Inconvenient musing

It’s ten thirty a.m. and I’m making my way through an already crowded grocery store. I’ve listened to some news (all bad) on the way here and my heart feels heavier than the cantaloupe stacked high in the bin, an avalanche waiting to happen.

I have not felt this depressed since I tried to give up my morning coffee. I am starting to wonder if a weighted blanket might be a good idea. Don’t be ridiculous, I tell myself. But still, it is a comforting thought.

I want to grab all of the sugary things in bakery aisle, but I resist, knowing that self-destruction is not the way out. So I am left to deal with my raw emotions.

I am overstimulated because the crowded, busy environment is competing with the thoughts in my head. I pull my carriage over to jot down notes on the back of my grocery list. It’s just a stupid essay, I think to myself, but it’s the first time I’ve felt like writing in weeks so I feel the need to seize the moment.

Why does this always happen in the most inconvenient of places? In the shower, while driving, while grocery shopping. Rarely does the muse come while I am at my laptop, fingers poised to capture the flow of words. Nope.

Lately I’ve been staring at a blank computer screen, my insides vacillating between numbness and nauseous churning. No words come out. Nothing seems good enough or clear enough or worthwhile. A waste of time, all of it, petty creative ambitions gone underground while I wait for my heart to thaw. Why does the muse hate me so?  

But today my writer’s block is broken in Market Basket, halfway down the carb aisle. This is why I never leave home without a pen.

Back at home, I sign up for a daily action text.  I text the word DAILY to the number 228466 and am prompted to give my zip code. I will receive a daily text prompting me to make a specific call to my Senator, on behalf of U.S. laws, on Planned Parenthood, on all sorts of rights on behalf of the welfare of the citizens of the United States.

I sort of hate the phone, and initially I worry I’ll be caught in some endless loop like calling Verizona or my insurance company, but I get through on the second ring.  This is easy, and something I can do every single day.

Helplessness and hopelessness is what will keep me down, not action. Action is good.

I go to yoga class and breathe and sweat and stretch and get out of my head and back into my body and my spirit and that sweet space of presence.

But then my mind gets a bit restless again and I have to give it something to chew on, so I turn to books like I always do. I read books to help me understand what has happened and what my part is in all of it.  I read Hillbilly Elegy and I ordered a book that my father has suggested, The Authoritarians. The author, Bob Altemeyer, explains in methodical detail, the roots of authoritarianism and who the authoritarian followers are. The book can be downloaded for free at www.theauthoritarians.com. My husband reads it first.  He’s not typically someone who enjoys psychological analyzing but he says it explains a lot. I put it on my reading list.

I look for Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right. I want to understand, I do. The librarian tells me that there are a hundred and seventeen people in line for this book. I don’t think I can wait that long.

Then I decide I need to go deeper, much deeper. I need to rise above politics and read something that speaks to my soul.  Call me dramatic, but this is no small matter. I need an intervention here. I feel we have entered a dark night of the soul, as a country, and we are all in this together. I want to pull my weight. I’ve decided that means taking action toward what I know is right and remembering that there is plenty I could be wrong about.

I remember that I have Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love in my bookshelf.  Before I begin reading it, I look the author up the on social media. I follow her on twitter, thinking she’ll be blissfully calm in the midst of the storm that is our political climate. Not so.

You know we are trouble when even Marianne Williamson is pissed off.

But anyhow, I start reading her book and it does bring me peace. I am willing to see the bigger picture, accept responsibility for my own feelings and actions. She says if you are in disagreement with someone, that even if you think the other party is 90% responsible, you should focus on your 10%.  It’s not anyone’s job to change another or even to change another’s mind. I agree with this.

So I take care of myself so that I am bringing light, and not more darkness, into the world. I save my energy for the things I can do and can change.  I try, and sometimes fail, to be more mindful of my words and my thoughts.

We can’t fight anger with anger or fear with fear. I knew this. I’d just forgotten for a minute. I got scared.

But I am back.  I feel lighter now.

And mostly unafraid.

Chaos without, chaos within

My husband is redoing our whole kitchen.  Yay!  I am so excited to get rid of our ugly cabinets and counter tops and cracked tile floor and replace them with something pretty. It has been the one room I have never liked, and the room that is central to our home. Aesthetics are important to me.

I am jumping for joy inside!

Actually, I am not.

I am freaking out inside.

I know the chaos of the kitchen is very temporary. It’ll be done in a matter of weeks. Or months.  My husband is enjoying the challenge, and he is great about cleaning up the mess as best he can at the end of each day.

