A mere second is the action. When my heart skips a beat or my cat meows. It’s the back story to that second that I never seem to recall.
Like the woman who re-ended my car. Backstory: On her cell phone, not paying attention.
Waving good-bye to friends, leaving southern California. Backstory: Anywhere other than here must be better, right? They didn’t just pack up one moment and leave. It took them months (maybe years) to become so disillusioned with the Golden State to decide ‘I’m outta here.’
An unexpected kiss from my husband. Backstory: Frustrated with the on-going ‘drama’ of octogenarian parents. I look up after yet another mind-numbing argument with my father to see my husband leaning over me with words of comfort reminding me that I’ll survive this – somehow, someway.
Standing at the top of the hill. Backstory: I walk up this hill twice every single day. But some days, like this afternoon, with the sky so vibrant I want to spread my arms and absorb its crystal ‘blueness’ and feel the whimsy clouds caresses on my cheek. From where I stand, I can see all the way to the ocean and then to Catalina Island. Truly breathtaking.
And you know what . . . it all happened in a second.
I write. Or at least I try to, and I’m struggling to finish my first book. I’ve slowed down, unable to put one-word in front of the other. Ready to give up.
I am empty. Hollow. And ultimately, I know I have depleted my emotional energy to continue writing. In other words, my creative well has run dry.
I suppose this happens to a lot of people, but when I hear other writers or artists talk about how they replenish their creative well, I usually just gloss over the conversation. Filling the creative well, I think, is an individual experience, just like being creative and how one expresses their creativity. What ultimately works for one person isn’t going to work for another.
So how do I rekindle my creativity?
I used to sew clothes. At one time I think everything in my closet was a custom-made garment. I sewed wool coats, fine blouses, and tailored pants and although custom sewing is creative, it’s also very utilitarian. And now with my changing lifestyle, I don’t really need those sorts of clothes: stretchy pants, sweatshirts and t-shirts suit me just fine now.
But I still need something to do besides writing, something that uses my right brain, my hands, and I can see progress in the process.
So, I decided to make some cards.
I have a box full of card making supplies given to me by a friend who is an extraordinary card maker! I pulled the box out one night, unable to settle my restless mind (because my book wasn’t going so well) and started cutting, and gluing while in background was one of my favorite You Tube Channels playing.
My cards are by no means expert or refined. In fact, they are probably less than amateur. But none of that matters, because making these cards was relaxing in a way that only doing something creative, with no expectations, can be.
I also made some gift tags along with a bit of a mess! 😳
Do I need all these cards? No, of course not. Although they will probably come in handy at some time. But that’s wants nice about this activity, I didn’t do it because it’s utilitarian, I did it because it’s creative and it replenishes my creative well in a way that nothing else can.
One year ago, we went into lock down to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We’ve suffered shortage, disrespect, misinformation and unsurmountable losses of family and friends.
And now, as we slowly opening up, eating out at restaurants starting next week, getting vaccinated, schools are welcoming back students and our lives strangely enough are resuming. I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned this past year. I have discovered two new insights about myself.
Firstly, I have discovered that I truly have been caring the emotional burden of others. When we went into lock down my worries about the ‘what if’s’ intensified, the helplessness of being unable to obtain the basics (like toilet paper) was overwhelming. To combat this, I went to work and began sewing again. I sewed over 300 masks and gave them away to whomever wanted them. I mailed them as far away as New York and a close to walking a bagful down to my neighbor for his brother-in-law’s employees.
One rainy afternoon, a colleague picked up thirty masks I had sewn for her son who works at the local Veteran’s Hospital. Masks were in short supply at the beginning of COVID lockdown and the homemade ones for non-medical personal alleviated the use of medial masks.
But even sewing, which I had turned to again and again in the past to get me through the rough spots of life couldn’t complete with what was going on: the the constant barrage of the misinformation bleating from the media, family members touting this was all a hoax, hearing of friends stuck down by COVID, standing in line at the market, only to be confronted by empty shelves, and the world around me was now blurry and unstable not only because of my fogged up glasses, but also because of inadequate leadership.
I ended up in Urgent Care. Not sick with COVID, but sick enough that I couldn’t function. I was alone and scared. I’ve been the ‘rock’ for so long, for so many but now cracks had formed. This lockdown finally did me in.
The doctor, who I forgotten his name, spoke to me through his mask and face shield, telling me to eat better, get some rest and do what I need to do to lessen the stress of my life. Good advice, but difficult to implement. But no one was going to do it for me; so, I had to do it for myself.
And now, I have. Besides paying better attention to my diet, I also am exercising more and most importantly looking out for me. I refuse to carry the emotional baggage for anyone. I refuse to absorb it, touch it, or even comment on it. Sounds harsh? Perhaps so.
