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.

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Not Just Another New Year’s Resolution

 

images treeI LOVE the New Year holiday because we get to make whatever we want of it.

It’s the holiday that asks the bigger questions.

What do you want to make of this year?

What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? (Okay, I stole that line from poet Mary Oliver).

New Year’s appeals to the list maker and the goal setter in me.

I was not always a goal setter.  For years I had vague and marvelous things I wanted to do on replay in my head, but never a plan.

I am an excellent dreamer.  I could dream with the best of them. And as other introverts know, there is plenty going on inside my head to keep me occupied for years.  Take action? But I am so very entertained right here inside my own noggin. 

This can be a bad thing, in case you didn’t know.  Without a plan that includes specific action steps and time limits I would be, well, dreamin’ my life away.

Then I started to have concrete goals and planned them out and what do ya know, when I take action things actually start to happen!

Why didn’t they teach me this in school? Oh wait- this is real life we are talking about here- it’s more like quantum physics than academia.

I like the ‘work backwards’ technique. What do I want to accomplish by the end of 2017? What would that require of me?  Then I break it down. What do I need to do on a weekly basis?  Daily? What time block? And I write it down.

Most of my own goals are writing ones, and are pretty easy to define,  but I think even broad, vague sounding goals such as “get healthy” or “enjoy life” can be broken down into specific actions if we get clear on what those goals mean to us.

Perhaps it should be called a New Year’s plan instead of a New Year’s resolution.  Maybe that makes all the difference.

So what do you want in 2017?

As the poet John Anster famously said:

 Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.

Divide and Conquer

img_0337 I have come to understand how it is that editing a book takes longer than writing the actual book and I think the reason is this:  To edit a book is to rewrite it. It is writing the book all over again, only much more carefully this time around.

If getting the first draft down is creating the foundation, editing it is inspecting the foundation, and giving it walls, a roof, and doors to be unlocked by the reader; it is making sure there is something valuable to enter, a place to settle in to and not just a pile of material, no matter how gleaming the pile may be.

It’s got to work. The reader has to want to enter, and then to stay, to dwell in the place that is the story, with all its startling turns, secret crannies and brilliant color.  That is no small task for the writer, at least not for this writer. 

It is a sweet, scary feeling to be nearing the end of a project that feels like a lifetime of words, laid bare. But when the end is near and it is time to lay the carpet? Well, there’s no place like home.

Today I am reflecting on all of the tricks and plans and resources and time that I used to get myself to get it all down, to do the work, have the courage, to dig deep, and to build build build. Dig, build. Dig, build. Add. Subtract. Move. Change. Fix.

It has taken me far longer than I think it should have taken me.  No doubt that I could have worked faster, smarter, harder. I could have started the book so much sooner and wrapped it up more quickly. I could have spent more time on it, copious amounts of time these past few years, and gotten it done already.  

But here I am, with the end in sight anyhow, so close in view now that it feels right to change my strategy for wrapping things up. Up until now, I have thought in terms of time: spend time on it today, spend this minimal amount of time on it tomorrow. this week, this month. Move the book for forward by putting in the time.  Now I am thinking in terms of simple math and math has never felt so fun, so exhilarating. Never have I loved organizing and exacting and dividing so much as I do now.

It’s quite simple. To be finished editing by the end of this year, finally, I divided the number of days available to me by the number of pages that need editing. 

I am well aware at this point in the editing process, that a single page may be turned into two or three or five pages while editing. Or it can be deleted altogether. During the editing process, paragraphs are added; sometimes full scenes are too. Words eliminated, changed around, discarded. But my simple math says this:  If I edit five more pages per day, every  day (with a few exceptions for holidays) from now until December 31st, I will be done.

Here is my take on it:  When you see the light at the end of the tunnel, it is  time to do the math. Heck. maybe it is time to do this before you see the end in sight. Maybe some people work this way from the beginning, mapping  out a big project in order to calculate the precise steps, the daily requirement needed. to hold themselves to each day. But for me, it was starts and stops, ebbs and flows, feasts and famines for so much of this project.

But now that I am nearing the end, it is Divide and Conquer.

Sweet, sweet division without a remainder, lead me home. 

Finding the fun in healthy

It seems to me that aligning body, mind and soul is the ultimate goal of everyone, consciously or not. When out of alignment, our bodies tell us so. We feel lethargic, over-stressed or uninspired.

