The Word for 2017

When you see the light stop and take another deep breath.

When you see the light, stop and take another deep brea

Wow, Happy New Year!  Where does the time go?

We’ve all had people tell us, “Life ain’t easy.” And all of us would like to escape the pain and anxiety brought on by that thing called life, especially those things that we have no control over. We constantly struggle to set things straight and keep our hearts from aching. We cling to the past, take revenge, utter nasty words, give those who disparage us the finger, and maybe worse. Loss, illness, rejection,the political situation in our country and the world, can send of us off into a state of rage, depression, and angst that keeps chewing at us until there is little of us left. We give up, slam a door behind us, climb into our caves, and rant to ourselves and anyone else who will listen.

One of those things I have always struggled with, especially in the last couple of months, is my reactivity. Like when someone says something nasty or critical to me or someone I care about. Or when another driver parks his or her car in the spot I’ve been trying to get into for the last 15 minutes. Or when I’m on a six hour flight and am seated next to a screaming toddler and a parent who doesn’t know how to handle her child. I can also be triggered by certain words, people who look like other people who have been abusive, and certain public figures.

Too often I embarrass myself with snide remarks, critical push back,  nasty looks, or sighs that can only mean I’m pissed off. While I experience brief satisfaction in doing those things, it never lasts. I break down in tears because I’ve made such an ass of myself, along with feeling a deep sense of shame. None of that does anything for my sense of self-esteem.

You’d think that after living with my mother for seven years and writing a book about it, that I’d be an expert at pausing before putting my foot in my mouth. But being as human as anyone else, I tend to forget what I’ve learned. I’m always amazed  how certain issues we thought we were done with rear their ugly heads somewhere down the road, reminding us that we’re truly never done.

So once again I’m planning to seriously work on this problem by relearning to PAUSE before I react.  If I can count to ten, take several deep breaths before I say a word, or take a quick time out, perhaps I can tame my wild feelings.

So I’m saying,“whoa,” to myself. I’ve chosen PAUSE as my word for 2017, in hopes of leaving that ugly part of myself behind. I’ve made little signs as reminders to stop and breathe. I’ve taped them in places where I’ll see them every day. There is one at the bottom of my computer screen, and one on the mirror in my bathroom.

I also plan to take time to pause in other areas of my life. It will help  me to stop and rest when I’m feeling exhausted and overwhelmed.
And perhaps the PAUSE sign on the refrigerator help tame my appetite after having spent the last two months overindulging in the season’s fabulous food.

Do you take time to pause before reacting to a difficult situation?

Have you chosen a word for this New Year?

Keeping The Spirit Alive

Making Bone Broth

Making Bone Broth

In the past few months I’ve been a bit OCD about keeping up with what’s next on my to-do list. I’ve been pushing myself and being ultra serious about going beyond what is possible in order to get my book off the ground. I’ve been working nonstop and getting tired of it all. It’s what I tend to do when I’ve got something big going on. Whether being a caretaker to my mother, or getting my my book off the ground, I always overdo.

After the book launch, which I enjoyed immensely, I had a hard time separating myself from my book. I asked, What happens now? Do I go back to the way I used to live my days, taking breaks to read a good novel, taking long walks, napping, and keeping my garden tended and in bloom?

I’ve been very tired, needing time to process what has been happening and where I am today. I’ve kept finding more things to do to keep my memoir in the forefront … writing new content, doing more guest blog posts and updating my website … never feeling satisfied with what I’ve done.

When I’ve thought about taking a break I felt guilty. I’d invested so much time and energy in this project, how could I not keep up the momentum in order to make my book a success?

In the meantime I forgot about some very important things. I neglected to take care of myself, my home, and my relationships. I hadn’t seen friends in a very long time. I’d been too busy to go out to lunch or have a cup of tea with those I’ve missed being with. I didn’t take time to water the garden when it was noticeably wilting. I started binging on chocolate and did everything I could to keep my eyelids propped open when I really needed to take a nap. I felt very resentful when I needed to cook a meal, do the laundry, or go grocery shopping. I don’t normally dislike doing those things and actually love to cook. If someone asked me for help, I got pissy. Don’t they know I’ve got work to do?

Experiencing more anxiety and imbalance than ever, I’m slowly coming to my senses. I’ve declared my home a NO SHOULD ZONE. If I feel I need to take a nap, I take a nap. If I can’t wait to get into that great book I’ve been longing to read, I start reading. I do a little bit of book promotion, write a blog post, take care of a few chores, and then give myself a reward.

