Walking, Writing, and Working the Weight Away

Some of you may remember that many moons ago I declared I was going to “Write Myself Right” meaning that I would use my writing as a tool to help me achieve my personal health and weight-loss goals. As often happens, my good intentions lasted only a short time as I found myself trapped into the vicious cycle which goes something like:

self-doubt–>boredom–>depression–>eating out of boredom,depression and self-doubt–>feeling fat and ugly–>self-doubt–>

It’s really an ugly cycle that just got uglier as my job search lead to dead-ends, my writing felt like it was empty, and my confusions about what I want to do with my life grew. Somehow writing myself right became too hard, and I simply tried to write my way out of the slump I was in, without worrying about what my body did.

Over the past month, however, I faced some brutal realities, and shifted my attitude. It was not an easy month, as I took on the role of single mom, while Nathan went ahead to his other home, a place where I have yet to find my place. The month apart was emotional for many reasons, but I began to realize that I am the only one who can change my destiny, and that I was tired of succumbing to the depression. I took strides to give myself a break. I blogged less, but wrote more. I took myself for walks. I cleaned and reorganized the house. I signed up for webinars to help me clarify my personal career goals. I worked on establishing better boundaries and understanding between myself and my daughter, so that she could see me as an individual as well as her mother—in other words, as a person who is not simply the protective extension of her existence.

It was a month of learning, growing, and crying.

Now we are here in Iowa, at our “summer home” where I am always torn about being here. In some ways I love it, but in others I become frustrated as I have yet to find my place here and end up feeling frustrated and guilty half the time.

In my new favorite movie, Brave, Princess Merida asks the question “If you had a chance to change your fate, would you?” I answered the question for myself this week by taking a few simple steps.

Literally.

Sarah had swim lessons every morning this week. I took the time during her 45 minute lesson to walk on the track, adding some oomph to my workout with the help of wrist weights. On Thursday morning, before her class, I took my first ever Pilades class (and I still feel it in my stomach) so I swam a little and soaked instead of walking. I also walked around the theatre lot all week in search of props and helping out here and there. I tried my best (in a place where eating healthy is sometimes challenging as the food is plentiful and decadent) to eat lightly and right. I also gave myself a break from the emotions, but sleeping, writing, and basically trying to just be in the moment.

This morning I put on some short pants that I bought last week to bring with me to Boji. Pants that I wore last weekend. Pants that were a little snug when I bought them.

Today I feel like I  need a belt.

I don’t know what the scale will say. I don’t know if the weight is just water weight. I don’t know if this is a permanent change or what.

But it really doesn’t matter. I feel like something has shifted inside myself, and something good is about to happen. I still don’t know what it is, but I am excited to face it.

One step at a time.

Sitting and Writing and Thinking and Dreaming

I’m back at the coffee shop.

I have been doing some writing on the next chapter. I can’t say it is very good, but I’m all about the shitty first drafts, so that’s okay.

I really came here because today is the final day of a webinar I’ve been taking  called “Transform Your Career” so I needed to be someplace with reliable internet. Of course, that excuse also justified the iced chai and decadent cookie purchase I made so that I could sit here for hours. 😉

As I sit here, waiting for the webinar to start, my mind whirls around my purpose, my goals, my dreams, and my hopes. How could it not, I am taking a Webinar aimed at people who want to change their careers. I have also been in the middle of an inconclusive change for years. So I sit and think about possibilities, hoping to find the answers in my words.

But really, I am just full of questions:

  • what do I really want to do with my life?
  • what are my strengths and how can I use them to find/create a fulfilling career?
  • how do I overcome my shyness and take advantage of my networking capabilities?
  • who can help me reinvent myself?
  • what makes me feel the most accomplished and fulfilled?
  • where do I begin when I feel overwhelmed?
  • what do I want to be when I grow up?

I feel change in the air. I know that something big is coming my way, I just need to have the courage and belief in myself to reach out and grab it.

Let the dreams begin.

Seeking the Write Space

I am in search of the impossible.

I need to find a place where I can create, imagine, write, dream and be that isn’t cluttered with distractions.

“Why is that impossible?” you ask. Because the place I seek is not a physical space. Yes, sometimes it is difficult to get quality quiet time with the distractions of dogs, child, responsibilities and internet, but that isn’t my real problem.

