Forest Fire Caused by Inordinate Number of Americans Sparking Joy

I really feel the above was a missed opportunity by The Onion in lampooning the KonMari-ing of America.

The Magical Tidying Up phenomenon is a hoot, though, isn’t it? First, it was the calming watercolor covered book, a tiny little tome that was responsible for millions of women hugging their sequined sorority tops, thanking them for all the good times they had dancing on bar tops, before letting the sequins set sail for Goodwill. Then, we have the Netflix special bringing this petite Japanese sprite of a woman as a sort of Buddhist interventionist into the homes of Americans, showing them how to accordion fold their T-shirts in a way that is so arousing, apparently, that my husband just walked by me and said, “Not gonna lie. Something really satisfying about the Marie Kondo fold.”

I love it when small little forces are the big bosses of us. Like babies and puppies and Richard Simmons (did they ever find him?). I also like Kondo’s method which is actually the opposite of bossy. It places the real agency on the owner and accumulator of the stuff, and rather than shaming him/her into submission, it simply asks them to self-examine whether or not something brings him/her more, instantaneous joy.

Having lived in so many places that would be considered small in the First World over the years, I can attest that this self-examination is the only sustainable way to tide accumulation. Will bringing this distressed wooden birdcage/pilates body rig /hydroponic tomato irrigator into my home offer a more joyful experience? It usually does not. Minimalism isn’t always the most joyful existence, but in my home, it’s the surest way to tame the chaos and assure the peaceful vibe.

But why, I wonder, does minimalism have to be this Very Evolved State of Being that We Must Announce? Like, the other day I was rifling through the racks at Marshall’s for a white oxford shirt. There were none in my size, and, trust, I cased the juniors, petites, women’s, men’s and little girls/boys. Nary an oxford shirt to be had. But among the finer merchandise and wares was a large rustic sign, the kind one would put in her living room, announcing in brushlettering, LESS HOUSE MORE HOME.

And I was sort of like, dude. Please promise me I never have the pleasure of being in a space where someone paid $19.99 to broadcast the fact that they were aware of the square footage of their abode, and what mattered more was that everyone knew they liked it that way?

Because this little piggy would be vomiting all the way home.

I suppose it is all anchored in our hyperconsumerism, because if we haven’t commodified something, does it really exist in America? We are, after all, buying into the KonMari method. If she were not selling something, the info. would be available freely. I assume Marie Kondo action figures are available somewhere—one piles, one folds, one embraces, one carries a lighter for sparking joy—collect all 4! The bobbleheads and FunkoPops will be available by Christmas for your stocking stuffers, BE YE NOT VEXED.

It’s not lost on me, of course, that there is an excess of judgment in this post, that my mental closets are filled with reserves of cynicism that are not joy sparkers for anyone, myself included. I am not a bandwaggoner and am loathe to ever be called a johnny come lately. I am as fascinated by pop culture as I am reviled by it. But there are plenty of pockets in my kimono for more admiration and openmindedness, and I am not yet at full joy capacity, so I should probably go hug some more sequins.

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The Overflowing Port-a-Potties at National Parks are stressing me out

I was only three paragraphs into an article about the senatorial stalemate over the government shutdown and I was already stressed. My latent fear that we are all very near the edge of a cliff surges every time I read about the Oval Office Occupant. So cavalier, so crass; the news is never good. The mere mention of how the port-a-potties in Nat’l Parks are overflowing due to the lack of government staffing was too much. The metaphor of our crap piling high in forced neglect. This latest surge of fearfulness felt more like magma than simply a fizzy anxiety bubbling to the surface.

I suppose this is because I failed to choose a word for the year. This is likely my penance for not pressing my ear to the Universe more closely, asking her to whisper me my January mantra. Everyone else is so evolved! So zen and able to cope. I’m already a fail potato and it’s only January 6.

The more I thought about how one man’s job was affecting me, how I was allowing it to leverage power over my mental peace, the more resentful I became. I was letting the man with the orange pallor—whom I’ve never met—take something that wasn’t his. Therein I found my resolution, perhaps not one for the full year but at least until the frenzied feeling is no longer palpable. Because frenzied feelings that compel us to enact change are productive. But this one was incapacitating and that is not good for anyone.

Ergo, I resolve to tear a page out of my therapist husband’s playbook. This man, knocking on 40’s door, has the abs of a functionally fit college man. We hate him. We adore him. But we realize his physique is not by accident or genetic overblessing. I once asked him how he stays motivated to get up every day at o’dark thirty to complete a workout at a gym for which he doesn’t pay and for which no hired trainer is present. He said that because of the nature of his job, where he listens and contains the stories of adolescents dealing with trauma and grief and addiction, that, in order to be the best in showing up for them, he has to first show up for himself. And he does so at the gym.

