Category: Big Thoughts

Wondering and wandering in Blogland

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I’ve been reading other people’s blogs. I’ve been reading and wondering and wandering. My mind is impatient this morning, and more than a bit weary. Up early for a swim. Second swim in three days. I am fit, but I don’t feel strong, not running. Which makes me wonder: what am I seeking in my quest to stay fit, if it isn’t to be fit? My routine is fairly grinding, but I hardly missing a planned work-out. Why? I don’t have an answer. I wonder if I will find one, and whether I will like it, or not.

Here’s what I’m doing tonight. I tried to post the poster, but it didn’t work: my siblings’ band Kidstreet is playing in town. I am staying up late to go dancing!

More napping needed.

I’m trying not to think about the dentist appointment booked for tomorrow morning at 7:30 (who does that to herself?). Or the dr’s appointment the next day. Or plans to go out Friday night, and to throw a scotch party here on Saturday night. Which will mean cleaning this whole disastrous kid-friendly house. Which means I’m trying not to think about the living-room, either, strewn end to end with the tiniest toys the children could find to strew about. I’m not thinking about the missing library book, due Friday, already renewed to the allowable limit of times, and nowhere to be blinking found. While I’m at, I’ll try not to think about the half hour I already spent on my hands and knees this morning looking under things for this book while cursing the tiny toys strewn about everywhere.

Instead, I will think about lunch. And coffee. And napping. And blogging. I found some great posts out there this morning. My friend Rebecca blogs about taking a week off from blogging due to feelings of inadequacy. She ends with a quote from Marianne Williamson, which coincidentally my yoga teacher read out to our class on Saturday evening, and which I meant to share here, but it slipped away in my shavasana daydream: “It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.” And yet. My virtual friend Kerry blogs about Gabrielle Giffords, and how the miracle of her very survival is yet somehow not enough for the narrative of redemption that has been foisted upon it. How we crave the light of redemption and recovery, we want that story. “The narrative of her ‘recovery’ has been so remarkable for its falseness, for its abject denial of the realities of brain injury,” writes Kerry; the piece is worth reading in full.

I have to tell you. My darkness frightens me. But maybe it’s true that my light does too. Marianne Williamson’s quote goes on: “We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.”

Can we play big, be our better selves, and be truthful about the darkness in each of us, the inadequacies, the mysteries, the wondering and wandering, the good luck and the bad? Well, yes. I think so. I think that might be why I blog.

Who begins too much?

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Found this German saying in the newspaper this morning: “Who begins too much accomplishes little.”

Uh oh. Is that me? As I woke at 5am, churned away at spin class, got home, ate breakfast, threw laundry in washer, thought about working on the writing project I’m developing, checked email instead, received message on how to use my camera better, spent next hour and a half playing with camera settings and taking random photos around the house, finally sat down at desk to work and started a new blog post. This one.

All the while, this is my morning to work while Kev hangs out with the kids. ie. my time is limited! And what have I done? Is it my habit to dart from project to project, from activity to activity, never fully developing the potential of any?

Maybe my word of the year should be focus. Or choose. Or limits.

Ugh. I don’t want a word like that. I want to do too many things. Not just do them, but master them, become expert at them. IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?

(Yes it is, at least all at once, if experience is any guide.)

But everything in me wants to deny it. Wants to embrace the opportunities, chase all interests, learn with a hungry and curious mind.

Look at it this way:

**This morning I challenged my body and put in time and effort toward racing goals this summer.

**This morning I ate breakfast with my kids.

**This morning I learned something new and useful: how to adjust the aperture and shutter speed settings on my camera manually, and what effect these previously mysterious numbers have on the outcome of the photos I take every day.

**This morning I recorded, briefly, where my mind is at.

**This morning I connected with friends in person and via email.

And now I am going to open a word processing file and spend an hour, **this morning, working on The Big Fat Juicy Belly Worm. Yup. My project in development is a story for children. I read the first chapter to my kids last night, and I think they’d like to hear another one. What could be more motivating?