The problem is the clutter I carry in my mind. I need to find that hidden place of quiet which allows me to achieve all my goals. I cannot seem to quiet the cacophony or silence the inner critic enough to just create.

I’m not blocked exactly. I have ideas bouncing around in my head. Last week I finished the first chapter of my book, and while I impatiently await feedback from my editor/instructor my head is moving quickly through the possible twists and turns of the story. Ideas and images pop into my brain at random points and moments.

But, when I sit down to put words onto a page, I do everything but. I think. I scribble. I surf the net for images (to be fair that’s part of the next assignment). I check e-mail. I go on Facebook. I read. But I do not write.

Even this blog post seems recycled. Didn’t I just write this? Looking back on my past few posts I realize I have written about the inner critic and the search for my writer’s voice. I’ve written about the cacophony of ideas in my head as well as the intimidating silence that comes from an inability to write.

But, while in some ways I am repeating myself, in another way I am at a different point in my journey. I am struggling with giving myself permission to write. I am struggling, while surrounded by people pouring their hearts and souls into weekly theatrical productions, to say “it is okay for you to be moving on in your creative life, it is okay for you to want to achieve new goals, it is okay to let go of theatre.”

Sometimes it is hard to let go.

I spent the last two days being creative in a different way, as I pulled props together for an upcoming production of Hansel and Gretel  as part of the Children’s Theatre season at this summer stock theatre. I pulled most of them, but had to make a gingerbread girl and carve out a fake roast. My hands, as I type this, reflect multi-colored paint stains from various spray paints. I enjoyed the simplicity of finishing my task (minus some chicken bones which I will gain sometimes this weekend) and then being able to walk away, without the responsibility of directing. There is joy about not being in charge, but I wonder if that is a joy that I have convinced myself to feel as I finally have had to accept that I am tired of fighting for opportunities to direct. Have I just given up?

Sometimes I feel like I have given up because theatre has become too hard, or as an excuse to not keep striving to achieve my theatrical goals.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve already achieved those goals, so I am naturally seeking the next creative project, the next part of the dream.

Have I simply  moved on?

Right now I sit across from Sarah in a shop called Hey, Good Cookie!  I had every intention of working on Chapter 2, and managed to convince Sarah to bring something to read and/or do so that I could focus on writing.

Sarah is living up to her end of the bargain, but I am not. Of course, I am sitting here writing this, and that counts, but I can’t seem to buckle down and work on the fiction that calls to me. Earlier today, when I was at a different location alone, I had an internal discussion about how I should not spend money to write in coffee shops because I am not making any money in my writing. Why can’t creation be valuable just in the act of doing it? Why do I continue to devalue my own work simply because I do not get a paycheck?  Everything I do–whether it is directing, teaching, writing, making props, volunteering, parenting, or mentoring–requires time, commitment, and hard work. So why am I so hard on myself about that time?

Prairie Chick is one of my favorite places to write, but its magic was lost on me today.

When and how can I give myself the space and permission to write?

Believing in Butterflies

Butterflies and Hurricanes 2

Butterflies and Hurricanes 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night I went to a dance concert by the Stephens College Dance Company. Whenever I attend dance concerts one of two things happen. I either 1) leave scratching my head saying they moved well but I don’t get it; or, 2) get swept away in the imagery, the movement, and wish that I could become a dancer and share life in that magical way.

The performance last night swept me away in every way possible.

One of the pieces they did was called “Butterflies and Hurricanes” and was “Dedicated to the children who survived the Joplin tornado.” A choreographer’s note explained:

“After the Joplin, Mo. tornado in 2011, several children recounted stories of their experiences. Many reported seeing giant butterflies that held them to the ground, and kept them safe and calm. Incredibly, these stories were gathered separately, but seemed to include the same details. Could there be magical butterflies out there, or do they just live in the imagination of children? You decide.”

The power of this idea, this image, spoke to me on many levels. It wasn’t just the amazingly beautiful dance with twirling umbrellas, the lights that brought back memories of the  darkening sky of that day in 2011 (the storm that hit Joplin went over us in Independence, KS), or the elegance of the dancer on point wrapped with blue fabric that extended out to form her wings to incredible effect.  All of those were powerful, but the story behind it begged for more attention.

