Midlife and Miracles

I’ve decided to begin my New Year’s resolutions early this year. The idea of a fresh year and new possibilities thrills me each and every January. What I really love about this time are the miracles we get to create. What better month to prepare for miracles than December?

Miracles are the epitome of Christmas. Sure there is the festivity, the giving and unwrapping; family time and holiday music and the possibility of glistening snow. The joy! But the spirit of Christmas, at least for me, is also about the magic I feel when I put love and clarity and moving forward, being better, at the top of my agenda. It is an internal thing.

I love mid-life for the opportunities that come with the wisdom of hindsight and experience. I like the deeper appreciation of time that is cultivated when you realize it is not endless. I love this stage of life for the self-knowledge; when you finally really know yourself- strengths, weaknesses, desires and aversions, you are better able to create an increasingly authentic life.

It becomes so obvious that choices are being made continuously, in every moment, and that self-effacy is a damn good path to personal freedom. I mean, when we look at where we are today, though there were some things out of our control, don’t we mostly recognize a series of choices that brought us here?

Once we’re at midlife, there is no excuse for our choices to be shots in the dark. The consequence to each and every one, big and small, is a lot clearer in the light of experience.

So I’m creating my list of resolutions, or goals, or call- them-what- you- will, early. I want to have built up some momentum by the time Christmas is here, so that the great spirit of the holiday, of life itself, can find an open vessel in me. I want to breathe in the magic, so I’m meeting it halfway. If all goes well, I will be able to greet the first day of January with the confidence that my resolutions are already sticking, that my goals will be met.

I may appear to be doing less this year- less shopping, less baking, maybe even less decorating. But I know what I want, this month and in the year ahead, and it won’t come wrapped or delivered to my doorstop. It’ll be a gift, a miracle, that I invite because I know what I need to do and what I need to not do, and alas I know the difference, without question.

I know which goals or dreams are outdated and which ones are meant for now. With midlife, the ego has shrunk enough to learn from mistakes while the heart has swelled enough to forgive them. If we are good this year, whatever that means for us, we really will get what we want. I believe that. It probably won’t be easy. In fact, it may be very difficult, depending on what it is.

So Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Heck, Happy almost New Year. Soon we will have 365 new days of new moments, each one full of potential. Here’s to midlife and to miracles. They are one and the same.

 

Reading and writing and inspiration overload

It is only six days into National Novel Writing month and already I have fallen off of the book-reading-wagon.  Six days.  I have been writing, I really have.  A lot, in fact. It occurred to me that Julia Cameron’s advice given in her book The Artist’s Way is spot on:  If writers stop reading for a time, they will write more. It’s not to say writers shouldn’t read because they should.  But at some point we have to put down the books and pen our own words, which is exactly what I’ve done for six days.  Once I stopped being such a book pig, I couldn’t stop writing.

But then alas I had to return an overdue book to the library (it was a book by Deepak Chopra and I loved this book. I had such a hard time parting with it; it was a week and a half overdue, and that’s after I renewed it the maximum number of times. It was the kind of book that  had to be absorbed slowly.

During my six days of I can’t stop writing, I also could not get out of my head my next book idea, and a shift I may want to make to this blog.  For reasons I won’t bore you with, this led me to want to read Julie & Julia, written by Julie Powell, the woman who successfully churned a blog-to-book-to movie.  I’d seen the movie, but hadn’t read her book.  So while returning my overdue library book, I found her first book, and her second one, Cleaving.

And since I was at the library anyhow, I picked up Lean In  because I may use the term lean in in a future blog post, as in “lean in to less” or “lean in to midlife“, or something like that.  And if I’m going to steal Sheryl Sandberg’s phrase, I figured I should at least read her book.

So there it is. My confession of I can’t stop reading even for the sake of focusing on my own damn book for one single month.  But the good news is, I skimmed Powell’s Cleaving in one day, and I can set that book aside now.  However, I am rather disappointed  that her marriage was in such turmoil by the time she published Julia & Julia.  Okay, it’s more than that, actually. I was full out distressed for an hour after reading Cleaving. It distracted me to the point of needing to do a google search to find out that they are still in fact together and it tainted my perception of Julie Powells, not that she cares. It’s my problem really, that I am wasting  thoughts on her life, instead of writing more in mine.

Things build on themselves, for sure.  The more I write, the more I want to write.  The inspiration floods me to the point where I wonder if I will get anything else done. But then the more I read, the more I want to read. One book leads to another.  Thank goodness I blocked off specific writing times at least, that leave reading or other distractions ‘off limits’. I guess it’s about balance, or timing, or something else that I haven’t figured out.  I’m lost in a sea of words and ideas and inspiration and I think I might burst.  I just have to make sure I burst onto the page in the form of a  finished draft by November 30, as that is the Nanowrimo goal.

* On Point NPR https://onpoint.wbur.org/2014/11/06/novel-writing-month-creative-fiction

For the love of writing

I first discovered I loved to write when I was about seven years old.  My sister and I were housebound and arguing on a rainy Saturday afternoon.  Our father called the two of us into his office where he was correcting high school English papers. He handed us each a pad of paper and a pen and said “Write a story”.

This ignited something in me, something not yet accessed as a young child.  I always had a vivid imagination and was content to let my mind wander for hours.   But on this rainy day so many years ago, I would make up a story-any story I wanted- and write it down.  And someone would read it. This was exciting to me. This was fun.  I remember the feel of the large pad in my hands, the sight of the blue ink in my second grade penmanship, the poignant moment of learning I love to write.

About two years later, I was thrilled to sit in front of my fourth grade classroom reading my own made up addition to the Bobbsey Twins series.   Then as pre- teen, I kept a journal that I addressed to my deceased grandfather. Not Dear Diary or Dear God, but Dear Grandfather. In a moment of sibling torment, my sister had grabbed the diary out of my hands and was confused by what she read. How could I explain? He was the only dead person I knew, and I thought he could be my connection to the divine. I believed that I could somehow write my way above my young girl angst, and in some way I did.

Still it never occurred to me to study writing in college. It seemed an elusive dream, something I hadn’t even named.  So I became a teacher and did that for a few years with some enjoyment.  But I was more interested in who the children were than in what they could do.  How did they see this sensory world that was still so new to them?   What were the stories they told themselves?

My daughters were born and I could hardly believe I had helped create these interesting, beautiful creatures.  Never before had something held my attention so fully and fill my heart to overflowing as motherhood.    And over the course of this long adventure, I studied health, and meditation and yoga and world religions and gained a master’s degree in Holistic Ministries.  I devoured others’ words, which reignited some more writing, this time with some publication, but it was all very tentative.   When I held my file box of notebooks, where I used to keep my writing drafts, my heart would catch with anticipation of the stories in progress.  It was as if the box held my longing, a gift. More years passed and I have so much to say now, and still so much to learn, that writing helps me discover.

There is an ancient Japanese verse: “One inch in front of you is total darkness”.   Don’t worry about the future. Focus on what you have to do today. Take that step. Then the next.  For me, the steps have brought me back home to my writing.

When it comes to remembering what you love, I think the question, “what did you love to do when you were eight or ten?” is a good one.  Before you were knee deep in homework and others’ expectations, before life took hold and dictated your trajectory,  spewed its opinions, shook some common sense into you, made you  obedient and practical, what did you love?  What makes your heart catch?  One inch in front of you is total darkness.  Each step lights the way.