Wonder and Gratitude

The writer’s group was really fun. There were two manuscripts to discuss. Each of us had around 7 minutes per manuscript to discuss our thoughts on what we’d read. The authors politely sat through it all. I can’t imagine how difficult that is, but I’m about to find out. They asked if I had anything I want to submit, and I foolishly said I could. It’s amazing how I am suddenly very motivated to write. I’ve stumbled upon a routine for my writing. The 4 days of the week that I don’t work, I will focus on writing new material. On the 3 days that I do work, I will focus on editing what I’ve written. I’m figuring it out, I really am.

This week I’ve had a dawning realization that things are shifting in my brain. When I first got here I was a bit frenetic. That was partly due to life in the city, and partly the stress of accomplishing every task needed to move my entire life across the country. Only now am I beginning to appreciate the effort it took to get all the gears to slide into place in the right sequence.

Then there were stresses that crept in naturally even once here.

Work – I was worried I was so used to the TV world that I wouldn’t know how to deal with the real world. I didn’t want to let my friend down who had recommended me for the job, and felt I had to prove myself, probably more to myself than anyone else.

Socially – There were also a whole lot of faces and names coming at me that I had to put together and remember. I worried about fitting in and being a part of things.

Diet – I fell into comfort eating during this transition and was feeling the pounds pile on. I felt pressure to get my eating back under control.

Writing – I even felt pressured to get writing and make some real progress…

Untll…

While talking with my best friend about my weight and finding an eating plan I could live with, she made the comment that she was impressed I was even addressing the issue this soon. It made me sit back and think about all I had just gone through. I completely uprooted my life of 25 years, and transplanted it to a place I’ve never lived before. I made the decisions, and it mostly worked out as I’d planned. Perhaps I needed to cut myself some slack, and just take it all in.

Not long after that, I must have processed that information, becase there was a definite and unconscious shift.

Work – I no longer felt so driven at work. I’m still doing my job, but I’m doing it with an ease that was not there before.

Socially – I’m relaxing into myself. I no longer worry so much that I’m going to do or say the wrong thing. I’m content with what is. There’s a story told about me as a child of 4 or 5 that illustrates my true nature. My sister was trying to take a picture of me while I was swinging. When she missed the shot and only got my feet I responded, “That’s okay, feet are just as good as heads.” For long periods of my life, I have been just fine with whatever life delivers. Sadly, the pressures of life in LA buried that, but I’m thrilled the inner core is still there, just waiting to come out and shine again.

Writing – I have remembered that a novel is a marathon, not a sprint. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and don’t worry about time limits quite so much.

This shift has led to my emotions beginning to balance out. I no longer feel giddy joy, which I knew was not sustainable. Now I’m settling into a deeply grateful contentment. Last night I sat on my sun porch, which has yet to be screened in, on a dining room chair, because I can’t really afford patio furniture yet, and watched the cats chasing crickets. I enjoyed the fireflies dancing to the percussion of the insects and tree frogs as the sky faded to black. There was a dreamlike quality to the moment, and I was filled with wonder and gratitude. I pray my writing is good enough that I never have to wake up.

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Life on a Budget

Small confession. I’m not terribly inspired to write a post today. I’ve had several topics rolling around in my head, but none are fully formed. I’ll do my best to put a few words together.

I’m adjusting to life on a budget. When I was poor, I simply didn’t spend more than I had in my account. Because I have simple wants, once I was making more money, I didn’t have to worry about what I spent. There was always enough.

Now I am making less than I spend and relying on my savings account to fill in the gap. While there is a good chunk of money left from my house sale, it won’t last forever. It won’t even last that many years unless I am careful. Thus, I must learn to live on a budget. I’ve just completed my first month in my house and am learning what my monthly bills will be.

So far my biggest struggle is groceries. If I’m going to eat meat, I want to eat grass-fed, or free-range, hormone-free meat. That adds a huge chunk to my grocery bill. I love avocados and in the past have found the organic avocados are a better quality. However, in the Midwest, it’s harder to find good avocados and they are more expensive. I’ve had to downgrade to the standard version.

There are lots of other little things I used to buy without thinking. I want to put up some solar-powered yard lights. Maybe get a hammock. And a daybed for my guest room. But now those things must be saved for. Whatever I don’t spend from my montly allowance will be tallied and used to buy those things when I’ve saved enough.

