Monday, May 21, 2018

Reconciling with Summer

Every year I forget how busy Summer gets. Not a busy of business; it's a busy of doing, of enjoying. It's a time when people get together and you stay up way too late laughing and catching up. We live 25 minutes from the beach. People will be coming to stay with us for the next three months.

I try not to plan too much work during the Summer. Writing takes a back seat. That novel I finished? Still haven't done that final read-through. The past two weekends have seen us out of town: once at the beach to spend time with my Mom on Mother's Day and this past weekend for my oldest nephew's high school graduation.

I can't do anything about the work load at my day job. It gets hectic during the last two weeks of each month. No bother; I just have to make sure I plan my time accordingly so I'm not frantically printing sales tags the last Friday of May. Aside from that, however, there's a stillness that comes with the Summer haze and it's one that I'm going to enjoy.

Like many of you, when I was a kid, Summer meant three months of nothing but freedom. School was out and the days were long. We ran barefoot in clover and dandelions. We swam lazily in the backyard pool and played in puddles when it rained. We swept the front porch of our play house pretending we lived in a magical wood beneath the shade of those old, Georgia pines. Those days were endless yet they were suddenly swept away - poof! - when September came. For years I've lamented the loss of Summer Vacation but I'm slowly realizing it's still here, in essence, if I'm willing to sit back, sip slowly, and savor the warmth and wandering that comes with taking each day with a smile and the wonder that the world is still a magical place.

Friends are freer to travel and they'll sleep on our couches. We'll stay up late drinking coffee and tea and chatting about everything from books recently read to current affairs. Family will swing by and stay a few days. We'll drive out to the beach, walk until nightfall. We'll eat at our favorite restaurants and cook favorite meals to share. Friends in town will have cookouts and bonfires and cocktails and we'll sit up laughing until our throats are sore and our eyelids refuse to stay open any longer.

Summer is still a time of freedom, even without the magic of three months of nothing. It's still a time of wonder, even with jobs and responsibilities. Plants are blooming and herbs are harvested at the peak of their medicinal strengths. The Farmer's Market burgeons with the fruits and vegetables, meats and breads of the labors of months of tireless effort. And we sit outside longer after dinner; we make mojitos and listen to jazz. We spend Sunday mornings in the courtyard, watching the lizards flit about in the vines.

We gather mimosa blossoms to turn into tincture which will uplift our hearts and minds during the Winter season. It's a long way off right now, but we know intuitively that the time to gather is now, the time to prepare is now.

We are still connected to the Earth. We are still tied to her rhythms. Modern life cannot drive it away fully. If we are willing to listen, willing to step outside barefoot in the lane, we can still feel her pulling us towards primal ways of life. The current of Summer runs warm between our toes whether we live on dirt, sand, or pavement. The breath of life blows through trees and wanders about marshlands and we, if paying attention, inhale deeply and let it rush through each cell. It carries a message that says, "Slow down. No really. You can take it easier." It's the primal need for rest: rest after the long, dark of winter, the temperamental Spring and before the coming of the business of harvest before we settle again into the cold to come.

I hope you have wonderful plans for the Summer. I hope you have set aside some time to breathe and to listen and to be. I hope you'll be traveling to visit friends and family and far flung places; or I hope you are the far flung place at which others gather. Here's to long days, warm nights, and conversations lasting until 2. Here's to good food and friends and the moments we can forget that we are responsible adults and relish in the magic that is Summer.


Monday, May 7, 2018

The Art of Un-Becoming


*To everyone who commented SO KINDLY on my IWSG post, THANK YOU. I worked myself into a relapse last week and haven't had the energy to even look at a computer screen. I'm back at it today and will respond and repay the lovely visit as soon as I can. Your understanding is appreciated :)

**This is a long post. I thank you in advance for reading.

PAY ATTENTION

Those two words glare at us from everything from signs to screens to printed page. Sometimes they aren't written out. Mostly they are inferred, unseen voices whispering just behind our ears, vying for the attention they so desperately want and that we so desperately need guarding. In this age of social media, it's a wonder any of us can focus on anything for more than a swipe, a scroll, or a 142 character rant.

