BooWho

Things I want to keep in mind.

Category: writing

A little flash fiction

I am looking for a topic….searching, searching.  Anxiety levels are high.  Stomach is churning, mind is flashing — hands on the keyboard barely resisting the urge to close this window and open pinterest instead….

I began writing a blog to try to keep myself writing – I figured if I were writing something that someone may actually read, it would keep me motivated.  Not necessarily true, though at times it is a good motivator.  Just not today.

Here is a bit of flash fiction – just for fun.

THE TRAIN

I have had enough.  This is the 5th day of trying to find a place to live.  My uncle, Charlie, was kind enough but he told me I couldn’t just sleep in his barn without permission.  And then, he wouldn’t even give me his permission! It’s a BARN!  There are barn cats and lots of mice, a little bit of hay — but that’s it.  What would I be disturbing if I stayed?  Besides, he has a huge house, with several empty rooms!  He told me he loved me but he just couldn’t have me staying there.  Liar.  You don’t love someone but turn them away in their hour of need.  Bastard.  I tried to steal his truck again, (that would sure show him), but he was one step ahead of me.  Locked up tight.  Not like the last time.

It was a few months ago and I don’t really consider it stealing – I borrowed it to get into town.  As all farmers do, he left the keys in it and doors unlocked.  House was unlocked too – but he’s a pretty light sleeper so I didn’t go in this time.  His dog, Rascal, never barks – he loves me.  Truly loves me.  (Shouldn’t that tell him something about my character?).  I considered selling the truck, but it would have taken too long so I just sold the tools in the back.  I left the truck by the river – not far from downtown.  Not by choice, I ran out of gas.  I should have used the money to leave town, but I couldn’t have gone very far.  Spent the money “recreationally” instead.

I suppose he thinks he’s kind by not pressing charges.  What about a place to live, Uncle Charlie?  What about that?

I’ve walked these tracks more times than I care to remember.  Some of those times, I DON’T remember.  I used to walk the highway and hitch a ride but haven’t since that last bad excursion.  I woke up in the hospital with a concussion and road rash after being thrown out of the car.  Of course, I don’t remember that part.  The cops told me — asked me for a description of the car or the guys, as if I would rat them out!  As if I could remember.

I’ve been walking these tracks ever since.  But I’m tired.  Tired of these tracks and tired of walking.  I have thought about this day for a long time.  I knew it would come eventually.  People will talk about it later.  They will wonder if I was hard of hearing.  They will wonder if I was drunk or high.  Didn’t I hear the train whistle – the very LOUD train whistle.  If you’ve never walked on the tracks you may not know, you can FEEL the rumble when a train is coming.  You can feel the air being pushed ahead by the train.

I can hear just fine and I can feel it coming.  I can hear that distress signal.  I can almost feel the panic of the engineer.  But I’m tired and I’ve had enough.

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Run, Forrest, Run

I’ve always hated running.  So many people find it therapeutic and say it is a wonderful way to stay fit.  But I’ve never gotten into running — I can think of no more torturous activity!

When I was a young girl, I was very sickly, small, weak, anemic.  I could never keep up with my siblings or cousins.  They were always running, jumping, climbing, wrestling.  I was always coming from behind begging them to wait for me or to help me.  It was annoying to them and, eventually, they just ran off, leaving me with the younger cousins who also could not keep up.  As I got older, I continued to TRY to keep up – to compete with everyone else;  jump higher, ride faster, climb farther.  I developed a very competitive nature but, sadly, was never quite as athletic as I wanted to be.

However, I am the champion of running on the inside.  As I’ve grown into adulthood, and now as I grow into “senior” adulthood, I have learned much from different counselors, self-help books and articles about facing your fears, allowing yourself to feel, confronting things head on, etc. etc.  But when you know how to run, its so much easier to run.

