My Monday Evening Happiness

Some people need a lot of money. Others need a sports car, time shares in Hawaii, or $10,000 in monthly income to be happy.

Me? I need this:

Vanilla Ice Cream Soda

Hope your day ended as well as mine!

The Artist’s Way: Week 5 Retrospective

Today marks the beginning of Week 6 in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, which I am following in order to encourage creativity in my life. Denial of my feelings and desires has been a way of life for me. I am using this book as a way to help me open up to creativity in a way that I have always desired.

For the first three weeks, I was excited, I had ideas, and I found it relatively easy to implement them. Starting in week 4 and through last week, I felt as if my mind were returning to the same dull state I experienced before I embarked on my writing journey through The Artist’s Way. 

This is always the spot where I seem to crash and burn in my dreams. Past the initial honeymoon period, I return to feeling less pumped and less inspired. Creating ideas becomes more difficult. I start to feel sad and then become depressed. I stop doing the things I enjoyed. I become bored and claim that I don’t know what to do.

This is the cycle I have struggled with my whole life and the one that I am trying to break. I think there is a natural settling down after initial enthusiasm, the low that results because of the high. My issue is that I let myself stay there in the lows.

In my morning writing, I realized that I need to raise my awareness when I am in a low period. The solution is to take steps to bring myself back to center like jumping jacks, dancing, a brisk walk – anything! I can read inspirational quotes, call a creative and supportive friend, or play with my cats. That way, I lift myself out of the seriousness of depression and back towards the lighthearted play of creativity and growth.

A sign that should have signaled to me that I need to shake things up was that I did not add anything new to my Pinspiration Board last week. I was so excited in week 4 to think of the board, put it up, add a couple of inspirational quotes to it and around the house, and then have a clear desk in front of me.

So what happened? It became the thing that you sit right in front of every day but yet fail to see. On my Pin Board, I copied two sets of reminders from The Artist’s Way – The Basic Principles and the Rules of the Road. As of week 3, I should be reading them twice a day. I decided to read only once a day, and then I forgot to read them at all this past week.

Raising awareness of things that have moved out of your conscious eye and back into your consciousness is one of the most difficult challenges we face as humans. Often, it is not until much too late that we look back and see that we stopped doing something meaningful, which lead us to stop doing other meaningful activities, until we are in a place of doing nothing.

My parents were born and raised in the Great Depression of the 1930’s. They worked hard on farms, at their jobs or in their home, and in the vegetable garden. The greatest thing that my parents ever aspired for me to do was the freedom to do nothing.

Until recently, I did not understand how their lifestyle has made it difficult for them to understand the physically easier, knowledge- and creativity-oriented lifestyles that they made possible for their own children.

Yesterday I signed up for a Publishing and Creativity Conference to be held in the Lower West Side of NYC on April 11-12. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, is going to be there. When I told my mom about it, she said, “Well, it’s good to have something to keep you occupied.”

With this comment, I started to understand that what I see as an essential life activity, she sees as a hobby. The need for creativity or writing to be fluff to her. Her accomplishments were so much more concrete – raising family, growing vegetable, or cleaning.

But ideas and creativity could not be fluff to me anymore than being able to raise her family was to her. I guess that shows me I will have to be patient and continue to explain to her, as I have been doing lately, what I want to do with my life and why it is important. I am OK with that.

Writing about it in my morning pages and here on my blog seem to help me continue forward in personal growth. Please share how you get yourself back on track when you find yourself derailed.

I’d Rather Be Reading

Blogging too late in the day can be a health hazard in the same way that writing late at night pages is not as productive for my health as writing morning pages. I call blogging at 9:15pm too late in the day for me because my normal bedtime is in the 10:00-10:30pm range. Even though I use f.lux for my Mac, I find that I prefer to have reading as the last evening activity before I go to bed. 

Sometimes, cats get in the way of my reading. Every day, my husband and I give subcutaneous fluids to my 17.5 year old cat Hunter because his kidneys are failing. Giving subq’s means more water in their system, which helps their kidneys function better and the cats to feel better overall. After giving the fluids tonight, I sat down to read a book on writing a romance novel, which is the type of novel that I am in the middle of writing. 

That’s when I saw it: a bright, red splotch of blood bed sheet that covers couch slipcover and on a corner of a hand-knitted throw. The needle must have caused some bleeding at the site where we gave him his fluids tonight. After lifting up the bed sheet, I saw that the bloody spot had soaked into the slipcover underneath it.

