Friday, February 3, 2012

Blog Tour: Author Guest Post/Giveaway - Pesi Dinerstein (A Cluttered Life: Searching for God, Serenity, and My Missing Keys)

by Pesi Dinnerstein

Change, it seems, often flows in unexpected directions.

Handwriting analysts say that a change in our personality can create a change in our handwriting; and some believe that a change in our handwriting can lead to a change in our personality as well.

It all seems connected to the larger question of whether change is more likely to occur from the inside out (thought affecting action) or from the outside in (action changing thought). Twelve Step Recovery Programs use both approaches, and they express the “outside in” model through the well-known slogans “Act as if” and “Fake it till you make it.”

The idea of faking it—even in the service of making it—has always rubbed me the wrong way. I wanted my changes to be genuine and internal from beginning to end. But, as it is with so many of my beliefs, things don’t seem to work that way in the real world.

I’ve had no shortage of breakthroughs, epiphanies, and “Aha!” moments—but it’s all led to very little change in the way I actually live my life. So, I’ve finally decided that the time has come to embrace a bit of deception in my pursuit of truth.

Like most of us, I believe what I see—even when I’m not entirely convinced that what I see is real. I silence the cognitive dissonance in my head by placing greater trust in my eyes—at least until the evidence from other sources becomes too compelling to ignore.

So, where am I going with all of this? Well, I’ve just undertaken a major act of subterfuge, and I guess this is my attempt to place it in a philosophical context.

A few former colleagues from New York called the other day to say that they were in Florida for a conference and found themselves with some free time. They wanted to know if they could drop by the following day for a little visit.

I hadn’t seen them in years and was really excited at the prospect of a reunion. But, then, I looked at the condition of my house—which, for quite some time now, had taken a back seat to the writing of my book—and I fell into an immediate panic.

There were piles everywhere—dirty clothes, clean clothes, newspapers, magazines, mail—it was endless. There was no way that I could even make a dent in one day.

But, then, it occurred to me . . . Why not act as if—fake it till I make it—create change from the outside in?
I immediately headed off to the mall to get started.

Two hours later, I returned home with a stack of wicker boxes and baskets in all sizes and shapes, several rattan hampers, and a few extra-large quilts. I began stuffing everything—unfolded, unsorted, disheveled—into the containers, which I placed in every empty corner of the house. Whatever was left over, I put in the bedroom and covered with the quilts. By the end of the day, the mess had vanished, and my little condo looked as if it were inhabited by an orderly—if somewhat eccentric—woman with a fondness for wicker and fabric.

So, thanks to this sleight of hand, my friends showed up the next afternoon, oohed and aahed over my creatively decorated home, and left for New York convinced that my life was basically well organized and under control. Meanwhile, I came away from the experience so inspired by the illusion I had created that I couldn’t wait to begin making it a reality. And, in the end, I had to admit that—for better or for worse—what we see may very well be just what we get.

About the Author:

Pesi Dinnerstein (a.k.a. Paulette Plonchak) 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.

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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.

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