Everything Matters

A few months ago I listened to a webcast.  The speaker compared life’s experiences to climbing a ladder.

“Every rung is important,” he said, “Every rung is equal.”

At first, the idea of “everything matters equally” felt paralyzing.  Taking even the simplest of actions could be life-or-death in a world where all is so completely important. I might do it wrong.

Then I heard the words differently.

Everything in life has equal meaning. 

At first, this didn’t seem logical.  Holding a door open for someone and saving someone’s life has equal meaning? 

Yes, it does. 

Last Fall I was deep in grief over the deaths of my Dad and my cousin.  The feelings came and went, unpredictable tides that left me feeling helpless and lost.  On a day when things were especially colourless and I desperately needed to feel better, I took myself to the library.

As I walked towards the door, it swung open and someone came out.  Their arms were loaded with books, a balancing act, but when they saw me they paused and waited, holding the door open wide.  They looked me in the eyes and smiled.  I thanked them and walked through. 

Holding the door open for someone and smiling, a momentary gesture frequently repeated, nothing really in the larger movements of life. Except this someone, a stranger, smiled for me as if we knew and loved each other well.

That brief action was pure kindness, a connection that gave me light and space and breath.  I was offered a moment of love that buoyed me for the rest of the day.

I don’t know what happens as my actions and choices ripple outwards.  I don’t know who I affect every day in my life.

I do know I want my life’s touch to be as kind and loving as the gift I received that day.

If everything is important and equal, if everything has meaning, I choose to do my days with kindness and love for the people around me and for myself.

Saying Yes Please To Help

I was one of those children who regularly insisted, “I can do it myself.”  My parents heard those words a million times.  Bless their patience.

Now I am in the messy middle of writing a book, and I can most definitely not do it myself.

I didn’t fully realize, when I began this process, creating a book is a communal effort.  I kind of knew, but hadn’t considered it at depth.  After all, book covers say “by author’s name”.  They don’t say “by long list of names.”

The clue is inside the book on the acknowledgements page if the writer has added one, and most do.  Right there is the long list.

When I think on it, I had help long before the book idea crossed my mind.  Every creativity book I have worked my way through, and every author of everything I’ve read throughout my life have helped me.  They’ve laid paths and rhythms of language within me.  I move to that beat when I write.

I learned from every teacher ways I wanted to play with words, and ways I didn’t.

My circle of friends are artists, writers, and readers, book lovers all.  They patiently read my drafts and ask exactly the right questions to unstick me from swamps of my own making.  They celebrate, commiserate, and push when I need it.  I do the same for them, and gain a deeper understanding of my own creative process.

In my future beyond the drafts stage, there is a stream of wise partners who will help me create, support, and present the book that shows up online, in bookstores, and in readers’ hands and minds.

The help list is long and growing.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I treasure the community coming into being, the wisdom and experience shared with me, the yes they are offering my project.

I was a do-it-myself child.

It’s a good thing I have changed.

(Written at a friend’s home, grey-blue ocean beyond the windows and a morning sky clearing towards a sunny day.  Thanks Wren, for lending me your place!)

When Nothing Makes Me Feel Better

The last few weeks have been a slow roller coaster.  My moods have traveled up and down, and longer in the downs.  This week I’ve settled, a blessed relief.

I could list the reasons, but it’s easier to simply list ‘life’.

I am exactly like my son when he was five years old.

It was a tough day at school (kindergarten is not always easy), and he came home angry.  He didn’t want to talk, and he bashed his way around the house until I became angry too.  Better we separate when we’re both angry.  I told him to go to his room. I stayed in the kitchen.

I listened as he stomped away, as his door slammed, as the noise and activity level in his bedroom peaked, then quieted.

After a few minutes, concern and curiosity led me down the hallway.  I knocked on his door, then opened it.

He looked at me, mourning written all over him.  “Mom, I’ve tried everything and nothing makes me feel better.”

The evidence of his effort lay all around him, on the floor and the bed.  Toys, Lego pieces, stuffed animals, his favourite blanket.  He had tried so hard.  My upset dissolved in an instant.

Love is what I gave my precious son that day, and received love back.  We sat on his bed and hugged, held hands, talked about nothing important.  We had all the time in the world.

