Friday, February 26, 2010
"Often people attempt to live their lives backwards: they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want so they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you need to do to have what you want." Margaret Young
And then there is this:
"We are traditionally rather proud of ourselves for having slipped creative work in there between the domestic chores and obligations. I'm not sure we deserve such big A-pluses for that." Toni Morrison
Enjoy your weekend everyone.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
I don’t know—it’s just that when you take a vacation with your husband, you have this expectation that you will both come home. But sometimes, people don’t.
As I perused my regular blogs today, I realized that at least two of my “daily reads" have experienced losses recently, and may well be thinking the way I am right now. It may be a cliché, but I’m going to say it regardless. Don’t ever forget that life comes hard and fast and unexpectedly.
Make sure to tell the people you care about that you love them. Today.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
For example, today I was playing catch up with the assignments in Lesson Five. At the end of each chapter, we are supposed to reflect on the week's progress. During this check in, the first thing the author wants to know is how many days we completed the morning pages. At the end of this chapter though, she tagged the following language onto that query:
“Have you discovered the page-and-a-half truth point yet? Many of us find that pay dirt in our writing occurs after a page-and-a-half of vamping.”
Curious, I flipped back three pages and read what I had just written. At the page-and-a-half spot, here is what I found:
“I owe so much to Middle Passages. It pulled me up when I could have crashed way down. It kept me going when I had no idea what to do. It’s funny though, to talk about a blog like it’s a third party – when, in fact, Middle Passages is me. All me. I wrote it. I dedicated myself to it. It is by far what led me to were I am today. But here's the thing. It wasn’t some other person who wrote all those blog posts – it was me.”
I do, in fact, think of Middle Passages sometimes as living, breathing being, so it's helpful to remind myself that the one in charge of the inhaling and exhaling is me. Middle Passages didn’t keep me going. I kept me going. As my daughter used to say when she was small: “I do mom. I do myself.”
Like a toddler, I still struggle to make sense of this new life of mine. But similar to my then little girl, I’m figuring it out because "I do."
Note to self. It’s me on the other side of them-there fingertips.
How about you? When you write stream-of-conscious, do you discover a page-and-a-half truth point?
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
I dove head first into yesterday after receiving word that my proposal for a good-sized job has been accepted. Then came a networking call to learn about a specific business network, after which I began writing a new brochure, featuring the resume writing portion of LCS Writes. A kind friend told me if I create the piece, he’ll display it in the lobby of his employment firm. As I muddled through all this, I asked myself, “What about Middle Passages?”
Phone interviews take preparation though, so I jotted down questions for a scheduled conversation with a resume candidate—followed by a trip to the post office to open a business PO Box. Then it was on to more back-end work—writing proposals and invoices and updating spreadsheets, after which I conducted the actual phone interview. It all has to take priority.
I had a dread, when I took a short break last week that it would be difficult to dive into the Middle Passages routine when I returned, and I was right. As a result, yesterday’s post was a poorly edited regurgitation of one of my first essays, written when I was just beginning to understand the phrase “compelled to write.” Today’s post is that much worse.
Bear with me as I rediscover how to swim.
Monday, February 22, 2010
A Stranger in the House (March 2003)
My mother was allergic to animals. At least that’s what she told us so straight- faced that I was an adult before I realized hardly a sniffle ever announced itself in our home. To her defense, or maybe to her credit, Mom didn’t like animals, but with six vocal children expressing a chorus of desires, her disingenuousness was a way to shut us off at the source, as it were. We believed we couldn’t have animals in our house, and therefore rarely asked.
Aside from a goldfish that went belly up I never had a pet, and my early exposure to animals was decidedly not positive. During a first shining moment of independence, my mother considered five-year-old me responsible enough to walk a bottle of vanilla to Mrs. Wiegle’s house, two doors down. Chest puffed, I marched down the street and encountered Brandy and Benny, the Wiegles’ Golden Retrievers, who knocked me down in what I recognize now as tail-wagging friendship, but which that day sent me stumbling home wailing in fear.
