Vocations

“The test of a vocation is the love of the drudgery it involves.”
~ Logan Pearsall Smith

All activities seem to have a bit of drudgery about them.  The trip to the beach still means gathering the items necessary to enjoy the sand and sun, and removing the remnants on the return surely is not a joyous task.  Most every job entails some sort of repetitive work that can become drudgery without a passion for the outcome.  That love of the outcome; whether it is a family raised with tenderness and strength or a sweater knitted of a thousand stitches, lifts us above the mundane of the moment.

Sometimes I find writing sheer torture, yet it is the outcome as much as the process that drives me on.  To see the words lined up in the precise order I choose and expressing the thoughts we may all share, yet with words uniquely mine, gives me the energy to accept the painful aspects and dive in. Once immersed I find that mindfulness  yet again is the tool to appreciate the process, revel in the drudgery, find pure pleasure in the now.

Yesterday as I was chatting with the mentor of my change, I realised that mindfulness has been the overarching catalyst of my self-discovery.  Paying attention to every instant, and then viewing it through a lens of positivity, some would call rose-colored, has added a depth and richness to my daily activities that I never imagined possible.  Training myself to step back and see myself from a distance while at the same time being fully present is challenging, the rewards are great.  Sometimes I give myself permission to be impressed as I would be if I saw someone else doing some of the things I do.  This is very new to me, to see and appreciate who I am and what I do, and that alone is enough to propel me forward.

Each life has its share of vocations, be you a priest who writes, a mother who teaches or a business executive who mentors a child.   In those activities of passion and love we find the best of ourselves and drudgery is not a force to sway us, but simply an accepted piece and often treasured of the picture, one that we do not struggle against, but accept willingly.

NaNoWriMo

Earlier this year after reading “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin I found inspiration to begin writing again.  I was especially taken by the idea of writing a 30-day novel and determined to give it a try.  I apparently skipped over the brief mention of National Novel Writing Month, but it must have stuck with me because I decided that November would be my month.  My reasons were weather (the first month of more indoor time), and the obvious fact that November has 30 days, perfect!

While I was enjoying the Sunday paper I stumbled upon an announcement about November being NNWM and decided to look into it more this morning.  I am now officially registered on the NaNoWriMo website and will be participating in any local events and entering my work for judging.  The last bit was wholly unexpected, but it is a useful tool to keep me on it when the going gets rough.  For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, the 30-day novel is 50,000 words (the approximate length of “Catcher in the Rye” and “The Great Gatsby”) written in yes, 30 days.  That means 1667 words a day, give or take.

Anticipating the things that most often derail my attempts to focus on a task that has the potential to frustrate and make me want to quit, I plan on employing a few tactics in advance.

First – the ongoing office disorganization.  I will spend at least one hour a day for the next 15 days regaining order and making sure I have all of my supplies at hand.  Being able to find what I am looking for and not having the excuse to run out to buy printer paper will keep my eyes on the screen and my fingers on the keys.

I plan to follow a schedule similar to the one I have now but stretching out the writing time to allow for an additional 1667 words a day.  Part of the challenge is NO EDITING, saving that for December.  How I will manage that I have no idea, but the point is to grow creatively and resisting interrupting the flow to edit is key apparently.  As a result, I will complete each day’s writing in one sitting with my inner editor locked in the closet.

Make this my number one priority.  The dishes, the laundry, dealing with email, chatting on the phone with family and friends; any and all of those will be on hold during my time to write.  And how much time will that take?  I’m not sure and expect it will vary daily.  I will give myself a two-hour window to start and then adjust as needed.

Likely this blog will see shorter entries, some about this endeavour and others on the usual range of topics.  If you are planning on participating in this challenge, let me know, I hope to keep up with my fellow writers with encouragement and when that fails commiseration.

