Rolling out of bed

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The mind is a funny, funny thing.  So powerful, so intricate, and yet so very weak.  Strongly connected to that is this thing called resolve.  In theory, I have loads of resolve.  I have goals and dreams and things on my list of ‘to-do’s that are worthy and will improve my mind and my life.  In practice, most of the time I have squat.

Now . . . that’s not an entirely fair thing to say.  I do succeed in following through with resolve at times, but I fail far more often than I succeed. Some of that probably comes from setting pretty high expectations for myself. A lot of that failure also stems from small simple moments of defeat.  From letting the little things that disappoint me about myself morph into huge feelings of inadequacy, or get so mixed up that I can’t decide what thing needs to be done, are worth doing – are more worth doing than relaxing ’cause I just seem tired and drained and I deserve to relax, right?  I’m a busy woman.  So when I do relax it often makes me feel guilty, and that guilt means that when a justified period of relaxation is over I feel even less capable of tackling those worthy or necessary endeavors  and when I do tackle them (usually the necessary ones) I don’t have the clarity of mind and focus that is needed to make me feel proud of a job well done.  A vicious, pernicious cycle develops.

This cycle has also affected my ability to write – both here and in other realms.  Some heart wounding feedback regarding my creative work has left me feeling incapable and overwhelmed at the task to feel capable again, the hours it would require – because what if I put in all that time and energy and I still don’t have what it takes?

Now, I realize this is largely silly.  Very few acknowledged writers didn’t experience tons of rejection before they became acknowledged . . . but it still hurts.

And when all those other little ‘failures’ group up with the big failures and I’m tired, cranky, and disappointed that I snap at the person closest to me – words coming out of my mouth before I even know they’ve been spoken – it’s hard to hold onto resolve.  Sometimes though, really, resolve is all we have.

My fiance replied to a text where I admitted the bad day I was having and how I felt like a failure – his reply was “be happy (if you want!)” – A wise but risky reply.  It reminded me of something I read  the other day – “when you wake up in the morning you can roll out of bed into a miserable day or you can leap out into a wonderful one – the choice is yours.”

Maybe that’s true, and if it is true it should also be true half way through.  I may have rolled into this day but I can choose to leap through the rest of it.

And you know the thing I like most about that image?  It allows for those moments when my resolve weakens.  Sometimes my leap will last longer and reach further than other times, but I’m not superman, I’m fully human so it’s okay and expected that I’ll come down from that leap at times, and when I do I have the opportunity to make the choice to leap again rather than give up and roll through the rest of my day.

Breathe in, breathe out

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s been a long time since I’ve written anything . . . and not just here – anywhere.  Well, anything I haven’t been obligated by a contract to write.  I’ve tried a few times here – only to ditch a half written post that felt forced.  I’ve opened my journal, I’ve tried to conjure up characters but I just couldn’t do it.  Part of it was certainly stress, a larger part of it was probably being too busy and occupied with other tasks and other matters to allow myself to be moved or inspired by anything else.  Well – the last of my major stresses of the past few months should be over with tomorrow and although I’m slightly nervous I won’t pass this test, which will create new stress – it’ll probably just be fine.  This knowledge, the knowledge that there’s probably nothing more I can do is helping me feel just a little bit lighter.

I thought to write earlier today though and still it seemed a daunting task.  Just a moment ago though I read a message in a newsletter for the Writer’s Federation I’m a member of.  The author was speaking about his or her own inability to write.  How with the life and energy of spring and summer words were just flowing but now, just as  the gardens are dead and bare, so too are his words.  He mentioned that rather than being disheartened by this he was seeing it as a time to breathe in the words, the ideas, the inspiration so that when he’s ready to write again he’ll have something to write.

I have three weeks stretching before me with very little work I’m obligated to do.  That means there are three weeks in which I’ll be able to let myself be inspired by words, by experiences, by nature (and feel no guilt connected to investing my time that way!)

Just the thought allowed me to write something new!

How will you make use of any holiday time you have off?  What will you let it add to your life?

At such an age

I sat down to write today and felt like I had nothing but that I needed to write anyway, not just to try to meet a quota but because although I had a very positive and productive day I also had a very busy and draining day.  I read a couple blogs, looked at some notes I’d written down recently for inspiration but still, finding nothing, I decided to pull out my old quote book.  I flipped open to a random page and the second quote I read, written in pink fluorescent ink, brought a smile to my face and a certain energy to my mind.

Oh, to be alive at such an age when miracles are everywhere and every inch of common air throbs a tremendous prophecy of greater marvels yet to be.”

