Taking Time Off

Yesterday I stayed in bed all day.

Seriously, I closed the door to the dogs, the daughter, the husband, the bills, the writing, the beautiful sunny day and everything else. I’ve been battling some serious pain all week, radiating out from the top of my spine and making it difficult to turn my head or move, and yesterday I decided that all I could do was rest.

Today the pain is less. My blood pressure has dropped (not that it has been high, but my doctor wanted me to keep tabs for a while and the reading was the lowest ever) and I managed to get Sarah off to school without any major blow ups.

Time off is good.

Nathan came to say goodbye to me this morning and give me my challenge for the day (1000 words, plus getting out of the house to enjoy the sunshine).

” A thousand words, huh?”

“That’s easy,” he said. “You do it almost every day.”

“I know, but I just don’t feel very write-y today. I especially don’t feel bloggy. I think I’m done with blogging for a while.”

“Well, you wrote that emotional post on Saturday. Maybe you just need time off.”

“I just don’t think I have anything to say right now. I might write a post telling people that I am cutting back. I’ll try posting once a week or when I’m truly motivated, but otherwise . . . ”

“Do whatever you need to do.”

So dear readers . . . I’m taking time off. I will not disappear. I will still read and comment. I may still be inspired by the 100 Word Challenge for Grown Ups (even though I skipped last week). I am still going to contribute to the Seven Deadly Sins contest. But, I am not going to push it when it comes to posting.

I’m going to take time off. To quote from one of my favorite bloggers, Nancy over at Spirit Lights the Way: “Ahh . . . That’s better!”

I Will Not Be Silenced

I forced my family to head to Boston with me today, to attend the rally Unite Against the War on Women.

Jaclyn Friedman was an amazing speaker who articulated what I am unable to say.

I found myself sitting on the steps of City Hall, crying silent tears.

In the midst of all these people who had come out to show concern and express anger, to share stories, to speak out against repression and injustice I felt very much alone.

Nathan is interested, but not nearly as passionate about the issues as I am. Sarah really had no interest, despite my explanations that everything happening there had to to with making the world a better place for her. She was distracted by pigeons, the Circus that stood right next to the rally, and the fun potential of steps.

So when I cried, I cried alone.

Where did the tears come?

When I first walked into the plaza, my heart tightened. Around me people carried the signs that should not have surprised me, signs about not being sluts, or stay out of my vagina, or whatever. But seeing them made me realize that the issues we face are so much broader than contraception/choice. If we only focus on those issues, we are focusing our energy in the wrong direction.

The issues move beyond our bodies, to the fact that women are not inferior, second class citizens who serve no purpose other then as incubators for future generations. We are being treated as less than men, as barely human, and that is the real issue.  The laws that are being made affect anyone who is marginalized, and that is a bigger problem than a vaginal ultrasound. I am not diminishing the importance of those aspects. I’ve already written about them as passionately as I could. But, I’ve had the growing sense that we might be fighting the wrong part of the war, and if that is so we could be heading to disaster.

When I heard Jaclyn Friedman (pictured above) speak  I felt pressure release. She broadened the message, speaking of the effects on all people, especially poor people or people of color. She reminded us that this is a battle for all people, where men and women must stand together. She spoke for my thoughts.

But it was not enough and I still ended up in tears.

The tears started when I heard Reverend Aaron Payson Minister of Unitarian Universalist Church of Worcester speak. The title of this post actually comes from his use of “We will not be silenced!” His words showed me that there are some truly religious people out there who recognize that perhaps the words of the bible are being interpreted incorrectly, or perhaps they were written by people who want to keep control of their own power. He too, spoke for my thoughts.

Some of the tears came from hearing people express themselves so beautifully. Some from the power of the stories. Some from the sadness and frustration expressed by women who started this fight in the 70s and could not believe that we were fighting this battle again, now.

But I admit, that some of the tears were personal.

