At Last!

Yes, I know I missed a week. I was tired of writing about things that were impending. If I had posted last Wednesday, I still would have had to talk about what was to come. But finally on Thursday, the house sold. Then there was a flurry of paying bills and buying a car. For the past two years I had been working hard to finish up my college degree, and on Monday, all those loans got paid off. Feels great! I have a degree, but no debt. Now life settles into normalcy and I am so looking forward to that. It was a little frightening to have made my leap and not have the safety net in place. Glad it’s there now.

I joined a local a cappella group. It is a bit more of a time commitment than I had expected. The music is very challenging and requires a lot of rehearsal at home as well as the 3 1/2 hour weekly rehearsal together. However, standing on those risers and hearing the voices blend together into beauty makes it worth it. I’ll give it a few months and if it is taking too much time from writing, I may try to find a less intense group to join. There are some interesting personalities, one type I’ve had recent experience with, and it makes me a bit leery of joining. Basically it’s the kind of person who puts on a smiling face and seems like the nicest, most helpful person in the world while consistently placing the dagger between your ribs. Lots of passive-aggressiveness. I’ll do my best to avoid them, but if I can’t, there are definitely other choirs to join. Life is too short.

Now that I’m settling in, I’m a little worried I will lose my attitude of gratitude. The honeymoon phase will eventually end. I can thank that honeymoon phase on my miserable life in LA. Pixar came out with a movie recently called “Inside Out” which I thoroughly enjoyed when I wasn’t dozing off because of exhaustion. The American culture is one that only allows for happiness. If you’re not happy, there’s something wrong with you. Stop complaining. Only be happy, happy, happy, happy, happy! And if you’re not happy, happy, happy, happy, then go away! But the truth is, we are bio-chemical machines and those other emotions play a role. “Inside Out” reminded people that sometimes sadness or anger is not only necessary, it’s useful. The misery I had in the last few years of living in Los Angeles did not feel nice, and I didn’t always react well to it, but it was necessary to spur me to change.

Even futher, the misery there in contrast to life here, has unleashed much of the joy and happiness that is required to be an American. Every little things floods me with gratitutde. The short commute. The civil drivers. Quiet movie theaters (I’m part of a movie group and now go see movies regularly, somthing I rarely did in LA). Ample parking. Friendly, helpful people. Fully being a part of the team at work. Using my intelligence and talents creatively at work – designing flyers, social media posts, and working on new ways to bring in more clients. Flexibility at work that allows for a social life. No entitled celebrities. No more entitled people who think they’re special because they work in TV. Car insurance at half the price. Long showers. Green! Thunder. Lightning. The ease of running to the store and it not taking an hour or more. Shorter lines. Lack of competitiveness – because there’s enough for everyone. Watching a guy play with his dog in the park across the street (which I’m doing right now.) Not hearing a Harley at 5:20 a.m. every day as it idles at the stoplight by my old house and then roars off, being audible for well over a mile away. The new definition of rush hour – when an older couple pedaled past my house on their bikes, followed by a pickup truck a minute later. Living on one level instead of having to climb stairs every day. Old growth trees in a big yard. Activities that are easily accessible. Feeling safe. Feeling supported.

The list could go on and on and on. As I said, I feel gratitude for every little thing simply because of the contrast of what I just went through. However, I know human nature, and that contrast will eventually fade. People here complain about traffic. They have no idea, but eventually I will probably complain too. Despite loving rain, after several weeks of it, I was ready for some sun. Just too bad it also comes with humidity. See, there’s a little complaint sneaking in. But, thankfully now that I’m heading in the gratitude direction, it will be harder to turn the ship back around. It will be easier to keep the heading, as long as I am aware, and stay present at the wheel. That’s my goal. Remember where I am, compared to where I was. As long as I do that, it’s so easy to be grateful!

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Next Week

Next week, next week, next week. Next week things will be in place. Next week we’ll have an answer. Next week we’ll have a closing date. Next week we’ll close. Except none of those next weeks ever really seems to pan out. For months I have been living with the dangling carrot of next week. Perhaps I did not learn enough about patience in 20 years of going nowhere. Apparently I have to have a little more beaten into me.

My soul’s desire right now is to go out into a field and just scream until my throat is raw. That is the level of my frustration. Once again, I’m waiting for next week. After the buyer dealt with 3 different lenders, each one re-setting the clock, things are finally in place, the paperwork is ready to be signed… except the buyer decided this was an ideal time to take a vacation, and now we can’t close until… you guessed it… next week.

