Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Category: Essays Page 2 of 5

A Christmas Story

This one is even more rough than usual, so please bear with me.

I didn’t have a lot of time to read this morning. I have plans to meet my youngest son for a hike and need to leave the house a 7am if I’m going to get to our meeting place at a reasonable time. That’s one reason I don’t have much to report on Trotsky’s The History of the Russian Revolution.

The other reason is that I’m a tad lost already. History is complicated, especially to read. If it’s too simple, then you miss the bigger picture. If it’s too detailed, you can get bogged down and give up. I wouldn’t consider myself a real student of history, more of a dabbler, so the Russian Revolution era is a rough row to hoe for me. I love it though, and I know from experience to keep reading even when I feel like I’m lost in the weeds of who, what, where, and how. I’ll find something useful if I keep going. Time reading is never wasted.

Friday, I spent outside, despite the cold wind, and got some of the garage cleaned up and ready for the next project. I finally put away the Christmas boxes, after going through them and donating the last of the old things I don’t use anymore. It felt great getting tired and dirt-covered!

The wind was blowing even harder on Saturday morning, so I started my next indoor project.

christmas story

These are houses from my grandpa’s Christmas village. He made them in the 60’s when he and my grandma had a ceramics business they ran out of their garage. As a kid, I remember the big kiln in the corner, the stacks of molds bound together with fat rubber bands, the smell of clay. I’d make small sculptures from scraps and blobs of half dry ceramic and fire them in the kiln alongside grandma’s angels and bears. When I was older, grandpa let me scrap the seams on pieces left behind from the casting molds with a razor blade. I never got into painting much. I didn’t have the patience or the steady hand for it.

Years ago, I’m not sure if it was before or after my grandma passed away, my grandpa finally got rid of all those supplies. The kiln and many molds were still in his garage. I wanted to badly to bring them home and store them in mine, but I knew it would be years before I could ever spend time at a hobby like that. I didn’t have the space to store them all properly so they weren’t ruined. It was hard, but I let someone else take them. I don’t remember where they went.

When my grandpa moved out of his home and into my mom’s, we were going through stuff in his garage. He needed to downsize in a big way, and I was trying to help. In a box I found some of grandma’s Christmas decorations, the angels I remember being so hard to get out of the mold without cracking their slender necks, the three kings she worked so hard on painting and decking with jewels, among some other pieces.

I also found the houses. I don’t remember them being made, they were older than me, but I do remember seeing them under my grandparent’s Christmas tree. When I saw them in the bottom of the box, with their faded hand painted colors, I had to have them.

Each year I put them up on a shelf, arranged with a blanket of fake snow under them. They are too precious to leave on the floor under the tree. One year, I got a set of the Rankin/Bass Rudolf characters. My houses remind me of the Island of Misfit toys, so I set the characters up next to the houses. I’ve said I would make a backdrop for the houses, and decorate the whole shelf like the movie, for years, but haven’t got around to it.

Here comes the tragedy, so hold on to yourself.

The day after Christmas 2020, with covid BS, one son moved out and couldn’t come home because he was sick, one on his way out to go to university, I sat there on my couch…ok with life, but a little sad, when I heard the cat jump, a scratch, and then…the fall. I didn’t look. It’s making me cry just writing this a year later.

I was frozen, looking at my husband across the couch. “I can’t look. Oh, god.” I started to cry. It sounds so dumb, but dammit. Why? What else could go wrong? “Worst year ever!” I yelled.

Once I had myself under control, I went to inspect the damage. It wasn’t as bad as I thought. Only two houses had a piece broken out of them, and it looked like it would be easy to repair. The church, on the other hand, I wasn’t so sure. I got a tray and carefully collected all the pieces, down to the tiniest sliver I could find.

The cat had jumped up to walk over the top of the bookcase as he typically does. Walking across the fluffy carpet of snow, he got a claw stuck, shook it get loose, and knocked a house over. Because the houses are lit up from underneath by a string of Christmas lights, they were all pulled over the side, one by one. If I am going to keep putting this set up after I repaired it, I am going to have to find a better way.

