O to be a Writer!

A summer well spent.

 fun to some people

I have been self-employed for most of my adult life and it’s been great to have control over my time. I’m far from rich but being free to create my priorities is a valuable trade-off.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t work, and it’s extremely rare that I take a day off. I juggle new classes and projects each year and often semester. The last time I took time for myself was maternity leave for a semester—and that was not for ‘myself’; that was being dropped with no parachute into an unknown and very real jungle of sleeplessness and nappies. When I went back to work 4 months later, it was with relief. Who can agree with that?

 They forgot “Distraction”

Fast forward a little more than five years later to this summer and I was finally able to take some time, yes, actually for ME. Yippee yiy-ay!

This meant teaching two less classes than my usual slate of six or seven a week. But what it really meant was that I had two days off a week—ah lovely Mondays and Tuesdays. What it meant was that I had half a day to myself on Wednesdays—if I planned right.

As I wrote in my previous entry here, I took off mainly to write, which I did with extreme abandon and frenzy. From the moment my fingers hit the keys I knew I was racing the calendar and the clock. In June I yelled a GO!, then bumped and bruised thereafter to keep up with the finite squares on my wall. There was no way to change or reason with the calendar. I had roughly two months… And then September came.

For that brief, wonderful period of time I tasted the ambrosia of what it might feel like to live an author’s life. To have a book deal, advance cash, a scaffolding of support for such a private, intense endeavor. Damn it was lovely.

 O to be a Writer!

As you may notice, I took off writing this blog too, as it’s hard for me to write intensively and then write in another forum. But now it’s September. The question is ‘what does my writing future look like?’ How can I continue now that the fall season and work is revving up. It’s start your engines in another direction, absolutely away from the lines of my chapters and verses and the characters who wait completion.

 Not my problem

I just hope that today’s conundrum becomes tomorrow’s plan. Solved, salvaged, salved, saved.

Does anyone have a solution that works that does not require large amounts of trust funds?

Writer’s Block, Writer’s Flood

You’ve got to be ready.

As a writer, you never know what’s going to hit you!

 Kaaaaaaa-boom!

You were minding your business, quietly writing padding peddling along. Then BOOM! an asteroid came and threw you off your trajectory. It could have been a wonderful asteroid like in my case the birth of my daughter, or it could be something awful like when my friend’s father died.

It could be something totally boring like the onset of just plain wooden block.

No matter how, it’s happened. You’ve been thrown off your path, the one that your fingers tapping on your keys kept you tied to, and now you’re floating in space. You are catapulted up and then down, landing with an “AHHHHRGH” flat on your butt. You look around and the world’s shifted. There’s no GPS out here. Even if you’ve been lost in this maze before, that is far from comforting. You remember how hard it is to find your way back. There’s no way to snap your fingers or click your heels. You’re stuck searching for any guidepost, a sign you can use to get back.

It has to be said that sometimes, when you’re lucky, the wandering is not sucky at all but another adventure! You’ve derailed onto another fulfilling or fun path. Bravo! At least when you’re not writing you’re doing something else you love.

I tried that, I spent over 5K of my own savings to go back to school to become an interior designer. However, once out I realized that having a young child and a husband who was also self-employed was not—very much not—conducive to building a design practice. I quickly realized my job choice, at least at this time of life, was not doable.  And, worse, going back to school pulled me even farther from writing than I’d been when my daughter was born.  Then, time moved on my girl was turning 4, and I saw the truth: I was so far gone that I had no idea how to find my way back.

you’ve come to the corner of…

  and 

But I’m not easily deterred. I set my vision far ahead and put on my proverbial hiking boots. First, I did one thing I do best: Read. I paged through book after book about people’s transformation, growth and writing. I was inspired and I was moved. But still no sign back. Then in December 2012, the stars aligned, I took the right medicine, and I found the book at my local library’s New Book Shelf. Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. Each chapter I was transported closer and closer to my destination, until by the end of the book I found myself there again, this flowing threshold of creative possibility.

I was ready to write again, but darn if the whole world had changed. In the 5 years since typing my last period, there’d been a revolution in social media. It wasn’t going to be like the old days. Doing my diligence and trying to find writing gigs, there are a million blog jobs out there. I was overwhelmed and not a little confused. So, I decided to start simple with a little blog.

