Seasonal shifts

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.)

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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

Thursdays are my reading days

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This week, I participated in two Zoom book events, as a moderator at the Wild Writers Festival for a panel on the short story, and at the Calgary Library as one of a number of writers published in a new anthology on concussion.

I’m out of practice for book events, but I’ve got this Zoom thing down.

On Monday, I put on a peach-coloured shirt with buttons that I pretended had been ironed (do we own an iron?), my lucky hummingbird earrings, and applied some mascara, discovering in the process of application that I can’t see without my glasses, which limited my already limited competence in the make-up department. Sticking with my comfy pants (leggings with holes), I dragged in a yoga mat and block to sit on, and set up in front of a big bookshelf backdrop in the living-room, as close as I could get to the wifi router. My set-up includes a ring-light which makes me feel like a pro, even if the glowing ring sometimes reflects off one’s glasses.

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And then we talked books!

Though we’d never met, I decided to ask questions I’d want to chew over with book-writing friends, big ones with no real answers, and to just settle in and enjoy the conversation (while aiming to keep within the parameters of the given time-frame). I love short stories. I love writing them, reading them, wondering about them, deciphering them. How often do we get to talk about the subjects we care about most? Especially with people who feel the same way?

And in the end, it felt like we’d connected for real (despite the screens), to pool knowledge and think out loud. Our conversation continued after the panel proper had ended, and it felt like we were meeting in the green room over coffee cake, as happens at those in-person Wild-Writers-Festivals-past that I’ve loved and cherished so much. Turned out there was still a small, faithful audience on the zoom link, which we hadn’t realized, so those folks got a bonus round. But so did we!

Can I hope we will meet in person someday, coffee cake or no coffee cake, to continue the conversation? GAH. Sometimes I miss people. In person. A lot. And I’m an introvert who loves being at home in her comfy pants!

Yesterday evening, I put on the same peach-coloured shirt with buttons, washed and hung to dry in between events, which I pretended counted as ironing (still can’t find the iron), forgot the earrings, and applied more mascara, this time creating a spiky effect that looked pretty okay, even if it happened by accident. I was wearing a different pair of comfy pants (leggings with stripes). Same set-up. I try to vet the books that will be directly on the shelf behind me, which meant taking the Good Vibrations Guide to Sex and Our Bodies Ourselves down and using them to lift up my laptop to a flattering height (one imagines, not being able to see so well, even with the glasses).

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And then we talked about our concussion experiences!

It’s a hard subject, I’ll be honest. Everyone in the anthology was a writer before their concussion. And we’re still writing, as evidenced by our participation in this book. But that doesn’t mean we’re writing exactly like we were writing before.

“Did the writing help you with the healing?”

I wasn’t asked this question, but reflected on it as I listened to others read their heart-wrenching, personal, insightful poems and stories.

Yes, writing and publishing this particular story (about the immediate aftermath of my first concussion) was healing. It was healing because I was very afraid of what had happened to me, I didn’t want it to affect my life, especially my writing life, my chosen career, and I was afraid of what it would mean to say these things out loud: that I wasn’t the same as before. So it was healing to my heart and my spirit to write about the experience and as importantly to share it publicly.

What helped you heal post-concussion?

I was asked this question, and my on-the-spot answer wasn’t great; here’s my do-over:

  • staying off screens
  • writing by hand
  • learning to draw
  • resting on “off” days, as much as possible
  • learning to be kinder to myself
  • coaching soccer, because it forced me to develop and practice new spatial skills (a good challenge for my brain)
  • turning toward different goals and ambitions
  • practicing meditation and yoga
  • accepting that some stuff comes our way that we can’t change only learn how to adapt to
  • enjoying the good days

Today I was tired (the event happened on Calgary time, so I was up past my bedtime).

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Luckily, Thursdays are my reading days, when I give myself permission to sink into the green couch and read with abandon and zero guilt* (*why would a writer feel guilty about reading? I don’t know, ask my subconscious). Today’s book was A Children’s Bible by Lydia Millet, which I recommend most highly. Apocalyptic and funny? How is this possible? It will also get you thinking about NOW. Because the failings of humanity depicted in this book feel close at hand (and my generation comes in for the harshest critique).

