A few months ago, soon after I’d finished writing my memoir, Raw: A Midlife Quest for Health & Happiness, I had the opportunity to share five minutes of my work at a reading. While combing through my manuscript for excerpts, I found myself thinking, Hmm, maybe this writing isn’t as strong as I thought. The writing felt flabby and slow. I found myself tinkering with passages so they’d read better in a shorter timeframe, and wondered if that was okay. In past readings, I’ve mostly read my poems, complete works, each one featuring a beginning, middle, and end.
Let’s face it: the writing life can be difficult. We procrastinate, bargain with the universe, write hundreds of pages no one will read. We judge, discipline, chide, and berate ourselves, and others. We make unfair comparisons, inflate and deflate our work, our efforts. Our egos loom large like monsters, or cower in corners. We recoil from shadows, fight our own wisdom, attempt to flee our pain, but cannot escape ourselves, our lives—alas, our material. And this is the fun part!
My mother-in-law died this week. It wasn’t unexpected. She was under the care of hospice, and had been declining in health since her husband’s death in 2011. My mom died in 2012. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, for close to two years I’ve been embroiled in a family fight over money that has created stress, and with it, debilitating anxiety. We finally reached a settlement agreement a couple of weeks ago, but 2014 has been the hardest year of my life. In 2013, I’d buried my grief and escaped into my work. But by 2014, as family tensions escalated, my grief erupted and I had to stop working. My clients fell away like dominoes, I reduced my teaching schedule to one class, and I hit the pause button on my memoir, The Raw Years: A Midlife Quest for Health & Happiness.
Have you gotten up on the “wrong” side of the bed lately? If so, you know that how you wake up in the morning can set the tone for your entire day. Do you awaken to an alarm clock, jump out of bed, and feel rushed all day long? Do you feel like the day’s to-do list will take a week to complete? Does your life feel like a succession of endless striving and doing? If so, slowing down your morning wake-up process can make a difference in your day. Waking up slowly and deliberately—bringing awareness to this time of day—can help you maintain your equilibrium, which will make you calmer, and also more productive. Here are a few suggestions for bringing awareness into your mornings and starting your day with consciousness attention, clarity, and joy:
Holidays can be great, but they can also be challenging. Each person in every family has his or her own energy, plus the collective energy of the family itself. This is true for both nuclear families as well as extended families.
A few days ago I wrote this Facebook status update: “It was a rich weekend in my Consciousness, Health & Healing program. One of the things I took away from the experience was this: Don’t wait until you are faced with a life-threatening illness to live the life you want! Carve out the time and space in your life to do what you love. Live the life you want to live NOW!”
A few weeks ago, while shopping at JoAnn’s fabric and crafts store, a sewing box at the check out counter caught my eye. I can use that, I thought, but had no idea why. Except for the basics, I don’t sew. My mom, an excellent seamstress, taught me how, but I don’t enjoy it, so I take my mending to the cleaners instead. I had no clue why this sewing box called my name; I bought it having no idea what purpose it might serve.
Every year, around Thanksgiving, I wish I could hit a fast forward button, skip the month of December, and resume my life on New Year’s Day. It’s not that I don’t like the holidays, but it sometimes makes me feel like a headless chicken—a headless shopping chicken, running amok at the mall. I lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas. I know it’s supposed to be about giving, but searching for gifts in stores or online leaves me cold. It all seems so pointless.
I’ve just returned home from my “celebration” trip. It was the trip I promised myself I’d take after completing part one of my memoir. It served as both a carrot leading me toward my goal, and also as a reward for accomplishing it. And, best of all, it was within my control; I didn’t have to depend on anything or anybody outside myself to legitimize or acknowledge my accomplishment.
A week after back-to-school night at my daughter’s school, our Indian summer ended abruptly. Clouds filled the sky. No raindrops fell, but it turned cool enough to convince me that, yes, summer is over. I’ll admit I didn’t want it to end. I love the long days of sunlight, the warmth, and fresh produce. I’m going to miss my hammock and lounging by the pool reading. I’m also going to miss meditating, practicing yoga, and journal writing in the back yard. I’m going to miss lying on my back and staring up at our eucalyptus tree. I’m going to miss hummingbirds and blue jays, and the smell of honeysuckle and damp earth after my husband has watered the yard.