Different Branches on the Same Tree

Anthony Delanoix

Holy Wow.

I came back from a walk to do a few errands in town to an amazing horoscope. But before you read it, I have to tell you what I was talking to myself about on the walk.

Lately I’ve been noticing that I need to start making time each day where I’m not working, not in front of the computer, and not taking care of other people. In other words, time to just be and to be in that kind of unscripted space where ideas arise. Or maybe they don’t. But the point is to make the space to connect with myself. Mani suggested I take an hour a day for this — rather than falling into that big either/or trap of thinking “I need a week’s vacation somewhere beautiful with no obligations.”

This need is arising especially in relation to my work right now; I keep having that nagging feeling that I need to be listening for something, and I can’t really tell you what it is. (Hence the need to listen.) But that is not going to happen by itself. I have GOT to make time to do non-work things that bring me joy and connect me with my sense of joy, purpose, and creativity. I am not a machine.

Yesterday morning, I did just that and took a nice walk in the woods while Pearl was at Hebrew school. The point wasn’t that I would get all still and blissed-out and lightning bolts of inspiration would strike (though damn, don’t you love it when that happens?). More that all of that mind-noise is a constant in the background, like a radio that you can’t turn off where no station comes in clearly, and unless I do things that are grounding and joyful — walk in the woods, have coffee with a friend, just sit and doodle or read a book — I won’t be able to get the volume down low enough as to be able to hear my own self, or soul.

Not shockingly, during my time in the woods, I took some pictures and sent myself a few random thoughts via text that later formed the basis of a newsletter (you can read it — and subscribe — here, by the way!). And when I finally did sit down later to write and work, I felt so much more present, able, ready, and glad to be there. It’s amazing how even when you’re self-employed, you can forget that you GET TO DO THIS and turn it into the very daily grind you left behind.

Anyway, I digress. Just now as I was walking home after stops at the copy shop, CVS pharmacy, and post office, I was thinking about comparing and how it feels and tastes. It feels small, tight, mean, and yucky. It tastes like a loose filling — bits of metal in my mouth that I can’t wash out, no matter how many times I rinse. Then I thought about how not comparing feels: Spacious, beautiful, connected, and easy. It tastes like jam made from fruit that was picked that very same day.

I passed a tree that was just starting to show some flowering buds along its many branches. I looked at its trunk, the biggest branches, and then the increasingly smaller ones from each of those. I thought about my life and work as a branch, and other people’s lives and work as other branches. And whoa. I know this isn’t an original metaphor, but something clicked so completely for me. It was amazing.

My branch and your branch? They are dependent on the same strong trunk, the same healthy root system, the same soil, the same rain, the same sun. One vibrant branch is an indication of a strong system. And if I think my branch and your branch are separate, I am operating from an incredibly limited perspective that is based on pure illusion. Neither of our branches would even exist without the whole tree! What’s good for you is good for me, and vice versa.

I furthered this personal revelation out loud — quietly, mind you, but out loud nonetheless, as if often my habit while walking and working something out. It felt so so good to come to this today.

And then I got home and made a turkey sandwich with avocado on a whole wheat pita (yum) and read this horoscope. (OK, now you can read it!)

Capricorn & Capricorn Rising

Wednesday’s new moon wants me to feel it. Cozy up to it. Revel in the realness of it. Joy is my healer. Pleasure is my therapist. Amusement is my muse.

The inner-revolution that I am currently experiencing is one that needs a whole lot of happy to make it happen. Any amount that I can cultivate and allow myself to fully experience is a win. I do so consciously. I carve out time to explore what brings me bliss. I dedicate time to all things that delight my senses. I work at creating a life filled with wonder.

I am not afraid to feel good. And when I am, I help myself work through it so that I can feel the power of healing my self-denying tendencies. I work through it because I owe myself that much. I work through it so that I can honor the sacrifices my ancestors made to get me here.

I laugh, I love, I live for the benefit of my entire family tree. From my roots to the fruits yet to have ripened.

I use Wednesday’s new moon to feel the pulsating power of my creative energy. I use Wednesday’s new moon to give in to what that force wants to create next. I use Wednesday’s new moon to say yes to the projects that ground me in life-enhancing expressions of joyful healing.

*The new moon in Taurus, occurring on April 26th, is a new moon to manifest with. There hasn’t been a moon this open to interpretation in a very long time. Read more

The bolded lines? Um, yeah. So exactly where I’m at right now. Taking time away from the things you HAVE to do, the producing, the responding, the planning, the tangible, the to-do lists, and making time for the things you WANT to do is a crucial aspect, at least for me, of being a creative person. In fact, rather than detracting from my work, having a full life always, always enriches it.

We need to do our part in tending the soil of the tree, rather than expecting the flowers on those branches to bloom all by themselves. And when I tend to “my” soil, the truth is I’m tending to yours, too. We are all connected. Everything else is pure illusion.

We Encourage You to Submit Your Ego Again

submit“Though we’re passing on this one, we really appreciate your trusting us with your work.”

