A Virtual Colloquy - What are YOU reading?!

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I Am A Writer. What’s your Superpower?

Writing Superpower quote with book cover on desert background.

“It feels powerful to him to put an experience down in words, like he’s trapping it in a jar and it can never fully leave him.”

Normal People by Sally Rooney

I’m a writer. In the past I wouldn’t have made a statement like that. I’m not published. I don’t have a huge following. I don’t write books, fiction or non-fiction. My blog posts…well…what can I say? I have tried my hand at few short stories this past year. It’s something I didn’t realize would bring me so much joy.

It may be one of those flawed super powers that seems cool, might be useful for something, but usually just looks silly or gets you into more trouble than its worth. But I am a writer. I always have been.

I have a box in my room filled with journals, the oldest of which dates back to 1984. I was twelve years old. I was also an avid letter writer when I was a kid. A box of old letters from pen pals, friends that had moved away, proves that.

Do all writers keep things like this?!

The things I choose to keep prove that I am a writer (and a reader) deep down in my soul. Books, journals, letters, photo albums, maps, postcards, etc. fill my shelves all over the house. I even have all the calendars and planners I’ve had over the past twenty-five years, filled with notes about who was where and when, what was made for dinner, and what was spent on what.

I plan on torturing my children with this treasure trove of information someday. When they harass me about my habits, I laughingly tell them that someday the electronic world will disappear and all that will be left of life in early 21st century will be my written archive. Then who will laugh?!

When I walk around my neighborhood, or go for hikes with friends and family, I make up quick stories about the things we see and where we are. “This tree root looks like it’s hatching a rock egg.” “What if we pretended that we were time travelers and asked people what year it was?” “This trail leads to Hobbits.” I’m happiest when I’m with people that will add to the story, not laugh at it as if it were an odd thing to do. Now I’m thinking I should write down and expand on some of those tales.

Unlike the character in the book, I don’t write things down to capture them. It honestly depends on my mood and what I’m writing. I’m attempting to communicate; sometimes with myself (future and past), sometimes with others, sometimes with my family and friends.

Everything I write, including this blog, is simply me trying to understand myself and the world around me, even the fiction. I physically write it down, and share my thoughts here with you, in the hopes that someone out there can benefit from it. I don’t want someone to read my work and think, “Oh! That’s what I am going to do!” I’m not attempting to be anyone’s “guru” in this world.

Ultimately, I’d love it if someone that reads me understands me, considers my thought process, and maybe gleans something from it that makes their life just a little bit nicer.

My superpower is attempting to communicate ideas through the written word. I may not be a proficient one, but I am a writer. I always have been, and I always will be.


If you’d like to go back and read my thoughts on this book from the beginning, start at my post New Read: Normal People.

You can find “Normal People” by Sally Rooney on Amazon.

My monthly newsletter highlights my immediate after-thoughts about the books I read the previous month. You can sign up for that awesome email at the link on the right or by hopping over to my Autobibliography page. Once you opt-in, you’ll receive one email a month only available to my email followers…mmm…so exclusive!

Will the negative effects of social media destroy civilization?

Social media quote from Ready Player Two on book cover background.
The second of only two posts on this book!

“A world where people don’t go outside and touch each other anymore? Where everyone sleeps their lives away while reality collapses all around them?
Sometimes I think my parents are better off. They don’t have to live in this utopia you’ve all created.”

Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline

I honestly (most of the time) don’t believe the negative effects of social media and the internet will destroy the world as we know it, but I was in a bleak mood when I wrote this, so prepare yourselves. I’m not always this pessimistic, but lately, I’ve felt overwhelmed. I try to assume positive intent. I attempt to see things from a different perspective. But man…when everywhere I look (and I’ve been off social media for over a month now, mostly just looking at the physical world around me) all I see are zombies. I want to scream…WAKE UP!

Maybe I need some new friends? A new location? One of my sons has been out in the world recently. His reports come back positive for the most part. My youngest leaves for university in a few weeks and I’m looking forward to hearing his perspective of a whole new world.

Can we overcome the negative side of social media and use it in positive ways?

