Hold It All

Share the Wealth with Linsey Stevens: Iphelia and Editing with the Gift of Feeling

What kind of work would you wake up in a hospital bed eager to do?
And how is editing like being a doula?

The first question is one I answered back in the fall of 2015. That summer, my husband and I had settled into first-time home ownership and I’d “leveled up” professionally, having moved from the Department of Social Services, where I’d been a Family Support caseworker, to Mercy, where I was hired on as a patient benefit and Medicaid advisor. My career seemed to be opening up before me and everything looked good on paper. But I was miserable. I was physically sick every day at work and I was unhappy even when I got home. I felt trapped in my life and was disappointed that I wasn’t shaping up to be the great social servant or public educator I was sure I should be.

I resigned from Mercy and went to work part-part time teaching children’s swim lessons. Like so many creators, I started side hustling: writing and editing for peanuts through a site called Upwork. Amidst the uncertainty, I realized I’d happily wake up in a hospital bed, ask for my laptop, and dive into editing another person’s writing. I’d found a professional passion and was ready to move on from the rescuer narrative that I had to be sacrificing myself in a certain setting to help others or assume my place in the world.

Over the last three years my journey as an editor, creator, and human being has unfolded in sometimes bumpy, but also fantastic ways. As doors have opened (more on that Sunday) so have windows—and my heart and mind. I’ve developed a close working relationship with Erick French, LCSW, author and illustrator of Iphelia: Awakening the Gift of Feeling and have been editing full time for HealthyWay Media, a women’s lifestyle and wellness brand, for over a year. Read the rest of this entry »

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Reading of Dorothy’s Reading

The Dorothy Day Book, compiled by Margaret Quigley and Michael Garvey,  is a  kind of posthumous commonplace book, that is, a collection of quotations from Dorothy’s decades of reading (largely from her column in the Catholic Worker), interspersed with some of her own commentaries on her life.  

As this slim volume attests, she was a voracious and vivacious reader, culling wisdom, aperçus, exhortations, and epigrams from saints (Gertrude,  Teresa of  Avila, Maximilian Kolbe),  rabbis (A.J. Heschel), popes (Leo XIII, Pius XI, John XXIII), sages (R.W. Emerson and H.D. Thoreau), novelists (Upton Sinclair, George Orwell, Leo Tolstoy, Henry Miller), activists (Danilo Dolci, Mohandas Gandhi, A.J. Muste), literary critics (Raymond Williams), philosophers (Immanuel Kant, Simone Weil, Herbert Marcuse), monks (Roger of Taize, Thomas Merton, Thich Nhat Hanh), poets (Samuel Taylor Coleridge, W. H. Auden), prophets (Isaiah), theologians (Teilhard de Chardin, Johannes Baptist Metz), even university presidents (Theodore Hesburgh), to name but some of those cited in these pages.  The entries reveal Dorothy’s preoccupations with property and poverty, war and peace, patriotism and idolatry, service and self-purification.  She read newspapers and the Book of Common prayer,  classic novels and the lives of the saints, social criticism and spiritual testimonies.  Her practice of reading was a decades-long, spirited  clarification of thought.

In their introduction, the editors quote  Dorothy’s view of reading:  “The books will always be there.  If we give up many other distractions, we can turn to them.  We can browse among the millions of words written and often just what we find can nourish us, enlighten us, strengthen us — in fact, be our food just as Christ, The Word, is also our food.”

Here is what I’ve culled from her culling and own writing … Read the rest of this entry »

Not So Random Entries, Commonplace Moleskine/3

100. [T]oday it is not nearly enough to be a saint, but we must have the saintliness demanded by the preset moment, a new saintliness, itself also without precedent. –Simone Weil

200. Poets who died with nearly all their work unpublished or out of print in last 25 years: HD, Zukovsky, Hughes, Blackburn, Olson, Moore, Loy, O’Hara, Reznikoff, Spicer, Niedecker. –Eliot Weinberger

300. We can throw a pet opinion out into the arena and let everybody trample on it while we look on in detached interest. If the opinion is damaged, we can discard it; if it is still intact, we keep it, and often those who just danced on this very same opinion will say,”That is a good opinion; we would like to share it with you.”  –Sri Eknath Easwaran

400. If a man reads a book because it interests him and reads in all directions for the same reason, his reading is pure and interests me. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Not a River-Like Novel; But a Novel Like Poetry, or Rather, a Narrative Poem, an Epos in Mosaic, a Kind of Arabesque Preoccupation

Over the weekend Lindsey asked me some questions about my writing process (such as, How long did it take you to write Book of Mev? Did you always know what the structure would be? How did you know when you stumbled upon the right form?). Naturally, I thought of Jack Kerouac’s line, “Something that you feel will find its own form.”