                                         – Walt Whitman

When I was a child I saw such wonder in the world – in nature, in words, in music, in people.  I find as I’ve grown so much of that wonder has ceased to be quite so . . . wonderful.  I’m sure that’s the case for many of us.  The thing is though, to an extent, it doesn’t have to be that way.  Yes, we may never quite capture that childlike innocence, excitement, and awe at the world that we once did but without a doubt we are still alive at such an age when miracles are everywhere.  If we take a moment, open our eyes – perhaps our hearts – and really look we can see that wonder in a budding plant, in the smile of a stranger, the amazing canvas we’ll see if we take a moment to actually look at the sky, or in the gentle touch of a loved one.  It may sound a little ‘hokey’ but I believe it to be true, and I believe that in taking those moments to marvel at the world around we’ll also be taking a moment to let go of or put aside, if only for a moment, those things that have stolen the childlike wonder we were born with.

Throwing back vials of poison

I read a quote by Deepak Chopra today of wisdom he had heard from Nelson Mandela:

“Having resentment against someone is like drinking poison and thinking it will kill your enemy.”

A truthful thought, a seemingly obvious thought, one I’ve heard in many ways many times before, but one I so often forget.  Now I don’t think I’m a person who holds deep rooted, long lasting resentments (and if there are some lurking within I’m not aware of them on a regular basis). I’m self aware enough and motivated enough to make myself let go of the resentments that have the danger of eating up my life long term.

When it comes to those little, daily, pernicious resentments that creep up and fester for a few moments without us having a chance to fully realize it, well, those resentments are a very regular part of my life.  The flash of resentment that flairs up when someone cancels a plan – forcing me to rearrange my schedule, when a client doesn’t provide me with the necessary information to complete an assignment – making me linger on a project that could have been completed days ago, when a stranger cuts in front of me in traffic, or when a loved one takes me or a task I’ve done for them for granted.

Whether there is justification behind the feeling of resentment that arises or not, as the quote states, that resentment does nothing to the other person.  It doesn’t harm them in any way.  It doesn’t express the reason why I feel the way I do.  It doesn’t explain the reason for my resentment in the hopes that in future the person would treat me with more respect or consideration.  It doesn’t do anything except to steal from my contentment in life and waste precious moments on ineffective negative emotions.  It slowly poisons my soul: little resentment by little resentment.

Unlike some of the big resentments that creep up, and that I have learned to deal with and let go of, I think the issue with those ‘little’ daily resentments is that I realize they are little, and much of the time I realize to talk to the offender about why I am not okay with their actions would only come across as ‘little’ and petty behaviour on my part – I would be viewed as too picky, inflexible, particular, or simply that I had not taken the time or had the ability to fully consider another’s situation and why they had taken the action that resulted in me feeling resentful.

Basically, I don’t want to be viewed negatively by the people I feel resentment for.  So, what options does that leave me with?  I think there are times when those little resentments arise that it is appropriate to talk to the ‘offender’ about their actions.  The majority of the time, however, the person it is most appropriate to talk to is probably me.  A lot of the time things that prompt those little flashes of resentment are largely out of my hands.  And so, I have the choice to feel that resentment and let it poison me for a time or I have the choice to acknowledge the action that caused it as wrong, or inappropriate, or inconsiderate in some way and then mentally say, “oh well,” and go about my day.  I have the choice, even in those quick moments, to let go of resentment and maybe – if I’m feeling really enlightened – take that moment as a reminder of some of the positive things that have happened in my day or week and of the people whose actions made them happen.  Maybe I’ll even realize that the person who prompted that one flair up of resentment and negativity has also prompted a half a dozen reasons to be thankful or appreciative.

Hmm…that’s a lot of words from one sentence…I guess I’ll see how I deal with the truth of those words in the days to come.

Dear readers, care to share any lessons you’ve learned about resentment or ways that you’re able to drop that particular poison before you even think of swallowing it down?

Being a writer and being a hermit – you can be one without the other . . .

. . . although it may be difficult.  I remember back in my teen angst years when I spent hours and hours . . . and hours alone in my room writing.  Now some of this was ridiculously horrible, angst infused poetry but some of it wasn’t.  Some of it was writing that still brings a smile to my face.  Deep and still profound reflections on life, delightful starts to stories, infused with hopeful, living, breathing characters and even my first novella.  Throughout this though, I recognized that while I loved the time spent at my clunky old computer or curled up in my bed with a pen or notebook I was also using writing as an escape from a life that I often  found less than appealing.  As I grew up, and grew out of my hermit type behaviour I found that a rich, involved life outside of the four walls of my room didn’t leave time for the kind of devotion I was used to giving to my words.  You see, there were often times that I would write for 7 or more hours at a time, sometimes even skipping meals, and if I had to stop before I was ready it felt like I had lost something that I wouldn’t be able to get back.

When I started university and quickly found that I actually needed to devote hours outside of class to maintain the stellar grades that came easily in high school I found I couldn’t devote hours to my writing, even if I wanted to. When I started developing an active social life with friends I could confide my deepest concerns, fears, and joys to, I realized I no longer needed to use words the way I once had.

