Friday, September 28, 2012

Tracking Down the Elusive Muse

Inspiration is one of the greatest con's of creativity, especially for writers.

What's the number one question writers are asked at a reading- "Where do you get your ideas?" The idea being that one of the elusive goddesses appears out of the mist of creativity endowing a fortunate few with an elixir that keeps them prolific masters.

New writers often get caught up attempting to lure the Muse and it's no wonder when you read interviews with writers who treat writing as though it is a religion only entered into by those with  faith. For these writers words are supplied by the Muse and they are nothing but passive vessels. These are the writers who chant, burn incense, pray, meditate and treat writing as an ineffable act/

All of these rituals might work for the privileged few but for the rest of us the Muse is found in rolling up our proverbial sleeves and getting to work.

My Muse doesn't care that today I was writing on the damp chilly porch while the rain fell and I was buried under my daughter's electric blanket. My Muse doesn't care that I don't have a dedicated writing space anymore. I write wherever the mood and time hits me. If that means I'm typing out a paragraph or two during half-time at a soccer game then that's where she'll find me. The only thing my Muse cares about is whether I'm writing or not.

We've a simple relationship. If I don't write, she doesn't particularly give a damn about me. If I'm writing then she's there like my dedicated corner team in a boxing match or pit crew at the Indy 500.

The relationship between the idea and creativity only occurs from action. Not just any kind of action but consistent daily grinding away until art is created. It won't happen if you're plan is to wait for some fickle god of inspiration to sprinkle fairy dust on you to get you going. It won't happen tomorrow or even the day after tomorrow. It only happens in the now.

So I write, my Muse shows up. Tonight she's brought a glass of Pinot Grigio with her and has turned on the soccer game for me knowing the words flow with a good game in the background. If I'm lucky she'll send me off to sleep dreaming about the story and wake me up first thing in the morning with the first sentence of the day. But this can only happen if I keep my part of the bargain- keep writing.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Relaxing the Stressed-Out Brain

I never thought I could it. I tried it dozens of times to no avail. I would find myself in a quiet house, cross-legged at an un-godly time before dawn. I'd breathe in and out attempting to shut off my brain and the more I attempted to shut it down the louder the thoughts would intrude. I suddenly felt as though my brain was covered in adhesive and a wind storm had kicked up, every possible thought would stick as I flailed helplessly trying to swat them all away.

Meditation became a lesson in frustration, so I simply gave it up as a task beyond my feeble abilities.

Then one evening, I took my son to a soccer tryout on a chilly evening. I stayed in the warm car, crossed my legs, and began to slowly breathe in and out. Before I knew it I lapsed into a state of consciousness, I can only describe as hyper-awareness. Coming out of this state, I was relaxed and free of the stress and fear breathing down my neck for years.

After that evening, I found a meditation app for my iPad and I meditate at least twice a day. Instead of the blankness I had desired in my early attempts, now I seek to simply be. As thoughts enter my head, I allow them to pass through, accepting and releasing. The thoughts change but the breathing is constant, anchoring me to the present in a way I never took the time to appreciate.

Before meditation stress would hold me in a death grip and I sacrificed my peace of mind to it. Time poured out in a flood overwhelming me and I drowned in the endless turmoil. With meditation, my days are fluid and stretch out before me. I am productive. I am relaxed. I breathe in and out and I am here and now.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Miraculous New Diet

I've always been petite. I was always the annoying friend who could eat an entire pizza and down a nice healthy dessert and never gain weight.

Even after giving birth to two children, I still maintained my petite figure.

Then I began life with my then boyfriend and now husband and suddenly I began putting on a pesky pound or two here or there. After I gave birth to my youngest, I couldn't seem to shed my baby weight. I thought it was simply nature's cruel trick since I was of AMA (advanced maternal age- the crappy terminology for getting pregnant after 35).

But no, it wasn't nature.

It wasn't even my love of caramel lattes or the fact that as a mother I wound up eating my kid's leftovers.

Nor was it the fact that my running ranged from sporadic to non-existent for some months.

