How one woman found yoga, eased her inner hunger, and started loving herself. Follow Kimber as she shares her journey to loving her body, the joys and sorrows of yoga teaching, and venturing into the wilderness of writing and publishing.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Blessings and Superstitions

Today I realized I'm secretly superstitious. I posted "I feel stupendously lucky and blessed...." on my Facebook page, and looked out the window to see if the clouds were boiling and lightning bolts gathering to strike. It is a bit cloudy today, but not catastrophically so. A corner of my mind (some ancient crevice where spilled salt still gets thrown over the shoulder, and stepping on sidewalk cracks elicits guilt), fears that by acknowledging the nourishing and joyous weekend I had teaching a group of amazing women, my excitement around how the book is going, and the sweet family I'm grateful to enjoy, the karmic universe will seek to even out the balance of love and light with difficulty and darkness. By saying it out loud, as gratitude pours out of my heart, I'm afraid I'll jinx myself. Poof. Although, I guess there's another way to think of it: that maybe this joy is the balancing... the happy payback for the distant periods of depression and dissatisfaction I've already survived.

Perhaps the real key is enjoying and relishing the wonder of the moment, and letting the knowledge that this pleasure is real, but not everlasting, help me appreciate my joy all the more. Much preferable to waiting for the next giant karmic shoe to drop. I imagine the Universe wears Manolo Blahniks. She has a great sense of style, humor, and infinite resources. And really big feet.

The feeling of being lucky and blessed isn't one we should be scared to articulate or experience. Instead, it ought to be a feeling we enjoy, embody, and share with each other.

One of my little blessings today: I got my first encouraging response from my initial inquiry to a publisher by email this morning. A dear student put me in touch with the acquisitions editor at a press where she used to work. The editor responded to my brief detailed description of the book and where I am in the writing process with..."We would be very interested... in looking at your manuscript... when you're ready." And directed me to their submissions guidelines. Cool. Publishing the book is starting to feel... real, and closer than I imagined.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Quality Time

Today I spent some quality time with Cooper at Lake Temescal, playing foxtail ball (it's a ball with a long, multicolored tail attached to it). You throw the ball by swinging its tail around in a circle, then letting it fly off in a wide arc, like a mini kite headed for orbit. Or for an earthbound crash. It's a little hard to control, like trying to throw an orange stuck into a pantyhose leg. You're never sure exactly where it's going to land, making the chase all the more thrilling.

Afterward, we laid on our Mexican blanket and together found a two headed dragon floating in the sky. We watched while one of its heads fell off and disappeared into wispy embers and the other slowly dissolved into cloud flames. Cooper had brought the Fifth Grade Heritage Cookbook his school put together, with family recipes from all the students in his class. We browsed through it together, enjoying the diversity of ingredients. One recipe called for pork belly and pork cracklings. Because just one pork ingredient isn't enough. Cooper was disappointed we couldn't make it for dinner tonight. We settled on the intriguingly-named "Toad in a Hole," a sausage popover recipe I figured we could make with veggie sausage and serve with the Full Belly asparagus I have in the fridge. It's baking in the oven as I write this.

So how is the book, you might ask? Today I interviewed a new editor/writing coach who recommended I concentrate on the book proposal rather than revisions right now. She suggested, quite astutely, that if I let the book mature and ripen for a month, I'll have better perspective on it, and meanwhile have time to write a totally rocking-awesome book proposal. That's what I'll be manifesting for the month of May... a mouthwateringly delectable proposal that thrills the heart of every agent who gazes upon it. I'll let you know how the Toad in a Hole turns out.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

I met her! Or did I?

I went to Book Passages in Corte Madera tonight and met Anne Lamott. Perhaps that sounds kind of exciting and glamorous. The truth is, I didn't actually meet her. Or, I sort of met her. Does it count if I waited in line to have her sign my book (I mean her book, the new one, called Imperfect Birds, not my book, of which only one copy exists in the world, sitting here on my coffee table marked up heavily with green ink. It would be weird if I asked her to sign that.). All I said was an awkward "Hello, thanks for your reading," and she responded sweetly with a "Thanks for waiting in line." Meeting someone usually entails exchanging names, which we didn't do because, well, I already know her... she's a famous author. And honestly, she doesn't care what my name is because I'm one of two hundred fans crowding the aisle of the bookstore to get a glimpse of her.

