Wait for a Simple Solution

In November of 2011, I participated in my first ever National Novel Writing Month. The challenge is this: Write 50,000 words of a novel in the span of the month of November. It was a bit of a last minute decision to jump in, and not only did I participate but I actually “won” by completing my 50,000 words. That’s not to say it was all amazing writing – much of it is less than fabulous – but it’s remarkable how hard it is to just crank out that first draft. Once you have something to work with, you can edit, revise, hire other people to edit and so on, but while the story exists only inside your head there’s nothing you can do but WRITE.

I set the book aside after NaNoWriMo and have picked it up a few time over the years, but each time I found myself stuck on a small but vital detail. The story hinges on the protagonist’s ability to travel between the real world and multiple dream worlds and I couldn’t figure out how to describe the primary dream world, which is essential to the second half of the book. I had many ideas and thoughts and tried and forced and pushed but the way to tell that piece just wouldn’t come.

Last week, a very new friend sent me a text essentially asking “what are you doing this weekend.” Fast forward a few days and I found myself driving to Boston with him for the weekend to participate in a Sacred Harp all day sing (and yes, I had to Google “Sacred Harp Singing” because I had absolutely no idea what he was asking me to do). At 11 pm Friday night, I found myself curled up in a twin bed in a stranger’s apartment, having traveled there with a friend I have known for only a few months, and only just recently have started to hang out with outside of choir practice. I was amused at my conservative risk taking – several people knew where I was and my sister lives very close by so I could call her if I needed anything – but also was pleased I was trying something new and outside my comfort zone.

Lying half asleep in that bed, letting my mind wander without much direction, I suddenly sat up straight and dove for my writing notebook. At a time when I least expected it, I figured out how to write the dream world so it would connect to the real world in the way I wanted it to. Interestingly (or perhaps not so) it was a simple solution: I had been embellishing to a degree that the dream world was feeling forced and contrived. By letting it go and by lessening the specificity I found the gentle solution I’d been looking for.

tiny storiesI think this is often a tendency for me.  I try to force things to fit and contort myself in the process so even when the pieces are linked together, I’m bent so impossibly that nothing is comfortable. I need to take a deep breath, step back from whatever is going on, and make sure I’m doing the right thing. Am I happy with this situation? Am I changing myself in a way that is healthy for me or am I bending over backward to meet someone else’s expectations or wants? If I just let things be and let them evolve, the answers will come to me; the solutions of what to do next and how to make this work will come if I don’t force them.

Today I’m letting go of trying to force things to fit. Whether it’s a story I need to tell or whatever is next for my life, I need to take a deep breath and just let things happen. I can still go for what I want in life and not shy away from making things happen for myself, but I need to let go of forcing things to fit, when they don’t.

Book #7

all about loveFrom Goodreads: All About Love offers radical new ways to think about love by showing its interconnectedness in our private and public lives. In eleven concise chapters, hooks explains how our everyday notions of what it means to give and receive love often fail us, and how these ideals are established in early childhood. She offers a rethinking of self-love (without narcissism) that will bring peace and compassion to our personal and professional lives, and asserts the place of love to end struggles between individuals, in communities, and among societies. Moving from the cultural to the intimate, hooks notes the ties between love and loss and challenges the prevailing notion that romantic love is the most important love of all.

Visionary and original, hooks shows how love heals the wounds we bear as individuals and as a nation, for it is the cornerstone of compassion and forgiveness and holds the power to overcome shame.

For readers who have found ongoing delight and wisdom in bell hooks’s life and work, and for those who are just now discovering her, All About Love is essential reading and a brilliant book that will change how we think about love, our culture-and one another.