I’ve tried and nothing makes me feel better–I know that place.

Luckily, I am now old enough I’ve learned what to do.

I don’t push the feelings away.  I don’t try to make myself better.  I’m upset for a reason and my feelings are broadcasting what and why.  I need to feel and listen, so I do.  I put on music, or let the house be silent , wrap myself in my favourite blanket, cocoon myself on the couch, become still.  An hour or a day, I feel and listen.  I treat myself gently, a precious being broken and hurting and needing love.

Love is what I give myself when I am hurting and needing.  Love and all the time in the world.  Love fills the cracks and mends the breaks.  Love tells me I am something precious, and makes me whole again.

My son doesn’t remember that day, but I do always.  He gave me the most perfect gift of feeling and understanding what keeps us whole.  Love.  Love.  Love.  Love.

________________

In this post:

I didn’t always know how to love myself.  I still forget sometimes, but each time the gap is smaller.  Dee Wallace’s Red Dot Exercise is one of the things that helped me learn what unconditional self-love feels like. 

My experience doing the Red Dot Exercise is here on my blog, postings from December 23 and 24, 2014:

Dee’s website is at https://iamdeewallace.com/

How Do You Want The World To See You?

Two months ago, someone asked me a question which has stuck with me.

How do you want the world to see you?

Now, I know from my experience as an artist and writer, I have zip for control over how someone perceives and responds to me and my creations, and I would not want such control.

Still, the question keeps popping into my thoughts.

How do I want to be seen?

I want to be seen as my truest self.  I want to be seen fully open-hearted, where love comes first in everything—what I feel and think, what I say and do, how I treat myself and how I treat the world.  Love as my first consideration.  Beginning there.  Choosing love in my connections, communications, actions, and reactions.

I don’t always manage to begin from love.  I get angry, tired, frustrated, impatient, sad, numb.  My open heart feels it all.  It needs to feel it all, that is its reason to be.  But then, reminding myself to choose love brings me back to a place where I can change how I feel.  It opens a space for me to shift the story I am telling myself, and make it different in this moment.

When I say to myself ‘choose love’, I am reminded I always have choice.  I can react, or I can pause and come back to my heart, recall who I am, and choose to create from love.

I’d much rather create from love.  Love allows me to be true to myself and what I want my life to be.

The question I began with, the question I was asked, isn’t the right question.

How do I want to see myself?  How do I want to see the world?  These are the questions.

I want to see myself, my life, and the world as a place that chooses love first.  Chooses compassion, kindness, and care.  Chooses connection, communication, gentleness, and patience.

A world that chooses to hold each other gently.

A me that chooses to hold myself gently.

This is how I want to see myself.  This is how I want to see the world.  This is how I want the world to see me.

All of us, choosing love first.

_________________

Wide and still

feb3.2014 006


Wide and still

I hold my heart.

Let spirit write her path in me.

Let love breathe her breath in me.

Let need call forth to serve in me.

Let grace be every step for me.

Let joy become the song in me.

Let connection open space for me.

Let creation be all play in me.

Let action be the choice for me.

Still and wide

I hold my heart.

Let all life find its home in me.


A joyous and blessed New Year to everyone.  Let love breathe her breath through all the world.

Don’t Let Anyone Call You Stupid

‘I Rode A River Of Words And Heard Wisdom (Bryan)’   https://www.walkingowlstudio.ca/gallery/dancing_the_ghosts/

Last night I watched one of my favourite Christmas shows, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.

This morning I woke thinking how, as kids in school, we labelled each other.  Those labels did a lot of damage.  Unlike Rudolph, some of us were never able to rise above the words we were called.

I love words.  I love playing with words, putting them together and taking them apart.  I love crossword puzzles, word games, and Scrabble.  I love reading other people’s words and writing my own.

When I was thirteen years’ old and entering high school, my parents gave me a thesaurus.  I never dreamed such a treasure existed.  I read it cover to cover, like a novel.

My husband didn’t have a love affair with words.  For him, it was much the opposite.

