Jonathan Marcantoni: How We Tell Stories

Jonathan Marcantoni

I am Editor in Chief for Aignos Publishing (www.aignospublishing.com) and I have been a professional writer and editor for nine years this month. I have worked on regional television shows, newspapers, books and plays. I have had two books published by Savant Books and Publications and my third will be published by Aignos, hopefully this summer. I spent the first 21 years of my life on a course to be either an actor or a film director. In fact, the very first story I ever wrote was a play. I have acted in eleven plays, two of which – Angels in America and Suburbia – I am still proud to have been a part of. I attended the Art Institute of Atlanta briefly, and in 2008 I directed a student film called Discover Fresh Breath which won the TBS Very Funny Award at the Campus Movie Festival in Tampa, Fl.  In spite of these accomplishments and others, I have not been able to consistently provide for myself and my family purely through the arts. I have always had a day job, and in all likelihood, I always will.

I lay out this professional resume of mine first because I want you – the reader – to know who I am and where I am coming from.  Theresa has been gracious enough to give me this space to write in and I want to use it to talk about how we approach storytelling, and the only way to write about that is to also write about our approach to life. You can tell a lot about an author based on the way they write, much more than by what they write about. One of my favorite authors, the one who has had the biggest stylistic influence on me, Hubert Selby Jr., was a part of the New York beat writer scene of the 1950s and 60s, and wrote predominantly about the underbelly of not only society, but also of our minds. His books are brutal in their violence, both physical and psychological. One of his books, The Room, is essentially one long argument inside the main character’s head. It is an incredible, frightening argument, but when you step back you realize the entire book takes place inside a jail cell, and only once does the main character leave it. Just based on his book’s content, you would think Selby was a very dark, twisted individual, as conflicted and intense as his characters. In reality, he was a soft spoken, funny, and kind man. Every interview I have seen of him, he is smiling and cracking jokes.

This is surprising for anyone who has read his books, especially considering that he once described his early books as being about ‘Going from the light to the dark’ and his later books being about ‘Going from the dark to the light’, and that one of those later books was about a man who cures his suicidal depression by discovering that the purpose of his life is to kill people he deems morally corrupt. But the point is that if you get caught up in what a story is about, you can lose what the story is saying, as well as how it is told.

Selby wrote in a style inspired by jazz. He would place paragraph breaks all over the page, almost like the words were falling over themselves.

He would sometimes be the middle of a sentence and suddenly jump

 

to the next line, giving his work a disorienting feel visually. He blended dialogue, thought and narrative side by side, using no quotes and few mentions of he said, or she said following a line of dialogue. He was big on the way characters sound, and he created distinct voices for each of his characters as well as for his narrator. He was so good at this that a reader could figure out who was speaking just by the word usage.

His writing was also based on his physical limitations. Selby contracted tuberculosis while serving as a Merchant Marine in World War II. This illness caused him to lose an entire lung and part of the other one. He was often bed-ridden, and his visually eclectic style grew out of his inability to reach certain keys on the typewriter. The typewriter he used was also partly broken, and wouldn’t recoil to the other side of the page when he skipped to the next line, hence the odd placement of paragraphs. As a result, he created certain signature grammatical quirks, such as writing ‘it’ll’ as ‘it/ll’ because the (/) was closer than the (‘). While all these qualities make reading Selby’s work difficult for a first time reader, they are also incredibly consistent and have a cumulative effect that is powerful and gripping. He experimented but understood the way language works, he understood the importance of consistency in writing, he understood the importance of efficiency, that making things more complicated than necessary is a waste of time. For all his quirks, once you adjust to his style, you find that he actually has a very pared down and simple way of telling stories. His novels are not excessive, they are direct and have a clear moral compass. You know what Selby’s views on his character’s actions are without him saying it.