He contains the chaos. That is a beautiful thing.

20161002_151416-2But there are some parts of it, he just cannot help. Like the table needing to be put into the living room. And some of the old cabinets needing to be in the middle of the kitchen floor. Oh, and the floor being gone.

There is stuff to do in the kitchen. Like cook. And eat. There are only so many times we can go out to eat in a week. Or a day.

At least my writing room is in our basement.  I get to come down here and deny the mess that is upstairs, until I need to go upstairs. Which is pretty often.

Today has been the turning point, from how fun it is to discuss what color cabinets to buy to can we please just get whatever ones will get here the quickest? 

But this really is not just about me and my kitchen. That’s lame.

It’s about inner and outer chaos. I’ve got both right now and I suspect it may be somewhat universal. I just cannot be that unique. I think that when our outer surroundings are  too messy or too unfinished or too scattered, that is how we all feel inside as well, at least to some extent. 

I am a four year old again, with the rug…ahh tile…pulled out from under me.

I am throwing my arms up at everything now.

Where is my discipline? Where is my productivity? My peace? What is happening to me?

I did not shower this morning. I never don’t shower. I sometimes shower twice a day. I shower before I exercise for crying out loud.

But not today. Why bother?

Today I rolled out of bed and pulled on blue leggings from my pajama drawer. Bright blue leggings. And I went out in them.

I skipped exercising.

I skipped working on my book even though I’d been on a roll for weeks of focusing on it daily.

And it’s all I can do to keep myself from buying donuts for dinner.

My id is out in full force.

I am floundering. I am messy. I am scattered.

Hey, what do you know, I match my kitchen!

Chaos without, chaos within.

I’m amazed I am even writing, because I’ve been otherwise unproductive today.  And I’ve already got a Netflix movie picked out for tonight because why even consider being productive this evening? Today is a lost cause.

The whole week too.

I am afraid I might be downward spiraling.

If God is next to cleanliness, then kitchen chaos is the devil.

The struggle is real.

And though my reaction may sound extreme, I am talking wanting donuts and slacking off here. A little disordered thinking perhaps, but not drugs or other illegal activity. Not even extreme anxiety. But I am thinking of those poor souls who are struggling with those things.

For those people who are in total inner chaos, wrap them in a warm hug.

And for the love of all that is holy, someone please help them clean up their environment. I swear to God it will help. I swear on my kitchen sink.

Which is currently on the floor.

I swear on every marble counter top, on every farmer’s sink and every style cabinet there is. Just clean up the mess. Clear the decks. Bring order and simplicity to the places you dwell in. Then all the angels and saints will shine down upon you, brighter than the brightest kitchen appliance, and brighter than the  brightest blue legging, that ever was or ever will be.

Amen.

 

 

 

50 days ’til 50

In fifty days, I will turn fifty.

Let me just say that I loved my forties. I still feel like I belong in my forties.  Warm and comfortable, cloaked around me, forty-nine is a good fit.  I’m not ready to shed it, to stand shivering at the threshold of a new decade.

Fifty does not sound natural to me, not at all. It sounds like an age someone else turns. I’d rather not claim that birthday, thank you anyway.

But of course there’s no choice. So rather than arriving at my fiftieth year with my heels dug in tight, I’ve got to prove to myself it doesn’t have to suck, not even a little.

It can be graceful and powerful.

It can in fact, be even better than forty-nine.

I know it’s up to me to make that so.

I know the best antidote to aging is just to keep getting better. Live better, eat better, do better, and feel better.

Be brave.

Do our best.

Shed the layers.

Another birthday reminds me that there is no more time to waste.

I will not watch the video of Horambe the gorilla again, in horror.

Nor will I watch another interview of Trump, with equal horror.

Or spend energy loathing anything that I cannot control.

Or generally waste copious amounts of time.

I will not accumulate unnecessary stuff.

I don’t have room for any of that, in my mental or physical space.

I’ve got stuff to do.

Words to write.  Things to say. People to love.

 

20160608_134237.jpgYesterday I went through our book shelves and finally parted with all of the books from my children’s adolescence.

Then I organized my writing books and afterwards claimed a spare room, tucked away in our basement.

I wasn’t sure how this new space would feel, because I‘ve gotten used to writing in our dining room. I can see out the window there; an animal, a neighbor, the school bus stopping across the street. I see when the mail arrives and when someone is coming to the door. If someone else is home, I see them, hear them, and engage in conversation.  My dog meanders over to his food, my husband makes his lunch.