Life Lessons

In my time away from writing blog entries I have done little that involved writing and spent much of my time outdoors.   Which leads me to lesson one:

Just because you take a break from something, no matter the duration, you can always come back and pick it up again.  This goes for hobbies, a project you’ve lost interest in, a stubborn problem that needs a new approach.  Stepping away is not quitting and likely when you return it will be with a renewed and refreshed point of view.  In the past, once I had stepped away I would begin the process of berating myself for being a “quitter” and never finishing anything.  Once I was thoroughly beaten down, starting again was daunting.  This time I gave myself permission to take a break, and a general timetable to return and best of all realized that there is no finished, just done for now.

Lesson two:

Sometimes when life is bleakest, the reward for persevering is a powerful moment or one of extraordinary beauty.  This comes from sitting with some of my lowest feelings over the years and reflecting on the grace bestowed upon me when I emerged from despair.  It came together in  stunning visual clarity after I spent 14 long hours behind the wheel, in driving rain for a large part and on a dark, rainy, windswept mountain road at the end. My reserves spent,  I was fully focused on avoiding becoming another highway statistic.  After stopping for the night, I returned to the road to finish my drive home and the stunning beauty of a river gorge awash in fall foliage greeted me and was my companion for much of the day as one river became another and the colors ranged from molten gold to deepest bronze.

Three:

It isn’t personal, even when it is.

A long list of events in the last few months, any of which would have sent me to a corner in a funk in the past, sailed right by with hardly a ripple.  The difference is in my self-talk, a change in perspective that has allowed this shift to occur.  Even in one particular situation when a friend said, “that is such a slap in the face”, and perhaps it was.  I took it as the other person having an agenda different from mine and since she was the decision maker, her agenda took precedence.  At this rather late juncture in my life I am able to see that I do not need to take ownership of another’s opinion of me,  that I do not need to take something personally even when it was the intent.  Some might say that the fight has gone out of me, and I suppose when one finds oneself at peace, that is true.  The fire, passion and enthusiasm have not waned though, and those are the traits I cherish most in myself and others.

Being mindful in the moment, giving myself time to sit with my feelings and reframe my expectations, choosing to find my peace wherever I am has given me greater clarity and wholeness.  I look forward to resuming my daily writing, with even greater enthusiasm.

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been a SLACKER!

Okay, so I thought I would post weekly but life has overtaken me!  It all started innocently enough when I was volunteering at my community garden with the Library Kids In The Garden project and got to know the Master Gardener, Colleen.  From her I learned that I did not need fencing to have my own garden, that I could make a compost bin from items I had on hand and thought I would burn (eek) !  It went from there.  So now I have a quarter plot at the community garden and one about the same size here.   The one here is my writing slacker excuse du jour.  First I had to haul railroad ties from else-where on the property, uphill of course!  And I had to mow down the grasses and weeds; oh, and build my compost bin from old broken down pallets that remained from  when the house was built and thus pre-dating me.  And, and, and….created a writing furlough in my mind.

Did I mention the rose bush?  I found myself busy and productive, the good stuff; but yet again leaving my life’s passion in the dust.  I am over and over regrouping to find that balance in my life.  It seems I live on a teeter-totter rather than a balance beam and I need to find a way to migrate to the better location.

Tonight is my first step in finding balance, which means that I cannot leave my passion for writing behind; I must make room for things I value such as the gardens and library; and lose the time wasters.  Distractions are so easy to come by and so hard to set aside, but that is my goal.  Identifying the distracting elements and focusing on the productive ones.

You will find me circling back to writing more, but maybe a bit about gardens, kids, the library, composting and weather instead of the more philosophical topics, but then again all of those things can generate a bit of philosophy or at least some homespun wisdom.  Like all things in life, blogging evolves and we shall see where this goes.

Stay tuned……

Cross-Training

For those of you who have read this blog daily, a heartfelt thank you!  I realized with three sick days off that the dailiness of this has served its purpose and I am indeed writing every day.  But it has become confined to my blog and I have set aside other writing in favor of what you read here.  I want to add back working on the poetry and writing exercises that I hope will allow me to continue to improve as a writer and have some new things to add to the other pages of this blog.

