Category: Confessions

October reflections

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October Reflections

  1. What felt good this month? This is a challenging question to start with. It’s been a hard month. What’s felt good? There have been some things! Methodically digging into my novel-rewrite has felt good and necessary. Writing a reflective essay for The Scales Project was absolutely wonderful. Thankfully, my long-established habits and routines have kept me afloat: running and yoga, even if the morning runs now happen in the dark. No matter how bleak I’ve felt, I get out of bed and exercise at an early hour, five mornings a week. Hanging out in Kevin’s “back yard shack” is the best, especially with friends. On Fridays, Kevin and I have been ordering take-out and eating outside by the fake fire, just the two of us. And my studio is a warm, welcoming cocoon to retreat to, for writing, planning, reading, stretching, relaxing, napping.
  2. What did you struggle with? Depression, in all honesty. I had some lows that felt lower than usual, and I stayed low longer. Thankfully, I was able to reach out and get help. And the help helped. I noticed that what also helped was digging more deeply into my writing work. It was a life raft, keeping me afloat, giving me purpose when the days felt otherwise blank and empty. Cooking and chores actually helped too. I think it’s a privilege to be needed, or to feel certain that one’s work is valuable and valued. I’m not always convinced of that, and that’s when I fall down into the deepest holes. This feels like a pretty dark confession. But I’m compelled to say these things out loud, because shame thrives on silence, and because I think others may be feeling similarly, especially anyone who’s lost their job, or is in a liminal period in their life. Purpose and meaning make life worthwhile. It can be hard to function without being connected to that.
  3. Where are you now compared to the beginning of the month? I can’t really grasp where I was at the beginning of the month, which makes it difficult to compare. Apparently I was feeling calm at the end of September? Given that I’m on about draft five of trying to answer this question, what I’m feeling right now seems to be distracted, discombobulated, and wondering what the heck is going to happen. The American election is three days away, and I’m feeling wary of false optimism, and wary of “endings,” especially of this belief in some definitive happy ending that appears as if by magic. If the pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that the answers in a crisis, as in ordinary life, change with the circumstances, require monitoring and reassessment, and must shift to take many factors into consideration. In other words: there are no easy answers. Related to this, at least in my confused mind: It seems a particularly American flaw to admire the huckster, the grifter, the entertainer, the fraud — the person who can make a buck out of nothing more than a talent for deception — and even though I’m a fiction writer, I don’t believe in personal deception as a solution to life’s challenges.
  4. How did you take care of yourself? Meditation, podcasts, reading silly mysteries, stretching, naps on my warm office floor, kundalini yoga, walks with friends, running, yoga, a regular bedtime, beer on the weekends.
  5. What would you most like to remember? I’m not going to remember much from this last month. But one really happy memory is the afternoon I drove the kids out to the country to pick up our Thanksgiving turkey. It was raining, the turkey line was long, and absolutely no one complained. The kids went over to the barn area and watched the chickens, pigs, and cows, and petted the dogs. No one was in a rush. The outing was mellow, chilled-out, and completely satisfying, and would only have happened in covid-times, when we’re all kind of starved for entertainment and stimulation, and a drive to the country to watch a chicken drink from a waterspout counts as memorable.
  6. What do you need to let go of? I’ll let go of my need for things to happen, maybe. Or no. I’ll let go of my need for things to happen in a particular way, according to expectation. I’ll celebrate when I respond according to my values, and forgive myself for not being perfect or better or best.

xo, Carrie

What to do when you’re having a bad day

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What to do when having a bad day? Or a bad couple of days? What does that even mean, to have a bad day?

For me, it means feeling extremely low in spirit. And it happens. I’m trying to track these low days, to figure out whether there is a pattern. On Monday, on my desk calendar, I wrote: “feeling very low.” On Tuesday: “still low.” Today I didn’t write anything, probably because I am feeling a bit better.

I’ve noticed a few things, during these low couple of days.

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First, I noticed that I’d quit Twitter and hadn’t replaced that social media scroll with anything in particular … which sounds amazing and very healthy and all the rest of it, but in fact, has contributed to this low feeling, because Twitter and doomscrolling was exactly as soothing as any addiction, it was a distraction from my own inner life, and without it, I’m left facing: my own inner life.

