Wednesday Wisdom: Lonely Winter

Today there is a blue sky against a white mountain when I look out the window to the east. Some days there is no mountain at all, only a haze of low clouds that buries the view in a wet gray funk. Other days, the mountain might have no snow at all, or a dusting that reveals the prevalence of deer trails on the mountain like veins under skin.

Sometimes we see life better in inclement weather. I can see who or what passes my house when snow prints are left on the sidewalk: human, dog, deer, raccoon. These are the adventurers, the scavengers, the prowlers, the lonely. Sometimes I wonder if snow prints even exist in pairs.

Paragliders are often seen overhead, launching off the mountain and coming to a landing just blocks from my house. Today, a lone paraglider hovered beneath a blue parachute, floating mid-sky as if it were summer, as if there was no reason to rush its flight, as if the cold didn’t exist.

I watched it tilt and descend, approaching the earth of snow and trees and men. Sometimes I wonder if the sky is its own footprint, telling us during our loneliest days that we have company.

Happy New Year, Weirdos!

The idea of making resolutions has a different meaning for me as I age. The implementation of life style choices are now often replaced with goals to achieve deeper meaning in the life I want for myself, requiring contemplation and self-knowledge, and better challenges the potential for the growth that I hope to realize.

Every year, my resolutions become more silent, more individualized to the person I am in the moment, in other words, they accommodate my weirdness. The notion that we are a constant identity is a falsehood, proven with the passing of time through the moods and cycles of life. Work, family, and society influence our thinking and demand our presence. We constantly absorb the fluctuations of emotion from the people around us, pulling us out of ourselves and into a larger sphere where sometimes we’d rather not be. Discomfort is unsettling, but maybe that is exactly where we need to go to discover a deeper understanding of ourselves.

I think of the word resolution as a fallacy. To resolve something means to put an end to a conflict, but the most significant and meaningful conflicts have no end. Women’s equality, violence, trauma, aging, mortality. There is a casualness associated with resolutions but they bring no cessation to the conditions that scar us.

This is why I go inward. Self-examination allows me to connect more deeply to the minutiae I can control. Small changes can alleviate pressure put on me by the world which in turn creates a positive impact to those around me. Self-talk can be compassionate instead of critical. Expectations can be softened. I can control a bit more of my time. I can allow myself to be creative. I can be vulnerable.

When I think of what brings the most meaning in my life, I illuminate my priorities. Am I bravely practicing my own values despite opposition? What sustains me? Who? Does my time reflect this? The answers shift with each passing year. Things happen. Life evolves. Central to all of it is the person inside. Whose life would I be living if I didn’t possess my own contribution as my fullest, truest self?

Life is more fun, more courageous, when we’re weird. Dare to be different. Expose vulnerabilities. These are my goals. Wherever your life finds you right now, whoever you want to be, I wish you the freedom and the courage to declare it. Happy new year!

Wednesday Wisdom: Writerly Catch-Up

OK, I know I don’t divulge too much about my writing project(s). The reason is: The status changes every day, every minute, every time a new idea seems like a good idea. (Seemingly too often, the good ideas aren’t as amazing as I imagined they were at 3:00 a.m.)

The craft of writing is a whorl that can only flow one direction. Fight it, and the resistance takes you down. Go with it, and you will inevitably end up somewhere unexpected but the ride was free. The process hates control freaks. It takes a very open-minded soul to trust their own subconscious mind to create the story.

I’ve been honing the skill of letting go. I’ve let go of how many versions? 47? Hundreds? Who knows? Keeping score is not a good idea. It only serves to stress the emotional freedom that is the sacred space of creativity.

I’ll take a tangent here. Currently, I’m reading a book called ‘A Girl With No Name’. It’s the true story of a five-year old girl kidnapped and dropped off in the jungle of Colombia. For five years, she survived the terror of the jungle by observing, then adapting, into a troop of capuchin monkeys. The monkeys treated her as one of their own. The girl learned to communicate through their categories of screeches, laughter, warnings, and plain old hijynx. When a monkey died, they grieved together. When the girl ate poisonous tamarind, Grandpa monkey shoved her into a pool of filthy water which she forcefully swallowed, then vomited. The old monkey saved her life.

