Dance as a writing prompt?

My new friend Miriam is a long-time professional dancer and choreographer. I met her in a writing workshop at Bar Ilan University and have enjoyed hearing her tales of dance, particularly those she found herself in while living in far-flung areas of the world foreign to me.

But yesterday, Miriam surprised me even more when she led our group in a movement exercise designed to be used as a writing prompt.

Movement as a writing prompt?

While I’ve sometimes walked around outdoors as a way to move past writer’s block, I never would have guessed that following simple guided instructions on how to move in space would bring such a wealth of content to the surface …and so quickly.

The experience for me was remarkable. While in it, I was singularly focused on following Miriam’s instructions. But as it turned out, my body’s movement allowed my mind to relax … and open up to new ideas.

In the final of three exercises, Miriam instructed us through a series of varying movements during which we were to write our name in the air. For the final movement, however, we were to present ourselves to the group, then write our name in the air.

jen

I noticed a grave difference between how I felt when I moved independent of the group and wrote my name in the air, and how I felt presenting my name inside and to the group. The difference was physical. An ease that accompanied my independent movements … a stiffness that showed up once I faced the group.

This physical discomfort stirred inside my creative space afterwards, when we sat down for ten minutes to write.

And it was this discomfort that became a poem that I dare to share with you…

The Group.

Take care with my bare heart …

With the me out there.

===

 

Me Alone Meets Me Out There

Will I always be two Mes?

The Me alone and the Me out there?

When I am Me alone, fast or slow, I am me.

Giggly, thoughtful, silly me.

When I am Me out there, within without, I am not me.

I am a stilted lilted version of me.

A me wrapped in bubble wrap.

A me on display.

I am cute, a hoot, but not a whole

Me.

I wish the two Mes would meet one day

On the street, on the stage,

in the office, on the page

And decide to become one.

The Me alone

and the Me out there.

Easy peasy pair.

==

(All content, including poetry, is original — unless otherwise noted — and copyright Jen Maidenberg.)

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Genius in a bottle

I hit my head this morning. Hard. On the corner of the stackable washer/dryer in the very tight space that is my bathroom/laundry room.

After the stars stopped spinning, I waited.

What was I waiting for?

A stroke of genius.

My flux capacitor.

The only thing that came was a golf ball size lump on my forehead.

Lucky enough, I’ve remained conscious since and can see straight enough to write this post.

But sadly, my knock on the head didn’t wake up any sleeping idea.

Except this one …

Not only are we always half expecting that one day our great idea will come to us, but

we are also always half expecting it will come to us quite by accident.

 

 

How peeling eggs turned me into Ralph Macchio

I think the majority of the world falls into two camps.

People who don’t mind peeling eggs. And people who hate it with all their might.

Peeling eggs, for me, is torture.

It’s a slow torture, too.

It’s painful to my senses. The uneven, unexpected cracks that may or may not lace the eggs once they come out of the pot. The stretch of the skin as you pull off the hard, cracked outer shell.  The rubbery touch and feel of the skin beneath. All the small left over pieces that you can’t easily scrape off your fingertip.

I can hardly stand it.

What I like even less about peeling eggs is the amount of time it takes, and the fact that each egg must be peeled slowly and with care. This isn’t so bad if you want just one egg, but becomes more of a nuisance if you need to make egg salad …and much more of a pain if you are making egg salad for a party of 10 or 15 people.

That’s a lot of eggs to peel.

But what I like even LESS is when a piece of shell pulls off with it some of the meat of the egg white.

Grrrr… and you’re left with a very deformed, less than perfect, certainly not whole, egg.

As a borderline perfectionist, this truly is almost more than I can bear.

But I bear it.

Over the years, I have been given a few tips on how to peel eggs easier. (“Wait til they’ve cooled. Do it quick while they’re still hot. Crack a hole on each end and blow into it first.”)

No matter what the technique, it still is a process I wish I didn’t have to go through.

But I do it anyway.

Mindfulness comes in handy in these situations, I have found.

Unless you don’t mind chomping on shells, peeling eggs requires extraordinary presence and patience.  You need both hands to peel and you need a careful eye to search and find the leftover pieces of shell on the egg.

You need to be with the egg.

You can’t be typing a text to your husband or responding to an email from your boss.

You can’t be changing the baby’s diaper or sitting on the toilet.

You can’t speed through it — unless you don’t mind peeling half the egg off with the shell.

And you can’t do it in front of the TV or in the dark in bed.

And if you hate peeling eggs as much as I do — you tolerate all this in the hopes that the ends will justify the means. BUT, at the same time, you are required to completely give up expectations of the outcome.

You need to be okay with the mauled, ugly egg, for instance — or you’ll be boiling and peeling eggs all day long, over and over again.

I was peeling eggs semi-mindfully today — and by semi-mindfully, I mean my emotional state was somewhere between pulling out my hair and poking out my eyes — when my 6 year old son came over and asked if he could help.

I almost said, “Thank GOD!” and ran away.

Instead, I sat with him and patiently showed him how to peel an egg. I taught him the steps, instructed him on how to peel the shell completely, and coached him on letting go of the need for the egg to be perfect.

As I heard my voice out loud, guiding him on concepts I still myself need coaching on, I suddenly got the epiphany of  “peeling the eggs”

Do you hear Mr. Miyagi’s voice the way I do?

He’s saying:

“Peel the eggs eggs

Peel the eggs

Peel the eggs …

No, no look here.

Slowly, slowly.

Peel the eggs

Peel the eggs

Peel the eggs.

Very good, Jenny San.

Don’t forget to breathe…

Peel the eggs,

Peel the eggs.”

Unconventional workout

I started running.

Yup.

I’m a runner.

A short-distance, short-time runner.

For almost a month, I have been running for 15 minutes every day except for Shabbat.

That’s it. 15 minutes.

And it works. I finally found an exercise regimen that works.

For now.

Maybe it’s not enough for everyone, but it’s enough for me.

For now.

I’ve also committed to writing more.

Tiny tidbits here and there.

A blog or the start of a new short story or a poem for fun spurred by a random writing prompt.

I find, the more I write, the more I write.

And the better I feel.

So between the running and the writing, my physical and emotional health seems to be on the up and up.

I know because my hormones say so.

They say so by being quiet when they are normally loud.

Quiet hormones. Quiet head.

Ahh….

But I think I could add a third element to my personalized workout:

Gratitude.

Gratitude, as we know, is such an energy boost. It’s a life lifter.

When we feel gratitude — the day after a violent stomach bug, or the minute after you avoided a tragedy or danger, or simple moments of love between you and your spouse or your child or your cat — we love life.

In the very moment we feel gratitude, we love life.

And loving life is all any of us ever want. It’s why we exercise. It’s why we write.

It’s why we exist at all — to love life.

So, I’m going to try to add 15 minutes of gratitude to my daily workout regimen.

If it’s that easy to love life, why wouldn’t I?

Want to join me?