Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Ties that Bind: A Conversation with Actor, Author and Yoga Instructor Amanda Erin Miller

One Breath, Then Another, by Amanda Erin Miller

A t the end of the last semester I found myself telling my dissertation advisor that I didn’t like any of my ideas, anything I had ever written or perhaps anything I would ever write. She, who has seen it all before, advised me to stop reading, to stop writing/rewriting, to just stop. Why would I though?? I had become effortlessly neurotic, a walking warning, a nutcase phd candidate...insomniac, firing on all cylinders and ready to snap. In the thick of it, I got a gift in the mail from writer, actor and yoga instructor Amanda Erin Miller. I couldn’t have been more grateful. There’s a sense of amazement that accompanies every book that comes to the house addressed to Shivers Up the Spine: despite any and all difficulties, there are always other people willing to share their stories to the benefit of those of us wound up a hair too taut. I quickly glanced at the back of the paperback:

“From a young age, Amanda identified with her father, a heavy smoker with food issues who starved himself until he was skeletal. She, in turn, developed a severe case of anorexia that led to hospitalization. A year after she recovered, he died of lung cancer.

Amanda Erin Miller
Amanda Erin Miller is an actor, writer, yoga instructor and massage therapist, intrigued by the ways these practices inform each other. Amanda recently published her memoir One Breath, Then Another about her quest for healing to avoid her father's self destructive path on her own Lucid River Press. She has adapted the book into an interactive solo show about studying yoga on an ashram in India, which will premiere as part of Theater For The New City's Dreamup Festival in NYC August 2013. Excerpts from One Breath, Then Another have been featured in Freerange Nonfiction, Underwired Magazine, Om Times, Love Your Rebellion, Runaway Parade and So Long: Short Memoirs of Loss and Remembrance, a memoir anthology. Her writing has also appeared in The Rumpus and UC Riverside's Cratelit. She hosts and books the monthly literary/ music series Lyrics, Lit & Liquor at The Parkside Lounge in NYC.  Amanda earned her BFA in Acting from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and her MFA in Creative Writing from The New School.

Amanda’s book One Breath, Then Another, a memoir, is a moving retelling of her formative years that exposes the depth to which we bond with fathers, mothers, siblings, friends and lovers, and how relationships are manifest in very real physical patterns. Quite simply, people seem to get under our skins; we embody those we love, and those ties that bind are sometimes the same knots that require a lifetime of undoing.

Amanda Miller (left), her father David Miller (right)

"Okay," he said and turned. I followed him down the hall and through the kitchen, where my mom was washing the dinner dishes. He held the front door open for me, and I stepped under his warm into the early evening twilight, planted my feet, and turned back to watch the door swing shut behind him. We began walking side by side in stiff silence, moving slowly due to the poor circulation in his leg. Neither of us looked at the other. Instead, I tried to see inside the windows of the houses we passed. I wondered what other families were like, what other fathers were like, what kinds of relationships they had with their daughters. I listened to my father's heavy breathing until it became the only sound in the world. I imagined the inside of his lungs; they probably looked like the smokers' lungs I saw in my health book at school, part inflamed, part black and shrivelled. As he dragged his leg along, I thought about his heart working so hard to pump fresh blood into his clogged arteries. I thought about his body straining to perform its basic functions. I considered what I'd done to my body and realized I was partially attempting to emulate him." (Amanda Miller, from One Breath, Then Another