Then there was Pluto, another Golden Retriever who terrorized the asphalt playground at St. Paul’s School. I never had first hand experience with Pluto, but often witnessed him lunging at my horrified schoolmates, tearing their brown bag lunches away with his teeth while I cowered, invisible I hoped, against the brick wall around the corner.
To add insult to injury, Jenny, a black lab, and Patty, a black lab Irish setter mix, moved in across the street. Territorial with regard to their own yard, in addition they adopted mine. So I spent years cutting across my front lawn on the way home from school screaming “Jenny, Patty!” in a panic as they tore across the street at me, growling and barking. Name recognition always worked, but that didn’t stop my unmitigated terror each afternoon that perhaps one time it wouldn’t.
Is it any wonder that as I write this, long grown and married, with an only daughter approaching her teenage years, that our house has been empty of all but human inhabitants?
But that is about to change. Under the desk in our kitchen today rests a litter box filled with the prerequisite 2 inches. Food dishes are tucked in the corner, and Periwinkle, a 9-week-old white and tabby mixture, waits for us to drive her home from the animal shelter. Our daughter lay awake in a frenzy of excitement last night, overjoyed at the idea of a pet of her own. As I write this though, I sit contemplating how, in spite of my dread, I allowed this decision to be made -- made the decision really, that our family will welcome another member. And what I have figured is that while a kitten may upset the flowing rhythm we have developed in our home, inviting one to move in has to do with love and compromise, highlighting the way raising children requires us to become more in life than what we’ve been so far.
You see, our daughter has beseeched us for a dog. “Everyone has one,” she says, and she’s not far from wrong. Our cousins who live next door got a dog this year; her best friend did too. All the neighbors have dogs, and this year in school, when she was requested to write an essay about her “family” she was the only one in her class without a pet.
Unlike my mother but considering my dubious history, I dealt with this situation honestly. “Sweetie, Mom’s not much of a dog person. But even if I were, you know we can’t have a puppy. Dad and I both work full-time and the house is empty all day. There is no one to train a puppy. ” She accepted this, albeit muttering, “Why did I get stuck with this family?” unaware that her comments were not falling on deaf ears, so to speak.
At ten-years-old, most days she is my friend, walking hand-in-hand across parking lots and shopping malls. But there is evidence of puberty stalking her -- insecurity with regard to how to respond to the teasing of her peers, hair-trigger emotional outbursts caused by imagined slights. I am reminded of the ancient saga of my own teen years, tantrums and fist poundings into a pillow. Would it have made a difference if I had my own someone to love unconditionally through that challenging time? It’s too late for me to know, but our daughter is going to get a chance to find out.
With no siblings with whom to share the burden of parental focus, it’s clear she needs an addition to her team, an evening up of the sides. And while a puppy is out of the question, our overwhelming desire to see our daughter grow up confident and secure dictates that we engineer a concession.
A cat, based on the feedback from those who know far better than we, is at least an easier proposition. And while it took a year to step out of our comfort zone to and arrive at this point, perhaps the gift we give our girl today may also be a present to ourselves. Periwinkle will be our daughter’s cat, but after one visit to meet her as she somersaulted across the shelter, I'm pretty sure she'll take hold of all of us, inflating the love that we currently share.
It's my sneaking suspicion that since cats delegate emotion in minute doses, what they do bestow touches their owners that much more. Sure, puppies are warm blooded and generous in their devotion, but the affection that cats deign to bequeath may be treasured more for the infrequency. For our family, a trade off of sorts--tongue lapping love and messes on the floor, or purring acceptance, and claws sharpening on the living room sofa. The sofa bit not withstanding; this controlled type of love seems right for us.
So, change is in the air, and yes I’m a bit uneasy. I can’t deny that I am eyeing our pristine furniture and the kitty litter scooper with angst. But there is nothing in life that we do for our children that doesn’t force us to grow.
