I'm at a cafe, writing. I met a girlfriend for dinner and holiday browsing. Right before I left home, I realized that with my focus on Christmas preparations I had completely forgotten to finish writing my final story assignment.
So I took my laptop with me and resolved not to go home until it was done and submitted. It is.
Now I'm enjoying the twinkling lights, festive crowd, and dubious music of open mic at my fav cafe. It's quite fun.
Holiday crazy prep is behind me now. I mailed 60 Christmas cards today (60!!) and wrapped the last of the gifts. Nothing left to do but enjoy the week until the big day.
Terresa at The Chocolate Chip Waffle so kindly gave me permission to repost this gorgeous poem of hers. When I read it last week, I was in love from the first line. It's the kind of poem that makes me want to read more poetry - and write more too.
I immediately thought that I wished I could send it out in this year's Christmas letter. I just can't help myself - I have to write something for all my friends and family - a photo card alone seems lonely- but I don't like to just chirp on about our doings. So I find myself wanting to send out these evocative, thought-provoking, and not entirely appropriate poems, like this one. Unless you are a poetic sort. Then they seem wholly appropriate.
One year I did send A Summer's Day by Mary Oliver. Because what ARE you going to do with your one wild and precious life? It is an essential question!
Our family stumbled through our annual Christmas card-making trip late Friday night. Ten pm found us at Kinko's waiting for each glossy 4X8 to drop excruciatingly slowly from the photo kiosk. I love this year's family portrait with Santa. The colors of our clothes are just right in tone and we are all almost glowing with joy.
Oddly, what I like quite a lot about this card is that I look fairly heavy in it. Because the pose is so similar to last year's, it shows me exactly how much weight I have gained in 2009 in an objective sort of way. I know I'm supposed to feel bad about being overweight - and I sort of do. But not all that much.
When I look at the picture, I can't help but see the happiness on my face. The beauty of my family sharing a tradition with each other one more year. The fact that being overweight means that I am still here - I have survived many difficulties during this year, and even triumphed.
And I see the wonderful possibility for change and renewal in the future. It makes me want to get right into 2010. ( In fact, I jumped ahead and started my main resolution on December first.) Seeing a path before me fills me with optimism and hope. All that stored up weight is nothing but energy.
And the proof of many, many blessings.
I know our culture isn't used to seeing weight this way. We all try so hard to be perfect all the time. But I'm not. And the photo proves it. Now what?
I so love to send out Christmas Cards. If you would like to receive one - and the still unwritten missive- please email me your address and I'll add you to our annual list. (I'll keep all your info private of course!) Until then, please enjoy the poem I would send if it were mine:
You Know You Must
Love, even when you find the symphony in your throat borrowed, stolen, lost. And stumbling down into blackness you taste the compost from the years, dark raw earth and crawling things from which you cannot turn, run, hide. And you sit in the basement of your life, friendships, denials, remorse caked under your fingernails.
Slowly you gather these scraps and all the auburn sunrises and burnished fields in between. You tie together piece by piece song, summit, sunbeam, threading today with tomorrow and in this quilt, wrap up, warmed, at last, in the life that is yours, the life that can be. --Terresa Wellborn
I spend a lot of time thinking about the big questions of life. The little ones too, like which bread should I buy for making lunch sandwiches this week.
But I spend a lot of my time just thinking. That's one of the drawbacks of not having a "normal" job. During the day, it's just me and my stream of thought, all questions and observations and memories and hopes and lists of goals jumbled up together.
I pretty much talk to myself all the time. Just not aloud.
Like now for instance. Two guys sit at a table directly outside the cafe window near my table. If not for the glass between us, we could be chatting. They are in their thirties and they are both crocheting. I think it is one of the sexiest things I have ever seen. I am so curious. Who are these men who met at the cafe to crochet together? There's all this gender role stuff and foiled expectation and it's just flat out fascinating.
And I hardly even have time to think about it because there's so much more in my own personal stream of thought.
Each person who sits silently in this room with me, each person who walks past this window - they all have their own hopes, dreams, fears. They are all in the middle of their own stories. Are they happy? Sad? Bafffled? How is their progress on the big spiritual journey that we are all on?
I read the results of a survey this week that found that Americans blend religions together to create their own individualized belief systems. Something like 30% of respondents attend services out of their faith, or believe in Eastern or New Age beliefs as well as Christianity.
That's me. I'm currently blending the very conservative system of Seventh Day Adventism with Wiccan beliefs. My family is keeping the Sabbath from sunset to sunset. Yet, my best Christmas present so far is a new deck of luscious Celtic Tarot cards. I can't wait to deepen my reading practice in 2010.
One of my favorite aunts died yesterday. She had been ill a long while, but she was too far away for us to visit her. I am feeling the gap that her passing leaves behind, even in my distant routine, removed from her day to day life. I am sad and okay with it at the same time. For a 40-something, I've spent a lot of time thinking about death. About endings. About transformations and rebirths.
The grief I feel for her loss reminds me of other losses, other griefs, many of which stay remarkably fresh despite the curing effect of time. At the same time, there are so many joys in my life each day, and at Christmas time they are particularly profound.
So joy and grief, ends and restarts - it's just a crazy bowl of eggnog isn't it? Try to sip your drink, and I'll savor mine as well. I wish I could have you all over for a festive Christmas dinner Monday, when we could get pleasantly tipsy and warm and discuss all this next to the glowing fire. Instead, I'll have only a few close friends over, but I'll send love and good thoughts to all the rest of you, my dear readers and internet friends.
Below is an excerpt from my latest writing assignment, a scene I titled Christmas Cheer.
The task was to write a love scene that had presence and emotion while avoiding cliches. You'll find the entire scene at my writing blog Words' Flavors.
Holiday melodies suffused the air. Numerous white bulbs twinkled over the perfume counters, a bit too cheerily for Lacey’s taste, especially when their reflections gleamed off the huge red cellophane bows bursting from every surface. Usually Lacey enjoyed the mall at Christmas time, but this year, tired from dealing with Frank, it all seemed a bit forced. So what if she wasn’t feeling jolly? Wasn’t it enough that she was here to do her shopping and leave some of her hard-earned money behind?
“Why don’t we meet at the mall?” Sam had suggested. “I’m sure there are things you need.”
Remembering that teasing tone, Lacey found herself suddenly grinning. Okay, so she wasn’t here only for the shopping. Lunch with Sam was the big draw, absolutely.
Fiona's blog planting words gives me the term "procks" to type in and validate my comment. Immediately, I begin to imagine. First to mind springs Prufrock and memories of learning Eliot in a shabby classroom of long ago.
Next I see it as an endearment for Pet Rocks. Procks. I like it.
Fiona collects small stones that are really clever, concise writings, as descriptive as haiku. I tend to collect actual stones, picking up small, often nondescript rocks from the park, the beach, the sidewalk as I go about my days.
They spill through my car, on my dresser, across my mantle. I usually don't even remember where they're from exactly, just that each rock spoke to me and wanted to be picked up and carried along for a while. After a bit, I set them free back into the world.
My favorite café will be closing at the end of the month. I’ve been coming here for years, although less often in the last couple. Yet another business lost to the pressure of this no-nonsense economy.
