Naïveté with a Dose of Arrogance?

Do insights into the way you see yourself ever come to you after you’ve had a beer or a glass of wine? As if maybe some flimsy curtain suddenly flutters to the floor and a lightbulb pops bright. It’s most common for me when I’m reading or musing on the couch in the evenings, but not so common that I’m not curious when the poke comes. As it did the other evening while I was looking at myself in the mirror, brushing my teeth before bed. I like to talk to myself as I peer into my face peering back at me, and so I began.

Why was it I thought announcing myself as a first-time author, one who had read few books and had never seriously written anything, not even a diary or journal, would win the hearts of readers, media folks and publicists everywhere? Was that something to be celebrated? Was I patting myself on the back, impressed that my authorship came without my ever having dabbled in the arena of writing? Did I fashion myself some unrecognized genius whilst embracing my self-claimed naïveté?

The answer to all of the above is yes. I touted the first-time author story with the kind of arrogance that pops up when I’m afraid of failing. It’s a fuzzy undertone I detect at times when I’m feeling vulnerable and want to have reasons to fall back on if things don’t work out to the highest-of-the-high standards I set for myself. Curiously, both narratives, the arrogant and the naive, float around inside my consciousness and cellular fluid simultaneously, side-by-side – they even hug and commiserate. Yet, I can’t grasp and learn from the duality until the curtain falls.

Neither arrogance or naïveté is an end-of-the-world take on anything, and the difference in the two can be as subtle as an accent or a state of mind, never sensed by anyone but me. Is it even important to me, then? Does it matter if I notice and am curious about why (as if I could I ever definitively know?) I have such tendencies toward that edge of arrogance?

Yes, I think it matters. I love seeing deeper into myself and, in this case, I thought I was free of all concern about how the book would be received when published. I told myself it didn’t matter what people thought, though I reveled in positive face-to-face reviews and friends gushing about my accomplishment. Now, eight months out, I wish it would get more national press, I’m disappointed the local media hasn’t lavished more praise upon me, and I feel those pangs of jealousy when I see other similar books get what I consider more attention. All of which, I see now, would be pretty much expected human emotional responses to something as big as publishing a memoir.

It matters because I can see now that I did all it out of a sort of fear of seeing myself for who/what I really am: a perfectly smart, creative, successful, courageous human who worked diligently to write a book I wanted to write. I got professional and personal input along the way, had it professionally edited (for content, style and grammatical correctness), and proofread. I self-published it with the help of my editor with whom I designed the covers, lay-out, fonts and picture placement. I had a book launch and reached out to the local media for publicity. I created a webpage and began this blog. And still, I’m subject to all the whims of the publishing/marketing world, and to all I didn’t know before I naively dove head first into published authorship. I didn’t do enough homework, yet I’m not sure I had the wherewithal to know what I didn’t know back then, and am only slowly coming to know now.

It matters because just maybe my dose of arrogance, no matter how tiny or big, is a little bit of the why I didn’t know what I didn’t know. That self-protective edge that either says it doesn’t matter, just do and everything will fall into place; or says (secretly, of course) you’ve got the perfect situation here, they’re going love this book, you’ve done a fantastic job. In either case, it assures that nothing else needs to be done and allows me to step out of the hope/fear inner turmoil.

I’ve had endless AHAs about the whole writing/publishing/marketing world since that fateful day last fall when I held a copy of Joy Ride: My One-Legged Journey to Self-Acceptance in my hands. I’ve read more books in these eight months than I had in the previous ten years. I’ve marveled at how stories are crafted, and contemplated the creative thinking it takes to come up with a plot, characters, a thread, etc., even in books that follow a formula, like a detective series. All that plus the sting of rejections, even after much effort spent marketing, and still writers keep at it. WOW!

It’s more than humbling, and I salute all authors. I’m amused by how naive I was and still am. Maybe naïveté with that little hit of arrogance was the only way I would’ve made it into this wide-open world of authorship with all of it’s ups and downs. Had I known what I know now, I wonder if I would’ve so eagerly completed my project. Yet, knowing what I know now will not keep me from continuing my marketing journey and, who knows what else? Maybe another book, marketed at least partly before launch!

The journey beyond the journey continues…

 

The Thrills and Spills of Book Marketing

Here’s the scoop. I self-published a book before I ever considered marketing. The fact that I’d even written a book that could be published was beyond my comprehension. Who thinks of marketing before the book is even a real thing? Well, as it turns out (as many of you likely know from personal experience) any self-published author who wants their book to be read has to think about the whole ball of sticky, gooey marketing wax. It’s the same in any artistic endeavor – the artist must ask, “how am I going to get this art out to people who may be interested in it, who may benefit from it, who may love it?”