Two incredible women spoke. Idalia, who is described as “” a Puertominican (Puerto Rican and Dominican) writer, performance poet, healthcare advocate, and kitchen table feminist” (http://idaliapoetry.tumblr.com) and Spectra, “n award-winning Nigerian writer, women’s rights activist, and the voice behind the African feminist media blog, Spectra Speaks (www.spectraspeaks.com). [Note that I shortened their bios for this, these women are truly amazing.]

They spoke with the honest voices of their hearts, including their sexuality, their race, and their womanhood. They spoke and the floodgates opened as my heart broke into a million tiny pieces of confusion.

Why? Because when I hear the voices of the truly marginalized I am reminded that I am a white, middle class, heterosexual woman. True, I am a Jew, and that carries with it a different kind of marginalization, but I do not experience rejection based on the color of my skin or my sexual identity.

Sometimes the reality of my identity makes me feel like I should not speak.

I flash back to a time when I presented my dissertation for an award. I wrote a doctoral dissertation entitled, “Theorizing Diversity in Three Professional Theatres for Young Audiences.” Basically I was looking at the fact that most professional TYA companies were white owned, white managed, and yet the audiences they served represented diversity. I wanted to understand the messages being sent in that interaction. I wanted to explore the intersection between what we thought we were doing and what we were really doing. When I presented this for the award, the only thing I was attacked for was the fact that I was a white woman looking at issues of diversity, of race. I explained my position on that, but the explanation was not enough and the question kept coming, “Why do you think you have the right to speak for others?” I did not try to speak for others, I tried to observe and learn and use their voices, but that did not matter to the questioner.

I won Honorable Mention for that award, but nobody won the award that year. Everyone was shocked that I didn’t win.

But this isn’t about that.

It’s about the fact that I should not feel silenced because I haven’t experienced the same level of struggle. If we separate ourselves that way, then we only hurt ourselves. I’m not saying we ignore the differences, but we must embrace those differences and acknowledge that all our voices have the right, the need, to be heard.

I am a white woman. I can’t change that. Nor should I have to apologize for it.

I also have a daughter who is a woman of color. Will she face different challenges than I did?

I can’t answer that, except to say that if we allow the powers that be to control women then her world will be even more challenging than mine.

I can’t allow that to happen. I will not be silent.

It All Comes Down to Choice

Choices we make define who we become.
Choices  we don’t make allow others to define us.
It all comes down to choice.

In an age where women daily face
the stripping down of choices
each decision we make
adds fuel to the fire
of our right to make choices.

It all comes down to choice.

I’m not talking about life or death here
I’m not talking about my body
or that of a fertilized egg.
Those choices are important
but they are not the only choices that come
with the package of womanhood.

It ALL comes down to choice.

I’m talking about my core
my being
my self
and how each decision
or non-decision
either opens a door
or slams one shut.

It all comes down to choice.

The path I choose is my own to choose
but I am not travelling alone
so one choice
affects all
choices.

IT ALL COMES DOWN TO CHOICE!

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference." Robert Frost

External Inspiration

“How many words should I write today?”
I ask Nathan in a playful way.

“At least 1000,” he replies
Leaving the topic for me to decide.

“Which story?” I ask. “What should I do?”
“You’re the writer, that’s up to you.”

“Do you think I should get away from here?
I seem to do better if I go somewhere.”

“How about the botanical gardens today?
You often seem to find inspiration that way.”

So I pack myself off to that garden of blooms
hoping to find the words hidden in my womb.

(After all the stories that have yet to be told
are like babies only a few days old.)

I wander, I walk, I wonder, I think
I sit at a table to write and to drink.

(Water of course, I’m not a  fool
alcohol is not a good writer’s tool).

My table overlooks a garden pool
My pen feels like a magic tool.

I write some words, some good, some bad
a journey into a life I’ve never had.

I don’t know where these words will lead
but I’m thankful for inspiration that planted the seed.

 

The Wonders of Walking

I just took my first real walk in almost two weeks. A walk around a track, heading nowhere but that zone of heartbeat footstep heartbeat footstep.

Heartbeat, footstep, deep breath. Heartbeat, footstep, deep breath.

