An Ordinary Life

American society places an enormous amount of pressure on children to be extraordinary. You know what I’m talking about.

Prodigies. Child business owners. Child actors. Self-possessed teens who quit school at 16 to go build an empire or play guitar. Toddler musicians. Anyone who followed their hearts desires, persevered, and became famous at the last second.

You know, those people who, by virtue of their birth and inborn talents or with the kind of family support that most people can only dream, somehow get catapulted into the public limelight as a paragon of ingenuity or talent or success. Or all three.

Then there are the rest of us.

I include myself in this category. I have not found my life’s work’s calling. I have not switched into that mode where I am utilizing all my strengths to put forth a confident version of myself in the public life we call employment, whether artistic or otherwise. In comparison with the rest of the American public, no one knows me because I do not stand out.

Truthfully, I am OK with that.

All my life, I have desired to find the one thing that I could do to bring myself into the realm of the extraordinary. I did not want it because I wanted to be better than anyone. But I deeply desired the kind of commitment and the experience of flow that people who know where their hearts lie experience.

Here are some things I truly enjoy: Being with my family, friends, husband, and cats. Working out at the gym. Being outside. Walks on the beach. Riding my bike with my husband.

I hate that this world asks us to look at the things and activities that we love the most and find ways to make money out of them. Being paid to do the things we love means we enjoy them less. It’s called the Over-justification Effect. External rewards reduce one’s internal enjoyment of a particular task.

If I am asked to spend 40 hours a week working, then I cannot think of a job as just a job. The need to truly enjoy the work increases, but the likelihood that the enjoyment will be as much as it can be is reduced. So I am stuck. I have tried a couple of different routes, but my heart wasn’t in it.

This year, I took on writing, and I am failing, by my own standards. However, I also wanted to get healthier, and I seem to be having success in that area by regularly committing to working out. But no one’s going to pay me to go to the gym and feel good.

Right now, I am not working outside the home. I am in a situation where it is not required so I can concentrate on getting healthier. I want to be able to give it my all, but my fibromyalgia pains suck so much energy out of me that doing is not possible. Without real health, I will chronically be exhausted as I work, and that’s no way to live, in my opinion.

I have not completely accepted that I am an ordinary person who will live this life only as ordinary. I grew up hearing about how smart I was. But being smart is not the sole answer to make it or living a happy life. Intelligence is not the only means by which goals can be achieved.

And thank goodness! Otherwise, the world would be quite the boring place.

 

Advertisements

A Return To Work

After two months, I sat down to work on my novel (working title Butterfly Wings). 

Somewhere in mid-July, I gave up my Camp Nano goals. I was already struggling to meet my word count goals, and then my uncle died. The next week was a blur, between the funeral and recovering a bit. I did not recover enough to get out of my slump.

Then my elderly mother fell, got a concussion, gashed her brow that required nine stitches, and broke the fifth metacarpal bone in her right hand. The cast caused arthritis flare ups in her hand, and she spent most of August in and out of pain. I brought her to the hand specialist twice, and he gave her a cortisone shot in the hand. She yelled out in pain. I crumpled.

Then, just as her hand was starting to feel better, she got sciatica. After a couple of days where it only got worse, I got her into see her rheumatologist who had treated her arthritis. I wish I had put it all together sooner. She got steroids and an RX for physical therapy for her back to match her RX for PT for her hand.

In the meantime, a book I had wanted to read finally came into the library: The War of Art. Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. by Steven Pressfield. As soon as the next paycheck is in our account, I am picking up this gem. The layout makes this topic eminently readable: three parts broken down by subjects that are no more than a couple of pages long. Many of the topics are one page. If you have a particular issue, just mark the page. Reread it when you need it.

The second section called Turning Pro enumerates the ways that amateurs differ from professionals. One important way is that the professional knows that a craft can be honed, does not things personally, and strives to keep improving. Nothing stops them. They write come rain or shine. Pros know that inspiration comes when you sit down to write. Anything. Just write.

After lunch today, I took my laptop to Starbucks, got a decaf, and sat down to read over my novel starting at the beginning. I reread the story summary, and began reading and editing what I had done. Since I no longer remember where I was, I need to start over. I worked a couple of hours on it before heading home to prep for yoga class.

