Pain, Cats, and New Books!

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My Shadow, Abe

Back in September, my sweet husband, in an attempt to help me, bought me a Chromebook to write on. I had complained over the summer that between him talking to customers on one side and the boys and their antics on the other, I just couldn’t focus at my desktop in my office. If I had a laptop, I could take myself out to the trailer and lock the door. Alone in silence, without the distractions of, “Where’s the butter?” “Have you seen my red shoes?” and “Have you tried deleting the app and reinstalling?” maybe I could better focus on writing and make a go of this author thing. Laptops are expensive just to buy for an experiment, so he got the Chromebook as a test. If taking it out to the trailer alone proved to be helpful, then it would make sense to buy a better laptop for me to use.

Now, before you get disgruntled with my husband’s lack of confidence that I NEEDED the laptop, I’m notorious for wanting to do things and then getting bored or losing interest. We’ve been married for twenty years and known each other much longer. He knows me, sometimes better than I know myself. Once again, he made a good decision in going cheap before jumping in with both feet, but not for the reason we thought!

Since the beginning of November, my right elbow and wrist had started hurting. I’m not talking a little. It has been painful to the point of tears. After attempting to scoop cookies out onto a tray for Christmas, my arm was shaking in pain. Ibuprofen did nothing, but CBD oil helped a bit. It would start to subside but come back in full force anytime I forgot about it and reached to grasp and turn anything with my right hand.

I was becoming discouraged, to say the least. I thought it might be arthritis. I am getting older and the weather at the beginning of November had turned cold and wet suddenly, and it has stayed that way. I was considering going to the doctor to see if there was anything she could do. Maybe I have elbow cancer and there is something they could do to save me if I don’t wait?

These are my actual thoughts. I hate doctors and do everything I can to avoid going, but anytime something hurts, I instantly think it’s the end…but I still don’t see a doctor. I’m convinced that’s how I’ll die. Something will bother me for years, I’ll try to ignore it, attempt to cure the ailment myself, and finally break down and make an appointment. Then they’ll tell me that I have only a few weeks to live, but I could have been saved if I had only seen a doctor earlier.

But I digress.

This morning, when I  sat down to get back to a regular habit of writing every morning (for the sixth time this month), I picked up my Chromebook, set it in my lap, and started on my journal, my wrist immediately started to ache worse than ever. That’s when it dawned on me. You know what else started the week my wrist started hurting? Nanowrimo. It’s the first year that I made the commitment to write every morning from 10am to noon and I was keeping it. By day five, my elbow started hurting and I blamed it on the cold weather and age.

These are the things we do, people. You’d think it would be obvious what’s to blame for our troubles, but we live blind most of the time. I can’t believe I didn’t see that. A friend even suggested that it sounded like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and I just shook my head, “I can’t imagine what repetitive wrist action I do that would do that!” Maybe it was because it started in my elbow and not my wrist?

Today, I’m back at my desktop in my office with the door shut and earplugs in. Not being able to hear really helps. It’s like the world is shut out. The bonus is that I’m right here with my notebooks and more coffee when I need it! Oh, and that cat. He keeps walking over my hands between my face and the screen because he’s a cat and his mission is to drive me bonkers! I’d lock him out but then he’d just scratch up my door to get in.

And now on to what I thought I’d be writing about this morning! I started reading Nick Hornby’s “Ten Years in the Tub” a couple days ago. How is it that I come across just the book I need at just the right time?

I picked the book up at Barnes & Noble a few weeks ago, right off the shelf, not even out in the middle with a “Must Read!” sign on it. I was browsing through the shelves and there it was. A book about reading books? A book about what he’s reading and why? It sounded like a decent way to find some new interesting books to read next year!

I’d never heard of Nick Hornby, but when I posted a picture of the book on Facebook, as I do each time I start one, a friend said she loved his writing. Intriguing.

Diving into it a few mornings ago, I was instantly happy I bought it, and even happier that I decided to read it now, in the last few days of the year, even though it’s a fat book and I won’t finish it before January 1st, so I won’t be able to add it to 2019’s book totals. Yes, it’s all about the list and making it look as good as possible.

Speaking of that list, I’m really excited to get started on my January 1, 2020, post! It will be the third year in a row that I’ve welcomed the new year with a tally of the hours, pages, and the number of books I’ve read over the past 12 months. I know you’re looking forward to it! Don’t worry, I’ll compare the previous year’s totals!

Back to Nick Hornby’s book about a reading list! How lucky is this guy to be paid to do exactly what I’ve been dreaming of doing, what I love doing? And then I got sad. He already does it. Why would I do it? But hold the freakin’ phone a moment! He’s a totally different person, from a completely different background, reading entirely different books. What I read, why, and what I think about it, comes from my personal perspective, my journey, my voice. It’s not the same. That’s like saying someone already wrote a book about space travel, so why would I?

Self-talk. It’s what I do.

I’m going to wrap this post up, but before I go, let me just give you a heads up. This coming week, I’m going to post an “Hasta La Vista, 2019!” essay and another about my precious reading statistics. The latest Star Wars movie (and a trip to Disneyland) has inspired some deep Jedi thoughts, but I have to finish watching all the old movies with my son before I see the new one again before I can really do that essay justice, so have patience Padawan!