I had been walking daily, but my routine disappeared at the advent of spring break and the ensuing parental challenges. My daily walks got pushed to the back. Of course, I could have walked with Sarah, but any time I mentioned that suggestion it met with resistance. She’s not adverse to exercise, but on her terms not mine.

We did go for one long walk through the botanical gardens, which is always a delight. Except when you have to practically force someone to go with you. Sarah eventually realized how much fun it was, and enjoyed discovering her photographer’s eye.

Lovely photo taken by Sarah.

Mystery tree photo taken by Sarah

We also went on a mini-walking adventure as a family on Patriot’s Day, which gave me a few minutes of peace between arguments and complaints.

A Moment of Peace

But, in general, I was never able to reach the rhythmic meditation of walking.

Heartbeat, footstep, deep breath. Heartbeat, footstep, deep breath.

Without those moments of walking for myself, for my health, for the rhythm for the words, stress built up in my body.

I found myself feeling like this:

Muscles in my left shoulder and the my neck turned into bricks, leaving me to grope for the leftover pain killers from past bad back experiences, and an entire morning sleeping yesterday.

A lovely morning of sleeping, I might add.

Today, the pain is manageable, and I decided I would brave the outside world. I went for a walk around a track.

Heartbeat, footstep, deep breath. Heartbeat, footstep, deep breath.

When we went on the family wander last week, we walked in an area that had been damaged by tornadoes last summer. We were actually looking to go into a park, but the swath of damaged trees was greater than I had imagined, so we ended up just wandering by a boat launch that we happened to notice. I felt awe at the signs of recovery all around me, despite downed limbs and broken trees.

Green leaves growing from a trunk that refuses to give up.

Being bent, crooked and broken is not obstacle for a tree that wants to keep growing.

Today I went for a walk, and now I feel like that tree. Broken in places, but still fighting, growing and breathing.

Heartbeat, footstep, deep breath. Heartbeat, footstep, deep breath.

Join Me in the Seven Deadly Sins

Come on!

You know you want to.

What’s the harm?

It will be fun.

Why is it that all the images I found depict women as the sins? Hmmmm!

Seriously, k8edid has started a little fun fiction contest based on the Seven Deadly Sins.  She gave me an idea, and I will be contributing to each sin (what can I say, I’m a bad girl) in a series that, I hope will be interconnected.

Katy has posted the first five submissions about gluttony, today, including mine. Please wander over there and feast on all of the wonderful words, but be sure to leave room for more. Here is the link to Gluttony: Post 1

Dancing Through Life One Tea at a Time

I walked into a lovely home filled with chattering women. The kettle whistled on the stove, and the table in another room practically groaned under the weight of finger sandwiches and decadent pastries.

We were celebrating another generation, Smith College style.

Those were the days. The women of Smith College's Morris House gather for a photo in the room we always had tea. I'm in the front row. Can you find me?

Every year, just before nervous high school seniors need to make their final college decisions, active Smith clubs around the country hold teas for accepted students, inviting alumnae from the area to come and encourage these young women who might still be undecided, or reinforce the “rightness” of their choice.

This is the first Smith alumnae event I have attended in a while, and I found myself in a surreal reality of my own making. I went because I need to meet more people in the area. I went because I need to begin to network better. I went because I believe that my Smith education was indeed a great one (even though there are some things I would change). I went because I yearn to connect (in person) with intelligent women who support each others goals.

I found all that there.

But, I also suddenly faced the fact that I have been out of college for a really long time. Except for two much older women (who I believe graduated in the late 50s or 60s) I was one of the oldest alumnae there. I was also one of the only newbies to the alumnae group, so of course everyone asked for my story. Everyone wanted to know what I do. Everyone was interested in why I had moved to this part of Massachusetts.

Anyone who has been following my blog for any time knows that I cannot answer any of those questions easily.

I found myself floundering. Am I theatre artist? Am I an educator? Am I a writer? Am I a stay at home Mom?

