Ordinary wonder

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Yesterday, whilst braving the mall in search of nice jeans for work (you have to try on jeans, you cannot order them online), I stopped by the Indigo bookstore and signed new paperback copies of Francie’s Got a Gun. And then this morning, I biked down to the CBC-KW studio for a live interview on our local morning radio show. It was fun; in fact, both experiences felt easier and lighter than promotional work has in the past.

Biking home, I was bursting with gratitude. Gratitude to all my wise counsellors, therapists (official and otherwise) and friends. Gratitude to an ongoing meditation and movement practice that reminds me to breathe and be inside my body. I would not wish to suggest that I am content with my life all of the time. But I am ever more at peace with what I can and cannot give and receive from being a writer. Let my writing be ever more integrated into the fullness of the ordinary; integrated, not elevated. Integrated and enjoyed and appreciated.

Getting to be alive, to breathe and move and help and hug and hold and care and learn and grow and fall and be held—what I hope for is the chance to say THANK YOU for all of this through writing; but there are other ways to say thank you, too, which I’m getting to know and appreciate all the more, through every day ordinary experiences. “Ordinary Wonder Tales,” as per the title of my friend Emily Urquhart’s wonder-filled book of folklore mingled with memoir.

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My sense of purpose and gratitude is activated through my job-job, and elsewhere in other points of connection, the little confluences and bumps and unexpected interactions that come along the way, especially as I’ve been willing to be in the world. Listening. Asking questions. Acts of service and kindness. Kindness to myself radiating outward. Paying attention. Solving small problems. Lowering the bar. Prayer. “Joy snacks.” Presence.

Caring.

I know caring isn’t super-cool. But when have I ever been cool?? (If you want to feel very old and very not-cool, go to the mall, go into a store selling jeans, and try on a bunch while asking for sizing advice from a genuinely kind young man who is approximately the age of your own children, and you will actively achieve humility.) In any case … the truth is that I really do care about the people I’m with and the energy I exude.

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And I’m thankful, heart-deep, for the wonders of getting to be alive in this broken, challenged, grieving, complicated and beautiful world. I’m in awe of what we get to do here on planet earth, in the little scrap of time we’re given. It’s kind of amazing, isn’t it?

xo, Carrie

Summer Carrie, progress report

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Summer Carrie is here. Summer Carrie is traveling, swimming, reading, hanging laundry on the line, doing copious amounts of yoga, walking with friends, hosting family, eating entire cucumbers, picking backyard berries, and soaking in the sunshine (and rain).

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Will I finish my summer writing project? Will I learn how to watercolour flowers? Will I eat enough cherries to last me all year? When will I see the Barbie movie? Can anyone slice a watermelon better than my dad? Why are so many people from my past visiting in my dreams? Do the ones I love know that I love them, do I tell them often enough, and in languages that speak directly to their hearts? Should I aim for more sleep and rest, or more play and fun? Am I brave enough to do all the things I’ve said yes to?

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Oh goodness.

xo, Carrie

Summer groove

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Today is a “stacked” day. Stacked days, as I call them, contain lots of little off-task activities—kind of a hodgepodge; but deliberately organized this way. On “stacked” days, I settle into the activities as they come, and I accept that the writing groove will be shallow at best.

To get into a writing groove, time matters, and space, breathing room. The fewer the distractions the better. I place my phone in a different room.

It’s taken a minute or two to switch gears from the comfort of the job-job routine to the hoped-for summer writing groove—but it’s happened! I’ve found my summer writing project (or it’s found me, more accurately), which means I’ve found my summer bliss. First, I had to remember that I know how to do this—create routine and structure (the bliss of the job-job is not having to create routine and structure, just falling into and going with the flow).

Week one of the summer holiday was all frenetic, distracted seeking. But the first three days of this week have had space for the writing groove. Today is “stacked.” Tomorrow will be writing-focused again. And so it goes.