When my daughters were quite young, we would come here together every week. On Fridays, we would get our fruits and vegetables fresh from the Farmer’s Market, then drop in here to eat crispy golden waffles and read picture books I’d brought along. After my older daughter started school, it made for a special outing for B and me.
Now I come here alone, in the midst of errands, and spend some time working and writing. This place has been part of my routines across many changes of the seasons and many parts of my life.
The sister café to this one, in a downtown location, will remain open. They will start selling the delicious waffles. So it’s not exactly a final ending, just a transition.
We're on our annual family break to Pismo Beach. My parents, our family, and my brother's family meet up here each year for the last few, to celebrate the weekend before Thanksgiving and my dad's birthday. Even better, my parents often foot the hotel bill!!!
It's not the fanciest hotel in the world, but I love it. From the "north tower, southern side, fourth floor corner rooms" (yes, I sat down and figured that out before reserving!), you can see the pool, the town, and an incredible expanse of ocean lapping around Pismo pier.
By far the MOST exciting part of this trip is finally meeting my now four month old niece, Lillian Dae! She is absolutely gorgeous, just starting to smile and laugh. Last night she was playing peekaboo for the first time with J and B. Lily seems fascinated by her cousins, intuitively understanding that children are different than adults and just straight out more fun.
I was driving home today from dropping off some paperwork at the donor transplant center and halfway listening to the radio. I've slowed my progress towards donation over the last few months but have just about decided to continue moving forward slowly.
Pros and cons were sort of dancing around in my mind, holding hands and spinning lazily in slow circles, when the DJ cut in with this:
"Do you know how great you are? First, you're listening to Jack FM. And, you've decided to be a kidney donor. All of you. You're just awesome."
I shook myself alert and did a mental double-take. Huh? Was that the voice of God suggesting the answer to me???
According to Robin Sloan, world traveler and creator of cutting edge fiction, he just received a tweet that his new book is done printing and ready for shipping to customers.
Using his online connections as a distribution base, Sloan was able to bypass a more traditional publishing route. Posting his writing project on Kickstarter.com yielded Sloan more than $13,000 in advance sales from committed backers.
Reminds me of the patrons and salons of the literary past.
Personally, I cannot wait to get my copies of this fresh book and see the results of a fascinating, new approach!
Again - my writing mentor ROCKS, and rocks hard!!!!
No matter what kind of work I throw at Mike, he handles it with grace and aplomb, lasering a crystal-sharp clarity into his insights and suggestions.
The last few weeks have been so busy with vacation, work, meeting up with my oldest friends, Christmas shopping, new pets, and more, I haven't written any new fiction at all.
(So much for my Nanowrimo dreams!)
So I gave poor Mike one of my newest grant proposals to critique as this week's assignment. Of course, he's so skilled that he has a successful background in grant writing as well as fiction, non-fiction, and editing!! The suggestions he sent back were right on, and the validation that the pages make sense and truly represent the non-profit are invaluable.
Truly, if you are ever looking for GREAT writing assistance, I cannot recommend Mike's consistently excellent work highly enough!
Time Warner Cable has not worked properly - ever - in the almost two years we've had it.
Despite multiple service calls, our reception keeps "tiling" or breaking up into fragmented squares of nothingness. It only tiles on the channels we want to watch when we want to watch them.
Repeated technical visits fix it temporarily and within a week, the problem returns. The only lasting thing the visits yielded was an incorrect charge on our bill for an extra cable converter box that we don't have. That I can't make go away!
Now, Time Warner refuses to discuss any billing or service with me, including their past promises to credit our account, because my husband's name is on the bill instead of mine. He's too busy to deal with their run-around any more than he already has.
Major NEW problem is that last month I sent them the wrong check by mistake. AND THEY CASHED IT!
That's right. They illegaly and unethically cashed a check made out to Southern California Edison for a different amount than what they cashed it for. Yep.
I just got off the phone with my credit union and they were appalled. Not only is this unethical, it is blatantly ILLEGAL behavior on the part of a business. Any individual would go to jail for fraud. The credit union advised me to prosecute.
But you know what? I can't talk to Time Warner about it, because they will not budge off of their "billing security practices" enough to straighten it out with me.
Apparently, they only break the law, not their customer code.
I've mentioned before that Patience isn't my strength. Less than a week from idea to inception. Meet the two newest members of our family, yet to be named.
They're sisters, three months old, and a bit shy, but J and B can't wait to tame them. And, yes, their cage smells. So does the hay that they have to eat every day. It's not a bad smell, the aroma of hay, very barn-like, but perhaps it is not a house smell. Still, though, they're cute as buttons and fun to watch!
I've used this quote as writing advice for years, long after I'd forgotten who said it. Thanks to Red Bird and her blog for reminding me of it in its entirety.
"One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes."
Sorry for the long absence. Everything's great - I've just been super-busy.
Halloween was amazing! Costumes, candy, neighbors and partying under the bewitchingly full(ish) moon. My witch costume was the most comfortable, appealing costume of my life!
The girls are terrific. They both won awards last week for their advanced state test scores! Two shiny trophies are now sitting on our mantle. Parent-teacher conferences also went well. (Can I admit that I beamed when both teachers complemented the girls on their extraordinary writing abilities?! Aw, shucks...)
I have a new obsession - Guinea pigs! I'm not sure why but I just decided I wanted to get more pets. We've been doing lots of research and looking for just the right little piggies to bring into our home. I want to adopt either some from a rescue organization (yep, there are guinea pig rescue nonprofits- two in our area alone!) or from someone who can't keep their beloved pets. I don't want to buy from a breeder and encourage ever more overpopulation of animals that people can't keep up with!!
They are SO beyond adorable, and you can totally train them to sit on your lap, whistle and squeak at you, and more. So lately whenever I get stressed by my workload, I relax by browsing through guinea pig photos online. Hey, it's cheaper than shopping!
I've stepped up my yoga practice and when I'm not in classes, of course I'm hanging out somewhere, writing grants. I'm also working on my first novel and submitting bits of it for my latest fiction course that I'm taking. I just love having the weekly feedback from a trusted mentor.
And I'm still tutoring my friend three times each week. Only four more weeks to go. I am SO ready for her class to finish and for J&B's vacation to start!
Shawn and I continue to get along better and better. I'm so proud of him for getting back into grad school and getting through two classes along with his workload from his job. That's not easy to tackle, but he's making steady progress. He should be completely done by this summer! Yay! Then more pay and less hassle ahead of us.
I should tell you he was quite a dashing vampire for Halloween. I really think capes are undervalued in our current fashions!
Well, this is cursory at best. I hope to get back to thoughtful, reflective topical posting soon. In the meantime, you'll know why I dropped out of sight.
Thanks for all the devoted reading and the caring thoughts that you so generously continue to send my way. It's a real community out here.
A busy week for me. I've been writing a lot, just not so much on my blogs. I feel a bit bad about that - I branched out and then cut back the time I'm willing to spend. But I know it's only temporary. (Well, everything is only temporary, isn't it?)
I'm taking another fiction class, because I find the external structure is the best way to make myself accountable to producing new writing. I'm also gearing up towards writing the first draft of my first novel in November. Not exactly a Nanowrimo, but loosely aiming for their guidelines. As a few writers have pointed out, November may not be the BEST month what with Thanksgiving and travel and all. But, hey, maybe the family gatherings will yield some bonus material.
