Tag Archives: Books and MORE books

an unfinished human

I’ve been on a bit of a downward spiral lately, and though there are some specific reasons for it, I don’t really feel that I should address them here. I will, however, talk about what I am (and have, for many, many years been) doing to get through to the other side.

Caveat: this works for me; I am an individual and we all have different ways of processing things. Take what resonates with you, and leave the rest; offer insight if you think it might be helpful, to me or anyone else.

Double-edged sword: I’ve been feeling creative lately, and writing more. What that means is that I am having to go into vulnerable places in order to access the meaty stuff that makes for good writing. On the flip side of that, things have been happening in my exterior world that are directly affecting my interior one. Things like news of possible lay-offs and general unrest at the workplace; financial issues with potential court room drama that come at a time when I am still in a tenuous financial situation; increased expenses without an increase in salary (for instance my rent went from $1100 a month to $1665 a month with utilities; that’s a slightly more than a 50% increase in rental costs alone); an old relationship resurfacing when the healing process had still not yet been completed. I could go on.

This is a small sampling, but there is an added amount of stress, real or imagined, that is pushing me into a kind of frantic state that I have a hard time dealing with, especially on my own. If you ask me about a support system (the kind that we normally look to: family, friends, etc.), I can say that I can’t really rely on any since I don’t have one in place, not really. This is, however, something I’m quite used to, so I have learnt that I have to reach out and find solutions because, contrary to popular believe, “going it alone” doesn’t ever work very well, and “sucking it up” doesn’t resolve the issues nor does it provide any relief for the anxiety. I’ve tried both, even recently, and it only ends up manifesting in physical ailment. Hint: it’s not a good course of action.

So enter the “self-help queen” – I must have one of the most extensive motivational, inspirational and self-help libraries around, but there are always new books (i.e., tools) that come out that I am (until the moment when I’m having a quasi-meltdown) unaware of. So I purchase more, because over the long haul, even a handful of books costs less than sitting through weeks and months of therapy. I’m not saying that therapy isn’t helpful, with the right counsellor, but the costs are quite prohibitive and it would behoove me to become proactive in my own getting out of my mire process. If all else fails and I’m still not able to find some mending, I would of course get some external assistance.

At the moment I’ve begun reading a couple of books:

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown; and
The Muse Is In: An Owner’s Manual to Your Creativity by Jill Badonsky

I was already reading:

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain; and
Women Who Run With The Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estés

So… I read slowly, bits of whichever of these happen to resonate at any given moment, over a period of time.

Well, that’s not quite true. I am reading Women Who Run With The Wolves with an online group and we are reading through a chapter every couple weeks, which, since the content is really dense and the exercises we are working through quite deep, it’s a bit of a crawling along (though rewarding) process.

The Gifts of Imperfection will be needed for an online workshop I signed up for with Brené, and similarly, I signed up for an online month-long teleconference/remote coaching group session with Jill Badonsky to help deal with some of my creativity issues, which essentially just boil down to the more basic issues that are the foundation of many of the other things that keep me from living as someone who is (as Brené calls it) Wholehearted.

I have moments of being in this state, so I know what I’m missing out on when I’m not. And I can tell you that it is wonderful. But like anything that’s worth working for, it takes some effort to maintain, and (clearly) I have many times that I downright fall right off the wagon.

So I’ve come to the meat of this post; the reason I wanted to write about this in the first place.

I know I am not alone.

YOU are not alone.

If there is ever a moment of inquiry that you pause in and wonder how you could be doing ‘this’ better, not because you are inadequate at doing whatever it is that you are doing, but because there is perhaps another way that might yield better results, you are drawing on your courage, and that is remarkable.

It is often said that happiness is a state of mind; I believe this to be true – it *is* a state of mind, and not dependent upon many of the things that we associate with happiness – money, success, love, sex, material acquisitions – because I have seen so many people with so much and yet they are not happy.