I am in a groove, I have a project.

The challenge—my particular challenge in this particular mind and body—is to appreciate the bliss of the now. The present. Settle in and enjoy this (because is it ever blissful to be energized and called by a writing project!). Fact is, I’m oriented toward the future. I love making plans, lists, setting up the day. I strongly dislike seeing my plans dislodged in any way. But to enjoy the present, a person has to be prepared to see her plans change.

If a child says, hey Mom, want to go for a walk with me, the answer is yes, no matter the inconvenience to the original plotted line. Plot lines. I like ‘em. I make ‘em. And they work best when I’m willing to break ‘em from time to time.

Summer writing groove; job-job joy; routines and the breaking of them. This is roundabout way of saying that mindfulness has changed, is changing, changes me daily.

Every morning, upon waking, I practice yoga and meditate. Every night before bed, I practice yoga and meditate. I’ve been doing this twice-daily since last fall; before that, daily for the past three years. What does this practice provide? Breath paired with conscious movement, breath paired with conscious stillness: twice daily, I am returned to my body. I close my eyes and feel my body from the inside out. Clarity, grounding, peace, patience, attention.

Mindfulness has attuned me to the possibility in all moments of joy, bliss, connection, love. I listen differently. I hope for different things. You are here, my daily practice reminds me, you are here, you are here. Enjoy this.

xo, Carrie

Summer to-do list

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With this new job, I now have summer holidays. Today I’ll be visiting the school where I’ll be running the library this fall (and I’m ridiculously excited about this). I’m going to count the bulletin boards and start making plans for displays, and visualize the layout, and check on the supply of book tape, and who knows what else. Maybe I’ll aim to get some plants if there are nice windows. 

Re this blog: I will be stopping in to post whenever the spirit moves me, and maybe it will move me a bit more in the summer. I’ll have time, and that makes a difference.

Also in the time department: I won’t be teaching creative writing this coming year. There is a freeze on hiring Arts sessionals at the University of Waterloo, so I’m out. I’ve never climbed above the level of sessional lecturer here. I will miss the students (and spending time with young people), but will be busy with my new job (and spending time with even younger people).

I wonder whether I’ll want to pursue something else on the side, if I’m not teaching—say, a library tech degree (?!) or a watercolour class just for fun, or yoga teacher training, or … no idea really, just curious to discover whether some other interest will bubble up and fill in the spaces that remain. Something creative or academic to stimulate other parts of myself? Or will I leave the spaces as spaces and just breathe?

In the meanwhile, I’ve been making a summer to-do list.

The first three items: 

* Rest

* Sleep

* Read

Aren’t rest and sleep the same thing? I wondered, writing them down.

My kids tell me I’m not good at relaxing. They might be onto something. Except at the cottage, where relaxing is all that I do. So I’m trying to figure out why that time feels so different—why I’m able to rest, sleep, read and relax, without feeling guilt or a nagging sense that I should be doing something else (cleaning something, most likely). Cottage Carrie sleeps for the first few days upon arrival. I sleep in, I take naps, I sleep and sleep and sleep till I’m filled up and fully rested. Only then might I do a little bit more—kayak, swim, read without instantly falling asleep (this is an every day problem!).

So maybe that’s the key: rest and sleep as a way to get into the summer groove. Rest, sleep, read.

After that, my to-do list says: yoga, bike everywhere, nail polish, eye doctor and dentist, shop for “mom jeans” and work tops, shop for child who is moving into university residence this fall, hang out with friends, time with kids, dog walks, park walks, lunch with Dad, occasional run.

I’m not in the summer groove quite yet. Today, the idea of summer holidays almost terrifies me, this emptiness; I want somewhere to go when I wake up in the morning, I want tasks to do, the security of a routine.