Thanks for tuning in. I hope you’re enjoying a good day, too.

xo, Carrie

 

October reflections

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October Reflections

Wait, October is over? That happened fast.

What felt good this month? I got stuff done! I focused on my writing. I sent the final revisions for my new novel to my editor, and she’s very happy with what was accomplished. I’ve been easier on myself, too, trying to subtly change my patterns of thought, so that my knee-jerk response when things go awry or feel uncomfortable is not to beat myself up, or talk down to myself, but to quietly acknowledge: you’re human, Carrie, and you make mistakes, and that’s okay. You’re still a worthy being, like every other human who makes mistakes, needs rest, has off days, and puts her foot in her mouth regularly. I also got my hair cut for the first time since the pandemic started (see photo above, taken on a sibs night). And I’ve booked a photo shoot for a new headshot. Update with glasses needed!
What did you struggle with? Being done. Finishing a big project. I know it sounds strange, but completing those revisions threw me for a loop. After working with such purpose and intention for these past few months (and with great joy, I must add!), I knew that the after-effects of finishing would challenge my action-oriented tendencies; but knowing it in advance didn’t prevent it from happening. Thankfully, I had friends and routines to steady me — and to help me celebrate a genuinely monumental accomplishment. I let myself rest (a bit!). And I let myself set some new goals (writing-related). I read a bunch of books, too. I didn’t revise my resume, or take online quizzes about careers suited to my personality type, or apply for any master’s programs, or scroll through job ads for “real” jobs. (Yes, this is what I would usually do when falling into a brief period of inactivity after accomplishing a big project.)
Where are you now compared to the beginning of the month? I’m looking for ways to ground more deeply into accepting, supporting and celebrating this writing career I’ve chosen to pursue, come hell or high water. This means building community. This means saying yes to some things, and no to others: thoughtfully, taking care. This means supporting and celebrating others. And, like last month, my outlook remains: let’s enjoy what we’ve got while we’ve got it.
How did you take care of yourself? I went on an actual gd writing retreat with my writing group!!! That experience is still taking care of me, as I sink back into grateful memories of our weekend in paradise. There is harmony in caring for the self and caring for others. For example, I’ve noticed that by giving myself substantial writing time throughout the work week, I’m able to be more fully present with friends and family. My fantasy for the future (and the present!) is to offer safe haven, retreat, peaceful attention, relaxation, hospitality and safe harbour to friends and family, by whatever means are available to me; while also writing books. That’s it. That sums up my brand-new Artist’s Statement!
What would you most like to remember? That there is ease within the effort, and that effort is easier when one’s circumstances are aligned to support the goals. This is not always possible. I have to live the life that’s coming at me, and that includes the parts that are challenging, deeply sad, irritating, wearying, not chosen. On those days and in those hours when the circumstances align with the goals, I need to give thanks and do the work. I would also like to remember that I won’t run out of ideas for books to write! Somehow that’s been a persistent underlying fear — that I’ll write myself out of stories if I write too much. Impossible! The context is ever-changing, as am I, and stories reflecting those changes just keep flowing in. It isn’t stories I’ll run out 0f, it’s time! Plus, I write better the more I write. It’s the only way to get really good (confident, comfortable, at ease) doing anything: practice, practice, practice.
What do you need to let go of? It would be lovely to worry less. My mind would like to think that its worries protect me, somehow; and they don’t. A worry worn smooth in the mind is not a protective talisman, it’s a rut. Maybe a persistent worry points to patterns that hold strong, and resist change. Maybe I can look at a persistent worry and ask: do I want to keep holding this? I’ll be very kind to my worrying self: you worry because you care, and that’s okay. And then I’ll ask my worrying self: what would happen if you set this worry aside, even for a breath? That’s where I’ll start. I’ll go from there.
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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