My bank account is dwindling, my credit card balances are ballooning, I’ve been trapped in a one room hotel suite with 3 cats for 3 1/2 weeks. I’m missing a family camping trip because of this woman’s delays. My boss has been generous enough to lend me a vehicle, but I no longer feel comfortable using it after this long. It’s likely back to a rental in a few days. More money out of my pocket. My body aches from the hotel bed. My mind aches from lack of sleep. But hey, you just jet off and have a fabulous and restful vacation. I have a vague memory of how fun those are from the last one I took 11 years ago.

Yeah, I’m just a wee bit frustrated and angry.

But there is good news too. Despite barely having any money left to pay for it, I have been approved to rent a home. It’s ideal because it provides me that large field to go scream my bloody head off. Smack dab in the middle of town, just 10 minutes from work, I have a house that looks out onto an empty field. It’s the backside of a park that doesn’t appear to be used for anything other than lovely green space. That means there is no one across the street. The view from my office will be of this field. I can’t think of a more lovely place to write at the moment. The house itself is terribly outdated. Rugs and linoleum. Vinyl countertops in hideous colors (baby blue and snot green). Weird chandeliers. The kitchen is tiny with almost no counter space. But I intend to have a little fun with it and make it quirky and bring out its character. The backyard is bigger than anything I could have dreamed of in L.A.. with two huge, old-growth trees. Another huge selling point is the screened-in sun porch. Tomorrow I will sign the paperwork and write out a check. Friday I will finally leave this hotel room and sleep in my own tempurpedic bed. What a relief that will be. I will have access to my belongings for the first time in a month. There have been so many times I’ve wished I had something that is packed away. I can begin to settle in and perhaps, if I’m lucky enough, next week will finally arrive, and I can begin to sleep better and build this new life with some peace of mind.

I’ll let you know all about it… next week.

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Breaking Hab(ituation)

Habituation is mostly a good thing. We are able to live our lives because of habituation. If we didn’t, we’d be like infants that gasp with wonder every time they see something move. When things become predictable, we stop being awed, and just interact with them. There’s a fascinating show called Brain Games that explores the tricks this feature of our brain can play on us. For instance look at this picture:

It’s obvious this is a picture of a a dark gray rectangle above a white rectangle. Would you believe it if I told you both rectangles are exactly the same color? Our brains see what they see because over years of seeing shadows and light, and having them behave in a predictable way, our brain becomes habituated, and cease to react in any way other than to interpret what it sees based on past experience… that there is a gray box and a white box.

Now, take your finger, or a piece of paper, or a ruler would be perfect, and place it across the dividing lines of the two rectangles. What colors do you see now?

Amazing, isn’t it?

That habituation of my brain is something I have been fighting for the past three weeks. Over the past 25 years of life in Los Angeles, I have become habituated into knowing that things work a certain way. Despite being in a new location, my brain just continues along familiar pathways. I do things the way I have done them, because it doesn’t occur to me that things may be different here. I see black and white, when all around me it’s actually gray.

This is where being present can really help. Rather than skimming along the surface of life, letting thoughts distract us and giving the habituated mind free rein, when we are present we fully explore each experience. I have to admit that my meditation practice has been almost non-existant since the move, and that has to change. It will likely help me break out of my ruts and help me adapt more quickly. That’s good because once I wake up and stop doing things out of habit, I find the way to do things here, in a smaller community, definitely makes life easier.

As for the car…

Yep, the Honda dealer blew Toyota (Dealer 1) and Subaru (Dealer 2) out of the water. I liked the handling of the CR-V better than the Rav-4, though I think the Rav-4 may have had a slightly better interior design. I look forward to having the money to finally have a car of my own again.

And speaking of having some money…

There has been movement on the house, and though I’ve said this many times before, by next week, this should be wrapped up or at the worst wrapping up. There’s one small detail left, and then a whole lot of signatures. However, I won’t sleep any easier until the deal is done. After 20 years of feeling stuck, it hasn’t been a pleasant experience to once again feel  like I can’t escape. I want this over. I want to move on. I want my new life. I’m trying my very hardest to be patient and positive. It has not been easy. Yet another habit to break.

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Settling into Limbo

More business up front — The subscription plugin I was using stopped working. I have switched to another subscription service, however this means all previous subscriptions have been lost. Please re-subscribe if you so choose.