I started here reviewing Cheryl’s book and put my shoulder to the task, learning, studying, until after three faithful months of blogging SHAZAM! it hit me like another asteroid—the words, dreams, visions just started coming. Gushing. Flowing. All the while I had been hiking through the trees and all of a sudden I came to that gorgeous clearing ,the overlook where the sky opens before you and the horizon fills your eyes, and you want to cry “Hallelujah!”

  Fluttershy knows what I”m talking about.

So that’s the wonderful place my creative mind has been for the past two months. Writing in my cave, watching the dust bunnies pile up around me, trying to give my family enough time and, yes, missing my blog.

I don’t know about other writers, but I’ve found it very difficult, in fact terrifying, to try to do my creative work as well as this blog. Every time my mind has wandered to a blog piece, I’d jealously wrench it back to my book, unwilling to give one iota of creative energy to something else. I’m hyper-aware that block can rear up again.  I scan the trees for it every time I look up from a page, wary, belligerent. Stay away! I pray to the Muses, “Please let me finish my book!”

I’m so paranoid that I struggle with the superstition that even admitting this will somehow juju me with a malevolent, sapping spell.

And yet here I am writing my blog again. I’ve looked for sneaky ways to have my cake and eat it too, and I’m tip-toeing behind my book to write this. I pray that tomorrow, when I finish and publish this, I am rewarded and not turned into some creative pillar of salt. Ye of all faiths, pray for me too!

I want to keep up with you out there in social media land. I like our connection. Maybe if this one works, I can continue to sneak away from my book periodically, until I finish it. Finish it. I can’t wait to type those words at the end: FINI!

For now, Hello again. I’d love to hear from anyone who writes more than one project at once. I’d love to hear how you manage it.

Cheers,  bllu

Who Are the Victims Here?

I feel very humbled by the bombing that happened in Boston, my hometown, this Monday on a day and event that is usually equated with fun, camaraderie and celebration.

In my last post I said that I am thankful that I am safe. But the deeper truth is that whether I am safe or in danger, whatever gifts I am given or wish for, I remain aware of incredible luck.

 LUCK:

I recognize a loving connection to the universe.

I was born with mental health.

I was born into a life where I’ve been cared for and cherished.

I want to offer the perspective, as unpopular as it may be, that the people who perpetrate these awful crimes, anywhere, do not see a loving god. Their god is a mirror for the chaos and torture their minds experience.

 I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.

Yet, some people, these tormented people, live with it…and become our worst enemies.

These nutters and madmen, these crazies and bastards, these shits, fuckers and lowest of the low certainly don’t hear a loving god’s voice. They don’t understand a compassionate god’s language nor a forgiving god’s embrace. They comprehend neither the sweetness that comes from a sense of belonging to a unified web of existence nor a sense of belonging to anyone.

 How grim is that?

 How awful to not belong.

I don’t know what I would do if my world wasn’t  a place where I expect to be treated fairly, where I am secure that I own my body, where I can turn to someone in dark moments. I don’t know what state I’d be in if I my world lacked family and friends who held and gentled and told me my misfortunes would be alright.

These people whose lives are not worth the air they breathe nor the space they inhabit can’t understand such being. They are barred from knowing the joy of living that is bestowed upon most of us. They are barred, by their own derangement, from comfort and joy.

These bombers and suiciders possess minds twisted into gruesome violence, either by a gruesome violent childhood or by the tragedy of being born without mental health.  Their cries were not answered. Their battered, broken, invaded, bloodied and dented bodies or minds were not saved from misery.

In the aftermath of such torment, it’s a grave battle for such a person to trust or even comprehend kindness.

I feel a wild grief and fury for the innocent people harmed by such ghastly acts as experienced Patriots Day in Boston. Yet, I also hold compassion for the perpetrators’ miserable and wasted lives.

I often think of that challenge Jesus said: Who will cast the first stone?

Because who knows where the line lies that causes a person to perpetrate violence? Am I better than these madmen? Are you exempt from madness and violence? If we’d lived their lives, would we follow the same twisted course? I believe that’s too possible for me to judge myself better than anyone.

I can only say that I’m very grateful for the balance of my mind that doesn’t fight demons, and for a childhood free from destroyed innocence. I don’t know what it would be to suffer neglect and cruelty. But I do know that fury easily begets fury, anger begets more anger and violence begets more violence that heals no one.

