I still haven’t settled into anything resembling a groove yet. My mom gets discharged tomorrow, though, and will be settling back into her place so hopefully things will get back to normal soon.
I’m spending a bit of time every morning reading stuff online, though—all those newsletters I get, right? And occasionally getting inspired. So I thought I’d share those mini-hits of inspiration with you all today.
I mentioned on Monday how much I love Austin Kleon’s newsletter. A while back, he shared what filmmaker Don Hertzfeldt said about his writing process, and the description just took my breath away:
“it’s like you’re floating in an ocean, and you want to build a raft. so you just float there and you wait and wait. and eventually this little piece of something comes drifting by, maybe a memory, and you hang on to it, and then another little piece comes around, it is unrelated, maybe it’s a funny sentence you overheard somewhere. and you keep collecting all these little things that just sort of drift by… a dream, a beautiful sentence in your head that just appeared while doing the dishes, an anecdote you stole from your old diary… and eventually you find connections between all the things and with all these parts you’ve gathered up you now have enough stuff to build a raft. and then once you have the raft you can remove all the bits that don’t quite fit anymore, the spare parts that you didn’t need after all, you toss them back or maybe save them for another raft later. when i write, there isn’t a lot of active effort or swimming around, or calculation… for me that can be very poisonous to creativity. the big ideas won’t happen right when you mentally stress on them… it is more a matter of being patient and being open to all the things that just drift in”
I’d really like to write like this all the time. I’ve only done it once, for the most recent short story I wrote. Things came to me line by line. I wrote the story in about four or five days, and in the beginning I didn’t know who my characters were, or what they were doing. I’d pull open my Word document and jot down a few lines throughout the day. At night in bed I’d think of another line. And miraculously, when I finished, everything fit. The story somehow ended itself.
I really liked the way it felt.
So maybe if I took more meditation breaks I could get into this drifty kind of headspace? What do you think? Another piece that spoke to me recently was this one, about ten minute meditation breaks, or time-INs.
I could definitely use more of that.
All procrastinators put off things they have to do. Structured procrastination is the art of making this bad trait work for you. The key idea is that procrastinating does not mean doing absolutely nothing. Procrastinators seldom do absolutely nothing; they do marginally useful things, like gardening or sharpening pencils or making a diagram of how they will reorganize their files when they get around to it. Why does the procrastinator do these things? Because they are a way of not doing something more important. If all the procrastinator had left to do was to sharpen some pencils, no force on earth could get him do it. However, the procrastinator can be motivated to do difficult, timely and important tasks, as long as these tasks are a way of not doing something more important.
Could it really be so easy? There’s only one thing in the world I procrastinate, and that’s my writing. If I can find some tasks that “have clear deadlines (but really don’t)” and “seem awfully important (but really aren’t)”, maybe I could give it a go.
So that’s my inspiration for this week! What’s inspired you this week?
I am stressed.
But the funny thing is, I don’t feel stressed. Not in my mind, I mean. And that, apparently, isn’t such a good thing. Because my body, unable to signal to me that maybe it’s time to slow down, let go, and indulge in self-care, has to find other ways to tell me I’m stressed.
Last month, I went to see my doctor because I’d started feeling tingling and numbness in my hands, arms, legs, and feet. (Checking these symptoms online wasn’t such a great idea, as you all probably already know.)
My doctor listened patiently as I described my symptoms. Then she told me I didn’t have to worry about the worse-case scenarios. And then she asked me, “Have you been stressed lately?”
I thought about it. “No,” I said, shaking my head.
But even though I didn’t feel like I was experiencing stress, she said my symptoms were most likely the product of stress.
My body, she explained, reacts physiologically to stress.
It’s true, and it’s something I’m just now getting around to accepting. And my main problem? I don’t actually know I’m experiencing stress, not in my mind anyway. An example? When my doctor asked me if I had been feeling stressed lately, I told her no.
And yet … both my cats were ill and my mother had just broken her hip.
I felt exhausted, yes, but other than that, I didn’t think I was stressed. So obviously my body has become adept at signalling my stress in other ways.
This causes some problems. How can I let go of my stress when I don’t actually feel like I’m stressed? I don’t have problems sleeping and I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the stressors in my life right now.
