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

Tag: self-awareness Page 1 of 3

Why My Personal Story Telling Helps Me Stay Connected

Story telling isn’t just for entertainment and gaining attention. And it comes in so many forms. What medium do you use to tell your story?

Story telling to preserve one's self quote on a desert background.
That’s Calico Ghost Town in the back ground. There’s a family story to that too.

“Stories are a way to preserve one’s self. To be remembered. And to forget.
Stories come in so many forms: in charcoal, and in song, in paintings, poems, films. And books.
Books, she has found, are a way to live a thousand lives – to find strength in a very long one.”

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab

What drew me to this book in the first place was the reference to stories and a bookstore, so it makes sense that the first quote I share from it would be this. There’s a lot here, though, so I’m going to try to pull it apart a little.

“Stories are way to preserve one’s self.”

I’ve always been chided and teased for story telling in every conversation and not just because I’m getting old(er). Even when I was in my early 20’s, I’d be at work telling someone the story about the time I went water skiing and got so sunburned or the time my brother jumped off the roof. As I got older, married, had kids, etc., the stories just kept coming.

I take pride in knowing that I will be that old lady in the corner of the livingroom spinning my yarns, “I remember the time…” and all my great-grandkids will want to listen but everyone else will roll their eyes. “We’ve heard this one!”

Why do we tell stories about our past?

“To be remembered. And to forget”

I want my friends and family to remember the things that have happened to me and the things we experienced together. I can write them down for posterity, and I frequently do, but telling them is my favorite. Something about sitting and remembering together is so comforting. It’s like reaching out to touch your partner in the night, a reminder that we are all still here.

When we’re together telling stories, some of us add details or their own perspective, things each of us might have missed. We solidify the story each time we tell it, a verbal family history. It’s the ultimate “family bonding” time.

We also tell stories “to forget.”

In that moment, when we are together with friends and family, swapping stories about our past, sharing tales of our childhood, embarrassing our teenagers with their cute baby stories, we put the current time with all its stress way into the background. For those moments, we don’t worry about bills that need to be paid or that meeting we need to attend at work.

Hearing each other’s stories like this also puts today into perspective. We may be currently stressing over work, home, business, and the state of union, but when we hear all our stories, we can see that nothing has changed that much. Our parents and grandparents worried about the same things. Life just keeps on going, kids do crazy things, adventures are had, no matter what is happening in the world.

What form can stories take? Like she said, “in charcoal, and in song, in paintings, poems, films. And books.” Most of our stories come in the form of words told over the dinner table or sitting around the livingroom, but some come in the form of a quilt my aunt made, a ceramic figure my grandmother crafted, or painting by my mother and her friends. It can also be the song my sons play, the robot they tried to make with their dad, and the video my stepdaughter made and posted on youtube. They are all connected to memories, things that help each of us be remembered and live longer in other people’s memories.

And this, “Books, she has found, are a way to live a thousand lives…”

That’s why I read, but it’s also why I tell my stories. I am not just my life. I’m all the lives that came before me, all the lives and portions of lives that I’ve lived and heard of. My children and my grandchildren will have my life a part of theirs. Hopefully, my great-grandchildren will live a part of my life as well, even if they never meet me.

The quilt I made, the blog post I write, the pine tree I tended and got to grow tall, as well as the stories I told while we walked in the desert, are all part of the story that pass into the future.

Addie’s curse didn’t allow her to do that. She could live forever, be a part of the world forever, but no one will remember her. Her curse allowed me to see the beauty of what I have. And that’s why I love reading books.

I blogged about “The Invisible Life of Addie Larue” when I started reading it back in January. It certainly didn’t take me long to read it all. I couldn’t put it down! Have you read it? You can find it on Thriftbooks.com if you don’t have it. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments when you read it!

Want Social Progress? Be a Better Human

Thurber book cover.

That guy! Teaching me how to be a better human from 80 years away. What better way to promote social progress!

Through his book there we are, James Thurber and I hanging out, being cool. How awesome is that?! I read that bit about writing his magazine articles and smiled…ahh yes, we don’t all have to be in the middle of the battle taking notes.

“So it came about that when other reporters were out wearing themselves down in quest of the clangorous and complicated fact, I could be observed wandering the quiet shore above the noisy torrent of contemporary history, examining the little miracles and grotesqueries of the time.”

Memoirs of a Drudge by James Thurber

I’ll admit, there are times when I wonder what in the living hell I’m doing here. Does any of this even matter? There’s so much going on in the world and I sit here disconnected from it and write about 80-year-old books, walks in the desert, and bird sightings. And don’t forget my feelings and how I cope with them. That must be important. Right?