Running on the inside is not physically strenuous, you don’t have to monitor your heart rate, it isn’t hard on your knees or back.  Although, after a long period of running from emotions – your body will begin to show signs of fatigue and depletion.  Emotional running is automatic.  It is part of our “fight or flight” hormonal response.  When in the midst of some emotional upheaval that we know we cannot “fight”, we take flight.  We’re off and out of the blocks; running INSIDE our heads.  We start searching for something tangible to DO with our hands, our minds.  We busy ourselves with something, anything.  Eating, cooking, cleaning, drinking, Pinterest, Facebook, and most of us will find someone or something that needs our attention MORE than whatever we are trying to avoid.  We will throw ourselves headlong into something ELSE and give it 110%.

Conversely, running may involve isolating ourselves, sleeping a lot, “zombie-ing” our way through our daily lives.  Laughter and enjoyment are a distant memory.  We trudge along and think only about the fact that we are trudging along.

For some of us, running is second nature.  Even if we have learned the skills needed to stop or slow that internal fleeing – it is our first and most dominant response. I understand meditation is a good method to overcome the need/desire to run.  I have yet to accomplish this particular method of countering that predominant need to flee.  Frankly, I can’t sit still long enough to meditate!  Just like the character in “Eat, Pray, Love”, I watch the clock and my mind is racing from topic to topic, coming back to the fact that I can’t stand just sitting there!

At some point in running that suppression marathon, perhaps when there is a need for hydration or to catch your breath, you can begin to intercede with some of your “learned” coping skills — begin to process WHY you are running, where does it HURT, how can you slow this race and begin to slowly FEEL, let yourself touch the surface of the fear.

This is the point at which I have finally arrived.  Writing about it is the first step.  Next up – breathing, slowing my internal pace.  If only I felt this much like actually running on the OUTSIDE….

Long term procrastination

Epiphany of the day: I am a long term procrastinator.

My son sent me a link to a great Ted talk about procrastination.  I am attaching the link here.  I loved the talk, it is humorous and so true!

I pride myself on being organized and capable.  As a young woman, I was a terrible procrastinator and very unsure of myself.  Over time and with maturity, I became very efficient.  In work settings, I no longer procrastinated but became very proficient at anticipating a need and completing tasks in advance.  In most settings, I was anal retentive in accomplishing things and could actually be viewed as an overachiever.  But I always had a deadline.  In retirement, I don’t.

Things like writing, exercising, sorting through old photos, minor house maintenance, dusting, etc. etc. – none of which have a true deadline – my little “instant gratification monkey” and I defer over and over again because the “panic monster” is never called into action.  The glory of retirement is no longer having deadlines and the flaw of retirement is no longer having deadlines.

Long term procrastination, in my case, putting things off because I have no real “reason” to complete those tasks – causes me distress in that I feel as though I am lazy.   I feel guilty for doing so little in a day.  Especially so little of importance.  Oh sure, my house is clean, my laundry is done, I’ve done my usual daily tasks but what have I really accomplished?

Time to set a goal (also known as a deadline).  I will need to make a list, of course.  A walking routine is definitely at the top of the list.  Writing.  Reading more than just 5 minutes at bedtime.  Perform at least ONE procrastinatable task per day.  There is no reason to rush but there is a reason to move forward.  Don’t let the monkey win.

So far, so good.  I’ve written my blog.  Check.

Early morning reflection…

This is the perfect time of day.  All is quiet.  The ugly gray clouds are retreating to the east leaving a trail of hope for a little bit of sunshine.  Even the cows still slumber.  The only sound I hear is my husband as he turns the page of his morning newspaper.  Oh, and the clicking of my keyboard.

When my children were little, I usually got up early so that I could write a letter before having to get them up for school.  My oldest daughter had a room in the basement, with her own bathroom.  We didn’t see her until she joined us for breakfast.  The others would fight over the heating vents – they would come out in their pj’s and sit with our little chihuahua, Shaq, in front of the vents for warmth until breakfast was ready or until time to get dressed.

When I worked, it was a frenzy getting everyone ready and out the door.  Many times, I would be gone before they were.  I look back at those days and feel a little bit of regret that I wasn’t there to send them off each day.  But I’m grateful for the days that I could and did.  I hope they remember.  (Chances are, they only remember having to get themselves ready, fixing their own breakfast and packing their own lunches, walking out the door on their own and returning to an empty house.  Oh the guilt.)

