I’m trying to figure out if there’s anything in life more uncomfortable than wanting (needing!) to write and not writing. Well, there’s constipation, I guess. Then again, that’s exactly what this feels like.
Over the years I have uncovered myriad reasons why I might not write when I need to. Here are just a few:
- lack of time
- too much time – you write better under pressure
- lack of energy
- over abundance of energy – better go burn some off
- beautiful weather
- lousy weather
- it’s 12:30 at night and you should get some sleep
- it’s 5 AM, and – hey! wait a second! – aren’t you supposed to be sleeping?
- it’s morning and you need to take the kids to school now
- it’s afternoon and you need to pick the kids UP from school now
- it’s raining cats and dogs and your husband wanted you to go out and make a video of your neighbour’s lousy drainiage if you were home when it started raining like that
- you’re soaked to the skin because you were out in the rain, making a video (see point 11 above)
- it’s sunny and hot so you should go do the laundry and dry it outdoors
- it’s cold and rainy so you should go take down the laundry you left to dry outdoors
- right next to you there are two really poorly behaved children who are driving you nuts and whom you need to separate before they kill each other RIGHT NOW
- right next to you there are two really adorably behaved children who need and deserve your love and attention and whom you should be doing something special with RIGHT NOW
- Lou is having an urgent storybook moment
- Boo is having an urgent Minecraft moment
- the volume on Boo’s tablet is too high
- SOMEBODY is calling “Wipe my bum!”
- SOMEBODY is crying hard after she dropped the toilet paper while wiping her own goddamned bum
- it’s dinner time
- it’s not dinner time, but soon it WILL be dinner time and, gosh, wouldn’t it be good to have planned ahead for that? Just this once? For a change?
- anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law
- the phone’s ringing
- you need to go dance to the song they’re playing on the radio right now
- what you want to write may hurt, offend, or shock someone you may (or may NOT) care about, and – anyway – it would just be in poor taste to be honest in your writing right this minute. Maybe you should post a comic list instead!
Ahh, Irony! We meet again!
I love that word. Epiphany. Not as in Epiphany the day, but as in having an epiphany, a eureka moment. A paradigm shift. A “Hold the phone, I’m having a thought here”.
Nestled snugly between epinephrine and epiphenomenon, my Collins Concise Dictionary defines an epiphany as “1. the manifestation of a supernatural or divine reality,” and “2. any moment of great or sudden revelation.”
I used to put a lot of stock in epiphanies. There were moments in my past when, suddenly, I thought I glimpsed some capital “T” truth with great and sudden insight. At times like these, I shifted my paradigms and tacked or jibbed my sails accordingly, swtching around my plans in life to catch this sudden, new wind of belief.
But – like Truth with a capital “T” – Epiphany with a capital “E” can fool you, something I’ve learned the hard way as I’ve sailed through life. So now, when capital “E” epiphanies come calling, I listen, yes, but I wait too. Instead of hurriedly hauling anchor in a sweat about the next great thing, these days I watch the weather instead. Sometimes I put my thumb to the wind. Only when I’m really tempted though.
I have learned that waiting and watching are good things. Signs of growing older and gaining some insight? Yup. Perhaps signs of wisdom accrued? Maybe – yes – but waiting and watching also come as part of having more responsibility these days. More to lose. More to protect. Oh such very precious things to protect.
When you act on every new insight, people around you stand at risk of being hurt, collateral damage as you go about the business of re-arranging your life. And – let’s face it – re-arranging life sometimes seems like a game for the young.
In fact, I still believe in epiphanies. Much as I mistrust those large, magnetic, neon sign beaconingly attractive ones, I listen closely to my heart these days about all those whispering, smaller moments that so tend to pile up inside. The ones that, one day, gradually – over a great deal of time and upon ample soaking and reflection – add up to a seismic shift in your belief system. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s more like a re-affirming of core principles you’d simply misplaced along the way instead.
Yes. This seems more accurate. I am the same person as ever. But I have proved my patience and erased my doubts. In other words, certainty is my epiphany now.
It’s in all those small things. Like the comment that sat with you a long time, half-forgotten, until you woke up one day realising how much that really had resonated. How long ago it had become a “famous quotation” in your very own little Book of Life, a new guiding principle, changing your direction subtly to bring you… Where? Here? Without ever really noticing you’d been changing course.
I never noticed how much I’d been changing course.
