June reflections

2022-06-30_04-01-09Last day of June. I’m on day 91 of my 100-day creativity project. Mostly I’ve drawn cartoon versions of myself, capturing transitory moods-of-the-moment, and I’ve written lists, based on a prompt called “Things that are true about me.”

I like these lists. They’re a simple way to gauge what I’m feeling, and often they’re ruthlessly honest. Also: sometimes things that are true in the moment don’t hold, and that’s useful to record and recognize too.

2022-06-30_04-00-43Here are some true items from recent lists.

1 I used to run long distances and call it fun — and it was fun for me. Now I seem to want to suffer less, I accept the easier paths to altered reality.

2 Change the state of my mind — it’s what I long to do, to be transported from pain into ease — and the gentlest, least harmful way to do so is not always obvious or easy.

3 I am more confused than ever.

4 I see myself in the world as this intransigent lump behind glasses, but glowing and appealing and maybe even dangerous; I see that everyone is lonely.

5 Started the day with a run and felt like a different person. Felt strong. Magnificent posture. Powerful. Beautiful. Alive.

6 The songs on my playlist were all my favourites. I listened to music even after my run, walking Rose, then walking uptown to get my errands done early. Having a soundtrack changes things up.

7 Doing yoga every day for more than two years has changed me — I have better posture, stronger core, I can drop into key moments smoothly; but I wonder whether it’s given me anything else? I don’t need it to — to be clear, excellent posture is a genuine gift — but I think I thought it would change me more fundamentally.

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Here are my reflection questions for the month, answered in brief.

What felt good this month? Running pain-free and smooth and fast. How is this even possible, when I ran less than usual this month? Reading terrifically fun and engaging books. Going to parties in my skintight, not flowy, possibly age-inappropriate brightly patterned dress paired with Birkenstocks and blue toenail polish.

What did you struggle with? My inner life. My purpose. My usefulness and worth; or maybe I mainly struggled with my compulsion to tie usefulness to worth.

Where are you now compared to at the beginning of the month? Four people in this house have had covid this month (two have it right now). So that’s been a rather endless, slow-moving parade of care-giving and mild worry. I feel somewhat aimless. But also more celebratory.

How did you take care of yourself? Friendship. Journaling. Daily yoga. Being outside. Letting my hair down. Doing things I enjoy, like cooking and riding my bike. Letting myself feel what I was feeling, even when it wasn’t great. Letting myself off the hook. Being part of the X Page workshop.

What would you most like to remember? I loved seeing my youngest dressed up for his grade 8 grad, and I loved debriefing with him the next day, when we drove to pick up pizza together. I loved walking uptown with Kevin and listening to an outdoor concert on a warm Friday night; spontaneous and relaxed, and pretty much perfect. My mood went from blah to wow what a beautiful world.

What do you need to let go of? I’m holding on to some stuff really tightly right now, I can feel it. That makes it hard to imagine letting go. I need to let go of a childhood version of my dreamed-of life. I need to let go of imagining there’s a perfect version of me out there, a perfect version of what I can and should accomplish. But also: I need to let myself hold on if that’s where I’m at. I’ll let go when I can, it can’t be forced, or willed, just observed, noticed. (Yoga has taught me that.)

Let me leave you with this very on-the-nose cartoon. I laughed.

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xo, Carrie

Feel = Connect = Enjoy

2022-06-17_12-39-24I’m in between, right now.

In between tasks, in between seasons. Maybe it’s always this way? Maybe I’m always in liminal space, in flux, free-floating. I do set goals and meet them. But I also set daily practices, which don’t necessarily develop into full-fledged goals other than hoping to experience discoveries that slowly accrue and weave themselves into my way of being in the world.

I don’t set a goal unless I believe it’s something I have the will, time, energy, drive and desire to accomplish. A practice is lighter: it’s exploration, experiment, play; it’s something that draws my interest, that feeds my body, soothes my mind.

Writing can be either, for me: goal or practice; and these get tangled up and confused.

20220614_065253I set goals for my writing; but it’s really more fundamentally a basic practice, a constant companion and comfort. I’ve earned money from my writing; but in a nonsensical way, or impractically, unpredictable and sometimes completely disconnected from time and effort expended. Writing has opened other doors — to teaching and participating as an artist in the community, for example; but I don’t come to writing from a logical place, nor as a transaction. I don’t often exchange my writing for a tangible reward; mostly, I can’t, even if I wanted to. Anyway, that’s not how a practice works —

And I know that’s what my writing actually is.