With these boundaries, I now speak up to protect myself and my wellbeing. I’m still that rock, still the responsible one; however, I now understand the fragility of myself and I respect that and listen to it. Whereas before I was raised to just ‘gut it out’. No more. I feel better now. And each day gets better and better for me and for others around me, too. I have spoken up, admitted that no I can’t do that even if I have done it in the past. Because if there is one thing I have definitely learned is that COVID-19 has taught me that the past has many lessons to teach but some of those lessons are insights of what we shouldn’t or I shouldn’t do again in the future.
The other insight I have discovered during this pandemic is I have perfected stove top popcorn. No more, dry as dust or greasy tasteless microwave popcorn for me.
It’s sort of hard for me to write about the pandemic. I’m in the midst of it and the days although all seem the same so much has changed, too.
I’ve been thinking about how this pandemic has changed me and also changed those around me. For a few family members have stubbornly tried to act like this pandemic is a nuisance that can be ignored. Of course, their ignorance means the rest of us have to be even more diligent in reminding them to wash their hands, wear a mask, and keep their social distance.
I’ve heard and suffered loss of friends, family and neighborhood business who have closed for good because of this pandemic. I don’t think there is anyone who hasn’t been touched in some way by what is going on.
So has there been any good because of the pandemic?
For me, I’ve learned to say no. Not maybe, not sometime later, but a defiantly hard NO. No, we can’t come over for dinner. No, we can’t have a holiday celebration. No, I don’t want to go on vacation with you. Before this pandemic, I’d say no, but with reservations and trepidation that maybe I was hurting someone feelings or worse I was missing out on an opportunity that may never come again; but now I don’t feel that way.
These once in a ‘lifetime opportunities’ that I had to say yes to . . .well, they don’t seem so meaningful in retrospect. Those holiday celebrations . . . it’s easier for me when I have only one to plan for, and, and as to hurting someone feelings for saying . . . well, I have my own health to think of and perhaps more so, I’m putting myself and my priorities first and foremost for my own peace of mind.
I don’t think we will recover from this pandemic – obviously not going back to the way things were, but we will definitely move on and thrive in new ways. For me, wearing a mask for much longer than probably will be necessary just to stay healthy, and, trusting my own instincts and being able to say no without guilt will help be navigate into my future.
Recently, I finished rereading an old favorite book and another book that was recommended to me.
I’ll start with the new to me book.
Julie and Romeo, by Jeanne Ray (2000) tells the story of two lovers, both in their sixties, discovering second chance love. They own rival florist shops, and their families have hated each other for two generations although none of them know why. Recognize the story line? Yep, it’s Romeo and Juliet or at least in theory it should be. I don’t think it really follows the source material exactly but that’s okay since in the source material everyone dies.
Would I recommend the book? No. The main character is weak. Yeah, she’s sixty, divorced, a grandmother with two adult daughters one of which is doing extremely well financially and emotionally and the other trying to reinvent herself after a failed marriage. The heroine, Julie, is just so passive. She refuses to stand up to her adult daughters and their meddling, she allows her ex-husband to waltz back into her life, criticizing her relationship with Romeo (remember, families hate each other for some unknown reason), and her floral business (he ran it and then left her for a younger woman), and what does she do? She rolls over doesn’t even really respond to his or eve her daughter’s criticism and just trudges on.
I dislike heroines like this. I want a heroine with a backbone, one with some moxie who will stand up for herself. Yeah, sure the heroine of any book has to learn and change for the better. That whole story arc. I get that. But this character, even in the end, she is willing – more than willing – to give up her lover Romeo because his adult children don’t like her.
Geez! Get a life.
The other book I recently read was Nora Roberts, Brazen Virtue.
I read this year ago back in the ‘80’s. Of course, through numerous moves and clean outs my copy is long gone, so when I got my first e-reader (Kindle in 2011) this was the first book I purchased and reread.
I had sort of forgotten about this book until the latest drama in ‘Romanceland’ started to trend on social media. For details – just google NoraRoborts:AlyssaMilana and you’ll can dip your toe in that quagmire.
But what about the book? It’s dated: no cell phones, lots cigarette smoking, sexist language, and somewhat misogynistic attitudes. Sounds like a gem, right?! Hey! Nora Roberts writes a good story and this, although maybe some wouldn’t consider it her best, it’s still a stellar read. And it’s all because of the heroine. She’s young – maybe thirty? And she self-possessed, determined and confident. Sure, she has much to learn (that whole story arc again!) but she does so by not taking any ‘crap’ from anyone but from living by her own code of what is good for her. When her estranged sister is murdered she takes it upon herself to find the killer while embarking on a love affair with the detective assigned to the case. I like a strong, determined heroine who has the moxie to stand up for herself; and, more so, the introspection to recognize when she’s wrong and also care about others. Sounds like a perfect package . . . well maybe it is. It is however, one reason I’ll read (and rebuy!) a book while others get tossed into the donate box in the basement. A strong heroine gets me every everytime.