I did a little research and found this article called “The butterfly people of Joplin” which goes into details of the events on that day, events that lead to a belief in angels for many people.

Do I think the butterflies were angels? Perhaps. I do know that somehow butterflies, for me at least, reflect the connection between the seen and the unseen, the real and the magical,  what we know because we can see it and what we know just because we know.

Once, long ago, I sat on one of the energy vortexes found in Sedona, AZ and asked for a sign, for some guidance, for some clue that I was making good choices in my life. A butterfly landed near me and I thought, perhaps, that it was a spirit guide. I know I have a picture of that moment, but not on this computer.

Photo by Steve Kramer. Bell Rock, one of the most powerful vortexes (not the one I sat on)

Since then, I have been drawn to butterflies. Whenever I have the opportunity I go to butterfly houses and spend time watching those magical creatures . I’m always trying to capture their beauty on my camera, but somehow they manage to elude me.

Perhaps their message for me comes from the moment.

I remember as a child seeing the most beautiful butterfly I had ever seen. It was black with tiny dots of color along the edges of its wings, like someone had drawn on it with pastel dots of paint. My guess (now that I can research it) is that it was a swallowtail, although I swear it had more variety of colors on its wings.

Whatever it was, I still remember feeling honored to see it that day long ago.

When we were still in Kansas, I led a play reading of The Bones of Butterflies  by Marcia Cebulska, which I wrote about here. Marcia, who is a talented playwright and magnificent woman, went on to work on a special project this past year called The Greensburg Project, which looked at the story of the”survival and journey home” for the town of Greensburg, KS after a devastating tornado destroyed the town. I could not help but think about Marcia and her play “Rooted: The Greensburg Odyssey” last night.  For more about the project, visit this site. I was unable to see it, but I so wish I had.

I know this post seems to be wandering all over the place, almost like the flight of butterflies, random and elusive.

But somehow I feel like magic is building around me, if I simply could understand the call of the butterflies, and the message they are trying to send.

I believe in butterflies. Do you?

Life After Chip (100 Word Challenge for GrownUps)

 

Combine a little jet lag, a summer theatre, a fantasy novel with fairy tales, and this weeks picture challenge and this is the result.

You can’t escape your roots. My mother lived her life serving others with a song and a smile, even when hindered by a magic spell that turned her into a teapot. She made those difficult years a joy for me, despite the annoying chip in my rim and the handle on my side. She was overjoyed when our master, the Beast found his Beauty and fell in love, not only because it meant we could take on our human form.  The memories of the spell haunted me, so I left the castle to find my own way to serve. The memories still remain.

Celebrating Summer With Thanks and Poetry

Part of the reason I was able to find my voice for my 100 WCGU yesterday came from a surprise gift (and slight kick in the butt) given to my be Midlife Singlemum,  a blogger from Israel who shares her story with wisdom and grace. Check out this post of hers called “The 10 Commandments of Facebook”. Anyway, in her contribution to the challenge, Midlife Singlemum graciously gave me The Beautiful Blogger Award which asks you to thank your nominator (Thank you so much Rachel!) write 10 things about yourself people may not know, and nominate 6 bloggers.

Of course, secret rebel that I am, I am choosing not to pass the award on to others. No, I’m not selfish, I just simply can’t choose out of all the beautiful blogs I follow. Call me lazy if you must.

I also don’t know that I can tell you 10 things that I haven’t already revealed in this blog. I feel like I have been so open and honest here that I only have the deepest, darkest secrets left.

However, as today is the first day of summer, I thought I might be able to come up with some summer themed truths about myself. But first, for your entertainment, a summer acrostic written by the true poet in the family:

Summer

Swimming in the pool

Under water here we come

More free time

Musicals

Entertainment

Reading in the night

by Sarah  KramerLee 6/19/2012

 The poem leads to the first new (summer inspired) fact that I will reveal.