We can run in circles believing there are answers. But there is no bandaid and no undoing pain. The shit happened and it was wretched. There is nothing worse than seeing innocent people wounded. But we are all born innocent and there is a lot of wounding that goes on unseen, fashioning tender children into heartbroken souls. They grow up to look ugly and useless, gross and sick and virulent, and full of disgusting poison. But how’d that happen?

At some point their innocence was lost and we should also grieve for that.

Let’s grieve and hold our loved ones close and reach out to those who we know are hurting. Every connection counts, every helping hand, every caring gesture and extra minute of time make a difference to someone who strains to hear a god who loves and to know themselves in world that gives a damn.

 I will try to give a damn. I want to give a damn.

Because one person saved from alienation and derangement can truly equal 5 or 50 or 500 other lives saved the violence detonated by such a desolate being.

Peace: A Work in Progress

Last night at my women’s spiritual group, we had to do a writing exercise about PEACE. The board asked: What brings me peace? Do I believe that people, given a choice, would choose peace?

The two people in my discussion group gave adamant no’s, which surprised and saddened me. These are the kindest, gentlest women you’d meet, so their despondency marked a change in my understanding of people today and made me feel like sharing my response about PEACE.

In our 2013 lives we face many challenges but most of them are safe and fed people’s challenges. This means that they are important, but not essential. Most Americans are not poor nor rich, but rather in the middle. We have stable homes, our kids know they can go to school and graduate, we have enough food, and we know that our laws, insurance and societal moral fabric will protect us most of the time.

I would never say that this is always true. I would never say that our country is perfect or even exemplary. Personally, I would not point to the USA as the model of how a country should be run. Yet, all that said, I am very thankful that I live here, where I don’t have to worry about my or my family’s lives. My community is strong. We all have access to education. We walk comfortably down our street. We sleep without anxiety in our beds. We trust the people we meet and deal with. We know that most of our neighbors operate from a will to do good. This is a solid foundation on which to build a life.

That life may fall apart. The weather twists and howls. Prices rise. We may suffer a blow to health or lose a job. We may even be forced to leave our home. Sh$##t happens—all the time.

Yet the foundation, with rare exceptions, remains. And I have learned to take time each day to ponder that with complete concentration:

I am safe.
I am loved.
I am fed and sated.
I am clothed and bathed and warm.

This alone is wondrous.

Then there is all the rest that comes with being middle class: the culture of too much. Almost every group of things a person can have, we have.

My husband opened his closet the other day and with exasperation announced “I don’t have anything to wear!” And my daughter sitting next to him laughed. She saw the closet full of clothes and thought he was telling an ‘April Fools’ joke. She said, “Mommy, Daddy is being silly!” And I had to laugh too because I say the same thing far more than he does, and because we are silly.

We spend most of our chores time getting rid of things. How we amass them is something that hurts my head to ponder. But the truth is, we are crammed chockablock. In this era of cheap available stuff, we pretty much have it all—and that’s on half of what many consider a living salary and refusing to shop at places like Walmart.

 Help! My Stuff is attacking me!

OK, I’ll fess up–my passion for thrift shopping is one culprit. Can I help it if Boston offers a cornucopia of gorgeous second-hand stores?  Kid’s books and clothes, furniture, books, games, clothing, shoes, kitchenware, jewelry, bikes, sports equipment, and all sorts of vintage finds are just some of the things we can get cheaply and easily. And get stuffed.

Another conundrum of this age is that we are starved for time. We are a country on the run, where seeing friends is akin to thievery to ‘steal a few minutes’ together. In the good US of A, family-time is a label with little meaning or support. New fathers are lucky to get 2 weeks off; kids get holidays off from school yet parents are expected to work.

I won’t even talk about mail, and how many trees died to print useless super-saver coupons and replicate credit card offers.

Lots of bad decisions are made and bad people are not punished. As a nation, we suffer from acute politicitus (yes, I made that up)

Do I trust everyone? No. Do I think the government is great? No.

       

SOMETIMES YOU JUST GOTTA CRY IT OUT

Do I pull my hair out over issues that I can’t believe we have to live with, much less debate? Yes yes yes.

Yet, I am capable of peace.

Is this wrong of me? … In light of all the crap that goes on, I wonder if people might think so. I wonder if people might think me guilty of shucking the weight of the world. And perhaps, feel guilty of doing so themselves. I know I’ve been guilty of feeling guilty! (hmmm)

Yet, I am capable of peace.

