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House of Truth

The fire drill of life

Life is getting in the way of writing lately. This past week alone, we’ve dealt with or are dealing with the following: buying a new couch (the old one has a broken frame, and the baby has peed on it too many times to count), the babysitter quitting with less than a week’s notice, hiring and training a new babysitter, made reservations for our rental apartment in Italy, our dishwasher catching on fire and necessitating a call to the fire department at 10:30 at night, my National Piano Guild auditions the morning after the dishwasher fire, and hiring a new housecleaner. Each of those events involved a constellation of their own mini-events (for example, once we discovered that the dishwasher was the source of the fire, then we had to turn the power off in the kitchen for a day. Then we had to take the dishwasher out of the wall and try to find out exactly where it was burning. Once we found the loose rubber gasket that rubbed against the heating element and caught fire, we had to take it out, then put the dishwasher back, then run it to make sure nothing was leaking and nothing else would…

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No talent required

My piano teacher has this posted on a bulletin board in her studio. I noticed it today during my lesson; she told me she wrote it up because she was tired of people telling her how “talented” her students were. Talent in music, she said, means little; mostly, success comes through hard work. I can’t count how many writers–professors, authors at conferences, authors in their books on craft–have reiterated these same tenets. Talent is MADE, not born. Everyone thinks that anyone successful in a creative field–artists, writers, musicians, actors–has been born with some sort of innate talent or gift that the rest of the world wasn’t lucky enough to get. Dustin Hoffman said something like, “I worked half my life to become an overnight success,” which pretty much sums it all up. All of this–talent, effort, hard work, success (whatever that is)–has been swirling around in my mind lately. I began writing in 2000, and I wrote in complete privacy and silence for ten years–TEN years, a full decade–before I could admit aloud to anyone that I really wanted to be a writer (never mind that every day I wrote, I already was a writer). I just told a friend…

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Practice practice practice

I recently finished a mindfulness-based stress reduction class. I’ve been a spotty meditator for years but have never been able to commit to a daily practice because, well, meditation is hard. I also knew that the originator of MBSR, Jon Kabat-Zinn, requires his students to meditate for 45 minutes a day, six days a week during the class. Frankly, that scared me. I have so little time as it is–especially time when I am not being interrupted continually by children–that the thought of sacrificing nearly an hour a day to doing NOTHING just frightened me. But I also knew that when I meditated, I felt better. And I want to be able to do hard things, things my brain tells me I can’t do. So I signed up for an MBSR class as my birthday present to myself. The class, which I took through a local hospital, ran for eight weeks. We learned a variety of meditation techniques, including the body scan, mindful eating, yoga, walking meditation and traditional sitting meditation. We also learned informal practices that we could use all day in our daily lives. We started off only doing formal meditation for ten minutes a day in the first class–very…

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