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Posts Tagged ‘life’

I just stood out on my porch and watched the rain fall in heavy sheets. It was wholly refreshing and relaxing. It was perhaps the second time all year I have had such a pleasant experience. When I bought my home in 2014, the porch was one of the big selling points. Then, I could already see myself nestled under a throw, cradling a cuppa tea while either scribbling away at my latest literary work, journaling, or simply–like today–watching the rain drop.

The first couple of years I did just that in regular batches. This year, sadly, I have not had the time. Why? Because I have been caught up in a whirlwind.

A whirlwind is described as a vortex (vertically rotating column) of wind forms due to instabilities and turbulence made by heating (air temperature) and flow (current gradients). Okay, what that technical mouthful means to me is a whirlwind is what occurs when air and things heat up, creating instability and turbulence, which in turn forms a strong rotating column of wind that whirls around, creating havoc and damage.

Yup, that about sums it up. It is bearing down on me, growling like a mad bear, claws at the ready. And I just stand there, too busy, tired, fed up, etc… to do much of anything. Certainly not smart enough to take solace on a wicker sofa with a cup of coffee (and probably something chocolate) on a rainy day.

Sound familiar?  We get busy with this and that and more and still more, and before we know it, the simple pleasures of life have slipped by and we wonder why haven’t we done this more recently. Just look how fast the pages of the calendar turn. I know each calendar’s days are numbered, but come on now. I am still waiting for April to get here so I can tear up the brick in the courtyard and fix a sagging patch. April? Next week I’ll be facing July in the eyes.

We can probably all lament about what our own personal whirlwind is. Mine is responsibility. I have come to see that as a character flaw. I have a full-time job, usually cracking around 44-45 hours a week. I pet sit and dog walk around that, usually around 15-18 hours a week. And my time around those two are devoted to writing tasks.

My second release of the year just came out this week and I am in the middle of a virtual blogging tour. There is a giveaway I am posting about for my romantic suspense novel that just turned one-year-old. There are two more novels coming out in November so there is covers, blurbs, hooks, and tags to work on before edits begin. I am in the middle of first round edits for my first-ever self published non-fiction book, based on the journey with my PTSD dog. Let me just say the world between self-publishing and traditional house publishing is vast indeed. Vast. And should I tire of any of those endless tasks I can always update blog, website, media pages, newsletters,  ads, etc… And should I run out of ideas there, I can always work on my latest work-in-progress. Right now I am about 20,000 words into a time travel romance novel. Roughly a quarter of the way done with the first rough draft.

And any time beyond all of that above is spent doing what zillions of others do. Clean the house, do the laundry, pay the bills, go shopping, brush the dog, fill the bird feeders, visit friends, call family, plus cooking and somewhere in there, sleeping.  Admittedly, everyone’s list of whirlwind activities will look a little different, but we all have them. The point is, we get so caught up in where we have to be, doing what we have to do, seeing who we have to see, that we feel the whirlwind of life swirl around us, and pick us up, and whisk us away from the pleasurable things that we need to keep us grounded, stable, and sane.  Like sitting on the porch and watching the rain fall. Or sitting by the river watching the river bubble past. Or whatever restores your sanity and breath.

This past week, I was doing a drop in visit at a client’s house and was petting a cat on the chin. Kitty loved it so I lingered, chatting and scratching while kitty purred in bliss. A thought struck me and I said it to kitty: “I always thought I was slowly going insane. Now I realize I am on the express freight train instead.”

Kitty didn’t care. Kitty was in his own personal moment of comfortable bliss.

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images-31Lately I’ve been thinking about making it through things. It could be an event, a period in our life, an illness, a test, a divorce, a wedding, a meeting, a drive, or just whatever “it” currently is. And the interesting thing is the “it” tends to change as time progresses, but there always seems to be some form of “it” that we are always just trying to make it through. Or at least it seems like that for me.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been battling a cold-turned-acute bronchitis. Simply put: I have physically felt miserable just about non-stop for many endless days. And during this time I’ve had overlapping pet care dates scheduled and multiple doctor appointments while still maintaining my full time job and attempting to catch up on writing chores and household responsibilities whenever I could in between. You could safely say I’ve felt stretched like the cookie dough under a rolling pin.

So I’ve had a whole bunch of “it’s” to make it through. Some were fairly short, like the drive to and fro the various places I needed to be, or the doctor appointments, and those brief moments where I could knock a few to-do items off my list. Other things are longer, like waiting for the bronchitis to run its course and the gut-retching cough to go away and waiting for test results to come back.

About a month ago I started reading a book, called “You’ll Get Through This” by Max Lucado. I like his writing style, and to be frank, the title appealed to me. It is a study of the life of Joseph from the book of Genesis, and how his life was a series of making it through some unfortunate experiences. He had misfortune, one after another, and always ended up triumphant in the end. I’m not looking for triumphant. I would be satisfied with a short break in between things I need to make it through. A period of calm in which nothing is expected of me except to just breathe.