So I met her, but only in the broadest possible sense of the word.

I'm not good with famous people. I never know what to say, because I can't ever ask them what I really want to know, like, "Are you happy? Do you love your life? What moment of your life do you wish everyone in the world could experience?" Something profound and interesting. Instead I end up all tongue-tied and sweaty.

I'm unspeakably envious of those poised and confident people who can ease themselves into a delightful conversation with anyone, irregardless of social standing or lack thereof. I'm secretly shy.

I did manage to give her the letter I wrote her a few days ago. I've been carrying it around in my bag for a while, meaning to drop it in the nearest mailbox, but I kept getting distracted by other chores whenever I drove toward the post office. And then I discovered that she was reading tonight at Book Passages. So I handed the letter to her across the table, crumpled and disheveled from days scooting around the bottom of my bag with my water bottle and lip balm. She tucked it into her bag alongside her water bottle and lip balm. It probably won't even register the change of scenery.

Her new novel continues the mother/daughter story of Elizabeth and Rosie, with Rosie now a teenager, experimenting with (read using) drugs, and Elizabeth trying to cope with the bizarre combination of belief and disbelief that teenagers effortlessly evoke in their parents. I loved one remark Anne Lamott made that she attributed to the recovery community: "Expectations are just resentments under construction."

May my expectations soften with humor and love long before they ever lay their foundations in my heart. And so with yours.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Of Letters and Proposals

I wrote a letter (longhand) to Anne Lamott tonight. I'm going to mail it tomorrow. So quaint. Cute little stamps on it and everything. I even licked the envelope. Weird how a letter can make you feel like you've fallen through a wormhole into an earlier decade of things like dial phones and windup clocks.

If you don't know Anne Lamott's writing, you should. She's local (Marin) and wrote "Operating Instructions," "Bird By Bird," "Plan B," as well as wonderful fiction. She's famous for quotes like:

"A hundred years from now? All new people."
"You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out God hates all the same people you do."

My plan was to just write her a light, breezy, carbonated note telling her how much I enjoy her books and asking about what recommendations she would offer a writer just starting out on her career. Instead I poured my heart out to her about Mom and asked for her advice about how to avoid being totally disowned by my mother for exposing our family's deep dark secrets for the world to enjoy. An appalling lack of impulse control, if I say so myself. On both counts.

I'll let you know if I hear from her.

Meanwhile, I started writing my book proposal today, based on Michael Larson's book, "How to Write a Book Proposal." My writing coach, Lisa Tener, recommended it. Super-straightforward, the book walks you through each step and explains why it's important. For those of you who don't know (and I didn't until a few weeks ago), most non-fiction books are bought by publishers based entirely on the book proposal, a thirty page summary of who you are, what the book is about, who you're going to market the book to, and how you are going to promote it. Sounds pretty simple, right? Except for when I get to the part where they assume you are already a famous published author. "List here all your previous books... all your national speaking engagements... your vast international network of publishing contacts... your telepathic communications with technologically advanced extra-terrestrial life forms." Okay, I made the last one up. But seriously. I have to be famous already to publish a book? I'm just going to pretend I didn't hear that and move on. La-di-da. How's the weather?

When was the last time you hand wrote a letter? Blessings to you all... may all your letters reach sympathetic ears, may all your wishes be heard by the universe and return to you a thousandfold.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Love and Depression

An excerpt from Finding Fullness:

[Now that I’m in my thirties, can I look at myself in the mirror without wishing it would crack into a million pieces? I’d like to think so. But honestly, it’s still a struggle. Once, in college, I watched out of the corner of my eye as a woman in the gym lovingly applied lotion to her entire body, in front of the room-length mirror, apparently oblivious to anyone (me) nearby. On a bench a few feet away, midway to pulling a large bottle of shampoo out of my locker, her contented smile caused my preconceptions to swerve and brake. Too late. My mind flipped a guard rail and went hurtling off into the waves below. She wasn’t Kate Moss; she didn’t have some model’s body, just an average woman’s body in reasonably good shape. But she clearly loved her body unashamedly. She was enjoying it. I watched her as surreptitiously as I could, fascinated. How does she do it? Can I figure out how to love my body that way?]

