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. ūüėČ

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.

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.

Writing Myself Wrong?

Ever since I wrote the post “Write it ‘Right'” and Other Reasons to Write¬†last week something surprising has been happening, and I’m not sure it is a good thing.

I’ve been very conscious (if not obsessively so) about my eating, and in general I have done well. Of course, the Superbowl gathering yesterday distracted me with decadent temptations ¬†and when I spent the afternoon with a good friend on Saturday I found my hand straying to the potato chips one too many times. However, I am pretty proud of how I’ve been eating, and I am learning about myself with these bumps in the road. So that’s good.

English: A pile of potato chips. These are Utz...

Image via Wikipedia

When I’ve had cravings, I’ve written in my journal. I’ve thought about why I want to eat, and why I crave certain foods. I’ve begun to recognize the patterns and flaws as well as the challenges I face. So that’s good.

I’ve exercised every day except Saturday in some form or another. (I intended to on Saturday, it just never happened, but driving burns calories too you know ūüėČ ). I have a plan to incorporate at least 1/2 hour of walking every day. I just got back from a brisk walk where I didn’t hide behind my iPod. I just listened to the rhythm of my feet, the birds, the wind, and my own inner monologue (which isn’t the most pleasant at the moment). It’s hard and scary, but I feel like I can do this. So that’s good.

The first thing I do in the morning is grab my pen and start writing my Morning Pages. I try not to censor myself. I try to be brutally honest. I try to let the words flow, and find the sense of calm that comes from just letting it all out there. It is sometimes a struggle, partially because of distractions (I have to write before Sarah wakes and when the dogs are otherwise occupied) and partially when I hit on something so honest it hurts. But I’m doing it, and learning things, and facing things . . . So that’s good.

I’m sure by now you are wondering “where’s the bad?” The bad lies in the fact that I may be writing, but I don’t feel like I am writing anything worth sharing. I may be creating, but I am not creating anything exciting. I may be doing, but I am not doing anything that feels valid. I am obsessing about food and exercise. I am keeping my journal up-to-date. I am keeping a food log. But I am lost in terms of projects and blogs.

I know, someone is bound to say “You just started, give it time.” And you are right. But I also realize that one of the things I need to overcome to succeed at any of my dreams is my impatience. When the weight does not come off fast enough, I get frustrated and give up. When I was unable to find a publisher for my book, I got frustrated and gave up. When the projects I start seem too hard or intimidating or time-consuming, lately I get frustrated and give up.

I haven’t always been this way. I used to take on a challenge and go! go! go! until it was complete. I finished my complete doctorate in three years¬†including researching and writing my dissertation, as well as planning a wedding and getting married in the middle of it. As part of my graduate assistant-ship I organized a three-day performance festival that reached hundreds of children in the Phoenix area, and while I didn’t do it alone my “boss” was useless and I still pulled it off. I’ve written a book and over 500 blog posts, as well as numerous academic papers and articles. ¬†I’ve directed shows and come in under-budget almost every time. I could keep brainstorming the list in this paragraph till it grows unwieldy, but the whole point is that I have not always been the person who gives up.

So why do I feel like I can’t finish anything now? Why do I feel so lost in who and what I am and what I am able to do? Why do I feel like I will eventually, just give up?

I don’t want to give up anymore. I don’t want to be angry at myself anymore. I don’t want to dislike myself anymore.

I want to be happy! This doesn’t mean I need to be rich, or thin, or famous, or anything like that. It simply means that I want to wake up in the morning knowing that I will feel proud at the end of the day. I want to take on projects that feel fulfilling and touch people in positive ways. I want to leave a positive footprint in my life and on this earth. I want to know that I can accomplish any challenges I put to myself. I want to have hope.

Looking for hope at the end of a rainbow

That’s a good thing, isn’t it?

