Say the word

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In Buddhism, there is a concept of a restless, unfocused way of thinking called the monkey mind.  It refers to the relentless chatter in our head which needs to be “quieted” or “calmed” if we are to become mindful and focused.

Before the pandemic, I lived a fairly peaceful internal life. Practising yoga, following Buddhism (albeit loosely), having structure, routine and a sense of purpose in my everyday life was key to maintaining that sense of mental peace, but it was somewhat tenuous (the monkeys were caged, but the locks were frail and rusty). The pandemic, it’s subsequent lockdown and abrupt end to all of my routines shook up everything in my life and ultimately, freed those monkeys.

Running amok, tossing bananas here and shit there, my monkey mind would swing wildly from task to task, moment to moment, even book to book in my Kindle, only allowing me to focus on a sample here and a page there, until one day I came across an idea so simple, yet so profound, it stopped all the monkeys in their tracks.

In Design Your Day, Claire Diaz-Ortiz explains how deciding upon a word of the year has become a simple, yet powerful tool in her life.  “Every year, you should choose a word to represent the year you have in front of you.  Think long and hard about one word that will serve as a guidepost for what you want to do and be in the year to come.  And remember that a year needn’t start January 1 – you can start your year at any time!” 

As a lover of words and finding myself mid-way through May, this sounded exactly like what I needed to do. I spent the next day thinking about my word.  The monkeys were a fantastic help in throwing out hundreds of options.

Finally, I decided upon one that felt right. Both positive and representative of what I need to do to (regain focus) and what I want to do (write my memoir), I decided that my word of the year shall be: reflect.

I use it now as a mantra, repeating it to myself whenever the monkeys start swinging around in my head and so far, they seem to like it too, providing me with some much needed calm and quiet so that I can reflect, and ultimately, write again.

 

 

 

 

 

What the silence has to say

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I’m still trying to find my footing in this new place.  Having to shut down my photography studio last month, needing to apply for unemployment benefits for the first time ever, adjusting to online / homeschooling with my kids – two of whom would rather do anything else than sit at a computer to do schoolwork with their mom  (and trust me, most days the feeling is mutual) – it’s all wrecked havoc with my emotions, my focus, my motivation, especially when it comes to my writing.

Entering into my second year as an indie author, I had had some very concrete plans in place and up until early March, I was working on them almost daily.

And then….well, we’re all familiar with what happens when we’re busy making other plans – a pandemic  – no sorry,  life happens, or at least some semblance of life as we used to know it.  For me, this new life hit like a mini cyclone, wiping out my job, my income, my schedule, my routine, my drive, my direction, and sense of purpose in just a matter of days.

Gone.  Finito.  Kaput.

One month in and the dust seems to be settling a bit, although I struggle some days with navigating this new normal and other days I still feel plain lost, I have come to appreciate the quiet that has fallen around us.

My calendar is now blank. My schedule is now free of appointments. The pressure to do, to be, to get it all done has lifted and amongst this new quiet, I’ve had time to sit and listen to the silence that it has brought.  It has a lot to say, but mostly it’s message is to listen and to wait for what’s next.

So I will.

The Measure of Everything

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Two of the most powerful attributes that humans possess are:

1)  the ability to LOVE

2) the ability to CREATE

Having spent my formative years under the thumb of a restrictive parental figure: I was not allowed to say “I want”, I never heard the phrase “I love you” (certainly was never inspired to speak the words either) and my creative endeavors were always overlooked and dissuaded – the idea of living a creative life was laughed at and labeled a “pipe dream” – I’ve spent my adult years learning both how to express love and how to express myself – including allowing myself to express both my needs AND my wants.

 

In the process, I’ve discovered a deep, rich and untapped well of passions lying dormant inside of me. 

 

It’s taken many, many years of learning, growing, stretching myself beyond my comfort zone and oftentimes just plain scaring myself, but the faster my heart beats and more anxious I feel, the more that well gets churned, and the deeper and deeper I am able to dip into it – loving, creating (particularly, writing) and allowing myself, finally and freely, to express myself.

It hasn’t always made me the most popular girl around – especially within my own family!! – but I refuse to censor myself, to keep my emotions or my wants or needs repressed any longer.

It was no way to live. 

With a heart full of love and a head full of stories, neither of which were wanted or allowed to be expressed, my memories of childhood and adolescence boil down to being simply a very unhappy time for a very unhappy kid.

But now, I am the parent and as so, I have always encouraged my children to express themselves in every positive and negative way they see fit – and they are growing up to be the most loving and creative people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing!

 

My measure of everything in life now lies in how much that well of passion gets churned by the thought of a new project, new adventure or new endeavor:

If it’s not a ‘hell yeah!’   Then it’s a ‘no’.

                      (the unhappy kid inside of me smiles whenever she hears that)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creating my quiet

 

45fb764d3b23d95e67eeac11f34dc4f1Two years ago, I traded scrolling for writing.  I decided to leave social media in order to concentrate on my writing. It was not a popular decision.  It wasn’t met with any fan-fare or encouragement, but I knew I had to do it if I was going to finally write that book that had been in my head for most of my life.

The story was taking up too much space.

Scrolling was taking up too much time.

A change was needed.

At least, temporarily.

 

Friends and family were not impressed with my announcement that I would be leaving their social media feeds – deciding to no longer keep up with their memes and vacation photos in order to concentrate on ME – my writing, my book.  Some even scoffed at my idea and tried to shut it down with claims of “writing a book is the hardest thing anyone can do – that’s why most fail.”

I felt guilty for a moment or two about shutting the social media door, but I’ve never been one to suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) and more importantly, I remembered life – particularly writing life – before social media.

Before status updates, tweets, memes and selfies existed, life was quieter.

I didn’t know what everyone was doing all the time.  And I was perfectly content with that ignorance.  I got more done.  I had more time to concentrate on what was going on in my life – and in my head. 

My time away from social media was both refreshing and productive.

I got my book done!

Hope Quest book 1: Blackbird was released in May of this year.

I’ve since gotten back onto Facebook and joined Instagram in the last year ( I have always been a late bloomer).

Joining Instagram, in particular, has been a real boon for my writing and in meeting some fabulous writer friends, but lately, I’ve noticed that I’ve been spending too much time scrolling, invested in other writer’s postings and in how many likes my pieces get (or don’t).

 

Things have been getting noisy again.

I’ve been missing out on my writing time again.

So I’m shutting that social media door again.

 

Creating the quiet I need to write and finish my next book.

Hope Quest book 2: The Lightning will be released in September.

 

I’ll be scrolling again by October.