Parenting is a difficult thing.  Everything is so much clearer after they are grown – mistakes, regrets, wishes for do-overs.  My children are great human beings but I don’t take credit for that – they were all born with an amazing road map of their own and they have done most of their own navigating.  I have picked up a few pieces along the way and tried to nudge them here and there, but they truly were remarkable little people from the very beginning.  Good genes?  Who knows?

Three of my four children are now parents.  I am so impressed with how loving, caring and “present” they are for their children.  They pay attention, they listen, they laugh, they teach and they encourage.  How lucky is this world to have these beings living and learning – to be leaders, to be kind, to be giving.  May they continue to grow and learn and always have strength and love.

In this time where selfishness, ignorance, arrogance and apathy abound, it is refreshing to watch these enlightened human beings navigate our existence.  It is frightening to think of the world they will live in but I have to believe they are here to make a difference, perhaps not in the greater world but in their own little latitude and longitude – and that is the best place to start.

Bear with me as I reboot my writing routine…

Spoiler alert: today’s post is going to be a feeble effort at getting back into the spirit of writing.

After spending the first part of March on vacation in New Orleans and cruising/touring like a Norwegian, then visiting grandson’s in Washington toward the second part of March, babysitting grandson’s here at home and just watching the typical Montana spring (a.k.a. the last vestiges of winter – snow, wind, rain, sun, repeat – each and every day); I have fallen out of my writing routine.  I try to dive back in but end up watching that old cursor blink for 10 minutes then busy myself looking at pinterest and facebook.

I could write about our adventures in New Orleans.  We had a lovely trip, stayed in a quaint old hotel in the French Quarter – toured the swamp and a plantation.  Walked a hundred miles and saw two parades and lots of people in various states of dress and drunken behavior.

The cruise was fun with a lot of food, drink and shows.  If you are a people watcher (and I am) a cruise is a vast wasteland of people to observe.  We enjoy cruising because someone else does all of the driving, the entertainment is “free” (though you pay in advance) and there is plenty of warm sun (depending on when and where you cruise!).  This year, we had cooler weather until the 4th day but we enjoyed every minute once the warmer weather finally arrived.  So many people with sunburns!  And more flesh than I care to see in a day!

Then, there are my grandsons.  I am so lucky.  The oldest is 6, then 3, 2, 1.  All four are handsome, smart and so much fun.  I know that one day, they will all be in school and won’t have any interest in playing with Gawee and Papa, so we take advantage of any time we can get.

April is a small break from traveling.  Hopefully, the weather will eventually break and it will stop snowing twice a week!

My youngest son will be getting married here at the house so we have yardwork and house maintenance to do between now and August!  We also have a wedding to attend in North Carolina in June.  I will be vacationing with grandsons at Leggo Land in June also.

Okay, enough of my little mini-journal of activities.  Sorry – I know it is boring but if I don’t write something, I will write nothing!

Type A

Type A personality.  If you knew me in high school or college, you would never have guessed.  I wonder, is it possible to grow into a Type A personality?  According to most of the articles I’ve read, the personality type is inborn and does not change.  Perhaps it was just lying dormant until I hit my late 20’s, early 30’s?  Up until that point, I was quite laidback (bordering on lazy) and flitted between different dreams and goals — hoping that someone would make all my decisions for me, tell me what to do.  Basically, hiding.

I had some successes during my early years but gave up fairly quickly if things didn’t look like they were going to end perfectly.  “Unfortunately, because they are so passionate, and because true success takes patience, any sort of early failure easily discourages them. They are likely to pack up and change careers in a heartbeat.”  For example, in high school I loved playing basketball and had true potential.  I went to college specifically so I could continue playing.  I also enjoyed college and it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be, initially.  Then, after a few small “failures”, I began to lose desire, fear disapproval, and eventually became ineligible and flunked out of school.  The sad truth is not that I couldn’t do the work, but that I wouldn’t.  (If I could have one “do-over”, that would be it; to go back to school and finish.)