So…it’s over a year later and I’m repairing the houses. I can’t match the paint exactly, and they are rather old and faded, so I’m repainting them all. The sparkly snow is dull and dirty, so I ordered some new paint to make them beautiful again. I’m having so much fun working on them. When I’m done painting, I’ll work on making a better lighting system, a background of the Castle of the King of Misfit Toys, and small stands for all the characters so the village looks less like a drunken festival.

Thanks for sticking with me on this one. The story needed to be told. And now I’m off to go hiking with my boy. Hopefully I can keep up this time!

One Big Life Lesson?

It’s Saturday morning, my dear readers, and I get to participate in another Bloganuary post! Yeah, I made my own rules and am jumping in where I can instead of every day. Sorry!

AND I have wonderful news! My husband fixed my WordPress problem…that is, after I decided to stop acting like an exhausted child and use my words, I asked him to take a look at it when he had time, and he did because he DOES love me after all. It turns out that he’s not a mind reader. We’ve been married 23 years. How could I have missed this fact?

life lesson

What is a life lesson you feel everyone can benefit from learning?

How about this crazy idea? There is no lesson that everyone can benefit from learning. Sure, there are wonderful things we could each be doing, lessons we can take to heart: be kind, don’t eat yellow snow, put your grocery cart back, don’t follow so closely on the road, etc. But not everyone needs to learn every lesson. Many of my vital lessons may not apply to anyone else.

But then, hold on…isn’t “there is no lesson” a lesson? It’s one of those contradictions like, there is no wanting “nothing,” wanting nothing is wanting something.

So, there’s the lesson we can all learn. Leave people alone to learn what’s important and beneficial to them specifically. Your needs are not theirs.

A small side note: In response to my statement over lunch that I was certainly NOT a people person, a close friend told me that she thinks I get so upset with people because I love so much, and I get disappointed. I rolled my eyes at her and changed the subject.

Thinking about it more (because that’s what I do, I repeat conversations in my head over and over and over again until I die), I’m starting to see her point. I do have high hopes for almost everyone I meet. I think everyone has this awesome potential and to think otherwise is just cynical and mean. And then they do things…and I get mad at them. How could they not be what I think they should be?!

Which leads me to that lesson I mentioned above. It’s something I need to learn. Everyone is on a different timeline toward different goals. My place is not to judge them, but to let them be. I feel like I do that, in general, most of the time.

But if I’m honest with myself, really take a good look, I judge people. You didn’t return my phone call the way I wanted you to. You didn’t read that book. You didn’t watch that movie. You didn’t make the same choices I would. That leads me to believe that you’re clearly not doing life right. What’s wrong with you?

I’ve got work to do, haven’t I? Good thing, too. If I didn’t, I’d be dead, right? The price of life is growth.

On another note, I’m still reading The Vanishing Hitchhiker by Jan Harold Brunvand. You’ll hear more about that when I finish it tomorrow.

That Time of Year Has Come!

It’s that time of year again. When we all come together and compare note about what we read last year! Right?!

Anyone?

Beuller?

Well, I know I do. I get a nice cup of coffee, gather my notebooks and logs, a pen and paper, and then sit for hours looking over what I read and compare my stats to previous years. It’s an annual New Year’s Day tradition!

This year though, I was a little depressed at first. I read fewer books this past year, spent fewer hours reading, and read fewer pages! I could have sworn those numbers would be higher. I mean, I knew it would be fewer books, but I thought the average daily time and pages read would be higher. I read some long and some complicated books this year.

But here it is in black and white. Tabled out for the world to see. No way to deny it.

that time of year

My husband rescued me. He’s the king of pointing out things that I have missed. What would I do without him!

“Didn’t you make a plan to write more in 2021? I seem to remember you saying something about creating a practice of writing for one hour every day, even if you didn’t post it.”

The light brightens… “Oh, yeah!”

I did make that pact with myself, and because I only have so many hours in a day just like everyone else, my reading had to slow down to accommodate for the time spent at the keyboard.

Hold the phone for a moment…I achieved a goal! Yay, me! Damn I’m good.

This year I read sixty-two books, and out of those sixty-two books I wrote about fifty-nine of them. The year before I only wrote about nine of the seventy-one books I read. And the results of that are showing in my blog growth.