The smile on our daughter’s face as she danced around her room last night made it clear that in spite of my pains, this growth spurt will be well worth the trouble.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
In spite of my self-criticism, every time a story comes out of me, it’s a victory, and I want to extend a huge thank you to Carol and Simon not only for offering me the tools to generate the piece, but also for taking the time to critique the thirteen stories they received. Click here, and here if you want to read two of the fantastic winning entries. Below you'll find my edited and improved (I think) submission.
In case you are interested, when I told my husband and daughter about the topic of this piece, they expressed horror; claiming that these prompts stimulated some kind of latent sick-o tendency in me. To tell the truth, I feel a little odd about it too.
The Sting of it
After two hours on the beach, her skin itched, and she was pretty sure she’d contracted yet another case of sun poisoning. Looking down, she noticed a line of welts traveling up her arms. The tops of her thighs were covered with a pink patch of bloated hives. “No fair, no fair,” she thought. “It’s mid-July. It’s only my first day at the beach all summer. Doctor’s orders, I lathered up with the sunscreen I snagged off the counter in the kitchen, not once, but twice—this new stuff smells terrible. For crying out loud, I even wimped out and parked myself under this umbrella.” Not one to take medical warnings lightly, aside from staying out of the sun entirely, she followed the rules.
So far this summer, her favorite time of year had included overtime hours at the office, a business trip to Seattle where, of course, there was no such thing as sun, and two weeks of unrelenting rain once she returned home. For the last fourteen days she had slogged through the damp and mold of her beloved season, longing for a hot, dry Saturday afternoon by the ocean. The striped-cloth beach chair that her husband called the “PTC,” (Professional Tanning Chair) waited in the trunk of the Toyota for a day when the schedule remained clear—and the sky did too.
During the rain, she had planned the trip in her mind. She’d pack a small lunch, slice some fruit and throw in a hard-boiled egg and a bottle of water. This healthy snack would justify the two dollar bills she’d jam into her pocket, in anticipation of the ice cream truck’s arrival. Grinning, she imagined herself as a giant among a snaking line of clamoring toddlers; Goliath surrounded by a swirl of jiggling Davids, waiting their turn at the open window. The little ones would struggle to select from “Bottle Rockets” that would smear their faces blue, triangular cupped “Snow Cones” and classic orange “Twin Pops” that would dribble down their chins.
Shifting her bare feet side-to-side on the hot tar behind this pack of indecisive children would only enhance her afternoon indulgence. She could almost taste the extravagance of her unhesitating selection; vanilla soft-serve between two gooey chocolate chip cookies. The treat would begin to melt by the time she traipsed over the scalding sand back to her spot. There, she’d lean back in her canvas chair, gaze out to the ripples reflecting on the ocean, and lick the edges of her confection as it dripped in the heat.
Yup, she’d had it all planned, but now that she’d finally made it to the beach; her skin was mounting a full-on revolt.
Adjusting the tilt of the umbrella so that it sat directly over her head, she turned back to the novel that had engrossed her until the itch became too distracting. “I’m just going to ignore it,” she muttered. “I’ve waited too long for this moment, and darn it, the ice cream truck hasn’t arrived yet.” The teal sea swished and whispered as the tide measured its way in. Hard-packed sand in front of her of lay frozen in washboard ridges shaped by the previous high tide. Dollops of drying seaweed fanned out like undisciplined hair through which blue mussel shells sprawled with open wings.
Trying to ignore the torment that tracked like ants up her arms, she closed her eyes, listening to the beach--the lull of the ocean as it inhaled and released, the bleat of the lifeguard’s whistle as he waved his arms at the children clambering on boulders lining private property. Behind her, the indistinct muttering of a radio offered company to the teenage couple reclining sided by side on a bamboo beach mat.
The warm breeze played soft fingers through her scalp, and darn it, she so wanted to enjoy it. But the tingle invading her thighs like a swarm of biting mosquitoes began to crawl down her shins. Grabbing her towel, she pressed it to her flesh. Rubbing it across her burning legs she fanned what had been a flaming itch into searing pain.
Slamming her book shut, she tossed it into her bag and stood, folding her towel. “Perhaps if I ran into the ocean,” she thought, but the idea of salt adding its fire to the hooking burs now jabbing into her skin was too much. “Fine--I’ll go home. Man, this is unbelievable. I’ve never had sun poisoning as bad as this.”