The truth is most mornings I wake in…
1) a bad mood because I hate mornings in general,
2) a semi-alive state because I am a night person and I am almost always woken up early (aka any time before 8am) by my child,
3) creaky, because I am no longer a spry young-un.

 I always look lovely when I sleep

Yet, I scramble slowly up, shuffle down the hall blindly until I wash my face with warm water and slip on my glasses. Then I stretch. I do believe without a doubt that I’d be a different person, maybe even not alive, if I did not practice stretching. Each lift of the arm, each salutation, each deep breath rolls out tension. Rolls out each cobweb and creak and squeak.

Give me about ten minutes and I’m smoothed out. I can see. I can manage a smile. I can face the world.

Then, I stop and look inward to seek that banner that lists what I love, what I’m thankful for, what I enjoy and savor and appreciate. I borrow from my spiritual teacher Pema Chodron when I offer thanks each morning to these obliging old friends:

Safety,
love,
warmth.

Then, I give gratitude for my most essential gift:

I have another chance to be alive, to love my loved ones, to do my best, to make this world a better place in my little way.

I am here today. Yay! Cause for celebration. I get another chance this day. This present.

I woke up.

Literally, that was my change. I woke up. Once I simply assumed that I would unfailingly rest and rise, like the sun. But one auspicious day a lightbulb went on and I saw that waking up is an amazing miracle: Isn’t it cool that I get to open my eyes, that I get a beating heart, that I get a body that’s mine to move through the world in?  I get to hug my husband and kiss my daughter on her cheeks and nose and forehead. I get to see the new Spring flowers start to bloom.

Because one day I won’t wake. Or one day I’ll wake and look in the mirror like it’s any day in a row and that will be the last time I stare at my face. Then I’ll be gone. Chances over. No more time to try.

So I am thankful for today. I try today and today only. And in this way, I can feel peace.

May my lightbulb be your lightbulb.

Diary of a Messy Writer

Was there ever a writer writing within a neat house?

Was there ever a writer who looked over their screen or typewriter or notebook onto a smooth expanse of wooden floor that gleamed freshly mopped? I imagine that expanse of floor easy to test for cleanliness because it is free from toys and shoes, bags and bins of laundry. That floor contains only the furniture it needs and fresh, fluffy rugs. I imagine all surfaces dustless, which is easy to see because there are no items plopped there and forgotten; no piles of unfolded clothes, no stacks of magazines that are half folded back to the articles that were read and halted midway.

There are no backpacks slumping full of stuff that has to be sorted and emptied. There are no matchless gloves waiting to find their mates, no Lego squares swiped from the corners they fell into, and definitely no cards from holidays months past that still haven’t been put away.

No. That writer looks out over thriving plants still sparkling with the dew of their watering. That writer can enjoy the view to their backyard through clear, fingerprintless glass.  There are no dishes blocking the sink and no laundry piled almost to the ceiling. That writer has found a way to meet and enlist the aid of the writer fairy. The one that those in the know pray to exchange the dirty sock they leave beneath their pillow for an overnight zing of a cleanup. I’ve heard tell of such a fairy, but remain skeptical about making such a pact. Are all fairies good, as we tell our children? Or are there some who’ve fallen from grace, looking to make a bargain? So far I’ve resisted finding out.

Instead, I communicate to the world over my laptop that needs a dusting and a good wash cloth. (New yellow sticky: Clean laptop!) I look out over rooms that no one on a good day who loves me to bits could call clean. My husband insists that we are clean, that is, not dirty. Ok, but why doesn’t that distinction comfort me?

I can choose a small hideaway to close off the clutter. Or I can brave the airy main room that affords a panorama of every jumbled and messy pile. Either way, the collective muddle calls out: ha ha! We’re staying another day!

I’m not one of those ostrich types who can pretend it’s not there—the tissues my daughter threw on the floor crumpled into delicate balls after a night of sneezing, the kitchen floor on which I can distinguish at least 3 strange colors, the table I promised myself I would give a good scrub after the latest playdate with markers that didn’t make it onto paper.

You would never guess that I am naturally a very neat person, and that I hate clutter. I even have problems with things out of place. Something as simple as a disorganized room gives me vertigo. I’m a spatial thinker and my mental picture of my home is something that is ready for a photo spread in Architectural Digest. I’m a designer and I could create that space.

