Raymond Carver and his last perfect sentence

Raymond Carver's last poems

Raymond Carver's last poems

It is Raymond Carver’s birthday today. I just learned that from the May 25th edition of Writer’s Almanac, published daily by American Public Media.

I love email. I love the daily surprises and messages it delivers both from friends and deep soul writers who want to talk about Writing Down Your Soul, and from newsletters I signed up to receive. Most of the latter go away after a bit, however. Only a few continue to be welcome, day in and day out, in my little blue mailbox. (Ok, so it’s not blue and it’s not a mailbox, but I like to pretend it is.) Neale Donald Walsch’s “I believe God wants you to know” is a keeper. TUT, Messages from the Universe is a keeper. The Daily Om is a keeper. Love them all. But the one I’ve read the longest and the one I will continue to read until Garrison Keiller no longer has a voice, is Writer’s Almanac.

Every day, we Writer’s Almanac recipients are blessed with a poem and then, a bit of the literary news of the day. On this day in history, Garrison tells us, so ‘n so died, or was born, or published his or her book. It is amazing to me, but there are no days bereft of great and important writing news. Somehow that makes starting my day a little sweeter. We writers, sitting alone in our back bedrooms, need a little reminder that we are a part of a great history, a great river of words, and our little skiff, floating along gathering and contributing what it can, matters.

Well, today, Garrison told me, is Raymond Carver’s birthday. Say the name, Raymond Carver, and the exquisite book with the simply perfect title, “What We
Talk about When We Talk about Love
,” comes instantly to mind. And I love it. But my favorite is, “A New Path to the Waterfall,” because the last poem, on the last page; the last words he managed to push onto his typewriter are so beautiful they hurt:

Late Fragment

Late Fragment by Kariann Burleson of http://www.dailypoetics.com

Late Fragment by Kariann Burleson of http://www.dailypoetics.com


And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

May we all be so blessed, as we step out of our skin, to wave back and say: “Thank you for giving me the experience to call myself beloved on this earth.” But the big aha for me and for many is that the state of feeling “beloved” isn’t dependent on the perfect soulmate-type romantic relationship. Raymond Carver had that with his beloved Tess Gallagher, but many of us have not had, or have not been able to hold onto, that ideal. So will we exit “unbeloved?” No, a thousand times no. Because every time we pick up a pen and speak with our Beloved, we get a wee taste of that deep loving connection. We are all Beloved by The Beloved.

Raymond Carver gave us the perfect sentence, the perfect expression for this day, which Americans call Memorial Day. It began as a day to remember those who served our country in the armed forces, but isn’t it true that in some way we all serve? We are here to serve one another.

In memoriam then, I bless you, Raymond Carver, and thank you for your last, late, glorious fragment. It is a blessing and a beacon to all of us.

Do you have a poem or saying that is your beacon? I’d love to hear it.

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OK, now let’s all do what Ellen did

Ellen with Johnny

Ellen with Johnny

Ellen DeGeneres woke us all up. My last post, the one about her commencement address at Tulane, attracted a huge spike of readers. I think I know why. Ellen laid out a way — an incredibly simple way — to SEE your Life Around the Corner, by “seeing” it on the page in conversation with God. Ellen saw herself sitting next to Johnny Carson on the tonight show. Given Ellen’s situation at the time, that could have been labelled totally absurd, possibly delusional. But, guess what? It happened.

Her experience has really stuck with me. So, this morning, as I was saying my prayers, repeating my Covenant and my Writing Blessing, I closed my eyes and had a little chat with Spirit, or as Reverend Lauren McLaughlin, calls it, the Eternal Life Force — ELF. I was just saying something to the Elf, when I saw in my mind a bright white glowing light about the size of a basketball in my hands. Instinctively, I looked down into the white ball.

OH, I realized, this is how Ellen did it. She looked into the future, into her crystal ball, so to speak, or using my new favorite metaphor, into her spy binoculars and saw the Life Around the Corner. Clearly. She saw herself sitting next to Johnny Carson. Not wishing or hoping or “wouldn’t it be great if…” but saw it. Probably felt the chair beneath her. Felt the lights, saw his face close up. She simply was “there” inside her future experience. Did it happen because she experienced it a decade in advance or was it always going to happen and in that moment she simply got a peak? Interesting philosophical, metaphysical question there. And I don’t have the answer. Not an intellectual answer. And guess what? I don’t care how it works; I just want to have the experience.

