Birthday, here and now

2021-12-29_12-24-47

Way back when, before I had kids, before I was married, when I was kind of a kid myself, I started a tradition of staying up on “birthday eve” till midnight, writing in my journal, reflecting on the year that had been and the one to come. It’s fitting for the season. I like that my birthday lands on the cusp of things, in liminal time, in between.

Yesterday, I spent some time reflecting on perennial fears and worries, and trying to corral them into sense. This is what it looked like (a mess!):

2021-12-29_12-23-13

Mostly, I was worrying about money. It’s my go-to worry. First in line. A stand-in for all the other worries. It’s like a short-form for will we be okay? But a more practical question is: Are we okay right now? Am I okay, right now? Because no amount of money (or stuff!) will guarantee future okay-ness. So this was where I needed to start, with this messy colour-map; and then reflection led elsewhere.

I noticed how significant people were on my messy map.

I wrote: The people around you seem to appreciate what you’re able to give. And they tolerate your whims.

Images and scenes bubbled up: I remembered driving three girls around the Bruce Peninsula, listening to music, playing cards together till late. I remembered biking with Calvin to swim lessons and sitting on a picnic blanket outside the pool with my laptop, during my intensive writing time. I remembering hosting friends at the cottage; picking late-season tomatoes from my brother and sister-in-law’s garden during a writing retreat with friends; taking my mom to the doctor; reading letters to my Grandma in Indiana; a funny night spent in a roadside motel with my daughters, laughing and hardly sleeping a wink. Big emotions. I remembered some hard conversations, some tears.

I wrote: And these were really good and memorable things to do. Maybe they were even wonderful.

20210724_194002

Of this year to come, I think: Who the heck knows? That’s a gift of living in pandemic times, for those of us who’d imagined we had more control over things — we get to see and feel and know how precarious our plans were all along. I’ve been lucky. I’ve gotten to hunker down with those I love most. We’ve adapted. We’ve had spells of respite and sweetness when gathering is safer, and we’re freer to meet and mingle; those times will come again. This Christmas, we ate scalloped potatoes and ham sandwiches off paper plates in the snow around a fire. It’s easier under these circumstances to know what matters most. We know it because we miss it; we know it because when we get it again, we hold it close.

I wrote: You have enough to do if you just do it. You don’t need to look for new and shiny opportunities. You really just need to focus on deepening your connections to (and faith in) what you’ve already got.

You have a small gift you’ve been fortunate enough to develop — you can write books. So go on and keep doing that and enjoy everything else that surrounds you — your precious friendships; your sibs and their families; your Mom; your Dad; your children and their friends; your life partner and his family; your neighbourhood; your peers, your teachers; your dog; the women who farm your food; your body; your paths; your writing group and your word of the year group; your church; your studio; your work — your work, for heaven’s sake, just do it and do your best and accept what lands and what doesn’t.

That’s my birthday pep talk.

2021-12-29_01-10-34

One final thought: I’ve discovered (re-discovered?) how joyful and fun it is to do things for people who aren’t expecting anything at all — to surprise others (friends, family, acquaintances, strangers) with small gifts or offerings or even just a kind gesture, some tiny act of attention and caring that says: I see you. I’m glad we’re on the planet together at the same time. It’s okay. The truth is, thinking about someone else and how I might lighten a moment in their day gives me more than I can possibly offer. It’s a direct line to hope.

xo, Carrie

What’s rescuing you right now?

2021-12-14_10-39-59

I like to write blog posts on days when I’m feeling grounded, calm, reflective, steady.

Today is not one of those days.

I could blame it on the extra cup of coffee. But of course it’s more than that. There’s more nerve-jangling energy out there right now than I can rightly calculate. Anyone else feeling the urge to hang out a window screaming AUGHHHH at the top of your lungs?

I haven’t tried that yet.

But relief has come here and there.

I led the X Page’s writing club yesterday evening, and for that hour, I was transported via storytelling — digging into my own memories and wandering around, and listening to the stories others unearthed and returned with, each one shining and whole-seeming. The keyword we used was TREE. There were so many different trees! Lemon tree, olive tree, avocado tree, breadfruit tree, fire tree, pine tree, climbing tree, scraggly bush. Each tree took us to a different place, time, space. We were outside. We were in the tree, we were under it, we were worried, we were grieving, we were gathered with others, we were alone and triumphant.