It’s a practice. It’s not a vocation, it’s not a career, it’s not a way to get ahead or succeed, it’s not a means to an end. It’s how I function in the world, it’s kept me whole, it gives me clarity and release and it helps me — especially fiction — to organize my panicked, irrational, awestruck, mysterious, and otherwise unknown and unseen underworld.

The practice of writing radiates back so many life-giving things. Friendship. Connection. Challenge. Adventure. Doors open and doors close. Writing continues the conversation.

Like how … I needed to write this, this morning.

How it’s helped me refocus on what matters; on the real goal that pulls me onward. That goal is to connect. It’s not my word of the year (that’s “feel”), but the principle of connection is guiding most every decision that I make right now, as a parent, a friend, a community member. It helps me make moral choices, too. When I boil down what I believe and what guides my every action, it’s to build, strengthen, and maintain connections. The starting place is to feel — connecting to others is rooted in connecting to self, by knowing what’s inside of me, what I truly want to do.

Feel = Connect = Enjoy

Maybe that’s true? It feels true.

2022-06-17_12-39-05I started this post by writing: I’m in between, right now.

I meant: I don’t know what to do next. My big project for these past many years, my overwhelming goal, has been to publish another novel. It’s coming soon. I don’t really have much left to do, to prepare. It’s out of my hands now.

It’s not that I’m not writing fiction. I am, in volume and with great enjoyment. Yet, I don’t seem to have that combo right now of will, drive, energy and desire, or not directed toward the goal of publishing another novel. I’m not even sure anymore that it’s a healthy goal to take on; to be frank with you, the publishing part of the equation was, is, and will always be out of my hands. And that’s scary, honestly. What am I doing, trying to forge a career on such unstable earth? That’s a question asked by fear. I ask it, because I am that person, I have such fear. But I’m also a person with a practice. A career is a thing outside myself; a practice dwells within.

The practice asks: What’s drawing your attention? The practices reminds me: Follow the energy, write toward that. Trust this time, be in between. Feel, connect. Feel, connect. Be where you are. What’s enjoyable, here, right now? (Oh, so much! Plenty! Enough, and more! Maybe I’ll write about that next time?)

xo, Carrie

Book launch party, July 26th, please save the date

IMG_20220522_171913_659This is an early save-the-date notification for the upcoming launch party for Francie’s Got a Gun, which is being planned to coincide with the pub date, even though that happens to fall on a Tuesday in July.

July 26th to be precise.

Mark your calendar! Do it now!

Please come to the brand-new Eastside branch of the Waterloo Public Library at RIM Park, on Tuesday, July 26th, 7-8PM. We are planning a celebratory event, including a conversation between me and my dear writing friends, Tasneem and Emily, who have shared the ups and downs of this ongoing adventure that is the writing life for the past number of years. Who knows exactly how we’ll boil down our conversation, but I promise that it will be fun. I’ll do a brief reading from the new novel. And Wordsworth Books will be on hand to sell copies (and of Tasneem and Emily’s books too!).

All are welcome.

Let’s see if we remember how to do this???

xo, Carrie

Be together

2022-05-31_11-30-02I have a wise future self, who I consult sometimes through drawing or writing, or meditation. But I also have a wise past self, who reminds me that there is wisdom in that which has already been discovered, and which I’ve lost track of along the way.

From my notebook, April 10, 2016, written on a writing residency in France:

There should be art for all occasions. Sometimes we want to laugh, sometimes we want to be entertained, sometimes we want to cry, sometimes we need to be challenged. Whatever are you make, celebrate its potential to meet someone else in the occasion of their need. Don’t wish you were writing something different. Be at peace with whatever comes from you.

2022-05-31_11-28-38On July 26, I’ll be publishing my new novel, Francie’s Got a Gun, which has a title that’s a little bit terrifying to me, I’ll be honest; but it’s also frank and open about a particular theme that obsessed me when I was writing the very first draft and persisted into the iteration that is coming into existence at the end of next month. The novel is an anti-gun allegory, but the gun also serves as a metaphor for danger, for adult failure, for a problem that’s bigger than a kid can solve. And it asks something else too: Can adults solve these big problems? How do we respond, as a collective, and as individuals, when a child, children, are struggling?

2022-05-31_11-29-28When I wrote the first draft, I had no inkling that a pandemic would disrupt our lives. Even when I wrote the final draft, last summer, I didn’t fully grasp the reverberations and costs of being distanced from each other, so profoundly, for so long. It is only in returning to more normalcy that I can sense my own grief, especially for my children who have had several important years of development stalled or disrupted; I wonder what the consequences are; and I hope for reunion, for occasions at which we can come together, collectively, to celebrate and have fun and be together. Be together. Feel together. Pull together. Thrive together.

