SNAPSHOT #heartsoulmindbodyspirit

So much to do and SO LITTLE WRITING GETTING DONE.

My intention (and my hope) is to write every evening after Teddy goes to sleep.  Which is what I’m doing tonight.

It’s been a while.  Hence, a snapshot:

-I’ve been busily prepping for NaNoWriMo by working on a memoir every chance I get.  The novel I’m going to write during November is fiction, but I worry that I won’t be able to write really authentic fiction until I’ve written my life story.  When I’m writing fiction that has similarities to my real life, I start to get tangled up and confused – which is the truth, and which is the story?  So I’m writing out the facts – just the facts.  #mind #soul

-Lots of #heart food lately – visits with my mom, time with extended family, time with friends, and time with Teddy and Tee.

-Oh, #soul.  I’ve recently realized how powerful anxiety is in my life.  It twists and turns and churns, and it generally takes the form of an obsessive and draining need to seek something that I don’t have and can’t control.  (The adoption.  The perfect job.)  I am praying for the time and space to be able to address my anxiety through meditation, yoga, and radical self-care.

-Tee and I took a rare overnight trip to do some hiking and adventuring with Teddy recently.  It was lovely.  It’s hard to really relax and connect at home – there’s always so much on the farm and around the house that needs to get done.  A getaway was the perfect prescription to fall stress.    #heartsoulmindbodyspirit

-Hillary Rodham Clinton recommended a mystery novel to me, so I read it and so did my fellow Wild Peace Book Club members!  We haven’t read a book together for a long time, but who can say no to HRC?  The book is Still Life by Louise Penny, and it’s the first in a series of books featuring Inspector Gamache.  I’m halfway through the second book in the series, and loving it; I’ve been reading a lot of books about writing recently, and it’s a nice break to indulge in fiction.

So much to be thankful for.  #blessed

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#soul #mind

Usually I read fiction and I write nonfiction.  This has been my pattern for several years.

Lately, this has flipped.  I’m devouring nonfiction – memoirs, books about writing – and busily writing short stories whenever I get the chance.

I love the feeling I get when I have a good idea for a short story.  I get a little obsessed – but in a good way, not a oh my gosh what am I going to do with my wild precious life way.

No short story ideas are consuming my mind currently, however, so I’m taking the opportunity to do a little writing about myself.

I learned how to crochet when I was 20 years old.  I’d just started a year with AmeriCorps, and a few of my fellow Corps members were volunteering for a local charity, crocheting or knitting hats or baby blankets for children and families in need.  A friend taught me, and then everyone in my family got a scarf for Christmas.

I still crochet, almost 15 years later.  I’m not much more advanced than I was back then; most of the things I create are square.  I’ve been working on a baby blanket on and off for the past year.  I make a little progress every Monday morning, when I have a standing meeting with some good friends to drink coffee and share.

There’s a thing that happens when you’re crocheting.  Yarn gets tangled.  Even if you’re really careful – yarn gets tangled.  And it doesn’t just get a little tangled, at least not in my world.  It somehow comes to life and enters into a passionate samba that results in yarn criss-crossing back and forth through my crochet bag, on the floor, around the legs of the table holding my coffee, and then weaving back together into a giant, unmistakable, unavoidable knot.

I’m accustomed to these knots.  When I notice them, I sit patiently and untangle a little at a time.  I don’t rush; if I start to notice that I’m not making progress, I tear the yarn, remove the knot, and tie the two new ends together, and continue crocheting.

Every once in a while, a friend will notice me calmly untangling, tugging, pulling, and they will explode with frustration for (or perhaps at?) me.  “How do you do that?” they ask, bewildered.  “I would lose my mind.”

The first time I heard this, I paused.  I lose my mind a MINIMUM of five times monthly.  And that is generous.  I would say, more honestly, that I sometimes lose my mind every single day.  

But this particular issue – tangled yarn – does not make me lose my mind.  Clearly I have reached enlightenment, even if it’s just in this one uber-specific area of living.

But usually, in my life, I’m more like that friend.  I rip and I tear at the tangled yarn.  I spend days agonizing over how the damn yarn got tangled in the first place, and beating myself for allowing the tangling to occur.

This week, however, something has shifted.  I have the same ‘problems’ I had last week.  But I’m not trying to mentally wrestle them into submission.  I’m patiently and calmly untangling threads with little stress or worry.

 

Nothing has changed but my attitude and my approach.  And I’m incredibly grateful for the mental reprieve.