Laughing through a facial.

Laughing through a facial.

This past week I took time for a pedicure and facial. I had lunch with a dear friend I haven’t seen in years. (We live less than two miles apart.) I took time to clean out the freezer. I put all of the roasted chicken carcasses I’d been saving into a big pot, along with an onion, carrots, celery, lots of herbs, dried mushrooms, and a few other secret ingredients, and simmered it on the back of the stove for the better part of a day.  As a result I’ve replenished the empty shelves in my freeze with healing soup stock. It all felt so good and my malaise about doing anything that felt like work began to ebb. In taking life too seriously and burning myself out with unending work is not helping me live a balanced life.

It feels wonderful to just putter through my days. Birthing my book has been a long row to hoe, but it’s done and it’s time to relax. I am by no means planning to stop the continued work that still needs to be done, but taking time to watch the sun rise, share laughter with a friend, or keep the garden well tended is as necessary as writing new content to keep my book in the forefront. And it keeps my psyche running smoothly.

How about you? How do you keep your life well balanced and your spirit alive?

 

If you missed it check out my guest blog post over at Susan Widener’s blog Women’s Writing Circle, here.  It’s about writing difficult stories.

I’m Behind

Lilli and Max . I wish I had time to sit around!

Lilli and Max relaxing. I wish I had time to sit around!

The world keeps spinning along and I can’t seem to keep up. I could blame it on a bunch of things like getting my book launched, answering  a lengthy list of emails, taking care of an ailing dog, doing the laundry, and saying “Yes” to too many things. But I’m not going to.

It’s been a busy time, but it’s also been great. I’m choosing to get off the treadmill for the moment, and am taking some time for myself. It’s accompanied by a tiny bit of guilt because I haven’t been reading the many blog posts that I usually read and I haven’t been keeping up with Facebook or Twitter. Here it is Tuesday again, and I haven’t written an informative blog post for you. Oh well, we all have those times.

I have added some new pages here on my website.  They are new and not yet complete. But eventually you’ll find my publicist’s contact information, a few photos, and a press release for my recently published memoir in the Press Box.  Under News you’ll be able to see what events I have planned for the future, a list of reviews, newspaper articles, radio interviews, and etc.  I plan to have it all up very soon. And damn to the load of laundry I keep forgetting to put in the dryer!

I’m trying to quit being ADD and focus on one thing at a time. Instead of continuing to multitask and getting side tracked, I’m trying to make myself stick with one thing at a time and finish what I started. I’ve promised myself I won’t get sidetracked by the pile of ironing that steadily grows or the downed leaves leaves that the wind keeps blowing into the back yard. Then there’s the wilted house plants that need watering, bathing Max, who has some serious skin problems, and taking time to finish the two books I’m reading. Here’s to next week. Hopefully by then, I’ll have a few of the things on my list done!

Do you try getting off the treadmill, too? Take a nap, read a good book, cook some delicious food, or take a walk? The world is crazy enough without any of us adding to the fray. How long is your list and how do keep up, if you do?

Congratulations to Michelle Short and Mary Ellen Gambutti,
winners of signed copies of SCATTERING ASHES, A Memoir of Letting Go,
as offered to readers of my newsletter.

I Am Not A Wind Up Toy!

IMG_0070 (1)For the past month or so I’ve felt like a wind-up toy. I’ve gone from one thing to another just trying to keep up with everything that needed doing. Part of the problem is that in early January, my husband had knee surgery. I spent a good deal of time taking care of him, making sure that his ice machine was at the ready to keep the swollen surgical site comfortable, and preparing meals for someone who normally cooks half of them. I also had deadlines to meet with my publisher and a blog and newsletter to maintain.

Taking care of some one else is not always an easy task, and can result in exhaustion and speeding around like a tiny wind up car. If you’ve ever played with one, you know they move fast. They don’t see what’s ahead of them and crash head-on into walls and furniture. They don’t really cause any damage, but if they were much bigger, say the size of a human, they could. I want to stop crashing into things and causing havoc.

My studio has stacks of old receipts and brochures taking up residence on my work table. I can’t work on my visual journal if I can’t spread out. I need my paints, rubber stamps, hand-made papers and magazine clippings where I can see them, so that I can go to work the moment inspiration strikes. I need to clean it up!