  1.  I am sometime jealous of my daughter’s talent. I know, I know, she gets it from me, but she is sometimes so fearless about creating. Of course, at other times she gives up if she can’t do things perfectly so perhaps she takes after me a little bit too much.
  2. As a celebration of the last day of school, Sarah and I watched Mama Mia last night. We set it to the sing along version and spent much of the night singing and dancing at the top of our lungs. I loved every minute of it!
  3. I loved playing mini golf, especially during the summers when I was in college. My friend Barb and I would meet at least once a summer in a competitive challenge. Sarah and I went to a nearby course this past Sunday, and we each got several holes-in-one. Loved it!
  4. I was a lifeguard at pools for many years. And, although I had only minor saves, that job revealed hidden power in me. Or perhaps I should say my inner HULK. Some football players were teasing me one summer, about how I was too short to be able to save anyone and yadda yadda yadda. They were causing a lot of problems, and I lost my temper. I grabbed one of them, twisted his arm behind his back, dragged him around the pool and threw him out the gate. Don’t mess with me when I am angry.
  5. I love snorkeling in the ocean, when you can actually see the fish. However, I really don’t like swimming in the ocean at the beach as I am terrified of stepping on some spiny creature. I am most terrified by jellyfish, partially because some boys ripped on in half and threw it at me when I was a child.
  6. I am also afraid of firecrackers. I love watching fireworks from a distance, but I cannot stand being to close. Again, a childhood trauma from a cherry bomb thrown a little too close. My favorite time watching fireworks was from a boat in Japan.
  7. I like to be busy during the summer. I’m not good with lazing around and sunbathing.
  8. I could live on ice cream all the time.
  9. I am tired of the heat from my long hair and am planning on chopping it off.
  10. My attitude toward this summer hasn’t been great, but I am determined to change that.

Happy summer everyone!

Confronting the Darkness (100 WCGU)

It has been a while since I have participated in Julia’s 100 Word Challenge for Grown Ups, but this weeks challenge  “… in the dark recess of my mind ..” seemed to speak to the journey I have been on lately. Be sure to visit the challenge for other people’s entries.

Confronting the Darkness

“You can’t,” whispers a creature, hidden in the darkness. I can feel the freezing touch of its leathery wings, and the tickle as it haunts my thoughts. “You will fail,” it taunts me, fetid breath poisoning my thoughts, weighing me down with impossibility. I try to break its hold, banish it from the dark recess of my mind, but it is a sneaky creature, sometimes appearing in a gentler guise. A glistening black fairy with feathery wings, lulling me into a sense of possibility, dangling dreams in front of me before pulling them away with a cruel tinkling laugh. The only answer lies in writing the light.

A Story from the Heart, or The Writer I Want to Be

I’ve been doing A LOT of reading lately.

I’ve been reading books of all types and genres. Sometimes I read for escape, but more often than not I am reading to figure out who I am as a writer. One of the flaws of the course I am taking is that it will soon shift into focusing on how to market your book, instead of just on the writing of the book. This is great in the sense that I will have a complete package ready to send off to publishers or agents or  whoever I find the courage to send the book too, once it is finished. But, I find focusing on the market sometimes makes it harder for me to write.

What’s the use of writing if you only write to sell, rather than write to tell a story?

It’s no use marketing something if I cannot finish it.

My struggle lies in naming the genre of the book. I have called it fantasy, but it doesn’t fall into the land of fairies of  elves made famous by writers like Tolkien.  The book that to me has the closest relationship to the story I want to tell is The Handmaid’s Tale  by Margaret Atwood, so I guess you could call my project a dystopian novel or a work of speculative fiction, but that doesn’t cover the story either, or incorporate the “magical” elements. And I am not Margaret Atwood.

So I’ve been reading, searching for examples of what I am writing. In reality, I think, I’ve been searching for a reason to keep writing– evidence that the story I am telling might be interesting enough for someone to read.

I’ve figured out what my book is not. It is not a paranormal romance, although there is an element of paranormal in it and I’m not sure yet whether or not romance will play a role. It is not a literary novel, or at least not one that plays with language and focuses more on character than on plot, although I think I usually write more with character in mind. It is definitely not chick lit.

So what, exactly am a I trying to write?

I still don’t know. So I keep reading, trying to write, and searching for who I am as a writer.

This morning I finished a book that showed me who I want to be as a writer. Dancing on Broken Glass by Ka Hancock is is an emotional roller coaster. I cried off and on throughout, especially through the last few chapters. However, it was so beautifully written, and the characters were so interesting I enjoyed every moment of the emotional journey. Hancock writes with lyricism and brutal honesty. She writes a story from the heart, and that is what I love.