That's not the attention I'm talking about. What I'm talking about is the attention that we rarely give to ourselves, to our deepest thoughts and actions. It's the "why" behind the "what" we do. Why are you eating that when you know it makes you sick? Why are you scrolling through that screen when you keep telling people you don't have time to read/work out/go for a walk/meet for drinks? We all need down time. We all crave time to do something that can clear our minds and free our emotions for just a moment. Dig even deeper than all of that, though, and ask yourself this: when was the last time you paid attention to your Deep Self?

Who is your Deep Self? Well, the easiest way to describe him/her is to say that they are that person you were before you became who you are now. Clear as mud, right? Last week, I pushed myself too hard at work and ended up in another relapse from H-E-double hockey sticks. While lying on the couch in pain, I wondered about this concept of "becoming". Our whole lives we're asked who we are, what we do. I can remember being about 3 years old and an uncle asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Really? At three? Sure, we all go through the motions of saying things: doctor, lawyer, firefighter, paleontologist (yes, that last answer was mine until the age of sixteen). Many do go on to be those things but mostly we settle down and start thinking outside the scripted box. Yet, if we look hard, we'll find outside the box is still scripted, still what we think we should do, what others want or expect us to do.

Back to the clamoring attention of social media. (Should that be capitalized? I really don't know...) Everywhere you click, people are DOING something, BECOMING something. "Oh, she's really SOMEbody," we say to our friends. "Look at him, he's really SOMEthing, isn't he?" And so we internalize this, desire it for ourselves. For some of us (*my hands are both raised*) this comes at an early age. I don't believe everyone around you does it out of meanness. Usually the adults mean well. "Oh, she's good at such-in-such. She's going to be a so-in-so!" And they say it with such pride and such a glow that you, the child, can't possibly imagine letting them down. So you internalize the so-in-so version of yourself: good at acting? Going to be famous! Good at singing? Going to be famous! Good at art? Going to be the next Picasso! And that becomes the driving force.

Is being famous, being SOMEBODY, wrong in and of itself? Not at all. There are a lot of people out there who wanted to grow up and be a famous something-or-other and made it. But let me tell you from experience, the entertainment industry takes a drive and a determination and a willingness to compromise that I just don't have in me. Oh, now you can do it all on your own and become an Internet star but when I was pursuing a career in music, you did it the hard way. You played gigs at places you'd rather not play. You met with record company execs who cared less about you as a person and more about how much money you could make them before they dropped you went on to the next hot, young thing. Is it still had to "make it"? You betcha and I have friends in the entertainment industry who bust their butts every day to make it in an industry they love. They have my complete an total admiration and support.

I read an article years ago by a woman who always wanted to travel the world. She bought her passport, read magazines about far away places, and yet she never - as of the writing of the article - left the country. She still lived in the town she was born in. One night she asked herself a really hard question: what if this is all there is? She broke down, wept, cleared off her coffee table of travel magazines, tucked her passport away, and poured herself another glass of wine. As the days went on, she started paying attention to what was around her. She noticed shops in her town she'd never visited, noticed places around she'd never been to. She found out her town had a local theatre and started going to plays. She began to enjoy the life she had because she stopped looking outside herself for fulfillment. For her SOMEBODY-ness.

Now don't attack me: I'm not saying that striving for something is wrong. On the contrary. We should all have goals that are attainable and dreams that push us a bit harder than we feel we can go. BUT - and this is a really big but - BUT we have to balance that drive, that hunger, with the life we have right now. If you're life is terrible, by all means, get out! Move, get help, do whatever you can to get out of a dangerous situation. But, if like me and thousands of other people, if you're lament is, "But I'm 40 and I'm still not SOMEbody!" take a step back, sister and re-evaluate how far you've come. 

Perhaps like me you went after fame and fortune and got tired of the cock-and-bull handed to you by the sleeze balls that run the system. Perhaps you tried and tried to BE somebody that you forgot WHO you really are? Perhaps like the woman mentioned above, you wanted something your whole life and yet it never quite happened the way you hoped it would. Take a step back -that's it - now take one more. Ask yourself the hard question: What if this is all there is?