But tomorrow I’ll try. Tomorrow is the official start to my holidays. Tomorrow I’ll sleep, rest, read. Or something like that. I’ll make an attempt. Who knows, by the end of this summer, maybe I’ll have mastered the art of relaxing. I’ll be the best relaxer ever! A meditating puddle of zen bliss. Hey, a person can dream.

xo, Carrie

Why give yourself away?

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Dear blog,

You’ve watched me grow and learn, seek and attempt, win and lose. You’ve listened to my rambling observations, and been patient with my scattershot insights. You’ve held everything I handed you. You’ve been a beautiful photo album of these past 15 years, and a container for comical anecdotes, especially during the years of parenting young children. You’ve given me an outlet for my creativity, and allowed me to publish during stretches when no one else did. You were my experiment. You’ve been a home, in a way, a place to come to, to mark moments in time.

I think our relationship, as it has been, is ending. I think that’s okay, the way my relationships with my babies changed as they weaned, or learned how to fall asleep on their own, as we took off the training wheels and watched them whirl away from us. 

I needed you for a long time—for connection with the wider world, and I confess, for validation. Appreciation.

I’ve been finding other ways to fill those needs. So I’ve needed you less and less. You’ve probably noticed. This isn’t goodbye, but it is an acknowledgement of change. A change in direction that’s been happening subtly and meaningfully, over a long span of months, of years. I keep saying to myself: It’s okay. It’s okay. 

It’s okay to grieve change, it’s okay to be excited about change, it’s okay to feel both emotions at the same time—grief and excitement.

I haven’t stopped being myself, at core.

But I am different now, deep into my forties. I don’t feel as comfortable here, in blogland, as I once did. I come to this medium and feel constrained. That’s not the way to write. Some constraint is useful of course, some structure is absolutely necessary; but a sense of self-obstruction, of caution, of carefulness, fear of judgement—that is not useful to writing and creating. 

It never will be. I didn’t used to feel that here, dear blog, but now I do. It’s not you, it’s me. I mean that sincerely. I didn’t used to feel that, dear blog, because my need for affirmation, for being seen, was so great that it outweighed all caution. This is not meant as a critique on blogging or writing publicly or sharing from the heart. This is meant to mark a moment, that is all. The moment is shifting all the time and can’t really be pinned down, but I think where I find myself is gently, tenderly choosing to protect my heart.

I wrote a book once (it never got published) titled “Why Give Yourself Away?” It’s a question that’s returned and returned over many years of writing; it first appeared in a poem I wrote in my mid-teens. So let’s just say it’s been a preoccupying force. I don’t have the answer today, but the question seems both more complicated and more simple.

Why give yourself away?

Well, because you want to. Because you must. Because you feel compelled to. Because of what you’re hoping for in return (whether you know this or not).

But maybe the you that you’re giving is substantively different now, in your current itineration. Maybe what you’re giving away isn’t pieces of your life, recalibrated and reconstituted for consumption; maybe it’s experience itself rendered through the body and mind and words and actions, experience made manifest as compassion and kindness.

Why give yourself away?

What are you giving—that’s my question for myself now. What exactly are you giving away? 

It’s attention. It’s presence. And I’m not giving it away, I’m giving and receiving; I’m discovering its generative properties, how attention given blooms into connection, and warmth, how listening with care is the basis for conflict resolution, how care and caring can only happen freely when no strings are attached, nothing is being asked of the other because you know you are already loved and cared for, because you honour your needs truly. You don’t need to ask for anything in return when you have known and know grace yourself. (It’s idealistic, I’ll confess, but I hope to move toward this way of being in the world.)

Where my writing fits into this, I don’t know at present. 

I don’t know whether I’ll need it in the same way; nor what new or changed goals it may meet or fulfill. I don’t know. I do know that I still love to write in order to find order in the dissonance of experiences. I still love to write to untangle the muddle of my mind. I still love to write to record and reflect and come closer to understanding the world. But it’s just one way of knowing and doing and being. I’m discovering other ways now, too.

All for now.

xo, Carrie

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About me

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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