reading series 9.1

Almost the end of September and I’m here.

I was recently thinking about a story – I can’t remember the title or the author, which is a bit odd in itself, because the story really struck me in a fundamental way. It may have been written anywhere between 1950 – 1970 and was about a woman in college who had gotten married. On one level, the story was about the educational system for women in a time when it was expected that all women would wind up married and taking care of families – so what use was a college education? On another level, the woman was tremendously excited to get married, even though they were young and poor; she was entering a new and uncertain chapter in her life.

In any event, the weekend after she married, she was back in class with a specific professor. The professor was very routine, almost bored, epitomizing the attitude towards women in higher education at that time. When he called her name, he hesitated, because her name had changed by virtue of being married. She answered “Here” or “Present” or some combination of both and was struck by the words, realizing that she had never felt so aware of her actual presence, her mindfulness, until that moment in time.

And that is what struck me about this story, her epiphany was also mine. I had never meditated on those words before. When I did, I understood the full implications of being “here”, really here – living in the moment with active awareness, fully present. This is a place without thought of past and future, without expectation and doubt, without regard to joy and pain. It is. You are. You just are.

Later, I would find this concept in other places. I recognized it while studying Eastern Religion, especially in relation to Taoism. I found it in Yoga – this mindfulness. It is what happens when one shuts off the chatter in their mind and instead is just here, attuning the posture and movements of the body with breath and awareness. Meditation focuses  slightly differently, by leaving the body and sitting in that mental present state. I also think that this state of awareness happens spontaneously during or after sex. Tantric sex is the conscious act of trying to create this aware state for a spiritual union. I also experience this state sometimes when I am writing.

When I taught Creative Writing, I used to tell my students when we reviewed the policies for attendance and lateness: “You need to be here. And not just here physically, but mentally.” Everyone would laugh, but all too soon would they realize the importance of that statement. Later, I would add that they needed to be here emotionally and spiritually as well – that is what writing demands. That is what writing is.

Lately I’ve been feeling very reflective. I’ve been feeling very tested. Sometimes it is easier for me to retreat into myself, which is part of the reason my blog posts have been so erratic over the last few months. I have been writing, revising, submitting. But … here … I tend to post more about my life and my experiences, as an addition to my creative work – which I view as more outside my everyday life. Fiction is a wonderful place to escape for me, and probably is a measure of just how difficult my life can be. It’s a weird thing, to be a writer, to be so obsessed with something as trivial as words. I mean, I can’t even remember the author or the title of the story that profoundly affected me!

As a fellow writer, that hurts. And therein is the double edged sword. We write, without knowing how or who or where or if or when or perhaps never, our work will be received. And yet, something that someone wrote has the power to affect another person deeply, profoundly. Language really does have power. As a writer, I wouldn’t really care if the person remembered my name or the title of my story –  it’s a soul touch. It is tremendously humbling to know that the kind of work I do has that potential.

In a fortune cookie, I once received the message: “Today is a Gift. That’s why it is called the Present.” Today – this moment – is a gift. You are alive. This is a gift that we all too often forget in the day-to-day experience of life. The present is a gift. It is a gift to be present. It is not easy to get to that place. It is not easy to just be when there are bills to be paid, work to do, people and pets to care for, food to cook, laundry to clean, relationships to maintain, appointments to keep, etc, etc. There is drama and tension and stress. Some people live their lives like cars rushing from red light to red light. Where are you going? You are here. Be here.

For this series, I wanted a piece that I wrote about the idea of Here. This short sketch is a little something I wrote and I just love. I did submit it as erotic flash fiction/prose poetry and it was rejected. The editor was kind to send a personal note, and said it lacked tension. And I thought … but that was exactly the point! That is why I love it and why it still speaks to me as something important. Click here to read Here.

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