For myself, I approach stories like movies or plays. As a young writer I was often criticized for how ‘talky’ my work can be, or I would be criticized for being overly descriptive of visuals. The visual element has always been important to me. I often write sequences as though I am observing them through the lens of a camera. In my newest book, The Feast of San Sebastian, I have a club scene where two of the central characters are having a conversation in the downstairs portion and two others are having a conversation in the upstairs portion. So what do I do? I make the scene continuous by following the comings and goings of the waitress serving both tables. Where many writers would make the conversations separate scenes entirely, I approach it like a visual sequence in a movie. As a result, the scene becomes a sort of mini-story, since the thoughts and feelings of the waitress become a central part of making the scene work, although she is not in the rest of the book. In the same book, I have chapters set aside for the five main characters to explain their actions, past and present, as monologues being presented to an unknown audience. This mixture of the theatrical and cinematic is a part of who I am as a person. The fact that I use devices like that says more about me than the content, which is incredibly violent and pessimistic in its views of politics and the social structure of Puerto Rico. Do I share some of the pessimism found in my book? Sure I do. Are many of my own political beliefs expressed, particularly my support for Puerto Rican independence? Yes, but there are also lots of views I don’t share that are also expressed in the book. But you know what is the most personal thing in the book? It’s not the political aspect or any of the speeches or the violence. The personal aspect of the story is the relationship between one of the characters and his daughter. It is a subplot, albeit a significant one, but if I had to pinpoint any autobiographical aspects in the novel, it would be that relationship, if for no other reason than because the sentiment of a father doing anything to make a good life for his daughter is one that I, as the father of three girls, share.

But what says far more about me creatively are my choices for set pieces. The aforementioned club scene being one, and the fact that in my previous book as well my newest (and for that matter, my next one), the use of festivals as a setting for personal dramas to play out is central, speaks to who I am as a writer. Why festivals? Few things in life are more visual, more all-encompassing and more energetic than a festival. To place a handful of characters at the heart of one during the most intense moments of a story creates a backdrop that is highly theatrical. It also provides a contrast. In my book Traveler’s Rest, a woman coming to terms with her loneliness and sadness over missing her husband play out against the celebration of the first year of the Cuban Revolution. While people are cheering and singing and dancing, she marches through the street, lost in thought, living amongst ghosts. In The Feast of San Sebastian, three characters attend the Calle San Sebastian street festival, dancing and laughing and interacting with the performers, all the while the reader knows that their happiness is about to be cut short as a monstrous psychopath comes closer and closer to tracking them down. In my next book, a married couple on the brink of collapse have one final confrontation in the aftermath of Tampa’s Gasparilla night parade.

The dark personal drama in each of these books is contrasted with festivals that are full of happiness and complete abandon on behalf of the participants. Such a contrast couldn’t be provided by many other scenarios, and again, it is both theatrical and cinematic. What the characters are going through is in some ways less important than how they go through them.

I believe that stories are best told when we invest our influences in a way that cedes more to our personal taste than to the taste of our influences. When people call something Tarantino-esque or Fellini-esque (again with the film references), it is usually meant as a detraction. It is way of saying the artist was unoriginal. The truth is that nobody is truly original, because we are beholden to our influences if for no other reason than because that is how we learn to tell stories. Selby is not my only influence, I have been just as much influenced by Borges, Marquez, Cortazar, Scorsese, Almodovar, Paul Thomas Anderson, Eugene O’Neill and Ibsen. I use a little bit from all of them and others, and while they have all influenced my tastes and aesthetic, I also carry with me the influence of the life I live as a husband and father, of the contradiction of being both a struggling artist and as head of the editorial department at Aignos (unfortunately an official title doesn’t always carry with it financial stability). I carry the experience of being a Puerto Rican in the United States, of being a Hispanic author, of rejections and victories. All of this plays into who I am as a storyteller, leaving me the ability to tell stories that, while they may have bits and pieces of other ones, are wholly my own. I’d like to ask you, the reader, what is your experience? How do you approach storytelling? Leave a comment here or email me directly, at jon.marcantoni@gmail.com. Check out our facebook page at www.facebook.com/AignosPublishing.