Or the secret love that sat with you – living deep inside, for a long time – until one day you found yourself at the shop, putting the massive down payment on that big ticket item that you’ve known all along is right. You remember you ALWAYS loved that red. You don’t NEED to go home and mull it over. And your friends say “Wow. That was sudden.”
No. Not really. Not sudden at all.
My life feels like that right now. At once very sudden and yet not sudden at all.
Small “e” epiphanies fit together like a connect-the-dots puzzle, each dot a small synapse that, one day, fired. Changed you. Or reminded you. Eventually there are so many dots that it is clear that the true picture is “this” and not “that.” The more times you trace over the lines, connecting the dots with the smooth ink of your pen again, and again, the darker and clearer the picture becomes. It is no longer possible to overlook the true picture.
And you see yourself. You really do.
I still love epiphanies.
“To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things: to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.”
– Mary Oliver
They say that smell is related closely to memory. Perhaps this is because, as I have heard at least, the centre in our brain that processes odour lies close by our area for memory. Part of me, as a musician (one who plays a keyboard instrument), rejects this notion however. Just because I can’t really imagine that memory is stored all in one place. Instead I visualize something more akin to what MRI studies have shown with pianists as they play – or even listen to – music. I see my brain lighting up all over when I enter my memories. Yes, smell often does jolt this process into action.
The power of smell is visceral, to the point of being almost frighteningly so at times. Even with “lost” memories, sometimes a smell will evoke some lingering sentiment – loss, sadness, or a remembrance of happiness as light and uplifting as the remembered warmth of the sun. Maybe I’m noticing that because, as I age, there are just plain more half-forgotten moments like that anyhow, floating, wispy ghosts of memory, haunting my mind just hoping for a chance to, once more, be sensed. Hoping for one last moment of existence.
I am aware that smell is pretty universally recognized for this effect on us, but what about colour? I wonder: do colours affect people this profoundly? I know that – for me – certain colours are evocative of certain memories and feelings, not as visceral as smells perhaps, but in a way that is somehow less fleeting. And it’s not only my memory that is touched by colour. My imagination, the world of my day dreams, is moved as well.
The effect of colour is more lasting for me than the sort of burst produced by a smell. Different colours have different associations for me, affecting my outlook – for better or worse – over a long period of time. And so, a colour has this power to act as a slow-release antibiotic for my psyche.
Midnight blue, in the form of a sparkly nail polish I bought last year (at my birthday, of course!), has been working its magic over me for nearly a year now. Midnight blue is not just any blue. It’s a blue-black-blue, the colour of the sky on a clear night in winter with a big full moon. And – for me – it is flecked with these sparkles. Starlight piercing the blackness of space. Snowflakes falling on a freshly painted blanket of blue-black, poking the colour with pin pricks of light, revealing the shiny steel of the universe glinting underneath.
I think my obsession with midnight blue started as a birthday fantasy. On the other hand, perhaps it started with my ice skates.
You see, my ice skates are blue, but they’re not that midnight blue, flecked with sparkles like points of starlight, not the blue of the grocery store nail polish left unworn but which was reflected on with such longing. But my skates are blue, and full of associations of freedom – gliding over the smooth ice at the arena, feeling strong and free, independent and happy, feeling in tune with my body, having cold thighs and a cold bum even afterwards back at the office, or maybe at a coffee shop. To me, those are the best souvenirs of being alive.
I am a terrible skater. A few years ago, I used to take lessons. I was no star, but I improved. I loved those Saturday lunch times, stolen time away from my day of piano students, and I loved the great, gliding, cold feeling that stayed with me after, even when I was back at work.
No one else in my family showed any interest in ice skating. It was just me. It was a wonderful, alone thing. I tried to interest my son. We went out a few times – while he had hand-me-down hockey skates that, for the moment, fit him – but he tried and fell, soon got cold, and whined to go home.
And, so, skating with someone remained a bit of a fantasy. Bucket list item, I suppose.
After a while, when my lessons didn’t seem to be the practical thing to do anymore, and I stopped skating, I promised myself I would make time to go to public skating from time to time and continue my love affair with the ice that way. I never went. Not even once.
Last year, as my birthday approached, I thought of this with increasing longing. I thought of the midnight blue, flecked with sparkles, I thought of Van Gough’s Starry Night, I thought of my skates. I thought how nice it would be to skate outdoors and then walk along in Westboro Village at night, feeling the freshness. Enjoying the dark. I could see what I would be wearing, could taste what I would get to eat. I could feel the weight in my hand of the little trinket I would select as a “remembership” (as Boo says) as I strolled along through the Village. And then I thought how much more lovely this all would be if I had a friend to do it with.
