Being Big When You Think You Are Small

In the past, when I heard about the horrendous terrorist events in Ferguson, Charleston, Paris, and other places around the world I was saddened and angry. It was only through television and the internet that those of us who don’t live in those places got to observe and imagine the damage done and the lives lost. Those things hadn’t happened in my own backyard. And I wasn’t in touch with those who were affected by those appalling events. But now I know what it’s like and how it feels.

I’ve been struggling to write about what happened here in Charlottesville on Saturday, August 11th when all hell broke loose with the arrival of the AltRight, NeoNazis, and the KKK. I still cannot find the words. But that’s okay. It doesn’t matter. You all know what happened. You saw the footage on television and the internet, or maybe you were here on the street standing up for what you believe in.

I was not on the street. I was at home. But the action was only 1.8 miles away and I could hear the hellicopter monitoring the situation overhead in the distance. The same helicopter that went down later in the afternoon killing both of the state troopers on board … not long after a lovely young woman was hit by a crazed, domestic terrorist with his car. She died and 19 others were injured, some seriously.

Many are criticizing the city government, the police, and the university for not being prepared. But how can a small city like Charottesville be prepared for something like that. All of us are only human and we do the best we can. The KKK rally earlier in the July was a walk in the park compared to what happened on the 11th. Though many predicted that the August rally would be violent, we have never needed police or military forces to protect our little city before now.

What I can tell you for sure is that despite many unhappy souls, we in Charlottesville are healing. And our little city has become BIG. BIG hearts. BIG love. BIG conversations are happening. Not only here but all over the country. The support and the love that is still streaming our way is astounding and so very much appreciated.

I have always believed that even in the horrible scenarios, good things can manifest. If what happened here is beginning to change the conversation around our country and the world, which I believe it is, I’m proud to be a Charlottesvillian. We may look like a small blue dot in a big red state on most political maps, but we are BIG. And praise be that we have been given the opportunity to let the world know who we are and what we stand for. Mistakes were made. Lessons were learned. People came together. The world will be a better place because of what happened here.

The Work Of Living

Scattering My Mother's Ashes, October 2012. oakdale, New York

Scattering My Mother’s Ashes, October 2012. Oakdale, New York

Every so often I’m called to get back to work on myself. Old issues, that I thought I was done with, come popping back up. I find myself feeling lost, or that a piece of me is missing. Over the last couple of months that’s how I’ve been feeling. My book, Scattering Ashes, A Memoir of Letting Go, was finished and published in September. The writing and publishing had taken three years. But in reality I had been working on it, since 2001, when my mother came to live with my husband and me. It was a fifteen year odyssey of learning about myself, life lessons, and finding a way to continue moving forward.

Holding the finished book in my hands, doing a reading and book-signing here in Charlottesville, on September 20th, was the joyous finale of those long years of contemplating a particularly difficult time in my life, writing, rewriting, sharing it with others, and rewriting it all over again.

The morning after the reading, I drove to a local radio station at 7:45 AM, where I did a live interview about the book. I went home and crashed. I was exhausted and was ready for some time off. I didn’t want to think or talk about the book or my mother. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was no longer myself. I had become the book that I had spent all those years getting out into the world.

I spent hours examining that idea as if it were a a Zen Koan. “Does the dog wag the tail, or does the tail wag the dog?” It lasted a week or so until I got myself back. I wasn’t the book and I could now go on with the rest of my life. I began looking for a new pathway.

The election happened and then the holidays came along. I was distraught over the results of the election and then Christmas arrived. Not my favorite time of year. Although I was with people and busy day and night, I was depressed and lonely. I snapped at Bill when he said something that I deemed silly, and discovered I was back in an old pattern of not thinking much of myself. While other sister-authors I knew were moving ahead with marketing and promoting of their just published books, I was lagging behind, and feeling ashamed of myself for not having the energy or the desire to move in that direction.

I took time off from writing and started taking care of myself. The book would have to move along on it’s own. I read. I cooked. I slept. I took walks. I cried. I realized that Bill and I were entering what very well could be the last chapter of our lives. My aches and pains were multiplying and watching my sweet husband struggle with healing from two surgeries in one year made me sad.

Deciding to take advantage of whatever time I had left ahead of me, I came to the conclusion that it was time to celebrate us … Two old farts still full of piss and vinegar, who don’t want to waste time on unimportant things. I still have my brain. Although I can’t run a marathon or plan on skiing down an expert mountain slope, there are still things I can do to make my final years fun, important, and interesting while accepting that we will be slowing down and eventually moving on. Finding a way out of the muck of the last few months and making peace with myself seems like a good start.

Last Saturday, I went to an Insight Dialogue Meditation retreat taught by one of my favorite teachers and began finding my way back to myself. For those who don’t know about Insight Dialogue, it is learning to be aware of our own feelings, both physical and emotional, while speaking and listening to another person. One of the first things we learn is to pause, take our time when we speak, and become a better listener while being aware of our own feelings. The theme of the day was Living Peace, and as the outside world spun around me, I found Peace, at least for the moment. In early April I hope to attend a 5 day Insight Dialogue retreat, “Working with Difficult Emotions.”

Hopefully Bill and will also begin making some future travel plans and find ways to make life with our aging bodies more easeful.

Do you find yourself moving backwards at times? What do you do to begin moving yourself forward again?

What More Can Be Said?

img_1239To write, or not to write? That is the question. Is there more that can be said about what today means for we the people of the US of A? Except for one blog post, in the very beginning of this possible devastation, I’ve remained quiet and doing my best to stay positive. And how can one not be positive during the peak season of trees surrounding us with their magnificent colors?