Nice, right? This is the kind of stuff that makes me feel great. I mean, I spend a lot of time complaining that I’m wasting time here. If you lived here, you’d hear the following sentences loudly lamented on a weekly basis.

“All I do is read books and half of them I don’t even remember!”

“No one reads any of this. What’s the point?!”

“I can’t achieve anything. I don’t even know how to set a goal and follow up.”

“Who drank all the whiskey?!”

But all this time, it’s been there working in the background. Writing about the books I’m reading helps me remember more of what I read. No one read my blog because I wasn’t writing. And I did set goals and follow up on them, it’s just that I had created such a good routine for myself that I didn’t even notice it adding up.

PS It’s me. I’m the one that drank all the whiskey. 😉

A quick nod to habits and routines. They really do work. Even the smallest addition to a routine can get you somewhere. What can we accomplish one step at a time? Anything!

What did I read this year? As usual, more non-fiction than fiction. Here’s the genre breakdown:

DNF: Did Not Finish

Over the last couple of days, I’ve considered what my goals for ’22 should be. (See what I did there? I refuse to keep writing out the year like a sci-fi movie.) What skills would I like to build? What do I want to achieve? I’m still not sure I’m a goals-oriented kind of girl. I’ll just list them out as I think of them so you can get an idea of who I am and where I’m going (and so I have something to look back at in January of ’23.

  1. Less hope. Less attachment. I’m working on letting go and loving what is right now, right here. Putting daily mediation back in my morning routine will help.
  2. Keep writing and post every day, even if it’s not a work of art. My morning routine will include writing earlier so that I get my most important tasks done first.
  3. Read more of what I have. I took a picture of the three shelves (I know. I said I keep it to one.) of TBRs, but it’s just too embarrassing.

Oh, who am I kidding? Look at this mess!

I’m not going to promise I won’t buy more, but I really need to focus and read what I have here. There is a lot of great stuff! I want to read these, but…there are so many awesome books out there.

Now, I’m reminded of the dad in About Time. The first thing I noticed was all the books he had piled everywhere, and I thought, “How does he have time to read all those?!” and my envy eyes were flashed.

With a better routine, and less distraction by social media, I believe I’ll get my hours back AND write every day. I can reward myself by having a little time in the afternoon for a cup of tea and a few more pages of a novel.

And here is the big one, so stand back a little.

  • In ’22 I will…gulp…send something out to be published. I subscribe to several magazines, and I found one that accepts submissions from readers. That’s where I will start. It feels safe enough. You’ll hear all about that when I do it. It will be soon.

Ok. That’s enough jibber jabber for one day! This is going to be another great year, and hopefully I’ll notice it as it happens instead of having to wait and discover it after the fact.

Winter Solstice Thoughts & Blessings

I’m taking a day off from sharing book quotes today to wish you all a Happy Winter Solstice!

Winter Solstice
A rare gloomy day in the desert for this Winter Solstice

Recently, I’ve been musing about the meaning of heathen rituals surrounding the seasons. I’m not sure why it came up in my life, perhaps it is a search for connection to the world around me, or a simple nod to my Nordic and Irish ancestors. Maybe, like many of us, I’m yearning for some order to the chaos.

The journey is only beginning, but I’m already falling in love with the magic and wondering where the road will lead. I do know that it feels warm, right, and beautiful.

This morning, while scrolling through Instagram, I found Josua Hrodgeir Rood. His introduction video inspired me to continue my exploration of ancient ways when he said that wherever we are, “breathes the old gods.” The myths and sagas are inspired by that land, the story of humanity is told through the climate and the landscape, what we can see and feel from that place and time on the earth.

I’ve never been out of the United States, let alone Scandinavia or Ireland. I was raised by Christian American parents and grandparents, so to say I’m returning to my roots feels a bit false. My most noticeable roots are here in California and my ancestors span all of Europe. Those more distant roots are vast, deep, and far flung.

Today, I live in the California desert. I grew up in Anaheim, California. When I first visited here with my husband, I felt instantly at home, the “I’ve been called” kind of home. We moved here with our children twelve years ago, and I cannot imagine living anywhere else. I love the sparse landscape, the way I can see the sun and moon and stars move across the sky. I love the cold of winter, the lack of water, and the intense heat of summer. I love the rocks and cactus, along with the creatures that call this place home.