He struggled with words. He couldn’t make the connections between sounding out a word and spelling it.  Spelling was a disaster for him.  He had to consciously, repeatedly memorize the sequence of letters for each word. Otherwise ‘celery’ came out ‘clegery’, and ‘chimney’ was ‘chibmny’.

He was told he was stupid, and he felt stupid.

I know the English language has weird and wonderful word spellings, but his struggle was beyond that.

By the time my husband reached high school, he’d struck a deal with a friend who was an ace speller. His friend struggled to come up with ideas for writing assignments.  My husband always had loads of ideas.  So he provided his friends with ideas, and his friend spell checked my husband’s essays. Win win.

My husband is not stupid.

His brain came equipped with a different pathway to understanding words, sounds, and spelling. He had to find his own way, and did, into learning how to spell.

It’s so easy to stick a label on someone, easier than taking the time to consider the whole of the person standing in front of you and finding an understanding.

No one is stupid.

I have twenty years of experience as an artist, but ask me to sculpt something and the result would have you seriously doubting I have any artistic ability at all.  I am a disaster at sculpture.

My brain doesn’t see and understand the way a sculptor needs to.  What my brain naturally sees and understands is drawing.  Give me paper and drawing materials, and I am a wizard.

I’ll say it once more.

No one is stupid.

This life is rich because of the uncountable paths we have for seeing and understanding.

I have a very old dictionary from Great Britain, a school discard dated 1954.  It contains a definition for ‘stupid’ I find interesting. The dictionary defines it as ‘wanting in understanding’.

This definition surely describes me trying to sculpt and my husband trying to spell.  We want to understand and are unable to.

There are other layers in this definition.  We all want and deserve help and understanding from others when we are struggling.  And for those who label others then walk away, describing the label-ers as having a ‘wanting of understanding’ works for me.

_________________

In this post:

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, animated stop-motion Christmas cartoon, first aired in December 1964, produced by Videocraft International Ltd. (later known as Rankin/Bass Productions).  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudolph_the_Red-Nosed_Reindeer_(TV_special)

Being A Writer Who Is Writing

joydiary08.page10and11.2018In my second year of art school, I had a painting teacher who taught attitude along with technique.  He talked about how we needed to love making art more than love being an artist.

At first I didn’t understand the difference.

Something happened, though, after I graduated.  His words stuck with me, and the longer I made art, the more I experienced how my love of making carried me through the hard spots.  If I had loved being an artist more than making art, I would have quit.

When I began writing, I carried this experience and understanding with me.  Problem was, it didn’t transfer completely.  I still had to learn to love writing the same way I had learned to love drawing, by doing it.

At first I mainly loved Being A Writer, reveling in how I felt when I said to myself, “I am a Writer.”  The feeling was not so enjoyable when actually writing.  I loved the concept, but sometimes the doing was capital-H Hard.  I became frustrated and depressed at how slow it was, and editing was oh-my-ugly.

What saved me was the fact I loved reading books, and every amazing read made me want to really, truly be a writer who was writing.

I found ways to keep writing.  I read creativity books and let them inspire me.  I listened to writers talk about their work and process.  I freely bribed myself.  When none of those worked, I used guilt.  Guilt always worked, sooner or later.

Slowly, what I had experienced with making art happened with writing.  The more I did it, the more I loved doing it.  The more I wrote, the more I trusted I could write, even the hard bits.

On Monday this week, I took myself to my favourite café and spent the whole day writing.

During the afternoon, a woman came in and sat two chairs over from me.  She pulled out a stack of paper like mine, a pen, and Halloween candy.  Got her coffee and settled, I thought, to write.

I was wrong.

She rearranged her papers.  Clicked her pen a bunch.  Looked out the window.  Looked around the café.  Kicked her chair leg for a while.  Chatted and laughed with people who walked past her.  Looked over at me like she wanted to start a conversation.

In the meantime, I was writing and becoming increasingly irritated by this person.  She was distracting me from what I wanted to be doing, which was writing.

I noticed I was judging her, big time.  She had her tools in front of her, yet she was doing everything except writing.  I decided she was one of those who loved the idea of being a writer but didn’t love doing the writing.  A pretender, while I was the real thing.

Wow.  Me being snarky.  Very.