I didn’t and I still don’t. That’s sad, but it’s true too. I have some girlfriends, mommy clique pals, so I could arrange it as a girls’ night out, I suppose (even though that would be some doing, as they say – we all seem overwhelmed with husbands and kids, homes and responsibilities). But that wasn’t the kind of evening I wanted.
What I wanted, was imagining, and longing for, was more like a date night, an evening of being with somebody whose hand you’re eager to grab hold of once again, after you sling your skates back up on your shoulder. Someone to walk in that cold with, talking quietly. Sometimes laughing. Sometimes simply drinking in the beautiful midnight blue.
I seldom post re-blogs, but this post from “Waiting for the Karma Truck” really wowed.
Originally posted on Waiting for the Karma Truck:
I have nothing against “More” magazine – in fact, I read it and applaud its mission to publish a magazine specifically designed for women who have traded their concerns about thigh-gap for hot flashes. However, on the cover this month (in the largest font possible) is the phrase “Secrets To Aging Gracefully” and in smaller print “from real women like you”.
Let me tell you what the secrets are – exercise, eat healthy foods (eat vegan – or not), color your hair – or not, use injectables – or not, live in the country or in the city, moisturize and be happy in your skin.
Thank you very much “More” magazine. I had no idea.
There’s something ironic about using the adverb ‘gracefully’ when one has joints that crack, a back that is willing to debate the merits of good posture, and an ever-increasing awareness that you will never…
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New Year’s is a tenuous time for me. In one of those polls about this time of year (you know the ones: “Does the start of a New Year matter to you or is it just another day?” type things) I’d be the one falling far, far to the right on this particular issue. “YES!!! The New Year is a BIG deal !”
In fact, I’ve already explored WHY I feel New Year’s and, in particular, the resolutions that we make during this season, are something worth caring about. It’s already been covered, in this increasingly fat e-book of my thoughts, HERE. So you can read more if you need a primer on the topic.
This year during the holidays my family and I celebrated by binge-watching Season 7 of the new Doctor Who . This season seemed most appropriate somehow. Longtime followers of this blog may know of my great (unrequited! sigh…) love for the Doctor, in all his incarnations. Okay, for a while there it was “David Tennant, the Doctor”, but in the past two years I’ve grown as a person…
Anyhow. Something about the Doctor flying through past, present, and future and “all of time and space” in that little blue box of his resonates deeply with the idea of “a New Year” for me, especially as our little blue planet reaches this point in its 365-day orbit around our Sun. Right now, Earth’s northern pole is tilted dramatically away from that heat source – a fact you can’t miss if you’re living in this hemisphere this January. The long dark nights and minus 30 degree Celsius afternoons (which are coming later this week, apparently) will remind you.
Yes, we are in Space. But, like the Doctor, we exist across Time as well. This year I will mark the 45th year of my own existence in Space and across Time. My 45th trip around the Sun. And, even after my eventual demise, my existence will go on for as long as I am remembered, and longer still. For as long as my descendants bear the psychic imprint of the life I lived. Some may think of this imprint as a personal energy signature but I prefer to imagine it’s part of a never-ending chain of bedtime stories, party of my family’s ongoing family folk history. I still believe that stories have power, you see.
The story of a child starts long before that child is born. A person’s story begins with the story of how their family got wherever (or however) they are in the first place. And – for my own family, anyhow – that’s a story I can still change.
And so, somehow, I’ve started to see myself as a Timelord. At least a Timelord for the Time that I can rightfully claim as my own.
I like that message of Doctor Who, that TIME is ours and we have the power to change it. That our future is largely unwritten. That we can take action, perhaps creating a paradox (like Rory does in Episode 230) that prevents the once-unpreventable event from ever taking place to begin with.
Just as an aside, I wonder if it would be a paradigm shift for all of us, as a society, to think of TIME being our legacy, not merely some SPACE, as in leaving your kids the deed to the farm. What if the real legacy were the Time to change things, not so much the Space that we do it in?