2022-05-31_11-29-46Francie’s Got a Gun is about people trying their best, individually, and collectively, to respond to challenges in their midst — within their own families, their closest relationships, their friendships, and their community. They are flawed, or distracted, or struggling, or sheltered, or raw, or imaginative, or hungry, but they’re all hopeful in some way; and they are trying to come together.

2022-05-31_11-29-06This is what I’m thinking about today, on the last day of the month of May, when usually I’d be writing my “May Reflections.”

Here they are, in brief:

What felt good this month? Running in the park. Feeding lots of people around the table. Writing funny scenes in a new novel.

What did you struggle with? How to parent. Setting boundaries. Waking in the middle of the night, mind racing. Disaster thinking.

Where are you now compared to at the beginning of the month? Less certain. More questioning, more worried than I’d like to be. Thankful for my notebook. Thankful for habits that re-set my mind, and direct my focus toward my heart.

How did you take care of yourself? Drawing, writing, attempting to get to bed on time. Good food. Walks with friends. Laughter. Listening to music. Running and yoga. Planting seeds for future social events, big and small. Pouring out my thoughts on paper. Weighing my words and actions. Participating when invited.

What would you most like to remember? What it feels like to soak in the atmosphere at a big, collective event organized for young people: to be specific, yesterday, at my youngest’s junior high track meet — the first meet that’s been held (for my kids anyway) since 2019!

xo, Carrie

Road trip photo album

IMG_20220520_174346_417Friday morning. Waiting to cross at the border beside what appears to be the best dog ever. Maybe this will be Kevin and Rose 10 years from now?

20220521_112613Saturday morning. Posing with the birthday girl on her 100th.

20220521_174338Saturday evening. At the birthday banquet. It happens that our eldest shares a birthday with his great-grandma, and this was a big one — 21. He was a good sport about everything.

20220522_144313Sunday afternoon. Packed up to go drive home. What looks like a picnic stop. But is not.

20220522_144240Nope. It’s a Walmart parking lot. Tire damaged on Michigan highway needs replacing before we drive home. Walmart the only repair shop open. When I took this photo we were still optimistic about travelling home as a group.

20220522_144013This is a wetland, apparently, fenced off and beside the Walmart parking lot. I closed my eyes for a moment, seeking peace, and heard a lot of birdsong. Still feeling optimistic.

20220522_144001Optimism diminishing. Can’t drive home on donut tire. Can’t replace tire today. Will we all stay or will some get to drive home with Grandpa? Quick decisions made. One kid left behind with parents.

Somehow I neglected to take any photos of the lovely campus and guesthouse where we spent the weekend, including an extra night — with the one child who was left behind with his parents.

IMG_20220523_210932_686Sunday evening. I was feeling pretty grim after the kids drove off for Canada. I was worrying about … well, everything. But good company, and a walk to Ricky’s Taqueria for supper was soul-reviving.

20220523_114420A lot happened this weekend, more than is suitable for a blog post. I think I could write a novella.

During a brief visit to the land of self-pity, I thought, this is a nightmare! And then I heard what I’d just told myself, and I gave my head a shake — c’mon, Carrie, this is hardly a nightmare, it’s a minor inconvenience! You’re not feeling great right now because you’re anxious and you don’t know what will happen next, but you’ve got somewhere safe to stay, good food, the resources to fix your damaged car, and if all goes well, you’ll be reunited with your family within a day.

My brain tends toward disaster thinking. What is it good for, disaster thinking? I’d love to learn how to prevent it altogether, but my sense is that instead I’ll have to keep noticing my personal tendency to imagine the worst (in vivid detail) and find ways to turn away from indulging that tendency, over and over. (It helps to have a partner who counters my fears with, “Okay, but what if everything works out?”)

20220523_195300Monday evening. Everything worked out. Called a bunch of repair shops, early, found a friendly voice with the tires in stock. Tire fixed. Car survived return trip on Michigan highways. Miraculously home in time to host a birthday dinner for our 21-year-old. While we were still en route, the cake was baked by one of the children who’d gotten to go home early.

20220521_183737You know what else I’ve got? Great role models. Happy birthday to this exceptional woman, who is always looking up, and looking forward to what comes next.

xo, Carrie

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My name is Carrie Snyder. I'm a fiction writer, reader, editor, dreamer, arts organizer, workshop leader, forever curious. I believe words are powerful, storytelling is healing, and art is for everyone.

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