Go ahead and cry. Beat the pillows. Let the childhood dreams of fame and fortune drown in an ocean of a spoiled-brat-tantrum. When you come up from air and your eyes are red and puffy and your head hurts from all the snot, you're going to do something you haven't done in years: you're going to see your life through fresh eyes and I can guarantee you that it's not as bad as you thought.

This world is so caught up in BECOMING something, somebody. What we really need to focus on is BE-ING. BE-ING where we are at this present time. BE-ING kind to ourselves and those around us. BE-ING involved with the world around us, the town, the city, the nature that's presented to us every day that we don't want to see because we're so damned preoccupied with "getting OUT!" Don't get me wrong. I long to travel the world. Always have. I have friends who do it for a living, had people tell me, "Well why don't you just go?" Hmmm, last I checked no one's going to let me on a flight for free and I can't swim the Atlantic just yet. It used to terrify me that THIS was all there was. But you know what? I asked myself the Hard Question (yes, that should be capitalized). I asked myself, "What if this is all there is?" I moved to the city and the area I wanted to be in. Was it easy? Hell, no. It was terribly hard and not at ALL what I'd hoped it would be. There's a lesson in that for another day. But the truth is, that goal I accomplished. That dream has been realized and what I should do instead of trying to find that NEXT brass ring is sit down, pour myself a glass of red, and PAY ATTENTION to what's around me.

So tell me: have you had to ask yourself the Hard Question? Have you ever even thought about it? What dreams did you have when you were little still aren't realized? How many of them were someone else's dreams imposed on you? What if this really is all there is? Are you OK with that? What would it take for you to be OK with that? Don't resign yourself to failure, but do ask yourself if you're too busy BECOMING to actually enjoy the life you've been given rather than learning to BE who your child self, your Deep Self, has wanted you to be all along.

Have a wonderful week and may the Muse be with you,


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Is it Insecurity or Something...Else...

Good morning and Happy May!

Today is the monthly gathering of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. If you're new to the blog-hop, welcome! Trust me: you've found a wonderful place with a fantastic group of people all ready to surround you with encouragement, give you some helpful advice, and rally around you when you need cheering on!

And if you haven't joined us already, go ahead and click on the tab above! Even if you're new to blogging, new to writing, or both, you'll find the support and a lot of the information you need for this crazy, amazing, strange, glorious journey.

Am I feeling insecure this morning? I just don't know. Last week I finished the second round of edits on a novel I've been working on since last September. The story has been with me much longer, but for some reason, something clicked this past Fall and I was able to get it out of my head and onto the screen.

I thought these edits would be a relief. I thought that once I got to "The End" the third time around, I'd feel a sense of accomplishment. I did get an immense sense of relief. I've enjoyed perhaps too much this past week of NOT writing, NOT editing. But some things have been nipping at the back of my mind that have caused me to second guess my second edits.

IS THIS BOOK THE BEST THE VERY BEST THAT IT CAN BE?
DOES THIS STORY HAVE A DEEPER LAYER THAT I'M AFRAID TO DIG INTO?
AM I JUST BEING PARANOID, WORRIED THAT THE WORK HAS ALL BEEN IN VAIN?
AM I BEING TOO HARD ON MYSELF, NOT ALLOWING MYSELF TO BE "FINISHED"?
DO I HAVE MORE IN ME, MORE OF THIS STORY, THAT I'M NOT ALLOWING TO COME OUT ON THE PAGE?

In other words, is the book really finished (as finished as a book can be before it reaches critique partners and goes through the query stage), or is my gut correct: am I holding myself back in order to "finish" a novel instead of taking out my shovel and pail and get down and dirty and let this story get grit between my fingers and toes?

I don't know. It's probably a little bit of all of the above but I can't help but wonder if still, after the initial drafts and the two edits, if I'm still holding myself back because of the strangeness of it, the glorious madness that is this voice that won't shut up inside my head?

I'm not looking at the story until next week. It's going to sit and stew until this coming Monday. I'll be meditating on all of these questions. I suppose I'll just have to see what kind of Muse I meet when I open my computer on Monday morning.