Folding her PTC and tucking the umbrella under her arm, she picked up her canvas tote and turned toward the car, gasping when the chair scraped across her ravaged legs as she squeezed through the opening in the boulders bisecting the parking lot and the beach. Heaving the gear into her trunk, she opened the car door and sat, barely noticing the scalding seat--her vision of a day at the beach steamrollered by a compelling need to stand under the healing flow of a cool shower.
Driving with one hand, she scratched with the other, her arms, her thighs, the back of her neck, even her cheek. She could feel welts rising on her throat and chin. Accelerating through a yellow light at the state highway, she raced the three miles home. “Speed limit, be damned,” she panted, as she jerked to a stop in the driveway and leaped out of the car. Vaulting up the steps, she flung the screen door behind her as she stepped into the kitchen to the bemused face of her husband.
“Hon?” He asked. “Did you see a bottle sitting on the counter? The container for the drain cleaner sprung a leak. I put the goop in another one so I could treat the clog in the outside shower, but now it’s missing.”
Monday, February 15, 2010
On the map, we are a dot on the dark border that snakes up the coast; to the right, the light blue Atlantic, to the left, our expansive continent. Growing up, I lived twenty or so miles inland as the crow flies, though by car, we were well over an hour to the best beaches. We planned day-trips to the shore as summer events. Stuffing woven chairs, towels and paperbacks into the trunk the night before, we’d leave early in the morning, our goal to beat the traffic. Driving down the highway, evidence of our arrival appeared via salt-stunted pine trees leaning like crooked hunchbacks away from the wind, a sky that rose ahead of us faded white and open.
At the beach, we’d spread out striped towels and lather up, our nostrils flaring at the sweet smell of coconut hovering on the fusty rot of seaweed. Seagulls wailed and squabbled as they latched onto high-level currents, gliding over an ocean that pounded and shuddered in an insistent warp and weft. Splayed under the sun, grainy sand rustled as we shifted positions, muted radios chattered, the calls of swimmers rose tinny with treble as the breeze pushed noise out to sea. Shivering after a swim in the cold ocean, we’d bury feet into the warmth radiating from a sun-baked earth.
In those days, a trip to the sea painted a summer highlight. Fluorescent beach umbrellas leaned back and flapped on hot gusts. Breezes fingertipped our sweating skin and lifted the salt-crusted hair on the throng standing in the line we joined to purchase late-in-the-day soft-serves. Circling our tongues around our dripping confections, we'd settled into the scalding car to begin the ride home, breathing exhaust fumes that billowed through open windows, twisting from sunburns that stung and itched. Always then, we sighed, loath to leave a fantasy world. To us, the beach remained as it was when we left, the hot sun toasting hatless heads, sea-grass sabres rattling, a shell-speckled parking lot shimmering in the heat.
It wasn’t until I moved to the coast that I understood that crowded beaches are a blip in a world where intrepid life exists all year round. In February, living at the shore means the washing-machine roll of waves churning against exposed rock after a mid-week storm; towers of water crashing and banging against a granite lighthouse serving as sentry to the barges and freighters that troll the horizon on their way into the city. It means an empty harbor, floating with ice chunks that heave and shift and stack themselves like frozen books tossed to the floor.
And, it means standing awestruck at a snow-covered jetty watching lobster men unwind ropes with gloved hands, before churning out to sea against a spray that ices up on metal gunwales. They put forth in frigid temperatures that numb booted toes, amid bitter winds that chap cheeks a permanent shade of red. How distant this is from those hot days of my youth.
Where I grew up, the ocean existed as a place to escape to, a location of eternal warmth. I didn’t live by the shore, though to someone in Kansas looking at the map; it would seem as if I did. Back then, my home was a small inch but a huge lifetime away from the sharp edges of the map.
Now, I realize that for many who live here, home rests on the line.