Last thing, I promise, my goal this week is to post SOMETHING every day of the week, even if it’s just a few words. Prepare yourself to be inundated!

Happy Monday to you all!

Attempting to Slow Down the Input Rate

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Photo by Dinh Pham on Unsplash

“Input!”

“Johnny 5 is alive!”

That’s the scene that runs through my head as I listen to a podcast on the drive to my dentist appointment. I can’t just waste time driving, must have more input!

I want to do something with all the information that is thrown at me but I honestly can’t organize what I’m getting well enough for daily use. I can’t maintain forty strong daily relationships. I can’t read ALL the books. I can’t comment on all the posts I find interesting. I can’t read all the articles or see and laugh at all the memes. There are other things that need to be done. Groceries to buy, laundry to do, meals to be made. Not to mention words to write, creating more input for others!

But my words have to relate to something, don’t they? I do need some input to process. I can’t just cut myself off from the world and think that I’ll still have something to write about. One has to have the brushes and paint, the clay or metal, the seeds and mulch, the fabric to quilt!

Quilting. Now there’s an interesting train of thought. I know a lot of quilters and something they all have in common is the problem of collecting fabric. It becomes a habit and an obsession to some. They go back to the fabric store to get thread or a piece they need to finish a quilt and while they are there they notice a nice new pattern, a sale on pretty solids, or an eye-catching collection of fat quarters and they pick them up thinking they’ll use it someday on something. Time goes by and their sewing room becomes piled high with fabric for future use. When they go to make a new quilt, they look at that wall of fabric and are overwhelmed by it. None of it seems useful. None of it catches their eye for this piece. The best pieces are bunched up and hidden behind less appealing pieces and then end up forgetting what they have. So they go to the store and buy all new fabrics, ones more easily accessible and organized by color and pattern.

I’m starting to think information overload is the same thing. I have a project in mind on one hand and a huge pile of information on the other. The whole time I’m trying to sift through the information I’ve already collected, there’s more input every moment. A text from a friend, an email from a blog, a new book is coming out, Facebook and Instagram feeds, not to mention family members wanting to call and share their lives with me. It’s all good stuff. It’s all positive (or can be, I tend to block out the ugly as much as possible). How do I filter and organize it so that I know what I have and where to use it?

There are a couple of things I’m going to start doing. My phone is my gateway and I’ll admit I do have an issue about being unreachable for any amount of time. Maybe it’s a Mom thing that I’ve latched on to, but if my phone is off or out of reach, I can’t relax. What if one of the kids needs me? The truth is that no one really NEEDS me that badly. My kids are grown and while they may want to talk to their mom in the middle of the night, it can probably wait until morning. And they know if it were an emergency, they could call their Dad because his work phone is always on. My phone will stay on at night just in case, but when I get up in the morning, all notifications will be off until I’m ready to communicate with the outside world. I’m not an emergency room doctor. I’m just not that important and that’s not self-deprecation. It’s reality.

Social media is another big input I have and I’m so addicted to it in the best ways. I’ve found so much joy there, so much connection with the big wide world. It inspires me to see all the awesome stuff, all the wise words, all the wonderful people that make up this planet. The trouble is, like a wonderfully written book that I can’t put down, I keep going back to it every chance I get. And unlike a book, I don’t need silence and focus to just pop in and have a look around, so I tend to spend quite a bit of time there.

At first, it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but the trouble is that it adds to my stash of information in big ways. I save clips from articles, memes, comments, all to use in the future. Maybe I’ll write about that. I could add this to my story. This looks like a good place to visit. Suddenly, I’m overwhelmed by it all and nothing else gets done. I look like a zombie slobbering “input” instead of “brains.”

So I need to limit my time there and save my energy. I’ll try to check in only while I eat breakfast and lunch for now. Sounds pretty wishy-washy, I know, but it’s the best I can do. I’ve never been one for hard and fast rules. Sometimes an afternoon of mindless scrolling and laughing at people’s antics is what I need. I’m not going to deny myself, but I will promise to be more mindful of what I’m doing.

And last, but certainly not least, my newest habit of “going to my trailer” to write. My phone doesn’t come with me. I make sure my husband knows where I am, not that he would worry and come looking for me if I went missing for a couple hours, he is working too after all, but I would sit with anxiety thinking he might. Every day, whether or not it is quiet in the house, I’m going to be there for at least an hour and half. There are no dishes to do, no pet antics, no bookshelves to peruse, out here. It’s just me, the laptop, my notebook, and a cup of coffee. I’m training my brain to see the trailer and think “work time.” And so far it’s working nicely…except when I look around me and think, “We need to go on a road trip in this baby!”

The plan: Write one hour. Edit up to one hour. Post after lunch.

That’s how I’m going to make this writing shit work. I’m not aiming for complete solitude or hermitage. My goal is to slow down the input to the point where my poor brain can process and use the information or at least store it in a way that makes it more easily accessible.

I’m also not aiming for perfect or beautiful. My goal is consistency and focus. The more often I can sit down and create with focus, the more likely something beautiful will be discovered.