So, looking into my white ball of light, I said, OK, I get it. I’ll sit down with my pen and have my own conversation with Spirit and SEE my future.

I asked on the page, “What is in my life around the corner?” Out gushed a bunch of things: Being on Ellen and talking about her experience, being on the Oprah Soul Series and on her TV show talking about deep soul writing, being interviewed by Robin Roberts on Good Morning America, shaking Neale Donald Walsch’s hand and hearing him say that deep soul writing is how he had his Conversations with God, and signing a half million dollar advance. All delightful. All powerful. All big.

But when I looked at the list, I said, “OK, I love them all and I DO see them all happening, but what ONE event, what ONE experience would be proof that all of this has transpired and more? What one experience sums up my Life Around the Corner?”

I knew immediately. I drew a bold dark blue ink square around the words: Walk into the New York city library and touch a shelf full of my books.

New York Library

New York Library

Even as I type that sentence, I feel tears. Tears are proof that this is THE apex experience I will have. I don’t know when. (When is not my job.) I don’t know how. (How is not my job.) Just know that it will happen. I am standing there right now, in my mind, in my white ball of light, smiling and reaching out and running my fingers slowly along the ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen books that I have written. I turn to my son and with tears in my eyes, say, “Here I am, permanently, in the New York city library. Guarded by the lions.”

Your turn.

Close your eyes, hold the white ball of divine light or the spy binoculars or become a hawk who flies ahead to see your Life Around the Corner. The image doesn’t matter. Just choose one that feels right to you and ask, “How will I know that I have achieved my Life Around the Corner?” Pick up a pen and start writing. See what images come through. No matter how wacky or amazing or unlikely or impossible — write them down.

Why? Because Ellen sat next to Johnny Carson. Because I will run my hands over my books in the main library in New York. (Oh, and be on Oprah and Ellen, and GMA!)

How about you? What are you doing in your Life Around the Corner?


How Ellen DeGeneres discovered Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen after she became Ellen

Ellen after she became Ellen

Last Friday, Diana Kyle, a friend from my old headhunting life, asked me to come to Blake High School Monday morning and teach kids about deep soul writing. Without thinking, I said yes. Why? I don’t know. I certainly wasn’t going to make any money or sell any books, but my job right now is to say yes. I figure Spirit knows how to reach the people who need what’s in Writing Down Your Soul, so Spirit’s job is to send them and my job is to say yes when they call.

So there I was yesterday, teaching small groups of school-weary teenagers what the theta brain wave state is and how to get into it through writing. After teaching the same thing for the third time, I was weary and wondered, “What am I doing here?” I could have gotten some sleep — and lord knows after teaching all weekend, I could use some sleep. I could have written a blog. I could have started my next newsletter… but here I am, talking to kids, most of whom don’t appear to want to do this anyway.

But there was one young woman who cried when she wrote. She didn’t say anything, just smiled sadly. She came back three hours later as I was leaving. I thrust my copy of Writing Down Your Soul in her hands. Last night, she emailed. She said she couldn’t put the book down. She was devouring it and underlining every other sentence. She said that that ten minute experience of deep soul writing awakened something. Now, she said, I want to “embrace a pen and never let it go.” When I read her email, I thought, oh, now I know why I said yes to Diana.

But it turns out I didn’t really know. Not fully. Jennifer Hill Robenalt, my heaven-sent media guru, sent me a video this morning with strict orders, “You have to watch this.” I watched.

I laughed for the first four minutes. Then, my eyes shot open and I burst into tears. Ellen found herself the same way the young woman at Blake is finding herself. The same way I found myself. The same way you are — or can — find yourself.

Your self is right there inside of you. Your vision, your purpose, your story — as it could be — no, as it will be. Ellen had a little chat with God on the page and found Ellen. And just look at what happened.

I needed a reminder today that Writing Down Your Soul matters. Here it is.