Friday, February 12, 2010
If you couldn’t tell by Wednesday's post, let me be clear that even this poor attempt at steering clear of print mediums has made me as grumpy as I have been over the course of the last year. Through avoiding books however, I did discover time to clean out a few drawers that I noticed were in shocking conditions of disarray. Here I will hand it to The Artist’s Way. I’m not sure that reorganizing my clutter is what Julia Cameron hoped I would accomplish, but the exercise served as a wake up call as to what, by sticking your nose in a book, you CAN fail to observe.
Here are a few other things that I cheated on, uh, I mean read this week:
A joke (please forgive me but this is my type of humor), and two fantastic posts, here and here on how to organize your writing, at a blog called Where Sky Meets Ground.
A post on Putting Pen to Paper, that serves as a reminder to count the blessings in life. Click on Katie’s picture on the sidebar for more information, and if you are so inclined, say a prayer.
One FANTASTIC saying, from Sarah with a Chance that I copied from her blog last week and stuck on the wall by my computer:
"You need to tell the person in your head telling you what you are and are not capable of to shut the hell up."
Oh, and though I was trying not to read at this point, honest I was, an impossible-to-miss sign at a local take-out restaurant called Circes, supporting a car repair shop down the street that recently introduced a new product:
"McBriens now has gas.
(Not from us.)"
Thursday, February 11, 2010
For one stunned moment I gaped as sap rained from the gash, a geyser of clear blood spurting from an amputated limb. As liquid pulsed from the open vein, I ran up the hill to the house, squeezing eyes tight to the unexpected wound my impatience had inflicted.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Huh! Don’t look at the bookshelves. Six rows double-stacked. No you don't. Just. Turn. Away. How can I do this? Impossible. Magazines, Bon Appetite, Food and Wine, slick covers sliding off of each other, a corner folded where I left off reading last month’s Yankee. My heart. It’s skipping beats, it’s pounding too hard. I can’t breathe. I CAN’T BREATHE! Yes, you can. Yes, you can. Inhale, exhale, force the air in, blow out. I'm thirsty. Water. A glass of water, pure and cleansing from the pitcher in the fridge. Drink it down. Shake out your shoulders. Sit at the computer. Write because it means not reading. Work on the piece you have ignored for three weeks. Write anything. Make up a story, a distraction. Travel inside, dig down; take a backhoe, at least a shovel. Go after it.
Does it count if I read what I have written? What about the blogs? Those too? But I have to review at least a few. What about the lesson from my on-line class? Surely that's OK?
You have got to be kidding me. I cannot do this. I cannot stop myself from reading for an entire week.
It has been 24 hours.
I’ve never smoked. I don’t use recreational drugs. I enjoy wine on the weekends and sometimes think it would be hard to give up. But today, I know my real addiction.
Lesson Four: The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron:
“If you feel stuck in your life or in your art, few jump starts are more effective than a week of reading deprivation…For most artists, words are like tiny tranquilizers…Like greasy food, it clogs our system…It is a paradox that by emptying our lives of distractions, we are actually filling the well. Without distractions, we are once again thrust into the sensory world…With no newspaper to shield us, a train becomes a viewing gallery. With no novel to sink into (and no television to numb us out) our evening becomes a vast savannah in which furniture—and other assumptions—get rearranged…Reading deprivation is very a powerful tool—and a very frightening one. Even thinking about it can bring up enormous rage. For most blocked creatives, reading is an addiction. We gobble the words of others rather than digest our own thoughts and feelings, rather than cook up something of our own.”
Between reading blogs and the newspaper, I’ve slipped up already. But I edited and re-wrote something I’ve been ignoring since January 21.
Still though, I’m not sure I can do this. The burning flames of withdrawal hell have nothing on a bookless me.
Cross your fingers.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
I completed a reverse dive with 2 1/2 somersaults from the three-meter board (aka: the high dive) for the first time ever during a college diving meet and lived to tell the tale.
False with bravado: The dive I completed from a three meter board for the first time during meet was a reverse dive, layout position; there were no somersaults involved--what do you think I am, crazy?