With the accepted students, I was okay, sharing memories of Smith days past or able to makes some suggestions based on my experience teaching first year students. I am a good mentor, I know that.

But, discussing my life with alumnae left me sputtering like a slowly deflating balloon.

I woke up this morning asking myself WHY?

  • Why am I so afraid to say I am a writer, and that I am actually writing books?
  • Why do I only associate success with a paycheck?
  • Why do I dismiss all of the really cool things I’ve done in my life as meaningless because I don’t have a current  title, or the home I expected, or the life I thought I would?
  • Why do I find it so hard to trust myself?
  • Why do I doubt myself so much?
  • Why can’t I accept that I am a talented, intelligent, creative individual that has a lot to offer this world, even if I haven’t figured out the method of that offering yet?

As often happens, subtle messages from the universe began to creep into my consciousness in answer to my questions. Or maybe I began looking for answers and interpreting the world around me in terms of my questions.  I can’t be sure.

Whichever it is, as I sat in my local coffee shop inhaling a late breakfast (after having to do a fasting blood test this morning) and staring at my computer screen, the universe began speaking.

First I noticed a Facebook post from a very spiritual person that I follow of a song that I have always loved. I smiled when I saw it, but being in a public place without earphones, I didn’t click the video. However, as you will see, it plays a role in me even writing this post.

Stay tuned . . .

Some of the messages, as they so often do, came from the wonderful source of inspiration that is found in the blogosphere. Comments made on my recent posts about fighting inner enemies and the line between success and failure made me think about how many supportive people exist in this universe, despite the fact that I have had the dubious joy of meeting with so many truly selfish people in recent years. Those people lie behind some of my why questions. But, the supportive and insightful comments I have received recently made me ask new whys:

  • Why have I given those people so much power over who I am now?
  • Why can’t I move beyond the hurt and prove that I am worthy?

Then, I read  4AMWriter’s post about how being creative, especially writing, helps ground her in this post called “Replenishing is Drinking.” Reading her post made me realize that I thrive in creative projects. The more projects I have that I believe in, the more balls I can keep juggling in the air.  I do not thrive in sameness, in mundane day to day tasks that seem to have no purpose beyond keeping me busy. I work best solving problems, facing challenges, and working on projects that somehow make a difference. Perhaps, I realized, I don’t see my WIPs as making a difference, in a world full of people striving to become writers and striving to publish.

I sat and sipped my tea, thinking about why I want to write these stories, and if they do have purpose. The answer is yes. Both stories share, through fictionalized worlds, my questioning of certain social issues that make me fearful for the future of our world. Whether or not these stories ever get seen in a broader sense, they are the stories I need to write to find my path through these issues that bother me so much.

I began to write.  I began to explore one of the characters that I need to understand in order to move a story forward. I wrote for two hours, that seemed like minutes. I wrote almost 800 words, that seemed like volumes.

Then I started on this post.

Of course, the universe has a sense of humor, and my computer battery began to die. So, I deserted the post and headed into the gray rainy day to return home.

When we all leave the house, we leave the radio on for the dogs, as that helps them (sometimes) from their more mischievous instincts. When the music doesn’t play, chaos reins.

The first song I heard as I got settled at home was the same song I saw on Facebook this morning. A song which always reminded me that life is magical, as long as you remember to dance.

So my friends, I know that my life will always be wonderful, as long as I keep dancing, keep dreaming, and keep having warm cups of tea. I don’t have to have all the answers right now, I just have to keep asking questions.

That’s a pretty good thing to know.

Update:

I barely get this post posted when another message from the blogosphere reaches my mailbox. Please read “How to Build Strong Foundations Underneath Your Dreams”, a post that speaks the truth.

Enemies of Progress

Don’t worry, this won’t be a political rant, (although I could easily ramble on about a political culture that is pushing backward rather than forward).

No, this is a post about the silent enemies inside ourselves, that prevent us from taking even the tiniest steps in any direction. Thus leaving us frozen in place, staring at nothing, drooling a little.