My New Mantra #mind

I recently decided to let go of what people think.

It’s been almost three days, and I feel amazing.

When I say letting go of what other people think, I mean including me.  I am often my own worst critic.  And that nonsense needs to stop, immediately if not sooner.

Whenever I’m looking for Glennon Doyle quotes, there’s a photo that pops up:

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I love this.  The first time I saw it, I assumed it was a note Glennon wrote to one of her kids.  But then I read this article and realized it was actually one of her readers who wrote this, after losing her temper with her daughter for making an honest mistake.

I make mistakes ALL THE TIME.  In theory, I believe that making mistakes is a natural consequence of doing anything.  So I believe they’re okay.  No issues whatsoever with mistakes.

But, in practice?  I beat myself up for making mistakes on a daily basis.

I think we learn to beat ourselves up early in life.  I have friends who don’t have this inclination, but in me, it is a fierce habit that’s proven really difficult to break.  I may have learned it in church; the Catholic god can be guilt-inducing and punitive.  I think I learned that it wasn’t enough just to make amends when you did something wrong; if you didn’t feel intensely guilty about it, then you weren’t a good person.

Now, me?  I’m used to all this self-doubt, self-condemnation, self-hating.  It’s been a part of my internal world for forever.  BUT I HAVE A KID NOW.  And I will be damned if he learns this kind of self-condemnation and guilt from me.

I firmly believe that children learn a lot more from watching what adults do than listening to what they say.  I know that from my personal and professional experience, and from my binge listening to The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting, an audio CD from Dr. Brene Brown.  Who we are is a better indicator of how our kids will turn out than how we parent.  

There was another part of Glennon’s article that I loved.   She writes this:

5b8d24065cbd66c23032d8a348992fd2HERE’S THE PLAN: TODAY — when we lose our temper with the kids, when we accidentally eat that third brownie, when we don’t send that thank you card for the fortieth day in a row, when we forget to stop at the gym, when we’re late for that meeting — anytime and every time we fall short of the ridiculous expectations we put on ourselves — we are going to say to our sweet, well-meaning selves:

“Whatever. I’m fabulous anyway.”

That’s grace. TODAY we shall offer ourselves GRACE and see how THAT goes. Let’s make friends with our selves. We deserve to have a good, kind, gracey friend. We can BE that friend to ourselves.

I. Love. This. So. Freaking. Much.

It’s my new mantra.  I’ve caught myself at least twenty times these past few days, about to chastise myself for a mistake or an action that doesn’t reflect my values.  You know what?  I could make nothing but mistakes today, and I would still be fabulous.  If you’re living a life that’s not completely aligned with your values, you can work on it; I am constantly working on this.  But what good does it do to beat ourselves up?  How will we have the optimism and energy for self-improvement if we’re always putting ourselves down? We won’t.

Anyway – it’s been an amazing three days.  Onward.

Image result for the other serenity prayer god grant me the serenity to stop beating myself up'

Unintended Consequences #heartsoulmindbodyspirit

Sometimes I tell Tee authoritatively, “I have to do some writing tonight.”  And she nods and agrees and asks what she can do to make sure I am able to write.  Which is incredibly kind and sweet, given that there’s absolutely nothing keeping me from writing, ever, other than my own mental blocks.

It’s been an interesting and stressful fortnight.  I’ve been in an emotional tailspin since Labor Day, and only began to feel like myself again yesterday.  So that was two solid weeks of spinning before regaining my balance.

There were a couple of unintended consequences of this tailspin.  I cooked dinner three nights in a row, for one thing.

That may seem like not a big deal.  But it is for me.  For years, I’ve avoided cooking.  If I had not married Tee, I would still eat sourdough pretzels dipped in hummus or dried-apple-and-peanut-butter pita sandwiches for dinner every night.

But Tee enjoys cooking and eating a ‘hot’ meal.  I’ve never understood that – people who want a ‘hot’ meal.  All the best foods are cold.  Ice cream.  Cold pizza.  Olives.  Hummus.  Hummus has always been my staple.  It turns a snack into a substantial vegetarian dinner.

But, a lot of normal people enjoy hot meals, and Tee enjoys cooking hot, healthy meals, and Teddy and I like eating the food she cooks.

The problem is that some nights, it makes more sense for me to  prepare dinner.  Tee is crazy-busy on the farm this time of year, and I get home somewhere around 4/4:30 most days.  So I could cook.