Why This Book: This book has been on my “to read” shelf for a very long time. How long you ask? When I pulled it off the shelf, I found a receipt tucked inside from 2001 when I purchased the book in Northampton, MA. I’d say 13 years is long enough…

Please Step Away from the Drama

A few weeks ago, I said in passing to my roommate that I don’t like drama. She stopped in her tracks in the middle of the kitchen, turned to look at me, raised both eyebrows and said, “do you really think that’s true?” I squirmed a little and acknowledged that at present I do seem to be pretty well surrounded by other peoples’ drama. On our way to a fundraiser last Friday, my friend Roya overhead a phone conversation which led her to also question me about the drama swirling around me. She listened for a while then asked me, “What are you really doing?” I again squirmed a bit, but she waited patiently for me to admit out loud that I’m intentionally placing myself in situations where I can lose myself in the chaos.
If I’m distracted by someone else’s drama, I don’t have to dig into my own self work and the discomfort of examining my own demons. If I’m sufficiently distracted, I don’t have time or energy to think about what I’m actually afraid of. What am I avoiding right now? I’m avoiding examining my fear of being alone and my fear that I’m not good enough. Phew. Deep Breath. Admitting it out loud is a step in the right direction, right?

Alone does not equal lonely

2014-01-17 22.14.46I have so much to be thankful for. I have awesome friends, a loving family, a great job with several coworkers that I also consider to be good friends, church friends, fun opportunities and as much connection as I could ever want. A romantic relationship is not a requirement for me to stave off loneliness, nor do I need to contort myself to meet others’ expectations of who I should be just to keep them in my life. I have a long list of people I can choose to spend my energy on and I don’t need to adapt and accommodate to “fit in” – I actually need to make an effort to choose relationships with the people that feed my soul, and let go of those who stir up drama and distraction. I don’t need to place my energy in working to fit in, because I don’t need to fit in at all. I need to feel worthy inside my head and heart exactly as I am. I don’t need to wait to be “fixed” or better; I need to learn to accept myself as I am and actually believe that I am enough.

I can do better

Today I realized there is another dangerous side effect of my distraction strategies. They have worked marvelously to prevent me from making significant progress on my self-work, and they have also made it difficult for me to complete my professional duties to the best of my ability. I sat down with my supervisor this afternoon and told her I know I’ve been distracted lately and that I don’t feel I’ve been doing my best work. I owned out loud that I can do better, and told her I will step up my game. I also asked her to please let me know if she notices I’m dropping any parts of my work so I can ensure things are completed. I desperately wanted to fall to pieces and ask her to reassure me that I’m doing a good job, but I didn’t bring this up to ask for her reassurance. I brought it up to admit that while I am completing my work, I know I’m not doing the best work I can do. This is an area I can focus my energy and my attention with a very beneficial outcome.
One thing builds on another, after all. I struggle with feeling unworthy and unlovable and I cope with these feelings by distracting myself with the chaos of high intensity people in my life. In distracting myself from these feelings, I effectively distract myself in all areas of my life – I have difficulty sleeping, struggle to concentrate on my work, and find it difficult to focus on anything well. Not only do these distractions have the very real consequence of compromising my ability to do the self work necessary to heal and move forward, they also compromise my health and well-being.

Today I am letting go of unhealthy distractions. Some distractions are great, when they are engaged in with intention. I am going to focus more fully on engaging in whatever activity is present for me. I will work harder when at work; I will focus more intentionally on my friends when spending time with them; I will focus on self care and on self work so I continue to heal and become stronger. I will intentionally walk away from situations where I’m surrounded by drama, and away from people who drain me but don’t give energy back.

I am worthy, just as I am. I also can make the choice to be better – I will do my work more fully and intentionally, I will  care for children more actively, I will focus on keeping my energy to feed and care for myself and for the people I love. I will also be patient with myself when I slip backwards and struggle with these goals.

One More Moment

How awesomeWe all experience days we can’t figure out which way is up.
When we wonder just what it is we’re meant to do with this life.
When we think the stinging, smarting pain of failure might never leave us in peace.
When we assume, by looking around us, that we’re not good enough, smart enough, beautiful enough, talented enough, or just plain enough.
When we feel we must be the only ones struggling with this particular brand of “not enough.”

But every single day we can stop, take a deep breath and appreciate this moment for what it is – one more moment on this planet.

What are you going to do with this moment?