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Writing a story: it’s not all about me!

I’ve listened to many seasoned authors’ advise ‘write what you know’ but my novel Covering the Sun with My Hand is not my memoir. Most people upon hearing me speak about my novel, ask whether it’s ‘my story’. I wrote it but, no, I haven’t disguised or embedded my identity in that of my protagonist.

Don’t get me wrong, Julia Acevedo and I have lots in common. We’re both Puerto Rican and grew up in Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY. We were teens in the seventies so we knew as much about Three’s Company as we did about Roe vs. Wade. We suffered overly protective mothers during adolescence. We both found ourselves practically living in hospitals because of our ill siblings but my sister died when I was eleven to a medical illness. Julia stood side by side with her mentally ill twin, Rene, for almost her lifetime. Illness in children changes the family landscape forever.

This story belongs to Julia, it touches on her brother, Rene, and her parents. The four are inexplicably woven together in love and fear and all the richness of the lives of human beings. An editor’s feedback post one of my feverish sixty second book pitches was “Nobody likes to read stories about families, but I’ve read stories about families and once I’ve loved a story about a family.” I must admit that I thought she was nuts when she uttered those sentences. I still do a bit, but I also understand the complexity of families and the sometimes web-like strings that holds families together.

Why read about someone else’s raving mad relatives when most of us have lived similar existences? Sometimes complete separation of the fine tethers is needed before healing can begin or at least an attempt is possible. Having the ability to laugh at how seriously I’ve taken things when a hearty laugh might have sufficed is fairly new and refreshing. The transferability of lived experience helps many of us to make sense of what we wrestle with or at the very least, opens our eyes to the fact we are not alone. Writing is the fine instrument that affords some of us the ability to do just that.

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Palabras: Spiritual Oracle

Palabras Oracle Backing

Palabras: Spiritual Oracle ©

Las Estrellas- The stars.

During my early morning run I looked above and spied the crescent shaped moon that was still showing herself in all of her glory. A hawk flew low above me. I felt I could reach up and touch her. I listened for her message. It was to observe. Take stock in all that is going on in my existence and not to get too caught up in the details. I was reminded to circle above myself and to view my life. I was encouraged to see how all is perfectly melding together. I was reminded to be grateful for the beauty often taken for granted. I returned home to take part in my morning activities and to pull a card to share. I smudged with sage, grounded and centered my energy. I invited the energy of my spirit guide, Graciella la Gitana to come and share in pulling this week’s card. Together, our energies pulled the card-Las Estrellas.

Image: The image is that of a young woman in evening dress running down a path away from a well-lit mansion. She holds a large quartz crystal in her hands and her wrap is gathered at her waist. Her shoulders are bare and her hair lies in waves over them. Above her, the dark sky is lit with brilliant stars. The trees that border the path are bare.

Words:  Sometimes we are not aware of the beauty we hold within. Our focus may be on one thing entirely and we are not aware of how large the Universes are in relation to the smallness of ourselves. Shifting our gazes allows us to sense how we fit perfectly into the constellation of the stars.

Read: Reminder to self! Look up at the stars morning, noon and night. All too often when something isn’t directly in front of us we forget they exist. The stars guide us. We come from them. In the image depicted on the card, the woman, representative of the feminine aspect of ourselves, the intuitive side, is running from the well- lit glory of the mansion. In this read, we are encouraged not to run from that side of ourselves. It is all too easy to do in the aggressive masculine nature of the world. We may forget during the daytime hours that the beauty and the guidance of the feminine are always within us. Tend to the well-lit mansion within. As written by St. Teresa of Avila in Interior Castle, the mansion of spirit is deep within us always in reach. In the city, the stars are often obscured by the lights around us. The lighting is illusory. We must tend to our quiet selves to remember that all that is seen is not all that exists.

