Start Living Curiously and Purposely.

My fingers have this tendency to freeze over the keyboard when I try to write a blog post. I keep feeling like what comes out of my fingers instantly has to be profound. However, today I had a tiny epiphany.

My epiphany was this. Try writing my thoughts out by hand, in my penmanship. Yes, the old-fashioned way. Pencil on paper. Then, type it out, polishing up the written thoughts.

Trying this today seems to have worked for me. Here I am again, nearly a month since my last blog post. Woohoo! Hello!

One thing I tell myself, and I suspect many of you do also, is that our creations have to be perfect before they are put out there in the wide world. Or even that we tell ourselves that we have to be perfect. We feel that our art has to be just right, our writing the best ever, doing 5Ks and running the whole way, obsess over those pesky last five pounds that have to be lost. It goes on and on. At least it tends to, for me.

I have recently read two very helpful — you might in fact call them self-help — books that helped me get to where I am at this moment of realizing that striving for perfection is pointless. They have helped me, for instance, get to getting over the intimidation that prevents me from my desire to write. No, not all my problems (either self-perceived or actual) are solved instantly as a result of reading these two books, but they did indeed help me.

Here are the two books: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (the author of Eat, Pray, Love and other books), and Start. by Jon Acuff.

Each book has many very good points in it, but let me share something from each that really spoke to me, and told me to let go of perfection and to let go of the feeling that I should know what I should be doing.

From Big Magic, about curiosity (which I took as definitely not waiting around waiting for a lighting bolt of knowledge or of clarity about life. Or of knowing your “purpose”) :

…curiosity only ever asks one simple question: “Is there anything you’re interested in?”

Anything?

Even a tiny bit?

No matter how mundane or small?

The answer need not set your life on fire, or make you quit your job, or force you to change your religion, or send you into a fugue state; it just has to capture your attention for a moment. But in that moment, if you can pause and identify even one tiny speck of interest in something, then curiosity will ask you to turn your head a quarter of an inch and look at the thing a wee bit closer.

Do it.

(p. 238, Big Magic)

As for Jon Acuff, this is one thing he said that really got to me:

So why do we think we’ll never find a singular purpose that will guide us forever?

Forget finding a purpose. It’s a never-ending story that will leave you empty instead. Live with purpose instead.

….Whatever you’re going to do, do it with purpose. Not as if purpose is a key you’re going to find in the bottom of a trunk of old sweaters, but rather as if purpose is an approach to life that can shape everything you do.

(p. 51, Start.)

So here’s to following curiosity. Here’s to living with purpose. And here’s to old-fashioned pencil and paper, writing out by hand.

 

 

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The Struggle is Real, But Walking helps

From a walk a few weeks ago. Fall colors are much more vivid now.
From a walk a few weeks ago. Fall colors are much more vivid now.

When I sit down to blog, millions of possible topics run through my mind. Should I write about this? Is this topic idea more relevant than the other? This, this, this…that, that, that…  But I struggle with the possibility of rambling on — if I say, “let’s see where this goes”, I know it’ll end up being a mess. To be honest, my mind is like this all the time, not when I’m trying to write or blog.

The only time my mind is calm is when I am asleep and maybe really not even then. I often wake up from vivid dreams.  I often forget soon after what they’re about, actually, but I know they are vivid.

Meditation? I’ve tried it, but never seem to have long-enough blocks of time to give it a chance to allow me to zone out.

Taking walks outdoors really does help me and my mental frame of mind. There is a walking trail nearby that I love. Pictures I take there with my iPhone never do it justice. This particular trail is part of the historic Brandywine Battlefield area. Sometimes it gives me pause that such a beautiful area once had dead bodies and blood all over, albeit long time ago back in 1777. Its beauty and history makes me feel very reverent when I walk this trail.

I get good ideas when I’m moving. I look back to when I was young and wish that I had been encouraged to embrace movement more. There are memories of hiking trips-slash-camping trips with my family as a girl growing up in Northern California, but at some point that stopped. I don’t remember us doing anything like that after I became a teenager. Until now I never really thought about it, or why. Maybe my parents became more busy. Maybe we kids were more busy (although that is a relative term…we were bumps on a log in comparison to how busy my kids are today). P.E. was no fun for me; I was always picked last (being the only deaf kid in P.E. classes had a lot to do with that). Perhaps because of my P.E. experiences, I have long been disinclined to find group opportunities for exercise.

Walking really is good enough for me. I like it when my family member(s) join me, but if not, being solitary still is satisfactory. I often feel that maybe I should push myself physically more — my body certainly would fit better in my jeans if I did — but my knees can’t take running or other high-impact activities. I’m in awe of people who train and participate in triathlons or other athletics that take up a lot of their time and physical fortitude.  But I am me and they are them. I need to remember that and not beat myself up over it.

What really matters is how I feel after what I do. And it’s much, much better after walking. No, it doesn’t solve everything. I still struggle with things like trying not to obsess over how many jelly bellies I eat daily. I struggle with inadequacy. I struggle with finding balance in life overall. The struggle continues to be real, but it helps to find something that puts me in a better frame of mind, even if it is for a short time and not 24/7. It’s better than not at all.

