Friday, February 11, 2011

Who ARE these people?

Yesterday I stepped out of my comfort zone and attended my very first creative writing workshop. This story is not so much about the workshop content, but about events surrounding it.

A little background, because how I got there was a bit circuitous and adds to my overall wonderment of the story.

Through a series of offhand remarks and following up on a "coincidental" conversation with the owners of GPLDG, the company I work for, I am taking a course in Web Design and Development at Phoenix College. It happened very quickly: Conversation at the company Christmas party; affirmation a week later that it wasn't just wine talking; a little on-line research; voila! next thing I know I'm picking up a campus parking sticker and having my student ID picture taken.

School began on January 18. Two weeks into the course, I was passing through the school website to get into my student email account. Before I clicked off the home page something caught my eye. It was this:

New this Spring!
Weekly Creative Writing Workshop
Open to All Students
Thursdays 2:30-3:30pm (starting January 27)
Room ### in the English Department

Writers of all levels exchange feedback on each other's work.
Discuss various writing topics and work with creative writing prompts.
All types of creative writing welcome: poetry, creative non-fiction, short and flash fiction, novel excerpts, play and screenplay scenes.
What to bring: Something to scribble with and something to scribble on. If you would like to workshop a piece of writing, please bring about 5 copies.

Before I even connected that the time was tailor made (my Web class ends at 2:15 on Thursday), and before I even noticed I had already missed the first session, and before I had the chance to think about the fact that I have nothing at all to workshop, I sent an email to Jacquie, the contact listed in the ad. Within minutes I received a reply that I was absolutely welcome to participate. I marveled at my own impetuousness.

I planned to begin immediately, two days later, which would have been only the second workshop session. Unfortunately, on that Thursday, for the first time in months, I had a pressing task at work for which I had to return right after my Web Design class ended. Normally I might have taken that as an omen, but no, it was like I was being led to the writing workshop by some unseen force, so before returning to work, I stopped by to introduce myself to Jacquie and to obtain the weekly writing prompt in order to experiment.

Several days later, in a monthly group meeting with 5 good friends, when it was my turn to talk I spoke about my going-back-to-school experiences with the Design class and then brought up the happy little bonus of the writing group, lamenting that I already had to miss the first one I was supposed to attend. This is a group of very intuitive women, and what three of them said next was something I hadn't even considered. They all felt very strongly that the real reason I happened into going back to school had way more to do with the workshop than the course I'm taking. Additionally, a few days later, while recounting the workshop story to my Mom, also an intuitive, and before I even got to the part about what my friends said, she made the same observation! Well, OK then. All my intuitives are on the same page!

Onward to the next Thursday, the aforementioned yesterday. I finished everything I needed to do at work before I left for my Web Design class. When it ended I made my way down to the workshop space, which is a conference room rather than a classroom, so the seating style was a table in the middle of the room with chairs all around it. I was the first one there but was soon joined by Jacquie, two women, one older and one younger, and one older and two fairly young guys. One of the younger guys sat next to me on my right and immediately turned to me and said, "Hi, I'm Eric." I introduced myself and we shook hands.

The workshop started with the writing prompt. We all spent about 20 minutes writing the first thing that came to us and then we all took turns reading aloud what we had written. I was nervous because they seemed way more experienced and writerly than me, but I took a deep breath and shared. My piece was well received, a huge relief. We spent the remainder of the hour "workshopping" pieces that several of them had brought.

I left feeling pretty jazzed. One reason was because I didn't make a fool of myself and the other was because I was headed to see my FABulous hair stylist, Miguel. It had been over 4 months since my last haircut and this was only my second time visiting his salon since meeting him at the Temple. He works in a really cool space called Trini, right next to my favorite coffee shop, Lola, on Roosevelt.

I'll bet you're wondering if I'm just digressing here. No, I'm not!

So I was at my way overdue hair appointment, seated comfortably in the hair washing chair, Miguel administering a fantastic cranial massage, when another stylist and client walked into the room. The client, a young guy, sat down next to me on my right hand side. Out of the corner of my eye, I see it is Eric, the guy I had just sat next to, and met for the first time only about an hour before in the workshop. We were both just completely amazed at the "coincidence." I mean really, Phoenix is one big ass city, you know? And it's not like Trini and Phoenix College are next door to each other.

As Miguel led me to his chair to cut my hair, I explained how weird this little synchronicity actually was. All of a sudden he said, " I had something like that happen today too!" He woke up early that day, which he said was very unusual for him. He prepared a bowl of cereal and turned on the TV to watch the morning news, something else he said he never does. He watched a report about people waiting in line overnight to be first in line for the release of the new iPhone offered by Verizon. The first person in line was being interviewed, a young woman who had been there since 3:30am. She was wearing a hoody and shivering from the cold, but quite excited, he said. Several hours later when Miguel got to the salon, his first client of the day came in. She was someone he was meeting for the first time. After the introduction was made she excitedly showed him her new iPhone that she was able to obtain that morning. And then she said, "I was even interviewed for the news!" And then Miguel realized that she was the girl he'd seen on TV because he, for some odd reason, couldn't sleep that morning.

After my haircut, I went next door to Lola to wait for Pat who would be joining me shortly after taking the light rail from work. Over coffee I told her all about my exciting day, and in particular, about both my and Miguel's odd synchronistic new person meetings. Pat listened intently and then asked, "Who ARE these people?"

Good question.

Friday, January 08, 2010

One Word for 2010

When I fire up the old way-back machine and conjure the ghost of New Years past my recollections include: too much alcohol, revelry and noise, resolutions I never kept and a feeling of let-down that the Christmas holidays were officially over.

One of the best things about getting older is being able to deconstruct our old ways of doing things and to create new traditions that serve us better.
New Year's Eve has been repurposed in ways that make it one million times better than it ever used to be, starting with the fact that the day is first and foremost Pat's birthday. For the past few years, we've spent the entire day doing whatever floats her boat ending the day with a meditation from 11:30 pm until 12:15 am.

On December 31, 2009 we slept in, took our time performing our regular morning routine, then went to a noon yoga class. After class we went to Lola's Coffee Bar (the new 2nd location on Roosevelt) and then out to lunch at Cibo, where we sat in the front garden to eat and feed bread nibbles to the sweet little finches who decided to join us. From there we went to the Biltmore to browse around in Borders, where we bumped into two sets of old friends who'd had the same idea.
After a brief stop at home we then drove up to Cave Creek to the home of our new friend, Therese. We enjoyed a pot luck with 5 other wonderful ladies and then we adjourned to her back yard for a Blue Moon, New Years Eve Medicine Wheel ceremony at which we threw into a fire pit any regrets, resentments, and issues we no longer wanted to carry forward. We'd written those out on paper beforehand. We'd also written hopes, dreams and wishes on a separate piece of paper. Those we kept. At 11:00 we all caravan-ed down to the SRF Temple for the 11:30 meditation, where we all brought in the new year with quiet contemplation.

Earlier that same week, as 2009 wrapped up, it seemed like every recap of the year went on endlessly about how awful it was. I actually found myself adopting that mindset myself. But when I stopped to think about it, independent of the thoughts of others, I came up with a different conclusion. I actually found myself thinking that 2009 was one of the best years ever. I was able to realize the blessings in everything that had occurred, both good and bad.

And so, my realization became the inspiration for a one word theme for 2010.


It is the only New Year's resolution I made.