One Seed at a Time

“The greatest things ever done on Earth¬†have been done little by little.”– William Jennings Bryan

The other day, one of my truly wise blogging friends Barbarann Ayers from MakMineMemoir made a comment to me on my “Isn’t it Ironic?” post. ¬†A comment that I’ve been thinking about ever since. She wrote:

Digging new holes for new seeds is not irony, my dear Lisa. It is your assignment. You are the wellspring of ideas for others to nurture, develop and fly. Like aircraft designers who are never the pilot. Like farmers who plant what others will eat. What you leave in your wake is idea, motivation, encouragement work for others to do, and you might only ever see a glimpse of the outcome. I saw this as a child interrupted in the sandbox, called away from my castle building, and unhappy about it, only to come back later to see a finished sandcastle built on my beginnings, by other small hands who completed the task. You are the seed planter. That is your gift. You even get to water and nourish what you planted. No irony there. The whole cosmos is a happier place because you are the source of so many seeds, so many plantings. . .

My response to her was to ask, “What happens when you run out of seeds? I feel like I don’t have anymore.”

You can see her response on my post, but I’m still thinking about it.

I know that I am sometimes good at motivating others. I know that I can give inspiration when needed. I know that I am good with young people, especially girls, at getting them to see that the world is theirs to create. I know that I have a lot to offer a lot of different people, and can usually come up with solutions when others can’t.

But is that enough?

I have been somewhat silent on my own blog this week, because I feel seedless. ( I’ve been commenting, but I just haven’t felt like writing any posts).

The silence is not a struggle with words, although the words themselves seem reluctant, clinging to the inside of my brain rather than making their way onto the page. No, my struggle this week has been a struggle with self.

I know at least one reader who, if she reads it at all, will say I am just looking for attention. Perhaps I am in one way, since this week my thoughts hover around one word:

There is a difference between being alone and being lonely. When I am alone with a pocket full of seeds, I am not lonely. I can take each seed and imagine where and how it needs to be planted, and dream about what it takes to nurture the seed and make it grow.

When I feel lonely, though, I look in my secret collection of seeds to be planted and find only dusty remnants of seeds dried out with neglect. The dust blows away leaving nothing but silence.

How do I replenish them?

I look for inspiration in the world around me, and my eye falls onto two cards that I have pinned to a cork board on my wall.

A card Nathan gave me after he graduated with his MFA and I still struggled toward mine.

A card given to me by a friend when I passed my dissertation defense.

I believe I am entering a new stage of learning. The roles and dreams I’ve lived with for a long time now no longer feel right. I’ve achieved many goals, and I guess I have planted a lot of seeds, but that isn’t enough. I need new seeds, new dreams, and perhaps a few new rungs on my ladder.

That could be exciting except that I have no idea what it means. I don’t know where to find seeds or what they will become when planted. I don’t know anything anymore.

However, not knowing might be a gift. Sidey’s Weekend Theme this week is “the unexpected.” I realize that some of the best experiences and adventures of my life have been completely unexpected. In this nebulous world of letting go and being open to new learning, I do not know what to expect. ¬†I can’t even imagine what may happen. All I have, for the moment, is the NOW.

So perhaps my seedless silence is merely a time to rest before the unexpected happens.

Only time will tell.

B is for Being, Believing, and Becoming

Fonts-B

Image via Wikipedia

 

Epiphanies. I know, that doesn’t start with B, but it is relevant.

The dictionary definition of epiphany (according to dictionary.com) includes:

. . . a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely,
or commonplace occurrence or experience.

Yesterday I had several simple moments of the reality of my life right now, and those epiphanies have led me to a few decisions. Or maybe it was one long epiphany brought to clarity by simple moments.

Part One

I drove alone through the flat fields, of Kansas a gray mist washing my car with the last (we hope) of the miserable weather. I’d never been to this particular town before, or even on this particular road. I knew I had a 40 minute drive, but I wouldn’t have minded longer. I sometimes like long drives in the car alone, since it gives me time to think and be completely alone.

I chose music rather than NPR, and as usual my mind focused in on songs and phrases that connected with my heart in some way. ¬†Often I sing along. Even more often a certain phrase or song hits me where I’m feeling, encouraging me to think about something that I have been avoiding.

I don’t even know which song did it this time, but I suddenly found myself thinking out loud (in other words, talking to myself). ūüėÄ The conversation went something like this:

“You’ve really had some cool opportunities this year. You’ve had more theater based opportunities sent your way here than in Durango.”