College rules changed at the beginning of senior year forcing me to learn all dives from three-times the height I had been springing off of since the age of eight--otherwise the team would forfeit the event. Let’s simply say that 21 years of living had granted me the the wisdom to question plunging from such a height, and I delayed learning that particular dive until my back was up against a wall. Option one: jump off the board and receive a score of 0. Option two: slink, humiliated, down the ladder in front of a packed crowd and receive a score of 0. Option three: Wing it and pray. Which I did, after standing there for a looooong time. I remember being in mid-air, staring at the tiled ceiling in order to control my plummet, chanting: "Oh God, oh God, oh God."
I used to die my hair different colors, including pink.
If you knew me you’d know how false this is: I used to mix the shades of brown, but pink never came out of the bottle. Hmmm, perhaps a little pink in my life would be a good thing,
I once stole apples from an orchard in Tasmania.
False with kudos to Connie: The word collusion might work here, but my sister is the hero of the apple saga. We had money enough to sleep in the youth hostel or to eat, but not enough for both, having failed to plan for a national holiday that closed the banks over a long weekend (prior to ATM's). She had the nerve to slip the apples up her sleeves, while I played coward, um, I mean look-out. We supplemented the fruit with one pack of Ramen noodles between us over a 24-hour period.
Prior to a first date, my paramour spilled battery acid on his pants. They disintegrated while we watched the movie.
True, true, true: Thank you for thinking I could make up this story. It involves a failing car battery, removal of a battery from a different vehicle, and a snow bank. Oh, and one long and awkward embrace on our way out of the movie theatre so no one could see the serious deficit situated at the front of his corduroys.
Believe it or not, we went out again.
I have lived in twelve different states.
Bald-faced lie: If you count college, and the two summers I lived with my friend, then I’ve lived in three. But the real answer is that I’ve lived here in Massachusetts my entire life.
Conan O’Brien is my first-cousin-once-removed.
False on a technicality: Conan’s father is my first-cousin-once-removed. Conan is my second cousin. I’ve met his parents; I’ve never met the man himself.
Thank you again to Helen at Straight from Hel for honoring me with the "Creative Writer" Blogger Award.
Monday, February 8, 2010
For that reason, I’m in awe--thrilled as well as shocked--to have received this award from Helen at Straight from Hel (and by the way, isn’t that the best blog name ever?).
Thank you Helen! In acknowledging her own award Helen said: “I am honored to receive such an award, but wonder, since accepting this award means I must lie to all of you, does…think I’m a liar or a creative writer? Hmm….” I choose to be optimistic that, unexpected as it seems to me, Helen thinks I’m a creative writer…so now I need to get on it and tell you some lies.
Actually, here are the rules:
1. Thank the person who gave this to you.
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3. Link to the person who nominated you.
4. Tell us up to six outrageous lies about yourself, and at least one outrageous truth.
5. Allow your readers to guess which one or more are true.
6. Nominate seven "Creative Writers" who might have fun coming up with outrageous lies.
7. Post links to the seven blogs you nominate.
8. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know you nominated them.
I’m short on the seven, but I nominate:
Simon at Constant Revision , because I can’t wait to read the lies he comes up with.
Carolina at Carol’s Prints because she’s as clever as Simon.
Sarah at Sarah with a Chance because she’s so, um, “creative” that I laugh at everything she writes. Imagine giving her permission to lie…er, I mean, to be creative. Here's a hint though, if she tells you she doesn't like Johnny Depp, it's a great big fat one.
Rea at Us in Tejas, because I’m pretty sure she can give us all a run for our money.
So with no further ado, here are my up to six lies, and one outrageous truth. Guess which is which!
I completed a reverse dive with 2 1/2 somersaults from the three-meter board (aka: the high dive) for the first time ever during a college diving meet and lived to tell the tale.
I used to dye my hair different colors, including pink.
I once stole apples from an orchard in Tasmania.
Prior to a first date, my paramour spilled battery acid on his pants. They disintegrated while we sat in the movie theatre.
I have lived in twelve different states.