Of course, it is! And do you know why?

Why, Michelle? Please tell us!

You know I will. Just shush a bit.

Because being human never changes. Being human is what we always will be. And being a better one helps the future more than any political movement.

I could sit and research what the best economic system is, the best parenting choices, the best political stance on government, state, national, and world-wide. I could spend my whole life doing that and there are many people far smarter than me doing it. You should listen to them.

But do you know what I think will have a much more lasting effect in this world? If I spend my time making myself a better person, a nicer, more calm, healthy, and loving person. And, because I love to think, and talk, and share, I think spending my time putting how I’m growing up into understandable words is a wonderful exercise.

I enjoy focusing on what makes me happy and healthy. And I think that makes me nicer to be around, nicer for my family and friends, and nicer for you, and nicer for the world to see and hear.

I’ve found same amazingly wonderful quotes in this book. Some are fun, hilarious, and even offensive. The times have changed, that’s for sure, but it’s still full of gems!

Want to read more? Go back to my first post about it, “The Thurber Carnival” by James Thurber.

If you want to read more about him and his work, check out his website James Thurber.org.

Can the Free Association of Writing Help You Find Yourself?

The Pleasures of Reading book cover on a book shelf. Can you "find yourself" through writing?

Oh, my gourd, I see the words “find yourself” and cringe. What does it even mean? Is there a better term? Maybe…discover my own depths? Learn more about who I really am, what I want, clarify my thoughts and feelings and use them to my advantage, instead of running blindly through life?

“It is the very process of writing allowed the writer to tap unguessed levels of his own self, to achieve a kind of nonvolitional heightening of ordinary insight, as, analogously, the process of free association in psychoanalysis is supposed to do.”

The Pleasures of Reading in an Ideological Age by Robert Alter

That is exactly why I write, here and in my personal journals. My process with almost everything I write is to start and see where it goes. With books, I read and make notes, then go back later and pull out the quotes that trigger to me think a little. Most of things I made note of at the time I was reading, usually mean nothing to me a few weeks later. But those that do still trigger me get marked and brought here for further use.

I write out the quote in a word document and start musing. Sometimes I wander far from the author’s original intent. Sometimes I wander far from my own! And sometimes the trail goes nowhere. That’s when I file it away and begin again.

The same goes for my “New Read” and “Why I Get Up” posts. There’s a trigger and then some meandering down the path of thought through words. My personal journals go the same direction, but they are never censored or edited for content. They are mine only and lead me to more ah-ha moments that I use in my daily life. I apologize to anyone that reads those. They are circular and quite profane at times. I’m sure they look the ravings of a mad person.

“Nonvolitional” is the perfect word. They all just go where they go, a free association of thoughts followed by new ideas, and thoughts on those ideas, in the hopes that some conclusion can be found.

Once I get a bit down the path and feel like I’m close to a discovery of sorts, I close the document and open the previous day’s work for editing. That’s when I try to put a bit more order and polish on my work. I didn’t use to. I used to post right after I wrote. I’d say it was some noble attempt to “be real” but honestly it was just laziness.

The past few months I’ve tried to be more consistent and deliberate with my work. I start in the same way, but spend more time editing and rearranging things so that they get across better the idea I’m attempting to convey. Hopefully, I’m starting to get better at it.

What I do know is that I’m enjoying writing more, I’m getting much more out of the books I’ve read, and I’m learning a lot more than I used to. I’m able to quote from and use the information and helps that I’ve written on, in my own life. It brings me happiness, a sort of personal purpose.

Click over to my original post, “The Pleasures of Reading in an Ideological Age” to read my initial thoughts on this book!

Find “The Pleasures of Reading in an Ideological Age” on Thriftbooks and read along with me. If you do, be sure to comment so I know you’re out there. I’d love to hear your thoughts!


“Four Reasons a Newsletter is Better Than a Social Media Feed”
Bypass the social media algorithms and sign up for my weekly newsletter. Each week will give you a rundown of my favorites posts, podcasts, and few funnies. Read what you want, when you want, without getting sucked into the endless scroll mode!

Why I Get Up in the Morning: My Power is Out Edition

Bare toes poking out from a blanket on the couch.
Heat Exchangers

My Monday morning “Gratitude” post was going to be about waking up before dawn every morning, snuggling down into my corner of the couch, wrapped in a blanket. I’m the happiest girl in the world with a cup of coffee and my toes sticking out from under the blanket like a heat regulator.

