BooWho

Things I want to keep in mind.

Category: writing

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!)

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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.

 

Welcome back to comfort

Writing for comfort.  When I am away from my computer and I am not able to write – either because I am busy or I can’t find a topic – I really do miss it.  (For some reason, I don’t feel as comfortable just writing with pen and paper…).  In some ways, not writing makes me feel lonely; as though I am missing someone.  That someone is me.

When I was a child, I played alone a lot.  I talked to myself and had elaborate games in my own imagination.  I mimicked different accents and dialects and developed new scenarios for the characters I portrayed.  I lived inside my head and had dreams of being an actress on a soap opera.  Lofty goals.  As I aged, I realized the possibility of being discovered for my acting skills in a very small rural community in Montana were slim to none.  Still, I enjoyed fantasizing about fame and fortune as a diva on The Young and the Restless.

In college, I was living in a strange place, with no real friends.   I held tight to my life back at home by writing to friends and family.  Everyday, I wrote at least 3 letters.  I would fill the letters with anecdotes and details about my days.  In return, I would receive at least one letter a day from someone — usually my mom.  As I made friends, the need for maintaining contact with my old life began to wane.  I didn’t write as many letters but I used writing letters as an outlet for expressing my happiness, sadness or loneliness.  Writing became a habit and though I never really kept a journal – I “journaled” by writing letters.  To this day, if I need to express something I can do it best by writing TO someone.

I have written a play and receive royalties for it in September and April.  It is always exciting to open that envelope and realize that a drama club or group has performed MY play.  It has been performed in Canada, the UK and in several places in the U.S.  I’ve started several other plays but just can’t get beyond the first outline.  Not sure why — maybe the first play was just a fluky thing.  Perhaps if I wrote a play as if it were a letter I might have better luck.

Being retired has given me the opportunity of having more TIME although it feels as though I am just as busy now as I was when I was working and I wonder how I ever had time to do anything before!  I have a couple of writing projects that I’ve started but can never seem to finish.

One project is to write about my life just for general principle.   When my mom developed dementia, I realized that I don’t really know much about her.  She never really talked about herself.  I’ve been thinking about having to help write her obituary when she dies and it won’t be easy.  So many details we don’t know.  I wonder if my kids know me any better?

Do they know how much I love the sun and warm summer days?  Do they know how much I love tacos and salad and cold cereal?  How much I loved to play basketball?  That I can sing? (or that I used to be able to sing…)  My favorite color is green – not forest green but sage green.  I like Coke over Pepsi.  I hate onions.  I don’t like to ride a bike, I hate jogging but I love to walk.  I was chubby in college.  I wore braces in high school.  I was the shortest girl in my class in 8th grade and the tallest as a senior.   I was anemic and sickly as a child.  I never did work to my full potential in school because I never believed I was very smart (I now know better).

I am very proud of them – this, I think they know.  I love to play with my grandchildren – they know that too.  I love to laugh with them and to watch them laugh with each other.  I love it when we are all together and there is no strife or worry.  Those days are the very best, the days I cherish the most.  I find great comfort in writing about those days…

Nonsense

After 20 minutes looking through Pinterest, I feel sufficiently inept so I shall write my blog.  (There are a lot of talented people on Pinterest!)  We all have our strengths, right?  Right.  Write.

I do love to write.  I do it inside my head all the time.  If only there was a way to record those thoughts as they happen.  Yes, yes…keep a notebook with you at all times.  It just doesn’t flow as easily once you start to write it out.  I suppose I could carry a recorder but that isn’t always convenient and can be a little conspicuous.  Although, I talk to myself all the time – which is fine in the car, while cleaning the house or walking on the backroads.  It is frowned upon in the mall or in restaurants.   (Who knows, maybe those homeless people we see talking and gesturing to themselves are actually award winning authors who don’t have access to paper and a writing instrument!)

I read tips for writing all the time.  It is one of the best procrastinating methods I know.

Fear is the biggest deterrent.  Being judged.  Not being good enough.  Offending someone.  Feeling foolish and small.  (Another procrastinating method that leaves me feeling defeated.)

On a good day, I can write the morning away.  I walk away, leaving the blog post on the screen and return after breakfast – make small edits, then hit publish.  Tra-la-la.  Don’t think about it again.

On a not-so-good day, I sit with my fingers on the home row of the keyboard and watch the cursor blink.

Days like today, I write something nonsensical just to get something out there — to feel the flow and to try to get back into a routine.  Blah blah blah, so on and so forth.  More tomorrow…..