We were transported, away from all this.

Another moment of reprieve: On Tuesday, I had a photo shoot to update my author photo. The last one was taken in 2015, and I’ve gotten so much older. I wear glasses now. I ate a lot of sourdough during the early pandemic. I don’t run as fast or as far. My children are moving away from home. I haven’t gotten dressed up for events since pre-pandemic times. Do I even have anything remotely appropriate to wear?
What is my style now? When I put on makeup, I have to take off my glasses, and everything’s a blur, and did I ever know how to put on makeup properly even back when I could see?

The above approximates my interior monologue as I prepared myself to be a subject, to have my image imprinted in time, once again.

2021-12-14_10-40-30

And … it was FINE!

It was better than fine. I would go so far as to say the experience was AFFIRMING. (Props to the photographer, who had big energy, and seemed capable of firing off nothing but compliments and exuberance even as she was directing me a million times over on how to stick out my neck, lower my chin, tilt my head — no, tilt it less — there, that’s perfect, don’t move!)

 

By the end, I sounded like I’d gone through a particularly successful therapy session. I kept making surprised declarations, such as: “Getting older is okay!”; and other inanities that felt profound in the moment, my hair whipping around in the warm wind on what was a weirdly mild and sunny December morning.

I floated home, feeling like a star.

And now … today … on another weirdly warm December day, the wind thrashing the bare trees, the skies grey and bleak, I am anxious and restless and worrying over all that I cannot control. All that none of us can. Grasping for answers, advice, solutions, information needed to make a whole series of decisions, large and small. I want to be out in the world. Don’t we all? And we have been, and the thought of our worlds shrinking and closing back in again … well, it’s next to intolerable.

But

But

But — the answers aren’t clear, we don’t know how this ends.

What are your escape valves? What’s rescuing you right now, even just briefly?

Have you learned how to live with uncertainty? I thought that I had; but it seems there’s always more to learn.

xo, Carrie

Seasonal shifts

2021-12-05_02-41-17

It got cold and snowy in addition to the dark, and I haven’t run since Sunday. Instead, I’ve been spending about an hour, first thing in the morning, doing yoga.

I’m on my second Christmas puzzle of the season. This has become a bit of an evening addiction: cup of tea, podcasts, and puzzle.

20211209_102828

My to-do list for this weekend includes making two extra-large batches of cookie dough to wrap up and store in the fridge, to be baked on demand. Ginger cookies and plain butter cut-out cookies.

Over the past week and a half, I’ve cleaned the house bit by bit in preparation for advent and hosting. How long can we keep these surfaces clean and clear? It looks dazzling to my eye.

20211209_133237

I’m potting clippings from my plants, a small ongoing project to green our rooms. Side note: My amaryllis bulb has come to life, miraculously, after I left it outside for a few months this fall. It looked dead and I thought it was dead. Then a bit of green started to poke through, so I brought it back inside and set it on one of the few windowsills where we get good light. A red flower is beginning to burst from the very tall green stem.

20211209_133147

I’ve been playing (and singing) Christmas songs after everyone leaves for school and work. This is best done without witnesses.

This week is the calm before the busyness. (Next week rather randomly includes a dentist appointment, a photo shoot, donating blood, and leading the x page’s last writing club meeting of 2021.)

2021-12-07_05-02-09

As I prepare for the holidays, for intense family time, big cooking projects, hosting, gathering, imbibing, keeping safe and healthy, establishing and maintaining boundaries, dealing with the hormonal spin-the-wheel of perimenopause combined with teenagers and routines being rocked, I’m reflecting on ways to stay present and whole. Strategies. Reminders. A mantra. A cue to return the self to the body. Here’s what I’m thinking (beyond morning yoga and low-alcohol-consumption): focus on others. Pay attention to the needs of those around me, allow them to be, and this will allow me to be, too. Be where we are. Be who we are.

2021-12-07_05-02-22

I’ll try to remember that there are many languages for love. (And my own include: spending time together, talking one-on-one, making music together, doing an activity together like going for a walk or doing a puzzle, and acts of service. I love feeding the people I love.)

FB_IMG_1638754379062

The antidote to disconnection is connection. The path to connection includes: slowing down, looking at the world in its detail, taking a breath, trusting your instincts, acknowledging what the body is holding / feeling, and being kind and gentle to self and others. You can take a break when you need a break. Someone will catch you.