I think we all need to change it up once in a while, whether it is our exercise routine, the route we take to work or the myriad other things that we do every day.  My cross-training just happens to be changing forms of writing.  As I have said in my “About Me”, I am not a storyteller, but I would like to become one.  And I haven’t written a decent poem in a long while.  So I am putting on my cloak of imagination and setting off.  I will put a note in a bottle and float it your way now and then, and in the not too distant future I hope to have some new poetry and perhaps a short story to share.  And since I can’t help but have those philosophical musing moments a new post on the topics I have written about these last few months is bound to pop up.

What Inspires You?

Inspiration, a tricky thing.  That little spark that can jump into flame with timing, effort and enthusiasm and just as easily slip away.  Looking for topics to comment upon on a daily basis has caused me to wonder what happens that allows a quote or a side note in another blog to cause my mind to kick into gear and the words to begin flowing.  I certainly do not wake up every morning with some brilliant piece already formed in my head just waiting to be typed!  For the most part when I hit the publish button, I am satisfied; thoroughly pleased on occasion and really excited once or twice.

So how do I inspire myself to keep writing day after day?  As I surf for quotes or pull out the bookmarks from passages previously read, I let my subconscious do the wander-ing and make some of the connections behind the scenes.  Even though my personal ah-ha moments are few, I find the “likes” and” follows” and especially the comments written by my readers motivating.  To read that a particular phrase resonated with another person creating a connection with them is thrilling.

I have read so many “About Me’ stories across the blogosphere and they are truly inspiring. I look to each writer for ideas, topics and famous quotes they have discovered and have moved them in some way.  Each person has something unique that touches them, a photograph, a bit of humor; something that tugs at their sleeve for attention.  Some are passionate about a cause that is close to them or an all-consuming life event that begs to be shared.  Others see the mundane and add a perspective that makes it sparkle.  The inspiration behind each story, behind each life, is as distinctive as it is original.

So what inspires you?  What causes you to becomes animated and excited, eager to share and create?  Looking inward and drawing out the best of your inspired self allows you to greet the day with enthusiasm and joy.  And when you can’t find it inside, just look around.  It seems when one begins to look for something it pops up everywhere.  Keep your eyes and heart open, be inspired!

Milestone ~ 100 Posts

This marks my one hundredth post since beginning my challenge to write every day.  While for many it is important to take a day off to refresh and rejuvenate, for some reason I tend to just drift away.  This has been the case for so many things that I enjoyed and looked forward to; morning walks, going to the gym, eating healthfully, watching the nightly news; the list is endless.

I suspect this results from a lack of self-discipline and a somewhat drifty personality.  I lose interest easily, or rather I gain interest in something else easily and leave all of my best laid plans behind.  As part if my personal Happiness Project and overall growth, I realized this was one thing that lead to much unhappiness in my life.  Not only was I not doing something I deeply love, writing, but I had a long list of unfinished projects, unmet goals, unestablished habits.  This blog became my first step in the process of finding a way to make something I value stick.  Taking a day off from it has seemed like falling back into my pattern of drifting away, never to return.  As my regular followers know, I lost a day to a technology glitch, but I am happy to say I picked up the very next day.

Writing daily has other hazards as well.  Repetition being the first and a huge one at that.  I am not offering timely diet tips, a log of my struggles with weight or parenting or learning to dance.  This has become daily philosophical musings, and the topics are often interrelated and have been examined for centuries by great minds and even in my case discussed more than once.  In considering this I began to worry that this blog and its direction have grown stale.  I reminded myself that sometimes I must hear the same thing several times and from several angles before it really takes.  I also reminded myself that every day new readers find me and may only read a couple of entries, which then are new to them.  With that consolation I will continue looking at life, truth, the senses, reading, writing, happiness and the rest.  I look forward to the next one hundred posts and hope that you will as well.

