Thursday, July 31, 2014

At Bikram Yoga, every single day -- without variation -- the Matron practices yoga side by side, mat to mat, with a man somewhat older than she is.  Let's call him Dear Slightly Older Guy.   The Matron and DSOG have sweated together for nearly a year now.  They commiserate. They monitor the heat. They foster one another's bad habits. They groan and roll eyes in predictable ways. In sum, they have a relationship, cemented through this year of yoga, side-by-side.  DSOG is single, quirky.   He lives with his sister.   That phrase (he lives with his sister) says much when it applies to a 58 year old man.   He is retired from construction work and largely spends his time at yoga, doing odd jobs, pursuing the odd interest here and there.  He's pretty much broke.    In sum, he is not - as the ladies might put it -- a "CATCH."  But he has a good heart and the Matron adores him and their yoga chatter.

But today! The Matron moved her mat across the room!!! 

She has her reasons and shares them with him before the class starts.  Whispering.  Because they are not supposed to talk, but of course, they do.  Daily.

Matron: "I'm trying to be less rigid. More flexible."

DSOG: "Flexible up here. . . in the psyche, right?"

Matron: "Yes - I'm too stuck on routine."

DSOG: "You know what people are going to think, don't you?"

Matron: (having never considered that anyone was going to think anything about this at all): "No, what?"

DSOG: "That we're having an affair and we're fighting. Or broke up."

Matron: "You're insane. Nobody's thinking that."

DSOG: "Nope. That's what people are thinking. They are totally thinking we're having an affair. But there's trouble"

Matron: "I can tell you with absolute assurance that not one woman in that locker room --- not one -- thinks that we are having an affiar."

DSOG (disappointed): "Not one?   Maybe it's a guy thing?"

Matron: "I don't know. Shall we survey the locker rooms? Find out who thinks that the reason I MOVED MY MAT is because I'm having an affair.   First conclusion, obviously.

DSOG  (slight pause, consideration): "I think I'm good, Mary. No need for that survey thing."

Matron: "Just keep me posted on our relationship status, as other people perceive it."

DSOG: "You got it."

And they were good.

Monday, July 28, 2014

World Blog Tour

There they are!   Her lovelies -- At the End of Magic -- on an actual bona fide bookstore shelf!    One of the Matron's friends is, coincidentally and beautifully, the owner of a beloved St. Paul bookstore, the Red Balloon Bookshop.   Whereas other small, independent bookstore owners might balk at a self-published book on their shelves, this friend immediately offered:  "Mary!  I will stock your book!"

Gotta love the power of the female friendship-- power which extends to the Matron's online relationships.   She has met this blogger, Green Girl, in person.  That's right.  The Matron and Green Girl breathed actual air together.  Their children played.   Coffee was consumed.     It seems to the Matron, at the ripe old age of ( ) that all the good things in her life bloom out of relationships - not money, not accolades, not stuff.


So the Matron was thrilled when Melissa AKA Green Girl tapped her to participate in the World Blog Tour, a jaunt through women bloggers who also write books.  

Melissa Westemeier has a long list of publications, including the two novels Kicks Like a Girl and Whipped, not Beaten.    When she's not busy creating Art, Green Girl is busier creating Family -- she blogs about life with men (three sons, one husband), nature, writing, and work.     It's a spot on the internet not to be missed.

The World Blog Tour asks bloggers to reflect for a moment on writing.   Specifically:

       What are you working on now?
    How does your work differ from others in its genre?
    Why do you write what you do?

    How does your writing process work?

Like most academics, when faced with four simple questions that could be answered directly and in order, the Matron will most likely prove herself unable to do so.    So she will begin and end, instead, with Life Lessons Learned through Writing.

When the Matron was a Youngish Miss and had a 1 and 3 year old, time for her dissertation deceased.  Done.  She was ready to hang up her hat and slide out of graduate school, unfinished.  She called her academic advisor and reported her plans to NOT finish her dissertation.

Youngish Miss:  "I just can't do it with a 1 and 3 year old.  I'm going to drop out."

Dissertation Advisor:  "I won't let you."

That's right, folks.  The wise woman on the other end of the phone flatly refused to entertain Youngish Miss's very good reasons excuses for disregarding her own life'c calling.   Because they were excuses.   The dissertation advisor dryly observed that Youngish Miss ---with her great big brain and vast organizing skills -- was probably a kick-ass stay-at-home-mother squandering 8 years of graduate work because making lunches and doing laundry was EASIER than penning a 300 page dissertation, while also making lunches and doing laundry.

This unsympathetic, hard-line approach might not work for all women, but Youngish Miss understood the message.   Wise woman on the other end of the life was challenging YM to be the best person she could possibly be -- to do the most difficult work at hand, to complete the intellectual project already launched, despite the two obstacles she herself had created (those two damn children).  

Something clicked for Youngish Miss.  She wanted that better self.  She wanted that PhD, that "Dr" near her name.  She wanted to unpack some of the mysteries remaining in her dissertation.  She wanted to write. Desire for an intellectual and creative live was reignited in those few moments -- not that it would be easy, no.  But to deny this desire would be to set aside a vital part of herself.   

Fueled, Youngish Miss wrote that damn disseration (nearly 300 pages).    Immediately afterward, she finished her first novel, Prairie Rat, and landed a New York literary agent.   

 Sidenote:  here in the poor cousin Midwest, we are required to be put "New York" in front of anything art-related in order to make ourselves feel viable.  

At the End of Magic quickly followed Prairie Rat -- the fate of these books is a another story.  For today's purposes, it's the why and how these major pieces came to be.  In less than four years, the then Youngish Miss wrote a disseration and two novels while raising two babies and in the end, being pregnant with a third, moving into a new house, and teaching part-time.  

 Often, Youngish Miss declined social invitations.  She said no to a movie or a potluck.  Declined that afternoon walk.   She followed a dictate she once read, somewhere:  "Skip the party and write the poem.  Or you will run out of time."  She skipped parties.    When people marveled at her self-discipline -- and they did -- she could (and will now) honestly report that very little discipine was involved.   It was desire.  Desire to be her better self.  Desire to write, produce, create.  Desire to live the life of the mind.

Desire, not discipline, carries us.   

If you're able to skip the piece of cake or Snickers bar, it's most likely because you desire the end game (fewer calories, fewer pounds) MORE than you desire that candy bar.  Usually, it's the other way around. It's not lack of discipline that means we indulge, but desire for the enticement directly in front of us.  It's hard to focus on the desire for something far in the distance, when another type of desire is immediately at hand.  Yes - it was hard sometimes to say no to the immediate pay-off of the afternoon out, the trip to the mall with a girlfriend or second glass of wine.    But in the end, the Matron learned through these processes -- and largely remembers now -- that the pay-off for those big desires, those life dreams -- are the best ones. 

Desire describes the why and is the process, folks.  It feels GOOD.

Writerly words of wisdom from the Matron.

 Want it.  Whatever "it" is for you.