Truthfully, we all long for connection, and how we individually interpret that differs tremendously, but the more we can come to understand ourselves and what connection really means to us, the further along the path we can move to becoming a slightly less unfinished human.

first step to joy: (doing) nothing

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The title prompt is what Martha Beck suggests as the first of ten daily practices for a happier life (as outlined in The Joy Diet). I have been doing a whole lot of nothing for a while now, and feeling guilty about the lack of productivity. I do “guilt” well.

The truth of the matter is, I haven’t drawn or pulled out my art supplies for quite some time. I think it has to do with the emotional/head space I must be in to create – I must be quiet and still to hear where the medium wishes to take me, or to write out what my internal dialog is saying, neither of which seems to be my natural (or indeed self-induced) state lately. Frenetic, maybe. Despondent, maybe. Hugely dissatisfied, maybe. Listless, maybe. But definitely not quiet nor still. Certainly not both at the same time.

Lately I have been embarrassed by my inner dialog, as it touches on things that I haven’t wanted to consciously address, contenting myself with acknowledging that things were not right and good yet not yet prepared to attend to righting them. Somehow those things have a way of catching up to you, and if you don’t make the choices that very obviously need to be made, the universe urges them along on your behalf. More than once in the recent months I have asked It to be gentle with me; to bring change but in a gentle and less painful manner than in the past.

Hence the unexpected (though perhaps largely overdue) boot out of our old place into a new one (which, though more costly, is also a much better space in more ways than I can enumerate – feeling extreme gratitude for this) and a small claims court notice that arrived this week from someone who I had buried deep within myself in an attempt to heal myself from the sharpness of what transpired between us, much like an oyster does with the grain of sand that eventually becomes a pearl.

Unfortunately his patience with my process was not as generous as my own need for it was, and so I am having to look at finding a resolution to something I had not yet been prepared to address.

Such is life, and here I am, examining the wound and finding a way to heal myself of its cause. While I understand that the wounding and how I chose to participate was of my own doing, I also feel that acknowledging that another person’s actions did not have my best interests at heart even while holding their own interest out for my consideration. While what occurred was done with my consent, it was still inconsistent with right and honourable action, even within his own paradigm. My lesson here is in my choosing and accepting terms which did not sit well with my deepest self, the resulting fallout being a feeling of self-betrayal – so not once but twice betrayed.

This is one story of many other stories which have collectively shaped who I am today, and many more will come before the last and final story comes. I know I am not alone in the making of poor choices, and while they are uncomfortable and make us squirm they also sharpen and hone who we become (for the better) once all is said and done. If nothing else, they certainly provide much in the way of creative fodder for my written endeavours.

All this also happens to coincide with my taking part in a group reading (rereading, in my case) of Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ Women Who Run With The Wolves, which is facilitating this self-examination in what will hopefully be a gentle and supportive manner. After listening to Brené Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability this weekend, I realize that I am not alone in my struggles; that what I wish for most from those I reach out to during my most difficult moments is empathy vs. sympathy and that should the same be expected of me, that I am wise enough to extend the same in kind.

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My life is filled with simple pleasures these days. Knitting has become a fixture, and alternately is used as a relaxation/meditation (replacement) process and a source of visibly productive creativity. I enjoy the fact that I’m making things but not having to ponder the process itself – the pattern and the related elements are already figured out and all I need to do is show up. Hence my Gryffindor scarf in the making (tucked into the beautiful Lantern Moon project bag pictured here).

Another source of joy has been reading, and this evening I had the pleasure of attending a CBC broadcast of a book club radio show. Tonight’s featured author was Annabel Lyon who read from and went on to discuss her latest novel, The Sweet Girl, at some length. I haven’t read any of her work but look forward to doing so soon. As with most of these types of events, I always leave inspired and amped to stretch my own creative muscles, only to feel sadly inadequate at the results. I enjoyed hearing Annabel’s response to a question from an audience member on a how-to point (taking the time to scoff at the notion that creative writing is not a teachable skill): in order to produce good writing one must learn the tools that, combined with taking the time to write in whatever increments are available, will bring about the desired results. That, along with John Cleese’s video on creativity that is making the rounds on Facebook lately, there is no substitute for time in the seat.