How did you (or are you) finding your self? I’d love to know. We’d all love to know.


The Life Around the Corner Part 3: Ask for help

The most amazing street in New York

The most amazing street in New York

If you’ve ever heard me speak about Writing Down Your Soul, you know that the magic happens in and through and with the theta brain wave state. I hope this doesn’t come as a surprise, but your conscious mind is useless. Unless you’re making dinner or filling the tank with gas or doing something else that requires conscious attention, it isn’t much help. To build a soul-directed, joy-filled, purpose-driven life, you gotta slip into theta as often as you can. Including–or especially–at night.

So, you won’t be surprised to hear that I was awakened in the middle of the night with a reminder: “Nice post, Janet, but you forgot something important about Lenox/Malcolm X Blvd. Tell them about the churches.”

Ebenezer Gospel Tabernacle on Malcolm X

Ebenezer Gospel Tabernacle on Malcolm X

Of course. I remember. I remember looking to the left and right and up and down and being floored by the beauty and size and variety of the houses of worship–one more jaw-droppingly gorgeous than the next. I saw traditional mainline Christian churches with stained glass windows that begged you to step inside. I saw Jewish temples behind ornate iron gates. I think I saw a Christian Science church with those classic pillars. And I’m pretty sure I saw something that said LDS. I remember being surprised to find LDS in Harlem. And I saw lots of store front churches with names that shouted: Get Your Salvation Here! On any given block between 116th and 125th, there were at least three churches.

So what, you ask.

So what? That’s a big clue to how you get to your Life Around the Corner. Maybe the biggest clue. Pray. Ask for help. Get out of your conscious, worry-filled, useless mind and access the universe of guidance and support that is everywhere around you.

Want to see the wonders of Malcolm X Blvd exactly where I was walking? Look at this glorious slide show. This is why God created Google, I think. I can’t believe how effortlessly this exquisite tour of the exact blocks I walked fell into my hands this morning. I know it’s for you!

But you don’t have to be on Malcolm X Blvd to find divine assistance. Or even in a church. Although, it’s lovely to sit in the cool dark of your favorite church or temple or shrine, you can commune with heaven anywhere and anytime.

This is me having chats with Michael

This is me having chats with Michael

My favorite shrine is St Michael’s in Tarpon Springs, and lord knows, I get amazing guidance sitting there, but day in and day out the Voice guides me sitting right here in my “writing chapel” (aka my office, aka my third bedroom).

However you pray–in a pew or in your yard, or sitting in your writing chair–the reminder is to simply do it. To connect. To ask for help. You are not alone. Heaven wants you to reach your Life Around the Corner. And it is reaching out to help you. Reach back.

So tell me, how do you reach back?


The Life Around the Corner Part 2: Look Where You Are

Malcolm X = Lenox

Malcolm X = Lenox

Two days ago I wrote about “The life around the corner.” Lovely idea. Lots of readers. Wonderful feedback. Now it’s time to move on to the next blog post, right?

Wrong.

This morning, it came to me that I’m just beginning to scratch the surface of the full meaning of “the life around the corner.” I was in the shower, which my original Conari editor called, “the phone booth to God.” The first time I heard her say that I burst out laughing. Oh yes, it’s the phone booth to God, alright, but there’s a big problem with this phone booth: there’s no place to take notes. I’ve learned to repeat out loud what I’m hearing/learning/seeing so it sticks in my head long enough to make it to a towel and then to paper.

Well, this morning in the phone booth, I realized that I had missed many of the rich details that make this story meaningful and important.

For example. The phrase “the life around the corner” came through on the page while I was whining about the low turnout for my workshop. As the class wrote their creative blessings, I barked on the page, “What’s the deal? You bring me to New York and then everyone stays home? How does this help the book? How does this keep me going? I trust you to shine the light, but this sure doesn’t look like a bright light to me!” (You should know by now that my relationship with the Voice is real. I bring the whole Janet to the conversation–warts, fears, irrational thinking and all.) Somewhere in the midst of my whining, that magical phrase popped on to the page.