I've also stepped up my yoga practice. After teacher training ended, I took a bit of a break. More than anything, I've been hesitant to spend so much time away from the family (training took A LOT of weekend time!) and I've eschewed daytime classes in favor of work. But now I'm back in two to three classes a week on a regular basis, and I'm committing to my own Ashtanga practice at home.
(If you don't know, Ashtanga is a type of yoga that basically follows a set list of poses. It's quite physically demanding, with almost constant motion plus an emphasis on both strength and correct form. You do the practice repeatedly, learning and building ability by returning to it over and over. The entire sequence, if done properly, takes a long time. Several hours, probably. I'm still only doing abridged and modified versions.)
I also realized that I need to give myself more time around people. So I returned to volunteering once a week and also made time for lunch with my parents. Throw in a couple of playdates with the kids' friends, the homework/dinner/chores triumvirate of every evening, and tutoring T two or three times each week, and you can see that my days go pretty quickly.
But now it's the weekend. The kids are off to grandma's; Shawn and I have a nice romantic evening planned; and we have the whole two days to sleep late, clean up, do projects, and visit family. Hope you get to recharge as well!
She looked over his shoulder For vines and olive trees, Marble well-governed cities And ships upon untamed seas, But there on the shining metal His hands had put instead An artificial wilderness And a sky like lead.
A plain without a feature, bare and brown, No blade of grass, no sign of neighborhood, Nothing to eat and nowhere to sit down, Yet, congregated on its blankness, stood An unintelligible multitude, A million eyes, a million boots in line, Without expression, waiting for a sign.
Out of the air a voice without a face Proved by statistics that some cause was just In tones as dry and level as the place: No one was cheered and nothing was discussed; Column by column in a cloud of dust They marched away enduring a belief Whose logic brought them, somewhere else, to grief.
She looked over his shoulder For ritual pieties, White flower-garlanded heifers, Libation and sacrifice, But there on the shining metal Where the altar should have been, She saw by his flickering forge-light Quite another scene.
Barbed wire enclosed an arbitrary spot Where bored officials lounged (one cracked a joke) And sentries sweated for the day was hot: A crowd of ordinary decent folk Watched from without and neither moved nor spoke As three pale figures were led forth and bound To three posts driven upright in the ground.
The mass and majesty of this world, all That carries weight and always weighs the same Lay in the hands of others; they were small And could not hope for help and no help came: What their foes like to do was done, their shame Was all the worst could wish; they lost their pride And died as men before their bodies died.
She looked over his shoulder For athletes at their games, Men and women in a dance Moving their sweet limbs Quick, quick, to music, But there on the shining shield His hands had set no dancing-floor But a weed-choked field.
A ragged urchin, aimless and alone, Loitered about that vacancy; a bird Flew up to safety from his well-aimed stone: That girls are raped, that two boys knife a third, Were axioms to him, who'd never heard Of any world where promises were kept, Or one could weep because another wept.
The thin-lipped armorer, Hephaestos, hobbled away, Thetis of the shining breasts Cried out in dismay At what the god had wrought To please her son, the strong Iron-hearted man-slaying Achilles Who would not live long.
Today, I am back to an "old-school" schedule - AM yoga class, then working at the close-by cafe. The cafe has just about finished a remodel and feels welcoming again. Cinnamon tiles, warm wooden paneling and tables, and navy, pumpkin and ecru walls generate a crisp feel of purposefulness. I love that each table is filled with people like me, chatting or working away at text or laptop, and providing welcome distraction each time I glance up.
However, I'm not working too long today. I've decided that I get to spend part of each day doing the errands and being out and about in the world without dragging tired children along. It's just more efficient to shop quickly without them. I'll come back to my work in the evenings, and have something to do while they do their homework. It's good for them to see me working and to share that with them. Otherwise I'm just sitting there with them, doing nothing but helping with math problems. That's not my best use of time since I already passed all my math classes.
We had a fabulous and interesting weekend. Went to church again. We've joined the one in our neighborhood where most of our neighbors attend. It's so close, we walk, much to everyone else's admiration. Really, it's just a pleasant stroll through the lovely fall morning.
On Saturday, I wrangled a date for my children with my parents. Called up and said, you must take them; Shawn and I NEED time. They love each other and delight to visit so that was all good. Then the husband and I had a fabulous date - silly movie, evening stroll, hot cocoa, twinkling lights, ultra romantic courtyard lounge complete with outdoor fires spouting like magic from chunks of glass. Fire and ice with a kicker of vodka.
I came away from the weekend feeling ever so much better. Hopeful again and more settled. Faith-filled. Deciding to just let things be good. Instead of wanting anymore, I am simply being. Acting as if what I want is already in place and happening.
Which actually it is, to an astonishing degree.
Yesterday, we witnessed a robbery. High drama in our small town. A troubled teen stole the tip jar from our favorite donut shop worker. He really could not have been more lame. First, he hung around for more than 20 minutes so we all saw him really clearly. Then he borrowed the shop's phone to call his father, leaving said parent's number behind on phone's memory. Then he stole the jar and ran straight back home to his nearby apartment complex. The girls were a bit scared; Shawn was furious and chased him for a while. The donut shop worker called the police and we gave our statements.
I feel so bad for that kid for making such a stupid choice. It's pretty clear that he called his (absent) father in the next county and wanted his attention. When he didn't get it, he decided to act out his anger/frustration/need for love/whatever through theft. Now he'll have his dad's attention, especially since the donut shop worker called his father and told him the whole story. That took an extra couple of hours out of the day.
Still though, we made it a good life lesson for the girls. Like, duh, doesn't it seem really stupid to steal? Also got to model for them how to be a caring neighbor and do the right thing.
I'm helping Shawn with some research for his grad class today, so before I get into that, I get to go shopping! Now that the weather is so lovely, cool and blessing us with drizzle, I can use some new jeans. Also, I want a leopard scarf. To go with my awesome sweater and bracelet and shoes. Then I'll have the fifties flavored ensemble.
I have loved Hardy's poetry since I was in high school, and had to analyze "Neutral Tones" for a college placement exam. I do find him unbearably depressing. But sometimes that just exactly fits the mood.
A Broken Appointment by Thomas Hardy
You did not come, And marching Time drew on, and wore me numb,— Yet less for loss of your dear presence there Than that I thus found lacking in your make That high compassion which can overbear Reluctance for pure lovingkindness’ sake Grieved I, when, as the hope-hour stroked its sum, You did not come.
You love not me, And love alone can lend you loyalty; –I know and knew it. But, unto the store Of human deeds divine in all but name, Was it not worth a little hour or more To add yet this: Once you, a woman, came To soothe a time-torn man; even though it be You love not me?
I've been reflecting a lot lately - on life, my blog, depression, friends, meaning.
It comes to this:
You can be on the side of negative energy, or you can be with the positive energy. It's really that simple. Today I've seen some stuff online - injustice, pettiness, callousness - that made me feel physically ill with its ugliness.
And I've seen pure, raw beauty. People opening their hearts through their words and becoming a connection point for others.
We all have joys and hardships. But which will we choose to highlight?
Phillipa over at Green Ink took a terrible sorrow and used it to write a luminous, love-filled post that is a testament to everything beautiful in life. She is the kind of person I want to know, and an example of the energy I want to put into this world.