Conan O’Brien is my first-cousin-once-removed.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
In case you aren't a member, and don't know, Editor Unleashed is the site of a former Editor from WritersDigest.com named Maria Schneider. Her site offers volumes of information as well as forums for writer types. For years, prior to the cocoon-to-butterfly writer transformation that occurred last year, I read and learned a tremendous amount from Writers' Digest, so I'm a huge fan of both Writer's Digest.Com, and now of Maria Schneider's Editor Unleashed. I recommend both.
So, if you are currently a member, or become a member of Editor Unleashed, can I beg you on bended knee to read the "Why I Write Contest," and if you are so inclined, to vote on "Scotch Anyone?" pretty please? Oh, and if you could, in good conscience of course, vote five stars, I'll be your best friend. Really.
If you want to offer me a tutorial on Twitter, I'll take that too.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
“If you build it, they will come.” Field of Dreams
“Desire, ask, believe, receive.” Stella Terrill Mann
A year ago today I tapped my fingers on the blond-veneered desk in the building I had traipsed through for the last 23 years, with my stomach churning. Rumors whispered all over the complex about an imminent lay-off and my source was well placed—she sat in an office across the hall from the woman compiling “the list.” Add that to the fact that sales numbers were appalling and, I was "overhead," not revenue generating. Over the past days, meetings had been held without me—confidential information I was usually privy to in my HR role had become hush, hush. What ever else I may be, I’m not dumb. When my boss sent a message that our 2:00 meeting would be postponed but to wait to speak to her later, the heart started pounding hard. And then, I got the call.
For years I had asked myself what I would do if I no longer worked for my former employer. For equally as long, the only answer I knew how to voice was “Not this.” Blind to anything beyond the golden handcuffs of a good salary and excellent benefits, I was so stuck in the day-to-day that it was impossible for me to notice that the answer was obvious—in the newsletters, training pieces and policies I loved to author at work, in the few articles I’d had published, in the countless essays jamming the hard drive on our home computer. It was all there, trapped in a steamer trunk inside my soul—waiting for a little thing like a lay-off to unlock the door.
You know the story. The day after I got my walking papers, Middle Passages poured out of my shocked and confused fingers. What you don’t know, is that a few days later at my first outplacement meeting, I announced in front of an entire group of similarly affected individuals, that whatever I pursued in the future would have to involve writing. After that, the liquid of Middle Passages carried me through—the ease with which words flowed when I thought I had nothing there kept me kept floating when I questioned my skill, on course when I worried about direction. Readers and followers, strangers and friends alike relayed messages about my writing: “You can do this.”
Yes, I am. A year to the day later I hand out my business cards like candy in the supermarket, stuff brochures in restaurant information booths, direct strangers to my website, conduct networking phone calls with friends-of-friends, and for the first time in my work life, every dollar I earn is born of passion, diligence, commitment and joy—each penny worth a hundredfold more than the significant salary I earned before.
So, today is not an anniversary of loss; instead it’s a time to honor a milestone—a speckled quartz rock with a date etched under a glowing tribute, a felt banner hanging from the gymnasium rafters. It’s a time to savor the victories of the last year—the words that kept coming and the readers who found me and keep me here. I thank each and every one of you with a gratitude beyond any phrase I will ever construct. Through you, and Middle Passages, I maneuvered my way down the path to a place where I don’t always doubt myself—where I wake up smiling in the morning, ready to run to what ever project lies ahead.
Don’t get me wrong. Writing for my own development as well as for business is challenging. Sometimes, like yesterday, it’s pull-your-hair-out hard. But it's all good because in the last 365 days, I have learned this: as long as I ask them to—as long as I let them—words will keep coming. It’s up to me. I suspected it then. I know it now. The thought began taking shape on February 5, 2009. On February 4, 2010 I’m shouting it out loud.
I can do this.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
“Could you write about the fact that you have nothing to write about?”
“I may have to.”
“How about writing about a squirrel named ‘Bob’?”