Here’s to some new habit building! Let’s see what happens!

Is Social Media a Waste of Time or A Call Into the Canyon?

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Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

Something that has kind of bugged me for a while now is, “What in the actual F am I doing?” I’m trying to write daily and sometimes it’s decent enough to post, but really, why? Practice? I’m not sure really.

I have my Instagram page humming along. I’m getting far more followers there than on my Facebook page, but I post there daily as well. I share things to my Facebook page that seem interesting, that flow into my consciousness. But then sometimes I’m sitting there scrolling through both, wasting my own time looking at mindless crap that I know is all geared to market someone else’s product to me, and think…that’s what I’m doing. I’m marketing my mindless crap to others, pulling their attention away from their real, physical life, to show them mine, in the hopes of gaining followers so that I can market a book. What am I doing? Really? Do I have anything important, anything tangible to add to the conversation? Am I doing the world any good?

I believe I am. When I think of pulling away, it makes me sad. I have words to say. I have ideas to share. Why should I stop trying to influence others? I want to be a positive, joyful voice on the internet. That’s why I’m online. That’s why I check in with Instagram and Facebook.

Where does this voice come from? This ugly one that whispers in my ear, “You’re feeding a monster.” These are the times when I look around me and think maybe I do spend too much time there. Maybe my time and creative energy would be better spent elsewhere.

There’s that old buzzword again, “balance.” Ugg…I hate it. “Everything in balance.” I hear people say. “Everything in moderation.” Should I moderate my joy, my patience? Should I balance my time between good and evil things? No, not everything. There are loads of things that should give in to with abandon. I should love without moderation. I should share my passions without a filter. And that’s what I feel like I’m doing when I’m scrolling through feeds and sharing my thoughts anywhere on the internet.

There are times when I look at my own posts and wish I had more interaction with people, though. Why don’t people share my posts? Why don’t people comment? I started doing more of that myself. I comment when I see something pretty instead of just “like” and I share when I feel like other people would probably love this as much as do, or they’d at least know me better because I shared it.

It seems like hating the internet and social media is all the rage lately, but I just can’t understand that. There are downsides to everything. Just about everyone can use anything in a negative way. But overall, it’s a good thing to me. It’s brought me quite a bit of joy. It’s helped me make new friends. It’s helped me reconnect and keep in touch. It’s shown me whole other worlds and ways of thinking.

Why am I there? Why do I have my blog, my Medium account, Facebook AND Instagram pages? Because I want to add to the conversation and share in the joy of this world. I have something to say and something to show. I’m yelling out into the canyon and waiting for the echo. I’m waiting for an answer to my call.

Hello? I’m here! Is anyone out there?

A New Passion Has Emerged

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https://writerswrite.co.za/mos

At the beginning of the month, I found a graphic of one or two-word writing prompts for each day in the month of October and thought, maybe this would help me warm up a bit. I’ve been having a hell of a time thinking of things to write when I try to write every single day. Maybe this would jar things loose?

Seventeen days into October…it’s totally working. Some days I have things I’d like to write about. There are things that I read in books that prompt my thinking and things I hear people talking about or post on social media that I feel compelled to comment on. Podcasts and quiet time to think also spark my commentary. But these prompts, they are something different. I look at the word first thing in the morning and most times nothing comes to mind right away, but then, sometime around the dishes or watering the yard, it hits me. It comes in like a scene from a movie in my head. Sometimes it sparks a memory that comes out on the written page as an embellished memoir. Other times it hits me right at the center of my imagination and the new scene just comes pouring out.

All month I’ve been wondering where it came from. What new skill have I just discovered I can tap into? But yesterday, as I was driving to meet a friend for coffee, it dawned on me. It’s not new at all. I’ve always been accused of making something bigger than it really was, of attributing words to children that never said them and romanticizing the truth. And my worries, my anxiety? Guess where they from? My imagination. I don’t worry about little things, or what might happen in a vague way. I create vivid scenes in my head from a horrific accident to the details of the funeral and having to deal with people feeling bad about my loss. I don’t think, “Oh I hope my son doesn’t get into trouble.” And wring my hands over it. I see the whole scene played out before me down to the last detail. I don’t wonder what my husband is thinking when he’s quiet. I build up whole storylines about what could be going on in his head and end up sobbing in bed over the fiction I created.

When I was younger, I used to act on the feelings I created in myself with those imaginary scenes. I’d change my plans to go on a road trip because I imagined that I had a premonition about a horrible car accident. I wouldn’t let my kids play at the park the afternoon I imagined what life would be like if they were kidnapped and murdered. I went into a two-day depression spiral because I imagined that the reason my husband was late home from work was that he’d met up with new friends that coerced him into a going to party and got too stoned and drunk to get home to me.

It wasn’t until I was late into my thirties before I had some control over letting my imagination run wild. Why it took so long, I may never understand, but I finally figured out how to separate my imagination from reality on a permanent basis…mostly. I still embellish the truth a bit from time to time. Stories are much better told with a flourish of language in my opinion.

And now, because I just happened across a writing prompt graphic on social media, I’ve discovered a new passion and expanded on it. When I write fiction, it’s me in those scenes. It can get a little stressful because I feel it and sense it all. I want to sit in my imagination and find ways to describe everything I see, feel, and smell. I want to think the horrible thoughts, taste the food, and touch the things I see. When I write the story, it isn’t what really happened, it’s what I imagine would if I were there. I feel like I’ve finally found a healthy way to explore those thoughts which used to terrify me. I’ve found a way to express those imagined feelings without losing my grip on reality. It’s incredibly exciting and I hope you like reading them.

I’m thoroughly enjoying diving into that well of imagination and using it for good instead of evil. Who knows where it will go? I’m still writing non-fiction. I feel like I have a lot to say, a lot to process and share. But now, I feel like I have a new outlet, a new direction for my passion for words.

And don’t worry. I’ll clearly mark my “stories” fiction at the top. I’d hate for someone to read a non-fiction post from me one day and be inspired only to find a fiction one the next and wonder what kind of insanity has been occurring at this house!

Morning Train of Thought

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Photo by BRUNO CERVERA on Unsplash

Crap. That’s exactly what I have. It’s the fifth day in a row that I’m coming up empty.

Every morning, I get my coffee, grab my laptop and plop myself down on the couch before the sun comes up. I take moment: coffee to my left, laptop closed in my lap (of course), cat walking up to curl into a ball on my right. It’s dark and quiet. I take a sip of coffee, crap, it’s already cold. Husband started the coffee maker when he got up for work  an hour and a half before me. The carafe isn’t doing a very good job of keeping it hot these days. Gently, I scootch the cat over (he complains) and get up to warm up my cup, add a sprinkle of cinnamon to hide the “warmed up coffee” taste, and start a new pot.

Shuffling in my slippers and flannel pants back to the couch, I find the dog has taken my spot.

“Really?”

She looks up at me with those puppy dog eyes. Ha! Puppy dog eyes! Of course!

“Move dog.”

She jumps down and goes to her regular spot by the window, ready to stand guard against any intruders, coyotes and ravens mostly. She’s more of a warning dog than a guard dog. She’ll bark up a storm but never go out to chase anything, not even a rabbit.

I sit down with my coffee. The leather couch was kept warm by her furry butt. I take a sip of cinnamon coffee, breathe in the smell (the best part), and reach for my laptop. Work will get done today! The words will come!

…buzz..buzz…

Damn it. I forgot to turn off my phone when I got up. A text from a friend comes through.

“Up yet?”

Of course I am. He knows that. And I keep reminding people that I’m trying to start a morning routine of staying focused on reading and writing, no outside intrusions. It’s not his fault. I should just ignore it until I’m done, but…

“Good morning! Yes, but trying to work today. Ttyl?”

“Sure gorgeous. Have fun!”

And now I’m thinking about that. What else do I have to do today? Water the yard (I forgot yesterday). Clean up the kitchen. Dust and vacuum the living room. Pay those bills. I should write this stuff down so I don’t have to hold in my head, so I get up to get my notebook. I’ll just make a quick list and set it aside for later.

The sky in the east is starting to lighten. There are clouds being highlighted by the first edge of the sun. Wow. Pretty. I  better take a picture of that. And…post it on Instagram. No sense in just me seeing it. Oh look at that! She’s up too and posting pictures of her own sunrise! Hello friend!

Twenty minutes later…

Crap. Where did my early start go? The sun is shining strongly across the desert now, throwing the most special sidelight onto the joshua trees and cholla. I should probably go water the plants before they all die. I can feel them judging me for my lack of attention to their needs. It’ll only take a couple minutes and then I can get back to work without that hanging over my head.

Ok, that’s better! I’ll need a fresh cup of coffee, of course. As I’m pouring it into my favorite cup, in walks my younger son with his girlfriend in tow. “Are you making breakfast?! Awesome!”

Crap.

Journaling = Peace of Mind

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“Breathing In Breathing Out: Keeping a Writers Notebook” by Ralph Fletcher is one of those short and sweet books filled with goodies to collect throughout. It only took me about two and half hours to read through it, but I think I’ll leave it on my “working” books shelf to thumb through when I’m feeling down about writing!

Do you keep a notebook of ideas or a journal? I’ve been keeping journals since I was in my teens and I love looking back on them. I have them in a plastic bin in my laundry/storage room and frequently dig into it while I’m waiting for the washer or dryer to finish just to see where I’ve been. I haven’t always kept daily journals. The farther back they go, the more sporadic the entries. Some journal entries are love letters, some are lists, some are just rants. Most of them are simply my day to day life. There are whole years missing from my early 20’s, probably things I don’t want to remember anyway. And sometimes I wish that I had written more details. There are things I know were going on, but I neglected to write about them. Why? I guess didn’t think I’d ever forget the big things, but the older I get, the more details I want to be reminded of. That’s why I put more in my journals now and, besides, I have more time to write. Funny how that works!

It’s a short book but swear I could write something about every page in it! It will have to suffice to quote a couple of sweet things that resonated with me most.

“A notebook can be a clearing in the forest of your life, a place where you can be alone and content as you play with outrage and wonder, details and gossip, language and dreams, plots and subplots, perceptions and small epiphanies.”

Oh my, YES! In my journal, I can say anything I want no matter how awful. No one gets hurt, no one can be offended or put off. It’s just me yelling out into emptiness but better because I can revisit those dark places and see how far I’ve come. It’s a visual reminder that I am making progress, that I am not always in the darkness. It comforts me. I should write a disclaimer on the cover of each one, “To those that may read this after I am dead and gone: Please remember this is raw material you are delving into. Be kind to my memory.”

“Anyone who writes has a real life and a textual life.”

Didn’t I just mention something like this last week? I’m sure I did. My real life is much different than my textual life, but in many ways similar. I think my textual life is only MORE of my real life. It’s reality, the day to day, along with the inner thoughts and reactions that I don’t allow everyone around me to see. Much like the book is more than the movie!

“I may reread in a brisk, random way, skimming without any precise purpose, my eyes chancing on this line or that image. This kind of rereading often gets me in the mood to write.”

That happens all the time. When I make the time to write, have a scheduled couple of hours every morning set aside whether I write anything or not, I tend to write more. When I sit down with nothing on my mind, I can thumb through my journal and find the images that spark the words.

“Writing a novel is like driving at a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” – E.L. Doctorow

I’m not writing a novel, but I feel this so deeply right now. Our whole life is like that. We take one step at a time and then take another look around for the direction we should go.

The question isn’t, “Should I keep a journal?” It’s really, “How should I keep a journal?” Handwritten or on the computer? Fancy hardcover journal or Walmart notebook? Pretty colored pens or pencil? Word, drawings, or both? Even if you’re not a writer, this book will make you want to start a journal and keep up with it!

The Clutter Isn’t Helping The Situation

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I told myself to make time for writing every morning and here I am, writing words. While I’m never short on words, today’s question is, “Should I share them?” The charge of “write 1000 words every day” does not imply that I post them for the world to see, right? Sure, take the time to put words on the page. Make space in my day for reflection and the organizing of thoughts. Spill my guts into a Word document for safe keeping, but must I drag you all along for the sometimes torturous ride?

Why the hell not? I mean…you clicked and you didn’t have to!

I’ve been spending some time taking some classes on Skillshare this week and it’s already been worth the $15 a month. Sunday afternoon I listened to Matt Bellassai talk about going viral for an hour. While I’m not all that interested in gathering clicks and writing “20 reasons you don’t suck” articles, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about what makes things sharable on social media. Besides, his helpful hints and legitimate advice were so entertaining. He comes off as thoughtful, intelligent (most comedians are pretty damn deep), and certainly seems like someone I’d like to spend time with. It was an hour well spent!

Yesterday I listened to Roxane Gay talk about crafting personal essays. I only had time for half of her presentation yesterday, but she already has me thinking. I get frustrated with my writing and this blog. Just like the rest of my life, I’m not sure where I fit in, where I’m going, or if I’m wasting my time and energy. And that is why I keep writing, to find the answers! My writing is another reflection of the real me, the one a little deeper down than the one you see on the street, the one you go have lunch with, or even the one you live with. These are the inner thoughts, the questions, and the attitudes I take when I’m alone. Sometimes these are things I want to say but can’t for whatever reason.

And it’s not even ALL I want to say. Many times I have mean, nasty, or snarky things to say. There are things that pop up in my head while I scroll through Facebook or drive into town; reactionary things that are probably best left unsaid. For the love of all things holy, I have a file on my phone called “Things I WANT To Say On Facebook But Don’t.” I frequently copy the offending post to that file and tap out my wanna-be comment and close it. It’s cathartic in that I release that negative energy without looking like an ass on social media.

I don’t always feel like a very nice person and I’m lucky that my personal filter catches things before they come blaring out on the internet. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always function well, or maybe it gets full and things spill over the edges from time to time. Maybe I need to clean that filter a little more often. That’s when you see an uncharacteristic personal judgment post on my wall. Those posts tend to get deleted before too long. But sometimes…oh man…I so want to just say exactly what I’m thinking. Or better yet, just type the word “FUCK!” and leave the internet forever without another word or explanation. I imagine what would happen…probably nothing. My parents would probably text me and the rest of the world would keep on keeping on. I imagine my own self-importance. We all do. More likely, I’d go back several times that same day to see if anyone made any inane comments. That is the depth of my addiction to online validation.

It’s just a passing mood though, and moods can be tricky. They build up into huge waves, crash onto the shore, and slide away to build momentum again. I haven’t mastered the magic of controlling nature. I haven’t become a sorceress that reigns in the moon. I’ve merely learned to be a better surfer. And just because I’m getting good at it, doesn’t mean I don’t let the board slip out from under me and go tumbling beneath the waves. At 46 years old, I have finally learned to notice when I’m being thrashed, and to at least try to control my panic and wait until the waves pass before I search for the surface.

Over the past few years I’ve learned a few tricks to stay calm in the face of the negativity wave; find the breath, make some emotional space, and wait. One thing that doesn’t work for me is seeking the positive. Being content in my negative mood seems to help me most, sinking down into it like a warm blanket of mean nasty thoughts comforts me and helps it pass over more quickly, like not thrashing against the wave as it passes. To do that most efficiently, I need to be alone both in person and online as much as possible. I feel no need to drag everyone along with me. I used to, trust me.

