was loud and adamant in my opinion. I blogged about it and even made a video to bring home my point. In the post I said, “I think anger and a thirst for justice are at the forefront of movements for equality and non-violence is not so much a belief system as it is a political strategy.” Well, I was wrong. I made a mistake by framing the question in foot-stamping emotional terms. I was childish and churlish. I didn’t take the opportunity to reflect maturely in a deeper spiritual way. Then a wise friend of mine sent me a link (http://www.inc.com/hitendra-wadhwa/great-leadership-how-martin-luther-king-jr-wrestled-with-anger.html) to an article about Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. (Thanks Janie!) Here’s the quote from it that was the eye opener I needed, 

“…the words of another great leader, the one who taught Martin Luther King, Jr. his signature technique of peaceful struggle, Mahatma Gandhi. “I have learnt through bitter experience the one supreme lesson to conserve my anger, and as heat conserved is transmuted into energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmuted into a power that can move the world.”

Wow, “heat conserved, “peaceful struggle”. I guess that’s why Martin Luther King could admit he was angry that his home had been bombed and still move forward; he learned the lesson. How spiritually well grounded does a person have to be to transform anger into a positive power, including the power to understand “the other” and practice courtesy? And how mature does a person have to be to then use that energetic power as a tool for positive action? I had to sit with that and be honest enough to say I was lacking. And I’m still working on it because I realize the lesson doesn’t just apply to social justice. I had to look at the behavior in my personal life and admit I have a pattern of seeing my anger as justified. As we all know, it’s easy to be an ass when you feel righteous. I’m very good at rationalizing my opinion as fact in order to feel superior or feel I have “won”. Even knowing that, I have to remind myself of the power of disciplined anger constantly because I forget so often. (Sorry to the apartment management and the daughter who gave me the gift certificate for Christmas.)

There are other lessons I learned in 2013 but that’s the best one. I’ll take it and the others, along with the cumulative moments of my life gratefully into the time to come. I hope you look at the days past, realize the good and go forward wishing for the best.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

NaNoWriMo….Nope.

There is only one week left of NaNoWriMo. Are you one of the brave writers taking on the challenge? I don’t do well under pressure so although I’ve known about the annual writing  contest held each November for a while, I haven’t thought to participate… until this year.

I started my first novel last June. I ‘d actually been kicking around the idea for a few years. Membership in my writer’s group helped immeasurably in giving me the confidence to tackle it. I was energized and organized but proceeding slowly so in October I brilliantly decided that I would take advantage of National Novel Writing Month to move the novel along. One of my biggest problems when writing is fine editing too early in the process. I’ll go back and rewrite the first paragraph three times before I complete a page. The result of this habit has been many unfinished pieces. I told myself that I wouldn’t hold strictly to the rules, that I just wanted to get as close to 50,000 words as possible without stress outside of my own standards of discipline. I figured if I concentrated on the word count I’d get down all the fabulous story ideas that have been sitting in my head (and outlined in my notes) without the impulse to perfect every word already on the page.

Do you want to know what happened? I hit a wall at 20,000 words, that’s what. All of a sudden I didn’t know what I was doing or what the story was about, no matter what my notes said. My characters stepped off the pages and said to me, “C’mon now, this is long but it isn’t good. We don’t believe what we’re saying because you’re not being real about what all of this means. Slow down, dig deep and tell the truth.” That really made me mad! I spent a whole week pouting (not writing) because my goal had been thwarted.  But I also spent the time thinking. And I started examining two very important truths about myself. First, that my novel isn’t really fiction. Like many other authors, by telling this tale I’m trying to exorcise a pain born from my own life experience. Second, that I have a unique voice that doesn’t sound like Proust or Morrison but its distinctive tone makes me a good writer anyway. Then I had to review basics like character development and plot lines. It was an unhurried process that was both a relief and a revelation.

And what is the outcome of all of this? A MUCH better draft of the novel, that’s what. Yeah, I had to throw out thousands of words and allot extra time to sit and really listen to that voice in my head but it was worth it. It turns out that trying to get as much of the story down as possible prompted me up to the next level of writing. Now the words that flow aren’t forced or stilted. The lives of my characters will be as layered as they need to be and the themes that are so important to me will be natural and honest. I’m sure there are writers who will end this month with cohesive works made up of the requisite number of well-crafted words. I won’t be one of them. I should reach 50,000 words by next June and that’s fine by me.

How to Get 3 Million Blog Views

I found this after Corngoblin liked my last post. It was a great way to tell me to get over myself. LOL!

WilliamCharlesBrock

Dear readers,

I’ve recently been working with a team of researchers from Miskatonic University, whose main goal is the delve into the lost recesses of cyber space and uncover long forgotten blog posts from blogs that, for one reason or another, came offline.  We’ve made some astounding discoveries.  This following piece is a prime example of some of the lost treasures we’ve found.

-The Corngoblin

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Hi guys!  In case you’re new here, my name’s Peter, and I’ve got 3 MILLION VIEWS, and I’d like to show you how you can too.  You guys are obviously familiar with my work since, you know, you’re on the internet, so here we go!

HOW TO GET 3 MILLION VIEWS

I go on a lot of people’s blogs, normally just to post a spam comment so they come look at mine, sure, but it still counts, and there’s one thing I always…

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Dignity Down Low

I learned something today.

I’ve been having trouble relating to a man at work. I admit it, I’ve been kind of cold to him lately. It stems from an incident that happened at few weeks ago between me, the man and another person. The specifics aren’t important except I felt the situation was tinged with racial overtones but I didn’t say anything at the time. I just shut down. I didn’t feel he could understand my perspective. But I have been practicing so, today, when he was near by I tried to stand in my space and breathe with my heart open.

You know what happened? I suddenly remembered something I was feeling yesterday. The market I sometimes stop at on the way home from work is in a well-heeled neighborhood. As I went into the market another women came in at the same time. I immediately “typed” her. Trim, blond, wearing a “I shop and hike in this” expensive, down vest, expensive leather backpack in lieu of purse, carrying her reusable shopping bags. I think I was thinking, “Well good for you” and not in a good way. Coming out I remembered something I could get in the drugstore next door. I drove over, hopped out and there she was again. She had walked over from the market and I think I was thinking, “How correct”. But then I thought that it was a perfect opportunity for… a bow.( Once again I refer to my favorite article;  http://www.tricycle.com/dharma-talk/long-journey-bow)  I had given in to “the conceit of self”  in a big way.  So I bowed figuratively.  My judgments about her aside (greater than, less than, equal to), that woman reminded me about saving resources and I was grateful because that’s important to me.

But today I realized that there’s more to it than that. I was angry and frustrated in both situations. Since I’m African-American, I also have that added layer of what the article calls “the legacy of scraping”. That woman and my co-worker have the benefit of being part of a group that has always been at the top of the pecking order in this culture so they don’t have the same legacy. No matter what I think of their ways of being, those ways will always set the standard. And, in terms of this society, no matter what my way of being, they decide if I am “other” to the point of unworthiness. But I chose not to internalize that. As the article says,

“The path to renouncing scraping can be long and liberating, a reclaiming of dignity, and a letting go of patterns of fear. Discriminating wisdom, which we are never encouraged to renounce, clearly understands the difference between a bow and a scrape. A true bow can be a radical act of love and freedom”

I learned I choose to renounce scraping and bow in love and freedom. So, when it came to the supermarket lady, I was successful. It was hard to get over myself in the moment but I did it and I bowed.   It’s going to take me some more time with my co-worker. I’m grateful my practice led me to not just try to open my heart but to look inside it as well.