I guess, in a way, I can feel the presence of the gods in this area, and they comfort me. Since I moved here, I feel closer to nature, more relaxed, and I’ve never needed anti-anxiety medication like I did in the city where I was born and raised.

When “American Gods” came out on tv, I was fascinated. The show left me wondering once again. Is there more? I ordered the book immediately after watching the first season of the show. Reading it I found that it relied too heavily on already knowing much of the mythology to be helpful to me. But the story gave me a taste of something. I wanted to find the meal it came from.

This morning’s travels through social media, websites, and a short text conversation with my brother made me think of it all again. Yes, books have been ordered. What if, instead of a war between the old gods and the new, we created something entirely new? What if the modern American gods could blend in with the gods of the land we sit on and the gods that were brought here by all the immigrants over the years?

I’m starting to believe that’s what is happening right now, all around us. There will continue to be chaos for some time before we get the hang of things. We don’t need to throw out technology and advancements that have brought us so much enrichment and plenty. We don’t need to go back to the old ways. We need to ground ourselves in where we all came from, share our stories, and use technology and communication skills to weave together all we have learned.

Technology has brought us together, showing us the universality of our beliefs across lands and cultures. When each of us brings our light to the fire, the fire grows bigger and brighter. What will happen when we bring our light to other planets and star systems? Chaos at first and then a bigger fire.

May the long night of winter solstice remind you that the darkness may reign for a time, but the light will always return to conquer. Peace to you and your house.

Curious what I was up to at this time LAST year? Click back to Christmas 2020 to see.

NaNoWriMo: But It’s NOT a Novel, It’s…

My writing is already in ruins and I haven’t even begun NaNoWriMo this year. I’ve been doing everything I can not to get started. That’s kind of my MO. Make a long list of things that need to be done, or things I want to do, then procrastinate. For this exercise alone, I’ve sat here for at least twenty minutes. This is how it went.

Sauerkraut is one of my weaknesses!

While eating my delicious excuse to have tons of sauerkraut…aka hot dogs…I started to think, “You know, it’s November, NANOWRIMO is still feasible. Remember when you participated a few years ago? It was awesome.”

And it was. I had put together some of my best fiction work that month and the month after. Each morning, I’d gather up my laptop and a cup of coffee, then walk out to my trailer to sequester myself for one hour. I’m easily distracted, my husband works from home, and, at the time, my sons were still living at home. No one had their own room to hide away in and lock the door, so it’s complicated for any of us to find a place to ourselves even for an hour. There’s always someone walking through, asking a question, or popping off a bit of conversation.

Funny that only now to I understand my husband’s plight. He’s worked from home for nearly fifteen years. Our old house had a separate office room that he could shut the door and work in peace in, but this house, while it had everything else we had always wanted, didn’t come with enough rooms for that. His office here is one end of our bedroom. I walk through there several times a day, either on my way to the laundry room behind the garage, the garage itself, or to use my bathroom.

If you know me at all, you know I can’t help but talk, so when I see him, I usually stop to say hi or tell him something that seems pretty important. You know, things I NEED to tell him, like the dog did something funny, or the article that irritated me on the internet, or that I’m going to the grocery store. I never thought they were big interruptions until I started trying to write every day. The man has the patience of a saint and should be rewarded medals!

It’s hard enough for me to focus when I’m completely alone. My phone rings, or I get a text message. There’s a blog post I want to read, something I need to look up. There’s a bird out the window, a sound outside that I need to investigate. Then I think maybe I should finish the laundry first or do the dishes…oh…wait…do we have something for dinner?

Sitting down to read or write in earnest while living here among other humans presents another issue: they are here. Their mere presence distracts me. What is my son looking for in the kitchen? What is that song he is humming? Yes, I’ll be done soon and then you can play your guitar. No, didn’t make cookies last night. Why are you wearing that shirt?

Oh! Look! A squirrel!

It’s hard people. This same thought process applies to almost every aspect of my life. Going to the grocery store is not an easy “just drop in” task.

So here I am today…just now wondering where in the heck I was going with this! The trailer! Right!