Here is the book description as found on Amazon.com:

“An unvarnished portrait of a marriage that is both ordinary and extraordinary, Dancing on Broken Glass takes readers on an unforgettable journey of the heart.

Lucy Houston and Mickey Chandler probably shouldn’t have fallen in love, let alone gotten married. They’re both plagued with faulty genes—he has bipolar disorder; she, a ravaging family history of breast cancer. But when their paths cross on the night of Lucy’s twenty-first birthday, sparks fly, and there’s no denying their chemistry.

Cautious every step of the way, they are determined to make their relationship work—and they put their commitment in writing. Mickey will take his medication. Lucy won’t blame him for what is beyond his control. He promises honesty. She promises patience. Like any marriage, there are good days and bad days—and some very bad days. In dealing with their unique challenges, they make the heartbreaking decision not to have children. But when Lucy shows up for a routine physical just shy of their eleventh anniversary, she gets an impossible surprise that changes everything. Everything. Suddenly, all their rules are thrown out the window, and the two of them must redefine what love really is.”

The story carried me forward for a number of reasons:

  • Incredible writing that is beautiful, poignant, and honest.
  • Characters who felt real. Mickey’s voice, which we hear in the beginning of each chapter as well as at the end of the book, fascinated me, especially after reading some of the powerful posts Kathy has written over at reinventing the event horizon about her own journey dealing with being bipolar. Kathy has always amazed me, and somehow reading a story like hers in a fictionalized character just made me realize how incredible she truly is. I can say the same about the character of Lucy, the main voice of the story, whose journey made me think of another  amazing Cathie in my life, one who battled breast cancer while watching her daughter fight (and eventually succumb) to a rare form of stomach cancer. She is another woman who inspires me to live life fully because the future is uncertain. I was grateful to be reminded of her as I read the story of Lucy.
  • Although I knew I would cry, I loved the freedom of the tears. I really needed them

This book, combined with my recent reading of Gifts from the Seahave shown me who I would like to be as a writer. I want to write a story that touches people in many ways. I want a story that reminds people of their own lives, their own stories, their own dreams. I want to make people laugh, cry, scream, smile, or simply think. I want to write beautiful words full of meaning and emotion.

So that is the writer I want to be. The hard work will be getting there.

Kathy McCullough in her wonderful backyard, which she wrote about today (click the image to go to her post), when I met her last summer.

The other wonderful Cathie in my life. I stole this picture from Facebook.

Walking as Meditation

I sat at the bottom of the driveway waiting for the bus to pick Sarah up, listening as she talked to Nathan on the cell phone. A slug made its slimy passage across the driveway behind me, so Sarah kept squirming and checking to make sure it wasn’t coming our way. I suddenly became aware of the peacefulness of the moment: the cool morning air carrying faint summer scents, the warmth of the early morning sun caressing my skin.

The inner voice inside me whispered, “Time to take a walk.”

I went inside, put on some sunscreen, grabbed my wrist weights and began walking. I felt the rhythm of my footsteps, the beating of my heart, the sound of my breath. The road varied between manicured lawns, perfect gardens, and expanses of weeds and wilderness in its wide variety of rich green speckled with red berries, white flowers, purple buds.

I walked and I thought and I found a moment of clarity inside myself. Something shifted and I know that I will find my path, as long as I keep walking, listening, feeling, breathing, and dreaming.

Now the clouds have rolled in and the sky feels heavy. That type of weather has weighed on my heart lately, making me feel doubt, depression, and dismay. But today, something has changed, and I watch the wind blow through the trees sending me a message of hope and possibility.

Today I walked into peace.

From Nothing to Chaos

Yesterday I broke my long silence with silliness, and today I face the complete opposite problem–a mind so full of ideas that I have too much to say. So you get the honor (or the torturous task) of following the jumble in my mind as I try to get control over the chaos.