The same thing goes for my head. If I don’t let go of the clutter taking up so much space in my brain, I won’t be able to think clearly and make room for any artistic notions that my muse slings my way. I’ve been spinning my wheels trying to get some traction so that I can move forward, but I haven’t had much luck. And just like my work table, my head needs to be cleared out.

The patient is almost completely healed now. He’s cooking dinner again, doesn’t need to be checked-up on constantly, and in just over a week, he’ll be able to drive himself around again, leaving me with more time. We’re both very tired of it all and will be happy to see the end of this little adventure.

IMG_0049I’m starting to take more time for myself. I went to yoga last week and because I had dental surgery yesterday, Pilates will have to wait until next week. I’m taking afternoon naps and moments to simply stare into space. I’m planning on cleaning up my studio this week so that I can get back to work without feeling squeezed out of my space. But most important of all I will begin honoring the word I chose to guide me this new year … MINDFUL. In my overwhelm over the past month or so, it never had a chance. My mind did not stop to notice what was happening around me. Someone just kept winding me up and kept me going, crashing in to things. Mostly myself.

Today I’m throwing the key away and switching gears.  I’m starting my year over and I’m already noticing how much better I feel.

Have you ever felt like a wind up toy?

Wishes For A Mindful New Year!

IMG_0009Once more the year has rolled into its final week. Like everyone else, I anticipate what’s to come as the New Year begins? Who will be our next President? Will the wars in the Middle East spread further and further? And what will our country’s role be in trying to find peace? Will cold weather finally arrive and bring with it snow or freezing rain destroying these tiny gems I photographed on the day after Christmas?

There are also very personal wonderings. How will Bill’s knee replacement surgery go? Will my daughter’s fight with lyme disease finally be over and will she return to perfect health? Will I sell tons of books when my retitled memoir, SCATTERING ASHES, A Memoir of Letting Go, is published on September 20th? Yes, you heard that right, a new title which I think works oh so much better. And yes, it will be available on September 20, 2016.

Every December I choose a word to carry me through the next year, as a reminder of what is most important as I travel down the path I’ve chosen. As this past year has slipped by, I’ve found myself falling back into an old pattern that makes me extremely uncomfortable when I allow it to take over my thoughts.

Its name is Worry. I’m afraid that my predisposition for getting worked up over things has taken over my thought process and kicked mindfulness out the door. As a result, I spend too much time imagining what might happen to me, my family, or the world. I’ve also found myself kicking myself in the butt for mistakes I’ve made in the past and my sometimes pissy behavior.

Worry and Regret are not things I want to  carry around with me. So I’m going back to a word that has never been on my list of New Year Words, but is most important in that it has helped me in the past and will help ease my way through the coming months with a bit of sanity.

If I can bring back being MINDFUL during the next 365 days, I will be very pleased with myself.

I think it will take some work to be present in each and every moment, so it won’t be particularly easy or happen over night. And perhaps it shouldn’t be a New Years Word at all. Maybe it’s a Rest Of My Life Word. But I think all New Year Words do that eventually anyway. Or so I hope.

In the last week, I’ve started rereading, When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chodron. It’s one of her greatest, though all of her books are. It certainly is apt as I observe the state of our world right now. This particular book has helped me through some of the worst years of my life. Her encouraging words reach into my heart, helping to release my unease.

I want to be more appreciative of all of the good things, like those beautiful, little daffodils in the photo at the top of this page that don’t usually bloom here in December. Or these funny Halloween pumpkins that turned intoIMG_0006 something otherworldly by the end of November. They seem fossilized. Very out of season, they make me smile when I pass by them on my walks.

Today, I’m trying to be present NOW. It’s all I’ve really got. Those mistakes and bad behaviors I mentioned earlier happened in the past. Why run them through the wringer one more time?

As for the future, it hasn’t happened yet. For right now, I’ll concentrate on typing these words while I listen to robins singing happily outside in leafless trees. Later, on my way to lunch, I’ll notice the fine mist that is falling and how it gently settles on my hair.

What are your reflections on the coming year and what is it you want most to happen?

 

I’ll be taking a break from posting here for the next few weeks
so that I can be present for Bill as he begins recovering from his surgery 
scheduled on January 4th. 
Please send along prayers and healing thoughts.
They are greatly appreciated.

My monthly Newsletter will be published as usual on January 1st,
and is the story of how I became a writer.  Subscribe to it at the top
right hand side of this page to have it delivered to your email address.

I’ll be back here on my blog on January 19th.

Happy New Year to All!