Last time I tried to write for NANORWRIMO I was using the trailer for an office and it worked perfectly. It’s like a focus box; small and sparse, separated from the rest of the house. No one can walk by or through, accidentally interrupting my train of thought. I walked in, sat on the couch, set my timer for one hour and started typing. I stopped, thought, re-read, edited, all without outside influence. That is, until my cat found me. I had to let him in so he would stop meowing outside. The first time I opened that door, he walked in as if this is where he always lived, jumped up onto the table and sat in the window until I was done.

Today, as I was eating my delicious sauerkraut, (You remember the sauerkraut, don’t you?), I was reminded by the calendar that it was November 1st and that I could jump right in and create some stories this year, maybe use the same prompts for ideas!

But wait…I won’t be home a lot of this month. I have two road trips and Thanksgiving to host.

So what?! Write every day but those! Something is better than nothing. It’s like a healthy diet. You don’t eat crap every day just because you’re planning on going to Disneyland to graze like a sheep in a field that month!

Myself and I have the best conversations. Myself is a supporter of doing things. She encourages everything I have a mind to do. Me, on the other hand, tends to be a bit of a Debbie Downer. Me likes to remind me of all the things that can go wrong and how much of a fool I might look like if I tried and failed. I try not to listen to her. Luckily Myself was the loudest this morning.

I opened up my laptop and looked for that website where I go the prompts last time. I enjoy their posts…what was the name…writer something. I found it! Writers Write! Download the graphic of this month’s prompts. (Remember? I’m a procrastinator!) Save it, make it the background picture on my laptop, make it fit right so I can see it each morning and be reminded.

Hmm…open a new document. Write down the first prompt. Create a new folder, save the file. Should I put the picture in? Nah. But definitely make sure the link works. Oh wait…I’ll sign up for their reminders! Husband walks in to talk on his smoke break (the plumber is digging outside his “office” door). I’ll need coffee for this… No, Michelle, just write something.

And here I am thirty minutes later. Day one. Done.

Technically, I’m not participating in NANOWRIMO. I’m not really writing a novel, and I’m just not a joiner, so I decided to go it alone, instead. I’m committed to writing creatively for thirty minutes each day (unless I really can’t because I’m on a road trip), riffing off the November prompts I found on Writers Write. The post may or may not actually be related to the prompt. Like this post. Unless you consider this 1100 words to be the “ruins” of the original prompt. That’s pushing things though, even for me.

I’ll come back and link all the other posts I write from prompts to this one. You’ll love it. Trust me, this is going to be a fun month!

The last time I mentioned NANOWRIMO was back in December of 2019 in Pain, Cats, and New Books! My favorite post from that November’s practice was POP – A Love Story.

Want to read the next one? Check out “Try? Maybe I Just Don’t Want To.”
Earlier This Morning I Wouldn’t Have
A Little Writing Anarchy: “Bought & Paid For”

Why Are We So Quick to Social Judgment and Condemnation?

Are we all so without sin that we can sit above the rest of world in social judgment, condemning everyone else of their terrible mistakes?

I apologize for the negativity I’m throwing your way today, but there’s something I need to get off my chest. We’ve all heard the story this week about a crew member killed by accident on a movie set and it has my heart all open once again. The next few hundred words aren’t about the incident but our reactions, our lack of compassion and overactive social judgment.

On my way into the city this week, I decided not to listen to any podcasts, but to listen to some music quietly and think. Sidenote: the “Legacy of Laurel Canyon” playlist on Spotify is excellent for such mental wanderings. The last thing I scrawled out in my notebook as I drove was:

“Why are we so quick to judge and condemn everyone we see or hear about? It’s terrifying.”

It’s everywhere I look, social media posts, news media, and comments. One quick glance at anyone or any situation and we’ve summed up the person and condemned them to die a horrible death, as if the one action we know about is the one that represents everything they were, are, and will be: useless.

One of the reasons I am so hesitant about social media the past few years is because watching people, not just strangers on newsfeeds, but friends and family, do this every day makes it harder and harder for me to go out into the world, let alone share anything I’m doing online. I beginning to live in mortal fear of making a misstep and being hounded by the lynch mob of public opinion.