The aha in the phone booth today was this: the phrase came through because I had a lousy turnout. If the room had been full, I’d have been writing, “thank you, thank you, thank you.” And “the life around the corner” would never have appeared. So odd as it sounds, I’m grateful, oh so grateful, that the workshop was a dud. This is a perfect example of that profound but often undigestible truth: nothing is happening to you; everything is happening for you.

But there’s more.

In the shower, I again saw myself walking up Lenox and remembered that it is also Malcolm X Blvd. Now think about that. Lenox = Malcolm X. To me, it’s obvious. Lenox sounds like the beautiful dream–the success, the beauty, the joy, the bounty. Lenox. Shoot, it sounds like an estate in the English countryside. But Malcolm X is the same street. For a few blocks, exactly where I was walking, Lenox is Malcolm X Blvd. What does Malcolm X represent? How about struggle. How about the fight to be heard, seen, recognized, and respected. How about standing up for your self, your dignity, your place in the world. I don’t think it’s an accident that out of all the streets in New York city, I was hiking up Lenox/Malcolm X a few hours after receiving the phrase, “the life around the corner.”

But wait, there’s more.

Where was I headed? 125th street. I love how numbers appear in my life, carrying nudges and messages and blessings. Well, 1 + 2 + 5 = 8. If you know anything about numerology, you know that 8 represents prosperity, abundance, success, money, power. So my life around the corner was on Abundance Street, so to speak.

Want more?

My birth number is an 8. You get your birth number by adding up your birth date. Mine is 6 16 1948. Add up all those digits and you get 35. Then add the 3 +5 = 8. This is not a coincidence. Not in my book.

I’m sure I’ll uncover more about my adventure with “the life around the corner” when I write down my soul tomorrow or dream about it tonight or step into that mysterious phone booth again. But here’s what I’m sure about so far:

  • The life around the corner is right there. I just can’t see it.
  • I have a choice: I can duck into a safe doorway or I can walk bravely up the avenue holding my dream and honoring my struggle to achieve it.
  • If I do that–dream and struggle, struggle and dream–while moving forward the whole time, I will reach my intersection. I will finally turn and see it: my life around the corner. I will step into the vision heaven is keeping for me. I just have to see it, believe it, and keep going.

I think I’ll start by getting back in the shower.

(Thank you to Jennifer at 2serenity on flickr for this fabulous photo.)


The Life Around the Corner, Part 1: Start Walking

Peek around the corner

Peek around the corner

When you write down your soul, you never know when something profound is going to plop onto the page. Sometimes you think you can predict the Voice or control it by asking really good questions. But you are not in charge. When you write this way, you yield the pen to the Voice and the Voice takes it. The only thing I know for sure is that the Voice will speak. But even I, after twelve years of deep soul writing, cannot predict when a sweet dollop of grace will land on the page. I can only smile and say, “Thank you.” And, oh, one other thing: grab that wisdom and use it.

That’s what happened April 23rd. I was back in New York teaching “How to Write Your Creative Blessing” at the Alex Grey gallery upstairs from the wonderful bookstore in the Village, East West Living. I had taught the class what a Creative Blessing is and how to use it to induce effortless work. As the group picked up their pens to write their blessings, I picked up mine. But not to write a new blessing. I love my Writing Blessing and don’t want to change a word. So I just stepped into my normal conversation with the Voice. I talked about my packed weekend of events in New York and Connecticut and wondered what it all meant and where it was all going.

In the midst of a perfectly ordinary sentence, this appeared: The life around the corner. I took a breath. Oh. Quickly, I captured it on a fresh page. The life around the corner. I didn’t understand it, but I knew it was a blessing.

That night, I stayed with Victoria Moran, author of the brand new Living a Charmed Life. I had to be in Norwalk, Connecticut at Pymander Books the next day. Victoria gave me directions. She said to walk north on Lenox/Malcolm X Blvd 9 blocks and then turn right on 125th and walk across three avenues to the Metro North station. For a Floridian who typically walks 4 yards to the car, it seemed downright exotic. But at 9am the next morning, there I was hiking up Malcolm X.

As I walked, the phrase returned: the life around the corner. As I turned the corner at 125th, I got it. I said “thank you” out loud. A young woman passing with two young boys smiled at me. I grinned back.