I have been in Missouri a little over a week now. I am settling in as best as I can when I am stuck in limbo. There have been further problems with the sale. It should have closed last Friday but instead, we are all scrambling madly to keep the deal in place. This means I am marooned without my “starting over cash.” I can’t rent a house. I can’t buy a car. I can just sit and watch as the money drains away into a hotel and rental car.

Despite not being able to touch, I can still look. This morning I paid the price of test drives — lengthy sales pitches. I made it clear that I had no money yet. One dealership respected that, and actually thanked me for being responsible. The other dealership pressed me to make a deal. The first dealership thoroughly explained my financing options and made me aware of better ones than I’d considered. The 2nd dealership glossed over the details and just tried to find a way to get me into a car. The unfortunate thing is that I liked the test drive at the 2nd dealership better than at the first dealership. However, there’s no doubt that I would adjust to either vehicle so the difference might not matter. As I was leaving dealership #1 I said that I would be test driving other cars to see which suited me best to make my decision. The finance guy replied, “And also judge who you want to buy a car from.” I had never considered that until today. It really is a factor to consider in the purchase. There is one more car that I’d like to test drive and then I will make my decision. Right now I’m leaning towards dealer #1. Let’s see if #3 can knock them off the pedestal.

My second week of work is also wrapping up. It was a bit overwhelming at first. I had not had a new job in 20 years. I had not been stretched in my work in 25 years. There was new computer software to learn. Lots of accounting methods to absorb. PR schemes to be created to bring in new clients. New faces and names to remember. Personalities to navigate. Regardless of that stress, the work environment is beautiful. When anyone comes to do the studio to do Pilates, yoga, tai chi, kettlebell, or massage, they are there because they chose to be there. It is a peaceful, happy, and relaxed place — a far, far cry from the frenetic, self-important atmosphere of the television industry. There are far fewer overblown egos to be soothed. The last 25 years are starting to feel a bit like a really warped dream spent in a sort of insane asylum. My Emmy is in a container somewhere traveling across the country, and hopefully not getting sucked into a tornado to be scattered across the prairie. It will be good to get it back in my hands so I have some physical proof that my time in LA was not a dream.

Speaking of tornados, we’ve had one tornado watch, which isn’t anything to get too worked up about. It’s the tornado warnings that cause concern. I easily fell asleep in the midst of the watch and we got little more than rain and some distant thunder. We had a better thunder and lightening show last night, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I’m still reveling in the lush greenness of the place. Last weekend I puttered over to my friends house to sit and talk while she planted her garden. It was just lovely to sit in her lush, green backyard and watch the bunnies, woodpeckers, and cardinals. It was also really lovely to be able to just drive a few minutes to casually see a friend instead of planning a week in advance then spending a 1/2 hour to an hour on the road to visit said friend. Life under the jet trails is lovely, but don’t tell the snobby fly-overs.

It feels like I’ve been saying this for a month now, but hopefully by the end of the week I will have some solid news about the house sale. Until then, I continue settling into limbo. Eventually I hope to be able to move forward and stop bleeding cash.

And oh yes, giving Whole30 another go. My body made it clear that’s what it wants.

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My Life in Slow-MO

First, some maintenance. If you have subscribed to this blog and are not getting notifications, it will be a few weeks. For some reason I cannot access the “activate” area of the blog through my iPad. When my things arrive, and I unpack my desktop, it will all get sorted out.

I have started my life in Slow-MO, though I’m waiting for the slow part to kick in. So far, it’s all been pretty rushed. But let’s back up…

The Drive

With everything packed in containers, and the house still technically unsold, I loaded up my cats and headed East. Because I started a little late, I ended up in Friday rush hour traffic as I left town. It was a good reminder of just why I’m so anxious to leave L.A. behind. Too many people!

The trip had it’s ups and downs, as does everything. Unloading the car in the pouring rain, and not being able to leave the next morning because one of the cats had hidden herself away, were two of the low points. The cats were clearly stressed and I felt guilt for the trauma I was putting them through. Night two, in a hotel room, they showed just how resilient they are. They had adjusted to life on the road, and were content to be out of their cages and exploring the room. They’ve been fine ever since, perhaps even better friends.

There were many high points. The scenery was spectacular. I had claimed New Mexico was a state I had been to, because I once put my foot in the corner of the state (at 4 corners). Now I know how bogus that claim was. The state was spectacular in its beauty. Texas was flat, but as I reached the Eastern edge of the state, heading into Oklahoma it shifted from deserty plains to lush rolling hills. After the past few years of severe drought in L.A. the outrageous number of shades of green began to be overwhelming. It was stunningly beautiful!