After that, I flailed like a fish on dry land for several years.  In my mid-twenties, I got a job as a 9-1-1 dispatcher and “bing”; it hit with full force – Type A transformation.  Over the years, I have become more and more controlling, rigid and impatient with inefficiency!

The theory describes Type A individuals as outgoing, ambitious, rigidly organized, highly status-conscious, sensitive, impatient, anxious, proactive, and concerned with time management. People with Type A personalities are often high-achieving “workaholics”. They push themselves with deadlines, and hate both delays and ambivalence.

I could easily have become a workaholic except that I had four kids and I just didn’t have the time or energy.  I left the job at 911 because I needed a “day job”; one that would provide more time for my children.  The jobs I’ve had since being a 911 dispatcher were often simple jobs that I made more complicated by trying to achieve something greater than just answering the phone and taking notes at meetings.  I struggled with the inefficiencies of typical office politics and idiocy.  “They have trouble understanding the stupidity of others. They don’t believe themselves to necessarily be exceptionally gifted or genius. So why is it that they are competent when almost everyone else seems like a moron?” 

Those jobs were just a means of earning an income — certainly not a “career” and by no means anything with status or potential for greatness.  Working beneath your ability is difficult when you are Type A — so you perform your duties to the extreme, above and beyond what is necessary.  You feel abused and belittled; unfulfilled.

Fast forward to retirement.

“If you have a Type A personality, transitioning to retirement may be especially difficult. After you retire, you will no longer have an impressive job title or management responsibilities. Job status will no longer matter. You will be on the same level as any other retiree. You are more likely to feel lost or adrift due to a lack of purpose, structure, and responsibility.” How to Successfully Retire If You Have a Type A Personality – Dave Hughes

The good news?  Because I didn’t have an “impressive job title”, my job status hasn’t changed much since retirement.  Yes, I do feel adrift sometimes but I also feel free from the drudgery, the frustration and the anger.  There is freedom to choose my direction.  Retirement isn’t just rolling with the flow – although there is an awful lot of that!  Type A’s need a plan, a list, a goal – no matter how small.   The difficulty comes in letting go of the time management structure.  There is so much time and every moment of the day does NOT need to be plotted out.

When I first retired, I was so thrilled to have all of this time to write to my hearts’ content.  I could write another play, a memoir, a novel!!!  However, writing as a type A can be difficult.  I will spend hours searching for topics.  I will spend two thirds of that time in an internal battle over whether or not I should be writing at all.  If it isn’t done perfectly, it isn’t worth doing.  Blah, blah, blah.  Can type A personalities also have OCD and ADD?  I wonder…

Quotes in italics are from the article: The 25 Things That People With Type A Do – Paul Hudson

Thanks, Elizabeth or God or whoever

**I will have to really make this fast.  I am babysitting today and my charge is on his way home with papa — may not make the full 300 words for the day!

“Ole to you none the less” (Elizabeth Gilbert — TED talk)

There are times when I am frustrated, sad, depressed, anxious and I feel at a total loss for how to pull myself up and, serendipitously, (is there such a word?) I will find my answer in a song, a conversation, a book, or the answer will just plink itself down in my mind.  Today, it happened to come in the form of a TED talk about creativity.  **See above link

I have been thinking about how much I love writing.  I have also been feeling like I have nothing to write about, nothing of import or consequence.  Silly to continue to pursue  the notion of writing – I certainly will never attain fame or fortune.  I am just kidding myself.

This morning, I opened my email and there is a new TED talk about creativity by Elizabeth Gilbert (author or Eat, Pray, Love).  I knew I was pressed for time so I decided I would listen to it and try to write later, perhaps during Ollie’s nap…or while he is watching a show.  As I listened…I could hear the anxiety begin to settle and drape at my feet, like a big shroud I had been wearing that finally fell free.  The Aha moment, the audible “plink” in my mind.

If you are a writer or artist or if you are just a person who feels a little bit of angst over something you must do or “create”.  Give this TED talk a listen.  Maybe it will plink for you too — maybe it won’t.  Ole to you none the less.  Toodles (made my 300!)