Have a wonderful day, 
and may all your Insecurities be the mild hallucinations of a weary but happy Muse <3

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Writer's Wednesday - #001


Cooking and writing both require the necessary ingredients, seasonings, the right temperature, a dash of luck, and as much skill as you can muster. 
A Circle of Quiet, Madeleine L'Engle


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Monday, April 9, 2018

National Library Week, French press coffee, and Ray Bradbury

Good morning!

It's National Library Week! I hope you all have a wonderful, local library that you patronize often and a lot!! Savannah is rather small for a city and our libraries are all within a 10 mile radius of my house. It took me 3 1/2 years, but I finally found a branch that I really connected with. It's about 8 miles from my house (and in this city that's considered "far") but it's so worth it.

If you love your library, show some support this week. If you haven't been in a while, stop by and see what they have to offer. The library has always been a haven for me. I remember sitting in a quiet corner of the library in Conyers, where I grew up. I'd grab a stack of books and sit there while my mom and sister wandered around looking for something to read. I remember the quiet way people's feet padded on the carpet. I remember the whispers and the soft swish of the card catalog drawers as people hunted for interesting titles. Personally, I miss those big, old wooden cabinets filled with little white pieces of typewritten card stock. My idea of finding treasure would be to stumble upon one at a flea market, all the little cards sitting inside, and it not cost an arm and a leg. Don't know where I'd put it but - aaahhh....a book nerd's DREAM!

Anyway, go visit your library this week and tell them "THANK YOU" for being a haven of learning, information, education, and inspiration <3

One of my goals this year has been to read more short stories and I've made pretty good on that goal so far. The October Country is a collection of stories by Ray Bradbury and let's just say it's interesting. Bradbury is one of those geniuses that I read and I either erupt into marveled awe at his language and story...or I just don't get at all. Fahrenheit 451 is, in my opinion, the second greatest book ever written (following closely behind A Wrinkle in Time - please GOD tell me you've read that before the horrible movie came out). It's gorgeous, left me feeling like an autumn leaf floating, floating until I hit bottom and began running away from fires and televisions and strange, metallic beasts. It left me breathless and delirious and I love it.

Most of the stories in October Country are like that...but you've got to trudge through the first few before you get to the gems. The first couple of tales were just, well, not good. No offense to the great Bradbury. I just didn't like them. And not because of the subject matter. The most disturbing story in the bunch was exquisitely crafted and it still has me shuddering. No, these just left me feeling let down and confused. BUT after those, the stories SHINE! My favorites: "The Emissary", "There Was an Old Woman", and "The Wonderful Death of Dudley Stone." As for the story I mentioned that was "most disturbing", that one's called "The Small Assassin." Ugh. Still creeping me out!

In other news, I made my first cup of French press coffee in about 5 years! Been lazy, just wanted to grind, punch the button, and get some joe. Yesterday, I let my coffee-scientist husband give me a quick crash-course in re-learning the French press and I did it all by my lonesome this morning. The verdict: throw out that coffee maker, kids. It'll clear up some much needed counter space and you'll sip happier. Bonus points for the mindfulness that comes with being very hands-on with your coffee making. Still, if you just want to press a button and have coffee, keep at it. Coffee should be what you need it to be.

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It's rainy here and stupid cold (again). Ugh. My bones and I are so ready for summer. Bring on the heat and humidity, I say! Today will find me working on some writing schedules and a few story outlines. More specifically, "Story Family Trees". I figured out that there are character connections between several of my stories - which makes me very happy. They aren't a series; they just have inter-looping threads that pull them together slightly, like a pair of comfortable, draw-string pants. Those stories where you get to a character or a place and go, "Oh, that sounds familiar...oh YEAH! It was in the author's last book!" Always fun to draw connections and make the reader feel a real part of a world. I love reading books that have nods to the author's other work. Makes me feel like I know a secret code :)

Have a wonderful Monday, Dear Reader! Enjoy your week. Go visit your library! Make some French press coffee, or stop by a cafe and have them do it for you. Your taste buds will thank you :D

Wander well,