 

How to Find Time to Blog?

It’s been a month or so since I’ve started up this blog. I want to post regularly, but bear with me while I figure out what works. It’s tricky, me trying to find a place in my schedule for blogging and writing.

I am a stay-at-home mom, and have been primarily so for the past twenty years. When the kids were young, every hour was filled taking care of their needs and squeezing in a nap whenever I could. As they got older, and in school, I’ve tried to find ways to keep my days busy. Volunteering, hobbies, job-seeking (with very little success), on-and-off pursuits of exercise, taking classes. But yet. There’s also still the day-to-day routine of dishes, laundry, grocery shopping, personal grooming…things that all moms, whether stay-at-home or not, have to deal with. And, of course, sleep is vital. But, still, shouldn’t I be able to fit in time for what I really want to do? Why do I feel like a failure at this?

I think one reason is that, once afternoon hits, I have to completely shift gears in order to be mom-chauffeur every single weekday. Dance classes, Boy Scouts, marching band, private lessons, and so on. My husband helps when he can (he travels for work frequently). Not only am I the family driver, I also prepare meals and help with things such as college applications, helping a bit with homework, listening to what the kids want or need to share with me, and so forth. Then I’m ready for bed. I just can’t burn the midnight oil.

Many of us have heard about “Flow” (Mihaly C-can’t spell it), which is the experience in which one is completely entranced in the task at hand, forgetting all about time. Something like that. I have a hard time letting my brain fall into “flow” because I know I’m going to have to stop what I’m doing at some point. All that advice about writing or drawing or whatever in 15-minute increments is just BS, in my opinion.

As afternoon approaches, my mind shifts gears and I can no longer concentrate at whatever I’m doing. At the very moment I’m writing this, I’m anticipating the kids’ arrival from school in just a few minutes. I’m wondering, can I finish this blog post before they arrive?!

I definitely have no regrets in our choice to have children, but I can definitely see how women who are successful (especially in the creative fields) either are childless or have others take over the responsibilities of child-rearing. I also see how many women are able to re-invent themselves once they become empty-nesters. I am supposed to be an empty-nester in 2019, when my youngest graduates high school. We’ll see what happens after that, but in the meanwhile I do what I can. I’m reading books on how to plot a novel, for instance.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are”. I try to remember this wisdom whenever I feel frustrated. And, in a short amount of time, I’ve managed to crank out this very blog post; even though it’s not optimal, I did do it. I did what I can at the moment. Thanks, Theodore (I can’t call him Teddy; he hated that nickname).

And now I see my daughter’s boyfriend’s car pulling up in the driveway! The kids are home. Time to hit “publish” 🙂 !

Our First Fall Here, and Millions of Leaves

"Fall is a second spring where every leaf is a flower" --Camus
“Fall is a second spring where every leaf is a flower” –Camus

Two acres. Covered with leaves, and most of our trees are not even bare yet. The color isn’t really all that variegated, unfortunately, as we have mostly tulip poplars on our property. It’s very wild. Lots of deer roam, also.

FullSizeRender
Just one of our deer neighbors.

Our house was built in 1980, and we are only just the second owners. Little has been changed (the interior is worthy of another blog post!), and the landscaping (such as it was) was left to grow wild and untended. In spite of that, we fell in love with the feel of privacy given by all these trees.

We probably have close to a hundred trees, including saplings. But we are finding that having this many can also be a negative (other than all the fallen leaves, which is really a nothing). When we had a major storm this summer, a couple of those trees dropped huge limbs on my older son’s car, totaling it. We get almost no sun by the pool, making it pointless to try to stay warm when out of the pool.

I love these trees, but the time will have to come when we decide which ones have to go. Diseased ones will be easy. The ones nearer our house and driveway may have to go, also. We don’t want any more totaled cars or the potential of a destroyed roof. The hard part will be choosing which ones surrounding our pool will have to go.

Just a few probably will go at a time, though. Taking down trees, especially large ones, are really expensive. I’m sure it’s one reason why the previous owners left the property to become wild again. Most of the houses in our neighborhood are refined and manicured in comparison.

There is much to do overall, but in the past five months we have been taking care of immediate concerns. Our well tested positive for coliforms, so we had to have a new well cap put in. The entire water treatment system was replaced. The pool was crumbling, so we had that redone — but still need to fix the heating system (one part of why the water is so freaking cold, not just because it’s shady). We painted much of the interior. Our hot water heater broke just before my 50th birthday. Had to have a bat exclusion done. We spent a lot of time cleaning up the aftermath of the summer storm, and have lots of firewood as a result, but our chimney needs to be repaired before we can build a fire.

And there’s still more. I’m not even talking about facelifts we’d like to do. It’s overwhelming sometimes.

Yesterday I was trying to clean cobwebs around our front door with a broom, and accidentally broke one of our very 1980s style glass globe exterior light. My husband says our house looks more hillbilly than ever now, because we also have a broken lamppost at the entry of our driveway.