On my way home, I realized that what I wrote wasn’t as bad as I thought. First off, it was never bad in the first place. If I get feedback from my writers group, I know I will get many suggestions. New eyes will bring new perspectives. Then I can return to the work again and improve it. But it’s never going to be anything but written once if I never return to look at it again.

What are your dreams? What are mine? They are what we decide they are. I have thought I wanted to be an artist since I was a child. I had no one tell me otherwise. So why not? Just move forward. No one really cares what you do. Really. They don’t. You might say that someone would be threatened by you pursuing your dreams. And you need their approval why? Unless your entire life depends on that one person, you have no excuse.

The truth of the matter is that no one owns us or can tell us what to do or hurt us or get in our way. We only think they can.

From Love We Come, Not Dust

Over pancakes at The Lantern diner on Hempstead Turnpike, my mother and I talked about family and friends who had passed away over the years. The first husband of her friend Rita was killed in a crane accident when he was 29 years old. Previously, he worked with my father at another construction company, but he had taken this new job because it paid him more money.

My mother observed, “Sometimes we make our own destiny when we step away from something.”
I replied, “That’s how we make our destinies, by moving away from one thing and towards another.”

After coming home, I wrote my morning pages that I did not write earlier because I was driving to eat breakfast. I wrote about changing my life with writing, how that changes the brain, how the brain, body, mind, and soul (feelings, intuitive) work together to move you forward, and how I was opening myself up to following intuition and possibilities for getting what I want.

These topics moved into writing about death, what it means, and what it is. I wrote:

I am not afraid to share and to connect. I will ensure that I do one artist date each week to regenerate myself. I live for inspiration, which guides me towards the light. The light in the tunnel at death is really just us finally, truly, and opening seeing Love as our true selves for the first time.

In the love we hide, which is finally available to us -for most- only at the very end when our breath leaves our bodies for the last time, we think we see our loved ones or God because we have externalized love as being something we receive that came before us. Yet we are Love, each and every one. If we think it does not exist [within us], our anger at our lives can drive us to kill ourselves, destroy lives, or kill others.

The last wall of love, that last moment of separation, crumbles away and we experience our lives as they should have been lived – with knowing that the Love – that Life itself – shines through us in a unique form that will never come again when we are gone.

I am reminded of these two verses from the King James version of The New Testament, which is the Bible that many Christians follow:

Genesis 2:7 – And the LORD God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

Ecclesiastes 12:7 – Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

I was raised Catholic, so I know these verses well. When I have listened to sermons talking about how we are dust, I believed that means we are nothing substantial without the breath of God in our lives. However, I would like to suggest another interpretation:

We are not the dust. The dust is only the shell. If the breath of God is the basis for our lives, then we are living versions of God’s Love. We are not animated dust, animated shells. Our shells allow us to see the particular version of Love that is flowing through us.

Instead of seeing our shells for what they are, a temporary cover for God’s Love, we identify with the shell.  The shell is what separates us from others, while it is the Love that binds us together. The souls in the shells soon are unable to see anything else but Love in its shell form, in its dusty form of a shell.

We get caught up in our versions of the shell: the look, touch, taste, smell, and movement of our shells. We learn to pick up the pretty ones and leave the unwanted, broken shells on the beach. We take great pains to walk around the pointed shells so that we do not get stuck and bleed. We want to remain whole. We think of our shells as something that needs defining, defending, outlining, and building upon. We fight other shells thinking we have defeated our enemies.

When we have killed the Others, we have defeated nothing and no one. No wars are being won, no lives being saved. The dusty shell crumbles back into its lifeless form. What remains of the Others moves on in a way that we cannot see because we are still contained within our calcified shells.

When we see the light at the end of the tunnel, we experience the bliss of being reunited with the ultimate source of Love and Life in this world. We are Love, and Love is us. Not dust.

 

Why Just One?

The world is fixated on just one thing. Whatever that one thing is, you decide. But you can only do one. You have to own it, master it, face it, eat it, stomp it, put your own spin on it, refine it, learn more skills related to it. Stay focused. Never stop until you are at the top.

I have a problem with that. You could interpret that in two ways. They are both true. I have a problem with focusing on just one thing because I am not satisfied with just one thing. I have an intense level of curiosity and a drive to acquire skills via hands-on learning. What peaks my curiosity one day might not interest me at all three weeks later. I don’t want to focus on just one thing.