I could go the medication route. But I’d rather find alternate, natural ways to relieve this stress that my mind doesn’t feel but my body does. After doing some research into this, I’ve decided to try the following things:
Exercise. Exercise seems to be on every list of ways to destress. I haven’t exercised since last fall, and I’m obviously feeling it. Feeling it so much, when I walk anywhere these days I get all these “glad sensations”. My feet want to take off, go faster. My body says, yay, motion!
Ti of Book Chatter and I have been talking about making small, healthy changes, starting today, May 1. I’m always biting off more than I can chew, so small changes are a good fit for me. Ten minutes. That’s what I’m starting with. Ten minutes of exercise a day.
Meditation. It’s quite telling, but I’ve not been meditating for a couple of months now. And when I try to meditate, my mind goes crazy. An avalanche of thoughts. Nothing earth shattering though. Mostly mundane things, like what I’m going to eat for lunch. When will they turn on the air conditioning? My goodness, it’s hot in here this morning. But I do like the sunshine. On and on it goes.
So I’m going to go back to a tried and true method that’s helped me with my meditation in the past. I have several Brain Sync meditations. They’re supposed to be a scientific way to help you get into the meditative state. I don’t know about that, but I do know they’ve always worked for me. So, ten minutes. My month of small changes—ten minutes of meditating with Brain Sync every day.
Morning Pages. The book-reading demon has this theory about my stress. He thinks I’m not allowing myself to feel my real feelings because they’re not what I’m supposed to be feeling. I think he has a point there. I used to do morning pages—three pages of stream of conscious writing, quite literally a brain dump. They were my daily ritual, and I’d gotten to the point where writing those pages became my happy place. For eight years, I literally would not do anything until I’d done my pages. And then I stopped doing them because they’d gotten me to a place where I felt quite good most of the time and I didn’t need them any more.
But happiness and feeling good are ways of living that need to be maintained. I obviously need some sort of practice that will get me there and keep me there. And a daily brain dump will perhaps let those feelings I’m not aware I’m feeling flow out of me, onto the pages of my notebook.
Again, ten minutes. (Although I’ll probably revert to habit and do three pages.) Ten minutes isn’t a lot of time. These changes won’t work for me if I feel like they’re a burden, or I don’t have enough time to do them. I can’t resist “ten minutes” because it’s only ten minutes, after all.
So that’s my list. Do you have any tips on destressing? I’ll gladly add to this list because this whole body reacting to stress thing has got to change!
“Listen – are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?”
~ Mary Oliver
I worked on a few of these doodle quotes earlier this year, before things got too busy. I’m hoping to get back into the habit of doodling them – they’re so relaxing and meditative! Perfect for when I’m listening to an audiobook.
I’ve been reading Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, by Joe Dispenza as part of an informal book club with some of my friends. And since I happened to be in a sketchnoting frame of mind while I was reading it, I ended up taking sketchnotes of every chapter.
Here are my notes from chapter one (click on the picture for a bigger version). Please excuse the sparkly nature of the pen; I’d just come across an old set of really nice gel pens and couldn’t resist using them (I used a different colour for each chapter of the book – thankfully, the lighter pens were used for later chapters!).
As you can see from my notes, the book goes quite a bit into quantum mechanics, and how we can apply what we know of the quantum field to “rewiring” ourselves and breaking out of old habits. It’s a very interesting discussion, although sometimes the application of theory seemed a little bit forced to me. But since I believe there are mysteries of life and consciousness that just aren’t explainable by our current scientific knowledge, that didn’t bother me much.
For me, the power of Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself lies in the four week meditation program outlined in the last half of the book. I actually spent several weeks going through the process – but found myself resisting taking it beyond week two every single time.
But luckily, I’ve been reading this book with some friends of mine, one of whom went all the way through the four week process – and rather inspiringly, she has been experiencing all sorts of lovely and welcome career-related surprises in her life. I am currently standing at one of those proverbial forks in the work/life road, and such surprises would definitely be an asset right around now!
So I ended up going to Joe Dispenza’s site and buying the MP3 download of the guided meditation, which was what my friend was using as a companion to the book. The book refers to this meditation a few times; unfortunately, access to the meditation doesn’t come with the book but both Ward and I have been doing the meditation for a few days now and I’d say it’s well worth the $4.95.
