Why I Put Fire in My Name

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Like Her Hair’s On Fire: Writing to slow down and warm up to life

The lady in this shot has the feeling I’m going for in my blog. For that matter, she has the feeling I’m going for in my life.

I posted before that I am doing the Zero to Hero 30 day challenge. I’m beginning to wonder if the 30 days will turn out to be a year long process. I’ve now finished posting a new theme and giving myself a new name. It took forever. I’m waffling on it (and may change again if my brilliantly creative niece comes up with something better) but am going with what Gilbert says here:

These bloggers with their catchy names inspired me when I first started renaming.

The Book Addict

Witty or Not, Here I Come


She’s a Maineiac

I attempted to find my own name by mind mapping, muttering to myself, scribbling in my journal and annoying my teen by asking for his suggestions. My circles fell back on each other because I’m not writing about running specifically or about writing (although I’ve written much about both lately). Instead I’m writing pieces from my life in hopes of connecting with readers who might later like to read my published works. It feels like a crazy idea (writing in general, that is), but I can’t stop myself and as a woman I admire said:

“Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.”
― Doris Lessing

Here was my thinking behind the name and the theme that I picked to go with it:

I once read (but cannot now find) a quote from Buddhism that urges you to understand that you have already reached enlightenment and, at the very same time, you need to practice like your hair’s on fire.

The longer I plug away at writing, the more I realize that I need to apply the same feeling to this practice. I am already a writer. And I need to practice like my hair is on fire because I urgently need to get better. The older I get, the more I notice how quickly life flutters by me. If you want a longer more eloquent explanation, here is a link to a Shambala Sun article I found while searching for the original quote. It’s got the fire but not the enlightenment already idea.

Plus, I have been messing with my hairstyle lately, so the bit about hair in my name feels appropriate to my life as it is now. (Don’t worry. I’m not planning to change to flaming red. Yet. Maybe in my 60’s.)

Writing to slow down and warm up to life

My tag line has to do with a Carly Simon song from my long ago days listening to KOMO radio with Larry Nelson as my parents drove me around.

In “The Stuff that Dreams are Made Of” Simon croons to a woman who longs for more pizzazz in her marriage. Simon tells her to open her eyes and see the beauty of the marriage she’s in at the moment.

In case you haven’t heard that song or it is sitting back where you don’t remember it, here’s a clip. It’s sappy. Be warned. You probably need only a few seconds to get the feel or jog your memories if you also listened to your parents’ radio station.

In my best writing moments, when I get myself to my page and type out those words, I am able to see the joy in my writing life right now. Without a book deal or Amazon numbers or Goodreads reviews or even enough writing income to got a 1066 for Uncle Sam last Thursday when I did my taxes. The slow and steady fire. Thanks, Carly. And thanks to the lady I’ve never met with the fiery red hair on Pinterest. You made my blogging day.

About the author: Karrie Zylstra Myton is a blogger, essayist, and aspiring author who writes for the wild joy it brings on the best days and the hard lessons she learns about life on the worst. After crafting stories in the ridiculously early morning hours, she chases her two sons, cuddles with cats, and laughs with her husband about how crazy life can get in middle age.

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  • Jody Casella March 2, 2014, 1:01 PM

    I love the new blog name, Karrie. And that zen quote is spot on.

    • Karrie Zylstra March 3, 2014, 2:07 PM

      I only wish I could find where my zen quote came from, Jody! I’m looking through my books, too. And getting back to work again. The flames are burning low this morning.

  • Zarkon March 22, 2014, 8:52 AM

    I’m not sure that the hair on fire quote is necissarily from Zen. I’ve read similar things in other Buddhist literature and heard it from a Hindu teacher as well.

    For many years I took the idea of meditating like my hair was on fire to be a metaphor for intense effort, but more recently my very litteral side has been speaking up and wondering if it might really be meant to be taken more or less litterally. If my hair was on fire I wouldn’t be calmly watching my thoughts pass like clouds in the sky. Rather, I’d be intensely focused on trying to get the fire out. I’d be very clearly aware of the sensations going on on top of my head. And, aware of the emotions, smells, etc. I would be in the here and now very very intensly with no thoughts of self or other. No standing back and looking at myself doing this, that, or the other thing.

    And, I begin to wonder. Is that what they are really pointing at when they say that?

    By the way, I love your title and the posts I’ve read so far. Thanks.

    • Karrie Zylstra March 22, 2014, 1:24 PM

      Hi Zarkon,

      I was probably displaying my ignorance of Buddhism by thinking that Zen is the same as all forms of Buddhism. Thank you for reminding me that it is not. I have the chance to listen to a Buddhist speaker this Monday and think I’d better educate myself by going!

      I get what you’re saying about the overdone metaphor of having your hair on fire. The article in the Shambhala Sun and other sources I found had the same concerns. Writers I found expressed it as practicing with ‘urgency’ rather than the ‘alarm’ you might actually have if your hair were on fire. I do hope to practice awareness with urgency rather than alarm.

      I have always liked the contrast between simultaneously reaching enlightenment (being a writer already) and also practicing meditation (or writing) with the urgency necessary to put out a fire. The best and most difficult parts of spirituality feel to me like holding two opposite truths in my hand. Or at least attempting to hold them.

      And you are very welcome. Thank you for taking the time to comment!

  • Zarkon March 22, 2014, 11:29 PM

    “The best and most difficult parts of spirituality feel to me like holding two opposite truths in my hand.”

    Exactly. Well said. When I was younger I thought that everything had a clear answer. We might not know what it was, but the answer, or truth was out there somewhere. I was very proud to know the “truth” of something and be able to tell it to others.

    As I’ve gotten older and found that all answers come with uncertainty and doubt (well, maybe with the exception of strict mathematical equations and problems), I’ve begun to learn to live with ambiguity, with not knowing the answer, or whether it’s even possible to know the answer. To not know if what I’m doing right now is correct or the best that I could be doing, but doing it with an open heart (at least as much as I’m able to do that). Hoping for the best and accepting (as much as I’m able) the reality of things as they are.

    • Karrie Zylstra March 24, 2014, 12:45 AM

      I absolutely agree and find that this acceptance of ambiguity is one of the best parts of getting older. Acting ‘with an open heart’ is much better than my old search for the one truth. I wish you well in your journey with the questions.

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