Twelve Days To Sit with the God-Made-Man

As a child, I was somewhat confused by the partridge in the pear tree and by Advent calendars. I liked both—especially the calendars, with their stiff little paper tabs opening up to an image of a toy or a bird or a tree for each day—but I didn’t understand the numerology.

Advent calendars were calendars, but they didn’t last the entire month. They ended at twenty-four, the payoff of the often-arch-shaped double door opening up to reveal a honey-tinted scene of the Christ child in the manger. [Read more…]

Namaste Neighborhood Yoga Studio

My local yoga studio just closed. I’ve known the day was coming, as much as I’ve tried not to think about it. I’ve become used to rolling out of bed at nine on a Saturday morning, throwing on appropriate garments (not too loose, not too tight), inhaling a cup of coffee, grabbing my yoga mat, and making it to the nine thirty class in time to be seated in proper cross-legged position (shins parallel, hips higher than knees) for the opening chant.

I’ve become used to the way my body feels walking home from class, looser and lighter and more solid (in a loose, lightweight way), too. I’ve wondered what’s next, if I’ll ever find a studio so convenient, a teacher so wonderful, a community so beloved. [Read more…]

How To Accomplish Love

From time to time, a big sheet of butcher paper goes up on the wall at my gym. A question appears in red Magic Marker with space for members to write their answers. The questions range from the overtly fitness related—What’s your favorite workout?—to the more topical—Your favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner?

I’ve been tempted, once or twice, to stir up a little trouble by adding Gloria Gaynor or the Monkees (or, for that matter, any tune recorded before 1980) to Who do you listen to on your iPod during a workout? or answering Reading in the library to Your favorite recess game as a child?

A couple weeks ago, a new question went up, right in the stretching area. You can’t avoid it: the sign crowds out the mats hanging from hooks and the spray bottles of disinfectant to avoid spreading flu germs. What’s your greatest accomplishment?

Answers range from training for Iron Man to my children to getting my mother-in-law to stay at a hotel when she visits. These answers have started me thinking—and not just about how I really should start doing crunches again. Are one’s children themselves an accomplishment? And as for getting the mother-in-law to stay elsewhere, I can’t help wonder what else that person has been up to—and if I’m taking the question too seriously. [Read more…]

Dead Calm at Sea

It’s Monday morning as I write this post. Monday morning, with all that implies: back to work (or school), back to the grind, back to those five days we get through until the next weekend. Wednesday as hump day, TGIF, and all that.

Not everyone lives this way—or needs to. When I started freelancing, I no longer needed to divide my days into weekday and weekend. I could write whenever I wanted, complete freelance editing jobs at two in the morning if I wished, sleep until noon. I didn’t. I knew that if Monday started to feel like Saturday, I’d be in trouble.

I need structure, and when I haven’t found enough of it in my surroundings, I’ll go creating it. I do not exaggerate when I tell you that, as a child, I made up to-do lists for fun, taking pleasure in checking off imaginary obligations. Too much unstructured time makes me nervous.

Some years ago, swamped by depression, I dreaded the weekends. Living alone, and hardly in the mood to make social plans, I found myself panicked as Friday approached. The workweek had been tough enough, but with a class here or a job due date there, I managed to make it through. But the weekend?

The weekend, as everyone from the radio announcer to the cashier at Safeway reminded me, was fun time: “Have a great weekend!” When you’re depressed, few words seem more cruel. Weekends struck terror in me, so what did I do? Most of the time, I invited myself over to a friend’s house, where at least I wouldn’t be alone. [Read more…]

Words both Real and True


I belong to a movie group that meets monthly in one another’s living rooms to discuss a current film. As soon as I read that this month’s host had chosen The Words, I thought uh-oh. Most movies about writers get it so wrong, with their scenes of furrowed brows on smooth, comely faces; crumpled pages littering the floor; and ta-da: a finished manuscript.

In Little Women (the version with Winona Ryder and Gabriel Byrne), Louisa May Alcott puts down her pen, and ties up the finished pages with a ribbon. The End, just like that. Or, in the case of The Words, -end-.

But I don’t bring this up to slam the movie, although almost every aspect of it disappointed me. Instead, I’d like to explore a question that’s been on my mind since walking out of the theater: What makes it so hard to hold onto ardor and enthusiasm and creative curiosity?

[Read more…]