I’d love just a temporary respite to soak in the afterglow of nothingness. A time to drift, not needing to do, to be, go, have, say, or get. Anything.  My very own “Calgon, take me away!” moment.

images-2

However, this raised a bigger question in my mind. Why do we feel we have to make it through “this”? Or climb the mountain? Or clear the hurdle? Or whatever metaphor you happen to personally like. Maybe we’re watching the  clock slowly creeping toward five o’ clock (or our own individual quittin’ time), counting down days until some big event or turning the pages of the calendar wondering where it all went or any other method of getting through. It seems life has become one big never-ending series of the next big-something. Something to dread or something to enjoy, something to endure or something to revel in. It’s always the wait for it to get here, the actual time spent, and the period immediately after to breathe deep or wipe the sweat away.

Sometimes for me that’s the time to grab chocolate and coffee. Celebrate. I’m big into celebrating even minor, small happenstances. Competing projects, surviving rough patches of time, and accomplishing challenging tasks will all garner the reward of chocolate and coffee and a few moments of treasured nothingness– to soak in the glow of satisfaction.

But still, I wonder, if there is some way to live a life that isn’t constantly filled with the sense of “I will make it through this” or worse yet, “I have to make it through this.” Can we just reach a point were life is lived, hourly or daily or by the minute, without the constant looking beyond the “right now”? Where escapism isn’t required or used as a reward for surviving? Because, in all honesty, I suspect my chocolate and coffee treat is sometimes a means to escape as much as a celebration for success.

 

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I sometimes pet sit. One of the dogs I walk takes us through a moss-lined, wooded path under a canopy of green trees and climbing vines. A stream runs alongside. Ahead, near the wooden footbridge, slick with moss, I can hear racing water. Because the dog I walk is a hound, we frequently pause so he can conduct in-depth sniffs of particular odors. This gives me time to notice and enjoy to flowers, ferns, plants, orange-capped mushrooms and small wildlife. I see ducks, squirrels and untold numbers of birds. And insects beyond number.

Today I glanced back to where we’d come. It was a pretty view. Green moss rolled out like a carpet. Trees reached out, touching branches to form an arch. Ferns and flowers made countless bouquets and fallen flower petals formed a white trail, stark against the green. It made me want to go back that way instead of crossing the bridge to the road, like we normally do. I knew what was back there and it was pleasant.

And the whole event, which lasted maybe two minutes before the hound was done sniffing and investigating, got me to thinking. As writers, is it important to stop and think about where we’ve come from? At least once in a while?

 

Only we can tell about the path we’ve been on, first the road to publication and our journey since. We know how hard or easy it was, how long it took, how pretty of an experience or how painful and terrible. Knowing this, having the memories fixed in our minds, we tend to concentrate on the trail ahead.

Where do we want to see ourselves? Like the dog and I, we must cross the bridge and trudge up the road to reach his driveway and ultimately home. He has a bone and water waiting for him.  As a writer, I know where I want to me by the end of this year and where I hope to be five-ten and twenty years from now. I have a plan — a footbridge and road– to get me there.

However, as I reflected today, it might be wise to include some reflective study in that plan. Once in a while, I should pause on my writing journey and look back at where I came from. The awkward first starts, the endless queries and just as endless rejections, the first few acceptances. The high of the first time seeing my name in print. The author events, workshops, practice of my craft, networking and the people I have met, seeing my book on a library shelf for the first time, and the list goes on. All the great, wonderful, exhilarating and all the sad, heart-breaking and bad things that have made me the writer I am today.

And in two years or five years I will be a different writer then I am today.

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bird eggs 6-16-2015

I recently spotted these tiny little eggs at work. My first thought was they were the remains of newly hatched chicks. Upon closer inspection, I realized that was not the case. It was the other option…

It struck then, that when we see something, we can look at it in a few ways. First, the initial or obvious view. In this case broken eggs equal hatched chicks. But that was not the case. Here, broken eggs equal someone found lunch. So I mourned for the chicks who would never be born and for the birds who would not raise these young.

But such is the cycle of life. Now because some critter had a meal, perhaps their young will survive another day. Now, since my brain bounces in wacky ways, I naturally had to take this a few steps further.

Spoiler alert: I will probably wax a little philosophical now.

One option to view: we lay our eggs and wait expectantly for the results. Our eggs might be anything– job, marriage, kids, (or literally getting pregnant), new house/car/etc… or a host of other things. When our eggs are usurped by someone else and now will not hatch, we mourn, we get mad, plot revenge, pout, take someone to court, whatever. Simply, we react. Somehow.

Okay, we can try it again, lay more eggs and hope for the best Or we can give it up and find a new nest. Over the course of our lives, we all probably do both depending on the situations our eggs represent.

Now, what about the usurper, the one who took our eggs. Our job, our spouse, our kids, our desired plans? We can look upon them with disdain, hatred and the like. Or we can see the other option. They needed something to survive too. Maybe what they took wasn’t meant to be ours. Maybe it made a huge difference to them, like life or death. Yes, I might be getting sort of thick here, but maybe the job they got means they keep their house. Or the modest car they bought lets them get to the job. Or the kids ‘they stole’ are actually benefiting from new (and hopefully positive) influences.

