The Course of Gratitude

On Thanksgiving, I was invited to dinner an hour or more from my house. There would be family and friends and I was excited about going.

Already stressed from running late, I ticked off my checklist of things as I tossed them into the car, hopped in, turned the key, and …. click.. click…click.

Uhm. No. I must have been hallucinating. I didn’t depress the gas. I didn’t turn the key completely. Confidently, I tried again. Click, click, click my car responded to each and every try. Not one hint of the engine igniting.

I called my daughter who had arrived ahead of me – stress and disappointment overwhelming me. She said it was probably just the battery and she arranged for someone to jump my car.

They arrived, hooked up the cables, and said – turn the key. Click… click… click. Okay, wait a few minutes and try again. But with each and every try the click, click, click even seemed to get weaker.

Not only was I missing the dinner that I was already late for, but my baby – my car – my very dependable, has never let me down was ailing. I assumed since the battery couldn’t be jumped, there was something very wrong with her. I imagined the costs, the time, began to wonder how I would get to work.

Too late for dinner. Too late to make alternative plans. I donned my big sunglasses to hide my tear swollen eyes and took my dogs for a walk. I returned home, ate a bowl of fruit (I hadn’t shopped for heaven’s sake, I was going elsewhere for dinner!) and cleaned out my closet. What else might one have done?

As I thought of the dinner conversation missed, what are you grateful for? I had to consider what I was and am grateful for. Of course, I am blessed.

As with the immediate circumstances, the car with the suddenly dead battery, spending Thanksgiving with my dogs instead of a table filled with food – I was still grateful.

I’m grateful the car didn’t die anywhere else! It died here, in my own driveway, leaving me safe at home and not on the freeway or the supermarket or an hour away from my house on a chilly holiday night.

I’m grateful for the amazing family I have. I may not spend every holiday with them because they have a father, in laws, friends, but I see them all the time. As I walked the dogs around the neighborhood, I saw my neighbors enjoying their family – some of whom only visit on holidays. I am bless to have family who want to hang out with me, want to be here with me, and don’t just come on holidays.

I’m grateful for the beautiful souls I’m fortunate enough to call friends. In the last some years, I’ve attempted to align myself only with those who glow with positivity. They are people who I can count on, people who care about me and I care about. I probably could have even called them on Thanksgiving for a ride, but I didn’t want to disturb their holidays.

I was fortunate enough to have my daughters recreate Thanksgiving on Saturday – which, somehow, was better than the original could have been.

Of Importance

Someone recently allude to the reason they haven’t been writing is they felt their work wasn’t important.

But – is that why we do this? Out of some idea of importance to the world or to ourselves?

Are we not just driven to create because we are creators? Or does it lose meaning when we think our creations are not important?

As a young person, I wrote. I wrote with no thought of audience or publisher or awards. It was a drive within me, for as long as I can remember, to just write. Get it all out. Put it down on paper.

The idea of importance to the world didn’t come until later – college, in fact, when one professor said – but what is the deeper meaning?

And a student answered – maybe it was just for fun?

And she, slitting her eyes, growled, “We don’t do that.”

My writer friend always got stuck on audience. She’d start on a piece, but then she’d become stalled, staring at it for hours and rereading it and attempting to answer the question – Who is the Audience?

All these expectations stifle the creative spirit. Maybe these questions need to be answered, but I believe the answer must come after the creation.

Perhaps that is the true spirit of creation. Create first, ask questions later.

The spirit of commercialism to which we are all pulled, drawn, or lead is in opposition with the authentic need to create. For the product, we must ask the questions and then create something tailor made.

I don’t want to make products. I suck at sales. I just want to write. The writing is important to who I am as a human. Writing makes me a better human. Isn’t that important?

What is Creativity?

My friend believes creativity is a gift direct from the powers that be.

I believe everyone is creative in different ways.

My friend feels when she is ill, she is unable to write. The body, she says, is recreating itself, creating health from illness.

I think of the great minds in our society – Mozart’s last work, although incomplete was powerful, was written on his deathbed. Einstein was working on his next great theorem as he lay dying. Howard Hughes, burned and bleeding, after a plane crash left him near dead, redesigned the bed he lay in, redesigned the plane in which he crashed.

My friend is not completely wrong. When I’m not well, the last thing I’m thinking about is how my character will move forward.

But maybe that’s exactly what we need when our body is focused on healing, that our mind needs to be occupied with our passion in life. Maybe there is something to the creation – the connection between healing and writing – that makes magic.

We know that, already, don’t we? We heal though creativity. We are fully present when involved in our purpose.

I wrote the first draft of Our Gentle Sins during a stressful time. It came out fast and easy. The flow was beautiful and powerful and made me feel better, more in control, and hopeful.