 

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Be Gone Backstory!

But I like the backstory! That’s why I kerplunked it right on the second page of my novel. That’s not quite true but I am attached to the dreaded backstory. There are numerous blog posts and articles on the dangers of the backstory that I’ll now refer to as “the BS.” I’ve been assured that the BS may be so provocative that it will abduct my reader from the urgency of my present day tale. Then again, the BS may prove so boring that the prospective editor or agent may shut their eyes, yawn and drop my manuscript to the floor. It will be kicked under the couch and not found until they search for dust bunnies several years from now. By then I would have given up writing, wondering why I haven’t received a response to my submission, never suspecting it was all the fault of my BS- the backstory.

A good example of this is when it reared its ugly head with my chapter on one of my favorite characters, Mami. This tiny, dark haired part martyr-part fire eater is equally empathetic and annoying in her quest to contain the protagonist of my novel, Covering the Sun with My Hand, Julia, in a status quo existence. When I channeled Mami’s story of witnessing her older sister’s rape while cloaked in the ignorance that only a small child can be allowed, I was transfixed. Alas, the chapter ended up on the cutting floor. While I bit at my knuckles and wiped a few tears away thinking about that darned jewelry box whose fine tinkling sound cast a spell on Mami when she was but six years old, I knew deleting the chapter was the right thing to do. The die had been cast. Having this information about Mami helped me to strengthen her conviction and her words. Every action Mami takes in remaining a paralyzed, yet aggressive, mother lioness can be attributed to this now non-existent chapter 4.

Having the love for and the ability to swim in the undercurrents of life has allowed me to be in the present. I hope that I do this totally, unabashedly and in awe of what we go through and especially when we come up for air.  I hope that when I eliminate the BS, it shows up in my writing!

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Winter Solstice 2012

Morning StillStill here! That’s the sentiment I hear when I read Facebook updates and twitter comments on this lovely rainy and windy morning. The Mayans were wrong, what do they know anyway! That was one of the fb status updates I read. And what then? We snicker into our sleeves and keep doing the same things we’ve been doing expecting different results? Or do we consider the higher message that has been, by some, totally ignored.

This is the shortest day of the year. We are now looking forward to the sunny days to come. In this part of the world this is the beginning of the winter season and it will be a while before the balmy, sunny, and carefree days of summer are upon us. That means we still trudge forward making the best of what we’ve got. But what did it all mean? Was it something to pay attention to? The second part of the refrain that the world was going to end on December 21, 2012 was the oft not mentioned “as we know it.” That means something different for each of us.

Even if I didn’t subscribe to this type of thinking or to what the Mayans had to say, I could still sit and meditate on what this means to me. I am only one in a great Universe and a great Universe it is! What can I do to change my ways and bring forward peace and love into a world that has been hostage to fear and violence? I will sit in prayer, meditate and let the messages and vision of a more loving and accepting world take root in me. I will do what I can to channel that message outward, letting it flow like the waters, the wind, the fires and the many earth changes. Today, I commit to acknowledge, in clarity, that we as a whole we need change and do my best to effect it. It really doesn’t matter whether we believed in the Mayan prophecy. We heard the message, some of us laughed, some of us got scared and some of us yawned. What we do with our beings on this planet to become connected and loving beings is what counts the most. Think about your part and I will think about mine. I will reach out to you in my vision and I hope you reach back.

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Writing Critiques: Putting Pen to Ear

diamond and carbon

I recently had a brief venture into a newly forming writers’ critique group. It was small with only three of us willing to put aside a few hours a week for the group. I decided to opt out by the second meeting. Anyone who knows me will think this is strange. I’ve been known to stick things out way longer than anyone with a modicum of sense would. I must be changing.

One writer was working on a short story, another is winding up a memoir and then there was me. I am in the midst of writing my first draft on a new novel. We sat together with our critiques in front of us. By the end of it, I was almost in tears, not because my work had been shredded, it had not even been critiqued. The other participants basically shared the total of the hour and a half we’d allotted ourselves. My sheer frustration was due to my perception that this group would not go anywhere. No one was listening- at least it felt like that. I felt as though my hard work was unheeded, including my writing that was still in my bag. What a draining experience.

When I began my life as a writer, I must admit that receiving critique was difficult. “I don’t get it” and “I don’t think this is a good story” left me bewildered. One of my earlier group peers uttered those two statements and then I received an email in the middle of the night. She’d been published in an online magazine. She’d used my material but sort of shined it up like a diamond while she’d assured me my work was merely rough carbon. Should I admit that I received a tune up from my therapist after that experience?

During my most recent nightmarish writing group foray, the first individual fought me tooth and nail on every point and suggestion I made. She said she had already rewritten it and didn’t think it needed it another onceover. The second writer let me know, in a much nicer way, that unless I gave her technical advice, commas and such, that she had no use for what I had to say. She was just about done with her memoir. The opening did nothing to entice me to read further. I listen to stories of real people and real lives every day of my life. When I consider buying someone’s memoir it’s because their story shares something that invokes my interest. I might otherwise pick up a book of Sudoku puzzles. After thinking long and hard on the meetings, during my half hour walk home, I decided that I could do more worthy things with my time. I could spend it with people who really do want to give and receive and not just say they attend a writing critique group.

I’ve found it important to listen with discernment. Having someone tell me that my idea for a story is not good may make me storycidal. Ask the person specifically what they mean. It may be that your writing skills or their critique skills may need sharpening.  Some critiques can be soul killing. During doctoral school, there were many nights I wondered why I stuck out the pain.

During the interim, I continued to work on my piece, sent it out to many publishing houses and agents. I was blessed to receive some feedback with actual specific suggestions. I incorporated some of them because I was hoping that my good story would be transformed into a great story. This, I believe, was accomplished and I recently signed on with a publisher that is turning out to be the perfect fit that I’ve been searching for.

There is the wonderful method of silent critique. I’m finishing up an online writers course where assignments are submitted on line. Other students send in critiques and the writer is allowed the dignity of not having to defend their work. It’s been peaceful to read suggestions and thoughts that are both positive and negative. There’s a quality to a written critique that I find missing when one attempts to articulate similar thoughts using voice. Allowing the suggestions to seep into my blood vessels where the bad advice is cleansed out of my system and the good advice is cycled through my fibers at an astonishingly healthy rate is great.

A couple of crusty and experienced people have shared with me that sometimes it’s important to ‘take the cotton out of your ears and stuff it in your mouth.’ I hated this when I first heard it but now I understand exactly what it means. I’m glad that I’ve lived through and continue to receive critique. It’s taken me a while to exercise my listening muscle but I’m happy that I did and am eager to continue to do so.

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The Ultimate Holiday Gift

Holidays have come to mean gifting and receiving for many of us. The season becomes a whirlwind of activity. There’s tree trimming, candle lighting, cooking and shopping sprees. Some of us knock ourselves out with expectations. This bustle can lead to emotional exhaustion, a perfect medium for growing resentments. There is a solution. The ultimate in holiday gifts this year is forgiveness! I’ve decided to gift myself with it first.

I recently sat to listen to a talk given by Marianne Williamson based on her new book The Law of Divine Compensation. Suffice it to say I’m still sifting through the words I heard and the images I received through the prayer and meditation that we shared in during the talk.

Pushing tissue paper, ribbon and credit cards aside, I’ve taken some time for introspection. I believe that I can see within myself a bit more clearly. As I envisioned Higher Power holding me as I looked within, I came across some realizations. I have held resentments against people for actions I believed they took that ultimately harmed me. These are my perceptions alone and who is the one who is still smarting? I think it’s me. There’s an old saying that holding onto resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die. My old angers can be defined as righteous that can be further defined as self-righteous. Yeah? So what? Blaming others for my misery gets tiring. I become depressed and glum. My higher self tells me to “Let it go, Theresa. Don’t be so hard on yourself.” Holding onto resentment doesn’t allow us to grow and be the persons our coded DNA intended. This certainly does not mean that we should keep ourselves in unhealthy situations but the spaces between our ears can be such dark and lonely places.