The story chapters are organized through the girl’s discoveries. One example of this was after two or so years in the jungle, she had found a shard of mirror. Her reflection scared her, as she hadn’t known she didn’t resemble the monkeys. With the mirror, her entire sense of identity was shattered. The prior experience had become so absolute in her mind, and her body so adapted to the patterns of the monkeys, that she had no concept, no language, for what she was. And yet, she harnessed the emotional apex that the monkeys had accepted and took care of her anyway.

This story has so much significance. Creatively, emotionally, we can easily be lost in a terrifying world. But when we pause and observe the productivity surrounding us, when we recognize the break-down of skill and experience and care that sustain us, we can arrive at the apex of the human condition to feel heard and be seen. Nature is slow. So, too, must we create.

Wednesday Wisdom: Photos

Next to me is a photo album open to a page with a large black and white photo of four women at the beach at Catalina Island outside of Los Angeles. The ‘swimsuits’ are long black dresses. The date of the photograph is documented as the late 1890’s.

My husband is deep in a project of scanning his family history so that these precious and fragile inheritances can remain intact and accessible through online media. The job is tedious but rewarding. Yesterday, we had discussed how each photo reveals a story, but that the viewer is only privy to a filtered version of the story based on our own interpretations.

These women at the beach would be unable to vote for 30 more years. There is no doubt that their story of the ‘beach day’ would reveal many differences from our own experiences. We can imagine how hard life was for them, but without documentation through stories, we are stuck within the limitations of imagination.

Often, we think of imagination as a broad forest of possibility. For children, imagination is crucial to development and establishing an identity in a world much larger than them. We pride them for conceiving wonderful ideas and expressing their perspective in ways parents would never think to do. Imagination comes naturally for children, as they rely on the security of feeling that there is a place in the world that appreciates and values them.

But imagination stifles with age. We erase the potential of things and become cemented in convenience. We find a niche where patterns have emerged, filling a space that has adapted to our comfort and expectations. We forget that this place is a story, based on interpretations and filters meant to hold us there for the sake of maintaining homeostasis, the brain’s constant pull to an unchallenged status of existence.

Often, our heart and brain are in conflict during change, which is a good thing when it comes to agitating the waters of self-fulfillment. We fear hurting others. We fear failure. We fear success. Every excuse in the book can be found under the Fear heading because when we learned to silence our imagination there had to be a category for our stories. Freedom doesn’t arrive without struggle, because fear will always reside along resistance to an identity defined by others. Breaking free of limitations, of stories, requires a new perspective which challenges the status quo and pushes against the default structure. Fears can be overcome. Otherwise, nothing would change.

Catalina Island, Late 1890’s

Wednesday Wisdom: Constructs

Yesterday, I had the first fraught meeting with a new editor over the first 30 pages of my memoir. Through our respective computer screens, we came to know each other via the discussion of what wasn’t working for my story. Sending my competent-but-not-effective work to a stranger would have scared the Hell out of the old me, but there comes a point when you have to let go of fear, especially when the creative world is calling your name.

“Play with your story,” the editor told me. “The story is cerebral and fresh and you have something big that the world needs.”

The praise was great for validating my efforts, but I paid to hear criticism. The story lacks an effective structure, something to hold its complexity and my voice in one body. As it is now, it resembles a page of amateur spirograph drawings. Remember how the plastic plate would slip from its pivot, ruining the concentricity of the circle? That pivot point is the equivalent of story structure.

Sometimes, letting go of original constructs is what it takes to improve the overall coherence of a story. Psychology is the spine of our emotions and we create stories in our mind to explain how things must be, but what if we’re wrong? What if we toss our own doubts and fears into the air and let them land differently? Where might we go when we accept an invitation to step from a point where we were once positioned to a new, different approach?

So, now I must play and think creatively to better serve the story which only I can tell. How about you? Are you emotionally wrung out? Which stories in your mind can be let go? How might you construct a better perspective of your truth to align with the worth of your one and only life?