I’m a social media light-weight dummy (slowly losing my fear), but – I created a website including this blog, made a Facebook page (Joy Ride – Rolling Around in Life), had a book launch, and some spotty opportunities to share the book at a few minimally-attended events. I approached the local papers and venue newsletters and scored a couple of small mentions. Next – I decided to pay the bucks for a Kirkus review, secretly hoping, (honestly, more like believing) it would solve all my marketing woes. If it was good, I imagined Kirkus would roll out their plan (free, of course) and that would be all I needed. The book would be snatched up by everyone in every country in a matter of days.

Ha! What am I? Dumb, naive, a wishful thinker? Obviously, all three and just a tad out of touch!

Here’s what’s happened. I got a nice Kirkus review and an immediate offer of a phone meeting with one of their marketing folks. Great! I thought. The woman I spoke with was a dear – she hadn’t read my book, but said she’d known of others like it that had benefitted from Kirkus’s marketing “packages”, and proceeded to outline individual and bundled options ranging from $500 to $5000. She sent me the descriptions earlier in the morning the day of the call. They looked good – lots of ads, maybe a book giveaway, arranged by Kirkus – likely 300,000 print views of my book in three weeks. I was almost sold – how else would I get that much press? I have no access to any of the stuff she was talking about, and isn’t Kirkus supposed to be the best?

Thankfully, I’ve grown up enough to know it’s best not to sign on in the moment of excitement, when praise and adulation is being heaped on me by someone who knows nothing about me, or my book (since she hadn’t read it). Granted someone had, but…so what?

I emailed my editor, the woman who helped me finish and publish the said book, the one person I can confide in about all things book-related knowing she has my back. I told her I was considering the $5000 Great Book Package. Really – I was, even though that small voice deep in my wise-woman gut was shaking her head, mumbling, “yes, you have the money, but what’s the guarantee?” Here’s what my editor wrote back:

“I’m nervous about you spending $5,000 on ads that don’t include widening your social media presence. It’s a lot of money being spent in only one direction. I don’t doubt Kirkus will do all they say they’ll do, but it’s book marketing—a highly ephemeral ratio between effort/cost: results…I know you’re flying high from that great Kirkus review and Kirkus is your new BFF and you’re excited about what they’re offering, but I feel that you’ll be disappointed with the results from Kirkus’s narrow campaign track…”

A wise woman! How many books would I have to sell to net $5000? At ~$9.00 profit per book, more than 500. That’s a ton of books. What if I sold just 20? Would I feel the investment was worth it? Would I say it doesn’t matter – I tried, wanting to justify my desire to see results without having to do much work? I’m sure I’d secretly regret it – another episode of impulsive, wishful thinking/acting that I’d get to add to my list of similar experiences. When. Will. I. Learn?

I have another phone meeting with the same Kirkus rep in early July. I’m still tempted to go for the Great Book Package. Like most authors, I want my book to be considered great, though I don’t want you to know that I want that. I want you to think it’s not important to me. Truth is, I know from experience that feigning indifference rids my soul of all it’s passion and joy – so best put the truth out there and hold onto the live-giving soul juice.

Meanwhile, I’ve contacted Smith Publicity. Maybe they have something to offer that’s more suited to my book and my marketing needs. I’ll still need Eva, my life-saving editor, to catch me as I’m falling under the spell of their pie-in-the-sky offers. And, I’ll watch out for the BFF phenomenon, and do my best to remember that nothing comes without some measure of work.

Dancing a Life

Becoming Who I Was is a 2017 documentary about a Buddhist boy in the highlands of northern India who discovers that he is the reincarnation of a centuries-old Tibetan monk. He and his godfather embark on a journey to discover his past. I saw the film this week, and the journey is truly a fantastic one. They travel on foot, with minimal supplies and no way to summon help, for more than two months, crossing the great mountains of India and Tibet. The scenery is awesome, and their relationship, already beautifully captured in the first part of the film, is the epitome of love and respect. I sat in the theater mesmerized, in love with the people and the place. Yet it was something more subtle, something I’m ever curious about, that struck me the most.