Because, as her post demonstrates, we are all connected in ways that we don't even understand.
Whether you are first time or regular, I ask this favor: Please read all the posts for at least a month before you judge me or my blog. Each post can only capture one mere fraction of the larger picture. Taken together, you might get closer to what I am trying to say.
Dearest readers - I've been thinking a lot about this blog lately. I'm feeling quite a bit of guilt at vomiting up my personal traumas and the roller coaster ups and downs of my life. I mean, it's so wonderful that you care, and that you've stuck with me through this turn towards the darkness.
But it seems somewhat unfair.
My writing here is unpredictable. One day it's cheerful, the next literary, the next traumatic.
My friend Michelle said something that really struck home with me. I offered to give one of her books away to my readers and she replied that she was only targeting "book blogs." Now I understood what she meant, and why. And it's perfectly valid. It was a nice way of saying that she's looking for focused blogs with stronger readerships.
But a little part of me went, Wait, my blog is a "real" blog. My blog matters.
Then I started to reflect on just how much this blog is all over the place. Because I am ALL over the place. And this blog reflects me.
Which is awesome. Nothing wrong with that. I started this blog to "begin" and I did. For a year , I've practiced and now - I'm ready to branch out.
So starting this month, I will be focusing my writing into themed blogs. Addresses will follow in a few weeks. I'll assign the aspects of my varied life into different topics, so that readers to each blog can find subjects of consistent interest to them. ( And you won't be scared by nasty stories when you're only looking for a little happy boost! Those of you needing companionship in the horrors of life can find that on my Heartbreak Blog.)
This blog will stay here (because I can never bear to destory records from the past) and I'll still be writing here when I want to just ramble, to write primarily for my own benefit.
But no longer will you have to be subjected to lengthy explorations of my life. Because honestly, you've got your own life you're living and I bet it's way more engaging to you.
Writing those words yesterday, I already knew what I wanted to do. I could feel my deepest self whispering steadily.
By the time I was in the park, sitting on the cool grass and watching the play of sunshine and shadow across the flowers and trees, I knew my decision.
I will not contact the police. I will move above this and past it, not miring my life in a looping story of pain and victimhood. It is just not in line with my own deepest values.
I value love and compassion. Forgiveness. New starts. Deeper meanings. The rebirth of the best of each of us.
Whether or not David achieves that in his life is irrelevant. If I work against my deepest values, I only harm myself.
I understand that I have indeed experienced a tremendous amount of pain and harm, some from others, some from my own choices. This blog has become my tool to express and explore all the aspects of my self, including the shadow stories that I would perhaps rather avoid. Instead I have been bravely and steadfastly exposing them, excavating them, bringing them into the light and letting myself accept them for the part of me that they are.
They are not the sum of me, and they are not unimportant. They need to take their rightful place in the happy life that I am staking my claim to with each day.
My husband seconded my decision not to pursue legal avenues. This surprised me quite a bit. I know he has seethed with anger over his inability to protect me. But he reminded me that our legal system, as it now stands, is not about fairness, or justice, or even truth. It's about power and who can take control of the story, bending it to their ends.
He's right. If I give them my story, they will take it and use it with complete disregard for my best interests. I've seen that happen to victims and criminals alike. In fact, there's a very fine line between the two in the system, and one will often be treated like the other. Think about it.
Instead, I will retain the only right to tell my own story. I reserve the right to change and grow. I allow myself to be furious. I allow myself to forgive. As I need.
I haven't been to my favorite park in months. The weather outside is finally bearable, below the searing 100 degree days that have trapped me indoors. It's actually a lovely day.
I'm taking my blanket and my book to the park. I'm going to take a long walk. I'm going to pray and ask God for guidance. I'm going to let the fresh air and exercise soothe me. I'll dust off my Tarot Cards and use them as well, tapping in to my intuition.
When the answers come, I will give them time. Time to sit within me and be sure that they are the true answers from the purest depths of being. Perhaps a month of sitting with this possibility.
But if the deepest answer is to follow social norms, that is what I will do.
David himself has shown me that it is fair to put yourself ahead of any old relationship promises, despite your deepest intentions. Sometimes, life requires moving ahead in a ruthless way, focusing on your own needs first. Right? That's all that's happening, right?
Be careful what you model by example. I am paying attention as I look for ways to free myself from these struggles.
It kills me not to know this but I've all but just forgotten What the color of her eyes were and her scars or how she got them As the telling signs of age rain down a single tear is dropping Through the valleys of an aging face that this world has forgotten There is no reconciliation that will put me in my place And there is no time like the present to drink these draining seconds But seldom do these words ring true when I'm constantly failing you Like walls that we just can't break through until we disappear
So tell me now If this ain't love then how do we get out? Because I don't know That's when she said I don't hate you boy I just want to save you while there's still something left to save That's when I told her I love you girl But I'm not the answer to the questions that you still have
But the day pressed on like crushing weights For no man does it ever wait Like memories of dying days That deafen us like hurricanes Bathed in flames we held the brand Uncurled the fingers in your hand Pressed into the flesh like sand Now do you understand?
So tell me now If this ain't love then how do we get out? Because I don't know That's when she said I don't hate you boy I just want to save you while there's still something left to save That's when I told her I love you girl But I'm not the answer to the questions that you still have
1000 miles away There's nothing left to say But so much left that I don't know We never had a choice This world is too much noise It takes me under It takes me under once again I don't hate you I don't hate you
So tell me now If this ain't love then how do we get out? Because I don't know That's when she said I don't hate you boy I just want to save you while there's still something left to save That's when I told her I love you girl But I'm not the answer to the questions that you still have
“Passion was Some Function of Time” -Dean Paschal, Moriya
I wake in the morning from difficult dreams, hazy and nonsensical. A tall Asian man kissed me. Fancy cakes carved into the shapes of boats and covered with elaborate pastel fondant icings were devoured beside a river. My family fussed over details of some celebration, or perhaps it was a departure.
I come conscious to a cold bed, empty of your form. For a few horrible fractions of a second, I don’t know where I am or when or who. It is a lost feeling, floating unfocused, the blankness of an EtchaSketch right after shaking.
I spy you through the window, sipping morning coffee on the patio. By the time, I make it to the kitchen, you are there. You nuzzle against me, your arms a warm comfort of strength. Your hands seek my shoulders, rubbing gently and I relax, trying to let the sadness that has folded itself around me ebb away into the fresh morning air.
I turn and wrap myself around you, pressing my nose into your neck and inhaling the comfort of your scent. And then it all goes wrong.
“I didn’t know where you were when I woke up and I felt sad.” I offer the words simply, with the faith of a child holding up a broken toy. You will know how to fix it. You know how to make everything better.
Except you don’t. You push away from me and leave the kitchen. From that point, the rest of the day is a haze of pain and fighting. I can’t report anything accurately. I don’t know what is real and what is only my perception. I simply know the agony. The pain hammers me from inside until I want to actually drop to my knees. I consider trying to turn myself inside out, somehow peeling it away and escaping. I think of running, but where would I go? How can I outrun what I carry inside?
This is all I know. Somehow, to you, everything is my fault. I am too critical. I am too unstable. I do not trust you enough. You do not dare to trust me. You fear what I have done in the past, and hold it up before me as a future probability.