Sorry, German saying. You’re probably right, but I’m going with my manic energy this morning.

***

On a completely different note, this blog post titled “Read and Loved in 2011” by The Keepin’ It Real Book Club reached out of the blue and touched me **this morning. Read it and see for yourself.

Birthday girl

Well, that’s me. On my original birthday. It’s been awhile since I looked like that. Soon after this photo was taken I developed a wicked red rash and all photos for the next few months (and there were plenty; I was the first child) show the homeliest infant you can imagine, though I did exude a lot of personality. I was not an easy baby: a screamer with stamina. In one of my favourite baby photos, I’m standing stiff-legged in the palm of my dad’s hand, probably about six months old. Strong and determined. And grinning ear-to-ear.

I haven’t had the chance to blog over the holidays, which is a good indication of an excellent holiday, and a busy one. The photos posted yesterday equal the sum total of decent photos I took this Christmas season. (With the exception of some adorable captures of my beautiful nephew, but I didn’t want to confuse you by including him in my wordless album post–Hey, Carrie’s got an extra kid, when did that happen?) I didn’t take many photos, truth to be told. This year, I felt pulled to participate in the moments rather than record them.

My birthday falls at the perfect time for annual summations and dreaming ahead. On the night before my birthday, for the past number of years, I’ve stayed awake until midnight, and written something in my journal about the year past and my hopes for the one to come. Since I rarely write anything by hand anymore (and thank heavens for that–my printing is virtually illegible, even to me), the journal contains a series of snapshots, which I re-read every December 28th with a mixture of sadness and appreciation. It gives me a sense of movement and change. I catch glimpses of the groundwork being laid that allowed for major life shifts in attitude. Change is slow. And you never know what will actually change when you choose to do something different, or try something new, or leave something behind. Change is rarely predictable. We go where we’re going, not necessarily where we point ourselves.

But it’s helpful to point ourselves too–beyond helpful, actually. It’s critical to be alert and reflective and not to avoid recognizing the things that hurt. I would never speak against plotting and planning and organizing and trying your best. Just leave plenty of room for free-form leaps in your carefully laid plains. Leave space for rest and enjoyment. Be kind–to yourself and to everyone around you. That’s perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned over the years. And the best advice of all is To thy own self be true.

Making peace with the last-minute scramble

There is no snow. This is a photo from last week, when ever so briefly snow fell and stayed. Now it has rained for days. The wishful thinker in me imagines the piles of snow that would have accumulated between then and now had the temperature been lower, the possiblities for snow forts and snowmen and seasonal festiveness. The practical thinker in me says: Remember shovelling? And scraping the windshield? Remember bad drivers?

Ah, but remember the sound of the snow, the muffling effect, the crunch underfoot, remember crispy eyelashes after a long run.

This morning was one of those mornings when I spent about ten chaotic minutes wishing things could go more smoothly. The obvious every day things like: getting all of the children out the door, along with all of their possessions, and their homework completed. But maybe that last-minute flurry is just the way that it is and ever will be. Maybe I should apprciate all that we managed to accomplish this morning, despite the last-minute scramble.

– I swam 2.5km
– Kevin and Albus swam for half an hour (AppleApple was too exhausted from her multifaceted weekend to get up early)
– supper was started in the crockpot
– six people ate a healthy breakfast
– a load of laundry went into the machine
– Albus completed homework that was due last Wednesday and only discovered at 9pm last night (well, at least he did it; I hope there’s a lesson in there somewhere)
– Fooey practiced piano
– the after-school walk home was arranged
– everyone took their vitamins
– Fooey took her medicine (she’s on antibiotics for strep)
– I talked to FedEx to arrange couriering the page proofs to my publisher
– everyone except Fooey got out the door; most were even wearing appropriate footwear
– I remembered to call the school re Fooey’s absence today
– no one was late

And it wasn’t even 9am.