We Are Not Alone

That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.”
~F. Scott Fitzgerald

As I continue to write this blog I have come to discover so many like-minded people out there who are doing the same.  As my followers grow, I look to their writing to see what might have resonated for them.  Some are a mystery, in others I find kindred spirits. The longing for connection is universal; the ability to connect with such a diverse and far-flung audience is one of the great gifts of technology against which I sometimes rail.

Literature takes the connection into the realm of flight.  Words knitted together with golden needles; emotions laid bare, stripped naked; portraits of places visited only in dreams; all found lashed together, placed in a pocket or bag and carried about for quiet moments of reflection and joy.  Peopled with characters familiar as a friend; struggling, celebrating, tackling the fearsome and mundane with grace or collapse; relatable all.  Literature, the craft, the inspiration and the gift do not come to most who write. It is rarified air those few breathe, as they take what is known and recognizable and build around it a stone castle of enchantment and wonder, a cave of terror and pain, turning the people and problems on end to tell the tale.

In the end though, the thing that captures us is the ah-ha moment when we see ourselves and know that we are not in this alone.  That another must have felt the same sorrow or despair to be able to so clearly describe it, to feel as though they were peering into one’s mind at the very moment of grief, gives us a small dose of hope in the darkness.  Be transported, uplifted, informed, inspired; great authors connect your world with theirs.

Delicious Indulgence

The ability to jump on a creative moment or thought as it arises is something I am so grateful for at this time in my life.  Without the demands of job, family or chores, I can take advantage of those moments of inspiration.  Yesterday as I was cleaning up after a full day of “loose ends” and the image of a photograph of a friend kept coming to mind.  Before I knew it the words of an original children’s story began to form.  In the twenty minutes that I had I quickly dashed to the computer and began typing furiously.  Six hundred words later, I was off to a good start, capturing the tone and pace of the story.  I envision the illustrations as paintings of the photos that inspired the story.  I have never even considered writing a children’s story, but after years of reading them aloud and encouraging the young readers in my family to love books, it seemed like completing a loving circle.

Today will be more loose ends, and organizing my writing projects to pair with my books of the moment.  In the area of paying it forward I left a comment for a poster on Gretchen Rubin’s Facebook page on her concerns about downsizing to a smaller living space.  I related my better than best experience of moving to my “Hobbit House” and the joy of being surrounded by only my most favorite things.  I hope it encourages her to make this change a chance to weed out the extraneous and surround herself with her treasures.

It is a clear and therefore cold early March morning in the beautiful Bitterroot, I will also be mindful to spend some part of the day outdoors to soak up the beauty and tranqility in the place I am privlidged to find myself.

Small Step

OK, so I will admit I have fallen under the spell of the Happiness Project.   http://www.happiness-project.com/  Who knew it could be this easy?  I am such a sucker for the tag line, “studies show”, and one of the first studies cited shows that taking immediate action gives one a boost and is the gift that keeps on giving.  My first resolutions:

  • Start writing again – a blog is a great way to start!
  • Volunteer – using my best self
  • Pursue the intellectual – read more challenging material, think about IDEAS!

Yesterday one of  the take action steps was to go to the local public library and submit my volunteer application.  I am embarrassed to admit it was the first time I set foot in the door so it may seem odd that I had already decided to volunteer there, but books are my thing, and I need to add some regular human contact to my otherwise rather isolated lifestyle.  So the library it is!  I was pleased to see that it was comfortable, well stocked, has current book offerings and has wi-fi so some of these missives may originate from there in the future.  It is on the other hand, a small town library and needs more space and a remodel – the floors are a serious tripping hazard – I see I have my work cut out for me.  What better place to offer my time than a house for books that needs a lot of work, I may be able to use some of that construction knowledge yet.

Take action today items are:

  • Work on this blog and find three others that are related or of interest
  • Work on my Happiness Project Toolbox – you’ll have to follow the link if you don’t know what that is
  • Choose three books that inspire me to mine for essay ideas
  • Return my “test” to the library
  • Work on one nagging item – filing

Onward…..