Fiction Fever

My post yesterday enabled me to focus a little. I spent the rest of the morning at one of my local coffee shop offices pounding out a rough draft of chapter one of one of my writing projects. You will be happy to know (or completely disinterested) that I remembered to pee when a kind woman shared the wall outlet near me so I felt comfortable asking her to watch my stuff. 😉

As some of you may recall, I am currently enrolled in a course to help me write this book, because I felt that having deadlines and an “editor” to offer guidance would motivate me more. In some ways it works, but in some ways it doesn’t as the gaps between sending my assignments and receiving feedback leave me hanging in the “should I move forward or wait” mode of writing. These gaps are made a little longer by the fact that the person I am working with does not accept assignments via e-mail. I’ve dealt with it by writing random scenes or simply brainstorming more about the story, and reading a lot of the course material. When I received feedback two days ago about my plot summary, I was excited to dive in. I was encouraged by the feedback, where he raised some interesting questions that I hadn’t thought of yet; the answers of which will only strengthen the novel (I hope).

So, loaded down with my course manual and computer, I headed out, intending to read and write. Of course, I then left my course manual in the car and had already set up the computer and settled down with my drink, so I decided to write first, read later. The end result of that process was interesting, in that I got a “shitty” first draft down, then read about what makes a strong first chapter, and had lightbulbs go off in my head. “Oh, you better fix that! You made that mistake. Go back and make it better.”

These thoughts wandered through my brain last night, to the extent that I grabbed a printout of my draft and started scratching down notes as I waited for Sarah to get ready for school. I think I’m on the way to something decent, or at least I am tricking myself into believing it.

Kitchen Disasters

I confess, I do not like to cook. It’s not that I can’t, I actually make some decent dishes, but I don’t like to cook especially when it is just for two or three people. Nathan likes to cook, so for the most part he does the cooking and I keep the house in some sort of organized state.

Of course, that posed a challenge when he left Sarah and I for a month on our own as he went off to his summer job adventures and Sarah still had school. Suddenly I am the one who has to figure out dinner.

We’ve done okay. I’ve cooked a few meals. We’ve had a few breakfasts for dinners (love that). We’ve gone out a couple of times. But, I have discovered two scary facts about me and the kitchen:

  1. My Rice Cooker Hates Me! I love rice cookers. I have used them since I lived in Japan, where I would cook up a batch of rice that would last me for days. I mixed it with protein (tuna or some other fish) and called it many a meal. So, I thought, I can make rice and that will be good. But no! For whatever reason this rice cooker refuses to behave like rice cookers should. I know the rice to water ratio. I know how to cook rice in a cooker. So why do I keep ending up with a crunchy layer of overcooked rice on the bottom with good rice on top? Is this kitchen karma?
  2. I Need an Air Popper! On my second weekend of being completely alone I decided I would watch something I enjoyed and treat myself to some popcorn. What I didn’t realize is that I don’t know how to pop popcorn on the stove. One smoke alarm and destroyed pot later, I recognize that I either need my old air popper or microwave popcorn. I also have to go buy a new pot.

My popcorn did not look like this.

NPR Thoughts and Career Dreams

I’ve also been doing a lot of serious thinking and self-reflection over the past few weeks, which I believe has caused both the silence and the chaos. I am participating in a webinar sponsored by my college alumnae association on changing careers, which has made me reflect a lot on where my life is heading. Last week we were “assigned” an assessment worksheet to help us figure out what our ideal work environment/dream job might be. The assessment included some interesting questions, and I surprised myself with some of the answers. One of the ones that intrigued me was this:

As I was driving in horrible traffic to get to an unpleasant (lady parts) follow-up doctor’s appointment, I heard some fascinating interviews on NPR:

  • discussions about recent conflicts which are both depressing and fascinating
  • a discussion about a book called The End of War, which I now need to read. The interview made me think about whether or not I believed it was possible to end conflict, and what it would take.
  • an interview with a Minister as she reflected on Obama’s presidency and racial issues in the USA.
  • a report on Aung San Suu Kyi, who fascinates me as a woman who has fought oppression and proven the power of peaceful resistance

As I listened to each story, I thought I want to know more about that. I want to sit and talk intelligently with interesting people. I want to write about the stories of this world. I want to work for NPR!

English: Aung San Suu Kyi meets with crowd aft...

English: Aung San Suu Kyi meets with crowd after house arrest lift on 14 November 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Mind in Chaos

There you have it, a sampling of the chaos going on in my mind these days. I’m not sure which is better, silence or noise.

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