I also went back to Jack’s early journals, collected in Windblown World: Journals 1947-1951 (edited by Douglas Brinkley), which I first read a few months after the Mev book came out. Just today, I was revisiting Emerson, who wrote, “For only that book can we read which relates to me something that is already in my mind.” Here are some excerpts from the young Jack, which intrigued me and had illumined some things in my own mind back then and still do, in the present…

_______________________

This means seven months of ascetic gloom and labor—although doubt is no longer my devil, just sadness now. I think I will get this immense work done much sooner this way, to face up to it and finish it. 7

Look at your own work and say, ‘This is a novel after my own heart!’ Because that’s what it is anyway, and that’s the point—it’s worry that must be eliminated for the sake of individual force. 10

I wish I had the mental energy of ten great novelists! Or devise some way to get ‘the most out of myself,’ as Goethe did, without breaking down (as Goethe did) or without excessive asceticism leading to a blurring of impressions. 31

I say to these critics: ‘Don’t be assholes all your life.’ 34 Read the rest of this entry »

Share the Wealth with Rebecca Gorley: The Overnight Janitor

Loss is universal.
The impact of loss is unpredictable.

Overnight Janitor tells these stories.
Anyone can be an Overnight Janitor.

The idea for Overnight Janitor originated from incessant feelings and observations of loss. Even though we experience loss everyday, we don’t always talk about it– the stories go untold, and unseen.

Overnight Janitor tells the stories about loss and the impact we could never predict. Rebecca Gorley, aka “Z,” first started talking about this project in 2016, and published Overnight Janitor in 2018. Throughout Z’s time in STL, her focus has remained on listening to people’s stories and valuing their spoken and shared words.

Facebook & Instagram: Overnight Janitor
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Join us
Sunday 12 August
Potluck dinner begins at 6:00 p.m.
Rebecca begins sharing at 6:45
At Rebecca’s apartment
4565 Oakland Avenue
Apartment 2E
Forest Park Southeast
63110

 

Not So Random Entries, Commonplace Moleskine /2

40. The principal truth is this: latent in every act of complete reading is the compulsion to write a book in reply. The intellectual is, quite simply, a human being who has a pencil in his or her hand when reading a book. –George Steiner

80. We have no more say in the duration of our passions than in that of our lives. –La Rochefoucauld

120. Resist much, obey less. –Lawrence Ferlinghetti

160. One becomes moral as soon as one is unhappy. –Marcel Proust

200. Poets who died with nearly all their work unpublished or out of print in last 25 years: HD, Zukovsky, Hughes, Blackburn, Olson, Moore, Loy, O’Hara, Reznikoff, Spicer, Niedecker. –Eliot Weinberger

240. All in all, though, I have never known anyone smarter, with a better memory, with a greater facility for creatively escaping the bounds of acceptable thought, or, more admirably, a person with more honesty, integrity, respect, and real universal concern. –Michael Albert, on Noam Chomsky

280. I’ve always ben addicted to his music the way some people are addicted to chocolate sundaes. I find it absolutely irresistible. — Glenn Gould, on Richard Strauss

320. Yet whoever forgets Yiddish courts amnesia of history. Mourn–the forgetting has already happened. A thousand years of our travail forgotten. Here and there a word left for vaudeville jokes. –Cynthia Ozick

360. These works, whose Jewish perspective ranges from the central to incidental, testify to Glatshteyn’s decision, whether conscious or not, to confront more completely [the Jewish] side of his existence. –Janet Hadda

Gratitude for Demun Share the Wealth Writing Class

As the summer Share the Wealth Writing Class on Demun winds down, gratitude is, once again, an appropriate theme for meditation (quotations with page number are from Robert A. Emmons, Gratitude Works!).

“A French proverb states that gratitude is the memory of the heart ….Do you want to be a grateful person? Then remember to remember.” x

At the vibrant age of 49, Jenny has countless experiences-to-be-remembered-into poems ahead of her.