But alas I don’t. Not when I’m writing, that is, and since I want to write more than I want to do anything, I have learned to put showroom quality—or any quality above ‘not dirty’—away. It’s not easy. My second most happy thing to do is design. But I’ve got to adhere to priorities or I have learned that I turn into a semi-happy and often depressed designer who can’t find time to write.

Right now I’m settling for a happy most days writer with a pinch of weekly clutter anxiety. Top of list when I become successful is a cleaning person who can do all the things a writer fairy does, minus any suspicious pacts.

Right now I trade being a clean and frustrated writer for a messy and actually writing writer. If you are a clean writer with kids, all I can say is WOW. Excuse me while I close my jaw.

Right now, like most of us writers writing out there, I’m just winging it. I’m a five minute sort here, a ten minute scrub down there kind of person. A 10 at night food shop and 11 pm making lunch for the next day kind of person. A water the plants with bathwater kind of person. A try not to trip over the recycling and not put away boots kind of person. A filling up pages with thoughts and stories and dreams kind of person.

Here’s a great list I’m inspired by

25 ways to be a Happy Writer

Celebrating Girls: Nurturing and Empowering Our Daughters

  by Virginia Beane Rutter

Important and nourishing, for any caretaker who wants to connect more deeply with the girl in their life. I have a few friends who are adoptive parents and when I read this book I couldn’t help think of a couple of the men who are raising daughters. These pages offer a well of insight into what it’s like to be a girl and a daughter.

Celebrating Girls: Nurturing and Empowering Our Daughters  Dig those 90s outfits!

This short book of 187 small pages needs to a new edition! Published in 1996, a lot has happened during the past fifteen years that a revised version could incorporate. I say this because this book is a keeper. Cover to cover provides thorough advice on how to celebrate your girls.  Via personal stories and anecdotes, as well as studies and historical evidence, rutter highlights important fundamentals about the feminine as well as means to recognize and celebrate them in your lives together.

The chapters follow key changes as girls grow into young women, focusing on simple traditions, inviting us to recognize their hidden depth. Everyday actions such as bathing, hair care, dress and choosing adornment that we all undertake are revealed as important doorways of connection that, when shared consciously, can become lifelong treasured traditions. This book was written when feminists and scholars were engaged in exploring the feminine journey. Under this intensive investigation, female history, literature, and mythology confirmed troves of new understanding and wisdom about human history. Steeped in this environment, Celebrating Girls emphases feminine symbol, myth, and historical tradition. Whether discussing the importance of jewelry boxes, sports, or body awareness, a mood of respect is ever-present. Each page and chapter permeates with respect for the way of girls, respect for the feminine and respect for the parents who make the commitment to honor the process of growing up a daughter.

Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman ArchetypeThis book embodies women’s writing in the 90s

The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future This one too… on every  Gen X college girl’s bookshelf

Books about children are picked up because we wish to become more effective parents and care-takers. However, the best books about children—indeed about any subject—allow the reader to recognize their self in the text. Rutter recognizes that part of raising a child is knowing what nourishment you did or did not receive while a child yourself. Understanding that the caretaker’s fulfillment—or lack—is handed down to the next generation, she includes rituals for mothers and elders, as well as daughters.

I’m not going to lie and say this book was written for everyone: it’s implied audience is mainly mothers of daughters. However, one significant gain of fifteen plus years working towards women’s equality is a greater sense of inclusion. At the time of publication, writing a book solely for women, and specifically mothers, was a powerful act in itself. But how amazing and quickly the times have evolved so that a powerful act today would be to write for care-takers of all stripes!

 Such an adoptive father…

link to story here …http://projects.ajc.com/gallery/view/living/braids/

That being said, the information about girls in this book could and should be used by any caring party. As it stands, caretakers of all stripes will find rich fare. Adoptive fathers, for example, might find this a treasure trove of insight into a girl’s childhood that they did not experience. If you are hoping to gain insight into the ways of girls, whoever you are, Celebrating Girls will give you much to ruminate, explore and, above all, enjoy.

The Author’s web pages, go: http://www.daughters.com/article/?id=202

For more books by Rutter, go to http://www.amazon.com/Virginia-Beane-Rutter/e/B001IXNYLA