When I think of the book now, the characters hold a special place in my heart. Jack and Valerina are the epitome of hope

I like words…

I like sentences. Big, beautiful sentences so long and thick you can wrap them around yourself and keep yourself warm in the winter. Yeah, those. But I like words too. They go together, you know, words and sentences. I like to make them move with rhythm, sing and dance in a way that you fall into them as if you’re hypnotized by them and you never want to leave them, you just want to sway back and forth and keep reading until you slip off of your seat.

It takes time to create those. They start small, like these. Then you have to let them sit, like yeasty bread, and let them rise. You leave, come back, lift the towel, pinch and poke at them, and leave them again thinking, “I know it can be better than that.”

Then you have to sit down with them, you have to get to know them, talk to them, talk through them, try them on, and break them then mend them, try this and try that. It’s frustrating too, I know. You fight with them, want to give up on them, want to trash the whole thing and sometimes you might leave in tears with hopelessness tearing at your soul, but then you come back on another day, maybe an overcast day that holds the threat of rain, and you sit down and talk it all out once again. Maybe this time, this time, it works. Someday it will.

Then you’ll move on to the next sentence.

This is writing. It hurts. It cuts giant gashes filled with jagged edges through you. It scars. It gives you nightmares and makes you curl up in a ball and rock not so gently back and forth.

But it’s also the only thing that pushes you forward, fills the empty spaces, gives you purpose. It keeps the dark shadows at bay and protects you from the harsh world.

Wellness Writing Prompt

When I first came to yoga, our instructor made fish pose a regular part of our sequence. And for so long, I disliked it. It was uncomfortable – and I thought possibly unsafe.

matsyasana or fish pose

Fish pose, for those of you who are unfamiliar, is a pose in which the person lays flat on their back, but then lifts their upper back and head to place the crown of their head on the floor.

This pose, or rather the dislike of this pose, inspired a story titled Matsyasana. It is the very things which make us uncomfortable, which may (or may not) be connected to other, deeper things, that we must explore.

When I started looking at Fish Pose from a different point of view – thanks to the story – I understood what the pose could be. For me, it became about looking at life from a different point of view. Sometimes we get stuck in our discomfort. If we don’t or can’t move past it, we will never find what is on the other side. And nothing is as bad as being stuck – anywhere or in any way.

The first writing prompt for the group Writing to Wellness is to approach this topic in some way. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a yoga pose, but consider a position which makes you uncomfortable and write about it. If you’re perplexed, begin by attempting to describe the pose or position, then delve into the part of it that makes you uncomfortable – either in a fictional or non-fictional way. The point is just to start thinking about it and writing about it. This group is a safe place. We will support one another in our individual journeys. Feel free to share or ask for feedback.

Self Care and Writing

This year is a year of self care. The people I’ve met and those I’ve chatted with are seeking self fulfillment, searching for growth; it is a year of healing.

Taking care of yourself is not selfish. We are a well. Empty wells can not serve or help others. We need to refill our wells, take care of ourselves in order to be any good to our children, our spouses, family, or community.

We can heal through writing. We can find ourselves and our purpose through exercises meant to expose our deepest desires and inspire our motivation.

Many years ago, I met a woman who was in so much physical pain, she could barely walk and used a cane to get around. Through our semester together, writing exercises, guest speakers, and the process of opening up, she found what was eating away at her. Once exposed, her physical pain began to resolve. She walked with much more ease and moved with more freedom than she’d felt in years.

We can heal through writing. We can resolve our deeper issues. We can discover our purpose. I’d like to invite you to a group Writing to Wellness . The group is on facebook for the moment as that seems the platform where we can not only post and respond to writing prompts, challenges, and answer each others’ questions, but we can also do live writing groups, which I’d like to do at some point. We can also welcome speakers and post videos there.

Please feel free to join. I invite you to respond to prompts, receive writing feedback, and take part in a community dedicated to healing and wellness. Negative comments, trolling, and other uncivil behavior will not be tolerated.

Four Ways to Grow as a Person

Do you know people who don’t change, they stay the same, saying the same things, thinking the same narrow thoughts? Dealing with these people is challenging. It is a great fear of mine to get stuck – to narrow as I age instead of continuing to grow.

This is my theory to never get stuck or to get out of being stuck is to embrace these four suggestions:

  1. Read everyday. I’m not going to say it doesn’t matter what you read; in some ways, it does matter. Read far and wide, don’t discriminate. Magazines. Sci fi. Young adult. Horror. Literary. Self help. Reading builds intelligence and empathy.
  2. Write everyday. Even if you’re not a writer. Journaling, writing down thoughts, dreams, ideas, or even what happened in your day is a way to reflect on yourself and your life. Self reflection helps us grow. Especially if you are a writer – write something!
  3. Forgive. Forgiveness if not for the person who wronged you. It’s for you. Forgiveness sweeps the dust from our souls. To forgive does not always mean to forget, and it certainly does not mean to allow the person to wrong you again. Forgive and move on.
  4. Gratitude. Be thankful for where you are in life or for the power to change where you are. Be grateful for your health, the roof over your head, the motivation to grow, the inspiration to follow your dreams, the desire to work toward your goals, for the bird song, the blue sky, the rain, or that you’re one step further away from what you don’t want and one step closer to what you do.