I’ll remind myself of that.

xo, Carrie

November reflections

2021-11-30_11-12-50

November Reflections

The last day of the month. Snow on the ground. A blank wintry sky.

What felt good this month? Okay, real talk: this month was hard. What felt good was connecting with other people, in a variety of contexts and locations. I zoomed into literary events, and visited a local book club in person. Most recently, I travelled with my dad and sister across the border for the first time in over two years to visit my grandma, aunt, uncle, and cousins in Indiana. I’ve been interviewing Grandma about her life (99 years and counting), and it was an emotional moment to see her again in person, and feel her arms around me, holding me tight. At the beginning of the month, we also made a family trip to see Kevin’s family, which yielded many giddy, silly moments, needed conversation, and much laughter on the road. Often, this past month, I’ve felt purposeful and cherished, and it’s been meaningful to be able to offer my attention and care.

2021-11-28_06-21-27

What did you struggle with? Very little writing time. I did my best with the time I had, but it was a struggle to string together more than a few hours at a time; nevertheless, I finished the first draft of half of a new fiction project. I also did my best to meet, with equanimity and acceptance, the challenges that were calling me. I overcame anxieties and fears about travel, public events, and covid risks, so despite struggling with all of the above, my fears did not dictate my choices. I’m proud of that.

2021-11-07_12-46-15

Where are you now compared to the beginning of the month? This month has been so long! To be honest, I’m feeling pretty wiped out and drained. I’m glad to find myself still running, still able to run. I knew in advance this month would be hard, and I did my level best to prepare for what came by taking each day as it arrived — and my preparation and flexible mindset stood me in good stead. I just need a) a day to clean and organize the whole house; b) a day to lie on the couch and read, and c) a week of uninterrupted writing time to finish out the year … or even just a week of half-days for uninterrupted writing time.

2021-11-07_12-45-03

How did you take care of yourself? Yoga, stretching, reaching out to friends, going on walks, running: any activity that invites me more fully into my body. Mostly, I practiced bringing myself back to the present moment, not resisting being exactly where I was. Sometimes this was uncomfortable. In moments of great stress, I listened to a Tara Brach podcast (meditation) or got outside, or took a power nap. I’ve got tools in my toolbox! I set boundaries in ways that felt natural, and genuinely helpful. I let myself be myself. Even if that meant letting the tears flow. I acknowledged and tried to forgive my own missteps and errors, with as much humour as I could muster. (Not always possible to laugh at oneself, but always a relief when it is possible.)

2021-11-07_12-44-45

What would you most like to remember? That I don’t have to be defined by my past responses to similar situations, but have the capacity to learn and grow. That I can surprise myself (in good ways or for in more challenging ways!). That it’s possible to feel lonely, even when you’re deeply loved; and that the feeling won’t last. That it’s possible to improve one’s mood by going for a walk with a friend. That I don’t mind conflict, because it’s an opportunity to forge a deeper connection with someone else.

2021-11-07_12-46-54

What do you need to let go of? Control, control, control. It’s a manifestation of fear: trying to control how I’m seen or perceived, trying to control how people feel about me, trying to control choices others make in their own lives, trying to plan what will happen. Guess what, Carrie, you’re not the boss of anyone else, and a lot will happen that you’d never guess in advance! Besides, attempts at control are not only futile, they make it much harder to enjoy one’s every day experiences. I want to stay open to the moment that’s here and calling me, rather than arguing with what’s happening. Without a desire for control, perhaps I could inhabit myself in the world more wholly, sensitive to those around me, attuned to the human selfness of everyone I encounter, and fully alive to the ways in which connection is possible; while also recognizing where connection would be forced, unwanted; secure in my boundaries; with no desire to take over someone else’s life, to step in, assume, or project (okay, those last two are next to impossible goals, but still worth trying!). Let go of control; welcome, instead, awareness.

xo, Carrie

When does your inner light shine brightest?

2021-11-16_12-04-58

As promised, November has been busy — so busy that I’ve hardly noticed or mourned the shrinking of the light, or the encroachment of the cold and snow.

I’ve mentioned here before that I’ve been doing therapy regularly since the summer. It’s been, if I dare say so, essentially transformational. I wish therapy were affordable and accessible for everyone, anytime. I’ve definitely gone without therapy due to cost (for years and years), and it feels like a complete splurge even now; but it’s getting me through some challenging times, so it’s become a priority. Another priority is twice-weekly kundalini classes. These, combined with walks / runs with friends, solo runs, yoga and stretching are my go-to sustainers for body and mind.

