How Is Your Day Going So Far? (Please Do Not Ask Me That)

Contemporary life has it’s annoyances. I don’t like the superficiality of “how are you?” I found it particularly difficult when I was bereaved as a widow. Did the person really want to know? Should I lie? I still brush it off—charmingly I hope—with the answer “I have no idea!” Sometimes people laugh. Mostly they just ignore the unexpected.
At 8 am at the dentist’s office, I was asked “How is your day going so far?” So far? Well, I had coffee and psyched up to be injected, numbed, drilled, crowned, and charged a king’s ransom. My day was mediocre, headed for bad. Why ask?
“What can possibly have happened so far?” I said. I was unprepared for the answer, which in true New Mexican fashion looked at potential disaster with both resignation and humor. The speaker answered: “You could have been pulled over by the cops. Busted. You could have gone into labor. Someone else could have gone into labor…” I had to laugh. This sounded like some of the more plausible excuses I used to get in English 111 about why an essay was late.
So I enjoyed the exchange. Until the next time I got asked. At the airport. At 6:30 am. I’d had coffee, and psyched up for TSA, lines, turbulence, and strange landing gear noises.
This time, I didn’t say much of anything.
Next time, please don’t ask.

Counterculture

My mother said NO a lot. NO, you cannot go to Woodstock. No, you cannot stay out past midnight at the peace rally concert to see Jimi Hendrix collapse on the stage.
But she was also distracted, a working mother of four, married to my dad during his full blown mid-life crisis. So I escaped–into the dry fountain in Sheep’s Meadow, to the dark edge of the East Village. I was always just a little too young, though, born in 1954, to be a fully fledged hippie.
Still, when I found myself in the Counterculture in the Southwest exhibit at the New Mexico History Museum, tears came to my eyes.

Maybe it was because New Mexico and southern Colorado are so dear to me–and also places of ongoing utopian hopes. There are very few degrees of separation between me and many of the major places and players in the exhibit. Plus, if there is anything I love about the counterculture, it is the clothes.

Uncoincidentally, I’m headed to the 50th anniversary of Twin Oaks commune. Part of my life has become history. I never lived at Twin Oaks, but my husband Rich did for many years.

I was driven crazy during the 1960’s and 70’s by the fact that I always felt I was tagging along after the “older kids.” But in my own way I was influenced by the counterculture–how else end up at San Francisco Zen Center or even for that matter the westside of Santa Fe. My compost pile, my shoes, and my ability to say “groovy” without irony all show the influence of that which ran counter to the mainstream.
And for which I remain grateful.

My advice is-stop taking advice…

Do this, do that…now do this other thing…
Advice seems to be everywhere, particularly on my social media feed. And I’m as guilty as anyone of giving advice. I even made part of my living writing how-to articles for many years. But right now, I’m really sick of advice.
The current slant seems to be…do THIS or ELSE. Get this medical test or die a lingering death. Say just the right thing or be labelled a politically incorrect buffoon. One strike and you are out.
I have a little advice about that! Human life does not really work this way. First of all, there is nothing you can do to reduce a risk to zero. You are going to make mistakes—as a parent, a friend, a professional. You are going to say foolish things and eat things that aren’t good for you and…not much is going to happen. How do I know this? Because I’ve already made numerous mistakes and…not much happened.
Of course, don’t drink and drive. Don’t be cruel to babies and kittens. Be a mensch. But within that context, I advise you to just be yourself.
For example, let’s look at the outpouring of advice about disaster and suffering. You SHOULD care equally about all problems everywhere. You should NOT say someone is in your thoughts and prayers, as it is too facile. Or, you should start praying right now. You SHOULD do whatever the author is suggesting.
Let’s face it, this kind of advice is ridiculous. Have you lost a friend by saying you were thinking of them? Or, conversely, bringing them a casserole? Have you destroyed a relationship with someone different than you by not understanding them perfectly? Unlikely. Same for spouses and children.
We’re really not that fragile. And now I’m going to take a break from giving advice.

Time For A Writing Class with Terry Wilson

Terry says:
My approach as a teacher is to encourage my students to do as much freewriting as possible, and to create a supportive atmosphere in the class so students can break through their writing blocks. For our text, we use Natalie Goldberg’s book, Writing Down the Bones; I feel that every student has important stories to share. The group is quite varied; some are new writers, and many are writers who just want to maintain a discipline so they keep going with their craft. We write memoir, fiction, and poetry, and sometimes students even pen songs and rap tunes during the class. I employ different exercises while we’re together so the time we spend is enjoyable: one example is a scavenger hunt where we use “found objects” to write about. We also go to Blue Corn for one class during the semester, and during this session, we blend non-fiction and fiction by writing about the food in front of us and its smell, taste, etc. as well as the noise and music we hear around us. Then we mix that into the creation of a fictional story about one of the customers in the restaurant and something that we imagine happening to that person, good or bad. We do “color walks” in one of the first weeks, so students are focusing on the sense details around them. Sometimes we also put a costume on and become a character that we then write about! In general, though, we generate a lot of new writing material, especially during the first 8 weeks of the class. During the second 8 weeks we continue to freewrite, but we focus more on character, plot, setting, and dialogue. We also critique pieces if students choose to do that. At the end of the semester, we often create a class book of stories, poems, and memoir pieces. We have done public readings at the end of the term, too.

In terms of my background as a writer, I’ve had about thirty pieces published in literary magazines, newspapers, and journals throughout the US. I’ve done stand up comedy in Los Angeles, and I also wrote and performed my own one woman show at El Museo a few years ago. I recently published a memoir called Confessions of a Failed Saint which I am now marketing.

I run the class workshop style, so students often get to know each other quite well. Many of my students have had their essays, stories, poems, and even books published. Writing Creatively is a perfect class to take to enter into SFCC’s Creative Writing Program because in it, you can experience many different types of writing and begin to develop a discipline. Or if you’re a more seasoned wordsmith, you can use the class to keep writing, keep getting feedback, and keep developing your skills!

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Terry is teaching a free introductory creative writing class this coming Saturday, June 10 at the Downtown Library from 3:30-5:30 pm.
English 120 class starting Aug. 23 for fall–www.sfcc.edu