In the past, I’ve reached out to other life surfers, more like frantically grabbed them in my struggle to stay afloat, and all it does is multiply the negativity and create a feedback loop. I feel like I’m starting to sink into a negative mood, and in a panic reach out to someone. Precariously balanced on their own board, they panic trying to pull me up. I feel terrible that I’ve upset someone else, spiral deeper, and it takes longer and more energy to swim back up with every person I pull down with me. Better to go it alone, and know there are still people at the surface waiting for me.

Since I work from home and don’t have many outside responsibilities, these days it’s easy to withdraw. I have only my husband, my nearly grown sons, and a few close family members to retreat from, all of which have learned to notice my behavior and give me space. They wait quietly by, my husband giving me a few extra loves as he moves through the day.

But online life, social media, is still a struggle for me. It’s become a habit to pick up my phone and scroll through my feeds when I’m bored. Even when I know I shouldn’t, I find myself taking a quick look only to find more posts to add to that file on my phone and when I’m being “thrashed in the rinse cycle,” it’s much more likely that I’ll make that comment for real instead of keeping it private in my file.

I’ll put this out in the universe. Someone please develop an app that poses questions to determine your mood before you open any social media app. Depending on your answers it can either put a delay on all your posts and comments or stop you from reading at all until your mood improves. You’d make millions on this one. I have a feeling I’m not the only one that needs it!

Honestly Offended by Your Honesty

I didn’t start to write anything on Friday, so now I’m behind for my Monday post.

Note to self: Write five days, not four, and then take Saturday and Sunday off.

I did start to write this morning though and you’ll get to read it tomorrow when I finish it. Right now, I need a break from that post. But I’m still left with nothing to post for you today, so I scrounged through some old drafts and found this to add on to. Strange thing is that it comes up today, after I received a text from a friend with different views that I was immediately offended by. I’ve been sitting here thinking about how to respond in a way that won’t escalate an argument, but open a dialog. Why does every exchange have to be so complicated? Probably because I want it to be.

I wrote this short outburst after an intense exchange with another friend, accused of “playing games” and “being judgmental” when I felt I was only asking questions and being honest about my feelings that change often.


How come we all can’t be more honest and open about our feelings, our thoughts, ourselves? Why can’t we ask more questions of each other and answer honestly? Why can’t we all assume positive intent when we’re dealing with each other? I think we’d get a hell of a lot farther in relationships with other humans if we stopped taking everything everyone else says, does, or feels as a personal attack. What if we all just didn’t assume anything about others? If you want to know, ask. And when you get the answer don’t get all butthurt about the answer!

We’re all feeding off each other. I don’t tell people what I really want to say for fear they will be angry or sad about it. So they assume my silence is something other than it is. Misunderstanding breeds a deeper pain. Once it comes out, they assume I was being cruel, playing games, etc. When really I am just a human that hates to wound another. Fear. It’s a circle of shit.
What do you think? Why are we so distrustful of each other?

What Are You Trying to Tell Me?

I recently woke up from a dream that was so different, so excitingly new that instead of sighing peacefully and going back to sleep hoping I’d remember it in the morning, I jumped out of bed to jot down my impressions to insure it’s survival.

My journal was on my desk, not beside my bed, so I slipped out of bed and quietly padded to my office. I flipped on the light and sat down at my desk to write. As I opened my book and picked up my pen my phone dinged. A message at this hour. Everyone knows I’m sound asleep and I haven’t touched anything to alert the all-seeing social media of my activity.

“Are you sleeping?”

A message from an online friend.

“No! I just woke up from an amazing dream and came to write it down. And here you are!”

“About what?”

The conversation went on for half an hour. I dreamed that I was talking with an old comedienne that looked a lot like my Grandma Shirley. She told me that I was really funny, hilarious, and that I should try stand up comedy, try acting. I told her I had acted in the past but was never very good at it. She begged to differ and told me she knew talent when she saw it. She took me to a party with her and there were other famous people there, actors, directors and such. She introduced me and they all confirmed that I had something. And then I woke up. I wasn’t startled awake, I was laying there content. I felt accepted, proud, self-confident. I wanted to remember that feeling. That’s why I got up to write it down.

Telling my friend about it, he suggested that I do what my dream suggested. I’ll admit that I’ve thought about it before. When I was teenager, I took plenty of acting classes and was in several high school shows, but I was too self-conscious to do it well. Acting takes complete self abandonment; going up there as if you are the center of the universe, with no thought to whether or not anyone will like it. Talent or not, you can’t see it unless you throw the robes off and stand there naked before the whole audience. I could not do it. I hid myself.

These days I wonder, would I be able to do it now? Am I self-confident enough to let go? There is a small community theater here. I could go down and audition. I went back to bed with these thoughts on my mind.

When I woke up in the morning, I was still thinking about it. I’d slept soundly knowing the dream was safe in my journal and the idea tucked away in my messages. I started my morning routine thinking I’d go back in a few hours and rethink it all. Nestled down in my spot on the couch, book in hand, I relaxed into my morning.

