Another Lesson From The Garden

IMG_1630Monday morning. Feeling rushed, overtired, and foggy headed, I look out the window at the garden. Brilliant leaves of red, gold and orange cover the patio pavers. Those still hanging on silently drift down on a gentle breeze. Maria and her gang put the garden to sleep for the winter this past week, leaving only a few red roses and one lone, beautifully pink echinacea to remind me that life is still there, even when it goes underground for the winter. Brown, crusty leaves of Lenten Roses, are dying back and new green leaf shoots are beginning to show. Their flowers will fill the dark days of February lasting into March, April, and maybe even May, before they give way to summer blooming plants.

It’s cold this morning and heavy rain is promised later in the day. I remove my shoes and socks, wander barefoot through the leaves, listening to their crunch, examining their outrageous colors, and letting my feet taste the cold that the coming months will bring.

I ask myself, Why must I rush about? My eyes had a hard time opening this morning. The warmth of my quilt, along with Sam and Max’s warm bodies snuggled up against my legs kept me from wanting to throw the covers back and jump into morning. Can’t I stay here just a few more minutes?

But unending lists and necessity pried away my comfort. Closing the window that keeps my bedroom very cool, I rushed into the bathroom. The litany of when and where I have to be played over and over again in my head. An old record stuck in the mud of have-to’s.

As I walked the dogs and had my breakfast of hot tea, yogurt, walnuts and berries, I reviewed the things I would be unable to do because I had too many other things to do. I wouldn’t have time to take a nice long walk, sans dogs. There would be no time to finish reading that book I’ve had a hard time closing at night, and taking a nap would be out of the question. Forget the idea of doing some visual art.

IMG_1624It’s got to stop, I thought. Would I be living this way if I knew I only had a month to live? Isn’t it time to pay attention to the time I fill with more and more things, making it sometimes impossible to do what I have at the top of my priority list? Like taking time to stretch my body and let it rest when it’s tired?

It’s a chronic problem of mine. I’m just too damned interested in way too many things. I love learning and want to know why the world is the way it is.  In the stillness under the quest to know more I think, Maybe if I can figure out why I’m so tired all the time, I can do even more?

In early September I made the mistake of signing up for two OLLI classes offered at the University. I chose, Elephant Sense and Sensibility, and How to Be an Olympic Swimmer in the Aging Tsunami. I love elephants, have seen them up close in the wild, and wanted to learn more about them from a man who probably knows it all and has a book or two to prove it. As to the second class, I thought it would be useful to learn more about where I am on the aging curve and what to expect as I move on down the road.

IMG_1626Both classes started last week, one on Monday, the other on Wednesday. I had other things to do those days. I rushed here and there, feeling unsatisfied and angry. The weekend passed by too quickly, filled with too many more things to do and not enough time to catch up on what I neglected to do last week.

Now, as I traipse through the leaves, freezing my toes off, I know it’s time to be honest with myself. I can read those books about elephants anytime. And I’ll figure out where I am on the aging curve as I go.

I throw out the idea of going to class, allow time for a long, leisurely walk around the neighborhood (with shoes), an hour to finish that book I am reading, and another hour or two for sitting and writing this blog post which I tried unsuccessfully to put together yesterday.

The glue is gone from my eyes. I no longer feel exhausted and my day is spread out before me. The mud where I was stuck has dried up. I’m no longer angry.

Being in the moment, knowing how I’m feeling, and what I need to do to take care of myself is what I need to do more of. Like the garden, I’m settling in as the days shorten and the wind blows colder.  Spring really is just around the corner and after resting for a few months I’ll be ready to spring into action once again.

Does the arrival of fall and winter make you want to settle down and rest?

Making Progress

DSCF0295Yikes! Yesterday was the first day of February. I set a deadline to finish a draft of my memoir by September first. I don’t know where last month’s thirty-one days went. I swear it was just yesterday that I welcomed in the New Year with excitement. My head was filled with ideas. I jotted down notes every time a new one came along and began getting out of bed at six-fifteen every morning so that I could walk the dog, get some exercise in, and have breakfast before plunging into a two-hour write.

I set of goal of writing for at least twelve hours a week. It doesn’t sound like much for a serious writer, but that time allotment does not include reading other blogs about writing, checking email, wasting time on Facebook, meeting every two weeks with my writing coach, or keeping this blog up to date.

I also decided I would no longer allow myself to get fixed like glue to the television screen every night after the evening news, even if there is something “good” on. Bill and I have gotten into the habit of watching House Hunters International on HGTV, every evening at seven.  It’s the cheapest way to see the world and somehow very addictive for two old farts like us.

