What We Make

Lauren Altman

I WRITE OUT BUDGETS THAT NEVER MATERIALIZE BECAUSE I AM HUMAN
NORMAN CAIN + LAUREN ALTMAN

 
I write out budgets that never materialize because I am human.

 
I write about my frustrations, because to verbalize the same would spoil the atmosphere, because I am resilient.

 
I write the way I was taught: cursive, penmanship—because I am clear.

 
I write when I should be paying attention to something else because the world is cold.

 
I write quickly when dead lives draw near because I am strong.

 
I write fiction, as opposed to non-fiction, because I am a dreamer, because the world is beautiful.

 
I write because when it sounds good to me–I hear myself smile because I am highly sensitive.

 

 


 

 

BURNING DESIRE

 

My burning desire is to live a life unburdened.
To live a life on purpose, with intent with an open heart and an open mind.
To breathe in each moment, to savor every bite of food, to absorb the joy from
every interaction, and to spread light wherever I go.
I want to heal—not wounds, but minds.
Too many minds are plagued by darkness unable to heal themselves, stuck in a
downward spiral, sulking and wallowing because staying at the bottom is
easier than climbing out of the hole.
I want to help these people and their minds crawl out of their comfort zones.
I want to stop the negative messages.

 

No more “My body won’t listen to me”
Let’s have more “Look at the amazing things my body can do”
No more “The world is out to get me”
Let’s have more “look at how beautiful this world is”
No more “nothing ever works out for me”
Let’s have more “look at how many opportunities I’ve had,” and let’s see how
many more I will have.

 

 


 

THE PURSUIT OF MINDFULNESS

 

FLOW

“Flow is the process of achieving happiness through control over one’s inner life. The optimal state of inner experience is order in consciousness. This happens when we focus our attention (psychic energy) on realistic goals and when our skills match the challenges we face.”

 

WAYS TO LIVE A MINDFUL LIFE

 

1. Start each morning with a tall glass of lemon water
2. Perform sun salutations and then head out for a run, a walk, or a hike
3. Return home and reward yourself with a cup of tea and a big breakfast
4. Take a quick shower to wake up
5. Cross three things off your to-do list by 10am
6. Get to work
7. Set aside time to rest and recharge
8. Cook a delicious meal; savor and be grateful for every bite
9. Get creative—read, write, draw, paint, play
10. Drink a cup of green tea as you wind down for the night
11. Perform sun salutations before bed
12. Meditate on all that you are grateful for at the present moment
13. Sleep well

 

INTERLUDE: LAZY/MOTIVATION

 

Inner Critic: Stop sitting around, you’re so lazy.
Inner Worrier: If you don’t start working now, you’ll never be goodenough. You were doing so well! What happened to you?

 
Inner Defeater: Why should you even try? You’re just going to fail again.
Inner Coach: It’s okay; you’re resting. You’re allowed to rest after a long, hard day.
Inner Invalidator: For six hours though? You don’t deserve a rest for that long.
Inner Critic: It’s nearly 11pm and you haven’t done anything. You wasted an entire day.
Inner Coach: Okay, okay. Tomorrow with be a new day. Put your energy into the things you love: write, read, learn, make music, draw, cook. Sit less, do more. 2015 was amazing; let’s make 2016 even better.

 

MONSTER ISLAND

 

Before the world was any bigger than our suburban Pennsylvania home, the 56-mile stretch of I-476, and our little cabin in the woods at the other end of the highway, Daniel and I would push off from the dock in Poppop’s forest-green canoe and paddle across the lake to Monster Island. The lake sparkles as the cool breeze created small waves in the water and the sun glittered on its peaks. We gently paddled the quarter-mile to reach the island; there was little current to work with or against.

 

FLOW

 

I want to be out on that dock at sunrise every morning, greeting it with a sun salutation and a cup of tea, writing throughout the morning, going for a midday run or workout, practicing my hoop skills in the early afternoon, and winding down with a cup of tea and a book into the early evening.

 

WHAT’S STRESSING ME OUT?

 

1. Traveling to Old City
2. Not knowing when to go
3. Not having a bus ticket to NY yet
4. Needing to pack
5. Not finishing my homework before the weekend
6. Everything D6
7. Midterm
8. Starting a new class next week
9. Not having any info on where it is or what we do
10. Feeling pressure to focus on classes I hate
11. Having massive amounts of homework
12. Hating the gym and hating not going to the gym
13. Hating cooking and hating pre-made meals
14. Stress caused by procrastination
15. Lack of bathtub to soak in
16. Expensive gas bill
17. Lack of cleanliness and tidiness

 

IDENTITY

 

“I feel like I am more myself now than I was at the beginning of this trip.” Leah and I emphatically agreed with Dave’s honest admission. We had finished our decadent hummus dishes and were content to spend our last few hours in Tel Aviv on this beautiful restaurant patio surrounded by trellises of bright pink roses. I took another soothing sip of my fresh mint tea—a tall clear glass filled with hot water and a long sprig of mint. In fewer than twelve hours we would be boarding a plane to head back to the States, just in time for Christmas. I looked up at the cloudless blue sky and confessed to the two of them, “On this trip, I didn’t feel like I had to be anyone but myself. I was present.”

 

LIMBO

 

“If I had to express in one word what makes [creative persons’] personalities different from others, it would be complexity. By this I mean that they show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated. They contain contradictory extremes—instead of being an ‘individual,’ each of them is a ‘multitude.’”

 

This duality has been stretching me thin. I get stuck in the middle, with both
sides desperately puling me their way.
Should I go to the gym or go back to sleep?
I do neither.
Should I get to campus early or get work done at home?
I do neither.
Should I finish my D6 website or should I call it quits and back away from the
company?
I do neither.
I sit in limbo, afraid to step one way or the other off the tight rope. Afraid to
commit, afraid to make the wrong choice, afraid that once I dive in, I’ll forget
how to swim. My indecision is holding me back. Commit or quit. No more limbo.

