# of literary mags submitted to: 2
# of agents queried: 0
writing progress made: wrote 8 pages of a story
Last night I was home alone. I made myself a cocktail, turned up my music, and spread out a huge arts and crafts project on the dining room table. It was great.
But then, in the middle of the night, I was jolted awake by a banging sound coming from outside. I lay paralyzed in my bed, my eyes wide and my ears alert. The noise came again. It sounded like someone was outside the kitchen door.
At that moment, I realized that I’d forgotten to lock the doors before I went to bed. And Zeus wasn’t here to protect me. My heart began to beat heavily.
Maybe it was nothing, I thought. Maybe the noise was coming from a neighbor’s house. But there it was again, and it was definitely coming from very close by. Maybe Nate was home early, even though the likelihood of him arriving home at 4:30 in the morning was slim.
I didn’t know what to do. Should I call 9-1-1? Should I just ignore it? Should I arm myself with something weapon-like? I found it hard to believe that there was a thief or murderer outside the house, but I felt like I needed to prepare myself for that possibility. Finally, I decided (mostly because my body was paralyzed with fear anyway) to just lie perfectly still and silent, and hope that whoever or whatever it was wouldn’t come inside my room.
I lay like that for a while, my eyes open and my breathing shallow. My body was tense and listening hard. The sound had stopped, but I was still alert. There could be an intruder creeping around the house right now, I told myself. I had to be ready to act.
But then, at some point, my eyes must have closed. At some point my breathing deepened. At some point I fell asleep.
* * *
This morning when I woke up everything was fine. I had not been robbed or murdered. I noted this thankfully then went out into the living room for my daily ten minutes of meditation.
Here is what I’ve been trying to do while meditating:
1. sit up straight (without putting too much effort into it)
2. breathe normally and focus on my breath (although I’m not exactly sure what this means)
3. when I’m having stray thoughts, notice them, then clear them out of my mind (I guess that’s what I’m supposed to do with them)
The smiling part is something that comes from Eat, Pray, Love, and I thought it sounded like a good idea. There have been scientific studies that show smiling can actually make you feel happier. However much that may or may not be true, it seems like a good idea to smile for ten minutes, first thing in the morning.
So this morning I sat down with my legs crossed, smiled, and started noticing my breathing. I should write about the strange noise in my blog, I thought. Oops! Stray thought! I pushed it away and continued smiling and breathing. Isn’t it weird how you can never remember the moment you fall asleep? Oops! I imagined a Zamboni making its way across my mind, clearing away my thoughts and leaving nothing but smooth, white blankness behind. Oh yeah, maybe I can go ice skating sometime…
Suddenly, a few minutes had gone by and I was thinking about all sorts of things. Ice skating had led to Christmas had led to people I needed to add to my Christmas card list. And, I’d stopped smiling. When had I stopped smiling?
I started over. Smiling. Breathing. Noticing.
But soon it happened again. Somehow, I’d gotten away from the breathing again, and my lips had fallen out of the smile. When had it happened? Why couldn’t I remember the exact moment when my thoughts had drifted away and my smile had faded?
I guess it’s the same reason we can never remember the exactly when we fall asleep. We can’t remember when we slip from one state of consciousness to another. There is a line that divides these two states, but the line is impossible to see — we’re never aware of crossing it.
Recently I was talking to Paul about the creative process. I said that sometimes I write a straight-forward story, and afterward I look back and see that it has themes and deeper meanings that I didn’t even mean to be there. It’s pretty amazing and mysterious.
Sometimes I think about the line between the conscious and unconscious mind. How close can my conscious mind get to that divide? I will never be able to consciously reach it, but what happens as I get infinitely close?
Maybe, as I write, a part of me is crossing the line, slipping into that deeper place, without the rest of me noticing — or remembering. Our minds are terribly complex.
After breakfast I opened the kitchen door to put my apple core in the compost bucket. But the bucket lid had been pried open, the bucket knocked over, and the contents spilled all over the porch. Raccoons! Of course. That was what I had heard last night. I’m glad I didn’t call 9-1-1.
Smile for ten minutes, even if you’re not particularly happy. Notice how you feel after and report back to me.