Instead, most nights, I’ve been taking that hour to try to make a dent in the piles of books I have sitting by my bedside and in the living room.  I figure a writer needs to read in order to write. But if I wait, like I usually do until I get into bed, I’ll be reading the same damned paragraph every night for the next three months. Don’t laugh. It really happens.

So how’s it going?  I’m sorry you asked. I’m completely frustrated, overwhelmed, and every day ask myself, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

I LOVE my actual writing time, when there are two hours in a row to go at it without interruption. The morning is best, but in order to keep my aging body from pooping out, there are several sessions of Pilates and yoga to go to several times a week. They meet only in the morning.

And then two weeks ago I signed up for a six-week class with Dan Blank, on building my writers platform.  Oh my goodness.  If I wasn’t already overwhelmed before, I certainly am now.

What was I thinking? Though writing this book is not about making millions of dollars or being on the New York Times bestseller list, I certainly do want at least more than twenty or so people to read my book. And since I will in all likelihood self-publish this very well written gem, I’d best find out how one goes about doing what I think I’m doing. I’ve finished Dan’s first lesson with its homework and am now settling into the second lesson. I put a few drops of Dr. Bach’s Rescue Remedy, on my tongue when the anxiety of, “I have to do what?” kicks in.

Seriously, it’s scary.  I’m a seventy-year-old introvert, who loves to spend her time creating, not selling. Technology gets the best of me, and frankly, I don’t give a fig about social media and all that other stuff I don’t understand.

But rather than begin to sound like my mother, who a lot of my book is about, I’d best not say too much more.

Instead, I will pass on a quote from my daughter, Lisa, who in her latest, Sacred Circle Newsletter, wrote:

“What if there was no such thing as failure?  What if everything was akin to a great big fancy science experiment where the results simply gave you new information and didn’t define who you are? What if the results of your “experiments” changed with the seasons, shifted with your moods, and weren’t necessarily static and permanent?  What if at any time you can choose to change your mind about the direction your “experiments” are going?”

Reading that yesterday helped me to adjust my attitude a bit.  I know I can do just about anything for a little while and since the class is only six weeks long, I’ll experiment and see if this platform building stuff takes hold. By then my anxiety about creating a brand and building relationships with people I don’t even know, will hopefully find a new home.

I must say I am enjoying working with a group of writers who experience the same fears that I do and Dan is fabulous. He has a lot of patience with us and everything he says makes a whole lot of sense.  So I’m sticking with it. I’ll keep on writing as well and work at trying not to be so OCD about getting a draft done by 11:59 PM on September first.

What about you?  What’s causing you to be overwhelmed and filled with anxiety?  How do you deal with it?

Saying It Out Loud

“Seeing,” from my Artist’s Journal

I’ve written a guest post on my daughter’s blog, Sacred Circle.  It’s about my way of making  my intentions known, my Artist’s Journal, and the summer writing camp I’ve been attending.

I hope you enjoy!

The Gift

Encaustic painting, 6 1/4″ x 7 1/2″, September, 2012

I‘ve been given a much-needed gift. Sometimes when you give a gift to someone, it also becomes a gift to others. Today I’m feeling like one of the others. I’ve been away, am tired, have missed yoga and really wanted there to be a class today. I’m still in catch up mode after my return last Tuesday from Vermont and have been feeling pinched for time, rushed and growling a lot.

Yoga class was cancelled this morning because my teacher is away.  She is up in New York City where she gifted her son who just graduated from high school to a weekend on the town.  In late August he’ll be going off to college, and I’m sure his single mom will be missing the dickens out of him when he goes off into the big, wide world.  She’ll become an empty-nester and oh, I remember those days.

There is also the fact that I’m hating that it’s an election year. The phone rings with political updates that are recorded and I’m unable to verbally attack those who are bothering me in the privacy of my own home even though I’ve told them in the past to put me on the do not call list. And as November nears, the phone will be ringing off the hook. Oh yes, I have Caller ID but someone has figured out ways to get me to pick up the phone without saying who they are.  I don’t watch a lot of TV but whenever I turn it on to hear a little bit of news, the air waves are flooded with political attack ads and pols expressing their disdain for all of the political actions that the presidential candidates are taking.  Pretty soon when President Obama brushes his pearly whites, that too will become a political act.  As Rodney King, who sadly died this weekend, once asked, “ Can’t we just get along?”