As I watched, I saw people who were dancing through everything in their lives. Their bodies were alive, in stillness and in movement, with the beautiful nuances the physical body expresses on it’s own, without intention, pre-conception, anticipation, or even awareness. We all move in our lives, frequently in ways that we’ve scripted for ourselves, ways that leave little room for the spirit to move us. And often we’re not even aware we’re moving, we don’t feel our bodies as they carry out the awesome tasks of daily living. We don’t acknowledge or find curious the way our fingers glide across the keyboard as we write, or the way our legs maneuver as we take each step. Many of us analyze our actions, and the shape and size of our bodies, yet fail to notice the grace and beauty in our unique contours and our unconscious gestures.

The dancing I witnessed in the film was a continual flow of individual bodies contacting other bodies, both physically and spatially, without body to body contact per se, but with powerful connections between bodies over the space that separated them. Bodies were alive and in communication – words and physical touching seemed secondary to the energetic and spirit connections. All of it seemed entirely spontaneous – there was no need for choreography – the bodies intrinsically knew how to dance their lives, solo and in relationship.

Celebrating the art, the beauty, and the profound wisdom of the body has been a growing passion of mine for many years. In my memoir, Joy Ride: My One-Legged Journey to Self-Acceptance, I write about the beginnings of that passion. I came late to an awareness of my body as a vessel for knowledge, beauty and joy, having spent the first half of my life hating, berating and abusing my body in oh-so-many ways. Gradually, I’m finding a home in her, and as that comfort grows, I’m aware of what an incredible creation she is. She not only performs a myriad of tasks without any hint of conscious input from me (something I’ve been trying to change by paying more attention, and thanking her more for doing so much for me), but she is my connection to the incredible world of nature and beings of all sorts. I find when I bring my grateful awareness into the realm of my physical activities, my body is more animated and more open to the limitless universe of human experience.

In the film, I felt that grateful awareness of all manner of experience emanating from the bodies of the people. Their words were simple and brief. There were no monologues or even anything close. There weren’t even conversations as we know them. Their bodies, like open vessels comfortably infused with spirit, communicated as if they were one with the all-encompassing universe.

I’m still entranced by the feeling of the film. I hope I can keep it alive inside of me. After all, life IS a dance, and I want to be dancing with my whole self.

Massage Magic

I spent the morning at the keyboard wanting to write a post but coming up blank. No inspiration. I had only a few hours before a scheduled massage and the time tick-tocked away with nothing to show for it. I left the house asking the powers that be to send me something – some kernel of something that might jumpstart a post.

My masseuse is a friend and my yoga teacher. We always spend the first fifteen or so minutes catching up. Although I didn’t mention my wish for an inspiration to her, I hoped that what frequently happens – the experience of being showered with positive energy and the movement of healing hands over my body – would open the channels for something.

As she worked my muscles soft, I drifted to places mostly not remembered. Then, toward the end of the hour, I had an overwhelming sense of myself as “a being in a body” and sensed a connection to one of themes in my memoir, Joy Ride: My One-Legged Journey to Self-Acceptance. While still under the spell, I began to repeat the phrase “a being in a body” and add other phrases, like “two arms, two hands, ten fingers – last I looked.” All the while in the semi-trance state that frequently occurs when I succumb to the whole enchilada of a massage experience. I mused about how it might grow into a poem – maybe even story – and began to remember the various body-centered experiences I’ve had that slowly, over the course of a few decades, created the pathway that has allowed me to be “a being in a body.” Things like swimming, skiing, sailing, even painting, and fooling with clay – and most especially improvisational dancing, which I began in my forties. In my first few years exploring Authentic Movement, (a form of dance featuring eyes-closed movement that’s witnessed, then written about or expressed in some other artistic way, and finally shared verbally, in a specific structure, with the witness) I would sometimes just move into a physical shape and immediately begin sobbing. The outpouring would be a huge release, and a mix of pleasure and curiosity. I understood it to mean that some emotion was caught up in the cells of my body – maybe pushed way down by my inability or unwillingness to feel it. During the movement, my cells released whatever it was, and the space that had been clogged with it for who knows how long, was finally clear, and free to experience something else. I’ve been dancing in similar ways since – eyes open and closed, sometimes with choreography, though more often improvisational-ly inside various loose structures designed to provide a focus, while leaving the mover free to play around with whatever desire and curiosity arises.

