As part of the WOW! Women on Writing Blog Tour, please join me in welcoming my special guest today, Pesi Dinnerstein (a.k.a. Paulette Plonchak).
Dinnerstein has written selections for the best-selling series Small Miracles, by Yitta Halberstam and Judith Leventhal, and has contributed to several textbooks and an anthology of short stories.
Dinnerstein recently retired as a full-time faculty member of the City University of New York, where she taught language skills for close to thirty years. She has been an aspiring author and self-acknowledged clutterer for many years, and has spent the better part of her life trying to get organized and out from under. Despite heroic efforts, she has not yet succeeded; but she continues to push onward, and hopes that her journey will inspire others to keep trying as well.
Today she will discuss something that I often struggle with, and I'm sure many of my visitors who are writers struggle with as well.
TRYING TO FIND THAT SMALL, STILL VOICE
“How’s the baby?” my friend asked.
“Oh, thanks for reminding me,” I said. “I forgot all about her.”
“How could you forget about your own baby?”
“Well, she’s so small that I can hardly see her,” I tried to explain. “I mean, she’s only the size of a splinter—so I keep losing her; and then I forget that she even exists.”
My friend stared at me in disbelief.
“But don’t you hear her when she cries? How can you not notice a screaming baby?!”
“What can I do?” I said. “Her voice is so small—even when she screams, it’s barely a whisper.”
“Then, how do you know when to feed her?” my friend pressed on.
“It’s a problem,” I admitted. “And, most of the time, I don’t remember to do it. Maybe that’s why she’s still the size of a splinter . . . . ”
I woke up in a sweat as my friend was about to dial the Child Abuse Hotline.
Horrified at this portrait of myself, I immediately tried to understand the deeper meaning of the dream. Using an old Gestalt technique I had once learned, I began a dialogue with the main character:
“Who are you?” I asked the baby—anxious to discover her true identity before she slipped back into my subconscious.
“I’m the writer that you always wanted to be,” she whispered.
I sat up in bed, suddenly wide awake.
“Then, why do you appear as a tiny infant?” I asked.
“Well, since you don’t nurture me, I can’t grow.”
“But I didn’t know even know you were there,” I said in defense.
“That’s because you’ve never been silent long enough to hear my small, still voice.”
I closed my eyes for a moment, trying to take that in.
“You’re right,” I finally said. “And I’m really sorry. What can I do to make it up to you?”
As she slowly drifted into the night, she cried out, “I need a pen . . . and a piece of paper . . . and someone—please—to listen . . . . ”
I’d been searching my entire life for that small, still voice—and, somehow, I had never heard her calling to me. In fact, I probably spent a good part of the time running in the opposite direction.
But inspiration comes at strange times and from odd places. I awoke the next morning unable to think of anything but that little splinter of a writer who could only get my attention in a disturbing dream. I ran out immediately and bought her a notebook with a big rainbow on the front and a matching pen.
Insightful, unsettling, and wildly funny, A Cluttered Life: Searching for God, Serenity, and My Missing Keys (Seal Press) is the story of Pesi Dinnerstein’s quest to create a simple and orderly life—only to discover that simplicity is not so simple and what constitutes clutter is not always perfectly clear. When a chance encounter with an old acquaintance reveals the extent to which disorder has crept into every corner of her existence, Pesi determines to free herself, once and for all, of the excess baggage she carries with her. Along the way—with the help of devoted friends, a twelve-step recovery program, and a bit of Kabbalistic wisdom—her battle with chaos is transformed into an unexpected journey of self-discovery and spiritual awakening.