 

MONSTER ISLAND
Wheel-topped pallets to bring the canoe ashore were planted around the backside of the island, requiring us to paddle through the canal. Shhhh we gently whispered to each other; the canal was shallow which meant that all the sea creatures were sleeping close to us—if we paddled too hard or spoke too loud, we would wake them up.11 We took up our paddles and rested them across our knees, and we let the canoe coast through the shady strait. Our shhhhs echoed in the rustling of leaves and the soft trickling of water lapping up upon the rocky, rooted shores. A cool breeze drifted through the strait, cleansing the water that suddenly became clear, cleansing our minds that suddenly became clear. We closed our eyes as time slowed down for us.

 

VINYASA
Inhale
Exhale
Inhale
Downward dog
High plank
Low plank
Upward-facing dog
Downward dog
Inhale
Exhale
Pull your right leg through your hands
Stay strong, rise to high crescent lunge
Warrior I
Warrior II
Reverse your warrior
Return to Warrior II
Hinge forward
Triangle post
Return to standing
Cartwheel your hands down to the mat
High plank
Low Plank
Up dog
Downward dog
Pull your left leg through your hands
Stay strong, rise to high crescent lunge
Warrior I
Warrior II
Reverse your warrior
Return to Warrior II
Hinge forward
Triangle pose
Return to standing
Cartwheel your hands down to the mat
High plank
Low Plank
Up dog
Downward dog
MONSTER ISLAND

We paddled a hard left and pulled up to an open pallet. We waded through the shallow water. We pulled and pushed the canoe into place. We ran barefoot through the trees, inventing mystical creatures hiding in the bushes. I coaxed the shy ones out of their hiding places, and Daniel protected us from the fire-breathing pterodactyls overhead. Once we tired out, we hopped back in the canoe and paddled home to our private little beach. When we got back, Mom had tuna sandwiches ready for us to chomp down.

 

MASTERY

They say it takes 10,000 hours to master any one art; here goes hour #1.

My fingers are already sore, and I’ve only gone through three exercises. I can feel callouses forming on the pads of my left hand’s fingers. A strain follows from my fingers down the tendons on the back of my hand. My wrist tenses up and aches. The strain starts again at my wrist and trickles its way down my forearm to my elbow. I try to stay on time with the metronome, but my tired fingers flub a note every eight or nine beats. The metronome keeps clicking away… click… click… click… The flubs result in dead notes. When I hit the fret properly, my out-of-
tune bass buzzes in disappointment.

 

INTERLUDE: PERFECTION

Inner Critic: You’re not good enough. You can’t keep time, you still can’t fret properly.

 

Inner Defeater: Why did you even bother starting? You’ll never be good enough. You’ll never be the best. You’ve been playing bass for the better part of a decade—how are you still so bad?

Inner Invalidator: Sure, you have improved immensely since you started, but look how much further you have to go. You’ll never get there.

Inner Worrier: Where did this strive for perfection come from? This all-or-nothing attitude. It wasn’t how I was raised. Mom and Dad always said, “Do your best.” My best was straight-As with the occasional sprinkling of a B+. Why am I so set on being perfect, of not needing second drafts and rewrites? What’s so sinful about having an eraser or of crossing something out to say, “No, this is better”? I’ve been so scared to write in this journal, for fear of saying the wrong words.

Inner Coach: Anything done for the first time is a first draft, never the final. Beethoven didn’t write his Fifth Symphony all in one go. Warhol didn’t paint a perfect Campbell’s can with a single brush stroke. Every artist goes through trial and error.

Inner Worrier: So why am I so afraid of the latter?

 

LIGHT

As we walked through Mount Hertzel cemetery, which held the bodies of young Israeli soldiers, Dor turned his face to the sun and professed, “The sun is so energizing.” I smiled, closed my eyes, turned my face up to that fiery ball and hummed in agreement “mmhmm.” Even in the most mournful of places, Dor found a silver lining.

As I walk down Lancaster Walk on a bitterly cold January morning, the wind ceases. Suddenly, my cheeks no longer feel ripped and raw; warmth washes over them. I turn my face up to the sun, noticing for the first time that the sky is blue and cloudless. I think back to that day at the cemetery, and hum my gratitude toward the energizing sun.

 

BLUEBERRIES

Blueberry bushes lined the pathway from our cabin to our dock on the lake.Every August, our small pink fingers reached up towards those plump, round berries, dangling on their frail green branches, waiting to be plucked. Once all the blueberries within our reach were collected into our bowls, Dad lifted us up, and our whole perspective changed. Lush green leaves suddenly surrounded my face—instead of dried yellow stalks—and I could pluck twice as many berries; I could reach the ones that the deer hadn’t beaten us to. Every few summers, Daniel and I tried a green blueberry, even though we knew they weren’t ripe yet, just to taste that bitter tanginess again and to giggle at each other’s sour face.

I can picture myself out on that dock at Poppop’s lake house, performing sun salutations and drinking tea. On the dock where Poppop taught Daniel and me how to fish when we were four years old. At the lake house which Poppop recently handed down to Dad and Aunt Andie. The lake house which I will one day beg my father to hand down to me.

Lauren Altman

LAUREN ALTMAN was born and raised in Montgomery County in the suburbs of Philadelphia. She is a graduate of the Music Industry Program and is beginning her MBA at Drexel University. She plays bass in Plainview, an indie band, and owns and operates D6 Merchandise. She was a member of Rachel Wenrick’s 2015-16 Writer’s Room independent study.