The hours before the sun comes up are my most productive, reading-wise. I’m obsessed about it. I have my book, my journal, my glasses, and a pencil ready and waiting on my desk every morning so I don’t have to hunt for them. I regularly wake up thinking, “I could go back to sleep for thirty more minutes but…my book!”

This morning was the same until I looked out the window into the dark desert and saw a glint of white.

Desert snow

It DID snow! The weather report said there was a chance, but I’ve learned not to get my hopes up when it comes to weather predictions in the desert. A 20% chance of rain means nothing around here. Partly cloudy = one cloud drifting across the sky. But this morning, there it was, a fine layer of snow on the dirt everywhere I looked.

I snuggled down into my corner of the couch as usual and then, predictably, as the sun started to come up, the power went out.

…sigh…

That’s the fun of a more rural life. I’m not being sarcastic. It really is. We live just far enough outside the city to make things a bit fun but not too crazy. Dirt roads and driveways lend themselves to the rustic atmosphere but become interesting when it rains more than one day. Snow melting into the dirt and sand is different than snow pushed to the side of paved roads.

Desert snow.

Last night’s snow wasn’t much but when it does snow more than an inch or two the whole town shuts down for the day. It doesn’t happen every year, so we all sit back and enjoy it. The sun will come out and melt most of it away in a few hours. A few days later the wet will evaporate into the air or sink down into the sand. A week later green shoots of grass will show up everywhere and then dry out over the following month. Then we get to watch the rabbits come out to munch.

Snowy desert front yard.
Get out your snow shovels!

As I type, the sun is out, the sky is clear and blue, and there’s a beautiful light blanket of snow everywhere. My husband had begun to brew beer early this morning so when the power went out, he had to drag the generator out of the garage to continue. The wood burning fireplace still burns, but without the electric fan to move the heat around the room the dog and cat have parked themselves in front of it. My laptop works for now. My couch was in the recline position when the power failed and I had just finished brewing a pot of coffee, so I’m good for the morning at least.

The power is never out for long, so there’s no need to stress. It’s just a nice excuse to sit with one more cup of coffee…and my book!


Click over to “Why I Get Up in the Morning – Episode One” and read my first gratitude post. Six months and only fourteen posts? I thought this was going to be a weekly thing! I know…I’m working on consistency in many things. Remember?

These posts were inspired last year by Sagittarius Viking‘s Weekend Coffee Share posts. How did I find her? I don’t remember, but I am also a Sagittarius AND a Viking and I love her posts! Coincidence?!

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.

Why do I get up in the Morning? Books!

Books!
That’s why I get up
so damn early in the morning!

Years ago, when my children were small, I developed a habit I still carry with me. It’s grown with time and I still wonder what I’ll do with it. I read books.

I used to wake up every morning, get a cup of coffee, and turn on the tv. I’d watch the news usually. Then I had children. I’d get them a “cup of coffee,” a sippy cup of warm milk with a touch of chocolate syrup in it, and they’d snuggle down on the couch with me and allow me a precious moment to have my coffee and wake up.

As they grew and started sleeping past the crack of dawn, I still rose early so that I could see my husband off to work and grab a bit of peace before the chaos. I’d sit on the couch with my coffee and watch an hour of tv, checking my email and then adding social media while it droned in the background.

In high school and college, I read a lot, mostly horror and sci-fi novels, but some classics for school. As I got older, I stopped making time for reading and with kids…well…I thought I’d never have the peace and quiet I needed to read again.

One day it dawned on me. What if I stopped turning on the tv when I got up in the morning and picked up a book? It started with about fifteen minutes of reading a day, in the wee quiet hours of the morning. I’d stumble out of bed, grab a cup of coffee, and plop myself down with my current read. The moment the kids were up, reading time was over.

As the kids got older, I could read for at least an hour every morning before I needed to start my day. It was a great way to get my mind right. The kids almost always woke up to find me still in the corner of the couch, flipping pages.

These days, I’m typically in my place reading by 5am. I have a whole shelf dedicated to my TBR pile, and don’t allow myself to overflow it. No more space means I must hold off on ordering new books! I’ve kept a reading journal for years, making note of what I’ve read, title, author, and genre, when I read it, and how long it took me to read it. I spend about two hours a morning reading each day. And since we’re down to one “child” in the house that goes to college and works, I have started to build more time into the afternoon to read.