But I don’t wanna.

Except – I want to wanna cook.  I hear people talk about how relaxing it is.  They don’t follow recipes – they just throw things in a pan – it’s spontaneous and easy and fun.

But not for me.  I end up hot, sweaty, and frustrated.

I recently mentioned during unofficial Wild Peace Book Club that I was interested in finding a book that would inspire me to cook.  NOT A COOKBOOK.  I read cookbooks and I get overwhelmed and frustrated, because what exactly does it MEAN to saute a vegetable?

But I have had the experience of reading an exciting memoir and feeling motivated to act because of it.  Tee read this book Born To Run by Christopher McDougall and then she was all about running barefoot for months.  I wanted to read the Born To Run of normal everyday cooking.

My friend The Naturalist recommended An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler, which was one of the best book recommendations ever – and I say that before I’ve even finished reading the book.  The writing is gorgeous, and it did exactly what I wanted it to do – it inspired me to actually cook.

Hence my three nights in a row record of actually cooking dinner for my family.  Eggplant parmigiana, vegetable lasagna, and mushroom quesadillas.  FTW.

i-write-entirely-to-find-out-what-im-thinking-what-im-looking-at-what-i-see-and-what-it-means-what-quote-1The second unintended consequence of my two-week-long emotional tailspin was that I didn’t write at all for days and days.  Not a single word.  Was this a result of my tailspin, or was it part of the cause?  I need writing; writing is my exhale, as Glennon Doyle writes.

I finally began to emerge at the end of last week, and started frantically writing in my journal, trying to sort through everything going on in my head.  That part wasn’t pretty.

But I’ve spent the last three evenings, after tucking Teddy into bed, typing away and figuring out what’s going on with me via the blank page.  I’ve also been debating which project to tackle for NaNoWriMo this year.  I have an idea for a multi-narrator novel, and an idea for a book about my life and losing my dad, told either as fiction or creative nonfiction.  Sometimes I think I won’t be able to write about anything else, ever, until I’m able to write honestly and creatively about losing my dad and Jack.  Which might be the motivation I need to get over my “is it self-obsessive and egotistical to write a memoir” insecurity.

It feels good to be writing again.  Kind of like coming home to myself.  FTW.

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What If I Forget? #heart

Alarms go off on my phone throughout the day, all day, every day.

I’m sure my co-workers love this.

I was chatting with a co-worker one day last week, and an alarm went off.  She immediately became concerned, kind soul that she is, that I had something important to do.  I talked my way around explaining to her that the alarm was telling me that I needed to move my Zeke’s Coffee K-cups from my desk drawer to my purse sometime in the next eight hours, a job that was in NO WAY urgent.

Why do I set alarms for small tasks like this?

Because I am worried that I will forget.  

There is a mild and silly version of this worry, and there is a deeper and more meaningful version of this worry.

I am constantly worried that I will forget something small – a thing I have to do, a story I want to write.  Last night, I spent two hours sorting through drafted posts on the blog, many of which were one line long, reading something like “story about a cactus with feet” or “remember to take everything one step at a time.”  I tend to have a thought, and then immediately try to record it somewhere so it won’t be forgotten forever.

This can be exhausting.f062b425bdf17d58915c9d0da25a3ded--tiny-buddha-positive-motivation

I forced myself to go through over 75 drafted posts last night, and I deleted many of the one-liners.  Each time, I had to reassure myself that either a) I wouldn’t forget, or b) if I forgot, it wasn’t that important.  Which is what I actually believe.

I spend a lot of time thinking about tangible habits that I want to form or break – drinking diet soda, exercising, writing.  But there are these invisible habits that we all have, some of which can be extremely helpful or harmful in their own quiet way.  Like being so afraid of forgetting that we have a running to do list in our heads, alarms set on our phones, notes in our notebook, and a planner full of post-its.

I’m tired and stressed just thinking about it!

And then, of course, there’s the deeper anxiety around this issue.

I am terrified of forgetting things about my dad.

I’m not known for having a good memory.  (SEE ABOVE!)  The way some people can recall the smallest details, the richest qualities of an experience – I often can’t even call up the simplest of memories.  I forget to take medicine, to brush my teeth, to eat lunch.  I forget appointments.  I forget to return phone calls or texts.  And I worry that this means I will forget a whole bunch of memories of one of the most important people in my life.