But back to Doctor Who Series 7 (it’s actually Season 33 of DW, but who’s counting?). I love (loved?) Amy and Rory. Well, I loved Rory. I loved the very IDEA of a Rory, the notion that a woman could love her best friend and be herself so unendingly adored (at times, even when she does not deserve it). I know some people still believe that love can (and should!) be that way, but the abundance of “Spice up your sex life!”, “Improve your communication skills!”, “10 Tips for Date Night”, and “To co-sleep or not to co-sleep” sort of advice I see out there in books, magazines, and online tells me that I am not the only person who is so worn down by the day-to-day practicalities of life that they have forgotten all about capital “L” LOVE. Amy and Rory love.
So I am left sitting in the dark at each day’s end, watching the Doctor (still on Matt Smith for now) and wondering about Time. I am okay with Space (well, as “okay” as anyone else, I suppose – is anyone out there truly at ease with the vast prospect of the unexplored and infinite darkness that exists beyond us?), but Time weighs heavy on my soul. Have I truly claimed control of the Time that is left to me? What will my real legacy to my children be?
I’ve always cherished the notion of living my one “wild and precious life” WITHOUT LIMITS. While you may (rightly) say that a life lived with no limits is a pipe dream to begin with (there are ALWAYS limits!) and that, further, I should be careful what I wish for and I can, for my part, admit both points are well-taken, I still have to be honest that I have always balked at the idea of reins or a bridle. Life’s too short.
On the other hand… Well, I wonder if I am being honest with myself. I wonder if I have passed the “break even” point in Life the way I’m leading it now. I wonder what the balance is in MY “Time” bank account, and whether – instead of continuing to pay into someone else’s day in and day out – I should perhaps be withdrawing that balance for my own use.
In Episode 231 (“The Snowmen”), Madame Vastra, acting as a kind of gate-keeper for the Doctor (mourning the loss of Amy and Rory), interviews Clara. She tells Clara to restrict herself to one word replies. I can’t find the quote online, but when I watch it again I’ll post it. She basically says that, when we lie, we talk a LOT and use a lot of flowery language. But, when we are restricted in what we can say, when we must choose only a SINGLE WORD to convey meaning, we draw (or are pulled) ever closer to the truth.
I love this idea, and I loved this scene with Clara and Madame Vastra. When Vastra gives a long speech about why the Doctor is remote, godlike, unobtainable, and WILL NOT help Clara and then says something like “You may now speak to indicate your understanding of this”, Clara spits back the mono-syllable “WORDS.” Snap.
[Btw, isn’t Clara great so far? I love in the next episode when she calls the TARDIS the Doctor’s “Snog box.”] :D
I wonder about the words in my own life. I wonder how it happens that I have blogged so much and yet never quite gotten to the truth that I seek. I know that “Truth” as a singular noun is misleading. There is no One Truth. The title of a recent post by a blogger I follow was “The Plural of Anecdote is Not Data.” I loved that. Concise and inescapably true. Perhaps it’s true that brevity is the soul of wit.
Which may explain a lot. I have never been a particularly witty person. So – perhaps with that moment from “The Snowmen” in mind – I set about writing a Brief (!) History of the past 20 years of my life. N.B. More enjoyable if read in the voice of the Doctor, as portrayed by Matt Smith.
- Years 1-2: Stupid.
- Years 3 -11: Hopeful.
- Years 12-19: “Noble.”
- Years 20-??: Happy?
Okay, so I was kind of hard on myself. I do wonder, though, if our idea of what is “noble” changes as we age. If so, this might go some way to explaining how I’m feeling today, these new thoughts that are pulling me down even as the 2015 train starts to chug out of the station. They say that fewer things scare you as you age, that you tend to live in the moment more and fret a little less. If that’s true, then – I say! – bring it on!
Without further adieu, my 2015 New Year’s Resolutions:
- Think “Where do you see yourself in 5, 10, 20 years?” Start taking the steps today that you must walk to get there. Change is uncomfortable, but bear in mind that you cannot continue to grow as a person without experiencing some pain.
- Never use the words “I love you” as a tool to get something else that you want. When you say them, mean them the way you do when you say them to your children.
- Say “I love you” to Boo and Lou five hundred times a day and find a thousand ways a day to show them you mean it. They are children and children need lots of reminders.
- Always remember that your children are smart and resilient and that you are their model.
- You are a Timelord. See yourself in the context of Time.
- “Write you must.” (This one sounds better if you hear it in the voice of Yoda)
On that note, Happy New Year to Everybody. Talk soon,