It feels different in this new room, something like meditation, when I settle in. I don’t hear any sounds other than the humming of a dehumidifier. I see nothing in front of me but my words.

Seclusion is like a carpet laid out for my thoughts, an easy place to fall.

It is uncensored by the density of movement or noise.

Inviting to the soul.

It feels right.

And maybe that’s what will happen with turning fifty.

Maybe it will just feel right.

 

 

Yesterday’s post: https://musingsimplicity.wordpress.com/2016/06/07/love-and-choices/

 

 

 

 

 

Clearing a path for the good stuff

If you take care of the small things, the big things take care of themselves. You can gain more control over your life by paying closer attention to the little things.  –Emily Dickinson

What are the little things?

Drinking water.

Getting enough sleep.

Decluttering.

Eating a healthy meal.

Keeping only what you love.

Breathing deeply.

Exercising.

Replacing the button.

Cleaning out the fridge.

Hanging the picture.

Buying the stamps.

Thinking the good thought.

Doing the paperwork.

Planting the vegetables.

Saying the kind word.

Donating the stuff.

Pausing.

 What are the big things?

Inspiration.

Clarity.

Insight.

Healing.

Hope.

Decision.

Peace.

Fulfillment.

Joy.

Freedom.

Success.

Love.

Creativity.

Truth.

Ideas.

Courage.

How does taking care of the little things lead to the big things?

Everything in this entire universe is made up of energy. Food, thoughts, stuff, etc.  This is not a new phenomenon. This is not a New Age theory or an unscientific guess. This has been true for all of eternity.

Einstein reported that “..both the physical plane of our reality of matter and the abstract reality of our mind are made up of energy patterns.”  Every cell, thing, thought, word and morsel of food has a vibrational frequency.

There is positive energy and negative energy and neutral energy. All of it is easy to decipher. How do you feel after eating something? Doing something? Saying something? Thinking something? Being in a particular environment? What adds to your energy, heightens your vibration, and what takes away from it?

Doing the small things cleans up your energy, raising it in order to attract the energy of the the  bigger things. Like attracts like.  Doing the small things creates a magnet for the bigger things. It opens up a pathway. It unblocks us and sets us free to discover our limitlessness.

How simple is that? Just do the small things. One by one. Day by day. Moment by moment.

Clear a path to the big things. You can feel it.

Making room for the big stuff.

Cars and keeping the journey light

Cars have long been a universal theme explored in literary works such as The Outsiders. Do you remember the two groups of teen rivals, the Socials and the greasers? The Socs had cars which represented power, protection and mobility, while the greasers had to travel on foot and were therefore much more vulnerable.

stock-photo-30594346-hands-of-driver-on-the-steering-wheelAnd who can’t relate to feeling vulnerable when our car doesn’t start up, or it stalls on the side of the road? Maybe this is a distant memory of our younger years when we had less control over our lives, or perhaps it happened yesterday. We’ve got somewhere to go and this is our mode of transportation. To lose it is unnerving.

Or how about the elderly driver who has to give up driving altogether? This denotes a loss of freedom and independence. How could it not? They’ve crossed over to having to depend on others to move them from one place to another.

signs-1-777531-s

Dreams of cars symbolize how much control you have over your own life. Are you in the driver’s seat or are you along for the ride as a passenger? Do you know how to navigate from one place, or stage, to the next? Or are you lost?

And just like any other area of life, clutter in a car can take an emotional toll. It’s restricting, slows us down, and in the case of a moving vehicle, can even be unsafe.

Cleaning a car is a simple and symbolic way to take charge of our lives. It’s so much more pleasant to take the journey free of clutter and crumbs. Cleaning out one’s car is a step towards traveling with mental clarity and space. It is moving forward with both hands on the wheel, free of the stuff that bogs us down.stock-photo-36568830-driving-on-an-empty-road-towards-the-setting-sun

The Virtue of Obsession

The creative habit is like a drug. The particular obsession changes, but the excitement, the thrill of your creation lasts.

 The secret of life is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for the rest of your life. And the most important thing is, it must be something you cannot possibly do.

 I think in terms of the day’s resolutions, not the years’.

-Henry Moore

I received an email recently from a local publicist who interviewed me about the book I am writing. How is it coming along? Would you like to come back when it is finished? She asked.