400 words

New Rules.  No Pinterest, Facebook or Youtube until you write your blog.  I feel like a 10 year old who is being grounded for not finishing my homework.  Okay, okay!  Next, I’ll lose my bathroom privileges!

I have a dozen or so books about writing.  They are part of my “self-help” library.  In addition, I’ve wasted countless hours online “researching” about HOW to write; how to break a writing block; how to journal; how to write an essay; and studying websites full of writing prompts that might spur my creative energy.  Throughout all of these resources, there is a common theme: In order to write, you must write.  Hmmmmm.  It is not as easy as it sounds.  Oh, but don’t despair, there is a plethora of blogs with from 3 to 20 point plans for developing a writing habit which is paramount if you want to succeed as a writer.

I awaken in the morning and my mind begins churning with possible writing topics.  Usually, it is something personal; something that is going on close to home/me and I want to write about it.  The internal quarrel begins.  Can’t write about that based on my audience.  Can’t write that because it will make you sound like a whiner or negative or vulnerable or crazy.   Can’t write that lest you be judged and shunned.  By the time my feet hit the floor and my ass hits the chair, I’ve lost all steam or desire and I spend all of my designated writing time looking at Pinterest, Facebook and Youtube – under the ruse of seeking a writing idea…  (And by the way, if you want to really feel bad about yourself – just peruse Pinterest for a couple of hours.  You’ll realize very quickly that you truly AREN’T “crafty” when you know in your heart that you could NEVER make a cute little Christmas tree out of coffee filters and colored beads!  You’ll sink deeper and deeper into a dark hole – which is why you move on to Youtube and watch funny fails! Nothing can cheer me up faster than watching someone trip and fall.)  But I digress and, clearly, you can understand why there is to be no Pinterest, Facebook or Youtube before writing!

So, here is my own 1 point plan – my new rules:

  1. Get up and write at LEAST 300 words.  Doesn’t matter if it is beautiful, funny or earth-shattering.  Just write the damn words.

Ramblings

It’s a good thing I don’t write a blog for a living.  I would be destitute.  I have been in a “blog” slump for awhile now.

Lots of topics to write about but none that grab me enough to actually complete a thought.  Political things depress and aggravate me — I avoid reading the paper or watching the news.  Yes, my head is in the sand.  Inequality for women is maddening – sexual harassment; disparity in wages compared to men; life’s general inequity between men and women in the family setting; the list is endless.  All of those topics touch me – but just barely.

I have never been very involved in politics.  I don’t really feel qualified to debate any political issues because I will readily admit, I am unversed in current affairs.  I get most of my information from Facebook, Last Week Tonight or headlines in the paper.  I have chosen to remain ignorant because knowing is just too frightening.  I stay in the periphery of knowledge and keep my own sanity.  I feel silly and a little bit guilty as I admit that and see it written in black and white — but it is what it is.

As for the issue of sexual harassment, I am no longer in the work environment but I can recall a few occasions of being sexually harassed.  I minimized them at the time – just like every other woman who needed a job.  Do I wish I had spoken up?  Yes.  Would it have made a difference?  No.  In the later years of my career, I experienced some periods of “harassment” that were not sexual in nature but gender based.  In one instance, I was demeaned by a couple of men in a meeting.  It was a frustrating experience because it was done to “put me in my place” as a woman – and the other men present, while they may have disapproved,  said nothing in my defense.  I still feel the burn of shame and anger of that day.   It was the day I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to change their view of me, no matter how successful or smart I proved myself to be.  In their eyes, I was a pushy uneducated woman.  End of story.

Being retired removes you from the real world.  I think that is what makes it harder to retire young.  If you are in your mid-60’s or early 70’s, you have truly reached the age of majority.  You are ready for codger-dom.  Every aspect of life is meant to be getting slower, older, less active.  Your body is losing elasticity and strength – your mind is losing clarity. (**Side-bar: I am generalizing, not everyone reaches codger-dom at the same time…). For those of us in our late 50’s or early 60’s, we’re not quite there yet.  We are the mid’s.  Too young to be retired but, in the view of our cohorts, too old to be part of the mainstream.