When in alignment, we feel vibrancy, energy, peace and creativity.

How do we align?

Perhaps we each have our own way. There are so many ways. We can start with our thoughts, or our environment.

Or we can start with the body.

Moving the body.

Feeding the body well.

20160826_175534 (1)

Tangy Lentil Salad

 

I promised myself that turning fifty would be the catalyst for becoming the healthiest I’ve ever been.  And I’ve got to say, the journey is a blast. I’m seriously having the most fun on the path to good health than I’ve ever had.

Fun is the answer!

facebook_1472724379117For me, that means trying new and healthy recipes, sometimes mimicking those I’ve enjoyed in restaurants. Fun is visiting a new juice bar with my daughters, researching the best blender to purchase, reading some of Jason Vale’s books just for fun and then getting inspired by his near perfect health. https://www.amazon.com/Jason-Vale/e/B0034IZDB6/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1472730018&sr=8-2-ent

Fun is a long walk with my husband or a new playlist for my solo jog.

It’s my favorite yoga class or paddling a kayak under a beautiful blue sky.

It’s a pile of books to read that feeds my mind and distracts me from the sugar I am not ingesting.

It’s having all the energy I need to be as productive as I want to be. I love love love this.

Being productive feels fun. 

Fun is writing  when the words  are  flowing, finally, after a bout of writer’s block. What is writer’s block anyhow? I think it’s just like any other energy block; remove the sludge in all its forms and open the channels.

Flow.

Momentum.

Health.

Inspiration. 

It’s basically free and fun and feels fantastic. 

 

Opening the creative conduit, aligning with the purest energy that is ours for the taking, is a far better buzz than I will ever get from the best margarita ever made. And I do like margaritas.

It’s lighter than stuff.

Sweeter than chocolate.

Good for the body= clarity for the mind=joy for the soul.

Oh joy!

 

 

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/

 

 

 

 

 

Love and Choices

13239029_10209299243580885_6529252908657338580_nTime is marching on a little too quickly these days.  It’s nearly summer and I hardly remember spring, except for my middle daughter’s wedding, the highlight. She and her fiance chose to have a small, private wedding which took place outdoors. It was beautiful and special and a perfect reflection of their love for each other. My daughter’s mother-in-law captured all of it on  video, including the sisters’ speeches which made my heart swell nearly as much as the ceremony did. I’m waiting to receive  the link to this video to share with family and friends who were not in attendance.

And speaking of missing family members, when we first heard of their desire for a very small wedding, I felt a twinge of disappointment. What about all our loved ones who would not be there? But I think we’ve raised our children to “think outside the box” when it’s right for them, and this was one of those times. So in time, I usually feel a sense of relief when they exercise this right. I like to know they are doing what they think is right for them.

One thing I’ve learned from parenthood is how little I know. We can love them a lot and listen to them a lot and guide them, but ultimately it is encouraging our kids to follow their own inner guidance that is the true task of parenthood.

My youngest daughter told me that some of the best words I ever said to her were these:

I don’t know.

It’s your life to live.  What do you think? 

She said it left her with a sense of empowerment and excitement about her own life.

It’s a good reminder. I’m just a parent. Our children are each on their own unique journeys. I don’t want to play God with that.

I love you  and I don’t know.  A suitable parenting mantra, I think.

And the  one and only piece of advice I recall ever giving my daughters about love was this:

Choose someone who loves you a lot.

Life throws enough curve balls and challenges. Your love life doesn’t have to be one of them.

***

Tomorrow is fifty days before my fiftieth birthday, which has inspired me to write exactly that post, tomorrow.(50 Days ’til 50). I considered a series, posting each day leading up to this birthday, but alas need to spend the time editing my memoir which I promised myself would be much more polished by the big 5-0.

Always having to make choices with time; such is life. But getting older makes me increasingly aware of this- that I am in fact making a choice at any given moment.   I guess conscious choosing  is a byproduct of adulting. Maybe that’s all life really is; one choice after the next. Even when things happen to us, we still get to choose, what now?

See you tomorrow!

P.S. *Please visit the site of Sarabeth Matilsky, a most adventurous mom of four. In her latest letter, she takes us through the decision to sell her home and travel with her family, and  details  the massive clearing out that took place.  In a very short amount of time, she got rid of 95% of her family’s possessions. Bam. Now that is how you get it done:  www.lifeisapalindrome.com

Writing Clutter

Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+, Vimeo, and blogs.