Noooooo! Slipcovers are great, as long as you don’t get them dirty. They can be such a pain to clean. I dug out my cleaning instructions, which recommends either non-water cleaners, foamers, or mild soap. Then, it warns that tap water can cause rings and advises using distilled water instead. Who has distilled water handy to clean the slipcovers?

I removed the bed sheet and the throw, and I asked my husband to throw them into the washing machine while I tried to clean the bloody spot. I got a damp paper towel and a dry one. I patted the spot with the dry towel to remove any wet blood on the slipcover. I then alternated wetting the spot with the damp paper towel and carefully blotting it off with the dry one. Eventually, I got most of it until I did a little scrubbing to dry it off. It seems to be OK.

Here I am now, sitting in the corner of my couch, pillow behind my back for support, and Hunter napping on my left side while I write my blog post. I don’t mind the sitting, the pillow, or Hunter, but I’d rather be reading.

I Heart Letter Writing

Earlier today, I assisted a friend in writing a letter to a tenant who has been having some difficulty with cleanliness. I offered to start writing it, which I did. About 30 minutes later, I received a letter they wrote but did not send. Since it contained much good information, I offered to assist in paring it down.

I remembered how much I love letter writing. I especially love writing clear, concisely worded letters to tenants have an issue following some term of their lease. I think I missed my calling as a letter writer in a legal office. I am not sure I would run to do that now. I have to pick one damn path and follow that. Since I have already decided my path for this year, I will stay put instead of letting my ENFP/ADD/OOhshiny! disorder lead me astray once again. 

One aspect of this letter writing that I enjoyed so much was the ability to succinctly point to their lease terms and then, in a professional and non-accusatory manner, put them in their place. When I owned a three family, I was trained by a pseudo-legal real estate agent whose entire family, including extended famiily, had been in real estate, went to law school and/or were lawyers, and owned extensive property in the Greater Boston area.

My real estate/legal friend helped me pen many a “Let me break it down for you” letter and gave me extensive schooling on how to handle crazy, erratic tenants. I would have been worse off than the anxious mess I was at that time. The satisfaction and peace of mind I obtained from writing concise, well-documented letters that not even a lawyer could fault were essentially tools for me at the time. The last time I wrote such a letter was at least 13 years ago. 

Good talents never get old, especially if you continue using them in similar ways. There’s something about needing to document extensive, complicated computer problems to a user that gave me a similar experience when I worked in IT. Unfortunately, dealing with computers and the negative people I found that seemed to flock to IT departments sadly outweighed benefits I received from work well done.

Although I do love letter writing such as this, I have a hunch that working in a legal department might very well be worse for me than working in either Information Technology or Real Estate. I continue to be puzzled at the way I am drawn to some things which, in their best contexts, are actually the worst contexts for me to work in. I think it is a remnant from when I made decisions on what was logical and not what I desired to do. 

I am glad those days are over, but I still love letter writing. I wonder if I can work letter writing into my life in a creative way. Writing letter campaigns for causes I am interested in does not fill this bill. Now that I think further about it, I realize that my love with real estate/legal letter writing might be because it lets me take ample time to craft what I want to say in the most positive and/or professional way. 

Does that mean I love to craft an image of myself to the outside world? Does it allow me to impose a kind of order and control over a particular situation? I think it allows me to keep refining what I want to say until I have an impenetrable argument. Does that mean I am looking to be right? Am I looking for a method to prop my confidence up as a defense against another’s argumentative blow? 

As I wrote the above questions, I am getting a kind of inside look at my preferences. This is kind of like open blog therapy. I think that it allows me to do all those things, which is why I felt such a strong pull to edit my friends letter when I saw it. If I can’t do all those things for myself, then the least I can do is help my friend. At least, that’s the excuse my brain came up with. 

Unfortunately, I did it at the expense of my writing. I am writing way too late in the day for my preferences. That is because I failed to make room for writing my morning pages. Instead, they became my “writing at 10:09PM” pages and this became my 11:09PM blog post. I am trying to live and learn. What I cannot do is allow myself to get totally blown off my path, which is what almost happened when one tiny decision to put off my morning pages happened. 

Writing daily has been such a boon to my personal sense of happiness and peace. Not writing every day would have the same affect on me as having “just one hit” would have on a drug addict; it would throw me back into a negative hell-space of life wherein I have lost my way and my peace of mind. It’s simply not worth it. 

Virtual Unreality

On my ride home from the gym, I listened to a segment on NPR called The Takeaway. One part asked the question, Is Technology Dehumanizing the Workforce? The featured guest was Simon Head, author of Mindless: Why Smarter Machines are Making Dumber Humans. Mr. Head tells about the part of his book where he interviewed a former Amazon employee who worked in their fulfillment warehouse. 

