I’m making soup. My soup is inspired by a soup my friend Melissa made for me not long after I returned home from California all twisted and broken almost two years ago. I’m not feeling twisted and broken today, but I am feeling scattered. Cooking is grounding for me, not too much thinking required. You get a recipe together, and then you shop, chop, and stir your way into cohesiveness. I like to cook on Sunday afternoons, today I’m filling my ears with Chopin and burning Super Hit ( does anyone else remember when Super Hit sticks used to be pink? why’d they change?) while my bison meatball and lentil soup with carrots, brussel sprouts, onion and celery simmers on the stove.
It took me a while to get here today. To sit down and write something. I went to yoga, stayed for yoga nidra, grocery shopped, cleaned the kitchen floor, and prepared soup, all while intending to write. It was Melissa who suggested I write while my soup simmers, and here I am doing just that. A small miracle. Melissa asked me to write a “wee story”, and when I told her I had nothing to say, she laughed like I had made a really funny joke. The soup is starting to send out smells and I can hear it starting to roll itself around in the pot while my roommate’s rainbow maker throws prisms on the east wall in the kitchen. I bought some grated pecorino romano and a multigrain demi-batard to go with my soup.
Writing means slowing down. I’ve been in a hurry. My latest round of rushing started when I began an online advanced memoir class. I thought this would be a good idea to help me get focused on writing the f’ing book that keeps teasing me, pushing and pulling at me, never allowing me to rest. It’s like I’m possessed by all of my past selves who are screaming to be heard. Tell my story, PLEASE!!! So, I try to do their bidding. I spend thousands of dollars on writing retreats and classes in an effort to please them, and maybe I’m getting closer…But I’m still miles away.
This latest class is being taught by a Columbia University professor. She has, of course, published a successful memoir, it was even selected for Oprah’s book club. Hee-haw! Our job is to write 6-10 pages of our memoir each week, and she responds with feedback. There are 7 other people in my class, most of them have some professional writing experience, so they are used to sitting down and getting down with their writing, unlike myself, who is used to sitting down and getting down with her resistance, and then getting up and plucking her eyebrows or vacuuming the floor. Part of this class is to read your classmates work and give feedback. This is a lot of work. Simply writing 6-10 pages of my own memoir is work enough, then add on reading everyone else’s work, and then saying something meaningful…holy shit! What have I gotten myself into? How am I supposed to work, exercise, go to yoga, meditate, get acupuncture, paint, cook, have a social life, and relax while taking this class? I started moving really fast trying to keep up with everything, but it didn’t take long for me to hit a wall. BOOM!
Nobody else was having trouble keeping up, for the first four weeks that I turned in assignments, I got feedback from each and every one of my classmates! Truth be told, my trouble isn’t just with the workload. Last week our assignment was to turn in our first chapter, reworked, implementing all that we have learned in class thus far. So, after running around in circles and making out with a short Jewish entrepreneur, who asked me if I thought I had the skill to write a book, and “have you ever tried to write in some other voice?”, I settled myself down long enough to discover that I couldn’t go on, at least not at this breakneck pace.
I was writing about David, the boy/man I dated from 17-21. The father of the baby I gave up for adoption when I was 19. I was visited by my seventeen-year- old self who used to ride the city bus to the county jail each week to visit her boyfriend. She put money on his books each week so he could buy cigarettes and whatever else one needs while in the slammer. After walking through a metal detector, getting frisked, and leaving all of her belongings in a locker, she would make her way into a bright room where she would sit across from her beloved. They talked to each other on phones while separated by a thick bullet proof window.
And visiting with this self, I had to stop and shake my head in disbelief. Who was I? Why in the hell was in love with a convict? At my age, why didn’t anyone intervene? I’m sure my mother said something, she didn’t like him, but she still let him move in with us when he was released from jail. I guess I bossed her around a bit. I don’t think seventeen year-olds should get away with bossing their parents around. They’re still children, liable to go out and have unprotected sex, do drugs, and get pregnant. Yeah, I was totally the boss of her.
And then I thought about my last relationship. He’s a convicted felon, and a really great person…as long as he’s not your boyfriend. My father was a violent criminal. A hoodlum, a greaser, beating people up and petty theft. I’m a cliche’. I fall in love with my father. Good grief. Of course I knew this, but somehow writing through all the details and touching the heart and mind of my seventeen-year-old self floored me. I’m old enough to be my own mother at that age, and I would never allow my daughter to be so reckless.
So, it took me some time to work though all this crap, and to examine my attraction to really bad boys. I sure do hope I’ve outgrown them, my tiny attraction to the little Jewish man was a good sign. Maybe. At least I’m branching out. I have a hiking date with another not-so-bad-boy this evening. Practice makes perfect, right?
The memoir class is still happening, but I’m not participating. I may go back, and my teacher says I can work at my own pace, but my pace is a collection of fits and starts, that’s just the way I’m built. I can bang my head against the wall and beat myself up about not working fast enough, or I can relax and allow shit to work it’s way through me at whatever pace it wants, cause either way, it’ll happen when it happens. My mantra, “process not product.”
Slowing down and showing up probably helps. So does cooking soup and having friends who believe in you.