I know it shouldn’t get to me, but it does. I know it doesn’t matter, but tonight it does. I know getting work published is insanely subjective and stupidly competitive — and that I’m being irrationally ridiculous to feel so pissed and discouraged. I know that getting published does not make life magically different or better.

I know you win some, you lose some. I know all the famous writers who plastered their walls with letters from “appreciative” editors and indifferent editors and slush-pile unpaid intern editors.

Come to think of it, I was an unpaid intern once, at a literary journal in Union Square called Parnassus. I wonder if I was given the power to reject anyone. I know walking to town with my kid on a sunny Friday afternoon brings me joy. I know reading poem after poem by people who are writing their hearts out feels as trippy and wondrous and privileged as I imagine moonwalking would–buoyant, ethereal, and solid in our landing.

I know we’re all putting on our oxygen masks every day. We’re breathing molecules from other hemispheres on this itty-bitty planet. I know I’m eating Annie’s mac & cheese with a can of tuna mixed in for dinner, and that I get to go put clean sheets on my bed after this and remember childbirth yes, like it was yesterday, and that there is so much new grey in my hair, especially around my temples, and some days it’s all I can do not to smoke ’em if you got ’em but I don’t got ’em because it’s rather nice, this breathing situation without tanks or masks or other such appendages. I know this will blow over, over and out, mark my words and Roger that, it doesn’t matter.

It does not matter.

But just for a minute it did, it does, and I need to allow myself this moment. This anger.

The thing is, I’ve never fit with the establishment — whatever that may mean. I got an MFA but then became a Hillel director, then a life coach and a career counselor. I got married and had babies and wondered for years: Am I still a writer if I’m not actually writing? I knew the answer was yes; it felt similar to a non-practicing Jew still being Jewish. But that “yes” didn’t stop me from wondering and wanting so much to not only know I was a writer, but to interface with the world as a writer. To reach people with my words. To connect deeply through my writing. This was my dream, and it still is.

I remember when Aviva was a baby and I’d go out alone, just to be with myself. I always brought a journal, and I’d sit by the lake or in a coffeeshop and write. I wrote fundraising appeal letters and bylaws and student group descriptions and eventually brochure and website copy for my fledgling business. But I still wasn’t a writer who was writing; I was writer who was trying to make a living doing other things that used other skills, and writing was a skill but in that context, not a soul.

Blogging started to change all of that, and a couple of times lately in conversations with people in my writing groups, the topic of practice has come up. Practice not only in the sense of writing practice, but the parallel practice of “putting it out there.” Of not knowing whether or where or with whom or how your words will land. Of learning not to look at, or at least not get snagged by, “seen by” stats or likes or comments as a measure of your writing’s value. Or your own value. Of knowing that silence does not equal judgment. Silence could equal busy people caught up in their own lives and stories and minds and responsibilities; silence could equal awe; silence could equal nobody saw. Silence does not matter. Silence is a gift. It gives us back ourselves.

When faced with rejection, with silence, I get to sit here with myself. At the kitchen table where I so often ramble and write. At the juncture between an inhale and an exhale, that plateau where I can choose to hold my breath in and in and in — now it becomes a game, like when we were kids — until I can’t hold it any longer and I allow the release through my nostrils. It’s then that some tears come, as if on cue.

There is room for you, the breath seems to be saying to the tears. There is room for rejection. There is room for anger. There is room for appreciation. There is room for resilience and rage and connection and moonwalking and silence. There is room for change. The only thing there isn’t room for at the inn is shame. We’ve had enough of that, haven’t we?

“We encourage you to submit your work again.”

I think I may, I think I might, I think I might not, I think for tonight it really doesn’t matter. I think I am lucky to be alive, full belly and rip-roaring heart and green speckled eyes and a wife who loves me and gorgeous growing-up kids and people who trust me with their stories.

There’s a reason I’m not in the business of evaluating people’s words. We are surrounded by evaluative measures and systems; those are not hard to come by. What’s hard to come by is genuine, unconditional, non-competitive encouragement. So that’s what I do now, not only for myself but as a job. A job I made up out of the blue! Can you believe that is even possible? I give other people the very thing I want to receive. I teach what I have to learn, even though I really don’t think of what I do as teaching. This was my dream, and it still is. And it’s changing and evolving and unfolding. It’s scary and it’s beautiful and it’s unpredictable and, as my accountant reminded me, being self-employed can make us become quite religious.

Anyway. For tonight, I am not encouraged, but I will keep submitting — if not my poems, then my ego.

I submit and surrender to life as I know it, with all the trust in the world that saving one life is like saving the whole world, and not knowing — never knowing — where or whether or with whom these words will land.

If you’ve read this, thank you. For hanging in there with me and my ups and downs and rants and raves. It’s good for me to let this shit out. And it’s also good to hit “publish” and unplug for 24 hours, which is what I’m about to do.

Besides, Madonna once said, “Rejection is the greatest aphrodisiac.” I’m not taking her word for it though; better go find out for myself.

Shabbat Shalom, my friends.