The other interpretation is that, since I love to start a bunch of new things all the time, I never take the time to develop and hone my craft, my art. What I do is supposed to make me money, make me rich, famous, elite, sought-after, and paid well. I am supposed to want to learn how to do things so I can earn money, feed myself, make it, make it big. No, make it Bigger. BIGGER.

The fact that I have posted daily on this blog since 1-5-2014 goes against a life-long struggle with commitment when it comes to work. I hate being pinned down, sitting at a desk, day after day, doing the same thing. On the flip side, I love coming home to the same house and the same person and the same pets. I could no sooner give up my family and home life to travel more than I could stop fantasizing about what I want to do next, or where I want to go next. The fact I am still blogging, that I haven’t given up against the internal struggles I fight again, and am still here trying to post is a freakin’ miracle.

Actually, I think the platform for my writing has a lot to do with my ability to write in it on a daily basis. I love the blogging interface. I feel like I am having a conversation with you inside my head. I have the time to craft what I want to say, and, hopefully, you will get the meaning that I am trying to convey in the way that I am trying to convey it. That is much harder than it sounds. The one area I am not following through on is on editing the story I chose for 2014. It’s on my short list of tasks, but I find the pull the to do’s to be almost irresistible. But that’s a topic for another post.

I like to make jewelry, which I will share as I make things. Lately, my interest has been in images in Gimp and/or the Zazzle interface on my Zazzle store. I am not sure how to make money from it, but I think it’s one area that I have found something I love to do. Hands on. Creative. Always new and fresh while using skills I have already  learned.

I used to think that life was about making yourself useful for others. Having followed that belief like a die-hard believer who made no room for her Self, I am in the process of reversing that. Since June 2012, I have been in a privileged position to do school half to full time  and then start a home-based freelance business. I have applied for a couple of jobs this week, both remote, one is temp and one is full-time. But at least I am now making decisions that also serve my needs.

Whether life is about being useful for others is, well, a topic for another post.

3 Important Things to Learn About Life From These 3 Actors

When we see the end result, we think that is all there is

In my post yesterday about the book The Longest Way Home by actor, director, and travel writer Andrew McCarthy, I admired how he shared his inner dialog and reveal his human flaws. I am inspired by those who are able to move beyond their inner struggles and find a way to release their souls and desires out into the world. In this book, Mr. McCarthy shares whatever messy, unformed, and unflattering thoughts and actions he takes. This itself takes a kind of courage that few possess. Continue reading

What’s a life like?

I am not sure anyone ever sat me down and explained what my life would be like. I looked up to people doing what I wanted to do, usually art related, such as painting, drawing, acting, or singing.

After years of doing the opposite, I found a way to reconstruct my life so that I can spend time writing about technical topics, preferably software related, from home. I received a Masters of Science in Technical Communication, moved, helped my dad, mourned my dad’s passing, and decided to start my own business doing freelance technical writing. I want to be home near my mom, who is without the love of her life for 65 years.

That is not what I wanted to talk about. I wanted to talk about living with chronic pain and fatigue. I wanted to talk about the fragility of my health. I wanted to talk about how one day of stomach pains sets off a stress chain reaction inside me such that I sleep 14 hours and then get up and feel tired all day. How I live with tension and sinus pain on a daily basis for which I do not take meds every single day. How I want to take care of myself, but taking care of myself means I am not out working. I am not out pounding the beat. I do not have the energy often to move my brain cells into activity. Even working at a job 40 hours a week means that I have energy for not much else, not cleaning, shopping, laundry, or hanging with friends.

That is my dilemma — get “out there” and exhaust myself, or take it easy when I need to. I feel isolated. I miss my Massachusetts friends. I miss my simple Victorian home in Cambridgeport with its lush garden hidden behind an eight foot wooden privacy fence. I miss biking around town to run my errands and the wind on my face. I miss the homeless and those with drug addictions who camp out at the Central Square bus stop. I miss Veggie Galaxy, a vegan/vegetarian dinner, and the staff, including (but not only) Michelle, Josh, Sam, Amanda, and anyone else who served me but whose name I forgot. I apologize.

I love photography and inspirational ideas. I am including a photo that I found on Facebook. If you know the author, please tell me so I can give the proper attribute to them. Here’s a bit of inspiration for you:

Image

The best I can do is write about my life, what I think, what I feel, and try to inspire myself to keep on chugging. Right after I take that nap.