I learned some things on the road, and also now have some unanswered questions. Such as: what exactly does “bridge ices before road” mean? I get that they’re probably warning you that there might be ice on the bridge, but that combination of words is nonsensical to me.

Apparently in Eastern Oklahoma, heavy smoke is an issue as there were lots of signs saying, “Do Not Drive into Smoke.” Got it. Won’t do that.

Hitting the Ground Running

I arrived Sunday night, started looking for a house rental on Monday, and started my job on Tuesday. So things have not exactly been slow and easy going. They will likely slow down now that there is another glitch with the house sale. I am hoping it is simply a delay and will not lead to the collapse of this deal. Until the sale is complete, I’m back in limbo, pretty much unable to rent a house or buy a car. Still, life is good here and so far the leap feels fine. It will just feel better when I have some cash.

There are little details of life here that surprise me. Motorcycles can’t lane split (yay) but its strange to see them without helmets. They just give bags away for free at the grocery store! There is water standing around out in the open… not evaporating or anything! People will go out of their way to be helpful and kind. I wrote down the wrong number on a house rental, and the guy who answered offered to drive by the address and text me the right number. And he did it, adding smiley faces to the text.

Even with my worries about the house, life is suddenly and delightfully stress free. It takes me 20 minutes to get to work, and absolutely none of the drive is stressful. I was warned about the drivers here, but compared to L.A. drivers, they are saintly. I love where I work – the atmosphere, the mission, and the people. Everything is easier to accomplish in a smaller town. People are kinder. Life is more gentle. This is the right place for me to be right now, and I trust that the house situation will resolve itself eventually. If it doesn’t, this will be the shortest leap in history followed by a great big giant splat.

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I Yam What I Yam

As I had hoped in last week’s blog, there is positive news to report this week. Regardless of whether or not the sale falls apart in the last few days, I am leaving LA on Friday. My car has been sold. Reservations have been made. It’s so exciting I can barely stand it. There have also been sad goodbyes along the way. I just don’t understand why my friends don’t move wherever I move so we can keep hanging out. I mean really!

Whole30 came to a rapid close when my digestive tract decided to absolutely flip out. At the moment, eating anything but yogurt makes me nauseous and I have constant heartburn. Those are just the symptoms I’m willing to talk about. I lost 2 days to really miserable intestinal pain. I’m 50 so one of the first things I do when I get to my new home is find a doctor and get that fabulous colonoscopy scheduled.

But now the lazy, joy-following period is done. I’m glad I had it because recent weeks have allowed a lot of introspection and have been a revelation to me. As I have felt free to be myself, I have found joy again. When I first came to Hollywood I worried that it would change me. It did, but not in the way I expected. I was worried that I would become arrogant and entitled. Too big for my britches. Instead, I got too small for my britches. I became diminished. It didn’t happen quickly. Over the past… oh… 15 years, I have undergone a gradual transformation into someone I didn’t like much. Now that I’m out of that situation, I see so much more clearly. I look at that person and think, “Who was that?” I look at myself now, and think, “Hey, you’re pretty fun! Let’s go have an adventure”

So how did it happen?

The first 10 years of life in California were freeing. I grew up in rural South Dakota, a sensitive, liberal, creative person who just always felt out of place. In California, it felt like I’d finally found a place where I wasn’t different because everyone was different. First, I was freelancing, meeting new people and new celebrities every day, which was just thrilling. Then I was on a quirky late night talk show that nobody watched and so nobody paid much attention to our motley little group. I was the only woman on the crew, which meant I was often excluded, but on the good side, there was little pressure to be anything other than who I was. I fell into the traditional female role of the mother of the stage. I brought the baked goodies. I organized gifts and cards, and gathered funds for them. I had a role.

When hosts switched and our show became a little more mainstream, the staff and crew grew. As an introvert, I began to feel lost and constantly overlooked. Other people were more exciting and interesing… more shiny, as one friend says. My role disappeared and I wasn’t quite sure how I fit in with this younger, more hip Hollywood crowd. That’s when the gradual changes began. I started dressing differently. Got interested in the things everyone else was interested in. Quit talking about the things I was passionate about. Yes, it took until I was in my 40s but I finally succumbed to peer pressure. I began to be a warped version of myself. I was there, but not quite.