I sometimes get this feeling of a pesky niggling just beyond my periphery with such little to go on that I’m not even sure what it is that I’m taking note of or why, but enough to know that I must do something with it. Kind of like (in Annabel’s case) Hellenic sippy cups and spiny “bubble wrap” plants (read The Sweet Girl to see what that means). So the Writers’ Festival happening next month seems like a good, short, foray into picking up some skills for someone (like me, lately) with a short attention span.

Ordinary Sparkling Moments

A special package arrived in the mail today. A little over a year ago, I volunteered to be a “Book Fairy” for Christine Mason Miller’s project to spread the message of “Ordinary Sparkling Moments: Reflections on Success and Contentment.” I write about my Book Fairy experience in this post (click HERE).

Anyway… back to now. A year has elapsed and I find myself struggling to find the sparkle in most everything. Or rather, it’s a daily chore for me to find the sparkle in the ordinary moments of my life. A relationship that I’d invested a year of my time in recently fizzled out like old ginger ale. What is left of my “professional life” is equally lifeless, and the fact of the matter is, it never had much life to it in the first place.

You see, it’s because like Christine, I’ve always wanted to be an artist. I didn’t make any other contingency plans, and after my plan A fell through (through no other fault by my own), and so many other plans that followed never amounted to anything, I continue to want to be something I still feel I am not… not quite. I certainly make art, in some form or other, but I have never made a living at it. Instead I drift, much like a gypsy, from one job to the next, never finding a niche in anything because the truth of the matter is I just don’t fit anywhere, really, especially an office.

I’m quiet, and thoughtful, and slow, and reserved, mostly, but wild and brash in ways that might surprise those who have not seen that side of me. And I have a temper, too, and as I age, it is getting more difficult to reign in. And I get bored really quickly if I am not fully occupied, and have further come to discover that an eight hour work day is just too long of a time to spend sitting at a desk, in front of a computer.

So where does that leave me? I don’t know. I am still searching for some sort of balance between my extremely active mind, creative spirit and insatiable curiosity. Why… WHY was I born this way? It’s excruciating.

While I ought to be busy working out the details of what kind of data to input into a spreadsheet, my mind drifts to a million things…

It was sunny today, so I could smell the spring in the air. In my mind, I spent a portion of the day wandering the streets of Vancouver, feeling the sun on my skin and smelling the thickening pollen in the air. Amidst meetings and email replies and spreadsheet tweaking, my mind juggled several story ideas, alternately fleshing out both of them, watching my characters become more animated and alive as the day progressed. I envisioned myself tending to bee hives and harvesting honey. I saw myself straddling a potter’s wheel and throwing perfectly proportioned mugs, and carving faces and bees into clay to later become beads and embellishments. There were molded bath bombs made and ceramic boxes in which to store them, and the inkling of a logo developed, as well as an etsy shop. My mind never stops…

And yet… by the time the evenings arrive, after an hour long drive and preparing dinner, I am usually too bushed to start on anything. So the wonderful ideas that I’ve harboured all day become stored in my memory banks (or my iPhone notes) for when my energy levels catch back up with the rest of me. Some days I forgo the cooking (or slap something together very quickly) and decide that I must do something. So this evening, with the arrival of the book, and the fact that it was such a beautiful sparkling sunny day, I’ve decided to write a blog post. Long neglected blog that it has been.

Unlike Christine, and her desire to be an artist, I have never felt the need to inspire others in a tangible way. I have no need to encourage or cajole others into being their best selves. I can barely manage to do that myself, so how can I deliver such a message convincingly? I thought, for a while, that I ought to be a creativity coach, and do just that. But the fact of the matter is, my mind wanders far too much. I read five books at once. I have multiple ongoing projects (many unfinished), and flit from one thing to the next like the bees I so wish to care for. I frankly don’t want the responsibility.

