The Elevator Pitch

Y’know, this is something I definitely do not have a handle on: selling myself. Not my time, not my skillsets, not my past “marketable experience” as human capital. I mean, don’t you just hate the phrase “human resources”? It makes it seem as if they are a semi-autonomous entity that serves as a triage unit for ensuring that the work force batteries are charged, the turnover is kept to a minimum (even though we know that rotating crops makes for healthier soil), and for stemming the growth of those who might cast shadows with their own bloom. That, and other restrictions imposed upon the nervous flock to maintain strictly-defined parameters of operation, are not conducive to breathing easily and doing things in a restful state.

My scrolling business card might read something like this, seemingly haphazard in its delivery. Perhaps with a music track, perhaps hip-hop or swing, and with visuals (they add so much to the presentation): stills, infographics, snippets of video. I put the elevator on hold, and, now that I have your undivided attention:

I have great ideas, thousands of stories, and a love for the unknown. I like the visceral, real experiences of life, the simple things. I have a desire to explore and express and bring back the goods from the wild reaches, to share what I’ve seen and experienced and felt. I like to deal with things with a lot of moving parts; I like to see how the grander things work, how they flow together. I appreciate cause and effect, and I accept the randomness that occasionally casts ripples upon the water. I like visual things; I like to feel the breath of things in motion and at rest; I like the relatively intangible things that percolate in our brains and in our hearts. I like the history of things and I hunger for possible futures. I am happiest putting words and thoughts and sensory cues together into a cohesive flow that people can understand and be moved by. I love language, I love music, I love small gatherings of other people who are unafraid of truth and beauty, I love food prepared and eaten slowly, I love film as opposed to movies, I love books and autonomy and free expression and solidarity and peace and good beer and good coffee. I love compassion and diversity and comfort and intimacy and space. I don’t want to dumb myself down; I want to uplift everyone with pen or plectrum or garden tool or flagon.

And I want to make a living at being who am I and for the good works I truly am capable of.

Oh, hey, this is my stop. Thanks for your time.

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Prompt: What’s one thing you’re proud of?

To be honest, I actually have to give this one some thought. But perhaps one thing that does tend to stand out for me (when it deigns to peek out from the shadowy corner where it twiddles its thumbs like a fart in a trance) is the often-overlooked fact that I have completed writing projects for publication, even while the rest of my life had been in a state of upheaval.

Several years ago, I was desperately trying to make some sense of my life (like that has changed, but I digress) following an earnest attempt at making a long-distance relationship a solid thing by relocating and cohabiting with my intended; it was far easier for me to uproot than it would be for her. Alas, it turned out to be a tale of woe and a painful lesson. Anyway…I took a job with a mail-order pharmacy and moved in with my folks for a time while I nursed my wounds and mapped out my next move. I took care of my baby soul through meditation, playing and writing and listening to bittersweet music that buoyed me through the pain and confusion I was experiencing, and throwing my efforts into learning all the things Chinese. That last part, I am glad to say, largely did the trick. I had a tutor; Ming was patient and generous and funny. I began writing in Chinese, both in pin yin and han zi. I spent a lot of time in Chinese restaurants to hone my burgeoning language skills. I read books by contemporary Chinese writers like Ha Jin, Mo Yan, Anchee Min, and Gao Xing Jian; I read up on history and culture. And then I decided to write a novel.

November was fast approaching, and I needed a project with an end point. I was also chomping at the bit to get back to my adopted hometown of Austin. It turned out that National Novel Writing Month was just around the bend, and I thought I had a grand idea for a story that had been kicking around for a year, something I was calling Mirror Crack’d. And…off I went.

My chief protagonist was an expatriate dodging the cow demons, snake spirits, and turtles’ eggs of the Old Capitalist Roaders who were making his life miserable back in ‘murica, and were doing their best to ferret him out in Shanghai. He had a Chinese lady friend, a dui xiang who obliquely suggested that he “go west”. Somehow the story morphed into a chronicle of a recovering heroin addict in Anytown, Yoo Ess of Aay, who was having a bad run of luck with his job, with bill collectors, with women, with living in sobriety…and then the feces hit the flywheel when his mirror image actually began speaking to him, berating him for his lifestyle choices, and then taking the reins and getting him in all kinds of trouble. For a rough draft, it was coming along nicely in terms of daily word count and in actually being readable. About 21,000 words into the digital manuscript…I moved out of town, back to Austin. The decision had been pretty definite for a while, but somehow losing my job at the pharmacy and an invitation to stay with an old friend who had started taking classes at the big university happened to coincide…so I packed up what I had in my beat-up Nissan Stanza, settled in for a stay, and didn’t work on the book for about a week. I was trying to stay current with the story, using a printout of the work-in-progress and a spiral-bound notebook to bash out what I could the old-fashioned way. When I finally got my PC back online, I worked in a flurry. I had just started a new job, my friend and I were–well, we explored options, let’s just put it that way–and I was going to do my level best to complete Mirror Crack’d by November 30. I transcribed about 12.000 words into the digital manuscript and moved forward. And got stuck. And floundered. And ran out of steam. Bearing in mind that it was only a rough draft I needed and not a marketable, polished and tightened-up work of staggering genius, I wrapped things up (however haphazardly) by the deadline with a final word count of just over 50,000 words. Good enough to say, “I wrote a novel in three weeks.”