With each breath, a jaggedness catches in my ribs. With each breath, I am conscious of how very few choices I actually have, and how very much rides upon making them correctly.
With each breath, that faithful child inside me looks out at you through my eyes, and still hopes that somehow, you will make everything better.
A waft of heat From the match I Carry so delicately before me Pushes up against my face Despite my careful attention, The faith I grab at a second’s notice, The match burns out Just before I reach the candle And I wonder what that means
One time I threw away a Match blown out to blackened char And turned around to find my kitchen Trashcan on fire Flames licking upward Where I thought everything was cold
I suppose what I want More than anything Is to feel loved without end To coax one smoldering ember Back into a candle’s flame of warmth Without carelessly burning everything down
Michelle Moran discusses and signs her latest novel - Cleopatra's Daughter !!!!
Released on Tuesday, Michelle Moran's third novel is already creating an impressive stir. Fans across the country lined up outside bookstores to buy copies, and also to take their chances with her Literary Treasure Hunt!
Come meet Michelle in person, hear the fascinating research that went into the writing of this young adult historical fiction, and enjoy her generous goodie bags (Roman chocolates, anyone?). I know where I'll be tomorrow night!
Friday, September 18, 2009 at 7:00pm
Vroman's Bookstore 695 E. Colorado Blvd Pasadena, California 91101
Synopsis: "Following the deaths of Marc Antony and Cleopatra, their three children are exiled from Egypt and sent to Rome in chains to be raised in one of the most fascinating (and dangerous) courts of all time. This historical tale, seen through the eyes of their daughter Selene, follows their adaptation to Roman culture, their treatment as both a curiosity and a threat, and Selene's own perilous journey into adulthood. "
Major disaster averted today! I thought my laptop died. My beautiful little purple plum, the joy of my days. I turned her on at the cafe, all ready for a serious stretch of intense work... and nothing happened.
No screen. No moving lights.
Okay, I thought, stay calm. I'm probably out of battery. Of course, when I packed up before yoga I forgot to grab my power cord. I revised my work plan. I'll just switch Dellilah Plum off and head home to electricity.
I pushed the power button and nothing happened. No turning off, no turning on - just a steady glow. I wrapped her in her bag and we left.
When I arrived, 15 minutes later, I pulled my sweet friend out. She was burning up. It felt like the high grade fever that children will develop in an instant. And she was making a horrible noise, a choking, whirring sound that I had never heard before and assumed was a fan desperately trying to cool her off.
"Oh my God!" Panic tightened its inexorable grip. I immediately began resuscitation efforts, holding her in the cool breeze from my window, fanning her and even blowing into her to try to cool her down before she died completely!
Panicked calls ensued. Staples couldn't help me. I didn't want to wait to talk to Dell. I needed my computer and I needed her now. I easily spend six to eight hours each day using her, pretty much all the time I'm not actively doing parenting/family care, which takes another six to ten hours each day.
She is my work, and my soul. What would I do without her?????
Fortunately, I found a small repair store that answered their phone. Eric talked me through popping out the battery and when that didn't work, I drove her over there, coddled on the back seat, me telling her that everything would be okay.
Just like with kids, by the time Eric was carefully checking her over, Dellilah Plum seemed just fine. Her temperature was normal and she looked great. Eric turned her on and off a few times, checked that Norton was working, and confirmed that she didn't have any viruses.
"So I can just take her home?" I gave a huge sigh of relief, feeling the tiredness that comes after adrenaline.
Walking through the parking lot, I cradled her gently in my arms.
After yoga today, I stopped by Target for the flimsiest excuse of buying B a red shirt. Surprisingly, they didn’t have any. (I mean, it’s their signature color and all – what gives?)
Shopping often lifts my moods for a couple of reasons. First, it’s SHOPPING. It just rocks by its very nature. I love the stores, the people, the products, getting stuff, picking out stuff, giving stuff to people, spending money frivolously – all of it. Second, it’s productive. When I’m on an errand, I’m actually making life just a little better for my family. Bringing home the comfort and joy.
Here’s what I had in my cart after 10 minutes – · An end of summer bikini for each girl - to get us through winter trips to the beach.
· The huge carton of whole grain goldfish crackers – to donate to B’s classroom snack pile.
· An on sale T-shirt for B – purple with two butterflies. For $3.48, how can you go wrong?
· An on sale T-shirt for J – white with sparkle rainbow and also a purple skirt because that’s her signature color and they’re not always easy to find. She prefers skorts, but she can wear leggings.
· DVDs of Season 3 of How I Met Your Mother AND Season 2 of The Big Bang Theory.- This was an amazing coup. When I’m stressed, I LOVE to watch absorbing TV shows or movies. Problem is, I’m fairly picky and don’t get engaged by much of what passes for entertainment. So to find two whole seasons of shows I like was like manna falling from heaven. I actually felt my brain relax –ahhh – just by holding them in my hands. They’re even better than therapy –a guaranteed 910 minutes of being able to sit on the couch with Shawn, snuggle, laugh and be taken away from most of my own life, responsibility, and thinking in little 20 minute bursts. Add some alcohol and that is heaven to me. (A great book works the same way, except Shawn and I can’t share it as easily.)
· Dog food – because we need it AGAIN. They eat like horses, not dogs.
· Alright, this is the embarrassing part. I actually bought, yes, choose to hand over hard won money for, Demi Lovato’s new CD because I am hooked on her song “Here We Go Again” and I can’t get it out of my head. I’m ashamed to admit that there is entirely too much Disney Channel going on in our house. I guess after the twentieth or thirtieth time you see a video as you’re going about your own routines, it just slips in when your guard is down. They are masters of the self-promotion, that Disney franchise and it is just relentless.
The other day I completely pissed off my older daughter J by commenting about Demi’s angst throughout the video. “She could totally do without him,” I said. “She just thinks she can’t. But that’s ridiculous. If she spent a few months away from him, she would be strong and happy and look back and say, ‘Good Lord, what was I thinking? I’m so past him now.’”
“Mom, don’t ruin it by talking,” is the response I got.
So much for sharing of our family values. I just hope it sinks in and my daughters don’t think it has to be all dark and stormy and complicated to be a relationship. Because I don’t want them to be pawns of our cultural crush on infatuation. All the more depressing to see that I am pretty indoctrinated myself. Thus I identify with the song. Now I own it. Sigh.
I did manage to stop myself from buying The Wizards of Waverly Place movie soundtrack that was sitting next to it on the shelf. Because I am almost 41, not 12. Although I do like that catchy title track. Fortunately, a calm voice of reason came to my rescue and guided me gently away.
20 minutes, $125, and some cool stuff – about the same expense as therapy and with just about as good a result. Maybe even better. Because you can’t wear talk to the beach in January.
When I last left you, I was in the throes of some pretty bad feelings. Depression, anxiety, despair – that flavor of yucky. But I also was experienced enough to know that I needed to just keep moving on and I could prompt a happier state of mind.
Mercifully, my friend called me and asked me to meet her for coffee and tutoring. I’m helping her two or three times a week with her English 015 class – a joy for me, agony for her, but we love working together. Nothing like interaction with others to get me out of my fixation with my own life.