“Expect nothing, appreciate everything.” 21

The beauty of paintings and photos, the haimish spaciousness, all the windows, ah, the generosity of Marty and Jerry to open their home to us! Read the rest of this entry »

Not So Random Entries, Commonplace Moleskine /1

63.  And that will take up a thousand hours of energy. — Jack Kerouac, letter to Allen Ginsberg

126.  Nevertheless you still charge words with meaning mainly in three ways, called phanopoeia, melopoeia, logopoeia. You use a word to throw a visual image on to the reader’s imagination, or you charge it by sound, or you use groups of words to do this. — Ezra Pound, The ABC of Reading

189.  One instant of bodhicitta can obliterate the effects of all the evil acts of infinite kalpas.– Dilgo Khyenste, Enlightened Courage 

252.  Whether you know it or not, I am your nearest and dearest–your very own Self. –Sri Anandamayi Ma

315.  “Grow old in Yiddish, Hannah, and carry fathers and uncles into the future with you.” — Cynthia  Ozick, Yiddish, or Envy in America

“What Am I Living My Life for?” Ivan Ilyich and Ikigai- A Summer 2018 Reading/Writing Class

“I see that all of my work amounts to nothing, that my ten volumes aren’t worth anything!”
—Guy de Maupassant, after reading The Death of Ivan Ilyich

David Barsamian: You had something in mind in a lecture when you mentioned Tolstoy’s Death of Ivan Ilyich .… Was was that?

Historian Howard Zinn: I think what I had in mind was that young people, especially when thinking about their whole future lying ahead of them, should try to imagine what Ivan Ilyich went through when at the end of his life, Tolstoy is giving young people an opportunity to see forty or fifty years ahead and ask, How will I think back upon my life forty or fifty years from now. For them to see that Ivan Ilyich, this successful man, this man who did everything right, looks back on his life and says, This is not the kind life I wanted to lead, is something very instructive for young people, who are being captivated, being pressured on all sides, to get money, to get success, to do the right things, all of them superficial, evanescent, the kinds of things that at the end of one’s life will evaporate immediately. I very often talk about The Death of Ivan Ilyich because I want young people to think about the question of, What am I living my life for? What can I be proud of when I go? What will my grandchildren be proud of when they think of my life?

For the last weeks of summer, I invite you to join a reading and writing class to discuss this jarring work by Tolstoy. But I think this will be relevant not only for undergraduates but people of any age.

Each class session will have activities of discussing a few chapters of Tolstoy, writing and sharing with each other. We will write on themes from Tolstoy’s novella about our own lives, particularly in light of the Japanese concept of Ikigai, or one’s “reason for being.” A class blog will allow further sharing and reflection.

An online class version of the class will be available for people who wish to engage with Tolstoy and other readers and writers. Read the rest of this entry »

That Glow, That Yes!

Natalie Goldberg, Thunder and Lightning: Cracking Open the Writer’s Craft
30 September 2000

It’s clear to me today, anyway, that my Holy Contour of Life book will be a structure like Natalie’s: short, compressed, easy to read and reread, straightforward. I can continue to play with this. Because having “finished” the new version (how many versions have I had???) in which I fractured chronology, now it seems too disjointed and contrived, so I want to break it up further, maybe chronologically, but just keep it to two pages max.

Commentaries, yes, but creatively done, maybe with lists, found shit, short portions of letters (like mine to Peter Pfersick), journals, and articles. Weave them together. Like on riches and poverty: Set it up, find one quotation from GG interview, then one from Sobrino interview, then add a further comment, then use the photos.

Here in Thunder and Lightning, Natalie is still giving her Zen advice on writing as a spiritual practice … Writing Down the Bones, III (After Wild Mind being Bones II). She’s found what works for her, she’s just giving good advice coming out of her own vulnerable, wise experiences as a writer, a meditator, a slow walker, a Jew, a neurotic. “What if Natalie Goldberg were one of us? Just a shmo like one of us?”

And I read this, quelle surprise, only for insight on how to keep going with Book of Mev, Holy Contour of Life, My Fucking Memoir, whatever it’s to be entitled. And this book moves beyond writing practice to structure, craft, finishing a project. So what I note below may be useful in this process:
Read the rest of this entry »