And a whole collection of anxieties, fears, doubts, and nameless sadness lurks inside here. It was easier not to notice when I was busy distracting myself.

This is the push of the pandemic as a whole. It dares us to pause and observe what’s waiting to be noticed underneath our once-busy schedules, our racing around, our frantic quests for acknowledgement and personal satisfaction. Here I am.

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What’s come up this week is a recognition that I’m still struggling to come to peace with certain childhood indignities, specifically the feeling of being an outsider always looking in but never fully understanding what’s going on (we moved often, and lived in a few different countries); being an outsider gave me the gift of observation, but what I’ve been more reluctant to acknowledge is that it also dug a hole of insecurities that manifests in unlikeable and unpleasant ways when I’m feeling … well … low …

Oh, how I attempt to protect myself from even the smallest rejection, from loss, from disappointment.

For example. I had a mini-tantrum at the dinner table several nights ago, when I wanted the last piece of pie and didn’t get it. I could have had a tart instead, but I wanted that last piece of pie and, also, I thought my children should have appreciated and loved me enough to give me the last piece of pie. (They may not have seen that piece of pie in quite the same way). I said (and this is an exact quote): “If I don’t get what I want, I don’t want anything at all.” I might as well have stomped my foot before running out of the room. I mean, I didn’t. I spoke in a calm and rational (if petulant) tone, but the words and the feeling were undeniably childish; and I did leave the room. One of my kids said, Mom, I can’t tell if you’re kidding right now. And my inner child said, I’m not kidding!

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This got me thinking about two guiding principles I’ve been living by, and would like to stop living by, mostly because I hadn’t realized until recently that I was living by them.

The first is: Save it for later.

The second is: If I don’t get what I want, I don’t want anything at all. Or: I’d rather quit than lose.

Save it for later, as my siblings could tell you, goes back to early childhood, when I would hoard my Easter bunny, uneaten, for MONTHS. The end result, predictably, was that the candy became completely inedible, melting into a sticky disgusting mass hidden away in my sock drawer. This had the effect of not only depriving me of enjoying the original treat, but also of depriving anyone else of enjoying it too. It’s quite possible that I actually didn’t like chocolate Easter bunnies and could have given the candy away to my brothers; but I didn’t. Instead, I hoarded it like I was preparing for the apocalypse. The perfect time to eat it simply never came. Note to self: It never will.

I still do this. I’m trying to change that. I’m trying to eat the chocolate now, or share it, if I don’t want it. I’m trying to treat myself, and others, to little luxuries, today, right now. It takes practice. It’s a pretty sweet practice to practice, though.

I guess the outlook is to change from a scarcity mindset to a mindset of plenty, of abundance; not hedonism, but simply enough.

I’d rather quit than lose, my siblings could also probably weigh in on. Suffice it to say, it’s a shitty way to live a life. And I’ve only just noticed that this tendency is bubbling up in me again; thought I’d cured it over the years by committing to do a bunch of things I was guaranteed never going to win at—like running races, or coaching soccer.

This mindset comes with its own sub-mindset that is a bit more complicated, but summarizes roughly as: If this is as good as I’m going to get, I’m outta here. It’s about sensing when I’m reaching my own limitations and becoming frustrated with my inability to progress. I know this was part of what frustrated me with coaching, and with teaching; I was okay at both, learned lots and absorbed lots pretty quickly, but plateaued: it would have taken so much work to get even incrementally better, and it started not to seem worth it. I don’t like being okay at things. I like to be (dare I say it?) the best.

I’m going to dare to say it, because it’s my only chance of excavating that belief, and leaving it by the side of the road.

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To sum up (should I even try to sum up this mess of a post???) …

Remove an addiction and you’re going to notice issues surfacing that were conveniently masked by said addiction.

This is a bit scary. But maybe your childhood self has some messages you’ll be able to hear again. Maybe you’d like a shot at changing some of those things that are, admittedly, painful, even excruciatingly painful, embarrassing, humiliating, frightening, etc., to notice.