By the time I was in my car, I was writing this post in my head. Originally, it was called Two Things To Be Happy About. Then I kept noticing more and more. So here goes:
1. My father came through his surgery just fine and is recovering nicely. Thank God.
2. My toes are painted silver. I just did my fingernails in bronze. Together, I’m elemental.
3. It feels good to be reliable for my friend. She’s counting on me to mentor her through this class that just overwhelms her. Every time I give to her – my time, my energy – I get just as much back in return through the joy of our friendship and being able to share our lives. She loves me just right – enough to listen with care to any feelings I want to vent, but still give me the firm, sensible, advice of a true friend. Then I listen to her vent about her troubles. Yesterday, her eyes filled with tears as she said, “I was so glad when I called and you were available. It just felt like such a hard day.”
Sitting in the cool afternoon patio, sipping our drinks and sharing was a true blessing. And we kick ass at writing paragraphs together!
4. My husband and I are both making successful efforts at getting along and treating each other with love and consideration.
5. My daughters came home with their school portraits, and they both look gorgeous!
6. The weather was extraordinary yesterday, sunny but cool with a breeze. After days of 110 degree oppression, it felt good enough to eat.
7. I got to sleep more easily and logged a good seven hours of rejuvenation.
So there you go. I still have my eyes open and I’m noticing more and more.
Right now my father is in surgery, being mended of his physical ills.
Right now, I sit with pain so intense I believe my heart would break
...if it had not broken long ago.
Right now I tell myself, "Breathe, Everything will be okay. Find the positive thread. Find the healing path."
I wash the pain out of my heart and replace it with love, and hope, and gladness for new possibilities.
No matter how threatened or empty I may feel, change brings possibility. The flow of life's patterns do not diminish me; they do not leave me behind, forgotten and unloved. Rather, they open new and exciting doors to new possibilities.
Please, can we move past the pain and the illness, in the same way that my breath is even now soothing my aching heart? Please, mend the bridges, write the letters, offer that open, forgiving hand to someone in need next to you.
Focus on the healing and the love that connects us.
1. Take dinner, pie and full attention and daughterly devotion to parents' house tonight and comfort father who is having surgery tomorrow to remove early-stage (and hopefully benign) bladder cancer.
2. Sit with younger daughter and proctor her through the five Lang Arts practice tests she has missed in class over the last three days, thereby helping her to feel successful and relaxed about returning to school.
3. Sit with older daughter and supervise progress towards a long-ass brochure project about Missouri to include various hand-drawn pictures of state seal, bird, tree, and other arcana. (Did you know the show-me state has a state fish, state dinosaur, state horse, state amphibian, and state invertebrate among other things?)
4. Write brilliant and flattering review for friend who has book launching next week - and post in appropriate places. (Hmm - consider having text made into T-shirt for more publicity??)
5. Try not to brood over fact that kidney recipient is out-of-sorts with me as I have not yet offered up kidney in dramatically life-improving surgery for her, crap extremely painful and I can't drive for six weeks surgery for me.
6. Try not to brood over fact that I still have not lost the 30 pounds I want to lose before I feel comfortable undergoing surgery.
7. Continue food diary and restricting food intake. Try not to eat when stressed. HA!
8. Begin walking daughters to school daily. It's exactly one mile and by leaving 10 minutes earlier, they would get benefit of fresh-morning-air exercise and I can add two mile walk to my daily routine. Plus we can have more bonding.
9. Continue yoga as often as possible. Classes are great but I have to be careful not to go to classes instead of spending those precious, fleeting, daytime, alone hours working.
10. Bill clients for work completed in August, thus making payment ever so much more likely.
11. Check to be sure all household bills for September have been paid and all accounts are in good standing.
12. Egad! Prepare quarterly tax payment and put in mail ASAP! (Bye, money. It was nice knowing you.)
13. Arrange to have flowers delivered to elderly aunt whose birthday was on Tuesday.
14. Call other elderly aunt to see how her chemotherapy is going.
15. Call sister-in-law on birthday and express regrets and sympathy that she'll be spending the day at a funeral for a close friend. (At least, I ordered a gift and it should be delivered today!)
16. Put gifts for other friend in mail, as I missed lunch with her.
17. Reschedule tutoring of close friend from this evening to this weekend.
18. Drop off flowers, cake, card or at least call and congratulate other friend on her first week back at work.
19. Decide on day to collect urine for 24 hours straight. Then stay at home and do that (while also writing.)
20. Take urine to hospital the following day, wait for an hour to let them draw blood, wait for another bit to have appointment with transplant coordinator.
21. Take transplant coordinator the erroneous bill for one of the tests and have it taken out of my name.
22. Call my health insurance member services to find out if they will drop my coverage for donating my kidney. (Good to ask ahead of time.)
23. Write about 20 proposals and make about 20 phone calls to funders and send about 5 official emails to catch up with workload.
24. Email friend who is attempting to be novelist after unexpectedly losing his job this spring and failing to become a successful grant writer and tell him that his first chapters were more compelling than I found them to be.
25. Submit the stories that are collecting on my hard drive.
26. Research submission markets for those stories.
27. Write final project for class - due in 10 days. Try to finish promising story begun three years ago.
28. Work on Family Journal. Attempt to bring entries up to date and paste in photos/memorabilia collected in last three months. (I love the Family Journal, but I seem to be always one to two months behind.)
29. Spend all day tomorrow at hospital with mother and father, offering encouragement about surgery.
30. Book reservations for trip to see niece for first time, hopefully in October.
31. Maintain spiritual balance, compassion, sense of humor, and equanimity.
I was supposed to be at lunch with my friend. A chance to catch up, chat about her book that's coming out next week - as exciting as a birth! I have birthday presents to give her.
Instead, the school called. Whenever I see that name come up on my cell screen, I know it's not going to be good news. Bump-thump, bump-thump, goes my heart. Sure enough, my little one's still ill and I'll have to go pick her up. Even though her fever's gone, she just doesn't have her energy level up yet.
Driving home in the car, I find out that she also stressed out when faced with a practice Language Arts test. "I think I'm not good at school anymore!" she confesses in a low voice. Only in third grade, and the pressure to excel on the class, school, district and state level tests is so intense that she is in tears over her perceived failure. She thinks she forgot how to learn in her two days of being home sick.
"Honey," I remind her, "it's just a test. You'll have lots of chances to practice and learn. They make them hard on purpose. But I guarantee, you're one of the top students; you're doing just fine."
She takes a deep breath and relaxes, her face opening into a small smile of reassurance.
"I bet it just seemed hard because you're still tired from being sick. Let's go home and rest."
And there you go. My lunch plans become taking-care-of-offspring plans. Same thing happened yesterday. It's all just part of the package, the deal I signed up for. Once again, I send up a fervent prayer of thanksgiving that I am blessed with such flexible work and proximity to my children's school. I'll be able to continue on with the next project on my list.
Too bad about the lunch. Indian food would have been nice.
So I was reading an article in this week's LA Times, and my intuition alert started going off big-time. Bingo! Bingo! Bingo!
"What?" I asked myself, a bit annoyed. "This doesn't apply to me or anyone."
Still, I couldn't shake that nagging sense that this might mean something I should pay attention to. I do have a bit of an interest in mental illnesses and their effects on people's lives and interpersonal relationships.