I hear people say, “Don’t worry so much about what others think! Just focus on yourself. If you think you’re good, that’s all that matters.” But does it these days?

Anything anyone says or does can be taken out of context and made into a nightmare on the internet. Any mistake you make can be captured and ridiculed and passed around for the social judgment and condemnation of millions.

A couple years ago, when my son and I drove our Baja VW Bug up to the mountains, there was so snow. It was slippery and, yes, probably a little dangerous. The risk seemed acceptable to us. I trust my son’s abilities, he’s level-headed and smart. The worst that could have happened was that we might have gotten stuck in the snow and need to be rescued by a tow-truck. I’ll admit it, a little risk is fun.

But I wasn’t worried about dying on the side of the road or the cost of repairs to our vehicle. All I could think about was the attacks I might receive on social media if we got into the news. “Homeschool Mom Lets Teenager Drive in Snow” The social judgment would be severe and not necessarily limited to words printed in the comments of an article.

I’m not immune to knee-jerk social judgment. The news stories that come out daily make me cringe, too. Typically, my immediate thought is, “This shouldn’t have happened!” or “What were they thinking?” But then I stop and think about that person. How would I feel if a mistake I made killed someone? How would I react to realizing that my misjudgment or ignorance, or even my own laziness or lack of attention, caused something terrible to happen?

How would you feel? Would it make you feel better to open your internet browser and find the headlines about what kind of an asshole you are; would it bring anyone back or heal any wounds? Would it fix everything to get emails, texts, and comments directed at the different ways you should pay for what you’ve done? Or would all that nastiness only create more pain and strife; extend one horrible incident into more?

Where is our compassion for others? Why do we watch the humanity around us with an eye of contempt, ready to pass judgment and string up anyone that comes across our path?

It’s as if we are all Romans at the Coliseum, watching and cheering as others are thrown to the lions. “Who’s next?” we scream into the arena. “He deserved it!” Human beings being torn apart for our amusement.

Does it make us feel better? Does it lift us up to throw words of hate at each other? And don’t we worry about when the wheel of misfortune will fall on us? Or do WE believe we are above all the stupid mistake THEY make?

What am I doing to combat this? I’m taking some advice from Arthur Brooks and extending more love and acceptance into the world, one interaction at a time. When I saw the articles about the movie set incident come into my news feed, I read them with shock at first, but didn’t respond to it. I sat there thinking about it awhile.

When it came up again through friends in the film industry and out of it, I started to respond but then pulled back. Yes, I have my two cents, but it seems that the world is rich with opinions and points of view and doesn’t need them.

I reversed things and thought about what it would be like to be the person that made the mistake. I can’t imagine it fully. It hurts too much. And because I can feel that I don’t think adding to that injury is a positive move.

I’m loving into people instead of condemning.

Leads me to think of a previous post I wrote, “Assuming Positive Intent is the Start to More Compassion” while reading “The Art of Happiness.”

A Blog Journal? More Like Free Tangled Thought Therapy!

Another journal post? Yes. I told you there would be, but it’s not in the direction I thought it would take. Instead of continuing my journey back in time, my mind went to this “book blog,” more like blog journal really. But that seems to be where it needs to go.

I’ve spent the last couple hours sitting here wondering if I should write anything at all, let alone post it. I don’t know what to say. And then, for some weird reason, I opened my WordPress reader and found “Something to Ponder About” wrote a post just for me, “Is a Blog an Online Journal?”

This line specifically spoke to me:

“Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.”Barbara Kingsolver

I have a lot to say. I’m never at a loss for words. I’m triggered to speak a thousand times a day, and when I can’t speak because no one is around to hear it, I write. I make notes in a journal to remember my thought and express it later.

Lyrics to songs, quotes from interviews, billboard slogans, and encounters with people are all noted down for future use.

So, the real trouble is not that I don’t know what to say but that I’m not sure if I should say it.

I’ve billed this space as a “book blog” of sorts, but it’s clearly more than that. Books are usually what inspire me to write, but it’s not necessarily about the book itself. I don’t do traditional book reviews. I’m thinking I need to update my home page to tell you that but I’m not sure how just yet.