These are the enemies I currently face.  But, I want to confront them by bringing them out into the light. We all have our own versions of these inside ourselves. There is no cure-all, like throwing a golden ring into the Mountain of Doom, which will destroy these enemies by destroying their power source. These enemies are subtle and sneaky. They work through quiet manipulation and silent whispers that slowly cause chaos and bring you to a screeching halt.

As I woke up this morning, I realized that I am under attack, but I am counterattacking the only way I know how . . . through honest words.

Enemy #1: The Green-Eyed Monster

Yesterday Sarah had her second play date of the week. I listened to the girlish giggles and squeals as the two adventures fearlessly conquered the mountain in the backyard.  I know I wrote just the other day about Sarah’s fears, that I find frustrating, but in other ways she is fearless, especially when it comes to using her body or being silly.

I found myself envying  Sarah, for the carefree friendship and willingness to get scratched up in the name of adventure. Could I have joined them? Sure, except that in an unprecedented sneak attack my back twinged yesterday morning as I tried to get into my cozy chair.

Yes, my back rebelled about  getting into a chair AND I discovered that I am jealous of my daughter.

A feeling which closely links to . . .

Enemy #2: Loneliness

We all know writing can be a lonely business. That is part of the craft, in a way, but I discovered in my feelings of envy for my daughter that loneliness can also be an impassable barrier. Let me try to explain. This week has been a struggle for me as a Mom. Sarah was home for spring break, but Nathan did not have spring break (nor did I technically, I have to teach today). Sarah and I have clashed in every way possible, despite huge efforts on both sides.  Hence the decision to bring in play dates, a distraction of fun for her and a break from the tension for both of us.

But I can’t deny that her joy in her friends made me feel even lonelier.

Add to that the fact that Nathan didn’t just work his regular schedule this week, but also had to work nights as it was tech week for a production. I am used to that, it is part of the life in the theatre, but it didn’t help my loneliness and frustration.

To combat the loneliness yesterday, I tried to invite my characters in. I wanted to write about them. I wanted to have conversation with them. I wanted to become their friend.

But they wouldn’t come out to play. “Deal with this!” they each said, and hid away from my overwhelming emotional turmoil.

I found myself trying too hard, thinking too much, and staring hopelessly at nothing. Which of course leads to . . .

Enemy #3: The Inner Critic or The Over-thinking Brain

We all know this one. It’s that little critic inside ourselves that says everything we do is awful. My inner critic has teamed up with my Over-thinking brain. When I think too much, I never get anything done. I start doubting. I start second-guessing. Words don’t flow, because I start trying to be creative rather than just being creative. I manipulate words in search of the perfect turn-of-phrase, or a new way of staring on old emotion. [I even just struggled with that, trying to be all fancy with the use of the word delectable–which got me nowhere, as you can see]

IC and OTB are the perfect team to completely shut me down. I run away, afraid to try, and hide behind other people’s writing. I know, reading makes you a better writer, but not when IC and OTB have me under their control. Like puppet masters, they point out the perfection in other words.

“See, this person knows how to create a character without lots of exposition” says OTB.

“This plot is so much clearer and more interesting than yours,” pipes in IC.

The cacophony in my brain forces me to surrender, and I end up watching tv or playing computer games before crawling into bed early to read myself to sleep.

Throwing Down the Gauntlet

Today I am saying to these enemies, “BRING IT ON!!” I know they are there, they cannot sneak up on me anymore. I realize they will not simply disappear, but I will fight their power over me with everything I’ve got.

This is WAR!

Losing My Mind Mikado Style

Don’t ask me where this little piece of insanity came from . . . I am seriously losing my mind!  

[The Original]

To sit in solemn silence on a dull dark dock
In a pestilential prison with a lifelong lock
Awaiting the sensation of a short sharp shock
From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block. (Gilbert and Sullivan, The Mikado)

My Dad is up toward the top, on Stage Left (the right side of the picture) in a purple kimono with a blue fan. Steve is in there somewhere, I think.

[And now the corrupted version coming from a confused and over/under used brain . . .] 