I can’t think of how to put this into words. This line just killed me. In fact, the whole book was overwhelmingly sad to me and not because I’m a technology hater. I love the internet. I loved social media, until the past couple of years. I see so much potential, so much to create with it.

But it seems the Ready Player Two characters are only reliving the past through virtual reality, escaping into old movies and music, instead of using the new medium to create and collaborate. I’d hoped the second book would build on the first. I’d hoped that the first book had taught humanity a lesson and that the second would be creative in showing us how we could build on this new technology in innovative and exciting ways. I wanted to see Lazarus soar to the skies with his new wings, with the lesson learned about flying too close to the sun.

Maybe they’re right. Maybe the internet is what ends up destroying us. We just can’t have nice things.


Have you read Ready Player Tw0? Did you read Ready Player One? Or watch the movie? Comment and let me know what you think!

Read my previous post about Ready Player Two, Reality is Not the Curated Fragments of Life in the Media.

If you’re interested in my monthly reading newsletter, where I describe all my juicy immediate afterthoughts of the books I read, along with various other hilarious tidbits, subscribe by signing up for it on my Autobibliography page!

“The 28 Mansions of the Moon”

The 28 Mansions of the Moon book cover on a Joshua Tree.

This book is special because it is the first I’ve purchased and read because I followed the author on Instagram. I loved his posts and then saw that he had a book out…had to get it. It doesn’t take much for me to want to read a book, that’s for certain!

I’m thirty pages in today and enjoying it immensely. It’s different, that’s for sure. I can’t wait to read more and maybe learn more about what it’s based on.

You can find the book on Amazon here and follow the author on Instagram here.

“The 28 Mansions of the Moon” is also my first new read of 2021.

This year I plan on doing something different and read one book at a time for a while. I used to have two books going because one was usually a slow, difficult read that I could only focus on for about twenty minutes before my brain hurt. I may pick up one of those reads again and need to have two books going at once, but for now let’s see how this goes!

Cup of tea and a book journal.
Afternoon Tea

I have a brand-new book journal for the occasion.

Believe it or not, I found this lovely little book over a year ago in a shop in San Diego. I picked up and thought…no, I’ll just lose it before I need it…but it’s SO cute! Yep. I bought it and now I finally get to use it. Yay for keeping track of things!

Happy New Year Everyone!

If you’re interested in my monthly reading newsletter, where I describe all my juicy immediate afterthoughts of the books I read, along with various other hilarious tidbits, subscribe by signing up for it HERE!

Who Are You, Really?

“Carmel wasn’t wearing a body. It was so wonderful and relaxing not wearing a body. No thighs. No stomach. No bum. She was just Carmel, without her body.”

Nine Perfect Strangers by liane Moriarty

This book was one of those stories where the whole picture was beautiful. It has been difficult to pull out a quote and riff on it because it wasn’t the line that triggered my thinking, it was the whole chapter.

This quote is a perfect example. Just reading that line without the context probably wouldn’t have given me any of the feels whatsoever. I’ll elaborate on this one anyway and see if I can’t convey the idea through my own lens.

Who are you?
Are you a collection of traits and attributes?

I think we are far more than that.

With a bit of encouragement, we can easily wrap our minds around the idea that we are not the car we drive or the house we live in. But when we look in the mirror and see our strangely shaped nose, over-curly hair, or much too wide middle, we immediately thing, “I am hideous!”

And it’s not just a female thing. Men have a rough time when they feel like they don’t measure up or they’re getting older and feel less attractive.

But how we look is not who we are.

Who we are is much more elusive. The concept of “soul” or “spirit” is closer to who you are. Need proof that we are not our bodies? Identical twins look exactly the same, but are they not different people? I wonder…if we could clone an adult human, replicate one sci-fi style, would they not be different people? What would it be like to talk to that person?

We put on a physical body and use it.

We’re all born as that “person”, whole and complete the moment we enter the world. We put on a physical body, use it (wisely if possible), decorate it like a high school pee-chee folder, and when we die we leave it behind and move on to…who knows where.

That person that feels, makes decisions, considers, and stores up information…that’s YOU. What would it be like to just be you without the body, without the stuff? Hard to wrap my brain around, that’s for sure.

