On Being Brave: My 2014 One Word

We’re fourteen days into 2014. rose bud

So, this post is a bit late, a poor omen to how the rest of 2014 will be, I hope not. For the past three years or so that I have been blogging, I have chosen a word, a One Word to guide my choices for the year.(Kinda like Frodo and the One Ring but without the creepy Black Riders following me around).

Last year, I chose the word–IGNITE. For parts of 2013, my word represented my choices: I remembered why I loved teaching, why I loved writing. Looking back over 2013, I see how my one word helped me back better choices like submitting my poetry and fiction for publication and attending a writer’s retreat in Michigan. I published a couple of stories, began writing a novel that I still love, overcame my fear of flying (I have a strong hatred for O’Hare), and adopted a kitten (really the kitten has nothing to do with my One Word just throwing it out there in case you wanted to know).

Even with a strong One Word showing for 2013, I didn’t plan on choosing another word for 2014. Until one chose me.

The word niggled at my brain. It found its way into my new favorite song with the title as my word. Now, my 2014 theme song. This word wouldn’t let me go. Despite wanting to focus goals and checking off boxes next to things that I accomplished, this word, this one word kept hounding until I accepted:

My One Word for 2014

Brave

Brave looks like submitting more writing, consistently putting myself out there for both acceptance and rejection.

Brave looks like being bold with my words, saying what I need and want.

Brave looks like fierce honesty coupled with compassion.

Brave looks like blogging consistently, being more open both online and in person.

Brave looks like embracing imperfection and accepting that I can’t be perfect.

So, here’s to a BRAVE 2014.

Maybe, going to Mordor with Frodo would have been a safer idea.

My Voice is Loud

My voice is loud… OneWord2013_Ignite

I’ve always had strong opinions. Most of the time, I keep the locked away, rumbling around like caged prisoners in padded cells. Being a typical INFJ, I revert to my private, natural quietness until I get to know you, and be warned…I may not filter all of those opinions, quirky thoughts, or hey, this is so cool as often (unless there are Mojitos or wine  and that’s whole other blog post).But if I simply stated WHY I don’t share my thoughts, sit there smiling, more content to listen, it would be this:

I don’t want my loud voice, my opinions to hurt your feelings.

Somehow, I got it wrapped in my brain that if friends, whether online or in real life, had to like everything that the other was in to. Total crap. Hell, I even spend extra time and energy telling my kids that they don’t have to like everything their little friends like. Your friends don’t like country music, that’s cool. You don’t want to read the Harry Potter books, fine read something else. 

For my own friends, I will listen to the recaps of reality shows I don’t watch. Quite frankly, if I wanted to see cat fights and backstabbing, I would have stayed teaching middle schoolers. But I listen and nod at the proper times. That’s what good friends do, right? Now, I won’t mind if you don’t like the same books, same TV shows, etc. That’s fine. I love your strong opinions, but it is far easier to quiet my loud voice than hurt your feelings. Even on diddly things like books and TV shows.

Why? I effing suck at giving myself the same level of grace that I’ll give you.

Part of learning radical self-care has meant stating how I truly feel about something relatively innocuous (although, people do have strong feelings toward Gone, Girl and A Prayer for Owen Meany).  I’m perfectly justified in NOT liking Dancing with the Stars or Arrested Development. I tried so hard on AD, but sorry, it’s not for me. Neither is The Office. Or pretty much, most of the comedies on NBC.

And I hope you and me are still cool as my voice gets louder, stronger, kinder. If I insert more of myself into the conversation, then I did before. I’ll still listen. I promise. But I  need to remember how to speak out my words, my joys and fears. I need to remember what my voice sounded like before fear hit the mute button.

to vacuum in pearls: dress for the day

i slumped down in my office corner

books to my left, to my right, above my head

like literary prison bars.

clock blinks the passing minutes,

i barely remember each one.

all sameness in the coffee stained

lavender fleece java themed pants.

my prison uniform–

it has been so long since

i have willed myself out of them.

but i’m trapped.

in this day, this routine

of write, write, write.

i need to break free.

freedom looks like

a silver laced-back cardigan,

purple and pearls,

powder and hot pink gloss–

simply to dust and vacuum.

oh, and a run to the p.o.