2021-11-23_09-41-58

Yesterday’s prompt from my art therapist was this: When do you feel your inner light shine brightest?

At first, I couldn’t feel my inner light shining at all. Then, I saw myself with eyes closed in my studio space right here, in the dark, with the moon shining through my window, practicing kundalini yoga. Here in the dark, inside myself, I can come and sit no matter my energy level (tired, anxious, jittery, exhausted); here, no matter what’s happening in the rest of my life, I can sense my inner light flowing forth: a restorative activity, a practice that renews, comforts, meets me wherever I’m at. Gradually, other moments of inner light shining brightly emerged, and I drew them, one by one, smaller figures embedded in the world being conjured and held by the brightly shining meditative central figure in the drawing.

I saw an inner light communicating with the page, through words, as I worked on a manuscript: such a deep radiant concentrated focus.

I saw myself speaking in front of an audience, in the spotlight, being seen, but also radiating outward in connection with the energy and attention I was receiving: magnetic energy.

I saw myself having fun with my kids on a road trip, a loose goofy say-anything lightness: riffing off each other, appreciative, a curious attention, relaxed yet attuned to adventure.

And I saw myself with a raggedy light that was a bit of a blaze, honestly, an energy of determined persistence that engulfed me and pushed me toward a goal and wouldn’t quit till I got there: usually in service of someone else’s needs.

2021-11-19_03-12-25

What I recognized through this work was that my inner light has the capacity to shine brightly in many situations; but there is payment afterward (or before) when that energy burns. Or, it’s simply not always accessible. Inhabiting fun isn’t always an option (but could it be more often, if I recognized my capacity to invent it?). Speaking in front of people, or managing within a larger group can be affirming and exciting and energizing; but I have trouble coming down, turning down the temperature afterward, which means I tend toward of a crash on the other side (could I learn better how to manage these fluctuations in attention?). I love my writing days, I love being pulled deeply into other worlds and bodies and times and spaces; but it’s hard to drag myself out, I struggle to return, to re-engage with the real needs of those around me (there may not be a solution to this, rather more of an acceptance, and a structuring of the writing times to acknowledge this reality). Finally, the energy of determination gets shit done; but I risk burn-out in this mode. I’ve seen it happen again and again.

The final thing we talked about in our session yesterday was how I envisioned my ordinary, every day inner light. An image came to me immediately: as a pilot light, patiently burning, not noticeable but ever-present, steady, reliable.

When I turn down the other flames, the pilot light remains. I’d like to learn more about how my body functions in these heightened environments and relationships, as I seek to support both my children and my elders, to serve my writing and career, and to prepare for publicity work in support of the new novel. I don’t want to dread any of these tasks I’m being called to do. It’s occurred to me that what I dread isn’t the tasks themselves, but how my body responds to them — in preparation, in the moment, or afterwards. Being drained is a real feeling. So is being burnt-out. So is being eaten up by anxiety. So is frustration, impatience, grief at what you’re not able to accomplish when you’re focusing on a necessary task. Being amped up and super-high and hyper-distracted is also a real feeling, which doesn’t fit with early morning responsibilities and regular life.

So.

That’s my November, summed up in inner light.

When does your inner light shine brightest?

xo, Carrie

Page 5 of 350« First...34567...102030...Last »

Welcome here

Wherever you've come from, wherever you're going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause. Thank you for stopping by. Your comments are welcome.

Subscribe to receive posts in your inbox

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.

Books for sale! (signed & personalized)

Archives

Adventure Art Backyard Baking Bicycles Big Thoughts Birth Birthdays Blogging Book Review Books Cartoons Chores Coaching Confessions Cooking Creativity course Current events Death Dogs Drawing Dream Driving Exercise Fall Family Feminism Fire Friends Fun Girl Runner Good News Holidays House Kevin Kids Laundry Lists Local Food Lynda Barry Manifest Meditation Money Mothering Music Organizing Parenting Peace Photos Play Politics Publicity Publishing Reading Readings Recipes Running School Siblings Sick Sleep Soccer Source Space Spirit Spring Stand Success Summer Swimming Teaching The Juliet Stories Travel Uncategorized Weekend Winter Word of the Year Work Writing Yoga