Archive | April, 2010

Fucked Up Is The New Normal

17 Apr

“Each has to enter the nest made by the other imperfect bird.” – Rumi (inspiration for the title of Anne Lamott’s new novel Imperfect Birds)

Last week I went to a reading Anne Lamott did for her new novel, Imperfect Birds. I am a hyperactive note-taker and whenever I attend a class or lecture, I spend the whole time furiously scribbling down as much as I can.  But I decided that I was just going to enjoy Anne Lamott’s talk and sit back and soak it in.  That I was going to be present and absorb what I needed to without compulsively trying to capture every detail.  But then she started talking.  She was explaining why she became a “reading girl,” and why people become voracious readers.  “At five-years-old,” she said, “we looked out at our terrifying families and started reading instead.”  This was such a great quote!  But since I wasn’t taking notes, I just kept replaying it in my head so I could remember it.  Which had the effect of taking me out of the present and away from her talk.  So I snuck a scrap of paper out of my bag and scrawled it down so I could go back to paying attention.  But she kept saying more and more wonderful and insightful things, so finally, I had to give in and be the nerdy-furiously-taking-notes-girl.  I took out my notebook and felt such relief at no longer resisting my true nature.  I proceeded to write down some of the things she said, and I wanted to share them here…

Anne said that we are all covering our real selves – we’re all a mess and sad and lonely.  And that you can read something and recognize yourself in it and feel less alone.  The title of her novel is based on the Rumi poem that says, “Each of us has to enter the nest made by the other imperfect bird,” and she talked about how we’re all imperfect and that’s all we can hope for – to be welcomed in by another imperfect being – but how that can provide immense comfort and be exactly what we need.  She openly admitted to her own flaws and struggles and was so REAL, that even as she talked about her anxieties, it was calming.

This is one of the biggest reasons why I write and read – to connect with others in shared messed-up-ness.  I not-so-secretly suspect that we’re all secretly really messed up (not necessarily in a bad way, just in the normal way that people are messed up simply because we’re human), but no one is copping to it!  Everyone is acting like they all have it all together, which is distressing because then we all look at everyone else’s have-it-all-together facades and feel like we are the only one who doesn’t.  So there’s the pain of not having it together, and then scooped on top of that is the pain/shame of feeling like everyone else does.  But the not-having-it-together pain would be so much more bearable if at least we knew that we were all in it together.  I love reading books or essays or blogs where the writer cops to their vulnerabilities and the places where they are falling apart, and how I feel more understood and less alone as a result.  In my writing, I strive to expose the places where I am vulnerable and falling apart.  And I try to do this in life, too, although that can be a bit more challenging with actual people actually in front of you and staring back at you.

In her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions About Writing and Life, Anne Lamott writes, “…good writing is about telling the truth.”  The truth is strong  and clear and cuts through all the bullshit, and we know it when we read it.  Telling the truth in writing, and reading someone else’s truth, can give us the courage to tell the truth in our lives.  There is such a frenetic energy around hiding the truth, around trying to pretend that you have it all together, around creating and maintaining a facade.  Once you let all this go, the truth can wash in, bringing calm and serenity.  The truth is, there is no Normal; there is no one person who has it all together, who has everything all figured out, who never feels fucked up and sad and lonely.  We’re all imperfect birds living in our imperfect nests.  And the more we can tell the truth about who we really are, the less sad and lonely we will be, and the more we will realize that fucked up is the new normal, and imperfect is absolutely perfect.

Launched New Yoga Blog & Why Shitty First Drafts Are Awesome!

12 Apr

Image credit: Giggle Chick Interactive

I just launched a brand-new yoga blog and I’m so excited about it!  It’s called “NotSoZen YogaJen,” and I will be blogging about being not a perfect, serene, transcendent being, but rather, an imperfect, anxious, Type A person who loves yoga and practices as much as possible – because if I didn’t, things (meaning me) might unravel!  I will also be writing about what I learn from yoga, and sharing tips and resources that have helped me, from a profound yogic teaching to just the right yoga mat bag, to where to find the best (and cheapest!) yoga classes.

In a related story, when I was about one-fourth into writing the introductory post for my new blog, I had a flashback.  Cut to:  October 2007.  I was writing a yoga blog for and I submitted my first post to the editor.  And she rejected it.  So then I wrote my second first post, and it was published.  As I was writing my post yesterday, I remembered that my real first post, introducing myself and stating my intention for my blog, was similar to what I was writing now, so I went back and dug it up.  While I didn’t use it in its entirety, I was able to incorporate bits and pieces and even a chunk here and there.

I am currently rereading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, in which she famously coined the phrase “Shitty First Drafts,” and wrote about how important it is to just spew the words out.  You will not initially know what is usable and what is not, and you may not even know where you will be able to use it.  However, your job at that stage of the process is not to judge or criticize, but just to get it all down.  And then you can go back, revise, use a little of this and a little of that – find a home for one paragraph in a short story you are writing, discover a character that would work in a poem, see the beginnings of your novel – and then, let go of the rest. 

It wasn’t exactly the same situation because my old blog post wasn’t a first draft and I’m not saying that it was necessarily shitty, but it had that same junkyard feel, of digging through this pile of words to see what I could salvage.  What I wrote before wasn’t what the editor wanted, and it could have just sat there, rusting and “rejected,” in the back my computer files for eternity.  I feel so gratified and eco-conscious that I was able to rescue it from exile, dust it off, polish it up, and repurpose it, and that all was not lost.  And I even identified some gems that I may be able to recycle in the future for some as-yet-to-be-formed potential piece.

So I want to encourage you to take a walk down to the Junkyard of Writing Past – whether that means scrolling through your computer files or strolling to your closet and unearthing those crumpled notebooks from that dark, dank corner in the back.  See if you can find a short story or beginnings of a novel or an idea for a blog  that you or someone else rejected and exiled, or maybe it just withered away from neglect.  Go on.  Bust it out.  Check it out.  Dust if off and polish it up.  Be nice to it, and be nice to yourself.  And see if you might be able to find a new home for some of those ragtag bits and pieces; take them out of the dark and place them somewhere they can sparkle and shine.

And then check out my new yoga blog! 🙂

Happy writing!