Who knows? Maybe this is research I'll need for a story some day. Or maybe it's something helpful to you, and that's why I was moved to post it here, where I can always find it again.
Borderline personality disorder often can be difficult to distinguish from bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety.
But the essential feature of BPD is a pattern of unstable personal relationships, self-image and emotions and impulsivity.
Traits (at least five of which must be present for a diagnosis) include:
This One is Mine by Maria Semple is, simply put, the most engaging novel I have ever read. The prose sparkles; the plot surges forward from page one.
With its compelling depiction of class intersections and the compromises people make to achieve their own comfort, This One is Mine is part romance, part cautionary tale, and part tribute to the sunny, unique world of Los Angeles and its supporting canyons.
The characters are so fully drawn and compelling that I was halfway through the book before I realized that a main character shares a name with an extremely unpleasant colleague of mine. The character is such a completely separate person that I didn’t even make any real-life connections. The world of the book IS real life while you’re reading.
Violet, the main character, struggles to find her new identity after leaving her TV writing job for the less-defined challenges of being an at-home mother and supportive wife. Her husband balances the increasing strain of his music executive career against the fraying of his marriage. His sister, Sally, deals with not one, but two, life-threatening illnesses while searching for her Mr. Right and the social status she presumes he’ll bring with him. The other characters interact with them in fascinating trajectories along their own lives.
In a book that is completely readable and a gripping page turner, Semple deals with some surprisingly grim subjects: diabetes, infidelity, poverty, drug addiction, social climbing, Asperger’s syndrome and abortion. Yet, despite their many flaws, or perhaps because of them, the characters are likable, believable, and, most of all, forgivable.
This is a book that must be experienced. Believe me, purchasing This One is Mine and immersing yourself into Semple’s amazing story will be the best thing you’ve done this year.
Today I'm working in the cafe of my local Barnes & Noble. After sufficient amounts of diligent application, I stopped for a snack. From the news rack behind my table, Writer's Digest caught my eye.
I'm glad I decided to flip through this month's issue, and I highly recommend that you do too.
Featured are articles about how to write a query letter, the details of contracts, and descriptions and contact info for 24 agents who are actively seeking new authors. That's gold right there, baby.
And if you don't have an agent yet, yes, you probably should.
At least grab the magazine, and send out a few queries. What do you have to lose? Think of them as the slightly alien, vaguely aggressive salespeople who protect the purity of your art by dealing with the commerce aspects of publishing. If you ever hope to make money or a living from your writing that is.
If you don't care, then by all means, continue to devote yourself only to your self-determined message and your own Musings.
There's also a set of very useful articles about writing Memoir. My own is a few years down the road, I think, but it won't hurt to set the magazine aside and refer to it then.
I was in a friend's Memoir manuscript once, and the result shocked me. It was like being erased. The character who showed up in my place was so completely unlike me that I wasn't sure whether my friend was trying to be protective, trying to be insulting, or, the most depressing possibility, simply had never really known me as a person at all.
So I can't complain too much if I don't agree with the portrayal. At least no one will ever recognize me!!
And I'd have to say that this month's WD is a resounding success. If their goal is to write content so compelling that a reader wants to keep reading, well, they hooked me from the headlines. One more copy sold - tough economy be damned. I'll be taking my September friend home.
And reflecting on which of the agents has the most warm and friendly-sounding name.
"People sometimes wonder if you can have a story without a realization or growth. The answer is “Yes.” You’ll see this most often in slice-of-life literary stories, where the story might focus on a single afternoon in a character’s life. The opportunity for realization and growth arrives, but the character doesn’t “get it.” The moment passes and the opportunity for growth, the opportunity to be a hero, is lost. In many literary short stories, this is the tragedy of the moment and it can give the story a certain sadness that draws readers (or depresses them).
In longer fiction, readers will want to see more growth. And they’re often disappointed if the realization is lost or weak. Keep that in mind if you’re working on plots for longer fiction."
- Mike Foley, Writing Teacher Extraordinaire "Creating Plots that Sell"
My new shoes! Retro black leather pumps with kitten heels and leather roses. Perfect to go with the black satin scoop-neck mini dress that I'll be wearing tonight -
- to the CONCERT!!
That's right, baby. We're seeing Cake at the Fox Theatre - retro/eclectic/hipster all the way!
If you've never heard anything by Cake (and you probably have, at least a few of their most played tracks) you should check them out. They're masters of the oddball lyrics, off-kilter storytellers to a brass background. My favorite song is Commissioning a Symphony in C, for its fabulous portrayal of hubris, delusion, and fresh beginnings however misguided.
As Cake is his favorite band, the tickets were a birthday present to my husband. The second present is the black vinyl underwear that will complete my outfit. Perfect for our after-party bash at the Hip Kitty Jazz Club where I will have - oops- just a few more Cosmopolitans than may be advisable for the most prudent behavior.
But, shhhh, I didn't tell you that part. It's private. ;)
(I'm the kind of girl who wears black vinyl panties to dance and get drunk in. I'm not sure where this girl was in my twenties, but I'm loving her now! )
I had finally stopped playing blog, and settled myself into the concentration required to comb over and over passages of proposal text, making small tweaks and references, when the dogs barked and I heard a knocking.
I opened the door to two young teens, dressed in shirts and ties, carrying Bibles and pamphlets and looking at me expectantly. The taller one immediately cleared his throat and started talking non-stop, interspersing his rehearsed doctrine with nervous giggles.
The younger one waited silently, shifting his weight from foot to foot in his support role. I stayed quiet and watched them kindly, waiting for a natural pause.
The older one was quizzing me about the state of my soul. "We understand most people have their own religion. You probably have your own religon. " He looked past my head to a cross hanging in the entry. With a vague wave, he continued quickly, " I see that you do. Okay, you're Christian. It's good to be Christian." He fumbled for his Bible.
I could almost watch the gears turning, the flow chart paths in his head, hear the careful training someone had given him. Hmm. So one cross and I'm Christian. That's just because you can't see the pentacle in the bathroom, the angels in my bedroom, the ohm on the mantle or the books of Wiccan spells by my bed, I thought.
Children! You are just children. I am old. You have no basis to teach me about Faith.
He was intently quoting Matthew at me, asking about my future inheritance plans. Right, God, I thought, I will be mild-mannered.
With a smile, I did what I always do in this situation. I sincerely thanked them for taking the time to share something so important with me. Then I shifted the conversation to them, complimenting their church and being encouraging. Turns out the younger one starts seventh grade tomorrow. "Are you scared? " I asked. He nodded with a swallow.
"Don't be." I reassured him. "Every seventh grader there will be feeling the exact same way. In a week, you'll be all settled. And the teachers are there to help."
They didn't even notice the way I had turned our exchange, that I was reassuring and supporting them instead of vice versa. I offered water as I always do and shook their hands.
"Good luck," I said, shutting the door as they walked away. I love it when God sends an opportunity for kindness to my door.
Okay, I apologize in advance. I realize my blog of late has been relentlessly upbeat and just...so... darn positive. I don't mean to brag and I certainly don't ever, ever mean to make you feel bad. It's just SO nice to be feeling so much better after not.
And great things just keep happening lately.