You Can Tame Your Thoughts with a Mediation Practice

“It wasn’t that she’d found any solutions or experienced any earth-shattering revelations, but the act of observing her looping thoughts seemed to slow them down, until at last they came to a complete stop, and she’d found that for moments of time she thought…nothing.”

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Meditation. When my sons were pre-school age, I started seeing a therapist and she urged me to give it a try. I fought against it for years. I wish I hadn’t.

About five years ago, I finally succumbed to peer-pressure, or Facebook advertising, and tried the 7-day free trial of a meditation app called Calm. It changed me. Delighted, I rolled right into the next 30-day trial and have been buying it every year since then.

Making Time for Meditation and Re-Focus

Lately, I’ve fallen away from daily mediation instead of increasing my sit time and I keep getting reminders like this one about why I should re-focus and make time for it.

Peace.

Meditation brings me a few minutes of peace from my looping, anxious thoughts. The instructions that the Calm app gave me were different than any other in that they didn’t ask me to clear my mind or stop thinking. They said focus on something simple, like my breath coming in and out of my chest. Every time I lost my focus, I’d take a deep breath and start again. I hadn’t failed. I had built up a practice. The point was to recognize that my mind had shifted focus and bring it back. The bringing it back was the practice. And I was getting good at it.

I’m a classic “over-thinker.”

It’s actually a sore spot for me. People that point out that I’m overthinking something usually get the nastier of reactions in my repertoire. My thoughts usually run immediately to, “Maybe if more people did SOME thinking, I wouldn’t have so much on my plate to consider!” It bugs me that most people shun any type of thinking, as if those that put time into considering options and the consequences of their actions are just crazy and need help.

I want to do a little justifying myself for a moment. One reason that I overthink some things is that I hate miscommunication. I tend to fly off the handle with people. I’m reactionary. But I don’t want people to think badly of me, so now I try to consider everyone’s point of view and ask a lot of questions. I’m trying to understand. Then people get offended, as if my quest to understand is questioning their choices. I get angry and defensive and then spend more time in my head wondering what I could have done better. How can I do that without asking more questions?! Anxiety builds.

Enter meditation. Like the quote says, I don’t have any blinding revelations while I meditate. What I gain is time.

Meditation has taught me to think in one direction, realize when I’ve stopped, and refocus.

It puts time between my impressions of people and my reaction to the things they do or bring up in me. It has created a space for me to think before I act.

Mental Health Opportunity?

“A well-managed breakdown can turn out to be a good thing. Try to see it as an opportunity. An opportunity to grow and learn about yourself.”

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Can we use a mental breakdown as an opportunity for growth?

Yeah! That’s the ticket! An opportunity!

I’m imagining Jon Lovitz on Saturday Night Live. Remember that skit?

Sometimes I swear I’m only lying to myself, trying to put a brave face or a good spin on terrible behavior. A meltdown is a meltdown and, dammit, at my age, shouldn’t I have already learned to keep my mouth shut and walk away?! I know better. I know better even as it’s happening. And yet, here I am again, losing my shit and taking everyone within earshot with me.

It’s just sad.

But…then again…don’t we all learn at our own pace? I am better today than I was in the past. Each time I live through a confrontation, I do learn something, and I respond better the next time. Slow and steady wins the race, right?

Win or lose, climb or fall; since the day we were born, each time we interact with the world we learn a little more. Some of us are born farther ahead than others, some move more slowly, some gain ground more quickly, but we are all at least moving.

What happened? What could I have done better if anything? And my favorite, can I just let this setback go this time instead of holding onto it like a heavy anchor?

Relativity – The Speed of Time

“Time went by so fast these days. There was some sort of malfunction going on with how fast the earth was spinning. Decades went by as quick as years once did.”

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

I loved this book. Seriously. It was beautiful. And, strangely, it came up from another reader in my Instagram feed just a few days ago. She hated it! I always find it fascinating that people have such completely different views about a book. It’s encouraging to a writer. Stories are subjective. It’s not that my story sucks rocks…it just hasn’t found its reader yet, the people that it speaks to best.

This quote. You’ve felt it, haven’t you?

