Final Days of 59

“… Transformation always involves the falling away of things we have relied on, and we are left with the feeling that the world as we know it is coming to an end, because it is” (Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening).

This past February, I wrote a post about some unexpected milestones at age 59 ½. At the time, I was struck by the synchronicity. Still am. As this is my final week at age 59, I decided to revisit those milestones before I step into my sixth decade, one that promises even more transformation.

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I have continued to lose weight beyond the 59 ½ pounds of February; I am down 69 pounds with another fifteen-twenty to lose but no more than that. My eating habits have not changed in the past six months but my taste buds have adjusted to other options, and I enjoy eating again. I found millet-buckwheat bread made with chicory root and without refined starch, absolutely critical for me.  Almond butter sandwiches are now a staple. While my future remains gluten, yeast, sugar, dairy and soy free, my grocery list items are crisp and fresh.

In my last week as a fifty-nine-year-old, I am in better health than I was at 58, sans an arsenal of allopathic medicine. I remain convinced that Eastern medicine– Ayurveda and Chinese–has a better understanding of autoimmune disease. Ted J. Kaptchuk’s The Web That Has No Weaver is an excellent overview of traditional Chinese medicine, and I am searching for a similar Ayurveda text. Until I find it, I am enjoying Deepak Chopra’s Perfect Health, an informative volume regarding Ayurveda traditions.  This Tuesday, I have my first meeting with a practitioner of Eastern medicine.

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But in these final days of my 59th year, it is my writing that is undergoing the greatest transformation. My numbers alone are major personal milestones.  I no longer publish blog posts twice a week as I did in February but on June 2, I began writing the initial draft of a nonfiction manuscript. Currently, I am producing over 9200 words per week on this manuscript alone. At my 59 ½ milestone, my word count was 9800 words for the entire month of February.

While I do not write for a specific word or page count, numbers gauge a manuscript’s size so I knew the end of the nonfiction manuscript was close: currently, it is 330 pages or just over 91,000 words. But even before I tallied the numbers, synchronicity had come to call; what Deepak Chopra calls “a quantum leap of creativity…a relinquishing of the known for the unknown.” And like milestones, coincidence comes wrapped in the ordinary.

In February, I included my participation in ROW 80 as part of my regular blog posts.  Frequently, I discussed the initial draft of a novel that I wrote seventeen years ago; in some blog posts I’d opt for rewriting the novel and in other posts I’d refer to the novel as a life once lived. Rather than letting go, I was very like the speaker in Linda Pastan’s poem, “Ethics,” unable to decide whether to save the old woman or the painting.

So, I signed up for an online workshop, Conflict and Idea with Bob Mayer, and learned about “kernel idea.” I have not been the same since so I consider it my toehold in the unknown, a piece of a milestone.

Bob says that the kernel idea is what initially inspires the writing of a novel–it is the Alpha and Omega of a book–it starts and completes the creative process but here is the key point: the story that you write may and probably does change but the kernel idea of a book does not, ever.

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During the course of the workshop, I came to understand that the “kernel idea” for my novel was not the story I had written. The kernel idea had not changed but the story I wrote moved away from the idea within the first 100 pages. Finally, I realized what I was hanging onto for seventeen years—my kernel idea and 100 pages—yet, it took me a while to understand just what that might mean but when I did, it felt like a “quantum leap of creativity.” Still does.

Thus, as I started writing a new nonfiction book—my current manuscript–I discovered the way to tell the story of my original kernel idea. Maybe the years sorted themselves, maybe I was letting go of what no longer serves but with transformation there is also revelation. In letting  go of a seventeen-year-old-story that no longer served, I discovered the kernel idea for a new nonfiction book.

“When faced with great change—in self, in relationship, in our sense of calling–we somehow must take in all that has enclosed, nurtured and incubated us so when the new life is upon us, the old is within us” (Nepo).

21 thoughts on “Final Days of 59

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts – you have such a wonderfully lyrical way with words! I have to agree about Eastern/Western medicine. I think one of the big problems in the west is the compartmentalisation of knowledge, the reduction of human reality to machine. We have cardiologists who know nothing except heart matters, skin specialists, ear specialists and so on. When they can’t find what is wrong, instead of saying, ‘I don’t know’, the standard fall-back is to blame the patient – usually to start up with some patronising line about their problems being an own goal due to ‘psychological problems’ – which when stripped of the intellectualised medical-speak is basically saying the patient is a bad person, and if only they got the right attitude they would get better. We have a saying about that in NZ – ‘yeah, right’.

    To me the reality is that we are an integrated whole; each part inter-relates, and in complex ways. It is a philosophical difference. I think the reason why eastern medicine is so often rubbished by the west flows from the way it is presented – the spiritual/philosophical reasoning (ying/yang balance, for instance) grates with western compartmentalised rationality. And sometimes, I think, even the reasons given in eastern medicine as to why certain things work isn’t actually right. But that’s also true of western medicine, and it doesn’t stop them working and having the intended effect!

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    • That’s one great compliment about my writing style, Matthew. Much appreciated!

      I could not agree more with what you are saying, in particular about humans as an integrated whole. Overall, my experience has been that the West can, more often than not, deliver some sort of effect short term, as is the role of biochemicals. For me, Eastern medicine requires a commitment to healing ourselves that is not required with Western medicine. That said, Eastern medicine takes longer but for me it has meant a quality-of-life that I could not find with Western medicine.