For one thing, each time I’ve finished the meditation (which, at over an hour, is quite long) I find myself just bopping with energy. This morning, right after I finished, it occurred to me to go to the local coffee shop and work on my current novel. I spent a wonderful two hours there, and managed to discover the solution to a plotting problem I was facing.
Pretty powerful stuff. If you’re into the quantum mechanics aspect of changing old habits, you’ll probably find the book interesting. And if you find yourself having problems with the meditation program outlined in the book, you might want to give the guided meditation a try.
At the very least, Ward and I are both enjoying our meditation practice a lot more these days!
I’m not one to make resolutions – they just don’t work for me. And perhaps it’s a matter of semantics; “resolutions” and “resolve” have a hard-edged feel for me, and I much prefer the softer ease of “intention”.
So at the beginning of each new year, I like to make some general intentions for the days ahead.
Last year was my year of authenticity. And this soft, gentle intention had a great deal to do with 2010 being a very pivotal year for me. It was a year during which I got to know myself a lot better – who I really am, and what I really want out of life.
I didn’t exactly enjoy all the lounging-around-on-the-sofa-feeling-sick time I spent during Christmas week last week, but in some ways it was a gift; I had lots of time to look back over the past year, and look forward to the new year – and see what my general intentions are for 2011.
Despite flagging energy, I came up with a lot of ideas (many of which I’d actually been nursing during the deadline-driven months of November and December). And all these ideas gelled together and pointed in one general direction:
2011 is my year of creativity.
I’ve missed being creative. Last year, I added writing back into my life, and it has been a very joyful experience. But there’s more to what I want out of life than the writing. There are a lot of things that interest me, and this year, I’m giving myself permission to enjoy exploring and playing with all the things that catch my fancy.
So this means:
More Writing. But I’m not going to narrowly define “writing” anymore. I’m going for the everything-including-the-kitchen-sink approach. So that means not just novels and short stories, but playing around with writing prompts, writing essays, and (this is very tentative indeed!) more regular blogging here.
Janel has been my inspiration when it comes to my writing intentions. I am totally in love with her bowl of inspiration, and plan to pair it with this other idea I got from her blog – coming up with a story idea a day.
More Art. Once upon a time (read: pre-Dylan, my seven-year-old), I actually spent a great deal of time mucking about playing with paints and glue and paper and clay. I was never particularly good, but for me, making art isn’t about the end result, it’s about the process.
I’m going to start slowly; right now, I’m contemplating the idea of a Zentangle a day, or, more accurately, a Zentangle mandala. I found this great video on YouTube which makes me want to reach for my set of Pigma Micron pens and just do it – except, I don’t have a set anymore. So a trip to the art store is in order!
I’d also like to learn how to create digital art; I bought the Sketchbook Pro app for my iPad, and have a stylus on its way to me (in the same package as that Bluetooth keyboard I mentioned yesterday).
And digital photography! Molly posted today about her interest in photography, not just as a memory keeping device, but as a form of artistic expression. Photography is something I’ve been interested in ever since I was a teenager; I’ve just never made the interest much of a priority before.
More Reading. I also intend to read a lot more – for me, reading is a very creative thing. It’s rare for me to put down a book without it having stimulated an avalanche of new ideas. But this year, I’d like to add interesting non-fiction back into my TBR stacks as well.
For many years, after I had my kids, I read nothing but nonfiction, because fiction was just too gripping and I didn’t have the time to give to it (if you’ve ever found yourself having a really hard time putting down a novel, but it’s inching really close to 2 in the morning and you have to get up in a handful of hours to get the kids off to school, you’ll know what I mean).
So a few years ago, I made the decision to let myself read more fiction again, and I am so very glad I did. The more I read, the more I find myself itching to write. At the same time, though, fiction doesn’t quite appease my curiosity about things the way a very good non-fiction book can. So I’d like to have both types of reading in my life.
I suspect the Kindle app on my iPad is going to play a huge role in my reading life this year as well. It has been so easy reading on it (I recently finished Kathy Reich’s Virals, a real page-turner, and am in the middle of Naughty: 9 Tales of Christmas Crime, by Steve Hockensmith), and I’ve been finding myself looking through the Kindle store feeling very, very tempted by the selections there.