I’ve known too many people who have lost out on a real life, a happy life because being stuck is more comfortable than change.

These suggestions are only a beginning, but they are a good start or to continue on a journey to become a more open, intelligent, and sensitive person.

Creativity is a Well that Must be Replenished

Thanks to Joe Plummer from Carbon Radio for asking great questions in this author interview!

Head over to Medium.com to read the full interview!

How do you think about creativity?

Creativity is a well that must be replenished. Creating a space and time for oneself and one’s growth will keep the well abundant. For me, the replenishment requires an inner focus, quiet spaces around me, lovely views — not necessarily when I’m writing, but before and after. Trips to the local art museum, beach, or the woods will recharge me. When I’m running dry, I know there’s something scratching at the bottom. Some parts of me or my needs I’ve neglected or ignored. I get too distracted by the outside world. There is so much we must do in this modern time and too many easy diversions. My soul counts on the regular activity of writing, it’s like a cleaning out of my mind. It keeps me balanced and happy. Without the regular practice of creativity, the soul cringes and starts to fold over on itself. If it’s been too long, it’ll be a rough restart. Rocks and dirt come first but, if we keep at it, our well fills again and the water becomes clear and plentiful.

What Does Writing Mean to You?

It was suggested to me recently that I give up writing for awhile.

My mouth fell open and my eyes widened. “Give up writing?”

I was in shock. I jumped to defense, ready to tackle, grab the ball and run for the 50 yard line.

What would I do with all the voices in my head? All the characters who wrangle for a voice, the scenes that require breath to be brought to life? These are real things in writer’s heads. People, places, stories. Non-writers don’t readily understand that.

(I wonder what it’s like to live in a non-writer’s head? What goes on in there if there are no stories? Is there math? *Shudder).

Who in their write/right mind would “give up” their passion, their purpose.

She asked, “What does writing mean to you?”

I realize my defense is not really an answer. What does writing mean to me? I know what is used to mean – it was a survival mechanism. But it was more than that too.

I’m still working on it by the way – a current, present answer to what writing means to me. I just know I can’t not write.

Share with me please – what does writing mean to you?

To Infinity and… I’ll Stay Here, Thanks

Richard Branson flew to space, then Bezos and his blue crew. A friend of mine wondered about their choice. I said, hey, they’re filthy rich; they’ve been all over the planet. They need something new.

Those who know me know I love travel. I have a deep seated need to experience new spaces, new places, new cultures and people.

For a sliding moment, I felt sorry for these billionaires whose only novel rush might come from a space flight; however, I rejected that thought quite quickly as reductive. They have the cash, why not fly to space?!

And what about the lucky soul who won the extra seat from the person who had to cancel? (First, imagine that! No refund on that ticket!)

I, like many of you,, cannot afford to go to space. But would I want to? I have to ask myself this question. I used to dream of winning publisher’s clearing house, occasionally wish I could guess those lottery numbers. Hell, I’d take finding a wheel full of cash along side the freeway. (I’m not sure why I would ever be on the side of a freeway looking at tires, but stranger things have happened.)

Given the current state of the world, I’m concerned about getting on a plane because of all the f’n nutty people acting out after a year of being locked in. Everyday someone’s being an asshole, refusing to wear a mask, smacking a flight attendant, or trying to open an emergency exit while in flight (did you see the woman duct taped to the seat?!), and getting yanked off a plane by the police.

Bottom line – I’m not ready to fly in our atmosphere. I’m not sure I’d want to fly out of it. Then I heard the trip to space was only ten minutes long. Ten minutes? I’m risking my life for 10 minutes? Yeah, I don’t think so.

When can I spend a week up there? Call me when they have a Starbucks and a CVS. Kitchy shopping. Trinkets to bring home. First painting done in space. Where I can sip space tea next to an asteroid crater. Hike the lunar landing site. Let me know when we can see how real aliens live and tour old space ruins.

I guess there’s still plenty to see and do here. For me, anyway. The natural beauty of New Zealand awaits. There’s an owl sanctuary in Spain, cocoa farms in Costa Rica, the ruins of Pompeii.

I’ll be here. Gaging my luck, I’ll plan my next flight to NC to see my bestie.

Maybe someday space. But not now. I’m writing.