Sometimes it’s a struggle to refrain from recording the the bla, bla, bla of my days, to force myself to stretch my brain toward a topic that touches, or colors, or with any luck stops you cold. Today though, I’m the one who is cold, like the fine snow particles spitting from our winter sky. We've reached the grey of the season. Tires sew zipper tracks through the dusting of snow on our driveway, pine trees sway under a liberal dose of talcum powder. The sky holds bleached white, an ocean of still and quiet.
It is the time of year that we have to force ourselves to find warmth in the sun, and it's too easy to daydream about teal Caribbean waters and a wallet that takes you there. Given I haven't purchased a lottery ticket, perhaps instead of longing for the imaginary, I'll celebrate what is real.
Last week Tricia over at Tailspinning, gave me an award:
Since all week I have struggled to fashion a well written blog post, now seems like the right time to remind myself of this, and to thank Tricia. If you haven’t read her, she writes beautiful Haiku’s, among other things, takes stunning pictures, and loves the sea. All good reasons to be drawn to her blog. Please check her out.
The rules of this award are to answer the following questions with one word. My challenge above not withstanding, most times verbosity is one of my failings; it practically killed me to be limited here!
Your cell phone: texting
Your hair: curly.
Your mother: gone.
Your father: also.
Your favorite food: impossible
Your dream last night: none.
Your favorite drink: coffee.
Your dream goal: book.
What room are you in: Family.
Your hobby: gardening.
Your fear: loneliness
Where do you see yourself in six years: successful.
Where were you last night: home.
Something you aren't: tall.
Wish list item: car.
Where did you grow up: Massachusetts.
Last thing you did: wrote.
What are you wearing: wool.
Your TV: Off.
Your pets: Winkie.
Your life: engaging.
Your mood: determined.
Missing someone: Sarah
Something you aren't wearing: perfume.
Your favorite store: book.
Your favorite color: blue.
When was last time you laughed: today.
Last time you cried: Tuesday.
Your best friend: kind.
One place you go to over and over: beach
Favorite place to eat: Connie’s
Thank you Tricia! I'll forward the award to five bloggers in the future!
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Monday, February 1, 2010
Somewhere in my adulthood, I became educated to the fact that robins don’t actually leave us during the cold months, however, the plump beauties feeding from my lawn on the first day of February provided me with an unexpected gift--a moment of optimism in which I was anxious to engage. So leaving my Morning Pages notebook open; I ran to the guestroom, changed the lens on the Nikon and began shooting pictures through the window.
The birds noshed on the yellow stubs of hay, oblivious to the drone of commuter traffic pouring down our street until a school bus spewing blue smoke revved its diesel engine and they took flight. I heard a thwack as one of them hit the front door. “Ugh” I thought. “I’m not opening it to check.”
Once the bus departed though, the flock returned and after taking several photos, I set the camera aside and began writing again--until a contractor’s pick-up clanked as it bottomed out in the divot in front of our house. For a second time, the birds took to the air and again I heard a thump, this one into a bedroom window.
Wincing and throwing down my pen, I walked to the rear of the house and found more birds rooting around the backyard. As I sat in front of the computer, another, louder crash reverberated. “Holy God” I yelled. Jumping up, I paced from room to room; afraid to look out at what might, or might not be flapping on the lawn, while checking to see if a window had cracked. All I could think about was the three-sided glass den jutting from the back of my childhood home. Birds always collided with the sliding doors; we would watch them afterwards, shivering or lying stunned on the grass until they recovered from the shock. Most times, they did.
In all, six birds flew into our house this morning as I cringed, before the flock departed for good. It’s only dawning on me as I type this that I could have opened the door and banged a pot and those suicidal dive bombers would have moved right along.
Sometimes obvious answers are the hardest to see. This is an anniversary week for me. A year ago Friday, I started Middle Passages as a result of a life-change the day before that left me flailing like a broken-winged bird. Somehow I healed myself, but like my visitors this morning,I’ve been flying blind all year and have encountered my share of clear glass windows. Here's what I've learned. After the crash, it's OK to lie on the ground for a bit. But then all you can do is shake yourself and lift off once again, knowing that the only sure thing is that life will erect other invisible surprises.
Today's harmless revelation--well, to me anyway?
Robins must be myopic.