Here’s my interpretation of the Voice’s message. There is a life around the corner. You can’t see it. But it is still there. Waiting. Waiting for you to walk toward it. But what do we do? We duck into the safe storefront of the safe job, the safe relationship, the safe decision, the safe amount of money in the bank. I hovered in those “safe” doorways for years — decades actually. While my real life waited. Waited for me to overcome my fear, step out, and start walking.

A week later, I met my media guru, Jennifer Hill Robenalt of Hoopla Media. Jennifer’s vision for me and for Writing Down Your Soul takes my breath away. Do you remember that nifty spy binocular toy that allowed you to see around corners and over fences? I loved that thing.

Well, Jennifer is my spy binocular. She sees what the Voice sees. We all need a Jennifer. We all need someone to see our potential and believe in our ability to achieve it. God love you if you have a Jennifer Hill Robenalt. But if you don’t, don’t worry. You have the Voice. And you have a life around the corner.

What is it?


Loving the not-so-lovable mother

Holidays drive a lot of us nuts.

Or at least I want to

Or at least I want to

The fantasy of the happy family around the table at Thanksgiving, the joyful family at Christmas (or whatever winter holiday you celebrate), the loving couple on Valentine’s day. Gaaak! For many of us–maybe most of us–these lovey-dovey holidays just make us feel less loved and less lovable.

Especially Mothers Day. For those of us who were not exactly the apple of our mothers’ eyes, the greeting card image of the devoted mother and child makes us wince. Yesterday I watched the adorable video of Kelly Corrigan’s mom rearranging Kelly’s books in her local Borders so no one can miss them. Kelly said, “That’s what mothers do.” I thought, “Oh yeah? Not my mother!”

I had a prize-winning mother. She scared the bejesus out of all my friends, especially boys. They would cower in the doorway feeling her frosty judgement from twenty feet away. They couldn’t get “Good night, Mrs Conner,” out fast enough.

But here I am approaching another Mothers Day feeling love–and nothing but love. Mind you, not because of anything my mother said. Not because of a deathbed declaration of devotion. (Never got that.) Not because of anything my mother did. I stand in a pool of love because of something I did.

When my mother began her death march through dementia, I picked up a pen and had the first of many long, intense, soulful conversations with the Voice about Laurene and about our feet-on-broken-glass relationship. I laid our story out on the page, episode after episode, wound after wound, slight after slight, asking hard questions as I went. One of the richest was “What gifts did I receive from my mother?”

Well, ask and ye shall receive, right? The page filled with an array of precious gifts from relentless focus (I can sit at the computer till midnight), to reliance on prayer (don’t get me started, I love prayer in all its forms), to the image of a woman as a writer. Although, I didn’t agree with a single word my mother wrote. (Her obsession was saving the Catholic Church from the evils of all that wasn’t orthodox. She even reviewed papal encyclicals for how well they toed the line.) But at seven, I watched her chain smoke and pound the typewriter, and that image of “woman as writer” (without the cigarettes, thank god!) cemented itself into a possibility–and eventually a reality–for me. And for this, I am eternally grateful.

So, if this Sunday, Mothers Day, is not your idea of a delightful holiday, if you shake your head when you think of your mother, if you dread the thought of another brunch of cold food and artificial smiles, tell the Voice. Tell the Voice in full-throated cry and three-dimensional color, but then, ask. Ask the hard questions. Ask the painful questions. And at some point, ask: “What gifts did I receive from my mother?”

Then, write fast. So fast that you can’t read what’s coming out. Let the words flow on their own. The gifts will cascade onto the page, even–or especially–the “bad” ones. From this rich soil, you grew. Perhaps, you had to grow yourself, but you grew.

And that, is your soul’s true story. You simply could not be who you are, where you are, and headed in the direction you’re headed without that wacky, cold, judgemental (pick an adjective!) woman. So, say Thank You!

For me, I say, Happy Mothers Day, Laurene! And thank you for your many, many gifts.

Want more? Here are two of the UPI columns I wrote about the gifts from my mother. If you want the whole series, send me an email at janet@writingdownyoursoul.com.

Your best birthday gift, unwrapped
Oh no, we really are one!