After a bit, I mentioned the dream to my husband who listened attentively, but as I told it something started to swirl around in my head. This dream wasn’t about acting. It’s about self-confidence. I got another cup of coffee and picked up my journal.

As the morning progressed, more ideas started to fall into place. I accosted my teenage sons as they stumbled sleepily into the livingroom. I had to talk more of this idea out and they just happened across my path as it was coming together. I don’t know what I’ll do when they move out and I lose my captive audience. Pity my poor husband!

I’ve always been a dreamer, not the pie in the sky, big ideas kind of dreamer, but I almost always dream when I sleep. I dream vivid and realistic dreams generally every night, especially when my anxiety is high. While most of the time my dreams are varied and colorful, there are a few that are recurring. They revolve around being left behind, trying to be understood, or being without help in a crisis. This dream was different and that’s what got me so excited.

This dream was encouraging and left me feeling supported and loved, pushed from beyond. And it wasn’t about acting at all. It only took that form because that was my past experience. Like I told my sons, I know not everyone believes in spiritual dream stuff and, to be honest, I don’t either, but I do believe in subconscious work. I’ve been working on some big things the past couple of years. For the past few months I’ve felt stuck and unsure how or if to proceed. This dream shook something loose in me.

A side note, but related, I haven’t thought much about my Aunt or Grandmother since they passed away years ago, but over the last couple of weeks they have come up several times. I reconnected with my Uncle and cousin, I randomly met someone he knows, my cousin posted about his mother, and then this dream with the face of my Grandma. Those two women were a big part of my life growing up, but I lost them in my early thirties. I hadn’t thought I had lost much until now. What could they teach me now about being in my forties? Those were strong, bold beautiful women. I’m feeling a need for their confidence and support. This dream is a piece of that, another reason I believe in an afterlife that touches this one.

What in the world am I talking about? I’ve been rambling on for pages! Writing! I can’t say I’ve always wanted to write or that I’ve been writing since I could read. I can’t say that I have several stories, books, or poems stored up just waiting for the right publisher to come along. I can say that I have always had something to say.

I feel like I’ve had something hidden away from me for years. Like those stories you hear about a princess raised by farmers and finds out who she really is. I’ve never felt like I fit in with the women in my mother’s family and when the women in my father’s family were alive I was too afraid of them to really embrace them. I feel like a combination of both, not quite as crazy and wild (the slightly self destructive that I thought they were) and not as timid and reserved as my mother’s family. I need to tap into the “training” of my mother and her mom; the quiet, calm, and respectable side; AND the wild, free-ranging, self-assuredness of my dad’s sister and mother.

I wrote these words a couple of days ago and closed my notebook thinking it all seemed like it was an idea going nowhere, just like the thousand other times I’ve felt like I had something solid in my hands but when I looked directly at it, it turned to air.

Today, I’m in a RV park in Montpelier, Idaho, reading it over again and seeing something else. That’s a realization in and of itself. I’m reminded of a story somewhere when someone is blindfolded and writes in a trance, then goes back to read what is on the page and finds someone else’s words. It does make sense. There is a message there. And if the message is there for me, the odds are that someone else might need to hear it as well, so I keep writing.

Where am I going? That’s probably what you’re asking, and exactly what I’m asking myself. I think the point my subconscious is trying to make is that “fortune favors the bold.” I’ve never been one to self-promote. “I’m shy.” I tell people, but not in an introverted way. I’m not happier when I’m alone. While I do enjoy the pleasure of my own company, while I do love making time to sit quietly alone with my thoughts so better to write them down, I am not fueled by that. I crave regular interaction with people, as if fueled by the energy of our connections. But I am so self-conscious, worried about doing the wrong thing, offending someone with my words, not fitting in with others, that it sometimes stops me from doing the things I want to do. That’s something I am working to change and my next step is here.

I’ve been plagued with a few thoughts since I finished the big project of writing my first story. The first of which is, now that the story is down on paper, what should I do next? It’s memoir and very personal to me. I’m terrified of promoting it and then having to defend it. As I’m writing these words something just dawned on me. Maybe that story shouldn’t be the first thing I promote. I have so much more I could be writing and promoting.

I recently came across a Tim Hawkins sticker that struck me as perfect for what I really want to do here.

“Live Life. Take Notes. Tell Strangers.”

He was talking about comedy, but I think it’s so much bigger. Maybe comedy isn’t just an entertainment, maybe it’s philosophy for the light hearted. Which connects me to my dream again. I’ve always been someone who notices things. It’s probably one of the reasons I’ve always carried so much anxiety. I love to read. I love to watch, to experience. I love being among people, maybe not in front of, or leading, but quietly among them, soaking up their energy.

Throughout my life I’ve taken notes; journals and notebooks full of my thoughts and ideas, questions, and observances. When I write I rarely know where it will go, what will be the outcome of my tapping at the screen. The connections come to me while I write the same way they come to me during a conversation, spontaneously and not always fully formed. The more I write, the more I think, the more the idea takes a stronger form.