One last thing: Make sure to tell someone if you’re feeling low. It’s really really hard, and it really really helps, just to confess out loud: I’m struggling here. Here’s the thing: other people can’t read your mind. I know it’s hard. But reach out and tell someone. The alternative is to keep sinking lower and lower, and that becomes quite a dangerous thing. Just so you know, I did reach out and talk to someone, and it made me feel almost instantly better. Didn’t fix the lowness, exactly, but immediately I felt less alone. My inner child was so relieved.

Find your safe person, or a counsellor. Please. A bad day can feel like the end of the world; it doesn’t have to be. You might feel selfish or foolish or ashamed to be asking for help, especially if you’re seen as (or see yourself as) a high-functioning person who wears a mask of competence. We’ve all got our masks on, and sometimes the person behind the mask just needs to take it off and be seen.

My goal is keep my mask off. Someday. Meanwhile, I’ll be over here, helping my inner child through the important life experience of not getting the last piece of pie.

xo, Carrie

Questions for an intolerable moment

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Be clear with yourself. It’s a practice worth practicing.

Be clear even when it’s uncomfortable. Be clear, even if you’re worried you’re letting someone else down.

This week has not been my best (see previous post …), but I’ve been noticing that it helps, in uncomfortable moments, to ask myself: What do you want to do? Are you doing it?

I almost always know the answer.

And just asking brings me into the present moment.

I can say, yes, this is actually what I want to be doing. Or hell no, it’s not.

If I am doing what I want to do, it becomes so much easier to keep doing it, but with a new perspective, a feeling of agency and freedom. Hey, this is what I’ve chosen to do! Maybe it’s harder than I expected, or maybe it’s not bringing up the feelings I’d anticipated, but I want to do it, I’ve chosen to do it, so I’m going to get on with doing it.

If it’s not, I can dig a bit, and find out whether the situation is changeable; often it is, even if it isn’t. By which I mean, often, the thing I’m doing that I don’t want to do is made less tolerable by what’s going on inside my head. An imaginary conversation. A pointless outrage. An excited or anxious or fraught connection to something that actually has no connection to my immediate well-being.

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So, I ask:

Are you okay?

What do you want to do?

(And I remind myself: Don’t worry about what you think everyone else might want you to do — let go of imaginary projections. What do you, Carrie Anne Snyder, want to do?)

Oh. Okay, well, I’m right here, running in the rain, and what I want is to take the long way home, and there’s time, and my body can handle it, and now that I know these things, I’m feeling the rain and the wind on my face, and the breath in my lungs, and I’m okay. I know I’m okay. This is what I want to do, and I’m doing it.

xo, Carrie

This too shall pass, right?

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Confession: Today, it feels like I’m totally out of juice. I’m out of steam. I’m bored of myself. I’ve reached an intense sensation of ENOUGH! My impatience with, well, everything that seems to cross my field of vision is competing only with my indifference. It’s unusual that I feel like I don’t care. Today, I don’t care. I just want to be finished with the presidency of Donald Trump, and also the pandemic, and, autocracy and incompetence and gaslighting and gilded mediocrity and the racism infecting all of our systems. I’m done with people going hungry in countries like ours where there should be enough. I’m finished with people getting rich off people being poor. My own life is pretty sweet and easy. Objectively, I’ve had a pretty sweet and easy day, writing, biking, running, laundry, helping a kid make supper. So I shouldn’t feel done or tired or like switching off. But I do. I hope this too shall pass. This too shall pass, right? But what comes next and will it get worse, and sadder and harder? There are some people I want to hug.

xo, Carrie

Abandoned twitter thread

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The darkest hour is before the dawn (says who?), but I don’t think we’re there yet. Our planet flares with alarms, and I keep scrolling the news like it’s entertainment. Like it’ll make a difference to know more and more, somehow. Like I’ll reach the end and go: there, done, at last, problem solved! 1

(Anonymous commenter: “The darkest hour is actually midnight.”)