(wasn’t  wasting this loveliness until someone saw it).

i felt a chip in my heart

break away from the prison–

ivory towered and sparkling

built with my two hands.

then, the pieces ached to fall

when i allowed myself

another day

of blue and white ruffles

floral print shoes.

i dated myself

a new book and coffee shop writing.

underneath white hazy skies

i whispered thanksgivings

for the gift, this poetry,

this writing.

ivory crashes behind me.

i don’t care–

i’m free.

today, i’m linking up with dear abby leigh, and her lovely idea to just for the day we want!

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We Can’t See This Mountain

I.

rain spits

down from white specters

perched upon the trees.

we drive west, climb up

roads switchbacking

around centurion oaks.

rock and moss and dirt

collide into the sky

clouds low enough

we can breathe them in.

II.

we can’t see the mountain,

we can’t see the goddamn mountain,

you say swatting at the ghost mist.

through the trees, down the trail

whispers rise up, joining your wailing.

Of course, you can’t see the mountain,

i say back pissed at the broken silence–

Look down, the gravel beneath your feet,

the grass, the brown-trodden leaves–

that is the mountain!

III.

below us,

she holds our weight burden,

and we too desperate to see

far and away, not right here

underneath us.

 

 

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These Quiet Mornings

I wake this morning aching grateful. Morning comes, and I greet it leash in hand. The dew grass spit as we trampled down the knee stalks, the water splashing between my toes and out my shoes.I watch my dogs put noses to the ground, waddle off into the higher grass, spring back, jump up to my nose and lick it. I pet their heads and call them by name. We meander back to the house. Door open; wet paws slip on the hardwoods.

There is joy in the morning, these quiet mornings.

Coffee sputters and gurgles. I stand and wait and wait and wait. Favorite mug, a touch of cream, breathe in morning’s smell. One child up already makes breakfast. Perhaps, I shall write a bit before the burden of the day begins anew. In those stolen bits, I burrow away in my writing corner, my desk to give life to my thoughts. I need this ritual of writing in the morning. Before the email blares its siren song, before the “I can’t take another minute of you” bicker begins, before the demands of video games and television and whinings all crash-land in my living room. Now, I write before the day steals my morning from me.

There is joy in the morning, these quiet mornings.

Today, deep in the South’s wet blanket humid summer, it’s easy to allow day to rob me of this morning. I never wake without a list of things to do, hardships breaking my resolve. In short, my mornings aren’t always grateful, sunshine-filled gloriousness. I have bad days, but isn’t this what grace is for? Don’t we all have days when the bed throws us into a world ready for a new victim? But mornings do come again for me, and I embrace this morning with grace.

There is joy in the morning, these quiet mornings.

 

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The Art of Work

Work is whole lot harder than I thought it would be.

Sweat beads up underneath my auburn bangs dripping down my face. I brush off the moisture while I swallow my salvia again because there is no time for a water break. The hanging racks of women’s clothes crammed full of wool pea coats, long sweater dresses must be placed out on the sales floor before I can rest. I’m weary from sleepless nights, arms aching to be still for a moment, back stiff from lifting boxes and clothes. Finally, my shift ends and the driver’s seat of my car feels more like a La-Z-Boy recliner. Exhausted, I drive home, and I hope to write a few words, to create a bit of art. This is how I live—my work divorced from my true passion, my art.

When did I begin to compartmentalize myself?

For too long, work was only work. Art was only art. Separate parts of myself existed in two areas—one for my head, the other my heart. But I can’t live such a fragmented life and hope to create art. This week, my art floundered. I have been denying that working outside of my home and my writing could work together in the same way as before when I stayed home. It can’t. I placed my writing aside when my body ached even though my heart screamed to bleed upon the page. My words, my thoughts lived aborted half lives inside my head. Their full beauty squelched. I blamed my work, my schedule of early mornings; however, only now, I realize that I am the reason my art is suffocating. Art cannot survive if I refuse to give it breath.

When I change my perspective, my art thrives.

What if we are called to live our lives as whole, complete beings? How can we reconcile our seemingly separate work and art into one whole life? We must stop seeing our work whatever it is as a hindrance to our art. We are called to see our work as art. When I get up in the morning, I need to believe that everything I do is a form of art. I’m not saying that my hanging sweaters and shirts need my artistic flair, but my work life deserves just as much attention as my art. If I am to see my work as an impetus for art, then I cannot half ass my job, give shoddy customer service in order to save myself for my real art. I can never regain those moments when I live anticipating working on my writing, my art.