The quote from Barbara Kingsolver is exactly the trouble I’m having. I’m puzzling over trying to write what a reader might want to hear. I’m following the advice of bloggers that make money and have hundreds of millions of followers. They sell something, a product or system. I don’t, I’m an artist not a business. When I attempt to follow their advice, when I look for the best way to get eyes on my page, I end up in a tangle of “shoulds” instead of sifting through my thoughts and untangling ideas into sentences and paragraphs.

My recurring thoughts go back to taking a break from posting at all, but then if I’m not posting, I’m not writing, and not writing is like not breathing. I can do it for a little while, but I have to get air somewhere.

My thoughts on the world around me are a like a hank of yarn that was snatched up by the dog and then batted around the floor by the cat while I was at the grocery store. It’s good yarn, expensive and fine. I can’t just throw it away. The only thing to do is slowly untangle it, wash it up, and roll it back into a ball for future use.

That’s what this blog is to me. When I write I’m quiet and focused on a note I took or a quote from something I’m reading. That triggered thought is running wild among the others, so I put it down on the screen and start to comb it out into a straight line. One line after another into a paragraph, and then a page.

This blog journal is that cleaned up ball of fine yarn for future use.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with it, but it’s there waiting and just the process of gathering it together and knowing where it is has made my world a better place.

The purpose of my posting here is clear to me at the moment: to keep collecting, combing out, and cleaning up my thoughts, all the while watching them to see if they ever lead in a consistent direction. The process is what I’m aiming at, not an outcome.

Come to think of it, that’s the story of my life. It’s worked well so far.

If you missed yesterday’s post, jump back to “Can Personal Journals Lead to Better Days?”

Can Personal Journals Lead to Better Days?

Personal journals are an amazing self-help tool. Over time, and with patience, we see things about ourselves that we wouldn’t otherwise notice. I’ve been journaling since 1987 and didn’t realize what a service I was doing for myself until now.

Inspired by Stuart Danker’s post, “Can Journaling Improve Your Writing? I Don’t Know, But Let’s Find Out,”  I went through a few of my old journals yesterday afternoon and made a discovery.

Nothing about me has fundamentally changed.

Let’s back up a bit.

personal journals

Yesterday morning, scrolling through my WordPress Reader, I found the post on journaling and felt a tad validated. I picked up my journal and scribbled, “I’m not alone in the world! Other people journal and look back only to find…eek!” My family jokes that someday my hand-written journals may be all that’s left of our civilization. Or worse! Some long-distant decedent discovers my box of journals only to find that insanity DOES run strong in our blood.

Oh, what a terrible thought!

Let’s get serious for a moment.

Several hours later, I find myself laying flat on the floor of my craft room, just thinking. I was feeling a tad low but accepting it as simply one of my ebbs and flows of the day. That’s when I turned my head and saw the storage box of journals I had brought in from the laundry/storage room last week.

I had brought in several boxes while cleaning out the storage room so my husband can transform it into his brewing lab. They are filled with old journals, calendars, and notes, and I want to consolidate and organize that stuff so it doesn’t get lost.

There I am, laying on the floor in my “woe is me” mood, when I spy the box and think…you know maybe it would be fun to thumb through those! Can you see this coming?

The first one I grabbed was from 2013, and the entries I saw were from one of our epic camping trips. I smiled thinking of my parenting days. The next one was a little sadder. It was the journal that my lawyer kept the year that I was arrested for armed robbery and attempted carjacking. Yeah…that’s a book that’s written and waiting for me to be brave enough to try and publish.

When the case was closed, I got the journal back and decided it would be fitting to flip it over and starting using it back to front. Those entries are a little painful to read, so much anxiety.

The last one I picked up, before I had to run off and make dinner, was from 1987. It’s my earliest journal, written in the back of my math notebook when I was fifteen years old and filled with comments about what boys I liked, which ones were calling me, and why my mom was so mean not to let go to a party.

Pretty typical, really. Sure, I was a little embarrassed reading it. Was I ever that young? But then I started thinking about it. I haven’t changed at all. Then I got sad. Have I not learned anything?

I went to sleep thinking about my own personal journals, woke up this morning, got myself a “cup of ambition,” and plopped down on the couch with my book.