This week I had a really fun talk with my ten year old about Depression. Yes, you read that right. I took out a piece of paper and drew a circle in the middle of it, and wrote "depression" inside. "Do you know what that means, Cooper?"


"That's right. What kinds of things make people feel sad?"

"Uhh...Breaking up with your girlfriend?"

I drew a bubble above "sadness" that said "Breaking up with someone." We went on, adding more bubbles, bubbles for what you think to yourself when you feel sad, what you can do to help yourself feel better, who you can talk to, and warning signs to watch out for, like "I hate myself," and "I want to die." We talked about suicide and Cooper drew a little picture of a guy falling off a cliff next to that bubble.

"Always remember how much we love you, okay, kiddo?"

My family has a history of extremely functional depression, the kind of depression you can have and somehow manage to acquire advanced degrees. I wished that someone in my family had sat me down and told me all this when I was ten. Perhaps I could have skipped all the "I hate myself," and "I want to die," stages and landed more lightly and earlier on the soft ground of loving myself and my body completely.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Blindly Going Where I've Never Gone Before

You know how you feel when you're moving? You look at all of your stuff, books, and dishes, and clothes, and wonder how it's all going to fit into cardboard boxes and get into the moving truck and walk up the stairs into your new place and organize itself onto the new shelves and cupboards. And every once in a while you close your eyes and wish the moving fairies would come and take it all away, and reassemble it in its new location. But you open your eyes and it's still all there.

This is how I feel about the next steps in getting the book done. I don't know where to start. I keep closing my eyes and hoping the writing fairies will come and edit/revise my book, find me a really awesome agent and a brilliant editor and a fantastic publisher, and that one day, today hopefully, I'll open up the mailbox and pull out a hardcover copy of my book with a handwritten post it on the front of it that says, "Congratulations, Kimber! Look for it in bookstores everywhere!"

Sigh. We all have our little fantasies.

I'm trying to do just three things a day... three things to take me a few steps closer. If I contemplate for a moment the enormity of it, well, I feel like crawling onto the couch, huddling under a blanket, and watching reruns of Grey's Anatomy and playing Boggle on my laptop. Sad. Overwhelmed.

The bad news: Hunkering down with trash TV does not count as one of the three things I must do every day. This is unfortunate. The computer is warm and comforting. Like a hot water bottle for my lap.

Three things a day. You could eventually pack everything in your house by tucking just three things into a box everyday. Right? One step at a time.

The problem is that I don't know what the steps are. So the metaphor is more, a blind person packing up everything in their house to move, not really sure where the box is, and what needs to go in it. Yep, that's how I feel. Sounds like I'm going to need some help. And lots of patience. And a plan.

I declare this week Plan Week. The Book: Phase 2. Here we go!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

My mother hates it when I say I was anorexic.

This is the first sentence of Finding Fullness. When I announced to my parents over the phone this week that I was done with the first draft, my dad asked, "When are you going to let us read it?" You can see, perhaps, why I might feel some ambivalence about handing the manuscript over for their perusal.
I've been terrified about how my mother is going to respond to the book for months. Well, years really. It's the main reason why the book has taken me six years to write. I love my mom dearly, and I'm horribly afraid that this book might alienate her forever.
So today I called my dad. Dad doesn't think of me as one of his extra arms the way my mom does, doesn't react to my flaws and failures as if they are his own. You could always tell who my mom was in the audience of our school plays. She was the one who was mouthing the words every time I opened my mouth, as if she could speak through me like a ventriloquist. As if she couldn't tell where I stopped and she began.
Today I told my dad for the first time how I tried to kill myself at fifteen by starving myself to death. I told him how much it meant to me that he and my mom consistently, unconditionally loved me-- and that I credit this deep wellspring of love for undermining my desire to annihilate myself. I told him that I was afraid that Mom would be hurt and angry with me for bringing all of this out in to the open. He said, "We're adults. Your mom will be hurt. We'll deal with it. Maybe she doesn't have to read it." Of course I'm thinking to myself... all she has to read is the first sentence!
I told Dad because he's Mom's best friend, and sometimes your best friend is the one who knows how to give you the bad news. How much of it you can take at once, and how to soften the blow. I told my dad because he can hear me when I say, "I love you guys so much, and I'm so grateful to have you as parents," in the same conversation with, "I was anorexic as a teenager and you guys never noticed." He understands how both of those things can be true at the same time. For my mom, one of them cancels the other one out and not in a good way.
I'm going to have to tell my mom what the book is really about at some point. So far I've couched it in vague terms; "It's about eating, food, yoga, body image, learning to love myself," I say. But she's going to read that first sentence someday. And I want my dad to be there to hold her hand and say, "Kimber loves you so much, honey. She didn't do this to hurt you. Or blame you."
I can love and tell the truth. I can do both. But it makes my heart ache.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