I can’t remember when exactly, but at some point I went through a struggle where I held the belief that I couldn’t be both a successful novelist and have a social life . . . with difficulty I chose my friends.  Now, clearly this didn’t mean I stopped writing all together but for years I let go of the dream I’d held from early childhood that I would ever be a writer.  I’ve recently reclaimed that dream and I just realized that along with it, this summer I’ve also seemed to somewhat internalize the old belief that focusing on my writing meant I couldn’t (and perhaps shouldn’t) make time for any but the most important social interactions.

I’ve taken time away from home (and from writing) to spend with my family and I have not abandoned Skype dates with my significant other but beyond that I’ve hardly participated in more than three or four social activities the whole summer.  The reason being (although I’m not sure how consciously I made these decisions) that unless something was really meaningful, I couldn’t justify the time away for writing, reading, or otherwise enriching my mind.

This weekend, however, held two out of those three or four and they were wonderful.  I had great conversations, I danced from the heart, and I was blessed with moments of euphoria during that dancing.  I was also reminded that although a lot of the great writers were pretty much hermits, a lot of them weren’t and I don’t have to be.  It’s equally important (and probably necessary) to get out of my apartment, out of my head, and take in some new stimulus.  I also noticed that my editor’s block seems to have eased up –  I’ve done more revising of my novel since that night out than I had the whole week previous!

To the artists out there – do you ever fall captive to the idea that you need to devote yourself to your art to the exclusion of taking in some of the other pleasures life has to offer? (Or do you ever just realize that the idea it’s becoming a truth in your life and you’re pretty much living as a hermit?)  How do you get past this? . . . or do you?

Following my bliss

For the first time in a well over a week I was able take a few consecutive hours to work on what will be my first full-length novel.  I’m mere hours away from having the first draft completed and unlike the last few times I went to write, when I often became stuck or lost or fearful that I wasn’t going to be able to make this work what it has the potential to be, today the writing flowed.  I couldn’t get ideas down fast enough on the page (I actually opened a new document once to write out a scene that I knew couldn’t come for several pages, but the heart of which I didn’t want to lose). Connections I hadn’t previously thought  of came to me, little ways to make the characters more real popped into my mind, and tidbits of foreshadowing that would draw my would-be readers in floated across the screen like little jewels.

It took all my discipline (and an adamantly grumbling stomach) to pull myself away from the keyboard, make lunch, and head back to the more practical and time sensitive work I knew I needed to finish today.  But the writing gifted me with one of those rare days when I feel like all my anxiety for spending so many hours on something that may never bring me income but that I call ‘work’ to justify the hours I’m not spending on endeavours that are more likely to keep a roof over my head and food in my belly is worth it.  One of those days when it’s not really even important whether the novel ever gets published, whether – next step – it actually does become a source of income.  One of those days when even if my close family and friends are the only ones to ever see the words and get to know the characters I’ve poured so much into, it’s okay – heck, it doesn’t matter if even those few don’t read my novel.  It’s been one of those when I know I write because it’s in me,  because it brings me joy and makes me feel more me than just about anything else in this life.  One of those days when I know that the decision to spend a significant number of my “working” hours on something that in the world’s eyes may never come to fruition is a hundred percent worth it because it’s a decision – in the words of the much admired entrepreneur and fashion guru of Clutch Culture* – to follow my bliss.

 

* . . . and Joseph Campbell

Let it come . . .

Driving from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia today I was blessed with that simple joy that comes from feeling content just to be alive and where you are in a particular moment.  I usually find the drive long and monotonous, with constant checks to the clock.  I’m not sure why, but today was different, the music I listened to (throwbacks to high school) may have had something with getting me in that state, but for some reason all the scenery outside my window seemed covered in a slightly golden haze.

The pinnacle of this peace, joy, and thankfulness for being alive came while listening to an album with a song from more recent years, Brendan McLeod’s All This Trouble.  The way he sung the words reminded me that despite the fact that trouble is a part of life, an unavoidable part, I am alive.  That means with every breath I take there’s the possibility of more trouble – be it large or small – to come my way, but also the possibility for joy, love, excitement, and simple moments of peace.

The drive was the embodiment of peace and with it came a renewed love for life and the people in it, with all the troubles they cause myself and others, and all the troubles they endure.  Driving past the little houses nestled among the hills of the Cobequid Pass, I thought of all the individual lives and families they held; looking at the elderly man driving alone and passing me by, I wished for some moment of joy or happiness to alight on him before he reached his destination.

It’s amazing how if you take the time to be aware, to contemplate, something as simple as driving along a rode you’ve driven on dozens of times before can be one of the most meaningful and life affirming   moments you’ve had in a long, long time.