Colorado has experienced a significant cold front with the changing of the season this year. Mere hours after the Autumn Equinox, it was in the high eighties, but overnight the rain came in and our temperatures have continued to drop throughout the weekend. It is currently forty-one degrees. I had to pull my comforter up last night for the first time in a long time and this morning I had to grab a sweatshirt and dig around for some slippers. Yesterday I read, as it gently rained outside and my green chili simmered on the stove.
As I mention every year, Fall is my favorite season. I am looking forward to the beauty and the light. I feel more reflective this time of year and I welcome the change that the season brings. However these first days of fall are gloomy and cold. I can’t help but think the outside is mirroring my inside. This year has been difficult in so many ways, both personal and global. There is so much to be sad and angry about. I have been on a roller coaster of emotion, especially for the past two months. I am hopeful and working for change within myself and in the world, but some days it feels overwhelming and I wonder if things will ever be good again. I am a silver-linings person, but I have been learning lately that there are certain things I just can’t fix and it is difficult not to get mired down in that.
There is grief in that realization, but there is also freedom in the sense that I can only control my reaction to things. I can have boundaries and take a break. I can make art and write stories and sing songs. Will that change the world? Maybe, may be not. Will it change my inner world? Absolutely, because I feel more grounded and strong when I participate in those activities. Can I send all my love and compassion to people who are hurting? Yes, and I can be an ally and work to find other tangible ways to help.
Eventually the clouds will part, the temperature will rise and the sun will shine on the beauty of the world around me. It’s all still there, and I will be grateful to see it again. I am thankful for this seasonal change reminding me to embrace the changes I experience in my life. Today I appreciate these comfy slippers and a warm house, while I reflect on how to proceed when the sun returns.
It’s snowing and I woke up with a cold. I have some much to do today and all I can seem to do is sit here and sniffle. School is still going well, but it is becoming all too clear that I bit off more than I could chew. There just isn’t enough hours in the day to get it all done. There are also many big decisions to be made and I have no idea what it the best thing to do. Faith being tested again, I should be used to this by now.
I’ve also been avoiding the writing. I don’t think I’m blocked because I think about the stories constantly, I’m plotting and working through characterization and timelines every other minute…but I’m not actually sitting down to write – which is a problem. Stories can’t come to life if I never let them out of my head.
Last week a disappointed chapter in my life came to an end. I still have some loose ends that need tending to, however it will all be over in a couple of months. I already feel lighter and more positive about the future. I am however still very aware of how many things still need to change in my life. Some areas feel right on track, while other areas are so upside down it’s hard to imagine where to begin to correct them. A lot of the confusion comes back to the fact that I haven’t been writing. I’ve heard/read so many writers talk about how their lives feel unmanageable if they stop writing, they no longer feel sane if the words aren’t getting written. I know what they mean in a sense. I don’t feel anymore insane or sane than normal, but I do feel like I’m going through the motions. When I’m writing everyday I’m able to do everything else in my life better. I’m better. All my parts come together with less effort, I feel at home in my own skin. My head and heart work in harmony instead of operating with different agendas.
Last week I felt compelled to re-read some essays from Natalie Goldberg’s classic Writing Down the Bones. I read about writing with new eyes and I heard Natalie’s wisdom with new ears and an open heart. She speaks of practice, of writing like a commitment to a spiritual practice like one’s committment to meditation. She also talks of the importance of turning off the inner critic and editor. I realized that I am stuck because I’m putting too much pressure on myself and I’ve reverted back into an old habit of paralysis. I had been scrutinizing every word and not allowing myself to just write.
Becoming a better writer is a lot like learning to teach. I had a lesson not go very well last week and I realized in the middle that all the planning in the world can’t prepare you for what will actually happen in the moment. The lesson was better served by listening to my instincts and changing my approach mid-flight. My writing needs the same approach. I have to plot and build three-dimensional characters who connect with readers. There will always be an element of preparation, but I can’t get lost in that anymore. I can’t get so lost that I can’t find my way back to the page.
In all honesty the writing is one of the only things in my life that I can control. I can sit down and write every day. I can make forward motion in my art, even if it is so slow and gradual that I am the only one who notices it. I can commit to my writing as if committing to a spiritual practice. I can do this one thing every day…somehow I know that doing this one thing will help everything else in my life fall into place as well.