First Draft is Drafted!

It's official, the first draft of Finding Fullness is complete. I give full credit to my writing coach, Lisa Tener, and the Bring Your Book to Life Class, for helping me turn 300 pages of raw material into 300 pages of readable book. I thought the I would just be exhausted after the first draft, but I'm already excited about adding in the things I missed the first time around. Revisions, here I come!

Here's an excerpt from the last chapter:
Last night as I was getting ready for bed, I noticed a new wrinkle that’s forming by my lip, on the left upper side, and I can see that it’s one of many getting ready to move into the neighborhood. Even so, I’m reveling in the sweetness of my renewed youth, enjoying whatever bit of beauty I have at this moment, in a way I never could when I was young, paralyzed with self-consciousness and self-hatred. I was obsessed with being perfect and beautiful, like a porcelain doll, forgetting that the purpose of life is to live fully, not to die perfectly.

Monday, April 5, 2010

One Lone Monday-Lover

I confess, I love Mondays. It's my only real day off, and lately I've worked both days every weekend. Of course, by day off, I mean that it's the only day I can devote entirely and exclusively to writing. And this Monday is special, because Cooper (my ten-year old) is off in New Mexico snow boarding with his aunt and uncle, so I have no pick-up from school, no interruptions, no nothin'. Ahh

So here we are, me and Chapter 16, hanging out at home, drinking tea. Chapter 16 has something it wants to say: "Nice to meet you. Blogging is great and all, but if Kimber doesn't get back to work on me she'll never make her deadline. And I'll be stuck in her brain for another week or two, and you wouldn't wish that on me, would you? It's dark and crowded in here. I need some air and light. And a drink."

No drink for you, Chapter 16. I'm doing an ayurvedic cleanse this week, eating only whole foods, lots of water, tea and yoga, letting go of wheat, processed foods, and alcohol, and inviting the cleanse to support me through these last two chapters.

Blessings to you on your projects this week... we're in the waning phase of the moon, a good time to finish things up!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Jumping Into the Abyss of Fullness

Seven weeks ago I took a huge leap into the abyss of completing my book, and it looks like I'm coming in for a safe landing, only two more chapters to go. Actually, as terrifying and exhilarating as hang-gliding might be, it doesn't feel like the best metaphor for my writing... bushwhacking, avoiding traps, taking wrong turns, losing the map, making up a new one, forgetting to see the forest for the trees... these metaphors have accompanied me like old friends on a long, winding hike. But the process of actually finishing my book has been empowering beyond words, like that feeling when you step into the clearing at the crest of the hill and take in the wide expanse of beauty that fills your eyes and heart. It's also tempered by knowing the top of the crest is only the halfway point... you've got to save enough energy for the path back, which for the book includes editing, revising, finding an agent, and publisher, and on and on! I'll need everyone's manifesting energy to help make this a reality, so remember me in your quiet moments. And just so you have an idea what exactly you're helping me manifest: the book is called Finding Fullness, the story of how yoga helped me overcome the residual effects of having had an eating disorder when I was a teenager. I found that by using my spiritual practice to explore the nature of my hunger and my negative body-image, I discovered I could commit myself to loving my body and the world in a deeper way than I ever imagined possible. Let's celebrate manifesting our dreams together!