 

My life is art, and who am I to stifle the creative with my skewed ideas? We are called to art, and we must see our work and art as one inseparable gift.

How are you reconciling your gift of art and work?

Survival Mode

mondayphoto © 2011 Sean MacEntee | more info (via: Wylio)
Monday jolts me out of bed with whining dogs, an empty house, and coffee to make.

Yes, Mondays are not my favorite day. Never have been. EVER. Of course, I really have no reason

to despise Monday since I work from home. But my three doggie alarm clocks rarely let me sleep in. Today, I’m dragging a bit more since staying up late to see the newest Harry Potter movie took precedence over a good night’s sleep. But the movie was so worth it! Now, I’m struggling to think coherently, to write sentences.

I’m worn out.

And whenever I’m exhausted whether physically or emotionally, I enter survival mode. Just move through the day’s tasks, just get through the day, just get through. Some days, I need my survival mode. A shelter from the emotional onslaught from disappointments, unfilled expectations, and general shit—routine calms the frayed, wracked nerves. The getting up, the coffee making, dog walking, all ease a bit of the emotional tension like a balm for the soul.

But even everydayness can’t soothe all hurts.

Sometimes, the emotional mess bruises too deeply, cuts off the balm of the everyday. I can’t always stay calm and composed after rejection letters, emails, all telling me that I wasn’t selected. Too often, I dissolve into a fit of hidden tears, hidden hurts. Survival mode means I hide the emotional wreck because no one wants to see beyond the happy, I’m fine mode.

Today, I try again.

I wake up; I make coffee; I write. For while, I drown out the voices of self-doubt lingering in the dark corners. In fact, I hope they choke on some dust bunnies. Despite all of this emotional shit, I’m still here, still writing, still living, still kicking ass.

 

 

 

When Hats Become Masks: Guest post

HATSphoto © 2008 Bijoy Mohan | more info (via: Wylio)
Today, I’m guest posting on identity over at Jennifer Luitwieler’s blog. She has been doing a series of guest post on identity which have me made laugh, cry, and think. As all good writing should at some point.  So hop over to her blog for the rest of my posts on identity.

 

Pardon the cliché, but I wear lots of proverbial hats.

 

In fact, I may wear enough of these hats to open my own proverbial hat store. What hats? The usual suspects: woman, wife, daughter, stepmother, sister, reader, writer, teacher, student, cook, occasional overeater. These I wear daily, one stacked upon another, an ever-present balancing act of managing all of these various roles, their demands, without bringing the whole lot crashing down on my head. My identity makes for an interesting hat display, or does it? Am I just a whole mash-up of roles, hats, and duties? I think not.

 

You can read the rest of this post  at Jennifer Luitwieler’s blog.

With Every Day

Rij werklozen in een stempellokaal / Unemployed queueing for social benefit photo © 2011 Nationaal Archief | more info (via: Wylio)

 

 

Ahh, the sweet sounds of the word—FRIDAY! While I’ve been notably absent from the blogosphere, I’m picking up today’s 5 Minute Friday topic from the Lovely Lisa-Jo at the Gypsy Mama blog. The rules are simple:

 

  1. Write 5 minutes about the day’s topic.
  2. No editing, prettying, or major overhauls of the writing—just write, for writing’s sake.
  3. Comment on the blog post before yours.

 

Easy? Why indeed it is!

 

 

Today’s topic:

 

Every Day….

 

 

Start:

 

Every day can feel like a blunt force trauma to the head. Alone, quiet with nothing more than the snoring dogs and my own interior narrative. Never good companions for an unemployed, daily disheartened person. This is my every day.

Every day hope swells less and anxiety mounts. Bills need money, but I’m not “the successful applicant.” Every day begins with job searching which feels like an online dating game. Peruse the profiles, choose some matches, and apply.

Every day, I wait for phone calls from interviewers like the junior high girl waiting for her secret crush to phone her. Only to have the interviewer email me the news translated through my head—not good enough, not worthy, not what we want. Every day, this is the narrative replaying in my head.

 

This is my every day.

 

Finish.