On the other hand, if what I write manages to inspire someone else, simply by sharing my own experience or by telling a story, then I can certainly do THAT sort of thing. I don’t know what inspires others… what makes them tick. We are all so similar in so many fundamental ways, and yet so different.

A friend of mine posted something to her Facebook page today, this widget thing that shows you how rich you are compared to everyone else in the world, based upon your annual income. I was the 231,544,348th richest person in the world, based on my earnings last year. Well, that’s nowhere near the top, to say the least, but even though $73 could buy a new mobile health clinic for AIDS orphans in Uganda, my grocery bill for two runs me about $200 a week, not counting incidentals (like toilet paper, etc.). It’s all relative, isn’t it?

So anyway… back to the sparkling moments. Life has been so much something other than smooth sailing for so long. If life was a bed, I definitely woke up on the wrong side of it. Not that it hasn’t been good at all. No… some incredibly awesome things have transpired. My son, for instance, is a treasure. Some of my friends are the most amazing and awesome people I have ever had the honour to journey with. At times when I was the most disheartened, complete strangers have materialized to reinforce my lagging faith in humanity. And I’ve seen beautiful things -natural or otherwise- and lived in amazing places.

The funny part is that we always think someone else has it better than we do, and that our lot is by far worse than everyone else’s. We’re always the most hard done by, in our minds, in comparison to everyone else. The truth is, though, that we all carry burdens of one sort or another, and they are equally weighty in the end. And those sparkling moments? They’re hard to see, from all of the detritus that litters our lives, sometimes, but if we dig a little bit, we can usually find the gems shining through the rubble, no matter how much crap they’re buried under.

So… in gratitude of the gems… and the sparkling moments, one of which, on this day, happens to be the arrival of this most excellent book.

Celebrating… friendship

It’s been sunny and cool here in Southern California. I spent Saturday with my friend Bonnie in celebration of her birthday, and went to see the Dan Eldon exhibit in Santa Monica. It was small but worth the trip. We had a late lunch at Anisette Brasserie, which was delicious and beautifully appointed. The restaurant was in a renovated bank building, so there were high ceilings, and they’ve imported tiles and different things from France to give it a French “brasserie” feel. We ordered several things off of the menu and shared… everything was delicious… my choice were the mussels, and they were absolutely delicious!

This weekend I picked up a couple of graphic novels… proving once again what a geek I really am. And, proving also that I am consistent in my tastes, I picked up a book that I already had… Rising Stars : Born In Fire (Vol. 1), by J. Michael Straczynski, who is also the creator of Babilon 5 (though I never watched the series… somehow television lost its appeal early in my marriage, since my husband’s viewing habits were mostly limited to sports networks and perhaps the news… and then when Gabriel was born, kid’s networks and the science and/or discovery channels–which I do enjoy). I have Vol. 1, which is a compilation of the first eight comics of the series… there are four more compilations of this sort, which I can never seem to find more of in the comic book stores (but was able to find on Amazon).

Another graphic novel I picked up was The Last One, which was written by J.M. deMatteis and illustrated by Dan Sweetman… the story is right up my alley (and fabulous in my opinion)… it’s about an angel… the last of the “old ones”… still living amongst humans… it’s a lovely story (though somewhat dark and gritty yet filled with hope), and it’s also beautifully illustrated… beautifully lined/penned and colored.

I’m still working on my February chapbook pages… they’re taking a bit longer to put together as each page has eight eyelets attached (which means hole-punching… attaching and setting each of them) and also five “danglies” per page that also require eyelets (for a total of 13 eyelets per page), which then need to be attached to the page with leather string. Me and my bright ideas…

On being directionally challenged and time impaired…

It’s a mystery to me, this time-space thing. While I can organize my workspace (rather compulsively, I might add) into a masterful example of feng-shui-ness, no matter how much stuff there is to organize, and I can spatially organize the flow of an art piece by tapping into some inherent sixth sense, I can’t seem to find my way around the neighborhood without getting ‘lost’ and the concept of time has never quite sunk in.