      As you point out, both have strengths and it seems so obvious that all we need to do is recognize how the two can work together–integrate you say–and stop categorizing their philosophies but then, we have a lot of integration to do on many fronts, particularly in United States.

      As always, thanks for your thoughtful and insightful comments.

      Karen

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  2. What a beautiful, energetic, inspirational post! Thank you for visiting my blog and commenting and indirectly for inviting me here. First, I send wishes of celebration for your coming birthday into the next decade. Welcome! Second, another thank you for reminding me to trust the creative process. I do believe in ‘setting the table’ — taking those small steps that bring us closer to our goals, but your commentary here suggests that taking risks and shaking loose of expectation can bring us closer to creativity. So, I will draw and paint again. Without fear.

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    • Yes, do draw and paint again. I sense that is such a major part of you so trust your instincts and go for it. For some time, I’ve been exploring the idea of not being attached to outcome. What I’m discovering is that not being tied to expectation or any situation is not only freeing but truly creative in a way that I had always dreamed but never experienced. I suspect it is joy.

      Karen

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  3. First of all, I want to thank you for your kind words at my blog. Thank you.

    It’s funny you chose the moment you did to stop by – as upon my visit, I read this post. I, too, am in the last few weeks of a monumental year (finishing up 40), and the past year has brought me forward in many ways. One major transformative journey has been the distancing of myself from Western medicine practices and thoughts on health and wellness. So…of course, your post interests me immensely! I have been exploring homeopathic remedies and Native American herb and treatment practices. New practices, in the form of yoga – especially Kundalini Breath of Fire – are my first forays into Eastern wellness methods. I have been surprised at how these simple changes have affected me. Many happy wishes as you enjoy these final days of 59 – and begin a new year and decade.

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    • I applaud your distance from Western medicine. Actually, your stopping by today is a bit of synchronicity for me as well.

      Currently, I am recovering from trusting a homeopathic remedy; however, if I done my usual homework, I would have known better. I continue to explore homeopathic remedies, although my food sensitivities–no gluten, yeast, sugar, soy or dairy–make it a bit of challenge. I so agree that some simple changes have produced some remarkable affects. I practice breath awareness in my meditation, which I have just begun, and its affects have changed my life. Probably, I lean more to Hindi than Chinese, at least currently. I am hoping to begin yoga starting with a Peggy Cappy DVD on yoga for people with arthritis, a far cry from Kundalini Breath of Fire, which fascinates me.

      Let’s stay in touch as I really am interested in your progress on all fronts.

      Karen

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      • Oh! That sounds wonderful, Karen. I admit to having always housed a ‘distrust’ toward doctors – I was like this since childhood. Over the last few years, watching my mother be given drug after drug to help this problem and that, seeing my brother misdiagnosed – and nearly killed! – when all he needed was a simple gall-bladder removal (finally a doctor found the trouble and removed it…he’s been perfectly healthy since…), and being married to an RN – I slowly began a trek further from what I find to be a seriously flawed approach to health, wellness, and sickness. I’m interested to read more of your experiences and finds as you travel a similar path.

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        • Hello, Nadja!

          I could not agree more with your description of traditional medicine. Last night on PBS I heard Dr. Fuhrman say that Western medicine has gone off track. I can only hope that he’s correct in that Western medicine has seen the error of its ways. Truly, I’m sorry for your family’s health woes but I’m relieved to hear that your brother is well. Maybe together all of us can figure this out. Thanks for providing such thoughtful comments.

          Karen

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  4. Karen this speaks to my heart. As always your words flow from a deep well of understanding the process of life and transforming that into a life well lived. I am so happy for your growth in writing; I certainly enjoy your words. May your 60th year, and decade, be your best so far.

    Peace,
    Morgan

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  5. I rejoice with you! This sounds like such an amazing time of blossoming in your life with all this transformation leading to such an outpouring of creativity! You have inspired me with your story, and I look forward to watching your kernel flower into the work it is meant to be. Congratulations!

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    • It really is such an incredible time for me so thanks so much for the pat on the back. It is as if a life that I had glimpsed all through the past 59 years is now upon me but, of course, I had to let it go before I could realize it. As Rob says in his comment, letting go of the outcome is critical but oh when it happens….

      It means so much that you are rejoicing with me as I do feel that you and I walk similar paths from time to time. What we are discovering….

      Karen

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  6. Excellent piece! I resonate with it, and for me, suddenly I’m a student, a business owner, and none of it relative to writing, but I sense that kernel of material beginning to bud. Letting go of the outcome was critical, and learning to flow with the direction of life. I am seeing for instance, that this daily habit of sitting at the computer for hours doing homework will translate into hours of words later on, as I will develop the habit….

    I wish you well my friend and look forward to more of your creative process and results.

    Rob

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    • Hi, Rob!

      I think of you often, my friend. It is wonderful to hear about your business and that you are a student as well. Isn’t it amazing what one can accomplish when sitting at the computer? As you say, letting go of the outcome takes us right into the flow of life. I’m right there with you on your new adventure. There is such joy in your words. Thank you.

      Karen

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