2019 wasn’t such a good year for me. Nothing catastrophic, but definitely a bumping ride that I don’t want to repeat.
So, when the New Year 2020 was fast approaching, I decided that I wanted to start a new habit highlighting the positives of my life rather than the negatives, thus my 2020 Gratitude
Of course, in the beginning of 2020 the world was a much different place — I surely didn’t think (I suppose many of us didn’t) what a total shit show 2020 was going to turn out to be!
Even so I kept my gratitude jar. Every day I would write out on a stickie what I was thankful for. I did this through injury and sickness.
The hours I spent sewing and distributing my home-made masks and my on-going struggle to finish writing my book.
And, every single day with pen in hand, in the quietness of my thoughts I found something to be grateful for.
I admit; it wasn’t easy some days . . . but just knowing that I had to write something down made me rethink how I was looking at the day, my life, and the world around me, and in 2020 the my world shrunk considerably!
This simply daily practice, I believe has helped me to weigh my emotions and a deal with my feelings and ultimately recognize the good all around me.
Sort of tough to do in 2020.
Now with the year winding down and hopes are running high for 2021 I’m planning on a 2021 gratitude jar
Somehow saying out loud what you mean or what you want or what you plan on doing makes everything seem more real.
Maybe because speaking out loud you’re giving voice to your desires or your wants or more precisely your needs. It’s easy – at least I have found- to set goals in silence. Setting them, thinking about them and then, of course never achieving them let alone starting on path to even try to achieve them.
I’m more than likely to suffer in silence. To be stoic. Not cause a scene. ‘Your so accommodating’ is strangely something I have heard others say to me when I ‘just go with the flow’ and reluctantly follow along whatever the group is doing.
I’m speaking out loud now. It’s taken me awhile to find my voice and still I am not too sure of it; but, I want to be heard.
So, this is my goal to fill this space with my thoughts: my journey in writing my books. One step in the long and unchartered path to my destination – a published writer.
There is something so intriguing and exciting when you meet someone for the first time. The delicate, intricate and sometimes a bit unnerving dance of getting to know that person: their likes, dislikes, the commonalities you may share and ultimately the uniqueness of them.
So, on Christmas as I sat there with my family opening gifts, I was struck with the revelation that they don’t even know who I am.
Sure, they could, in fact, pick me out of line up if necessary, but if they were questioned about me. If they were asked to describe me to someone that had never met me, I know my relatives would describe someone, but I doubt they would really be able to describe me.
I know this, not because I’ve tested this theory (although that might be enlightening). No, I know this because of the gifts I received this Christmas.
As I am handed a gift bag, filled with assorted items, I am told, I got you these because they are my favorite things. Really? Your favorite things? The bag is filled with like items I have received at previous Christmases. Stuff I didn’t need then, nor want now.
If it’s truly the thought that counts behind the gift, then I wonder what the meaning is when the giver gives a gift that reflex their likes, their interests and their priorities rather than mine.
Am I bitter?
My brother would say so.
My frustration and my depression goes beyond some paltry gift that is already in the box marked for the local charity shop.
It’s the fact that at no time am I ever asked what I like. At no time am I ever consulted about what we are going to do for the holidays, and when I do offer to contribute to the holiday meal, or to host the holiday or to offer a suggestion, I am shut down, told not to bother, and ignored.
I sat this morning enjoying my morning coffee trying to find some meaning, some sort of significance about the holidays, but I could find none. Maybe I’m too close to it? Maybe it’s too soon? Maybe . . . maybe there just isn’t any meaning and its futile to try to find.
I want to believe that my family knows me, appreciates me, and values my opinions, and the truths that I know, but in the end I realized once again at Christmas, they really don’t.
I’m not sure what ushers in the end of summer. Some may say when the school year is back in session and that the weather changes, but here school starts in August when the temperatures hover in the three digits.
I guess the end of one season and the beginning of the next isn’t one thing but, many. Like the days grow shorter, my morning walks are cooler, and the second cup of coffee tastes even better than the first.
The end of summer is marked by out last fly-fishing trip, just as the cusp of leaves are turning and the cool nights increase with each passing day.
And with the dimension heat, our neighbors’ chickens, begin laying again – lucky for us.
And the mornings are no longer punctuated from the constant hum of my office fan.
I don’t really know where the demarcation of summer ending and fall beginning truly is except on the wall calendar. I do know that I welcome the change from one season to the next, moving forward enjoying the moment until next season arrives.