Not exactly my level best, come to think of it. I still keep wanting to revisit that manuscript and improve upon it (read:rewrite the whole damned thing). But I remember the day I was able to print out my certificate stating I had stayed the course, had persevered even through that big hiccup in the middle, and finished writing a novel in one month’s time. I was pretty pleased with myself, and I was happy to share the news. Not that it led to literary greatness; life has a way of realigning itself to provide ever more interesting and heartbreaking challenges to those who have a particular goal in mind, however long-term that goal is.

It is that time again. There are many more things that are straining against the shell I carry with me and chipping at the mountain in my way. It’s been obvious to many people that there is a gift I should be sharing with the world, whether to motivate them, entertain them, agitate them, educate them. Why haven’t I made more of an effort to create that reality? Constantly zigging when the smart money is on zagging and using the lame excuses that I am tired, I have no time, no energy, no ideas. That is utter bullshit. We all know it. And I feel good when I complete those projects, when people tell me they like what they’ve read…and when they tell me that’s what I should be doing instead of doing the things that take me further away from what brings satisfaction to my own life.

This blog represents my first few steps in recreating my reality. It’s not for everyone; it’s for myself that I’m doing this. And I think I should be proud of–most of all–for persevering through everything else to get to this point. Now, what am I gonna do about it?

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Prompt: What do people thank you for?

This is a tough one for me figure out. I don’t think I consciously seek approval and validation…but in my own way, I think I do.  (Oh, definitely.) Without scrutinizing my own motivations too closely, there are specific things I would like to be congratulated for, but are those things really important? How many people have been sufficiently moved to reach out and say a few words about things I ache to be recognized for? That could be a self-marketing flaw, but it is my intention that this new blog evolve into a springboard from which I will earn that kind of recognition.  There are those in my concentric circles of familiarity/intimacy/trustworthiness who know what I speak of, and they’ve seen enough to know that there is indeed a lack of progress in making the creation of a lifestyle ideal that employs those specific skills and passions, and reaps sufficient rewards.

But then there’s the rest of the world, and the rest of a life, to consider. All else depends upon my intent to remain a part of the world, so I can be an important part of my own life. It all starts with the little things, which in themselves are pretty significant. I’m thinking of one person in particular to whom I am greatly indebted who reminds me on a fairly consistent basis. “Thank you for surviving,” he’ll say. “Thank you for making it this far.” And he’s right. Often are the dark, cloudy moments where I may throw up my hands in disgust–or worse, close my eyes and heave a final breath as I lay my tired body down and never rise again–and proclaim that I am done.

A important component of who I am, however, is my optimism and compassion. It gets everywhere. These are the unconscious gestures and efforts I make in any number of circumstances. They are the things that could easily go unnoticed, and I hardly notice that I’m doing them, because they are part and parcel of who I am, and they are important to the reality that I want to live in. So for those things, for those actions, I am acknowledged sufficiently.

I’ve already made this incredibly more complicated than it should be, offering apologetic, long-winded disclaimers for who I am and what I do. Essentially, I’m already recognized and given thanks simply for being myself. That is often quite enough.

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Writing Prompt: What makes you angry about the world?

Indeed. What makes me angry about the world? What makes me really angry? I don’t want to dwell too closely on this right now. The energy within me, and the energy I seem to have been attracting the past couple of weeks, has filled me with more a sense of wonder and a bright gleam of hope than a gut-wrenching ride through cognitive dissonance. That’s not to say that I’ve conveniently forgotten that there is plenty happening in the world–plenty in my own world, truth be known–that digs under my skin and festers in my soul. I’m fortunate in that I can channel that anger into positive works and forward movement when I just decide to create something to transcend that state of tunnel vision and that desire to wrap my hands around something and break it in a fit rather than try to outright destroy what makes me angry, thereby inadvertently causing damage to the world I want to live in.

In a nutshell: Betrayal. Deceit. Lack of awareness. Lack of compassion. Lack of attention. Fear and hatred and injustice and wanton destruction of world and self. These things are ugly; they distort the lens through which I view the world. They darken my heart, dampen my spirit, blind me to the beauty and the beautiful. Missed opportunities. Justifying my own actions (or lack of action). “I didn’t accomplish this because that got in the way, because other stuff, brought on by whatevers and I-didn’t-asks and it all started when…”

Okay, enough of that. I do tend to direct a lot of that anger at myself. I coulda-woulda-shoulda. Frankly, I was conditioned into believing that whatever calamity befell me, no matter how insignificant, was a direct result of me not being able to make the cut, or play by the rules, or being too (fill in the blank), or being told that what makes me happiest is merely frivolity, little more than a hobby. Ridiculous. Those who drilled such things into me are terribly joyless people, and while I love them “just because”, I can’t be around that stagnant watering hole too long.  By the same token, if I keep it inside, stiff upper lip and nothin’s nothin’, I poison myself with other peoples’ opinions and worldviews. It’s not my natural state, to be hating and hateful, to be so wound up that I burn my candle that much faster. Flame becomes conflagration

Losing parts of myself to these poisons…wasting time and wealth which I can never get back…feeling my best years are behind me…seeing the hurt that other people endure and feeling powerless to change those circumstances… And this idea that all else in the world is subordinate to selfish desire, to “progress”–even the world itself–there’s your out-of-control cold wildfire right there.