It’s a new way of living and one that’s not really terrible Things are just things. I love this new life so much, and am willing to do what is necessary to keep it going, even if that involves living without things I want. I work a few more hours a week than I used to work, but now only make in a month what I used to make in a week. Still, at the end of each work day I go home far more satisfied. I’m doing an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. I’m no longer being paid a ridiculous wage for something I could do in my sleep, and benefited no one but those above me to become even more wealthy. I’m more than fine with the pay cut.

However, in an attempt to supplement my part-time job, I intend to look for freelance writing work. One site that I signed up for 2 years ago, when I had no time to take any freelance work, was E-lance. It was touted by other writers as a great place to earn some money. I know the market has changed in recent years, and I’m guessing that’s what I’m seeing now that I’m back on the E-lance site. Most jobs pay next to nothing for a great deal of words. Writing, never a good paying gig, has gotten even worse. One job offer was to write 2, 10,000 word e-books a week for $50. Uh… yeah… why? If I wanted to do that, I’d just write them for myself and take the money earned from their online sales. Many other jobs are simply writing articles to help companies sell products. I’m done letting corporate America take advantage of my skills.

I subscribe to Writer’s Digets and Poets & Writers. I will start searching them a bit more diligently to find paying contests and freelance work. Again, I will do what it takes to make this life last as long as possible, if not forever.

Tonight I will go to my first writer’s group meeting. We’re discussing two manuscripts written by members. I went in with some skepticism, based on my previous two years at an online university. So many marginal writers would introduce themselves in class by talking of their dreams of becoming novelists. However, these writers seem to be truly talented. One book is something I would never pick up in a store, and I was starting on chapter 12. Despite this, by the end of that portion, I was fully invested. Would the protagonist rescue the love of his life? I was frustrated when I ran out of story. Now I will have to wait until the author gets more written.

Nothing has gotten me writing more than the idea that I’m going to be submitting pages to these talented people for feedback. It’s intimidating. I want to give them a good read, too.

So that is all for today. No insights or wisdom, just me figuring out this new life – learning to live in a budget, finding paying writing work, and getting inspired by other writers. That’s really a pretty good week.

 

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Do Be Do Be Do

The slo-MO life I envisioned has finally arrived. The major projects that took up my brainspace and free time have mostly been completed. So, now when I have time off, I actually have time to daydream, or just be, which is the precursor to writing.

This daydreaming thing is not considered very American. We are supposed to work 80 hours a week so that we can retire and afford to be, once we’re old and not able to do anything. The American mantra — DO, DO, DO, DO, DO, be, die. It doesn’t make for a very compelling lyric.

I once again fell into that trap when I first moved here. Suddenly all these things I wanted to do in Los Angeles were available here, but without the hour+ commute, paid parking, and hordes of people. Life seemed accessible for the first time in about 25 years. I was a kid in a candy store.

Granted, there were a lot of necessary tasks to be done, like rent a house, move, settle, get a Missouri driver’s license, etc. The transition period was naturally busy, but then I started signing up for things like the a cappella choir. My job turned out to be 8 more hours a week than I had anticipated. I was taking fitness classes. Three days out of the week I was away from home for 12-13 hours. I found myself feeling just as stressed as I had in LA. Where was the slow-paced life I craved? Had I moved 1/2 way across the country to be just as frazzled by obligations?

That’s when I had to do a dream check. I remembered the life I had envisioned for the last year while still living in LA. That vision had not included spending hours sitting in front of my computer learning complex music, or rushing from my job to rehearsal with only time to grab something unhealthy to eat along the way. It had not included every day being filled with one obligation after another. It didn’t include feeling spent on the weekends and needing to recuperate. Somehow I found myself in the middle of building a life I didn’t really want.

I had come here to write.

Period.

It was time for another course correction.

The a cappella choir has been dropped. I’m temporarily out of the fitness classes while I get some physical issues resolved. I’m refocusing on my priorities. That’s not to say I won’t take part in extracurricular activities, but they will be far less demanding, and more in line with my goals. I’ve joined a writer’s group that meets once a month. Once I’ve settled into that, I will join a meditation group I checked out when I visited here last fall. They meet every week, but only for an hour. Aaahhh! Better.

One creative project I do want to undertake is a vision board. Now, almost every spiritually focused gathering of women usually involves vision boarding. For all the magazines that have been cut up, and glue fumes that have been inhaled by us women, we should all be living our dream lives. Sadly, many of us are not. Still, I want to persue this project, not to help me create an ideal future life, but to remember the life I intended to create here. When I get off track again, which I likely will, I can pick it up and remember the things that are important to me here. I don’t want to just do, I want to be. Being allows my mind free rein to run, dream, and create. Being will allow me to write. Our American culture could do with the opportunity for more being.