For the most part, my methods seemed to work. On the surface, I fit in. Superficially it all seemed fine, until one day I learned it really wasn’t. When others faced trouble, I’d seen the wagons circle, but for me they scattered. Feeling alone and vulnerable, I armored up. It was a painful period because I realized that I was tolerated more than included. Not only had I failed to be accepted, but now I was left with this person I didn’t like much. I slipped back into a familiar coping mechanism when faced with something I had to endure. I suited up with thick plate armor, looked neither left nor right, and marched down the field, warding off whatever blows came my way until I got to the other side. After one hiatus, wonderful periods where my true self would surface and gasp for air, I was talking on the phone with a friend and joked, “Yeah, hiatus is over, now I have to put on the armor of bitterness and anger.” We laughed, but it was actually heartbreaking.

Did I really need to have such strong protection? Of course not. It was just the method that had worked so well in the past. This time, having processed the entire episode as an adult, I am hoping to avoid going through the pattern again.

In fact, I am making myself a promise to help prevent it. From now on, I refuse to be anyone other than who I am. I’m going to like what I like, think what I think, do what I do, dress how I dress, and if those things agree with you? Great. Let’s hang out. If not, have a lovely life with people that are more your speed. If that means I end up alone, well at least I will have the company of someone I like.

I yam what I yam.

So now, the yam I yam is off to adventure. I’ll try to post from the road but we shall see.

The leap is about to commence….

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Victim Investigator: Special Whiney Unit

As quickly as I was on the trail of joy, I have temporarily lost it. This blog was meant to be light and fun, however, if I’m going to be honest here, I have to admit that things aren’t always sunbeams and rainbows. Still, I will always attempt to find some fun in the misery.

Last week was a difficult week. Having workers in your house doesn’t seem so bad at first, but as the days wear on, you just want it to end. They’re still here. I’ve been informed that they will either be done today or tomorrow morning. What really took the wind out of my sails was more bad news regarding the value of the house. Of course it came late Friday afternoon when nothing could be resolved. I was left to sit for an entire weekend, imagining all the worst-case scenarios. I saw my dream of a writing life go up in smoke. I quickly slipped back into fear and the anger that always accompanies it.

It set me off on a journey, gathering evidence to prove that I was the victim of a cruel universe whose sole purpose was to toy with me, giving me hope than yanking it away. Issues with work came flooding back. I had told myself that despite the unfairness that my 20 years of involvement with the show meant nothing to production and was not rewarded, I would be okay because of the house sale. That perhaps the purpose of being stuck for so long was so that I could have this payout and finally get a shot at my dreams. So, what exactly was my reward for that 20 years of stagnation? I kept asking myself why other people were allowed to make big profits on real estate. When the market is booming all around me, why am I only allowed modest gains? Why is it that the banking system, which made a killing on selling me a house they foreclosed on, is now limiting my profit? Why can’t those who “have” ever allow those of us trying to make some progress even a few crumbs? I know those gold plated toilets, expensive vacations, and Ivy League schools for the kids don’t come cheap, but can’t we peasants even have a roof over our heads in old age? I’m not asking for a million dollars. My dreams are modest. I want a chance to write, and I don’t even want to be a rich and famous author. I just want to earn a living doing what makes me happy and be able to take care of myself into old age. Apparently only the dreams of the “haves” matter. I should know my place and just keep toiling away so the deserving can go to the ball.

Yes, monkey mind is alive and well. My thoughts actually reminded me of someone I used to work with who demanded perfection at all times. You could do it right a million times, but make a mistake once and you would be subjected to a tirade of, “Just once I wish people would do their job right. Every single time…” Except it wasn’t every single time. The mistake was a rare anomaly, but he only saw the mistakes. It was not an attractive trait, and the memory held a mirror up to my own thoughts. Sometimes you really do have to thank people for who they are, and showing you who you don’t want to be.

I reminded myself that there were many times I had something within my grasp and managed to get it. I’ve had some remarkable and unexpected successes. While we don’t live in a fair society, and at times I have felt like I’m going through life with one arm tied behind my back, I also can’t deny that I have enjoyed privileges of which others can only dream. I can focus on how unfair it is that I have to keep downsizing my dreams, or I can rejigger things and find a way to succeed despite the limitations forced on me. I can think about all the times I’ve lost out on something, or I can focus on all the times I’ve succeeded and let that inspire me to succeed at this.