I was gearing up for a marathon writing session anyhow, but her inquiry was just the push I needed into creative obsession. The initial interview took place early this summer, and for the rest of the summer, I wrote at a snail’s pace. I had all kinds of excuses. But today there is this magical lull. Things are quiet. Nothing else is pulling at my attention. My family is happy and healthy and self-sufficient. No big holidays are bearing down on me yet. There is nowhere I have to be. I know things can change in a heartbeat, a phone call, a minute. For now, endless possibility.

There is no time like the present to obsess over my creative project and make some rapid progress, so I am jumping right in. To hell with balance. Thomas Edison did not invent the lightbulb by having balance. He obsessed. Obsession gets things done. I’ve eaten the same thing for the past five meals. It’s healthy and delicious so the sameness doesn’t bother me in the least. It’s way easier to obsess when you keep everything else simple. The only things I’m requiring of myself are drinking water and getting some exercise. Is it possible that I really don’t have to think about anything else? For this moment in time, a writer’s dream. I’m taking it.

More than education, intelligence or ability, sticking to something, believing you can accomplish it, and then applying a single minded focus to your goal- in short, tenacity- is key. So there you have it. Two glorious days, maybe more, heck, maybe a week, to obsess, live like a recluse, and focus on nothing else but the words in front of me. I’m even putting off my haircut, because let’s face it, even benign social interaction can dilute the creative process.

No room for fearful or negative thoughts, either. Will I finish? What if this book never makes it out of the slush pile? What if I piss someone off? Worries be gone. They are mind clutter, distractions, and excuses. The luxury of these days, to think of almost nothing else- to do almost nothing else- is liberating! It’s exhilarating. It’s passion. It’s giving the proverbial finger to all the stuff of life that is really okay left undone, at least for the time being. To put a creative project front and center, to make one’s thing the only thing, even for a short time, is a beautiful moment.

Bare Bones: choosing what’s essential in writing and in life

Bare Bones: The basic elements or essentials

MAINE 2011 008I had a 1600 word essay that I wanted to turn into a 1000 word essay in order for it to fit into a specific magazine. Cutting out more than a third of a piece of writing may sound a bit daunting to some, but I loved the challenge of this. It took me a fair amount of time and effort for sure, but I really, really wanted this piece in this particular publication, so it was well worth it. The fun of it was that I had to make every word count. I don’t always do this in my writing, so it was good practice. I had to cut large chunks out of the essay, parts that I originally thought belonged there. Thirty eight percent of the essay had to go, to be exact. I cut out words, then whole paragraphs, picking and choosing what could be sacrificed, what was essential and what was just fluff. In other words, I had to get down to the bare bones and this required deciding: what are the bare bones? What is essential?

And this is what I love about simplifying. It’s a creative privilege, a designing of one’s own life, getting to decide what to keep and what to get rid of. It’s something I have not mastered, and will not ever truly master. Ah, but the lofty goal, the striving toward, no matter how many times I fall short, makes me happy. To only keep what we use or love, buy what we need; to only think about what serves us well and only eat what is good for us. To only say what we mean. What simply amazing results this could all have.

This paring down of the essay was something I could do, completely and successfully. I had a definite limit- 1000 words- and the result I was going for was clear-to have this piece published. It was work and art and love and simplifying, all for a useful purpose. To write what I mean and mean what I write.

When I was finished, although there were parts missing, left unsaid, I realized that I actually liked it better than before. What I had originally thought was essential, wasn’t. It was shorter, more concise and somehow a bit more powerful, in my opinion. I haven’t heard from the editor yet, so I can’t truly claim victory over this task, but I am satisfied. I did the best I could, and said the most I can say with the fewest number of words.

Which reminds me of a line I recently read on Theo Pauline Nestor’s blog. She quoted Vivian Gornick, regarding writing memoir: ‘ It’s all in the art. You get no credit for living.’

Living is art, and we get to pick what our bare bones are. When the essential gets buried in too much fluff, we have to go digging to find it. And when we strive to keep the essential front and center, dusted off and cared for, unencumbered by the extraneous, that is its own reward.

Wedding reflections

weddingMy daughter’s wedding- so much joy and family and love and friends in one place at one time has left me stunned. I want to do it again, but in slow motion. I want to see the people I barely saw, and eat the cake I barely ate and dance to the song I missed. But I’m grateful for all the moments I did have, and mostly for all of the moments the new couple had.

And miracles! The sun actually came out of the overcast sky during the Beatles Here comes the sun as the ceremony procession began.