In Amazon’s fulfillment center, employees wear machines that time them on exactly how long it should be taking them to perform tasks. If you are late, even by seconds, the machine beeps at you incessantly and records your lateness. Multiple latenesses can earn you demerits and termination.

I think I would rather hang myself with a sheet. Gave me pause about my Amazon Prime membership. 

During the same segment, they discussed the news that Facebook bought Oculus VR, a virtual reality gaming company, for $2 billion. The product draw was Oculus’ Rift, a virtual reality headset, that Zuckerberg sees as a communications platform. In discussing the application of the headset to gaming, cofounder Palmer Luckey (I think it was him) talked about the Rift allowing gamers to be in an immersive gaming experience. And I got to thinking about that.

Why do we keep calling it virtual reality? Isn’t the point of these devices is to allow us to see things that are not there and to have experiences that we could not otherwise create? There’s nothing real about virtual reality. If you ever saw Star Trek, the starships had rooms called Holodecks, which allowed someone to enter a completely fake world and experience it as if it where real. But these things are not virtual reality. For us, when we enter these spaces, it becomes our reality. 

I never really thought about it, before but I think that we should be calling it unreal reality because these experiences are simultaneously both unreal and real. 

Have you ever seen the anime Serial Experiments Lain? If you enjoy anime, I highly recommend it because it is related to this subject and handles it in a very interesting way. It’s not a true to life demonstration, as virtual reality itself is not, so don’t hold me to this. 




Three Thup’s Quick

Once in a while, progress moves ahead like the patter of paws quietly and rapidly thupping against the antique carpet.

Thup One: Story Summary Complete

After two attempts at outlining a 2008 NaNoWriMo story went nowhere, I purchased Scrivener so that I could break up the story in chunks, reorganize quickly, and see the whole more easily. After I did that, I was able to see exactly what I wanted to pull: about half the story.

After looking at the breakdown, I got the idea to write a story summary. The summary would put down the sequence of events that transpire from beginning to end. My purpose was so that I could flesh out the storyline, develop believable characters, add themes, etc. Also, I could write new scenes while knowing in advance what needed to be written.

After a few sessions lasting several hours each, I finished that up today with a 2,146 word story summary.

Thup Two: Professional Editors Contacted

At the end of January, I took a NaNoWriMo webinar with The Book Doctors on how to make editing and revising your story fun. Before that, the thought of looking at my story and yanking out the first half (about 25,000 words) made me sick. All I could see was the terrible waste and all the work I had to do.

At the end of the webinar, Arielle and David said they would give a 20 minute consult to anyone who bought their book and provided a receipt. Although I bought the book soon after the seminar, I waited to contact them until I had a solid idea of what I wanted done.

As I concluded the story summary, I realized what I needed was feedback on my story summary (plot, tension, characters, etc.) and pointers in the right direction where I needed it.

I emailed them today after I got back from the cafe and got a response within minutes. Because of the length of my story summary, Arielle suggested an additional half hour of paid consult time.

The next step is to pay them, send them my story, and then talk to them about it.

Thup Three: Card Making

With my reactivated need for creativity, I have refilled supplies for card making and bought a small cabinet to store my jewelry making and card making crafts.

I spent time tonight starting a project for a card for a friend’s anniversary, which will go out late. After this, I am making a card for my nephew’s 18th birthday. Although I had limited choices for making a card for a boy/young man, I found a few things that will work. I look forward to more card crafting later this week.

Pix to come only after cards have been received by the recipients as they are probably reading this.

[thup thup thup]

Short and Sweet

I have been battling a coffee addiction for years. As of this weekend, I am off again. I don’t always get headaches when I stop drinking coffee. This time, you would think I am depriving myself of food and water and all human happiness. The headaches are incredible, even with taking medication. 

Lately, I have been dealing with a pain on my left side that is out of control with pain. I could barely sit earlier. I have fibromyalgia, but even for that illness, this is too much. A pain level that usually flows between 2-4 is up to 7 today. I took two aspirin and had relief for two hours, did some yoga, but the pain returned.

I think it might have to do something with crooked seated at my L-shaped desk. The floor on one side of the room tilts into the corner, which throws my already misaligned hips into further misalignment. The result is misery.

Thankfully the pain level has receded down to a 5. For now. I am going to try and get my “morning” pages done. I could leave it, but I just don’t want to break a four-week writing streak, even if it doesn’t happen in the mornings. 

Be well!