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The equality we’ve fought for is tenuous, incomplete, and may erode further. What hope is there that we humans on planet Earth will work together, pull together, row in a direction that honours difference, blesses the frail, lifts up everyone who is in pain? Where does it hurt? What’s your story? 2

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Vote? Of course! I’ve got my ballot filled in, ready to mail back to Ohio. I will take deep breaths and hope. One voice, one gesture, one act of faith. But VOTE is not enough to fix what’s broken. Dividing, degrading, self-dealing; cynicism. What does democracy mean? For the people, by the people? Also, a corporation is a person?? Also, send more money? 3

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Don’t pretend the end justifies the means. We live in the means! If you lie and cheat to win, you’re not a winner, you’re a liar and a cheat. If the only way to win is at all-costs, I’d rather be the sucker who spoke her heart and lost. 4

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My heroes are the ones who saw the long road ahead and walked onward toward a light and promise they knew wouldn’t be found in their own lifetimes. Or maybe ever. But they saw it and articulated it. Our better selves. Where everyone will have enough, and dignity too. 5

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Where love not greed rules. What I see: my brothers sisters friends strangers the ground underfoot the air trees stars the living oceans are of me and I of them. All of us humans are flawed, broken, in need. To share is to receive but also to give. 6

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Look at this bountiful world. End

xo, Carrie

The kind of story we need right now

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The Sunflowers, by Mary Oliver

Come with me

into the field of sunflowers.

Their faces are burnished disks,

their dry spines

creak like ship masts,

their green leaves,

so heavy and many,

fill all day with the sticky

sugars of the sun.

Come with me

to visit the sunflowers,

they are shy

but want to be friends;

they have wonderful stories

of when they were young —

the important weather,

the wandering crows.

Don’t be afraid

to ask them questions!

Their bright faces,

which follow the sun,

will listen, and all

those rows of seeds —

each one a new life!

hope for a deeper acquaintance;

each of them, though it stands

in a crowd of many,

like a separate universe,

is lonely, the long work

of turning their lives

into a celebration

is not easy. Come

and let us talk with those modest faces,

the simple garments of leaves,

the coarse roots in the earth

so uprightly burning.

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Say you were invited to hold a sunflower, and examine it, while reading and thinking about these words in Mary Oliver’s poem. Say you were invited to respond by asking questions of the sunflower, or listening to the sunflower ask you questions. What would come into your mind, and onto the page? On Friday evening, outside around a fire pit, my friend Jen led a small group of us in this meditation. It was already, newly dark, and we used cellphones to illuminate the page and look at our sunflowers. which another friend had cut down and brought from her yard. Several of us found bees nestled into the flowers.

This is what I wrote.

“… the long work / of turning their lives / into a celebration / is not easy. / Come //”

Some solutions seem so simple

I will paint my office door the bright yellow

of this sunflower’s petals

I will spend the whole day reading a book

I will stretch and breathe

But when restlessness turns inside me

what should I do then, Sunflower, tell me?

When I am afraid

that my service is too meagre

and I can’t think what to do to be a

better person — what should I do, Sunflower?

The restlessness, the sense of longing

of energy unused or squandered

The list of all the harms I’ve caused

shuffling round and round inside me —

Tell me, what should I do

to fix these feelings, Sunflower?

It is true I hear you humming

Too tall, cut down, a living

bee nested in your blossom that has not

bloomed, tucked beneath the brighter face of you

You are humming not an answer

but a blessing with a sting:

Get on with living

You are not between two points

like a traveller on a train stalled between

destinations, you are in the only place

in which you are as you are — alive

and very you

Do you remember when you saw a whole

field of us, sunflowers, calling you

and you drove on, you said, It’s not

my field, I would be a trespasser?

You were right enough

But we’ve found you anyway, again

as you are. Come

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Tomorrow, I would like to write a post about the new colour of my office door, and the books I’ve been reading, and the ways I’m seeking to connect, and to learn and listen, and find antidotes to fear and despair, but for today, I invite you to find your own sunflower and ask it some questions. Whimsical, fanciful? Yup. Uncomfortable, weird? Maybe. Silly, frivolous? Try it and see for yourself.

xo, Carrie

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