Then there is the firing of Teresa Sullivan last week, President of the University of Virginia, which as the crow flies is maybe a tenth of a mile from my home.  The way in which Dr. Sullivan, a brilliant, enormously popular and upstanding woman has been treated by the Board of Governors of the University is horrific. As far as I’m concerned this is one of the most heinous acts an institution of higher learning has ever taken. I’ll not go into the details here but if you want to know about it, just check it out on face book, twitter, or google.  It’s been on the front pages of the Washington Post and I pray it goes viral to every newspaper and television station in the country.

Last night after a weekend visit from a very dear friend, which I enjoyed immensely, I kind of lost it.  This weeks calendar looks like the list from hell and I’m tired, disgusted and haven’t had time to write.  My muse, sits in the corner, ignored and feeling abandoned. The idea of being able to add to my memoir has flown out the window and now I suddenly have the urge to throw paint at a blank canvas, really hard,  something I haven’t done in way too long. Throwing paint along with writing rants like this always helps to calm my spirit and brings me back to myself.

So Barb, I just want to say a big thank you for the gift of no class today.  It’s given me time I wouldn’t have otherwise had to wake up more slowly, to listen to the rain and the birds singing outside and to write a rant.  Later today I hope to throw some paint, but then again it might have to wait until later in the week. In the mean time, I feel blessed, much better and I hope you had a fantastic visit to the Big Apple.  See you on Friday.

Much love, Joan

New Beginnings

Zoe, Bill (also known as Granddaddy), and Noah reading Brer Rabbit.

I’m tired.  The period between Thanksgiving and January 1st, always leaves me out of breath and exhausted.  There is too much to do. Time to write, paint or stare into space is diminished.  Instead I get pulled into the rush, rush of the season, stay up too late, get up too early and am tempted by the yumminess that pervades store shelves, edible and otherwise.  It isn’t that the holidays are nasty. It’s that these big celebrations come all at once and last for well over a month.

Bill and I had a fun visit with our daughter, her partner and our two amazingly wonderful grandchildren in North Carolina.  We rented a small Townhouse just a quarter of a mile from their house for a week.  We took turns cooking, went to see the movie, Tin Tin on Christmas eve, and spent Christmas morning wading through gift wrap. Zoe spent two nights with us, Noah only one.  He said he heard strange noises in the night and couldn’t sleep.  We did a lot of walking and I was thrilled that Lisa took me to her Groove class, a delightful dance/exercise class featuring fantabulous music and soaking wet clothing by the end of the hour.  The weather was cold but perfect.

This morning, I’m finally feeling that I can get back to things I left on the back burner while I was otherwise engaged.  Last night, I decided it was time to get over the big overwhelm and holiday grind.  I plan to take a long walk today instead of going to Yoga.  The day is sunny and on the warm side.  I slept in until 7:30 (I know, I know!) and took my time walking Sam and having my breakfast.  From my kitchen window, I caught a glimpse of a neighbor I haven’t seen in months and ran out to give her a hug and meet her new dog, Mystique.  It felt wonderful to renew our connection and we promised to get together soon for tea and allow Sam and Mystique get to know each other.

I’ll tackle the heaps of paper surrounding my computer.  They keep sliding down onto my mouse pad, making writing extremely difficult at times.  And then there is the stuff in my head that needs attention.  Things I haven’t had time to write about, like the fact that I have made the commitment to write a memoir.  It’s been hard for me to say it out loud or to jot it down on paper because once I put it out there it becomes a fact. I can’t hide from myself anymore or the voice of my inner critic who screeches, “Who the !#@$ do you think you are?  Write a memoir?  You can’t do that.  There is nothing in your life that other people would be interested in reading!!”

Sound silly? I think it’s pretty typical and since that screechy voice comes from someone I envision as being about three feet tall and wears her hair standing on end, I can only laugh.  I tell her,  “It’ll be okay.  I am writing a memoir … because I can, because I want to, because I need to understand who I really am and how I got that way. I can file away all my stories in my head, but they will never become clear to me until they are written down on paper.”

Bill is going on a trip for a week this month.  I’ll use the time to tend to myself and retreat from the usual business I get bogged down in.  I did it for a week in the fall at the beach and it was lovely. At home I’m tempted to ramp up that kind of alone time with too much stuff. Since I’ll miss Bill, keeping busy helps the time pass quickly until his return.  But I won’t do that this time.  I plan on rolling in and out of bed when I feel like it, not knowing how the day will unfold.  I’ll just let it happen. Let it be a surprise. Take long walks, deep breaths, write, read and leave the holiday season behind for another year.