I’m filled with excitement that we could have the first woman president in the history of this country. But I also fear the possibility of a loss. And then what?

Hopefully, by tomorrow morning. we’ll know more about the fate of this country and it will be good news.

All I can say is that Bill and I voted very early this morning, then went out for breakfast and clicked our cups of caffeine together in hopes of a win.

All I can say is, PLEASE VOTE. If you don’t make your choice known who can you blame if it doesn’t go your way?

Until next Tuesday, have a good week, and like I already said, PLEASE VOTE! We’re all in this together.

 

DSCF0623.JPG

Celebrating A New Life

ScatteringASHES_VERSA.inddWOOHOO!

I never dreamt in a million years that this day would come.  I’ve been in labor for six long years and today, SCATTERING ASHES, A Memoir of Letting Go, has officially been born.  Someone asked me yesterday, how it feels to have accomplished this magical feat, and all could say was, “It’s unreal.”

I’ve written a book of two-hundred and thirty-six pages, and I can’t find words to describe how I’m feeling? Humpf! But I know I’m not alone. Every author who pens a book and sees it through to publication is filled with pride and are sometimes wordless when it comes to describing the feeling of having done it.

I can tell you this: I am excited. I am proud of myself. I’ve done something I never thought I would or could do. And I did it!  If I can write a book and get it published, I can do just about anything!

Shall I go for another?  We’ll see.  I have some ideas, but first I must raise the book I’ve just given birth to and send her off into the world.

Please check out my guest blog post over at Create Write Now.

If you’ve read my book or intend to, I’d appreciate it you could write an honest review over on Amazon and Goodreads.  It helps us authors when the word gets out.  Thank you!

Finding A Calling And Seeing It Through

” A calling is what you have when you look back at your life and make sense of what it’s been trying to teach you …”    Geoff Goines

 

IMG_0013I am called to put my thoughts down on paper every day.  But it’s not always easy. Sometimes life gets in the way, leaving little time to focus and keep myself inspired. Other times my inner critic sounds off, telling me that what I’ve just written is crap and I ought to find something else to do with my life.

In the process of writing my memoir there were a number of times I almost quit altogether. It was difficult, intense work and I often didn’t want to face or write about some of the grimmest days of my life. Yet I wanted to share my story as a way to help others who were considering being caretakers to their parents. With the help of a writing coach and encouragement from other writers, I kept going and finished it. In mid-September my book will be a reality and the dream I had of bringing it into the world will be accomplished.

These days when it’s hard to fit writing time into my overloaded schedule or I simply don’t feel like sitting down in front of my computer and getting to work, I think of two individuals I recently met who work day jobs, write at the same time, and feel that what they are doing will bring them to a more satisfying place in there lives. They have their own dreams. They also have the courage and hutzpah to keep at it without knowing whether or not their dreams will become reality.

I met the first one, a cab driver, in May during my visit to Chicago. When I hopped into his cab in front of the hotel I was staying in, he immediately asked if I was going to the airport. He sounded somewhat disappointed when I told him I needed to go to McCormick Place, the city’s huge convention center only a twenty minute ride away. He knew that Book Expo America was going on there, and asked if I was a writer. When I said yes, he said that he too is a writer and began telling me a little bit about the book he is working on. When I asked him how he found time to write, he told me that when he can take passengers to the airport and drops them off, he goes to the end of the taxi line and waits for his next fare. It could sometimes be up to an hour of uninterrupted time. That is when he pulls out his notebook and begins work on his book, a philosophical self-help treatise filled with ways to live a happy life directed at young people. I was impressed and inspired by this gray-haired, African-American man, originally from the Sudan, who needs to work, but also has dreams of publishing his book. I was especially impressed that he called himself a writer, when many of us don’t, unless we’ve officially published a book. As he did twenty years ago when he decided to come to America for a better life, he has taken action in an effort to bring his calling to fruition.

The second writer, a stewardess on a recent flight I was on is also working toward putting a book together. She was at the end of an exhausting four day stint up and down the east coast taking care of and serving passengers. She was anxious to get home where she would have the next five days off to clean house, shop, and do laundry. As I listened to her story of what she and the rest of the flight crew had been through during the past few days, I felt glad that I had never considered that line of work. I thought back to the times I watched myself and other passengers take out our frustrations on flight crew members because we had been delayed and would miss our next connections. This flight was no exception, since we were an hour late getting off the ground.

Once in the air and after the passengers had been served, she sat down and pulled out a red spiral bound notebook. She closed her eyes for a moment and then began writing. She wrote for about twenty minutes before she tucked the notebook back into her bag in order to get us ready to land. Once on the ground as we waited for the doors to open, I asked her if she was a writer. “Yes,” she responded with a smile and told me she had three notebooks filled with stories that she hoped one day would become a book. And,”Yes,” many of them had been written during those fleeting moments when she was on the job. I didn’t have time to ask her any more questions before I left the plane, but I was impressed by the way she was moving forward to hopefully bring her dream to reality.

I just finished reading, The Art of Work, A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do, by Jeff Goins. The cab driver and the stewardess could have stepped out of the pages of this inspiring book which explores the ideas of calling, vocation, and the challenges we all face as we search for a way to live a more purposeful and authentic life.

The description on the back cover of this book states: “Life seldom unfolds the way we hope or plan. The twists, surprises, and setbacks leave us feeling stuck with no option left but to play it safe—to conform to what’s expected of us. But what if theres was more to life than this?”

When we are called to plant a garden how can we make it flourish?

Read my newest newsletter which will appear on  August 1st.  To have it directly delivered to your mailbox subscribe to it in the box above on the right.