Trust, faith and surrender. Three seemingly little words that weigh heavy on my heart. Three things I am being called to do, but I’m so bad at them. They are clearly one of my major life lessons, that is for sure.
The universe keeps reminding me to chill out and live in the moment. It whispers in my ear, day and night,”You’re exactly where you need to be, it will all work out, trust me.” Somehow, my heart is still troubled and riddled with worry. I’ve tried all my new-agey tricks to calm it, however I’m still crazy with doubt.
I’m also being tested in terms of my commitment, work ethic and determination. It’s so easy for me to leave and retreat into my thoughts, into a daydream of how it will all be butterflies and flowers some day. The fantasy of the perfect relationship, the opportunity to write all day in my glorious treehouse office…yet, I’ve read enough writer blogs to know that even when I get to write all day and pay the bills with my art – not everything will be butterflies and flowers. Roses still have thorns and it doesn’t serve me to imagine how perfect everything will be then.
There are good/bad things to every situation and I know that even though I can’t see the good in this yet that it does exist. I just have to keep my head down and do the work. I was on a conference call with Jack Canfield once, the creator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books and he talked about how he would tell himself that all his hard work would pay off in the end. That eventually he would be able to take time to enjoy himself, but to keep working hard in the meantime.
I’m trying to have the same attitude. I’ll still try to have some fun, cheap fun, but fun nonetheless as often as I can, but I have a lot of work in front of me that needs my attention and commitment right now.
This seems like a rambly post, but it helped me to feel more sane to get it out of my head and onto the page. Thanks for listening cyber-space. See you soon.
This was a wonderful holiday. Very unorthodox in how it all unfolded, but beautiful nonetheless. I got to spend some time with my family, laughing and enjoying great food. My brother had to work through the holiday and that felt very strange. However, he came by after work both on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and it was great to have him home. I think he appreciated the time spent with us in a new way this year too.
I was surprised with truly amazing gifts, unique and lovely reminders of images, words and symbols that have become a definitive part of my character this year. How nice it was to have that reflected back to me!
This week is the calm before the storm, so to speak. In January, I will be entering into a whole new life and I’m hesitant and nervous to step from one page of my life story to the next. I know in my heart that this change is necessary and good, yet I’m petrified to step forward. I will move forward and I will move soon, but this coming week is a time for me to think, reflect and build up my courage.
I know that I’ve been through worse and I know that my life will be better on the other side of this dark night of the soul.
Today, I am thankful that my blessings this year outweighed my obstacles.
And then the day came
when the risk
to remain tight
in a bud
was more painful
than the risk
I’ve always loved this quote. I found it in the classic book by Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way. I remember how it made me cry because the quote described exactly how I felt. I typed it up in a fancy font and put it on my cubicle so I could remember that I was not a corporate robot – I was an artist.
It still amazes me that even though I first read it almost seven years ago, it still applies. The thing is, I’m still growing as an artist. I am so much further than I was sitting in that cubicle, yet I’m still blossoming. I hope to be blossoming for a long time.
I’ve been reading a lot of blogs lately. I’m always researching…trying to learn more. Learning about other writers and their experiences shows me that I’m not alone. There are others out there…somewhere. It must be my inner Sociologist. I observe and apply what I can. I connect the dots and step back to see the picture.
Doing what you love is risky business. You need a thick skin and practice at mending broken hearts. I remember how scared I was to submit to agents. It’s still scary, but each submission is a battle wound. Eventually, the scar tissue builds up enough that I can put the envelope in the mail or send the email without feeling nauseous. Even though rejections are never welcome, you learn from them. You get better. Even if it isn’t obvious from the outside, you grow and shift and evolve. I know that every day, every word, every action leads me in the right direction. Even if I can only manage to write a sentence, it still counts.
It’s unlikely that writing and being an artist will ever be a walk in the park. The blossoming process won’t ever be easy. You finally finish your book and you manage to find a publisher, then your world shifts and you have to work through months of edits. Or you have to battle your stage fright to go on a book tour and find your audience. You have the perfect idea, but every time you sit down to write the words refuse to come. You write the best story of your life and the critique group rips it apart. There are challenges at every turn.
The sky will darken and the wind will blow. You might not see how you’ll ever survive. But you commit to the process and trust that you’ll eventually bloom again and have your moment in the sun. The truth is once you start to blossom it’s hard to go back to a bud – no matter how much you wish you could. You might as well keep growing and see what happens.