I felt bad, judging myself for judging her.  I should know better.  I’ve been where she is, done exactly what she’s doing.  Maybe she needed a change of scenery after writing all morning at home.  Maybe she needed distraction as part of her process.  Maybe she gained ideas from talking with random strangers.

I kept writing while this flashed through my mind and feelings.

I wondered why I was irritated by her activity.  She was doing me no harm.  I was distracting myself by allowing my focus to wander over to her.

I knew I was in a hard place in my draft.  I was struggling, feeling overwhelmed, not sure I could bring this all together.  Doubting myself as a writer.

I understood.  I wanted distraction.  More than that, she looked like she was enjoying herself, and I wasn’t.  She looked relaxed.  I wasn’t.

I was feeling jealous, too.

I kept writing.

There is the important thing—I kept writing.  I let myself be distracted enough to move out of the writing, realized what was happening inside me and how I was feeling.  Realized I was working my way through a hard spot in my writing, it was getting to me, and I needed to release pressure by putting my frustration on someone or something else.

I understood.  I forgave myself.

I silently appreciated the woman near to me who was enjoying the feeling of being a writer.  I knew how good that felt, and I let myself enjoy her enjoyment.

And I kept writing.

Why I’m Not Doing Nanowrimo This Year

Cat Fink 'What Gives Me Joy Nov 9 2016 (books)'November first.  The clouds are dark grey outside my studio window.  It’s been raining, snowing, and sleeting since midnight.  The temperature sits at zero Celsius.  Perfect weather for being inside, papers scattered across my work table, music playing counterpoint to the drip of water off the roof, writing this blog post.

It’s a perfect day for beginning Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month), except this year I am not.

This is a deliberate choice.

I love doing Nanowrimo.  I love writing furiously, aiming for at least 2,000 words each day.  Love the focused creating.  Love the feeling of a single driving purpose in a life normally split half a dozen directions.  Love the community spirit, the support and mutual cheer leading.  Love the feeling of entering the word count that pushes me over the 50,000 word goal.  Oh yeah.

There is a good reason why I am not already in the depths of all this writing awesomeness.  It’s something else I love–more writing awesomeness.  It’s my book draft.

I am working through the final three chapters of Lisa Cron’s Story Genius.  I have my momentum and I want to keep it.  My book draft needs me.

If I shift to Nanowrimo, my creative focus completely shifts as well.  I know the energy required to complete 50,000 plus words in a month, and it would leave none for my book.  Nanowrimo is a demanding love.

I did Nanowrimo last year.  I wrote a parallel draft for my book.  I explored all the directions I didn’t take in the main draft.

It was worth spending a month discovering the words beyond the path already laid.  I found writing that belonged in the main draft, filling in gaps I hadn’t noticed.  I explored side paths I knew diverted the story so had ignored in the main draft.  I reveled in back story that helped me understand motivations and situations.

Pausing my main draft and doing Nanowrimo last year was totally worth it.  I gave myself month-long permission to experience places outside of the story.  My main draft is richer as a result of the parallel draft.

Saying yes to Nanowrimo this year would take me away from where I am right now, and where I need to go next in my book draft.  I need slower, more considered writing at the moment.

A ‘yes’ this year is an excuse to not work out the hard stuff on my book.  It’s very appealing, and  I know better.  I’ve done enough excuses this year.

I do have to say, this ‘no’ feels sad.  I feel like I’m missing the party.

At the same time, I feel how right my choice is.  I love where I am in my draft process.  I love what I have discovered and learned as I’ve worked my way.  I am so very curious about what else is going to show up, as though I am reading the already published book and wondering what happens next in the story.

I feel rich in my writing life; I have more than one thing to love.

Bon voyage, all you Nanowrimo crew!  May you have fair winds, full sails, and an ocean of ideas and words to play in.  May you have life rafts aplenty should you need them, and a welcoming harbour when your writing reaches home at the end of the month.  Save me a berth for next year.

___________________

In this post:

Nanowrimo aka National Novel Writing Month.  https://nanowrimo.org/  I feel like Dr. Seuss and Willy Wonka had a hand or ten in inventing this.

Book Story Genius by Lisa Cron, Ten Speed Press, 2016.  http://wiredforstory.com/story-genius-1/