Do you write personal journals, ones that are filled with your thoughts and feelings? There is so much swirling through my mind, but today is my “outing” day, so I’ll have to come back to you with the rest tomorrow. I’m sure these thoughts will settle if I sit quiet for a moment.

Is Nature Wild and Free?

My meditation app from Down Dog, which I highly recommend for yoga and HIIT as well, mentioned imagining returning to nature, “wild, free, and joyous” and I got lost in thought for a bit.

Why do we make up this story about nature? As if, all we would need to do to be happy and peaceful is to return to a primitive existence, relying on what nature provides.

nature wild and free
She’s probably not wondering if she should have dug her burrow further from the road.

Am I alone in seeing that animals don’t seem all that happy and peaceful? I mean, sure, they are ignorant of ill intent. At least, I believe they are. They kill to protect their young, feed themselves, and secure a mate and territory, but they don’t murder. They spend their days finding food, procreating, and sleeping. Sounds nice. But is it happy and peaceful? In a way, yes, because they don’t make up stories about how it should be or could be. They accept the world they find themselves in. They don’t attempt to change their world, or that of others. They just live. That’s a lesson we could surely take note of, partially.

The reality of nature is that it is dangerous, filled with the struggle to survive long enough to create the next generation.

When we accept this reality, that life (civilized or wild) is struggle and eventually death, that’s when we become free. When we can stop trying to make things into what we think they should be, and relax into enjoying what is, we can be happy no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in. That’s when we can see the joy in every moment, the miracle of existence. Then we are free.

Animals don’t have the “should” and “could” monster of imagination. They make choices, mostly out of instinct, and then live with the results of those choices. They don’t sit and lament, “If only…”

We, with our glorious brains, can do so much more. We can make choices by determining what is best at the moment, based on what others have done before us AND our own creative thoughts. And even better, we can sit and let the results be ruined by imagining what else we could have done and be envious of what other people’s choices have brought them.

When I think of being closer to nature, being wild and free, I think of aligning myself closer to reality, not living like an animal. I imagine myself using my creative energy to make the best choices for myself, not others. I imagine clearing my mind of envy and jealousy and enjoying what I have. I imagine knowing that this life will end eventually and living each day as if it were my last.

Stress: Considering Ways to Stay Sane

My Dad got me thinking yesterday about ways to stay sane in this climate of stress and anxiety. This starts negative but stay with me a moment.

stress
My Dad, My Brother, and Me (1975ish)

There are days (more and more of them lately) that I want to cry for humanity. It’s usually the day that (for some reason unfathomable to myself) I decide to open a news channel and read a few articles. Between the inflammatory headlines, that I swear are written by a catchy headline generator, and the piss-poor journalism…ugg…I just can’t.

And then there are the social media posts and comments that lead me to believe that there are few people online that are trying to make sense of the world and create a better life for themselves. It seems we are all more interested in creating and fighting a war between factions than understand each other. We’re all flying colors instead of asking questions.

What’s wrong with us? Have we all lost our minds? Is this how civilization gets thrown back into the dark ages again? Maybe.

Then I read more history and see the bigger picture. It’s always the end of the world according to the news media. The government is always reaching for more power. And the people, in general, don’t have a firm grip on reality. The only difference between now and the past is that the information moves much quicker and the whole world can be reported on at once. And that may very well spell disaster, but no more than it ever has before.

The reality is that everything changes, everything ends. Wars start and end. Atrocities are committed. Tyranny looms up. A rebellion begins. All sides believe they are doing what needs to be done to make the world better. Have you seen Star Wars?

And among all of that, here we are, the individual, trying to live our lives as best we can.

I’ve turned off the news completely. No, I don’t know who killed who, what country might invade another, what disease is spreading now, or how much of California is burning. There is absolutely nothing I can do about those things on any given day. And it seems that knowing all that information is putting everyone around me at such a heightened sense of risk awareness that they live constantly in fight or flight mode.

I don’t have time to finish this thought today, but I’m posting this anyway to hold the thought. Today is my “calling day.” It’s my stress reliever, that day that I visit friends and catch up. Yes, in person. While I’m out, I’ll be thinking about how I’d like to move forward. How do I respond to this world? How do I live without causing more stress to those around me? How do I protect myself now and leave a better world for my children’s children at the same time?

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