Monday, January 23, 2012

Guest Blogger: Pesi Dinnerstein, Author of A Cluttered Life: Searching for God, Serenity, and My Missing Keys

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.

“The baby?” I asked back. “What baby?”

“The one you gave birth to this summer,” she said, beginning to sound alarmed.

“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.

“This is for you,” I told her. “It’s very tiny now—just like your voice—but maybe . . . if I keep listening . . . it will grow into a full-sized book someday . . . . ”





Synopsis:

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.

Hope you enjoyed Pesi's guest post. Feel free to leave comments!

One lucky visitor who leaves a comment by Wednesday, January 25, will receive a PDF copy of Pesi's inspiring and humorous book.

26 comments:

  1. Just this weekend, I lamented that I cannot write amidst the chaos in my life. There is just too much - too much noise, too much stuff; life's many demands and distractions have my mind unable to organize my thoughts.

    I struggle with finding a peaceful physical location so I can re-focus my attention and just BE.

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  2. I tend to be a fairly organized person on the outside--a place for every thing and all that. But finding a still voice (or the key to a plot, for instance) in the hot mess that goes on INSIDE me...that's more of a challenge. ;-)

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  3. I've heard of leaving a notebook beside the bed for dream notes, but I have never done it. I guess I should try it. My night's sleep are so bad usually, I am just grateful to have any dreams! Yep, cluttered mind for sure.

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  4. What a wonderful post. I love the title of your book Pensi. We have been doing nothing but declutter and divest for a while as we get ready to hit the road in an RV - 350 sq ft of living space!! Your description of the tiny writer inside you as a splinter is very effective. Your book sounds like something we could all use. I have a friend it would be perfect for too!

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  5. Aah. Interesting point. I have a stretching exercise I have to do several times a day where I have to hold the stretch for 10 minutes! It kills me - not just physically, but psychologically: 10 minutes of doing (seemingly) nothing! Now with Pepsi's insights I'll have to reconsider my approach not only to the exercise, but also to the fact that it's a symptom of a deeper issue, one which affects my writing life as well.

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  6. Love that Pesi listened to that inner, small, still voice via a dream! Dreams can tell so much.

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  7. Hi Everyone,

    I'm hoping Pesi will chime in, but until then I'll respond to your kind comments.

    Donna
    *****
    Hi Kim,
    I feel the same way.

    Hi Cathy,
    Wish I could say I'm organized--sadly that's not the case.

    Hi Claudia,
    I agree. A good night's sleep is a gift.

    Hi Melissa,
    You are so brave to take to the road in an RV, but I bet it will be an amazing adventure.

    Hi Pam,
    I need to try that stretching exercise.

    Hi Lynn,
    You are right about dreams. I've learned a lot from them.

    Donna

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  8. Thanks Donna, for the intro to Pesi! I appreciate this food for thought. :)

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    Replies
    1. Hi Karen,
      It's so nice to meet you too!

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  9. Oh I hope I win, I hope I win!! I also just love the title of Pesi's book. I tried winning it on WOW-The Muffin, so I'm trying here, too, Donna!

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    Replies
    1. I hope you win too, Becky! And I hope that everyone else wins as well—It would definitely be a better world!

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  10. Hi, I'm chiming in . . .

    Thank you all for your beautiful comments; and thank you, Donna, for inviting me to be part of your wonderful blog.

    Hi Kim,
    I have the same problem. I need a quiet, uncluttered space in order to write—which is probably why it's taken me fifty years to get started! I hope you find yours a lot sooner.

    Hi Cathy,
    I love that expression—a hot mess. It definitely feels like a smoke alarm is about to go off in my head much of the time.

    Hi Bookie,
    I used to keep a notebook by my bed, and it really made a difference. Of course, most of the time, I was too tired to write in it; but when I did, I was able to capture some life-changing dreams. Now that you've reminded me, I think I'm going to start doing it again. I hope it will work for you as well.

    Hi Melissa,
    Wow!—350 square feet—and on wheels, no less! You've definitely inspired me. It sounds like you're all set for an amazing journey—and maybe a book about it as well. Happy trails . . . .

    Hi Pam,
    I agree—ten minutes of silence can seem like an eternity. I always say that all I want is a little quiet—but I find that quiet gets uncomfortable pretty quickly. As you say, there's a lot in that for us to explore—and your stretch time seems like a great opportunity to do it.

    Hi Lynn,
    Dreams are incredible messengers, aren't they? I can't imagine how else that little voice could have communicated with me. I'm sure glad I was paying attention that night!

    Hi Donna,
    Thanks for creating such a comfortable place for us to share our thoughts. Hopefully, more to follow . . . .

    Pesi

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  11. Recently a complete poem came to me in a dream about a friend's issues. I shared it with her. If more people would listen to their inner voice.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Linda,

      A complete poem—I've never heard that before! Who knows what's waiting for us in there?

      Delete
  12. So important we listen to our writer voice. But sometimes I need a good roll of duct tape for mine.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Carol,

      Yes, that voice has a lot to say sometimes—but better too much than too little!

      Delete
  13. I love the title of this book. Did you get to choose it?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Margo,

      Thank you—I actually did get to choose it. My publisher and I were going back and forth about the title and couldn't agree on anything. I was having such a stressful time trying to deal with it that I kept losing my keys—even more than I usually do. After losing and finding them for, maybe, the fifth time, the title came to me. It really is what my cluttered life is all about—trying to find spiritual meaning and serenity while having to deal with lost keys and all the other little irritations that come our way.

      Delete
  14. The things we writers (and women) deal with! Some are more common than we'd think.

    (If my comment comes up as Anonymous again, it's me, Marcia)

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  15. Hi Marcia (Anonymous),
    I'm happy you were able to post.
    Donna

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  16. Hi, Donna! Haven't stopped by in a while and got your email. It's something...thinking about your spiritual gifts as being babies that need nurturing. We wouldn't leave our children to starve, so why do we do it to our inner babies? Hmmm.

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  17. I was a lot more organized before I turned 50 a couple years ago. Now I let things slide more, but it is mostly that things are dropped and replaced with writing time, so I guess that's okay. :)

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  18. Will definitely have to read this one since I had a very similar dream when I quit writing for a few years. In my dream, I'd put my baby away in a drawer and was afraid I'd hurt her. Fortunately she was just fine. :) Sounds like a great book!

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  19. Hi Camille,
    Interesting point.

    Hi Lisa,
    Writing time is a good thing!

    Hi Tammy,
    Glad to hear your dream baby was okay!

    Donna

    ReplyDelete

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