What I’m writing at the moment is very off-the-cuff, but no less true than if I’d gone off on a tirade in a real-live conversation. “Dude, what makes you angry?” Don’t get me started. Don’t even.

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Morning Movements

This is a very free exercise. And here we go.

Morning Movement

Eyelids flutter against the cool light of dawn, the sour heat of summer finally withered away and swept clean from the air. Slow stretch and flex of tight, weary muscles and sleep-heavy bones. My eyes lazily surveying dusky shadows against pellucid blue, and a mind edging upward into wakefulness, timeless and patient.

The scratch of fingertips through tousled, thinning grey mane of curls, rasping against skin and fabric. A monumental burst of motion, pretzel twist of gangly limbs pivoting, elevating, bending and unbending, sharp and angular like a wasp, then the dull freezing ache of protest that straightens my spine and seizes me, and I stiffly ballet through the close labyrinth, timeless and patient.

The dance takes me forward and roundabout in the stillness, and I flutter through doorways, and whisper across the floor, and murmur over the threshold,  and I expand into the world, absorb the fresh new sheet feel of the morning, mountain-fed and content in the wave of the moment, basking quietly, timeless and patient.

This is grace.under pressure, timeless and patient. I gave the universe another opportunity to prove me wrong and to prove me right…and the universe merely showed itself, timeless and patient.

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Oh. THIS is what I’m supposed to do.

It is ten-fifteen in the p.m., and I am usually laying low for the evening, often with a book and a light snack. It’s a sense of comfort and solitude that is very important to me. A safety blanket, of sorts. I’ve been awake for however long, I’ve had whatever kind of day, and I can feel assured that I have at least a temporary refuge and a place to convalesce from whatever agitation or euphoria has filled my sails, swept me over waters rough or calm, beat me or bathed me in storm and in light. But…I felt this urge (most immediately from a dear friend who had just opted to speak her heart through a blog) to take that running step and be who I truly am, and what I truly am is this: a writer.

A lone scout of sorts, really. The one who goes far afield from the constant buzz and chatter of suggestions both blatant and subliminal so I can hear my own thoughts. To go beyond borders, outside of the cages, to stumble and fly on my own rather than be a puppet strung to the lockstep pavane of society. I go there, and I have my adventures and I bring my diamonds and my scars and my lessons and my stories back and share what I’ve experienced, interpret what I’ve seen and felt and lived.

To be honest…some of those adventures may seem a little unsettling, a little fantastic, a sly delusional prank from the lunatic fringe. That’s what many would call these experiences. No, there’s nothing conspiratorial here, and no, I haven’t been led astray or fallen out of grace. I often went chasing those demons worldwide on my own, as if on a desperate quest, like Ged in Ursula K. LeGuin’s A Wizard of Earthsea chasing the shadow-self he unleashed upon the world in a fit of pride. Chased it down and embraced it, accepted it, conquered its power over him.

This is real life. It’s messy, sometimes. A wild ride. Crappy weather. Sometimes it’s fucking sad and horrible. A lot of times, including a recent span of days (not many so far, but they are mine and I’ll take ’em), it’s pretty damned amazing. Inspirational, successful, magical, fulfilling. I’d say my average day is measured in minimums: did I eat, did I accomplish any goals, did I try to be reach out, have a conversation, do a kindness, be creative, ask for help? Am I safe and comfortable at night? Am I of reasonable health overall? Do I have a plan for tomorrow and the flexibility to allow for variation? I call that a day, then. I nod to myself, gruffly satisfied as if in defiance of, and contempt for, the odds against me. That’s not a negative, defeatist attitude–though sometimes, it really comes off that way; I’m working on that–that’s just the way it is.

This is my stepping stone. A fresh launching pad to explore whatever it is I’m going to do from this point. I’ll tell some stories, some of them actually true. I’ll share observations, news, sharp blue invective, wry and twisted humor, elephant talk. Creativity. Rawness. I write and speak in my voice. It’s equal parts me and the world around me.

It’s an hour later and I have had coffee and brownies on a school night, so to speak.  The pre-dawn wakeup comes far too early, and I’ll be feeling it. But not too badly, I daresay. But I’ve been thinking, and the more I think, the more stilted and disingenuous my writing becomes. And I do want to get a wee bit of reading in, no matter what. It’s no weakness to make a few demands to feed my own soul.

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