Weight crept on to my thin frame because cracks formed in my husband's emotional facade. The moodiness he blamed on his food sensitivities escalated. He gained weight. He was exhausted all the time. He was dissatisfied, he complained. He no longer smiled and my kids were uncomfortable when he was around.

I did what any one who loves their partner would do, I tried to make things better. The more I tried the more work there seemed to do. I completely lost myself to this emotional nightmare. I stopped writing, I stopped growing, I'd start projects and then stop them because I was juggling too many balls in the air trying to keep him happy and reminding him how blessed we were in our lives.

Weight piled on me until I was over 38 pounds overweight. I was in shock when I stepped on the scale. I tried everything to lose the weight- getting back into running, going to the gym, Weight Watchers, Paleo Diet, tracking every bite I ate... to no avail.

Then when my husband's careful disguise fell away to expose the raw emotionally distant and mental illness he'd been hiding, I realized I couldn't help him. He was beyond a pep talk, beyond love and support, beyond even therapy. If I continued trying to save him, I would lose myself.

So I stopped.

I let go and suddenly... the weight began to fall off. I started taking care of myself. I began running regularly. I started back to writing. I started enjoying my life again without the shadow of his mood swings. To date, I've lost over 22 pounds.

Today people who hadn't seen me since the spring were amazed by my transformation. I glow! There's a spring to my step. I smile a lot. I sing again. I laugh.

What's my secret? Living a life of awareness, letting go of fear, and handing someone's emotional baggage back to them to deal with. No matter how much you love someone only they can tackle their burden. Every person has to find their own peace.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Posting Again

I am posting again.

I am truly writing a life right now. I started this blog a different person. I was a woman stuck. I could see where I wanted to be in my life but I was weighed down by the unhappiness and gloom of my husband. A naturally caring and nurturing person, I gave up myself to the moods and emotional swings of a man never satisfied.

I believed we shared our lives together. Both of us were married before and knew what it was like to be in marriages where our spouses were disconnected from the idea of family- my ex-husband because of the drugs and alcohol he used to self medicate; his ex-wife struggled with her sexuality and theirs was a passionless relationship.

We dreamed of lives of true partnership where we could live out our dreams- me as a writer, him as an artist. We wanted our children to experience what it was like to have parents who adored one another so they could seek out the same examples for themselves.

I thought I'd found it. Despite the occasional cracks in the careful image he cultivated of a passionate, warm, loving, happy and involved man- I loved him deeply. We married and brought another child the world. This child would never have to refer to "Mommy's" or "Daddy's" house.

Now my husband questions every aspect of our life together. He doesn't think he loves me. He doesn't think he'll ever be romantically interested me again. He's not sure he wants to be married but he doesn't think he wants to be divorced.  He's content to live together in a house with no passion.

For years, I watched him struggle with himself- his weight, his creativity, his self image. Now he has chosen to turn that inward hatred on me, making me the enemy. Unfortunately I have come to realize this is a pattern he has fallen in to before.

But through all of this I have learned something incredibly important- EVEN THOUGH SOMEONE CAN BREAK YOUR HEART, THEY CAN NOT BREAK YOU. As my blind grandmother who died at 102 used to say, "I'm navigating."

I have been hurt by my husband more than anyone has ever hurt me before but I can say with all honesty it has been the best thing that has happened to me. I sacrificed myself and my dreams to emotional and mental illness. I wasn't writing or creating, I was desperately trying to placate a man with a deep well of emptiness.

Now, I am writing. I am picking up the pieces of my life and creating a real family for my children. We were fractured for too long, retreating from the emotional vacuum that accompanies my husband. My older children are now not running from the room when he comes in, they have learned to ignore him and feel a desire to hold on to our life and our house. My children are proud of me for not breaking.

I pray. I meditate. I run. I laugh and I take care of myself.  I hope he will find peace but I know now it is not up to me to do it for him. This detour has led me to see no one can write my life but me.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A New Day

Today was an amazing day.

It was amazing because I chose not to allow myself to feel bad. Without realizing it, I'm a pro at feeling bad. Which is really kind of funny since if you'd asked me I would have considered myself a rather happy-go-lucky person. The image I had was of the kid who was always smiling, always ready with a laugh.