In the past, my blog posts are written on the spot. I have an idea, or want to review a book I just read, so I sit down and tap out the first words that come to mind. I immediately look back through it and post it that same hour. I’d like to change that.

As I spend my first two week vacation alone with my husband since we had kids, I’m spending a lot of time walking, driving, thinking, and talking. With no kids to care for, and an introverted husband that thoroughly enjoys his quiet time, I have had plenty of time to think, write, and rewrite. I have been using this time as a writing retreat and my intention is to build up a few articles, like this one and others, so that I can begin posting something more complete several days a week while I work on new observations to post later.

I’ve had a terrible time putting that into coherent words!

What will I write? Observations. I’ve struggled with that for a long time and with Tim Hawkin’s bumper sticker, it finally dawned on me. It’s perfectly acceptable to live life, take notes, and tell strangers. It is simple philosophy and something I enjoy and feel confident doing. Hopefully, someone out there will find my observations interesting or helpful!

It’s Friday! Oh…wait…

And…it’s Saturday morning that I’m finally making myself take a moment to sit down and at least do my Friday post. I’ve been feeling a bit like a teenager, hormonally pulled and exhaustedly lazy at the same time. I think I’m ready for a vacation. Luckily for me, that is exactly what’s coming up for us!

So, let’s get to this!

Thing I learned: I thought that I was over being affected by other people’s opinions of me, but then found myself trying to behave in ways someone else believed is the best way to behave instead of being myself and accepting that some people will not like it and those people are just not my people. Wow. That’s a damn long sentence! Self, you are you, and you need to be ok with the fact that you are not everyone’s cup of tea! That doesn’t mean they are bad people, just not YOUR people. Keep being you in all your crazy, talkative, open and honest ways, and the people that like that will be attracted to your orbit. It’s going to take time. Some of those bodies are way out in the galaxy!

Thing I’m reading: This is dumb but I’m kind of a book snob. I tend to reject books that everyone else is reading just because everyone else is reading them. Not cool, I know. What does it take to get me to read a popular book? A cute boy told me to. That’s what I was talking about earlier, teenage behavior. I’m about three hours into the first Game of Thrones book and I’m really liking it. It’s enjoyable, easy to read, so it goes fast, and it has a lot of feeling. I have hopes that it will prove a bit of depth as I read it, but it’s ok if it doesn’t. There’s nothing wrong with an exciting adventure that you don’t necessarily want to experience again!

Thing I heard: My oldest son came home from his vacation in Germany this week and we’ve been catching up. We spend a lot of time talking, that boy and I. He’s very intelligent and I love his take on the world around him. We homeschooled and we live rurally. We’ve been home-centered, I’d say. This past year, since just before his seventeenth birthday, he has been out in the world gathering experiences on his own in big ways. Funny thing; he’s always been one to jump into things with both feet. He goes from knowing nothing of it to moving comfortably in it, no matter what he tries. It’s been the same for him leaving the nest. It’s like talking to a worldly man, a young, optimistic, and proud man.

As we sat at the table, sharing a cup of coffee and a bit of toast and cheese (Euro Breakfast), he told me something profound. “Mom,” he says, “someone told me a few years ago that if I had gone to school, I probably would have been diagnosed with Asperger’s of some kind. I did not agree at all, but the more I talk to people and work with people, I’m starting to see that I really do think differently. It isn’t that other people are dumb or that they don’t know how to do things the ‘right way’, it’s that I just see things in a different way. And that’s ok. They do it their way. I do it mine. We can help each other.” I’m paraphrasing here, of course. It was a long conversation. All our conversations are long. We love to philosophize over breakfast. I just about cried. This was exactly why we wanted to homeschool the way we did. I wanted my kids to grow up naturally. I wanted them to grow up secure in who they were as individuals, doing things the way they felt was best for them specifically, within a family that loves them. The theory works. He is not sheltered and afraid of the world. He does not hide away. He does not go with the crowd unless he wants to. He’s a wonderful young man and ready to take on the world.

Thing I want to do: Do less. I need to take some time to make a list of essentials. We’ve all heard the saying, “Time is money.” Here’s the thing. We can waste money if we like because we can make more, but we can’t make more time. I only have so much time in each day. I cannot waste it on unessential things. We cannot do everything. We cannot be everything. It’s time to take stock again and pare down. This time it might be painful. I’ve done it before and thought I had it down to the bare minimum, but I don’t. Since we’re going on vacation, just the two of us, my husband and I, in a couple weeks, I think I’ll use some of that time on the road to do that work. Without the regular distractions, I can focus on what I want to accomplish. I’ll treat it as if we’re going on one of those fancy retreats! We’ll “go dark”! Yes!

And the photo of the week is…

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A baby bird! We saved him! My husband saw him flopping on the porch so I picked him up. He couldn’t even stand in my hand, so tired. He sat in my hand for a minute, I put some water in my hand to see if he’d drink it, he closed his eyes a bit, and suddenly looked more alert. He flapped and flew up to a creosote branch. I looked him up on the internet and found he was a Bushtit and most likely a fledgling from nearby with his mom waiting to feed him.

Have a good week everyone! Don’t worry! I’ll get this writer’s life more under control pretty soon!