The battle hasn’t been won yet, but the tide is turning. I’m keeping at it, one thought at a time. Hopefully next week I’ll have a far more upbeat post, and perhaps finally some good news about the house.

And on a side-note – I have decided to give the Whole30 program a try. Since being out of work, I have had a hard time avoiding sugar and fast food. I’ve also experienced increased inflammation. Coincidence? I think not. It will likely be hard to complete with goodbye dinners, etc., but something needs to change, and so it has. Day one had me running for the bathroom like American Pharoah. There was hunger, but I enjoyed the tastes of the food I did eat. Today I am tired, partly from the lack of sleep from continuing to go to the bathroom throughout the night. Sure am glad I don’t have to work today!

Have you tried Whole30? What were your experiences?

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Following Joy

When this blog was started, I believed I was on the verge of leaving LA and having lots of adventures. It’s a little frustrating that I am still here, blogging from home about the minutia of my life, and waiting to leave. While the first buyer was eager to be in the house, this sale is dragging out a little longer. It now looks like the earliest I will be out of here is the middle of May. This week all the requested repairs will be completed, and hopefully by the end of the week I will know if the sale will go through.

In the meantime…

Every day there is so much to be learned, and I’m still figuring this new life out. A few weeks ago, it was frightening to have found myself with time to just be. We in the West have a hard time just being. It is beaten into our heads – Life is work. Life is effort. Rest is sloth and a moral failing! We believe in “work hard, play hard,” but the work hard always has to come first. You never hear it said, “play hard, work hard.” I began to feel guilt over not having work to do. This was why it suddenly seemed important to impose some discipline and outline five daily goals. The unexpected consequence was that making a list of things that should be done, turned it into a list of chores. It turned play into work, so that I no longer wanted to either work hard, or play hard. In my brain there was a German woman in a uniform with a riding crop saying, “You vil do dees tings dat make you happy, or I vil beat you about de head. Be happy now! Schnell!”

After fumbling around with these daily goals and becoming more resistant to them, it became apparent that a different method needed to be tried. Not knowing what else to do, I simply began to do whatever interested me that day. One day it was geocaching. Another day it was writing. Then surprisingly, the day ceased to be about guilt and became about joy. Where joy led, I followed.

Following joy is a brand new experience. It has been a long time since there wasn’t a responsibility, deadline, or obligation leading me through life. After I have moved across the country, and settled into life there, there will certainly be a return of responsibility, deadlines, and obligations. However, right now, there is a sweet little window of waiting. I’ve done so much packing and preparation and can’t really go any further until I’m sure the sale is going through. If there was ever been a time in my life to let go of discipline and structure, and experiment with following joy, this is it. I’m grabbing my chance and refusing to feel guilty no matter how I spend my day. It won’t last forever, but I’m going to enjoy this mini-vacation from obligation.

Who convinced us that the sole purpose of existence is productivity and not bliss? Why do we buy into it? What leads you through life? What would you do with this day if you had absolutely no responsibilities or obligations? Can you find a compromise? Life is too short not to follow joy as often as you can. Make sure you do at least one thing every day that brings you joy… more if you’re able.

 

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Be Kind

The house sale is progressing and hopefully this one won’t fall through. If it does, we already have other offers.

I’m working on a Young Adult fantasy novel that has me so excited. I have had several very good ideas I could work on, and for a while it was tough to decide on which one I should focus. Then something sparked in favor of the fantasy novel and I am off and running. It’s so good. The concept is fresh. There is subtext and depth. I just have to execute.

With free time, I’ve been researching my new home community. There are so many activities I look forward to joining. Music was a major part of my life for the first 20 years, but has had almost no role in the last 30. It was exciting to find the new town has a women’s acapella group. My low, true-alto singing voice isn’t really good for solos, but it can be a real asset to a group without male voices. It would feed my soul to sing again, and I look forward to a pace of life that will allow that.

That slower pace of life I so look forward to, is actually happening now. It’s been two months since my job ended. I have not missed it for one second of one day. There has been no loss of identity or crisis of confidence. In fact, my true self feels like it’s re-emerging. I no longer feel battered constantly by stressful incidents. I’m not spending an hour and a half a day in ugly traffic. When a friend calls to have lunch, or needs a ride, I can actually say “yes.” When I wake up, my day can be designed around what I need and want to do, rather than what others want and need me to do. When something stressful happens, it’s easier to step back, take a breath, and deal with it. The unexpected and beautiful consequence of this is that my mind, soul, and heart are opening up again. I am able to be less judgmental and far kinder.