Is there a better way? It’s so tempting to think that there must be, that life can always be improved upon (and I’m not advocating staying in a rut of obviously wrong behavior). But maybe sometimes there actually isn’t a better way. Maybe sometimes I need to take a deep breath and gut through those ten minutes of chaos, and appreciate everything that is working.

Yes, this photo is blurred. But within the blur, the colours seem brighter, and the body positions more expressive. I should make something of that. Observe that it mimics our perception of time when mothering small children, the way the days disappear into a blur, and some small detail remains in memory, a flash of colour, a story that gets passed down and requested at bedtime.

Today, I am thinking about motivation. I am thinking about sitting down at my desk and writing into a story that may or may not become a novel that may or may not succeed. What keeps me sitting back down and writing more, not knowing what may come of it? I think it must be hope. I’ve read that people with depression have an inability to imagine the future; instead, they see an unchanging blank. I’ve got whatever is the opposite, though it’s got its downsides, too. Let’s call it an over-active imagination. I get excited about the future based on the slimmest of evidence. My happiest daydreams fling me far and wide through adventure and thrill and accomplishment. “What was I just thinking about?” I’ll wonder, returning to earth with a glowing feeling, and then I’ll remember, oh yes, I was thinking about being interviewed by Eleanor Wachtel. Or about training as a midwife and travelling to Central America to practice. Or about recording myself playing an original song on the piano and becoming a star on YouTube. Heh.

Is it healthy to daydream such big, such ridiculous, such clearly out-of-reach dreams? I’m not sure. But some of the things I’ve dreamed have come true. I dreamed of becoming a published writer, long before anyone else would have dreamed it of me. I dreamed of motherhood. I dreamed of completing a triathlon before I could even swim. Of course, the original dream was that I could become an Olympic triathlete, and reality whittled that fantasy back down to size. But that’s okay. Even if the original dream was wildly over-ambitious, it sent me on a path toward actual achievement.

Almost always (or is that always always?) the daydream is realized in watered-down and compromised form. Reality has mosquitos and critics and temper tantrums. It has limitations. Daydreams don’t.

Lately, I’ve been daydreaming about writing this story. I would like to sit down and just do it, but I seem to need the daydreams to carry me over the fear of failure, the doubt that it will add up to anything special. I also need tangible goals. So I’m going to do something I’ve never tried before. I’m going to write in volume. I’m going to participate in November’s National Novel-Writing Month, even though I’ve disdained it for years (who can force the muse to show her face?) It’s abbreviated as Na-No-Wri-Mo for the hashtag on Twitter, and I’m going to tweet my progress. My goal is 30,000 words by the end of the month.

Because daydreams are shiny happy places in which to linger, but you have to get to work if you’re going to leave a flash of colour in the blur of reality.

The progress of porch, continued

Here’s where the house was on Friday. If you’re thinking, that window looks too small, well, you’re right. On Monday, I took no pictures, though a lot of progres was made throughout the day, including board on the outside and drywall on the inside. The windows also went in, and the more I looked, the more I knew in my gut that the size was wrong, and that we had to figure out how to fix it. I was pretty upset.

Thankfully, this story has a happy ending. The builders did not hesitate even a moment. They worked all the next day to fix the problem. They were cheerful and positive and stayed until after dark, until the new new windows were in. I have nothing but good things to say about the way they solved the problem.

And just look at the results of their efforts. The board and batten is on. The windows let in lots of light. When I stood in the room, quietly, by myself, on Tuesday night, I felt at peace, calm, grateful. What I appreciated most was the builders’ professionalism. They transformed what seemed overwhelming (to me, in the moment), into something relatively minor and entirely fixable.

(It would have been major had we done nothing about it, of course; but that’s a good reminder: even problems that seem overwhelming can be faced head-on and tackled with goodwill and expertise. Yes. That’s me, adding a moral to the story. Can’t help myself, folks.)

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