Change is the Way

rivendellIf you spend a few moments perusing my bookcase, you will find dozens of books waiting to be read. Some are resting fitfully until their turn as one of my 42 books, but many others are biding their time until after I finish the project (just don’t tell them it will likely be several more months until that point). Even though I already own several unread books, I can rarely resist wandering through my very favorite used book store, Rivendell Books in downtown Montpelier. Tightly packed with an assortment of current bestsellers, romance novels, general fiction, Vermont nonfiction, children’s books and a vast array of books belonging to miscellaneous topics, I could easily wander their uneven floors for hours.

As I strolled through Rivendell this weekend (doesn’t that sound idyllic?) I snagged a copy of Melodie Beattie’s Journey of the Heart. I own a few of Beattie’s books and find her writing about codependence to be both clear and approachable. While I haven’t personally struggled as the partner of an addict or alcoholic, her work on “how to stop controlling others and start caring for yourself” resonates deeply for me. Journey is set up so each day of the year has a few paragraphs to focus your attention and a brief meditation for the day. Here’s what I found on the date I brought the book home:

Just as the world around us changes and evolves, so do the circumstances and situations in our lives. We live in a universe that is alive, vibrant, and constantly evolving. Change is the way nature, the universe and the Divine move us through each period of our lives and into destiny. We are led to our next lesson, our next adventure. There’s no need to deny change, to fear it or fight against it. Change is inevitable. Just as the earth is constant motion and transformation. So are we.

Melodie Beattie, Journey to the Heart: Daily Meditations on the Path to Freeing your Soul

I’ve been feeling unsettled and uncomfortably adrift of late. I recently described it to a close friend as a feeling of anxiety because some of my anchors are not holding me steady. Some are as firmly rooted as ever – my family, my friends – but a couple of the major ones have come loose and are not tying me down the way I like them to. There are changes to the grant that funds my job and I expect the next few months will see a great deal of change to the way I do my work. I recently applied for a different job (unrelated to the grant change – it simply seemed too perfect an opportunity to pass up) and while I received indication that I was one of the top choices, I didn’t get the job. I will be moving in the next month to live with one of my closest friends and while I’m very excited about many aspects of this new plan, there are buckets of unknowns as we move into this new living arrangement.

Several months ago while visiting my sister and brother-in-law, my propensity for frequent moves came up in conversation. My brother-in-law made a comment about how I enjoy moving, and I think my jaw actually dropped open. If you asked me, I would tell you I hate moving and that my twelve bazillion moves in the past 15 years were all because of reasons. Crazy roommates, divorce, too expensive, too small, awful neighbors, no parking, need a change – those are all reasons, right? Though I dismissed it in the moment, as the time approaches for me to make my next move I keep thinking of his casual assumption that I enjoy moving and I wonder if there might be some truth to it. Certainly, the reasons were real and there were uncomfortable and borderline awful situations to extract myself from, that’s not the whole truth.

This time of year, many people engage in spring cleaning – clean out the basement, pull out the clothes for warmer weather, move the furniture and clear out the cobwebs. Maybe that’s a piece of why I move as often as I do; rather than moving the furniture in my room, I uproot the furniture and move to an entirely different space to gently tuck myself into the new soil. I may not know the details of what my job will look like come July 1, but I have a job I enjoy, that I’m good at, and I work with people who value and appreciate me. I may not know exactly what hurdles I will need to jump with the new apartment, but I have signed the lease and I am starting to daydream about how I will set up my spaces and how we might set up the shared spaces. I’m working to channel the excitement and potential for greatness in the change, rather than the anxiety that grows from clinging to what I’m comfortable with.

Today I am letting go of my resistance to change. Change will always happen, even within the happiest and most stable of circumstances. I will focus on letting go and changing with the world around me, on taking care of myself and on giving myself room not only to allow for change, but to enjoy it.

Book #6

enders gameFrom Goodreads:

In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race’s next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn’t make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender’s skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.

Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender’s two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.

Ender’s Game is the winner of the 1985 Nebula Award for Best Novel and the 1986 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

Why This Book: I’ve recently signed onto an amazing science fiction project called Reality Breaks with Charles Barouch of HDWP Books. I’ve had Ender’s Game on my shelf for an embarrassingly long time and decided that while I’m getting myself ready to launch into the shared world of Reality Breaks, it was past time to check this book off my “to read” list.