I first noticed myself extending kindness to others. When I was out taking a walk, I saw a kid skateboarding down the middle of the street. My stressed-out, super-judgmental self would have thought, “Stupid kid with a death wish. Get out of the street.” My open self looked and him and thought, “Look at that kid skating down the street.” My judgmental thoughts about the kid would not have changed his behavior, but they certainly would have made me feel unhappy. Instead that day, I was pure awareness without judgment and it felt wonderful.

That kindness and lack of judgment for others has extended to myself. Did I meet all my daily goals every day last week? Absolutely not. A couple of days I only did one of the five things. Stressed-out me would have beat myself up over it. Here’s what the running dialogue in my head about my bad behavior would have sounded like, “Loser. Idiot. It was just 5 things. Five fun things at that! This proves it. You are not a writer. You are a loser. You will always be a loser. Why pretend? Just go curl up in a corner and die, you loser.”

Many people refer to that voice as “monkey mind,” because it leaps from thought to thought and hurls poo at you.  And, boy are those thoughts a whole load of poo. They are horrible. Would I let anyone talk to a friend like that? Of course not! Yet, that is a pretty typical conversation I might have with myself. It may even be typical of a conversation you have with yourself. Why do we do it? Has it ever helped? No! It’s not motivational. It’s defeating. It’s harmful.

Thankfully, the new de-stressed me did not have that hurtful conversation. Well, okay, maybe I did for just a second, but it was quickly followed by stepping back, taking a breath, and showing myself some kindness. I’ve never been unemployed before. I have either been in college or had a job since I was 17. That’s 33 years of marching to someone else’s drum. Before that, I suppose I was marching to my parents’ drum. This is a whole new world! It’s going to take a little time to find my rhythm. Maybe last week I missed some steps, but this week I’ll do a little better. Before long, with a little kindness and patience, I’ll be hearing my own beat, and dancing to it with flair, in my white-girl, hippie style.

Have you failed at something and now you’re beating yourself up about it? Does that help? No? So, did you learn something? Will it help you do better next time? Then you did not actually fail, did you? We are all just imperfect creatures doing this for the first time (as far as we know), and we’re trying to makes sense of a very confusing life. Anyone in that position deserves a lot of kindness. So, I’m challenging you, be kinder to yourself. I promise it will help you accomplish your goals far quicker than that nasty, little voice in your head.

Tell monkey mind to go eat a banana, you’re busy dancing.

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Schedule Schmedule

The sale of the house fell through. Now it’s back to a holding pattern as other offers are considered. So, for the first time since finding myself unemployed, I have extra time on my hands. I look for jobs, just in case I find something that could convince me to stay. So far, that has not happened. I take long walks. And I have watched far too much TV. Made my way through Breaking Bad, finally. Unfortunately, I already knew the ending since The Soup decided to show the final scene shortly after it aired. It wasn’t as bad as when I typed in a monologue joke revealing the ending of The Sixth Sense long before I saw the movie, but it was still annoying. The Late Late Show writers found that so funny. I did not. The experience of that story was lost to me forever.

It is easy to let the days slip by doing little projects here and there, waiting for some sort of news about the sale of the house, and watching series I’d had in my queue for years. It’s easy to convince myself that I’ll get into a writing routine when I am settled into my new location. However, as the days have slipped by, I find myself growing more discontent. While I love lazy days, a whole string of them does not lead to happiness. I need a schedule – a routine. Oh, the annoyance that brings to someone who cherishes their freedom! Yet every writer knows that the difference between a wannabe dabbler and a professional writer is discipline. A professional writes even when they don’t feel like it — when they’re not inspired – even when it’s not fun. A dabbler writes when all the planets align, they feel inspired, and there is absolutely no other errand or chore they can think of to do. I’ll admit, that’s been me far too often.

So this week, my goal is to establish a schedule that works until it is time to leave. There are five things that must be accomplished in order for me to feel satisfied. 1) Physical activity in the form of yoga or a long walk. 2) Meditation 3) Writing 4) Reading 5) Writing-related activities such as searching out writing contests, writing and publicizing this blog, or looking for freelance writing and editing work. Those are the goals I must build into a schedule and be disciplined about following. Woe for my false sense of freedom and sloth. Hooray for productivity and joy. It’s a decent trade.

 

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