You can’t live without doing, but you can’t have a life worth living without just being.

Do be do be do. That makes for a far better lyric.

Have you done a dream check lately? Are your ‘do’s and ‘be’s balanced? What can you do to have more time to be?

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Road Trip

One of the joys of living in the midwest is its central location. Just a few hours away are numerous large cities. Also, just a day’s drive away is my old college town and my best friend, as well as numerous other friends and relatives. Last weekend I decided I was finally settled in enough to take the new car on a roadtrip and visit some people from home.

The trip didn’t start out or end particularly well. Thanks to an iPhone update, my GPS was screwy and left me not knowing how to even start. It’s a little frightening how reliant we’ve all become on technology. Sitting in my car, wondering what to do, I had to ask myself, “What did I do before GPS?” Not sure I had any maps left, I remembered Google maps, went inside, fired up the computer, and printed out my route. That got me on the road, though I was thoroughly annoyed with having to check the map instead of listening to a pleasant voice tell me a turn was coming up. We’re reliant for a reason… because technology, when it’s working, is better than no technology.

The drive was beautiful and I enjoyed the rolling hills, limestone rocks, and tree covered landscape. It stayed this way pretty much until I hit South Dakota. Now, having grown up there, I do appreciate the unique beauty it offers, but after passing through the rolling hills of Missouri and Iowa, it suddenly seemed barren and bleak. Whatever trees I saw had been neatly planted in rows after the dust bowl to help preserve land.

It was so good to see friends and family. I visited with my newly engaged niece and another one heading off for a major backpacking trip. I saw an old friend from high school, and probably annoyed our waitress by monopolizing a booth during the breakfast rush hour as we happily chatted away. Of course, any time with my best friend is amazing and wonderful. As I’ve said, Missouri would be almost perfect, if only she were here.

Despite all that, my gut feeling that Missouri was where I should move was confirmed. The whole time I was in SD I could not picture myself living there. It just felt wrong. Missouri felt right. Much of my life has been run by listening to this intuition. I’ve lost it from time to time, and generally lose myself when that happens, but it’s nice to know it’s still there. I just have to be open and listen.

The trip home was a little traumatic. The night before I left, a huge storm came through the area. There I was with a brand new car that didn’t even have it’s permanent plates yet, and no garage. My best friend selflessly gave me her garage, which was humbling. She at least was willing to accept my help with the deductible if her car was damaged. Thankfully, it was not. However, the next day I had to drive home through parts of that same storm. I delayed leaving a little and thought the worst was safely past me. I was wrong. Suddenly I was in pouring rain that was so hard I could barely see the car that was 3-4 car-lengths in front of me. I told myself if I just kept driving, I’d be clear of it in a few miles. Instead it got worse. The only way I could see that car was when it put on its brake lights. I could also see a car 3-4 car lengths behind me. I wanted desperately to pull over, but know that is how pile-ups start. As I counted the passing miles I became more and more terrified. The clouds became heavier and darker until it was almost night out. I had to keep reminding myself it was the middle of the day. I finally saw an old road that had been fenced off, but allowed me to pull my car off the road. Unfortunately, once I looked at the radar, another one of those technoligies that is valuable and I have come to rely on, I could see that if I stayed there, it would only get worse. I was on the leading edge of it, which meant the entire cell would pass over me and then I’d have to drive through it again. My best bet was to get back on the road and drive out of it. Lightning was flashing everywhere. There was probably thunder as well, but the pounding rain was so loud on the car that I couldn’t tell. And I had to pee!

The radar didn’t lie. Within about 5 miles the rain returned to normal spattering. I pulled off to use the restroom, but by the time I got out of the gas station the storm had caught back up with me. Just a few more miles of low-visibility driving and once again I was free of it. It seemed to chase me the whole way home and finally caught up about midnight that night when I was safely in bed.

I missed weather in California, and I guess mother nature is having a good laugh at me now. I had forgotten that weather could also be frightening and deadly. Then again, that’s part of what makes life exciting. Adventures are adventures because there is danger, otherwise it’s just a walk in the park.

I’ve had enough adventure for the moment. This trip seemed to mark the end of “moving” in my head – like the last box I had to check before I could say I was here. For the next few weeks I hope to settle in, write, and find my groove here. Normal life sure feels good when you survive the adventures!

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