Joy v. Belief

I stood in the parking lot of the Coronado National Monument and listened to the park ranger talk about the bands of drug cartels barreling across the border in their trucks. “I’ve watched them unload metal planks and lean them up on four foot high fences and then floor it so their trucks fly off the other side of the fence. They don’t stop. I’ve had them come straight at me. I know there’s aliens up there in those peaks waiting and signaling to their people across the border.”

I look up at the rocky cliffs and see nothing. Blue sky. Scrubby pine trees. Pinkish rocks. I think about spy movies where there is the glint of light on a mirror signaling to someone far away. No glint. No signal.

The ranger keeps talking about the border and how he wouldn’t have come back to work at this park if they hadn’t built the thirty foot wall. “It was too dangerous.” His blue eyes look straight at me. The way he speaks is matter of fact. Not angry. Not trying to convince me. His experience is seeing lots of people cross the border illegally. His experience forms his belief.

Belief shapes our reality. What we see (and don’t see) bolsters that belief.

My mind skips to a French University I attended long ago. There was a delegation of Chinese students attending the University. They moved as a group. They were never alone. They exercised, ate and studied together. I’d heard they were not allowed to interact with anyone outside their group. They were meant to be in France, learn French and return to China unblemished by their experience.

How weird, I thought. What if one of them met someone and fell in love, I wondered. (I was madly in love with a Japanese man.) I believed in the power of love to shift the ground underneath one’s feet and make you see the world through a different lens.

I still do. I believe in the corrupting influence of love.

What does this have to do with joy?  Or my year long inquiry into joy?

If I believe the writing will be hard, it will be.  If I believe writing is a duty and an obligation, it will be. If I come to the page with fear and dread, then they will be my writing partners.


If I come to the page with curiosity and faith and the belief that I can write something lovely and rich and deep and meaningful and striated with light and dark, well, then…

Let me be corrupted by joy.

Joy Takes A Hike

No, Really. I went hiking in Southern Arizona. See…


It was beautiful. Really freaking beautiful. Every step was a joy. Even the hard ones.

But here I am again. And believe me, I hesitated about coming back. Not from hiking. Back to the joy inquiry. Why? Well, because I said I was going to do it every day. So of course when I didn’t, I immediately thought, “Well, you fucked up. You can’t keep a commitment. You are SUCH a flaky loser writer.”

Wow, harsh, eh? No one can’t beat me up like I can beat me up.

And no one can get up but me. So in the face of all that beating myself up, I start again. Things happen. Life twists and turns. We have to let things go slack for a bit so we can pick something else up. The point is to pick it back up if it’s important. This inquiry is important.

If only to stop the beating up of my dear, sweet self and live more joyfully every day.


Today this gorgeous song came on my play list.

When it ended, I flipped to Joni Mitchell’s first recording of this song.

So many years difference in between. I loved the first recording. The haunting purity of her voice. That voice spoke to all the innocence and yearning inside me when I was a young adult. I was on the precipice of so much. That voice carried me and kept me balanced on the high wire, crossing into adulthood while hanging onto myself.

But this more recent version…Oh my, the seasoning in her voice. The depth of musicality. How she knows her voice now.  How she lets it dance with all the other instruments. How sure she is of her own.

Sometimes I worry about getting older. Aging out. Becoming irrelevant. But when I listen to her older voice, I stop worrying. Maybe we can’t hit all the high notes the way we used to but, it doesn’t matter. The notes now are deeper. Life is so much richer on this side of the wire.

As I was writing

yesterday, I noticed this conversation in my head.

Me: This is a sweet scene.
Me: Yeah, I’m kinda getting to know my characters.
Me: If you knew them better, this scene would really be good.
Me: Hey this is a first draft.
Me: Yeah, well, if you knew them better, you’d be certain this scene would make it to the second draft.
Me: Omigod, shut up.
Me: You don’t even know where this scene is going in the book.
Me: Near the end.
Me: Maybe. If you’re lucky.
Me: Would you knock it off. This is a first draft. Even if this scene is not in the book, it’s helping me get to know the characters AND the story better.
Me: Well, I hope this scene makes it to the second  draft. If if does then you won’t have wasted your time today.



The Joyful Moments

Sensing my brain writing even while I am not.
Laughing with an acquaintance. Really laughing & feeling something shift between us.
Working out and noticing that my 3 lb. dumbbell tricep curls have become 12 lb. curls.
Noticing how peacefully my cat is sleeping at the end of my bed in the sunlight.
Watching a perfect movie.
Fixing my front door (so it locks) by myself.
Trying a new yoga practice and feeling eager for the next lesson.
Eating a combination of leftovers from the fridge and they taste delicious.
Seeing the sun glow behind the morning fog.
Getting a card from a dear friend and knowing they were thinking of me with each word.
Receiving twelve emails from women wanting to be in my class.
Being alive right now.

I am writing this post because I believe that if I want to re-pattern my neural pathways, if I want to access more joy in my writing then one of the ways I can do it is to notice more joy, more effortless joy every day, every hour, every minute.

So there