Time is relative.

Time seems to speed by sometimes. Maybe it’s because you’re so busy with life that you lose track. Some months feel like they are creeping by but then when I look back…holy Toledo…it’s almost Christmas again. Honestly, summer does that to me every year. Maybe because I hate the heat so much. I’m trapped indoors and feel like it will never end and then BAM! Fall is over.

How do you slow time?

They say time speeds up as we get older. Maybe we realize our mortality and, in our rush to accomplish more before our time runs out, we miss the calendar changes. Would slowing down and savoring each day help? Seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?

If I slow down and do less each day, will I accomplish more? Probably not. I will actually be doing less with my time, but I might enjoy what I’m doing more. If I savor that dinner with my husband, enjoy the books I’m reading as if I have all the time in the universe to finish them, really be with the sewing, yard, or house project I’m working on, maybe I’ll experience more of them and stretch out time, metaphorically anyway.

That song by They Might Be Giants runs through my head constantly these days.

“You’re older than you’ve ever been and now you’re even older, now you’re even older, and now you’re even older. TIME is marching on.”

Like a fine meal, expertly prepared, we can’t save it for later, but we can savor each bite and share it with the people around us.

Do All Our Memories Change With Time?

Memory quote from book on background of the book's cover.

“They’d both learned that memory is a fact that’s been dyed and trimmed and rinsed so many times that it comes out looking almost unrecognizable to anyone else who was in the room…”

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

If we’re honest,
all our memories change with time.

We have all had that experience, right? He thought the conversation went one way, she thought it went another, but if you had a third person in the room, they’d swear it went in a completely different direction.

And then there is distant memory. I swear my brother started that big argument. He doesn’t remember arguing at all. Since social media has brought us together with people from our distant past, people we probably never would have seen again are instantly available to exchange photos and stories of events that would have been long forgotten.

One specific instance for me was a picture that a friend posted of a bunch of people at an event. If you had asked me if I had ever gone to this event, I would have said no. Or if you had asked me if I ever hung out with these people outside of work, I would also have said no. And I would not be lying. In fact, even seeing the picture, I still cannot remember the event. But there I am, right in the middle of the picture. It’s not a case of mistaken identity. I’m there, full face, arm around two friends and clearly at the event. I remember working with those people, but I still don’t remember that event.

Which leads me to think, what else have I lost to time?

What details of my past am I completely missing? Not in a “I know that face from somewhere.” or a “What was that game we played together?” kind of way, but in a “That never happened and you’re crazy and trying to trap me into something if you think it did!” way.

It’s something to think about when we accuse others of lying or changing their stories to suit the room. We all experience life from a different perspective, all the time. Everything that happens to us is colored by our own personal past, our mood, and our thinking. And, over time, the story of what happened changes for us. Things become less important to us, or more important. We lose interest or change our perspective a bit. We get older.

Yes, the truth is out there. Something happened, but like that Matrix camera, everyone saw it, experienced it, from different angles, with different lenses, even with a different quality film. Try and respect someone else’s version of the truth. It’s just as valid as yours.


Want to read this book? Find it on Amazon, “Ask Again, Yes”

Read more posts about this book!
When You’re Wrong
Anger Management

Parenting Experience Points

“The thing is, Peter, grown-ups don’t know what they’re doing any better than kids do. That’s the truth.”

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

This quote reminded me of the relationship between my stepdaughter and me. Let’s just say, I was not the ideal parent and I apologized a lot, but it never helped. I wish kids were born knowing the adults in their lives are doing the best they can with what they have.

She was my first child, even though I got her when she was five years old and only half the week. Parenting was new to me. Step-parenting was new to me. She was new to me. I wanted to do better than my parents did, but in a lot of ways I failed. We all fail. It’s how we learn to do better.

Our relationship was torture for both of us much of the time. There were great days, but I felt like I failed at every turn and she’d never forgive me for it, which only made me feel worse about myself, and then I’d get worse. It was a vicious cycle downward that only ended when she finally moved out forever. And at the bottom of my heart, I was glad she did, proud of her for getting away and doing what was best for her.

I haven’t seen her in six years and we only recently, carefully started texting each other. I still don’t know how to talk to her. I try to listen to my husband. He seems to have a better sense of these things. His advice stems from what he’d want, “Just leave her alone and let her come to you when she’s ready,” but I’m afraid. What if the day she comes to me when she’s ready, I am not? What if I screw it all up again?

I didn’t know what I was doing. I still don’t. Parenting is hard. Parenting someone else’s kid is harder.

The only difference between adults and children is experience points. The more experience you have in life, the more you know how much you don’t know, how much you still need to learn…and then we die, hoping our kids do better than we did.

Unintentional Lessons From Childhood

“She raised her hand when she felt like talking and didn’t think that was notable until Mr. Behan told her parents in the parent-teacher conference that he was glad to see a girl raising her hand.”

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

As I read any book, I make notes. I underline perfect sentences, things that start me thinking, and sweet “ah-ha” moments. After I finish reading the book, I go back through and look at my notes, pulling out things that trigger a reaction in me. Sometimes, just days after I’ve finished reading, I can’t remember why I marked a certain passage. Maybe it struck me but didn’t stick? It must not have been that important, a passing idea.

Sometimes a sentence jumps out at me, I’m brought to some revelation about my current situation, or it reminds me of my childhood, and I write about that. This passage did both!

I’m not sure if you know this, but I live in the desert. The rural part, not the city part. I’m not totally in the middle of nowhere. I can drive into town any day of the week. I can drive into the city, and I often do. It’s not that I’m physically that isolated, but the town is small, and it is the desert. People tend to move here because they like being alone. We come together as a community for special occasions, like the 4th of July or a music festival. We complain about “traffic” and crowded parking lots when there are more than a few cars nearby. Unless you are part of some sub-group, it’s not the hub of social activity.

So…what’s your point, Michelle?

I know, I’m getting to that!

Let’s see…summed up… I’ve found myself a bit hungry for social interaction lately.

Since my boys have flown the nest, I’ve been at a loss about how to find a new social circle. How do I meet new people now? BC (before children) I met people at work. With kids, it was playgroups and then homeschool events. I started to get involved in our local community center but with the shutdowns all of that is on hiatus until further notice.

So, what do I do? I looked to the internet, Facebook groups be precise. I found a few that looked promising and joined. That was the easy part. Then, when I started scrolling through the posts, I noticed that people were posting an introduction, a picture and some description of themselves and why they were there. I read them, found them interesting…but could not bring to post one myself, even though I longed to do so. I literally broke into a cold sweat just thinking about what I would write. Why?

Then I saw this underlined in my book and it dawned on me. It’s like raising my hand in class. I never could do it. Even as an adult, in any kind of classroom like situation, an office meeting, anything, I couldn’t raise my hand to say something no matter how much I wanted to. I’d sit there, heart racing, mind trying to put together just the right words to express my thoughts…and do nothing. I have the answer! I have something important to add! I can help with that! But nothing could get me to raise my hand.

Why? Because raising your hand draws attention to yourself, drawing attention to yourself if not lady-like or attractive. And that is the worst crime of all. Where in the world did I get that idea? I assume I got that message from my mother’s family growing up. I can hear their words like family mantras, “don’t make a scene,” “don’t be ugly,” “keep your voice down,” etc. There was no evil scheme to keep a child down, it was just the way they were raised, so they passed those social and cultural rules on to me.

The women in my father’s family were different. They were loud, brash, and wild. Since my parents divorced when I was very young, and back then fathers didn’t get 50/50 custody of their kids, I didn’t see them often. I mostly saw them on holidays when they were at their most boisterous. Recently, I’ve dreamt about being more like what I perceived them to be: confident, proud, intelligent, unrestrained.

So here I am, 47 and looking for new friends on the internet. I joined a group of like-minded people in an attempt to socialize…and I’m paralyzed with fear at the idea of introducing myself, even from behind a screen. What the hell?! I need to get over this right quick. There’s a huge difference between running into a room, doing crazy things, screaming “Look at me!” and contributing to a group social dynamic.

Our children learn some strange lessons, ones we didn’t mean to teach them at all. I wonder what unintentional lessons my children learned from me.

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