So in this year, my 38th on this planet, I am showing up for myself in the following ways, so that I can further show the frenzied feelings compelled by Presidential Dysfunction that they have no power over me:
- Journaling briefly each day
- Doing the SheReadsTruth study on the Book of Luke as often as possible
- Plotting out my workout schedule each week so that I know when I am going to classes, when I am letting my walk with the dog suffice for the workout du jour

I am fully aware that this is such a White Overprivileged Lady thing to write, like, really? You are combatting injustice by putting on your yoga pants? But I’d like to believe that by showing up for myself and having a plan about where my energy will be spent, I will better be able to stand down the inequities that surface as well as more shrewdly allocate my time and resources toward resistance, because I’m already in command of them.

I’d love to hear how you are allocating your time and energy with intention and how it may make you a better activist in doing so.

Yours in not being a fail potato,

On meeting (exceeding) my goal of getting 52 rejections in a year

There’s a piece about a woman who got 101 rejections in a year in the New York Times, today,” Loverpants mentions.

Perhaps for other couples, the person who mentioned this to the other might expect to have another day to live, or a few hours at most. Who casually teases the other with rejection tales, casual-like, as if it’s a Crossfit workout of the day tip? But in our particular entanglement, this teaser was a complete aphrodisiac. I felt so seen. So known. So loved. I wanted to jump that man’s bones. And also to read the New York Times immediately.

At the beginning of the year, I had set out to do the same as the writer in the NYT. I challenged myself to seek 52 rejections, one per week, for my writing. I wanted to play the numbers game. I know this works for e-bay sellers, for example. The more pairs of Nikes they list, the more sales they see. Plus, momentum is powerful. Objects in motion continue in motion unless flatly and coldly rejected by a non-paying literary magazine, as the Law of Literary Motion goes, which Isaac Newton probably knew but just failed to disclose since his poetry wasn’t very good either. Ego! When your goal is to maintain momentum, though, there’s no time to stew over a door slamming shut. You have to find another potential door to knock on. You’re very busy trying to come up with your salutation once you do.

I submitted my work a total of 159 times in 2018. Most were for publications I read regularly, some were for more obscure literary magazines, and a couple were for residencies/conferences. Here is the breakdown:


The math isn’t exactly the kind of pretty pie graphable fair compare. These aren’t the numbers that show clearly how the sweat equity leads to success. The measuring stick for writers is different and personal and ever-evolving. And it’s always set to music, trust me. It’s just like “Grey’s Anatomy” over here any time an editor’s e-mail appears. ::cue emo song by Ingrid Michaelson::

For me, I was determined to place my writing in new outlets. This was the first year I had pieces published in and the Washington Post. These opportunities were thrilling for me. THRILLLLLLLING like getting sung to by the waiters wearing sombreros at Chi Chis in the 80s! I enjoyed the work and tore my hair out over it, as well. The process was not glamorous and rewriting three different drafts for one story for one editor was a deep dish of humble pie. I still loved the work, in the way one loves anything hard that reaps rewards.

The numbers also don’t represent the relationships forged, both with amazing editors who are consummate professionals, as well as with sources who trusted me with their vulnerability and the details of their stories. I got to be in touch with several people with whom I’ve not been in touch for years. And I got paid to do so. That’s some awesome time travel, cruising back to the past where you met someone and meeting them in the present where they share meaningful details of their lives. I’m grateful for all of it.

The psychology behind aiming for rejection rather than acceptance, as the NYT piece says, is essentially exposure therapy. If rejection is the fearsome activity, one needs to pursue it so much and so doggedly that it loses its mystique and therefore its potency. In pursuing rejection, did rejection lose its sting for me? I’d have to say that it did. I don’t think I realized how much it was unseating me to have my work dismissed or ignored. I knew I was kind of a precious pain whenever I couldn’t scrape myself off the floor because an editor didn’t like my penchant for portmanteaus. I just knew that I had sad feeeeeelings. Knowing it was my job, though, to take a rejection and turn it into forward motion—that is, to find somewhere else to try to place the work — reframed the process for me. A dead end was actually just a cul-de-sac where I could turn around and find somewhere else in the neighborhood to visit.

As much as I’d like to end on the note that I’m aiming for twice as many rejections in the new year, I’d say that I may take a different, less bullish approach. The momentum of seeking rejection helped me to overcome a lot of the fear I hadn’t realized was holding me back from doing the damn thing. The rejection momentum seeped into the rest of my life, and I started to recognize other areas where I had been listening to a whole lotta noise. My big mood heading into 2019 is to carve out time for wellness, and I include my writing in this. I feel better when I’m writing, but, I’m not totally convinced that it always needs to be published by a third party. So I’m hoping to do a good bit more on this platform. And you? What are you resolving or reaffirming in the New Year?