To sit in solemn silence,  on my computer chair
In a purple office prison without pulling out my hair
Awaiting inspiration where I only find despair
Which will help the words start flowing from somewhere over there.

“Thank you, Thank you very much.” (Elvis)

The Line Between Success and Failure

Have you ever had one of those days when the universe speaks and you know you better listen?

I’m having one right now.

I wasn’t planning on posting today. I have kind of reached a stumbling block in terms of blogging. Not writer’s block, as I still seem to still be prolifically pouring out posts on a regular basis, but a block related to purpose. I don’t know why I blog. I am sensing a need for some change, but I don’t know what that means yet. Perhaps it is a re-purposing of this blog. Perhaps I need a new blog completely. Or perhaps it is time to move onto something else.

Only time will tell.

However, three posts caught my attention this morning. Three posts, three messages from the universe, made me sit down (well Iwas already sitting) and begin to write.

Message #1 

The first was a simple announcement from a blogging friend saying that she was closing up shop and starting over in a different blog space. Being the dedicated follower that I am, I wandered over to Deborah’s new blog to read her first post, where she wrote:

“I’ll be honest with you. Change freaks me out. All those moving parts, details to manage, so much upheaval. Things get lost, stuff isn’t where you remember. It gives me palpitations.

But that’s precisely why I like it, too. Great stuff happens when I’m slightly off balance. At least there’s the potential. That’s why I make myself go through the scary parts.”

My life has been all about change in recent years, but at the same time it seems like I am on a bicycle without wheels, peddling as hard as I can but unable to move forward. I don’t want my life to be like that. It’s time to push myself through the scary parts.

Message #2

Whenever I am looking for inspiration or motivation, or simply deep thought, I know I can turn to the fabulous blog Mirth and Motivation. Elizabeth always writes thought-provoking and calming posts. Today, she wrote “Inspiration: Embracing the F Word” (no, not that F-word. Get your mind of the gutter).  In my Morning Pages I have been writing a lot about failure lately, as well as trying to understand how I define success. Because, in reality neither of those terms have any meaning, except the meanings we ascribe to them. Unless, as many of us do, we let society define those words for us. I have done that too often. It is time for me to create my own definition of both failure and success, so that I can look back on my life without judgment. I want to be able to look back on my life and simply say “I lived fully.”

Message #3

The final message came from Terry over at The Incredible Lightness of Seeing. She always speaks to my soul with moving images, quotes, and brief snippets of her life. Today she shared her experiences conquering her own fears at Bandelier National Monument and I found inspiration from her journey. She writes:

“Trying something new and conquering a fear makes one grow as a person. When I began taking boot camp classes last year, I learned how beneficial it is for mind, body, and spirit to challenge oneself. Just because I’m nearing 60 doesn’t mean I can’t try new things. And I’m so thrilled that I did.”

I’m so thrilled that she shared that story, and the pictures that go with it (please visit her blog to see them, it is worth every moment). Perhaps it is time to try something new and for me to grow in a new direction.

The Meaning Behind it All

Yesterday Sarah invited a friend over for a play date, which seemed like a good solution for two people who seem to be constantly battling each other at this moment in time. A buffer of sorts. I watched the girls go exploring up the rocky hill that is my back yard, snapping photos of their journey. They discovered some old bark slabs, that they said “looked like a wooden skirt.” They brought a piece down to show me, and I said,”that would be a great background for a painting.” They went up and grabbed more pieces, and the creation began. They even grabbed a piece for me.

“I used to hate art,” Marissa said.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I didn’t understand the rules.”

I kept painting, just following my whim and whatever instinct guided me.

“What are you doing?” Marissa asked.

“Just going with the flow,” I said. “To me art is just about going with the flow.”

“Me too,” Sarah said. “I learned that from Miss Jackie.  Just go with the flow, and if you make a mistake try something else.”

The messages are beginning to coalesce into a whole–I need to go with the flow, trust in my ability to change, and stop defining myself in terms of success or failure.

The line between success and failure is myself.

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: