Positivity Week: Day 7

Positivity Week Prompt

Day 7: Those Who Are No Longer With Us
This last day is to remember someone (person or even an animal), that in some way had a positive impact on you. It can be more than one person and not even someone you were very close to or knew very long. As long as they somehow had a positive impact on you, share it here.

In 1994, my father was diagnosed with idiopathic cardiomyopathy. He needed a heart transplant. On January 23rd, my father received his donation from a beautiful Italian woman named Laura Pennisi.

laura

Without Laura and her family’s decision, I would have grown into a dramatically different person. A woman I never had the privilege of meeting changed the course of my life. My brother was born five years after my father’s transplant, and my subsequent atheist philosophy found its anonymous beginnings in the understanding of organ donation.

DL10

In past years, when attempting to better discern myself and develop my beliefs, I conducted presentations on Donate Life, participated in fundraisers for transplant patients, and wrote numerous informative essays on the importance of organ donation. People like Laura Pennisi and her family have started a subliminal chain reaction. Their decision and its outcome inspired me to speak about a cause. I cannot say if my early activist pursuits changed the minds of any audience member, but I do know that many of my childhood friends became organ donors after meeting my father and hearing our story.

Positivity Week: Day 5 and 6

Positivity Week Prompt

Day 5: Your Impact
What positive impact (or impacts) do you hope to leave behind when you go? Do you hope that positive impacts you leave behind will change the world for the better?

Growing up, I felt continually oppressed in East Tennessee. I carry the suffering of place with me everywhere I go, but I do not have active plans to change the social landscape there.

flickr1

National Cemetery by Natalie
Greeneville, Tennessee

What makes an act eternal? The generation or articulation of new thought, creation of an outlet, and/or reduction of suffering? I am an inherently selfish person, but I long to act in meaningful ways. I do not know if I will ever impact the place where I grew up, and I think to theorize on this possibility suggests a willingness to adhere to the philosophy of determinism.

This past summer, I worked and taught playwriting at the Appalachian Young Writers’ Program at LMU. I am not sure if I impacted someone during my time there, but I know the impact such organizations have had on me. I may one day change the mountains of East Tennessee, but for now, I will exist within the act of throwing stones.

Day 6: Something Funny
Share what makes you laugh. And I mean, really laugh to the point where your face hurts, your stomach hurts and you’re crying. There is nothing better than a good laugh.

Basset Hounds are the silliest dogs in the world. They are basically the floppy, depressed versions of Corgis. The Eeyores of the dog world. I love their long ears, thick paws, and layers of love. (Layers of love being just another way to talk about wrinkles.)

basset

Photo by Rob Carr

Ever see a Basset Hound run or look at one of their “beauty shots” from dog shows? It’s absurd. Too much.

The first dog I ever wanted was a Basset Hound. Later, I would live across the road from a family who owned one named Flash. The hilarity of his name only increased when the family bought a sleek Weimaraner, who would occasionally trample or hurdle Flash during his pursuits. From my window, I would watch Flash leisurely walk up and down the side of the street and laugh. Sometimes, Flash would start trailing a scent and run into a mailbox or bicycle.

Basset Hounds are loud, messy, gassy dogs, and they make me smile.

Positivity Week: Day 3 and 4

Positivity Week Prompt

Day 3: A Step Into The Past
This day we will visit the past for a little bit and find something positive. It can be an event such as a concert, going on a trip, spending the day with someone you love, someone (famous or someone you know) that was a positive influence on you as a child.

I remember the day we brought Bandit home. It was during summer, right around the time of my father’s July 4th birthday, just weeks before the school year. The pup rode in the back compartment of a Chevrolet S-10 between the feet of my little brother and me. My father thought up names and tested them out loud while driving and told stories about old dogs with good names. “All purebred dogs have three names,” he said.

bandit

We bought Bandit from a farm owned by the Houser family. My mother worked at FedEx as a manager, and one of her drivers mentioned that his dad had some Australian Shepherd puppies for sale. There were so many dogs that I came home with tiny holes around the ankles of my jeans. Amidst the writhing red-black-blue fur, the two-toned eyes and bobtails, we found him. Bandit was not my first dog, but he was the first one I ever cared about. He felt like mine.

Day 4: Best of 2013
What is some of the best times you’ve had this year? What are some of your happiest moments of 2013? Feel free to post pictures on this day if you have any and you can share more than one thing.

Many of the happier moments experienced in 2013 have been shadowed by painful events. For example, I visited Boston for AWP with a group of students and  had the opportunity to attend a Celtics game. (They won in overtime.) A month later, the Boston Marathon bombings occurred. Similar circumstances have continued to form in lessening degrees throughout the year always casting a long and dark shadow behind them.

Perhaps my best moment as a reader in 2013 occurred when I stumbled across Simone de Beauvoir. Her book, She Came to Stay, was exactly what my summer needed. I was experiencing the tiring effects of East Tennessee sexism, and a French existential feminist made me feel understood.

simone

Since then, Beauvoir has become a type of personal hero for me. I love it when writers sweep into my life the way she did. I feel a combination of wonder and anxiety at these discoveries of writers whose words keep me thumbing over page after page and longing to find a similar experience.

Positivity Week: Day 2

Positivity Week Prompt

Day 2: Looking To The Future
Focusing too much on the past or future is never a good thing. However, it is good to visualize what you want in life, what you want to achieve, something you want to happen even if it is just a simple vacation. For this day, let’s look to the future for a few minutes and share what good, positive things we want in the future.

Next year, I hope to study abroad in Japan. If the trip makes, I will tour Shinto shrines (including the holy shrine at Ise) and Buddhist temples in Nara while also spending time in both Osaka and Tokyo.

sakebarrels

Sake Barrels by Elise Hori
Ise Shrine Offering

Most of my travel dreams are centered around literature. When people ask me about my fascination with countries like Japan or Ireland or Russia, I am known to say something along the lines of: “That’s where the literature is at, man.”

Positivity Week: Day 1

Positivity Week Prompt

Day 1: Yourself.
Day 1 is simple. Write about yourself, write a small biography or whatever you want to do, but it has to be positive about yourself.

Being an atheist has shaped me into a more rational, appreciative, and morally responsible person. I have become too easily caught up in knowing what I am that I forget to slow down and reflect on what I like about being those titles. What do I like about being an atheist? A woman? A writer?

ayaan

“The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. It is not a creed. Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more.” Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Infidel

I love feeling a connection between my beliefs and the minds of others, like Hirsi Ali and Diderot and Chekhov.

One of the best things about being an atheist has been having both the ability and privilege to tailor my beliefs to fit myself rather than tailoring myself to fit my religion. I wear no other clothes than the ones I have created. I am naked and beautiful and longing, like the songbird after moulting at ease in its nest, perhaps too often viewed as cold.

Re: Nuts and Bolts: “Thought” Verbs

Yesterday, my creative writing group experimented with a prompt derived from Chuck Palahniuk’s essay Nuts and Bolts: “Thought” Verbs. We read the essay out loud (link) followed by a group confession of addictive “thought” verbs. We talked about what we found agreeable or disagreeable in Palahniuk’s essay before working on the prompt individually.

chuck-palahniuk-thought-verbs

The group liked Palahniuk’s advice on thesis statement paragraphs and burying detail in actions or gestures. However, we noted the necessary quality of frontloading in short stories.

We did not entirely agree with his argument against leaving characters alone. We agreed that, as readers, we wanted to see a character worry and wonder.  We wanted to see the inside of his/her mind. I mentioned Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin as a novel that shined primarily through its exploration of the main character’s thoughts.

And so, the discussion continued weaving at times between contradiction and flattery and frustration…

Prompt

Pulling the three sentences from Palahniuk’s homework section of Nuts and Bolts, I asked the group to avoid “thought” verbs and write about the sentence of their choice.

1. “Marty imagined fish, jumping in the moonlight…”

2. “Nancy recalled the way the wine tasted…”

3. “Larry knew he was a dead man…”

We ended up with pieces about Nancy the dumpster diver, Nancy the homewrecker, and Nancy the waitress. Some writers combined all three sentences into one story. In another piece, Larry was right. He was a dead man.

Final Thoughts

After writing, participants noted how they kept having to go back and rewrite sentences, because of their subconscious reliance on “thought” verbs. Occasionally, a writer found that a verb slipped through the cracks. (“Dammit, remember.”) We also mentioned that Palahniuk’s advice was more applicable to the body of prose writing, not dialogue.

I can’t say that anyone from the group will keep up Palahniuk’s challenge through December, but for a restrictive prompt, there weren’t any complaints.

What do you think about Palahniuk’s essay? Do you agree or disagree?