So I just had my long first meeting with my newest client, the kind where I ask tons and tons of questions and try to find out everything I need to know to write something comprehensive.
At the end, he turned to me and said, "I just have to ask. How old are you?"
I laughed. What a chance! "How old do you think I am?"
"Uh..." He wisely hesitated.
"Go ahead, tell me," I said. "I'm not at all sensitive about it, but I am curious."
"No, I'm 40, almost 41."
"Really?" He looked at me speculatively. "You carry it very well. It must be your hair and..." He sort of trailed off.
I couldn't help remembering the dialogue in the story I wrote just yesterday. "Really? Truly honestly? You thought I was 32?"
"Yes," he said gravely. "I did."
HURRAY!!!! (Okay, I'm not sensitive, but I'm not past rejoicing either!)
(I think he was evaluating my age because they're considering me to do some marketing and development for them, and I think he wondered if I had enough depth of experience. So, yep, I do because I am pretty old. And I've lived through a lot. I just didn't want you to think he was hitting on me - because that would have been a bit creepy.)
"For more than a year, I drove around with two changes of clothes, including brand new extra sexy underwear, tucked away in my trunk... just in case he ever called and told me that he had decided he really did want me in his life..." Jess trailed off, her eyes unfocused as she moved into her memory.
"Mmmm. Mmm." Her friend just shook her head. "Aren't you glad to be done with that then?"
I'm at the coffee shop. I've been dosing my drowsiness with way too much coffee (up too late again last night, but I can't complain about the reason!) and I'm working. And part of my work is below. After I played grants for a few hours, I turned my attention to my class exercise due tonight. I'm going to sell this story, so don't steal it okay? But I just have to show it to you.
My WORK is writing! God, I feel like a kid who owns a candy store. You know?
I hope you like it. You're all so great, I just wanted to share something. ****** (Sorry - I removed the story in order to submit it. I'll let you know when it will be out in print!)
Often when I notice unhappiness start to creep up on me, in the guise of over-thinking or anxious habits or whatever, it's because there's some underlying need that is asking to be addressed.
Such was the case last weekend. Trailing down the path of my obsessive thoughts led to the destination of desiring more contact with my husband. What with the rushes and routines of the starting school year, we simply weren't having as much time with each other as we did this summer.
It all snapped into focus for me when I was reading another great find from that yard sale - Best Women's Erotica 09 edited by Violet Blue. I put the book down and found myself discontent, ill at ease. Hmm. I was jealous.
I was convinced that everybody else was having all the fun (and writing about it!) while I was missing the party. Bingo. Once I pulled the need out into my conscious mind, it was simple enough to fix.
(See earlier post about the ease of spicing up a lagging sex life!)
Two hours of recreating the best events in the story, plus several repeat performances, put me into a MUCH better mood. There's nothing like a good, um, burst of quality time together to clear the mental, physical, and emotional channels!
I was lying in bed the other night, leafing through the spell section of a book on Wiccan craft.
Okay, that's a bit of a story. We were at this fantastic yard sale, where a PhD candidate was selling all of her books as well as her household bits to facilitate an interstate move. She had toys from her baby daughter, green gauze and glitter strap-on butterfly wings that my daughter pounced on and immediately wore, and books, books, and books - literary studies, fantasy, short story anthologies. One mere quarter each. We filled our trunk.
Among the haul was the Wicca Handbook. Although I'm not a follower, sometimes books just call out to me. I do have witchcraft (or healing or theraputic impulses, whatever you prefer to call it) in my blood, going back through my mother's father to our German ancestry.
I can't be Wiccan though. Have you ever looked at the craft? There are so many supplies, and things to learn, and special days, and rituals - there's just no way I have the time to follow such a complicated spiritual system. So I browse.
And I was reading along, musing about how the positive energy that you send out into the universe and to each other is probably the pivotal aspect of spells, when the phone unexpectedly rang.
After 9:30. PM. Which is late in my house.
I picked it up expecting some sort of crisis. Instead, I found out that I got the job!!!!!!!
The prison ministry group decided to hire me. I'm starting with a $400 project and we'll go from there. HURRAY!
These last few months, I have made more money from my writing business than ever. I finally make enough to support my family, if need ever arises. Ever since I left teaching, it has been a long slog trying to find a lucrative place for myself in the world. I have patiently and steadfastly continued to try over and over until finally I have built this.
My own growing business! Increased income! Positive energy galore!!
I knew I could do it, if I was only given enough faith and time, belief in myself and my sincere intentions. And I did.
Why can't I, huh? I can, and I will.
Now I choose how to enjoy my windfall in this life I'm living.
I've been making up lots of stories lately. I'm particularly good at it.
Unfortunately they're not the kind on paper, the kind I can send into the world in return for fame, money, or just recognition. These stories are the ones in my head. You know, the little stories you make up about what someone is thinking, or why such and such happened in your past the way it did, or what tomorrow, or tomorrow's next year will be like.
And so. And then. And next.
I'm extremely good with these stories. I suspect most of us are. Our brains have to do something with our thoughts to keep themselves occupied.
But when I find myself falling into the realm of too much storytelling, I've learned to pull back and relax. To recognize it as a sign of stress and trying to do too much. Trying to be too much.
I try to approach my brain with gentleness and compassion, listening to its stories with the same sort of kind humoring I would give to a small child. It can't really help itself; it only wants love and attention.
Sometimes I laugh at it, just a bit. Sometimes I marvel at the range of its imagination, the things it can construct out of the barest wisps of experience. Frequently, I mine this inner narrative for my writing, informing my fiction, my blog and my work.
Over the last few years, I've come to recognize that I've brushed up against some pretty serious mental illnesses. Depression, generalized anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, and, my favorite, OCD. I've realized that mental illness is exactly that - an illness, a departure from complete health. When my body gets stressed in a physical sense- through other illness, fatigue, or poor nutrition - or when mental stressors tax my emotions and psychology, then mental illness starts to rear its mythic heads.
For reasons I don't completely understand, my own illnesses are always mild and livable, more like an annoying cold than a bout of pneumonia. When I feel symptoms cropping up, I pay extra attention to my healthful regime. Through careful lifestyle choices, I medicate my mentality with physical health. I'm not suggesting everyone should do this, or only this. I think actual medications are great for some people; they're just not for me.
At first, I was horrified and feeling that bit of superiority we all feel when we watch other people doing odd things in their lives. Really? You have to kiss your dog 12 times? You have to check the door over and over? You have to gauge your face to make yourself feel "better?"
But then I started thinking about neural pathways. About the way our brains like to lay in a response and then follow it again and again. About the small distinction between habit, addiction and compulsion. The pain that this man and woman were battling against, desperately seeking protection from, was so evident, so overwhelming. I felt incredibly sad for them.
And incredibly lucky that somehow, in all its wanderings, my own brain can keep itself from that. One thing I noticed was that the sufferers were extremely serious. They took everything so hard. They struggled so valiantly. Christa even said, "Trying to stop my obsession is the whole point of my life." Well, there you go, I thought. If she did stop, she would have to face the emptiness of not knowing what else to do with herself. I just really felt for her.
Later that night, I said to my husband, "You know, I'm really worried about those people with OCD."
Then I heard myself. We both started laughing.
Lightness. Compassion. Softening. Humor. Joy- my own anecdotes.