But then I started thinking about the last time I really laughed. I mean, the holding my sides falling on my butt kind of laughing and I couldn't remember. I also couldn't remember the last time I'd actually felt good, really good like I wanted to whistle or hum a tune.

My days have been chock full of badness. My every day has been about piling on regret after regret until I wake up facing the Mt. Everest of Regret each day. No wonder I've been achy and cranky. No wonder I'm exhausted before I get out of the bed. No wonder I haven't been able to tell one day from the other- it's all been a blur of misery.

The saddest realization for me has been the fact that all of this misery has been self-inflicted. It's been so easy over the years to point fingers at everyone and everything. I could have won first prize in the, "If only..." contest. If only, this would happen or that person would be, then I could... (fill in the blank).

So much wasted time and hours wallowing in misery but not today.

Today was different. When the negative thoughts formed, I pushed them away. It's not like I ignored them. Ignoring them would only mean they would return at some point of weakness. No, I carefully analyzed the thought, put it in a rational perspective and then dismissed it when I realized it was nothing more than a thought that would keep me mired down in the muck. Once I did this, it was gone. I was free (and not just metaphorically).

There was no more blur. My vision was clear. I had the kind of energy I remember possessing as a child when there were no cares, no misery. I set out time to write and I really did it. I finished a Chapter and started another. I cleaned. I spent time with my kids. There was no crankiness, no sadness, no fatigue. It was a brilliant day and tomorrow looks just as brilliant.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Well-Intentioned Bullshit is Still Bullshit

I've been thinking about words lately.

I love words. I've had a passionate love affair with the spoken and written word since  I was able to distinguish that sounds and images held meaning.

Anyone who knows me closely knows how much I love to talk. I am filled with ideas and images that come pouring out. Sometimes I can't even stop myself as the words flow.

My relationship with words has been symbiotic- as many words as I send out into the world, I take in. I listen and read constantly. I love the sounds of people's voices and am constantly capturing words, phrases and rhythms, allowing them to fill me up.

But after all these years, 45 to be exact, I've had to re-evaluate this relationship. Lesson after lesson, as of late, has shown me that words are meaningless with out action. I am embarrassed to think about how many powerless words I have allowed to flow out into the universe. They have fizzled in the air before they even left my lips. I have made promises and made declarations that have gone no where. My life has been littered with this kind of pollution.

Even the words I've put down on paper have suffered from being little more than litter as I have left them limp with no intention of giving them life, meaning or purpose. I've forgotten them on my computer or shoved them into a drawer or file, never to see the light of day.

Words are nothing without intent. Intention implies action. Words without action are simply well-intentioned bullshit. Well meaning but as empty as a politicians promise.

The lesson has been learned and now it will be applied.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Summer Challenge

69 Days.

I just counted them. Exactly 69 days of summer vacation.

A wild idea hit me as I realized today is officially the last day of school... Well it was more like a "what if?" rather than a full blown idea, actually. What if I finished my novel and what if I shed those annoying 28 pounds by the end of summer vacation on September 5 when school begins?

I know it's insane. Advertiser's like to paint summer as a time of relaxation- lounging by the pool, sipping lemonade on the swing porch or reading novels on the beach. Who are these advertisers? Obviously none of these people have been home or on vacation with children who lack any understanding of the concept of relaxation. Summer vacation, no matter how much you love your children, especially if you are home with them, can be as relaxing as preparing for root canal.

So why would I choose this particularly busy period of time to take care of two massive goals I've been spending years trying to accomplish?

Because I relish taking on ridiculous challenges. Because I think this time it will happen. Because... because... because this time I feel like I can do it. I can feel the spark of motivation. It's the same spark I felt when I declared I would run the NYC Marathon. At the time the idea was beyond ridiculous. I had never even run an entire mile. But that spark ignited and suddenly I was waking up at dawn to run. And that spark led me to cross the finish line of the 1997 NYC Marathon.

The spark has been ignited. Time to GO!