Starting Over Again (19)

I’ve decided to rewrite my book. This will be the third time I’ve begun again from scratch, or almost scratch. (Might it be a charm?) This is the manuscript that was one of nine finalists for the New Rivers Press Many Voices Project award a couple of years ago. (The winner receives $1000 and publication by their university press.) I submitted it earlier this summer to New Rivers, as well, for their general submissions, and I’m still hopeful to hear good news. But I always come back to feeling like it isn’t quite right. A fellow writer read the manuscript, and he thought it may be “droning.” (Eee gads. How do you not cringe to hear that?) Because I wrote it over such a long period of time, I’ve always wondered if the voice was not consistent (in spite of all revising). And I’ve always wanted there to be more lightness in the book. I think it leans toward the hopeful and the healed, but maybe not enough to satisfy me? This is the story of my lost love. My big love. I began writing it much too soon—I know that now. I wanted it to be a book when it needed to be only one of the ways I moved through my grief, came back from despair, put my heart together again, just pages shoved in a drawer somewhere until a later time. I know now to write like mad through something like this but not try to shape it into anything when it’s still raw, has not had time to sift through me, time to drift down to bedrock.

On Tuesday I closed my laptop from a round of work and set it aside. I sat on the edge of my bed spacing out before I got up to take a shower, to toss the cabbage salad I made for lunch. And I fell into a newer, deeper sense of how to approach rewriting the book. It isn’t new for me to envision including more in the story about my life today, but sitting on the bed I felt it more fully in my body. I saw into it, felt into it more fully than I have before. The book is written in second person, me talking to him. Even though I wonder if I need to just let this manuscript go, to finish my now ancient novel and let myself finally move on to new projects, I still resist. This pile of pages has some of my best “material” in it, so I become stubborn. And enough time has passed that I can return to that material without reliving it, can picture the new retelling from a place of joy. It seems the perfect thing to “use” this framework of me talking to him as a kind of scaffolding for writing what might become a “real” memoir, one that goes beyond my story of having loved and lost. The timing couldn’t be better, too, because I’ve been flailing about a bit, not sure what I wanted to focus on at the August writing workshop I get to go to. I’m pretty excited about it now (both the book and the workshop), so I wanted to let you know. I can feel you wishing me well even as I write. Thank you for that, now and always.

Palm Springs, My Love (17)

Hot air, brace against it. Remember to breathe, let it embrace you instead. Clear air today, the San Jacinto mountains so close you are sure you could stretch out your arm and pluck a jagged rock from the nearby ridge. More room on the sidewalks in summer. The city leans back, like vacation in a small seaside town. Palm Springs, I love you. I kiss you—you kiss me back, warm breath against my arms, my legs. I close my eyes and lift my face, inhaling you.

[Editor’s note: One of my ideas for earning money in a joyful, heartfelt way now that my income has shifted is to write spontaneous prose poems downtown for donations. This is my first effort for one of the business owners there. I told her she could pick a topic or I would just write what comes to me. She chose Palm Springs. The way she said the name it could have been a lover. I didn’t do it consciously, but I see now I have used her voice here. It was quick and fun, and by the last line I was fully “in it.” After, I took a picture of it with my iPad. I am torn about that part. Is it okay to want to keep them for myself, too? Or do I need to let them be gifts going out into the world without me? I look forward with good hope to writing more. Maybe I can find a way to do them one afternoon or evening a week? Two?]

May I Be (16)

“May I become truly self-assured,” I say. It is a kind of metta I try for my changing. Wishes, Beth calls them. I like that. Part prayers, too, this metta. Part affirmations, maybe. They are all good, all effective, I believe. We only need to bring ourselves to them fully, heart and soul. Not grasping, of course. Believing, hoping, grateful. Funny thing, though, each time I bring myself to this one, I stumble in my mind. I say “reassured” instead of “self-assured.” A mistake, I think. I make it again and again. Then I am at a one-day retreat. I eat Brussels sprouts and radishes leaning against a low wall beside the small fountain on a June afternoon. I eat cool cubes of watermelon for dessert, lick the sweet from my fingers, luxuriate in the summer heat. After, I make a discovery during sitting practice. I say my metta. I make the same mistake. “May I be truly reassured,” I say. And then I know this is not a mistake. To be reassured is exactly what I need. I understand being reassured can be my path to self-assurance. Later, I realize with a kind of awe this is something I trust the universe to give me, no hint of doubt. I make lists in my head, different ways I am reassured. My cats reassured me when they were here in their small furry forms. I get excited about adding to my list, and eager to see how this unfolds, what gets sent to me. On Monday I try to rescue five stems of trimmed orange lantana blooms from the sidewalk, but after my bus ride they are wilted. I kiss them and place them on the bench outside the yoga studio. After in chavasanah I feel bad about not saving them. “But they were loved,” a voice inside me whispers. It is my first clear reassurance since I understood what I am asking for. I am dancing, lying in stillness on the yoga mat. I give thanks. I wriggle, a child about to unwrap a birthday present. What comes next?