I retired young – at 56 – because my husband was retired and is ten years my senior.  We knew that if we wanted to travel and experience the best of  “retirement” years, we should do it while he was still young-er.  Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying my retirement – but there are days when I feel a bit adrift.  I don’t have a particular purpose and certainly have only rare moments of feeling accomplished.  With ALL of this free time – why aren’t I writing?

Good question.  For one thing, I watch too much television.  Damn you Netflix!   I don’t read enough.  If you want to be a writer, you have to be a reader too.  I let myself sink into old habits and old insecurities.  Like most people who write, I procrastinate.  I find something else to occupy my time and mind.  Most of all, I listen to that voice in my head that tells me I’m really not a writer….

The gift of peace

My mother-in-law passed away peacefully on June 10.  She was in hospice care for one week.  I hope she has gotten back to her bridge club.

Funerals are difficult and no one likes attending them.  It is a time to say goodbye; to show support for family or friends; a time to reflect on the life and times shared with the dearly departed.  Depending on the person, a funeral can be very personal or very religious or very long or very short and not so sweet or a combination of all the above.  There can be music, prayers, readings, masses, poems, speeches, fire and brimstone, tearful goodbyes.

My family lost four important members in a 4 year succession.  We learned a lot about funerals and how to plan and implement a decent, respectful and personal service.  There are so many details that you just don’t know about – so many choices to make.  What type of service?  Where will it be held?  Who will preside? Will there be a viewing?  Casket or urn?   Flowers? Special program for the service? Who will write the obituary?   Where will they be laid to rest? Who will be pall bearers?  Will there be a reception afterwards?  Where will it be held?  Who will bring food?

These are all details that people have to think of when they are at their weakest and most vulnerable.  For some of us, having something constructive to “do” actually helps.   For others, it is overwhelming.  It is a very emotional and raw time.

In the case of my mother-in-law, she requested a full catholic mass.  She belonged to a large church and the priest did not know her personally.  The service was typical of a full mass and because the priest knew nothing about her, he read her obituary during the sermon portion of the service.  He mispronounced her name and the name of her home town (Butt? Montana).  He had not read through the obituary beforehand so it was read in a choppy manner and it was hard to understand.  It was supposed to be a celebration of her life and it really wasn’t.  Fortunately, at the reception afterwards, the family held a more personal service in remembrance of their mother.

There is a saying, “Funerals bring out the worst in people”.  Families have broken apart in the aftermath of a funeral – the loss of a loved one and the arguments that ensue.  Past hurts come to the forefront and the battle over material things can be a detriment to most families.   Wars are waged and lines drawn in the sand over grandma’s crystal gravy boat or the diamond dinner ring.  It just isn’t worth it but it happens frequently.  Having a will is very important for legal reasons but it is the responsibility of the survivors to deal with division of property and personal items with consideration for each other and in honor of the memory of the departed.

I realized after my dad’s funeral that it is important to think about, and to make known, what your wishes are prior to your death.   But it will save your family a lot of stress if you also plan what you want as a final goodbye.  I have a file titled – “when I die” and it talks about what I want for a service.  It is not overly specific, just little tidbits.  Songs I like, that have special meaning to me; things I feel would be nice to say about my personality; my feelings about religion; how much I love my kids,  grandkids and my husband.  Most importantly, I have included my wishes that my children stay close – rely on each other – no matter what.

I’ve heard it said that it is morbid and depressing to think and talk about those things.  I don’t feel it is because it provides clear instructions for your loved ones and saves them the stress of having to wonder what you would prefer.  It can be as specific or generalized as you want it to be.  In truth, there are so many things that we don’t know about each other and that we don’t normally share.  I’m certain that my mother, who now has dementia/alzheimers, had no idea that she would never have the chance to say the many things that she was saving for “someday”.   There are so many things about her that we don’t know, she never shared, and now there is no one to ask.

It is sad to think of your final days, your final resting place, leaving those you love behind.  None of us knows WHEN that will happen, but we do know that it WILL happen.  To provide a means of saying a final goodbye and of saving your loved ones from that difficult process is truly a gift.  Your final wishes conveyed in black and white will give all of you peace.