So the next time we eagerly await for something and end up disappointed, remember maybe the second option you are experiencing, however painful, might be the better option. I have a quote on my desk I like: On the other hand, we have different fingers.

So very true and so very simply profound.

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A thought on how art, my world and writing all lately reflect reality, blending them into a therapeutic cocktail. Much like some artists paint or sculpt to find their inner self or new direction, oftentimes so do writers.

directions sign

On a personal front, I feel as though I’ve been living two lives for a while.

On one hand, I am blessed beyond imagination, surrounded by wholesome goodness, sweet success and pleasant pastimes. I can sit at my desk and listen to the happy chatter of my pet parrot, watch the songbirds merrily gathering at the feeders and know what tranquility feels like. I have my home, my pets, a growing writing career and a lovely spot in the region to plant my roots. I have people in my life; special and dear, appreciated, liked and treasured. I have coffee and chocolate. God has been so good and gracious to me.

girl at brook writing

But on the other hand, the one with different fingers, I can only describe the feeling as slowly sinking in the quagmire of a toxic pit. Wow, what a sudden change. Hence the emotion of having dual lives. And I pass as easily from one to the other as easily as a person can cross from one room to the next. However, my dual life is not the object of this post, rather my observation of it.

Recently I realized I also gave a character in a current Work In Progress a double life, though slightly different circumstances and situation. She had left one life for a new one, never fully leaving the old one behind. Ultimately, because this is fiction and we need conflict, her two lives can no longer compete and she must make a choice. While I suspect this was unintentional, I now see how much tension it creates for the story.

I see no resolution like that in my situation(s). I suspect they can continue on as thus far indefinitely. Back to that other hand with the different fingers.melting time

Interestingly, I have written this method before. I used it as a coping strategy. During a period of time when I was working through some health issues, I scribbled a short story. I took a character, the heroine, and plagued her with health concerns that resembled mine. And because it was fiction, I gave her the conflict of pending love to compete with her burden. Which would win out? The result is a ten thousand word story that I just this month signed the publication contract for. It’s called ‘Glimpse Eternity’.

In another Work in Progress, one I’ve been chipping away at for over a year now, I feature the heroine who has a sibling. The relationship they share closely mirrors the relationship between my sibling and I. Sublime message or unconscious thought? Art or life?

And I will make a guess that somewhere down the literary road, I will do this again. Something will pull that trigger and art will imitate life. I will write a story based on reality. Health challenges, family dynamics, dual lives, we can only guess at what will be next.

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Today is a wonderfully cool day, filled with lots of rain and cloudy skies. The sort of day I would love to lounge on my porch (if only I still had one!) and read a book, sip my tea and listen to the falling rain. Just a tiny bit of heaven on earth. A perfect summer day–at least in my humble and quirky opinion. There are those who might adamantly disagree.

porch reading

However, it got me to thinking. It was recently suggested by someone who I might be a perfectionist. Well, I never thought of myself in that sense. Comparing myself to some I do consider perfectionists, I see myself as sort of loose about many things.

While it is true I have very little patience for repetitive ineptitude, I am forgiving of mistakes made in new learning. I am just the sort of person who expects others to ‘get it’ after several months have gone by. And they don’t have to be perfect either, just proficient. Just being able to complete whatever the task at hand might be.

If that makes me a perfectionist, then okay, I’ll tack that button to my lapel with the other buttons I already wear. Rather, I am inclined to think we can all have something important to us, separate from other things, that because of the position we hold whatever it is in, we might lean more toward perfection in regards to that. And then be more relaxing or flexible in other regards. It might be a person, a job, a chore, a place, whatever– just something held in higher esteem than others.

No, since it is still raining outside, and I still don’t have a covered porch, I will go stand in the doorway, breathe deeply and declare this moment perfect.

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Life from cut stump 7-31-14

I spotted this tiny maple tree shoot growing up from where a maple tree had been cut down. The tree was removed perhaps one or two years ago and I just discovered the fledgling shoot yesterday. It made me very happy as I stood there, thinking about it.

It tells me we have the ability to start life over when our original lives are in one way or another greatly altered. I spend a lot of time feeling like things are frequently changing in my life. Sometimes if is good change and sometimes not so much. Many times I lack the heart, strength or desire to begin again in whatever capacity I need to. I don’t want to have to pick up the remaining pieces and move on, especially if it requires learning new methods or changing comfortable old ones.

But here is this little tree. The original lovely tree had been removed, ground up for mulch. The site has been barren and void of life. Now, a brave shoot has gathered itself together to push up through the dirt and mulch and reach for the sunshine. It is trying its best to begin again.

What fate has in store I don’t know. It might get pulverized by a lawn mover or it might grow to great heights. Either way, it is trying and that is the lesson I need to take from this scene and carry with me when I feel like the remaining dead stump. There is still a spark of life left inside me that wants to reach up and grow and begin again.

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