During Marianne’s meditation I went deep. I saw the faces of people I believed had harmed me. My connection was that I loved those faces at one time or other and still do in in some cases. I sent their images breaths of love. Did they receive it? I don’t know. I do know that the old anger, hurt and resentments within me are dissipating. I can move forward in new relationship to them but mostly to myself. It feels good to be weightless- even after eating those holiday butter cookies. I love being my higher self. It feels good. I don’t have to make the choice between being right or happy. Forgiveness gives me both. Forgiveness is the gift that keeps on giving. It’s priceless.

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Fifth Avenue Girl

My friend, Farley, recently reminded me to “get over it” when a twenty- something at work called me by my first name and then expected me to call her “Ms.” His playful rebuke was that while I prefer to be addressed as “Dr.” that I would always be a Fifth Avenue Girl. In Brooklyn that is…not the famous Manhattan Fifth Avenue. Our family lived on Fifth from the late fifties to the early seventies. As Puerto Ricans we were strategically moved to the outskirts of America to faraway places like Flatbush and Pennsylvania. Park Slope was in its early years of making way for the gentry.

 

Exactly forty years and some marriages, children, degrees and homes later, my cousin, Mike, invited me to have lunch on Fifth with our Uncle Louie who I hadn’t seen in years.  After shedding a few tears, hugs and observations that we all look pretty much the same as we did forty years ago (ha!) we decided to pick out a restaurant on “our block.”

It suddenly occurred to me that the restaurant we were sitting in was the actual apartment my cousin grew up in. It looked different with the old plaster walls taken down to reveal exposed brick. The bedroom had long ago been turned into the chef’s area. The other customers enjoyed their seafood as we did. But they didn’t share the memory of my Uncle Louie in the room, standing in the spotlight of the Hanna-Barbera toy projector, pretending to be a cowboy with his gun stuck in his holster- ala Barney Fife.

We shared stories as we sat at the table in the backyard. My cousin reminisced about this area being the first “outside” he knew and about the rabbits that he couldn’t get too close to-you can imagine why. I took pictures of the fire escape we’d sat on eating pancakes as children during twilight summer evenings. Our parents had gone out dancing. Fireflies had danced around us. Our pancakes were sized in order. My uncle, Junior, made sure that he got the largest as he was the eldest- cooking for us as he babysat. As we sat in the glow of our memories, my phone rang and I ignored it. I didn’t want anything to break the spell.

They shared stories that I hadn’t heard of before. They spoke of my sister’s spiritual presence that they’d experienced over the years. She’d died at fourteen after a long illness. As an eleven year old I couldn’t know for sure, as they did, that she’d stuck around spiritually. I wasn’t able to feel that until years later. Mike told of getting jumped by a group of kids, of briefly inhabiting an abandoned brownstone and of almost getting his brains blown out by a drunk who made him “own” being a man. All at the age of fifteen- I shivered at those stories.  I felt warm when he told the one of falling through the ice at the Prospect Park Lake. He said that he’d felt my sister had somehow saved him. Mike updated me on our young thug friends- many of whom are sadly no longer living. We laughed when Mike told me that he’d brought his children around to Park Slope. They’d challenged him when he told them it used to be a dangerous neighborhood, “Yeah, right, Dad.”

At the end of afternoon they walked me to my car. When we hugged goodbye, I sat for a moment relishing the stories, my family and my life. I remembered that I’d missed a phone call. I listened to the message. It was an editor expressing interest in my novel. It was all so magical but true. Yes, I have changed a great deal but I will always be a Fifth Avenue Girl.