I remember unpacking soccer jerseys with him and pulling out the #2 jersey, since we knew that one would be mine.  I remember him telling me that someone left a bunch of T-shirts on our doorstep for my soccer team – it was years before I realized that my dad had specially ordered them after we’d lost a tough game, even though I was well-informed of my dad’s love for special-ordering T-shirts.  I have a vivid memory of having lunch with him at a Pizza Hut in between games at a travel tournament, though I have no idea where the tournament was or even which team I was travelling with at the time.  I remember driving with him on an open road in Florida weeks before he died, and listening to him tell stories about his cousins and encourage me to have adventures.

I get an Alexander Hamilton-esque obsessiveness as I start to type these memories.  (Why do you write like you’re running out of time?)  

I remember going out to dinner and my dad always finishing his meal first.  I remember him telling me that my mom looks good in peach.  I remember him hanging banners on our birthdays.  I remember him hugging me and saying “My baby!” in a funny voice.  I remember going to work with him on Take Your Daughter To Work Day and every Christmas Eve.  One of his co-workers asked me how I got stuck with him as my dad, and I explained that even if I’d gotten to choose, I would have picked him every time, and his co-worker laughed and gave me blank paper and highlighters to play with.

The brutal truth is that I won’t remember everything, and I can’t write down everything, and I may even forget some of the things I’ve typed here today.

And that has to be okay.  Because, as with all things, it is the way it is.  Writing helps.  Whether it’s my intention or not, memories of my dad pop into my writing every single day.  The simple act of recording may help to preserve these memories – or not.  That is not in my control.

I wonder sometimes if my anxiety about forgetting the little things is REALLY my anxiety about forgetting the big things – just manifested in a manageable way.

Then I decide to stop therapizing myself, at least for the moment.  I decide to have faith, to let it go, and to let it be.  And I decide to quit it with the alarms before one of my co-workers chokes me.

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Thought For Today #mind #soul

Stop trying.  Just allow.

This has been echoing in my head recently.

Stop trying.  Just allow.

I was 29 when I realized how hard I was working to control everything around me.  And I learned to let go – a little.  But not all the way, and not always.

I was thinking about this recently when it comes to keeping a writing routine. I want to write regularly.  I need to.  But there are 24 hours in a day, and a little teddy bear I need to play with and snuggle with, and a wife to love on, and, you know, a day job (ugh) and housework (triple ugh).

At this moment in my life, I don’t know if it’s possible to keep myself on a regular routine with anything – reading, writing, running, socializing.

I think I just have to have faith in the universe that things always fall into place – and that my flow always comes back.

Because it always does.  That’s one of the secrets I’ve discovered.  If you relax and trust in the universe, everything falls into place.

Today, I was driving around for work, and trying to decide which fictional work I wanted to focus on next.  I was trying to decide on a story to expand so that I could enter it in an upcoming writing contest.

But I couldn’t decide.  And I can’t force it.  I have to stop trying and just allow.  

Counting My Blessings: My teddy bear reaching out to snuggle me repeatedly tonight.  Bliss.  

Image result for stop trying so hard

Thought For Today #mind #soul

Whenever I’m not working or playing with Teddy and Tee, I’ve been stealing away moments to devour this book:

Image result for crafting the personal essay

So good.

I’ve slowed down my blogging output recently, in part because I’m attempting to hone my craft.  A lot of the writing I do is just words vomited onto the blank page.  (Ew.)  This book is teaching me how to take my time, to meander and to allow readers to meander alongside me.  To be honest – I don’t usually think about The Reader.  Because, you know – who would be reading my stuff, anyway?

When I write, I think mostly of myself – what I want to get off my chest, what I need to put down on the page.  It would not hurt me to have a perspective shift.

I love this Joan Didion quote:

Image result for joan didion i write entirely to find out what i'm thinking

The book talks about the concept of the contemplative essay.  You start with a thought – about life, about cooking, about a moth, about a shoe – and you see where it takes you.  You keep writing until you understand where you’re going and why.  This resonates strongly with how I think of writing – as my way of understanding and interpreting the world around me.

OH AND ALSO – the author, Dinty W. Moore, writes this: The rewards of publication are fleeting, while the rewards of regular writing practice are countless.

YES.

I am giving this whole “getting published” thing a try.  But if it doesn’t work out – that’s okay.  That part is not up to me.  My job is to keep my butt in my chair and just keep writing.  

Counting My Blessings: I am grateful for new possibilities and the chance to learn new things.