“Yes, I know. I should feel lucky.”

“So, what’s the problem? Why aren’t you happy?”

I couldn’t answer. I don’t know if I simply won’t allow myself to feel at home here, or if my soul truly does not feel at home here. ¬†Perhaps I have a dream ideal of “home” and this does not match the ideal. I wish I could explain, but I cannot put it into words.

But that wasn’t the epiphany. I kept thinking about the questions, “Why aren’t you happy?” ¬†And it hit me, I’m still stuck in the mentality that I am a failure if I don’t have a title or a full-time job with a prestigious institution. ¬†Yes, I’m Dr. Kramer. But I’m not DR. Kramer, Associate Professor. Or Lisa Kramer, Artistic Director, or Lisa Kramer published author. In other words, my life is not what I pictured and so somehow that seems like a failure.

But that is ridiculous? Why should a title matter? Why shouldn’t I be content just being Lisa Kramer who does pretty cool things? ¬†Why do I equate success with large-scale recognition?

Part Two

I take notes during the workshop on Drama Therapy, feeling proud that I basically know this stuff, but am also learning some new things which will ¬† help me create some interesting programming for a group of Adults with special needs that I am meeting for the first time next week. This workshop focused mainly on Drama Therapy with Alzheimer’s patients but much of the discussion is applicable to other needs. I sat and absorbed, but also had moments of struggle, because the Alzheimer’s focus made this personal–as the realities of my Dad’s condition came forward in living color.

I look around at this room full of about 40 or so amazing people, all who work in some capacity with the elderly or adults with special needs.  I was the only one there alone. The only one there as a theater educator rather than as someone who regularly worked with this population. I could never do their job, I thought to myself, but I can help them provide creative opportunities for the people they work with. Then it hit me, the world is full of these small opportunities; of groups who are looking for connection in ways that I, Lisa Kramer of no title, can help provide.

Part Three

When I got home, after racing back to pick up Sarah and then take us both to piano lessons. I decided to catch up on WordPress. I started by replying to the kind comments on my post yesterday. Then I started reading other posts, and I couldn’t focus. It wasn’t the posts. It was me. I¬†didn’t have the energy to give them justice and respond fully. I felt guilty. I felt conflicted. Then I read this post at Broadside where Kaitlin (who I have been following for a while) asked “Would You Rather Be Productive or Creative?” This was the response I wrote to her:

As one of the guilty bloggers who have written recently about being overwhelmed by blogging, I am realizing that I need more creative time. Post A Day has been good for me, because it has allowed me to give myself permission to write. But, I also realize that I want to write something more. I don’t know what that is yet, but I feel it coming. I technically took yesterday off from blogging, and I’ve been busy most of today. I started trying to catch up, and I find I don’t have the energy for it. I only want to read a few that catch my eye and interest me. I always find your posts interesting, and this question intrigued me. . .  I think I lean towards wanting to be creative so that I can produce something really quality, rather than being productive and continuing to produce mediocrity.

That’s when I realized that, as much as I love this community, I need to refocus a little. If I want to create a reality where I am truly happy, I need to do three things:

  • Be where I am now to the best of my ability. That doesn’t mean I have to settle, but I need to acknowledge the good things that I am doing. If we stay here longer than I hoped, then I have to continue doing good things and enjoying the journey rather than focusing on the future.
  • Believe in myself and be open to possibility. I still have dreams even if they are unclear. I have to believe that the world provides opportunities for me to follow those dreams.
  • Become what I want to be through a balance of creativity and productivity. I cannot just keep producing with no goal, or creating with no product. I need to do both.

So what does this mean? It means, dear blogging friends, that I need to get organized. I need to spend less time in the blogosphere, and more time creating and producing. It means that, while I will still follow you and interact, and will still post, I may do it a little less frequently. It means that I am going to try to start following the advice from Pet the Dog from a while back, about organizing my time better and staying focused on one task at a time.

I hope you will all understand if I am a little less active, but I promise I’m always here if you need me. I feel very close to many of you in this strange community of ours, and I’m not going to let that go.

So here’s a toast to Being, Believing and Becoming! May we all find meaning and happiness in¬†our journeys.

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