Oh my.

The options for social media for writers (and others) is mind boggling. Dizzying. Overwhelming. businessman-clear-junk-his-head-31524952

Here is how it begins.

You write some articles for a few online and print sources. The editors of these sources expect you to promote these pieces on your own social media sites. That drives traffic to their website.

But who wants to read entire articles on Facebook? Or Twitter? But still, it’s expected that you share.

Speaking of Twitter, did you know that Twitter has an option called TweetDeck for organizing and managing twitter lists and connections? I like lists! I like organizing.

But for now, I am still trying to figure out what the hell I am doing on Twitter. I’m not ready for tools. It’d be like gathering the hammer and nails before I know what I am building.

How does anyone follow hundreds, if not thousands of people? How can anyone possibly read all those tweets? I know, I know, they don’t. But what do they do? The answers are available to me, but I am busy writing. Or trying to.

But I must divide my time. Update and manage Twitter every four days, or something like that. I really should get on that.

And there’s that LinkedIn account that I barely remember creating. It just sort of happened. Like an unwanted, neglected child, it is the accident whose care I am  half-assing. Oh the guilt.

And is it too soon to create a website? Perhaps that is best done after a book is published. And is the website necessary at all if you have a blog? Probably. Because the blog won’t have links to articles. Or will it? Should the blog be moved to the website?

So many questions. So many good answers. I need to get on that. All of it.

I read an article that had this message:  It is not your job to babysit your writing once you publish it.

Finally, something to let go of!

And in theory, I agree. Once you hit publish, forget about it! Move on to your next writing project. Some people will like it and some won’t, every single time, and it’s not really your business to care.

Write. Publish. Promote. Ignore the rest.

But but but…if I hadn’t checked on an essay I shared on Facebook, I would’ve missed the thoughtful comment left by an old friend that I worked with twenty-five years ago, thus missing the opportunity to respond. That would’ve been a tiny bit sad.

Some of the “babysitting” of our work is just being a human.

I love writing.

And since I typically believe in my writing, I don’t really mind promoting it.

But we live in a time that encourages much more social media promotion than face to face promotion. It is more efficient. It’s economical.

Don’t get me wrong, I like sitting behind my laptop. Writing is a solo activity. I can barely tolerate  the radio being on when I am creating. Too many voices.

But I sort of prefer promoting (if we must call it that)  in person; reading my writing aloud, or just speaking it aloud to a live audience who is there to hear some stories. You know, like the way writers used to do it.

Fortunately though, some of it can still happen that way, if we want it to. We may have to create our own opportunities to do so, but what’s a writer without an entrepreneurial spirit?

I was at a writer’s event recently, and when the topic of social media came up, the man next to me, who was also middle-aged, looked pained.

“Do you have a Facebook or Twitter account?” he asked, hoping I’d say no.

“Yes, I do. But…
I wanted to convince him that it did not have to be painful, not really. That you can pick and choose your sites, and how often you use them, and..

“I hate all that”,  he replied. “Maybe I should just quit now.”

And I am pretty sure I saw him give up his writing dreams, right before my eyes.

I don’t think J.K. Rowling was promoting writing all over social media before she published the Harry Potter series. I have the impression that she just quietly wrote her literary sensation and then later, perhaps, her staff put up a twitter account while she got to work on her next best seller.  Why can’t we all be like J.K. Rowling?
Sometimes I think social media is just one way the universe is conspiring to take me away from writing, because writing is an unnecessary, frivolous endeavor that begs to be interrupted.

But other times, I think writing is the air that I breathe and a means of connecting us all, and that I will never stop, as long as I am able.

I am going to another writing conference next month. This one will be led by a senior literary agent from Writer’s Digest, and one other expert, a best-selling author.

Day two of the weekend-long event will be dedicated to “positioning your book for success in today’s difficult publishing climate”.

Part of that will include helping us to navigate this maze that is social media, and to organize and prioritize our writer’s brand. And they  will do it in person. In the flesh. Preferably while holding our hands.

After the workshop, I will put my media ducks in a row, and lift my head to the surface, the place of starting to have it all figured out. From there I will continue writing. Or breathing. It’s all the same to me.