This ties in to one of my most recent desires and fears. At the end of June, I’ll be a part of an event in Seattle produced by the North West Film Forum. Along with four fantastic, diverse dance films featuring creative, inspirational dancers, I’ll be reading from my book and moving solo, and with others, to my words as others read. I want to find my way to a place where improvisational dance performance excites me more than it scares me. In workshops and informal groups, I’m more than comfortable as “a being in a body” dancing itself silly and seriously, with all of it’s altered shape and quirkiness. Somehow within the workshop venue I feel I can hide – I’m not showing myself with an intention or specific purpose. But, dancing solo, to my words, in front of a group of people who have come to be entertained – YIKES! That feels scary – and I want to do it.

I told my masseuse pal about this before I left her place. One thing I said pops out as the truest in all of it. I want to feel this desire to move for others – whether to my words, or to some other inspiration, whether alone or with others – as coming from the heart and soul of the “being in this body.” The one it took so long to embrace. The one that shines when I allow it to, without censoring or restricting or judging. The “being in this body” who is connected to the universal body and all the other “beings in bodies” wherever they may be.

Here’s a link to the NWFF event in Seattle at the end of June. Take a look…

https://nwfilmforum.org/films/joy-ride-screened-alive-adventures-unavoidable-embodiment/

Sledge Hammer

I heard the song Sledgehammer on the radio today and it took me back a few years to a short-lived relationship I’d had. It was released as a single by Peter Gabriel in the spring of 1986 and became a huge hit. I liked it then, I liked it when I heard it a few years ago, and I still like it. This post is about who I was, and what happened with that relationship and another I had soon after it, a few years ago.

He was someone who’d done some work for me over the course of a few years. One day, as he was ready to leave, he got down on his knees to meet me at my wheelchair height and said, “you’re beautiful.” Without missing a beat, he laid a huge smacker on my lips. I was surprised, flattered, curious, and hadn’t been kissed like that for over 15 years.

What followed was a few weeks of sexual encounters, maybe six or seven in all. We tried many things, but never came to full consummation for some unknown reason. I heard the Sledgehammer song during those few weeks and shared my desire that he be my sledge hammer. It never happened, and the relationship ended when he texted me that he’d just been told by #17 (the seventeenth woman he’d been with in maybe as many weeks) that he was the best lover ever. YUCK!

Suffice it to say, there were many loose emotions flying around inside of me. Since he was the first man I’d been with sexually after fifteen-plus years of celibacy, I was tender, but I’d also been through some serious soul-searching (I was pretty much finished writing my book, Joy Ride, by then, and had faced some of my more thorny relationship issues). I wanted to meet someone – still harboring the notion that it would validate me somehow, or make my life more whole than it already was. At the same time, I knew what I was doing when I signed on, I did so consciously – maybe for the first time ever – and I knew I could handle the emotions that would follow. I knew it was a step I had to take and, although there was some regret and humiliation (that I’d opened myself up to someone who didn’t really care, or that I should have known and stayed away), I felt proud of myself and stronger for having taken the chance.

Soon after that ended, I had a summer infatuation that I hoped and prayed would turn to something more intimate. I figured the six-week fling was my intro back into the world of intimacy and this next one would be the real thing. It started slowly – we’d meet and talk at an outdoor cafe with live music . We were both writing and that was a topic of conversation. He was a musician and had self-recorded songs, so he knew some things about the self-promotion game. I would follow him around to his gigs, hoping each time would be THE time he’d kiss me or take my hand. I was determined not to make the first move and didn’t for a few months. We skirted around the issue of whether we would ever be more than friends, and although I knew the answer (no), I kept hoping it would change. One day I wrote him an email asking for a definitive answer – did he ever see us being more than friends? He spent a few weeks after that trying to be honest without hurting me or losing our friendship. He eventually said he just wasn’t attracted to me – my body was so much different that any he’d been with, and he knew it just wouldn’t work between us. It may have been the most honest thing a man has ever said to me, and although it hurt and I was disappointed, I was grateful I could hear the truth. I almost felt like I made him say out loud what he knew was true but didn’t want to say because I wanted to hear it and not beat up on myself.  Years ago, after I’d been sleeping with a man for months, he told me he never thought he’d be attracted to me because of my one-leggedness. Back then, I imagined every man felt that way, and internalized it as a terrible, awful truth about me.

Where am I today? I’m single, I still have only one leg, and I know that it’s likely a deal breaker for some men. At 66, I continue to have some pangs of sadness about that, but they’re not all about me. I feel sad that we judge each other (me included) based on how our bodies look, that we’re still so afraid of difference, and afraid to enter into situations where we fear we won’t be in control. I feel sad for young people with altered bodies who long to be loved by a partner, and find it difficult to make relationships because there are few people who are open to such relationships, or because the self-esteem, self-acceptance issues of those seeking relationships make it difficult for them to open to others. That was certainly one of my biggest barriers during my younger years. Another was thinking that finding a partner would make everything in my life better. Ha!