 

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“Vito Marcantonio and the Puerto Rican People: Solidarity and Progress”

WHAT: Vito Marcantonio and the Puerto Rican People:
Solidarity and Progress
WHY: Vito Marcantonio, Congressman for East Harlem for 14 years, served as the de-facto Congressman for Puerto Rico and valiantly  fought for Puerto Rico’s independence.
The Vito Marcantonio Forum seeks to preserve the history of the radical political tradition of East Harlem, the cultural backdrop of Italian Harlem and El Barrio; the critical role of the Left that rallied to Marcantonio’s support that emerged as the “Vito Marcantonio Phenomenon,” a blueprint for a successful, progressive politician who never compromised his principles.
This event is sponsored by the Vito Marcantonio Forum
and co-sponsored by the
Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College and
the Italian American Studies Association (formerly AIHA)
WHEN: Wed. November 28th 2012 6PM
WHERE:  CUNY’s Hunter College of New York Faculty Dining Room, West Building 8th fl. 695 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10065
WHO: Gerald Meyer —Professor at Hostos Com. Col.
“Vito Marcantonio: Fighter for Puerto Rico’s Independence”
Edgardo Meléndez — Professor at Hunter College
“Marcantonio and Luis Muñoz Marín: Cooperation and Conflict”
LuLu LoLo Pascale — Playwright/Actor and Performance Artist “Dear Marc, Letters to Marcantonio: A Dramatic Reading”
Roberto Ragone — Consultant and Community Activist
“Speeches with a Conscience: Marcantonio’s Commitment to the Italian and Puerto Rican Heritage”
Moderator: Gil Fagiani, Italian American Writers Assoc. Board Member, poet, Founding Member, East Harlem Historic Assoc.
Contact Evelyn Collazo (212) 396-6545; evelyn.collazo@hunter.cuny.edu
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Myopia

I woke up in the middle of the night with the word “myopic” swirling circles in my head. I know what myopic means in terms of vision- nearsighted. I looked it up in my big old dictionary and it read: lack of knowledge, tolerance or foresight. There’s a lot of that going on right now here in the North East. People are newly homeless, angry, hungry and exhausted. They are cold and need help- a lot of it and many people are giving it.

Myopia is a far cry from my idea of Utopia, which is damn near to perfection. I’d been struggling with my decision to run the NYC Marathon post Hurricane Sandy. In my utopic view of the world- the runners would bring much needed funds to the NY city area. My thinking was that the larger scope of millions brought in over several hours would offset the discomfort of NY. There was no outcry that Wall Street was fully functioning after two days on their generator power. Obviously, I was myopic. I knew that my choice was unpopular-just as many of my choices in my lifetime have been. When I make a decision it’s after lots of thought and spiritual exploration.  Sometimes I’m wrong.

I’m surprised I didn’t receive scathing comments from my friends. One brave soul did comment about the other side of my decision. I truly didn’t want to change my mind because of fear of being harmed by the self-righteous. But my thinking began to change. It took me time to “get it.” The Marathon was canceled and I didn’t have to make the personal choice after all, but I have been able to make choice in what to do to help in my way. There are so many ways to help. Quite a number of marathoners pooled their resources and brought much needed help to Staten Island, Coney Island and other hard hit areas.

I, like many other North Easterners saw media coverage of the Jersey Shore, Staten Island and Breezy Point during the early hurricane post hours. I know that there are many other places in NY that have been devastated that have had no media coverage. I’d seen Facebook comments about how some people are “just praying.” If that’s all you’ve got, give it. Prayer works. Being still in a time of utter chaos helps to balance the Universal Energies. If you’ve got other resources such as money, time, physical strength, tools and supplies- use those to help. Blood is another much needed donation- we are short in supply.

Ultimately, we don’t need to advertise what we have done or plan to do. It’s a case of knowing and accepting one’s reality at the time and doing the best that one can. We can always move forward.

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