What will I do with all this information? I have no idea. I read a hefty amount of non-fiction: history, science, sociology, etc. I read classic literature and popular fiction. In the past, I think it has helped me think more clearly. Reading has given me a lot of peace, like meditation, it’s good “selfcare” for me. Homeschooling my sons was easier reading about education styles, history of education, and child development books. And now I’m starting to blog more about what I’m reading.

Who knows where I’ll go with it or what it will bring me in the future? Reading is the same as life. The outcome isn’t important. It’s the process; experiencing the moment. I read where my heart takes me and enjoy the time I spend in my books, taking what I need with me and leaving the rest.

Books: Another fine reason to get up in the morning.

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.

Why Do I Get Up in the Morning – Episode 9

You might think that I know exactly what my Monday post will be about each week, but you’re so wrong. Like the rest of my life, I have a basic structure and a set of principles to guide me in general, but I let things fall as they may (as much as possible). It’s a system that has taken me most of my life to develop and accept, but it has certainly served me well.

The basic structure of the Monday post is that on Sunday I go through my pictures (I take a lot of pictures…of everything) and think about my week. Then I sit with my computer for thirty minutes and see what comes up.

The principle I follow here is “positivity.” What has triggered a sense of happiness, peace, or joy? What reason did I have this week to smile?

This week it was snow. And not JUST snow, my feet in snow. The sound of fresh snow as I take a that first step onto it and it crunches and compacts beneath my feet.

I grew up in Southern California. Snow is a foreign concept to us southern coastal types. Now that I think about it, cold in general is a bizarre notion to us. Dressing warm means the heavy sweatshirt and possibly socks.

The first time I remember experiencing snow was when my Mom moved away, and I went up to visit her. I was about twenty years old and had flown up to see her. It was snowy cold at the airport, but not spectacular, nothing beautiful. It was when we arrived at her house and stepped out of the car and onto the snow-covered grass. My foot sunk into the inch of snow with a quiet crunch that I could feel in my shoes. I stopped immediately and listened as I purposefully sunk my other foot into the snow. It was a sound I had never heard before, and I was fascinated.

Where I live now, it snows about once a year. The first time there was enough snow on the ground to perform the crunch, I ran out with my children and took video of them experiencing it themselves. I was excited to say the least and to my joy, so were they. To this day, every time it snows, I’m excited to go out and feel it again. I usually take a quick video of a step or two to send to my mom.

I don’t know why it makes me smile. It just does. Maybe if I lived where it snows heavily all winter every year, I’d grow weary of it, but I don’t. It’s still new to me every time. The quiet rural air muffled even more by a blanket of soft snow. The crisp feel of the icy air in my nose. I stand on the porch ready to take my first step into frosty white. Heel first… a rolling crunch…it’s just so strange. It’s not a true crunch. Can you feel it? It’s more of a rough sliding, compacting of fluffy ice.

This week, as I drove home from a visit with my mom, I stopped at a roadside rest area covered in snow. It was 17 degrees outside and all I had on was a hoodie, jeans, and tennis shoes. I shivered as I ran to the bathroom and was ready to run straight back to the truck, but there before me was a big patch of untrodden snow. All alone on the side of the road, not a soul in sight, surrounded by snowy hills and huge trees, I smiled and took that step…crunch…ahh…so satisfying.

How does a sound transport one so quickly? I can see myself at 90 years old, my grown grandchildren taking me out of the home for a picnic, but I make them stop at patch of new snow just so I can feel it again. I hope they know why.

“Search Your Feelings…”

“When you feel hurt, avoid jumping to conclusions and lashing out in anger.”

13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do” by Amy Morin

Sounds so easy. Duh! Of course! But we don’t. That’s the thing about pain. When something hurts, our instinct is to lash out in an attempt to make that pain stop…immediately. And many times, all we do is push the pain to others, or extend the pain’s timeline.

I’m thinking of instances where I can build up this skill. A text not answered. A message received. A social media post that makes me cringe. These are some of the things that trigger my “anger.” But what’s the initial feeling behind the anger?

“Search your feelings, Luke.” Star Wars comes up a lot in my daily thinking. I think the Jedi were onto something.

Much of what I react in anger to comes from hurt or embarrassment. My ego has been bruised somehow. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was only me lashing out, but it seems that every human on this planet is hurting in varying degrees and we all react to pain by causing more, creating ripples that turn into waves of more pain.

What can I do? Take a step back and ask myself, “Why am I angry?” And then sit with it awhile. Maybe use that meditation technique, make some space for that feeling to move around in and see what it shows me.

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