Morning Pages, My Way. I’m contemplating writing Morning Pages again; they were a part of my daily practice for about eight years, but I found myself outgrowing them. This time around, I’d like to do them with an added twist – I’d like to use them as a way to hold a conversation with myself, the deep-down-me who often gets buried in the unintentional busy-ness of life.
Meditation. And finally, there’s the meditation. I find it terribly challenging sometimes to quiet my mind (as you can probably imagine, by the length of my blog posts …) But I’d really, really like to incorporate meditation into my daily practice.
As a gift to myself, I bought a copy of Abraham-Hicks’ Getting into the Vortex Guided Meditation meditations; there are four 15 minute meditations on the CD, and 15 minutes is SO much easier to manage. It’s like the short timed writing goal for me – it’s nearly impossible for that naysayer part of me to tell me “you don’t have time for that”.
So these are all the things I’m looking forward to doing and being in 2011. What about you? Do you make resolutions? Mini-goals? What has worked (and not worked) for you in the past when it comes to new year changes in your life?
Back when my older two were much, much younger and I was in a far less egalitarian marriage than I’m in now, the bath was my sanctuary. It was the only time and place in an otherwise hectic day when I could lock out the outside world, and sink deep into scented bubbles, my latest read in hand.
These days, I don’t have the need to run away and hide from the world like that. And I actually don’t read in the bathtub anymore, either, although I do listen to the occasional audiobook (not often, though – I always have this nagging fear that my iPod might fall into the water, and as you might guess, nagging fears are not conducive to a good time, anywhere or anyplace.)
Nowadays, my time in the bath is my me time. Often, it’s a very creative time for me – I’ve dreamed up solutions to plot tangles while in the bath and I’ve stumbled magically onto solutions to what I had thought were pressing problems. Mostly, though, it’s a time and place of serenity and contemplation. At its best, it’s meditative rather than reflective.
I only require three things for a great soak:
1. A candle. Only one is needed. Lots of candles are always lovely, of course, but I only need one.
2. Something scented to put into the water. I don’t require it to produce bubbles, either.
3. Something scented to wash with. If it’s the same scent as the fragrance in the water, that’s a bonus, but again, it’s not absolutely necessary.
I’ve been thinking about baths quite a lot, because over the past three weeks, when it seemed like my life was all about work and nothing else, I made a deal with myself: I would find the time to pamper myself with a bath every day.
As it turned out, it was a splendid deal, and made the work go by more quickly both before and after each day’s bath. I felt refreshed, pampered, and comfortable after my bath, and looking forward to it made me work more quickly. It really did.
One thing I’ve learned over the years – and this is my point for writing this post (as Ellen Degeneres would say, I do have a point). There are very definitely two camps when it comes to baths vs. showers.
There are people who adore a good long soak in a lovely, hot, scented bath.
And then there are others who haven’t taken a bath in ages, for whom a shower is the only way to go.
My own daughter, for example, falls within the “showers only” camp. As she said to me recently, “Ugh. You know, if you look close enough, you can see flecks of your skin on the top of the water. Why would you want to sit in that?”
Or my sister, who I seem to remember telling me once that a bath feels like trying to clean yourself with dirty water.
Personally, I think if that’s one’s problem with a bath, then the simple solution is to do it the Japanese way: take a shower to get clean and then soak to your heart’s content in a nice hot bath.
(Now that I think about it, my sister said that to me long before she went to Japan on holiday a few years back. So her perspective might indeed have changed. I should ask her.)
Despite loving baths, I’m not adverse to showers myself. They are the only way to go on a hot sticky summer day, for example. And when I finish a rare bout of time on the treadmill, it’s not the tub I head to, but the shower.
Still, though, the moment the temperature starts dropping, the bath comes quickly to mind.
So here’s what I’ve been wondering (don’t ask me why I’ve been wondering this, but I have been, and the inquisitive part of me wouldn’t rest until I agreed with myself that I’d write this post) – where do you stand in the whole bath vs. shower debate? Are you a showers-only kind of person? Or is a bath the only thing that calls to you? Maybe you partake of both methods, but lean more towards one than the other?
And if you love baths, do you read in the bath? Listen to audiobooks? Or just reflect?