You know… like when I wake up in the morning and say that I’ll make breakfast but it’s about two hours later before everyone is munching on their eggs and potatoes, simply because it took me so long to stow the clean dishes from the dishwasher and reload the dirty ones from the sink… wash the pans I need to cook with… clean the coffee filter and rinse out the carafe, pour fresh water into the machine, grind coffee and put it into the rinsed filter and turn the coffee machine on so it can brew a new pot… take out the eggs, potatoes, onion, shallots, parsley, spices and ghee and crack, chop, slice, peel, dice, beat, stir, sauté and fold a meal into submission.

I’ve been uploading book titles onto Shelfari over the last couple of days… Steve remarked that I must really be bored to be wasting my time on such trivialities… you know, it’s just another one of those compulsive urges, see? I have lots of books. So many, in fact, that I’ve lost track of which ones I have and by virtue of this seemingly meaningless exercise have discovered that I have quite a few duplicates (and I’m not even done with the whole lot of them). So far I have 879 books on my virtual bookshelf.

My only wish is that I live long enough to read every single one. Soooo many books, soooo little time. More time now, that I am currently unemployed, and I have certainly been using this time to catch up on my reading. And being terrible with the space-time thing, but quite capable of reading multiple books at the same time, I am currently reading the following books:

Extreme Self-Care

The Art of Extreme Self-Care: Transform Your Life One Month at a Time

Odd and the Frost Giants

Odd and the Frost Giants

Tales of a Female Nomad

Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World

Essential Rumi

The Essential Rumi

Wraeththu Storm Constantine

Wraeththu

And so that leaves… over 870 (and then some) more to go… I’ve also discovered, by virtue of this uploading and cataloguing on Shelfari, that not only is my taste pretty consistent, it is so much so that I have not once but sometimes twice purchased the same books. I have a few duplicates, which I am thinking of offering up for postage costs… as you may have witnessed from my book shelf, my tastes are rather –er– eclectic. 🙂 Will post the titles later.

Who is that masked man?

My pink and black postcard is ready to go out. I started out with a sketch of a Venetian Carnivale masquerader and worked a pink background on watercolor board with US ArtQuest’s watercolor palettes. They’re glittery and fun and when I need to take myself a bit more lightly, I pull them out. I layered on several coats of the stuff through a paper doily. I love the resulting texture. Then I transferred my sketch onto the board with graphite paper and added dark paint and texture on my masked man as well. I’m grateful that I only have one (as opposed to nine) to do.

I’ve been thinking on a lot of things lately. I picked up Doreen Virtue’s Divine Magic (Hay House Classics) last week, and have been reading it since mid-week. Interesting stuff, this… not new, per se, but neatly, concisely packaged, along with a “meditation” CD. It’s inspiring, in the least… whatever it takes these days.

Everything about my professional life, lately, seems to be ill-fitting, except perhaps the regular paycheck. I’ve spent most of my adult life in the corporate world, working as what can be equated to a servant position… that of secretary, though nowadays the term administrative assistant is by far a more politically correct designation. And as with all positions of servitude, the degree of palatability is entirely dependent upon the person you serve, and to a lesser extent the nastiness of the other wenches in your household, so to speak. Some days they behave, other days not so much.During a rather philosophical discussion with one of my co-workers, I was advised to “rise above it” (as opposed to wallowing in the slop of the pig sty). Some days this is easier to accomplish than others. I truly feel that my calling is not amongst these ranks, though it does provide a steady and dependable flow of income. I’ve most always picked the easier route in my life, choosing not to rock the boat even though every ounce of me was screaming that I should tip it over. Other times, when I’ve done just that, after the dust settled and the other passengers in the boat smoothed out their disheveled hair, I always found that I was in a better place (at least on a soul level).

But it’s always good to have a plan…I’ve almost completed my Kaizen-Muse coaching program and can now officially be called a “Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach.” As with any new clothes… shoes… titles… this one will take a while to feel comfortable in, but I’m sure I’ll adapt. That… and I’m just about convinced that I’ll be winning not one, but TWO very big lottery draws… I’ll keep you posted… maybe even throw a party.