Do I want someone to be my Sledgehammer? Yes and no. Peter Gabriel’s version is all about sexuality which is a pleasurable way to be opened.  I also celebrate the opening that comes when I feel moved by the beauty all around me – in nature, in other people, in waking up to each new day, in dance and art and writing. I can feel electricity move inside my skin. Sometimes tears come, clearing out the space for more true feeling in each moment, and connecting me more viscerally with others.

The sledge hammer can be any number of things, or people. I can be moved and opened over and over again. I say – bring it on!

Here’s a link to YouTube – it doesn’t open the song, since that’s restricted on some sites including this one, and I’m a web light-weight. But the visual is good…

 

A Few Details about Joy Ride

I’ve been wrestling with whether I’m doing enough to promote my recently published book, and so I thought I’d post a short synopsis and excerpt here. Sometimes just doing something helps settle whatever restless beast is stirring things up inside.

Joy Ride: My One-legged Journey to Self-Acceptance tells my story of losing my right leg to cancer at age 11 in the 1960s. This was an era when “cripple” was an accepted word to refer to someone like me, and the choice for the disabled to live either as a “cripple’ or as “normal” was a difficult one either way. 

I chose “normal” and how my life unfolded after that is my story.  I would look for love in all the wrong places, and it would surprise me in the right places, too. I would meet generous people of all abilities along the way, ski, sail, and swim with self-referred “gimps,” and create opportunities for career and travel. 

And yet I kept important parts of myself hidden from those around me, and especially from myself.

When I discovered improvisational dance and began work with Karen Nelson and later with Alito Alessi, I found my inspiration and the life I was meant to live, one without secrets.  I found the courage to shine the light on those hidden and terrifying places.

I wrote Joy Ride to come to terms with the secrets I kept. I wrote to remember and embrace all the things I tried so hard to forget. I wrote to celebrate finding a relationship with my body, soul, and spirit through movement and share its extraordinary gifts of joy and freedom.

And I wrote because I hope others would find something in my life that would remind them of their own bravery and their own joy ride.

Thanks for reading. I leave you with this. I’m following Mary – heading out to dance! XOIMG_0264

 

 

What is it about Retiring…?

From the New Yorker April 21, 2018

Immanuel Kant noted a connection between the sublime and terror. When I think of retiring I can relate to exactly that. I’m a former psychiatric nurse currently working in a medical center as a utilization review nurse, reviewing charts for insurance purposes and writing appeal letters for insurance denials of care. Eight hours a day, four days a week on the computer in a small office with two other nurses doing much the same thing. The work is tedious, the company enjoyable–there are four of us who’ve been together for about fifteen years, all most likely retiring within the next year.

My co-workers are psyched for retiring–counting down the months, weeks, days. I am too–sometimes–and other times I’m fraught with an inexplicable fear–a hollowness in my gut, an unrelenting voice in my head warning that I’ll be alone with nothing to do 24/7. I’m single, an introvert, and although I have plenty of friends and lots of interests, I also have a history of addiction (bulimia, which I’ve thankfully been free from for over ten years thanks to Twelve Step programs) and I worry that too much time to languish and obsess could just do me in.

Unlike the sun, my current job is not life supporting in any way. He dutifully, and I hope, proudly, keeps us warm, helps us mark the passage of time, and brightens our days. I am easily replaceable, don’t even like my job that much, and when I allow myself that clarity, I know it’s time to retire. Except that I do like the twice monthly paycheck and the daily banter with my co-workers. So it’s a constant back and forth.

A year or so ago I decided I’d become a dance gypsy in retirement–finding workshops taught by my favorite dance teachers around the world and taking myself to those places to indulge in one of my greatest pleasures. I still find that a compelling idea, but I need other things. Writing, sewing, art-making could be other regular activities, maybe even another book, but I have to regularly convince myself that making art of all types is a worthy endeavor. I’m certain it is and I even embrace it, but at these times when I think about letting go of my day job–the one I’ve brainwashed myself to believe is the ‘real’ work–my certainty is suddenly on shaky ground. And what about the pleasure of being free of schedules and responsibilities? Is there ever really such a thing?

Happy I wrote about this today, and I hope sharing it will take the dilemma out of the dark recesses of my private sphere and expose it to the light of the early rising Mr. Sun. I’ll end with another New Yorker cartoon…

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