During his vows, my new son-in-law touched upon his and my daughter’s starkly different childhoods, though they grew up just 65 miles apart (a topic that warrants its own post later).  What brings people together?

So much emotion, but my eyes were mostly dry, too happy to cry. Then much later, one of the groomsmen showed me a picture of his new baby and the tears came. The mere site of life, pure and new and precious, combined with the significance of the day, and I was overwhelmed. My tears did not deter him though, but rather he pulled up another photo and another. There is something relentless about the love of our babies.

Now summer is winding down. My other daughters are returning to college, the newlyweds are away on their honeymoon and I will return to my writing routine with a fuller heart, and freshness, something new but as ancient as the first breath of life.

 

 

 

Simplify your way to a healthy weight

Clutter makes you fat. I came across an article with this title, and it instantly made perfect sense to me.  Peter Walsh, professional organizer, writer and media personality, writes about why a cluttered life and home can make you overweight and unhealthy, and what you can do to change that. I recommend his article to anyone who struggles with eating habits.  If you detest the idea of a diet, or simply want some tips on how to permanently change your lifestyle, read on!

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2061094/Clutter-makes-fat-If-house-mess-chances-eating-habits-says-new-book.html

The main points that Walsh covers are these:

* We live in a “more is better” culture and this is reflected in our overstuffed schedules, crammed drawers, and skyrocketing obesity rates.

*Clutter accumulates because we are out of control, and if you let it invade your home you are much more likely to mindlessly stuff your body as well.

*Chaos and disorder are often reflected in the physical space, mental space and the body. One affects the other and if you clean up one, you begin to clear up the others as well.

College in a nutshell

The college search should be simplified. As a society, we have made such a fuss about it, such a monumental drama; a lengthy, stressful, anxiety inducing task.

It’s a lot of work to apply to college, I know. But we don’t have to make it even harder on ourselves or our kids by making it into more than it is. It’s a four year education. Four short years. And it’s not going to entirely mold junior into the person he is meant to be. If you zoned out for the first eighteen years of his life, writing a big check to a fancy college- or to any college- is not going to make up for this time.   And if your child has a certain temperament, let’s say a challenging one, that’s not going to miraculously change in these four years. And if she is a party animal, searching recklessly for happiness, college isn’t going to save her from that either. There will just be less supervision.  And if she’s already happy and good? Then she’s happy and good.

So let’s stop making college into something it’s not. It’s not a stand in for parenting. It’s not a guarantee for success nor a ticket to happiness. It’s a campus, some classes, peers galore (is it really the best thing to lump them all together with very few adults for them to interact with? I wonder about this one, but whatever); it’s a great privilege, an opportunity, and a financial decision.

We start the process way too early, in my opinion. Talk about rushing things. Do kids really need to start touring campuses sophomore year? That’s age fifteen, or sixteen for some. They aren’t even driving yet, and it’s just two years after middle school. Middle school. Think braces and skinny jeans. Most kids don’t know what they want to do when they grow up at this point, because they are busy growing up. At least they were until they started to hear the anxious, overzealous roar of the adults chanting College. College. College. Let’s start obsessing now. Do you know how many times these kids could change their minds about what they want to study between age fifteen and eighteen? Do you know how clueless they may be about which college is best for them? And about exactly where and how much of your hard earned money should be spent? I think we should all just chill out until at least junior year. And even then, let’s stop acting like which college they go to is the most important decision of their lives. What they do while they are there, or what they do afterwards, may be crucial, but where they do it is probably not.

Because mostly, it’s about the food. Why does it seem hardly anyone takes the food into consideration when searching for a college? These kids are going to be eating there three times a day, minimum. Food is a big deal. It affects mood, health, weight, brain function. Heck, it affects happiness. I was thrilled to read that my daughters’ university was ranked second-best in the nation for their campus food. I love knowing they have high quality fare at their fingertips at every meal- locally grown fruits and vegetables, delicious and diverse meals prepared by top notch chefs.

Four years is not long, unless you are feeding yourself crap. Then it is many, many days, several times a day, down the road to sluggishness, moodiness and weight gain. Now this is life changing. Habits are life changing. Lifestyles are life changing. So please, let’s stop freaking out about where our kids are going to go to college. It’s making them anxious and ungrateful and hurried.   And it’s making us crazy. Take a deep breath, and if you’re going to go on a tour, start with the dining hall. Afterall, you are what you eat.