But, still, in spite of all this, in spite of the blood sweat and tears, I am content in where we are now. Our kids love this house. I would never have thought that a 1980 contemporary would be a house style we would live in, but here we are! I keep saying that one day we will look back and laugh at the year 2015. It hasn’t been much fun for the most part. Lots of ups and downs. But that’s life!

 

Variety is the Spice of…..

Macarons in Atlanta, Georgia
A Variety of Macarons in Atlanta, Georgia

….Life. Variety is the spice of life. It’s why I love to travel, and the more spontaneous the plans, the better. It’s why I like trying different things (like these macarons during a visit to Atlanta a couple years ago — even that was a variety of flavors). It’s why I’ve been able to deal with whenever we have to move yet again. It’s why I find different cultures and people fascinating. And so on.

I’ve slowly come to realize, however, that this need for variety has affected other areas of my life in such a way that I didn’t understand why I am the way I am. For the longest time, I thought that I was unable to follow through on ideas. Unable to produce enough to turn various hobbies into any kind of profit-making venture. Feeling indecisive. Thinking, “should I do this, or should I do that” ? Feeling like I should be more focused. Heck, I even wondered sometimes if I had Adult ADD.

I do have some constants, though. I’ve been happily with the same man for 32 years (27 of them as a married couple). I am an involved mother. I stay in touch with many of my friends , quite a few of whom I’ve known as far back as pre-school. I’ve always loved to read — but my tastes and genres in books are constantly evolving (that’s the variety part sneaking in). I am constantly curious.

A moment of clarity came to me the other day when I came across HoneLife: Stop Searching for Your Passion. This site has a huge amount of advice and inspiration; I won’t go into all of it but definitely check it out, if you feel that you are like me: a Variety Seeker. Now there is a name to one aspect of who I am!

Here is a good example of my variety seeking. When I was 24 years old, and a newlywed and a new transplant from California to Michigan, I took up quilting. I really, really got into it.  I don’t quilt anymore. That didn’t end overnight, though. Quilting was a constant for a long time, but within that, I seeked variety. I bought every new gadget there was. I subscribed to every quilting magazine there was. I took classes. I embraced the saying, “she who dies with most fabrics win” and would go on quilt shop hops. I shudder to think of how much I spent over the years on this hobby. I entered quilt shows. I even was in a juried art quilt show at a local art gallery a few years ago.

I often thought (and said out loud) that maybe I could make money from quilting. Then what happened? I realized that I had done all there was, learned all there was, and was tired of spending money. What about the money-making plan to recoup? I was always more into the process — I had so many UFOs. That’s a quilter term for “Un-Finished Object”. Other quilters have UFOs, maybe they’re variety seekers like I am, but many quilters are able to focus and finish projects — and even just one at a time. Not only that, I knew that the time spent on quilting would not return much money — a dollar an hour, maybe. There are quilters out there who make money — usually by getting other quilters to spend more money on their books, quilt kits, patterns, etc. I’m very cynical about the quilting industry now.

Anyway! I didn’t wake up overnight one day and say, “OMG, I’m quitting this”. No, over the last five years or so, I gradually sold off/gave away/donated many of my fabrics, threads, books. I let magazine subscriptions run out. Then I donated (or in some cases, recycled) all of the saved magazines. I started working smaller in hopes of finishing projects sooner. Art quilt wall-hangings instead of bed quilts. None of it was really satisfying anymore. At the time, I didn’t realize it was a lack of variety. Although there were other reasons: less disposable income (the kids became more and more expensive), realizing I had too much of quilty-everything already, unrealistic expectations of becoming rich (ha!) or at least some pocket money from quilting — I think it really was my variety seeking that did me in. I moved on to going back to school to take art classes. I even said maybe those classes would make me a better quilt artist.

Interestingly, with those art classes, once I learned the basic techniques, I lost any real interest in pursuing excellence in say, ceramics. Or painting. Or drawing. I felt something was wrong with me — was I afraid? Unwilling to stay focused and work hard? But no.  I do work hard — I got nearly all A’s during this second stint of a college career — so I know I’m not lazy. Too busy? That part certainly is true but if I wanted it enough wouldn’t I be willing to live on only four hours of sleep every night? Actually, I think that not “sticking with it”  is really more the fact that I’m a variety seeker. Some might think I’m trying to make excuses but I really do need to learn, try, and experience different things. Understanding and knowing this has taken a load off my shoulders.

So, what now? I have already, for some time, known that I cannot keep flitting from hobby to hobby or art technique to art technique. That is due to both finances (one kid in college and two very close to being in) and being less inclined to allow paint brushes, rubber stamps, you name it, to pile up and take up space.

I’ve been craving simplicity in life. Being a variety seeker, too, this path I’m finding my way on should be interesting. All my questions haven’t been answered yet but at least I do understand myself a bit more.

Again, refer to HoneLife if you’re curious about Variety Seekers or feel you may be one.